Tuesday, November 7, 2017

‘Dhu’l Qarnayn’: History as Prophecy

In a recently released book entitled Dhul Qarnain: The One of Two Epochs (Originally written in Creole in 2009; Translated into English by Hazrat Ummul Mu’mineen Fazli A. Varsally Saheba), the Holy Founder of the Jamaat Ul Sahih Al Islam and the Divinely-raised Muhyi-ud-Din Al Khalifatullah Hazrat Munir Ahmad Azim Saheb (atba) of Mauritius makes an important declaration: 

“Once I was reading the Chapter 18 of the Holy Quran, Surah Al Kahf, which means “The Cave”. This Surah mentions the Dhul Qarnain. When I studied this chapter deeply, I noticed that the story mentioned in it coincides with the conditions we are living in this era. This chapter mentions the first trip (travel/journey) of Dhul Qarnain (in the West), where he reached a place where he found the sun setting as if it were in a pool of murky water. 

After that, the Dhul Qarnain made another trip and this time he went to the East. During the course of that travel, upon reaching midway he met a person/people who were naked, totally exposed to sunlight; there were nothing to protect them from that deep heat, not even a shadow. Then the Dhul Qarnain made a third journey and at the end of it he met a people who informed him about the persecution and ill treatment of Gog and Magog upon them. These people even supplicated him to protect them against Gog and Magog. 

Allah, the Great has given us a parabolic description. However, the name of Dhul Qarnain can be given to the one who lives during two centuries and I have come in two centuries in such a way that no objection can be levelled upon me. Definitely, I belong to both Islamic centuries, and if you do the calculation in the proper way, this will prove my veracity.”

'Dhu'l Qarnayn' as History

In the Islamic tradition of scholarship, it is widely acknowledged  that the Qur'anic theme of 'Dhu'l Qarnayn' has multiple layers of meanings- as of course, a narrative of 'history'; as a metaphor of ideal statecraft/just ruler-ship and as 'prophecy'. Indeed, Islamic scholarship has produced a range of views on the real identity, historical contingencies and mapping of the events pertaining to the person mentioned as Dhu'l Qarnayn in Surah Al Kahf; just as there also exist many Sufi commentaries that ruminate on the spiritual dimensions of the Dhu'l Qarnayn theme in the Qur'an. 

Muslim scholars over the centuries have continuously debated the real identity of Dhu'l Qarnayn as a historic figure. In fact, most schools of thought consider the King, literally, 'the two-horned one' to be either Alexander the Great (356-323 B.C.), a pagan, or Cyrus the Great (590-530 B.C.), a Zoroastrian. The first Khalifa of the Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya, Hazrat Maulvi Hakkim Nooruddin Saheb who was a profound scholar of Qur'an (and of course, the teacher of both Maulana Muhammad Ali Saheb as well as that of Hazrat Mirza Bashir-ud-Din Mahmud Ahmad Saheb) was of the opinion that Cyrus, the Great was the ideal king who was a true servant of God as taught by Prophet Zoroaster (as). [Inset: Cyrus the Great’s mausoleum, Pasargadae, Iran). 

Like the Late Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad Saheb noted after a survey of his admirable record, "the figure of Cyrus has survived throughout history as a man of exceptional qualities. He built a vast empire the like of which was seldom created by other warriors of heroic fame. Among the emperors, he is the only one who escaped censure by all the historians who ever wrote about great men of history. None could ever find a speck of a blemish in his character as a man or in his conduct as a monarch. He became the epitome of the greatest qualities expected of a ruler. In wars, he was bold and dauntless, in conquest magnanimous. His unshakable belief in the Unity of God must have sprung from Zoroaster (as) himself". (Revelation, Rationality, Knowledge and Truthpp. 173-74; 2009 edn., Islam International Publications Ltd., India.). 

'Dhu'l Qarnayn' and the 'End Times'

The Islamic tradition considers every century as an epoch, triggering a plethora of reflections and soul-searching on the meanings of the concept of 'End Times/Later Days' in the fortunes of the Muslims, and the need for the arrival of a Divine servant capable of addressing the concerns of the people at large, especially the sincere believers of the era. A Divine Elect appears in such an era to repair the Highway to God long damaged by the hands of men who create bloodshed and corruption in the land. 

