The Proclamation by Jesus of the Mission of the Prophet of Islam
There is no doubt that belief in the preceding Prophets is one of the pillars of the Islamic creed. The long line of Prophets who succeeded each other throughout history with the single goal of teaching the human being monotheism may be compared to a chain in which the final and most sublime link was the Most Noble Prophet of Islam.
If the Quran insists on the exalted position that God's messengers occupy in the history of revelation and calls on the Muslims to believe in the heavenly books that they brought, it is in order to confirm the truth and veracity of religion and to demonstrate that human beings must at all times turn to pure, authentic religions that derive from revelation, the religious guidance of humanity being entrusted by God in every age to a particular Prophet. If we see any variation in the procedures and programs followed by the various Prophets, it is to be explained in terms of the swift changes that take place in human development and the passage of the human being from one stage to the next.
For all the Prophets were, without distinction, true guides of humanity to the goals set by God; they preached a single doctrine deriving from a single source, advancing it in accordance with the dictates and circumstances of their time. The Quran says: "We make no distinction among any of the Prophets."(2:135) The sending of the Prophets formed part of the plan of creation from the very beginning, and the chain of the Messengers represented the gradual unfolding of Divine guidance.
Just as the human being advanced in the general conduct of his life, so, too, the mission of the Prophets moved forward, in harmony with the progress of the human being, and the Prophets accordingly foretold the appearance of the Prophets who would succeed them. The Prophet of Islam confirmed the messengerhood of previous Prophets and the heavenly books they had brought, just as they had confirmed the Prophets who had preceded them.
Those earlier Prophets had also proclaimed that others would follow them, so that the very leaders of religion clearly proclaimed the interconnectedness of all true religion. Although the fact that the appearance of a Prophet has been foretold cannot serve in itself as proof for the veracity of a person's claim to prophethood, it does serve to indicate what might be the nature of a true Prophet and what qualities might be observed in him.
Were a name to be specified when predicting the emergence of a Prophet, this would, of course, be open to misuse, since naming is a conventional matter and anyone could adopt the name in question. Similarly, to specify the exact moment when the Prophet was to appear would have facilitated the task of false claimants by giving them the opportunity to prepare themselves for making their fateful and monstrous claim. Furthermore, this might have led to a profusion of claims, which would then have induced confusion in the minds of people.
It may not be difficult for people with the ability to examine matters carefully and realistically to tell the difference between a true Messenger of God and false and erroneous claimants. But at the same time, it should not be forgotten that recognizing the truth, particularly in circumstances where it is mixed with falsehood, is not easy for those many people whose level of thought and awareness is not especially high. Many are those who fall into traps laid by the ambitions of the wicked.
It is for these reasons that the characteristics of a future Prophet are spelled out, these being the distinctive signs by which he may be recognized. Then those scholars on whom others depend for guidance in this matter can measure the claimant to prophethood against the characteristics that have been mentioned, devoting themselves to the task in utter purity and sincerity.
Christianity never advanced the claim that the religion of Jesus would be permanent and eternal or that Jesus was the Seal of the Prophets and a guarantor of the textual integrity of the Gospels. Other religions also did not make analogous claims for themselves. Islam does, however, speak of being the last and most perfect of all religions and of its Messenger being the Seal of the Prophets. It therefore follows that the heavenly book of Islam must always be protected from corruption and distortion.
The fundamental difference between the sacred books of Christianity and Islam is that Christianity lacks a revealed text that was fixed at the very time of its origins, whereas Islam possesses one. The Gospels which we now have at our disposal have been extensively criticized by scholars and researchers who have examined different copies of the Gospels and have reached the conclusion that the New Testament has undergone many changes. There are many indications that the text of the Gospels has been codified to a considerable extent, to conform to personal beliefs and opinions.
John Nass, a historian of religions, writes as follows: "The history of Christianity is the story of a religion that arose from a belief in Divine incarnation having taken place in the person of its founder. All the teachings of Christianity revolve around the conviction that the person of Jesus represents the clearest manifestation of the Divine essence. But this religion that started out with a belief in Divine incarnation was transformed through a series of developments and took on a human dimension so that all the weaknesses and imperfections of the human condition began to appear in it.
"The story of religion is extremely long, including many ups and downs and moments of both glory and shame; it is these contrasts that give it meaning and significance. In none of the world's religions have such exalted spiritual aims been manifest as in Christianity; but equally in none of them has the failure to reach those aims been so marked."
Despite the textual corruption to which the Gospels have been subject, there are indications that the expressions "Spirit of Truth," "Holy Ghost" and "Comforter' which they contain may refer to the Prophet of Islam. The Gospels record that Jesus addressed his disciples as follows: "Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me. But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me."
"Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness and of judgment: of sin, because they believe not on me; of righteousness because I go to my Father, and you see me no more; of judgment because the prince of this world is judged. I have yet many things to say unto you but ye cannot bear them now. How be it, when he, the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak; and he will show you things to come. He shall glorify me, for he shall receive of mine and shall show it unto you."
