Atheism or Belief:
Which is Evidence Based?
‘Can we prove that God exists?’ is a question often heard in our schools, universities, places of worship and beyond. The answer has bearing not only on the individual but on our social, political and scientific culture at large. Is belief in God something confined to the realm of speculation and faith, or can it at all be objectively evidence-based? These questions and many more were brought to light in the engaging and stimulating ‘The Real Dialogue’ event of the 1st April, 2015, with Dr. Arif Ahmed, Senior Philosophy Lecturer at Cambridge University and Ayyaz Mahmood Khan, Theologian and Scholar of Comparative Religions, on the topic of ‘Atheism or Belief: Which is Evidence-Based?’
The event was chaired by Catrin Nye, BBC news reporter and documentary maker.
Atheism or Belief:
Which is Evidence Based?
(Speech delivered by Dr. Arif Ahmed, UK)
The topic we’re discussing tonight is whether the evidence supports religion or atheism. I think I should start by saying that we are not discussing various other topics with which this question might be confused. For one thing, we’re not discussing the question of whether religion answers a deep need inside the human soul or whether religion makes us better people if we believe it. We are also not discussing whether religion is good even for disbelievers if they are around people who believe in religion. These are all interesting and worthwhile questions on which there is a good deal to say, but these are not the questions which are up for discussion. The question is whether belief in religion is supported by the evidence.
The other thing that I would note is that when I talk about religion, I do not mean something metaphorical. In other words, I am not referring to metaphorical interpretations of religious claims which are drained of any supernatural content and have merely become metaphors for something else. Just about any false claim can be taken as a metaphorical expression of the truth of one sort or another, but some of the most important things about religion are lost if we interpret it in purely metaphorical terms. For instance, if you think that religion is one of the sources of comfort in the face of death-be it one’s own death or the death of people that you love-it’s not possible to be comforted by a metaphor-at the very least, it is not easy to be comforted by metaphors. What makes the difference is the genuine belief in, for instance, an afterlife.
Similarly, if you think that religion is something that motivates people to behave well towards one another, or that it makes us good in other ways, you might think it’s more plausible to suppose that people do good because they genuinely believe that they’re following their duty as God has laid down, rather than that they are simply acting in accordance with a metaphor. So I will not be concerned with the metaphorical interpretation of religion but rather with the literal truth of religious claims, to which Ayyaz and many other religious adherents, Islamic and otherwise, would subscribe.
Now, the question as to what the content of religious claims are, is itself one that has as many answers as there are religions. There are maybe 4000 religions in the world. Everyone here agrees, presumably, that at least 3999 of those religions are not supported by the evidence, and that they are indeed false-and in some cases misleading and wicked. But some of us believe that all 4000 are not supported by the evidence. I have mentioned the multiplicity of religions to highlight the difficulty of isolating what specific religious claims are supposed to be.
But for the purposes of this discussion, I’m going to identify these claims with what I take to be the common belief of all Muslims and most monotheists (Muslims, Christians and Jews): that there is an intelligent, benevolent and powerful entity that created the universe. This entity is the sole bearer of moral authority and the source of all political legitimacy and this entity will judge all of us at the end of the world-all of us who are alive now, all of us who are now dead, and indeed all people who are yet to be born-and will mete out rewards or punishments in accordance with His Judgement. Obviously, there’s a good deal more to Islam and to other religions than that, but at the very least we could take the literal truth of that claim to be something we could fairly identify with religion.
If we were to answer the question, ‘How does the evidence bear on the truth or falsity of this claim?’ we need to have a clear conception of what it means for evidence to speak ‘in favour of’ or ‘against’ something-and we do have a relatively clear conception of how evidence bears on any particular claim, which is as follows: If you want to know if you’ve got any particular bit of evidence, and whether the evidence is in favour of some hypothesis or against a hypothesis, you have to ask two questions. The first question is: how likely is it that we would have observed this evidence if the hypothesis was true? And the second question is: how likely is it that we would’ve observed this evidence if the hypothesis is false? The evidence is then grounds for believing the hypothesis to the extent that the first quantity exceeds the second quantity. So, if you have some evidence that’s very likely to have occurred if a certain hypothesis is true but very unlikely to have occurred if that hypothesis is false, then that evidence gives you strong reasons for accepting the hypothesis. That is what I mean when I say that the evidence supports something.
