My talk on the legacy of the Islamic renaissance during the medieval period, and inspiration for Muslims to pursue the sciences today
My talk on the legacy of the Islamic renaissance during the medieval period, and inspiration for Muslims to pursue the sciences today
On the ʿĪd al-Adhā of 1900 [CE], Sayyidina Imām al-Mahdī (as) delivered a sermon to the people of Qādiān in the Arabic language. Sayyidina Ahmad (as) learnt the words for this from Allah and therefore it is known by the name of “al-Khutbah al-Ilhāmiyyah” (The Revealed Sermon). This is an excerpt from that sermon:
“يا عباد الله.. فكِّروا في يومكم هذا يومِ الأضحى، فإنه أُودع أسرارا لأولي النهى. وتعلمون أن في هذا اليوم يضحَّى بكثير من العجماوات، وتُنحَر آبال من الجِمال وخناطيلُ من البقرات، وتُذبح أقاطيع من الغنم ابتغاء مرضاة رب الكائنات
O servants of Allah, on this your ʿĪd al-Adhā day, think deeply and contemplate, for in the ceremony of the Sacrifice there is a hidden secret for people of understanding. As you all know, many animals are sacrificed on this day – large numbers of camels, bullocks and many flocks of sheep are slaughtered – and all this in order to seek the pleasure of the Lord of the Universe.
وَكَذَلِكَ يُفْعَلُ مِنْ ابْتِدَاءِ زَمَانِ الإِسْلامِ، إلى هذه الأَيَّامِ. وَظَنِّي أَنَّ الأَضَاحِي فيِ شَرِيعَتِنَا الْغَرَّاءِ، قَدْ خَرَجَتْ مِنْ حَدِّ الإِحْصِاءِ، وَفَاقَتْ ضَحَايَا الَّذِينَ خَلَوْا مِنْ قَبْلُ مِنْ أُمَمِ الأَنْبِيَاءِ
And this has been the practice since the beginning of Islam until the present day. In my opinion, these sacrifices offered by us in accordance with the Shar’īah [Law] of Islam are beyond count, and they outnumber by far those sacrifices that used to be performed by the communities of the Prophets of yore.
وَالْمُسْلِمُ مَنْ أَسْلَمَ وَجْهَهُ للهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ، وَلَهُ نَحَرَ نَاقَةَ نَفْسِهِ وَتَلَّهَا لِلْجَبِينِ، وَمَا نَسِيَ الْحَيْنَ فيِ حِينٍ
And a Muslim is he who places his neck for the Lord of all the Worlds, and sacrifices the camel of his soul and places his forehead on the ground to be given up as an offering to Allah, and is never forgetful of death even for a moment.
أَنَّ النُّسُكَ وَالضَّحَايَا في الإِسْلاَمِ، هِيَ تَذْكِرَةٌ لِهَذَا الْمَرَامِ، وَحَثٌّ عَلَى تَحْصِيلِ هَذَا الْمَقَامِ، وَإِرْهَاصٌ لِحَقِيقَةٍ تَحْصُلُ بَعْدَ السُّلُوكِ التَّامِّ
In short, the slaughtering of sacrificial animals, which is an institution in Islam, through its sacrifice reminds the soul to be submissive, and it serves as an incentive for us to achieve this lofty goal. If done as a sacrifice of one’s lower self, it is also a precursor or beginning of the state which is ultimately attained after the completion of the mystic path (sulūk). It heralds that state.
فَوَجَبَ عَلَى كُلِّ مُؤْمِنٍ وَّمُوْمِنَةٍ كان يَبْتَغِي رِضَاءَ اللهِ الْوَدُودِ، أَنْ يَّفْهَمَ هَذِهِ الْحَقِيقَةَ وَيَجْعَلَهَا عَيْنَ الْمَقْصُودِ، وَيُدْخِلَهَا في نَفْسِهِ حَتَّى تَسْرِيَ في كُلِّ ذَرَّةِ الْوُجُودِ
It is incumbent (wājib) on all believing males and females who are in search of the pleasure of God, the Most Loving, to understand this truth, and to make it their cherished goal, and to impress it so deeply in their hearts that every atom of their being (wujūd) may be permeated with it.
هَذَا هُوَ مُنْتَهَى سُلُوكِ السَّالِكِينَ، وَغَايَةُ مَقْصَدِ الْعَارِفِينَ، وَعَلَيْهِ يَخْتَتِمُ جَمِيعُ مَدَارِجِ الأَتْقِيَاءِ، وَبِهِ يَكْمُلُ سَائِرُ مَرَاحِلِ الصِّدِّيقِينَ وَالأَصْفِيَاءِ، وَإِلَيْهِ يَنْتَهِي سَيْرُ الأَوْلِيَاءِ
This is the station where the journey of the mystics (sālikīn) comes to an end and the goal of the gnostics (ʿārifīn) reaches its ultimate zenith, and it is here that all ranks of purified souls find completion, and all the stages of the righteous and elect are fulfilled and the journey of the saints (awliyā’) is completed.”
– Sayyidina Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as) of Qadian
نٓۚ وَٱلۡقَلَمِ وَمَا يَسۡطُرُونَ
مَآ أَنتَ بِنِعۡمَةِ رَبِّكَ بِمَجۡنُونٍ۬
“By the inkstand and by the pen and by that which they write.
You [Muhammad] are not, by the grace of your Lord, mentally ill.” (Qur’ān, 68:2-3)
Of the various criticisms against the Prophet Muhammad (sa) by modern atheists, one that is especially naive is the notion that the Prophet Muhammad (sa) was somehow mentally ill, and that the revelations he purportedly received from a Divine source were in fact the product of his own disturbed mind. Notwithstanding the amount of prophecies in the Qur’ān that were fulfilled not only in the Prophet’s own lifetime but in the lives of his successors (the Caliphs) as well as even in modern times, this article will instead analyze the possibility of mental illness as the source of the revelations from a clinical psychological perspective. The author, though not a professional in mental health, is studying neuroscience and mental health at the university level and intends to pursue the clinical neurology field in the future, God Willing.
Inasmuch as hallucinations are concerned whether auditory or visual, these episodes of psychosis fall under mainly four disorders, two psychiatric and two neurological, that of schizophrenia, delirium, dementia, and epilepsy. We shall analyze the diagnostic criteria for each and see if they applied to the Prophet Muhammad (sa), after which a discussion on the nature and probable neurological mechanism of revelation (God speaking to man) will be addressed. This research will be released in parts, with Part I (the current) about schizophrenia, part II regarding delirium, Part III on dementia, Part IV on epilepsy, and Part V on the nature and neurological mechanism of revelation, along with instances of such in the scientific world.
Schizophrenia is a severely disabling mental disorder involving hallucinations and delusions, as well as often paranoia and irrational beliefs. The clinical diagnostic criteria for schizophrenia by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Vol. 5 (DSM-5) are listed as follows:
A. Two (or more) of the following, each present for a significant portion of time during a 1-month period (or less if successfully treated). At least one of these must be (1), (2), or (3):
3. Disorganized speech (e.g., frequent derailment or incoherence).
4. Grossly disorganized or catatonic behavior.
5. Negative symptoms (i.e., diminished emotional expression or avolition).
B. For a significant portion of the time since the onset of the disturbance, level of functioning in one or more major areas, such as work, interpersonal relations, or self-care, is markedly below the level achieved prior to the onset (or when the onset is in childhood or adolescence, there is failure to achieve expected level of interpersonal, academic, or occupational functioning).
C. Continuous signs of the disturbance persist for at least 6 months. This 6-month period must include at least 1 month of symptoms (or less if successfully treated) that meet Criterion A (i.e., active-phase symptoms) and may include periods of prodromal or residual symptoms. During these prodromal or residual periods, the signs of the disturbance may be manifested by only negative symptoms or by two or more symptoms listed in Criterion A present in an attenuated form (e.g., odd beliefs, unusual perceptual experiences).
D. Schizoaffective disorder and depressive or bipolar disorder with psychotic features have been ruled out because either 1) no major depressive or manic episodes have occurred concurrently with the active-phase symptoms, or 2) if mood episodes have occurred during active-phase symptoms, they have been present for a minority of the total duration of the active and residual periods of the illness.
E. The disturbance is not attributable to the physiological effects of a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse, a medication) or another medical condition.
F. If there is a history of autism spectrum disorder or a communication disorder of childhood onset, the additional diagnosis of schizophrenia is made only if prominent delusions or hallucinations, in addition to the other required symptoms of schizophrenia, are also present for at least 1 month (or less if successfully treated).
Now we will analyze each of these criteria that are relevant in turn (with the exception of C-D since they build on A-B, and the exception of F since the diagnosis is for the Prophet when he was an adult).
A.) 1. Prophet Muhammad (sa) did not have any false delusions as schizophrenics usually have, which are most often of a persecutory nature and are opposed to reality. A schizophrenic may think that the government is out to get him/her and may display ideas of reference (i.e. seeing supposed signs of things in neutral stimuli, such as seeing “proof of a government plot” in a newspaper cutting). The Prophet (sa) did not display any such delusions that would usually be distressing to the individual. On the contrary, he was firm in his conviction as a prophet to the extent that when asked by the Meccans to abandon his call as a prophet, he said:
“Even if they placed the sun in my right hand and the moon in my left, to force me to renounce my work, verily I would not desist thereform until Allah made manifest His cause, or I perished in the attempt.”
It could however be argued that he may have suffered from delusions of grandeur (which usually manifest themselves in the schizophrenic thinking that God has chosen him/her for for some special mission or that he/she holds some place of status), however this is also debunked by the fact that the Meccans offered the Prophet (sa) riches and status if he stopped his prophetic mission yet he refused. In addition, he was known as al-Amīn (the trustworthy) and al-Sādiq (the truthful) among the Arabs prior to his mission. In fact, when he stood on a mountain and asked the Meccans if they would believe him if he hypothetically said that an army was approaching the city of Mecca, they unanimously agreed that they would. An entire society of people including its most intellectual would not accept the ramblings of a delusional person. And yet all the Meccans unanimously agreed he was truthful, and later the chieftains of Arab society in Mecca became his followers including ‘Umar bin al-Khattāb, Abū Sufyān bin Harb, ‘Uthmān bin al-‘Affān, and others.
2. It could be argued that his revelations constituted hallucinations, but this will be discussed in due forth.
3. It is recorded in the earliest biographical accounts that when the Prophet (sa) would speak, he would be coherent, speak in a moderate tone, and often repeat himself at least once to make the message clear. This is not the disorganized speech shown by schizophrenics.
4. The Prophet (sa) did not display catatonia (immobility in strange bodily positions over extensive periods of time), which is a (rare) symptom displayed by some schizophrenics.
5. The Prophet (sa) did not display any of the negative symptoms for schizophrenia, which include flat affect (facial expression of emotion) and avolition (lack of motivation to do anything). On the contrary, a companion named ‘Abdullah bin Hārith narrates that “I did not see anyone who smiled more than the Messenger of Allāh.”  It is well recorded as well, that the Prophet (sa) would often cry to let out his emotions, during prayer or otherwise.
B.) The revelations experienced by the Prophet (sa) did not impair him in any way. On the contrary, he was able to effectively function in marital and family life, as well as function as the head of an entire state in Madinah. In addition to this, it should be noted that a very prominent symptom of schizophrenia is the failure to maintain regular standards of self-hygiene. The Prophet Muhammad (sa) on the other hand was known to be extremely particular in matters of hygiene, to the point that he said he brushed his teeth almost before every time he prayed during the five daily prayers. He in fact stated that “Cleanliness is half of faith.” 
E.) The Prophet (sa) did not take any form of drug or intoxicant for recreational use in his entire life, although it was the custom of the Arabs of the time.
