Meaning of inspiration
|[CONTENTS]||Before proceeding further, it seems
necessary to remove here a misconception regarding ilham (inspiration). This word does not
mean that an idea is infused into the mind of a person who sets himself to think about a
thing. A poet is not inspired in the theological sense when brilliant ideas flash upon him
as he sits down to write poetry. In such a case, there is no distinction between good and
bad. When the mental powers are applied to a subject, new ideas do flash upon the mind
according to the genius of the thinker without any regard to the good or bad nature of the
If ilham (inspiration) is taken to mean the occurring of new ideas, a thief or dacoit or murderer may as well be called mulham (inspired one of God) by virtue of the ingenious plans which may come out of his evil mind for the perpetration of evil deeds. Such a view of inspiration is held by those who are ignorant of the Merciful Who bestows peace and consolation upon the hearts of the righteous and gives knowledge of spiritual truth to those who are not aware of them.
What is inspiration then? It is the living and powerful word of God in which He speaks to or addresses His servants whom He chooses from among the people. When these communications run on continually in a regular way - not being insufficient or fragmentary or enveloped in the darkness of evil ideas and have a heavenly bliss, wisdom and power, they are the words of God with which He comforts His Servants and reveals Himself to them. It is true that words are sometimes spoken to a man by way of trial but they are not accompanied with the perfection and blessings necessary to a true inspiration. In this early stage, a person is tried and he either stumbles on account of the weakness of the flesh or, having tasted of the sweet and life-giving fountain of inspiration, transforms himself and makes himself like those who have truly been inspired. If he does not walk in righteousness like the faithful servants, he is deprived of the favor and has nothing but vanity in his heart.
It should, moreover, be remembered that all those who receive inspiration are not of equal rank in the sight of God. Even the prophets, whose inspiration or revelation stands far above that of other men on account of its clearness, force and excellence, are not all on the same level. The Almighty says in the Quran:
From this, it appears that inspiration is but the Divine grace and does not interfere with the exaltation of degrees, for the latter depends upon the sincerity, devotion and faithfulness of a person towards the Supreme Being. Inspiration is also a fruit of these qualities. If an answer is vouchsafed when a person entreats his Lord, and there is no break or irregularity in the answers, and the word is accompanied with Divine majesty and light, and reveals the deep secrets of the future and hidden truths, there is no doubt that it is inspiration. It is necessary that between the Almighty and the recipient of such an inspiration there should be a close connection, such as exists in conversation between two intimate friends. When this person addresses his prayers, an answer is vouchsafed to him in sweet and eloquent words proceeding from the Creator, which is not the result of his own desires or of any deliberation or reflection on his part. Should he be continually graced with such words and answers, then surely the word which comes to him is the Divine word.
But this gift of pure and living words, revealed with clearness, and not mixed with low desires, is not granted to any but those whose hearts are filled with a high degree of faith and sincerity. True and pure inspiration reveals the mighty wonders of God. Very often, an effulgent light is created and with it comes a bright and majestic inspiration. What greater blessing or happiness can be conceived than speaking to the mighty Creator of the earth and heavens and being spoken to by Him?
It should, however, be noted that the mere utterance of words and phrases not distinctly recognized as having come from the Lord does not fall under the heading of inspiration. A person who finds himself in this condition is really being tried. For, the Almighty sometimes tries men who are remiss and negligent in the performance of their duties towards Him, by infusing certain words into their minds or causing them to be uttered, with respect to which they are like blind men not knowing whether the words come from God or Satan. A person who is thus tried should repent and reform himself.
The righteous man - to whom the doors of inspiration are open and who is spoken to by God in words which possess light, sweetness, majesty, deep significance and more than mortal wisdom, whose entreaties and supplications are answered by Him as often as they are urged, who addresses his supplications to Him repeatedly, and receives answers thereto, whose prayers are accepted many a time, who is informed of actual truths, excellent points and deep secrets through inspiration -must be thankful to the Lord and devote himself entirely to Him. For, that person He chooses out of His grace and mercy, and makes him an heir to all the blessings which He has granted to the righteous before. But it should be pointed out that such a high Divine favor is seldom bestowed, and to very few, and those to whom it is granted consider every other blessing as naught in comparison with this.
It may not be out of place to state here that it is among the Muslims that individuals have always been raised to this spiritual eminence. Islam is the religion in which God draws His servants to Him and speaks to them and through them. He grants them all the blessings which He has ever bestowed upon the righteous before. Ah! the world is blind and does not know what a man may attain to if he comes nearer to the Merciful.
It may be pointed out that people of the world do not care to take a single step to attain nearness of God; but he who is a pilgrim on this path is either declared a heretic or is worshipped. Both classes are guilty of an iniquity: the one of excessive hatred and the other of excessive love. But the wise man should adopt the mean course, neither reject him whom the Lord Has chosen for this eminence nor bow down before him whom He has created.
I would be guilty of an injustice if I were to conceal the fact that I have been raised to this spiritual eminence. The Almighty has favored me with His word, and chosen me that I may give sight to the blind, lead the seekers-after-truth to the object of their search and give to the acceptors of truth the glad tidings of the pure fountain which is talked of by many, but is found by few. I can unhesitatingly say that, except by following the Quran, no one can find the true Lord in Whom lies the salvation of man and eternal bliss. It is my heart's innermost desire that others may see what I have seen and hear what I have heard; that they may forsake vain stories and run to accept the truth. That perfect source of knowledge which bring one to the noble presence of God, that pure heavenly water which washes off all doubts, that bright mirror through which the glory of the Master is revealed, is the word of God - the Divine inspiration.
I am certain that if the soul desires it earnestly, and the heart yearns for it, people should seek this way and set out in search of this path. But, how can this path be opened and the veil of ignorance removed? I assure all seekers-after-truth that it is Islam alone which promises this happy goal to the wayfarer and gives the glad tidings of this path of salvation. The true way to inspiration is open only to the followers of Prophet Muhammad.
Some people are of the opinion that the Lord has barred entrance to this way; such views are simply the invention of those who are themselves deprived of this heavenly blessing. Know it for certain, then, that as a person cannot hear without ears, cannot speak without tongue, and cannot see without eyes, in the same manner he cannot see the Beloved One without the Quran. The Almighty Whose grace is bounteous has never willed that He should close the door to inspiration and thus destroy the world. The gates are still wide open through which one can find entrance to the heavenly blessings of inspiration. But to seek it, a person must walk on the proper path and then only will he find it. That water of life came down from heaven and accumulated in a grand receptacle. To drink of it, he must reach it, stumbling and falling, and apply his lips to the cool and refrigerant water of life. In this consists the felicity of man that he should run to the spot where any trace is to be found of the Friend Whom he seeks. As light comes from heaven and sheds its luster upon earth, the true light of guidance also comes from heaven.
It is not through talk or conjecture that a man can attain to the source of Divine knowledge. Are eyes of any avail in total darkness? If they are, then reason alone may be a guide to a perfect knowledge of God. The true Lord is not one Whose lips are sealed and Who is, therefore, obliged to leave us to our own conjectures concerning Him. Nay, the perfect and living Creator has ever been giving unmistakable signs of His existence and He has even now willed to vouchsafe such signs to the present generation. The time is come when the doors of heaven shall be opened. Lo! the dawn is about to break forth. Blessed are they who rise up and seek the Almighty Whose luster of glory never grows dim. The Quran says:
It is from God that all light proceeds. He is the Sun of the sun, and the Life of all life, the True and Living Lord. Blessed is he who accepts Him!