Who is God?
On this page we share translated excerpts from the Holy Qur’an, the holy book of Muslims, on the nature and character of “Allah” – the One God. Provided in the verse references are links to commentaries that shed light upon the hidden depths of these verses.
“In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Ever Merciful.
All praise belongs to Allah, the Lord of all the Worlds,
The Gracious, the Merciful,
Master of the Day of Judgment.
Thee alone do we worship and thee alone do we implore for help.
Guide us on the right path –
The path of those on whom You have bestowed blessings, not of those who have incurred Your wrath, nor of those who have gone astray.”Holy Qur’an, 1: 1—7
From Al-Baqarah—The Cow
“And when My servants ask thee about Me, say: ‘I am near. I answer the prayer of the supplicant when he prays to Me. So they should hearken to Me and believe in Me, that they may follow the right way.’”Holy Qur’an, 2:187
“Allah — there is no God but He, the Living, the Self-Subsisting and All-Sustaining. Slumber seizes Him not, nor sleep. To Him belongs whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is in the earth. Who is he that will intercede with Him except by His permission? He knows what is before them and what is behind them; and they encompass nothing of His knowledge except what He pleases. His knowledge extends over the heavens and the earth; and the care of them burdens Him not; and He is the High, the Great.”Holy Qur’an 2:256
From Al-Hadid—The Iron
“Whatever is in the heavens and the earth glorifies Allah; and He is the Mighty, the Wise.
His is the Kingdom of the heavens and the earth; He gives life and He causes death, and He has power over all things.
He is the First and the Last, and the Manifest and the Hidden, and He has full knowledge of all things.
He it is Who created the heavens and the earth in six periods, then He settled Himself on the Throne. He knows what enters the earth and what comes out of it, and what comes down from the heaven and what goes up into it. And He is with you wheresoever you may be. And Allah sees all that you do.
His is the Kingdom of the heavens and the earth; and to Allah are all affairs returned for final judgment.”Holy Qur’an, 57: 2—6
From Al-Mulk—The Kingdom
“Blessed is He in Whose hand is the kingdom, and He has power over all things; Who has created death and life that He might try you — which of you is best in deeds; and He is the Mighty, the Most Forgiving. Who has created seven heavens in harmony. No incongruity canst thou see in the creation of the Gracious God. Then look again: Seest thou any flaw? Aye, look again, and yet again, thy sight will only return unto thee confused and fatigued.”Holy Qur’an 67:2—6
From Al-Hashr—The Exile
“He is Allah and there is no god beside Him, the Knower of the unseen and the seen. He is the Gracious, the Merciful.Holy Qur’an 59:23—25
He is Allah and there is no god beside Him, the Sovereign, the Holy One, the Source of peace, the Bestower of security, the Protector, the Mighty, the Subduer, the Exalted. Holy is Allah, far above that which they associate with Him.
He is Allah, the creator, the Maker, the Fashioner. His are the most beautiful names. All that is in the heavens and the earth glorifies Him, and He is the Mighty, the Wise.”
Promised Messiah’s Literature
The Promised Messiah, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas wrote over 80 books. In these, he demonstrated his intimate and personal knowledge of God.
We present a few such extracts from his vast corpus below, excerpted from the Essence of Islam series of books.
The God of Islam
“The God of Islam is the same God Who is visible in the mirror of the law of nature and is discernible in the book of nature. Islam has not presented a new God but has presented the same God Who is presented by the light of man’s heart, by the conscience of man, and by heaven and earth.”Essence of Islam Vol. 1, Page 39
The Search for God
“Of the natural conditions of man is his search after an Exalted Being towards Whom he has an inherent attraction. This is manifested by an infant from the moment of its birth. As soon as it is born, it displays a spiritual characteristic that it inclines towards its mother and is inspired by love of her. As its faculties are developed and its nature begins to display itself openly, this inherent quality is displayed more and more strongly. It finds no comfort anywhere except in the lap of its mother. If it is separated from her and finds itself at a distance from her, its life becomes bitter. Heaps of bounties fail to beguile it away from its mother in whom all its joy is concentrated. It feels no joy apart from her. What, then, is the nature of the attraction which an infant feels so strongly towards its mother? It is the attraction which the True Creator has implanted in the nature of man.”
