Freedom of Religions

Curb on the Freedom of Religion in Pakistan

Seeking God (Mushtaq Ahmad Bajwa) “Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth” (24:36), says the Holy Ouran. Everyone who is not blind sees the light. But if one keeps his eyes closed, does not hear one calling, does not enquire, he can have no knowledge of the light. God describes this mental state particularly in reference to the hypocrites living with the believers but it has also a wider application: “They are deaf, dumb and blind so they will not return.” (2:19). A. E. Taylor writes: “We are told in many quarters to-day that ‘God is dead’. It is meant, of course, that God never was alive: for centuries men believed in Him, even when they also hated Him, but this belief was a mere delusion, and now it has become a detected delusion; we know that there is no place for God in the scheme of things.” (Does God Exist?, p. 9). Before delving into the question of seeking God, it would be proper to mention different views about the Supreme Being in the world. 1. Atheism is the denial of God as the first principle and is thus antitheism, the opposite of theism. It is opposed to any religion or worshipping of God. 2. Agnosticism in its primary reference is commonly contrasted with atheism thus: The Atheist asserts that there is no God, whereas the Agnostic maintains only that he does not know. This term was first publicly coined by T. H. Huxley in 1889. But he used it not in the sense of absolute denial of religion, in which sense it has been used by rationalists. On one hand Huxley and his associates were attacked by enthusiastic Christian polemicists, but on the other hand, Friedrich Engels, the co-worker of Karl Marx, called them “Shame-faced atheists”. 3. Theism is the view that all limited or finite things are dependent in some way on one supreme or ultimate reality of which one may speak in personal terms. It asserts belief in an immanent God who actively intervenes in the affairs of men. SEEKING GOD 7 4. Pantheism contrasts with theism, in identifying God with all that there is, and with various forms of monoism, which regards all finite things as parts, modes, limitation, or appearance of some One Ultimate Being which is all that there is. 5. Deism reduces the role of God to mere act of creation in accordance with rational laws discoverable by men. Deists believe that after original act, God virtually withdrew and refrained from interfering in the process of nature and the way of men. The Deist proceeds for most purposes at least, as if there were no God – or only an absent God. The existence of one supreme and ultimate Being, has been from ancient times a subject under discussion, Plato stated that things change and are in motion but all change does not come from outside, some must be due to the soul and ultimately to a supreme or perfect soul. He combined the motion of the transcendent with the change. His pupil Aristotle made the argument from motion more precise but he coupled it with a doubtful astronomical view. Thus he set a pattern for the more deistic view of God. In this age of science the philosophers were joined by scientists, Nietsche said: “Modern physics proves the non-existence of God.” Our Ahmadi Muslim physicist, a Nobel Prize Laureat, Dr. Abdus Salam has, however, through his research found increasing confirmation of his belief in the existence of One God. Search for a Higher Being is in the nature of man. Did God invest man with this desire and left it to him to seek his Lord? Or, did He Himself enlighten man’s path to Himself. Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Holy Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam, peace be upon him, who is believed to be the Promised Messiah by his followers, rightly remarks: “It is a great mistake to imagine that God is like a corpse interred in the earth whose recovery is the business of man. If God has only been discovered through human efforts, it is vain to expect anything from Him. Indeed, God has, through eternity, called mankind to Himself by affirming: I am present. It would be a great impertinence to imagine that man has laid God under an obligation by discovering Him through His own effort, and that if there had been no philosophers He would have continued unknown.” (The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam, p. 44). He has elaborated this point in another book as follows: “The Being of God is hidden upon hidden and beyond of beyond and is most secret and cannot be discovered by the power of human reasoning alone, and no argument can prove it conclusively; inasmuch as reason can travel only so far that contemplating the universe it feels the need of a Creator. But the feeling of a need is one thing and it is quite another to 8 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS arrive at the certainty that the God Whose need has been felt does in fact exist. As