Thursday, June 10, 2010

ISLAM: the Reality beyond time and space

La ikraaha fid-Deen [Al-Qur’an, 2:256].
There is no compulsion in matters of Religion

In my article on Islam and, especially, the discussion that followed - Islam: back to basics - I touched on the differences in the interpretation of Quraanic aayaat which can arise among scholars of great repute and intellectual attainments. I think this aspect of the world of Islam requires a bit of amplification.

First, consider this excerpt from my aforementioned article:

“Unlike Allah’s Messenger Muhammad, who was a practical man of the world just as much as he was a Knower of the Reality which transcends the material world, these so-called ulema know neither this world nor the wider Reality.”

Muhammad Rasul-Allah, Rehmatul-lil-aalameen, was not an intellectual, he did not go to any university, nor did he write a book. Yet he had all the wisdom in the world and he was able to act as a ruler, a judge, a military commander and a spiritual leader. He had understanding of this material world, and also of the world of non-matter, because of the Knowledge and Guidance he received directly from The One, The Everlasting, The First and The Last. That knowledge did not depend on the cleverness of the mind nor was it affected by the limitation of human powers.

When we move beyond the Messengers to lesser mortals the difficulty we face is that most of them rely mostly on the power of their intellect, the cleverness of the mind – which cannot directly grasp the truths that exist in the world of non-matter. Thus, where there is no guidance from a Higher Source one’s interpretation of the Qur’an cannot be faultless. That, I think, is why differences of opinion occur between equally sincere seekers after the truth.  

The mind is a material thing and it will die with the death of the body. What will survive death is the real “I” - in Quraanic terminology, “the Nafs” - which transcends matter. Thus, unless a person has been touched at that deeper level from a Higher Source his knowledge cannot be said to be complete. Each person is unique, people differ widely with regard to their physical, intellectual and spiritual capacities. A spiritual giant will have a different understanding of the Mutashaabihaat aayaat of the Qur’an compared to someone whose spiritual potential is limited. That is why so many religious scholars possessing great intelligence fail to offer convincing explanations of various Quraanic passages. It may be that Allah is speaking to each person according to his/her capacity and showing a way leading to Him which is right for that person. That may be  why the Quraan declares: La ikraaha fid-deen – there is no compulsion in matters of Deen.

Let me illustrate the point by reference to Iqbal, the poet-sage par excellence, to whom verses descended like “the patter of rain on a tin roof”. Someone who could compose sublime poetry as in Baal-e-Jibreel - people rate Iqbal’s Persian poetry higher, a language I do not know – cannot be an ordinary mortal. There are numerous accounts of Iqbal’s out-of-this-world experiences, which occurred spontaneously and were not self-induced as so many mystical experiences are. In his book “Shahab Nama” Qudratullah Shahab, too, has written about his own spontaneous experiences and he goes on at some length about the inherent risks of Sufi practices, a lot of which depend on props of one kind or another.

In his biography of his father,“Zindah Rood”, Javid Iqbal says that it was Iqbal’s intention to write a book on Islamic Sharia, as he understood it. Sadly, because of the demands on his time, Iqbal was unable to commence this project before it was time for him to move on to the world of non-matter. Had Iqbal been able to write that book, there might have been fewer differences among Muslims subsequently. I say this because a large proportion of educated Muslims of Pakistan acknowledge Iqbal’s position as straddling both worlds, those of matter and of non-matter. Perhaps I am wrong. Many mullahs had indeed declared Iqbal to be kaafir and it is conceivable that in the event of him writing the book that he planned, those attacks might have increased manifold. For me, at any rate, such a book would have been invaluable.

I cannot, of course, judge the spiritual status of Iqbal and Shahab, or of those who are higher still. All I can assert is that, based on my experience, there are people who are endowed with great spiritual gifts. Those who are truly close to the Power of Allah find it easy to live a normal life, outwardly little different from that of an ordinary person. The supreme example of a man conscious of Allah's Power within him, and in everything that exists, was Muhammad Rasul-Allah (R-u-l-A). His appearance conformed to the prevailing fashion, he wore clothes which were normal for the Arab society of his day, and he did not feel a need to cultivate a distinctive look. 

