The Spiritual Implication of the Qur’an
Bhadra Sena explores the esoteric side of the teachings of Mohammed.
In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful.
Of a truth the Qur’an is no other than a warning to all. I am but a warner; there is no God but God the One, and the Almighty; I ask no wage of you for this, nor am I one who intermeddles.
The Qur’an occupies a unique place among the scriptures of the world. It made a tremendous warring tribes of the desert of Arabia and helped to weld them into one people to be reckoned with. In course of time the new faith came to occupy its rightful place among the religions of the world.
The word Koran or Qur’an is derived from the root quaraa, which means to read aloud, to recite or to proclaim. ‘To cry’ was the first command that the prophet received from the voice coming down from heaven –
Cry in the name of the Lord, Lord Who is wondrous and kind.
It was on the Night of Power and Excellence that Mohammed – the Praised One – was chosen as the man among men to act at first as a prophet – nabi – for His kindred tribesmen, the quraish, and later to play the role of an apostle or public preacher – Rasul – for propagating His doctrine.
His mission was to proclaim,
that there was no God but He, the most excellent, and truly that God was but One, gracious and eternal, omnipresent and omnipotent, all-seeing but unseen, the first and the last;
that it was blasphemous to set up against Him or associate with Him gods and idols, or representations born of human imagination and wrought by human hands;
that there were definite laws and commandments of God on all the affairs of man, and they were just and beneficial and for his ultimate good; and
that no one could ignore, disobey or transgress these laws and commandments except at great risk and peril to one’s self.
The ayats or verses of the Qur’an descended piecemeal upon the Prophet in manageable sections and segments so that they could be given out in slow degrees. This process went on for more than 23 years, whenever Mohammed went into seclusion among the solitary hills.
They came to Him
through voices that seemed at first to very and sometimes sounded like ‘the reverberating of bells,’ but gradually focused in a single voice that became identified as Gabriel’s.
Gabriel – or more accurately Jabriel – means the Strong One, or one armed with the Power of God; signifying the Spirit and Power of God Himself. He is variously described in the Book as:
An Illustrious Messenger, endowed with power and having influence with the Lord of the Throne, obeyed by angels and faithful to His trust;
‘The Faithful Spirit’ that verily came down from the Lord of the worlds with the Book;
The Holy Spirit that brought the Book down with Truth from the Lord.
Elsewhere he is referred to simply as the Spirit:
The Spirit that had proceeded at the Lord’s command;
The Spirit that He sends forth at His own behest on whomsoever of His servants He pleaseth that He may warn people.
Finally comes the confirmation that the Spirit was sent with the revelation to the Prophet Who knew not the book nor the faith. (Sura 42)
Sura 14 tells us of the express purpose for which the Holy Spirit – Gabriel – revealed the Qur’an:
This book has been sent down to thee by the Lord’s permission so that thou may bring men out of darkness into Light, into the Path of the Mighty and Glorious.
It is a manifesto to man of the will and testimony of God – no God but He, the Living and Eternal. It is He Who sent to the pagans the apostle from among them to rehearse in their own language His signs, to purify them and to impart to them the knowledge of the Book and wisdom. This is God’s goodness for He is immense goodness. In short, it is a missive from God to the God-fearing.
The Qur’an then essentially contains, among other things, warnings, admonitions and precepts for the guidance of all, believers and unbelievers. Throughout the Book, emphasis is laid on works and deeds of individuals:
For its own works lieth every soul in pledge;
And every soul shall receive as it shall have wrought;
He who doth right – it is for himself; and he who doth evil – it is for himself; and thy Lord will not deal unfairly with His servants.
Whatever good works ye send on before for your own benefit, ye shall find with God.
And every soul shall be paid what it hath earned,
each action, both small and great, is written down.
Even the godly persons – the prophets or apostles – are not immune from the operation of this law. They too are supposed to remain well within the authority entrusted to them by God, and are answerable for their dereliction or over-zeal, as the case may be in the discharge of their prophetic or apostolic functions.
God may question the men of truth as to their truth.
Of Moses, a man of piety and chosen by God as a Human Pole (Sura 20), to act both as a prophet and apostle (Sura 19), we learn that He had to part company with Khizr – or Khadir –, the Servant of God who was carrying out His will, because He could not keep His patience with Khizr, whose actions appeared to Him as absurd or vicious (Sura 18).
Likewise, the Praised One – Mohammed –, when hemmed in by treacherous enemies, prayed for the wrath of God upon them and received a sharp censure from God:
Surely they are unjust. But you have no concern whether He treats them with Mercy or chastisement.