the operation of reason is defective, incomplete and doubtful, a philosopher cannot recognize God purely through reason.” (Haiqatul Wahi, p. 117, Vide Essence of Islam I, p. 28). The Jews, Christians and Muslims claim to possess belief in One God. A study of Eastern literature shows that they contain belief in One God. S. Radhakrishnan, ex-President of India, in his translation and commentary of Bhagawad Gita, has explained in detail its teaching about God. In Buddhism also, concludes Encyclopaedia Britannica, “finds one much scope to the religious responses that find full expression in theism” (Macro, Vol. 18, p. 269). Confucian religion also contains teaching about a power from beyond the world working for justice within it, a “Heaven-ordained relationship” that provides the basis of ethic and induces a deep consciousness of individuality (ibid). The theistic element is also found in the religions of primitive peoples. H. H. Farmer, a British philosophical theologian, writes: “We may surmise that at moments of living prayers and worship there is in primitive man a turning to a God, as if he were in fact the one and only God, though without any expressly formulated denial of the existence of others; for the time being, the god worshipped fills the whole sphere of the divine.” (ibid). Red Indians of America and Australian aborigines also possessed belief in God. This fact becomes apparent by the perusal of their traditions. In fact the common factor in all religions was God. This belief is, however, in many old religions, now buried in debris or entangled in man-made rites and traditions. The teaching in these ancient faiths was not ordained by God to be preserved in its purity because it was for a particular tribe or race and also only for a limited period. The code and conduct of morality was according to the development and needs of the community to which the Prophet was sent. The very first detailed teaching is found in Torah, the five books of Moses, but here too it is restricted to Israelites. Even now a stranger cannot be accepted into Judaism. Recently there was a great row in Israel about a non-Israelite’s acceptance as “Jew”. H¥manity needed a code which was not restricted to a race or nation, which cduld remain valid for all times, and which could be saved from the intere0lations of man and which could be preserved in its entirety. God guaranteed all this in 98:3-4 and 15:10 in the Holy Quran, so that a seeker after Him could put in all effort to attain nearness to Him with complete confidence and perfect hope. As to Christianity Robert S. Franks, a British Christian scholar writes: “Now we consider the books of the New Testament in their original inception and character. When they were written, the only authority ! ~ i • I • SEEKING GOD 9 recognized by the Christian Church was the Old Testament, the sacred book of the Jewish people, whose central theme is God’s choice of Israel. The New Testament writings at first lacked a similar authoritative status; they were, however; important to the Church as charismatic works written for its edification, Charismata, or gifts of grace, were universal in the primitive Church (I Cor. xii, 7), and the gift of writing for edification was one of them (Rev. i, 10, 11). There were many other charismatic works in the first age of the Church besides those preserved in the New Testament. The New Testament books were selected from the whole number of such works in the second and third centuries; they were then made authoritative along with the Old Testament on the assumption of their apostolic origin and doctrine.” (The Doctrine of the Trinity, p. 3). Islam requires belief in the truth of all the Prophets. The Holy Quran declares about all those who say “We believe in some and disbelieve in others, and seek to take a way in between.” “These are truly disbelievers” (4:150). Quran refers to the prophecies of Moses about Muhammad and to the similarity of both in bringing new law. The revelation to .Jesus is mentioned as Injil, meaning good news because it gave the glad tidings of the advent of the greatest of the Prophets, whose advent Jesus described as the coming of Lord Himself (Matt. 21:40), the appearance of the comforter (John 14:16) or the spirit ofthe Truth (John 14:17) or as the advent ofthe kingdom of God (Mark 1: 15). The word Injil does not refer to the whole of the present four Gospels. Geoffrey Parrinder, Reader in the Comparative Study of Religions in the University of London, writes: “There remains the difficult problem of the relationship between the Gospel, the Good News that Jesus taught, and the record of his words in the four Gospels. There is no evidence that Jesus ever wrote a line of his teaching … The first evangelists collected their material, as Luke says, from eyewitnesses and ministers of the word, and they tried to trace ‘the course of all things accurately from the first’ (Lk 1. 