Our universe and all that it contains is the creation of Allah, the Wise. He has created everything with a purpose and to achieve that purpose He has provided all necessary guidance and means. He has created man in His own image and has made him the chief of His creation. Both good and bad have been made manifestly clear to man. He has also been blessed with wisdom by which he can find out the right path, can sift right from wrong and truth from falsehood. The Holy Quran tells us that man has been endowed with both spiritual and physical eyes by which he can distinguish good from evil and has been given a tongue and two lips that he might ask for guidance, and above all God has placed before him a supreme object of his life that he may devote all his faculties and energies to achieve it.
Man has been granted the choice of both selection and action. Hence he is the master of his own destiny.
To achieve the object of life, God, out of His benevolence raises prophets, who serve as models. These prophets have been appearing in every people and in all parts of the world. Their mission has always been to guide mankind to its Creator, through their example and model. The guidance revealed through each prophet was designed to cater for the specific needs of the time and location; hence they were essentially temporary in nature. With the advancement and maturity of mankind God sent advanced and matured teachings suitable to their time. God’s guidance for human race commenced through Adam (peace be upon him) and reached the zenith through Mohammed (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). God says,
“This day have I perfected your religion for you and completed my favor upon you and have chosen for you Islam as religion.”– Holy Qur’an, 5:4
Thus the revelation of Law, orShariah, wasperfected and completed by Islam.
According to one saying of the Prophet Muhammadsathe number of prophets who were chosen to convey the message of God to mankind is 124,000. The names of all of them are not mentioned anywhere. However the Holy Quran states in very clear words,
“There are no people (in the world) to whom We have not sent a Warner.”– Holy Qur’an 35:25
It also mentions the following twenty-eight prophets by name: Adam (peace be upon him), Noah (peace be upon him), Abraham (peace be upon him), Lot (peace be upon him), Ishmael (peace be upon him), Isaac (peace be upon him), Jacob (peace be upon him), Joseph (peace be upon him), Hud (peace be upon him), Salih (peace be upon him), Shuaib (peace be upon him), Moses (peace be upon him), Aaron (peace be upon him), David (peace be upon him), Solomon (peace be upon him), Elias (Elijah) (peace be upon him), Jonah (peace be upon him), Ezekiel (Dhul-Kifl) (peace be upon him), Elisha (Alyasa) (peace be upon him), Idris (Enoch) (peace be upon him)(19:57),Job (peace be upon him)(4:164),Zechariah (peace be upon him)(19:3),John (Yahya) (peace be upon him)(3:40),Jesus (peace be upon him)(3:46),Luqman(peace be upon him)(31:13),Ezra (peace be upon him)(9:30),Dhul-Qarnain (peace be upon him)(18:84),Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)(48:30).
Belief in all the prophets and their messages is an integral part of the belief of every Muslim. The Holy Quran states,
“This messenger of Ours believes in that which has been revealed to him from his Lord, and so do the believers; all of them believe in Allah, and in His angels, and in His Books, and in His Messengers, saying, ‘We make no distinction between any of His Messengers.’ ”–Holy Qur’an, 2:286.
In prophethood all are equal but their ranks are different as is clear from the following verse of the Holy Quran,
“These Messengers have We exalted some of them above others; among them there are those whom Allah spoke; and some of them He exalted in degrees of rank…’
– Holy Qur’an, 2:254
So Wherever and to whichever people prophets have been sent, they are our (Muslims) prophets as well, and we hold them in great reverence. The following brief histories of a few of them is given for the benefit of the reader.
This overview was written by Daud A. Hanif, as originally published by theMuslim Sunrise.
This article was first published on alislam, titledQuran, Adam and Original Sinby Belal Khalid. An extract was also taken from an interview by Professor Wraig of Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas.
Evolution and History of Mankind from Quran
The Holy Quran says that God desired to bring into existence a universe which should serve as a manifestation of His Majesty and His Light and that this was the cause of the creation of universe. It says that God created the heavens and the earth in six periods. Before that God ruled over water. God`s object in creating the heavens and the earth out of water was to bring into existence a being endowed with the will to choose between good and evil. These beings would pass through various trials and would seek to outstrip one another in doing good and thus show which of them had attained to perfection(11:8).This verse shows that before matter assumed its present form, it existed in liquid shape. With regard to the pre-material stage the Quran says:
“Do not the disbelievers see that the heavens and the earth were a closed up mass, then We opened them out? And We made from water every living thing. Will they not then believe?”- (Holy Qur’an, 21:31)
The verse purports to say that the heavens and the earth were at first an amorphous mass and God then split them and formed them into a solar system and form the beginning He has always created life out of water.
Stages of the Universe
According to the Quran the universe passed from stage to stage till the earth assumed a shape and developed properties which could sustain human life.
The Quran, contrary to the accounts given in the Old and the New Testaments, teaches that man was created through a gradual process. There is another verse in the Quran which shows that the creation of man was the culmination of a gradual process and that it is not correct to say that God formed man out of clay and breathed His spirit into him. The Quran says:
“And He has created you in different stages and different forms” (Holy Qur’an, 71:15)
Adam Not the First Man on Earth
In the same way man’s intellectual development also proceeded gradually. The Quran shows that human beings were in existence before Hazrat Adamasbut that they were not yet able to bear the responsibility of revealed Law. They lived in caves and in mountain fastnesses. It is for this reason that the Quran has called them by the name of Jinn, which means literally those that dwell out of sight. Some people have applied this word to the genii of tales and fables, but the Quran does not support this interpretation.
Adam was not in Paradise
It expressly states that when Hazrat Adamasand his people went out of the garden (which again, according to the Quran was a region of the earth and is not to be confused with Paradise). God warned them against Iblis“who was one of the Jinn”and told them to be careful of him and his people as they would all have to live together upon the earth wherein they would spend their spans of existence and wherein they would die (7:26,28).
Again, addressing Hazrat Adamasand his people and Iblis and his people God admonishes all of them to accept His Prophets when they will appear from time to time (2:39). All this shows that theJinnof the time of Hazrat Adamasand their leader Iblis were of the human race.
The genii of the fables do not live in company with men nor are they in any other way connected with men. The Quran does not lend any support to the idea of theJinnof the fables. Those whom the Quran describes asJinnin connection with Hazrat Adamaswere human beings who dwelt upon the earth but whose mental faculties were not yet fully developed.
When the stage of the full development of the mental faculties of man was reached, God sent His revelation to the most perfect man of that generation, namely, Hazrat Adamas. This revelation was confined to a few social rules relating to the formation of a society and the provision of food and other means of maintenance for it. For the future God decreed that Prophets would continue to appear and those who believed in them would identify themselves with Hazrat Adamasand his people and those who rejected them would identify themselves with theJinnwho had opposed Hazrat Adamas. Each Prophet is raised to help forward the intellectual and spiritual evolution of man. Those, who are opposed to the next stage of evolution and are not willing to submit to the limitations and regulations which God seeks to impose through His Prophet to help forward the process of evolution, reject the Prophet.
Physical and Mental Evolution
In short, the Quran teaches that man’s physical creation and development are the result of a process of evolution and in the same way his intellectual development is also the result of a process of evolution. Hazrat Adamaswas not the first human being but was the first human being whose intellect was capable of accepting and bearing the responsibility of revelation. The Quran nowhere states that God desired to create man and therefore created Hazrat Adamas. The Quran expressly states that God decided to appoint a “vicegerent upon earth” and appointed Hazrat Adamas. This shows that at the time of appointment of Hazrat Adamasas Gods Vicegerent on earth there were human beings dwelling upon the earth but none of them had become recipient of divine revelation since their mental faculties were not yet fully developed.
The Original Sin
As Hazrat Adamaswas not in paradise, so the phenomenon of the original sin is resolved very peacefully and amicably. Before Hazrat Adamasthere was no Law on this earth from God and hence no one was supposed to pass through any trial and test. When Hazrat Adamaswas given the law, only after that it was possible to test him and human beings. When Quran refers to the eating of a fruit of a forbidden tree by Hazrat Adamas, it means that Hazrat Adamasdisobeyed one of the orders of the God. So after that God warned human beings that now they were on earth meaning that now they would be subjected to test and trial. All their deeds would be recorded and they would be held accountable for them. So no one inherited any sin from Hazrat Adamas, but the people after that time were held accountable for their deeds. This was the very cause of the creation of mankind as mentioned in the earlier text, and the Hazrat Adam’s disobeying was the turning point as it was after the fact that a Law had been enforced on this earth.
The Promised Messiah on Adam
Regarding this topic, the Promised Messiah answered a similar question in an interview with Professor Raig, in Lahore, 1908, as recorded inThe Review of Religions.
Question:“In the Bible it is stated that Adam, or the first man, as he should be called, was created in the region mentioned in Gen., Chapter 11. Are we to understand that the various human races found scattered all over the globe are descended from the same common ancestor?”
Answer:“We are not of that opinion: we do not agree with the Biblical view that the world began, only about six or seven thousand years ago, with the creation of Adam, and that till then there existed nothing at all. This would imply a previous period when God, so to say, was inert and inactive and His attributes in a state of abeyance—a view which we can never accept. Nor do we hold that the different races found scattered all over the globe are exclusively descended from this one Adam. We believe that human beings existed even before the time of the Adam spoken of in the Old Testament. This view is clearly implied in the words of the Holy Qur’an where it says “I am about to place a Khalifa in the earth”. The word Khalifa (Caliph) means a ‘successor.’
This verse implies, therefore, that Allah’s creation existed before Adam. Consequently, with regard to the races found in America or Australia, we are not in a position to say whether they descended from this last Adam or from a different progenitor or progenitors. There is a saying of Hazrat Mohy-ud-Din Ibni ‘Arabi that bears on this question. He writes that when he went on pilgrimage to Mecca, he met there [in a vision] a man who, he thought, was Adam. On being questioned on the point, the man replied: “There have been thousands of Adams: which of them do you seek?””
This article is an excerpt from Daud A. Hanif’s Prophets of God, originally published in The Muslim Sunrise. It is currently featured onAlislam.
Noahaswas an inhabitant of Iraq (Genesis 11:9). Very little is known of his childhood or youth. The Bible says that Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. He was a just man and perfect in his generation and Noah walked with God (Genesis 6:9). He appeared about ten centuries after Adamas. The people of his time had become worldly and were involved in social and moral evils. They had forgotten the real Creator and had resorted to the worship of idols. They had many idols, the principal ones being Wadd, Suwa, Yaghuth, Yauq and Nasr.