My own approach to understanding the Qur’an is to remain as humble as possible. Possessing neither intellectual nor spiritual gifts, as I read various translations and interpretations of the Qur’an I try also to listen to my inner voice. If that voice tells me that a particular explanation rings hollow then I reserve judgment on that explanation. I try to avoid getting into arguments. I do think that the “inner voice” exists within each human being, only it remains inaudible for most because our wrong actions in this world have the effect of smothering it.

Ahmadi Muslims

Following the massacre on Black Friday, 28 May, I have talked to our Ahmadi brothers and sisters and I have also consulted their literature. Previously, I had known little of the depth of their conviction for their beliefs. I can see now that it is linked to the undoubted mystical experiences of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. I do not possess the spiritual stature to comment on whether Mirza Sahib correctly interpreted those experiences.

In so far as the Lahori section of the Ahmadiyya movement is concerned they do not see Mirza Sahib as a Messenger in the sense that Rasul-Allah (R-u-l-A) was. The other bone of contention, accepting Mirza Sahib as the Mahdi, is a peripheral issue: Sunnis and Shias have been quarrelling about that for centuries. The only requirement for a person to embrace Islam is: La ilaaha il-lallah, Muhammadur Rasul-ul-lah. If the Quraanic words “La ikraaha fid-Deen” mean anything, we need to restore the legal position of the Ahmadi community to what it was before Z A Bhutto sacrificed it at the altar of political expediency in the nineteen seventies. 


Usman said...

Dear Sakib,

You said "Previously, I had known little of the depth of their conviction for their beliefs. I can see now that it is linked to the undoubted mystical experiences of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad."

Just to clarify the Lahore Ahmadiyya position that the mystical experience of HMGA is not considered to be by itself as a valid source of our beliefs. If any such experience illuminated HMGA's heart and on account of the same he explained a fine point of religion, then any such explanation still had to be based on the Quran. In fact HMGA himself said to treat any "experience" of his as "trash" if it did not conform to the Quranic teachings. We believe Quran to be the final authority and base all our beleifs on that, and no one's mystical expereince can over ride the Quran.

Thank you for your comments about the 1974 constitutional amendment. I agree that any one professing the Kalima is a Muslim.

Shahid said...

Sakib, AA, Unfortunately the Qadiani Ahmadis believe that Mirza sahib was a prophet, just like Jesus and Moses! They also believe that only members of their jamaat are Muslims. If you are interested I can refer you to their literature where this is stated by their leaders.

Anonymous said...

Promised Messiah Mirza sahib claimed to be the expected reformer of the latter days, the Awaited One of the world community of religions (The Mahdi and Messiah). The Community he started is an embodiment of the benevolent message of Islam -- peace, universal brotherhood, and submission to the Will of God -- in its pristine purity. Hadhrat Ahmad proclaimed Islam as the religion of man: "The religion of the people of the right path" (98:6). I would also like to tell that ahmadi jamaat believes in the prophethood of Muhammed Peace Be Upon Him as the last prophet who bought the shariat. As all sunni believe in the coming of Mesiah we have said Mesiah has come as Promised Mesiah Mirza Ghulam Ahmed sahib peace Be Upon Him. In simple terms most of us are waiting for the coming of Messiah but Ahmadi Muslim have found the Messiah and Reformer. JazaAllah for considering All of us as Muslim.

Sakib Ahmad said...

wAA, Shahid. There has been so much written about Mirza Sahib that what he himself said tends to be forgotten. I think it would make better sense to quote from his writings in support of whatever position you wish to take .

Do you really consider Pakistani society to be Islamic? It is consumed with corruption, lies and deceit from top to bottom. We would do well to devote our energies to cleaning up the mess and establishing a fair society. By fighting among ourselves - creating FITNA - we give up the right to call ourselves Muslims. We are Muslims through our actions - that is how Allah will judge us - not through the diversity of views that exist in scores of Muslim sects.