2.f.).” “Yet one difference between the Qur’an and the Bible remains in that the latter is not simply teaching but also narrative, and written from varying points of view. K. Cragg has shown what an obstacle this makes to the Muslim who opens the Christian scriptures. The Muslim who addresses himself to the Bible finds a variety of books of independent authorship, stretching over more than a millenium.” (The Call of the Minaret, p. 275 in: Jesus in the Quran, p. 147). After the escape of Jesus from the cross and his going into the search of the lost sheep of the House of Israel, his disciples turned their attention to the West on account of his rejection by the Palestinian Jews. There they came into contact with Greece and Rome, new doctrines were incorporated falsifying 10 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS his true teaching. Robert S. Franks writes about the development of the new creed of Trinity: “At a Council in Constantinople, A.D. 381, the creed of Nicrea was reaffirmed, and the Cappadocian Trinitarianism was sanctioned as its correct interpretation, in a document now no longer extant, . . . at Chalcedon a creed (what is now generally known as the ‘Nicene Creed’) was adopted as the creed of Nicrea confirmed and interpreted by the Council of Constantinople. Its proper name is therefore the Niceno- Constantinopolitan creed.” (The Doctrine of the Trinity, p. 118). It was a great tragedy for the Israelites that they rejected Jesus with his sublime teachings and his followers were then obliged to turn to the Gentiles of Europe; and it was a catastrophe that his followers, despite undergoing long persecution, gradually lost the true essence of the teachings of Jesus and succumbed to polytheistic beliefs. All the Prophets of God had been teaching the worship of Allah, One God. The Holy Qur’an says: “We did raise among every people a Messenger who enjoined; worship Allah alone and shun every transgressor.” (14:37). It is indeed sad that a community of a Prophet of God was so misled by atheistic or agnostic philosophies that it committed a heinous transgression: God says: “They allege: The Gracious One has taken unto Himself a son. Assuredly, you have uttered a monstrous thing! The heavens might well-nigh burst thereat and the earth cleave asunder; whereas it becomes not the Gracious One to take unto Himself a son.” (19:89-93). After briefly dealing with religions earlier than Islam, which in their present shapes shall be difficult to be recognised by their respective founders, who shall perhaps offer their apologies to God on the Day of Judgement, as, according to the Quran, Jesus shall submit: “I said nothing to them except that which Thou didst command me – Worship Allah my Lord and your Lord. And I was witness over them as long as I remained among them but since Thou didst cause me to die Thou hast been Watcher over them and Thou art witness over all things.” (5:117-118). God alone could guide one in search of Him to Himself. He did it through His Prophets in various parts of the world. At last the time arrived when guidance in its most perfect form for the whole world and for the whole humanity could be sent. God revealed the Quran in His own words to SEEKING GOD 11 Muhammad, peace be on him, during his twenty-two years ministry and declared: “This day have I perfected your religion for you and completed my favour upon you and have chosen for you Islam as religion.” (5:4). He also declared: “We have sent thee not but as mercy for all peoples. Say, surely it has been revealed that your God is but One God. Will you then submit. ” (21:108-109). God opened a path to Him for people of all races, colours and nations, and gave a guidebook which could never be changed or lost, because He Himself undertook to protect it. God assured man that no burden of inherited sin has been laid upon him. He made his lifemate of the same species and opened the door of Paradise to them both. He absolved Adam of lapse because it was not at all intentional or deliberate, “he forgot” (29: 116). It is in human nature to seek God and love Him. Islam helps him to seek his beloved. God says: “Devote thyself single-mindedly to the Faith, and thus follow the nature designed by Allah, the nature according to which He has fashioned mankind. There is no altering of the creation of Allah. That is the everlasting faith. But most people know not.” (30:31). The fundamental principles of Islam are One God whose providence extends to the whole universe, one mankind, universality of Divine revelation, accountability for all actions in life after death. These principles are now accepted by almost all religions of the world, which is affirmation of the Quranic truth. In another verse God refers to the belief in God as follows: “Am I not your Lord? and they answered: Indeed.” (7:173). God Almighty sets forth, in the form of question and answer, the characteristic with which