Unity of Manifestation

The writings of Makhdoom Sharafuddin (1263-1380 CE) contain certain concepts and doctrines which are generally believed to have been articulated a few centuries after him. One such mystical doctrine known as ‘Unity of Manifestation’ (Wahdat ash-Shuhud) was propagated in the eleventh century of the Islamic era by Shaykh Ahmad al-Faruqi (1564-1624 CE) to contradict the then prevalent concept of ‘Unity of Being’ (Wahdat al-Wujood).

It is true that Shaykh Ahmad al-Faruqi (nicknamed, Mujaddid Alf Thani) was par excellence the greatest exponent of the doctrine of the Unity of Manifestation but one is surprised to see that Makhdoom Sharafuddin, too, had clearly delineated the fundamental position of this concept about two and a half centuries before it was revived by the Mujaddid.

Makhdoom has explicitly stated in his letters, in the light of his personal religious experiences and intuitive knowledge, that was commonly known by Unity of Being or annihilation of every created being in the Divine Essence was really no more than a state of eclipse of other beings and objects in the presence of Divine light exactly in the same way as the dim light of the stars is deprived of its brilliance before the luminous lamp of the Sun.

He succinctly describes the process by pointing out the extinction of any object is altogether different from its being invisible. He explains that the tenuity and evasiveness of the immanentist feeling deludes many an elevated soul in the ecstatic state of Divine effulgence unless Grace of God and guidance of an illuminated teacher gives shoulder to lead him on the right path.

“The effulgence of Divine Essence is so manifested before the traveler of spirit that its radiance blots out every other object and being from his view. The tiny particles of dust are put out of sight in the light of the sun but it does not mean that these particles become extinct or get absorbed in the sun; what it actually means is that these minute atoms cover up their faces in shame before the luminous lamp of heaven.

Man never becomes God for God is Exalted, Glorious and Great. Nor is ever a created being swallowed up, incorporated or united with the Divine Essence. Becoming extinct is quite different from being invisible. A Gnostic poet has lent articulation to this truth in these words.

For the Eternal One nothing is old or new;

All others are insignificant, He that He is.

When you look into a mirror, you get absorbed in the reflection of your own self and forget the mirror: then you do not aver that the mirror has become extinct or that it has turned into your reflection or that your reflection has melted into mirror. This is the substance of annihilation in Divine Oneness which manifests itself in a like manner.

He talks funny who speaks of it, but does not know

To set a limit between one’s annihilation and His refulgent glow.

This is the tenuous path where many have slipped. No traveler of spirit can forge ahead unless the grace of God and the guidance of an elevated mentor, who had himself waded through the billow’s rage of this furrowed sea, help him to find out his way.”

(Letter No.1)

 Here it might be contended that a lamp brought before the Sun loses its luster so completely that its existence becomes merely illusory; for, nothing can be existent and nonexistent both at one and the same time. Makhdoom says that such a contention is not correct because the transformation undergone by the lamp is of attribute and not of essence. He writes in a letter:

“Some say that when the sun shines, the lamp practically loses its entity: the sun is then the only reality that exists. What is the use of a lamp, they say, which melts into nought, for its entity and light rest on an even keel. If anybody contends that the existence and non-existence are each other’s anti-thesis and the two cannot be found at one and the same time, then he ought to know that we are talking about the attributes and not about the essence. The essence does not undergo a change but the attribute does. The sun shines over a stream and warms its water. Its quality is changed not its nature; the rays of sun act on the attribute and not on the essence. There is no contradiction at all in it.”

(Letter No.86)

(excerpt from ‘The Way of the Sufis: A Journey into the lives of three Saints of Islam’)

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Prophethood And Sainthood

An erratic concept prevalent for quite a long time among the then mystics was that sainthood occupies a place more exalted and sublime than Prophethood: the saints being always attracted to divine perfection severed all relationship with the world and sentient beings around them while the prophet’s mission being to propagate and expound the revealed truth, the latter had, very often, to remain in contact with their fellow beings.

And, since, the fellowship of God was a task more consecrated than the fellowship of human beings, the saints held a more elevated and hallowed place than the Prophets did.

Some other mystics, however, made a distinction between the two states of prophets when they were absorbed in Divine propinquity and when they were busy disseminating the divine message among their fellow beings, and thereby concluded that the prophets in their former occupation enjoyed a higher position than when they performed the function of their ministry.

Even this view signified an inferior position of prophethood and its mission by assigning a more exalted status to the engrossment in Divine Being, the chief pursuit of saints.

Thus, however interpreted, this blasphemous proposition was derogatory to prophethood and involved impairment of that exalted office besides paving the way to agnostic and irreligious way of thinking.

With characteristic vividness and vigour of his writings and discourses, Makhdoom Sharafuddin (1263–1380 CE) set in to give the reply to the nonconformist belief of the mystics and established through his clear and logical reasoning that the prophethood, in all its states and stages, was infinitely higher than sainthood.

He demonstrated that the shortest span of prophetic existence, a single breath of any prophet, was decidedly more blessed and sacred than a whole life-time spent in the state of saintliness. The arguments brought forth by Makhdoom to clinch his point were drawn more from the higher reaches of his ecstatic illuminations than cold and logical formulations of discursive reason.

