What a Seeker After Truth Should Do

No Comments | March 2010

Address delivered by Hadhrat Mirza Bashir-ud-Din Mahmud Ahmad(ra), Khalifatul Masih II, Second Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community at Jammu, Kashmir

(Translated by S. Niaz). Adapted from The Review of Religions, 1930 edition

Some friends have expressed to me a desire that, for the benefit of those who have not as yet joined the Ahmadiyya Movement, I should in a short speech, say something which may help seekers after truth and enable them to come to a decision. The ways of God always have a purpose behind them. When I found that I could not proceed on my journey, I was afraid that this forced stay would mean the wasting of a great deal of time. But out of this unavoidable delay, God has created an opportunity of saying a few words which perchance may show the light of Divine guidance to some among you who are anxious to arrive at the truth.

To my way of thinking, it is not the purpose and aim of religion to create dissensions and discord. Its aim, on the contrary, is to purify and elevate human nature. If the creation of strife, conflicts and collisions was the thing aimed at, there was scarcely any need for God to create and develop such a noble institution for that purpose, because the desired result would have worked itself out through Satan and the forces of evil which it symbolises. Religion, the noblest and the loftiest of all human institutions, has been brought into being by Almighty God for another purpose, which befits it and is in complete accord with the nature of this spiritual institution. That purpose is the development of the spirit of concord and sympathetic and loving service to each other.

It is an established fact of history that the Holy Prophet(saw) spent the prime of his life in the service and betterment of the lot of his countrymen. Keeping this cardinal fact of his life history in view, no sane man can, for a moment, enter­tain the idea that such a man could, in his ripe old age, stand up to create dissensions among his countrymen. There is an incident in the Holy Prophet(saw)’s life, the deep significance of which has generally been overlooked by historians. This incident occurred during the Battle of Uhud. After the Holy Prophet(saw) was wounded in that battle, and for a moment the enemy began to hope and some of the Muslims began to fear that, God forbid, the Holy Prophet(saw) had been killed, Abu Sufian, who was in command of the enemy forces, began to shout: “Where is Muhammad? Where is Abu Bakr? and Where is ‘Umar?” meaning thereby that they had all been killed in battle and that the victory of the Makkans was complete. Hadhrat ‘Umar(ra) thereupon was about to open his lips in order to reply, when the Holy Prophet(saw) stopped him and asked him to desist from making any rejoinder in answer to Abu Sufian’s taunting remarks about himself (the Holy Prophet). But in his exultation, the Makkan chief began to glorify aloud his favourite idol, the Hubal. The Holy Prophet(saw) could no longer control himself then, and looking towards his com­panions said: “Why don’t you answer back by saying ‘God is most High and Exalted!’?” This complete disregard of what people might say about his person shows clearly that he was not aiming at making a name for himself, but was striving only that God’s name might be glorified by His creatures. In light of evidence of this kind, I can never entertain the idea that the Holy Prophet(saw) ever strove to win a name for himself, or that the religion founded by him encourages its followers to make points of religion the basis of quarrels and dissensions.

I therefore urge Ahmadis and the Muslims of all the different sects not to make their religious differences a source of dissensions and discord between them, but to divest themselves of all prejudices and strive to attain the Truth through careful and diligent study.

