This series sets out, in the words of the Promised Messiah(as), Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, a summary of his exposition of four outstanding topics: ISLAM; ALLAH, THE EXALTED; THE HOLY PROPHET(saw) and THE HOLY QUR’AN. The original compilation, in Urdu, from which these extracts have been translated into English, was collated with great care and diligence by Syed Daud Ahmad Sahib, Allah have mercy on him and reward him graciously for his great labour of love. Amin. The English rendering is by the late Sir Muhammad Zafrulla Khan, may Allah be pleased with him, and is quoted from The Essence of Islam, Volume 2. All references throughout, unless otherwise specifically mentioned, are from the Holy Qur’an.
The All-Wise did not desire to leave weak man to his own imagination and conjecture, but has supplied him with every type of preacher and lecturer who could satisfy him and could set at rest his spiritual restlessness and has provided him with the words which could heal him of his illness. God’s law of nature establishes this need of revelation. Is it not true that millions of people, when they are caught in misery or sin or neglect, are affected by the words of a preacher or an adviser and their own knowledge and their own thinking do not prove adequate? The degree of satisfaction to be drawn from such sources depends upon the respect and the honour that the person concerned feels for the one who talks to him. It is only the promise of a person who is truthful in his promises and has the power to perform them that brings satisfaction and content to the hearer. In such circumstances who can doubt the obvious proposition that, concerning matters of life after death and matters of metaphysics, the best means of satisfaction and of the removal of spiritual pain is the Word of God. When a person believes fully in the Word of God, it delivers him from many whirlpools and contends against severe passions and bestows steadfastness in frightful accidents. When a wise person at the time of any difficulty, or in the grip of passion, finds God’s promise or warning in the Word of God, or someone else explains to him what God has commanded, he is so deeply affected that he forthwith repents. Man is often in need of being comforted by God. Very often he is overtaken by such misfortunes that had not the Word of God provided him with glad tidings he would have been so discouraged as perhaps to deny the existence of God, or in his disappointment would have broken off from God altogether, or would have died of sorrow:
And We will try you with something of fear and hunger, and loss of wealth and lives, and fruits; but give glad tidings to the patient, who, when a misfortune overtakes them, say, ‘Surely, to Allah we belong and to Him shall we return.’ It is these on whom are blessings from their Lord and mercy, and it is these who are rightly guided. (Ch.2:Vs.156-158)
In the same way, for overcoming one’s passions God’s word is needed as at every step man encounters matters which can be remedied only by the word of God. When a person desires to tum to God he encounters many obstructions. Sometimes he recalls the delights of the world, or he is attracted by the company of his cronies or he is awed by the difficulties of the way. Sometimes habits and customs block his way and sometimes considerations of honour, fame or power try to obstruct him. Sometimes all these combine together like an army and pull him in their direction and tempt him with their immediate benefits. Their combination develops such force that his own ideas are not able to withstand it. In such a contest, the effective armament of God’s word is needed so that the opposing forces may be vanquished at the first assault. Can anything happen one-sidedly? How then is it possible that God should keep silent like a stone and His servant should make progress on his own in his loyalty, sincerity and steadfastness, and that he should be pulled forward in the field of love and strengthened by the idea that there must be a Creator of heaven and earth?
Conjecture can never take the place of fact. For instance, suppose that a poor debtor has been promised by a truthful wealthy person that at the due time he would payoff all his debts, and there is another poor debtor who has been given no promise by anyone but gives rein to his imagination that perhaps he too would be helped by someone to payoff his debts at due time. Can both these persons be equally satisfied? Certainly not. All this is comprehended in the law of nature and no verity lies outside of it. Alas! Those who claim to follow the law of nature break it themselves and run over to the other side and act contrary to what they had affirmed. (Barahin-e-Ahmadiyya, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 1, pp. 340-342 footnote 11)
I do not know who has misled you to imagine that there is some contradiction between reason and revelation on account of which they cannot subsist together. May God bestow sight upon you and remove the veils from your heart. Can you not appreciate this simple thing that when through revelation reason arrives at its perfection, and is warned of its errors, discovers the true direction of its path, is delivered from confusion, is relieved of useless effort and travail, converts its doubtful knowledge into a certainty, and advancing from conjecture is informed of true facts and is comforted and finds satisfaction, then is revelation its benefactor and helper and supporter, or is it its enemy and opponent and causes it harm?
