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Lesson 55

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Lesson - 55

Aal Imran (Family of Imran)

"Fair-seeming to men is made the love of desires, of women and sons and hoarded treasures of gold and silver and well-bred horses and cattle and tilth. This is the provisions of the life of this world. And Allah — with Him is the good goal (of life).

Say Shall I tell you of what is better than these For those who guard against evil are Gardens with their Lord, in which rivers flow, to abide in them , and pure companions and Allah's goodly pleasure. And Allah is Seer of the servants.

Those who say: Our Lord, we believe, so forgive our sins and save us from the chastisement of the fire.

The patient and the truthful, and the obedient, and those who spend and those who ask Divine protection in the morning times.

Allah bears witness that there is no god but He, and (so do) the angels and those possessed of knowledge, maintaining justice. There is no god but He, the Mighty, the Wise." (Ch. 3:14-18)

Holy Quran prophesied the dominance of Christian Nations

In my discussion of the first four verses of this chapter, I have pointed out that although the subject matter of this section appears to be of a general nature, by close examination of the context, we find that its subject matter has a particular relevance for Christianity and the Christian nations. The history of religion for the last two to three hundred years shows us that during this period, Christianity as a religion, attacked Islam with great intensity. What is known as the Industrial revolution in Europe started with the invention of machines and the urgent need for raw materials arose in order to make progress through mechanization. The search for such raw materials took the European nations to the less developed regions of the world including the countries in Asia and Africa. They went there under the guise of trade, but because of their industrial might and superior armaments were soon successful in subjugating these countries.

The Holy Quran prophesied this dominance 1400 years ago in the verses:

"And it is forbidden to the town, which We shall destroy, that they shall not return. Until when Gog and Magog are let loose (yansiloon) and they will sally forth from every position of vantage" (21:95-96).

The word Qaryah (town) is used here in the singular to denote greatness, prominence, uniqueness. Makkah has been called, in another place in the Holy Quran, 'Mother of Towns,' because it was the place where Adam and Eve lived, Adam building the first house for the remembrance of Allah at Makkah ('verily the first house of Allah built for mankind was at Mecca' — Holy Quran 3:95 ).

What the Holy Quran says in the verse quoted above is that the opposition to Islam and the Muslims (which was represented by the city of Makkah at the time of the Holy Prophet) will be destroyed (as it happened with the fall of Makkah. It will not return until Gog and Magog (then held in invisible chains of Divine destiny as the holy Prophet saw in a vision about them will be let loose, and they will sally forth from every position of vantage. Strange stories about the identity of Gog and Magog persisted until the Reformer (Mujaddid) of this century (14th century Hijra) Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmed identified them to be the Western Christian Nations. His position was ridiculed at the time, but is now generally accepted by the Muslim intelligentsia. That is why the famous poet of the East, Sir Muhammad Iqbal wrote in one of his poetic verses:

"All the armies of the Gog and Magog have been let loose,

The eye of the Muslim should behold this explanation of the (Quranic) word yansiloon" (See above verse 21: 96).

Scheme to convert the colonies to Christianity

The Western Christian nations found in these underdeveloped nations, not only a source for the raw materials they needed, but also a market for their manufactured goods, thus enabling them to maintain a balance of payments. To perpetuate their control over the wealth of the colonies, they embarked upon a scheme to convert the subject nations to Christianity, and to this end launched an army of Christian missionaries into these areas. In the highly backward areas of the African continent, where the only religion was based upon superstition, they did not meet with great resistance towards their designs. Enticement by means of medical aid, offers of employment and education were enough to convert people to Christianity. Christian religious propaganda, however, met opposition in those areas where other major religions were already in existence. Even in these regions, for example in the Indian subcontinent, hundreds and thousands of individuals belonging to the untouchable class were converted to Christianity. This was accomplished by offers of greater opportunity in education, employment, financial incentives and land grants etc. In reality though, the principles of Christianity are such that they cannot be understood either by the primitive African or the untouchable of India. Where religious confrontation did arise, for example with Hinduism, the missionary did not face a very difficult task, for it was easy to gain acceptance for three gods in place of three hundred and seventy million Hindu deities.

