THIRD BRANCH

Since the Hadiths that speak of the signs of the end of time, the events at the end of time, and the merits and rewards of certain actions have not been well understood, some scholars who rely on their reason have pronounced some of them to be either weak or false. While some of the scholars whose belief was weak but whose egotism was strong have gone as far as denying them. For now we shall not attempt any detailed discussion, but shall only explain twelve ‘Principles’.

FIRST PRINCIPLE: This is a matter which we have explained in the question and answer at the end of the Twentieth Word. Its summary is this: Religion is an examination, a test, which distinguishes elevated spirits from base ones. It therefore speaks of matters that everyone shall see with their eyes in the future in such a way that they remain neither altogether unknown, nor self-evident so that everyone would be compelled to confirm them. They open the door to the reason but do not take the will from the hand. Because if a sign of the Last Day appeared completely self-evidently and everyone was compelled to affirm it, then a disposition like coal would remain equal to one like diamonds. The mystery of man’s accountability and results of examination would go for nothing. It is because of this that there has been much dispute over many matters like that of the Mahdi and Sufyan.

Also, the narrations differ greatly; they have become pronouncements which contradict one another.

SECOND PRINCIPLE: There are various levels in the matters of Islam. If one requires certain proof, for another the prevailing opinion is sufficient. Others require merely assent and acceptance and not to be rejected. In which case, secondary matters or particular events in time which are not among the bases of belief do not require certain compliance and definite proof, just not to be rejected and to be submitted to, and not to be interfered with.

THIRD PRINCIPLE: In the time of the Companions of the Prophet (PBUH) most of the Jewish and Christian scholars entered Islam, and their former knowledge became Muslim along with them. Some of their former knowledge which was contrary to the truth was imagined to be a part of Islam.

FOURTH PRINCIPLE: Some of the words of the narrators of Hadith or the meanings they deduced were considered to be part of the texts of the Hadiths themselves. However, since man cannot be free of fault, some of their deductions or words which were contrary to the truth were supposed to be Hadiths and were pronounced to be weak.

FIFTH PRINCIPLE: According to the meaning of: “Among my community are transmitters of Hadiths,” that is, meaning, “who are inspired,”1 some of the meanings which were obtained through the inspirations of scholars of related Hadiths who followed the path of illumination and sainthood were supposed to be Hadiths. Whereas, due to certain obstructions, the inspiration of saints may be in error. Thus, some that are contrary to the truth may arise from this.

SIXTH PRINCIPLE: There are certain stories which, having become universally known, have become like proverbs. Their true meanings are not borne in mind. For whatever purpose they were spread, that is what is considered. Thus, some stories and fables which have become well-known among people in this way, God’s Noble Messenger (Peace and blessings be upon him) told in the form of comparisons and metaphors for the purpose of guidance. If there is any error in the true meanings of this sort of matters, it pertains to the customs and traditions of the people, and the way they have been passed among them.

SEVENTH PRINCIPLE: There are many similes and parables that with the passage of time or with passing from the hand of learning to the hand of ignorance have been supposed to be physical fact, and have become mistaken. For example, two angels of God in the World of Similitudes called ‘The Ox’ and ‘The Fish’,2 who are among the supervisors of the animals of the land and the sea and are represented as an ox and fish, were imagined to be huge ox and a physical fish, and the Hadith was wrongly interpreted. And for example, one time in the presence of the Prophet a deep rumbling was heard. God’s Messenger (PBUH) decreed: “That is the sound of a rock that has been rolling downhill for seventy years and only now has hit the bottom of Hell.”1 Thus, someone hearing this Hadith who does not know the truth may deviate into denial. But then, twenty minutes after the Hadith was spoken it was definitely established, for someone came and told God’s Messenger (PBUH): “The famous dissembler died twenty minutes ago.” God’s Messenger (PBUH) had described most eloquently how the dissembler’s seventy year lifetime of unbelief had been a continuous descent to the lowest of the low as a stone of Hell. Almighty God had made that rumbling heard at the moment of his death and given him a sign.

