Wahî – Ilhâm – Nazûl
هُوَ الَّذِي يُنَزِّلُ عَلَىٰ عَبْدِهِ آيَاتٍ بَيِّنَاتٍ لِّيُخْرِجَكُم مِّنَ الظُّلُمَاتِ إِلَى النُّورِ ۚ
When you say, “God is He Who created the heavens and the earth” (14:32), you acknowledge Him reflected in His creation, but the ultimate knowledge of Him comes only through His unveiling, His Self-Disclosure and His Speech. Only through these do you find the ultimate proofs of His Presence. Allâh, Who desires to be known by you, reveals Himself out of the Grace of His Mercy (Rahmânîyyat رحمانيت) by which humanity is surrounded. In other words, you come to know Him through Him. He calls you to Him, and you are directed to Him through Him. Without His call, you would not have known Him.
وَمَا كَانَ لِبَشَرٍ أَن يُكَلِّمَهُ اللَّهُ إِلَّا وَحْيًا أَوْ مِن وَرَاءِ حِجَابٍ أَوْ يُرْسِلَ رَسُولًا فَيُوحِيَ بِإِذْنِهِ مَا يَشَاءُ ۚ
“It is not given to a human being that Allâh should speak to him except by direct revelation [wahî] or from behind a veil or by sending a messenger [an angel] who should reveal (to him) by His command what He pleases.” (42:51)
That means Allâh addresses the human being with a message fitting the capacity of the individual who receives it. In the Qur’ânic narration about Moses, you read: فَلَمَّا جَاءَهَا نُودِيَ أَن بُورِكَ مَن فِي النَّارِ وَمَنْ حَوْلَهَا وَسُبْحَانَ اللَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ “So when he came (close) to it [the fire] he was called by a voice, Blessed be he who is in quest of the fire (of Divine light) and blessed are those around this (place of the fire), Holy is Allâh, the Lord of the worlds” (27:8). Here the One Who calls Himself the Lord of the worlds, speaks to a human being, not “face to face” (cf. 6:103), but from behind a veil of Light. You also read, وَنَادَيْنَاهُ مِن جَانِبِ الطُّورِ الْأَيْمَنِ وَقَرَّبْنَاهُ نَجِيًّا “And We called out to him from the blessed side of the Mount” (19:52), that is He spoke to Moses from behind the veil of the mountain, and so He spoke to Mary from the veil of a slope, (cf. 19:24, where you read:فَنَادَاهَا مِن تَحْتِهَا أَلَّا تَحْزَنِي قَدْ جَعَلَ رَبُّكِ تَحْتَكِ سَرِيًّا “Then a voice called her from the side of the slope by her (saying), ‘Do not grieve, your Lord has placed a rivulet on the side of the slope by you’.” The Holy Prophet (pbuh) said, “There is knowledge that has the guise of the hidden [maknûn مكنون]; none knows it but those who are Allâh’s true servants and have the knowledge of Him through Him. When they speak of it, none denies it but those who are deluded about Him.”
Words of Allâh come down in the language of nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs (cf. 2:124, 259, 260; 11:36–37, 44, 46; 20:12–47; 27:9–12; 28:7). Many refuse to accept the existence of Divine Discourse. The philosophers negate it, because they have no access to Faith. Others accept it and affirm it according to their consideration. The Saints, the Gnostics, the Prophets, and seekers of Allâh affirm it through their own tasting of His unveiling. You will find words like tanzîl تنزيل(2:185; 44:3; 46:2; 97:1), rûh روح(15:29; 21:91; 32:9; 38:72; 42:52), wahî وحي(4:163; 8:12; 16:68; 41:12), and ilhâmإلهام (91:8) are used for Divine Revelation. They do not have the same meaning. They are mentioned in the Holy Qur’ân in different places and in different contexts. Their use is to express different level, type and purpose of Divine Revelation.
The Word tanzîl تنزيلis derived from nazala, which means “to descend” or “to come down.” Anzala means “to send down” or “to send a Revelation.” You will read: تَنزِيلُ الْكِتَابِ مِنَ اللَّهِ الْعَزِيزِ الْحَكِيمِ “The gradual revelation [tanzîl; descent] of this perfect Book precedes from Allâh the All-Mighty, the All-Wise” (46:2).
The literal meaning of the Word rûh روح is “breath of life” and “life giving and soothing mercy”. Its root word is rahata, meaning “to rest from grief and sadness.” This Word is often used in the Holy Qur’ân in the sense of Divine Mercy, as in 15:29, 21:91, 32:9, and 38:72. It also means “Word of the All-Mighty,” as in, وَكَذَٰلِكَ أَوْحَيْنَا إِلَيْكَ رُوحًا مِّنْ أَمْرِنَا “(Prophet!) Just so (as We sent revelations to other Prophets), We revealed to you the Word [Rûh] by Our command” (42:52). Rûh is thus the life-giving Command أَمْر of the All-Mighty, since it gives life to hearts that were full of grief, that were sad and dead. This word is also used for “angel,” as in 19:17 and Archangel Gabriel (rûh al-Quds, رُوحُ الْقُدُسِ (16:102). Al–Rûh الرُّوحُ is used for divine inspiration, as in 16:68 and al-Rûh al-Amîn, الرُّوحُ الْأَمِينُ (26:193), as they are the messengers of Divine Revelations. In order to give proper meaning to the word rûh you have to consider if it occurs without the Arabic suffix al as rûh رُوحُ or with al as al-Rûh الرُّوحُ.
The literal meaning of the Word wahî (أَوْحَيْنَا in 42:52) throws light on the phenomenon of Revelation and its operation. It is derived from waha, which means “to tell someone something in a hushed tone or a whisper,” which is easily understood by the one who is addressed even though the people who happen to be nearby cannot understand or hear it (Ibn Duraid). This quality operates in all types of Revelations. This very fundamental quality of wahî provides sceptical people reasons to deny its existence. The Word ilhâm إلهامliterally means instinct, intimation or innate faculties. You are told:
“And the (human) soul [nafs] and That (Mighty Lord) Who made it perfect. Then He revealed to it [the soul] (the ways of) its evil and its righteousness” (91:7–8)
It is through ilhâm the human soul knows the two ways: the way of fujûr فُجور(of evils) and the way of taqwâ (of piety). In the Holy Qur’ân, the Word ilhâm is also used for Divine inspiration, Revelation, and Command. Sayed Ismâ‘îl Shahîd in his book Mansab-i-Imâmat stated that in the Book of Allâh ilhâm in its perfect sense, when used with regards to the Prophets or Saints, is called wahî. In Tâj al-‘Arûs, you find the same mention. Sayûtî and Ibn Athîr hold the same view. According to them, ilhâm is a form of wahî vouchsafed by the All-Mighty to whomsoever He pleases of His servants (30:48). Wahî is thus the higher form of ilhâm, or inspiration. Metaphorically, in the Divine Book, the “sending of rain” and the “sending of laden winds” also denote Divine Revelation. For example, you read:
اللَّهُ الَّذِي يُرْسِلُ الرِّيَاحَ فَتُثِيرُ سَحَابًا فَيَبْسُطُهُ فِي السَّمَاءِ كَيْفَ يَشَاءُ وَيَجْعَلُهُ كِسَفًا فَتَرَى الْوَدْقَ يَخْرُجُ مِنْ خِلَالِهِ ۖ فَإِذَا أَصَابَ بِهِ مَن يَشَاءُ مِنْ عِبَادِهِ إِذَا هُمْ يَسْتَبْشِرُون وَإِن كَانُوا مِن قَبْلِ أَن يُنَزَّلَ عَلَيْهِم مِّن قَبْلِهِ لَمُبْلِسِين فَانظُرْ إِلَىٰ آثَارِ رَحْمَتِ اللَّهِ كَيْفَ يُحْيِي الْأَرْضَ بَعْدَ مَوْتِهَا
“It is Allâh alone who sends forth the winds and they raise (the vapours to form) a cloud which He spreads out in the sky as He will and sets it layer upon layer, and you see the rain falling from its midst. And no sooner does He cause it [the Divine Revelation] to fall on whom He will of His servants, then they (the people) are filled with joy (because of the glad tidings). Though shortly before it was sent down upon them they were in a state of despondency. Look, therefore, at the evidences of Allâh’s mercy! how He breathes life into the earth (making it green and flourishing) after its (state of) death.” (30:48–50)
The water is of two types (see 25:53; 35:12). One type of water is that of springs and rivers mixed with salts and mud (25:53), though its origin is of the wholesome, pure, cool, and fresh rainwater. This water symbolizes the knowledge that comes from your rational thinking and intellect, which can vary in quality according to the amount of mud and sediment mixed in it. Those who drink from the river water make different statements about the same thing at different times and different places, since their knowledge may be clouded by preconceived notions and prejudices. The other type is rainwater described in 30:48-50, that is pure, free from any contamination, with the highest degree of clarity and refinement. It is the water converted from dense vapours and clouds. This water is compared with the Divine Knowledge and Divine Revelation, which is pure and which purifies your essence for intimate Divine Converse (mukâlimahمكالمة ) with your Lord. The water descending from the One Most High is pure, and those who taste it make the same statements and do not differ; rather they confirm one another.
