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"It is We Who revealed this Book, and it is We Who shall guard its revelation" (15:9). This makes it plain that this Word shall endure forever, and there shall constantly be arising those who shall keep its teachings fresh and convey its benefits to the people. If it is asked, What is the function of the existence of the Quran, the continuation of which constitutes the real preservation of the Holy Book, it is clear from the following verse:
("He it is Who raised among the illiterates a Messenger from among themselves, who recites to them His messages and purifies them, and teaches them the Book and the wisdom." -- 62:2)
The substance of this verse is that there are two main functions of the Quran, to convey which the Holy Prophet came. Firstly, the "wisdom" of the Quran, i.e. the knowledge and the fine points of the Quran, and secondly, the spiritual efficacy of the Quran which purifies the soul. The guarding of the Quran is not only to take great care of its manuscripts -- for such work was done even by the Jews and the Christians in their early days, so much so that the letters of the Torah had been counted -- but what is meant here is the preserving of the function and the efficacy of the Quran along with its textual preservation. And, according to the Divine custom, that can only happen if there come, from time to time, deputies of the Holy Prophet possessing all the blessings of messengership by way of image, having been granted all the favours given to the prophets. This great affair is referred to in the verse:
"God has promised to those of you who believe and do good that He will surely make them successors in the earth as He made those before them to be successors. And He will surely establish for them their religion, which He has chosen for them, and that He will surely give them security in exchange after their fear. They will serve Me, not associating anything with Me. And whoever disbelieves after this, they are the transgressors." (24:55)
This verse, in reality, explains the other verse: "It is We Who revealed this Book, and it is We Who shall guard it" (15:9), and answers the question as to how and in what form shall the guarding of the Quran be done. Thus God Almighty says that He shall send khalifas of the Holy Prophet from time to time. The word khalifa has been adopted to indicate that they shall be heirs of the Holy Prophet and partake of his blessings, as used to happen in the earlier ages; the faith shall be revived at their hands and security shall be established after the prevalence of fear, i.e. they shall come at times when there would be disruption in the house of Islam. Then, after their coming, those who rebel against them would be the evil-doers and the wicked. This is a reply to the point raised by some ignorant people who ask, Is it obligatory upon us to acknowledge the saints [auliya]? God says that certainly it is obligatory, and those who oppose them are transgressors, if they die in the state of opposition.
It is a pity that the uninformed critic has unjustifiably adduced the verse, "This day I have perfected for you your religion". When have we said that mujaddids and saints come into the world to remove something from the religion or to add to it? On the contrary, we say that when, after the passage of a period of time, the dust of corrupted notions settles upon the holy teachings, and the face of the pure truth is hidden, then to show that beautiful face there come mujaddids, Divinely inspired saints and spiritual khalifas. It is not known from where and from whom the poor critic heard that mujaddids and spiritual khalifas come into the world to amend and revoke the religion to some extent. No, they do not come to abrogate the religion, but to display its shine and brilliance.
The critics doubt, as to their need, has only arisen because he does not care about his religion, nor has he ever thought about what Islam is, what constitutes the progress of Islam, how and through which means can true progress be made, and in what state must a person be for him to be called a Muslim in the true sense. This is the reason why the critic considers it sufficient that the Quran exists, scholars of the religion exist, and there exists a natural feeling in most peoples hearts towards Islam, and so there is no need for a mujaddid. Unfortunately however, the critic does not understand that mujaddids and spiritual khalifas are needed by the Muslim people in the same way as were the prophets required from ancient times. No one can deny that Moses, peace be upon him, was a prophet and messenger, and his Torah was complete as the teaching for the Israelite people. And just as the Holy Quran contains the verse "This day I have perfected for you your religion", similarly the Torah contains passages which mean that the Israelites were granted a perfect and glorious book called the Torah. The Quran, too, contains such a description of the Torah, [Note 1] but despite this,after the Torah there came hundreds of prophets among the Israelites who brought no new book with them. Rather, the object of the advent of those prophets was to draw towards the real spirit of the Torah the people of their times who had fallen away from its teachings, and to bless with a living faith those in whose hearts there was doubt, godlessness and faithlessness. So God, the Almighty, Himself says in the Holy Quran:
("And We indeed gave Moses the book and We sent messengers after him, one after another;" -- 2:87)
The meaning is: We gave Moses the Torah, and then after this book We sent many messengers to support and confirm the teaching of the Torah. Similarly, God says elsewhere:
"Then We sent Our messengers one after another" (23:44). So all these verses make it clear that the way of God is that, having sent His book, He necessarily sends prophets for its support and confirmation. Thus in support of the Torah, as many as four hundred prophets appeared at one time, to whose advent the Bible bears witness to this day. [Note 2]
"And as to those who disbelieve in, and reject, Our messages, they are the Companions of the fire; in it they will abide" (2:39).