EIGHTH PRINCIPLE: In this arena of trial and realm of examination, Almighty God, the Absolutely Wise One, conceals most important things in the midst of numerous others, and this is tied to many purposes, benefits, and instances of wisdom. For example, He has hidden the Night of Power in the whole of Ramadan, and the hour when prayers are answered in the whole of Friday, and well-accepted saints among the people generally, and the appointed hour in a person’s life-time, and the time of Doomsday in the life of the world.2 For if the time of man’s death had been specified, the first half of his life would be passed in absolute heedlessness and the second, in terror, like going step by step to the gallows. Whereas for the balance between this world and the next to be preserved, and to remain perpetually between hope and fear, living and dying have to be possible every moment. In which case, twenty years of uncertain life are preferable to a thousand years of life that are specified.

Thus, the Last Day is the appointed hour of the world, the macroanthropos. If the time had been specified, all the early and middle ages would have been plunged into absolute heedlessness, and the latter centuries, into terror. Just as in his personal life man is concerned with the continued existence of his home and village, so in his social life and as a member of mankind he is concerned with the continued existence of the earth and the world. The Qur’an says,

The Hour has drawn nigh.3

That is, Doomsday is near. It still not having come after a thousand or this many years does not negate its closeness. Because Doomsday is the appointed hour of the world, and in relation to the life of the world one or two thousand years are like one or two minutes in relation to a year. The Hour of Doomsday is not only the appointed hour of mankind that it should be related to it and seen as distant. It is because of this that the Absolutely Wise One conceals Doomsday in His knowledge among the ‘Five Hidden Things.’ It is due to the mystery of this vagueness that every age including the Age of the Bliss, the Age of the Prophet, people have been frightened of the end of the world. Some of them even said that the conditions had all but appeared.1

Thus, unfair people who do not know this truth say: “Why did the Companions of the Prophet with their vigilant hearts and keen sight, who had been taught all the details of the hereafter, suppose a fact that would occur one thousand four hundred years later to be close to their century, as though their ideas had deviated a thousand years from the truth?”

The Answer: Because, through the effulgence of the Prophet’s conversation, the Companions thought of the hereafter more than anyone, and knowing the transience of the world and understanding the Divine wisdom in the hour of Doomsday being vague, they assumed a position of always awaiting the world’s appointed hour and worked seriously for the hereafter. God’s Noble Messenger (Peace and blessings be upon him) repeating: “Expect Doomsday. Wait for it”2 was prophetic guidance arising from this wisdom, it was not a pronouncement of revelation concerning the specific time of its occurrence and far from the truth. The cause is one thing and the wisdom is another. Thus, sayings of the Prophet (PBUH) of this sort arise from the wisdom in certain things being indefinite.

It is also due to this mystery that they expected the individuals who will come at the end of time like the Mahdi and Sufyan long beforehand, and even in the time of the generation succeeding the Prophet, and hoped to live long enough to see them. Some of the saints, even, said that they had passed. Like the end of the world, Divine wisdom requires that the times of these individuals are not specified either. Because every age is in need of the Mahdi’s meaning, for he strengthens morale and saves the people from despair. Every century has to have a share of this meaning. In order that people should not heedlessly follow evil and the reins of the soul should not be left free in indifference, every century the fearsome individuals who come to lead strife must be shrunk from and feared. If they had been specified, the benefits of general guidance would have been lost.

Now, the difference in the narrations about individuals like the Mahdi, and their meaning, is this: those who expounded Hadiths applied the text of the Hadiths to their own interpretations and commentaries. For example, since the centre of power at that time was Damascus or Medina, they imagined the events connected with the Mahdi and Sufyan in places like Basra, Kufa, and Syria, which were in the region of those centres, and expounded them accordingly. Moreover, they imagined the mighty works belonging to the collective identity or community which those individuals represent to be in their persons and expounded them in that way, so that they ascribed a form to them whereby when those extraordinary individuals appear, everyone will recognize them. However, as we said, this world is the arena of trial. The door is opened to the reason, but the will is not taken from the hand. So, when those individuals, and even the terrible Dajjal, appear, many people and himself even will not know to start with that he is the Dajjal. Those individuals of the end of time will be known through the insight and the light of belief.

