Two Pathways Allah’s Books and Allah’s Messengers
Allah Ta’alah has established two pathways to guide human beings. The first is that of the Holy books; Torah, Zaboor, Injil (Bible) and Quran Karim.
The second pathway is that of messengers of Allah Ta’alah, the Prophets of Allah. The Prophets were sent down with the Holy books to interpret for the masses what the books meant, and to show people through their words and actions what following these books meant in practice. In the Holy Quran Allah Ta’alah says;
“(We sent them) with clear signs and scriptures. And We sent down the Reminder (The Qur‘an) to you, so that you explain to the people what has been revealed for them, and so that they may ponder.”(16:44)
Why Allah Sends His Messengers
Allah Ta’alah sends His messengers to interpret His books and to purify people. In the Holy Quran Allah Ta’alah says;
“Allah has surely conferred favour on the believers when He raised in their midst a messenger from among themselves who recites to them His verses and makes them pure and teaches them the Book and the Wisdom, while earlier, they were in open error.” (3:164)
The reason Allah Ta’alah sent many Prophets without Holy Books, but didn’t send a single Holy Book without a Prophet seems to be that we can’t really understand Allah Ta’alah’s books without the guidance of His Prophets.
It is not limited to the Book of Allah. In any profession it is not enough to read the book without the supervision of a teacher.
For example, medical books are available in most languages now. But is there a person who, in case his child becomes very sick, would say, “I know English (or books on Paediatrics have now been translated in my language), why do I have to go to a Paediatrician (child specialist) to get my child treated? I will just read this book and start treating my own child.” Nobody in their right mind would do that because everyone knows that if you want to become a doctor you don’t just read books, you also have to do years of training under supervision of senior doctors before you become a specialist.
Difference between Humans and Animals
Allah Ta’alah has created some differences between humans and animals in their need for learning. In general, animals do not need as much tutoring and teaching as human beings do. For example, as soon as a fish is born it can start swimming, it does not need to take swimming lessons.
Swimming is in its nature.
But if a human thinking that a baby fish is swimming in water without any problems and is fine, throws his own baby in water without teaching him or her how to swim first, then he would be a great fool. A fish does not need to learn how to swim, but a human being does. Human nature is such that humans need to learn the most basic activities needed for their survival from other human beings, like how to eat solid food, how to clean themselves, before they can start doing them properly.
Human Beings Learn From Human Beings
It is true of almost all professions and bodies of knowledge that, in addition to reading the books, a person has to train with a mentor and spend a certain period of time in their company before he can become an expert of a particular subject or master a new skill. This is true of medicine, engineering, law or even cooking or becoming a motor mechanic. The same is true of knowledge of Deen (religion). If a person tries to learn Deen by reading books alone, he will never develop the true understanding of Deen, unless he spends sometime in the Suhbat (company) of the right teacher and mentor. Deen is not learnt by reading books alone, it can only be learnt by spending time with and observing a mentor who has actually applied and absorbed this theoretical knowledge in his personal life and behaviour.
No Holy Book Came Unaccompanied
That is why Allah Ta’alah didn’t send any Holy Book by itself. There are many Prophets who came without a Holy Book, but there is not a single Holy Book which came by itself, unaccompanied by a Prophet. It is because human beings do not have the capacity to achieve self-purification in the absence of a human mentor, merely by reading a book.
The non-believers also used to demand that Quran be sent down to them in one go;
“Said those who disbelieved, “Why has the Qur’an not been revealed to him all at once?”(25:32)
It was not difficult for Allah Ta’alah that when we woke up in the morning, all of us had a copy of the Holy Quran beside us, and we heard a revelation telling us that Allah Ta’alah had sent this Book and now it was our duty to read it and follow it. Instead, Allah Ta’alah did not send the book by itself, He also sent a Messenger with it.
The Two Sources of Enlightenment
The reason Allah Ta’alah did not send any Holy Book without a Messenger is that we can’t understand the Holy Books in the absence of guidance by the Prophets. If we have an excellent book with detailed instructions, but it is pitch dark, can we benefit from that book? Similarly, even if there is light outside, but we have no eyesight, can we benefit from that book?
So we need two sources of light before we can benefit from a book; one is internal which is the light in our eyes, the other is external as the light in the environment. Similarly, to benefit from the Books of Allah, we need two sources of enlightenment, one is our own but the other is provided by the Prophet of Allah Ta’alah.
The Book Is Enough for Us
People start going wrong when they take to one of these two extremes. One group started saying;
حسبنا کتاب ﷲ
“Allah’s book is sufficient for us.” Superficially it looks like a good slogan. Allah’s book is truly sufficient and contains all the knowledge a person requires to make his Aakhirah (the Hereafter) better. But referring to the previous analogy, why do we need a doctor when details of signs and symptoms and treatment of all illnesses are present in textbooks of medicine which we can ourselves read in English? We need an expert who can tell us how the knowledge present in the book applies to a particular situation in real life.
So, the first group deviated from the path by refusing to follow the teachings of the Prophets of Allah Ta’alah. They believed that they were following Allah’s Book, not realizing that by not following the Prophets they were actually going against Allah’s Book because the Book itself says;
“…He raised in their midst a messenger from among themselves who recites to them His verses and makes them pure and teaches them the Book and the Wisdom…” (3:164)
Allah Ta’alah is clearly commanding people in this verse of the Holy Quran to learn from His messenger. How can a person claim to follow the Holy Book while declining to learn from the Prophet? It is like the non-medically-trained person who reads a textbook of medicine, diagnoses himself, and starts treating himself, while completely ignoring the instruction written on the back of most medicine bottles, “Do not use without advice from your doctor”. Just like he is putting his life at risk, similarly, those people are putting their Iman (faith) at risk who claim to follow Allah Ta’alah’s Book but refuse to follow His messenger.
Just Following a Leader is Not Enough Too
The other misguided group is of those people who became so influenced by some religious personality that they started saying that following this person is enough for us, we do not need to follow Allah’s book. They did not care if the people they were following, were themselves following Allah’s book fully or not. This kind of blind following of individuals leads to the second kind of misguided following of religion.
The Balanced Approach
The balanced approach is the one which the Holy Prophet ﷺ himself has advised us to follow in a hadith;
ما انا عليه و اصحابى
“Follow my way, and the way of my Sahaba (The Holy Companions)”. In this Hadith ما انا عليه refers to the Holy Book, and اصحابىrefers to رجال (Holy People). It means, follow this Book that I have brought, and my Companions. Then you will be on the right path. If we keep that in mind we will avoid a lot of intellectual and practical pitfalls.
How Did The Sahaba (Holy Cmpanions) Learn Deen?
It is the nature of this Deen that it transfers from one person to another. It is not acquired by just reading a book. The Sahaba RAA did not learn Deen by going to a university or taking a degree. They just lived on the Suffa and observed what the Holy Prophet ﷺ said and did. That is how the Noor (divine light) of the teachings of the Holy Prophet ﷺ descended in their hearts. From them the knowledge was transferred to Ta’baeen(بعين), and from them to Taba’ Ta’baeen(تبع تابعين).
That is how people have learnt Deen through generations.
وآخر دعوا ان الحمد ﷲ رب العالمين