Makhdoom writes in reply to a letter wherein Qazi Shamsuddin had sought a clarification in regard to the position of prophethood.

“Shamsuddin, my dear brother, you ought to know that there is a consensus of opinion among all the mystics treading the path of spirituality that the saints, in all states and stations, are subordinate to the prophets who are always superior to the saints. What is incumbent on the saints to translate into action is guidance vouchsafed by the apostles of God.

All the prophets are saints, but no saint can claim the honour of being a prophet.

There is not the least difference of opinion in this regard among the doctors of divinity bearing allegiance to the way of Ahl-i-Sunnat Wal-Jamaát (the followers of the Holy Qurán and the Holy Prophet). A sect among the renegades, however, claims that the saints surpass the prophets on the ground that that the latter are ever engrossed in effulgence of the Transcendent Being while the prophets are busy ever and anon in the pursuit of their mission of preaching the message of God to the human beings.

Thus, they argue that a man who is totally effaced and lost in beholding the Beauty of the Lord takes precedence over one who seldom engages his mind in contemplating the presence of God. Another group which venerates the saints and claims to be their followers goes even further to assert that the saints are higher up than the prophets for the reason that former are initiated into the divine mysteries whereas the latter have access only to the knowledge revealed to them.

They infer from it that the saints are acquainted with the secrets not known to the prophets. They avouch that the saints have intuitive knowledge not possessed by the prophets…

They draw this interference from the story of Hazrat Musa (Moses) and Hazrat Khizr (peace be upon them) and assert that Khizr was a saint and Musa a Prophet, who got revelations from the Lord. The latter was unable to fathom the secret of any mysterious event unless a revelation descended from on high. But, Khizr the saint, endowed with intuitive knowledge could immediately plumb the secret of every mystery in as much as Hazrat Musa had to submit himself as a disciple of Hazrat Khizr.

This, they say, clearly proves their point, for, a disciple is always an underlining of the mentor…but one should never lose sight of the fact that all the precursors of righteous path of religion, on whom reliance can be placed, have vehemently protested against such sacrilegious creeds and ideas.

They have never accepted this profane doctrine that any saint can ever excel or even be a match to a prophet of God. As for the story of Hazrat Musa and Hazrat Khizr, the latter was granted a momentary primacy by virtue of his intuitive knowledge on a particular occasion while Moses enjoyed an enduring paramountcy and as you know, abiding supremacy cannot be overshadowed by a passing pre-eminence.

Take Mariam (Mary), for instance, who was granted a temporary ascendancy over other women because of the birth of her child without being touched by a man, but this temporary advantage could not eclipse the perdurable superiority of Ayesha and Fatima and their illimitable supremacy over all women for all times to come.

Hark ye! My brother, the entire life spent in litanies and prayers, transports and illuminations by all saints of all times shall come short of a step taken by a prophet.

What saints endeavor to achieve through penance and devotion, flight of spirit and diving into the treasure of Divine mysteries; that knowledge is attained by the prophets straightaway. They are charged with the responsibilities of their apostolic ministry after being illuminated by the lamp of sanctity and that is the reason why they are able to awaken the zeal of God in thousands of their followers.

Hence, a breath of the prophets outweighs the entire life of saints. The saints are able to cast off their humanly veil and speak of the secrets of spiritual existence only after attaining the highest degree of sanctity but they still remain under the shadow of the weakness human flesh is heir to; but the prophets, on the other hand, find the secrets of nature unveiled before them on the very first step of ministry.

The last lap of the saints is the starting point of the prophets or, to be truthful, even the destination of saints cannot compare with the outstart of the prophets.

Once, someone asked Khwaja Bayezid al-Bistami: ‘What do you say about the life of the prophets?’

‘Heaven forbid!’ he replied, ‘We can never gain entrance in their realm.’

The way the stations and stages of sainthood remain hidden from the eye of uninitiated masses, the exalted reaches of prophethood are beyond the imaginative flight of the saints. Prophets take to strides while saints stroll: one rides the skies while the other creeps on the earth.

In clarity and purity of spirit, virtue and sanctity, the entire bodily frame of the prophets is like the head and heart of the saints, intoxicated with the love of God. There is thus a great difference between men who have found entrance to the place which, for others, is the goal of their hearts’ yearning.”

(Letter No.20)

(excerpt from ‘The Way of the Sufis: A Journey into the lives of three Saints of Islam’)

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The Sufi King

On arriving in Ajmer the Khwaja and his disciples sat down to rest in the shade of a large tree. This weary group of mystics had barely sat down when some camel-keepers arrived and said in a harsh tone: “Move out from here. This is the sitting place for the king’s camels.”                                            

The Khwaja politely replied that the camels could sit somewhere else as there was a lot of free space available. But the camel-keepers were adamant in their claim and started behaving aggressively. Left with no other option, the Khwaja said in a calm tone: “Relax! We are moving out. Now your camels would be seated here.”

Then the Khwaja with his group of disciples went towards Anasagar Lake and rested on a nearby mountain.