Noah Visits the House of God
Noah visited the house of God built by Adam. According to Al-Arzaki, Noah carried out major repairs to the House of God after the Deluge (Akhbar Mecca) and performed the Pilgrimage (Al-badaya 1:119). The worship of one God was revived in that area after long time, and the example of Noah did indeed infuse afresh the love of God in his people.
Noah Conveys Message of God
God appointed Noah for the guidance of mankind. The Holy Quran says:
“We sent Noah to his people and he said, ‘O my people, worship Allah, you have no other god but Him. Indeed, I fear for you the punishment of the great day.’”(7:60)
On hearing this message the chiefs of his people replied,
“We see you to be in manifest error.”
Hazrat Noahasthen very politely told them,
“There is no error in me, rather I am a messenger from the Lord of the worlds. I deliver to you the message of my Lord and give you sincere advice and I know from Allah what you do not know. Do you wonder that an exhortation has come to you from your Lord through a man from among yourselves, that he may warn you and that you may become righteous and that you may be shown mercy?”
Despite the bitter opposition of the chiefs, Noah continued his preaching. Only a handful of weak ones, the poor and the youth, believed in him. He preached to his people day and night, and spoke to them in public and in private. He reminded them of the great favors and bounties that God had bestowed upon them and also warned them of the evil consequences of the rejection of the divine message. But all his preaching and warning, his sympathy and solicitude, were treated with ridicule, opposition and abuse. Instead of following him whose heart was full of love for them, they chose to follow their false leaders.
The chief of his people told him,
“We see thee nothing but a mortal like ourselves, and we see that none have followed thee but those who, to all outward appearance, are the meanest of us. And we do not see in you any superiority over us; nay, we believe you to be a liar.”
Noahastried to convince them and win them over for God. He advised them to seek forgiveness of the Lord, as He is a great Forgiver of sins. Enumerating the benefits of belief in One God he informed them, God will send down rain for them in abundance and will grant them increase in wealth and children. He will also cause gardens to grow and rivers to flow for them. He further drew their attention to the great creation of seven heavens in perfect harmony and placing of the moon in it as a light and the sun as a lamp. Lastly he drew their attention to their own growth out of the earth and their return to it and then their resurrection. But all his advice fell on deaf ears. Their chiefs persuaded them to continue the worship of idols saying Noahaswas just a man like them who only sought to gain superiority over them. So when Noah’s exhortation and preaching throughout his prophetic life proved a voice in the wilderness, God revealed to him,
“Noah: None of thy people will believe except those who have already believed; grieve not, therefore, at what they have been doing.”
Noah Offers Special Prayer
After the intimation from God that none of his people will believe in him any more, Noah offered the following prayer to God:
“My Lord, leave not of the disbelievers even one dweller in the land. For, if thou dost leave them, they will only lead astray Thy servants and will beget none but sinners and disbelievers. My Lord! Forgive my parents, and me, and him who enters my house as a believer, and the believing men and the believing women; and increase Thou not the wrong doers in aught but in ruin.”
Noah Builds the Ark
God commanded Noah to build an Ark. The Holy Quran says:
“And build thou the Ark under our eyes and as commanded by our revelation. And address Me not concerning the wrongdoers. They are surely going to be drowned.” (11:38)
He immediately followed the instructions of God and prepared the Ark. The chiefs of his people ridiculed this move of his and termed it as an act of a lunatic. Noah prayed to God saying,
“I am overcome so come Thou to my help.”
God heard Noah’s prayers and soon after, at the appointed time, God opened the gates of heaven with water, which fell in torrents. And earth burst forth with springs and both waters met according to the decree of God. God further directed Noah:
“Embark therein two of every kind, male and female, and thy family except those against whom the word has already gone forth, and those who believe. And there had not believed in him except a few.”
“Embark therein. In the name of Allah be its course and its mooring. My Lord is assuredly Most Forgiving, Merciful.”
Thus there appeared a great deluge in that part of the world. The might of the chiefs and their arrogance was brought to naught by God. The deluge consumed all opponents of Noah including his disbelieving son, while Noah and his followers were saved. Their ark anchored at Mount Al-Judi. Judi (Djudi) is a lofty mountain mass in the district of Bohtan, about 25 miles north-east of Jazirah ibn Omar in 37 degrees east longitude and 30 degrees north in latitude. It owes its fame to the Mesopotamian tradition, which identifies it, and not Mount Ararat, as the mountain on which Noah’s Ark rested. Older exegesis identified the mountain which is now called Judi, or according to Christian authorities the mountains of Gordyene, as the apobaterion of Noah (Enc. of Islam, vol. I, p. 1059). Babylonian traditions also place Mount Al-Judi in Armenia (Jew Enc.under “Ararat”). The Bible admits that Babylon was the place where the descendants of Noah lived (Gen. 11:9).
The story of deluge with some variation is to be found in almost all countries. The reason is that when the descendants of Noah and those of his companions who were the founders of human civilization spread to other lands (as they were more powerful than the people already living there) they either exterminated the indigenous inhabitants or absorbed them. Thus they must have introduced into all the countries they subjugated their own traditions and customs. Subsequently the tradition about the deluge must also have come to be introduced into other lands. With the lapse of time, however, the immigrants ceased to have any connection with their original home and the catastrophe consequently came to be regarded as a local occurrence, with the results that local names of persons and places came to be substituted for the original names. So the deluge was not a universal visitation, nor should the traditions of different lands be taken to point to separate floods (Short Commentary).
The Law Introduced Through Noah
The law introduced through Noah has not been preserved. However it appears that it contained basic principle of the unity of God. The law of Noah was suitable for his time. It was to be transformed and developed in due course to suit the future needs. The Holy Quran states:
“He has prescribed for you the religion which he enjoined on Noah.”
The law introduced through him remained in force about a thousand years (29:15). Many prophets followed his law until God revealed the new one. It extended to the time of Abraham (peace be upon him) who was of his party (37:84).
It seems that the first fifty years of Noah’s dispensation were years of all-round spiritual progress and regeneration. After that moral decadence and degeneration set in and his people gradually became degraded morally, till their degeneration became complete in nine hundred years.
This article is an excerpt from Daud A. Hanif’sProphets of God,originally published inThe Muslim Sunrise.It is currently featured onAlislam.
The followers of three principal religions of the world: Judaism, Christianity and Islam, hold Abrahamasin great reverence. He was a native of Ur. Ur in present day is called Al-Muqayyar (or Mughair), and is about two hundred miles south-east of Baghdad in Iraq.
Abrahamaswas brought up in the house of his uncle Azar. The Bible mentions different name of Abraham’s father that is Terah (genesis 11:26) Tharah (Luke 3:34) and ecclesiastical history mentions Athar as his father. The Holy Quran mentions Azar as his Ab (26:87). Ab in Arabic is equally applicable to father, uncle and grandfather. His paternal uncle ran a shop where idols were sold. Abrahamasobserved the crafting of idols at his uncle’s home. The idols were made by humans and sold to public as their gods.
One day his uncle left Abrahamasat the shop to attend to customers. An old man came to the shop and said, I want to buy an Idol. Abrahamasasked him,Which one would you like to have?Abrahamasshowed that idol to him. He was about to buy that idol when Abraham asked the man,How old are you?The man replied, Seventy years. Upon this Abrahamastold him,This idol was made only yesterday. Won’t you feel ashamed while bowing down before a day-old idol?These words of Abram had great effect on the old man and he did not buy the idol and went home.
Such was the dislike of Abrahamasto the idols during his youth. He would voice out his displeasure time and again. In the beginning he discussed this issue very politely but later on had bitter discussions with his uncle. His uncle mostly ignored such religious discussions but at the end warned Abrahamasof severe consequences. However, Abraham’sasuncle was very much impressed by his noble character and he offered him his daughter Sarah in marriage.
Discussion with the King
Abrahamaswas a great iconoclast. His people worshipped the sun and the stars, their chief god being Merodach (Madruk), originally the god of the morning and the spring sun (Enc. Bib. & Enc. Rel. Eth, ii p. 296). They believed that all life depended on the sun. Abrahamasvery wisely asked the infidel King that if he, as he claimed, controlled life and death, then let him reverse the course of the sun on which all life depended. The King was in a fix. He could not say that he could not accept Abraham’s challenge to bring the sun from the west to the east, for that would have demolished his claim of being the controller of life and death. At the same time if he had said that he could do so, it meant that he claimed to exercise control over the sun which would have been a great blasphemy in the eyes of his people who worshipped the sun. Thus he was completely confounded and did not know what to say. He was defeated squarely.
Abraham as a Law Bearing Prophet
Abrahamasfollowed the law of Noahasup to fifty years. Later on, when God tried him with certain commandments, which he fulfilled, God said:
“… I will make thee a leader of men. Abraham asked, And from among my offspring? God said, My covenant does not embrace the transgressors.”(2:125)
In the great trial of sacrifice of his only son, Abraham’sasconduct proved par excellent. The time demanded new law so God chose Abrahamasfor it. The House of God had fallen to ruins and it required reconstruction. Under the command of God, Abrahamasand Ishmael rebuilt it on the old foundations (2:128). God enjoined on him saying:
“Associate not anything with Me and keep My house clean for those who perform the circuits, and those who stand up and those who bow and prostrate themselves in prayer.”(22:27)
Shariah (Law) of Abraham
The laws introduced through Abrahamaswere contained in the scriptures, but these have not been preserved as they were intended for a limited period only. However they are mentioned as scriptures of Abrahamasin the Holy Quran (87:20). The Holy Quran tells us that the scriptures contained the following:
“Verily, he, indeed, will prosper who purifies himself. And remembers the name of his Lord and offers Prayers. But you prefer the life of this world, whereas the Hereafter is better and more lasting. This, indeed, is what is taught in the former Scriptures. The Scriptures of Abraham and Moses.”(87:15-20)
Abrahamastaught simple form of unity of God to his people. Laws of Abrahamasremained in force till the time of Mosesas when other laws were introduced.
Rise and Fall of Abraham’s Progeny
Hazrat Abrahamaswas very much concerned about the renaissance of his people. He supplicated to God saying:
“… ‘My Lord, show me how Thou givest life to the dead.’ God said, ‘Dost thou not believe?’ Abraham said, ‘Yes, but I ask this so that my heart may be at ease.’ God Answered, ‘Take four birds and make them attached to thee. Then put each of them on a hill; then call them; they will come to thee in haste.’ …”(2:261)
This is a vision of Abrahamasin which he was shown the way to train his followers and regeneration them.