Let me give you an example. Suppose that you’re testing a drug and you want to know whether the drug is efficacious or not in killing an infection or curing a certain disease. [So let us suppose that] we do tests, and we find out that in double-blind control trials, a very large proportion-say, 95%-of people who are treated with the drug recover, and only 10% or perhaps 1% of people who are not treated with the drug recover. We can ask ourselves: How likely is that to have happened just by chance if the drug wasn’t efficacious, and how likely is it to have arisen if the drug was efficacious, and the answer is that those observations would have been ones we would expect to have made if the drug had worked. But they’re not observations we would have expected and would be very unlikely if the drug had not worked. So that’s an illustration of the method that I have in mind. You ask the two questions, ‘How likely is it that we would’ve had this evidence if the hypothesis (in this case, that the drug works) is true?’, and ‘How likely is it that we would’ve had this evidence if that hypothesis had been false?’ And in this example, with the numbers that I gave you the first quantity exceeds the second by a great deal, so it seems as though we’ve got the evidence which does indeed bear very positively on that supposition.
[As it happens,] I didn’t choose the example of the drug completely at random. I mentioned it because with drugs, just as with many other things on which our lives depend, we do indeed pay very close attention to what the evidence is, [as in the example above]. We don’t just buy drugs on blind faith, or because it makes us feel good, or because we think it’ll make us nice people, or because it answers to a deep need in the human soul, or something like that. We don’t buy drugs for those reasons. We buy them because the evidence tells us that they work in the manner that I’ve described.
And if you’re religious (perhaps even if you’re not), you might think that the question as to whether or not to believe religious claims and to centre your life around them is even more important-vastly more important-than the question of whether you should take [a certain] drug or whether you should get on a plane, etc. After all, if you do believe these religious claims then you must think that they’re the most important claims in the world; that not only your present life but also your future life in eternity will depend upon them, and not only that, but also that the salvation of the human race and the meaning of all our lives depends upon these claims. So this is perhaps the most important question that anybody could ever ask themselves, and therefore, we ought to be especially stringent in our application to it of the methods of evidence that I just described, just as we are in other life-or-death questions, such as whether to take a drug.
If we ask those two questions, we can consider, for particular bits of evidence, exactly what their bearing is on the claims of religion. I’m going to concentrate now on three particular kinds of evidence that seem to have a positive or negative bearing on the claims of religion and give an assessment of what that bearing is.
The first sort of evidence, which is one that one hears most frequently cited in discussions with proponents of the religion of Islam, is the existence of scripture itself-the existence of Qur’anic scripture. We do indeed have the Qur’an as it has come down to us since the 7th century and it does indeed make claims about its own divine source and the nature of the divinity, including [the central claim of many religions, which I described earlier.] What we have to ask about that evidence is this: [do the existence and claims of these texts] constitute strong positive evidence in favour of their truth? Well, the questions we have to ask then are: how likely is it that we would observe this if Islam had been true, and how likely is it that we would’ve observed it if Islam had been false?
Of course, if the central claims of Islam are true, then it’s very likely that we would’ve observed something like the Qur’an-after all, the central claim of the Qur’an is that you know that there’s only one God and He revealed His message to Muhammad[sa] through an angel, and that message was then supposed to be propagated around the world and indeed that is what happened. So this is what we would expect to happen if the Islamic doctrine were correct, but it seems to me that it’s also something that we would expect to happen if Islam were false. If there were no God, if there were no divine revelation to Muhammad[sa], if the whole thing was some sort of delusion or some kind of fraud, then we would expect to observe just the sort of things we do in fact observe.
My reason for thinking this is that we have a very large number of supposed divine revelations to individuals, which everyone agrees are false. We all agree, for instance, that when Joan of Arc was hearing voices, she didn’t actually have a hotline to God. Or the priestess of the Temple of Diana (in antiquity), or the person in Bristol who smothered his own grandmother recently because he heard voices from God-these are all instances of people who claim divine revelation, who claim to have heard a message from God and who acted on it, presumably in all sincerity. But we all agree that they weren’t hearing anything of the sort and that the claims that they made were false. So the mere existence of scripture that makes these claims is something that we shouldn’t be very surprised to see, whether or not the claims are true. So [this is not something that is] especially unlikely or difficult to explain, [assuming] the falsity of the religious hypothesis. That was the first bit of evidence I wanted to consider.