When they had departed, the camel-keepers made the king’s camels sit there in the shade of the tree. But the next morning when they returned to raise the camels, they were unable to do so. They tried their best but in vain. It seemed as if the earth had caught hold of the camels and would not let them go. And the camel-keepers became deeply worried. Tired of all their efforts they now decided to approach their king, Raja Prithviraj Chauhan.

When the king heard their story, he was left dumbstruck. He was very proud of his bravery but felt helpless before the spiritual powers of the mighty Khwaja. So he commanded his camel-keepers, saying, “Go and apologize to that faqir whose curse has made the camels unable to stand on their feet.”   

Hearing their king’s command, the camel-keepers approached the Khwaja and humbly apologized to him. The kind-hearted Khwaja forgave them and said: “Go! Your camels have stood up by the grace of Allah.”

When the camel-keepers approached the shadowy tree, they were very much surprised to see all the camels standing on their feet.

The Khwaja and his disciples bathed and performed ablution on the ghat of Anasagar. But, since there were temples built near the ghat, the Hindu priests were very much annoyed by the presence of the Muslim faqirs.

One day, some of the disciples of the Khwaja went to the ghat to bath. But they were stopped by the Brahmins who behaved aggressively and prevented them from bathing. The helpless disciples approached their Master and narrated to him all that had happened. The Khwaja, disappointed with the behavior of the Brahmins, ordered one of his disciples: “Go and fetch me a bowl of water from the lake.”   

The disciple acted accordingly, but as he filled the bowl the whole of Anasagar became dry. The wonder-struck disciple hurried back to his Master and gave him the bowl of precious water.

Now, the Hindu priests and Brahmins were in great shock to find the lake dry. On the other hand, the news of Anasagar becoming dry caused a great commotion in the city of Ajmer. The talk of the town was how the leader of the Muslim faqirs got the water to disappear from the lake after his disciples were stopped from using the ghat.

In a short time, the inhabitants became desperate for water as they largely depended on the Anasagar Lake for bathing, washing clothes, etc.

With no other option left, a large population approached the Khwaja and begged forgiveness on behalf of the aggressive Brahmins. The kind-hearted Khwaja felt pity on them and ordered one of his disciples to pour the bowl of water into the dry lake by taking the name of Allah. And when the disciple did as commanded, the Anasagar Lake once again became full of water by the grace of Allah the Almighty. And witnessing this miracle many Hindus accepted Islam and became Muslims.

SHAADI DEV ACCEPTS ISLAM

The chief of the temples-association of Ajmer was Shaadi Dev who used to live in the Jaadu Shaadi Temple. He was a very learned person and very popular among the masses.

When the priests of the temples saw that the visitors to the temples were decreasing day by day, they approached their chief and instigated him against the Khwaja.

With the intention to harm him, Shaadi Dev along with his followers approached the Khwaja. But when they came nearer, the holy Khwaja just lifted his head and looked into their eyes. Only a single look and all the evil-doers started shaking with fear. Shaadi Dev immediately fell at the feet of the holy Khwaja and begged for forgiveness. The Khwaja gently lifted him up and invited him to accept Islam, to which Shaadi Dev willingly obliged.

On becoming a Muslim, Shaadi Dev was given the name of ‘Saad’. And along with him many of his companions also accepted Islam. This incident also caused turbulence in Ajmer and the king was also taken aback.

JOGI JAIPAL ACCEPTS ISLAM

The propagation of Islam had made Raja Prithviraj worrisome. To confront the Khwaja, he decided to consult his family Guru, Jogi Jaipal, who was considered to be the greatest magician of Hindostan.

Jogi Jaipal used to live in a forest near Ajmer. The king summoned him and narrated to him the miracles of the Khwaja and the subsequent effects on the socio-religious condition of Ajmer. The proud magician thought of the miracles of the Khwaja as just simple tricks and assured the king that he would be successful in driving out the faqir from his kingdom.

Now, Jogi Jaipal mounted on the deer’s skin and flew along with his disciples towards Anasagar Lake near to which the Khwaja was camping with his disciples.

Holding snakes in their hands and shouting ferociously they landed near the lake. Seeing the devil’s gang thus creating ruckus the Khwaja’s disciples became terribly afraid. And the holy Khwaja immediately drew a large circle with his hand and commanded his disciples to stay within it in order to remain safe.

The magician and his disciples threw the snakes towards the Khwaja and his group. The snakes flew rapidly towards their target but on reaching the boundary of the circle they burnt to ashes. This enraged the magician and he started throwing fire-balls towards the Khwaja. But this move also backfired. On touching the boundary of the circle the fire-balls returned and started burning the disciples of Jogi Jaipal.

When his magic tricks rendered unsuccessful, Jogi Jaipal decided to attack from above. So he flew towards the sky in order to carry out his plan.

When the Khwaja caught sight of him, he ordered his wooden-slippers to go and bring down the arrogant magician. On hearing the Khwaja’s command the wooden-slippers flew miraculously through the air and started banging themselves on the Jogi’s head. This terrified the magician very much as he was unable to defend himself from the slippers and ultimately he was forced to descend to the ground.

