Prophets are the greatest guides
Question: Can humans find the right path and know Allah by themselves?
A retrospective view of history will show us that when left
alone with no guidance from Allahu ta’âlâ, humans have always deviated into degenerate paths. Using their minds, human beings thought of the Omnipotent, who created them, but he could not find the way leading to Allahu ta’âlâ.
Those who did not hear about prophets first looked for the Creator around themselves. The sun, being the most useful thing to them, provoked some people to think that it was the creative power, and therefore, they began to worship it. Later on, as they saw the great forces of nature, such as a gale, a fire, a furious sea, a volcano and the like, they thought they were assistants to the Creator. They attempted to symbolize each of them. This, in turn, gave birth to idols. They dreaded their wrath and sacrificed animals to them. Unfortunately, they even sacrificed human beings to them. Every new event inspired a new idol, increasing the number of idols symbolizing events. When Islam first graced the earth, there were 360 idols in the Kâ’ba.
In short, humans, by themselves, can never understand Allahu ta’âlâ, the One and the Eternal. Even today, there are still people who deify the sun, as well as fire. This should not be amazing, because without a guide, a light, one cannot find the right way in darkness. It is purported in the Qur’ân al-karîm:
(We do not torment unless We send a prophet before.) [Sûrat-ul-Isrâ, 15]
Allahu ta’âlâ sent prophets to teach His slaves how to use the powers of mind and thought, to teach them about His Oneness, and to distinguish good from evil. Prophets were human beings like us. They ate, drank, slept, and felt tired, too. What distinguished them from us was that their intellectual and assessment abilities were much greater than ours. Moreover, they had pure moral qualities and the ability to communicate Allahu ta’âlâ’s commandments to us. Prophets were the greatest guides.
The greatest of blessings
Question: What is Allah’s greatest blessing?
Of the blessings and favors Allahu ta’âlâ has bestowed upon humans, His sending prophets is the greatest. He made known the things He liked and disliked by sending prophets. Prophets did not teach scientific knowledge. They said, “Investigate it and find out through your mind, and benefit from it for useful purposes.” They, too, made and used scientific media which were known at their times. They did not engage in making more and new ones and left making them to others. They strived to spread and teach the religion Allahu ta’âlâ revealed.
One day Ashâb-i Kirâm asked our master the Prophet:
“Some of us who have been to Yemen saw that they budded the date trees in a different way and got better dates. Shall we bud our trees in Medina as our fathers have been doing or as we have seen them do in Yemen, thus getting better and more plentiful dates?”
Rasûlullah could have answered them:
“Wait a bit! When Jabrâil ‘alaihis-salâm comes, I will ask him and tell you what I learn,” or “I must think for a while; when Allahu ta’âlâ lets my heart know the truth, I will tell you.
But he did not say so. Instead, he said:
“Try it! Bud some of the trees with your father’s method and others with the method you saw being used in Yemen. Then always use the method which gives better dates.”
In other words, he commanded us to rely on experimentation, which is the basis of science. He could have learned it from the angel, or no doubt, it might have materialized in his blessed heart. But he pointed out that all over the world Muslims who will exist until the end of the world should rely on experimentation and science.
If prophets had not been sent, the human mind could not have realized that Allah exists and could not have come to comprehend His greatness. In fact, the ancient Greek philosophers, who presumed themselves to be very intelligent, were not able to comprehend Allahu ta’âlâ’s existence. They denied the Creator. Many people, such as Nimrod and Pharaoh, declared themselves deities. So humans’ short intellects could not comprehend this greatest blessing [of realizing Allahu ta’âlâ’s existence]. Unless prophets communicate it, they cannot attain this endless bliss only through their intellects.
In Islam there are many things reason cannot comprehend, but there is nothing contrary to reason. If knowledge of the next world, things which Allahu ta’âlâ likes or dislikes, and forms of worshipping Him were within the mind’s ability to understand, and if they could be ascertained through reason, there would be no need for sending thousands of prophets. People would be able to see and find happiness in this and the next worlds by themselves, and in this case, Allahu ta’âlâ would have sent prophets in vain and unnecessarily (never!). It is because reason cannot find or solve the knowledge pertaining to the next world that Allahu ta’âlâ sent a prophet to every part of the world in each century, and lastly, He sent Muhammad ‘alaihis-salâm as a prophet for the whole world until the end of the world.
All prophets, instead of meddling in worldly affairs that are ascertained through reason, only commanded and encouraged their people to work in order to find them and get use from them, and they explained how each worldly affair could draw people to everlasting happiness or perdition. They also explained clearly the things Allahu ta’âlâ liked or disliked.
But for prophets, what would happen?
Question: But for prophets, could humans know how to worship and thank Allah?
Allahu ta’âlâ is the One who has created humans and sends every blessing which is necessary for their maintenance in existence. Everybody knows that a person who does favors should be thanked. And again prophets ‘alaihimussalawâtu wattaslimât are necessary for knowing how to thank for His blessings. Thanks and respect which they have not revealed are not worthy of Him. Humans cannot know how to thank Him, and they may suppose something which is disrespect towards Him to be thanks and respect. While meaning to thank, they may be disrespectful. It can be understood how to thank Allahu ta’âlâ only by prophets’ revelation.
The information called inspiration, which occurs to the hearts of the Awliyâ’, happens only by following prophets. If inspiration happened through reasoning, the ancient Greek philosophers, who followed only their reason, would not have deviated from the right path. They would have comprehended Allahu ta’âlâ better than anybody did. However, in comprehending Allahu ta’âlâ’s existence and superior Attributes, these philosophers proved to be the most ignorant. A few of them mortified their flesh and endeavored and shined their nafs by subduing it with methods that they had learned from prophets and from Muslim men of Tasawwuf, thereby attaining a few facts; they did not know, however, that purifying and shining the nafs, and anything attained in this manner, would be aberration.
It is the heart that must be purified and shined. Purification of the nafs begins after the heart has become purified. The nûrs will first enter the purified heart. Purifying the nafs before the heart has been purified is like providing the enemy with a light to support its night attack. The enemy whom the nafs helps is the devil. Yes, happiness and truth can be attained also by starvation, by denying physical desires, by subduing the nafs, and by reasoning. But this may be possible only after having believed in prophets and what they have brought from Allahu ta’âlâ, for all the statements made by prophets were reported by unerring angels. The devil cannot meddle with these edicts.
As for those who do not follow these great persons, they cannot escape the devil’s deceit. Plato, one of the great ones of philosophers, attained the honor of being contemporary with ’Îsâ ’alaihis-salâm. Yet he was vulgarly ignorant and presumed that he did not need to learn anything from anybody. He deprived himself of the divine blessing that he would have attained through that exalted prophet.