What bigotry and blindness is it to imagine that a supporter who serves as a clear guide is a highwayman and obstructer and that one who pulls out of a pit is he who pushes into the pit. The whole world knows and all those who have eyes can see and those who can reflect and observe find that there were millions of such in the past, and are also present today, who put their faith in the excellence and greatness of reason and were known as wise and guided by reason and yet they denied the existence of God and died in that condition. On the other hand, show us but one person who believed in revelation and yet denied God. As revelation is indispensable for firm faith in God then it is obvious that where this condition is lacking there can be no firm faith. It is clear that those who deny the possibility of revelation deliberately prefer the way of faithlessness and support the spread of atheism. They do not reflect that if the faculty of hearing is also to be deprived of hearing His word, then how can one believe in the existence of a Being Who is hidden and cannot be seen or smelt or touched? Even if by observing the creation an idea of the existence of the Creator comes to mind, when a seeker after truth, despite his lifelong effort, never beholds the Creator nor hears His voice, nor finds any sign of a Living Being, then will he not imagine that perhaps he was wrong in imagining the existence of a Creator. Perhaps the atheists and the physicists are in the right who regard some elements in the universe as the creators of others and do not admit the need of any other creator. I know well that if a follower of reason will pursue his thinking his mind will be assailed by this doubt, for it is not possible for him to escape such doubts when he fails in his search for some personal sign of God. It is in the nature of man that if he considers something necessary and indispensable through his conjecture, but fails to discover its existence despite every search and inquiry, he begins to doubt the correctness of his conjecture and in the end denies it and hundreds of doubts opposed to his conjecture assail his mind. We often indulge in conjecture with regard to a hidden matter that it will be thus and thus, but when the fact is known it turns out to be something quite different. These daily experiences teach one the lesson that it is the height of foolishness to be satisfied with pure conjecture. Till conjecture is supported by fact all exhibition of reason is a mirage and no more, the end of which is atheism. If you desire to be an atheist, you can do as you please; otherwise, you can be delivered from the fierce flood of doubts, which has swept thousands of wiser people than yourself by one stroke into the depths, by taking a firm hold of the strong handle of revelation. It will never happen that pursuing only your ideas based on reason you will advance to a point where you behold God sitting somewhere. With your perverse thinking, you will end up finding God without any signs and devoid of the signs of the living, and, after being frustrated in your quest for Him, you will join hands with your atheist brethren. (Barahin-e-Ahmadiyya, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 1, pp. 344-346, footnote 11)
Complete understanding can only be obtained through something which can be observed at all times and in all ages. This characteristic is found in the book of nature, which is always open and is never closed, and it should therefore be taken as one’s guide, for something which is closed most of the time and opens only on certain occasions cannot be a guide.
To regard the book of nature as open in comparison with Divine revelation is a sign of blindness. Those who possess healthy insight know well that only that book can be described as open the writing of which can be deciphered clearly and in the reading of which no doubt is left. Who can prove that anyone’s doubt was removed by merely looking at the book of nature? Who knows whether anyone has been led to the goal by the book of nature? Who can claim that he has completely understood all the arguments of the book of nature? Had it been an open book why should those who rely on it have been involved in thousands of errors? Reading this one book why should they have differed so much among themselves that some might have admitted to some degree the existence of God and others might have repudiated it altogether? Even if it were to be assumed, for the sake of argument, that one who after reading this book does not deem it necessary that God should exist, would be granted a long enough life to discover his mistake, at one time or the other, the question still remains that if this book is open why did its reading lead to such errors? Do you consider a book as open, if its readers differ with regard to the existence of God and go astray at the very first step? Is it not true that having read this book of nature thousands of philosophers became atheists or remained idol worshippers and only he from among them followed the straight path who believed in Divine revelation? Is it not true that those who confined themselves to the reading of this book and were considered great philosophers continued to deny God’s control of the universe and His knowledge of particulars and died in that condition of denial? Have you not enough intelligence to know that if a letter is construed in one way by X and in another way by Y and in an altogether different way by Z, the text of the letter cannot be regarded as plain and open, but is considered doubtful and confused? This is not a matter the understanding of which needs great intelligence, but is an obvious verity. However, what can we say of those who persist in describing darkness as light, and light as darkness, and day as night, and night as day?
Even a child can understand that to expound one’s meaning the proper way appointed by God Almighty is through clear speech. The only instrument for expressing the thoughts of the mind is the faculty of speech. It is only through the use of this instrument that one person can be informed of that which is in the mind of another person. Every matter that is not expounded through this instrument falls short of being completely understood. There are thousands of matters’ concerning which it becomes impossible for us to arrive at a true understanding merely on the basis of natural arguments, and our reflection upon them is subject to error. For instance, God has made the eye for seeing and the ear for hearing and the tongue for speaking. That much we can understand by reflecting on the nature of these limbs, but if we rely only on these natural indications and pay no attention to the explanations of Divine revelation, then our natural inclination would be that without discriminating between proper and improper occasions for their use we should look at whatever we wish and hear whatever we desire and should express whatever passes through our minds. The law of nature indicates only that the eye is for seeing, the ear for hearing and the tongue has been created for speech, and we are misled into thinking that in the use of the faculties of sight and hearing and speech we are completely free and uncontrolled.