The same attraction comes into play whenever a person feels love for another. It is a reflection of the attraction that is inherent in man’s nature towards God, as if he is in search of something that he misses, the name of which he has forgotten and which he seeks to find in one thing or another which he takes up from time to time.
A person’s love of wealth or offspring or wife or his soul being attracted towards a musical voice are all indications of his search for the True Beloved. As man cannot behold with his physical eyes the Imperceptible Being, Who is latent like the quality of fire in everyone, but is hidden, nor can he discover Him through the mere exercise of imperfect reason, he has been misled grievously in his search and has mistakenly assigned His position to others.
The Holy Quran has, in this context, set forth an excellent illustration, to the effect that the world is like a palace, the floor of which is paved with smooth slabs of glass, under which flows a rapid current of water. Every eye that beholds this floor mistakenly imagines it to be running water. A person fears to tread upon the floor as he would be afraid of treading upon running water, though in reality the floor is only paved with smooth transparent slabs of glass.
Thus these heavenly bodies like the sun and the moon etc. are the smooth and transparent slabs of glass under which a great power is in operation like a fast flowing current of water. It is a great mistake on the part of those who worship these heavenly bodies that they attribute to them that which is manifested by the power that operates behind them.
This is the interpretation of the verse of the Holy Quran:
“It is a palace paved with smooth slabs of glass” (Holy Quran 25:45)
In short, as the Being of God Almighty, despite its brilliance, is utterly hidden, this physical system that is spread out before our eyes is not alone sufficient for its recognition. That is why those who have depended upon this system and have observed carefully its perfect and complete orderliness together with all the wonders comprehended in it, and have thoroughly studied astronomy, physics, and philosophy, and have, as it were, penetrated into the heavens and the earth, have yet not been delivered from the darkness of doubts and suspicions. Many of them become involved in grave errors and wander far away in pursuit of their stupid fancies. Their utmost conjecture is that this grand system which displays great wisdom must have a Maker, but this conjecture is incomplete and this insight is defective. The affirmation that this system must have a creator does not amount to a positive affirmation that He does in truth exist. Such a conjecture cannot bestow satisfaction upon the heart, nor remove all doubt from it. Nor is it a draught which can quench the thirst for complete understanding which man’s nature demands. Indeed, this defective understanding is most dangerous, for despite all its noise it amounts to nothing.
In short, unless God Almighty affirms His existence through His Word, as He has manifested it through His work, the observation of the work alone does not afford complete satisfaction. For instance, if we are confronted by a room the door of which is bolted from inside, our immediate reaction would be that there is someone inside the room who has bolted the door from inside, inasmuch as it is apparently impossible to bolt a door from inside by some device employed for the purpose from the outside. But if, despite persistent calls from the outside over a period of years, no response becomes audible from inside, our supposition that there must be someone inside would have to be abandoned and we would be compelled to conclude that the door has been bolted from inside through some clever device. This is the situation in which those philosophers have placed themselves whose understanding is limited solely to the observation of the work of God. It is a great mistake to imagine that God is like a corpse interred in the earth whose recovery is the business of man. If God has only been discovered through human effort, it is vain to expect anything from Him. Indeed, God has, through eternity, called mankind to Himself by affirming: I am present. It would be a great impertinence to imagine that man has laid God under an obligation by discovering Him through his own effort, and that if there had been no philosophers He would have continued unknown.
It is equally stupid to enquire how can God speak unless He has a tongue to speak with? The answer is: Has He not created the earth and the heavenly bodies without physical hands? Does He not view the universe without eyes? Does He not hear our supplications without physical ears?
Then is it not necessary that He should also speak to us? Nor is it correct to say that God spoke in the past but does not speak now. We cannot limit His Word or His discourse to any particular time. He is as ready today to enrich His seekers from the fountain of revelation as He was at any time, and the gates of His grace are as wide open today as they were at any time. It is true, however, that as the need for a perfect law has been fulfilled all law and limitations have been completed. Also all prophethoods, having arrived at their climax in the person of our lord and master, the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, have been fulfilled.”Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam, p. 80 – 85
Who is God?