"But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you." If we say that the Comforter is identical with the Holy Ghost, we know that the Holy Ghost constantly accompanied Jesus and it would therefore not have been correct for him to say: "He will not come to you until I go." When the Prophet Jesus says, "The prince of the world cometh" and that he will guide mankind, he is in effect accepting the religion to be brought by that person as the most perfect of all religions.
Can the description of him given by Jesus fit anyone other than Muhammad, upon whom be peace and blessings? When Jesus says, "He shall testify of me," and "he shall glorify me," did anyone other than the Prophet of Islam revere and honor Jesus or defend the innocence of Mary against the unworthy accusations made by the Jews? Was it the Holy Ghost that did these things, or the Prophet of Islam? In addition to the fact that these verses clearly bear witness that the Comforter, the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of truth, cannot be anyone other than the Prophet of Islam, we also encounter the world "Paraclete" in some of the Gospels, the meaning of which is identical with that of the named Muhammad and Ahmad.
Translators of the Gospels however have taken the work perikletos, a proper name in Greek equivalent in its meaning to Ahmad, to be parakletos, translating this as "Comforter." Dr. Bucaille has a valuable discussion of this subject in the Chapter called "Jesus's Last Dialogues. The Paraclete of John's Gospel." "John is the only evangelist to report the episode of the last dialogue with the Apostles. It takes place at the end of the Last Supper and before Jesus's arrest. It ends in a very long speech: four chapters in John's Gospel (14 to 17) are devoted to this narration which is not mentioned anywhere in the other Gospels.
These chapters of John nevertheless deal with questions of prime importance and fundamental significance to the future outlook. They are set out with all the grandeur and solemnity that characterizes the farewell scene between the Master and His disciples. "This very touching farewell scene which contains Jesus's spiritual testament is entirely absent from Matthew, Mark and Luke. How can the absence of this description be explained? One might ask the following: did the text initially exist in the first three Gospels? Was it subsequently suppressed? Why? It must be state immediately that no answer can be found; the mystery surrounding this huge gap in the narrations of the first three evangelists remains as obscure as ever.
"The dominating feature of this narration - seen in the crowning speech - is the view of man's future that Jesus describes, His care in addressing His disciples and through them the whole of humanity, His recommendations and commandments and His concern to specify the guide whom man must follow after His departure. The text of John's Gospel is the only one to designate him as parakletos in Greek which in English has become Paraclete. The following are the essential passages: "If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Paraclete." (14, 15-16) "What does 'Paraclete' mean? The present text of John's Gospel explains its meaning as follow: "But the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you." (14, 26). "...he will bear witness to me..." (15, 26) "It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Paraclete will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.
And when he comes, he will convince the world of sin and of righteousness and of judgment..." (16, 74) "When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me..." (16,13-14). "(It must be noted that the passages in John, chapters 14-17, which have not been cited here, in no way alter the general meaning of these quotations). On a cursory reading, the text which identifies the Greek work 'Paraclete' with the Holy Spirit is unlikely to attract much attention.
This is especially true when the subtitles of the text are generally used for translations and the terminology commentators employ in works for mass publication direct the reader towards the meaning in these passages that an exemplary orthodoxy would like them to have. Should one have the slightest difficulty in comprehension, there are many explanations available such as those given by A. Tricot in his Little Dictionary of the New Testament (Petit Dictionnaire du Nouveau Testament) to enlighten one on this subject.
In his entry on the Paraclete this commentator writes the following: " 'This name or title translated from the Greek is only used in the New Testament by John: he uses it four times in his account of Jesus's speech after the Last Supper 56 (14, 16 and 26; 15, 26; 16, 7) and once in his First Letter (2, 1). In John's Gospel the word is applied to the Holy Spirit; in the Letter it refers to Christ. "Paraclete" was a term in current usage among the Hellenist Jews, First century AD, meaning "intercessor," "defender" (...) Jesus predicts that the Spirit will be sent by the Father and Son. Its mission will be to take the place of the Son in the role he played during his mortal life as a helper for the benefit of his disciplines.
The Spirit will intervene and act as a substitute for Christ, adopting the role of Paraclete or omnipotent intercessor.' "This commentary therefore makes the Holy Spirit into the ultimate guide of man after Jesus's departure. How does it square with John's text? "It is a necessary question because a priori it seems strange to ascribe the last paragraph quoted above to the Holy Spirit: 'for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.' It seems inconceivable that one could ascribe to the Holy Spirit the ability to speak and declare whatever he hears...Logic demands that this question be raised, but to my knowledge, it is not usually the subject of commentaries.
"To gain an exact idea of the problem, one has to go back to the basic Greek text. This is especially important because John is universally recognized to have written in Greek instead of another language. The Greek text consulted was the Norum Testamentum Graece. "Any serious textual criticism begins with a search for variations. Here it would seem that in all the known manuscripts of John's Gospel, the only variation likely to change the meaning of the sentence is in passage 14, 26 of the famous Palimpsest version written in Syriac.
