The Object of Revelation
Neither the Vedas nor the Bible seem to specify any object of universal
interest for their revelation. God no doubt spoke to Moses at Sinai
and ordered him to go to Pharaoh with a message demanding freedom
for the Israelites. After the Exodus, He again spoke to Moses and
gave him the Ten Commandments; and Moses when in need of guidance
goes to his Lord from time to time and the Lord expresses His will
for the guidance of His people. Similarly, whenever the chosen people
are in difficulty or in trouble Jehovah sends His angels with words
to meet the occasion. On the same lines we find various Mantras
(hymns) in the Vedas, revealed to the old Hindu Rishis. The Ten
Commandments undoubtedly promulgate the lines of action necessary
to form a society. Sociable as we are, we must speak the truth;
we must respect the lives, property and womenfolk of our neighbours;
we must revere our parents, and, to give rest to our body, we must
observe the Sabbath. I think any human society desirous of keeping
itself in a healthy condition could have discovered these principles
even without the help of any revelation.
But the Quranic Revelation is far above these primitive and temporal
needs. It comes to raise man to the highest height to which he is
able to soar. The first call that came to the Prophet Muhammad in
the cave at Hira is a call free from all personal or racial elements.
It is a call for the uplifting of man in general. The Holy Prophet
Muhammad was not called upon to serve his own nation, nor did the
heavenly dove descend from above to choose the Son of God from among
his fellow countrymen. The Prophet Muhammad is inspired to raise
his fellow-beings, wherever they may be, from the depth of degradation
to the zenith of greatness. His first Revelation is as follows:
Man is ordered through Prophet Muhammad to read, to cultivate the
art of writing, for the spread of books and enlightenment, and to
discover sciences not known before, thereby bringing humanity to a
position most honourable, because his Creator is Himself most honourable
and His creation should index the greatness of the Maker. Matter reaches
its physical consummation in the form of man, and Nature cannot improve
upon it any further. But the same matter evolves a new thing in the
human frame - human consciousness - the sum total of the passions,
which when refined give rise to intellect, sentiment, sociability,
morality, ethics, religion and spirituality. All these divine elements,
intended to create a great civilization and to bring man to his real
dignity, have been reposed in human nature. But as a full-fledged
man on the physical plane evolves from a clot of blood in the womb,
so was human consciousness in clot condition at the appearance of
the Prophet Muhammad, who was deputed by God in the same verse to
show his fellow beings the right path, as revealed to him by God,
that will bring forth all that is noble and good in man.
Read in the name of your Lord Who created. He created
man from a clot. Read and your Lord is most Honourable, Who taught
(to write), with the pen, taught man what he knew not. Nay! man
is most surely inordinate. Because he sees himself free from want.
(The Holy Quran, 96:1-7).
Revelation to exalt man
This grand object the Holy Book takes for its revelation and makes
mention of it in its very beginning (The Holy Quran, 2 : 5). When
it defines the most exalted position which man is entitled to achieve,
it also indicates the lowest degradation to which he may descend.
In the story of Adam (The Holy Quran, 2:30-39). the high and low
conditions of man are defined. He is the vicegerent of God on earth.
He is to receive homage from the angels of heaven and earth; and
for this purpose the sun and the moon, with all other manifestations
of Nature, as the Quran says, have been made subservient to man
(The Holy Quran, 14:32-33; 16:12). All this he can achieve through
knowledge, but if he is led astray from the right path he will be
deprived of the means that contribute to his happiness (The Holy
Quran, 2:36). With all our civilization we have not as yet attained
the height which we have to achieve under the directions of the
Last Book. We have not secured the position of being able to bring
the sun and the moon into subjection. This is the goal which the
Quran prescribes for us in our sojourn on the earth.