“Alhamdulillah. All praise belongs to the True God Who combines in Himself all perfect attributes and Whose name is Allah. In the idiom of the Holy Qur’an, Allah is the name of that perfect Being Who is truly worthy of worship, combines in Himself all perfect attributes, is free from all defects, is One without associate and is the fountainhead of all beneficence. In His Holy Book, God Almighty has described His name Allah as combining in itself the attributes of all other names and qualities. No other name has been given this rank. Thus, the name Allah comprehends all other perfect attributes. Alhamdulillah, therefore, means that all types of praise, overt and covert, relating to personal perfection or relating to natural wonders, are the characteristic of Allah, and no one is His associate in them. It also means that all true praise and perfect qualities, which the wisdom of a wise one can think of or the reflection of any thinker can conceive of, are comprehended in God Almighty. There is no excellence, the possibility of which is vouched for by reason, of which God Almighty is bereft like an unfortunate human being. The wisdom of no wise one can point to an excellence which is not to be found in God Almighty. The maximum of all excellences that a person can conceive of is found in Him. He is perfect from every point of view in His Being, His attributes and His good qualities, and He is absolutely free from all defects. This is a truth which distinguishes a true religion from a false one.(Allah the Exalted p. 13)
Our God is the One Who is living today as He was living before, and Who speaks today as He spoke before, and hears today as He heard before. It is a false notion that in this age He hears but does not speak. Indeed, He both hears and speaks. All His attributes are eternal and everlasting. None of His attributes has fallen into disuse or will fall into disuse. He is the One without associate Who has no son and no consort. He is the Peerless One Who has no equal and like Whom no individual is absolutely qualified with any quality, and Whose attributes are not shared by anyone. None of His powers lacks anything. He is near and yet far and He is far and yet near. He can manifest Himself in any shape to those who have experience of visions but He has no body and no shape. He is above all but it cannot be said that there is anyone below Him. He is on His throne, but it cannot be said that He is not on the earth. He combines in Himself all perfect qualities and is a manifestation of all true praiseworthiness. He is the fountainhead of all excellences and combines in Himself all powers. All grace originates with Him and everything returns to Him. He is the Master of all kingdoms and possesses every perfect quality. He is free from every defect and weakness. It belongs to Him alone that all those on earth and in heaven should worship Him. Nothing is beyond His power. All souls and their capacities and all particles and their capacities are His creation. Nothing manifests itself without Him. He manifests Himself through His powers and His signs and we can find Him only through Him. He manifests Himself always to the righteous and shows them His powers. That is how He is recognized and that is how the path is recognized which has His approval. He sees without physical eyes, hears without physical ears and speaks without a physical tongue. It is His function to bring into being from nothingness. As you see in a dream, He creates a whole world without the agency of any matter and shows as present that which is mortal and nonexistent. Such are all His powers. Foolish is the one who denies His powers and blind is the one who is unaware of their depth. He does everything and can do everything except that which is inconsistent with His dignity or is opposed to His promise. He is one in His Being and His attributes and His actions and His powers. All doors that lead to Him are closed except the one door which has been opened by the Holy Qur’an.”[al-Wasiyyat, Ruhani Khaza’in, Vol. 20, pp. 309-311]
What Does the Oneness of God Mean?
“The true Unity of God, the affirmation of which is demanded by God and upon which salvation depends, is to believe that God in His Being is free from every associate, whether it is an idol or a human being, or the sun or moon or one’s ego, or one’s cunning or deceit; and to conceive of no one as possessing power in opposition to Him, nor to accept anyone as sustainer, nor to hold any-one as bestowing honour or disgrace, nor to consider anyone as helper or assistant; and to confine one’s love to Him and one’s worship to Him and one’s humility to Him and one’s hopes to Him and one’s fear to Him. No Unity can be complete without the following three types of particularisation. First, there is the Unity of Being, that is to say, to conceive the whole universe as nonexistent in contrast with Him and to consider it mortal and lacking reality. Secondly, the Unity of attributes, that is to say, that Rububiyyat [Lordship] and Godhead are confined to His Being and that all others who appear as sustainers or benefactors are only a part of the system set up by His hand. Thirdly, the Unity of love and sincerity and devotion; that is to say, not to consider anyone as an associate of God in the matter of love and worship and to be entirely lost in Him.[Malfuzat, Vol. III, pp. 79-82]
(Siraj-ud-Din ‘Isa’i ke Char Sawalon ka Jawab, Ruhani Khaza’in, Vol. 12, pp. 349-350. Essence of Islam, Vol. I. pp. 169 – 170)
Associating others with God takes many forms and is called idolatry. There is the obvious idolatry in which Hindus, Christians, Jews and other idol worshippers indulge, in which a man or stone or lifeless things or faculties or fictitious deities are worshipped as God. Though this form of idolatry is still current in the world, yet this is the age of light and education, and reason is beginning to abhor this form of idolatry. It is true that some people subscribe to these stupidities as part of their national religion, yet at heart they are beginning to be repelled by them. But there is another type of idolatry, which is spreading secretly like poison and it is greatly on the increase in this age and that is that there is no trust in and dependence upon God Almighty. We do not say, nor is it part of our faith, that means should be discarded altogether. For God Almighty has Himself urged the use of means and if means are not used to the extent to which they are necessary, this would be to dishonour human faculties and to defame the grand action of God Almighty in bestowing them. If means are discarded altogether, it would mean that all faculties which God Almighty has bestowed upon man should be left idle and should not be put to any use, which would amount to condemning God’s action as vain and useless and therefore a great sin.