Divine Revelation is the ultimate source of knowledge
The All-Mighty has endowed each human being with two types of faculties; one is the rational faculty, whose source is the human intellect, and the other is the spiritual faculty, whose source is the human “heart” (qalbقلب , plural: qulûbقلوب ) (2:7; 6:46; 8:24; 22:46; 50:33). The issues that cannot be resolved with your rational faculty are unraveled by your spiritual faculty. According to Imâm Abû al-Qâsim Husain al-Râghib, Revelation is a certain knowledge that is received from an unknown source. Guidance through intellect is limited, but the guidance from Revelation brings to fore those dimensions that are beyond the grasp of your ordinary comprehension. Revelation thus compensates certain deficiencies in the laws of nature.
The All-Knowing (al-‘Alîmالعليم ) is the source of all knowledge that you (and all human beings) receive. He enables you to acquire knowledge through several sources and in many stages. They are, for example, instinct, intuition, comprehension, preliminary discrimination, feelings, ideas, thinking, reasoning, deliberation, inspiration (ilhâm), Revelation (wahî) and Divine Communication (mukâlimah). The acquired knowledge has three states, as mentioned in the Holy Qur’ân. They are: ‘ilm al-Yaqînعِلْمَ الْيَقِينِ , ‘ain al-Yaqîn عين الْيَقِينِ and haqq al-Yaqîn حقٌ الْيَقِينِ .
‘Ilm al-Yaqîn عِلْمَ الْيَقِينِ is the state of knowledge acquired through inference (102:5). This is the elementary state of knowledge that comes out of experience of causes and inference through logic and intellect, like how you can infer the presence of fire by seeing the smoke. This state of knowledge is exemplified in the Holy Qur’ân with these Words:
“(O people! your) vying with one another to excel in multiplying worldly possessions diverts you (from God and true values of life), Until (on your death) you embrace the graves. Nay, (you should never hanker after worldly gains, power and position,) you shall come to know in time (that you have been chasing a shadow). Nay, again (We repeat, never should you misuse your life of probation,) you shall come to know (the consequences of it) in time. No, never! If you only knew the consequences thereof with sure and certain knowledge (borne out of your experience and inference [‘ilm al-Yaqîn]” (102:1–5)
‘Ain al-Yaqîn عَيْنَ الْيَقِينِ is the knowledge acquired through sight (102:7). This is a higher state of knowledge, which comes from the subjective experience of nature and the laws of nature or is deduced from external facts, like how you can deduce (prove) the presence of the sun by seeing its rising. ‘Ain al-Yaqîn is the knowledge from the “eye of certainty,” which is illustrated in the Holy Qur’ân with these Words:
“You will certainly see the very Hell-Fire (in this present life by seeing the sad fate of the wicked). Again, you shall most certainly see it (in the Hereafter) with the eye of certainty [‘ain al-Yaqîn].” (102:6–7)
The events occurring to you after your death shall be opened to you, and you shall see them as if you are looking at them, and no doubt of any kind will be left for what you see.
Haqq al-Yaqîn حَقُّ الْيَقِينِ is the state of knowledge with perfect, true and absolute certainty. This is the highest state of knowledge (56:95), which is based on direct experience and taste, rather than by inference or by sight. In this final, highest stage, the All-Mighty manifests Himself in all His Glory and with His voice:
“But if he belongs to those who deny the truth and are steeped in error, then (he will be offered) boiling water for an entertainment, and burning in Hell. Verily, this (fact) is a perfect certainty [حَقُّ الْيَقِينِ –haqq al-Yaqîn] (not merely a certainty by inference or sight), Therefore glorify the name of your Lord, the Incomparably Great.” (56:92)
This verse refers to a knowledge that cannot be known to a human being without Divine Revelation. Divine Revelation is the only source for you to know something with perfect and true certainty (حَقُّ الْيَقِينِ), not merely a certainty by inference about that Reality Who is hidden (al-Haqîqat al-Ghaibiyyaالحقيقت الغيبية ). With this kind of knowledge, you feel divine existence from every direction and in every moment that you are conscious of His presence. This knowledge is imparted to you directly from above, and logical reasoning and the knowledge of nature are left far behind.
Deliverance from sin, which is a deed or a thought that causes disquiet in your heart and feelings of guilt in your mind, can only be achieved through guidance coming directly from Allâh’s guidance and not from intercession by someone. Righteousness, and sublime morals, having no poisonous adulteration of selfish desires, can only be obtained through worship and prayer while treading on the path as shown in the form of Revelation to the Prophets. Their guidance is the only true guidance through which these high qualities can come to you. Underneath the apparently pure exterior of some sermon readers, self-proclaimed religious guides, and ascetics, whose hearts are unaware of Divine Revelation, there is a lot of dirt. These guides misguide, as their inner condition is tainted with ugly traits; no sooner are they alone than they become prone to commit such misdeeds, which is clear evidence of their being far removed from the pure fountain of genuine morals. Jalâl al-Dîn Rûmî said: “No one can find the deliverance from sin without perfect certainty (حَقُّ الْيَقِينِ), for I know the inside stories of many an old and many a young man.”
The necessity of Divine Revelation
Some say that human intellect, your instinct, or your intuitive ecstatic perception can lead to Divine Knowledge and to a state of spiritual exaltation, and that there is no need for Divine Revelation. The impact of the human intellect, however, is limited. It gives knowledge only of nature’s phenomena through your physical senses. Such knowledge remains within the limitations of time and space. Through it you can neither easily understand life nor understand it with perfection. On the other hand, through your human instinct you can understand life more easily, because instinct is nurtured and perfected in life’s mold. But instinct also has its own limitations.
The intuitive, ecstatic perception called wijdân وجدانis yet a more developed faculty than either intellect or instinct; it is a faculty that could be considered cosmic intellect, or illuminated wisdom. It occupies an important place in Hinduism and Buddhism and even in early Christian monasticism. In the mid-centuries of Islam, the period of deviation, practices to reach the state of wijdân replaced worship in the retreats of errant sûfîs. Since wijdân also had some escapist aspects, the spark of piety in such sûfîs was extinguished, and they started to experience ecstasies and hallucinations that were often triggered by consumption of narcotics or by music or dance.