In addition to all this, it should be noted that epidemiological studies have revealed that schizophrenia has an onset of late adolescence and early adulthood (especially for males), while the Prophet (sa) received his first verbal revelation at age 40. According to this diagnosis, the Prophet (sa) was not in any way or form suffering from any type of schizophrenia.
1 Sīrah Ibn Hishām of ‘Abdul-Mālik bin Hishām (died 213 A.H.)
2 Tārīkh al-Tabarī (History of Tabarī) of Abū Ja‘far Muḥammad bin al-Jarīr al-Ṭabarī, Vol. II, pg. 228; Tārīkh al-Khamīs of Hussayn bin Muhammad bin Hasan Dayār Bakrī, Part I, p. 279
3 Shamā’il al-Tirmidhī of ‘Abu Abū ‘Īsa Muhammad al-Tirmidhī (died 279 A.H.), Chapter on the Speech of the Prophet (sa), pg. 107
4 Shamā’il al-Tirmidhī of ‘Abu Abū ‘Īsa Muhammad al-Tirmidhī (died 279 A.H.), Chapter on the Laughter of the Prophet (sa), pg. 109
5 Sahīh Muslim, Book of Purification (2), Hadith #1
6 Erick Messias, Chuan-Yu Chen, and William W. Eaton. “Epidemiology of Schizophrenia: Review of Findings and Myths.” Psychiatric Clinics of North America. 30, 3 (September 2007): 323–338.
7 Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam, pg. 13E.
In the name of Allāh, the Supremely Beneficent, the Sublimely Magnanimous
نحمده و نصلي على رسوله الكريم
We send prayers and blessings upon His (swt) Noble Messenger (saw)
Introduction to the Article and its Author
The following is an extremely enlightening and erudite article on the origins and nature of Sufism in Islam. It was written in 1924 for the historical Wembley’s Conference of Living Religions held in London, England and later published in the Muslim Sunrise, 1981. It will serve as a great introduction to Sufism by those interested in Islamic mysticism in the West.
It was written by al-Hāj Hāfiz Mawlānā Rawshan ‘Alī, a Hāfiz (memorizer) of the Qur’ān and great Sufi Master of India of the late 19th and 20th century, who was the 33rd Shaykh (spiritual preceptor) of the Nawshāhī branch of the Qādirīyyah Sufi Tarīqah (Spiritual Order). He was part of a silsilah (chain) of Sufi masters that went back to the founder of the Nawshāhī branch, named Hājī Muhammad Qādirī in the 17th century, before him Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qādir al-Jīlanī of the 11th century, and purportedly going back to the Prophet Muhammad (sa) himself via his successor, Imām ‘Alī (ra).
Hāfiz Mawlānā Rawshan ‘Alī was a great scholar of Islam as well as a recipient of divine concourse (Sāhib al-Kashf). His article is as illuminating as his life was on earth. Asides from this introduction, the following words are all of Mawlānā Rawshan ‘Alī.
Introduction by William Loftus Hare, Chancellor of Wembley’s Conference for Living Religions
The following are the words of William Loftus Hare, the facilitator of the conference regarding the paper and its author:
“Sufi Hafiz Raushan Ali, is one of the leaders of Naushahi Sufis who are a sub-division of Qadria sect, which owes its or’gin to Syed Abdul Qadir Geelani. The Naushahi sect was founded by Muhammad Haji Nausha, and claims a large number of followers throughout Western India. Muhammad Haji Nausha flourished during the reign of Emperor Baber and was the ninth ancestor of the lecturer.
The ancestry traced upwards is as follows: Sufi Raushan Ali, son of Miran Baksh, son of Sultam Alam. son of Nizam-uddin, son of Subhan Ali, son of Khanalam. son of Ibrahim, son of Muhammad Said, son of Muhammad Hasham, son of Muhammad Haji Nausha. Muhammad Said was a contemporary of Shah Jahan and that Emperor granted him a Jagir of two villages for his support, some parts of which are held even now as Mnafi under the British Government. The home of the lecturer is in the village of Ranmal, Tahsil Thalia, Gujrat District in the Punjab. It is situated towards the northwest of Lahore.
Sufi Hafiz Raushan Ali knows the whole of the Quran by heart (and is thus entitled to be called Hafiz) and also the major portion of the sayings of the Prophet. He can also recite from memory many thousands of verses from Arabic poetry. He also possesses a great mastery over other branches of knowledge, such as Unani medicine, logic and philosophy.
In the domain of Tusawwaf or Sufism, he holds a high position. From early age Sufi Raushan Ali was fond of prayers and spiritual practices of the Sufis. At the age of 13 he started those of the Qadria sect, and at the age of 15 he interested himself in the manners and company of Naqshhendi and Chishtia Sufis. Sufi Raushan Ali joined the ranks of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian, and through the blessings of his companionship he became a recipient of divine revelations, and was honored with opportunities for the service of the faith. At present Mussulmans all over India invoke his aid for the defense of Islam, when hard pressed in the field of religious disputation.
I am sure we all felt that the paper which was read gave a very interesting and suggestive view of the origin, development and content of Sufi thought and practice. The paper was full of information and, I think, brought out the main point of Sufism. The fundamental conception of that system seems to be that human souls differ in degree though not in kind from the Divine Spirit from which they emerge, and to which they ultimately return. The aim of the Sufi is by loss of his individual self-consciousness, in ecstatic self-abandonment, to obtain union with that Divine Spirit. Their principle is that since reason cannot transcend phenomena, it must therefore be abandoned in favor of that divine illumination, that spirit of intuition, by which true knowledge and grasp of the infinite is to be obtained.”
Silsilah (Chain) of the Nawshāhī Qādirī Sufi Order
Prophet Muhammad (sa) [Arabia]
Imām ‘Alī bin Abī Tālib (ra) [Arabia]
Hasan al-Basrī [Iraq]
Abū Nasr Habīb ‘Ajmī [Iraq]
Abū Sulaymān Dawū Ta’ī [Iraq]
Abū al-Mahfūz Ma’rūf Kharkī [Iraq]
Abū al-Hasan Sirr al-Saqtī [Iraq]
Abū al-Qāsim Junayd al-Baghdādī [Iraq]
Abū Bakr Shiblī [Iraq]
Abū al-Fadhl ‘Abd al-Wahīd Yatīmī [Iraq]
Abū al-Farā’ Yūsuf Tartūsī [Iraq]
Abū al-Hasan ‘Alī al-Hakārī [Iraq]
Abū al-Sa’īd Mubārak Muharramī [Iraq]
Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qādir al-Jīlānī (founder of the Qādirīyyah Sufi Order) [Iraq]
Sayf al-Dīn ‘Abd al-Wahhāb [Iraq]
Abū Nasr Safī al-Dīn [Iraq]
Abū al-‘Abbās Ahmad [Iraq]
Abū al-Barakāt Mas’ūd al-Dīn [Iraq]
Abū al-Hasan ‘Alī [Iraq]
Abū ‘AbdAllāh Shāh Mīr [Iraq]
Abū Muhammad Shams al-Dīn A’zam [Iraq]
Abū ‘Abdallāh Muhammad Bandagī [India]
Mubārak Haqqānī [India]
Qutb al-Qunayn Sakhī Shāh Ma’rūf [India]
Sakhī Shāh Sulaymān Nūrī [India]
Sayyid Muhammad Hājī Nawshāhī (founder of the Nawshāhī branch) [India]
Muhammad Hāshim [India]
Khān ‘Alam [India]
Subhān ‘Alī [India]
Nizām al-Dīn [India]
Sultān ‘Alam [India]
Mīrān Baksh [India]
al-Hāfiz Rawshan ‘Alī [India]
Origins of Sufism
Buddhist or Persian Origins?
Prophet Muhammad as the Master Sufi
Sharī’ah (Islamic Law) in the light of Sufism
The Persian Sufis
Why ‘Sufism’ in name did not exist in Early Islam
Basic Principles of Sufism
Stages in the Sufi Spiritual Path
Concept of Shadow Prophethood (Burūz)
State of Modern Sufism
Mysticism and Sufism
Conclusion and a Personal Reflection
The word Tasawwuf, or Sufism, has been explained in various ways, two of which, perhaps, stand out conspicuous and essentially correct. Sūf, the Arabic for wool, would make Sufi to mean the weaver of a simple, yet hard, woolen stuff to keep him alert and watchful. Safwah is another derivation which means purity and purification. This root has its support in the Arabic etiological rule of transposition or Taklīb. Since the true Sufis applied themselves heart and soul to the inner purification and the purging of heart of all sinful desires, as opposed to the general run of mankind whose one consuming desire is this world and its allurements, hence this blessed group who had turned their backs upon all the worldly ways were called Sufis, for in so doing they had nothing but complete transformation and change of heart in view.
Much has been written about the Sufis and Sufism, both in the East and in the West, and there is a vast and ever-growing literature by the Sufis themselves. It has been generally supposed that Sufism is a foreign growth, principally of Persian or Buddhist origin, and that its aims and teachings are mostly antagonistic to the real Islam, but that on account of long contact and mutual interaction it has gradually found its way into Islam. Nothing can be further from the facts. Professor Nicholson, who has gone deeper into the subject, has had to admit that such a theory is untenable. He says that modern research has “discredited the sweeping generalizations which represent Sufism as a reaction of the Aryan mind against a conquering Semitic religion, and essentially a product of Indian or Persian thought.”
“If Sufism,” he goes on, “was nothing but a revolt of the Aryan spirit, how are we to explain the undoubted fact that some of the leading pioneers of Mohammedan mysticism were natives of Syria and Egypt, and Arabs by race.” Muslim theology, philosophy and science, according to him, had put forth their first luxuriant shoots before Islam came into contact with Buddhism or Vedantism. “In spirit,” he thinks, “Buddhism and Sufism are poles apart. The Buddhist moralizes himself; the Sufi becomes moral only through knowing and loving God.”
As a matter of fact, this Persian or Aryan reaction theory, in so far as the best and original Sufism is concerned, is not at all in consonance with the facts. The Persian and Aryan elements have played so large a part in purely Islamic sciences of Arabic grammar, fiqh (jurisprudence), tafsīr (commentary of the Qur’ān) etc., that the fanciful flights of imagination could not even connect them with Hellenistic or Indo-Persian influences. The mere fact that a Persian took a very prominent part in the movement in latter times is no ground for the assumption that it had a Persian origin, especially in the face of the fact that the whole warp and woof of Sufism is Islamic. The Hellenistic, or Egypto theories, are even more irrelevant, and so is the assertion that Sufism owes anything to Christianity. To establish an historical connection in the words of the author of The Mystics of Islam, “It is not enough to bring forward evidence of their likeness to one another, and without showing at the same time that (1) that the actual relation of B to A was such as to render the assumed affiliation possible, and (2) that the possible hypothesis fits in with all the ascertained and relevant facts.”
According to the great masters among the Sufis, Islam has been the only religion with God, and whoever swerves even a hair’s breadth from it is regarded by them as one who is groping in darkness and grovelling in the slough of ignorance. To the Sufis, Muhammad is the embodiment of all perfections and excellences: they call him the perfect example and exemplar. The light of Muhammad, the great ones among them think, existed before any other creation, and all other lights among mankind, they say, .were but partial manifestation of the same which found its highest, brightest and completest expression in the person of Muhammad of Arabia — peace and blessings of God be upon them all. They maintain that the religion of all the prophets has been Islam, the difference being in degree only, the essentials being the same. All these teachers, they say, emphasized service to God as well as service to their fellow men, which is summed up in the word Islam, which means total and utter submission to the will of Allah. Love, they admit, should be the gliding motive for a novice and the early initiate, and they quote chapters and verses from the Holy Qur’ān and the traditions of the Holy Prophet. They quote Jesus and Buddha, and others too, not to base the principles of their teachings, for which they go to Islam alone, but for corroboration only, and they assert that even love has its selfish side.