Therefore, we do not at all mean, nor is it part of our religion, that means should be discarded altogether. The use of means up to the proper limit is necessary. Means are needed for the hereafter also. To carry out the commandments of God Almighty and to avoid vice and to carry out good works is all undertaken so that we should be at ease in this world and the next. Thus righteous conduct is a substitute for means. God has not forbidden use of means for the fulfilling of worldly needs. A public servant should discharge his duties, a cultivator of land should occupy himself with agricultural operations, a labourer should perform his labour so that all of them should be able to discharge the obligations that they owe to their family and children and other relations and to their own selves. All this is right up to the proper limit and is not forbidden; but when, transcending that limit, a person places all his trust in the means, that becomes idolatry which casts a person far away from his true purpose. For instance, if a person says that had it not been for a certain factor, he would have died of hunger, or that if had it not been for a certain property or an occupation, he would have been in bad shape, or if it had not been for a certain friend, he would have been in trouble, this would be displeasing to God. He would not approve that a person should rely so much upon property, or other means or friends that he should stray far away from God Almighty…
(Essence of Islam, Vol. I. pp. 172 – 174)
The Prophets [peace and blessings of Allah be on them] teach that there should be no conflict between Unity and material means and that each should keep to its proper place and that the end should be Unity. They desire to teach man that all honour and all comfort and all fulfilment comes from God. If anything else is set up in opposition to Him there would be a conflict in two opposites in which one would be destroyed. The Unity of God must always prevail. Means should be used but should not be deified. Belief in Unity gives birth to the love of God Almighty, as one realizes that all benefit and loss is in His hands, that He is the true Benefactor and that every particle proceeds from Him without the intervention of anyone else. When a person achieves this holy condition, he is known as a believer in the Unity of God. One condition of belief in Unity is that man should not worship stones, or human beings, or anything else, and should express disgust and abhorrence against deifying them; the second condition is that no undue importance should be attached to material means. The third condition is that one’s ego and its purposes should also be excluded and negatived. Very often a person has in mind his own qualities and power and imagines that he has achieved certain good with his own power and he depends so much upon his power that he attributes everything to it. Real faith in the Unity of God is achieved when a person negatives his own powers also.”
God’s Beauty & Beneficence
“God’s law of nature and the book of nature, which have been in existence since the creation of man, teach us that to establish a strong relationship with God it is necessary to have experienced His Beneficence and His Beauty. As pointed out before, by beneficence is meant instances of the moral qualities of God Almighty which a man might have personally experienced in his own being. For instance, God may have become his Guardian when he was helpless and weak and an orphan. Or God may have fulfilled his need at a time of want; or God may have helped him at a time of great sorrow; or God may have guided him without the intervention of a preceptor or guide in his search after God. By His beauty are also meant His attributes which appear in the guise of beneficence, for instance, His perfect Power or His Tenderness or His Kindness or His Rububiyyat [Lordship] or His Compassion, or His general Rububiyyat and those common bounties which are available in large numbers for the comfort of man. There is also His knowledge which a person obtains through Prophets and thereby saves himself from death and ruin. Also His attribute that He hears the supplications of the restless and fatigued ones. Also His excellence that He inclines towards those who incline towards Him, even more so. All this is comprised in God’s Beauty.[Review of Religions-Urdu, Vol. I, pp. 186-187]
The very same attributes when they are experienced by a person become His Beneficence with reference to him, though they are only His Beauty with reference to others. When a person experiences in the shape of Beneficence those Divine attributes which constitute His Beauty his faith is strengthened beyond measure and he is drawn towards God as iron is drawn towards a magnet. His love for God increases manifold and his trust in God becomes very strong. Having experienced that all his good is in God, his hopes in God are strengthened. He continues to incline towards God naturally, without pretence and affectation, and finds himself dependent upon God’s help every moment and believes firmly through the contemplation of Divine attributes that he will be successful, because he has experienced in his own person many instances of God’s grace, favour and generosity. Therefore, his supplications proceed from the fountain of power and certainty and his resolve becomes extremely firm and unshakable.