Here it is not the Holy Spirit that is mentioned, but quite simply the Spirit. Did the scribe merely miss out a word or, knowing full well that the text he was to copy claimed to make the Holy Spirit hear and speak, did he perhaps lack the audacity to write something that seemed absurd to him? Apart from this observation there is little need to labor the other variations, they are grammatical and do not change the general meaning. The important thing is that what has been demonstrated here with regard to the exact meaning of the verbs 'to hear' and 'to speak' should apply to all the other manuscripts of John's Gospel, as is indeed the case. The verb 'to speak' in the translation is the Greek verb 'laleo' which has the general meaning of 'to emit sounds' and the specific meaning of 'to speak'
This verb occurs very frequently in the Greek text of the Gospels. It designates a solemn declaration made by Jesus during His preachings. It therefore becomes clear that the communication to man which He here proclaims does not in any way consist of a statement inspired by the agency of the Holy Spirit. It has a very obvious material character moreover, which comes from the idea of the emission of sounds conveyed by the Greek word that defines it.
"The two Greek verbs 'akouo' and 'laleo' therefore define concrete actions which can only be applied to a being with hearing and speech organs. It is consequently impossible to apply them to the Holy Spirit. "For this reason, the text of this passage from John's Gospel, as handed down to us in Greek manuscripts, is quite incomprehensible if one takes it as a whole, including the words 'Holy Spirit' in passage 14, 26: "But the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name" etc. It is the only passage in John's Gospel that identifies the Paraclete with the Holy Spirit.
"If the words 'Holy Spirit" (to pneuma to agton) are omitted from the passage, the complete text of John then conveys a meaning which is perfectly clear. It is confirmed moreover, by another text by the same evangelist, the First Letter, where John uses the same word 'Paraclete' simply to mean Jesus, the intercessor at God's side.59 According to John, when Jesus says (14, 16): 'And I pray the Father, and he will give you another Paraclete,' what He is saying is that 'another intercessor will be sent to man, as He Himself was at God's side on man's behalf during His earthly life.
"According to the rules of logic therefore, one is brought to see in John's Paraclete a human being like Jesus, possessing the faculties of hearing and speech formally implied in John's Greek text. Jesus therefore predicts that God will later send a human being to Earth to take up the role defined by John, i.e. to be a prophet who hears God's word and repeats his message to man. This is the logical interpretation of John's texts arrived at if one attributes to the words their proper meaning.
"The presence of the term 'Holy Spirit' in today's text could easily have come from a later addition made quite deliberately. It may have been intended to change the original meaning which predicted the advent of a prophet subsequent to Jesus and was therefore in contradiction with the teachings of the Christian churches at the time of their formation; these teachings maintained that Jesus was the last of the prophets." The Grande Encyclopedie Francaise has the following to say in its entry on Muhammad, upon whom be blessings and peace: "Muhammad, the founder of the religion of Islam, the Messenger of God and the Seal of the Prophets.
The word Muhammad means the one who is praised; it is derived from the root hamd, meaning laudation and veneration. By a remarkable coincidence, there is another name, derived from the same root as Muhammad and synonymous with it, Ahmad, which was very probably used by the Christians of Arabia as the equivalent of Paraclete. Ahmad, meaning much praised and revered, is the translation of the word perikletos which has been mistakenly rendered as parakletos.
For this reason, Muslim religious writers have repeatedly remarked that this name refers to the future appearance of the Prophet of Islam. The Quran refers to this matter in a remarkable verse in Surah Saff." The verse referred to by the encyclopedia runs as follows: "When Jesus son of Mary said to the Children of Israel, 'I am God's Messenger sent unto you. I confirm the veracity of the Torah which is here in front of me and give you glad tidings that a Prophet will come after me whose name is Ahmad.' But when the Prophet came to the people with proofs and miracles, they said, 'This is clear magic.' "(61:6) In another verse the Quran says the following:
"Those Jews and Christians will enjoy God's mercy who follow the unlettered Prophet whose description they read in the Torah and the Gospels. He is a Prophet who summons them unto good and restrains them from evil, who makes the pure licit for them and the impure illicit, and releases them from the shackles of heavy and arduous obligations. So those who believe in him, revere him and aid him, and follow his clear and luminous guidance, are in truth on the path of salvation."(6:156)
The Sealing of Prophethood
The sealing of prophethood has always been regarded as one of the fundamental components of belief in Islam; it negates the possibility of the emergence of any Messenger after the Prophet of Islam. In any discussion of Islam, we cannot overlook the role played in it by the sealing of prophethood with the Prophet Muhammad.
What Muslim is there who does not immediately think of the Prophet's aspect as seal whenever he call him to mind, or who has any doubt that the Quran is the final revealed message of God? No religion is known to us that like Islam proclaims the sealing of revelation, nor any heavenly personality who has claimed eternal validity for his message.
More than fourteen centuries have passed since the rise of Islam, and throughout this period the Prophet of Islam has always been regarded as the Seal of the Prophets. He perfected existing laws, and with the rich content of his own logical and thorough program of action, he demonstrated the ultimate value inherent in all the prophetic missions.
By contrast with other schools of religious thought, the validity of which was restricted to a certain time or place, Islam represents a comprehensive summation of all prophetic messages, and it recognizes no boundaries, whether spatial or temporal. The Quran itself also depicts the brilliant visage of Muhammad, upon whom be peace and blessings, as the one by means of whom the gate of prophethood has been closed.
