Monday, April 29, 2013

Divine Messengers: Trials and Rewards

Islam presents a Most Compassionate and Ever Merciful Lord Almighty. The enduring practice of the raising of Divine Messengers among human communities testifies to the all-encompassing Mercy of Allah. Yet, when a Messenger presents himself before the community, they reject him. In the times of a Messenger, most people would revel in inequities under a veil of ignorance. The pride of riches, vanity of material favours, hubris of mundane power and social influence, arrogance of family inheritance- all seem to keep them away from God and His Messenger. Unfortunately for man, ingratitude and ungratefulness seem to be deeply embedded and ingrained as part of his DNA!

In his Friday Sermon of 26 April 2013, the Khalifatullah Hadhrat Munir Ahmad Azim Sahib (atba) of Mauritius gave a profound discourse on the Divine Law of raising of Messengers. Drawing upon the sacred traditions of the Holy Prophet of Islam (sa), the Khalifatullah (atba) points out that for Allah and His Messengers, it does not really matter how many will follow them, for the Messenger’s duty is to convey the Divine revelations and Message. History bears testimony that some prophets, rejected by their own people, found acceptance after their death and departure from this world. Some others may have had few disciples only. Yet, the situation did not and will not cast any shadow on their truthfulness or the veracity of their claims.  

The denial and rejection of Divine Messengers in the past notwithstanding, Allah the Almighty will continue with His enduring practice: of raising Messenger(s) who will call to Unity of God and the eternal well-being of Man through God-consciousness. Islam offers the glad tiding of heavenly bliss for the early believers in Divine Messengers, whose faith and practice will testify to their gratitude to Allah who raised the Divine Messenger, sincerity of heart and good deeds. Alhamdulillah, these blessings are available for believers in this age as well. Likewise, divine punishments await a generation that rejects the Divine revelations and Message. The contemporary situation of horrifying disasters and havocs visiting almost all the world should be fodder for serous reflection for all. For, these events are taking place at a time when the Messenger of Allah has been and is warning us against the evils of our times.  
Read the Extracts from the Friday Sermon:

And there came to them a Messenger from among themselves but they falsely rejected him; so the wrath seized them even in the midst of their iniquities. (16: 114)

Allah never allowed His creation to remain without a Prophet or Messenger chosen by Him, or a book sent down from Him or any other of His will which He sends to earth as a sign to make His Might be felt and respected. Allah sends prophets from time to time, and they get trials and rewards also. And they are accompanied by their groups of believers, but according to the Hadith which I shall cite before you, not all prophets had the same quantity of believers, disciples.

Ibn Abbas narrated that the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) has said: “I was shown many peoples. I saw a Prophet who has only a small party with him, some prophets had only one or two persons with them and some did not have even one! …” (Bukhari, Muslim)

Then, the according to this Hadith, it is not really the number of believers which establishes the truthfulness of a prophet or messenger of Allah. People believe or not, but the prophets and messengers of Allah have only the task of delivering the message of the unity of God, and to give glad tidings should the people believe and reform their lives according to the guidelines established by Allah, or punishment should they drift away from the signs and messengers of Allah.

The Messengers are such that they do not feel little because of smallness of their number or of largeness of the number of their falsifiers. Among the messengers prior to the advent of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was either a predecessor who would name the one to follow or the follower who had been introduced by the predecessor. Thus, a prophet is followed by another and they are not at discord with what Allah has entrusted them to give to their peoples.

People have long analysed and debated upon the meaning and significance of the word “Nabi” and “Rasul”. What is the basic difference between a Prophet (Nabi) and a Messenger (Rasul) of Allah?

Though both statuses are imbibed in the divine bounty and will, a prophet (Nabi) is he who is sent to his nation, his motherland or a neighbouring one with the task of giving the message of Allah, information which he received from on high to the people. He has the duty to deliver the messages from Allah so that the people may well be warned before the prophecy he says in the name of Allah strike down upon them. He receives revelations in many ways: dreams, visions, voice and also sees the angels of Allah in a wakeful state. He basically shares those attributes with a Messenger of Allah also with only the difference that his prophethood is committed to the restricted number of people to which he is sent.