The self-reproaching spirit (nafs al-Lawwâmahنفس الوامة ) is the voice of your conscience, which becomes loud when an act of indecency is committed. It is the voice arising from the innermost recesses of the human mind, a voice worthy of being heeded. You receive guidance through it for setting up standards of good and evil. If this voice is kept alive, and if it is heeded, many knotty problems of morality can be unraveled through it. That is why the Holy Prophet (pbuh) is reported to have said: “A sin can be defined as a deed that causes disquiet in your heart.” However, the conscience of this voice alone is neither enough to purify the self nor is a reliable guide for us humans. Very often this voice is muted because of one’s constant inattention to it. Moreover, your ideas, sentiments, and emotions are shaped by your environment. When such ideas and inclinations become ingrained in the mind, one’s conscience is also cast into their mold, and then a person cannot understand or think in any manner counter to the environment in which he is brought up, and that environment may have corrupted the righteous voice of the conscience. In short, mere conscience is insufficient for attaining piety and God-Gnosis.
The human senses, intellect, wijdân, instinct, and the voice of the conscience are very limited, and the guidance provided by them to human beings cannot go beyond a certain stage in comprehending the hidden realties. What lies beyond this stage where you cannot reach? What lies hidden behind the veil beyond where your physical eyes cannot see, and where your intellect cannot perceive? What universes exist beyond the stars? Here fails all human intellect, here fail all your physical and logical powers. You get tired and lost if no further light and guidance can be provided. You are told:
“And (because He is our Creator) upon Allâh lies (the responsibility of) leading to the right path, for there are some (paths) deviating (from the right and moderate course and so they lead astray).” (16:9).
How wonderful is this Message, which creates hope in you. You start off with your perceptions, become aroused with lofty flights of your intellect, listen to the voice of nature, admit the existence of wijdân, recognize the human conscience; but above all these, you harken to the voice of your Lord: فَإِنِّي قَرِيبٌ ۖ أُجِيبُ دَعْوَةَ الدَّاعِ إِذَا دَعَانِ “I am nearby indeed, I answer the Prayer of the supplicant when he prays to Me” (2:186). Only this Voice leads you from what you think is the certainty (‘Ilm al-Yaqîn or ‘ain al-Yaqîn) to the real and perfect knowledge of truth with absolute certainty (haqq al-Yaqîn). The spring of life’s knowledge gushes out of this very haqq al-Yaqîn. The wings that enable you to fly high to the spiritual realms are these very wings of certainty that come directly from the Divine Revelation. It is this voice of certainty that leads you to the Presence of the All-Mighty in your very life. You do not put your hand in the fire, because you are certain that it will burn. You do not eat poison, because you are certain that it will kill you. Similarly, if there is a perfect certainty (haqq al-Yaqînالحقٌ اليقين ) in your heart about the existence of the All-Mighty, about His Awesomeness, His Magnificent Greatness, His Sovereignty, and His being the Master of the Day of Requital, then such certainty would definitely save you from fire and punishments in this very world as well as in the hereafter.
The extent of all possible realities is not confined only to the realities that you can perceive through your five senses. It would be foolish to assert that you admit to the existence of only those things that you can see with your eyes, or can taste with your tongue, or smell with your nose, or hear with your ears, or touch with your hands. Nor should your realities be limited to those that your intellect can deduce. Logic, too, in itself, is not free of errors. Even a sound logical argument is only as strong as the assumptions on which it rests. Many philosophers master logic, but in contrast to the natural sciences, which are founded on observations and measurements, and in contrast to Islamic theology, which is founded on the revelation of the Holy Qur’ân, moral philosophy has no sound foundation for axioms on which philosophers apply their logic. Therefore the morals and ethical standards advocated by philosophers and secular societies are subject to fashions and follow the currents of the zeitgeist. You need a guide who sets you on to the right path leading to the knowledge about your Creator. Human beings need such a guide whose vision and perceptions, whose understanding of this life and of the hereafter, are free of errors, a guide who can lead to perfect certainty, like this one, when he saw the Divine Manifestation, his
لَقَدْ رَأَىٰ مِنْ آيَاتِ رَبِّهِ الْكُبْرَىٰ مَا زَاغَ الْبَصَرُ وَمَا طَغَىٰ
“Eye deviated not (from the certainty of the Truth) nor did it wander away (from the invincible faith on which he stood). (It was the moment when) he saw the greatly important signs of his Lord”. (53:17–18)
You need the blessing and direction of Divine Revelation through such a chosen guide, because societies whose individuals are immersed in their own self-interests and whose ideological bases are resting on the prejudices of race and colour, on nationality and patriotism without moral guidance, are plagued by the exploitation of some groups by others. This lack of moral direction eventually leads to societal struggle along class and other lines of separation. The failures of colonialism, fascism, Nazism, communism, and apartheid are just a few recent examples of failed, misguided social ideologies. It is essential that a messenger with the strength of Divine Revelation be sent according to the Divine Law mentioned in 16:9 and that he should be assisted in this mission. You read:
رَبُّنَا الَّذِي أَعْطَىٰ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ خَلْقَهُ ثُمَّ هَدَىٰ
“Our Lord is He Who gives every creation its (proper) form and character and then guides them along the path” (20:50).
Thus, Divine Revelation is a human need. If you look closely, you find that both the physical and the spiritual systems of human beings operate under the same laws of nature. Just as He, the High, has provided for you according to your physical needs, similarly has He catered to the needs of your spirit and has provided means for you to meet those needs.
“Revelation” is a Divine Command
“And they question you about the revelation and the human soul. Say, The revelation and the soul is by the command of my Lord (because) little is the knowledge thereof that you have been given.” (17:85)
Divine Revelation is a Divine Command (42:52) and is therefore not subjected to any law that is known to human beings or to any unknown law of physics. It comes directly from the High, without going through the stages of reasoning, with a “sure and direct descent.” The universe is ruled by this very Command, and you cannot define the existence of the universe without Divine Command. You read وَأَوْحَىٰ فِي كُلِّ سَمَاءٍ أَمْرَهَا “And He assigned [أَوْحَىٰ] to each (heaven) its (relevant) function” (41:12). Similarly, in chapter 99, you read: يَوْمَئِذٍ تُحَدِّثُ أَخْبَارَهَا بِأَنَّ رَبَّكَ أَوْحَىٰ لَهَا “That Day she [the earth] will relate all her news (pertaining to every action done on it). For your Lord will have inspired [أَوْحَىٰ] her (to do so)” (99:4–5). You read at another place: وَأَوْحَىٰ رَبُّكَ إِلَى النَّحْلِ أَنِ اتَّخِذِي مِنَ الْجِبَالِ بُيُوتًا وَمِنَ الشَّجَرِ وَمِمَّا يَعْرِشُونَ “And your Lord inspired [أَوْحَىٰ] the bees (saying), Make your hives in the hills and in the trees and in the trellises which the people erect” (16:68). These places all use the word أَوْحَىٰ, whose root word wahâ, which stands for Divine Revelation, and in all these places there is a Divine Command.
Stages of Divine Revelation
Divine Revelation (17:85; 41:12; 42:51; 99:2–5) evolved in stages in the same manner as the human intellect evolved, till it covered all aspects of human life. In its perfection it covered the aspects to satisfy all human requirements. In it evolutionary stages it begins from its primitive form, the malaka fitrî (natural faculty; 99:5), wahî taskhî (instinctive inspiration; 16:68), wahî ikhtiâr (the inspiration to choose between good and evil; 91:8), nafs fî al-Rau (installment into the mind; 8:12), d‘â il al-Khair (calling to good), and it rises qualitatively to a level that can be considered as actual Revelation, from ru’ya sâliha (true dreams; 12:4), kashaf (visions; 2:259), wahî malfûz (Revelation with definite words; 20:38), and mukâlimah (Divine Discourse, dialogue with the All-Mighty; 20:11–45), wahî matlûw (Revelation that comes down in words with a message for many).
The very initial and crude form of Revelation is dreams that turn out to be true. They are called ru’ya sâliha. This type of Revelation can be compared with sunlight, which falls on all the inhabitants of the world. It falls on a heap of dirt as well as on a diamond, and according to the respective capabilities; its effect can be seen. Even the transgressor is not deprived of this. An example of this can be found in the Qur’ânic chapter Joseph (12:36; 12:43), where even a convicted criminal received a true dream, which was then interpreted by Joseph. The true dreams make it easy for “ordinary” people to accept the existence of Divine Revelation and so that no excuse is left not to follow the call of the Prophets. Such Revelations are sent to encourage you to tread the path of purity and righteousness.