The second bit of evidence is related, but one that people sometimes bring up, and this is the existence of religious belief. Islam is indeed a widespread religion-more than a billion people believe it, many of them very devoutly, and the devoutness of people’s adherence is something that you would expect to find if the religion’s claims were true. But again, it’s also something that you would expect to find if the claims were false.
The distinction between the kind of evidence I’m talking about now and the first kind of evidence is that [it has to do with the existence of religious belief as opposed to the existence of scripture.] It may be that this is the sort of evidence that’s cited more frequently by a certain type of Christian than it is by Muslim scholars. Nevertheless, it can be regarded as a kind of indirect but fairly weak evidence for the truth of religion. Now again, just as in the first case, we shouldn’t be very surprised to find people holding false beliefs. We shouldn’t be very surprised to find very widespread and very devout belief in religion, even if the claims of that religion were false.
There are spectacular examples of this. These spectacular examples don’t just include all the world religions (except for [whichever is] the favoured one) which we [already] all agree are false. Particularly spectacular examples include for instance, something like Jonestown-the sort of Christian-revivalist-cum-socialist movement that existed in Guyana in the late 1970s, which consisted of about a thousand US citizens who moved to South America to start up their own quasi-religious cult, where they all lived together and then all committed mass suicide because they thought the United States was going to destroy them. This is a case where people had not only false but dangerously false beliefs. But the point I want to make now is not so much about the falsity of their beliefs but the devoutness with which they were held. That is to say, these were beliefs that all of these people were willing not only to risk but actually to sacrifice their lives for, and yet nobody thinks for a moment that these beliefs were anything more than a tissue of deception. The main point is that it’s hardly surprising that you would find devout belief in a variety of false things. And so the falsity of the Islamic doctrine, the falsity of Judaism or the falsity of Christianity is not only consistent with, but makes it hardly surprising, that there should exist very wide and very strongly held beliefs in these doctrines.
The two bits of evidence that I’ve discussed so far are both bits of evidence for religion. The third bit of evidence that I want to think about argues against religion and it is not a new argument. This is the argument concerning the existence of evil. We know that there is in the world gratuitous evil. That is, if anything is evil, those things are evil and bad and wrong, which are both gratuitous and natural. They may not be committed by human beings, they may have nothing to do with free will, they may seem to do no good whatever to anyone and yet nevertheless they exist. And not only do they exist, but they characterise the condition of the human race for the almost entirety of its history. To take one example, every year half a million children die in Africa because of malaria. On the hypothesis that God is not only powerful enough to create the universe but also largely benevolent, this is not something that we should expect to see. It’s quite the opposite of what we should expect to see. This is a well-known argument. This is the argument from evil.
On the hypothesis that there is no God, what would we expect to see? Well, we would expect to see a world consisting of random disasters in which people die for apparently no reason; of meaningless suffering, characterising large parts of human existence; of people being wicked to one another with occasional islands of civilization and kindness-that’s what we should expect to see if we didn’t think there was any divine plan that was ordering either the constitution of the universe or the history of the world-and that is indeed what we observe. So in this particular case it seems that the evidence is something that would be very likely on the hypothesis that religion is false. But [this same evidence] seems to be not only surprising but even impossible on the hypothesis that religion is true. So that third bit of evidence is, I think, evidence that speaks strongly against religion.
Now, as I said there’s may be other points of evidence that Ayyaz would like to bring up and I hope he can discuss them, but those central points of evidence, it seems to me, speak very strongly in favour of the claim that the evidence not only does not support religion but actually supports irreligion.
I just want to say a couple of things at the end. The first thing I want to say is that I don’t want people to get the impression that I myself have merely substituted one faith, namely Islam or Christianity, for another faith, namely ‘blind faith in science’. One way which I can express my opposition to that idea is to give you a list of fairly clear and testable and precise things that would convince me that some form of religion was true.
