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, completed a day before his demise on May 25, 1908. The principles of harmony laid down in the work are applicable to all countries where various religions co-exist.
Now we return to the original subject of discussion: the age when one religion was unaware of the existence of the other. In that general state of ignorance, it was but natural that every people should have considered their own religion and their own book to be the only one. Eventually when countries came into contact with each other through the spread of knowledge, this trend of monopolising God resulted in the creation of another obstacle in the path of mutual understanding. People began to expect the religions in every other country to agree with theirs, or else they stood rejected. It was no easy task to rid such religions of the poetical exaggerations built around them over the ages. So the followers of every religion braced themselves to vehemently oppose the other. So, also, the religion of Zend-Avesta raised the flag with the claim that, ‘No one else is like us’ and they monopolised the institution of prophethood for their own family. They related such a long history of their religion, that those who used to pride the longevity of Vedic history were put to shame.
In their turn, the faith of the Hebrews crossed every limit when they asserted that Israel was declared to be the eternal seat of God’s sovereignty and that only the pious among them would be considered worthy of being sent for the reformation of the world. But in effect, the work of reformation remained limited to the House of Israel, and the revelation of God became the prerogative of only their House under the seal of God. All others who rose with a claim were considered liars and imposters.
Likewise, among the Aryas, similar views to those which were widespread among the Israelites gained favour. According to their belief, God is the King of the Aryas alone; a king of the type who is totally unaware of the existence of others. And without rhyme or reason, it is believed that God had forever set His heart on the Arya climate. Little does He care to visit other countries once in a while, to inquire about the state of the miserable people living there whom He had once created only to forget them forever.
Dear friends! I appeal to you, in the name of God, to consider whether such views can really be entertained by human nature. Or if any conscience could find room for them within its bounds! I fail to understand what kind of logic it is that on the one hand God is conceived to be the Lord of the whole universe and, on the other, it is claimed that He has withdrawn His hand of providence from a large part of the world, and that His gaze remains fixed on a particular people and one section of a particular country. O you who possess wisdom! Please decide with justice if, in the entire realm of physical laws created by God, there is a single piece of evidence in favour of this. Why then should His spiritual laws be based on such biased attitudes?
If the faculty of reasoning is employed, the good or evil of anything becomes manifest from the fruit it bears. Needless for me to discuss the consequences of abusing and reviling the holy Prophets of God, who have been seen and accepted by hundreds and millions of people; there are hardly a people who have not themselves witnessed the outcome of the bitter fruit of such practices.
O Dear Ones! Age-old experience and repeated trials have established, without question, that to insult and abuse the Prophets and Messengers of different countries and peoples is such a deadly poison which not only destroys the body but also kills the soul, thereby ruining the worldly prospects as well as the spiritual. A country whose inhabitants are always after finding faults in the leaders of others, and constantly assassinate their characters, can never rest in peace themselves. Such people can never achieve true unity who, individually or mutually, refer to each other’s Prophets or saints or divines with malice or foul language. Who would not be outraged at the insults hurled at their Prophet or leader? In particular, Muslims are such people who, although they do not believe their Prophet to be God or the son of God, do regard him(saw) to be the most revered of all the holy men born of a human mother. To make peace with a sincere Muslim is not possible unless during discussion, their Holy Prophet(saw) is mentioned with respect and refined language.
As for us, we never use indecent language with regard to the Prophets of other peoples. In fact, we believe that for all the Prophets who have come to different peoples of the world and have been accepted by millions of people in all parts of the world, and love for them and their greatness has been firmly established in any one part of the world, and further that this state of devotion and love for them has endured the test of time, is evidence enough of their truthfulness. Had they not been from God, they could not have been accepted on such a wide scale by millions upon millions of hearts. God does not bestow such honour upon those whom He favours not. If an imposter aspires to occupy their position, he is soon brought to ruin.