Ru’ya sâliha or true dreams are the elementary stage of wahî. They are the exposition or the manifestation of some truth in a dream. This type of dream should not be confused with izghâth (confused dreams) and ahlâm (sexual dreams; see 12:44), nor with dreams that are influenced by diseases, unsatisfied desires, and other unconscious processes in the human mind. This difference has been known to Arab scholars for centuries, and they have coined different words for different qualities of dreams. In their attempts to interpret dreams, Western psychoanalysts and interpreters such as Thomas Brown (17th Century), Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung (19th Century), Calvin Hall (20th Century) and others have come forward with theories and explanations that have already been dealt with in detail in the past by Muslim scholars through much more comprehensive analyses. Nablûsî, Ibn ‘Abbâs , Khâlid Isfahânî, Ibn Shâhîn, and Abû Sa‘îd Wais are some of Muslim analysts who excelled in this field (see Ta’tîr al-Anâm by Nablûsî). Al-Kindi (Alkindus) (801–873 CE) wrote a treatise on dream interpretation: On Sleep and Dreams. On consciousness studies Al-Farâbî (872–951 CE) wrote On the Cause of Dreams. In The Canon of Medicine Avicenna extended the theory of temperaments to encompass “emotional aspects, mental capacity, moral attitudes, self-awareness, movements and dreams”. Ibn Khaldûn (732–808 AH/1332–1406 CE) wrote the following on dream interpretation: Often, we may deduce [the existence of] that high spiritual world, and the essences it contains, from visions and things we had not been aware of while awake but which we find in our sleep and which are brought to our attention in it and which, if they are true [dreams], conform with actuality. We thus know that they are true and come from the world of Truth. “Confused dreams,” on the other hand, are pictures of the imagination that are stored inside by perception and to which the ability to think is applied, after [man] has retired from sense perception. (Muqaddimah, translated by F. Rosenthal)
The vast world of ru’ya sâliha has not been correctly grasped by Western thinkers and psychologists. Ru’ya sâliha have a direct relationship with wahî and ilhâm but have nothing to do with dreams that result from disturbed minds. A most definitive statement about dreams has been given by the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), who said that dreams are of three kinds: self-suggestion, satanic instigation (takhfîf al-shaitân), and glad tidings from Allâh (bushrâ min Allâh). Ru’ya sâliha have their base in human nature. They are a special faculty of Prophets and Saints, and their true interpretation and meaning are taught to them: You can read, “(Remember the time) when Joseph said to his father, My dear father! I have seen (in a vision) eleven stars and the sun and the moon. I saw them falling down prostrate (before God) because of me” (12:4). The interpretation of his dream was at once understood by his father, Jacob, who advised him not to narrate his dream to his brothers.
Kashaf كشفis a form of Revelation higher in grade than the true dream. Literally, the root kashafa كشَفَmeans “to open” or “to unveil.” Kashaf is an experience wherein a person in a state of consciousness and wakefulness enters a spiritual world and gets information about some truths from the All-Mighty. This is the kind of a dream that occurs within a wakeful, conscious state. Normally, the physical eye cannot see beyond a veil, and the physical ear cannot hear a distant voice, but in the state of a kashaf, these veils are lifted, and the distance of time and space are overcome. In the Books of Tradition, there is a mention of a kashaf of ‘Umar Ibn al-Khattâb(rz), the second Caliph. While delivering a sermon in the mosque of Madînah, he suddenly shouted twice, “O Sâriyâ! Look towards the mountain!” All those who were listening to his sermon witnessed his cry. Sâriyâ was the commander of the Muslim forces fighting in Syria, hundreds of miles away, who reported to his troops that he had heard the voice of ‘Umar(rz) warning him of his enemy from the side of the mountain. His troops witnessed that Sâriyâ told them what he heard. He obeyed the voice of ‘Umar(rz) and delivered the Muslim forces from an attack from the side of the mountain. Such visions are backed by historical evidence, and none should dismiss them as fables of the past. Nor should they be dismissed as visual or acoustic hallucinations, because their quality is quite different. The Holy Qur’ân describes a vision of Ezekiel in the following words:
أَوْ كَالَّذِي مَرَّ عَلَىٰ قَرْيَةٍ وَهِيَ خَاوِيَةٌ عَلَىٰ عُرُوشِهَا قَالَ أَنَّىٰ يُحْيِي هَـٰذِهِ اللَّهُ بَعْدَ مَوْتِهَا ۖ فَأَمَاتَهُ اللَّهُ مِائَةَ عَامٍ ثُمَّ بَعَثَهُ ۖ قَالَ كَمْ لَبِثْتَ ۖقَالَ لَبِثْتُ يَوْمًا أَوْ بَعْضَ يَوْمٍ ۖ قَالَ بَل لَّبِثْتَ مِائَةَ عَامٍ فَانظُرْ إِلَىٰ طَعَامِكَ وَشَرَابِكَ لَمْ يَتَسَنَّهْ ۖ وَانظُرْ إِلَىٰ حِمَارِكَ وَلِنَجْعَلَكَ آيَةً لِّلنَّاسِ ۖ وَانظُرْ إِلَى الْعِظَامِ كَيْفَ نُنشِزُهَا ثُمَّ نَكْسُوهَا لَحْمًا ۚ فَلَمَّا تَبَيَّنَ لَهُ قَالَ أَعْلَمُ أَنَّ اللَّهَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ
“Or consider the case of him [Ezekiel] who passed by a town [Jerusalem as it was left in desolation by Nebuchadnezzar] and it had fallen in upon its roofs. He said, when will Allâh restore this (town) to life after its destruction? So (in his vision) Allâh kept him in a state of death for a hundred years, then He raised him (to life). Then (God) said, how long have you stayed (in this state of death)? He replied, I may have stayed a day or a part of a day (in this state). (God) said, (Yes this too is correct) but (as you have witnessed in your vision) you have stayed for a hundred years. Now look at your food and drink, they have escaped the action of time, and look at your donkey (too, years have not passed over it). And (We have made you visualize all this) that We may make you a sign to the people. And look at the (dead) bones how We set them together and then clothe them with flesh. Thus when the fact of the matter became clear to him, he said, I know that Allâh is the Possessor of full power to do all that He will” (2:259).
The highest stage of kashaf is described in the Holy Qur’ân, as experienced by the Holy Prophet (pbuh):
“Glory be to Him Who carried His servant (Muhammad) by night from the Holy Mosque (at Makkah) to the Distant Mosque (at Jerusalem), the precincts of which (too) We have blessed, that We might show him some of Our signs” (17:1).
The Books of Tradition describe in detail this visionary experience by the Holy Prophet (pbuh), as narrated by him. Another kashaf, in its ultimate perfection, is described in the Holy Qur’ân in chapter 53. An English translation can never reach the sublimity, the power, the nobility, and the mighty Glory that is embedded in the original Divine Words:
وَلَقَدْ رَآهُ نَزْلَةً أُخْرَىٰ عِندَ سِدْرَةِ الْمُنتَهَىٰ عِندَهَا جَنَّةُ الْمَأْوَىٰ إِذْ يَغْشَى السِّدْرَةَ مَا يَغْشَىٰ مَا زَاغَ الْبَصَرُ وَمَا طَغَىٰ لَقَدْ رَأَىٰ مِنْ آيَاتِ رَبِّهِ الْكُبْرَىٰ
“And, of course, he [the Prophet] saw Him (in His another manifestation to him) yet another time. It was near the Sidrah, which stands at the farthest end (of knowledge). Near where also is the Garden that is the real eternal abode. (This was) when the sublime thing [the Divine Manifestation] which was to cover Sidrah had covered it. (When he saw the Divine Manifestation) his eye deviated not (from the certainty of the Truth) nor did it wander away (from the invincible faith on which he stood). (It was the moment when) he saw the greatest signs of his Lord” (53:13–18).