Suppose, for instance, that earthquakes had been predicted all over the world on a specific date in the Qur’an and they did occur and that there was no explanation of this. That would very strongly raise my confidence in religion. Take Hume’s example: suppose that there was a voice that spoke from the clouds and that each person heard this voice in his own language, but that the voice said the same thing and that there was no explanation for this-that would be very strong testable evidence for religion. I could multiply the list indefinitely but there is a vast number of things that I’m pretty confident we won’t observe-but that if we did observe them, we would have evidence for religion. So it’s not blind faith in irreligion, it’s faith and belief that are based on empirical evidence.
Indeed, I think it might be worthwhile to turn the challenge around and ask the religious person: well, what sort of evidence would convince you that you were wrong? How bad do things have to get before you actually start thinking, “Yes, this is evidence against the truth of Islam.” If you’d asked somebody in the golden age of Islam, somebody in the year 1015, “what sort of evidence would convince you that the Islamic religion was false?” He might say, “well, if in 1000 years’ time we still haven’t conquered Europe, and Islam was still largely confined to North Africa, the Middle East and certain parts of Asia, and if the European or Christian countries had created vast empires and advanced in science, and if the most powerful country in the world was founded on a secular constitution.” And if he said-and this is the kind of thing I can imagine somebody in the year 1015 saying-“That would be really strong evidence that actually I was wrong.” Of course, that sequence of events should be fairly familiar to all of you. So, I suppose that’s one question that I want to ask: what kind of evidence would change your view? But now I look forward to hearing whether there’s any other sort of evidence that might settle the case in a way that I don’t expect and I also look forward to the discussion and Q&A, so thanks very much.
Atheism or Belief:
Which is Evidence Based?
(Speech delivered by
Ayyaz Mahmood Khan, UK)
Thank you very much, Catrin. Dr. Arif, thank you very much for your interesting talk. I am very pleased to be here and looking forward to a thoughtful discussion this evening.
I do not intend to deliver a twenty-minute sermon today and force my convictions upon you. I am only here to give you some food for thought and let you make your own choices so that hopefully, you ask yourselves whether the type of evidence that is usually demanded for proof of God’s existence is appropriate and in line with the objective that is being sought. Because we all know that there are different forms of evidence, and each can be acceptable depending on the circumstances. So what kind of evidence is there for the existence of God, if any? Before I get into that, I would like to briefly touch upon some initial points.
Firstly, I must say from the very outset, that I feel as if the topic for today’s event is somewhat strangely worded. What is belief? If we define belief as being ‘the acceptance of a thing without evidence’, i.e. blind belief, then that is a form of belief which has no place in my life as a theist and as a Muslim particularly, because Islam does not teach blind belief. But, if belief means the acceptance of something as being true which has not been observed directly, then that is something which theists and atheists hold in common. And I will touch upon that.
Secondly, what do we classify as evidence? Is a thing evidence-based only if it can be measured by material means or physical apparatuses? It is often suggested that theists are irrational, essentially, for believing in a Being which cannot be touched, felt, or seen with the physical eyes. However, it should be clear that all of us, whether we believe in God or not, hold an entire host of things to be true which we cannot access directly with our physical senses. Scientists speak a great deal about dark matter and dark energy, which is said to make up a vast majority of the universe and yet we cannot observe it directly. Fear, anger, pain and even love, for example, are things which cannot be gauged by any of the five senses. Are we all mad for believing in these things? Of course not, because although these things are inaccessible to our physical senses directly, it is absolutely rational to deduce their existence from that which we can observe. And evidence for God is no different – belief in God too, is verifiable through clear and evident signs in the world around us and I will speak about these in just a bit.
On an individual level, perhaps 99% of our knowledge is based on testimonial evidence and not on our own observation or experimentation. For instance, we spend our entire lives considering a certain individual to be our father, all on the basis of the testimony of our beloved mothers. I am not aware of many who state that ‘intellectual maturity’ requires that fathers produce DNA reports before their children are assured of the identities of their fathers. Even scientists themselves base their entire life’s work on the findings of others. We all take a plethora of things to be common knowledge despite the fact that we have not tried and tested even a fraction of them for ourselves. We do this because we accept that the testimony of so many people who are reliable and who are experts in their field, is also a form of evidence, and it is enough to make it entirely rational to believe in the plausibility of these things and in the least it warrants a serious, genuine search. Similarly, in the case of God, there has always been an enormous amount of like-testimony present in all ages, among completely isolated societies, that a higher Supreme Being exists. All this testimony cannot be written off by a single stroke. I just mentioned intellectual maturity. Now, intellectual integrity demands that a multiplicity of testimony in every age, by those who are known to be sane, firmly grounded in reason, wise and honest ought to be seriously investigated.