Therefore, for a perfect and highest grade of Sufi they recommend the passionless, yet most active, state of one who, in perfect resignation to the will of Allah, forgets his own self altogether but whose life is one continuous chain of activities in the way of God. This, according to them, is the first stage of an aspirant to perfection. Yet it should not be confused with Buddhist idea of Nirvana, which the Sufis wholly repudiate, and which we would have occasion to refer to later on.
To know Sufism we shall have to know its history from the Sufi point of view, not that we have to swallow what an interested party has to say but because theirs is the first-hand information, and they are in the best position to deal with it sympathetically. We can of course apply all the canons of history and historical criticism, but the framework must be theirs. As we have stated above, all the great teachers from the Sufi point of view have been the great master-Sufis of the world, Muhammad standing at the top of them all—the ideal and the perfect man, al-Insān al-Kāmil (the perfect man), and Islam as the most perfect expression of Sufism.
To the Sufis, Muhammad is the embodiment of all perfections and excellences: they call him the perfect example and exemplar…The light of Muhammad, the great ones among them think, existed before any other creation.
They say that when this Insān al-Kāmil appeared, the world was steeped in the worst form of superstition, ignorance and wickedness, and the Arabs were the worst people in that respect. Yet, under the benign rays of that Heavenly Light, they were changed into the most God-fearing Divine lovers that the world has ever seen. Not only did they become lode-stars in the Spiritual firmament, but in the arts and sciences they became the torch bearers. Under the magnetic influence and divine training of that Heavenly personality the Arabs saw a wonderful development of all the human faculties and powers, and when the time of his departure from this earthly place drew near they were in a position to carry on his work of world transformation, and the whole world witnessed miraculous changes. This generation did its work, and passed away, making room for another that took up the same, and they too passed away, leaving their work in the hands of their successors.
During this interval new peoples and nations had begun to join the ranks of this great Sufi. The Arabic speaking nations could understand him better because he spoke their language and lived their ways. Moreover, they were the eye witnesses. With the coming in of the non-Arabs the work increased, and in the course of time, according to individual tastes and temperaments, division of labor necessarily followed. Arabic speaking nations, or those who adopted Arabic as their mother tongue, did not feel any linguistic or traditional difficulty. They had seen the great Sufi himself, or they had seen those who had seen him and were imbued with his spirit, or those who had seen these latter people, had been living in contact with them. But, to the non-Arabs, the difficulty of language, life, tradition, and the Divine word had all to be explained, and none could show a better zeal or a greater sincerity than these non-Arabs themselves who had at first resisted and persecuted the great Sufi but had now become his ardent admirers. So, along with the Arabs, we find the non-Arabs, particularly the Persians, writing treatises on Arabic grammar, Arabic commentaries of the Holy Qur’ān, and Islamic jurisprudence for the benefit of their own countrymen as well as their kindred. It was not cleavage, or a reaction; it was as it should have been.
Another great factor at work was the time. The Sufi historians write, and human experience all over the world confirms their statement, that with the lapse of time, spiritual influence of the great Sufi began to wane. Wealth with all that it stands for, began to exert its own influence: the past took on the halo of romance; experience became dimmed with the onrush of the world, and the hopes of future spiritual advancement took on a remoter aspect. This was one great factor; but there were other natural causes at work. Every man, in order, to emphasize the importance of his own science and subject in which he was interested, had to devote his whole life to it with the result that the subject of his interest became a passion with him. Emphasis was laid on each subject, individually and separately, which is a necessary concomitant as well as a consequence of the principle of division of labor. So long as the Master Sufi was among them there was no question of this division of work. He was all in all. He loved his teachings, and he was the perfect Divine exemplar and so were his immediate followers. He had passed away, and his companions and the generation following them who were imbued with the spirit of the Master had all passed away. There was no question of division of labor then, but it was unavoidable now. The great Sufis of this period, realizing the advantages and disadvantages of this position, took up this spiritual work, not by way of protest, but for the sake of collaboration and to complete the work of the other laborers in the field.
The Sufi historians insist upon and reiterate the fact that Muhammad, the Master Sufi, stood for all that is best in man, whether it relates to his physical or intellectual, mental or spiritual life. According to them, he was the beau ideal of all that is best in the multitudinous aspects of the human life. They adduce facts from his life to show how he was in the world and yet he could lead a detached life. So long as this attachment stood for a divine purpose and fulfilled it, he was for it. Yet he was willing to sacrifice it if it in any way stood between him and his God, for their point of view is this, that the sole purpose of religion especially of Islam is to establish the right relation between God and man and the service of humanity.
Prayers and fasts, pilgrimages and sacrifices were established, not that they are an end in themselves but because they are a means to an end. They say, for instance, that where the Holy Word enjoins prayer it emphasizes the end too. for it says that prayer should be for the purpose of checking and restraining evil — the evil inclination of man. Moreover, they argue that if prayer was an end in itself, why is it that elsewhere the same word of God pronounces woe on a certain type of suppliant. So it is with fasting. The same verse which enjoins it also lays down the purpose of cultivating piety and devotion as the result of it. Similar is the case with sacrifice. The word of God, they say, unmistakably points out that the blood and flesh of the slain animal does not reach God: that it is the piety and purity of the heart and the sincerity of the motive which inspires and actuates this sacrifice, that reaches God.
In this way they point out the purpose and the function of every part of the Islamic ritual. At the same time they are careful to carry out the law to the very letter, for they say, though it is the spirit which is the Life, there can be no life without the body. They could think of and abstraction apart from the object, but no abstraction could exist without the thing. That is why they set out with the purpose of completing and fulfilling, and never for the purpose of cancellation or abolition, for that, they said, was the way to libertinism, which they abhorred with greater repugnance than even the literalists. This cooperation between them and the other workers in other branches of Islam continued without any hitch until degeneracy set in among all the branches.
Faithful recorders as they are of events, they could not of course slur over the clashes that subsequently followed between the formalists and themselves, but this took place late in the day when both sides began to drift towards the extremes. The best days of the formalists in the most prosperous days of formalism coincided with the best days of Sufism, and that covered a long period of many centuries. The rift came when schismatic persons on both sides began to emphasize their point of view to the discredit of the others, which sane people in every party have always looked upon with dislike.
At present the past bitterness has given place to toleration on both sides, though glimpses of the old rivalry sometimes find expression in acrimonious writings: but on the whole there is a good deal of toleration of each other. Says Professor Nicholson, “The Sufis, instead of being excommunicated, are securely established in the Mohammedan Church.”
As we have stated above, the Sufi teachings were taken in hand at the right moment by the Arabs and non-Arabs, the Persians, in particular. It was due to the beauties of Islam that the Persians entered into its fold. They too, took up the Spiritual cause with great avidity. Had they joined with the purpose of breaking up Islam, or had their action been due to the natural reaction set in by a superior yet decadent civilization, how is it that we have men of Persian descent or origin like Imām Muhammad bin Isma’īl al-Bukhārī, Muslim bin Hajjāj of Nīshapūr, Abū ‛Īsa Tirmidhī, the great Jurist Imām Abū Hanīfah Nu’mān, Imām Abū Yūsuf (his student), Ya’qūb, Sībawayh and Abū ‘Alī al-Fārisī — the last three being the greatest grammarians, who have all played an important role in the history of Islam and its propagation.
It is difficult to find such a galaxy of famous names even in the ranks of the Sufis, who were proud to follow them, as well as the great Arab Muslims, in all reverence. Moreover, some of the greatest names in Jurisprudence have been equally great in Sufism — for instance, Abū Hanīfah, Shāfi’ī, and Rābiʿah al-Basrī. Necessity is the mother of invention: it was necessity that drove them in various directions. The various branches of Muslim religion were taken up by the great ones when a need was felt for them. In short, the Persians did not take part only in the Sufi Movement but their activities were visible everywhere in all branches in the interests of Islam. If the mere reading of the Holy Qur’ān was needed, they were in the forefront. If the need for spiritual side was felt, we find them shoulder to shoulder with others.
Why the ‘Sufi’ monicker was not given a prominence in the early days of Islam, was because it was not needed. When people lead a righteous life and they have a thorough grasp of the subject in its essential and practical side, it is useless to give them a formal instruction. If a person knows a language as his mother tongue, there is very little need for him to have a grammatical instruction. Yet the grammatical side is emphasized when foreigners need to learn it. All these sciences took their birth at the right time. The companions of the Holy Prophet did not need to be instructed in Sufism, say the great Sufi writers, though we find that as early as the days of, the Caliphate of ‘Alī, ‘Alī himself, his son Hasan, Abū Dharr al-Ghifārī, and a host of others devoted themselves to this cause because the foreign element had begun to increase. So was the generation that followed them, as also were the followers of these followers.
But as with the lapse of time the spiritual light began to dim, so with the coming in of new people the need arose, and by and by Sufism developed into a regular science.
The Sufi writers, especially those of Persian origin, give another very interesting explanation of the Persian obsession with Sufism. Sufism, they say, is the spirit of Islam. As soon as the Persians realized that they had committed a very great mistake in resisting and persecuting the Master Sufi of all times, and the realization dawned upon them that they had been the greatest losers in rejecting the Divine blessings, then, with a contrition of spirit born of sincere and deep regret, they tried their best to make good their past; and if some of them outstripped some of their Arab contemporaries, it is not to be wondered at, for it was all due to the zeal born of a repentant spirit. Some of them showed such great earnestness in their new work that they are ranked with some of the very prominent men of the first generation. They tried to reproduce in themselves that same spirit that animated the first generation. That is why some of these Sufi writers, writing from a subjective point of view, give so much prominence to these advanced Sufis.
Sufism is based upon the love of God and the service of humanity. So say the Sufis. As a matter of fact, both of these principles are really one — the Divine Love. Ethics and morals, service and right life, are the direct result of this love, say their great leaders. The initiative, they say, always rests with Divine Love which induces human love as with the process of induction. As soon as human love begins to stir, the Divine love begins to descend and unite with the human love.
The Sufi writers quote a well-known saying of the Prophet which says that ‘God told him that He was a hidden treasure, but He willed to be known and so He created Adam.’ Again, continues the Prophet, ‘if a man stirs, God moves towards him: if he walks, then God runs in his direction.’
It should be borne in mind that though now and then these Sufi teachers quote Jesus, Buddha, Socrates and others, that is only in additional support and confirmation of their views, but they base their teachings invariably on the Qur’ān and the traditions of the Holy Prophet. Ibn al-‘Arabī declares that no religion is more sublime than a religion of Love. He claims that Islam is peculiarly the religion of Love, inasmuch as the Prophet Muhammad is called God’s Beloved (Habīb), and that is why they have laid the greatest stress on love.
“Man’s love of God,” says Hujwīrī, “is a quality which manifests itself in the heart of the pious believers…who abjure the recollection of everything beside.”
“I fancied I loved God,” said Bayazīd, “but on consideration I saw that His love preceded mine.”
Junayd defined love as the substitution of the qualities of the Beloved for the qualities of the Lover, relying on the well-known saying of the Holy Prophet which says that man’s love is really the effect of God’s love.
“If I worship Thee for Thine own sake, withhold not Thine everlasting beauty” says Rābiʿah al-Basrī.