The time at my disposal is very short as after a while I am to resume my journey. Certain questions have been passed on to me by some friends from among the audience, but I am sure that you will yourself see that it is impossible for me to answer them all in the limited time at my disposal. I will, therefore, draw your attention to one point of basic and fundamental importance, a proper grasp of which will enable you yourselves to supply the answers to the various questions. This basic point is the boundless love, far transcending any other love which humanity knows of in quality and depth, which Almighty God has for mankind. All the world religions are unanimously agreed upon this point and they all assert that, if there is a God Who has created us and created the world we live in for our benefit, it follows from the very nature of things that His love for mankind must, necessarily, be far more deep and abiding than the love of parents for their children. Similarly, it is admitted by all kinds and shades of religious opinion that His solicitude to show us the light of Divine guidance is greater than the desire of parents to keep their children from falling into evil ways. Some time ago I read a book by an American atheist. In the introduction the author addresses himself to Christians and asks them to explain why God, if there is any, is not doing anything to save the present-day groping humanity from running headlong to its destruction. It is, he says, unimaginable and incomprehensible that a God who has created a marvellous world of beauty, full of objects of practical and beneficial utility, all for the benefit of man, should at the same time be so indifferent to the ultimate evil destiny which, unaided by any celestial light, man is sure to work out for himself. If I try to poison myself, he says, my parents and friends catch hold of my wrists and snatch the fatal dose out of my hands. But when I fall into evil ways, how is it that God, who loves me more than either my friends or my parents, makes no move calculated to check me in my degradation? It may be urged against me, he continues, that I am fallen too low for God to be so solicitous for my salvation and that He has cut me off from His Divine grace, just as parents so often let a rebellious child work out his own ruin. This, he says, may be true in my case and perhaps in that of a few others, but it cannot be true in the case of all the millions and millions of Christians. In their mental outlook, their daily conduct and behaviour they are all like me, he says. How is it then that there is not a single individual who can honestly and boldly stand up before the world and say that he is in clear and tangible contact and communion with God – a relationship which others also may be able to see ?

Here is the true and inner nature of man speaking. When I read this passage in the book, I felt a rush of ethereal joy in my heart. Indeed, I said to myself, Christianity cannot satisfy the yearnings of a soul such as this, but Islam can satisfy this desire and bring peace and content­ment. The Almighty God says in the Holy Qur’an, Verily, those who strive to find the paths of Our pleasure, We, without a doubt, reveal and show these unto them; i.e., turn to God like that and pray to Him that you did not want to follow this religion or that, merely because your parents and your forefathers had held those views before you, but that you wanted to believe in and practise a religion that may, in His sight, be the real religion of Truth, and that He may, out of His boundless mercy and beneficence, Himself guide you to such a religion. Your prayers, I can assure you from personal experience, will not remain unheard and unanswered.

I have just said that I can assure you from personal experience that your prayers will not be wasted. As a matter of fact there are many people whom I know – from among Muslims as well as non-Muslims – who have adopted this course, and to their deep and infinite joy met with signal success. If there are any among you to whom reasoned arguments have failed to bring conviction, or if there be any among you who have not the capacity, the means, or the opportunity to study all the different religions and arrive at the Truth by comparison, they should turn to God, and their supplications will most surely be heard and answered, provided these prayers are heartfelt, earnest and persistent enough to merit an answer.

Sura Al-Fatihah, the Opening Chapter of the Holy Qur’an, which I recited just now, is a prayer that is not meant for the exclusive use of Muslims; non-Muslims as well can derive equal benefit from it. It teaches us what things to pray for and moreover tells us the way and the words in which we should offer our prayers, i.e., to offer supplications to be guided on to, and to be given the strength of purpose and perseverance to pursue the right path – the path of those who have merited Divine favours and blessings, and not the path of those who for their misdeeds drew the wrath of God upon themselves.

I would, therefore, once again, impress it upon you that if you desire to be guided on to the right path, you should, once and for all, shed all prejudices, wrench your minds free from the influence of old accepted traditions, religious ideas, opinions and beliefs, turn to God alone for the solution of this vital problem and leave yourselves entirely in His hands. After bringing your minds to this state of complete absence of any bias or inclination in favour of either this or that sect or religion, you should beseech and implore Almighty God to dispel the surrounding gloom and “those who set their hearts upon coming unto Us, We show them the way and make it possible for them to achieve their object.”

In these days, the number of different religions and different sects is so large that it is some task even to count them all. Situated in these circumstances, there is no way out of the bewildering labyrinth of paths and by-paths for an honest seeker after truth, except that he should kneel deep in heartfelt prayer and ask to be led out of the vast maze.

An incident in the life of a great Sufi is full of a signifi­cant lesson in this respect. It is said that when one of the Sufi’s disciples was about to leave him at the end of his studies, the Sufi asked him what he would do if Satan or the Evil Spirit appeared in his way and blocked further progress. The disciple said that he would try to overcome him and drive him away. The Sufi thereupon said, “But suppose Satan runs away for a time but comes back to the attack a little while later, what would you do in that case?” The disciple again answered that he would again fight and try to drive him away. Said the Sufi, “Suppose he runs away a second time, but returns yet again?” “ I will fight him again,” said the disciple, “and try to drive him away a third time.” “But,” said the Sufi, “don’t you realise that in this way the whole of your life will be spent in fighting the Devil, and that all your time being taken up by that struggle, you will have no chance of making any progress towards your goal!” The disciple thereupon realised the truth of this remark and humbly begged to be told what he should do.