It is very hard to change ourselves inwardly but very easy to create trouble and think up new ways to disturb a community's peace and harmony. You might be interested to know that in England there is a debate going on at the moment about female "imamahs" leading Friday prayers for MIXED Muslim congregations! My own contribution to this debate was:

"Talking about appointment of imamahs is really a non-issue, at best a ridiculous imitation of the practices recently introduced in some religions.

The basic point that we need to grasp is that Islam is NOT a religion. It is a Deen, a Way of Life, a System, that we have to observe in our daily lives. When we remember Allah, our attention needs to be directed to Him alone, cutting out all distractions. Islamic prayers are not like Christian prayers where women sit demurely by the side of men. In Islamic prayers you rise and bow and prostrate, and you may become so absorbed in the remembrance of Allah that you become forgetful of proper decorum. If we have a mixed congregation it would become impossible to let go of our inhibitions and lose ourselves in the Zikr. It will be very difficult indeed to forget the presence of a member of the opposite sex near you as she rises from a prostate position and your eyes - inadvertently, of course - come to rest on the undulating form as it straightens up!"

Sakib Ahmad said...

Dear Usman and Anonymous,

Thank you for your comments.

You will no doubt have noticed that Muslims belonging to several different denominations have started speaking up for the Ahmadi community. To dispel the prejudice that undoubtedly exists, and to encourage wider acceptance, it would help if the Ahmadis could offer some clarifications.

As you will have gathered, Iqbal means a great deal to me. He had actually met Mirza Ghulam Ahmad and, so far as I can see, he never spoke a word against Mirza Sahib. However, some years after Mirza Sahib had passed away, Iqbal appeared to have heavily criticized the ‘Qadianis’. The two principal reasons appear to have been:

1. The Qadianis’ insistence that Mirza Sahib was the last of the Prphets/Messengers rather than Muhammad Rasul-Allah. By implication, they rate Mirza Sahib higher.

2. The descendants of Mirza Sahib had set themselves up as his spiritual successors and leaders of their community.

All the Qadiani ‘Khalifas’ have been drawn from Mirza Sahib’s direct line of descent and this practice will probably continue indefinitely. How is it possible to square such biased treatment with the Quraanic teachings?

It seems to me that if the Lahori Ahmadis could somehow persuade the Qadianis to move closer to their approach, it would be so much easier for moderate Muslims to embrace the Ahmadi community as their brothers and sisters.

soma said...

Dear Brother Sakib,

Thank you for you article. I would like to respond to your two questions. However, whatever I write cannot do justice to the actual approx 90 volumes of books/articles written by Hadrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad(as) in defense of Islam and the purity of Hadrat Muhammad Mustafa (sa) the Khataman Nabiyeen. I suggest that anyone who truly wants to know who Ahmad is, what his claims are, what he argues with regards to Islam , one should go and directly read all of his books at (all available for free). The first book I recommend is “The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam”, the second book I recommend is “Our Teaching”

1. To answer this first question one need to actually properly apply the word "LAST" and deconstruct our understanding of what the word "LAST" really means. Let's take the Ahmadi Muslims out of the question for a second (let’s say they don't even exist). Now let us take the word LAST in one approach- i.e what the mainstream sunni purports to believe:

For example, if Prophet Muhammad(sa) was truly LAST in the context of him being the final, with absolutely NOBODY, not even an Imam Mahdi and especially NO Jesus(as) coming after him, then all of us who claim to be Muslim should ask, how do we know what is the Islam of Prophet Muhammad (sa)??

If a person was interested in converting to Islam, and he pulls 10 Muslims (A shia, a Salafi, a deobandi, an Ahle-Hadith, an Ismaili etc etc) and ask them what Islam truly means, the practice, what is permitted and forbidden, what certain mutashabihat verses means etc…what answers is he going to get?? I would say that he will get at least 10 different answers. I know for example, some Muslims who argue that taking photo is haram, listening to music is haram, drawing pictures is haram. On the other hand some Muslims have approved of homosexuality, some Muslims in Canada have women Imams leading prayers for men and mixed prayers. Some Muslims believe that the entire hadith is useless, while others put the hadith over the Quran as to abrogate the Quran. So who has the true understanding of Islam then? Who is practicing Islam in a manner whereby if Prophet Muhammad was still alive, he would put his seal of approval on it??