“His love entered and removed ah besides Him, and left no trace of anything else, so that it remained single as He is single.” (Bayazīd)
“To feel at one with God for a moment is better than all men’s acts of worship from the beaming of the world to the end of the world.” (Shiblī)
“Fear of the fire in comparison with the fear of being parted from the Beloved is like a drop of water cast into the mightiest ocean.” (Dhu’l Nūn)
“Thyself hast Thou sprinkled salt on the wound that has raised the cries of Thy distressful lovers. The mellowness of a sweet face is a part of Thy beauty, and every curled lock points to Thee.” (Hadrat Ahmad)
“O Love, what wonderful signs hast Thou shown. The cut and the salve hast Thou made the same in the way of the Beloved. Thy love is a remedy for a thousand ills. By Thy Face, the real release consists in Thy bondage.” (the poet Farrūkh)
“If the secret of Love between Him and me had been disclosed, thousands of lives would have been offered as a sacrifice at my door.” (the Promised Messiah)
“The Muslim mystics enjoyed greater freedom of speech than their Christian brethren who owed allegiance to the medieval Catholic Church,” says Professor Nicholson, “and if they went too far, the plea of ecstasy was generally accepted as a sufficient excuse…Their expressions were bold and uncompromising.”
We know that they never hesitated to use sayings of Jesus and other great teachers by way of supplementary proofs of their teachings, but perhaps it would be a surprise to many that they very rarely used the Gospel definition that God is Love. Their point of view is so sublime that such a definition would not fit in. Love, according to them, is one of the attributes, and not a whole definition of God, that is why they always rely on the Holy Qur’ān and the traditions, and the works of other Muslim Saints. Fatherhood of God seems an imperfect idea to them, that is why the Qur’ānic verse, “O ye believers, remember God with an intensity of love as ye remember your parents, or rather more” goes deeper into their hearts. Another verse which throws them into raptures is: “O ye believers, if you love God then follow me [Muhammad], and thus you (yourselves) will become the beloved of God.” Love of the Prophet and love of the Word of God with them are tantamount to Divine Love—a practical expression of it. That is why they can never be dissociated from God according to the Sufi interpretation.
This Divine Love has found its highest expression in total resignation and complete submission to the Will of Allah according to the great Sufi minds. “Thy Will be done” was spoken to give expression to this very sentiment. As a matter of fact, this is the culminating stage of Love. How enraptured and how eloquent the Sufi writers are when with glowing words they comment upon the following Qur’ānic verses:
“Say, if your parents or your children, your brothers or your wives and your other kith and kin, and the hoardings that you have amassed together, and the business of whose slackness you are afraid, and the mansions that you love—if these things are dearer to you than Allah and His Prophet, and striving in His way, then wait till Divine decision arrives; verily, God never glides the violators of solemn pledges.”
“Say: My prayers and my sacrifices, my life and my death are for Allah. There is none beside Him. That is my order (duty) and I am the first of the believers.”
Love of God and total submission to His Will are the first and last principles, and the whole foundation of Islam, according to these Sufi minds, is based upon these two hinges.
Of course, Sufism has been developed into a science, even the minutest points of a person’s character having been classified. It is at once a composite of ethics, philosophy, metaphysics, psychology and spirituality. A vast literature has been written on every phase of the subject, and abstruse problems such as the reality of God, His Unity, the problem of good and evil, responsibility of man, or otherwise, God and His attributes. Pantheism, created and uncreated things, matter and soul, life and death, and almost all the points have been dealt with in great detail and with a depth of mind which would baffle the students of abstruse psychology of today. It is impossible to deal with them here. Suffice it to say that with the master minds among the Sufis, these were not mere mental exercises. Their discussion had always a bearing on life, and they did live upto their professions. Whatever views they expressed, they never meant to be libertines. All their efforts were directed to the improvement of their self. As they have reduced this Sufism to a science, they have their own terminology. The Sufi who sets out to seek God is called a Sālik (a traveller). He advances by slow stages (maqāmah) along a path (tarīqah) to the goal of union with Reality (fanā’ fī al-haqīqah). In general, there are seven stages:
(6) Trust in God
After the traveller has progressed along this path, he is raised to the higher planes of Ma’rifah (Gnosis) and Haqīqah (the Truth). It would be well to note that the Sufi renunciation differs from Christian and Buddhist renunciations.
The Sufi is a true Muslim. He does not believe in mere other-worldliness, or celibacy and monasticism. All the great Sufi teachers led happy married lives. This renunciation is the right use of all the powers given to man by God. The Sufi is in the world, yet he is out of it. He braves the risks like a courageous, dutiful soul. He never shrinks his responsibility, for the Prophet had said that an unmarried person who shirked the great responsibility of life could not be trusted with higher responsibilities.
The Sufis have three more advanced stages. As a matter of fact, the divisions are many, but these three roughly include them all. They are Fanā’, Liqā’, and Baqā’. Fanā’ means total effacement of one’s self, so much so that the adept becomes merged in Divine presence. He eats and drinks, prays and fasts, not that he likes to do it but because he is impelled to do it. God is all in all for him. “Turn to your Creator and surrender yourself to Him,” says the Holy Word; and the Sufi, in contemplation of this, just puts himself at the disposal of his Creator, as the dead corpse in the hands of an undertaker. He thinks of the Holy Prophet’s words “Die before your death”: and in keeping with his origin that he is a perishable thing after all, for the word says: “Everything is perishable but what comes under Divine Will,” he undergoes a death to receive an eternal life; not that he wants it, but because it is the Divine Will, which in Sufi terminology stands for Law. That is the stage of Fanā’, or passing away into Divine Presence. Rūmī has well illustrated this stage of Fanā’ or self-effacement in the following verses:
When a fairy comes to possess a man.
He loses his attributes of man.
Whatever he says is through the inspiration of that fairy.
It is neither from this nor from that brain.
Gone is his own individuality, he himself becomes that fairy.
Arabic to a Turk comes as a mother tongue without any revelation
When he is lost to himself he knows nothing of the language.
For knowledge is the person and attributes of the fairy
How can then the Creator of man and spirit be less than a fairy
If this influence and law hold good in the case of a fairy.
We can well judge the powers of the Creator of the fairy.
When he (the drunkard) is under the influence of old or new wine he begins to speak.
You would say, “It is the wine that is speaking”
If this noise and fuss are due to wine.
Could it be possible that the Light of God can be without force and power?
Though the Qur’ān has come out of the lips of the Prophet,
Infidel is he who says that God has not said it.
Unlike Nirvana, Fanā’, the passing away of the Sufi from his phenomenal existence, involves Baqā’, the continuance of his real existence. He who dies to self lives in and with God, but not in the pantheistic sense as is generally supposed. The Sufi is opposed to deification.
Rūmī, who has been accused of being a believer in pantheism, clearly refutes this idea in his well known couplet: “To say I am He at the wrong moment (as did Pharaoh) is a curse. To say I am He at the right moment (as did Mansūr al-Hallāj) is a blessing.”Concept of Shadow Prophethood (Burūz)
Yet, as he thinks that his soul has proceeded from the hands of his Creator and that his self is but a reflection of the Real Self, so he always aims at continual progress. The elder Sufis never lost sight of the fact that they were human, and though in their periods of illumination and union, they sometimes thought they were lost to themselves, lust as the shadow vanishes when the sun is high in heavens, they never lost sight of the fact that they were mere human and that their ultimate aim was to continue in a state of Baqā’—eternal life actuated and moved by the instinctive desire for unification called Liqā’ in their language. That is why the elder Sufis never went beyond the bounds of the Law. Such a state of mind, according to their best judgement, bordered upon apostasy. “Strive hard in the path of truth and rectitude, piety and devotion,” says Sa’adī, “yet never dream of trespassing the bounds set by Mustafa (Muhammad).”
Two more stages the advanced Sufis claim are Lahūt and Nasūt. When the Sufi has traversed all the stages until he has attained to the stage of Baqā’, or Eternal Continuance, he is supposed to have stepped into the stage of that which they call lahūt in which stage the Sufi remembers nothing but God. He is dead to all else besides, and he feels that he is, as it were, at unison with Him. At this stage, all his actions and all his movements are due to Divine urge—rather Divine Will—for that is the stage of “there is none but Allah (lā ilāha illa’llāh).” The Sufi is nowhere, but God is everywhere. This stage has its degrees the beginning and extending points. That is the ascent of the Sufi, which in his own terminology he calls Mi’rāj (ascent), and when the climax arrives, then he begins to descend, which should not be confused with decline, for this descent is higher than his previous ascent.
It happens in this way: Divine Love is the source of all creation, and Divine love is the supporter and maintainer of it. It is the Divine Love that first inspires the Sufi to seek union؛ and now that the consummation has arrived, he is not his own previous self but Love himself, and now he desires to manifest himself. Here the Sufi writers quote the well-known saying of the Prophet Muhammad, in which God says that He was hidden treasure and that He desires to be realized, and so He created Adam. The Sufi believes that God is the Creator, and it is in the realization of His attribute of Creation that He brought forth Adam. Hence, after this ascent, when the Sufi becomes united with God, Divine attributes begin to manifest themselves through him. As Divine Love is always flowing out to meet the needs of humanity, so the Sufi, the highest embodiment of Divine Love, begins to evince and ultimately manifest his love for humanity, which is termed service, and this is called the stage of Muhammad RasūlAllah—that is, the Sufi, the reflection of Muhammad, has now become the messenger of God. That is the stage of Mujaddid (Reformer), and a Nabī (Prophet), both of these having their own stages, degrees and qualities, the highest being the stage of Muhammad, which the Sufis call the Light of Muhammad. The Sufis here draw a very fine distinction. Love of God with them is the first and the original inspirer, but progress depends upon the human soul, for which effort is necessary. This self effort, which is a reaction of the human soul to the Divine action, then leads him on to the stage of submission, total and entire, where all his movements become Divine. Here the Sufi’s action becomes God’s action. The highest stage is that of the prophet, where the prophet is only the instrument and God works through him. All this is included in the stage of nasūt. One of the stages in this state of nasūt is the stage of burūz (shadow).
According to the Sufis, Muhammad is the Perfect Man, al-Insān al-Kāmil, and it was to realize this or that aspect of the Light of Muhammad that the other prophets have been appearing in this world, and the perfection was fully realized when Muhammad himself appeared. All the prophets that appeared before him were but a partial reflection, the reality alone was Muhammad himself. Just as John the Baptist was the second coming of Elijah, so were the earlier prophets the forerunners and heralds of Muhammad, and now that he has appeared he has become the Seal of the Prophets (Khātam al-Nabīyyīn). The other prophets came only to herald his coming. They were the pioneers, and in the absence of the Master they were allowed a free hand. Hence they are called independent (haqīqī) prophets. Now that the Master Himself is holding the court and swaying His dominations, nobody can assume independence: each one has to act under His guidance. That is why the Sufis (one and all) regard His law as final, and Muhammad the last of the prophets. Dependent prophets, of course, may continue, and in fulfilment of the ancient prophecies and Sufi beliefs, there has appeared one who is the Burūz (shadow) of Muhammad in the full sense of the word, and he is no other than the late Ahmad of Qādīyān, the Promised Messiah and Mahdi, the Second Christ, the Buddha Matreya, the Spiritual Return of Krishna, the greatest Sufi of the age, and the successor of Muhammad (sa).
It is better to state here that the Sufi term burūz is not reincarnation theory, which the Sufis totally reject. Burūz means the appearance of one in the power and spirit of another, just as John the Baptist was Elijah that was to come, yet Elijah was dead and he could not come back to this life. This phenomenon of recurrence the Sufis use in a spiritual and metaphorical sense. The Second Christ or the Second Buddha does not mean that both these dead personages have taken a re-birth. The second one is individually different, but corresponds to his prototypes in some of his spiritual traits. Moreover, the correspondence in situation needs correspondence in character, neither more not less.
The Sufis are opposed to hulūl and tanasukh, that is, they reject both the theory of re-incarnation, transmigration of souls, and metempsychosis, and they also deny that there is anything like one soul possessing or overshadowing another.