K.L. Guaba, ‘The Prophet of the Desert,’ p. 88
The Book opens with an invocatory sura in praise of God, the Lord of the worlds – rab-ul-almeen,
The Compassionate and the Merciful, King on the day of reckoning (Malik-i-yaum-i-deen).
He alone is fit to be worshipped and sought for help:
Guide Thou us on the straight Path, the Path of those to whom Thou hast been gracious – with whom Thou art not angry, and who go not astray.
It is to this God that the Prophet owed His allegiance and to no one beside Him:
He is God alone: He begetteth not, and He is not begotten; and there is none like unto Him.
Again, the Prophet is advised by Gabriel,
Say: I betake me for refuge to the Lord of the day break,
against all sorts of mischief and evil influence of the world.
As to the nature of the Lord God, we find:
He is the Living One.
He is the Subtle. The eyes see not Him but He seeth the eyes.
God is the clear Truth itself […] God is the Light of the heavens and the earth. His Light is like a niche is a lamp encased, as it were, in glass, like a glistening star. From a blessed tree is it lit, the olive neither of the East nor of the West, whose oil, would well nigh shine out, even though fire touched it not! It is Light upon Light.
God guideth whom He will to His Light. And the brightness of His lightning all but taketh away the sight! He to whom God shall not give Light, no Light at all hath he, but a thick cloud of darkness upon darkness, as on a deep sea, with billows riding upon billows.
As to His immensity, it is said:
The East and the West is God’s, therefore whichever way ye turn, there is the face, of God. Truly God is immense.
Sura 2, 109
Islamic tradition tells us that the Path Godward lies through seven heavens, one above the other, each aglow with brilliant lights. The lowest one is adorned with stars and the way thereto is star tracked.
Those who are desirous of reaching God do so only when, at His bidding, the heaven is rent asunder, providing an ingress to aspiring souls. This splitting takes place when the earth – the ground of the individual – is stretched out as a plain – becomes even and straight –, after casting out what is in it – of all that is evil –, and becomes totally empty – neat and clean, free from all the thorns and thistles of life. So had God commanded Abraham of old who was neither a Jew nor a Christian but sound in faith,
Unite not aught with Me in worship and keep My house clean.
With these prerequisites duly filled, the soul is surely carried onward from stage to stage. (Sura 84)
As the believers, men and women, proceed on the God-way they are guided with their Light running before them and on their right hand. (Sura 57)
It is with the splitting asunder of heaven that the Spirit and Power of God – the Kalma of Gabriel, the Holy Word – descends on whomsoever God wishes and makes His presence felt forcefully and indelibly. It in fact is the imperceptible link between God and man. Once a conscious contact is established between the individual spirit and the powerful Sound Current emanating from God and identified with Gabriel or Jabriel, the latter speaks and guides the spirit in the ways of God and leads her in His own Unique Light – Light which is neither on a sea nor land – on the God-way.
This is why the Book enjoins:
Take a firm hold on what we have given you and hearken. Hear Him and obey […] hold ye fast to the cord of God and break not loose from that.
Sura 2, 3
Verily, His Word is the Truth.
Then comes an admonition to those who attend not to the Voice of God within:
And those who respond not to His call (Bang-i-Ilahi), evil is their reckoning! Hell their home! And wretched their bed!
And finally we have an assurance: God will one day wake up to life those who are in the tomb – dead to the life of the spirit.
The day on which men shall, in truth, hear the Shout (Nida), the day on which they will come forth from the grave.
And those with whom God speaks are raised to the highest grade.
Hearken thou unto Me and proceed aright, is the sage counsel from the sage counsel from the Spirit,
the only way to escape judgement is to call the soul to return.
From the very first when God caused Adam to descend to the earth-plane, He commanded:
Hereafter shall guidance come unto you from Me.
St John too gave expression to the same Truth when he quoted Christ as saying:
Verily, verily, I say unto you, the hour cometh, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall live.
St John 5:25
This is the way to Life Eternal; and after having tasted death but once, they shall have no second death.
For treading the Path, God has given a rule and a beaten track to everyone, and He tests by what He has given to each. It is God Who guideth aright and it is for man to fear God and hearken to Him.
Whosoever willeth, taketh the way to his Lord; but no one can will on his own, unless God willeth it so, and God is all-knowing and wise – to so decide. He causeth whom He will to enter into His Mercy,
And once secure in His Mercy, the pious ones, with their first death passed, shall taste death no more.
But those who are blind here, do remain blind in the hereafter, and wander yet more from the way.