Wahî malfûz is a Revelation spoken in Divine Words. It is a Revelation in which the Words of the All-Mighty come down directly from the Source. There is a mystery how they descend. The recipient not only feels that his ear has heard these Words but also feels their descent in his mind. At times, Divine Words manifest on the tongue, and the recipient begins to utter these Words and then keeps on repeating them. Sometimes the eyes become the recipient of Divine Revelation, and written sentences appear before one’s eyes. Sometimes all the five senses are the recipient of the Divine Revelation. Thus, this form of Revelation has many ways of manifesting itself. We read:
وَأَوْحَيْنَا إِلَىٰ أُمِّ مُوسَىٰ أَنْ أَرْضِعِيهِ ۖ فَإِذَا خِفْتِ عَلَيْهِ فَأَلْقِيهِ فِي الْيَمِّ وَلَا تَخَافِي وَلَا تَحْزَنِي ۖ إِنَّا رَادُّوهُ إِلَيْكِ وَجَاعِلُوهُ مِنَ الْمُرْسَلِينَ
“And We revealed to the mother of Moses (saying), Give him [Moses] suck. But when you have fear about him [his life] cast him (placing him in a chest) into the river and entertain no fear, nor grief (about his welfare). Verily, We shall restore him to you and shall make him (one) of the Messengers” (28:7).
Sometime the Revelation is brought by an “angel” who appears in the shape of a human being. In the account of Mary you read:
فَأَرْسَلْنَا إِلَيْهَا رُوحَنَا فَتَمَثَّلَ لَهَا بَشَرًا سَوِيًّا قَالَتْ إِنِّي أَعُوذُ بِالرَّحْمَـٰنِ مِنكَ إِن كُنتَ تَقِيًّا قَالَ إِنَّمَا أَنَا رَسُولُ رَبِّكِ لِأَهَبَ لَكِ غُلَامًا زَكِيًّا قَالَتْ أَنَّىٰ يَكُونُ لِي غُلَامٌ وَلَمْ يَمْسَسْنِي بَشَرٌ وَلَمْ أَكُ بَغِيًّا قَالَ كَذَٰلِكِ قَالَ رَبُّكِ هُوَ عَلَيَّ هَيِّنٌ ۖ وَلِنَجْعَلَهُ آيَةً لِّلنَّاسِ وَرَحْمَةً مِّنَّا ۚ وَكَانَ أَمْرًا مَّقْضِيًّا
“Then We sent to her [Mary] Our (angel of) revelation and he presented himself to her in the form of a perfect and well-proportioned man. Mary said, I invoke the Most Gracious (God) to defend me from you. If you guard the least against evil (leave me alone). He said, I am but a messenger of your Lord. I give you (glad tidings of) a most pure son. She said, How can I bear a son while no man (has married me and) has yet touched me, nor have I been unchaste. (The angel) said, So the fact is (just as you describe). Your Lord has said, “It is easy for Me. (We shall do it when the time comes) so that We make him a sign and a (source of) blessing from Us for the people. It is a matter ordained.” (19:17–20).
Mukâlimâh is Divine Discourse. This type of Revelation takes the form of a dialogue with the All-Mighty. The Holy Qur’ân cites a marvelous example of such Divine Discourse in 20:11-46: In this condition Moses talks to the All-Mighty as if he were talking to his companion (20:10–46). Divine Words are marked by their elegant perspicuity, eloquence, majesty, relish, and beauty, and the power of Divinity can be felt shining in them. The recipient enjoys an indescribable feeling of happiness, liveliness, and contentment (27:7; 28:29; 89:27). During such spiritual encounters, the perception of time and space disappears, and events and incidents are witnessed that may actually be spread out over centuries.
Wahî Matlûw – a Revelation that comes down in Words containing a message for many. The Holy Qur’ân in its essence and meanings, its formation and arrangement, its language, its words, sentences, and diction is wahî matlûw. The Prophets (pbuh) position was only that of a receptacle, and his function was to convey this Revelation to the people, in total, in its complete form.
وَنَزَّلْنَا عَلَيْكَ الْكِتَابَ تِبْيَانًا لِّكُلِّ شَيْءٍ وَهُدًى وَرَحْمَةً وَبُشْرَىٰ لِلْمُسْلِمِينَ
“And (that is why) We have revealed to you (O Prophet) this perfect Book explaining every (basic) thing and (which serves as) a guidance (for humankind) and a mercy (from Us), and (gives) good tidings to those who submit (to God)” (16:89).
It is not the Holy Prophet (pbuh) who makes use of the Revelation; rather, it is the Revelation and the Sender of the Revelation that is making use of the Holy Prophet (pbuh). The Holy Prophet (pbuh) was unable to resist the great force of the Divine Words flowing from his mouth. There were no personal views or wishes of the Prophet (pbuh) in it. “A great Messenger [Muhammad] from Allâh reciting (to them) written leaves of the Book, free from all impurities, consisting of eternal laws and commandments” (98:2–3). Its Source was the same, whose depth no one has been able to reach: “It is from One All-Wise, All-Aware (God)” (11:1); and “This (Qur’ân) is a clear exposition (of the truth) for humankind (to follow) and a (means to) guidance, and an exhortation to those who guard against evil (and are dutiful to God and people)” (3:138). People of veil deny it. Allâh says of such: “And they strongly rejected them [the signs] out of spite and arrogance, although their minds were convinced of (the truth in) them. Look, then how (evil) was the end of those who acted corruptly” (27:14).
It is stated in a Tradition (Hadîth-i-Qudsî) regarding the Holy Prophet (pbuh), that Allâh said: “Were it not for your sake, I would not have created the heavens [laulâka le mâ khalaqtu al-Aflâq].” The recipient was transported into another realm, and veils were lifted between his human mind and the Divine Knowledge, and the Divine Realities were disclosed to him directly and not through his senses. His physical and his spiritual realms become one. It was as if he were standing before the All-Mighty and his soul had merged with the Divinity. When you call the Holy Qur’ân the Word of Allâh, its significance is much greater, higher, and clearer than what the Christians conceive of when they call the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John the “words of God.” Christians acknowledge that the Gospels are the words of the authors of these books, but they believe the inherent meanings of them were conveyed by God to these men, who provided the words for those meanings. The Holy Ghost supposedly aided the writers of the Gospels in their composition. He did not reveal the words themselves or the style of composition. Therefore, the words of the New Testament cannot be considered as being revealed by the All-Mighty.