The elder Sufis were true Muslims. They lived and taught nothing but Islam, and the emphasis that they laid on the spiritual side was only to revive the pristine, pure, Islamic spirit. Islam stands for the whole, while Sufism is but one of its aspects. Moreover, Sufism has no constructive side, nor does it stand independent. It stands and falls with Islam.
Like everything else, Sufism has been affected during its history of many centuries. The present day Sufism, though built on the old lines, has undergone some change. Some of the present day practices and teachings are not in conformity with the original Sufism. Renunciation in the sense of celibacy and monasticism was never countenanced by the great Sufis; what they taught was the same as is taught by Islam. They never used it in the sense of severance of human relations and retiring into woods and forests leading anchorite lives, having nothing to do with this world. That is a great departure from the old Sufi point of view. All that Islam and early Sufism insisted upon was that real attachment should be with God. Support and care and maintenance of one’s wife and upbringing and looking after one’s children is one of the primary duties of man. Under the mistaken notion of serving God with a singleness of purpose they have forsaken the world. They are just like a horse that runs without a load or carriage, but as soon as he ig loaded or yoked he stops short and kicks. What Sufism and Islam required of a man was that he should learn to stand, walk and run in spite of hindrances and handicaps, so as to bring out the best in him. As a matter of fact, the care of all these things in the right spirit is a part of Divine worship. That is why the Sufi writers have insisted on the law which says, “There is to be no monasticism in Islam.” God has willed that all these things should be well looked after, and yet a monk disregards all these duties. That is one of the practical abuses that has found its way into some present day Sufi Orders, whose practices, in certain instances, are a direct infringement of the teachings of the great Sufi Master Muhammad (sa). The Sharī’ah, or law of Islam, has always stood mounted guard to counteract such tendencies.
Another mistake pertaining to belief has also crept into some of the present day Orders. One is the belief in transmigration and re-incarnation (tanasukh and hulūl). The elder Sufis have always rejected it. What they mean by recurrence is, the reversion of the old types. Some Sufis represent the spirit and power of some of the past Sufis, and therefore they sometimes have asserted their identity with their prototypes. This has been understood to mean re-incarnation, etc., which the elders have expressly repudiated as abomination. As we have explained elsewhere, this reversion of types they term a burūz which means the coming of another in the power and spirit of the departed one. These elder Sufis cite one of the sayings of the Holy Prophet, which says that some people among his followers are born in the spirit of Abraham, while others in the spirit of Moses, and Jesus, and other prophets. But they are not the same. It is only the prominence in resemblance which entitles a person to a certain name. Ahmad of Qādīyān has appeared in our day in the power and spirit of Jesus, and that is why his coming is the coming of Jesus. It was necessary to guard against these corruptions that the form of Sharī’ah was maintained by them, and it was in conformity with the law that the elder Sufis have all rejected reincarnation and other theories that border on polytheism.
Sufism has generally been confused with mysticism. The misunderstanding has been due to the apparent similarity in the meanings of the word “mysticism” and “sirr” [a Sufi term meaning ‘secret’]. But the “sirr” of Sufi is not the mystery of the mystic, for the Sufi had nothing to conceal. To a Sufi the word connotes the reality underlying anything, whether it be a phenomenon. As the reality of every one’s experience is known only to one’s self that is why sometimes the Sufi emphasizes individual rather than common experience, because it is a thing to know which one has to go through himself. One can instruct another in formalism, but discipline and illumination are an individual affair.
This attitude of a Sufi has been attributed to a mystifying habit, which is surely an unfair judgment on him. So mysticism and Sufism are two different things altogether.
There are many spiritual Orders of Sufism with many more sub-orders. They all started with the same principles and the same practices, differing only in minor details, and the idiosyncrasies of the individual. These orders are all known by the names of the different persons who first founded the movement in their own localities. There has been no difference whatever so far as the elders and the best people in these movements have been concerned. But with the lapse of time and the differences of tastes, temperaments and traits of character, and the atmosphere and environments that surrounded them, there were developed certain practices, which though harmless perhaps at first, led in the end to wide cleavages, not only in matters of details but even in principles of actions. The present day orders are mostly of the above type, who neither care for the law nor for the behests of great minds of their movements. This degeneracy was mostly the result of contact with peoples that had themselves deviated from the right path and who now have come to think more of hypnotism, mesmerism, autosuggestion, and cure by suggestion, which the elder Sufis never cared much about, though of course during the course of their disciplines, these, or some of these things, came to them of themselves, and were perhaps made use of very often unconsciously, but these were never the chief nor the sole means. These latter day Sufis, having lost the spirit and the reality, now looked about for something tangible, and as the sudden results achieved’ themselves through these alien practices along with the fact that there was some similarity between these practices and some of the actions of their elders, which they never tried to fathom, they devoted themselves to these things to the exclusion of the reality, and that is the reason we meet with fraud, hypocrisy and imposture so often. Some of them have adopted the heathenish practices of bowing and prostrating before men, offering libations to dead saints, kneeling before the tombs of saints, offering prayers to the living and dead. Some think themselves above every law, thus giving a free rein to every passion. It is fortunate that there are not very many of them, but it is undeniable that they are a part of the society, however low it may be. But they have nothing in common with the real Sufism of Islam.
Though there are many orders and suborders, the following ones are the major groups:
In addition to the above four, we have the Mawlaw’īs, the followers of Mawlānā Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī, the author of the famous Masnavī. Though his followers are found mostly in Asia Minor and Egypt, the dancing dervishes mostly belonging to this order, yet his book has had a great influence all over the East.
Shādhilī is another group, which is found in Arabia, but they are not much heard of outside.
As we have said before, all started, from the same point, and on the very same principles, but new practices,like a twelve-year feast, breathing exercises of the Yogis, tuning of the heart to ‘Allāh hū’, mental concentration, or the drawing in of the mental picture of the Shaykh or spiritual guide have sprung up. They are quite foreign to the spirit as well as the form of Sufism, and one acquainted with the law of growth knows that along with the true growth there are always weeds that need a constant weeding. The old Sufism has lost its vitality, and God in His mercy has sent down a gardener to restore Sufism to its pristine purity, so that the fountains of spirituality which had been choked up by this foreign growth may be cleared and the waters of life may gush out again to bring fertility to a soil barren and unsown for so long a time. Blessed are they who hearken to this messenger who appeared in the fullness of time, and he is no other than Ahmad of Qādīyān, India.
The writer of this paper is a Qādirīte of the Nawshāhī Order. The founder, Muhammad Hājī, lived in the eleventh century of the Islamic era. He gained a great popularity owing to the nobility of his character, as well as learning, piety and devotion, so much so that there is no part in India without his followers. After his passing away, the leadership has, through eleven generations, devolved upon this humble servant who is at present the sole representative so far as hereditary succession is concerned. I was born, educated and brought up in this purely Sufi atmosphere, while all the members of my family have been men of enlightened scholarly disposition and tastes, and in their own day and time they have exercised a very healthy influence upon the society in general. From my bare youth upwards I gave myself up to Sufi devotions and esoteric practices along with my studies; as a matter of fact, all my life has been passed in literary pursuits as well as in the cultivation of Sufi experiences. My own order, I had come to realize long ago, had fallen away from the right path.
Instead of leading a life of righteousness and rectitude and following the paths of virtue, they had degenerated into what may aptly be termed as “pagan practices” and the love and fear of God had given place to the irreverent sex practices and addiction to dope. The Elders of our Order used to give themselves up to silent prayers and devotions, meditations and contemplation, leading a life of goodness and active beneficence. They loved God and their fellow men to an extent that they forgot their selves, but now a sham forgetfulness is brought on by taking bhāng [Indian variety of marijuana] and strong liquors, and the eating and smoking of opiates of all kinds. The Elders brought on self oblivion by forgetting themselves in God, but now these people have begun to forget themselves in ecstatic frenzy under the influence of dope by hanging themselves upside down from trees and posts and swinging their bodies back to and fro with strong jerks and wild unearthly yells. Instead of going about doing acts of mercy and goodness they now roam about dancing and yelling, beating drums and tomtoms and shouting meaningless formulas to the tunes of a violin or guitar. These roamings they call “pilgrimages”. The love of God has given place to the love of sex, which they term “’Ishq-i-Majāzī” (metaphorical love), which they say is the preparation for and the only avenue to the former-the ‘Ishq-i-Haqīqī (real love) of their terminology, and this dope and sex have led to the undoing of many. Unmentionable excesses in the name of Sufism have been continued and countenanced, and what stood for morality and purity of life has now degenerated into a cult of depravity and moral looseness.
Under these circumstances, I turned to God for guidance, and He in His mercy and Goodness has revealed to me that through heavenly visions and divine manifestations the real Sufi of the age is Ahmad of Qādīyān, India. As my studies also led me in the same direction, I did not hesitate to sacrifice my all to drink at the fountainhead of the true Sufism that has sprung up afresh in the holy person of Ahmad. I have tasted of this nectar and the water of life, and in all humility and sincerity I invite all to this truth that Divine Love has revealed to me.
و السلام على من تبع الهدى — The peace and the blessings of Allah be upon those who follow the truth.
— Rawshan ‘Alī
– The Path of Love – Poem by Hadrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Qadiani (as)
– The Well-Spring of Fatihah by Ahmad of Qadian (Mystical Secrets, Linguistic Miracles, and Prophecies)
– Signs of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as) as the Mahdi and Messiah
– Sign of the Eclipses for the Imām al-Mahdī
– Qasīdah of the Imām al-Mahdī in praise of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa)
– The Anti-Christ (al-Masih al-Dajjal)
– Extremist Mullahs in Islamic History
– Real Revolution of Islam through Ahmadiyya and True Caliphate
– Prayer is Spiritual Ascension
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
In the name of Allāh, the Supremely Beneficent, the Sublimely Magnanimous
نحمده و نصلي على رسوله الكريم
و على عبده المسيح الموعود
We send prayers and blessings upon His (swt) Noble Messenger (saw) and upon his (saw) Servant, the Promised Messiah (as)
The following is a 5 part series on the concept of the Imām al-Mahdī – rightly guided leader, an eschatological figure who is understood by the Muslims as being the de facto supreme leader of the Muslims during the latter days, who alongside Jesus – who shall return descending from the sky – will bring about the supremacy of Islam in the world and bring justice to it as it was filled with injustice.
It was written by Hadrat Mawlawī Shayr ‘Alī (may Allah be pleased with him and have mercy on him) in 1908, a great scholar of the Islamic sciences and the Qur’an, who produced one of the first translations of the Qur’an into English by a Muslim in history. He was a Sunni scholar of Islam who also had a B.A. and himself took the bay’ah (pledge of allegiance) of Hadrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (‘alayhi al-salām) who claimed to be the Imām al-Mahdī in 1891 and started the Ahmadiyya Islamic Order.
As such, this article will analyze all the relevant ahādīth (traditions of the Prophet Muhammad) regarding the Mahdī and also the prevailing notions of the Mahdī held by Muslims of today. It is one of the most scholarly pieces on the concept of Mahdī in Ahmadiyya literature and serves as a great introduction to Hadrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (‘alayhi al-salām) as fulfilling the prophecies of the Mahdī to Muslim seekers of truth. It will be released in 5 parts. Here begins the first part. Later parts will delve into the signs of the Mahdī. Asides from the introduction and the conclusion, all of the words henceforth are those of Hadrat Mawlawī Shayr ‘Alī.
