I mentioned briefly before that viceregency is on several levels, depending on the relative knowledge of the Names, the highest being knowledge of all the Names, which is the position of absolute viceregency.
تِلْكَ الرُّسُلُ فَضَّلْنَا بَعْضَهُمْ عَلَى بَعْضٍ مِّنْهُم مَّن كَلَّمَ اللّهُ وَرَفَعَ بَعْضَهُمْ دَرَجَاتٍ وَآتَيْنَا عِيسَى ابْنَ مَرْيَمَ الْبَيِّنَاتِ وَأَيَّدْنَاهُ بِرُوحِ الْقُدُسِ وَلَوْ شَاء اللّهُ مَا اقْتَتَلَ الَّذِينَ مِن بَعْدِهِم مِّن بَعْدِ مَا جَاءتْهُمُ الْبَيِّنَاتُ وَلَـكِنِ اخْتَلَفُواْ فَمِنْهُم مَّنْ آمَنَ وَمِنْهُم مَّن كَفَرَ وَلَوْ شَاء اللّهُ مَا اقْتَتَلُواْ وَلَـكِنَّ اللّهَ يَفْعَلُ مَا يُرِيدُ
These apostles, We have made some of them to excel others; among them are some to whom Allah spoke, and some of them He exalted by degree (of rank); and We gave clear (evidence) to Isa, son of Maryam, and strengthened him with the holy spirit. And if Allah had pleased, those after them would not have fought one with another after clear arguments had come to them; but they differed; so there were some of them who believed and others who denied; and if Allah had so pleased they would not have fought one with another, but Allah does what He intends. [Al-Baqarah:253]
The verse shows the different levels of perfection given by Allah to some of the messengers over others. But all of them are great, as the apostleship in itself is a sign of perfection, which all of them share. This difference amongst the messengers is in grade and rank, depending on their degree of knowledge, as mentioned before.
There are several verses in the Quran, according to which the Holy Prophet occupies the highest place in the company of all the messengers of Allah. The glory of the divinity of the Lord manifests, reflects and radiates in him to maximum perfection. Endowed with perfection, he was sent as a “mercy unto the worlds” (Anbia’: 107). The other prophets were sent to guide a particular people in a particular place (Matthew 10: 5 and 6), therefore, in view of their limited mission, they are not on the level of the Holy Prophet who was sent to guide and discipline the whole mankind for all times (Saba: 28).
The individual differences in the prophets of Allah are on account of the level of intelligence and the needs of the people amongst whom they were sent, to show them what was right and what was wrong. The manner of receiving the inspiration from Allah and the nature and limitation of every prophet’s mission were determined in accordance with the ability of the people to understand and grasp the message. The last message of Allah was perfect, complete, final and conclusive. Therefore, the prophet who was chosen to deliver the final message was the most superior of all the prophets. He was not only the last prophet but also the foremost in total submission to the will of Allah.
Musa was honoured with the divine speech, Isa with the holy spirit, Ibrahim with shuhud (vision), but the Holy Prophet had the distinction of receiving the divine inspiration and revelation through all the mediums.
Goal of the Viceregent
Humanity has a goal in this world. Man was not created aimless; ‘Thinketh man that he is to be left aimless?’[Al-Qiyamah:36]. And it is to reach nearness to God, by characterizing himself with divine attributes. Acting upon the knowledge one gains on the path to perfection is as important as understanding that knowledge.
When somebody claims complete knowledge of the human characteristic of bravery, for example, but he himself has not conquered this noble quality, he would not be on the same level as someone who has. He could be the most timid of persons. We can go further in saying that he would be considered a hypocrite in some circles.
This closeness cannot be achieved without the continuous remembrance and worship and servitude to God. It is the means of reaching the final goal. The most important attribute externally manifest in the Holy Prophet is this quality; that he is a servant of Allah (swt).
Worship is a branch of knowledge, otherwise would it be possible to worship something and yet be completely ignorant of the object of worship? Then we can ask, how do we KNOW Allah (swt)? What are the signs that could guide and direct on the right path?
Continued in Part 2.