At last, the pride of the magician was shattered and he realized that his magical tricks were useless before the spiritual powers of a faqir. He became ashamed of himself and threw himself at the feet of the holy Khwaja, begging for forgiveness. The kind-hearted Khwaja forgave him; and Jogi Jaipal willingly accepted Islam and joined the Khwaja’s group of disciples. He was given the name of ‘Abdullah’. Following their Master, the disciples of Jogi Jaipal also accepted Islam. And the people witnessing the whole episode also became Muslims.

After becoming a Muslim, Jogi Jaipal requested the Khwaja to show him his spiritual status so that he could be fully satisfied. The Khwaja smiled and told him to close his eyes. As the Jogi closed his eyes, the mysteries began to unfold in front of him. He was transferred to a spiritual world where his soul traveled through different worlds and even reached the seventh heaven. But there the soul of the holy Khwaja caught hold of him and took him back as that was the limit set for his spiritual journey.

On opening his eyes Jogi Jaipal fell at the feet of the holy Khwaja in reverence. But the Khwaja gently lifted him up and made him sit among his disciples.

Under the guidance of the holy Khwaja, Jogi Jaipal attained great spiritual heights and eventually became a saint. Then he told the Khwaja of his desire to stay alive till Doomsday. The Khwaja smiled and then prayed to Allah for his long life.

It is said that Abdullah (Jogi Jaipal) is still alive today and he shows the way to the lost travellers. The people of Ajmer and its neighborhood fondly call him by the name of ‘Abdullah Bayabani’.

PROPAGATION OF ISLAM GATHERS PACE

The incident of Jogi Jaipal accepting Islam caused a great turbulence in the city of Ajmer. Its inhabitants became fond of the holy Khwaja and respected him greatly.

One day, the new muslims Shaadi Dev and Jogi Jaipal approached the Khwaja and requested him to reside among the masses so that the propagation of Islam could gather pace. The Khwaja accepted their request and left Anasagar for the place where his Dargah is situated today. This place was the property of Shaadi Dev which he gifted to the   Khwaja.

Jogi Jaipal accepting Islam and the Khwaja moving to the city-centre infuriated the king furthermore and his hatred for the Khwaja knew no bound. But he felt helpless before the spiritual powers of the mighty Khwaja.

On the other hand, the Khwaja continued his propagation of Islam. The Almighty had bestowed him with such a personality that whosoever came to meet him couldn’t leave without being impressed with him. His behaviour, his patience, his art of speaking, his way of conduct, all attracted the people towards him. In a short period of time, there was a good number of Muslims in Ajmer who were able to come out from the darkness of idolatry to the light of Islam by the grace of the Almighty.

INVITING PRITHVIRAJ TO ACCEPT ISLAM

After Shaadi Dev and Jogi Jaipal had accepted Islam, the Khwaja sent a message to Raja Prithviraj that read: “Accept Islam and you will remain in advantage. You will not lose your kingship in this world and after death also you will remain in peace. On the other hand, if you disagree then remember you will have to face great trouble both in this world and in the Hereafter. And then you will be helpless.”

Prithviraj Chauhan was very proud and arrogant and this message had no effect on him. But still he thought of testing the Khwaja, and so he sent a man to him to become his fake disciple.

When the man approached the Khwaja and requested him to take him as his disciple, the Khwaja just refused to entertain him. When he inquired about the cause, the holy Khwaja said: “There are three reasons because of which I can’t take you as my disciple. Firstly, your heart is filled with hatred and deceit. Secondly, you are a polytheist to such an extent that you will bow before everyone else except the Almighty. Thirdly, I have seen in the ‘Preserved Scriptrum’ that you will depart from this world in disbelief.” 

Hearing this the man was shell-shocked, and then he returned to the king and narrated to him the whole conversation. Prithviraj was also very much surprised to hear all this but still his ego prevented him to convert.

The mind-games between the Raja and the Khwaja continued. But the king didn’t have the courage to physically harm the Sufi, especially after the defeat of his family guru and great magician, Jogi Jaipal. So, instead of the Khwaja, the king started torturing the new converts to Islam.

One day, an attendant in the king’s court who had recently embraced Islam was brutally tortured. This helpless man approached the Khwaja and narrated his plight pleading with him for help. The Khwaja was deeply moved by his plight and immediately sent a letter to the king requesting him not to torture this new Muslim. But the wicked and arrogant king paid no heed to the Khwaja’s request and instead sent a letter to the Khwaja that read: “Being the lord and king of this land, I order you to leave Ajmer along with your disciples within a week’s time. If you don’t comply, then be ready to be physically pushed out by my army.”

When the Khwaja got to know of the king’s order, he became infuriated and said in a fit of rage: “I have handed Prithviraj alive to the Muslim army.”

On hearing these words from the mouth of the holy Khwaja, the disciples were stunned but kept quiet because they knew that their Master never told lies. And they eagerly waited for his prophecy to come true.

(excerpt from ‘The Sufi King of Hindostan’)

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Hinduism-God-Islam

The Almighty God is only and only One but known by various names in different languages.

While the Muslims consider ‘Qur’an’ to be the ‘Word of God’ whereas the Hindus consider ‘Vedas’ to be the ‘Word of God’.