How can we solve the apparent contradiction between the need for Prophets as the condition for the vitality of human existence, on the one hand, and the permanent sealing of prophethood, on the other? How can we reconcile the principle of the immutability of the ordinances of Islam with the principle of social development and the everlasting search for new concepts and norms?
Industrial and technological developments have turned the human being into a creature always desiring novelty, and wishing to connect every aspect of his life to new principles and institutions. How can such a human being organize his social life and development on the basis of a religion that originated more than fourteen centuries ago and summons the human being to recognize a series of fixed and unchanging values?
Having expounded the doctrine of the sealing of prophethood, Islam itself provides the answers to these questions. One of the reasons for the sending of new Prophets was the corruptions and distortions that had crept into the teachings and books of their predecessors, with the result that they lost their efficacy in the guidance of the human being.
But once the human being reaches a stage in his growth where he can preserve the norms and teachings of religion from corruption or change and propagate them in their authentic form, the most fundamental reason for the sending of new Prophets disappears. The age in which the Prophet of Islam made his appearance thus differs completely from the ages in which earlier Prophets had emerged: the human being had reached a level of intellectual maturity which permitted the sealing of prophethood.
The attainment of maturity by society, the rise of science and learning, and the human being's acquisition of the ability to preserve and propagate heavenly religion - all this meant that an essential precondition for the sealing of prophethood had been met. It was now possible for the duty of propagating religion and guiding people to be entrusted to scholars and learned persons. From now on, it was up to the human being to preserve his historical heritage and spiritual achievements and to protect the final revelation from corruption by seeking aid in the Quran itself and drawing on his cultural and social maturity.
Instead of the responsibility being placed on a single individual, the message was now entrusted to a collectivity. As the Quran says: "There should be a group among you who summon to virtue and enjoin good upon them and restrain them from evil."(3:104) In his social development, the human being reaches a stage where he no longer stands in need of repeated surgical intervention and is instead ready for a form of permanent prophethood where human beings shape their own destiny on the basis of clear vision, correct choice and reflection on the contents of revelation.
Under such conditions, a social and intellectual order is needed that will free the thoughts and acts of human beings from the wearying and stultifying burden of attachment and give shape and direction to their constant exertions in the realm of both thought and action. The eternal miracle that is the Noble Quran sets forth the main principles of such a system by following which human being is able to advance. Among all the heavenly books the Quran is the only one to have withstood the ravages of time so that we have in our possession a complete and uncorrupted text clearly reflecting its abundantly creative teachings .
The Quran itself proclaims: " We it is Who have sent down this Quran and We it is Who will protect it."(15:9) This verse indicates that the most important reason for the sending of new Prophets no longer obtains. In addition, we should be aware that belief in all the Prophets signifies belief in a continuous historical process, one which began with history itself and the origins of human society has expressed itself in a struggle between truth and falsehood and will continue until the final triumph of the former over the latter.
In each age, the Prophets have advanced the awareness and maturity of human beings in accordance with the circumstances and capacities of society. Differences with respect to certain laws and ordinances do not touch on the fundamental principles and nature of religion because this apparent lack of harmony relates to subsidiary matters, not fundamental concern connected with the very nature of religion.
To correct deviations in thought and belief is possible, in fact, only if a variety of programs of action, each congruent with a set of objective realities, are adopted. If an apparent lack of harmony can be observed in the methods followed by the Prophets in the course of their continuous efforts, this has no connection with their fundamental aim.
There is no contradiction among their missions with respect to the principal goal - changing and forming anew the thoughts of human beings who had lost touch with reality and were living in darkness, both culturally and socially. The Glorious Quran says: "After earlier Prophets, We sent Jesus, son of Mary; he confirmed the Torah brought by Moses."(5:46)
The Quran Confirms the Mission of Previous Prophets
Not only does the Quran not negate and invalidate previous revelations, it positively confirms the messengerhood of all previous Prophets and true guides, and praises those great men for their efforts and exertions. In the Quran, the names of those revered by Jews and Christians as their leaders have been mentioned repeatedly and with respect. Does this praise and veneration of those figures not indicate the veracity, truthfulness and trustworthiness of the message of the Quran, as based on revelation?
After all, the followers of Judaism and Christianity were intensely hostile to the new religion of Islam, and the fact that the Quran praises the figures sacred to those two religions proves how far removed the Quran is from all petty rivalry and how alien to it are all kinds of powerseeking. The Quran proclaims: "We have sent this book down to you in truth, confirming, verifying and protecting the previous heavenly books."(5:48)
Since religion is rooted in the essential disposition of the human being, as one of his fundamental impulses that find expression in his view of the world and his deeds, it is basically one and unvarying. The Noble Quran says: "Turn directly towards religion, for God has created the human being's fundamental disposition in accordance with it." (30:29)
So although the human being is subject to the norms that prevail in the phenomenal world and gains meaning by entering into relationship with those phenomena and the law of growth toward perfection that governs them, his path to happiness is single and unique. It is religion alone that can show him the specific path to a specific goal. Montesquieu says: "It is in the very nature of human laws that they obey events and occurrences.