Now while the punishment for rejecting the Divine book was so severe, and on the other hand the question of prophethood and Divine revelation was so subtle -- in fact, the existence of God was so ultra-subtle that unless ones eye was lit with God-given light it was certainly not possible to obtain true and pure knowledge of Him, let alone the acceptance of His messengers and His book -- for this reason the mercy of God required that the blind creation be helped very greatly. It was not sufficient just to send a messenger and a book once, and then despite the passage of a long time, to consign the deniers to eternal hell for rejecting beliefs which, to the later generations, are not more than mere hallowed and fine statements. It is, in reality, very plain and evident to the thinking person that, for applying such a severe penalty, God, Who bears the names Beneficent and Merciful, could not adopt the law that, without conclusive arguments having been fully conveyed to them, He should consign to eternal hell people of various lands who heard the name of the Quran and the Apostle centuries afterwards, and who do not know Arabic and are unable to see the virtues of the Quran. Whose conscience can accept that, without it being proved to someone that the Holy Quran is from God, that person should have the knife run across his throat? This is the reason why God has promised eternal khalifas, so that by acquiring the light of prophethood in a reflective sense [zill] [Note 3] they would render the world answerable, and show to people the merits and the pure blessings of the Holy Quran.
It should also be remembered that for every age the conclusive proving of the case for Islam takes place in a different sense, and the mujaddid of the time comes with the powers, faculties and qualities upon which depends the reformation of the prevalent evils. God will ever continue to do this, as long as He pleases, so that signs of righteousness and reform remain in the world. These matters are not without proof; on the contrary, repeated observations testify to them. Leaving aside the prophets, apostles and saints who appeared in other lands, if one casts a glance at just the prophets, apostles and saints of the Israelites, it is learnt from their books that in a period of fourteen hundred years, i.e. from Moses to Jesus, there appeared among them thousands of prophets and Divinely-inspired saints who, like true servants, girded up their loins and remained engaged in the service of the Torah. Hence the Quran bears witness to all these statements, and so does the Bible. Those prophets did not bring new scriptures, nor did they teach new religions. They were merely servants of the Torah, and used to appear in times when godlessness, loss of faith, wickedness and hard-heartedness would spread among the Israelites.
("And to Moses God addressed His word, speaking (to him) -- messengers, bearers of good news and warners, so that the people may have no plea against God after the coming of the messengers. And God is ever Mighty, Wise." -- 4:164-165)
The meaning is that God spoke to Moses, and sent in his support and confirmation messengers who were bearers of good news and warners, so that people may have no excuse left, and seeing the continuous group of prophets they may come to haveheart-felt faith in the Torah. It is also said:
"We sent many messengers, some We have mentioned and others We have not mentioned" (4:164).
But for the seekers of truth in Islam, no such arrangements were made, as if the mercy and grace of God which was upon Moses people is not upon this nation. It is obvious that after the passage of a long period of time the miracles and signs of earlier days always become mere narratives, and the later generations, seeing their own contemporaries devoid of every miraculous affair, eventually begin to have doubts about the former miracles. Moreover, as the example of thousands of Israelite prophets is before ones eyes, this nation would feel even more despondent and, finding itself ill-fated, would look to the Israelites with envy, or it would become involved in evil thoughts and consider even their events to be mere myths.
It should also be remembered here that the completion of the religion does not imply that its legitimate defence should be totally abandoned. Suppose, for instance, that someone builds a house, constructs all its rooms elegantly, and fulfils all its requirements as a building to the best standard; then after a time storms blow, rains come, dust and dirt settle on the decoration of the house, and its beauty is hidden; if then one of his descendants should want to clean and wash the house but he is forbidden on the grounds that the building was complete, it is obvious that to forbid him is sheer folly. Sadly, such critics do not realise that completion is one thing, and the periodic cleaning of a completed building is another. It should be remembered that the mujaddids do not add anything to the religion, nor take anything away from it; they reinstate lost faith in the hearts. And to say that it is not obligatory to believe in the mujaddids is to deviate from the command of God because He says: "And whoever disbelieves after this, they are the transgressors" (24:55), i.e. after the sending of the khalifas, whoever remains a denier of them, he is among the transgressors.
Translator's Note 2: See 1 Kings 22:6. [Go to text]
Translator's Note 3: The word zill means a reflection, shadow or image. In the spiritual sciences of Islam (tasawwuf), a saint is often spoken of as "possessing the qualities of prophethood by way of zill or as being "the zill of a prophet", meaning that he reflects or mirrors the qualities possessed by prophets. The opposite of zill is as al, meaning original. The prophets possess their peculiar qualities in the original sense, and the saints only display these qualities as a reflection by closely following the prophets. Every Muslim is required to emulate the qualities of the prophets, and follow in their footsteps. The saints attain this goal to a very high grade, and thus show a clear image of those qualities.
Classical Islamic scholars have explained the concept of zill at length in their books. Hazrat Mirza has reiterated the same explanations. He writes elsewhere:
"The prophet is as the original, and the saint is as the zill (his image or shadow)." (Karamat as -Sadiqin, p. 85)
"I firmly believe that our Holy Prophet Muhammad is the khatam al-anbiya', and after him no prophet shall come for this nation, neither new nor old. Not a jot or tittle of the Holy Quran shall be abrogated. Of course, saints (sing. muhaddath) will come who will be spoken to by God, and possess some attributes of full prophethood by way of zill, and in some ways be coloured with the colour of prophethood. I am one of these." ( Nishan Asmani , p. 28) [Go to text]
Translator's Note 4: The reference here is to the period of the righteous khilafat after the Holy Prophet. [Go to text]