Vedas consist of four books, namely Rig-ved, Samved, Yajurved and Atharved. Next in importance are the Upanishads of which thirteen are primary. The Vedas and the Upanishads are considered to be ‘smriti’, that which is heard or revealed from God. The later texts are known as ‘shruti’, that which is remembered and written down. The Shruti texts comprises of Puranas, Ramayana, Mahabharata, Bhagavad Gita, Manusmriti, etc.

Let’s see the verses from some of the above mentioned texts that point to the existence of One True God.

‘He is One only without a second.’ (Chandogya Upanishad, 6:2:1)

‘O friends, do not worship anybody but Him, the Divine One. Praise Him Alone.’ (Rig-ved 8:1:1)

‘Verily, great is the glory of the Divine Creator.’ (Rig-ved 5:1:81)

‘Of Him there are neither parents nor Lord.’ (Svetasvatara Upanishad, 6:9)

There is no likeness of Him.’ (Yajurved, 32:3)

His form is not to be seen; no one sees Him with the eye.’ (Svetasvatara Upanishad, 4:20)

‘Those whose intelligence has been stolen by the material desires surrender unto demigods and follow the particular rules and regulations of worship according to their own natures.’ (Bhagavad Gita, 7:20)

‘They enter darkness, those who worship the natural elements (like air, water, fire, etc.). They sink deeper in darkness, those who worship man-made things (like image, statue, idols, etc.).’ (Yajurved, 40:9)

‘Sages (learned priests) call one God by many names.’ (Rig-ved 1:164:46)

And the Brahma Sutra of Hindu Vedanta is: ‘There is only one God, not the second, not at all, not at all, not in the least bit.’

Now, let’s see the similar verses from the Holy Qur’an.

‘Say: He is Allah, the One and Only.’ (112:1)

‘Such is Allah, your Lord! None has the right to be worshipped but He, the Creator of all things. So worship Him (Alone), and He is the Disposer of all things.’ (6:102)

‘Praise to be Allah, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the worlds.’ (1:2)

‘He begets not, nor is He born.’ (112:3)

‘There is nothing whatever like unto Him.’ (42:11)

‘No vision can grasp Him.’ (6:103)

‘The Guidance of Allah,- that is the [only] Guidance. “Were you to follow their desires after the knowledge that has reached you, then would you find neither protector nor helper against Allah.”’ (2:120)

‘One who joins other gods with Allah, Has strayed far, far away [from the right].’ (4:116)

‘Say: “Call upon Allah or call upon Rahman (Merciful): by whatever name you call upon Him, [it is well]: for to Him belong the Most Beautiful names.”’ (17:110)

And the Brahma Sutra of Islamic Theology is: ‘There is no God but Allah; He is Alone, and no one shares His autonomy.’

After the above comparison regarding the concept of One God, one would be wondering how can there exist such a striking resemblance between the scriptures of two different religions revealed at different times. This question is answered by the Holy Qur’an thus:

‘And verily, it (Message of Qur’an) is in earliest revelations.’ (26:196)

Vedas are also called ‘Aadi Granth‘, i.e., earliest revelations. So the above verse indicates that the teachings of the Qur’an are also in the Vedas.

Now, let’s check out some more interesting facts. The Britishers first used the term ‘Hinduism’ as the religion for the natives of India of the Aryan descent. But they got it totally​ wrong. The term ‘Hindus’ was first used by the Persians / Arabs who came from the Middle East for trade. It is a geographical name given to those people residing beyond the river Indus (Sindhu in Sanskrit). The religion of the people of ancient India was ‘Sanatana Dharma‘ and Vedas was their holy book which was revealed over a period of many many years.

Coming to the main point, now, if the sender of the Vedas and the Qur’an is the same One God, then the question arises whether Sanatana Dharma and Islam are also same? Let’s check out.

Sanatana Dharma, literally ‘eternal religion’ is mentioned in the Manusmriti thus :

“Speak the truth; speak the truth that is pleasant. Do not speak the truth to manipulate. Do not speak falsely to please or flatter someone. This is the quality of the eternal religion.” (Manusmriti, 4:138)

Sanatana is continuous from beginning to end and Dharma is religion or Deen (in Arabic). In the holy Qur’an, Islam is described as DeenulQayyimah’ (98:5) meaning continuous religion from beginning to end. Thus Sanatana Dharma is the same as Islam.

In a religious context, ‘Islam’ means ‘peace acquired by submitting oneself to the will of Almighty God’. And that is what the ancient rishis (prophets/saints) did to attain moksha (salvation).

Till date all the scriptures, with the exception of the Holy Qur’an, have been corrupted. The authenticity of the Holy Qur’an can be asserted from the fact that more than fourteen centuries have passed since its revelation but not a single word from it has been altered. This itself speaks of the truth and the divine message that it contains. So, in today’s time, anyone wishing to attain salvation must have ​to believe in Allah as the Almighty God and Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as His last Messenger, and follow His commandments as mentioned in the Holy Qur’an.

May Allah guide the true seekers towards salvation! Amen.

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Buddha As Prophet

Born Siddhartha Gautama was known as ‘Shakyamuni’ (i.e. ‘Sage of the Shakya Clan’) to his followers. ‘Buddha’ was the title conferred on him when he had attained enlightenment.