Christian onslaught against Islam

The real confrontation took place between Christianity and Islam, for trinity could not stand up to the pure monotheism of Islam. Monotheism is in accordance with human nature, a fact now even being confirmed by modern scientific thought. The missionary and the orientalist alike could not say anything against this principle, so instead they attacked the person of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). They also took advantage of certain misconceptions about Prophet Jesus prevalent amongst the Muslims. These included the belief that he was sitting alive in heaven and possessed certain divine attributes such as raising the dead to life and the creation of birds. The Christian missionaries played upon these misconceptions, and used them in their arguments to prove the divinity of Jesus. The difference between Islam and Christianity is only this that Islam regards Jesus as one of the chosen Prophets of God, while Christianity holds him to be son of god, and one of three gods. If the divinity of Jesus could be proven from the Holy Quran itself (we seek the protection of Allah), then the superiority of Christianity over Islam becomes established. This argument was further fueled by the prevalent misconception amongst the Muslims, that in the later days when they would be in dire straits, Jesus would descend from heaven and save them. The logical question thus put forth by the Christian missionary was, why do the Muslims not accept him as their savior now and guarantee their salvation? No one could stand up to this line of argument and Muslims estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands, including those belonging to well educated prominent families converted to Christianity.

Defense of Islam by the Reformer (Mujaddid) of the 14th century Hijra

During such difficult times for Islam and the Muslims, Allah who always protects His true faith, sent Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad to accomplish the task as the Reformer of the century and as the Promised Messiah. Through Divine revelation Hazrat Mirza's attention was directed towards those references of the Quran and the Hadith which prove that like all prophets and other mortals, Prophet Jesus had passed away, and the Messiah to come, in accordance with the Sahih Hadith of Bukhari and Muslim was:

"to be your imam (spiritual leader) from amongst yourself (i.e., from amongst the Muslims)."

After these revelations, Hazrat Mirza Sahib and his followers provided such a strong refutation to the arguments of the Christian missionaries, that they soon began to abstain from religious debate with them. The Christian Government which was backing the missionary movement was, however, still in power, and together they evolved schemes which were referred to earlier in this lesson.

Different elements employed in the conversion scheme

The Holy Quran points out that the love of certain desires has great attraction for mankind. This includes the love and desire for women, the children they bear, particularly their male offspring, the acquisition of wealth, land holdings and fine means of transportation. These material things were not only greatly desired by the Christian nations (and remain so till this day), but they also utilized them as a means of enticing others towards Christianity. Although they were soundly defeated in the field of religious debate by Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad and his followers, governmental power, jobs and the allure of wealth remained in the hands of the Christian rulers. In those days Muslim women stayed mostly in their homes, involved with household work and the upbringing of children. If at all they did venture outside, they were covered up in veils. In contrast Christian women and young girls would go out wearing make up and dresses which would either expose a part of their body or make their figures more attractive. Because of this also many Muslims faltered in their steps and converted to Christianity. In a pattern similar to this, the western nations have frequently used women for intelligence gathering, and diplomatic maneuvers.

The fall of the Empire

Because the Christian governments were using their power and enticing people by means of wealth, land and material offerings to lead them astray, Hazrat Mirza in accordance with a Hadith of the Holy Prophet prayed for their demise. He was informed by means of Divine revelation that wars would occur which would lead to the decline of their worldly power, and so it did come about by means of the great world wars. Another momentous change occurring in these nations was the decline of the Christian faith (which they had tried to enforce upon others) within their own societies. Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) had prophesied such an occurrence in one of his Hadith comparing it to "the dissolution of salt in water."