In the end, having observed Divine favours and bounties, the light of certainty enters with great force into him and his ego is altogether consumed. On account of the frequent contemplation of the greatness and power of God, his heart becomes the House of God. As the human soul never leaves his body while a person is alive, in the same way, the certainty that enters into him from God, the Mighty and Glorious, never leaves him. The Holy Spirit surges inside him all the time and he speaks under the instruction of this very Spirit. Verities and insights flow out of him and the tent of the Lord of Honour and Majesty is ever set in his heart. The delight of certainty, sincerity and love flows through him like water whereby every limb of his is nourished. His eyes exhibit the brightness of nourishment and his forehead reveals its light. His countenance appears as if it had been washed by the rain of Divine love and his tongue partakes fully of this freshness. All his limbs exhibit a brightness, as after a spring shower an attractive freshness is revealed in the branches, leaves, flowers and fruits of trees. The body of a person on whom this spirit has not descended and who has not been refreshed by it is like a corpse. This freshness and joyousness cannot be described in words and can never be acquired by the dead heart which has not been refreshed by the fountain of the light of certainty. On the contrary, it stinks. But the one who has been bestowed this light, and inside whom this fountain has burst forth, exhibits as one of his signs that all the time and in everything, in every word and in every action, he receives power from God. This is his delight and his comfort and he cannot live without it.”
How Can We Know God?
Three Stages of Divine Realisation
The Promised Messiah, Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas, peace be upon him, wrote at length about how we can be convinced of the existence of God for ourselves. He taught that believing in God is not an on/off switch. Rather, our certainty concerning God can be of different types. He outlined three different levels of certainty of God. These were the certainty by means of inference; certainty by means of sight, and certainty by means of experience.
“The Holy Quran has drawn attention to three types of knowledge: knowledge by way of certainty of inference, knowledge by way of certainty of sight, and knowledge by way of certainty of experience. As we have already explained knowledge by certainty of inference is that a thing should be known not directly but through something through which it can be inferred, as by observing smoke we infer the existence of fire. We do not see the fire, but see the smoke and because of it we believe in the existence of the fire. Then if we see the fire, this, according to the Holy Quran, would be certainty by sight. If we were to enter into the fire, our knowledge would have the quality of certainty by experience. We have set out all this already and we refer our listeners and readers to that exposition.”
Certainty of Inference
“It should be known that the source of the first type of knowledge, that is to say knowledge by the certainty of inference, is reason and information. God Almighty sets out in the Holy Quran that the dwellers of hell will affirm:
“And they will say, ‘If we had but listened or possessed sense, we should not have been among the inmates of the blazing Fire.’”Holy Qur’an, 67:11
That is, those who go to hell will say if they had exercised their reason and had approached the consideration of religion and doctrine sensibly, or had listened to and read with attention the speeches and writings of the wise and the scholars, they would not have been condemned to hell…(The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam pp. 182-185)
These verses also indicate that one can obtain the certainty of knowledge by inference through one’s ears also. For instance, we have not visited London and have only heard of it from those who have visited it, but then can we imagine that all of them might have told a lie? Or, we did not live in the time of Emperor Alamgir, nor did we see him, but can we have any doubt that Alamgir was one of the Moghul emperors? How did we arrive at that certainty? The answer is, through the continuity of hearing about him. Thus, there is no doubt that hearing also carries one’s knowledge to the stage of certainty by inference. The books of the Prophets are also a source of knowledge through hearing, provided there should be no contradiction in the account that is heard…
The Holy Quran is not confined merely to knowledge gained through continuity of hearing, it contains well reasoned arguments which carry conviction. Not one of the doctrines and principles and commandments that it sets forth is sought to be imposed merely by authority; as it has explained, they are all inscribed in man’s nature… Thus, intellectual arguments which have a sound basis undoubtedly lead a person to the certainty of knowledge by inference.”