Now, if the Divine word were not to define the law of nature and were not to clear up its confusion by its open statements, there would be great risk of one’s incurring numberless dangers by merely following the law of nature. It is the Word of God alone which by its clear statements lays down the limits of our speech, action, motion and abstention and teaches us good manners and furnishes us with pure light. It is the Word of God which, for the guarding of our sight and hearing and speech, has laid down:
Say to the believing men that they restrain their eyes and guard their private parts. That is purer for them. Surely, Allah is well aware of what they do. (Ch.24:V.31)
This means that the believers should guard their eyes and ears and private parts and should avoid every undesirable activity of sight, hearing and private parts. Thus would they be able to foster inner purity. That is to say, their minds will be safeguarded against passions for these are the limbs which incite passions and involve the animal faculties in trial.
Observe, therefore, how the Holy Qur’an has emphasised control over eyes and ears and private parts and forbidden indulgence in any impurity. In the same way the tongue has been directed to adhere to the truth, as is said:
O ye who believe! fear Allah, and say the right word. (Ch.33:V.71)
That is to say, one is to utter only that which is true and proper and should be free from everything vain and false. To direct all faculties along the straight path, a comprehensive warning has been issued which is enough to pull up the heedless and that is:
And follow not that of which thou hast no knowledge. Verily, the ear and the eye and the heart – all these shall be called to account. (Ch.17:V.37)
That is to say, the ears, the eyes, the heart, and all limbs and faculties possessed by man will be called to account for their improper use. Thus have all limbs and faculties been directed towards good and proper use expressly and emphatically in the Word of God and every limb is, in clear language which admits of no doubt or confusion, directed to adhere to the straight path. Can these explanations and details be ascertained by reading any page of the book of nature? Certainly not. Then which is the open book? This one or that one? Which of them has prescribed the limits and the proper use of natural faculties? Had gestures alone been sufficient why should man have been invested with a tongue? He has bestowed the tongue upon you. Has He not Himself the power of speech? Is it proper to say of Him Who created the whole universe without the aid of any matter and without the need of builders and labourers and carpenters, but only through His will, that He does not possess the power of speech, or that He has the power but that out of miserliness He has deprived man of the grace of His word?
Is it right that one should think of the All-Powerful as being weaker than the animals? The lowest animal can inform another animal of certainty about its own existence through its voice. A fly can inform other flies of its advent by its humming. According to you, however, the All-Powerful does not possess even the faculty of a fly. As you say clearly that He has never opened His mouth and has never possessed the faculty of speech, you want to affirm that He is imperfect and defective, whose other attributes are known, but whose attribute of speech has never been discovered. How can you say with regard to Him that He has bestowed upon you an open book in which He has clearly declared His mind? Indeed your view of Him can be summed up by saying that God Almighty has furnished no guidance and that you have discovered everything by your own ability.
Divine revelation can be described as open in the sense that it casts its influence on the hearts of all. Every type of temperament is benefited by it and every type of seeker derives help from it. That is the reason why many people have been guided through Divine revelation and very few, indeed almost none, through reason alone. Even reason affirms that that should be so. It is obvious that when a person, who becomes known to people as a righteous informer, describes his experience and observation of matters relating to the life after death and calls in aid arguments of reason to expound his meaning, he has a double force at his disposal. First is that it is believed concerning him that he has observed the matter that he speaks of and has seen it with his own eyes; and secondly, he illustrates the truth in the light of clear arguments. The combination of these two types of proof invests his preaching and advice with a strong force which pulls at even the hardest of hearts and influences every type of soul. His exposition comprises different types of illustration which can be understood by every type of person who is not wholly bereft of reason and for the understanding of which no particular standard of ability is needed. He can satisfy every type of person according to the temperament of each and at the level of his capacity. His speech has great power to pull men’s thinking towards God and to make them discard the love of the world and to impress upon their hearts a concept of the hereafter. It is not confined to the narrow and dark concept to which the discourses of the followers of reason are confined. Its effect is widespread and its benefit is complete. Every vessel is filled with it according to its capacity. This is indicated by God Almighty in His Holy Word:
He sends down water from the sky, so that valleys flow according to their measure, and the flood bears on its surface swelling foam. And from that which they heat in the fire, seeking to make ornaments or utensils, comes out a foam similar to it. Thus does Allah illustrate truth and falsehood. Now, as to the foam, it goes away as rubbish, but as to that which benefits men, it stays on the earth. Thus does Allah set forth parables. (Ch.13:V.18)
This means that God sends down His Word from heaven and every valley begins to flow with the water of the Divine Word according to its capacity.
That is to say, every one benefits from it according to his temperament and ideas and ability. Exalted natures are benefited by the wise mysteries and those who are even higher find a wonderful light the description of which is beyond words. Those who are lower, observing the greatness and personal perfection of the righteous informer, believe sincerely in what he says and they also arrive at the coast of salvation by boarding the ark of certainty. Only those are left outside who have no business with God and are the insects of the earth.