Paigham-e-Sulh (A Message of Peace) is the last written work of Hadrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad(as), the Promised Messiah and Imam Mahdi and Founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community. It was completed on May 25, 1908 – the Promised Messiah(as) passed away on May 26, 1908. The citizens of Lahore were the primary audience for this address; however its subject matter is in no way confined to them alone but is of vital importance to the Indian subcontinent and the world at large. The general principles of harmony laid down in the work are applicable to all countries where various religions co-exist. The address was read out on his behalf at a conference held on June 21, 1908 at the Punjab University, Lahore for which it was intended. We present an English translation of the first part of this treatise.
(In the Name of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful.)
(We Praise Him and send blessings on His exalted Prophet(saw).)
O my Almighty God, my Beloved Guide! Show us the path which leads the righteous and the sincere to Thee. And save us from treading the path which leads to carnal desires, malice, spite and worldly pursuits. Having said that, I now draw your attention to the following: notwithstanding the hundreds of differences between us, Muslims and Hindus alike share one thing in common, i.e., we all believe in God, the Creator and Master of the Universe. Also, we belong to the same denomination of God’s species and are referred to as humans. Furthermore, as inhabitants of the same country, we are mutual neighbours. This requires that we become friends to each other, with purity of heart and sincerity of intentions. We should dispose kindly to each other and be mutually helpful. In the difficulties pertaining to religious and worldly matters, we should exercise such sympathy towards each other as if we have become limbs of the same body.
My countrymen, a religion which does not inculcate universal compassion is no religion at all. Similarly, a human being without the faculty of compassion is no human at all. Our God has never discriminated between one people and another. This is illustrated by the fact that all the potentials and capabilities which have been granted to the Aryans have also been granted to the races inhabiting Arabia, Persia, Syria, China, Japan, Europe and America. The earth created by God provides a common floor for all people alike, and His sun and moon and many stars are a source of radiance and provide many other benefits to all alike. Likewise, all peoples benefit from the elements created by Him, such as air, water, fire and earth, and similarly from other products created by Him like grain, fruit, and healing agents, etc. These attributes of God teach us the lesson that we, too, should behave magnanimously and kindly towards our fellow human beings and should not be petty of heart and illiberal.
Friends! Take it as certain that if either of our two nations will not treat God’s attributes with respect and will not shape its conduct in accordance with the conduct of God, then, that nation will soon be wiped out from the face of the earth. Not only will it destroy itself but it will also jeopardise the future of its generations to come. The righteous of all ages have testified that following God’s ways works like an elixir for the people. Moreover the survival of human beings, both physical and spiritual, depends on the same eternal truth that man should follow the virtuous attributes of God Who is the Fountainhead of all that is essential for survival. God commences the Holy Qur’an with the following verse which is contained in Surah Al-Fatihah: (All praise belongs to Allah, Lord of all the Worlds, Ch.1:V.2) That is, all perfect and holy attributes belong exclusively to Allah, Who is the Lord of all the worlds. The word ‘alam [worlds] comprises all different peoples, all different ages and all the different countries. The commencement of the Holy Qur’an with this verse was designed to counter the views of such people who attempted to monopolise God’s unlimited providence for their own nation and imagined that the other nations did not belong to God or that having created these other people, God discarded them as being of no consequence, or else perhaps they were shelved to oblivion by Him, or (God forbid) they were not even created by Him. To illustrate this further, we refer to the view of the Jews and the Christians, still commonly held by them, that all the Prophets and Messengers of God belonged only to the House of Israel, and that God completely ignored the religious and spiritual requirements of other people, as though He were displeased with them and that, despite finding them in manifest error and ignorance, He showed least concern for their spiritual welfare. As is also written in the Gospels that Jesus Christ(as) observed that he had been sent only for the lost sheep of Israel […but he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matthew, 15:24).]