It is interesting to note that the very idea of Tajdid (Religious renewal) is directly linked to centennial and eschatological expectations in Islam. The Prophetic tradition in this regard included by Imam Abu Dawud in his collection of Ahadith reads: "On the eve of every century Allah will send to this community a person who will renew its religion". The Prophet (sa) is also reported to have said that "every community has its appointed period. My community has one hundred years. When they will pass, the promise which Allah gave to my community will be fulfilled". Some other traditions indicate that the world comes to an end after the lapse of a century. It is no accident, then, that the tradition on Mujaddidiyat is included by Abu Dawud in his chapter on the malahim, which deals with the calamities and the extraordinary events expected to take place immediately before the Day of Judgement. According to scholars, "Abu Dawud included the tradition in his  chapter on "malahim" because the beginning of every century is marked by a great calamity (mihna), which Allah counters with an act of great kindness (minha): the sending of a centennial Mujaddid". (Vide Y. Friedmann, Prophecy Continuous, pp. 95-96, 1988 edn, OUP, India)

It is also instructive to note that while the tradition on Mujaddidiyat refers to the beginning of a century, the centennial affiliation  of the Mujaddidin in history has often blurred and spanned over two epochs. For instance, the great Indian Muslim Sufi Sheikh Ahmad Sirhindi  (AH 971- AH 1034; AD 1564-1624) was given the title of Renewer of the Second Millennium (Mujaddid Alfi-Thaani). He was raised with a mandate to renew the Days of the Holy Prophet (sa) among the Ummah and to prevent the process of religious decline for a period. Certainly, there is remarkable similarity between the works of a Divine Elect in the spiritual realm in every era of  transition and that of a Dhu'l Qarnayn- the One of Two Epochs- an ideal ruler in the earthly realm especially in times of much political flux., transition in political power, great dangers to national identity and other great upheavals that shake up the ground beneath a people .   

'Dhu'l Qarnayn' as Prophecy

As all Ahmadis know, during the previous era/ late 19th century CE, the Promised Massih Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as) of Qadian did claim under Divine revelations that he is indeed a manifestation of the Dhu'l Qarnayn and interpreted Qur'an and Ahadith in order to explain the Qur'anic theme of 'Dhu'l Qarnayn' in the 'Later Days'. It is interesting to note that Hazrat Ahmad (as) did not engage much with the scholarly debate on the historic identity of the Dhu'l Qarnayn. Rather, he focussed on the spiritual meanings of the theme, noting in one place: "I will now set out the meanings of the verses in Surah Al Kahf which relate the story of Dhulqarnain, and the prophecy they contain about me, of which I have been informed by God Almighty. I do not deny the meaning of these verses which relates to the past, but what has been revealed to me is about the future. The Holy Qur’an is not a book of old stories. Every event mentioned in it is a prophecy, and the story of Dhulqarnain contains the prophecy about the time of the Promised Messiah." (Brahin-e-Ahmadiyyah part V, Ruhani Khaza'in, vol. 21, p. 119).  

In a letter dated 2 September 1902, one Hakim Mirza Mahmud Irani asked the Promised Massih (as) to explain the meanings of (one of) the Dhu'l Qarnayn verse(s), and the Promised Massih (as) explained the question in the following words: "First of all, let it be clear that this verse holds many a hidden meaning which it is not possible to encompass, and under its apparent meanings lie hidden meanings. The meaning which God has disclosed to me is that this verse, taken together with the preceding and following verses, comprises a prophecy about the Promised Messiah and specifies the time of his appearance. The explanation is that the Promised Messiah is also Dhulqarnain, as the Arabic word qarn connotes a century and the Qur’anic verse indicates that the birth and advent of the Promised Messiah will cover two centuries. I have lived in two centuries according to every known calendar, be it Islamic, Christian or Bikramjiti. My birth and advent have not been confined to a single century, and in this sense I am Dhulqarnain. In some Ahadith too the Promised Messiah has been called Dhulqarnain in the same sense as I have just mentioned. [Lecture Lahore, p. 65, 2008 edn.)
'Dhu'l Qarnayn' in this Era

To the best of our information, knowledge and understanding, it is striking to note that on the question of Dhu'l Qarnayn in the present era, no one else- I repeat, no one with a claim of being a recipient of Divine revelations- has made any pronouncements in this regard. With the original publication of the aforesaid Book in 2009, Hazrat Khalifatullah Munir Ahmad Azim Saheb (atba) of Mauritius is the FIRST and the ONLY claimant in this era, i.e., Third Millennium of the Common Era/21st century of Christian Era or the 15th century of Hijri Calendar/Islamic Era, to be a manifestation of the 'Dhu'l Qarnayn' of the Later Days, Alhamdulillah, Summa Alhamdulillah. 

It may be noted that the claim of Hazrat Khalifatullah (atba) of being the Dhu'l Qarnayn of this era, does not contradict the earlier claim of any Divine servant in any other era of Islam, including that of the Promised Massih (as) in the previous era. The discourse and claims on 'Dhu'l Qarnayn', being made by Hazrat Khalifatullah (atba), certainly follows in the august footsteps of the great Islamic tradition and that of the Promised Massih Hazrat Ahmad (as) in the previous era, and is also a mirror image of the explanations advanced by the previous Musleh Maoud Hazrat Mirza Bashir-ud-Din Mahmud Ahmad (ra) in his Great Tafsir, the Five Volume Commentary on the Holy Qur'an. 

