The Hidden Reality of Revelation
The reality of revelation is hidden from us. What is clear is that the aim of the programme of life, outlined for man by the Creator, cannot possibly have been put together by the intellect; there must be another way of understanding, of perceiving, (other than through reflection and thought), by which man learns-of the duties incumbent on him and his fellow-men. This understanding may only be encompassed by the path of revelation.
There are, however, only a limited number of men who possess this kind of understanding since receiving revelation requires an understanding based on purity, sincerity and freedom from all corruption and bad thoughts. It requires men whose spiritual qualities do not change; men who are psychologically balanced in their judgements and who possess real depth of understanding. It must be admitted that these qualities are rarely to be found amongst men.
The Prophets and messengers mentioned in the Qur'an are men of precisely these qualities. The Qur'an does not mention their number; it only names a few (namely Adam, Nuh (Noah), Hud, Salih. (Methusaleh), Ibrahim (Abraham), Lut (Lot), Isma'il (Ismael, Ishmael), Alyasa' (Elisha), Dhu al-Kifl (Ezekiel), Ilyas (Elias), Yunus Jonah), Idris (Enoch), Ishaq (Isaac), Ya'qub (Jacob), Yusuf Joseph), Shu'ayb, Musa (Moses), Harun (Aaron), Da'ud (David), Sulayman (Solo- mon), Ayyub (Job), Zakariya' (Zacharias), Yahya (John), Isma'il Sadiq al-Wa'd, 'Isa (Jesus) and Muhammad; others are indicated but not named).
We, as ordinary men, do not share at all their qualities and so we cannot taste the reality of their perception. Prophecy, as an experience, remains unknown for us. Moreover, few of the past revelations have reached us and we have only a limited view of the reality which is revelation and prophecy. It may be that what has reached us in the form of revealed books is exactly as the revelation we are familiar with, that is the Qur'an.
Nevertheless, it is possible that other revelations (complete- ly unknown to us) may have contained information and instructions of which we have no knowledge.
Adapted from: "The Quran in Islam" by: "Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Tabataba'i"
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