The interpretation of ‘taking of four birds’ in this vision meant that his posterity would rise and fall four times, a phenomenon that was to be witnessed twice among the Israelites, and to be repeated twice later on among the followers of the Holy Prophet of Islam who was a descendant of Abrahamasthrough Ishmael.
The power of the Jews, the progeny of Abrahamasthrough Isaac, was crushed twice, first by Nebuchadnezzar and then by Titus (17:5-8) (Enc. Brit. under ‘Jews’). Each time God raised them after their fall, the second revival having been brought about by Constantine, the Roman emperor who accepted Christianity. Similarly, the power of Islam was first rudely shaken when Baghdad fell to the Tartar hordes, but soon it recovered from the crushing blow. The victors became the vanquished and the grandson of Halaku, the despoiler of Baghdad, was converted to Islam.
The second fall came later when there was a general and wholesale decline of Muslims both in the spiritual and political field (Commentary, 2:262). God has raised the Promised Messiah in the latter days for the second renaissance of Islam, which is to take place through peaceful means.
The Holy Quran says:
“And, our Lord, raise up among them a messenger from among themselves, who may recite to them thy signs and teach them the book and wisdom and may purify them; surely, Thou art the Mighty, the Wise.”(2:130)
In this verse Abrahamasprayed for a great Prophet with specific missions. This was later fulfilled in the person of Mohammed (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) a descendant of Ishmael, on whom the fiery law (Deuteronomy 33:2) for all mankind was revealed in the form of the Holy Quran.
This article is an excerpt from Daud A. Hanif’sProphets of God,originally published in The Muslim Sunrise. It is currently featured onAlislam.
Israelites were living in bondage in Egypt. The King had subjected them to very hard and difficult conditions. To perpetuate their control over Israelites, one of the measures taken against them was that the male children of Israelites be slain. The King had ordered the midwives to carry out this evil task quietly at the very birth of the children of Israelites (Exodus 1:16). But the will of God prevented the midwives from such an evil act. When the King came to know of this, he gave order to his people, saying:
“Every son that is born ye shall cast into river, and every daughter ye shall save alive.”(Exodus 1:22)
We have in the Holy Quran:
“ …Pharaoh behaved arrogantly in the earth, and divided the people thereof into sections; he sought to weaken one section of them, slaughtering their sons and sparing there women… ”(28:5)
Such was the scene of Egypt when Moses was born there in the house of Imran during the despotic reign of Ramses II. God decided to help the weak Israelites and bring about a complete change in their position. They were to be delivered from the bondage of Pharaoh and were to become leaders and inheritors of favours and bounties of God.
God’s ways are mysterious and human being cannot perceive them. The case of the freedom of Israelites is a marvelous one. It establishes beyond doubt that Allah’s decision always comes to pass and no power can be a hindrance in the way of their fulfilment.
Let us see how the events had unfolded for the liberation of the Israelites.
The Holy Quran says that at the birth of Mosesas, God revealed to his mother saying:
“… You suckle him; and when thou fearest for him, then cast him into the river and fear not, nor grieve; for we shall restore him to thee, and shall make him one of the messengers.”(28:8)
The mother of Moses was a very sincere believer and had a living relationship with God. After the birth of Mosesas she suckled him as God had directed her and when she felt otherwise then without any hesitation she placed the infant Moses in the ark (28:8, 20:40) and floated it in the river and directed her daughter to follow it. The daughter kept the watch over the ark in such a way that no one could perceive it. The ark was picked up by a member of the family of Pharaoh who happened to be bathing in the river. The ark was brought to the palace of Pharaoh, where his wife saw the beautiful Israelite baby. She was attracted towards the infant and pleaded with the husband saying:
“… He will be a joy for my eyes and for you also, slay him not, hopefully he may prove to be useful for us or we may adopt him as a son.”(28:10)
Then she sent for wet nurses for the baby. The baby did not accept any one of those who came. Meanwhile Moses’ (peace be upon him) sister managed to reach there and offered a solution to the problem saying:
“… Shall I direct you to a people of a household who will bring him up for you and will be his sincere well-wishers?”(28:13)
They agreed and Pharaoh approached the mother of Moses for the nursing and upbringing of the child. She readily agreed to their proposal and the baby was given to her for upbringing and training on the expense of Pharaoh. The mother of Moses was so delighted over the return of her child according to Allah’s promise that she could hardly control her emotions. Her faith in Allah became even more solid. She was fully convinced that this child would be a prophet of Allah in due course as Allah had informed her earlier. So she spared no efforts in upbringing the child in the best manner. Mosesas had such a holy mother for benevolent care and guidance and a mighty monarch as guardian unto his manhood. He had a healthy and wholesome affect of his mother, overriding the evil ways and manner of his guardian monarch. He developed manly qualities of might and power and valor from palace on the one hand, and learned good manners and self-control over them from the pious mother on the other.
As Moses advanced toward maturity his observation of daily life of the people of Egypt became intense. He was able to see very clearly the cruel treatment meted out to the Israelites. The whole atmosphere of Egypt had developed totally against the Israelites and even ordinary Egyptians carried out atrocities against them. Moses had great aversion against oppression and was very much helpful to the weak. An incident for illustration purpose may be of interest. The Holy Quran says:
“… One day he entered the city at a time when its inhabitants were in a state of heedlessness; and he found therein two men fighting—one of his own party and the other from enemies. And he who was of his party sought his help against him who was of his enemies. So Moses struck the latter with his fist; and thereby caused his death. Then Moses said, ‘This is of Satan’s doing, he is indeed an enemy, a manifest misleader.’ ”(28:16)
Moses had no intention of killing the Egyptian but his single punch caused the death of the Egyptian. On this Moses become very much upset and implored God for forgiveness and made a solemn promise with Him saying,“I will never be a helper of the guilty.”Next morning he got out of his home being watchful of the situation. Suddenly he heard the call of help from the same Israelite, who was again engaged in some dispute with another Egyptian. Moses said to him,“You are definitely a misguided person.”And when Moses made up his mind to lay hold of the man, who was an enemy of both, the Israelite thought that Moses was about to hold him, cried out loudly, “O Moses do you intend to kill me as you have killed a person yesterday?” (28:20) This cry disclosed the incident, which had taken place a day earlier. The Egyptians were already in search of the killer of the Egyptian. So the condition of Moses became very vulnerable. He, therefore, confined himself to his home. A well-wisher of Moses who happened to know the evil design of authorities came to him with the news that the chiefs were counseling together to kill him and advised him to depart from the area immediately.
Moses Departs for Midian
Mosesas secretly departed from home to some direction praying and moving watchfully. After covering some distance he decided to go to Midian. After a few days’ journey Moses arrived in the vicinity of Midian. In the outskirts of Midian he found shepherds watering their animals. Among them were two young ladies who were holding back their flocks. Moses asked them what was their problem? They replied,
“We cannot water our animals until all the shepherds have departed with their flocks. And our father is an old man.”(28:24) Moses watered their flocks and returned to the shade of the tree while praying to God for help and guidance. When the two ladies came back and narrated the story to their father, he sent one of them back to Moses. She came and bashfully approaching Moses said:
“My father calls you home so that he may reward you for the service you rendered to our flock.”On his arrival at their home Moses narrated the incident, which had happened in Egypt. The old man replied, “Have no fear any more, you have escaped from an unjust people” (28:26).
It seems that the household was already in search of some good servant. So his daughters suggested for employing Moses as he had proved himself to be a strong and honest man. The father was fully convinced of the nobility of Moses; he, therefore, offered him one of his daughters in marriage. In due course marriage contract was made. The old man Shuaib was a holy man and perhaps knew through revelation that his son-in-law would be a prophet of God. So he wanted him to remain in his company for a long time and benefit from his company. He made eight to ten years of service an essential condition for marriage. Mosesas accepted the condition of service and remained with Hazrat Shuaib about eight to ten years.
Moses Commissioned to Prophethood
After completing the term of service, Mosesas set forth from Midian with his family. On the way he saw a manifestation of God. He told his family to wait for him while he went up the mountain, where he had seen the light and was expecting great communication of God. On arrival at the spot, he was called by a voice from the right side of the valley, in the blessed spot, out of the tree:
“… Moses, verily I am Allah, the Lord of the worlds; Cast down thy rod. And when he saw it move as though it were a serpent, he turned back retreating and did not look back. O Moses, said the voice, come forward and fear not; surely thou art of those who are safe. Insert thy hand into thy bosom; it will come forth white without evil effect, and draw back thy arm toward thyself in order to still thy fear. So these shall be two proofs from thy Lord to Pharaoh and his chiefs. Surely, they are a rebellious people.” (28:31-33)
With these words Mosesas was commissioned to return to Pharaoh and his people for their guidance and reformation. Moses had lived among them and was aware of their arrogance, cruelty and inhumane behavior. The responsibility of guiding them seemed to him very heavy and the task extremely difficult. No doubt the responsibilities of prophethood are indeed very heavy, and Moses , it appears, felt that he was not equal to the great task with which he was being entrusted. That is why he said:
“My breast is straightened and my tongue is not fluent; so send word to Aaron (peace be upon him) also ” (26:14)
He also recalled the incident in which an Egyptian had died with his fist and the blame of killing him was placed on him. Allah, the Wise, granting the request of Mosesas, said:
“We will strengthen thine arm with thy brother, and We will give power to you both so that they shall not reach you. So go with our signs. You two and those who follow you will prevail.” (28:36)
Allah said again:
“So go to Pharaoh and say, both of us are the messengers of the Lord of the world. To tell thee to send the children of Israel with us.” (26:17-18)
Moses in the Court of Pharaoh
Mosesas and Aaron (peace be upon him), with a mighty message and full assurance of victory from God, reached Cairo. On arrival first they contacted Israelites and gave them the glad tiding of achieving freedom from the bondage of Pharaoh and persuaded them to prepare for the impending departure. Then they went to Pharaoh. Moses conveyed him the message of God in a very plain and polite manner saying:
“O Pharaoh surely, I am a messenger from the Lord of worlds. It is not right that I should say anything of God except the truth. I have come to you with a clear sign from your Lord; therefore, let the children of Israel go with me.”(7:105-106)
“… And torment them not. We have, indeed, brought thee a great sign from thy Lord; and peace shall be on him who follows the guidance. It has, indeed, been revealed to us that punishment shall come upon him who rejects the message of God and turns away.”(20:48-49)
On hearing this message, the following dialogue took place between Moses and Pharaoh.
