16 The Review of Religions – January 2005 Ma n ’s past and present, andhis present and future are i n t e r-related and are thus links of the same chain. As his past influences his present, his present reveals indications of his future which are discernible only by those gifted with far- s i g h t e d n e s s . Yet, as the future progressively approaches the present, these indications become clearer so that the whole world is able to perceive them. As we strive to peep into the future of man, basing ourselves on his present, we are confronted with a terrible prospect. We perceive clearly that today’s man is rushing forward towards self- destruction and appears to be bent on collective universal suicide. Today, when we are approaching the end of the twentieth century with its aircraft, nuclear armaments and the hydrogen bomb, it requires no extra- ordinary degree of intelligence or keen perception to conclude that man is threatened with self- immolation. But as long ago as the beginning of the seventh century when human imagi- nation could have had no A speech delivered in 1982 by Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih IV(ru) in Zurich where he admonishes that by carrying out a change in ourselves we can save ourselves from destruction. A Message HOPEof (Part 1) 17The Review of Religions – January 2005 conception of today’s conditions, nor could anyone have conceived the possibility of the devel- opment of such fearful instruments of destruction, the Holy Qur’an announced: We call to witness the passage of time that surely man progressively suffers loss. (Ch.103:Vs.2-3) In these brief but comprehensive verses Allah, the Exalted, cites the present age as a sure witness that man is progressively advancing towards loss and thus indicates that today’s man is preparing means of his own destruction in consequence of which humanity would arrive at a terrifying end. To presage in the distant past that of which there could have been no conception at the time and which is confirmed centuries later is sure proof that this witness of the Holy Qur’an is not mere chance nor is it the boast of a soothsayer or an astrologer but is a grave warning on behalf of the Being Who is All-Knowing and All-Aware, Whose vision comprehends past, present and future. Today this warning is strongly reinforced by clear and solid scientific evidence. This is not all. That All-Knowing and All-Aware Being, has set forth along with this warning the basic laws and principles governing human life and human culture and has indicated the courses which lead human society towards loss. It also points out the ways by treading along which human society may safeguard itself against loss and ruin. One of these basic laws is that no people are confronted with ruin and destruction until after the appearance of a Divine Warner who admonishes them and dissuades them from pursuing destructive courses and calls them to righteousness. Such a one uncovers the dark aspects of social tendencies and guides people towards light and bright- ness so that every observing eye may behold the reality and every believing heart may accept the eternal verities. A MESSAGE OF HOPE 18 The Review of Religions – January 2005 This basic law conclusively establishes that despite factors predicating destruction and strong fears of ruin there exists the possibility that if man should so desire and become firmly determined this dreadful pros- pect could be averted. But the decision that today’s man desires to save himself, that he wishes to convert darkness into light, disorder into security, and fear into peace of mind, must be made by man himself. The choice is his. In other words, man has the power to make or mar his future. This is indicated by the Holy Qur’an: Surely Allah would not bring about a change in the condition of a people until they carry out a change in themselves. (Ch13:V.12) This is not a matter of irrevocable Divine decree which has been determined in heaven. This is a matter which relates to man himself and is within his own choice. It is something which he has to determine for himself upon his earth. The ball is, so to speak, in man’s own court. If he so desires he can still bring about a change in his own circumstances and can embark upon a journey towards guid- ance, light, success and p r o s p e r i t y. But it must be remembered that little time is left; the goal is far distant and the journey is long. If man desires to save himself, safeguard himself and his future generations against ruin and destruction, rescue himself from the whirlpools of uncertainties, wild fancies and baseless fears and seeks to achieve the joys and delights of certainty and faith, he must hasten towards adopting his new course of conduct. Of the factors that can operate towards safeguarding man against loss, a basic and important one is that the concept of absolute justice must be universally accepted, adopted and put into effect. It should override all relative consid- erations and must be given effect to in all conditions and circumstances. We should not A MESSAGE OF HOPE 19The Review of Religions – January 2005 pay mere lip service to it. Its effective adoption is the first and basic condition for the establishment of peace and security in all human rela- tionships. This concept of absolute justice should com- pletely be above distinctions of caste, colour, creed and culture. Black and white, western and eastern, Christian and Jew, Muslim and non-Muslim must be accorded absolute justice in all conditions and whatever circumstances. Any stage in which such a system of justice is not zealously maintained but is replaced by a standard of justice which is relative and is influenced by considerations of loss or benefit is bound, sooner or later, to slither into decline and fall. Such a partial and relative standard of justice generates dissatisfaction, disorder and insecurity which ultimately spells ruin. This is the testimony of ages. Allah, the Exalted, cites this testimony and admonishes t o d a y ’s man to take steps to safeguard himself against that which threatens his future. At the same time the Holy Qur’an sets forth a system of the administration of justice which is free from any distinction of caste, colour or creed and disregards all political and geographical b o u n d a