Source of Original Article: Review of Religions, May 1908
Inauthenticity of the Ahādīth relating to the Mahdī
Traditions giving the Name of the Mahdī
Traditions regarding his Lineage
Traditions relating to the Land of the Mahdī’s appearance
Tradition concerning the period of the Mahdī’s ministry
Traditions relating to the Time of his Appearance
Concept of the Warrior Mahdī held by Contemporary Muslims
Conclusion of Part I
The Islamic prophecy of the advent of a holy champion of Islam (or a Mahdī as they call him) is a prophecy of world-wide reputation. There has been no age but has witnessed the appearance of a pretender to this office. Mahdī is a holy and pure name; it means one that is guided in the right path. But it is painful to note that ignorant and fanatic Mullahs have represented the holy holder of this title in such dark colours and some of the pretenders that set themselves up as Mahdīs allowed themselves to commit such horrible atrocities that the word Mahdī, a holier and more innocent name than which does not exist, now carries with it a most terrible signification. The holder of this holy title is represented by fanatic Mullahs and Mawlawīs as a bloody warrior who will deluge the earth with infidel blood. These foolish priests of Islam know of no other means of propagating the holy religion of Islam and believe that the Mahdī too will resort to sword as the only means of propagating it. Alas, a great injustice has been done to this holy name and a very innocent and harmless title has been misrepresented as the terrible title of a bloodthirsty man-killer. The object of this paper is to clear off the errors and misconceptions that having accumulated round the name of the Mahdī through long centuries, have hidden the reality from men’s eyes, and to represent it in tis true light by showing its true significance.
The first difficulty that one meets with in studying the prophecy of the advent of the Mahdī is that one is confronted with a mass of traditions almost all of which are admittedly inauthentic.
The late Nawab Siddiq Hasan Khan of Bhopal State [India], an eminent theological writer of the Ahl-e-Hadīth sect, took great pains to collect all the traditions regarding the advent of the Mahdī in his famous work the Hujāj al-Kirāmah, and speaking of the authenticity of these traditions observes on page 365 of that work:
“There is no doubt that in the chain of narrators of most of the traditions there are persons who were careless, of bad memory, weak or of feeble judgment and had other faults. These weak and faulty traditions, taken collectively bear evidence to the truth of the fact that the Mahdī shall appear in the latter days, though there are very few of them that are pure.”
Thus according to this learned writer, the only thing that the traditions conclusively prove is that a Mahdī must appear in the latter days. As to the details of his appearance nothing can be said with certainty owing to the inauthenticity of the traditions. The same view is expressed by the learned theologian elsewhere when he says:
“All the traditions that relate to the appearance of the Mahdī, the events, the occurrences, the dangers and the conquests of his time etc., only show the truth of his appearance, in whatever way it may be.” (pg. 384)
The concluding words are significant. They show that in the opinion of the writer, the traditions that speak of the advent of Mahdī are almost all so self-contradictory and inauthentic that they prove nothing beyond the fact that a Mahdī is to appear. As to the details, the traditions are hopelessly at variance with each other so that we can not say with certainty how the appearance is to take place.
These remarks of a learned theologian will give the reader an idea how far the traditions that speak of the advent of the Mahdī are reliable. The unreliability of these traditions may further by judged from the fact that they find no place in the two well-known works on the traditions, viz, the Sahīh Bukhārī and the Sahīh Muslim, works which the consensus of Muslim opinion has declared to be more authentic than any other collection of traditions. These two books that enjoy the distinction of being the most reliable works on tradition have nothing at all to say as to the advent of a Mahdī. This shows that the learned compilers of these works did not look upon these traditions as authentic enough to have a place in their collections and hence they rejected them. To what further conclusion this circumstance gives rise, I shall state further on.
Most of the traditions are unreliable not only because their narrators were untrustworthy but also because there is much evidence in the traditions themselves which points to their unreliability. The traditions are full of contradictions. They disagree on the name of the Mahdī, his lineage, the place and the time of his appearance, and the period for which he will live on the earth after his appearance. I quote below some of the traditions in order to show how they contradict each other on almost every important point.
Sunan Abī Dāwūd has the following tradition [of the Prophet Muhammad]:
“Even if there remain only one day to the end of the world, God will lengthen that day until He raises therein a man from me (or from my family) whose name will coincide with my name and whose father’s name will coincide with that of my father.” (Sunan Abī Dāwūd, Kitāb al-Mahdī, #4269)
The same author has another tradition which represents ‘Alī (ra) saying:
“This my son, Hassan, is a sayyid (leader) as the Holy Prophet (sa) styled him, and there shall appear from among his descendants a man who will be called after the name of your prophet, whom he will resemble in character and not in personal appearance.” (Sunan Abī Dāwūd, Kitāb al-Mahdī, #4276)
Both these traditions, if literally, if literally interpreted, mean that the Mahdī’s name is to be Muhammad.
There are other traditions which give the Mahdī’s name as Ahmad and not Muhammad.
Nawab Siddiq Hassan Khan observes on page 352 of his work already referred to that according to some traditions, the name of the Mahdī is Ahmad and that of his father ‘Abdullah. One of the traditions runs thus:
“A crier shall cry from the heavens: O people, verily God has ride you of the tyrants and the hypocrites and their hosts and made the best of his servants a lord over you, so join him at Mecca, for he is the Mahdī and his name is Ahmad, son of ‘Abdullah.” (Iqtirāb al-Sā’ah, pg. 66)
Again, there is a tradition which gives his name as ‘Isā (Arabic form of ‘Jesus’). This tradition will be found in another part of this article.
As to the name of his father, the Shi’as contend that it is Hasan and not ‘Abdullah.
Firstly, there are traditions that represent him as a descendant of Fātima (ra). Abū Dawūd reports on the authority of Ummi Sālama (ra): “The Mahdī is from my (i.e. the Holy Prophet’s) family, from the children of Fātima.” (Sunan Abī Dawūd, Kitāb al-Mahdī, #4271)
We have now to see whether the Mahdī is to be a descendant of Hasan or Hussayn, the two sons of Fātima. Here there is a great split in the traditions, some representing Mahdī as a descendant of Hasan and others denying it and representing him as a child of Hussayn. I have already quoted a tradition from Abū Dawūd which represents the Mahdī as the seed of Hasan [Sunan Abī Dāwūd, Kitāb al-Mahdī, #4276].
Another tradition to the same effect is narrated by Tamām and Ibn ‘Asakīr and runs thus:
“There shall appear in the last days a man from the children of Hasan, who if confronted by mountains shall move them from their resting place and shall make his way through them.”
Another tradition to the same effect is narrated by Tammām and Ibn ‘Asakīr [from ‘Abdullah bin ‘Amr, narrated in Ibn ‘Asakīr’s Tārīkh Dimashq – “History of Damascus”] and runs thus:
“There shall appear in the last days a man from the children of Hasan, who if confronted by mountains shall move them from their resting place and shall make his way through them.”
Against these traditions, we have others according to which Mahdī is to be a descendant of Hussayn and not Hasan. Ibn ‘Asakīr narrates on the authority of Jābir:
“Verily the Mahdī is from the children of Hussayn.”
The Shi’as stick to traditions which declare the Mahdī to be a descendant of Hussayn (ra). An attempt has been made to patch up this difference in another tradition which declares the Mahdī to be a descendant of both Hasan and Hussayn. Tabrānī and Abū Nu’aym narrate on the authority of ‘Ali Halālī:
“The Holy Prophet (sa) said to Fātima, ‘By Him who raised me with truth, verily the Mahdī of this religion is to be from these two, i.e. Hasan and Hussayn.”
It would have been well if this difference had ended with Hasan and Hussayn, but unfortuntaely there come forward others, who announce the Mahdī to be descended from quite a different stock, thus excluding both Hasan and Hussayn. For instance, there is a number of traditions in which the Mahdī is represented as a descendant of ‘Abbās, the uncle of the Holy Prophet. Ka’ab Ahbār is said to have narrated the following tradition:
“The Mahdī is to be a descendant of ‘Abbās.”
Dār Qutnī and Ibn ‘Asakīr narrate as follows:
“‘Uthmān (the 3rd Caliph) said, ‘I heard the Holy Prophet (sa) say that the Mahdī was to be a descendant of his uncle, ‘Abbās.”
Another tradition is narrated by Khatīb al-Baghdādī, which says:
“The Holy Prophet said, ‘O ‘Abbās, God commenced this religion, Islam, with me, and it is nigh that He should perfect it with a child of thine, who shall fill the earth with peace and equity after it has been filled with injustice and inequity, and it is he who shall perform his prayers with Jesus, son of Mary.”
Similarly, there are many other traditions which represent Mahdī as one of the ‘Abbāsids [descendants of ‘Abbās]. But the party of the Umayyads [descendants of the Banū Umayyah i.e. Abū Sufyān and ‘Uthmān’s line] have not been behind that of the ‘Abbāsids in claiming the Mahdī as one of their own number. They have gone so far as to apply the prophecy to a pious king of the Umayyad dynasty, [the Caliph] ‘Umar bin ‘Abd al-‘Aziz. Jalal al-Din Suyūtī quotes the words of Wahb bin Munabbih on page 158 of his work, the Tārīkh al-Khulafā’, which runs as follows:
إن كان في هذه الأمة مهدي فهو عمر بن عبد العزيز
“If there is any Mahdī from the Ummah of the Holy Prophet (sa), he is ‘Umar bin ‘Abd al-‘Azīz.”
Similarly, there are traditions which show that the Mahdī is to be from the children of ‘Umar [bin al-Khattāb], the second Caliph.
Thus there are five great people in Islam that respectively claim the Mahdī as belonging to their own family, viz.,
(a) The children of Hasan
(b) The children of Hussayn
(c) The ‘Abbāsids
(d) The Umayyads
(e) The children of ‘Umar
It may also be noted here that the descendants of ‘Alī from his wives other than Fātima [the ‘Alids] hold that the Mahdī must be a child of ‘Alī, but not necessarily from his wife Fātima, and they have their own traditions to depend upon.
While these various people claim the Mahdī as one of their own number, each quoting tradtions in their support, there are traditions in which no particular family is specified, but it is declared in general terms that the Mahdī is to be from among the followers of the Holy Prophet. I have already bothered my readers too much with quotations on the question of the lineage of the Mahdī, so I will now content myself only with pointing out the fact that there are traditions which do not partake of any sectarian character and which speak of the Mahdī as appearing from among the followers of the Holy Prophet. Anyone who refers to works on tradition, such as Abū Dawūd etc., will find traditions in which the Mahdī is spoken of as appearing from among the followers of the Holy Prophet (من أمتي – ‘from my Ummah‘, or في أمتي – ‘in my Ummah’).
It is curious to note that not only various families, but also the leading sects of Islam have each put forward claims with regard to the Mahdī. The Shi’as believe that the Mahdī will uphold the cause of Shi’ism, destroying every Sunni that will be found on the earth. The Mu’tazilites deny the very coming of the Mahdī. The Hanafis declare that the Mahdī is to be a follower of their Imām, Abū Hanīfah. The Wahhābīs, on the other hand, fly into a passion at this claim of the Hanafīs and hold that the Mahdī will be a staunch upholder of their sect. It is amusing to see these various sects quarreling which each other on this point. A representative of the Wahhābī sect, the author of the Hadīth al-Ghāshīyyah, may be quoted here to give the reader an idea of how tehse various sects vie with each other in claiming the Mahdī as one of their own number. The writer says on page 352 of his work:
“If we live long enough to see the time when the Mahdī comes or the Messiah descends from the heavens, we will hail these gentlemen, the Hanafis, and ask them to tell which of us was in the right, they or we. Then they will know the rate of flour and lentils and then they shall learn their error.”
On this point too, the traditions clash with each other, as they do on other points. The following are the various places which have been named as the localities where the Mahdī is to make his appearance.
1.) A village named Ka’dah (I shall have to refer to this tradition later on and hence refrain from quoting it here).
2.) Medina. Abū Dawūd quotes a long tradition in the course of which we have the following words:
“Disagreement will occur at the death of a caliph and a man of the people of Medina will come flying forth to Mecca.” (Sunan Abī Dawūd, Kitāb al-Mahdī, #4273)
Commenting on this tradition, Nawab Siddiq Hasan Khan observes on page 358 of his work already referred to:
“By ‘a man’ in this tradition is meant the Mahdī and the tradition shows that the Mahdī shall not only be born at Medina but also make his appearance there.”