Certainty of Sight
“With regard to the hereafter our knowledge arrives at the degree of certainty by sight when we receive direct revelation and hear the voice of God through our ears, and behold the true and clear visions of God with our eyes. Without a doubt we are in need of direct revelation for the purpose of achieving such perfect understanding for which our hearts hunger and thirst in our beings. If God Almighty has not provided the means of such comprehension for us in advance then why has He created this hunger and thirst in our hearts?
Is it not true that an affirmation by the Living God: I am present; bestows such a degree of understanding compared with which the self conceived books of all the philosophers amount to nothing at all? What can those so-called philosophers who are themselves blind teach us? In short, if God Almighty designs to bestow perfect understanding upon His seekers then He has certainly kept open the way of converse with them.”(The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam pp. 189-190)
Certainty of Experience
“The third source of knowledge is certainty through experience, that is to say, all the hardships and calamities and sufferings that are experienced by the Prophets and the righteous at the hands of their opponents, or that are imposed upon them by Divine decree. Through these hardships and sufferings all the commandments of the law and its directions that were comprehended by the human mind intellectually, appear in practical shape and become experience, and by being developed by practical exercise arrive at their climax, and the person concerned himself becomes a perfect code of Divine guidance.”(The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam, page 201)
Progressing from Faith to Certainty
While there are many logical reasons to believe in God, such intellectual endeavour can only take you so far. Even if you believe in God on an intellectual level because of what you read of scientific discoveries, Qur’anic prophecies, and spiritual testimonies, such things won’t give you a personal experience of God. For that, you need to commit to the path of True Islam for yourself. You have to live your life dedicated to God. With such actions, you progress along the spiritual path. With such actions, you witness the existence of God in your own lives, you begin to experience true dreams and other spiritual experiences, and where your doubt once was you find only courage and conviction.
The Promised Messiah, writing on this topic, tells us:
“The Word of God directs us: Have faith and you will be delivered. It does not tell us: Demand philosophical reasons and conclusive proofs in support of the doctrines that the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) has presented to you, and do not accept them until they are established like mathematical formulae. It is obvious that if the teaching of a Prophet is to be accepted only after being tested by the canons of current knowledge, that would not be faith in the Prophet; inasmuch as every verity when it is established clearly, becomes binding, whether it is set forth by a Prophet or by anyone else. Even if expounded by a vicious person it has to be accepted. That which we would accept by putting our trust in a Prophet, and by affirming his righteousness, must be of a nature which possesses a probability of truth in the estimation of reason and yet leaves room for a foolish person to incline towards its rejection as false; so that by taking the side of truth and affirming the righteousness of a Prophet we may be rewarded for our well-thinking, penetrating intelligence, respectfulness and faith. This is the purport of the teaching of the Holy Qur’an that we have set forth.
But thinkers and philosophers have never followed this way and have always been heedless of faith. They have always been in search of the kind of knowledge which is demonstrated to them as being immediate, incontrovertible and certain.
It should be remembered that God Almighty, by demanding faith in the unseen, does not wish to deprive the believers of certainty of understanding the Divine. Indeed, faith is a ladder for arriving at this certainty of understanding, without which it is in vain to seek true understanding. Those who climb this ladder surely experience for themselves the pure and undefiled spiritual verities. When a sincere believer accepts Divine commands and directions for the only reason that God Almighty has bestowed them upon him through a righteous bearer, he becomes deserving of the bounty of understanding. That is why God Almighty has established a law for His servants that they should first acknowledge Him by believing in the unseen, so that all the problems they face may be resolved through the bounty of true understanding. But it is a pity that a hasty one does not adopt these ways. The Holy Qur’an contains the promise of God Almighty that if a person, who accepts the call of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) on the basis of faith, seeks to comprehend its reality and strives after such comprehension, the reality will be disclosed to him by means of visions and revelations and his faith will be elevated to the stage of the understanding.”[A’ina-e-Kamalat-e-Islam, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 5, pp. 251-253, footnote].