Qur’ân – The Most Exalted Revelation
As the universe has evolved gradually and continues to evolve, so does His Self-Disclosure continued to evolve in stages. Likewise the human mind evolves, so does the divine teaching. It develops in stages in order to cover the ever-emerging aspects of human life. The Qur’ânic Revelation is the most perfect of all Revelations. No other Revelation equals it in its purity of communication and decisiveness. You read:
وَالنَّجْمِ إِذَا هَوَىٰ مَا ضَلَّ صَاحِبُكُمْ وَمَا غَوَىٰ وَمَا يَنطِقُ عَنِ الْهَوَىٰ إِنْ هُوَ إِلَّا وَحْيٌ يُوحَىٰ عَلَّمَهُ شَدِيدُ الْقُوَىٰ ذُو مِرَّةٍ فَاسْتَوَىٰ وَهُوَ بِالْأُفُقِ الْأَعْلَىٰ ثُمَّ دَنَا فَتَدَلَّىٰ فَكَانَ قَابَ قَوْسَيْنِ أَوْ أَدْنَىٰ فَأَوْحَىٰ إِلَىٰ عَبْدِهِ مَا أَوْحَىٰ
“I call to witness every part of the Qur’ân when it is revealed, That your comrade (Muhammad) has neither deviated (from true guidance in his practices) nor has he erred (in his beliefs). He does not say anything out of (his own) fanciful desire. This (Qur’ân) is nothing but (pure) revelation, revealed (to him by God). The Lord of Mighty Powers has taught him (this discourse). (The Lord) Whose powers become manifest in manifold and frequent ways, with the result that he [this Messenger of God] attained perfection and fullest vigor (both intellectually and physically). And he attained to the zenith of heights (in his spiritual ascension). Then he drew near to Him and afterwards he descended (to humankind, for their guidance). So that he became (as it were) one chord to two bows or closer still. Then He revealed this excellent and mighty (Qur’ânic) revelation which He had to send to His servant (Muhammad)” (53:1–10)
“As to me, I swear by the places and times of the revelation of the portions of the Qur’ân; and behold! It is a mighty oath, if you only care to know. That this is most surely a Holy Qur’ân (bestowing bounteous blessings of God)” (56:75–77)
The Qur’ân in its entirety is the Word of God. Its source does not lie in the Vedas, the Zend, the Payand, the Torah or the Gospels. The achievement of human knowledge and intellect cannot compete with the exaltedness, grandeur and quality of this Book, and no intellectual brilliance and vastness of knowledge can be on par with the excellence of this Book. There is no human effort involved in its creation, neither by way of thought, nor by endeavors, nor by words. It is not a stream of thought nor is it the inspiration of a poet.
There is a big claim in the Book of Allâh, and this claim stands for all times, as it stands today. It says:
قُل لَّئِنِ اجْتَمَعَتِ الْإِنسُ وَالْجِنُّ عَلَىٰ أَن يَأْتُوا بِمِثْلِ هَـٰذَا الْقُرْآنِ لَا يَأْتُونَ بِمِثْلِهِ وَلَوْ كَانَ بَعْضُهُمْ لِبَعْضٍ ظَهِيرًا
“Say, If there should join together all human beings and the jinn to produce the like of this Qur’ân, they would never be able to produce anything like it, even though some of them might be the helpers of others.” (17:88)
Similar challenges are repeated in verses 10:38, 11:13, 17:88, and 52:33 and stand for all people. The Holy Qur’ân is a living Book. It is a luminous Lamp, a glorious Reality, an eternal Truth, and a Law that will never be abrogated. It has no parallels, neither in its essence nor in its history. No book can ever compete with it. It is a complete code of life and a universal net of wisdom, which provides all the necessary ingredients for the completion and fulfilment of human intellectual and practical requirements. It is full of articles of belief as well as sermons, admonitions, discipline, laws, and regulations.
وَإِن كُنتُمْ فِي رَيْبٍ مِّمَّا نَزَّلْنَا عَلَىٰ عَبْدِنَا فَأْتُوا بِسُورَةٍ مِّن مِّثْلِهِ وَادْعُوا شُهَدَاءَكُم مِّن دُونِ اللَّهِ إِن كُنتُمْ صَادِقِينَ
“And if you have any doubt as to (the truthfulness of the Qur’ân) which We have revealed to Our servant [Muhammad] from time to time, produce a single Sûrah [Qur’ânic chapter] like any of (the chapters of) this, summoning (to your assistance) all your helpers (that you have) beside Allâh, if you are right (in your doubts), (2:23).
The sublime simplicity of the Holy words of the Qur’ân, its piercing force into your human mind, its enchanting beauty and melody of its verses, the nobility of its call, and the magnanimity of its Message are unmatched and cannot be reproduced by human effort. Even a single word or its component, such as definiteness, indefiniteness, repetition, ellipsis, or similar facet, when omitted from the verse, will often render the verse meaningless or diminish its impact. In addition, a word shifted from its original position or replaced by a synonym will alter the entire subject meaning and the beauty of the verse; no congruity will be left, and the “thread of rough jute will patch the fine silken brocade.” It is the grammatical structure of each verse that when taken together gives the idea of what is being conveyed (- ma‘ânî al-Nahw).
The Holy Qur’ân is inimitable, because its verses employ the most eloquent words in ideal form and composition (ahsan nuzum al-Talîf). Every Qur’ânic Word is interconnected to provide a precise meaning. It frequently uses such literary devices as emphatic statements (mubâlighah), contrasting pairs (mutâbiqah), digression (istidrâd), and others, all appropriate for the basic aim of conveying the message (Abû Bakr Muhammad Ibn al-Tayyib al-Baqillânî in I’jaz al-Qur’ân, Ahmad Sakar [ed.], Dâr al-Ma‘ârif, Egypt). When you reflect on the sublime selection of these words and their perfect grammatical order, you sink deeper into the Divine Realities and you may fall down on your face before your Lord (17:109).
Continuity of the Divine Revelation
Some believe that Divine Revelation (wahî) ceased. With such a belief, these people strip Allâh of His Attribute of Speech and dethrone Him from those Attributes that make Him a Living Deity. They make Him mute, destitute of the power of speech, and incapable of revealing any knowledge. They have not enough faith to believe that their God can reveal His existence and His Divinity to any human being of His choice. Even among the Muslims, believe that with the advent of the last of Prophets – the Holy Prophet (pbuh) the doors of Revelations and Divine Self-Disclosure – wahî and ilhâm, have been closed forever. In the eyes of some Muslims, a person who is the recipient of Divine Words cannot announce Allâh’s Words to the world, or if he does announce them, he must be punished for blasphemy.
Human speech, actions, and words make you known to others. Is it not disgraceful to Living Truth to assert that He, with His limitless Attributes and Powers, no longer speaks to humans and that no relationship can exist between a mortal and the Eternal and Ever-Living Allâh? How can you seal up Allâh’s Mouth and His power of Speech? Is it not true that there are some hearts that have an attraction, a desire, and a love for their Creator that demands nearness and sweet Converse? The Most Gracious, the Ever Merciful, has certainly inspired the hearts of His servants with untold eagerness for Him and has drawn them close to His Love, affection, and devotion. To propose that in such a condition, the Ever Merciful (al-Rahîm) would not desire to converse with them would be the equivalent of saying that all their love, devotion, and worship were in vain and that all their eagerness were only one-sided. The recipients of Divine Revelation are conclusive evidence that your soul has been fashioned for the delicious Converse with your Supreme Creator. Unless Allâh provides solace by His Words, the mere supplications, worships, formal Prayers, and admiration of His handiworks alone cannot provide the real comfort being sought after by the seeker.
You are inclined through your innate nature to love piety and virtue and to hate evil and unrighteousness. You have not inherited any eternal sin. The Creator has created you in the “finest make and the best proportions with enormous capabilities for all-round advancement through the process of evolution” (95:4), and it is in consideration of these capabilities (لَقَدْ خَلَقْنَا الْإِنسَانَ فِي أَحْسَنِ تَقْوِيمٍ) that Allâh draws you so powerfully to His love, affection, and devotion. Allâh is the Being Who has ever called humankind to Himself by announcing:
وَإِذَا سَأَلَكَ عِبَادِي عَنِّي فَإِنِّي قَرِيبٌ ۖ أُجِيبُ دَعْوَةَ الدَّاعِ إِذَا دَعَانِ ۖ فَلْيَسْتَجِيبُوا لِي وَلْيُؤْمِنُوا بِي لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْشُدُونَ
“And When My servants ask you concerning Me (tell them) I am nearby indeed. I answer the prayer of the supplicant when he prays to Me, so they should respond to My call, and believe in Me (that I possess all these Attributes) so that they may proceed in the right way” (2:186).
“I am nearby indeed” is what He says, and He still says these Words if anyone would listen. He speaks to His favoured ones and bestows satisfaction and contentment upon their hearts with His majestic and delicious Words. He listens to them and responds to them, and in hearing their supplications, He informs them of their acceptance.
