What Is Messengerhood?
Messengerhood is the highest rank, the highest honor, possible. It proves the superiority of a man’s inner being to that of others. A Messenger is like a branch, which arches out from the Divine to the human realm. He is the very heart and tongue of creation. He does not only possess what we call a supreme intellect, which penetrates into the reality of things and events, as is the case with geniuses, but also he is an ideal being, all of whose faculties are harmoniously excellent and active, and who strives and progresses steadily towards heaven, who awaits Divine inspiration for the solutions to the problems he meets, and who is considered to be the connecting point between the things and beings here and the Beyond. His body is subject to and follows his heart-figuratively, the seat of spiritual intellect; his mind likewise is subject to and follows his heart. His perceptions and reflections are always directed to the Names and Attributes of God. He goes to what he perceives; he arrives at the destination he aims for.
A Messenger’s perception, developed to the full seeing, hearing and thus knowing, surpasses that of ordinary people. Nor can his power of perception or understanding be expressed or explained in terms of different wavelengths of light or sound, or in some other such way. It is not within an ordinary man’s power and means to acquire a Messenger’s knowledge, which goes beyond the limits of ordinary human nature. However intently deployed, our human powers of analysis and synthesis, can never attain to a Messenger’s knowledge.
Through the Messengers, man has been able to gain an insight into creation, and thus to find out and to know the meaning of it. But for the Messengers and their teachings, man would neither have seen nor understood the true nature and meaning of things and events, nor therefore could he have entered into and coped with what is in and around him.
In addition to conveying the Divine message and guidance, the Messengers have also taught man something of God and His Names and Attributes. Their first mission was to teach the reality of this life, its true purpose and meaning. Since God is beyond man’s perception and comprehension, it fell to the Messengers to be the most obedient, careful, conscious, self disciplined of people whilst they were performing their tasks. If there had not been any clear utterances by the Messengers about the Creator, the All Mighty, the All Knowing, who governs and sustains and cherishes the whole creation, from the smallest atom to the largest nebula, it would never have been possible for man to think or know or say anything right and proper about God.
Everything in the universe tries to, as it were, exhibit the Names and Attributes of the All Mighty, All Encompassing Creator. In the same way, the Messengers have taken note of, affirmed and been faithful to, the subtle, mysterious relation between God and His Names and Attributes. Their duty was to know and speak about God. Therefore, they entered into the true meaning of things and events, and conveyed it directly and sincerely to their fellow human beings.
Just as, even in the smallest exhibitions, public fairs and the like events, we benefit from a guide or usher, who directs our steps and prepares our attention, so also with the magnificent exhibition of this creation, we are in need of guides who draw attention to the reality of it, direct us towards its purpose and meaning, and show us our way in it.
Is it possible that the One who, in order to make Himself known, ordered this creation, opened to us His works, for our wonder and awe it possible that He would not, through some distinguished servants, reveal His names and Attributes to those who long to know Him? If this were so, would it not make His creation a vain work? The Supreme Being who made everything like a tongue and a letter and who revealed His Wisdom and Blessings through such things is absolutely free from vanity and absurdity. Thus, it seems to us, most unlikely that a people in one or other part of the world have been deprived of God’s revelation through His Messengers. The Holy Book, indeed, is explicit on this point:
“For We assuredly sent amongst every people a Messenger (with the command), ‘Serve God and eschew evil’.”
However, mankind forgot the teachings brought by those appointed servants, and over time went astray, sometimes deifying the very men who preached against it, and sank into idolatry.
Throughout the earth there are examples of what man’s imagination has idolized like the mountain of the gods in ancient Greece or, to this day, the River Ganges in India. Even accepting that there must be a tremendous difference between their first appearance and the actual position now, it is quite impossible to understand the conditions that raised Confucius in China and Brahma and Buddha in India. It is equally difficult to guess what they originally taught, or to know how far time and human degeneration have corrupted the first message.
Perhaps it was one of the conditions of the Roman Empire accepting Christianity as the official, state religion, that the festival, holy days, rites and rituals of the church are so obviously and shamelessly derived from or imitate directly, the idolatrous practices of the ancient Romans and Greeks. For without the enlightening revelation of the Holy Book, it is very difficult to tell the Jesus Christ worshipped in the Christian church from Adonis or Dionysus.