It is striking to note that the Promised Massih (as) in the previous era has linked the three journeys of Dhu'l Qarnayn in the Later Days in a metaphorical way with three of his own encounters: with the corrupting influence of Western (a la Christian) theology; the tendency of Muslims to prefer 'form' over 'substance' (shell over kernel); and the third group as people who come to recognize his veracity and join his Jamaat. Alhamdulillahas Allah (swt) has bestowed several spiritual titles to Hazrat Munir Ahmad Azim Saheb (atba) of Mauritius in this era, including that of "Musleh Maoud" on 20 February 2004, Hazrat Saheb (atba) is indeed a man with a spiritual Mission at a very significant moment in Islamic history. 

At one level, the spiritual 'journeys' encountered by the Promised Massih (as) are being performed by the current Dhu'l Qarnayn as well. In his spiritual journey of close to three decades, Hazrat Munir Ahmad Azim Saheb (atba) has indeed witnessed that the sun of Nizam-e-Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya/spiritual light of the Promised Massih (as) descending upon a 'pool of murky water' (18:87) in the ebb and flow of time, with the Ahmadis giving more importance to their mundane chiefs even over the words of Allah (swt) and the Nizam has indeed become 'a muddy stream', like the Qur'an says here.  In the second such journey, the Dhu'l Qarnayn of this era saw another group of people-  Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya Al Muslemeen- who possessed the Holy Book and guidance for a period and yet who are sitting in the sun stark naked (18: 91), who became  the worshippers of the 'letter'/ showing textual rigidity and raising too many questions as if seeking to fight with a Divine Elect on things they did not immediately comprehend, like some of the Muslims did during the time of the Promised Massih (as). Certainly, Jamaat Ul Sahih Al Islam is the the third journey of Hazrat Saheb (atba) in this era: come to think of it,  outside of his homeland and in a mountainous terrain across the Oceans, Hazrat Saheb (atba) find 'a people who barely understand his language' (18: 94)- Creole in this context- who seek Divine protection and refuge from the Satans of the Day, and  also the treasured knowledge of the Divine which are being vouchsafed to him in this era, Alhamdulillah. 

Indeed, a Divine Elect does not to come to amass mundane riches, or to establish earthly kingdoms. When someone rises up with a Divine Mission, it so happens that only a few who flock under such a Jamaat to begin with. Like the Surah Al Kahf itself indicates, such devout people (may have to) lead "Kahf (Cave)"-like existence for a time to protect themselves from the corrupting materialisms of the Day. Further, as Surah Al Kahf  notes in relation to Musa (as) and his great spiritual companion, the methods and practices of a Divine servant may not be comprehended by people around; but the Divine wisdom will unravel itself  in the fullness of time. Moreover, like the Dhu'l Qarnayn theme in Surah Al Kahf points to, the Divine servants when they come; they establish a heavenly  order on earth based on justice and fairness to all of God's creatures who share the earth with the humans, for a period of time: as they are sent with a Mission: "Arise and Create a New World". 

In an era like ours that has witnessed much injustice and oppression in the history of the world, there is indeed a crying need for guidance on global governance and transnational justice to protect the vulnerable and the defenceless against the onslaughts of the evil forces marauding the globe from all its corners. Certainly, the "Wall" of protection can be built when 'people' become responsible souls, contribute their measure and cooperate with the Divine Elects, like the Dhu'l Qarnayn reminds the people he encounters in the prelude to the erection of a mighty barrier. Everything depends upon, and comes through, the Will, Grace and Favours of Allah and Divine Elects accomplish their purposes through the Mercy of Allah (swt), as famously admitted by the Dhu'l Qarnayn of the Qur'an: "This is a mercy from Lord....my Lord's promise always comes true' (18: 99). 

Thanks to his untiring efforts to reach out to people everywhere in the world to convey the great Divine Message descending upon him, Hazrat Khalifatullah (atba) has been and still is, a travelling Messenger (Messiah) in this era, Summa Alhamdulillah. Considering the spiritual doctrine and practice of Hazrat Saheb (atba), the extraordinary works being initiated and accomplished by the Divine Mission through the Jamaat Ul Sahih Al Islam, the arc of spiritual history turns its direction with a critical mass of people begin to consider his deeds and teachings worthy of being recognized as the Dhu'l Qarnayn of this eraInsha Allah, Aameen.