It is only through Allâh’s verbal manifestation that you acquire a true living Faith and that a new relationship is established between you and your Creator. Your inner darkness is dispelled, and a wonderful change becomes evident in your heart. The All-Merciful ignites in His servant the “Light of Knowledge” (nûr al-‘Ilm نُور العلم). The Divine Converse (kalâmكلام ) does not automatically arise through seeking, asking, or formal Prayers. The guaranteed recompense of sincere seeking and asking and Prayers will be the “Gardens of Paradise” in the hereafter, but Divine Speech is a blessing, and He blesses His servant with it as a gift without being asked. You cannot demand from Allâh Revelation because of your nobility or heritage, nor can you earn it by virtue of your deeds. His Self-Disclosure is a sheer gift and Grace, which He gives to whomsoever He wishes among His servants (30:48). No human being, nor any church or organization, can judge the nobility or saintliness of a person. Only the Ever-Merciful judges through His own measure who it is that is noble (53:32), and it is He alone who chooses in His Judgment with whom He talks.
Our Creator is kind to us, for He has left the door of Sainthood ( – walâyat) open. Sainthood will not end. Only the legislating prophethood (- nabûwwat) and apostleship (risâlat) has ended, but not sainthood. Divine Self-Disclosure (wahî-i-ilâhî) and the Lordly Sending Down (anzâl al-Rabbânîأنزال الرباني ) cannot end, since the preservation of entire cosmos (hifz al-‘Âlamحِفظ العالم ) depends on it. The door of Allâh’s blessings of Divine Converse has always been open, and it shall remain open. It is open in this age, just as it was open in the past, in the age of Noah, Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, his mother, Aaron, Jesus, his mother Mary, and his disciples, and maybe also Laozi (of the Dao De Jing), Confucius, Buddha, Rama, Krishna, and others whom you do not know, and finally, of course, Muhammad (pbuh) and his Companions and reformers (mujaddadîn and muhaddathîn(, and so many other men and women of the ummah of the Holy Prophet (pbuh).
Divine Disclosure is not limited to Prophets
Allâh created the human being in the finest make and the best proportions (95:4) and taught him the art of intelligent and clear speech and reason (55:2-3). These faculties set him apart from the rest of His creation on this earth. Not only this, Allâh breathed into him His Spirit (32:9) which made him capable of being the recipient of the Divine words. Now this human being who carries His Spirit feels love for Him, seeks His nearness and a desire to hear His voice and longs for His glimpse, like a lover who wants to reach his beloved, like Moses when he spoke: My Lord! Reveal yourself to me that I may look at you (7:143). Such a yearning cannot be left unattended, without guidance, speech and sight. Now, if the Creator did not guide you, did not pay heed to your supplications, did not open for you who are knocking at His door, and did not cover you with His Love, He would be cruel and could not claim that He is al-Rahîm and al-Wadûd, the One full of Mercy and Love. Either you would have to deny His existence, or you must accept His Mercifulness, His Graciousness, His Power of Speech, His Power of listening to and answering your supplications, and His Power of Converse (kalâm; see 28:31–34). Therefore, attending to you is a requirement of His Attribute.
He is invisible but manifests Himself to His chosen servants. Just as He hears, so does He speak. To whomsoever He wants to speak to, He discloses Himself. He sends His Revelation to His chosen ones because of their yearning for Him and there always exists a person who is “more pleasing to Him” (89:27–30) because of his yearning. “It is He Who sends down clear signs to His servant” (57:9). The All-Mighty is the Nourisher to Perfection of all the worlds (Rabb al-‘Âlâmîn), both in the physical and in the spiritual sense. His physical and spiritual nurturing (Rabûbîyyat) is not limited to a particular creation. Revelation (wahî) is a special manifestation of Divine Rabûbiyyat that is not restricted to any particular period of time or to any particular people or race. It is manifested in every period to His selected servants from among all nations. To believe that the process of Revelation has stopped after such and such a Prophet, or that this blessing was limited to one chosen people or one chosen language, amounts to rejecting His universal Lordship.
Revelation is possible only through “Muhammadan” Light
The Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is the last of all the Prophets. With him ends the Divine Rulings, and no further modification or addition can be made. He is the khâtim al-Nabbiyîn, “the Seal of the Prophets” (33:40), and nothing can enter through this seal without breaking it. He is the last of the long chain of Prophets. After him, the Saints (ʾauliyâʾ) and reformers (mujaddadîn) are the recipients of Divine Reports (akhbâr), where Divine Providence discloses to them according to their needs and capacities. They become recipients of the Divine Revelation only through the “Muhammadan” heritage and “Muhammadan Light,” and they can follow only the Divine Laws revealed by the Holy Prophet (pbuh).
No exalted level of Divine Revelation (wahi) is possible to anyone “who does not accept (the call of) one calling to Allâh” (46:32) and who rejects the Message of Allâh given to the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Today the blessing of wahi and Divine Discourse is reserved exclusively for the followers of the Holy Prophet (pbuh). The door of Divine Revelation (wahi) through the Light of Moses was closed by the advent of Jesus, and the door of Divine Revelation from the Light of Jesus was closed by the advent of Muhammad (pbuh). Though you read in the Holy Qur’ân that “those who follow the Jewish faith, the Christians and the Sabians, whosoever (of these truly) believes in Allâh and the Last Day and acts righteously shall have their reward with their Lord” (2:62), these rewards do not include special divine favours that are reserved for the followers of the Holy Prophet (pbuh). If you reject the messengership of Muhammad (pbuh), you will be denied the great blessings of Converse with Him, and if there is a false claimant to Divine Discourse or Revelation, he will be a liar in the eyes of Allâh and be subjected to His punishment (69:44–47).
Types of Revelation granted to Saints
Mujaddadîn are the Reformers of the age who are the appointees (ma‘mûr) of Allâh, selected by the All-Mighty for the reformation of the community (ummah) of Muhammad (pbuh). They are the imâms of their time. According to the sayings of the Holy Prophet (pbuh), his ummah will be blessed every hundred years with such Appointees. Having passed through all stages of sulûk, (the sûfî term for a spiritual stage of a sâlik, a searcher of Truth), they reach the stage of finâ fil-rasûl, the stage of being lost in the person of the Holy Prophet (pbuh). On the one hand, they have a tremendous love for the All-Mighty; on the other hand, they have a tremendous passion for the reformation and welfare of the ummah of Muhammad (pbuh). These persons are shown their spiritual station and divine office (muqâm) by God. They enjoy the honour of conversing with the All-Mighty. Their revealed prophecies enjoy the status of the “unveiled of the unseen.” Anyone who calls their claims fabrications is held accountable by Allâh and is liable for punishment.
These reformers are positioned in the middle, between the Prophet (pbuh) and their ummah, the followers of the Prophets (pbuh). There is only a thin line of difference between these persons and the Prophets of Allâh. In the case of the Prophets, the reality that is called a “miracle” is termed karâmat, the reality that is called “innocence and chastity” is termed mahfûziyyat (being secured and guarded), and the reality that is called nabûwwat (the prophethood) is termed muhaddathiyyat (being honoured with Converse with the All-Mighty). Though they are not Prophets, they wear the cloak of zallî nabûwwat (reflective prophethood), because perfect walâyat (sainthood) is a reflective prophethood. Ibn al-‘Arabî coined a special term for them. He called their walâyat nabûwwat ‘amma, common prophethood (Ibn al-‘Arabî in Fatûhât al-Makîyya 73:9). Shaikh ‘Abdul Qâdir al-Jilânî said: “The Prophets are given the name Prophet [nabî] or Apostle [rasûl], but we are given the title of muhaddathiyyat” (Saif al-Rahmânî by Syed Muhammad Makkî). Imâm Abd al-Wahâb Shairânî said that nabûwwat mutliqa continues (see Al-Bawâqî al-Jawâhir 2:35). Jalâl al-Dîn Rûmî said in his Persian couplet (Mathnawî Daftar 5): “O Disciple! He is the prophet of this time, because the Light of prophethood emanates from him. So try to excel in service and obedience, in order to attain prophethood within the ummah.” There are many Muslim scholars who are of the same opinion (for example, Muftî Kifâyatullâh, President of the Jamî‘at ‘Ulemâ Hind, in Majalas al-Ahrâr; Muhammad Ismâ‘îl Shahîd Dehlavî; Shabbîr Ahmad Uthmânî in Al-Sha‘ab; Muftî Muhammad Shâfî‘ in Khatam Nabûwwat; and Muhammad Idrîs Kandhalvî in Masku al-Khitâm). They have termed these persons “non-law-bearing Prophets.”
