THE ESSENCE OF ISLAM
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(ru). The English rendering is by the late Sir Muhammad Zafrulla Khan(ra), and is quoted from The Essence of Islam, Volume 3. All references throughout, unless otherwise specifically mentioned, are from the Holy Qur’an.
Though different people, on account of their short-sightedness or lack of courage, appoint various types of objectives for their lives and stop short at worldly purposes and desires, yet the purpose that God Almighty has specified in His Holy Word is:
I have created jinn and men so that they should worship me. (Ch.51:V.57)
According to this verse the true purpose of human life is the worship and understanding of God Almighty and devotion to Him. It is obvious that it is not open to man that he should himself appoint the purpose of his life by his own authority inasmuch as man does not arrive in the world of his own will, nor will he depart from this world of his own will. He is a created being and He Who created him and bestowed upon him better and higher faculties than those bestowed upon other animates, has appointed a purpose for his life. Whether anyone comprehends that purpose or not, without doubt the purpose of man’s creation is the worship and understanding of God Almighty and to lose himself in Him (Islami Usul ki Philosophy; Now printed in Ruhani Khaza’in (London, 1984), Vol. 10, p100).
We offered the Trust to the heavens and the earth and the mountains, but they refused to undertake it and were afraid of it. But man undertook it. Indeed he is capable of forcing himself to obey, disregardful of consequences. (Ch.33:V.73)
This means that the Divine Trust, by which are meant the love of God and complete obedience to Him, was offered to the angels and the whole of creation and the mountains, all apparently full of strength, but they all refused to undertake it, being afraid of its grandeur. But man undertook it for he possessed two qualities, that he could force himself in the cause of God Almighty and could advance so far in love of Him as to forget altogether everything else (Taudheeh Maram, pp27-28).
The real purpose of all the external and internal limbs and faculties that have been bestowed on man is understanding and worship and love of God. That is why, despite a thousand occupations, man does not find his true well-being except in God Almighty. Having acquired great wealth, or achieved high office, or having become a great merchant, or having acquired governing authority, or become a great philosopher, he departs in the end from these worldly involvements with a sense of frustration. His heart rebukes him all the time about his deep concern with the world and his conscience never approves his wiles and deceits and wrongful actions. This problem can be appreciated in another way. The purpose of the creation of a thing is determined by its highest achievement beyond which its faculties cannot rise. For instance, the highest a bullock is capable of is ploughing, or irrigation, or transportation, and therefore these are the purposes of its life and it cannot rise above them. But when we take stock of man’s faculties and powers to discover his highest capacity, we find that he is invested with the faculty of seeking after God so much so, that he desires that he should become so devoted to God’s love that he should have nothing of his own and that everything should become God’s. He shares his natural needs like food and drink and rest with other animates, and in industry some animals are ahead of him; for instance, the bees produce such excellent honey from every type of flower that man has so far not been able to compete with them. It is clear, therefore, that the highest capacity of man is meeting with God Almighty and thus the true purpose of his life is that the window of his heart should open towards God.
How To Achieve The Purpose Of Life
The question is how, and through what means, can man achieve this purpose? The principal means for achieving this purpose is the correct recognition of and faith in the True God. If this first step is wrongly taken and a person sets up a bird, or an animal, or any of the elements, or a human being as his god, it cannot be expected that his subsequent steps would be taken along the straight path. The True God helps His seekers; but that which is dead cannot help the dead. As the Holy Qur’an says:
Unto Him is the true prayer. Those on whom they call beside Him, do not respond to them at all. Their case is like that of one who stretches forth his hands towards water that it may reach his mouth, but it reaches it not. The prayer of the disbelievers is but a delusion. (Ch.13:V.15)
The second means of achieving the true purpose of life is to become aware of the perfect beauty of God Almighty, for beauty is something that naturally attracts the hearts and generates love. The beauty of God Almighty is His Unity and His Greatness and His other attributes, as the Holy Qur’an says:
Proclaim: He is Allah, the Single; Allah, the Self-Existing and Besought of all. He begets not, nor is He begotten; and there is none like unto Him. (Ch.112:Vs.2-5)
This means that in His Being and His attributes and His Glory, God is One without associate. All are dependent upon Him and every particle derives its life from Him. He is the Source of grace for everything and receives no grace from anything. He is neither a son nor a father for none is equal to Him. The Holy Qur’an repeatedly draws attention to God’s perfection and greatness and points out that such God is the Besought of all hearts and not one who is dead or weak or lacks mercy or power.