That is to say, events influence them. By contrast, heavenly laws do not change on the basis of events or the changing will of the human being. Human laws always aim at attaining the best of solutions; heavenly laws actually discover the best of solutions. Virtue and goodness have, no doubt, many different aspects and varieties, but the best of all solutions is necessarily unique and also, therefore, immutable.
The human being can change human laws because it is possible that a given law be beneficial in one age but not in another. Religious systems always offer the best laws and because they cannot be improved upon, they are unchangeable." If we turn our backs on Divine Laws and have recourse to manmade regulations, we have, in fact, abandoned the broad and open plain of the universal law of religion for the narrow and uneven alley that is the limited mind of the human being.
The fundamental difference between the mission of the Prophet of Islam and that of the other Prophets lies in the fact that their revelation served as the basis for a temporary program of action. Once Islam made its appearance and earlier religious systems had begun to weaken and crumble, it was no longer possible to adhere to those religions and systems of belief.
The value-system of Islam, by contrast, completes the whole structure of prophethood: its logical coherence and unshakable firmness embrace all the extensive dimensions of prophethood, and it includes within itself all that the preceding Prophets put forward to satisfy the human being's needs for social regulation, as well as all other moral and material needs.
The role that the Prophets played in correcting the errors and deviations of society and establishing a correct mode of thought and action is now to be assumed by the religious leaders who draw on the inexhaustible resources of Islam. The Quran, the value system of which nurtures the whole of Islam and endows it with validity, also determines the direction in which the Muslims are to advance and serves as the source of comprehensive laws which leave nothing beyond their all-embracing purview.
In addition, the Quran contains the essence and fundamental meaning of the teachings proclaimed by all the bearers of God's word. Once the human being reaches a stage in his development where he is able to comprehend universal truths and Divine teachings and laws, the scholars and the learned emerge as successors to the Prophets, with the function of firmly implanting the authentic criteria of religion in the minds of people. In pursuit of the exalted ideals of their religion, they take on the tasks of investigation and research and struggling against distortion of religion; they propagate the teachings of God in their true form.
In many verses of the Quran, human beings are invited to study natural phenomena with care, in order to perceive by way of deduction the spirit that rules over the scheme of creation. The constant attention paid by the Quran to reason and experience and their utility and the significance it accords to nature and history as sources for the attainment of knowledge, are connected them with the sealing of prophethood by the Quran and the Prophet of Islam. They indicate the prevalence of a new worldview in the history of mankind.
Abstract goals must inevitably be transformed into objective realities if they are to have validity. We see, indeed, that for almost fifteen centuries the human being has proven his ability to assume these heavy but fruitful responsibilities by preserving his religious and scientific heritage and exhibiting both profundity and realism in analyzing and interpreting it.
This is in itself an indication of the human being's attainment of independence and his readiness to preserve the Divine verses with utmost care and his ability to assume the duty of propagating, interpreting, teaching and disseminating religion. Once the final Divine Command had reached the human being, there was no possibility for the coming of a new Messenger.
The sealing of revelation may be compared to the case of a certain piece of land where all necessary archaeological excavations have been carried out with the utmost care to unearth ancient artifacts. There is nothing left hidden in the earth to justify new research and digging. Once prophethood has passed through different stages to reach its final degree of perfection and exaltedness, and from the point of view of revelation all the dark and obscure matters that lie within the range of human thought and comprehension have been clarified, there is no road left to be traveled, no explanation to be made. Prophethood has fulfilled its role and reached its final destination.
Nonetheless, its life continues by means of the inexhaustibility of revelation, which provides a single social, cultural and value system beyond the confines of time. The Prophet of Islam proclaims, in a clear and pleasing fashion: "Prophethood is like a house, the building of which has now been that brick in its place." Although the mission of the Prophets to proclaim the Divine message and aid humanity came to an end with the blossoming and maturity of human thought, the spiritual relationship between the world of the human being and the world of the unseen has never been severed.
The human being's path to exalted station necessarily continues to pass through the purification of the spirit and the cultivation of sincere devotion to God. The human being has numerous creative dimensions, and it is only through sustained spiritual effort that he will be able to actualize his potential capacities. He will then enter into communication with the world of the unseen and see and know what those who are absorbed in the outer appearances of the material world cannot see and know. It is again such spiritual effort that gives the human being a truly human aspect, enables him to appear as God's viceregent on earth, and grants him access to values that give his life meaning and content.
Numerous, therefore, are those persons who have a high degree of religiosity and abundant spirituality without attaining the lofty degree of prophethood and the religious leadership of mankind. The doors of illumination and inspiration are open to all those who wish to purify their inner beings of the pollution and darkness of sin and who turn their hearts toward the life-giving breeze of Divine knowledge.
Spiritual grace is never cut off from the human being, nor does it suffer any decrease. The degree to which the human being may benefit from it, in a direct and profound way, depends only on his spiritual capacity and abilities. These determine the extent to which he may draw on the unceasing and limitless favor and grace of God.