r i e s . In this context, Islam prescribes the following fundamental p r i n c i p l e s : (Allah commands you that) when you are called upon to judge between the people, you do it with justice. (Ch.4:V.59) (Allah has enjoined that) when you speak, observ e justice even though the person concerned may be a kinsman. (Ch.6:V.153) Allah enjoins equity and benevolence and gracious- ness as between kindred. (Ch.16:V.91) Another fundamental factor in A MESSAGE OF HOPE 20 The Review of Religions – January 2005 A MESSAGE OF HOPE the due administration of justice and the peaceful settlement of disputes is the bearing of true witness. This is the factor upon which the structure of justice is raised. In this context the Holy Q u r’an has laid down the following principles: Witnesses should not refuse to testify when they are called upon to do so. (Ch.2:V.283) Conceal not testimony; and whoever conceals it makes his heart certainly sinful. (Ch.2:V.284) Be strict in observing justice and bear witness only for the sake of Allah, even if it be against your own selves or against parents or kindred. (Ch.4:V.136) If according to strict justice a person should be found entitled to something and he should, out of benevolence and goodwill and for the purpose of winning A l l a h ’s pleasure, voluntarily forego a portion of that to which he is entitled, such conduct would promote an atmosphere of general goodwill and right- eousness in society. Among the characteristics of believers, the Holy Qur’an has mentioned that they control their tempers when they are roused and exercise forbearance towards their fellow beings. (Ch.3:V.135). Islam seeks to establish so high a concept of justice that it has safeguarded the rights even of offenders and enemies. In such juxtaposition, when human nature is inclined vengefully, Islam seeks to restrain that tendency. For instance, we are admonished: Whoso transgresses against you, you may exact re t r i – bution from him in proportion to his transgression, and in doing so be mindful of your duty to Allah and remember that Allah is with those who a re mindful of their obligations to Him. (Ch.2:V.195) 21The Review of Religions – January 2005 A MESSAGE OF HOPE F u r t h e r, there is the direction: Fight in the cause of Allah only those who fight against you, but transgress not. S u re l y, Allah loves not the t r a n s g ressors. ( C h . 2 : V. 1 9 1 ) In the context of regulating international relations smoothly and maintaining universal peace, the Holy Qur’an lays down that in the settlement of international d i fferences and disputes the same standards of justice, righteousness and the fear of God should be maintained as an individual would desire to maintain in his own dealings with his fellow beings and no discrimination should be made between allies and opponents. It is said: O ye who believe, be steadfast in the cause of Allah, bearing witness in e q u i t y. Let not a people’s enmity towards you incite you to act contrary to justice; be always just, that is closest to righteousness. ( C h . 5 : V. 9 ) For the purpose of lasting settlement of international disputes and the maintenance of international peace, the Holy Q u r’an has prescribed as follows: (a) Should differences arise between two states, other states should exert them- selves to bring about a settlement of the diff e r e n c e s ; (b) Should a settlement not be reached all other states should propose a just settlement and seek to persuade both parties to the dispute to accept it and carry it into eff e c t ; (c) If the proposed settlement is not accepted by one party to the dispute, or a party after having signified acceptance of the proposed settlement should fail to carry it into e ffect, all other states should join in fighting the recalcitrant state in order to compel it to accept and carry into effect the proposed settlement; 22 The Review of Religions – January 2005 A MESSAGE OF HOPE (d) When in consequence of pressure or of fighting, the state in default agrees to fall into line, the proposed settlement of the original difference should be carried into effect and none of the intervening states should seek to derive any benefit for themselves out of the situation, for any such attempt would lay the foundation of fresh disputes (Ch.49:V.10). If the United Nations O rganisation and the great powers were to follow sincerely these directions laid down in the Holy Qur’an international peace would be made secure universally. Specifying the basic causes of international entanglements, the Holy Qur’an condemns economic exploitation of weaker people by stronger ones. It directs: Do not look covetously upon that which We have bestowed upon certain sections for a brief enjoyment of the embellishments of worldly life, that We may try them thereby. (Ch.20:V.132) Another cause of international d i fferences is the superiority complex of some of the advanced nations in consequence of which they look down upon other people and resent them. The Holy Qur’an condemns such an attitude and directs: Let no people deride another people, haply they may be better than themselves. (Ch.49:V.12) This is the teaching which seeks to eliminate all discrimination on the basis of colour, race and creed and puts to an end to non- beneficent alliances and pacts and replaces them with alliances devoted to the promotion of positive values. For instance, we are directed: Co-operate with one another for the promotion of piety and rectitude.