It is often said that scientific findings are verifiable through repeated experimentation and that is why the testimony of experts in science is believable. However, even though scientific results can be reproduced through repeated tests, that still does not change the fact that the people who perform these repeated tests are usually a small minority of experts. A vast majority of the world simply accepts the discoveries of science without any real inquiry of their own. But let us put that point aside. The fact is that the evidence for God is verifiable too, so long as one demands an appropriate form of evidence as proof of His existence. Religious teaching has always stated that one must search for God using the appropriate method of investigation. Anyone who demands that the smell of a rose ought to be heard, or the taste of sugar ought to be seen, or that a beautiful voice ought to be tasted, would be dubbed as nothing but stark raving mad. Any God that you could put in a test tube and measure physically would be no God at all; because God is not a physical being. However, when it comes to religion, evidence for God can be more widely accessible than evidence for science, for whilst everyone cannot become a physicist or mathematician and discover or verify for themselves scientific evidence first-hand, even an unlettered person can experience God if he or she uses the correct method to seek Him.
Now, I think it is fair to say that the general logic of many today is that “since I have not seen evidence for God, therefore, it is most likely that He does not exist.” This stance appears to be evidence-based, but it is not. Just because a person has not witnessed the evidence for something on a personal level, this should not warrant disbelief without the appropriate investigation being carried out. Such an attitude is not conducive to the acquisition of truth and knowledge and quite frankly, if it had been employed in science, we would never have progressed past the Stone Age. It’s interesting that we are all prepared to put in immense effort to gain knowledge in secular fields of study but when it comes to God, many people want an answer immediately and on their own terms. Of course, like with all honest investigations, we have to base our search on those that have gone before us and claimed to have found evidence.
The question then, is what is the nature of the evidence for God and is it enough to convince us of His existence? At this juncture, theists usually simply present arguments of a philosophical nature and stop there. Arguments related to causality and fine-tuning, the cosmological argument, this, that and the other. I am positive that many have heard them before. However, I am not going to present a single one of these arguments and have you believe that they are conclusive evidence for the existence of God. Because, quite simply, I don’t hold that they are. I do not believe that these arguments are sufficient evidence to prove the existence of God.
Purely philosophical argumentation, which is speculative in nature, at best tells us that God ought to exist and gives us reasonable cause to postulate the possible existence of God, but it does not give us conclusive proof that God does in fact exist. This can be likened to an individual who sees smoke rising from a distance. He infers that there ought to be a fire even though he cannot see the fire directly.
Now, what I do consider to be proof of God’s existence is ‘revelation’ or the fulfilment of prophecies. Because if God is not dead, if He is a living God, then he ought to express Himself. How can there be any evidence of His existence if He does not communicate with us? I mentioned earlier that testimony for the existence of God is present in all ages since time immemorial and in all the nations of the world, even in isolated regions who have had no contact with the outside world. This belief in God, in my view, has always been established by Prophets of God, who bring guidance from on high and who along with various other means, establish the existence of God through the power of prophecy. Because if an individual foretells of an event prior to its occurrence and it is established that the information given is beyond the scope of his available data, and if the prophecy is not so vague that it is completely un-falsifiable, this would establish the existence of a Higher Supreme Being who is All-Knowing and who gave that information of the future to His Prophet, so as to establish His own existence.
In every age, these Prophets of God have always demonstrated the existence of God through prophecy. Whether it was Prophets such as Abrahamas, Confuciusas, Buddhaas, Krishnaas, Lao Tzuas, Socratesas or Muhammadsa, peace be upon them all – all of whom claimed to be divinely commissioned by God to guide mankind towards their Creator. Although there are countless examples throughout history of fulfilled prophecy as proof of God’s existence, I would like to present two examples. The fact is, that the fulfilment of prophecy can be objectively observed and witnessed by all. Witnessing the fulfilment of prophecy goes beyond just seeing smoke and inferring a fire – it’s like seeing the fire with your own eyes.