Pharaoh said,Who then is the Lord of you two, O Moses?
Moses said, OurLord is He who gave unto everything its proper form and then guided it to its proper function.
Pharaoh said,What will be the fate of the former generations?
Moses said,The knowledge thereof is with my Lord preserved in a Book. My Lord neither errs nor forgets.
It is He Who has made the earth for you a bed and has caused pathways for you to run through it; and who sends down rain from the sky and thereby We bring forth various kinds of vegetation in pairs; Eat ye and pasture your cattle. Verily, in this are signs for those endowed with reason. From this earth have We created you, and into it shall We cause you to return, and from it shall we bring you forth a second time.
And we did show Pharaoh Our signs, all of them; but he rejected them and refused to believe.(20:50-57)
Other Signs Shown to Pharaoh and His People
God Almighty afflicted the people of Pharaoh with drought, scarcity of fruits and by sending upon them storms, locusts, lice, frogs and blood as clear signs. But they behaved proudly and were a sinful people. And when there fell upon them the punishment, they said:
“O Moses, pray for us to thy Lord according to that which he has promised to thee. If thou remove from us the punishment, we will surely send with thee the Children of Israel.”(7:131, 134-135)
Nine miracles were shown to Pharaoh and his people through Moses but they did not benefit from them. Due to the fear of persecution by Pharaoh and the chiefs, only a few youths from among them believed in Moses (10:84). After the defeat of sorcerers Pharaoh became more furious. At this critical hour God revealed to Moses and his brother:
“Take for your people some houses in the town and construct your houses so that they face each other and observe prayer. And give glad tidings to the believers.”(10:88)
Under this direction of God, Mosesas convinced the Israelites to dwell very close together so as to be able to help one another in the time of need. This is only achievable when people build their houses near or facing each other. It also indicated that they should have a common goal or ideal and remain focused on it. Thus Mosesas and Aaron (peace be upon him) concentrated on having the Israelites united and prepared fully for migration on the one hand and implored God against Pharaoh on the other hand in the following way:
“Our Lord, Thou hast bestowed upon Pharaoh and his chiefs splendor and riches in the present life, with the result, Our Lord, that they are leading men astray from Thy path. Our Lord! Destroy their riches and harden their hearts so that they believe not until they see the grievous punishment.” (10:89)
God heard their prayers and gave them final orders for departure from Egypt saying:
“Take away My servants by night, and strike for them a dry path through the sea. Thou wilt not be afraid of being overtaken, nor wilt thou have any other fear.”(20:78)
In order to fully understand the nature and significance of this incident which indeed constituted a great divine sign, it is necessary to read this verse along with other relevant verses such as vv. 2:51, 26:62-64 and 44:25.
The Bible mentions the crossing of the sea in the following words:
“And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all the night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground; and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand and on their left. And the Egyptians pursued and went in after them to the midst of the sea. And the Lord said unto Moses, ‘Stretch out thine hand over the sea.’ And Moses stretched forth his hand over the sea and the sea returned to its strength. And the waters returned and covered the chariots, and the horsemen, and all the host of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them; there remained not so much as one of them.”(Exodus 14:21-28)
The Holy Quran says:
“And remember the time when we divided the sea for you and saved you and drowned Pharaoh’s people while you looked on.”(2:51)
“And when the two hosts came in sight of each other the companions of Moses said, ‘We are surely overtaken’ … Then we revealed to Moses saying, ‘Strike the sea with thy rod.’ Whereupon it parted and every part was like a huge sand-hill.”(26:62-64)
Along with it read also:
“And leave the sea at a time when it is motionless. Surely, they are a host which is doomed to be drowned.”(44:25)
When Moses and the Israelites arrived at the northern extremity of the Red Sea, the ebb of the tide had begun. As the water receded, it left behind dunes, the tops of which were gradually uncovered, leaving the intervening depressions full of water. The Israelites crossed over at that moment. On arrival at the spot the Egyptian forces saw a bare stretch of the shore and pursued the fugitives, their chariot wheels stuck fast in the wet soil and the water returned upon them when the wind shifted and they were thus destroyed by God.
In short, Mosesas and Aaron (peace be upon him)“led the Israelites out of Egypt into Canaan. The Israelites left secretly by night, and when Pharaoh learnt of their flight, he pursued them with his hosts and was drowned in the Red Sea.”
When Pharaoh was drowning he proclaimed belief in the God of the children of Israelites. God acknowledging his belief said:
“What! Now! while thou wast disobedient before this and wast of the mischief-makers. So this day we will save thee in thy body alone that thou mayest be a sign to those who came after thee. And surely many of mankind are heedless of Our Signs.”(10:92-93)
Moses and the Israelites in Sinai
After having crossed the sea safely, Israelites saw the destruction of the powerful enemy with their own eyes and thanked God. God called Moses for thirty nights on Mt. Tur and then this period was extended for another ten nights. Before leaving for the meeting with God, Moses said to his brother Aaron,“Take charge of my people in my absence and manage them well.”
Mosesas was blessed with special communication with God. It made him bold, and he requested God to show him that perfect manifestation which He promised the prophet prophesied in Deuteronomy 18:18. Upon this God manifested himself on the mountain, and it broke into pieces and Mosesas fell unconscious.
On recovery he thanked God and said,“Holy art thou I turn to thee and I am the first believer”(7:144). He was then given the Ten Commandments for Israelites. The words of those commandments were not preserved. However, they are found in the current Bible.
Manifestation of God on Moses in Sinai
God’s manifestation on Jesusas in Seir, the area in which many miracles of Jesusas took place.
God’s manifestation on Muhammad was to take place at mount Paran. The Holy Prophet Mohammed (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) conquered Mecca at the head of ten thousands companions. Paran in Arabic is called Faran, the name of the hill that lays between Mecca and Medina. The fiery law mentioned is the Holy Quran—a permanent law for mankind.
God spoke to Mosesas and said:
“I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.
And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him.”(Deuteronomy 20:18-19)
In this prophecy Mosesas was told that God would raise a Prophet from among their brethren, that is, the Ishmaelites who will be a law bearing Prophet like unto Mosesas. This was fulfilled in the person of Mohammed (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).
The word of the prophecy“and will put my words in his mouth”are very significant as the Holy Quran introduced by Mohammed (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) claims to be the very words of God. There is no other religious book, which claims to be the exact words of God.
Moses was a law bearing Prophet and all those appeared after him including David, Solomon and Jesusas followed his law. His dispensation came to an end with the death of Jesus in Kashmir, India.
This article is an excerpt from Daud A. Hanif’s Prophets of God, originally published in The Muslim Sunrise. It is currently featured onAlislam.
Jesus, Son of Mary
Mother of Jesusas forms an integral part of his name so we commence his life by a brief mention of his mother. Grandmother of Jesusas, Hanna, lived a pious life and had a keen desire to have a pious child. She vowed that her child would be dedicated to the service of the church (synagogue). In due course she gave birth to a girl who was named Mary.
During those days only males were dedicated to the service of the church. Nevertheless, due to her vows that she had made earlier, she dedicated Mary, her only child, to the service of the church. Zakaria became Mary’s guardian. Mary grew from childhood to womanhood in the church and lived a pious and chaste life. So pious was young Mary that her guardian, Zakaria, begged God to grant him a pious son like Mary. He was granted Yahya (John) who became a prophet in due course.
During her devotion she saw visions and was strengthened in her faith by the words of God. Angel told her that God had chosen her over all the ladies of her time. She should therefore remain devotedly engaged in His worship alone. She was in this state of devotion when one day she saw an angel in the form of a man, who conveyed her glad news from God that she would have a son. This news disturbed her very much. She argued with the angel saying that she was a virgin and under the vow she had chosen the life of celibacy and she had not been unchaste. Under these circumstances how can she bear a child? she asked. The angel replied that her statement was correct but the child would be born because it was the command of God. He creates things without even any material. He had decided that the miraculous birth of the child should take place and serve as a sign for the Israelites. They had become unworthy of prophethood due to their persistent rejection of prophets sent to them. God, therefore, had decided to shift prophethood from Israelites to the children of Ishmael. The fatherless birth of Jesus thus was to serve as a sign for Israelites.
Birth of Jesus
After receiving news from the angel, Mary felt conceived with the command of God in November or December of that year. On realising this, she understood that God had changed her lifestyle and she could no longer continue her devotion in the church. With the pregnancy becoming more visible, in March or April of next year, the Essential brotherhood, to which Mary belonged, in their perplexity and fearing scandal, secretly prevailed upon one Joseph to marry her. Later on, on realizing that she was already with pregnancy, Joseph wanted to do away with her but was prevented by an angel. From the Chamber of dedication, Mary went to the east in Bethlehem, about seventy miles south of Nazareth to avoid the public eye. She had no one to help her in her difficulties except God. Having full trust in God and through the guidance from Him alone, she completed her time of pregnancy. The pains of childbirth drove her close to the trunk of a palm tree in the fountain land of Judea (19:24).
At the time of delivery, Mary was strengthened by revelation and directed to the nearby rivulet and the ripe dates on the date palms standing at the slope close by her. She delivered Jesus in pain and was exhausted but soon regained strength by the dates and water. She followed the instructions of God and avoided communication with people and remained devoted to Him.
Sometime after the birth of the child, Joseph came and took them to Egypt, where they lived till the death of Herod, a notorious king (Matthew 2:13-23).
Prophethood of Jesus
God taught Jesus knowledge of the Torah, granted him wisdom and appointed him prophet for the Israelites (3:50). He appeared fourteen centuries after Mosesas. During this long period the Old Testament had undergone many changes. Jewish scholars, scribes and Pharisees at the time had tempered with the Torah and had disfigured it. The followers of Mosesas were divided into seventy-one sects at that time. God sent Jesusas as the terminal prophet for the house of Israel. God granted him revelation so that the wrong teachings that had crept into the Torah could be sifted and Jewish beliefs and practices could be rectified. He preached the message of God to them but they would not pay heed to him; they rather turned against him. He spoke in parables, conveying the message to the poor and the rich Israelites alike. Very few of them believed in him. Jews accused him of claiming to be the king of Jews. Little did they understand from the prophecy that he was to be a spiritual king. When he spoke against the erroneous beliefs, they turned into his bitter enemies. They even reported him to the Roman rulers of the land and demanded his execution. He was accused of blasphemy and sought for trial.