The Sufi then asked him another question. “What would you do,” he asked, “if, on going to see a friend at his house, you found that his dog would not let you enter?” The disciple said that he would drive away the dog, but if he found that he was unable to do that, he would call out to his friend to hold back the dog, so that he might be able to enter. “Exactly,” said the Sufi, “and the best way to fight the Devil is very much the same. When you find your way blocked by him, call out to the Benefactor and Friend that you are going to see to call the dog away – when that is done you will be able to enter in peace.”

In my opinion, therefore, the best, the easiest and the surest way to find out the Truth is to turn wholeheartedly to God and pour out one’s perplexities before Him. If you do so it will enable you to see and recognise the spark of divine light wherever it is. Remember and always bear in mind that God Who is our Creator, Who is the Sustainer of all forms of life upon earth, Who, in His boundless mercy and love, does not neglect even the meanest worm that crawls in the dust, is your greatest well-wisher and benefactor. He is the root, the essence and the converging point of all kinds of Truth and He is the source of all true guidance. If you will knock at His door in true humility of spirit and with the deep honest anguish of your soul, yearning and craving to be let into His august presence, you will never have to wait long before the avenues leading unto Him are clearly pointed out to you and the doors flung open for you to enter as soon as you may. This prescription can be tried by everyone no matter what his religion or his creed may be, and, I assure you most solemnly, it will be found to be equally efficacious and beneficial in every case. If I try to prove the validity and truth of my views by seasoned systematic reasoning and logical arguments, it is just possible that I may be able to produce an impression upon you and you may even begin to be favourably inclined towards my views.

But suppose someone else comes to you after I am gone, and by logical reasoning and arguments tries to prove that I was wrong, the chances would, in many cases, be about equal that he also may succeed in making an impression. There being so many divergent views on points of religion, and there being so many gifted speakers and debaters, the issue is likely to be confused more than ever if the decision is to be arrived at through reasoning and arguments alone – I have, therefore, invited your attention to a method of arriving at the Truth in which the decision will be made by Almighty God Himself. This is the way I chose for myself once very early in my life, and this is the way that I would choose again if I were looking for guidance in this sense.

But, as there are temperaments which look for logical reasoning and arguments in everything, and as, if anything is capable of being proved in this way, the truth of the true religion ought to be capable of being so proved, I take this opportunity to draw your attention to some of the points. It is our firm conviction (and I am sure you will agree that I am not exaggerating things in any way) that the deterioration of Muslims as Muslims has of late reached the lowest level to which any people could sink. On the religious side, their individual or national lives show no trace of the influence of Islam as an ethical and social force controlling and regu­lating the actions of their daily lives. They are, no doubt, still called Muslims, but there is no sign left of genuine belief in Islam and of the desire to act upon its principles. Whatever there is, is no more than a blind acceptance of certain traditions and ceremonials, which in many cases in themselves are openly in conflict with the essence of Islam. Now Islam, as we all know, is the religion about which God has said in the Holy Qur’an that it is the final Law, the final religion, and the Qur’an is the last book that will ever be revealed for the guidance of mankind. It stands to reason in these circumstances that God will not suffer Muslims to stray away from the path of His pleasure, or on account of their foolishness, suffer them to let the beauties of Islam become covered up by and be hidden under the dust of time. The advent of a reformer – of some Ma’mur (appointed) and Mursal (one sent) – to re-establish Islam once again upon earth, and in the heart of Muslims, had therefore become absolutely indispensable. Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian(as) stood up at this juncture and claimed that he had been raised by God as the Promised Messiah, the Ma’mur, the Mursal and the Mahdi of the age for the regeneration of Islam, for shielding it from the attacks of its enemies, for the refutation of those charges which are brought against it and for the purpose of presenting it once again to the world in its original purity and glory.