It is narrated in a Hadith about the Dajjal, who is one of the signs of the end of time: “His first day is like a year, his second day like a month, his third day like a week, and his fourth day like other days. When he appears the world will hear. He will travel the world in forty days.”1 Some unfair people have said about this narration that it is impossible, God forbid, and have gone as far as denying and declaring it null. Whereas, And the knowledge of it is with God, the reality of it must be this:

It indicates the appearance of an individual from the North who will come to lead a great current issuing forth from the godless ideas of Naturalism, in the North, where the world of unbelief is at its densest, and who will be atheist. There is an instance of wisdom in this, for in the latitudes close to the North Pole the whole year is one day and one night; there are six months of night and six months of day. “One day of the Dajjal is a year” alludes to his appearance close to those latitudes. What is meant from “His second day is a month” is that passing in this direction from the North, it sometimes happens that for a month in the summer the sun does not set. This suggests that the Dajjal will emerge in the North and invade southwards towards the civilized world. By attributing the day to the Dajjal, it points to this. He comes further in this direction, and the sun does not set for a week, and so it continues until there are three hours between its rising and setting. While being held as a prisoner-of-war in Russia, I was in such a place. Close to us was a place where the sun did not set for a week. They used to go there to watch it. As for the part, “When the Dajjal appears, all the world will hear of it,” the telegraph and radio have solved this. As for his travelling the world in forty days, the railway and aeroplane, which are his mounts, have solved. Deniers who formerly considered these two statements to be impossible, now see them as commonplace!

Since in another treatise I have written in some detail about Gog and Magog and the Barrier, which are among the signs of the end of the world, I refer readers to those, and here only say this: there are narrations stating that the tribes known as the Manchurians and Mongols, who threw human society into chaos and were the cause of the building of the Great Wall of China, will again overturn human civilization close to Doomsday with an idea like anarchy.

Some atheists say: “Where are the tribes that perform these extraordinary acts and that will perform them?”

The Answer: A calamity like locusts appears in one season in enormous numbers, then on the change of the seasons, those numerous tribes which disrupt the country consign their reality to a few limited individuals. Then, when the time comes, at the Divine command, great numbers appear from those limited individuals and embark on the same corruption. As though the reality of their national identity is fined down, but not destroyed, and when the time arrives, it reemerges. In just the same way, those same tribes which overturned the world at one time will when the time comes again overturn human civilization with Divine permission. But what impels them will be in a different form. None knows the Unseen save God.

NINTH PRINCIPLE: The results of some of the questions of belief look to this restricted and narrow world, while others look to the world of the hereafter, which is broad and absolute. In order to give the appropriate effect of either encouraging or restraining, some Hadiths about the merits and rewards of actions are in an eloquent style, and some unthinking people have supposed them to be exaggerated. However, since they are all pure truth and reality, there is no exaggeration or overstatement in them.

For instance, there is this Hadith which has worried the heads of the unfair more than any. Its meaning is: “If the world had as much value as a fly’s wing for Almighty God, the unbelievers would not have had so much as a mouthful of water from it.”1 The reality of it is this: the phrase for Almighty God refers to the eternal realm. Yes, since a light from the eternal realm to the extent of a fly’s wing is everlasting, it is greater than a temporary light that fills the face of the earth. That means it is not to say that the huge world is equal to a fly’s wing, but that everyone’s private world which is situated within their short lives, is not equal to an everlasting Divine effulgence and bounty to the extent of a fly’s wing from the eternal realm.

Furthermore, the world has two faces, indeed, three faces. One is the mirror to Almighty God’s Names, another looks to the hereafter and is its arable field, and the third looks to transience and non-existence. This is the world of the people of misguidance which is not in accordance with the things that please God that we know. That is to say, it infers not that the vast world which is the mirror to the Most Beautiful Names, and consists of missives of the Eternally Besought One, and is the tillage of the hereafter, but that the world of those who worship the world, which is opposed to the hereafter and is the source of all wrongs and spring of calamities, is not worth one everlasting particle which will be given to the believers in the hereafter. Thus, how can the way it is understood by the unfair atheists be compared with this most true and serious truth? What has the meaning which those atheists supposed to be the most exaggerated and overstated to do with this?