Considering that Christianity is relatively recent and considering what the Christians did to their Messenger and to the Book, we may well wonder how many ‘Christs’ have been treated in the same way by their followers over time? This is a most important point. Many of the religions which we now consider false turned to falsehoods, superstitions and legends over time through the deliberate malice of their opponents-despite the fact that, originally, they may have come from the purest, Divine source. What they were whether true or fake (we do not know) is not what they are. Supposing the impossible that their founders returned and saw the religion they originally established, they would not now recognize them. There have been many religions which have been distorted and altered in the world, and consequently it is essential to accept that the purity of their original foundation. The Holy Book says:
“There never were a people without a Warner having lived among them…And We assuredly sent among every people a Messenger.”
These revelations universally declare that God sent messengers to every people throughout the world. The names of some of these are known to us through the Holy Book, but there is also a large number whose names have not been made known to us. The names we know are 28 out of 124,000 (or perhaps 224,000); even then we do not know exactly where and when many of them lived.
Essentially we are not bound to know all the past messengers. The Holy Book says:
“We did in times past send Messengers before you; of them there are some whose stories We have related to you, and some whose story We have not related to you.”
In this way, the Holy Book warns us not to deal with some of those whom it does not mention to us.
Recent studies in comparative religion, philosophy and anthropology, have shown how many communities, living at very great distances from each other, share certain concepts and practices. For example, turning from plural to a singular conception of God; in their supplications in times of exceptional stress seeking refuge only in the One Supreme Being and raising their hands and asking something from Him. There are very many such phenomena, which indicate a singular source, a single teaching.
If primitive tribes cut off from civilization and the influence of the known Messengers, have a sure understanding of the Oneness of God, though they may have little understanding of how to live according to that belief, it must be that, as the Holy Book tells us, every people and nation has had its own Message and Messenger:
“For every people there is a Messenger. When their Messenger comes, the matter is judged between them with justice, and they are not wronged.”
No people and no land are excluded from that commandment.
This brings us to the question of whether those who claim they have not been sent messenger will be held responsible for their beliefs and actions. As we have just explained, there is no reason to believe that any peoples in the world have been deprived altogether of the messengers’ light. There may have been periods in which darkness seemed to prevail. But such were temporary darkness, after which the Grace and Blessing of God again enlightened the people through revelation to His chosen servants. Thus, whether it is less or more, every people, at some point in their history, saw or heard or experienced to the full, the mercy of revelation. Nevertheless, we must allow that, in some instances, the destruction of the beliefs, which the Messengers established, was so absolute and people introduced so many distortions into the religion and bizarre rites of worship that the true teachings were generally, if not altogether, lost by the people. In such cases, a long interregnum of darkness may have replaced enlightenment. Though enlightenment and enlightenment ever follow darkness by darkness, there may be some peoples who remained in darkness as it were unknowingly and against their own will. For such people there are glad tidings in the Holy Book. These are not punished or blamed for the wrong they may do, until and unless due warning has been conveyed to them:
“We never punish until We have sent a Messenger.”
That is, the warning precedes responsibility and then reward or punishment.
Some people cannot analyze the things and events around them, cannot penetrate to their meaning, nor deduce therefrom the right course of belief and action. Such people are first taught the right way, given explanations and directions on how to act and then, in line with their actions thereafter, are answerable and accordingly rewarded or punished. But as for those who willfully take to unbelief or adopt an hostile, negative attitude to belief and religion, or knowingly defy God and His commandments, they will certainly be questioned and punished for their deviation and corruption, even though they live in the farthest, most desolate and deserted region of the world.
To summarize: no region or people have been altogether deprived of Divine enlightenment through God’s chosen servants, His Messengers. Directly or indirectly, all people of all periods have, at some time in their history, known or been aware of a messenger and of his teaching. A period during which the names of the messengers have been forgotten and their teachings completely eroded, until another messenger is sent, is described as an interregnum. It is accepted that people who live in those periods would not be punished but rather excused, on the condition that they have not knowingly and willfully deviated into polytheism or atheism.
And God, the All Knowing and All Encompassing, knows best.