Literal meaning of the word “Buddha” is “One who is awakened to the truth”. This can be better understood from the following definition by H.P.Blavatsky:

Buddha (Sk.) Lit., “The Enlightened”. The highest degree of knowledge. To become a Buddha one has to break through the bondage of sense and personality; to acquire a complete perception of the REAL SELF and learn not to separate it from all other selves; to learn by experience the utter unreality of all phenomena of the visible Kosmos foremost of all; to reach a complete detachment from all that is evanescent and finite, and live while yet on Earth in the immortal and the everlasting alone, in the supreme state of holiness.

Shakyamuni was not the only buddha in this world. There were many buddhas before him and also some after him. As he himself declares:

“I am not the first Buddha who came upon the earth nor shall I be the last.”

(The Gospel of Buddha by Paul Carus, p. 217)

Now, what were the exact roles of these Buddhas?

Shakyamuni himself answers this question while addressing his disciples thus:

“You yourself must make an effort, the Tathagatas (Buddhas) are only preachers. The thoughtful who enter the way are freed from the bondage of Mara (Satan).”

(Dhammapada, Sacred Books of the East, Vol.X, p. 67)

Therefore, a Buddha is one who invites and teaches people the way to salvation. Now, anyone having knowledge of Abrahamic religion will clearly understand that these buddhas were none other than the holy prophets sent by Almighty God for the welfare of the people. But the question arises whether Shakyamuni Buddha really talked about God, Heaven, Hell, etc. just like other prophets did.

There is a famous saying of Shakyamuni:

“There is, O Bhikkhus, an unborn, unoriginated, uncreated, unformed. Were there not, O Bhikkhus, this unborn, unoriginated, uncreated, unformed, there would be no escape from the world of the born, originated, created, formed.

Since, O Bhikkhus, there is an unborn, unoriginated, uncreated, unformed, therefore is there an escape from the born, originated, created, formed.”

(The Udana, translated from the Pali by D.M.Strong, p.112)

Now, anyone with a sound mind will at once declare that only and only God is unborn, unoriginated, uncreated, unformed while the rest are His Creations. Thus the above saying of the Buddha can be summed up as:

“If you came to know God, you have found deliverance.”

In the ‘Tevijja Sutta’, Shakyamuni has claimed to know ‘Brahma’ (God) and the way that leads to union with Him and which can be attained by following the noble eight-fold path. Since the Godhead is greater than man the highest bliss will forever remain a union with the Almighty. To glorify Him, God is also referred to as ‘Maha Brahma’ (i.e. ‘Great God’). Shakyamuni has also called God as ‘Amitayus’ and ‘Amitabha’ (i.e. ‘One with eternal life and immeasurable radiance’) Who is in possession of ‘Sukhavati’ (Paradise), the land of ultimate bliss.

According to Shakyamuni, if a person has faith in Amitabha and regularly chants His Name and does righteous deeds and at the time of death doesn’t reverses in faith then such a person would go to Sukhavati in the Hereafter.

And the evil-doers would go to ‘Naraka’ (Hell) in the Hereafter.

As for those who are interested in the concept of rebirth, they would be surprised to know that neither the term “rebirth” nor “reincarnation” has a Sanskrit or Pali equivalent. In order to propagate the theory of rebirth, the Sanskrit term borrowed was “punarbhava” which is “punabbhava” in Pali language. The word “punar” means “next time” or “again” and “bhava” means “becoming”. Therefore, “punarbhava” means “next becoming” or “becoming again” (i.e. “rebecoming”).

Thus we can clearly see that the term “punarbhava” strongly indicates the concept of “resurrection”.

Just before enlightenment, ‘Mara’ came with his followers to distract Siddhartha but failed and had to flee. There are also some other encounters with ‘Mara’ the Evil One. This ‘Mara’ is none other than ‘Satan’ the Devil (‘Shaytan’ or ‘Iblees’ in Islamic theology) whose main aim is to lead people astray from the true path and he does it by means of greed, hatred, delusion, etc.

In traditional Buddhism, four senses of the word “Mara” are given. Firstly, there is ‘klesa-mara’, or Mara as the embodiment of all unskillful emotions. Secondly, ‘mrtyu-mara’, or Mara as death, in the sense of causing death to the spiritual life. Thirdly, ‘skandha-mara’, or Mara as metaphor for the entirety of conditional existence. Lastly, ‘devaputra-mara’, or Mara as the son of Jinni, that is, Mara as an objectively existent being rather than as a metaphor.

The last connotation of Mara is strikingly similar to the Islamic concept of Shaytan the Devil.

There is some misrepresentation when Mara is mentioned at the time of physical death of a human. At the time of death it is actually ‘Yama’ or ‘Yamdoot’ (‘Azrail’ in Islamic theology), the Angel of Death who captures the soul when one’s lifespan comes to an end.

When one talks about soul one gets the conception that Gautama Buddha has denied the existence of soul. But it is not so. Actually, his teachings are presented in such a complicated manner that it is hard to get to the depths. However, the fact is that Gautama Buddha never denied the existence of soul but only preached about the annihilation of the ego-centric self, i.e., “I am”, in order to attain salvation.