He has invested the soul, and that is by its very nature no soul can deny the existence of God. The door to God is open to all. In Islam there is nothing which could be termed racial, tribal or national or which could debar anyone in his march to his beloved Almighty. God has equally honoured all children of Adam and has not favoured any particular nation or tribe (17:71). Man is born with natural tendency to rise spiritually high but if he rejects God’s guidance he sinks low. God says: 12 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS “Surely We have created man in the best make; then if he does evil deeds We degrade him as the lowest of the low, save those who behave and do good works; so for them is an unfailing reward.” (95:5-6). The human heart is made to become the abode of God. But it should be sound and not infested with evil diseases and idols hidden in its layers. Abraham’s prayer recorded in the Qu’ran shows that none shall be safe from disgrace on the day when raised up: “Save him who comes to Allah with a sound heart.” (26:90). Ascent to God is not easy, but man has been bestowed with energy and strength and he has to put in incessant labour for it. God says: “We have, surely, created man to toil and struggle.” (90:5). Man possesses two qualities which made him fit to receive the trust of the Divine Law. God says man is capable of being Zalum (unjust to himself) and Jahul (33:73) (neglectful of himself) i.e., he could be unjust to himself in the sense that he could bear any hardship and undergo any sacrifice for the sake of his Creator and he is capable of being neglectful or heedless in the sense that in the discharge of his great and sacred trust he could be neglected of his own interest and desire for a life of ease and comfort (Commentary, p. 919). God assures man of reaching his destination: “Thou, 0 man, art verily labouring towards Thy Lord, a hard labouring; then thou art going to meet Him.” (84:7). The hurdles in the path of the seekers are often placed by his own mind. God says: “Assuredly, We have created man and we know well what kind of doubt his mind throws up. We are closer to him than his jugular vein.” (50:17). God has graciously suggested an antidote to the whispering of the mind: “0 mankind! There has come to you an exhortation from your Lord and a healing for whatever is in the breasts, and a guidance and a mercy to the believers. ” (10:58). “Exhortation” refers to the Holy Qur’an, in which a cure for every disease of the mind has been prescribed. Let everyone in difficulty turn to the Qur’an for guidance so God may have mercy on him and smooth his way to Himself. SEEKING GOD 13 God says about the Qur’an: “We have sent down to thee the Book to explain everything, and a guidance, and a mercy and glad tidings to those who submit to God.” (16:90). A necessary condition for benefiting from this treasure of knowledge imparting certainty to the mind of the user is complete submission to God. If we submit we shall have good luck to reach the goal. For one seeking God it is essential to ponder over the creation of Allah. God says: “Say to them: I exhort you to do one thing and that is that you stand before Allah two and two or singly and reflect.” (34:47). If man reflects, it can lead him from creation to the Creator. God explains it: “In the creation of the heavens and the earth and in the alternation of the night and the day there are indeed Signs for people of understanding, those who remember Allah standing, sitting and lying on their sides, and ponder over the creation of the heavens and the earth; and say, ‘Our Lord, Thou hast not created all this without purpose. Holy art Thou; save us, then, from the punishment of the Fire’.” (3:191-192). Let all seekers rejoice for God has promised to show His way to them: “And as for those who strive to meet Us-we will, surely, guide them in Our ways. Verily Allah is with those who do their utmost.” (29:70). Anas (may God be pleased with him) relates that the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of God be upon him) said: Allah says: When a servant of Mine advances towards Me a foot, I advance towards him a yard, and when he advance towards Me a yard, I advance towards him the length of his arms spread out. When he comes to Me walking, I go to him running (Bokhari, Vide Gardens of the Righteous, p. 28). Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Promised Messiah (peace of God be upon him) writes: “Put forth your utmost efforts to recognize God, finding Whom is salvation and meeting Whom is deliverence. He manifests Himself to him who seeks Him with love and sincerity of heart, and He reveals Himself to him who becomes truly His. Pure hearts are His thrones and the tongues that are free from falsehood, abuse and vain talk are the 14 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS places of His revelation. He who loses himself in seeking His pleasure becomes a manifestation of His miraculous power. ” (Kashfulghita, p. 8-9, Vide Essence of Islam I, p. xvi). Among the four main attributes of God mentioned in the first Sura the first two are Rahman and Rahim, both derived from Rahm, meaning mercy. But Rahman means One Who shows mercy gratuitously and extensively to all creation without regard to efforts or work, and Rahim is One Who shows mercy in response, and as a result of the actions of man but shows it liberally and repeatedly. God manifests His attributes of Rahimiyyat by investing man’s effort with the best results and saving his efforts from loss by granting him his objective. The Promised Messiah (peace be upon him) writes: “When a baby cries and yells for milk in the grip of hunger milk suddenly surges up in the mother’s breasts. The baby has not the least idea of prayer. How then do his cries draw milk so close to him? This is a matter of common experience. It is often the case that the mother does not even perceive the presence of milk in her breats but the cries and moans of the baby suddenly draw it up. By the same token then will our cries unto Allah, the Exalted, fail to draw anything? Certainly, not. Indeed every boon is granted. Only those lacking insight the self-styled savants and philosophers fail to perceive it. If one keeps in mind the relationship between the baby and its mother when pondering the philosophy of prayer, one will find it easy to comprehend it. This kind of mercy teaches that compassion of this type is induced only by prayer. ‘Ask you will be given. Call on Me; I shall respond to you’ (40:61), is not mere words. It is embedded in human nature.” (Report of the Annual Conference, 1897, pp. 149-150, Vide (Commentary of Sura Fatiha, pp. 63-64). God says: “Nay, whoever submits himself’ completely to Allah and he is the doer of good, shall have his reward from his Lord. No fear shall come upon such, neither shall they grieve.” (2.113). As explained in the Commentary based on the explanation of the Promised Messiah (p.h.) in Ayenae Kamalat-e-Islam, the verse refers to three important stages of the journey of the seekers after God: Fana (self- annihilation), Baqa (regeneration) and Liqa (union with God). The words “Submits himself completely to Allah” mean that all our powers and organs and whatever belongs to us should be surrendered completely to God and devoted to His service. This is known as Fana or death which a true Muslim must bring on himself. The second clause “and he is the doer of good” alludes to the state of Baqa or regeneration, for when a man gets himself involved in the love of God and all his worldly doings and desires are extinguished, he is, SEEKING GOD 15 as it were, granted a new life which may be called Baqa. He then lives for God and for the service of man. The concluding words describe the third and the highest stage of goodness – the stage of Liqa or union with God which is also termed as “soul at peace” or Nafs Mutma’inna. God says: “0, thou soul at peace! Return to thy Lord, thou well, pleased with Him and He well-pleased with Thee. So enter thou among My chosen servants, and enter thou among My Gardens.” (89:28-31). The significance of Paradise or Gardens of God is described by the Promised Messiah as fellows: “The reality of the Islamic paradise is that it is a reflection of the faith and actions of a person in this life and are not something that will be bestowed upon a person from outside. A person’s paradise is developed inside him and everyone’s paradise is his faith and his righteous actions, the delight of which begins to be tasted in this very life and one perceives the hidden gardens and streams of faith and righteous action which will become concretely manifest in the hereafter. ” (The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam, p. 65). The Promised Messiah writes: “The purpose of religion is that man should obtain deliverence from his passions and should develop personal love for God Almighty through certain faith in His existence and His perfect attributes. Such love of God is the paradise which will appear in diverse shapes in the hereafter.” (Surma Chashm Arya, p. 33, wide Essence I, p. 2). “Abu Huraira, God be pleased with him, relates that the Holy Prophet, peace and blessing of God be upon him said: ‘Allah says: Whoever is at enmity with one whom I befriend should beware of having to do battle with me. When a servant of Mine seeks to approach Me through that which I like best out of what I have made obligatory upon him, and continues to advance towards Me by dint of voluntary effort beyond that prescribed then I begin to love him. When I love him I become his ears by which he hears, and his eyes by which he sees, and his hands by which he grasps, and his feet with which he walks. When he asks Me I bestow upon him and when he seeks My protection I protect him.” (Bokhari, Vide Gardens of the Righteous, p. 28).