A great majority of them abandoned their religion in pursuit of the very same desires mentioned in the Quranic verses under discussion, "fair-seeming to men is made love of desires of women and sons." Like the disbelievers of Arabia, amongst the Christian nations the uncontrolled desire for love of women and a tendency towards preferential treatment of the male heirs from amongst their progeny was also prevalent. In Islam the female children of the deceased also have the right of inheritance, whereas in Europe, America and the Christian nations this is only limited to the male offspring. Also included in this relentless pursuit are hoarded treasures of gold and silver (which the Arabs in those days did not have, but which still exist in abundance in possession of the Christian nations). Acquisition of large land holdings called ranches and luxury automobiles which have replaced the fine bred horses is also eagerly pursued. These desires are so pervasive that even those with limited means are striving to have their own car. The Holy Quran, which has to go to the west and influence the western mind, draws attention in these verses to the fact that these acquisitions are not the purpose of man's creation. They are temporary and provide a means only for this worldly existence.

Higher goal of man's creation

Man, we are told, has been created for a much higher and abiding purpose — the recognition of Allah the most High, and getting close to Him. That is why the Holy Quran states:

"And Allah — with Him is the good goal (of life)."
In comparison with the tranquillity and serenity acquired by getting close to Allah, the fire of dissatisfaction generated by the thirst for worldly acquisitions is contemptible. The Holy Quran then states:

"Say: Shall I tell you of what is better than these? For those who guard against evil are Gardens with their Lord, in which rivers flow, to abide in them, and pure companions and Allah's goodly pleasure. And Allah is Seer of the servants."

In this verse Allah, the Most High, states that instead of being totally consumed by the attractions mentioned earlier, it is better for you to guard against evil. In the end of the last verse it was stated that instead of making the fineries of this world as your ilaha, i.e. the object of your veneration love and purpose of life, come towards Allah, for this is the goal of your creation. In the verse under discussion it is pointed out that seeking this purpose does not forbid the attractions of this worldly life. Allah only wants you to spend your life in this world guarding against evil. In order to teach you how to guard against evil, He has revealed the Holy Quran as a guide for those who keep their duty. It gives guidance to differentiate between right and wrong, good and evil, that which is beneficial or harmful to the human soul and between righteous action and sinful behavior. There are two sides to mans earthly existence i.e., the good and the evil. By running blindly in pursuit of the worldly attractions, man loses the ability to distinguish between right and wrong. One could see an example of this in the western society today where the purpose of human existence is mainly to earn wealth. Wealth in itself is not something bad, it is the manner of its practice which determines the righteousness or impropriety of an action. The Holy Quran guides us with regards to the good and evil of every action, belief or saying. In fact, it clearly elaborates upon these aspects even in the matter of our thoughts. It does so by means of reasoning and by clearly distinguishing between right and wrong. I have explained this in my discussion on the subject of fasting in the chapter Al-Baqarah. The Holy Quran thus teaches man to guard against evil. The muttaqi, or the one who guards against evil, has to sacrifice a lot to achieve this end. Let us take wealth as an example. Because of his honest living, it is possible that one who guards against evil may have to face poverty and starvation. One has to make a similar sacrifice for all worldly attractions. The Holy Quran states that Allah intends for man to face such worldly attractions, and thereby practically learn how to guard against evil. When he who is successful in these worldly trials goes to meet his Lord, his reward is paradise.

The nature of Paradise

The gardens of paradise have streams of water running beneath them. These gardens are a reward for his belief and the streams a reward for righteous action. In this earthly existence, belief creates serenity and pleasure in his heart similar to the feelings engendered by visiting a beautiful garden. Righteous actions leads him not only towards the protection of the rights of other individuals but humanity in general benefits from them, and such actions flows forth from these individuals like streams of running water. The rewards of paradise are such that as the Holy Prophet has stated:

"There is not an eye in this world that has seen them, nor an ear that has heard of them nor a mind that would understand them."
The Holy Quran has thus explained them beautifully in an allegorical manner by giving examples of elements which are a part of mans physical experience such as gardens and streams. The gardens and streams of this world are not forever. They experience decline in autumn, face destruction by drought and other natural calamities, and man can loose access to them. The Holy Quran informs us, however, that the gardens and streams of paradise are everlasting. These and other blessings would have been devoid of pleasure, if mankind were to be without companionship in paradise. The best pair, created by Allah, the Most High, is that of a man and a woman. They are a source of comfort and happiness for each other. The Holy Quran states that such companionship will exist in paradise. In this worldly existence, the union of a man and woman, if one of them is impure, can be a source of pain instead of pleasure for either individual. Therefore we are told, that the companions in paradise would be pure, but more then anything else, "Allah's goodly pleasure," will be the source of happiness and delight for mankind. In the end of this verse it is stated that:

"Allah is Seer (Basirun) of the servants"
which implies He not only sees their actions, but is also aware of the true intentions and inner thoughts behind such actions. That is why, until the inner thoughts of a person as well as his outward actions do not attain purity, he cannot truly be the one who guards against evil (muttaqi) and will not be able to enter paradise in the Hereafter. Paradise cannot be called as such, unless it has people of this caliber, for if its inmates were thieves, robbers, con-artists and people of low character then it would be very much like the hell in this world. If policemen, prisons and judicial courts were required over there for the criminals, then it could not remain a paradise but would turn into hell.

In the end I need to mention that the Most Merciful has ordained the real reward for one who keeps his duty in the Hereafter (that which is everlasting), the rewards of this worldly existence being temporary. In a way, however, the reflection of the paradise of the Hereafter is created in the heart of those who guard against evil in this life. They may not be in a garden in the physical sense but their heart is blessed with the garden of serenity. An honest person has no fear or grief, while these always exist in the heart of a dishonest person. An honest individual may go to bed hungry, but his mind is free of worries. A dishonest person on the other hand may feast on the finest foods, but his heart is engrossed in the hell of restlessness and anxiety. In a similar manner in this worldly life, the nurturing streams of beneficence flow at all times for the benefit of others, from the person of one who guards against evil. On the other hand no one benefits from a person lost in the love of this material world. The pleasure of Allah is also manifest for those who guard against evil. The companions of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) were given the honor by the Holy Quran of being called " those with whom Allah is pleased" in their very lifetime. Whosoever follows their footsteps and treads on the path laid down by the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), he can witness proof of the pleasure of Allah in this very life. Besides true dreams and visions, he is also blessed with the honor of communion with Allah. As an indication of His pleasure, Allah creates respect and reverence for such a pious person amongst righteous souls. The first step in the path towards guarding against evil is mentioned in the next verse.

The path of spiritual development

"Those who say: Our Lord, we believe, so forgive our sins and save us from the chastisement of the fire."

Those who guards against evil are directed in this verse not to stop their spiritual journey after professing belief in Allah Almighty. The Being Who is the most merciful of all is also their nurturer unto perfection (Rabb) at all times and wants them to progress from the lowest to the highest stage of spiritual development. Not only does He want to rectify their spiritual illnesses and moral deficiencies, but also wants to create moral and spiritual qualities in them. The first essential step towards reformation is the realization and admission of ones shortcomings and sins. Satan went astray and was driven away from Divine presence because:

"He refused and was proud" (2:34).
By instigating man's pride and insolence, the devil thus falsely leads him to believe that he is free of all faults and sins. If someone else tries to create awareness of these faults, the devil misleads, and by instigating refusal and disobedience within man makes him deny his shortcomings. Those who have tried to reform human behavior have ample experience of this.

The essential and basic step for guarding against evil is to have such a belief in Allah, the Most High, that He is with us where ever we are. The Holy Quran creates awareness of this by stating that:

"He is with you wherever you are"(57:4),
He is Sami (the Hearing ), Basir (the Seeing), `alimum-bizaat-is-sudur (He is Knower of what is in the hearts ). It is not sufficient for such a belief to be professed only once, it needs to be refreshed over and over again. One should strengthen the bond with his Lord by affirmation of his belief in the words, "Rabbanaa Aamanaa (our Lord we believe)," and by means of prayer, which this blessed verse teaches.