And, for example, others which the unfair atheists supposed to be exaggeration and even impossible overstatement are narrations about the rewards for actions and merits of some of the Qur’an’s Suras. For example, there are narrations that, “The merit of Sura al-Fatiha is equal to that of the Qur’an.”1 And, “Sura al-Ikhlas equals a third of the Qur’an,”2 “Sura al-Zilzal, a quarter,”3 “Sura al-Kafirun, a quarter,”4 “Sura Ya. Sin., ten times the Qur’an.”5 Unjust and unthinking people have said that these are impossible because Sura Ya. Sin. and the other meritorious Suras are within the Qur’an, which makes it meaningless.

The Answer: The reality is this: for each of the All-Wise Qur’an’s letters is a merit. Each is a good deed. Out of Divine grace the merits of those letters sprout and yield sometimes ten, sometimes seventy, and sometimes seven hundred, merits, like the letters of Ayat al-Kursi. Sometimes they yield one thousand five hundred, like the letters of Sura al-Ikhlas, and sometimes ten thousand, like verses recited on Layla al-Bara’a and those that coincide with other acceptable times. And sometimes they yield thirty thousand, like verses recited on the Night of Power, which are like poppy seeds in their multiplicity. The indication that that night is the equivalent to a thousand months makes it understood that on that night one letter has thirty thousand merits. For example, let us suppose there is a field planted with maize, one thousand plants of it. If some seeds produce seven shoots, and from each shoot a hundred grains, then a single seed becomes the equivalent of two thirds of the whole field. For example, if one seed produces ten shoots, and each yields two hundred grains, then a single seed is the equivalent of twice the original field. You can make further analogies in the same way.

Now, let us imagine the All-Wise Qur’an to be a luminous, sacred, heavenly field. Each of its letters together with its original merit is like a seed. Their shoots will not be taken into consideration. They may be compared with the Suras and verses about which are narrations concerning their merits, which is the mirror to the Most Beautiful Names, and consists of missives of the Eternally Besought One, and is the tillage of the hereafter, but that the world of those who worship the world, which is opposed to the hereafter and is the source of all wrongs and spring of calamities, is not worth one everlasting particle which will be given to the believers in the hereafter. Thus, how can the way it is understood by the unfair atheists be compared with this most true and serious truth? What has the meaning which those atheists supposed to be the most exaggerated and overstated to do with this?

And, for example, others which the unfair atheists supposed to be exaggeration and even impossible overstatement are narrations about the rewards for actions and merits of some of the Qur’an’s Suras. For example, there are narrations that, “The merit of Sura al-Fatiha is equal to that of the Qur’an.”1 And, “Sura al-Ikhlas equals a third of the Qur’an,”2 “Sura al-Zilzal, a quarter,”3 “Sura al-Kafirun, a quarter,”4 “Sura Ya. Sin., ten times the Qur’an.”5 Unjust and unthinking people have said that these are impossible because Sura Ya. Sin. and the other meritorious Suras are within the Qur’an, which makes it meaningless.

The Answer: The reality is this: for each of the All-Wise Qur’an’s letters is a merit. Each is a good deed. Out of Divine grace the merits of those letters sprout and yield sometimes ten, sometimes seventy, and sometimes seven hundred, merits, like the letters of Ayat al-Kursi. Sometimes they yield one thousand five hundred, like the letters of Sura al-Ikhlas, and sometimes ten thousand, like verses recited on Layla al-Bara’a and those that coincide with other acceptable times. And sometimes they yield thirty thousand, like verses recited on the Night of Power, which are like poppy seeds in their multiplicity. The indication that that night is the equivalent to a thousand months makes it understood that on that night one letter has thirty thousand merits. For example, let us suppose there is a field planted with maize, one thousand plants of it. If some seeds produce seven shoots, and from each shoot a hundred grains, then a single seed becomes the equivalent of two thirds of the whole field. For example, if one seed produces ten shoots, and each yields two hundred grains, then a single seed is the equivalent of twice the original field. You can make further analogies in the same way.