Impossible as it is, yet by way of argument let us assume that Jesus(as) did claim to be God. In that case, for him to confine his beneficence to such a small circle as the House of Israel does not behove the magnanimity of God. Had he been God, was he God only for the House of Israel to the exclusion of all other nations? He is known to have suggested that he had no concern for those who did not belong to the House of Israel.
In short, the Jews and the Christians do believe that all Prophets and messengers have been appearing from among them, and that Divine scriptures were revealed to them alone. Thereafter, according to the beliefs of the Christians, the institution of revelation and communion with God ended with Jesus Christ(as) as though a seal had been set on the institution of revelation from God. Unfortunately, the Hindus of the Arya sect also entertain a similar belief. Like the Jews and Christians, who restrict the institution of Prophethood and Divine revelation exclusively to their people and deny the honour of Divine revelation to others, the Aryas also, unfortunately for the human race, have adopted the same doctrine. They too believe that the blessing of Divine communication was never bestowed to any people outside the domain of the Aryan race. Again it is India alone which, according to them, is exclusively blessed by God for the selection of the four ‘Rishis’ from its soil; it is Sanskrit alone, the language of the Vedas, which has always been the medium of instruction chosen by God. One can safely conclude from this, that both these nations do not consider God to be the Lord [Provident] of all the worlds. Notwithstanding this, He is still proclaimed to be Lord of the universe and not that of the Israelites or the Aryans alone. Moreover this strange behaviour of God, as presented by them, draws an image of God which is so partial that He appears unmindful of the rest of His creation. Thus, it is for the refutation of such erroneous views, that God commences the Holy Qur’an with the verse: ( All praise belongs to Allah, Lord of all the worlds, Ch.1:V.2).
God also made it clear in several places in the Holy Qur’an that His messengers have been appearing in different lands all over the world. In fact He did not neglect any people or any country. The Holy Qur’an explains through various examples that just as God has been looking after the physical development of the people of every country, in accordance with their requirements, so has He blessed every country and every people with spiritual upbringing. Allah says in the Holy Qur’an: (and there is no people to whom a warner has not been sent, Ch.35:V.25), meaning that there is no people to whom a Warner has not been sent. Therefore, there is no question that the True and Perfect God, to believe in Whom is essential for every person, is the Lord of all the worlds. Furthermore, His providence is not confined to any particular people, age or country. In fact, He is the Lord of all peoples, the Lord of time and space, and He is the Sovereign of all the countries. He alone is the Fountainhead of all beneficence and the Source of every physical and spiritual strength. All that exists is sustained by Him. He is the Support for every creature. It is the universal beneficence of God which encompasses all peoples, all countries and all ages. It so happened lest anyone should have cause to complain that: ‘God has bestowed His favour upon such and such people, but not upon us.’ Or that: ‘So and so received the Book in order to be guided while we did not.’ Or that: ‘In such and such an age, He revealed Himself through His revelations, communications and miracles but in our time He remained hidden.’ Thus, by demonstrating His universal beneficence, He left no justification for such possible accusations. He displayed His virtues boundlessly so that no people remain bereft of physical and spiritual bounties from Him. He also did not treat any age as doomed.
So, when such are the attributes of our Lord, it is but befitting for us to acquire them ourselves.
So, O compatriots! This short epistle entitled A Message of Peace is being presented to you with all due respects and with a sincere heartfelt prayer that Almighty God may Himself inspire you and fill your hearts with trust in my sincerity, lest you misread this friendly gesture and consider it to be an attempt to gain some ulterior motive. Dear Countrymen! The matter of the Hereafter is very often obscured to ordinary people. Its secrets are known only to a few of the enlightened, who embrace a kind of death [for the sake of their Lord] before they actually die. The goodness of this world, on the other hand, is easily recognised by any man with vision and wisdom.