Verily, the wicked are sent in bewilderment and folly.
Every soul, it is said, comes with a Star of piercing radiance, set as a guidance in the night (of ignorance). It comes like a thief in the night and no one knows the hour of its coming. As it suddenly bursts into view in the darkness of the soul, it is termed as the Night-Comer (Sura 86). But few there are, now as then, who realise this and gladly submit themselves to the holier and healthier influence of the Radiant Star.
It is as St John said:
The True Light lighteth every man that cometh into the world. And the Light shineth in the darkness and the darkness comprehendeth it not.
St John 19:5
So it is said in the Book:
Blessed is he who keepeth it (soul) pure, and accursed is he who corrupteth it!
Man hath not yet fulfilled the bidding of his Lord and even of a truth is all ungrateful, and in following his conceit, and his own impulses, he is self-injuring in excess.
A sharp distinction is drawn between unbelievers – Kafirs – and the believers – Momins.
Whoso will not judge by what God hath sent down, such are the infidels, transgressors and the perverse. God is the protector and His apostles and those who believe, and whoso takes God and His apostles and those who believe for friends, they truly are the people of God. Oh ye who believe! fear God. Desire Union with Him. Contend earnestly on His Path, that you may attain happiness.
Then comes an exhortation to the prophet against the use of force in religion.
No soul can believe without the permission of God […] What! Wilt thou compel men to become believers? […] Every man hath his own time […] Verily, thy work is preaching only and ours to take account.
We have not sent thee to be their guardian. It is thine but to preach.
For offering prayers, the Book enjoins that one need not step into a mosque raised for mischief, malice and infidelity; or for discord and disruption; or out of sheer fear of God and desire to appease Him. Better by far, a mosque founded from its first day in piety. (Sura 9)
And piety is defined as consisting of the belief in God and in remembering Him in frequent remembrance; and in, for the Love of God, distributing wealth among the kindred, the orphans, the wayfarers and the needy. (Sura 2)
Before addressing God in prayer, one is required to wash his face, hands up to the elbows, and feet up to the ankles. And if there is no water, then to rub the face and hands with clean sand. (Sura 5, 45)
As diet plays an important part in life, one is advised to partake of what comes from the table of the Lord: grapes and herbs, dates and olives, as these are good both for men and their cattle. One must work for his living and take the fruit of the labour of his own hands.
Eat what is lawful and be grateful to God.
Sura 36, 86
Last but not least, there comes a stern warning so that men may beware of false prophets and half prophets who claim to possess the whole truth. They are ravenous wolves in sheep’s clothing and try to lead the people astray by signs and wonders.
Oh believers of a Truth, many of the teachers and monks do devour man’s substance in vanity and turn them away from the way of God.
But strange are the ways of the world.
No prophet cometh to them but the people laugh him to scorn.
Even St John complained because a prophet is rarely honoured in His own country and in His own time.
Islamic tradition gives a graphic description of the two wonderful mystical experiences of the Prophet, mentioned briefly in the Qur’an. The first is Shaq-ul-qamar or the splitting of the moon in two, and the other is the night-journey through space – Almiraj (Sura 17, 53). In the first Spiritual Journey the Prophet, at the approach of the Appointed Hour, cleft the moon so as to travel further on the Inner Path. In the second, the Prophet, was carried by night from the sacred temple of Mecca to the temple of Jerusalem, where He was greeted by Jesus and Abraham. Remounting the silver gray steed He is carried through space and arrives at the first heaven, where He meets Adam. Then, travelling through the seven heavens, He comes across Moses, Abraham and Jesus, until He reaches vast temple of hyacinths. Eventually, after crossing through an Ocean of Light, He comes face to face with God before His throne. This is called ascension, or rising with the celestial body into heaven. The journey was performed by rising on a winged charger called Al-Barq which literally means ‘lightning.’
Now we come to the Day of Severance. It is the sure day, but not one knows when it is coming.
On that Day whoso shall take the Path of return to God will, for himself, see al the deeds sent by him in advance. On that Day shall man be told of all that he has done from first to last and he shall be an eyewitness against himself – a self-accusing soul,
for then none of the hidden deeds shall remain hidden,
and each soul shall recognise its earliest and latest actions.
Hence it is said:
The present life is but a play and a pastime, be ye not deceived by this life, see that this life deceiveth thee not. Do not make ye a God of your possessions, and sin no more against your soul. Every soul shall receive as it hath wrought, no soul shall labour but for itself; no burdened shall bear another’s burden, nor shall any intercession avail with Him.