Now, let us imagine the All-Wise Qur’an to be a luminous, sacred, heavenly field. Each of its letters together with its original merit is like a seed. Their shoots will not be taken into consideration. They may be compared with the Suras and verses about which are narrations concerning their merits,

All praise be to God, Sustainer of the heavens and Sustainer of the earth Sustainer of all the worlds, His is the might in the heavens and the earth, and He is the Mighty, the Wise. All praise be to God, Sustainer of the heavens and Sustainer of the earths, Sustainer of all the worlds, and His is the sublimity in the heavens and the earth, and He is the Mighty, the Wise. And His is the dominion, Sustainer of the heavens, and He is the Mighty, the Wise.

What has most attracted the attention of the unfair and the unthinking is narrations like these. The reality of the matter is this:

With our narrow mind and short views in this world, we know how much we imagine the the rewards of Moses and Aaron (Peace be upon them) to be. The reward the Absolutely Compassionate One will give to one of His infinitely needy servants in the world of eternity and everlasting happiness, in return for a single invocation may be equal to the reward of those two, but equal to the rewards as we conceive of them and surmise them to be.

For example, there is a primitive, uncouth man who has never seen the king and does not know the majesty of his rule. He imagines a lord in a village, and with his limited ideas thinks of the king as a more exalted version of the lord. Long ago with us even, there was a simple-minded tribe who used to say: “Our lord knows what the Sultan does as he cooks his bulgur soup on his stove in a saucepan.” That is to say, they imagined the Sultan in such a narrow situation and so common a form that he cooked his own wheat soup; they supposed him to have the majesty of a captain. Now, if someone was to say to one of that tribe: “If you do this work for me today, I’ll give you as much majesty as you think the Sultan has, and give you a rank as high as a captain.” To say that is right, because, of the majesty of kingship, what enters the narrow bounds of his ideas is only the majesty of a captain.

Thus, with our worldly views and narrow minds, we cannot think as much as that primitive man of the true rewards which look to the hereafter. It is not the equivalent of the true rewards of Moses and Aaron (Peace be upon them), for according to the rule of similes and comparisons, the unknown is compared to the known; the true reward, which is unknown, for an invocation of one of God’s believing servants is compared with the rewards that we know and surmise. Moreover, the surface of the sea and the heart of a droplet are equal when it comes to holding the complete reflection of the sun. The difference is only in quality. The nature of the reward reflected in the mirrors of the ocean-like spirits of Moses and Aaron (Peace be upon them) is exactly the same in nature as the reward that a believing servant, who is like a droplet, receives from a Qur’anic verse. They are the same in nature and quantity, while their quality is dependent on capacity.

Also, it sometimes happens that a single word, a single glorification, opens a treasury of happiness that was not opened with sixty years of service. That is to say, it sometimes happens that a single verse may be as beneficial as the Qur’an. Also, the Divine effulgence which God’s Noble Messenger (PBUH), who manifested the Greatest Name, received from a single verse, may have been as much as all the effulgence one of the other prophets received. And it would not be contrary to the truth if it is said that a believer who through ‘the legacy of prophethood’ manifests the shadow of the Greatest Name, receives, in accordance with his own capacity and in regard to quantity, a reward as great as a prophet’s effulgence. Furthermore, reward and merit are from the world of light, and one world from that world may be contained in a speck. Just as the heavens and all its stars may appear in a tiny fragment of glass, so luminous reward and merit like the heavens may be situated in an invocation or verse which acquires transparency through pure intention.

Conclusion: O unfair, unthinking, self-centred, cavilling man whose belief is weak and philosophy, strong! Consider these Ten Principles, then do not make the pretext a narration you thought was contrary to the truth and definitely opposed to reality, and point the finger of objection at Hadiths thus casting aspersions on the Noble Messenger’s (PBUH) sinlessness! Because, firstly, these Ten Principles and what they entail will make you forego denial; they say: “If there is any real fault, it is ours,” it may not be referred to the Hadiths. They say too: “If the fault is not real, it springs from your misunderstanding.” In short; if one embarks on denial and rejection, one first has to deny these Ten Principles and show them to be false. Now, if you are fair, after pondering over these Ten Principles with due attention, do not attempt to deny a Hadith your reason considers contrary to the truth! Say, “There is either an explanation, or an interpretation, or an exegesis of this,” and do not criticize it.