However, a Messenger of Allah is he in whose name Allah makes His message reach the corner of the world, even if it takes time, even centuries to do so. Many prophets are mentioned in the Holy Quran as being both prophets and messengers. Yet, if we take Hazrat Isa (as), he was Messiah, Prophet and Messenger, and yet he was sent only to the Children of Israel. But Allah mentions in the Holy Quran, especially in Surah Al-Anbiya that he has made Hazrat Isa (as) and his mother as a sign for the world (Ayatal’lil-Aalameen). If we analyse the extent to which the message of the Mosaic messiah has reach now, we see that after centuries, Christianity has a global impact, yet unfortunately, with time, the initial pure message brought by Hazrat Isa (as) has been lost. Trinity is the norm among Christians instead of the faith of Jesus (as) in the unity of God. Therefore we see how the message of Jesus (as) was exclusively for the Jews, and not the world. On the other hand, his renown as an exceptional sign of Allah, whereby he was born without the intervention of a father, it is that sign which Allah wants to profoundly etch in the minds and hearts of the true believers so that the people do not turn their backs to the decrees of Allah, and it is the same prophet (Jesus (as)) who was the last Messenger of Allah to have announced the coming of “Ahmad”.

If we analyse the messengership of both Hazrat Ibrahim and Ismail (as) as mentioned in the Holy Quran, we see that their messengership got to fruition in the advent of Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh). The true message of Allah vouchsafed initially to Hazrat Ibrahim and Ismail (as) came to be fulfilled on a global stage through the universality of the Muhammadan message.

In this way ages passed by and times rolled on, fathers passed away while sons took their places till Allah chose Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh) as His Prophet and Messenger (Nabi and Rasul), in fulfilment of His promise and in completion of his Prophethood. In the Holy Quran Allah says:

“And when Allah took from the Prophets their Covenant, (He said: Behold) that which I have given you of Scripture and Wisdom. Then comes to you a (Prophetic) Messenger, confirming that which is with you. You shall believe in him and you shall help him. He said: Do you agree, and will you take up My burden (which I lay upon you) in this (matter)? They said: We agree. He said: Then bear you witness, and I am with you among the witnesses.” (3: 82)

His pledge had been taken from the Prophets, his traits of character were well reputed and his birth was most honourable. The people of the earth at this time were divided in different groups, their aims were separate and ways were diverse. They either likened Allah with His creation or twisted His Attributes and turned them into separate gods or turned towards others than Him in worship. Through Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh) Allah guided them out of wrong and with his efforts took them out of ignorance. Thus, Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh) was both for Arabia, his nation and for humanity, for his message is meant to be delivered or pass on to one and all up till the Day of Judgement. He completed the essence of prophethood and messengership and thus all prophets who shall come from him, from his Ummah shall have this trait also, to be universal in character and message.

The message of Jesus was only for the Children of Israel, and it was meant to stay alive until the one whose advent he prophesised about (that is, Ahmad) come to be fulfilled. Both the Jews and Christians in the times prior to the proclamation of Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh) were in search of the hallowed one, the promised one, and the seal of the prophets whose advent shall be a blessing for all men. Even the last law-bearing book, the Holy Quran addresses mankind directly, unlike the previous divine scriptures. The religion of the messengers of Allah survived in Islam, the last and universal religion, in whose womb shall the future prophets and messengers of Allah be born for the reformation of the people under the laws of the Holy Quran.

Therefore we can conclude that all the prophets (Nabi) who were also deputed as messengers (Rasul) by Allah are those who have explicitly told their respective nations about the advent of the perfect prophet and messenger in whose name Allah shall safeguard humanity. In addition to make the people turn to only one God, they had the duty to inform that at one point in time, such a one will come who will be the garb of all prophets, the dignity and purity of the divine will. And that such a one shall also be a messenger in that which, when people shall close the door of prophethood and apostleship, there shall be from among his followers those whom Allah shall raise to confirm his truthfulness and perfection till the day of Judgement. That is why it is necessary that all prophets of Allah who come after him are Rasul also, because they are believers and confirmers of his truthfulness, while the previous prophets were bearers of the tidings of his advent and believed in him while he was even not among them.

The Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is narrated to have said: “Had Moses or Jesus been alive, they would have had to follow me.” (Al-Yawaqit wal-Jawahir, p.24; Fath al-Bayan, vol. 2, p. 246; Tafsir Ibn Kathir, under Verse 81 of Al-Imran)

This shows how the status of messengership of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is way above the previous prophets, and therefore it is equally true for all prophets who shall follow in his wake after his demise. They shall be guarantees of his prophethood and guardians of Islam and protectors of his honour.