The first example is one from 1400 years ago. The Prophet Muhammadsa foretold that in the distant future a time would come when “camels would be abandoned as a means of swift transport”. One may ask then, what was to replace camels, which had been the main mode of desert transport since time immemorial? The Prophetsa described the emergence of a donkey that would be like no other – one that must have seemed utterly fantastical to the people of that age, but is entirely recognisable now.
Regarding this donkey, the Prophet Muhammadsa said, “People would climb into its belly from the openings on its side. Its belly would be well-lit from within and would be equipped with comfortable seating.
The donkey would move at exceptionally fast speeds covering long distances in a matter of days or hours. It would have regular stoppages on the way and at every stoppage the public would be invited to come and be seated before it resumes its journey, and every departure would be loudly announced.” Not only this, but “this donkey would consume fire and this fire would burn in its belly but those seated in the donkey’s belly would remain fully insulated from this fire.”
However, the prophecy does not end there. The Prophetsa of Islam also said that when this “donkey” was required to travel by sea, it would “swell to enormous sizes, and move from continent to continent riding the waves of the ocean. It would carry mountains of food on its back across the oceans.” Yet this donkey would not only travel by land and sea. The Prophetsa further said: “this donkey would move in the air at an altitude higher than that of the clouds, and that it would roam the sky like a cloud driven by wind. The width between its ears would be forty metres.”
I leave it to you, to decide for yourself what modern day development is being referred to here, and shall let you reflect, how a man in 7th Century nomadic Arabia, who was unable to read or write, could have painted such a vivid picture of a world over a millennium away, if not by revelation from an All-Knowing God?
The question is, does God still speak in the present age or do theists speak of only what is past? In this day and age, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas, the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community also claimed to be a Prophet of God whose purpose, like all the past prophets, was to prove the existence of God through the power of Divine signs and prophecy.
One famous example from among countless fulfilled prophecies comes from 1905, when he publicised what he said was Divine revelation warning of an impending global calamity, unparalleled in its ferocity, a conflict that would spark a bloodbath throughout the world. A prophecy regarding World War I. Numerous characteristics regarding this prophecy were foretold well in advance and each and every one of them were fulfilled in letter and spirit.
Firstly, the calamity was to be global in its scope and was to bring about a revolution in the world, changing the international political fabric as the world knew it. The prophecy foretold that the calamity will bring: “a revolution in the world”, warning that “the terror of it will exhaust everyone – great and small.” Everyone knows that World War I was the first truly global conflict which resulted in the collapse of four major empires – the German, Austro-Hungarian, Russian and Ottoman Empires – and changed the political landscape of the world forever.
Secondly, the prophecy said: “suddenly – a calamity which will shake them all.” It is a well-known fact, that unlike most wars which result by gradual escalations in disagreement, the First World War was sparked by the sudden assassination of the then heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie.
Thirdly, it was also foretold that “streams of blood will flow like the water of a rivulet.” This was not mere poetic hyperbole. At Gallipoli, witnesses said that the sea “was absolutely red with blood to fifty yards out.”
Fourthly, it was foretold that “vessels will sail forth to engage in naval duals.” After this, a novel theatre of war was then described. “The sky will attack with a drawn sword”, and this prophecy was made in 1905, at a time when the Wright Brothers had not even finished building their first fully-functional aircraft. Little did they know of the immense destructive bombing their invention would soon be used to bring.
Fifthly, he said that in relation to this war, “The Children of Israel will be relieved.” And so we see the Balfour Declaration issued in 1917 in which the British government declared support for the establishment of a Jewish homeland in the then Ottoman Palestine.
But after this, came the most distinct element of the prophecy. It singled out by name, one man in particular. The prophecy said, “Even the Tsar, at that hour, will be in a pitiable state.”
The Tsar of Russia, at the time of the prophecy, was the richest man alive. He ruled over a sixth of the world’s landmass. He was the fifth richest man in history, and claimed to have Divine support.