Trial of Jesus
He was tried in the court of Pontius Pilate, the local Governor. The wife of Pilate had seen in a dream that Jesus was a righteous person and that he should not be harmed. Therefore when Pilate sat on the judgment seat he called for water and washed his hands saying,‘I am free from the sin against this righteous man.’He had delayed the proceedings till third hour on the Friday. During trial too he used all means to save him. At one point he even gave the Jews an option, saying he used to give amnesty to someone every year, and if they wanted he could release Jesus for them. But they refused the offer. He asked them what he should do with Jesus. They spoke with one voice:“Kill him for blasphemy and if you don’t do it we will report you to the King.”When Pilate could not prevail upon them, he handed over Jesus to the Jews for crucifixion.
They carried him to Golgotha and put him on the cross. He prayed to God saying,“Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani,” that is, “O my God, O my God, why have Thou forsaken me?”
Hebrew 5:7 states,“When he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him who was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared.”A heavy swoon fell on him and in this state he was taken down from cross at ninth hour before the Sabbath day. When he was taken down from the cross he was unconscious, extremely feeble and resembled a “dead person.” His legs were not broken to bring sure death on him. However, a soldier pierced his side with a spear, and water and blood gushed out of his body. It was a clear sign that he was alive but to ward off his enemies he was declared dead. Shortly after the incident a follower of Jesus by the name of Joseph of Armithia, an influential fellow with authorities, came to Pilate and requested that the body of Jesus should be handed over to him. His request was granted readily. He took the feeble, unconscious body of Jesusas, placed him in a pre-arranged spacious sepulture in a private garden. Another follower, Nicodimus, the physician, brought pre-prepared ointments and applied it on the wounds of nails and wrapped him in a linen cloth. They tended their master in the sepulture dearly. Their efforts were successful and Jesus came to consciousness during the night.
Next morning they disguised him into the clothes of a gardener to avoid recapture. Later on he met disciples in their private places, shared fish and other food with them. Tarried with them for few weeks, carefully avoiding public appearance, and not letting anyone know about his movement. Jesus secretly planned and prepared for migration from Galilee. Before disappearing from the scene he directed some of his disciples to go to Galilee. They traveled to east and met him in Galilee Mountains. He entrusted them with the task of preaching to Israelites. Bidding them farewell, he departed secretly in search of the lost sheep of the house of Israel elsewhere. His followers returned to Jerusalem. (Luke 24:46-52) He had told them that he had other sheep that are not of this fold. He set forth along with his mother and very few disciples on the long journey in search of the lost ten tribes of Israel. This ends the first phase of his ministry according to the Gospels.
The death of Jesusas on the cross is a cardinal issue for the Jews, Christians and the Muslims. Jews believe that the birth of Jesusas was not miraculous, rather (God forbid) illicit, and that was false in his claim of prophethood and he had no connection with God. To prove their claim they tried to kill him on the cross. Because it was written in their book,“He who is hanged on a tree is accursed of God.”.They failed in their attempt as has been stated above. The Jews, however, still maintain that they killed Jesus on the cross.
Christians believe that although Jesus died on the cross, he died to atone their sins, and then rose from the dead on the third day. If one can prove that he did not die on the cross then the basic Christian belief is shattered. Hence they adamantly retain the belief of his death on the cross although facts tell us otherwise.
Muslim in general, are of the view that Jesus did not die on the cross, rather God casted the figure of Jesus on some other person. The Jews, they say, killed that disfigured person on the cross instead of Jesus. This belief, too, goes against the facts. God the Wise was able to save him from all such ignominious situations. These three types of beliefs have created a great dilemma for the followers of the three principal faiths in the world.
The most authentic source of information in this regard is the word of God, the Holy Quran, which says:
“… They slew him not nor did they bring about his death on the cross. But he was made to resemble like a crucified person and those who differ in are certainly in a state of doubt about it, they do not have certain knowledge about it. They follow their conjectures only. The reality is that they have not brought death on him. On the contrary Allah has exalted him to Himself…”(4:158-159)
In very clear words Allah has rejected the claim of the Jews and has stated that they failed in their attempt to bring about the death of Jesusas on the cross. Rather he was exhausted when taken down from the cross and was in a swoon and resembled a dead one. Allah the Wise has thus saved him from ignominious death and exalted him to Himself. The words of the Holy Quran,“Allah has exalted him to Himself,”are the key words to solve the issue. Because no single place can be fixed as an abode of God. He is everywhere in the whole universe. By saving Jesus from an accursed death on the cross, God exalted him and proved to his enemies that he was beloved of God and that all the accusations leveled against him were baseless.
In short the three above-mentioned beliefs are falsified by the words of the Holy Quran. It has been already stated above that according to the Gospels as well, Jesusas did not die on the cross. He did survive the crucifixion.
Further resources on this topic can be found onAlislam. Some highlights are given below:
In this book, Ahmadasdeconstructs contemporary beliefs on Jesus through a searing analysis of the Bible, Qur’an, and other historical sources. This ground-breaking book is a classic in the genre.
This book is a succinct summary of Ahmadiyya beliefs on Jesusas. Extensively referenced, it will be an enlightening read to all impartial readers.
This book constitutes a scientific look at Christianity. It delves deep into the logic of contemporary Christian theology, and traces its history from truth to distortion.
The following is an excerpt from the bookRevelation, Rationality, Knowledge and Truthby Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmadrh. References can be found there.
Krishna is depicted as a deity and a supreme God in his own right despite being an avatar of Vishnu. However, enough evidence can be presented from the Mahabharat and Bhagavad Gita (sanskrit scriptures) that Krishna never claimed Godhead for himself, nor did he ever claim immortality. Krishnaascan easily be identified as just another prophet of God, no different from those who appeared before or after him throughout the recorded history of religion.
As portrayed in his authentic biographies, Krishnaasis known to have been born on Earth, around 1458 BC, like any other human child, to Basudeba and his wife Deboki. They named him Kinai. The name “Krishna” was given to him later, meaning “enlightened one”. He is known to have lived an ordinary child’s life with an exceptional flare of the supernatural (which is also related concerning many other prophets of God by their followers). He lived like humans, acted like humans and attended the call of nature like humans. He grew up to a strong adulthood and acquired and displayed outstanding qualities of leadership. In the battlefield he led great armies to epoch-making victories. In ordinary life, he rose to the exalted position of a great spiritual exemplar and performed his role as a reformer, the like of which had seldom been seen in India. He admonished people to become righteous and eschew evil. To him it was important to destroy evil-minded people who wanted to wipe out religion and promote Godlessness.
Though human in character and spirit, his physical description is far from anything earthen. The image of Lord Krishna as portrayed by Hindu artists depicts him as having four arms and bearing wings. Yet even this can be ascribed to as human qualities and attributes. For instance, possessing four arms and wings can be symbolically interpreted to mean that highly ranked servants of God are gifted with extra faculties. The Holy Quran too mentions wings in relation to the Holy Prophetsa of Islam. He is enjoined by God to lower his wings of mercy over the believers. Similarly, when angels are mentioned as bearing different number of wings, it is their attributes which are referred to, and not physical wings.
Further, Krishnaasis often presented around comely maidens rather colourfully dressed — these aregopis. Gopi is a term applied to particular womenfolk who tend to cows, somewhat similar to a shepherdess. It should be remembered that the title of Krishna himself was that ofGao’palwhich means “the tender of cows”. This, when read together with the Biblical accounts of Israelite prophets tending to the sheep of the house of Israel, makes the similarity between the two abundantly clear. As India is the country of cows instead of that of sheep, the common people are referred to as cows. Hence for Krishna to be titled as the tender of cows, is quite understandable. Likewise, reference to his disciples asgopis is no mystery either.
Krishna is also calledMurli Dharwhich means a flute player. The flute here is evidently a symbol of revelation; the tune of the flute is not emitted by the instrument itself. It only transmits that which is being breathed into it. Hence, it was Lord Krishna himself who has been depicted as a flute played by God. Whatever tune God played into him, he most faithfully transmitted to the world. Thus the reality of Krishnaascan be seen as no different from that of any other messenger of God who, as a faithful custodian of Divine messages, passes them onto the world unchanged. The flute becomes a most expressive symbol of the integrity of the prophets assuring the world that they say nothing from themselves, other than what has been revealed to them from on high.
Learn more about the Ahmadiyya perspective on Hinduismhere.
The following is an excerpt from the bookRevelation, Rationality, Knowledge and Truthby Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmadrh. References can be found there.
Confucianism is a treasure house of profound wisdom. A study of this religion reveals that rationality, revelation and knowledge go hand in hand in leading man to truth. Although many chinese consider it to be a religion on the pattern of other Divinely revealed religions of the world, there are others among them who view it as a mere philosophy. In Japan, for instance, Confucianism has no geography of its own. The followers of Taoism, Shintoism and Buddhism equally believe in Confucianism as a philosophy compatible with their own. Hence they coexist in a diffused form, unheard of in the case of other religions of the world.
When we speak of Confucianism being treated as a mere philosophy, we particularly have in mind the question of the existence of God. Few followers of Confucius (550-478 BC) today have a clear belief in any Divine existence. Yet they believe in the world of spirits and souls, and some even practise ancestor worship. However we believe that a reappraisal of the current popular understanding of Confucianism is vital.
Examining the early texts upon which Confucianism is founded, there is no doubt that this religion too is squarely built of a sound belief in the existence of God. It owes much of its philosophy and wisdom to revelation, rather than to the contemplations of wise men.
The extent to which this religion has deviated from its original course can be measured by the currently popular spirit-worship, so commonly found among the adherents of Confucius today. In the source material of Confucius however, there is not the slightest hint of any such superstitious beliefs and practises. Evidently therefore, as happened in the case of other religions, Confucianism also drifted away from its original sources with the passage of time. Many superstitious and erroneous practises crept into it at the cost of the belief in one Supreme God. A tragedy, alas, which is repeated only too often.
As for ancestral worship, they do not treat them as gods or saints, yet, many beg favours from them. But in Japan this worship does not have the same meaning as understood elsewhere. It is merely an expression of respect and loyalty to the memory of the dead. Not everyone begs for things from the souls of the dead, and do not treat them as independent gods. A perfect symmetry and coordination in the laws of nature prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that if this universe is created, it must have been created by a single Supreme Being. There is not an iota of trace of two or three creative hands at work in nature. It is quite logical to conclude from this that the deep innate desire to believe in something must have been created for the purpose of creating a linking bridge between the Creator and the creation. When this communion is not established the absence of Divine revelation leaves a void which must somehow be filled by that fundamental urge. It is that urge that creates gods for itself whether they are souls, spirits, ghosts or other ethereal beings. Hence to believe in superstitions is not accidental. The phantom figures of gods found among the superstitious people are like the images of ghosts born during the absence of light.