Rationality Needs Revelation
Many throughout history have looked down upon the idea that God’s revelation is needed to convince one of God’s existence. They felt that purely intellectual arguments were enough, devoid of any interaction with God. The Promised Messiah, peace be upon him, refuted this claim repeatedly. He said that if God did not reveal Himself to mankind, there would always be doubt concerning his existence:
“It is true that reason is also a lamp which God has furnished to man, the light of which draws man towards truth and saves him from a variety of doubts and suspicions and sets aside different types of baseless ideas and improper conjectures. It is very useful, very necessary and is a great bounty. Yet, despite all this it suffers from the shortcoming that it alone cannot lead to full certainty in the matter of the understanding of the reality of things. The stage of perfect certainty is that man should believe that the reality of things exists as it in fact does exist. Reason alone cannot lead to this high degree of certainty. At the outside, it proves the need of the existence of something, but does not prove that in fact it exists. This degree of certainty that a person’s knowledge should proceed from the stage of ‘should be’ to the stage of ‘is’, is acquired only when reason is joined by a companion which, confirming its conjecture, converts it into fact, that is to say, regarding a matter concerning which reason says it ‘should be’ that companion informs that in fact it ‘is’. Reason only establishes the need of a thing; it cannot establish its existence, and these are two distinct and separate matters. Thus, reason needs a companion which should supplement the defective ‘should be’ of reason with the affirmative ‘is’ and which should give information of facts as they truly exist. So, God Who is most Compassionate and Generous and desires to lead man to the stage of utmost certainty has fulfilled this need and has appointed several companions for reason and has thereby opened the way of perfect certainty to it, so that the soul of man, whose total good fortune and salvation depends upon perfect certainty, should not be deprived of its desired good fortune and so that it should quickly cross the delicate and dangerous bridge of ‘should be’ which reason has constructed over the river of doubts and suspicions, and should enter the grand palace of ‘is’ which is the house of peace and satisfaction.
Those companions of reason, which are its helpers, which come into operation on different occasions, are not more than three. If the operation of reason relates to that which can be felt or observed—for instance, which can be seen or heard or smelt or touched—its companion, which can lead it to certainty, is true observation which is called experience. If the operation of reason relates to those occurrences which take place at different times and places, the companion of reason in such a case is history, or newspapers, or letters, or communications. These also, like experience, so clear up the smoky light of reason that to doubt it thereafter is folly or insanity. If the operation of reason relates to matters which are metaphysical, which cannot be seen by the eye, or heard by the ear, or touched by the hand, nor can they be inquired about through history, then the companion that helps reason is revelation.
The law of nature also demands that, as relating to the first two matters imperfect reason is furnished by two companions, a companion should also be furnished to it in respect of the third category of matters. There can be no discrimination in the law of nature. When God has not desired to leave man in a defective condition with regard to worldly knowledge and arts, an error in respect of which is not of any great consequence, it would be an ill thought that He desired to leave man in a defective condition regarding the full understanding of matters, complete certainty concerning which is a condition of salvation and any doubt concerning which would push man into eternal ruin. In such a case man’s knowledge concerning the hereafter would be reduced to pure conjecture. He would not have available any means which should bear witness to that which is and should bestow contentment and satisfaction upon the heart that in fact and in truth that which reason conjectures as existing does indeed exist. The need that reason establishes is not fictitious, but is real. When it is known that in matters Divine perfect certainty can be obtained only through revelation, and that man is in need of perfect certainty for his salvation and that without perfect certainty faith cannot be safeguarded, then it becomes obvious that man is in need of revelation.”Braheeni Ahmadiyyah Volume II, (Amritsar, Safir Hind Press, 1880); Now published in Ruhani Khazain, Volume 1 (London, 1984) pp. 89-91, footnote 4).
Divine Encounters in the Spiritual Realm
The Promised Messiah, peace be upon him, rejuvenated mankind’s hope for contact with the divine. Through his vivid description of thousands of divine encounters, he strengthened the faith of his followers until they too tasted a portion of the fruit of which he spoke.
“God Almighty has divided His wonderful universe into three parts:
1. The world which is manifest and can be felt through the eyes and the ears and other physical senses and through ordinary instruments.
2. The world which is hidden and which can be understood through reason and conjecture.
3. The world which is hidden beyond hidden, which is so imperceptible that few are aware of it. That world is entirely unseen; reason has not been granted the ability to reach it, except through mere conjecture. This world is disclosed only through visions, revelation, inspiration, and not by any other means.