ELEVENTH PRINCIPLE: Just as the Qur’an has obscure verses which are in need of interpretation or else require absolute submission, Hadiths also contain difficulties like the obscurities of the Qur’an. They are sometimes in need of extremely careful expounding and interpretation. The above examples may be sufficient for you.

Yes, someone who is awake interprets the dream of another who is sleeping, and sometimes one who is sleeping hears the words spoken by those near him who are awake, but gives them a meaning and interprets them in a way that applies to his own world of sleep. O man stupified by the sleep of heedlessness and philosophy! Do not deny in your dream what One saw, who manifested the meaning of, “His eye never wavered nor did it swerve,”1 and “My eye sleeps, but my heart sleeps not,”2 and who was truly awake and aware, interpret it. Yes, if a mosquito bites someone who is asleep, he sometimes dreams that he has received terrible wounds in war and this has a reality in sleep. If he was to be questioned, he would say: “Truly I have been wounded. Guns and rifles were fired at me.” Those sitting by him laugh at his anguish in sleep. Thus, the sleep-stained view of heedlessness and philosophical thought certainly cannot be the criterion for the truths of prophethood.

TWELFTH PRINCIPLE: Since prophethood, the affirmation of Divine unity, and belief all look to unity, the hereafter, and Divinity, they see truth and reality in accordance with those. While philosophers and scientists look to multiplicity, causes, and nature, and see in accordance with them. Their points of view are extremely distant from one another. The greatest aim of the people of philosophy is so small and insignificant as to be imperceptible among the aims of the scholars of religion and theology.

It is because of this that scientists have advanced greatly in detailed explanation of the nature of beings and their minutest states, but they are so far behind the exalted Divine sciences and sciences concerned with the hereafter, which are true wisdom and knowledge, that they are more backward than a simple believer. Those who do not understand this mystery suppose the investigative scholars of Islam to be relatively backward to the philosophers. But how can those whose minds see no further than their eyes and are submerged in multiplicity reach those who follow elevated sacred aims through ‘the legacy of prophethood’?

Furthermore, when something is considered from two points of view, it shows two different truths, and both of them may be the truth. No certain fact of science can touch the sacred truths of the Qur’an. The short hand of science cannot reach up to its pure sublimity. We shall mention an example to illustrate this:

For example, if the globe of the earth is considered from the point of view of the people of science, its reality is this: as a middle-sized planet, it revolves around the sun amid countless stars; it is a small creature in relation to the stars. But as is explained in the Fifteenth Word, if it is considered from the point of view of the people of the Qur’an, its reality is this: since man, the fruit of the world, is a most comprehensive, most wondrous, most impotent, most weak, and most subtle miracle of Divine power, the earth, his cradle and dwelling-place, is in regard to meaning and art, the universe’s heart and centre; despite its smallness and lowliness in relation to the heavens, it is the display and exhibition of all the miracles of Divine art; the place of reflection and point of focus of the manifestations of all the Divine Names; the place of display and reflection of infinite dominical activity; the means and market of boundless Divine creativity and especially the munificent creation of the numerous species of plants and small animals; and the place in small measure of samples of the creatures of the broad worlds of the hereafter; it is a rapidly working loom weaving everlasting textiles; the swiftly changing place producing views for eternal panoramas; and the narrow and temporary arable field and seed-bed producing at speed the seeds for everlasting gardens.

It is because of this vastness of meaning and importance of art of the earth that the All-Wise Qur’an holds it –like a tiny fruit of the vast tree of the heavens– equal to all the heavens, like holding a tiny heart equivalent to a huge body. It places it in one pan of a scales and places all the heavens in the other, and repeatedly says: “Sustainer of the heavens and the earth.” Compare other matters with this and understand that the soulless, dim truths of philosophy cannot clash with the brilliant, living truths of the Qur’an. Since the point of view is different, they appear differently.