The third means of achieving the purpose of life is to become aware of the benevolence of God Almighty, for love is generated by beauty and benevolence. The benevolent attributes of God Almighty are set forth briefly in Surah Fatihah [(Opening Chapter)], where it is said:
All praise belongs to Allah, Lord of the worlds, Most Gracious, Ever Merciful, Master of the Day of Judgement. (Ch.1:Vs.2-4)
It is obvious that the perfection of benevolence consists in that God Almighty created His servants from nothing and thereafter His Providence was bestowed upon them and He became the support of everything, and all types of His mercy were manifested for His servants. His benevolence is without limit and beyond count as is repeatedly set forth in the Holy Qur’an, as, for instance:
…If you try to number the bounties of Allah, you will not be able to count them… (Ch14:V.35)
The fourth means of achieving the true purpose is Prayer, as is said: Call on Me, I shall respond to you (Ch.40:V.61). There is repeated urge towards Prayer, so that man should achieve his purpose not through his own power, but through God’s power.
The fifth means of achieving the purpose of life is striving in the cause of Allah with one’s property and one’s faculties and one’s life and one’s reason, as is it said:
…Strive in the cause of Allah with your properties and your lives… (Ch.9:V.41);
and it is said:
…They spend out of whatsoever We have bestowed upon them (Ch.2:V.4);
and it is said:
Those who strive after Us shall We guide along the paths that lead to Us… (Ch.29:V.70)
The sixth means for achieving the purpose of life is steadfastness; that is to say, that a seeker should not become tired and should not be daunted by trials, as it is said:
On them who affirm: Our Lord is Allah; and then remain steadfast, angels descend, re-assuring them: Fear not, nor grieve, and rejoice in the Garden that you were promised. We are your friends in this life and in the hereafter… (Ch.41:Vs.31-32)
This is an indication that the pleasure of God Almighty is won through steadfastness. It is true that steadfastness is more than a miracle. Steadfastness is that one should find oneself surrounded on all sides by calamities and one should find one’s life and honour in danger and nothing comforting should be available, so much so, that God Almighty should stop comforting visions and dreams and revelation and should leave one in the midst of terrifying fears, but that at such a time, one should not abandon courage and should not step back like a coward and should not let one’s fidelity be weakened. One’s sincerity and loyalty should not be shaken, one should be pleased with the humiliation, one should be reconciled to death, one should not await the support of a friend, one should not seek glad tidings from God, because of one’s delicate situation, and one should stand up straight despite helplessness and weakness and the lack of every comfort. One should stretch forth one’s neck, saying: Whatever is to happen, let it happen; one should face courageously whatever has been determined and one should not be impatient nor complain till the trial is completed. This is the steadfastness through which one wins God. This is that the perfume of which is given forth by the dust of Messengers, Prophets, Siddiqs [(Truthful persons)] and martyrs. This is indicated in the prayer:
Guide us along the straight path, the path of those on whom Thou hast bestowed Thy favours… (Ch.1:Vs.6-7)
meaning, show us the path of steadfastness by treading along which one wins Thy bounties and favours and with which Thou art pleased. This is also indicated in another verse:
…Our Lord pour down upon us steadfastness and cause us to die in a state of submission to Thee (Ch.7:V.127)
meaning, Lord: at this time of trial send down upon our hearts the comfort that should make us steadfast and do Thou so ordain that we should die in a state of submission to Thee. At the time of trials and misfortune, God Almighty causes a light to descend upon the hearts of those who are dear to Him, being strengthened by which they face misfortunes calmly and, out of the sweetness of their faith, they kiss the chains that are put round their feet in His cause. When calamities descend upon a man of God and signs of death appear, he does not contend with his Lord that He might be safeguarded against them, inasmuch as to persist at such a time in supplications for security amounts to fighting God Almighty and is contrary to complete submission. A true lover advances forward at a time of calamity and holding life as nothing, and saying goodbye to love of it, submits himself completely to the will of his Lord and seeks only His pleasure. Concerning such people, God, the Glorious, says:
Of the people there are those who dedicate themselves to seeking the pleasure of Allah; and Allah is Most Compassionate towards such devoted servants. (Ch.2:V.208)
That is the spirit of steadfastness through which one meets God.
The seventh means of achieving the purpose of life is keeping company with the righteous and to follow their example. One of the needs of the advent of Prophets is that man naturally seeks a perfect example, for it fosters eagerness and resolve. He who does not follow a good example becomes slothful and goes astray. This is indicated in the verse:
…Keep company with the righteous (Ch.9:V.119)
The path of those on whom Thou hast bestowed Thy favours… (Ch.1:V.7)
The eighth means of achieving the purpose of life are pure visions and dreams and revelation from God Almighty. To travel towards God is to tread upon a very delicate path that is attended by diverse types of calamities and sufferings. It is possible that a person may be overtaken by forgetfulness in pursuing this unfamiliar path or may give up hope and should abandon further advance. Therefore, the mercy of God Almighty seeks to comfort him in his progress in this journey and strengthen his heart and to uphold his resolve and to increase his eagerness. Thus it is God’s way that from time to time He comforts those who are voyaging along this path with His revelation and manifests to them that He is with them. Thus strengthened, they perform this journey with great eagerness. He has said:
For them are glad tidings in this world and in the hereafter… (Ch.10:V.65)
There are several other means for achieving the purpose of life which the Holy Qur’an has set out, but considerations of space forbid us setting them out here (Islami Usul ki Philosophy; Now printed in Ruhani Khazain (London, 1984), Vol. 10, pp101-108).