This decadent trend gradually pushes the image of God out of the arena of religious beliefs. The belief in God requires reformation in one’s conduct and consequent accountability, while the spirits, ghosts and other ethereal beings demand no submission to any moral religious code.
From an in-depth study of classical Confucian literature, it is not difficult to prove that Confucianism is not a man-made philosophy at its origin. It did embrace the idea of one immortal God, from Whom its teachings originated and Who is believed to govern the universe. “Heaven” is a manifestation of that God, and as such sometimes He Himself is referred to as Heaven. Confucianism considers true knowledge to consist of understanding the attributes of God and adopting them in one’s own conduct. This brings man closer to eternal truth and serves as a source of knowledge for his benefit.
The history of Confucianism and Taoism goes as far back as the time of Fu Hsi (pronounced Food She) (c.3322 BC), who was both a king and a great sage. Once, in a vision, he saw a horse dragon rising from the Yellow River which had a diagram on its back. This is not the only incident of Chinese history regarding a prophet learning things through his vision. Prophet Yu (c. 2140 BC) is also recorded benefitting from Divine revelation. In the vision of Fu Hsi he had the opportunity to study the diagram. The diagram consisted of eight sets of three male and female lines. The combination of these trigrams into upper and lower pairs provides sixty-four hexagrams. The significance of each hexagram is depicted by its name and is related to the particular arrangement of male and female lines. It was reported of a sage, King Wan (c. 1143 BC), that he was the first to write down the interpretations of these hexagrams. His son, Cheu Kung (c. 1120 BC), added to these explanations and later Confucius added to his commentary to it in the form of appendices. This was the development of Fu Hsi’s vision into theBook of Changes known as I Ching (or Yi King).
An understanding of the principles of this theory (the theory of the eight trigrams) influenced the growth of many a science and discipline in Chinese life pertaining to all fields of human interest. It is said that in China this philosophy played a vital role in the development of agriculture, industry, medicine, economy, politics, and many other fields of knowledge. One Chinese scholar, Chou Chih Hua, writes in his bookAcupuncture and Science,that the theory of eight trigrams has the same relationship with Chinese medicine as mathematics has with European science. According to the bookHistory of Medicine of China,Fu Hsi, the prophet who formulated the theory of the eight trigrams through revelation, also discovered the science of medicine and acupuncture. However, some believe that this knowledge was developed in a later period by the sage King Huang Ti, who in turn had derived his knowledge from theI Ching.
Master Sun’s Art of War, which also uses theI Ching,is famous in the military world. Military people throughout the ages have given importance to this book, which has been translated into six different languages. Chinese logicians and the various ancient classical schools of thought also based their theories on the principles outlined in theBook of Changes.To a minor degree, theBook of Changeshas also influenced the Western world, where I Ching has gained popularity, although some use it only as a kind of oracle for fortune telling.
According to Confucianism, formal academic study is not essential for the attainment of truth. God Himself is Truth, so whatever He creates He blesses it with this same quality central to His own identity. Thus human nature and eternal truth have become synonymous in Confucianism.
Mencius (372-289 BC) was a Chinese philosopher, theories and educationalist. He was also a very religious man and prominent personality among the followers of Confucius. He left a great impression on Chinese philosophy, so much so that some consider him to be a prophet. Explaining a way of reaching eternal truth, he is reported to have said:“Benevolence, righteousness, propriety, and knowledge are not infused into use from without. We are certainly furnished with them. And a different view is simply from want of reflection. Hence it is said, ‘Seek and you will find them. Neglect and you will lose them.’”
Here, the external source being denied by Mencius is not revelation. Rather, he points out that our moral qualities, which are an essential element of our being, do not come to us from outside. Mencius expressed the view that sensory experience does not give us a new message by itself. In the mirror of sensory experience, the human mind can see the external images of its inner nature. Thus he does not deny the benefit of objectivity, what he denies is its independent potential in leading man to truth. All the same in guiding us to the innate fountainhead of eternal truth. Mencius further expounded that nature, by which he means the entire cosmos, itself is not eternal but created for us by “Heaven” and “Heaven” is a sensible Creator. Explaining this, Mencius said: “It is said in the‘Book of Poetry’:‘Heaven, in producing mankind, Gave them their various faculties and relations with their specific laws. These are the invariable rule of nature for all to hold, And all love this admirable virtue.’”
The term “Heaven”, as understood by Mencius is a Conscious Being and it is interchangeable with our term of God. Heaven may be seen to symbolise the active and conscious creative principles of God. Thus he says:“This is illustrated by what is said in the ‘Book of Poetry’, — ‘Be always studious to be in harmony with the ordinance of God, So you will certainly get yourself much happiness;’”
Classical Confucianism, undoubtedly, presents man as a creation of God rather than just a product of unconscious nature. For Confucius, the ultimate goal in attaining knowledge of one’s own nature is to attain harmony with God, and this is the ultimate of man’s vision of heaven. This belief is quite similar to the Quranic teaching in presenting man as having been created according to God’s attributes.“...and follow the nature (attributes) of Allah after which He fashioned all mankind…”.
Confucius further propounded that man has to make a conscious effort to first gain knowledge of this image of God, latent within his nature, and then to develop within himself attributes that accord with this image. If he does not make this conscious effort, then there is no guarantee that man’s moral development will, as a matter of course, be in the image of God.
According to Confucian understanding, knowledge as an entity does not exist in isolation from man’s actions and character (his virtue, dignity and propriety). The two are deeply linked, as the following reference reveals:
“The Master (Confucius) said, ‘When a man’s knowledge is sufficient to attain, and his virtue is not sufficient to enable to hold, whatever he may have gained, he will lose again. When his knowledge is sufficient to attain, and he has virtue enough to hold fast, if he cannot govern with dignity, the people will not respect him. When his knowledge is sufficient to attain, ad he has virtue enough to hold fast; when he governs also with dignity, yet if he try to move the people contrary to the rules of propriety:- full excellence is not reached.’”
It is also evident that Confucius was convinced that man’s Creator has great influence over him and that He alone was worthy of his worship. This is revealed by the following tradition:
“Wang-sun-Chia saying, (to the Master Confucius): ‘What is the meaning of saying, It is better to pay court to the furnace than the southwest corner?’ The Master said, ‘Not so. He who offends against Heaven (God) has none to whom he can pray.’”
To offend against the creative principles of God is to act contrary to the inner nature of man, which God has designed to be a reflective mirror of His own attributes. The one who turns away from God has none else to turn to. The above quotes serve to illustrate that at its source, Confucianism cannot be treated as a man-made philosophy. At its core, it contained the essential belief in an externally existing Creator, whose ways are to be revered and emulated. They further illustrate that mere knowledge, devoid of the essential ingredients of seeking God and putting into practise His ordinances, was considered to be of no value.
Furthermore, as will become evident from the quotes furnished below, Confucianism presents God (or Heaven) as a Being Who takes an active interest in the welfare and development of mankind. The necessity of upholding the value of Truth established by God, through His choice of suitable people to establish truth for the guidance of man.
The Chinese sages can be considered to be the equivalent of prophets as mentioned in the Quran or the Bible, i.e. men who are representatives of messengers of God. We find this similarity expressed in a statement attributed to Confucius.
‘The Master was put in fear in K’wang. ‘He said, “After the death of King Wan, was not the cause of truth lodged here in me (Confucius)? If Heaven had wished to let this cause of truth perish, then I, a future mortal, should not have got such a relation to that cause. While Heaven does not let the cause of truth perish, what can the people of K’wang do to me?”’
Here Confucius expressed his complete conviction that the eventual transcendence of truth was assured by an unchanging decree of God in whose safe hand he was a mere instrument. God does not allow those He has directly guided to perish without having accomplished their task of establishing truth, even though they may stand alone against seemingly all-powerful odds. This is exactly the picture given of prophets in the Bible and the Quran. Those who are worthy to be chosen for such tasks are men who have excelled in emulating God’s attributes.
‘Confucius said, “Great indeed was Yaou as a sovereign. It is only Heaven that is great, and only Yaou corresponded to it. How vast his virtue! The people could find no name for it.”’
In other words, through emulating God, his qualities became so great that people could not find adequate words to describe him:
‘Chang said, “I presume to ask how it was that Yaou presented Shun to Heaven, and Heaven accepted him; and that he exhibited him to the people, and the people accepted him.”’
Again these verses make it clear that Heaven is not the cosmos, nor the inner micro-universe of a person, but an active conscious being, synonymous with the term God. As Heaven chooses sages according to certain criteria, so God chooses the prophets. Our proposition that Chinese sages are considered to have the same qualities as those of the prophets of the Bible and the Quran, has been well served by the references presented above.
A further study of Confucian text illustrates that revelation was not only a means of establishing the true philosophy of life, but was also of practical value in guiding man’s actions in everyday life. We have already mentioned Fu Hsi’s vision and its application in a practical way to many aspects of Chinese civilisation — an influence that lasted for many millennia. Below we present some other examples where revelation played a role in influencing the material well-being of a nation:
‘“...When the king speaks, his words form the commands for them; if he do not speak, the ministers have no way to receive their orders.” The king on this made a writing, and informed them, saying, “As it is mine to secure what is right in the four quarters of the empire, I have been afraid that my virtue is not equal to that of my predecessors, and therefore have not spoken. But while I was respectfully and silently thinking of the right way, I dreamt that God gave me a good assistant, who should speak for me,”. He then minutely described the appearance of the person, and caused search to be made for him by means of a figure throughout the empire. Yue, a builder in the country of Foo-yen, was found like. On this the king raised and made him his prime minister, keeping him also at his side. He charged him, saying, ‘Morning and evening present your instruction to aid my virtue…’”
Here it is claimed that the King had no way of knowing how, or by whom, his difficulties of government could be overcome, but he was granted an answer by God through a dream.
Again it is related of the great Sage, King Wan:
‘God said to king Wan,
‘Be not like those who reject this and cling to that;
Be not like those who are ruled by their likings and
So he grandly ascended before others to the height
The people of Meih were disobedient,...”