The word which the Holy Quran has used for obligatory prayer is salaat, which also means prayer. Obligatory prayers are therefore a means of creating a living faith in Allah the Most High, provided they are kept up in their proper manner, and not merely undertaken as a compulsory recitation. In short, our Lord is our patron, witnesses all our deeds, listens to what we say, and is aware of the innermost secrets of our hearts. The one who guards against evil supplicates before Him thus:

"O my Lord, you are well aware of the sins I have committed, so please forgive them (maghfirat), although the devil and my animal soul (nafs al-ammara), by turning me spiritually blind, may have led me not only to the commission of these sins but also made me unaware of them."
The Arabic word maghfirat means covering over and protection. The supplicant thus requests the Lord to cover over his sins from their being manifested before others, and also seeks His protection from repeating these evil deeds, for the commission of every evil deed is difficult the first time around but becomes easier with repetition. The final supplication in this verse is:

"and save us from the chastisement of the fire."
The supplicant knows that the remedial punishment for the sins he has already committed is the chastisement of fire, but he begs for the mercy of his Lord, to save him from this. All sins are committed by man when he becomes overwhelmed by his emotions and desires, the nature of these being akin to fire. If they are not controlled by guarding against evil, they can ignite into the chastisement of fire.

Stages of the spiritual journey of those "who guard against evil."

In the subsequent verses the various stages of the spiritual journey and qualities of those who guard against evil (muttaqeen) are discussed. The first amongst these being as-saabireen, those manifesting the quality of patience. A man may have been living comfortably, but as soon as he accepts the truth, he has to face all kinds of opposition, trials and tribulations. To be patient during these circumstances, prevents a man from being led astray in his spiritual quest. Then come the difficulties that he may have to face as a consequence of the law of Divine measure. He may have to face a state of fear, disease, death and loss of the fruits of his hard work. Being patient under these conditions also saves him from faltering in his footsteps and falling down. Remaining steadfast in one's belief and actions, despite the instigation of the devil from within, in the form of the prompting of one's own animal soul, or from without through the suggestions of evil minded people is also a manifestation of the quality of patience.

"Wa-saadiqeen (and the truthful)," mentioned in this verse are those who remain steadfast in the trials mentioned above, they are the ones who proved the truth of their belief by their actions. They attain the status of being the truthful ones (saadiq or siddique).

The third stage is of those,"Wal-qaaniteen (and the obedient)." At this stage submission which is initially carried out with effort, is now manifested with humility, true feelings and inner love. This the stage of qanoot or obedience.

"Wal-munfiqeen (and those who spend)". At this stage one is ready to sacrifice all he has in the way of Allah, this includes not only his wealth and time but also his life and children. Spending, does not mean spending only out of ones wealth, but also giving away in the time of need, all of ones God given bounties in His way. This willingness is portrayed beautifully in a couplet by the famous Urdu poet Ghalib:

"I gave up my life, which was in fact given to me by Him, the truth of the matter is that I did not quite fulfill my obligation."

"Wal-mustaghfireena- bil- as-haar (and those who ask Divine protection in the morning times). Having reached such an advanced stage of spiritual development, does not however generate in them feelings of pride and arrogance, and they get up in the later part of the night to bow down humbly before Allah. At the break of dawn they seek the protection of Allah so that the coming day should not lead them to the commission of frail or sinful behavior. The pleasant hour of the morning is the time when the angels descend upon the human heart and attract it towards goodness. Seeking the protection of Allah with humility assists in the completion of their inner light (nur). That is how exactly the words of those who have entered the paradise are mentioned in the Holy Quran:

"They will say: Our Lord, make perfect for us our light, and grant us protection" (66:8).
Thus even after entering paradise the moral and spiritual development of the one who guards against evil (muttaqi), does not come to an end. Nur is the light which illuminates inner or spiritual matters. Within the spirit or soul of the man (which has been breathed into him by Allah, the Most High), thus lie latent those means of moral and spiritual improvement which can forever manifest and lead towards his spiritual development. In seeking this spiritual progress they ask for the protection of Allah, for He is the only Perfect Being. Only when His mantle of protection covers the deficiencies and weaknesses which are a part of human striving, can they successfully travel through these inner and unseen realms of their spiritual journey.