Moreover, in the same Hadith which I mentioned at the start of my sermon, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was also made to see a great multitude of his followers – even more than Hazrat Musa (as) – among whom seventy thousands shall enter Paradise without accounting to Allah for their deeds. Who are those people then? Why shall they enter Paradise without any accounting or suffering? Surah Al-Wakia, Chapter 56 of the Holy Quran gives us an idea of why it is so. Allah classifies the people into three distinct categories: those on the right hand, those on the left hand and those closest to Allah. The degrees of closeness includes prophethood, and therefore among the seventy thousands people who shall enter Paradise without any accounting refers also to the sincere first disciples of the Muhammadan prophets who shall remain true to their covenant to Allah, His Prophet Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh) and the Muhammadan prophet-follower of their era, those who stay true to Allah’s covenant come what may, who agree to go through the fires of trial so that their mettle by recognised as them being among the honoured ones and closest to Allah.

In the times of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), a disciple, Ukasha ibn Muhsin was the first among the disciple who ask of the prophet of Allah to pray that he be among the seventy thousand exceptional ones, and the prophet of Allah (pbuh) announced him that he shall be one among them. This shows us that from each groups of Muslim disciples in every era, now and then, whenever Allah chooses to raise a prophet, He shall do so taking into consideration the prophethood of Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh), for this is the lasting covenant between man and Allah, that is Islam. Without Islam and belief in the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), nobody can ever be a prophet of Allah, and likewise now, each prophet must confirm the other under the banner of Islam. I have come from Allah, both as a follower of Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh) and a believer in the Promised Messiah Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as). He was also a prophet-follower, prophet of Allah and follower of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), and I have come in the garb of these great men who have marked the history of mankind with the seal of divine love.

From Adam’s progeny Allah chose prophets and messengers and took their oath for His revelation and for carrying His message as their trust. In course of time many people distorted Allah’s trust with them and ignored His position and associated partners in His worship or just remained cut from Him altogether. As he promised Allah, and by Allah’s leave Satan turned them away from knowing Him and kept them aloof from His worship, except for a few. Then Allah sent His Messengers and many of His prophets to them to encourage them to fulfil the pledges of His creation, to recall to them His favours, to exhort them by preaching, to unveil before them the hidden virtues of wisdom and show them the signs of His Omnipotence namely the sky which is raised over them, the earth that is placed beneath them, means of living that sustain them, deaths that make them die, maladies that turn them old and incidents that successively betake them in their everyday life. He also sent His Prophets to give glad tidings of salvation and to warn against His punishment so that those who perish in disobedience must perish with the realization of their error and that they may be deprived of all arguments following their defeat in their effort to break truth and render it void.

The state of the world today is in is very pitiable. Every day which comes brings in its wake the news of many more calamities which are finishing it. In the first days of April, several flash floods, due to heavy rainfall claimed the life of more than 60 people in Argentina, more specifically the Buenos Aires Province. In Buenos Aires, more than a quarter of a million people were without power and vast areas were under water, including other places also. 

Just last week – 20 April 2013, over the weekend, an earthquake measuring magnitude seven hit south west China, striking the same area devastated by a powerful quake just five years ago which killed approximately 70,000 people. Till now, the death toll is 193, with thousands injured and many others who had to leave their place because their homes and other buildings were destroyed by the quake. They were deprived also of power. This earthquake was also accompanied by several aftershocks and landslides.

On 24 April 2013, an eight-storey building housing several garment factories and a shopping centre collapsed on the outskirts of the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka, and also in India, killing more than 70 people. The scene resembled that of an after quake. Many people were trapped in the buildings and needed rescue.

These are but a brief of calamities which are seizing the world on a daily basis. When a calamity strikes somewhere, then the next day, it strikes another place or country and this keeps on going like this. If people do not realise their error and analyse the missing link in their faith and turn in worship towards a unique God, Allah the Almighty, then more such calamities will strike. Allah wants a new world for His devoted servants. If He wants, He can cause many to die to replace them by new sincere ones. The plans of Allah are always perfect, but it is us mankind, with restricted knowledge and veiled eyes who refuse to understand the powers of that Creator to whom we all belong.

May Allah remove the veils of ignorance from the people, give them spiritual insight and may Allah show the way to the seekers of truth, reform the weak of hearts and bless plentifully the excellent believers who devoted themselves to the cause of Allah so that the signs of Allah, and the truthfulness of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) be recognised and accepted by one and all. Insha-Allah, Ameen.