In this connection the Quran further reveals to us that we possess
the highest capabilities but as we have arisen from an animal state
and carry with us certain carnal cravings, the Book warns us that
our way to the goal is beset with difficulties. We are liable to
be degraded to the lowest of the low and therefore we need guidance
to help us upwards in our evolutionary journey and to save us from
falling into pitfalls:
This is another purpose of Quranic revelation. We are in the dark
and we need a light, and the Book claims to be that light (The Holy
Quran, 14:1). Let St. Paul blackguard human nature; Islam says that
we possess an immaculate nature which is inherently free from the
taint of sin. In this, Islam differs from Christianity. If hell is
the reward of sin and heaven is reserved for those who leave this
earth sinless, Islam and Christianity advance two different and contradictory
propositions. Christianity says that man is born in sin, while according
to Islam he is sinless at his birth. If a child, therefore, dies at
his very birth, he must go to heaven, under Islamic teaching, but
he is foredoomed to hell according to Christian principles. In other
words, heaven is our birthright under Islam. We may lose it by our
subsequent misdeeds. But according to Christianity we are born for
hell unless reclaimed by our faith in the Blood. Similarly, sin is
a heritage according to Church beliefs, but is an after-acquisition
under Islam, and can be avoided.
Certainly We created man in the best make. Then We
render him the lowest of the low, except those who believe and
do good - so theirs is a reward never to be cut off. (The
Holy Quran, 95:4-6).
Thus the sole object of Christian Revelation is to bring man out
of the slough of sin up to the brink of virtue, but Islam finds
man already on its banks at his birth and comes to raise him to
its highest flight that will bring him near the precincts of Divinity.
What a world of difference is here!
Quranic Revelation is Rational, not Dogmatic
To resume the subject, there is another marked difference between
the last and the ancient revelations. The Quran is rational in its
teachings, while the Hindu and Hebrew Books are dogmatic in imparting
their messages. Like a pedagogue or a father whose words are law
or gospel to his pupils or children, the Bible and the Vedas assert
their precepts and principles in a spirit that seems to expect no
opposition or doubt from their respective recipients. The Books
speak of God, of angels, of resurrection, and the Last Day; of Divine
messengership and accountability for present actions in the hereafter;
but they make no attempt to substantiate these verities by any intelligent
arguments. They claim nothing to meet the demand of a sceptical
mind. Perhaps the human mind at the time of these revelations had
not as yet crossed the frontiers of infancy, and was groping in
the avenue of sentimentality.
The Quran seems to belong to a time when the human mind had developed
enough to give precedence to intellect over blind belief. For it
also speaks of the above-mentioned truths, but with logic and reason.
To bring home its doctrines to its readers mind, it makes
frequent appeal to our understanding and rational judgment. It draws
our attention to various manifestations of nature as evidence of
what it enunciates. For instance, there are logical reasons and
rational arguments in the Book to prove the existence of God, of
the day of resurrection, the necessity of Divine revelation, and
many other things. The Muslim Scripture would not ask its readers
to accept any of its teachings except on the strength of reasoning.
This is perhaps why Islam has not observed any atheistic or sceptical
movement or disposition in its ranks; while no sooner did the Church
persecution become relaxed and intellect freed from its iron grip
than secularizing and free thought flourished apace.
In India there has perhaps been no such marked struggle between
religion and agnosticism, for the Vedas favoured atheistic and sceptical
tendencies equally with other forms of Hindu schism. And here, again,
Islam and the other two religions present a most striking contrast.
Education has alienated the human mind from the Church religion.
It has brought forth a similar revolt against Hinduism, especially
in these latter days. But modern science has only served to strengthen
Muslim belief in the Quranic truths. We are rational beings. Reason
and logic play a prominent part in all our beliefs and persuasions.
No other book but the Quran, therefore, will meet the demand of
Articles of Faith
Again, the Christian and Hindu revelations do not specifically
speak of the articles of their faith; each inquirer must gather
them for himself from these Books. In the Christian Churches the
task fell to the Church councils. The articles of the Christian
faith as promulgated by the Fathers were collected in the Book of
Common Prayer, and have been the object of successive revisions
from time to time.
In Hinduism, want of a definite statement in the Vedas as to what
were the articles of faith in the Vedic religion gave rise to innumerable
sects that differ from each other even in their fundamental tenets.
From such a fate the Quran has saved the Muslims; for it has clearly
laid down in various verses the Islamic articles of faith. (2:3-4,
177, 285; 4:136).