The doctrine of Divine Unity to prevail

The final verse of this lesson is:

"Allah bears witness that there is no god but He, and (so do) the angels and those possessed of knowledge, maintaining justice. There is no god but He, the Mighty, the Wise."
This verse is placed here as a prophecy that eventually the doctrine of Divine unity will prevail in the world. This thought is reinforced by the subsequent verse which states:

"Surely the (true) religion with Allah is Islam,"
further indicating that Islam which establishes this principle of Divine Unity is to become the dominant religion of the world. Also in this verse three types of arguments are put forward to establish the truth of the Islamic principle of the unity of the Divine Being and to prove the falsity of the Christian doctrine of Trinity.

The first of these is the witnessing by Allah of His own unity, which also proves the falsity of Trinity. This witnessing is of two types, i.e., by His word and by His action. All Divine revelation starting from Prophet Adam and going down to the last Prophet of God, The Holy Prophet Muhammad peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, witnesses the Unity of the Divine Being, and strongly condemns association with God. In all the revealed scriptures found today, despite the generally accepted adulteration of their text, there exists evidence of the Unity of the Divine Being. No evidence of association with the Divine Being is found in the words of any prophet in any tradition. This, therefore, is the evidence provided by the word of God. The evidence provided by Gods action is that the whole universe is one, made of the same kind and is obligated to follow the same type of law. Marvelous scientific discoveries about the universe have occurred in our age, for example, from the existence of a whole universe of its own within an atom to the existence of the amazing immensity and vastness of the universe on the outside. All of these discoveries have proven the oneness of the universe. That is why modern science has accepted this, and it is factual testimony to the oneness of its Creator, whose creation follows His command and Who is the All Powerful and Supreme Sovereign.

The other piece of evidence mentioned in this verse is that provided by the angels. As I have mentioned in my previous lessons, the relationship of the angels is with the hearts of men. Mans own nature testifies to the unity of the Divine Being although it may be temporarily inhibited by the contemporary teachings of polytheism. In times of need, for example, in dire difficulties, this natural tendency of man is brought to the surface by the working of the angels on the human mind and even the most impenitent atheist or polytheist cries out for Divine assistance.

The third kind of testimony is provided by those possessing knowledge who are fair minded, and these fall into two categories. To one class belong those who have knowledge of religious matters. If they are just in their testimony, they will admit to the unity of the Divine Being as the teaching of the founder of their religion. For example, many fair minded scholars today admit openly that the teachings of Jesus or the Bible are none other then the unity of the Divine Being. The other class of knowledgeable individuals is that of the scientists. The Holy Quran tells us that even the fair minded amongst them will also testify to the unity of Allah, the Most High. I have in fact read such testimony myself.

In the end, the Holy Quran states that no one else besides Allah is the god ilaha (sole object of worship, love and purpose of man's existence), He is the Mighty, the Wise and as a manifestation of these attributes, monotheism will predominate in the world. Although Allah manifests his works with wisdom and it takes time to do so, it is always based on a firm and lasting foundation. This dominance of the principle of Divine unity will come about by Islam being made the prevailing religion of the world, that is why it is stated in the subsequent verse:

"Surely the (true) religion with Allah is Islam."
It is therefore quite in accordance with the Divine intent to spread the religion of Islam in the world, this being the duty of every Muslim. With this in mind the Reformer (mujaddid) of the 14th century Hijra, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad formed an organization. The Holy Quran itself enjoins this:

"And from among you there should be a party who invite to good and enjoin the right and forbid the wrong. And these are they who are successful."
This is the work of the Lahore Ahmadiyya movement.

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