However, in 1917, a series of unfortunate events brought the Tsar back to his capital to quell growing dissatisfaction. On his way, he was forced to abdicate, making him the last ever Tsar. After living in house arrest with his family for months, the Communists decided to brutally execute them in front of one another, and rendered their corpses unrecognisable.
It is truly mind-boggling how all the unique elements of this highly falsifiable prophecy were fulfilled in a single event. Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas, who led a spiritual community from a remote Indian village, said this prophecy would prove his truth as a recipient of revelation from the Unseen, and for me, at least, it has. This and his countless other fulfilled prophecies, just like those found in the Holy Qur’an and the Sayings of the Prophet Muhammadsa, lay down strong evidence for the existence of God. They have been accepted as being true by tens of millions throughout the world, and warrant further study.
My dear friends, I am not here today to make you believe within twenty minutes that God does exist. But if I can convince you that perhaps there is evidence which you have not yet encountered, or even encourage you to contemplate the possibility of His existence, I shall be content. The greatest evidence for God’s existence is when we finally experience Him for ourselves and He begins to communicate with us at a personal level – when He answers our prayers. But for this we must exert an effort to find Him through prayer first, in the same way that we move closer to a fire in order to experience its warmth. However, the search must be unbiased and sincere. A search clouded with pre-conceived notions can never bear fruits.
So I urge you to take up my challenge – not for my sake, but for your own sake. You owe it to yourselves to know the truth. If God does exist, then you deserve to know for certain. All I ask is that you pray sincerely and earnestly that “O God! If You do exist! I am in search of You. I am not interested in empty philosophy – I am interested in finding a real answer. Manifest Yourself to me so that I can put my heart and mind to rest once and for all. And if You do not reveal yourself to me despite my honest effort, then I am absolved of my responsibility to You.” But the condition for this spiritual experiment is true sincerity, humility and an open mind. Make sure that you are honest to yourselves and you are the best judge of that – I cannot judge you – no one can judge you. Try it, and wait and see. After all, what have you got to lose? As God says in the Holy Qur’an, “Those who exert a sincere effort to find Me, I shall take it upon Myself to guide them to Myself.”
- Sahih Muslim, Kitabul-Iman, Babu Nuzuli ‘Isabin Maryam.
- Biharul-Anwar, ‘Allamah Muhammad Baqir Al-Majlisi, Babu ‘Alamati Dhuhurihi ‘Alaihis-Salam Minas-Sufyani Wad-Dajjal.
- Nuzhatul-Majalis, ‘Abdur-Rahman As-Safuri, Vol 1, p. 109, Maimaniyyah Press, Egypt.
- Biharul-Anwar, ‘Allamah Muhammad Baqir Al-Majlisi, Babu ‘Alamati Dhuhurihi ‘Alaihis-Salam Minas-Sufyani Wad-Dajjal.
- Sahihul-Bukhari, Kitabul-Fitan, Babu Dhikrid-Dajjal; Nuzhatul-Majalis, ‘Abdur-Rahman As-Safuri, Volume 1, p. 109, Maimaniyyah Press, Egypt.
- Sahihul-Bukhari, Kitabul-Fitan, Babu Dhikrid-Dajjal.
- Kanzul-‘Ummal, ‘Allamah ‘Alaud-Din ‘Ali Al-Muttaqi, Volume 14, p. 613, 1979 Ed. Beirut.
- Sahihul-Muslim, Kitabul-Fitan, Wa Ashratis-Sa‘ah.
- Musnad Ahmad, Musnadul-Mukthirin.
- Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas, Barahin-e-Ahmadiyyah, part 5, p. 120, Ruhani Khaza’in, Vol. 21, pp. 151–152.
- Alan Moorehead, Gallipoli (n.p.: Hamish Hamilton Ltd., 1956), 143..
- Badr, Volume 2, No. 20, 17 May 1906, p. 2; Al-Hakam, Volume 10, No. 17, 17 May 1906, p.1.
- Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas, Barahin-e-Ahmadiyyah, part 5, p. 120, Ruhani Khaza’in, Vol. 21, pp. 151–152.
- Announcement of 21 April 1905; Al-Hakam, Volume 9, No. 14, 24 April 1905, pp. 5-6; Majmu‘ah Ishtiharat, Vol. 3, pp. 525-534 (Tadhkirah, English translation, pp. 703-704, 2009 Edition).