Here is where another concept of LAST signified by the term Khataman Nabiyeen comes into being. We have to remember that the word Khatam also means: seal, ring, best of, and last. So it would be disingenuous to not consider the holistic meaning of Khatam and all the meanings associated with the word phonetically. If instead we understood Prophet Muhammad to be the Seal of all the Prophets (as he attested to the truth of Moses, Jesus, Adam, and even to the existence of Prophets who are unnamed in the Quran) and that he is the bearer of the LAST sharia’h instead of literally being the last in line (with no Imam Mahdi/ Messiah figure coming after him), then everything starts to makes sense.

Let me give you an example, say there is Company “I” and it has a President/CEO (Mr.M). This CEO has a vision and mission and needs to market the company around the world. He has limited time due to his term so he gets his Vice-President(Mr.A) and asks him to spread the actual vision and mission of the company to other parts of the country too. So Mr.A goes ahead & spread the exact vision and mission Mr.M asked him to spread. Now, did Mr.A cancel out Mr.M? Did Mr. A somehow created a new company? By marketing company I’s mission, did Mr. A somehow cancelled out Mr.M or became superior than Mr.M?

soma said...

Continued part 2: Now let’s talk reality. Prophet Muhammad(sa) had a 23 yr prophethood in this world and he is the one who brought the religion of Islam. Islam has most definitely spread to many parts of the world, but even after 1500 years, many other parts of the world have not been blessed with the message of Islam!! The entire Latin-America is one example and many Islands like Papua, Fiji etc are examples. Islam has not even really spread to the Europeans after 1500 years. Prophet Muhammad(sa) never had a chance to preach to the global population because the mechanism for global communication and outreach did not exist at his time so there were limitations. And even if somehow some people stumble upon the Quran and the religion of Islam in the modern times, he/she will quickly find that there is not one Islamic voice, but rather, hundreds of different voices and variations sometimes even diametrically opposed !!on what Muslims think Islam to be. There is no unity, no Caliph, no leader beyond the sectarian ones making a bunch of fatwas to guide the people. So then, what is Islam? I myself asked this questions when I was on my quest. What is Ibidi Islam? What is Muhammadiyah Islam, what is the twelvers/seveners, fivers Islam etc etc. I was confused beyond belief. I said and almost wanted to scream “WHAT IS THE ISLAM OF PROPHET MUHAMMAD(SA)!!!!???

After much tears, soul searching, prayers , and research. I found Islam Ahmadiyya. I realized that Hadrat Ahmad(as) is simply a servant of Prophet Muhammad(sa). Through Allah, he has been guided with an understanding of the true teachings of Islam. An Islam that if practiced would have the seal of approval of Prophet Muhammad(sa). He is a Muslim first and foremost, so his status is under the umbrella of Prophet Muhammad(sa) and not OUTSIDE of the umbrella. I am my father’s daughter, I will always be biologically tied to my family. Hadrat Muhammad Mustafa(sa) as said in the Quran is “not the father of any of your men” . He did not have a male biological issue. However, he is our spiritual father and leader. Hadrat Ahmad(as), is his best spiritual progeny due to his complete devotion to the teachings and his absolute love of his spiritual father. This means that he is not outside of the family, he comes from within. Through Hadrat Ahmad(as) teachings, I finally understood not only the high status of Prophet Muhammad(sa), but that simply by being his true follower, one can partake of the blessings of absolute love, peace and compassion and win the mercy of Allah. This is the absolute meaning of Khattam!! It’s better than simply being last in line.

Hadrat Ahmad(as) has been tasked with the mission to continue Prophet Muhammad’s (sa) work to propagate the true Islam globally to places and to peoples that have never had the opportunity to learn directly from Prophet Muhammad(sa). To propagate an Islam that is free from all the weird rituals/superstitions, and illogical interpretation of the Quran. An Islam that is pure so that it leads to a smooth path towards direct communication with Allah. An Islam, that Prophet Muhammad(sa) would approve & put his seal(Khatam) on. This is the role of an Imam Mahdi(Guided Imam) and a Messiah(Saviour), he has filtered out the truth from falsehood in Islam and clarified what it truly means to be a follower of Prophet Muhammad(sa). We have the best example on how to become the best follower of Prophet Muhammad(sa) by Ahmad(as) examples.

soma said...