It is a common experience that calamities which cannot be averted by ordinary measures, and the difficulties which seem insurmountable, very often respond to the power of unanimity. Hence it would be against the dictates of wisdom for one to not benefit from the blessings of unanimity. The Hindus and the Muslims are two great nations inhabiting this country. It is hard to believe that either of the two, for instance the Hindus, would one day gain total domination over the Muslims, and turn them out of this country altogether. Likewise, it is not possible for Muslims to expel the Hindus from their homeland. It should always be borne in mind that Hindus and Muslims are indispensable to each other in this country. If one is beset with a calamity, the other will inescapably share it. If either one intends to humiliate the other, out of egoistic pride or vanity, then it will not escape the consequent disgrace itself. And if anyone among them falls short of showing concern for his neighbour, then he too will suffer the ill effect of his callousness. Anyone who contemplates annihilation of the other is like one who saws off the branch on which he is sitting. With the Grace of Allah, you have also got a measure of education; it behoves you now to eschew grudge and promote mutual love. Similarly, the dictates of your wisdom require that you abandon the course of callousness and adopt an attitude of compassion and sympathy. The hardship of this life is like unto a journey in a desert in the midst of summer on a hot sunny day. It would be futile to take this arduous journey without cool water. It is the cool water of mutual love which you so direly need to extinguish this burning fire and to save you from dying of thirst.
In precarious times such as these I invite you to truce, as reconciliation is urgently required by both nations. Many a calamity is befalling the world; there are earthquakes and there are famines. Over and above the earthquakes and famines we continue to be plagued by the bubonic pestilence. Moreover the Divine revelations which God has conveyed to me further confirm that if people do not mend their evil ways and practices and do not repent their sins, the world will be further visited by other severe calamities. One misery will not end before another follows. Eventually people will reach the end of their tether and will wonder what is happening to them and what next is in store for them. They will be pushed to the edge of their senses by calamity upon calamity. So take heed my countrymen, before such evil days confront you. It is highly essential that Hindus and Muslims should come to terms with each other and if either of the two parties is guilty of such excesses as obstruct the path of peace, they are better advised to desist from pursuing that course. Otherwise, the entire blame for the sin of mutual enmity will be borne by the faulting party. If someone questions the possibility of reaching reconciliation while religious differences are playing such a negative role, distancing hearts further apart, then my answer would be to say that difference in matters of religion can only play a negative role when it disregards the dictates of justice, wisdom and the well-tested human values. It is to avoid this danger that man has been fully fortified with a clear sense of judgement and common sense. He should thus always carve a path for himself which never deviates from the path of justice and good sense. Again it should not violate the commonly experienced human sensibilities. Also it should be remembered that day to day petty differences cannot obstruct the course of reconciliation. Only those differences can destroy the process of reconciliation which result in insulting and blasphemous attitudes by one towards the revered Messengers and revealed Holy Books of the other.
The good news in all this for those who seek reconciliation is that all of the Islamic teachings are also found in the different parts of Vedic teaching. For instance, although the newborn branch of Vedic faith entitled Arya Samaj teaches that after the revelation of the Vedas, communication from God to man was sealed, the great avatars born in the Hindu faith from time to time, who have millions upon millions of followers in this country, have doubtlessly broken that seal by claiming to be recipients of Divine revelation. One such elect Divine representative, who is greatly revered in this country and Bengal, is known as Sri Krishna. He claimed to be the recipient of God’s Word and his followers not only believe him to be a Messenger but some consider him to be God personified. There is no doubt, however, that Sri Krishna(as) was a Messenger and a representative of God in his time, and God conversed with him. Likewise, from among the Hindu people of the Latter Days was one named Guru Baba Nanak, whose saintliness has become a byword in this country. His followers, the Sikhs, number no less than two million. Baba Sahib openly claims to be the recipient of revelation in the Janam Sakhis [autobiographies of Baba Nanak] and the Granth [the Holy Book of Sikhs]. In one Janam Sakhi he states that he had received revelation from God testifying to the truth of Islam. Based on this he performed Hajj and followed the Islamic injunctions meticulously. It is established without doubt that great signs and miracles were manifested by him. It goes without question that Baba Nanak was a holy and pious man. He was one of those whom God, the Mighty, the Glorious, caused to drink out of His goblet of love. He was born among Hindus and bore witness that Islam is from God. Anyone who sees for himself his relics preserved at Dera Nanak, in which he has testified to the Kalimah [Muslim creed – There is none worthy of worship except Allah, Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah] and witnesses relics that lie enshrined at Guru Hersahai, District Ferozepur, among which is also a copy of the Holy Qur’an, how can he ever doubt the fact that because of his pure heart, nature and effort, Baba Nanak had come to know of the secret that lay hidden from the so-called Pundits.