Each of the Saints, Sages, Prophets and Apostles, when He comes, comes with a Divine Mandate from God: to preach in His Name the age-old Truth which we forget in the mighty maze of the world.
That is but human nature:
Truly, man is to his Lord ungrateful, and of this he himself is a witness, and truly, he is vehement in his love of the world. Ah! knoweth he not that when that which is in the grave shall be laid bare, that which is in men’s breasts shall be brought forth.
Man truly is by creation hasty; when evil befalleth him, impatient; but when good falleth him, tenacious; not so the prayerful, engaged in prayer.
It is in accordance with the needs of the time and the temper of the people that God chooses a Human Pole from among the people themselves to serve them as a torch bearer in the enshrouding darkness.
He best knoweth where to place His mission,
and defines the role of His protégé. He entrusted the Prophet with the task of warner:
Warn then thou, for thou art a warner only. Thou hast no authority over the people. We have not sent thee as a guardian over them, nor as a prophet with miracles to strike terror in their hearts. Every man comes before us singly by himself,
as a witness against himself, with a face dismal or beaming with Light as the case may be.
These were the instructions from God as conveyed to the Prophet by the Spirit Gabriel. And the Prophet on His part always stood faithfully by them unto the last. He always glorified God and never for a moment tried by any word or deed to glamorise His own person. At the top of His voice He proclaimed that His work was preaching God and His message:
In sooth I am only a man like you.
I am just a plain-spoken warner.
My office is only plain-spoken preaching.
I only proclaim to you the message with which I am sent.
I follow the utterances of my Lord to me.
It has been revealed to me that your God is One God, go straight unto Him and implore His forgiveness. Why worship what ye carve our with your own hands and set up other gods against God? Fly to God alone – God with Power over life and death.
I posses not the treasures of God, nor do I know His secrets, nor am I an angel. I am no apostle of new doctrines. Neither know I what will be done with me nor with you.
I have no Power over my own weal or woe, but as God pleaseth.
I am only a sent one charged to warn openly and whosoever shall believe and amend, shall have no fear.
I bring to you the messages of my God. I give you a friendly counsel, for I know from God what ye know not.
I ask not any wage from you; keep it for yourself. My wage is from God alone.
Islam, as the name implies, is a religion of peace:
peace with God, through total resignation and utter surrender to His will; and
peace with all under the sun, as the children of One God.
The God of Islam was from the outset at once Rab-un-nas, Malik-un-nas and Allah-un-nas, or Lord of man, King of man, and God of man. He was Rabul-Almeen or the Lord of all the worlds in His creation. Hence there could be no dispute about God. And as all mankind was but One, there could be no compulsion in the matter of religion or the way in which one worshipped Him.
As God directed me to you,
said the Prophet,
I call you to Him. I have no quarrel with any of you. I only preach that the worship of gods other than God – the God of all – cannot do you any good, for God alone is the True Baptiser and He alone confers a True New Birth.
The sum and substance of the Prophet’s teachings may be summed up in His own words:
Fear God and believe in His apostles. Two portions of His Mercy He will give you. He will bestow on you Light to walk in, and He will grant you forgiveness. These gifts of Grace are in the hands of God and He vouchsafes them to whom He will.
One can qualify himself for the free gifts of God by
worshipping Him in full faith and in all sincerity;
by offering the five obligatory prayers: upon rising, at noon, in mid-afternoon, after sunset and before retiring; and
by paying the stated alms. (Sura 98)
It is one of the glories of Islam,
that its temples are not made with hands and that its ceremonies can be performed anywhere (by spreading the prayer carpet) upon God’s earth or under His heaven.
The Prophet was essentially a man of peace and good will towards all. He firmly believed in the wholesome principle of:
Live and let live.
He not only preached peace and tolerance but practised these virtues to the utmost limits. He was tolerant to the extreme – not only with those who differed from Him in religious faith and belief, but even with those who jeered at Him and scoffed at Him. In Sura 109 addressed to the unbelievers, He gives expression to this tolerance, exhibiting the spirit of the Gospel of Peace He proclaimed:
Oh ye Unbelievers! I worship not that which ye worship, and ye do not worship that which I worship; I shall never worship that which ye worship, neither will ye worship that which I worship; to you be your religion; to me my religion.
Praise be to God.
Note by Bhadra Sena: For my insight into the teachings of the Holy Qur’an and for some of the quotations used, I express my deep sense of gratitude to the valuable work, ‘The Koran,’ translated from the Arabic by J.M. Rodwell.
Source: Sat Sandesh / July 1972