‘God said to King wan,
“I am pleased with your intelligent virtue,
Not loudly proclaimed nor pourtrayed,
Without extravagance or changeableness,
Without consciousness of effort on your part,
In accordance with the patter of God.”
‘God said to king Wan,
“Take measures against the country of your foes.
Along with your brethren,
Get ready your scaling ladders,
And engines of onfall and assault,
To attack the walls of Ts’ung.”’
This illustrates the process by which God chooses His servants, who are to represent His cause. First, God guided and instructed King Wan, who responded by putting His advice into practise and thus rose in status in the eyes of God.
The concluding verses of the above quote are reminiscent of David in the Bible who was also a prophet and a king. Just as David was given permission to attack his enemies, who sought to wipe out the cause of truth, so too was King Wan. A comparative study of religious history reveals other similarities between the experiences of King Wan and the prophet King Davidas, but we shall not enter into this lengthy discussion here.
With the help of the references quoted above, it should become amply clear that in the chinese religions and philosophies, revelation has a significant place and is an important means of attaining the truth. Many other examples from the Chinese classics also demonstrate that Confucianism cannot be considered merely a man-made philosophy of life, which has no belief in an external God. On the contrary, God is an intrinsic part of this faith and whatever was received through dreams and visions, is most definitely attributed to communication from God.
The following is an excerpt from the bookRevelation, Rationality, Knowledge and Truthby Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmadrh. References can be found there.
A close examination of Buddha’s biography reveals that in his lifestyle, he was not any different from other prophets of God, who appeared in different parts of the world. There is a universality and style of prophets which can also be discerned in the life of Buddha. Coming to the issue of the fundamental beliefs of Buddhism, the problems begin with different interpretations of what he is known to have said and done. We disagree with the commonly held view that Buddha was an atheist. We maintain that Buddhism was a Divinely revealed religion. We emphasise the fact that the founder of Buddhism was certainly not an atheist, but was a man commissioned by God Himself, to deliver His message in the style that all other messengers were raised. We on our part reject the premise that Buddhism had no Divine origin. To support our contention we shall recourse to the same well-established sources as the Buddhists themselves rely on and demonstrate that our interpretations have a stronger basis for acceptance. We repeat that Buddhism is no oddity among religion; on the contrary, its fundamental characters are at one with the rest of the Divinely revealed faiths.
Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadasmaintained that Buddhaas had firm belief in the existence of God who Himself raised him as His messenger with a specific mission to perform. He demonstrated that the Buddhaas, like all other prophets of God, also believed in the existence of Satan, as well as heaven and hell, in angels and in the Day of Resurrection. Hence, the allegation that Buddhaas did not believe in God is pure fabrication. What Buddha rejected wasVedanta(i.e. doctrines and beliefs found in the Hindu sacred books, the Vedas). He rejected the belief in corporeal manifestations of gods as found in Hinduism. He was severely critical of the Brahmans and regarded them to have corrupted their Divine teaching through their distorted interpretation.
The great French scholar Dr Gustav Le Bon (1841-1931) writes:
“Unfortunately, the study of Indian monuments has been completely neglected by European scholars. The specialists of Indian studies, through whom we have come to learn of Buddhism, had never visited India. They had only studied this religion in books; an unfortunate twist of fate made them chance upon the works of philosophical sects written five or six centuries after the death of Buddha, these being absolutely alien to the religion practised in reality. The metaphysical speculations which had so astonished Europeans by their profundity were in fact nothing new. Ever since the books of India have been better known, these have been found in the writings of philosophical sects, which had developed during the Brahmanic period”.
So far, Dr Le Bon seems to be perfectly right in his criticism, but as is apparent from the following text, he himself committed the same mistake of not deriving the concept of true Buddhism, strictly as it is presented by the writings on the stupas (dome-shaped buildings erected as buddhist shrines) — which never mention Buddhism as polytheistic. In the words of Dr Le Bon:
“...it is not in the books, but in the monuments that one should study what Buddhism used to be. What the monuments tell us differs strangely from what certain books teach us. The monuments prove that this religion, which modern scholars want to see as an atheistic cult, was, on the contrary, the most polytheistic out of all the cults.”
It is this last part of his statement which is false as will be presently shown. After Dr Le Bon, another renowned scholar, Arthur Lillie drew a completely different conclusion from his careful study of the inscriptions on Ashoka’s stupas. It should be noted that these inscriptions were not etched solely on the stupas which were specifically built for this purpose, they were also discovered upon the faces of huge rocks situated on highways and trade routes. We present two examples of such inscriptions from Lillie’s translations.
On the Eastern bank of the river Katak, twenty miles from Jagan Nath, there is a rock by the name of Pardohli upon which is written:
“Much longing after the things (of this life) is disobedience, I again declare ; not less os is the laborious ambition of dominion by a prince who would be a proprietor of heaven. Confess and believe in God (Is’ana) who is the worthy object of obedience. For equal to this (belief), I declare unto you, ye shall not find such a means of propitiating heaven. Oh strive ye to obtain this inestimable treasure.”
Is’ana, mentioned in this inscription is the name of ShivDevta - God. On the seventh stupa the same writer quotes: ‘Thus spake Devanampiya Piyadasi: “wherefore from this very hour, I have caused religious discourses to be preached, I have appointed religious observances that mankind, having listened thereto, shall be brought to follow in the right path, and give glory to God (Is’ana)’”.
From these references it becomes obvious that the early sources portray Buddhaas as a dedicated believer in God (may He bless his soul). The second source material in order of credibility and authenticity, is such Buddhist literature as came into being five hundred years after Buddha. This too contains enough evidence to indicate that Buddha was neither an atheist nor an agnostic but was indeed a believer in God. We specifically refer to the Theravada texts knows as Tripitaka (Three baskets), which as the name suggests, are divided into three sections. The first part is called Vinaya-Pitaka (Rules of conduct), the second is called Sutta-Pitaka (Discourses on Truth) and the third is called Abhidhamma-Pitaka (Analysis of Religion).
The Tripiṭaka Koreana, a collection of Buddhist scriptures
In Sutta-nipata we find the chapter on going to the far shore, in which, in which the goal of conquering death is expressed. Buddha explains that birth and death do not mean anything to those who have overcome their ego, thus becoming at one with God. These passages may have been misunderstood and confused with the Brahman concept ofMukti(redemption), but it is not right. Buddha clearly speaks of only those who have already reached the other side of the barrier here on earth before their death. This simply means that according to him, no man could have access to the hereafter, unless he had experienced it during his life here on earth, a teaching close to the Quranic precept. He preached that by being at one with God, man rises above life and death and becomes eternal.
At the end of the chapter, Pingiya, a follower of Buddha describes the excellence of his master which becomes instrumental in converting him to Buddhism. Having already expressed that he was enfeebled by old age and close to dying, Pingiya concludes his discussion with the following statement:“Assuredly I shall Assuredly I shall go to the immovable, the unshakable, the likeness of which does not exist anywhere. I have no doubt about this. Thus consider me to be one whose mind is so disposed.”This illustrates the hope and expectation of a disciple of Buddha, that after his death he will meet his Lord, who is described as immovable, unshakable and without likeness. This is a description of God in full agreement with that found in other scriptures.
There is another interesting account giving further information about Buddha’s beliefs found inSutta-PitakaSutta-Pitaka—the second part of the Tripitaka texts, subdivided into five books containing many of the Buddha’s dialogues. The president of the Pali Text Society of London, Mrs T.W. Rhys Davids has translated some of these dialogues into a series of books entitledSacred Books of the Buddhists.Dialogue number thirteen of the second volume entitled Tevigga Sutta, deals specifically with the question of how man can be led to God. In response to this question, Buddha first rejects the suggestion that anyone among the Hindu clergy of his time was capable of leading man to God, then he answers the question as he understood it himself. The background of how and where this dialogue took place is quite interesting.
It is said that once upon a time there used to be a famous Brahman village by the name of Manasakata. This village was situated at a most scenic spot of the country beside a beautiful river. Its fame had reached far and wide because it was the centre of Brahmanic religious controversy. Five of these Brahmans were especially distinguished and led the school of their respective religious ideology. It so happened that Buddha also alighted by the same river along with his chosen disciples. The news spread and people began to pay him visits to enlighten themselves on Buddha’s doctrine and hear about Buddhism from his own lips. Once Vasettha and Bharadvaga of the same village, while taking a walk after their bath in the river, began to debate a religious doctrine. Neither of the two could convince the other of the correctness of the opinions of their respective gurus. Vasettha, the young Brahman, suggested that it should be taken to the court of Buddha. This agreed upon, they proceeded to present the issue to Buddha seeking his wise counsel. During the meeting, Bharadvaga, the young Brahman, remained silent and Vasettha asked the questions. Before responding to the question, Buddha posed some counter questions.
First he asked,‘Did any Brahmans versed in the Three Vedas, ever see Brahma face to face?’The answer was‘no’. Then Buddha asked Vasettha if any of the Brahmans or their pupils of the previous seven generations had seen Brahma, and the answer again was‘No’. Then Buddha asked them if they themselves claimed that they had ever seen Brahma. Again the answer was‘No’. Then he asked Vasettha that if a man, born and brought up in Manasakata was asked the way to Manasakata, would that man be in any doubt or difficulty in answering that question. Vasettha answered:
“Certainly not, Gotama! And Why? If the man had been born and brought up in Manasakata, every road that leads to Manasakata would be perfectly familiar to him”.
At this point Buddha expounded:
“That man, Vasettha, born and brought up at Manasakata might, if he were asked the way to Manasakata, fall into doubt and difficulty, but to the Tathagata (the fully enlightened one, meaning Buddha himself), ‘when asked touching the path which leads to the world of Brahma, there can be neither doubt nor difficulty. For Brahma, I know, Vasettha, and the world of Brahma, and the path which leadeth unto it. Yea, I know it even as one who has entered the Brahma world, and has been born within it!”
Buddha’s argument as that the residents of Manasakata should clearly know the roads leading to Manasakata. Any claimant belonging to God, must also know the path to Him, but it would only be possible if he had come from God and had known Him personally. But the answers to the counter questions of Buddha clearly showed that none of the gurus had either seen God or had any personal knowledge of Him. Hence, the identity of God was completely outside and beyond their understanding. Up to this point of the dialogue, Buddha’s arguments may have been misunderstood by some to mean that Buddha was declaring there was no God because nobody had met Him. Indeed, the translator in her introduction suggested that the whole line of argument followed in this discourse is:“...only an argumentum ad hominem.If you want union with Brahma — which you had much better not want — this is the way to attain it”.