An Answer to the Materialists
The materialists say to us: "Since change and development are regarded as the most fundamental and pervasive law of nature, nothing in the world enjoying stability, the principles of change cannot be reconciled with the claim of Islam to eternal validity." The first part of this statement is correct and entirely defensible. However, it does not represent the entire truth of the matter.
It is true that everything in the world is subject to change, but that which is changing in nature and destined to disappear is matter and the phenomena arising from it, not the laws and systems prevailing in nature. Both the natural order and the social order (insofar as it corresponds to natural norms) are exempt from change; universality and atemporality are among the defining characteristics of laws.
It is these properties that give laws the ability to retain their validity. Stars and planets come into being, rotate, disseminate light and energy, and finally are extinguished. However, the law of gravity that governs them remains in force. The human being enters the world, in accordance with a Divine custom and norm and the general movement of all things toward perfection, and after passing through his allotted lifespan, weakens and dies. Death is the inevitable end of every human being, but the laws that govern the human being and the world that surrounds outlive him.
Numerous sources of heat, at different temperatures, appear in the world and then become cold, but the law of heat is not extinguished. If natural man is the object envisaged when drawing up laws and his fundamental structure and disposition are kept in mind by the lawgiver, temporal changes can never induce the slightest change in this kind of law, because the essence and fundamental substance of the human being is unchanging. The founder of Islam has closed his eyes on the world, but the Divine Law he brought remains eternally valid, because it draws on the very nature of the human being. This is the secret of the stability and permanence of the laws of Islam.
Islam is not a political and social phenomenon. It represents a series of principles, together with their derivatives, that are illumined by the primal light of all existence. It is a law and a worldview which in the very nature of things cannot change its character. Islam is not a religion for a certain season or place or race; it belongs neither to the Arabs nor to the non-Arabs. The words of the Quran are addressed to the whole of humanity: "O mankind, We have created you out of a man and a woman and made of you different lineages so that you might recognize each other.
The greatest of human beings in God's sight is the most pious."(49:12) "Oh sons of Adam! Let not Satan deceive you, as he drove your father and mother from Paradise and stripped from them the garment of dignity. "(7:25) Holding fast to immutable laws despite the advances made in science and civilization and the changes that appear in certain human needs does not involve any problem. For throughout the process of his development, the human being continues to be subject to needs that arise from the very nature of his life and the depths of his spirit or are connected with his bodily structure.
Their trace is to be seen everywhere in history and they are marked by continuity and permanence. As long as the human being continues to live on this planet, change will never affect the essence of the human being or those elements in him which form the nucleus of his desires. There is another set of needs relations to the human being's exploitation of nature and the resources he needs for his welfare, and others again touching on the blossoming of his creative capacities.
Here, the occurrence of a new set of circumstances may indeed change the conditions of life: developments in technology, for example, may confront society with new wishes and desires. It is in areas such as this that change and transformation occur, not in the sphere outlined above. This means that the human being should not sacrifice all the authentic and valuable criteria he has inherited to changing spatial and temporal circumstance, and that he should not turn his back on what is truly creative in the name of a facile innovativeness.
Change and innovation in needed tools and instruments, made necessary by the development of civilization, do indeed involve a series of secondary laws and regulations. It is up to those who are specialized in Islamic concerns to determine those laws, based on the specific conditions of the time, to deduce them from the fixed and general principles of the law, and to implement them.
Laws of temporary validity can, then, be drawn up for matters that are subject to change, but not for those that are immutable. The legislative system of Islam maintains a clear distinction between the two categories. For example, Islam has assigned to the just and competent Islamic government broad powers in deciding on matters relating to the preservation of internal security, commercial relations, political relations with foreign countries, questions of defense and mobilization, public health and so on - all of these being matters which cannot be beneficially regulated outside of the framework set by the realities of the day.
These are all changeable matters, relating to the superstructure of society; their nature may change at any time. Islam, therefore, with the vitality and dynamism that characterize it, has not laid down laws for matters subject to change, providing instead general and comprehensive criteria to which to refer. Such an approach is capable of bringing about a profound transformation in the life of society, enabling it to exploit more fully the resources of nature and to raise the general level of awareness.
But the laws of Islam relating to the sphere that derives from principles and characteristics essential to the human being are tied up with his very nature, are fixed and not exposed to the tempest of spatio-temporal change. For example, the love and affection of a father and mother for their child represents one continuous and permanent manifestation of the essential disposition of the human being, and rights such as those of inheritance which derive from this relationship of love are necessarily eternal.
Likewise, the need of the human being to establish a family is a general and universal one, and throughout history his life has always taken on a collective form. So from the very first day that the saplings of thought and reflecting grew from the human spirit, throughout all the vicissitudes of history and the rise and fall of civilizations, indications are to be found that the human being was always social by nature, in all the different stages of his development, and always had the need to establish a family.
The relevant criteria and ordinances must therefore be of permanent validity, for the human being's tendencies today are intermingled with the past in the depths of his essence. The existential fabric of the human being, his distinctive inward nature, will never undergo a substantial or fundamental change; nothing will prevent it from continuing on its appointed and unchanging path.