3.) Mecca. Nu’aym ibn Hammād [the teacher of Imām Bukhārī] narrates the following tradition:
“The Mahdī shall appear at Mecca at the time of the night prayer.” (See Siddiq Hasan Khan’s work page 363)
‘Alī Muttaqī in his treatise entitled al-Mahdī observes:
“O reader, know that it is related in the stories of the prophets and in the traditions and in the writings of the Holy Saints that the Mahdī shall be the seed of Hussayn, the name of his father coinciding with that of the Holy Prophet’s father, viz., ‘Abdullah, and he shall be born at Mecca and shall also die there.”
4.) The land known as the Maghreb, i.e., North Africa.
Nawab Siddiq Hasan Khan says on page 358:
“Qirbatī says in his book, the Tadhkirah, that the place of birth of the Mahdī is the Maghreb (Western land). From there he shall come by way of sea.”
5.) The Masjid al-Aqsā in Bayt al-Muqaddas (Jerusalem).
Siddiq Hasan says on page 358:
“It is related that the Mahdī shall appear from the Masjid al-Aqsā.”
6.) The East. Abū Nu’aym and Ibn ‘Asakīr narrate as follows:
“There shall appear in the East, a man from the children of Hasan, son of ‘Alī, who if confronted by mountains shall move them from their resting place and shall make his way through them.”
This is one of the traditions on the authority of which it is asserted by some that the Mahdī shall be a descendant of Hasan. The tradition has already been quoted. Ibn Mājah relates another tradition which says:
“There shall appear some men in the East who shall render assistance to the Mahdī.” (Sunan Ibn Mājah, Kitāb al-Fitan, #4088)
7.) Khorasan. In the Musnad of Ahmad, we have the following report:
“When you see black banners coming from Khorasan, go unto them, for there you shall find the Caliph of God, the Mahdī.” (also in Sunan Ibn Mājah, Kitāb al-Fitan, #4084)
Here too there is a disappointing disagreement in the traditions. The following are the various numbers of years for which, it is said, the Mahdī shall live in this world after the public decleration of his mission:
(1) 5 years
(2) 7 years
(3) 9 years
(4) 19 years and a few months
(5) 20 years
(6) 24 years
(7) 30 years
(8) 40 years
It is needless to quote all these conflicting traditions; the following quotation from Siddiq Hasan’s work already referred to will do:
“The traditions regarding the period of Mahdī’s ministry are conflicting. Some traditions give the period as 5, 7, or 9 years, some give it as 7, some as 9; some say, he shall not live for less than 5 years and more than 9 years, some give the period as 19 years and a few months, some as 20 years, some as 24 years, some as 30 ears, while there are others that give the period of his ministry as 40 years.” (page 380)
The traditions which give the period of his ministry as 40 years are believed to be the most trustworthy.
Though most of the traditions represent the Mahdī as a contemporary of the Promised Messiah, yet there is a traidition which gives the time of his appearance as intermediate between the time of the Holy Prophet and that of the Promised Messiah.
The tradition runs thus:
لن تهلك أمة أنا في أولها وعيسى ابن مريم في آخرها ، والمهدي في أوسطها
“God will never destroy a people whose beginning is marked with my appearance, middle by that of the Mahdī, and end by that of Jesus.” (Kanz al-‘Ummāl 14/266 Hadīth 38671 cf. Kitāb al-Mahdī of Abū Na’īm)
The above are only a few of the numerous discrepancies to be met with in the traditions bearing on the advent of the Mahdī, and what I have said above is sufficient to show the unreliability of most of the traditions relating to the Mahdī.
It is a pity that traditions that are not only utterly unreliable, but also injurious to Islam and threatening to public tranquility are preached from the pulpit. Traditions representing the Mahdī as a warrior who shall destroy all non-Muslims stand lowest in the scale of authenticity, yet it is these traditions that are trumpeted abroad by fanatic Muslim scholars as if they were the most authentic. Their conduct would have been excusable, had the traditions on the basis of which the Mahdī is represented as coming with sword in his hand and deluging the earth with infidel blood had been reliable and trustworthy; but when it is seen that of the traditions regarding the advent of the Mahdī, those that depict him as a bloody warrior are the most unreliable, and that the Indian Mawlawīs are not unaware of the fact, one is compelled to condemn their preaching as most mischievously dangerous.
They not only degrade Islam in public estimation by their preaching a warlike Mahdī, but they are also a menace to public peace. If their motives had been good, if they had been the well-wishers of Islam, and of the beneficient Government which is raining its favours on us day and night, they, instead of exciting public feeling for Jihād, and making the ignorant masses look fondly to the time when the imaginary Mahdī shall smite the heathen world with his sword and pluner its treasures, ought to have exposed the unreliable character of the traditions and calmed down the public feeling by making the masses hold soberer views regarding the Mahdī. Then they would have done a srvice, not only to the Government, but also to Islam.
But in order to let the reader know what kind of teachings are disseminated among the credulous and confiding masses, I give below a few quotations from the Iqtirāb al-Sā’ah, which is generally believed to have been the work of Siddiq Hasan Khan, though purporting to have been written by his son. On page 94, the Mahdī is represented as inviting people by God by means of sword; on page 64, we have the following words:
“He (the Mahdī) will fight battles and draw treasures, conquer city after city and subjugate the whole world from East to West. The Kings of India shall be brought into his presence with chains round their necks.”
Then the writer adds by way of comment:
“I say there is no monarch in India at present; there are only some chiefs, Hindu or Muslim, but they are not independent rulers, nay, they are rulers only in name. The great rulers of this country are Europeans and probably they will remain the rulers till that time, and therefore they shall be brought into his presence, or it may be that by that time the rule of some other monarch may be established here.”
Similar views are expressed in other works of Siddiq Hasan Khan, for example see the Hujjāj al-Kirāmah, page 374.
I have already quoted Siddiq Hasan Khan to show that he believes most of the traditions relating to the Mahdī to be inauthentic, proving nothing beyond the fact that a Mahdī must appear, yet this very writer whose vast learning commanded the esteem of the whole Muslim India openly teaches that the European rulers of India shall be brought in chains before the Mahdī. This book was published as recently as 1301 A.H., i.e. only a quarter of a century ago. The mischief that such writings may work is inestimable. It is impossible to eradicate the deeply rooted error of [the understanding of] Jihād from the hearts of the ignorant Muslims as long as a bloody Mahdī is preached by fanatic Mullahs. There may be certain Mullahs, like Muhammad Hussayn of Batala, who secretly assure the Government that the traditions which speak of a warrior Mahdī are unreliable, but such assurances are of no avail unless the minds of the duped masses are purged of these mischievous beliefs by an open and vigorous exposure of the errors. I leave this subject here to return to it at the end of the article [in Part 5].
1. Ahādīth (traditions of the Prophet) regarding the Mahdī are largely inauthentic based on chain of narrators and contradict each other. Asides from those held to be authentic without a doubt, all we know can truly be sure of is that a Mahdī will appear.
2. The concept of a war-mongering fighter Mahdī as many mainstream Muslims today hold is totally opposed to the teachings of the Prophet (sa) and the Qur’an, especially where it says ‘there is no compulsion in religion’ (Qur’an 2:257)
To be continued.
“There is no short cut
Nearer than the Path of Love;
This indeed is the way
Which enables the pilgrim
To pass through thousands
Of valleys and plains infested
With dangerous thorns!
My dear friends, this alone
Is the secret of reaching Him;
It is an alchemy which shall place
At your feet an incalculable
Quantity of the purest gold!
The Arrow of the Appeal of Love
Never misses its mark;
So, ye Archers in this field,
Take care that you never
Slacken your speed!
Alone it is ‘Ishq
Which enables a man to traverse
All these dangerous jungles
Lying in the way of the Lord;
And it is ‘Ishq, again,
Which invests a man with strength
Enough to place his neck
Under the sharp edge
Of a merciless sword!
The first stage on the pilgrimage
Of Faqr is negation of Self;
Therefore, for the sake
Of the Beloved, do not fail
To reduce this rebellious Self,
In any case.
The fruit is always bitter
Before it has properly ripened;
And similar is the case of Īmān,
Of Belief and Faith in Allah,
Until the love in the heart
Of the devotee becomes
Overwhelmingly complete and full!”
― Hadrat Mīrzā Ghulām Ahmad al-Qādīyānīyy (‘alayhi al-salām), Promised Messiah and Imām al-Mahdī
[Barāhīn-e-Ahmadīyyah Vol. V]
This is part of a two-part series on the Christian conquest of Spain and the New World. The first part is on history, and the second part the eschatological religious significance of these two events from my understanding as an Ahmadi Muslim.
The Spanish conquistadors were some of the most vile and evil people to walk the earth, unparalleled in their wanton cruelty even by the modern terrorist group ISIS. And to add insult to injury, they all did it in the name of Christianity and Jesus, who was a peace-loving messiah.
– Fall of al-Andalus (Islamic Spain)
– The Spanish Inquisition
– Christopher Columbus
– Hernan Cortes
– A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies
– Reception of the Modern Western World to the atrocities of the Spanish
Mawlānā Dost Muhammad Shāhid (rh) was the official historian of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. He wrote the 5 volume history of the Community known as “Tārīkh-e-Ahmadiyya” (History of Ahmadiyya). He was a saintly and scholarly man with an encyclopedic memory. I find it benefiting the Western world therefore, to reproduce here all his works that have been translated into English. May Allah shower His blessings upon his soul!
On August 28, 2009 in the month of Ramadān, Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (may Allah be his helper), delivered a khutbah (Friday Sermon) about Mawlānā Shāhid at his passing.
Hudhūr said he was not simply an historian; rather his life was a chapter of the history of Ahmadiyyat. He was a luminary who was ever ready to spread Ahmadiyyat, the true Islam. He had an incredible memory. Hudhūr said it would not be out of place to say that he was an encyclopaedic person. In fact, Hudhūr said, Hadhrat Khalīfat al-Masīh IV (may Allah have mercy on him) did indeed make this observation. Hudhūr said he retained extensive information on the lives of early saints and mujaddidīn (reformers of Islam) to the point of remembering the name of the relevant book and the page number where certain information was.
Hudhūr said he would make only a few observations from his many personal qualities. He was a most selfless person who spent most of his time in the way of serving religion. He was a life-devotee who had an intense connection with the Caliphate. He was an extremely pious and prayerful person but whenever people requested him to pray for them he would say ‘do not ask me, write to Khalīfah of the time.’ He was utterly humble. Hudhūr said every time he read something new he sent Hudhūr a photo-copy of the material. He deserves to be referred to as a scholar who practised his scholarship. Hudhūr said it is natural to be concerned at the passing away of such great obliging associates but one prays that God will always provide us with great, obliging associates.”
Hudhūr called him “the champion of references”.
He wrote the official history of the Community in 5 volumes known as “Tārīkh-e-Ahmadiyya”. He also wrote a research article on the southasian Islamist group Jama’at-e-Islami in 1951 under guidance of Caliph II of the Ahmadiyya Community.
In 1992, he was awarded “Man of the Year” by the International Biographical Centre in Cambridge UK. In 1982 he was imprisoned for a few days in the way of God. In 1988 he was imprisoned in Gurjanwala District Jail, Pakistan. He continued to give Dars al-Qur’an in jail and also did Tabligh. He had to do hard labour while in prison.
In 1974, he was part of the Ahmadi delegation representing the Ahmadiyya Jama’āt in the National Assembly of Pakistan defending their case as Muslims (when the government of Pakistan under Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto declared Ahmadis as non-Muslims per constitutional law). He was the last surviving member of that delegation and subsequently made television programs on MTA (Muslim Television Ahmadiyya) of what transpired then.