But this analysis of the discourse shows a total failure on the part of the author to understand what Buddha positively proves. It illustrates how some researchers have been influenced by the beliefs of the Buddhist monks who had misread Buddha’s heroic campaign against his contemporary order of the Brahmans. What he categorically rejected were their superstitious beliefs in godlike figures, which they had neither seen nor heard from. But Buddha’s answer did not end there. He went on to claim that for Tathagata, there could be no such difficulty in pointing out the way to God. He went on to claim that he himself was the one who could lead man to God because he had been in communion with Him and had come from Him.
It should by now be obvious that Buddha did have faith in the existence of one Supreme God and it was from Him that he had claimed to have come. He knew Him better than the villagers of Manasakata knew their own village or the roads leading to it. Here Buddha asserts for himself a life of constant communion with God, a state which stands higher in order of nearness to Him than mere revelation. Many great prophets have made similar claims of witnessing a life of eternity with Him here on earth, even before death transports them to the otherworldly life. They, all Divine messengers, share this eternal state of communion with Him, Buddha being no exception. Buddha referred to God as Brahma, because this was a familiar term to the Hindus, who applied it to the Supreme God among their gods. As the dialogue continues, the position is made even clearer.
“...when he had thus spoken, Vasettha, the young Brahman, said to the Blessed One: ‘ So it has been told me, Gotama, even that the Samana Gotama knows the way to a state of union with Brahma. It is well! Let the venerable Gotama be pleased to show us the way to a state of union with Brahma, let the venerable Gotama save the Brahman race!’”
Having heard Vasettha, Buddha does not reject his prayer and aspirations with reference to Brahma as unreal and meaningless; a definite proof of his approval of whatever he spoke of the Brahma and His communion with His chosen ones. For people who respond to the call of God, irrespective of their caste, the path to God is made easy for them. For one who fears God, all human passions such as anger, jealousy, prejudice etc., cease to dominate him. When one transcends them, one is likely to imitate Godly attributes and acquire them. This whole dialogue is worthy of special attention by those who want to understand Buddha’s attitude towards Him.
So why should Buddha have been misunderstood by his own followers? An answer to this question may lie in earlier Buddhist history and the conflict between the newly emerging religion of Buddha and the older religious order of Brahmanism. They attributed to Buddha their own views, not a rare phenomenon with religious clergy, or they might have misunderstood him in good faith. When Buddha waged war against the prevalent idolatry, to which the Brahmans of the time were entirely dedicated, he was accused of denying the existence of God. This propaganda, carried out by a powerful class of Brahmans, was so loudly proclaimed that the voice of the Buddha was drowned in their tumultuous antagonism.
Considering the difficulties of communication and lack of writing facilities, it is not at all unlikely that this propaganda not only found favour with the Hindus, but also influenced the followers of Buddha. Ultimately, they themselves began to believe that Buddha’s rejection of the Hindu gods was total. Thus Gotama Buddha’s denial of the gods of the Brahmans was over generalised and led many to maintain that he did not believe in any God.
As far as their allegiance to Buddha is concerned, it remains untouched. They had accepted Buddha as an all-wise teacher, so kind, so loveable, so humane. We are talking of an age when literacy was at its lowest level. The common people would often make their decisions on hearsay, hence the followers of Buddha themselves could have been carried away by this Brahmanic propaganda. But it created little effect upon their loyalty to him. For them it was sufficient that Buddha was the perfect source of wisdom. As such they revered him and continued to follow him with all their heart, as their beloved and all-wise master. Slowly and imperceptibly, however, this so-called Godless master of theirs began to be revered as God himself.
It had not happened for the first time in the history of religions. How often oracles had been transformed into gods and humans raised to the level of deities! In the case of Buddha however, all the forms of their love and attention remained centred upon Buddha as a human paragon of perfection and he was not literally raised to the mythical concept of godly figures. For them, it was sufficient to place the Brahmans on one end of the spectrum and Buddha on the other. To them the Brahmans stood as oracles of legends and myths, while Buddha personified truth, wisdom and rationality. Thus, gradually Buddhism acquired a character where the belief in a legendary god had no role to play. Whatever the urge in human nature there is for believing in God, it was progressively filled with the image of Buddha. So Buddha, who in the eyes of his followers of the fourth century,had started his journey as just a source of absolute wisdom, began to rise to a status much higher than can be filled by an ordinary secular philosopher. In his case, he did not remain a mere symbol of mundane wisdom for long, but began to command such high respect and veneration as is commanded by God, or gods among religions.
We are not talking here of a short period of a few years. It might well have taken centuries for the shadow of atheism to have cast its ominous spell over a large part of the Buddhist world. Again, it may also have taken centuries for the Buddhist to ultimately build a god out of Buddha, without naming him so. The manner in which we suggest the transformation of Buddhists took place from believing in God to a Godless people, is not merely conjecture. A study of Buddhist sources, as we have demonstrated, fully supports the view that Buddhaas was a believer in One Supreme Creator. What he rejected was polytheism. This is the true image of Buddha which survived untarnished for the first three centuries despite the best efforts of his enemies. Here we take the reader’s mind once again to the age of the great Buddhist monarch Ashoka, who ruled a vast Buddhist empire which extended beyond the boundaries of India covering the whole of Afghanistan. It is he who possesses the most authentic and unquestionable authority on the teachings and the ways of Buddha’s life. There is no shadow of doubt that what he portrayed Buddha to be was simply a messenger of God who founded his teachings upon Divine revelation. Whatever he conveyed to mankind was only what he was commissioned to, by their Supreme Creator. It is this verdict of Ashoka which is indelibly etched upon the rocks of history.
All Chinese religions are derived from the same ancient source of spiritual and religious experiences of the great Chinese sage prophet Fu Hsi. In subsequent ages, many a great sage and thinker pondered over the works of Fu Hsi and studied them in-depth. Based on their study they presented to the Chinese people new philosophies, sciences, religions and moral teachings. Among them are King Wan, his son Cheu Kung and Lao-tzu, all held in great esteem by the Chinese people of all ages. The way of life presented by Lao-tzu (6ᵗʰ century BC), a contemporary of Confucius, is known as Taoism.
In Taoism, eternal truth is embodied in a being known as Tao whose attributes are spiritual and holy rather than material. Tao can be aptly defined as a personification of eternal virtues. They are precisely the same attributes as ascribed to God in Islam and other Divinely revealed religions. Taoism teaches man to completely submit to Truth (Tao), and to strive to modulate Tao. Tao is the model, and Taoism is the way to gain nearness to this model.
The same is the treatment in the Holy Quran regarding the relationship between God and man:
“The hues of God! And who is more beautiful in hues than God? — and Him alone do we worship.”— Holy Qur’an 2:139
In Islam God is described and introduced through His attributes and the goal set for Muslims is to emulate them to modulate their lives. The description of Tao, presented by Lao-tzu, is quite similar to the attributes of God mentioned in the Quran. He writes:
‘The great Tao is vast. He is on the left and He is on the right. All creatures depend upon Him, and the care of them tires Him not. He brings creation to completion, without seeking reward. He provides for all His creation, but requires nothing for Himself, so He may be considered small. All creatures turn to Him for their needs, yet He keeps nothing for Himself, thus He may be named ‘the Supreme’. He does not consider Himself great and because of this He is truly Great.’
Again we have another description:
‘Looked for but not visible, such a Being may be colourless. Listened for but no heard, such a Being may be called Silent. Grasped for but not caught, such may be called Concealed. No one can comprehend the ultimate source of these three qualities, but they are found in one Being. Though not luminous yet below Him there is no darkness. Being infinite He cannot be described. All His shapes keep returning to nothingness, thus we can say He is Shapeless; His image is without form. He is beyond comprehension (being the rarest of things). Try to reach His beginning, no beginning can be seen. Seek His end, no end can be perceived. Therefore, follow the ancient ways and improve your present.’
Also, in another verse the description of Tao runs as follows:
‘He is indivisible and His true nature cannot be grasped. All creation originates from Him. He existed before heaven and earth created. He is One and alone without form or sound. He exists independently without any support. Nothing changes in Him. He is in constant motion, but he never tires. He can be called the Begetter of the universe.’
The description of Tao given in the above passages is also found in different verses of the Quran, which when read together, reproduce everything covered by the above quotes. The image of God thus described in the Holy Quran, is summed up by the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, the late Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadasof Qadian (India), in the following words:
‘He is near yet far, distant yet close...He is highest of high, yet it cannot be said there is anyone below Him farther than He. He is in heaven, but it cannot be said that He is not on Earth. He combines in Himself all the most perfect attributes and manifests the virtues which are truly worthy of praise.’
It is pertinent to note that Chinese philosophy had its roots in religion, but with the passage of time its religious origin was obscured. Its followers adhered to the philosophy itself but thought it unnecessary to have any direct link with the source which had nourished it in the past. Consequently, the image of God was gradually impersonalised and the followers of Tao ceased to cultivate a personal relationship with Him as a Supreme Conscious Living Being.
In short, like Confucianism, Taoism too at its source believed undoubtedly in a loving, personal God to be the Eternal Truth. In the original works of Taoism or Confucianism, it was not considered sufficient just to gain an intellectual understanding of Tao, but the entire goal of life was set to mould one’s character and actions according to the concept of Tao.
However, in the source material of Taoism, as quoted above, the belief in Tao as an eternal intelligent creator has over the ages been obscured. But the idea of revelation is still retained, though only under the guise of inspiration. A conspicuous shift from Divine revelation to inspiration without Divine origin, marks a trend among the spiritual thinkers of the later ages until no trace of Divinity is left in their writings. Inspiration to them became purely an internal phenomenon, which through deep contemplation and meditation could lead to the fountainhead of truth within oneself.
To delve deep into one’s nature can of course lead to the discovery of inner truth, but the Tao experience of inspiration as quoted in the authentic Taoist works is not entirely internal. With them inspiration has its own limitations — it cannot lead to objective truth which lies beyond the reach of the person who undergoes an inspirational experience.
The very foundation of Taoism is based on the great vision of Fu Hsi. The definition of inspiration however extended, can in no way be applied to that vision. When interpreted, it comprises such fountainheads of knowledge as were to give birth to many highly evolved and complex Chinese philosophies and science much later in time.
This is sufficient to illustrate the case in point. Inspirations cannot give birth to prophecies; no way can they lead to such future events as stand witness to the existence of an All-Knowing Supreme God by their realisations.