As is well established, it is the way of Allah that for the discovery of the first two worlds that we have mentioned He has bestowed upon man different types of faculties and powers. In the same way, the Absolute Bounteous has appointed a means for man for the discovery of the third world; and that means is revelation, inspiration and visions. This means is not allowed to be wholly suspended at any time; indeed, those who comply with the conditions for achieving it have, throughout, been its recipients and will continue to be such…
…The wonders of this third world are numberless. In comparison with the other two worlds, they are like the sun as compared to a grain of poppy seed. To insist that the mysteries of that world should be wholly revealed through reason would be like shutting one’s eyes and insisting that visible things should become perceptible through the sense of smell.
The wonders of the third world totally frustrate reason. No one need be surprised at the creation of souls for in this very world such mysteries are revealed to those who have experience of visions, that reason wholly fails to penetrate their reality. At times, a person who has a capacity to see visions can see someone from a distance of hundreds of miles despite numberless intervening obstructions. In fact, on some occasions, in a state of complete wakefulness, he can hear his voice also, and it is even more wonderful that sometimes the other person can hear the voice of the first one. On occasions, in a vision resembling the state of wakefulness, he can meet the souls of those who have passed on. As a general rule, meeting with all dwellers of graves—blessed or benighted—is possible in this manner. I myself have had such experiences.
This refutes entirely the doctrine of the transmigration of souls current among the Hindus. The greatest wonder is that sometimes one possessing the capacity for vision, through concentration, appears to another person, with the permission of God Almighty, at a distance of hundreds of miles in a state of complete wakefulness without his body moving from its place. Reason holds that a person cannot be at two places at the same time, yet this impossibility becomes possible in the third world. In the same way, a person of understanding witnesses hundreds of wonders with his own eyes and is surprised at the denial of those who altogether reject the wonders of the third world. I have witnessed the wonders and rare visions of that world with my own eyes approximately five thousand times and have experience of them happening to myself. It would take a large volume to record details of these experiences. One wonderful aspect of these experiences is that some matters which have no external existence come into being through Divine power. The author of Futuhat and Fusus [Muhyiddin Ibn Arabi] and other great Sufis have recorded a number of their own experiences of this kind in their compilations. But as there is a great difference between hearing and seeing, I could not have obtained that certainty by merely reading these accounts which I have acquired through my own experience.
I recall that in a vision I saw that I had drawn up with my own hand certain Divine decrees which related to the future and then presented the paper to God Almighty, the Omnipotent, the Glorious, for His signature. (It should be borne in mind that it often happens in visions and true dreams that some Divine attributes of beauty or glory appear in human form to the person seeing the vision and he imagines the form to be God Almighty. This experience is well known to those who are favoured with visions and cannot be denied). In short, I presented that book to that personification of beauty, which appeared as God Almighty, the Omnipotent, the Incomparable and the Unfathomable, in the state of my vision. On my presenting that document, God Almighty, Who appeared in the form of a ruler, dipped His pen in red ink and sprinkled it in my direction and with the ink that remained at the point of the pen He signed the document. Thereupon the vision came to an end and when I opened my eyes I saw several drops of red ink fall on my clothes and two or three of them fell on the cap of one ‘Abdullah of Sannaur who was sitting near me at the time. That red ink which was part of the vision became materialized and became visible externally.
I have seen several other visions of the type which it would take too long to set down, but whereby my own experience confirmed that sometimes a matter that is observed in a vision assumes external form by the command of Allah. These matters cannot be appreciated through reason alone. Indeed a person who is afflicted with the pride of his reason hears these things and affirms arrogantly that they are impossible and false and that the person who claims to have had such experience is either a liar or is mad or is self-deceived and for lack of proper research, has not been able to penetrate to the reality.
Such a one does not reflect that these matters are testified to by thousands of the righteous from their personal experiences, and of which they undertake a demonstration to those who might keep company with them. Can they be set aside with mere verbal denials?[Surmah Chashm Arya, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 2, pp. 175-181, footnote]
The truth of the matter is that, apart from the wonders of the world of vision, reason has not been able to comprehend fully even that which pertains to the world of reason and there are millions of Divine mysteries which are still hidden and beyond the reach of the wise.”