On attaining ‘Buddhahood’ (Prophethood) when Siddhartha Gautama was in doubt whether to preach or not to preach, he was visited by ‘Brahma-Sahampati’ who encouraged him to preach so that at least some people would be able to comprehend the truth. This ‘Brahma-Sahampati’ is none other than ‘Archangel Gabriel’ (‘Jibrail’ in Islamic theology) who has visited all the prophets to convey the message of God.

Also some angels visited Gautama Buddha at the Jetavana Monastery to make him aware of the emancipated condition of his half-brother named Nanda. These angels are described as certain celestial beings of dazzling beauty, illuminating the whole of Jetavana with their radiance though it was late night.

Besides creating angels, human beings, animals, etc. the Almighty God has also created a species called ‘Genii’ or ‘Jinn’. The jinn have physical forms but are generally invisible to humans. And though they are known to inhabit the subterranean planes but can also be found in the remote and desolate places of earth. They occupy a parallel world to that of mankind and have powers to influence humans and can appear in various forms including the form of humans and animals. Silas (fairies), ifrits, marids and ghouls are different classes of jinn.

In Buddhist texts, the term ‘devas’ are used for different types of non-human beings who are more powerful and longer lived than humans. The devas are generally invisible to the human eye but their presence can be detected by the ‘buddhas’ (prophets) and ‘arahants’ (saints) who have developed such spiritual powers by which one can see and hear beings from other planes. Most devas are capable of constructing illusory forms by which they can manifest themselves into human beings or animals. Devas are also capable of moving great distances speedily and flying through the air.

Devas can be broadly classified into two main groups: the ‘higher devas’ who reside in the heavens and the ‘lower devas’ who reside on Mount Sumeru as well as on earth. As devas are invisible to the human eye so is their main dwelling place, ‘Mount Sumeru’ (‘Mount Qaf’ in Islamic theology).

The higher devas, also called devatas, have physical forms but are sexless and passionless. They don’t require any food or drink but shine with their own intrinsic luminosity. Thus it will be correct to call these higher devas as angels.

The lower devas have physical forms similar to, but larger than, those of humans. They eat, drink and lead the same sort of lives that humans do, though they are longer lived. The lower devas can also cause disturbance and physical harm to humans and thus it will be correct to call them as jinn.

The lower devas or jinn are of various types: ‘gandharvas’ who are fairies; ‘nagas’ who can take the form of snakes; ‘kumbhandas’ who are portly, stout and dwarf-like; ‘yakshas’ who are ifrits; ‘asuras’ who are marids; and ‘rakshasas’ who devour humans and can be called demons, ghouls or ogres.

Just as human beings need a king or ruler to manage the law and order system, so do the jinn. The king of the jinn is known as ‘Sakra’. His full title is ‘Sakrodevanam indrah’, i.e., ‘Sakra, Lord of the Jinn’. When one Sakra dies his place is taken by another jinni who becomes the new Sakra. The palace of Sakra is on the top of Mount Sumeru. There exists a constant state of war among the different classes of jinn which Sakra manages to resolve with minimal violence.

In Buddhist texts, Sakra is depicted as a follower of the Buddha-Dharma and is often shown consulting Shakyamuni on questions of morality.

Although the jinn are superior in power to humans but the prophets and saints can easily tame them with the help of their spiritual powers. There are many instances of Shakyamuni’s encounters with the jinn and many of them did accept his ‘Dharma’ (religion). Thus the Pali phrase ‘sattha deva-manusanam’ ascribed to Gautama Buddha can be correctly interpreted as ‘Teacher of jinn and humans’.

Certainly, Mara (Satan) and his followers are of the jinn but can be distinguished from the rest as their main objective is to lead people astray from the true path. Mara is also known as ‘devaputra-mara’, i.e., ‘Mara, son of Jinni’.

Just like other prophets, Siddhartha Gautama has also predicted the end of the world in his ‘Sermon of Seven Suns’.

And it is a well-known fact that the holy prophets were given miracles to prove their genuineness to the laity. Every prophet had at least one unique miracle to his name. And the unique miracle of Gautama Buddha was the “twin miracle” of levitating into the air and shooting forth jets of fire and water from his body. And he performed this twice, once in Kapilavastu and then in Sravasti, just to prove his genuineness to the laity.

Thus we can clearly see that in the life and sayings of Gautama Buddha there was the concept of Uncreated God, Archangel Gabriel and other angels, Satan and other jinn, Doomsday, Life Hereafter, Heaven and Hell. Now, after examining all these facts, it can be safely concluded that Gautama Buddha was indeed a holy prophet sent by Almighty God for the welfare of humans and jinn.

(excerpt from ‘Buddha As Prophet: A True Biography’)

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The Promised Messiah

No question of expecting the Promised Messiah as he had already come and gone.

A mind-boggling discovery was made in the ‘Dead Sea Scrolls’ (3rd century BCE – 1st century CE). It was about the promised two Messiahsand not one as taught by the early Christian Church which was mostly busy monopolizing Christianity and destroying earlier recordings of Jesus Christ and his true disciples [such as banning the authentic books and blacklisting them at the Nicene Council held in 325 CE].

The prediction of two messiah is something that many scholars in Judaism very well know.

These scrolls also refer to the two messiahs as 1) priestly messiah, and 2) lay messiah.