Manifest prophethood (nabûwwat-i-zâhirî) has come to an end, as the Holy Prophet (pbuh) said: “There will be no Prophet after me.” But the hidden (bâtinî) spirit of prophethood has not come to an end. Muhaddathiyyat and walâyat contain strong aspects of prophethood. Those Saints can be called heirs of the Messengers of Allâh. In spite of the prestige and honour they enjoy in divine court, and in spite of the fact that Divine Revelation rains upon them, they do not belong to the category of the Prophets (zumrâh anbiyâ) in the strict sense. They are members of the category of Saints. Their Revelation (wahî walâyat) is not identical with the prophetic Revelations. Ibn Asâkar narrated from Anas that the Holy Prophet (pbuh) said, “There has certainly been no Prophet in the past except that there shall be a like of them in my ummah.” In the context of what has been said previously, you know the claim of Mujjaddid Hadzrat Mu‘înuddîn Chishtî about his likeness to Jesus: “Every moment the Holy Spirit shines within Mu‘înuddîn. Though I do not proclaim it, but I have become the second Jesus” (Chishtî).
According to Islamic tradition, the word rasûl, or nabî, is used for Prophet, a person who conveys a Divine Law, or the one who abrogates some earlier Divine Commandment and replaces it with a new one and who is not ummatî or a follower of any other Prophet. It is therefore not appropriate to use the term nabî for muhaddithin, mujaddidin, or walîullahs, because it may confuse the common Muslim understanding of the word nabî. Revelation granted to the Prophets (wahî nabûwwat) is a special category of Revelation that is granted only to the Prophets. The Holy Qur’ân mentions the names of some of these Prophets, but not all of them (40:78); it requires from you not only the belief in the Holy Prophet of Islam (pbuh) but in all of the Prophets of Allâh (2:4) sent to all nations all over the world. The doctrine of belief in all the Prophets is taught repeatedly in the Holy Qur’ân (2:4, 177; 3:84; 42:13). Now, rejection of the Prophets of Allâh, or calling any one of them a liar, renders a Muslim a disbeliever (kâfir), according to the teachings of the Holy Qur’ân. On the other hand rejection or refusal of a muhaddith or a mujaddid or a Saint does not render any Muslim a kâfir, although calling such a person a liar creates undue mischief and may bring about divine displeasure on the accuser.
All Prophets, the Saints, and others who have received Revelation from Allâh made the same statement about Allâh and His absolute Unity. They have not differed. They have confirmed one another. Water from the sky is always the same when it descends, free from all impurities. You should understand and grasp their knowledge, since they have received this knowledge from your Lord.
Revelation is unasked Divine reward of righteousness
You have been created for attaining to the true Gnosis and for being imbued with hues of those Divine Attributes, the knowledge of which has been given to you in the Holy Qur’ân. It is because of this very special relationship of the Creator with His creation, whom He created in the finest make (95:4), that the angels received the Divine Command, “Make obeisance to Adam” (2:34). Spiritual insight and God-Gnosis can be achieved only through righteousness, and the unasked-for reward of that is Revelation, with its different stages on which the servant has no claim. Treading on the road of rectitude and piety (taqwâ; 2:2) with other heights of good morals, and avoidance of evils, leads to the spiritual experience in the form of Divine Revelation. You reach that special stage at which you can comprehend the reality of Divine Communication. Its witnesses are the apostles, the mujaddadîn (reformers), the Sûfîs – the Saints, and thousands among the true followers of the Messengers. All these were imbued with gnosis and knowledge and bear testimony through their personal experiences that Allâh, the High and Exalted, communicates with them through dreams, visions, and Revelation, and there are occasions when they hear their Creators delicious Words.
Spiritual experience of the recipient of Revelation
The process of wahî takes place when the person is awake and is in a state of extraordinarily aroused perception, and in spiritual and physical purification. Without the intervention of any physical cause a state of transportation and drowsiness overtakes him and the recipient enters into a state of deep trance and feels the special attraction and the love of the All-Mighty and loses all consciousness of his physical thinking self. There is a lot of sweetness and feelings of love in this discourse accompanied by a strong yearning to have a look at His Lord. He forgets his own self and his five senses go into a state of abeyance. The slate of the conscious mind is wiped clean. With the disappearance of consciousness comes a new consciousness, which is more powerful and is felt as a real state. In this state you delve deeply into the mysteries of the Being. You do not consider this state to be unreal as compared with the real world you were in before, nor do you consider it to be a figment of your imagination (see 20:11–46). There is much sweetness and feelings of love in this Divine Discourse, accompanied by a strong yearning to have a look at His Lord. There exists no human language, no writing, and no speech other than the Divine Speech that can describe this state to a non-recipient.
The veils that cover the servant from his Lord may be many or may be few, each time the same or each time different. This explains the diverse reactions of the servant while receiving a Revelation. The Holy Prophet (pbuh) described that sometimes the Revelation came down to him “like a chain crossing on the pebbles.” Sometimes it was the Angel Gabriel (- Jibra’îl) who brought it down (26:193–194). This was an extremely intense experience for him. He felt very cold and would shiver on hot summer days; sometimes on cold days, he would perspire. ‘Âishah(rz), the wife of the Holy Prophet (pbuh), described the physical condition of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) while he was receiving Revelation. She says that he was lying with his head on her thighs when a Revelation came. She felt a very heavy, almost unbearable pressure on her thighs, and she thought for a while that they were going to fracture. She also described how the face of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) became red and how his body was covered with sweat each time he received the Divine Words. Another tradition tells that the Holy Prophet (pbuh) was riding a camel when a Revelation came and that under the pressure of this Revelation, the camel he was riding became immobilized.
Allâh spoke to Moses from behind the veil of a burning bush. Moses spoke and he was spoken to without being thunderstruck. However, when Moses asked Allâh to show Himself to him, Moses and the mountain were thunderstruck. Therefore, the intensity of Divine Self-Revelation depends on the preparedness of the soul for Divine Self-Disclosure.
Misconceptions about Revelation
Some psychologists have tried to explain the experience of Revelation as phenomenon of the subconscious. Ibn Khaldûn accepted the existence of the subconscious in his book Muqaddima, but he rejected the idea that the Divine Revelation originates from this source. The vast and limitless experience of Divine Revelation cannot be limited to the confines of the subconscious. “We have to concede the presence of superconscious and alerted state of perception in addition to the presence of subconscious and conscious.” God says: “And those who do not know (the wisdom implied in Divine revelation) say, Why does not Allâh (Himself) speak to us or give us a (convincing) sign?” (2:118). They deny the existence of Divine Revelation solely on the grounds that they do not see Divine Revelation coming down, and they do not hear its sound, or they have not personally experienced it nor have they ever seen any miracle being performed. This does not prove that it has no existence. The absence of knowledge is no argument for the nonexistence of something. That is the same as denying the existence of light merely because one’s eyes cannot see it. There have always been holy ones from time immemorial who have had this spiritual experience, whose ears heard the Highs voice, whose eyes saw visions, whose “sense of smell detected the divine fragrance that swept gently and smoothly through the air and over waters. Just as a person who is born blind cannot understand the difference between light and darkness, similarly one who has not had any spiritual experience and has not undergone the experience of receiving Divine Revelation cannot be fully aware of the reality of this phenomenon. It is better to accept the guidance of wise men blessed with spiritual sight than to wander and stumble around in darkness.