Accordingly, we see that it was through Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad(as) that the long-standing charge of Islam’s expansion and growth through use of force, which had been con­tinuously urged against it for centuries was first, but forever, clearly and forcibly refuted. The Promised Messiah(as) proved to the world that the growth of Islam was not due to the sword but to a potent spiritual magnetism that the Holy Prophet(saw) exerted upon all those who came in contact with him – a magnetism that transformed the innermost essence of one’s being, a magnetism which purified and elevated. The argument which the Promised Messiah(as) made use of in order to prove this truth cut at the root of this malicious lie from two sides. On the one hand, the Promised Messiah(as) proved that the idea of compulsion in religious matters is not only alien but runs counter to the spirit and teachings of Islam and that it has been strongly and clearly denounced, and on the other, he declared that God had ordained that Islam should overshadow all other religions a second time and that the mission for which he had been sent was the regeneration of Islam and the deliverance of humanity from sin and iniquity through its wide portals. He called upon the world to take note of the fact that he had no armed forces at his command and that Islam would make rapid progress all the same, thus estab­lishing the fact that the truth of its teachings did not stand in need of a sword for its propagation. The weapon which the Holy Prophet(saw) made use of was of a far different nature, and, in order to demonstrate this truth, God raised a Mes­senger from among the followers of the Holy Prophet(saw) who used the same weapon with equal success once again so that the world may understand that, what a disciple and a follower can do, the same can certainly be accomplished by the teacher and Master as well.

The Holy Prophet(saw) was our teacher and we also believe that he was the greatest and the best teacher that mankind has known or ever will know. This, of course, means that by following his guidance we can reach all those heights which some other people attained to before our time by following the guidance of other Masters; that moreover through the superior excellence of the teachings of that Master Prophet we can soar even higher. Otherwise his superiority over the other prophets has no meaning because it is in no way a qualification to be proud of in a teacher to say that none of his pupils has ever got or ever can get beyond the matriculation standard. We believe that by acting upon the Holy Prophet’s teachings one can rise to the highest spiritual eminence, even the exalted rank of prophethood not being excepted. The words, The path of those on whom Thou hast bestowed Thy Blessings occurring in Surah Al-Fatihah, have been further made clear in the Holy Qur’an by the verse:

And whoso obeys Allah and this Messenger of His shall be among those on whom Allah has bestowed His blessings, namely, the Prophets, the Truthful, the Martyrs, and the Righteous. And excellent companions are these.

(Ch.4:V.70)

In this verse, the people upon whom God has showered His blessings have been divided under four heads: Nabi [Prophet], Siddeeq [Truthful], Shaheed [Martyr], Salih [Righteous one]. Studying these two verses together we cannot but arrive at the conclusion that one can rise to any of these four spiritual ranks by following in the footsteps of the Holy Prophet Muhammad(saw).

On account of a lack of true understanding of the meaning of this verse, some people say that the word occurring here is Ma‘a [(with)], which shows that it is possible to rise up to that point only which may enable us to be counted as being merely “in the company of prophets,” and that the word Ma‘a shows that we cannot actually rise to the rank of Prophethood. But it ought to be borne in mind that the word Ma‘a does not govern the word Nabiyyeen (prophets) alone; it governs the other three ranks as well, so that if we understand it to mean as saying that the utmost that we can aspire to is to be regarded as being “in the company of” prophets we will have to accept the same meaning of the word when it is used with Siddeeqeen, Shuhada and Saliheen. In this case the verse would mean that there can be no Siddeeq or Shaheed or Salih among the followers of the Holy Prophet; that the highest spiritual excellence that Muslims can aspire to attain is to be regarded as being in the company of Siddeeqeen, Shuhada and Saliheen. But it is obvious that this cannot be the true meaning of this verse. We therefore cannot but take the word Ma‘a to have been used in the sense of Min [(from among)], particularly when we find that this is not the only place in which Ma‘a has been used in the sense of Min. There are other places as well in the Holy Qur’an where the word has been used in the sense of Min, i.e., to be counted one of the number in a class or group. For instance we read in the Holy Qur’an, Tawaffana ma‘a-l abrar, a prayer which means: O God! Let death come to us at a time when we are among i.e. included in the blessed group of the truly righteous persons. It should be noted here that the word Ma‘a in this verse can never mean “to be merely in the company of,” because in that case the verse would mean: “O God! whenever you cause any righteous men to die, make us die along with them,” which obviously is quite meaningless.