For matters such as family relationships and social relationships in general, and the rights of individuals, Islam has therefore established fixed and unchanging laws. If these laws be based on justice and are rooted in the depths of human nature, why should they be changed or modified? In what direction, away from justice and conformity to human nature, should they be made to develop? In addition, fundamental concepts such as conscientiousness, trustworthiness, or negative attributes such as oppressiveness, treacherousness and mendacity, are also fixed and constant, both in their individual and their collective manifestation.
Permanence and constancy must then be extended also to the laws relating to them, although the method of implementing those laws may be subject to change. Therefore those laws have value and validity that have been drawn up with attention to the true nature of the human being and his ineluctable destiny, that relate him to the universal movement of all beings as well as to the specific aim for which he was created.
Such laws are capable, in every age, of helping people live constructively, to administer their affairs properly and to attain true guidance. If Islam has not promulgated laws of eternal validity for the human being's efforts to satisfy his needs, it is because failure to take into consideration the changing nature of such concerns when formulating the law would be a weakness, just as the failure to take into consideration the human being's unchanging inner disposition in other matters is also a weakness.
We know as well that the human being is himself an abundant source of social and environmental factors. He may endow himself with great value and loftiness, but at the same time he is not immune to deviation and error and their harmful consequences. Sometimes he may advance in the direction of his true interests, while at other times he rebels, to the detriment of his interests. It is necessary for him to believe that not every newly appearing phenomenon is an acceptable manifestation of civilization, once measured against his system of values; such an assumption would be impossible to support logically.
The human being attains value only when he combines the acceptance of progress with a creative role in modifying or controlling its products and continues to struggle against all that leads ultimately to the destruction of his true happiness. Not only is Islam not opposed to whatever may lead a person to a better and happier life, it promises a reward to all who strive to bring that about, for it believes that the world should advance toward the fullest possible development of the human mind. It is precisely this belief that serves as an important factor in bringing about movements for the constructive development of the human being.
A matter that has received particular attention in Islam is the spirit and meaning of life and the paths that lead to the attainment of that ideal. Islam has therefore left people free in choosing the outward shape and form of their lives, which enables them to select their own path forward in coping with the demands of the age in which they live and the deficiencies and contradictions they inevitably encounter. Thus at each new stage they reach a higher and broader level than before.
Since Islam aims at the perfecting of human beings and at the same time bases itself on realities, it regards it as indispensable that the law be linked with reason, and assigns reason such value that it counts it as a source of legal ordinances. On the basis of specific and precise criteria, it assigns to reason the solution of certain problems. Another matter which gives permanency to the teachings of Islam and vitality and dynamism to its ordinances consists of the extensive powers that have been accorded to the just Islamic government. so that people will know at all times what is required of them, the government is permitted to draw up appropriate laws that are consonant with the needs of the time, whenever new situations require this. In doing this, the government must refer to the established general principles of the law.
The assignation of such powers to the Islamic government is in order to permit experts in Islamic affairs to adopt a suitable attitude to newly occurring circumstances. Employing their intellects free of any restraint and engaging in independent judgment (ijtihad) they seek to solve the needs of society as determined by the changing nature of modern life and the unceasing advances of technology in a manner conformable to the unchanging principles of the shariah .
For change forces the life of society into new channels and gives it a whole new aspect. This principle permits us to solve even the gravest and most complex of problems. Not only do the true interests of Islamic society and its protection against corruption form the principal consideration in drawing up laws and issuing ordinances, but the greater the degree to which a law serves that purpose, the more it is preferred. Basing itself on this principle, Islam has permitted the scholars and jurists, whenever they encounter a situation in which two interests contradict each other, to sacrifice the lesser interest in favor of the greater, thus solving their dilemma.
Similarly, whenever circumstances turn a religious command into an imposition beyond the human being's power, a person is relieved of the responsibility for carrying it out. All these are factors which give flexibility and vitality to Islam, and enable it to retain unlimited validity and the ability to advance together with the progress of human life. It is a mistake to imagine that determining historical factors necessarily place a limit on the validity of a given law or system.
The extent to which those determining historical factors actually exercise an effect must be assessed to see whether a given law actually enjoys permanence or not, for the effect of a particular historical factor depends on the type of that force: if the force enjoys permanence, so will its effect; and if it does not, neither will its effect. One factor in history is the historical factor; belief in religion has been a constant norm of history. Attachment to the source and origin of existence is something that wells up from the human being's inner being, and it plays a role in differing ways in all the successive stages of his life.
The natural norms of history have themselves determined that religion should always retain a permanent and autonomous identity in human life. The point of view that this suggests gives us the possibility of looking at things in a certain way, and to make choices accordingly. It would be a sign of extreme fanaticism to imagine that regarding all facts from a single point of view furnishes an adequate criterion for judging and assessing things - to assume, for example, that economics alone is the sole basic factor throughout history.
Some people are of the opinion that the economic factor plays a uniquely determining role, that impervious to people's will it can destroy all value systems and change all situations as it pleases. But we must ask what role people play in the unfolding of this determining role. Does the human being's free will and choice - that which distinguishes him from all material phenomena - have anything to do with this ineluctable process?
The Prophets never surrendered to the bitter realities that confronted them. Realism in assessing the environment in which they operated did not prevent them from setting certain goals and acting to achieve them; they were never tempted to justify everything by invoking historical determinism.