Guru Baba Nanak also claimed to be a recipient of revelation from God and he enjoyed the Divine blessing of showing many miracles. Thus he roundly debunked the erroneous claims that there was no revelation after the Vedas or that no signs were manifested thereafter. No doubt Baba Nanak was a great blessing from God for the adherents of Hinduism. You may deem him, if you please, the last avatar for Hinduism who endeavoured to eradicate the hatred which Hindus had for Islam. But it is tragic for this country that the Hindu faith did not derive any benefit from this Divine blessing which came in the person of Baba Nanak. On the contrary, the Pundits inflicted much pain upon him for praising Islam wherever he went. It was his mission in fact to bring Hinduism and Islam to a state of mutual peace. Unfortunately for this country, the followers of the Hindu faith paid no due attention to his teaching. If he and his pious teachings had been shown any respect, the Hindus and the Muslims would have become united by now. O grief that such a righteous man came into this world, remained with us and passed away, but the imprudent did not gain any benefit from his light! In any case, he proved that the institution of revelation and communion never terminates and that the Divine signs of Allah always appear through the agency of His chosen ones and he stood witness to the fact that harbouring enmity towards Islam is tantamount to harbouring enmity towards the Divine light.
Similarly, I can also, from personal experience, give testimony that the present age has certainly not been deprived of communication and revelation from God. On the contrary, God still speaks as He used to speak and still hears as He used to hear. It is not that His eternal attributes have become inoperative. I have been blessed with communication from God for nearly thirty years, and He has shown at my hand hundreds of signs which have been observed by thousands of witnesses and have also been widely published in books and newspapers. Without exception, people from all denominations have witnessed one or another of the signs.
In the face of such repeated evidence, the teaching of the Arya Samaj, which is wrongfully attributed to Vedas, cannot be accepted, for it alleges that all Divine revelation and communication has come to an end with the Vedas. This Arya position is tantamount to believing that nothing is left of man’s belief but tales and legends. Consequent upon this dogma, they dismiss all the Divine scriptures that came after the Vedas as mere man-made fabrications. They do this notwithstanding the fact that the Divine scriptures in question possess a greater and more potent proof of the Divine origin than the Vedas. The hand of God’s support and assistance is behind them and extraordinary signs from God bear witness to their truth. By what logic, then, are the Vedas termed the ‘Word of God’, while these other books are not? The attributes of God are limitlessly profound and He lies hidden behind innumerable covers. Hence, dictates of wisdom require that He should not rely on one book alone for His manifestation. Rather, it is befitting for Him to choose His Messengers from all over the world in different countries, reflecting His glory through them by blessing them with His revelation and gift of communion. This is so that man, weak and credulous by nature, should not be deprived of the good fortune of responding to His call. Pure common sense cannot accept the proposition that God, the Lord of the Universe, Who illuminates the East and West alike with His radiant sun and quenches the thirst of every land with the universal bounty of His rain, should be so miserly (God forbid!) with regards to the spiritual needs of man as to become partial only to one country, one people and one language. I fail to understand what logic and rationale it is that God the Omniscient listens to man’s prayers and supplications and understands him in every language, and He is not displeased with it, yet He abhors to make His word descend upon hearts in any language other than Sanskrit, the language of the Vedas. This philosophy is found only in the Vedas like a well concealed enigma which no one, as yet, has been able to resolve.
