The Six Parallel Stages of Physical and Spiritual Perfection in the Light of the Holy Quran

English translation of Barahin-e-Ahmadiyya, Vol. 5, pp. 32–84

by Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian

The Sixth and Final Stage

The sixth spiritual stage is mentioned in the verse,

وَ الَّذِیۡنَ ہُمۡ عَلٰی صَلَوٰتِہِمۡ یُحَافِظُوۡنَ ۘ﴿۹﴾

“And those who keep a guard over their prayers.” [The Holy Quran, 23:9]

That is, they stand in need of no admonition or reminder. Instead, such is the strength of their connection with Allah, Most High, and so personal and innate to them is the remembrance of Allah, and so much is it the source of their life and their tranquillity that they guard and treasure every moment of this remembrance. In fact, every second of their lives is devoted to the remembrance of Allah and they try their utmost not to be forgetful of Him even for the twinkling of an eye.

It is, indeed, a fact that man will try his best to guard and preserve continuously, something upon which the very existence of his life depends. Take the example of a traveller who has to traverse a waterless desert and who has no hope of getting food or water for hundreds of miles. Look at how carefully he will guard whatever food and water he is taking with him. He will consider his sustenance equal to his life for he knows for sure that the loss of his provisions will result in a swift death for him.

Thus, similar to that traveller are those believers who keep a close watch over their salah (prayer). Even if they suffer a loss in wealth or in honour, or sometimes feel that salah (prayer) is a somewhat irksome task, yet they never abandon it and are always in a state of great anguish that their prayer may be wasted, and they even writhe as if in the agonies of death for they do not want to be separated from Allah for even a second.

In fact, they regard prayer and the remembrance of Allah as the indispensable sustenance of their lives. This condition comes into being only when Allah loves them, for then a burning flame from His personal love, which is like a ruh (soul) for the spiritual sustenance of man, descends on their hearts and infuses them with another life and that spirit suffuses the whole of their spiritual being with light and power.

They then engage in the remembrance of Allah without the slightest trace of show or pretence. On the other hand, Allah, Who has made man’s physical life dependent on food and water, has made His remembrance the nourishment of their spiritual life which they love so much that they give precedence to this sustenance over their physical food and water, and live in constant fear of suffering any loss in it. The power of this ruh (spirit) is like that of a flame of fire which is infused in them and gives rise to a stage of perfect intoxication in the love of Allah. That is why they do not want to be away from Him even for the twinkling of an eye. Therefore, they endure all the slings and arrows of life but they never wish to leave Him even for the briefest moment and care little for their inner desires at all times. Thus, they carefully guard their prayer which in fact becomes naturally ingrained in them for indeed Allah has made His loving remembrance, which is called in other words salah (prayer), the essential ingredient of their spiritual ration. His personal love irradiates them through and through and He makes His remembrance a heart-ravishing delight for them.

That is why remembrance of Allah becomes dearer to them than their own lives. Allah’s personal love is a new ruh (spirit) which falls on their hearts like a flame which transforms their prayer and their remembrance of Allah into a kind of sustenance. Thus, they are certain that their life is not sustained by physical food and water but by prayer and Divine remembrance.

In short, the remembrance of Allah which is filled with love is called salah (prayer) which becomes a sustenance without which true believers cannot survive and which they studiously guard just as a traveller in the desert will guard his water in his water-bag as he will defend his life.

The munificent Lord has reserved a special stage for the spiritual progress of man. This is the final stage in the triumph and predominance of personal love. Indeed, at this juncture, the remembrance of Allah with perfect love, which in the terminology of the Law is called salah (prayer), acts as sustenance for man. However, for his physical existence, he still has to continue to provide food without which he cannot live just as a fish cannot survive without water. At the same time, he considers it a death to forget Allah even for a single moment. As a matter of fact, his soul is always making prostration at the Divine threshold and Allah becomes the Source of all his peace and comfort, and he is a hundred percent certain that to be separated from the remembrance of Allah for even the wink of an eye is synonymous with death. And just as food reinvigorates the body, and gives strength and vitality to the eyes and the ears and other organs, and the limbs, similarly, at this stage, the remembrance of Allah which is brimming with love and affection, strengthens and intensifies the spiritual powers of the believer. That is, his eye is invested with the pure and subtle power of seeing visions, his ears begin to hear the words of Allah and from his tongue flow the sweetest, purest and most luminous words; he begins to receive in abundance true dreams that appear as clearly as the break of dawn and, by virtue of that relation of pure love with the Lord of Honour, he receives a full share of prophetic dreams. This is the stage where the believer feels that Allah’s love is like food and water for him. A new creation comes into being at this time when the original spiritual constitution is fully completed and then that ruh (spirit), which is a flame of Allah’s personal love, falls on the heart of the fortunate believer and transports him way beyond the realms of humanity.

This is the stage which in spiritual terms is called khalqan akhar, that is, a new creation, at which stage a burning flame of Allah’s personal love, which in other words is called the ruh (spirit or soul), descends on the heart of the true believer and dispels all darkness and removes all traces of pollution and weakness. With the infusion of this new spirit, that beauty which was latent in the lowest stage of growth now attains perfection and a spiritual splendour is born and all the impurities of an unclean life are totally swept away.