Golzerman, a famous scholars says: "In just the same way that it would be wrong to deny absolutely all necessity in history, it would also be wrong to accept that everything in history is determined." No realistic person will base his judgment on the principle that a self-sacrificing person who is overflowing with love, who changes the values and criteria of the human being, who looks pityingly on all forms of indolence, arrogance, greed and animal pleasure, who is constantly advancing towards creativity, perfection, nobility, wisdom and justice - that such a person is in fact a mono-dimensional being, imprisoned in the confines of his personality and a prisoner to objects.
It is such an assumption that underlies the assertion that economics alone is the determining factor in religion, science, philosophy, ethics, and all other aspects of life. To judge matters in this way is far from objective. Those who dogmatically assume such positions and insist on their own point of view as furnishing a comprehensive and neutral interpretation of the whole of history have abandoned all fairness and justice.
1- Mas'ala-yi Vahy, p. 31.
2- Allama Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. XI, p. 60.
3- Will Durant, The Story of Civilization.
4- Alexis Carrel, Insan, Maujud-i-Nashinakhta, pp. 2, 3, 7, 149.
5- Qaradad-i Ijtima'i (The Social Contract), p. 81.
6- Carrel, op. cit., p. 30.
7- Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. XI, p. 70.
8- Nahj al-Balagha, ed. Muhammad Abduh, pp. 57-60.
9- Allama Muhammad Iqbal, The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, ed. M. Saeed Sheikh, Lahore, 1986, p. 99.
10-Jahan va Einstein, p. 130.
11-Gospel of St. matthew, 5:17.
12-Amali as-Saduq, p. 376.
13- Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. LXX, p. 211.
14- Sirat ibn Hisham, Vol. I, p. 162.
15- Ibid., p. 179.
16-Tarikh-i Tabari, Vol. I, pp. 33-34.
17- Ibid., Vol. II, p. 1138.
18- Sirat ibn Hisham, Vol. I.
19- Mas`udi, Muruj adh-Dhahab, Vol. I, p. 400.
20-Tarikh-i Tabari, Vol. II, p. 1172;
21- Ibn Athir, al-Kamil, Vol. II, p. 40;
22- Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, p. 111.
23- Halabi, Sira, p. 334.
24- Sirat ibn Hisham, Vol. I, p. 338.
25- Ibid., p. 278.
26-al-Ya'qubi, Tarikh, Vol. II, p. 17.
27-Majma' al-Bayan, Vol. I, p. 387.
28-Sirat ibn Hisham, Vol. I, p. 480.
29- Nahj al-Balagha, ed. Fayz, p. 83.
30-Jawaharlal Nehru, Glimpses of World History, New York, 1948, pp. 142, 144.
31-Maurice Bucaille, The Bible, the Quran and Science, Indianapolis, 1976, pp. 148-149. Italics are author's.
32-Sirat ibn Hisham, Vol. I, p. 386.
33- Muhammad, Payghambari ki az nau bayad shinakht, p. 45.
34- Iqbal, op. cit., pp. 101-102.
35-Bucaille, op. cit., pp. 115-116, 119, 121-122, 125.
36- Sarguzasht-i Zamin, p. 43.
37-Nujum-i bi-tiliskup, p. 83.
38-Bucaille, op. cit., pp. 143-144, 147, 150.
39- Jahan va Einstein, p. 112.
40- Az kahkashan ta insan, p. 47.
41- Danishmanda-i Buzurg-i Jahan-i Ilm, p. 49.
42- Tafsir-i Burhan, Vol. II, p. 278.
43-Bucaille, op. cit. Majalla-yi Danishmand, Vol. IX, no. 4.
44-Tasvir-i Jahan dar Fizik-i Jadid, p. 95.
45-Bucaille, op. cit., p. 120.
46-Tarikh-i Ulum va Adabiyat dar Iran, pp. 3-4.
47- Majma al-Bayan, Vol. VIII, p. 295.
48- al-Quran wa'l-Ulum al-Islamiyya, p. 4.
49- Usul al-Kafi, p. 591.
50- Muhammad va Quran.
51-Isbat-i Vujud-i Khuda, p. 58.
52- Ibid., p. 230.
53- Gospel of St. John, 14:30.
55- Ibid., 16:7-14.
56- Ibid., 14:26. In fact, for John it was during the Last Supper itself that Jesus delivered the long speech that mentions the Paraclete.
57-Nestle and Aland. Pub. United Bibles Societies, London, 1971.
58- This manuscript was written in the Fourth or Fifth century AD. It was discovered in 1812 on Mount Sinai by Agnes S. Lewis and is so named because the first text had been covered by a later one which, when obliterated, revealed the original.
59-Many translations and commentaries of the Gospel, especially older ones, use the word 'Consoler' to translate this, but it is totally inaccurate.
60-Bucaille, op. cit., pp. 102-106.
61-Vol. XXIII, p. 4174.
62-L'esprit des lois (Persian translation), p. 725.
63- Majma al-Bayan on Ahzab, 40.
64- Ilm-i Tahavval-i Jami'a.