Continued part 3. Question 2: 2. To answer your question on the Ahmadiyya Caliphate, I will continue my point from #1. Similar to Prophet Muhammad(sa), Ahmad(as) had only close to 2 decades to spread his message of the true Islam (1889 –Ahmadiyya movement established- to 1908). This message from a small village in Qadian, India can only go so far. It is the wisdom of Allah just like in Prophet Muhammad’s(sa) time, to protect the teachings of Islam and the unity of the Muslims by instituting a divinely and rightly guided Caliph. These Caliph or successors, are assistants to the Prophets and serve to nourish the seed that was planted. It is with the leadership of these Caliphs and their spiritual guidance of the ummah , that they have developed a way for the message of the true Islam to be shared with the world in an organized and systematic manner. It is the Ahmadiyya Khilafat who by the guidance of Allah sent Islam missionaries to 207 countries since the 19th century, it due to our Caliph that we have 24/7 free satellite TV broadcasting Islamic programs globally. It is due to our Caliph’s leadership that we have set up a financial system whereby we collectively as a jama’at or ummah have been able to build thousands of mosques, translate the Quran into 74 languages, build schools, hospitals, fund peace conventions, train doctors, lawyers, engineers, translators who are all working collectively to promote Islam without begging to anybody or asking funds from any govt.

soma said...

Continued part 4 question 2: For now, it happens to be that the Ahmadiyya Khilafat have been the descendants of Hadrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad(as). It does fit the prophecy whereby Ahmad(as) was told by Allah in revelations that his progenies will be blessed with both secular and religious knowledge. However, Ahmad(as) prophecy is that 300 years after his demise in 1908 that the entire world will finally know the truth of Islam, that the majority of the world will be Muslim, and that Islam will prove victorious over all of its enemies & opponents. According to prophecies, Islam is supposed to rise in the West. We do not know if this prophecy may mean that there will be Caliphs of Caucasian background? Maybe Allah will choose a Caliph from the continent of Africa or Asia? Only Allah knows and only time will tell. So far, the 5 Ahmadiyya Caliph seems to have been selected as they bring exactly what is needed to the table for the propagation of Islam depending on the need of the time. What I do know is that as an Ahmadi Muslim, I am at peace to be under the spiritual umbrella of the Khalifa. I have brothers and sisters in 207 countries who are all working like bees (all with their roles and responsibilities, being accountable to Allah and the Caliph) in an organized manner to spread Islam. We’re not busy criticizing each other like some followers of certain clerics, we’re busy supporting one another. How can I ever trade that with the Islam that I had before whereby I was cutting and paste/cherry picking my own concept of Islam piece meal based on what I felt made sense from some clerics but not others on youtube? How can I ever trade the unity and peace I have now under the khilafat, with the Islam I had before where there is no unity and accountable leadership? Most importantly, how can I trade an Islam, whereby I have direct relationship with Allah, the granting of true dream, the bountiful acceptance of prayers, with the Islam that taught me that revelations died when Prophet Muhammad(sa) passed away. The Khilafat is a manifestation of God’s approval and I truly know now with my pledge of allegiance what it means “to hold fast to the rope of Allah.” I have with me an Islam that is living & not contradictory to science as the interpretation of the Quran is evolving to fulfil the needs of the time based on Allah’s direct revelation.

Insha’Allah my explanation will help clarify why ANY seeker after truth should ask Allah directly during prayers/salat (just like I did in the following manner) the following:

“Ya Allah, this man Ahmad claimed to be a messenger sent by you. He claimed to bring direct messages from You. Is he truthful ya Allah? Is he your messenger Ya Allah? Is he from you Ya Allah? Please guide me, help me, and show me if he is speaking the truth”

If you ask with full humility with full sincerity intending to know the truth and if you truly believe that Allah exists, there is no way that Allah will lead you on the wrong path. Amin ya rabbal alamin.

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