The believer now begins to feel that a new spirit, which he did not have before, has entered his being. After receiving this spirit, a wonderful sensation of peace and calmness comes over him and innate love gushes out of him as from a spring, and irrigates the tender plant of devotion and ubudiyyat (servitude). That fire which was previously just lukewarm now reaches the height of a blazing inferno which burns away all the rubbish of human existence and confers on it the power of Divinity. Then, like a stone which is heated in a blaze of extreme intensity to such a degree that it becomes red-hot and takes on the colour of the fire, this believer now begins to manifest the signs and characteristics of the Divine just as the hot iron reveals the signs and features of the fire. However, this does not mean that he has become God but such is the peculiar nature of Divine love that it manifests its colours physically whilst spirituality is the result of extreme servitude and devotion.

At this stage, Allah, Himself, is the food upon which his life depends and the water which he drinks to save himself from death, and Allah also is his cool, refreshing breeze which brings peace and tranquillity to his heart. Here, it will not be an exaggeration if it is said that, figuratively speaking, at this point Allah enters the inner sanctum of the believer and penetrates his every vein and fibre and makes his heart the seat of His Throne. Now, the believer no longer sees by his own light, but by the spirit of Allah, and he hears and speaks and walks and fights his enemy by this very spirit, for this is the station of complete self-extinction and self-annihilation. Here Allah’s spirit illuminates him with its resplendence and endows him with a second life and in a spiritual manner he now fulfils the verse,

ثُمَّ اَنۡشَاۡنٰہُ خَلۡقًا اٰخَرَ ؕ فَتَبٰرَکَ اللّٰہُ اَحۡسَنُ الۡخٰلِقِیۡنَ ﴿ؕ۱۴﴾

“Then We cause it to grow into another creation. So blessed be Allah, the Best of creators” (The Holy Quran, 23:14).

Both the sixth spiritual stage described above and its counterpart, the birth of the sixth physical stage, find expression in the verse quoted above (23:14) which mean:

‘And when We have finished one creation of man We give birth to another one.’

The use of the word ‘and’ is to emphasise the fact that that creation is so miraculous that it greatly transcends the intellect and comprehension of man. In other words, that ruh (spirit) which is placed in the body of man after the necessary preparation is something which Allah has given in both a physical and spiritual measure. It is a mysterious substance which has raised consternation and puzzlement in the minds of all the philosophers and all the disciples of materialism as they vainly try to solve the riddle of this secret essence. And since they have not attained the path of truth and certainty, they have all judged the matter in the light of their own conjecture: some deny outright the existence of the ruh (soul) whilst others consider it as something eternal and uncreated. Thus, Allah has clearly affirmed that the ruh (soul) has been created by Him but this secret is beyond man’s deficient power of understanding (17:85)1. And just as the philosophers of the world are ignorant of the ruh (soul) which Allah beneficently places in the physical body of man at the sixth stage of development, so, too, are they unaware of the ruh (soul) which Allah breathes into the true believer at the sixth stage of spiritual development. Thus, they take divergent paths in their understanding and explanation of the nature of the soul.

However, an intelligent person can quickly grasp the point that as man is the noblest of all creation, and Allah has elevated him above all the beasts and birds on earth, and has made everything subservient to him, and has blessed him with intellectual powers, and has made him thirsty for the love of the Divine, and has given all indications that man has been created for the purpose of worshipping and serving his Creator, then how can one deny that man can reach that lofty and sublime point of personal and natural love for his Creator and that in return his Creator’s love falls on his love like a spirit which banishes all human frailties from him? Further, as Allah has designated the sixth stage of spiritual advancement in the verse,

وَ الَّذِیۡنَ ہُمۡ عَلٰی صَلَوٰتِہِمۡ یُحَافِظُوۡنَ ۘ﴿۹﴾

“And those who keep a guard over their prayers.” [The Holy Quran, 23:9]

then how can one doubt that man can live perpetually in the presence of Allah and can serve Him with tenderness of heart and thus fulfil the ultimate purpose of his creation which Allah, Himself, has established in the following verse of the Holy Quran?

وَ مَا خَلَقۡتُ الۡجِنَّ وَ الۡاِنۡسَ اِلَّا لِیَعۡبُدُوۡنِ ﴿۵۶﴾

“And I have not created the jinn and the men except that they should worship Me” (The Holy Quran, 51:56)

However, we should always bear in mind that this worship and this standing in utmost humility constantly in the presence of Allah, the Lord of Glory and Honour, cannot be achieved without intense personal love. Let it be emphasised, too, that this love is not a transient one. Instead, it refers to both aspects of love — the love of the Creator for His creation and vice versa. Just as a flash of lightning falls on a person and kills him, so, too, does the Creator’s love strike exactly at the time when man’s love is reaching out from within him and all impurities are burned away. The two loves coalesce and so exert total control over man’s spiritual being. There is one important distinction to be made here between the fifth and sixth stages of spiritual development. At both stages man fulfils all his trusts and obligations to Allah and to his fellow human beings. However, at the fifth stage this is done only in accordance with the requirements of taqwa (righteousness), but at the sixth stage, where both loves have combined and the ruh (spirit) has descended on man, these duties are now performed in a natural, spontaneous and effortless manner. Thus, the physical beauty of the sixth stage is now matched by spiritual beauty and, as everyone knows, the inert beauty of the dead is nothing compared with the magnificent splendour of the living.

Footnotes:

  1. “And they ask you about the revelation. Say: The revelation is by the commandment of my Lord, and you are not given knowledge but a little.” (The Holy Quran, 17:85) ↩︎

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