Therefore it is quite right to say that the rank of prophethood can be acquired by following in the footsteps of the Holy Prophet Muhammad(saw). But it should be remembered here that although the Nubuwwah [Prophethood] of a Nabi (prophet) who rises to this rank by following the guidance of the Holy Prophet(saw) will be as real as that of the other prophets who preceded the Prophet of Arabia, when such a prophet will come to be con­sidered from the aspect of his relationship with Prophet Muhammad(saw) he will be regarded only as an Ummati, i.e., as one of his followers, because such a prophet will have risen to this rank solely by following the example of Muhammad(saw). The rising to the rank of prophethood in this sense of anyone from among the followers of the Holy Prophet(saw) is not at all derogatory to him. There is a saying of the Holy Prophet(saw) which runs as follows: “If the prophets Moses(as) and Jesus(as) had been alive in my time they would have had to follow my teachings.” It becomes clear from this that it is in no sense derogatory for one prophet to have another prophet among his followers.

Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad(as), although he claimed to be a prophet, was nevertheless proud to number himself among the followers and disciples of the Holy Prophet(saw). For instance, he says in one of his poems,

‘Although the performance of miracles has become extinct in these days, come you here, for you will see it among the servants (disciples) of the Prophet Muhammad(saw).’

Again he says in another place :

‘After the love of God, I am lost in the wine of love for the Prophet of Arabia; if this be kufr (heresy) then by God I am the greatest Kafir (heretic)!’

The deep, overwhelming love which the Promised Messiah(as) had for the Holy Prophet(saw) and his sense of sincere thankfulness and gratitude was so intense and strong that the Promised Messiah(as) has written a number of ecstatic poems in the Holy Prophet(saw)’s praise. In contrast, the poems of the kind written by Muslims before him read hopelessly meaningless and insipid. The poems which were written before the Promised Messiah(as) in praise of the Holy Prophet(saw) no doubt deal at great length with the physical charm of the Holy Prophet(saw), but that is all that they accomplish; of the marvellous beauties of spiritual excellence which Prophet Muhammad(saw) combined in his person there is no mention at all. The poems of the Promised Messiah(as), on the other hand, dwell with a loving fondness upon those qualities and traits of his character which make the Holy Prophet(saw) stand out with such clear conspicuousness and raise him so high above the others in the blessed assemblage of spiritual reformers and teachers of mankind. These poems, while they reveal an extraordinary depth of insight and understanding and an overwhelming admiration and appreciation of the unparalleled greatness of the Holy Prophet(saw), possessed by their writer – an appreciation which would be impossible without the strong and intimate bond that unites the disciple with his master – they at the same time tell us, in a language glowing with the fire of deep and boundless devotion, of the sense of exultation and pride which the Promised Messiah(as) felt in having Prophet Muhammad(saw) as his lord and master. But words cannot give an adequate idea of this comparison. This can only be realised by actually studying these poems.

A gentleman once asked me why the poems written by Muslim poets in praise of the Holy Prophet(saw) always dwelt at such length only on the physical aspects of the charms of his personality (such as the beauty of his features and his casting no shadow when walking in the sun, etc.), without making any mention of those qualities which matter far more than the outward physical appearance of a person. I must confess that I felt ashamed of this obvious drawback in these poems and advised him to study the poems written by the Promised Messiah(as).

To sum up, the writings of the Promised Messiah(as) bespeak clearly the love which he had for Islam. Nobody who should read them once would imagine for an instant that such a man could advance any claim which in any way should take away the slightest fraction from the dignity of the Prophet Muhammad(saw). Can it be possible that on the one hand he should try to detract from his dignity and on the other strive to glorify him in so enthusiastic and glowing a language?

In the end I once again advise you to seek guidance from Almighty God Himself in this matter of vital importance. In order to do this you should have recourse to prayer that is offered in all humility and earnestness. May God enable you as well as myself to pursue the right path – the path which, by winning His pleasure, ultimately leads to Him.

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