(Ch.5:V.3) 23The Review of Religions – January 2005 A MESSAGE OF HOPE Islam aims at converting the human race into a single people which should be devoted to the upholding of the true and real Unity of the Divine. It is only by the free acceptance of this system of absolute justice and by giving effect to it that human society can flourish in an atmosphere of mutual love and brotherhood wherein everyone big and small, rich or poor, man or woman can flourish and survive in the full enjoyment of his or her personality and i n d i v i d u a l i t y. It is only in such a society that everyone would be assured of his full rights and no one would seek for another that which he would not desire for h i m s e l f . But if among any people or at the international level such a standard of justice does not prevail and is not maintained, all higher values like mutual goodwill, piety, beneficence and good behaviour gradually fall into a decline and are replaced by selfishness, meanness and p a r t i s a n s h i p . The Holy Qur’an sets forth this basic principle of spiritual rise and fall in the following manner: We have endowed man with e v e ry type of faculty and capacity (to aid him in his spiritual progress) and have instructed him in the ways of guidance as well as of error, yet alas he attempts not the scaling of the height. What is the scaling of the height? It is the freeing of a bondman, it is the feeding of and providing for an orphan or a poor person lying in the dust and to be of those who believe and e x h o rt one another to steadfastness and to the exercise of compassion. (Ch.90:Vs.9-18) When the system of absolute justice prescribed by Islam is established among a people the hearts of its individuals are sur- charged with such a fountain of true sympathy and compassion for their fellow beings as cannot be confined within any limits and to which no strings are attached. Such a people set out on the path 24 The Review of Religions – January 2005 A MESSAGE OF HOPE of spiritual progress. Its members seek to wipe out slavery from the world, whether it is slavery that was current in the ancient days, when people were subjugated by force, and, having been subdued, their individuals were enslaved and were sold in the markets, or it is slavery operating today, in which poorer and less developed people are reduced into a condition of bondage through the system of conditional economic aid, which is aimed at establishing and maintaining economic or political domination over weaker peoples. They seek to abolish poverty from the world; they feed the hungry and do not seek to exploit poverty or hunger for their own benefit. They help people because of their need and do not employ economic aid or the supply of food as a weapon for promoting their own interest. A people desirous of spiritual progress do not embark upon barbarous bombardment of unarmed civilians in Vietnam for safeguarding their own interests, nor do they conspire to establish the state of Israel in the Middle East for the purpose of subordinating the Arab people, nor do such people seek to maintain their dominance over Poland by suppressing the struggle of the workers for their freedom, nor do they send their forces into Afghanistan for the purpose of extending their hege- mony over South Asia. These are some of the instances of the employment of economic aid as a weapon for the furthering of national purposes rather than for the betterment of poorer people. The true purpose in such cases is not to help an oppressed people but strengthen one’s allies through every means whether proper or improper. The moment a depen-dent people begin to seek freedom from dependence, they are deprived of all further aid. As a contrast to all this the Holy Qur’an directs: Render not vain your charity by reproaches or injury. (Ch.2:V.265) 25The Review of Religions – January 2005 A MESSAGE OF HOPE This means that people seeking spiritual progress do not seek to impress the recipients of their beneficence with their own good- ness. They do not employ their own wealth and power for the purpose of continuing their domination over poorer people or for the purpose of subduing them. Their efforts towards the wiping out of bondage of every des- cription and towards the removal of want and hunger are divorced altogether from their personal or national interest. They have a natural eagerness for compassing their true purposes; they strive for them and urge others to do so purely for the sake of winning the pleasure of their Maker and are in consequence blessed with His mercy and His grace. In Ch.103:Vs.2-3, the Holy Qur’an has drawn attention to the principle that when a society is a fflicted with injustice and wrongdoing, it is bound to suffer loss. But today’s society is not afflicted with only one disorder. Today, humanity is afflicted with such numerous ills as are rapidly uprooting its foundations, in consequence of which humanity, having been deprived of serenity and peace of mind, has become s u b m e rged in the slough of despond and is advancing every moment towards ruin. Shakespeare, through Hamlet’s mouth, has given expression to a sense of frustration in the words: ‘The time is out of joint; O cursed spite, that ever I was born to set it right!’ We do not employ Shakespeare’s language and do not give expression to any sense of frustration. We affirm that we have been brought into being to set the time right and rescue humanity from ruin and destruction. We claim that if the world will listen to us and will sincerely accept that to which we invite it, the dangers that threaten it would be averted. We have been raised for the purpose of pointing out the way treading along which humanity can safeguard itself against the terrifying end that threatens it and this world can become a 26 The Review of Religions – January 2005 A MESSAGE OF HOPE region of peace, security, comfort, joy and delight. We desire intensely that we may be blessed with success in this effort and we are determined that we shall be ready and prepared to sacrifice our all in this struggle, and even if we are put an end to in the course of it we would deem it a great good fortune for ourselves. When we say that we have been raised for this purpose, we do so in accord with the principle set out in the Holy Qur’an that before a people is confronted with destruction and ruin Allah, the Exalted, sends a Warner who warns them in good time of the ruin towards which they are being impelled in consequence of their misdeeds and guides them towards the path of success and prosperity. In accord with this basic divine principle Allah, the Exalted, sent a Warner in this age also and assured him that He would make his truth manifest through powerful assaults. Out of a deeply moved and disturbed heart this Divine Wa r n e r admonished humanity in the light of the knowledge vouchsafed to him by Allah, the All-Knowing and All-Aware, and in prose and verse set forth in advance that which was approaching.
The two religious communities must appreciate what values they have achieved in the area of inter-religious harmony, mutual respect and co-operation and hold fast unto it.