Personally, I consider the Vedas to be absolved of ever having displayed such a philosophy upon any of its pages, which not only goes against common sense, but also blemishes God with the allegation of miserliness and niggardly conduct. The reality is that once a long time elapses after the revelation of a Divine Book, the followers of that Book, either out of sheer ignorance, or as a result of some ulterior motives – by mistake or by intent – feel free to annotate the Divine teachings. Because these annotators are of divergent views, so, with the passage of time, hundreds of denominations are born out of one. It is also strange that just as the Aryas believe that revelation has only been confined to the Arya kith and kin and Arya faith, and that Sanskrit has been specifically employed by God as His own language, so too the Jews have similar views regarding the chosen Children of Israel and their Books. They believe that the only language of God is Hebrew and the institution of revelation has been confined to the House of Israel and its land. According to them, anyone who claims to be a prophet of God while he does not belong to this House and does not speak their language is (God forbid) definitely a liar.
Is it not then a strange coincidence, that both these peoples have followed the same path in their dogmatic assertions? Likewise, the followers of many other religions entertain similar views, as for example, the Zoroastrians, who claim that their religion originated billions of years before the Vedic revelation. From this it transpires that the tendency (to confine the revelation of God to one’s own language or the Book) is based merely on prejudice and ignorance. This is further abetted by the fact that in the dark ages of the past, people had no access to the information concerning people and countries beyond the boundaries of their homelands. This lack of knowledge on their part led them to draw the wrong conclusions. They had witnessed that God had bestowed upon them a Divine teaching in the form of a Book, and they knew that Messengers of God had been selected from among themselves; hence their erroneous impression that they had been the only people so favourably treated by God, while the rest of the world was unfortunate in being deprived of this blessing.
This erroneous view has done a lot of damage to the world, and it has worked as a seed of mutual enmity and malice which continues to grow. For a long time, it so happened that a people remained hidden from others and one country remained concealed and veiled from the other to the extent that the scholars of the Arya faith used to believe that there was no inhabitation beyond the Himalayas. When God lifted the veil, it was already too late for them to mend. By this time they were already fixed in their prejudices. All the false distinctive features which people had attributed to their own revealed books, divines, and messengers, had become deeply rooted in their hearts and had become permanently fixed like the etching on stones. Each people had the same misconception that God’s capital was situated in their country. Savage behaviour was predominant among most people of that age. Hence, to them the sword seemed a natural instrument for settling accounts with those people who dared to oppose the old order. Who then would dare to cool down their self-aggrandisement to create an atmosphere conducive to mutual peace?
Gautama Buddha(as) was one brave enough who stood up to achieve this goal. He did not agree with the erroneous view that the Vedas are everything and that there is nothing beyond them. Nor did he believe in any people, country or tribe as being exceptional. In other words, he did not agree that the Vedas enjoyed a monopoly and it was only this faith, this language, this country, and the Brahmins which had been permanently and exclusively registered in the court records of God to become the recipients of His revelation. He suffered greatly because of expressing these different views and he was accused of being an atheist or an agnostic. Similarly scholars and researchers of Europe and America, who do not accept the godhead of Jesus(as), and whose hearts refuse to believe that God can be crucified, are atheists according to the Christian priests. This is how Buddha was branded an atheist. As is the routine of the mischievous antagonists who incite the hatred of common people, he was made a target of many a false accusation. Consequently, he was turned out of the soil on which he was born and bred, the country that was his homeland. Even now, the Hindus view Buddhism with disdain and they begrudge its success. According to Jesus Christ(as) ‘A Prophet is not without honour save in his own country.’ [see Matthew 13:57 and Mark 6:4] Buddha(as) migrated to another country and gained tremendous success there. It is reported that one third of the world is populated by the followers of Buddha(as). As far as the large majority of adherents is concerned, the real centre lies in China and Japan, but his message has reached as far as Southern Russia and America.
(Part 2 will feature in the next edition)