A few days before passing away, he dreamed that the first Muslim Nobel Laureate in science, Dr. Abdus Salam, said the Islamic greeting ‘as-salāmu ‘alaykum’ (may peace be upon you) to him. At any distress he would say ‘write to the Khalīfah of the time.’ He had eight thousand books in his personal library.
– Glory of the Qur’an
– The First Bay’ah (Initiation) of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community
– Shāh Ni’matullāh the Saint and his Qasīdah
– The Wonder of Dreams
– Pakistan Movement and the part played by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community: Part I – Part II
– The Advent of the Fifteenth Century after the Hijrah
– Life of Hadrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad
– Death of Jesus and the Renaissance of Islam
– Chosen Saints and the Bigoted Mullahs in Islamic History
Interview with Mawlana Dost Muhammad Shahid in Urdu
At the recent killing of Dr. Muhammad Shakil Auj, who was the dean of Islamic Studies at the state-run University of Karachi by extremists in Pakistan, I want to narrate a phenomenon that Muslims may need reminding of. First Pakistan came for the Ahmadis, then the Shias, and now it is other Sunnis as well whom the Mullahs do not agree with. This was only a matter of time.
Extremist Mullahs (who claim to be Muslims) have existed since the inception of Islam to oppose the innocent and truthful spiritual heirs of the Prophet Muhammad (sa). The latter were only widely accepted by Muslims hundreds of years after their deaths. The following is a list of the divines of Islam who were opposed by the Mullahs of their time.
During the Life of the Prophet:
– Prophet Muhammad (sa) himself was opposed by the Munāfiqīn (the hypocrites) and their leader Abdullāh bin Ubayy bin Sulūl, who spread discord and tried to create a civil war among the Muslims, and insulted the Prophet Muhammad (sa) many times, yet claiming to be his followers on the exterior
1st Century Hijrah:
– The third Caliph, Hadrat ‘Uthmān (ra) was killed by extremist Muslims from Egypt, under the guile of Abdullāh bin Saba’, a Mullah of his time (he was a so-called Muslim convert from Judaism)
– The fourth Caliph, Imām ‘Alī (karamAllāhu wajuhū) killed by the Mullahs of his time, the Khawārij group who refused to accept his authority as the Caliph
– The grandson of the Prophet (sa) and fifth rightly-guided Caliph Imām Hassan (ra) poisoned to death by the great Mullah Yazīd
– The other grandson of the Prophet (sa) Imām Hussayn brutally martyred by the Mullah Yazīd along with 80 members of the Prophet’s (sa) family at Karbala, Iraq
– Imām al-Ḥakīm al-Tirmidhī, a great Sūfī of his time and Sunni jurist, had to flee from his native city of Termiz to Balkh and later Nishapur due to the opposition of the Mullahs of his mystical writings on the concept of Seal of Prophethood
2nd Century Hijrah:
– The great Sūfī (mystic) Junayd of Baghdād, Muhammad al-Faqīh, and Imam Mālik bin Anas (founder of the Mālikī school of jurisprudence still followed by Muslims today) all were learned scholars and saintly men, who were branded as apostates and heretics
– Imām al-Nasa’ī, compiler of one of the six authentic hadīth books in the Sunni canon used today, was beaten to death by the Khawārij
– Imām Shāfi‘ī (founder of the Shāfi‘ī school of jurisprudence still followed by Muslims today) was labeled a heretic and killed by another Muslim named Fityān – who was a follower of the Mālikī school of jurisprudence – along with his followers
– Imām Abū Hanīfah, the founder of the Hanafī School of Jurisprudence (followed today by the majority of Muslims), was branded as an apostate and an infidel. He was arrested, imprisoned, tortured and poisoned. He died in prison when he was praying.
– Imām al-Tabarī, the famous historian who compiled the book “History of the Prophets and Kings” still read today, was persecuted by followers of the Hanbalī school of jurisprudence, who would pelt his house with stones. ‘Abbasid authorities actually buried Tabarī in secret due to fears of mob violence.
3rd Century Hijrah:
– The great Imām Bukhārī whose Sahīh Bukhārī is regarded as the most authentic canonical Sunni hadīth collection, was also branded as an apostate: 3,000 ‘ulamā’ (scholars) and mullahs gave evidence of apostasy against the Imām. He was exiled from Bukhara to Khartang. Even there he did not have peace from his persecutors and he prayed in anguish to Allah for refuge. He was soon gathered to his Creator.
– Another great scholar and a savant was Imām Ahmad bin Hanbal (founder of the final of the four Sunni schools of jurisprudence still followed today by Muslims – the Hanbalī school). He was imprisoned and shackled and made to walk from Tarsus to Baghdad where during Ramadan he was lashed in the burning sun.
4th Century Hijrah:
– Mansūr al-Hallāj was the famous Sūfī of his time. He was arrested, imprisoned, lashed. His limbs were severed one by one and he was eventually hanged.
5th Century Hijrah:
– Even the famous and renowned Imām al-Ghazālī did not escape from the bigoted mullahs. They branded him as an atheist, a free thinker and an apostate whose books were declared unorthodox and un-Islamic. His books were ordered to be burnt and Muslims were forbidden to speak to him. His followers, if any, were ordered to be beheaded.
– Shaykh Shahāb al-Dīn Suhrawardī was a great mystic of his time. He was executed sometime between 1191 and 1208 in Aleppo on charges of heresy, by the order of al-Malik al-Zahir, son of Saladin
– Imam Ibn Hazm of Córdoba, Spain was declared a heretic and his books were burned. He was exiled to die in the jungle of Labla, Spain.
6th Century Hijrah:
– Hadrat Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qādir Jilanī, who became known as the Sultān of Sūfīs was also denounced as a heretic and an apostate by more than 200 ‘ulamā’ under the leadership of the Mullah Abu al-Farāj bin ‘Abd al-Rahmān al-Jawzī
– Ibn Rushd (known in the west as Averroes) was tried as a heretic by the religious community of Córdova, exiled to Lucena (a largely Jewish village outside of Córdoba) his writings were banned and his books burned.
– Ibn ʿArabī, perhaps the greatest mystic philosopher of Islam in history, was reviled and deemed heretical by the Mullahs of his time and is insulted and reviled by Muslims even today (mainly Salafis/Wahhabis)
7th Century Hijrah:
– Shaykh Abu al-Hasan al-Shādhilī and Shaykh ‘Azīz bin ‘Abd al-Salām were both notable Sūfī saints and authors. Yet they were declared heretics
– Nizām al-Dīn Awliyā’, the sultān of saints of India, was also branded a heretic
– Shaykh Ibn Taymiyyah was a highly distinguished scholar, who was imprisoned for a long time in Egypt and was tortured. He died in prison.
– Shams of Tabrīz, the close associate and friend of the great mystic Mawlānā Rūm (known in the West as Rumi), was killed by Muslims
– Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī himself was declared an apostate, as were all who followed him
8th Century Hijrah:
– Those dubbed as ‘heretics’ in this century were two important personages: one was Imam Ibn al-Qayyim, the ideological student of Shaykh Ibn Taymiyyah, who was imprisoned, humiliated, lashed and tortured.
– The other was Sūfī Tāj al-Din Sibkī, who was also harassed by the Mullahs.
9th Century Hijrah:
– Mawlānā Nur al-Dīn ‘Abd al-Rahmān Jāmī, a popular saint, was accused of heresy.
10th Century Hijrah:
– Mawlānā Ahmad Bihārī (India), a venerable sage, was martyred in Delhi for his supposed blasphemous writings.
– Sūfī Bā Yazīd Sarhaddi went to Peshawar to preach his views. He was declared a renegade and an apostate.
11th Century Hijrah:
– Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindī also known as Imām al-Rābbanī and Mujaddid Alf Thānī (reformer of the second millennium of Islam) was the Mujaddid and Reformer of this century. He was accused of heresy by the Muslim clergy before the Imperial Court of Delhi. He was imprisoned.
– Sūfī Sarmad, an Armenian Muslim who had migrated to India, was attacked by the Mullahs and then sentenced and killed by beheading
– Muhammad bin Ibrāhīm was a Persian exegete whose life was devoted to making the teachings of Islam easily understood by the common people. He was opposed by the clerics who declared him an infidel.
12th Century Hijrah:
– Mawlānā Ma‘sūm ‘Alī Shāh Mīr was a Sūfī in Deccan, South India where he got into debate with the clerics. They contrived to convince the king, ‘Alī Murād Khān that he was a traitor to his kingdom. The Sūfī was murdered and the ears and noses of his followers were cut off and their beards shaved off.
– Shāh Walī Allāh of Delhi was a Mujaddid and Reformer of the century. He translated the Holy Qur’an in Persian — the then official language of India. This enraged the Mullahs who stated that the Holy Word of God should not be translated from the original Arabic. People conspired to kill him, but he miraculously escaped unscathed.
– It is ironic that Muhammad bin ‘Abd al-Wahhāb – who was a Najdī Arab and ideological founder of the Wahhābī (Salafī) Movement – was declared a heretic by the Muftī and Imām of the Holy Ka‘bah in Mecca. As is well known, most of the Arabs of Saudi Arabia, including the Royal Family, are Wahhabis now, which is where the irony lies.
13th Century Hijrah:
– Mawlawī ‘Abdullāh Ghaznāwī, a steadfast scholar of Islam, was attacked by the half-educated mullahs at the Afghan Royal Court and was exiled. He was exiled in the reign of one Amīr and when he returned during the reign of the next Amīr, he was insulted, humiliated and thrown into jail where he died.
– Mawlānā Muhammad Qāsim Nanutwī was a disciple of Shāh ‘Abd al-Ghanī of Delhi, the Founder of the famous Deoband (India) Seminary of Islamic studies. Mawlānā Qāsim was a popular Muslim leader and a formidable debater and a scholar. He was declared an apostate and an infidel by twelve ‘ulamā’ of Mecca and 32 of Medina, because he held that the coming of a zillī/burūzī nabī [shadow prophet] (a Sūfī concept) could not and would not abrogate the position of the Prophet Muhammad as Khātam al-Nabīyyīn, Seal of the Prophets.
14th Century Hijrah:
– Hadrat Mirzā Ghulām Ahmad (as), the Mujaddid of his age as well as the Imām Mahdī of Islām, declared a heretic by many of the Muslim scholars of his age and also now. The caliphate that came after him also declared heretic and his followers (the Ahmadis) persecuted and killed not only by Mullahs but by entire Muslim states like Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, and Pakistan. Like all the other revivers of Islām before him who were rejected during their times but accepted hundreds of years later, it is the faith of Ahmadis that the majority of the Muslim world will eventually accept Hadrat Ahmad as well.
– Many innocent Muslims of the Shia stream, Sufi, and even Sunni, are being killed in the Muslim world due to the actions of Muslim extremist groups like the Taliban and ISIS, as well as Mullahs of our time whom the Prophet (sa) described in the following words:
“There will come a time upon the people when nothing will remain of Islam except its name and nothing will remain of the Qur’ān except its words. Their mosques will be splendidly furnished but destitute of guidance. Their divines will be the worst people under the Heaven; strife (fitnah) will issue from them and avert to them.” (Mishkāt al-Masābīh 1/91 Hadīth #276)
– Originally taken from Chosen Saints of God and the Bigoted Mullahs by the late official historian of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Mawlānā Dost Muhammad Shāhid (rh)
– Commonsense about Ahmadiyyat by Faizur Rasul
– With Love to the Muslims of the World by Hadrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad, Caliph IV of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community (rh)
– Biographical accounts of all of the above reformers (which anyone may personally verify for themselves)