In ‘The Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered’ by Robert Eisenman and Michael Wise, we read that although the early scrolls spoke of two messiahs, but later on the communities of Jews began to combine them into one messiah.

“As we have suggested, contrary to the well-known ‘two-Messiah’ theory of early Qumran scholarship, these references to the ‘Messiah of Aaron and Israel’ in the Damascus Document are singular not plural… and one possible explanation for it is that it is evoking a Messiah with both priestly and kingly implications, like the somewhat similar recitations of Hebrews.”

(The Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered, Robert Eisenman and Michael Wise, p. 162)

“According to the dominant view in the sectarian texts from Qumran, two messiahs were to lead the congregation in the End of Days, one priestly, and the other lay.”

(Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls, Lawrence H. Schiffman, pp. 321-322)

So the Jews had prophecies of “two messiahs”. The first was best known to them for his “religious” or “priestly” works which he would perform. The second was best known to them for his “kingly” works; his bringing of an epoch of peace.

These prophecies of two messiahs refer to none other than Jesus and Muhammad (peace be upon them).
 
Jesus (peace be upon him) was best known for his “priestly” works. However, he never lead an army and never established a kingdom or a government. Quite the opposite, he called to peace and submissiveness, and to leave the rule of the land to others (Matthew 22:21). He told his followers that he yet had many things to teach them but they could not bear them at that time and that another would be coming after him who would teach them the complete truth (John 16:7-14).

Muhammad (peace be upon him) too began his ministry preaching submissiveness and passiveness. However, his ministry was nurtured by God almighty to a point where it was able to defend itself and establish righteousness on the face of earth and abolish evil. His followers fought several wars in self-defence and against injustice. The Islamic empire finally stretched from China to Spain and even those who did not follow Muhammad knew him well. But what did they know him for? They knew him for his “kingly” actions and not for the “priestly” side of him that his followers knew.

Prophet Muhammad was a prophet who could neither read nor write, and so he was a Lay Messiah in that respect.

Interestingly, after learning of the prophecies in the early Jewish scriptures [such as the promised Messiah would be from the Ishmailites], historical evidence shows, many Jewish sects migrated to Arabia and started living there in anticipation of the arising of their Saviour. And from amongst them were the devoted Jews who willingly converted to Islam when Muhammad (peace be upon him) proclaimed his prophethood as they at once recognized him by the signs they knew of the Promised Messiah.

But there were other Jews who chose to ignore him despite knowing him to be the Ultimate Messiah. Their state was described by the Almighty thus:

“Those unto whom We gave the Scripture recognize him (Muhammad) as they recognize their sons. But verily, a party of them conceal the truth while they know [it].” (Qur’an 2:146)

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Muhammad in the Bible

Some of the important prophecies from the Bible are as follows:

Old Testament:

The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a prophet from the midst of theeof thy brethrenlike unto meunto him ye shall hearken.”

And the Lord said unto me, ‘They have well spoken that which they have spokenwill raise them up a Prophet from among their brethrenlike unto theeand will put MyWords in his mouthand he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.’”

(Deuteronomy 18:15, 17, 18)

The above prophecy clearly indicates that the promised prophet will be from among the Ishmaelists as the Israelites as a whole are being addressed here and they are told that the promised prophet would be raised from amongst their brethren (i.e. the Ishmaelists).

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was in many ways similar to Prophet Moses (peace be upon him). Both were born of parents, both were married, both were accepted as Prophets by their people in their lifetime, both received scriptures, both brought new rules and regulations for their people, and both died a natural death.

And the book is delivered to him that is not learnedsayingRead thisI pray theeand he saithI am not learned.”

(Book of Isaiah 29:12)

When Archangel Gabriel commanded Prophet Muhammad by saying “Iqra”- “Read”, he replied, “I am not learned.”

New Testament:

Nevertheless I tell you the truthIt is expedient for you that I go awayfor if I go not awaythe Comforter will not come unto youbut if I departI will send him unto you.”

(Gospel of John 16:7)

Some Christians say that the Comforter mentioned here refers to the Holy Spirit. They fail to realise that the prophecy clearly says that only if Jesus departs will the Comforter come. The Bible states that the Holy Spirit was already present on earth before and during the time of Jesus, in the womb of Elizabeth, and again when Jesus was baptised, etc. Hence the prophecy refers to none other than Prophet Muhammad.

I have yet many things to say unto youbut ye cannot bear them nowHowbeit when hethe Spirit of Truth is comehe will guide you unto all truthfor he shall not speak of himselfbut whatsoever he shall hearthat shall he speakand he will shewyou things to comeHe shall glorify me.”

(Gospel of John 16:12–14)

The Spirit of Truth, spoken about in this prophecy refers to none other than Prophet Muhammad. And the Holy Qur’an bears a testimony to the glorification of Jesus as he actually was in his lifetime,- a God-fearing humble prophet.

So all the true followers of Moses (pbuh) and Jesus (pbuh) should pay heed to the above mentioned prophecies if they have any respect for these Holy Prophets. And for their own salvation they should accept Allah as the One and Only Almighty God, Muhammad (pbuh) as His final Messenger, and the Holy Qur’an as His final Revelation.

May Allah guide the true seekers towards salvation! Amen.

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