A question is raised that God Almighty being Gracious and Benevolent, His direction that man should worship Him is for the benefit of man and not that it adds in any way to God’s honour. It is true that through the worship of God man’s own welfare is intended, yet the Rabubiyyat [(Providence)] of God Almighty demands that avoiding evil and devoting himself to His worship and obedience, he should achieve his good fortune. If he does not wish to follow that path His wrath is aroused not for His own sake, but for his sake and He subjects him to diverse types of warnings and admonitions. If he still does not take heed, he is consumed in the fire of rejection and of despair. It is not permissible that anyone should say to Him: Why do You bother about what would harm me or benefit me? Why do You admonish us and send revealed Books and punish us? If we worship You, it would be for our own good and if we do not worship You, we shall suffer loss. Why should You worry? Should anyone say that, and indeed if the whole world and all mankind were to supplicate Him that He should spare them His admonitions and commandments and revealed Books, and that they do not desire paradise, but would be content with this world and should be left for ever to it, that they do not desire the great bounties of the hereafter, that He should not interfere with their actions and should abstain from planning rewards and punishments for them and should not concern Himself with their benefit or their loss, their supplication would not be granted even if they continued to submit it throughout their lives crying and weeping. It is not enough that a person is free and worships God for his own benefit and that Permeshwar has no concern with it, but the Glory and Greatness of God demand that man should carry out the worship of God and should follow the ways of goodness. His Godhead naturally demands that the signs of servitude should be manifested before Him and His perfection demands that man should humble himself in His presence. That is the reason why in the end His chastisement overtakes the disobedient and the vicious and those who persist in wrong-doing. His Blessed Being has eternally possessed the power to award reward and impose punishment; otherwise, he would not occupy Himself to award good recompense to the virtuous and ill recompense to the vicious. Were it not for His attribute of awarding recompense, He would have kept silent and abstained altogether from bestowing recompense. Therefore, though it is true that the harm or benefit of man’s actions reverts to him and the greatness and kingdom of God Almighty are neither increased nor decreased thereby, yet it is true and is a firm verity that His attribute of Rabubiyyat demands that His servants should be firmly established in their position of His worshippers, and that if anyone should raise his head in the slightest degree out of arrogance, his head be immediately smashed. In short, there is a demand in God’s Being for the manifestation of His Greatness, His Godhead, His Supremacy, His Glory and His Kingdom, and recompense and the requirement of obedience and servitude and worship are the consequences of that very demand. For the manifestation of His Rabubiyyat and Godhead, He has created this variegated world. Had His Being been free from this desire of manifestation, why should He have addressed Himself to creation at all? Who had coerced Him that He should create the universe and by establishing a relationship between souls and bodies should make this world the manifestation of His wonderful powers? He must have possessed a power of determination that moved Him to the creation of the universe. There are indications in His Holy Word, the Qur’an, which show that God Almighty created the universe so that He should be recognised through His attribute of creation, and after creation He showered His mercy and benevolence upon the world so that He should be recognised through His mercy and benevolence. In the same way, He instituted punishment and reward so that His attributes of retribution and bounty might be recognised. After death, He will raise up mankind again so that He might be recognised as All-Powerful. His purpose in all His wonderful works is that He should be recognised. Thus, by the creation of the world and by the system of recompense, what is desired is the understanding of God, which is the essence of worship. This proves that God Almighty Himself demands that His creatures should attain His understanding, the perfect reality of which is known through worship. As a beauteous one on account of the perfection of his beauty desires to display it, so God Almighty, Who possesses to perfection the reality of beauty, desires that His excellences should be disclosed to people. This proves that God Almighty demands worship, which is the basis and means of recognition from His servants, and His supremacy attends to the destruction of one who opposes His desire and denies His worship and turns away from it. If you reflect over the world and observe carefully that which God Almighty has hitherto meted out to rebels and non-believers, and that which He has always done to the faithless ones and the wrong-doers, you would realise that without doubt it is an established verity that God Almighty, by the demand of His Being, loves goodness and hates evil and is at enmity with it. He desires that people should discard vice and should adopt goodness, and though goodness or evil, which man practises, does not in any way interfere with God’s kingdom, yet that is His demand. It is thus obvious that if God Almighty has not created the souls, He has no right to demand from any soul why it does not render to Him that perfect worship that is due to its Creator (Surma Chashm Arya (Qadian, 1886); Now published in Ruhani Khaza’in, Volume 2 (London, 1984), pp.215-220).