By virtue of the same logic, we believe the Vedas to be divine in origin and we consider their saints to be venerable and holy. We do so despite our observation that Vedic teaching has not succeeded, nor could it ever succeed, in turning any section of its followers into true worshippers of God. The people in this country who worship idols, fire, the sun, the Ganges, or thousands of deities, or who are adherents of Jainism or the Shakta faith, all claim their religion to originate from the Vedas. The Vedas are so vague that they permit all sects to deduce from them whatsoever they wish. However, in accordance with what we are taught by God, we believe that the original Vedas were not man’s fabrication. A human fabrication lacks the power to establish a lasting order. Although we do not find any mention of stone worship in the Vedas, without a doubt, Vedic teaching is full of the mention of the worship of fire, air, water, the moon, the sun, and so on. There is no verse which prohibits the worship of these objects. Who is to say that the older sects of Hindus are false and only the new sect of Aryas is the true one? People who, by referring to the Vedas, worship these objects, are armed with the powerful argument that there is clear mention of such worship and nowhere is there any prohibition. To say that these are the names of God, is a claim which has not as yet been clearly settled. Had it been settled, what reason could there have been for the scholarly pundits in Benares and other cities to have rejected the beliefs of the Aryas? Despite efforts over the past thirty to thirty-five years, very few Hindus have accepted the Arya faith and in comparison with the Sanatan faith and other Hindu sects, the followers of the Arya faith number so few that they are insignificant, nor do they have any influence on the remaining Hindu sects. Similarly, the teachings of nyog, which is attributed to the Vedas, is abhorrent to human dignity and the human sense of honour. As I have already stated, we cannot accept that it is a genuine Vedic teaching. In fact, our well-meaning intentions make us strongly inclined to believe that such teachings must have been introduced later from sensual motives. Since thousands of years have passed since the original compilation of Vedas it is possible that in different times some scribes added to or subtracted from it. For us it is proof enough that the Arya faith has had millions upon millions of followers for thousands of years who have held it to be the word of God. It is not possible that the work of an imposter could enjoy such honour.
So when, despite all these obstacles, purely out of fear of God, we accept the Vedas to be divine revelation in its origin and assume all the false teachings to be the work of scribes, what justification can there be for the Holy Qur’an to be made the target of such brutal attacks? It is full of injunctions from cover to cover speaking only of the worship of one God. Nowhere does it require man to worship the sun, the moon etc. In fact there are clear statements to the contrary:
[And among His Signs are the night and day and the sun and the moon. Prostrate not yourselves before the sun, nor before the moon, but prostrate yourselves before Allah, Who created, if it is Him Whom you really worship. Ch.41:V.38]
In other words, do not worship the sun, the moon, or any work of creation, but worship only Him, Who has created you. Apart from this, the Holy Qur’an is itself a testimony to God through its old and new signs. It is a mirror which shows God’s existence. Why should it be made the target of such ferocious attacks? Why are we not treated in the same spirit as we treat the Aryas? And why is the seed of enmity and hatred sown in the soil of this country? Do they really expect that the outcome of such behaviour will be good? Is it decent to hurl stones at one who offers flowers or to splash urine on one who offers milk?
If Hindus and those belonging to the Arya faith were prepared to make a complete truce whereby they accept our Prophet(saw) to be a true Prophet of God and in future agree to refrain from contempt and slander, then I am ready to be the first to sign the following treaty:
We, the members of the Ahmadiyya Jama‘at, will testify to the truth of the origin of the Vedas, and will speak of the Vedas and their Rishis with respect and love, and if we do not honour our part of the contract, we will be liable to pay a fine of not less than three hundred thousand rupees to the Hindu community.
If the Hindus genuinely desire to effect a compromise with us, then they should also write it as a declaration and sign it; its subject matter being as follows: We believe in the divine message and Prophethood of Hadhrat Muhammad Mustafa Rasulullah(saw) [the chosen one, the Messenger of Allah] and deem him to be a true Prophet and Messenger. From now on we will remember him with reverence and respect as befits a believer. If this is not adhered to, a large fine of not less than three hundred thousand rupees will be paid to the leader of the Ahmadiyya Jama‘at.
It should be remembered that at present, the Ahmadiyya Jama‘at numbers not less than four hundred thousand. Hence, the collection of three hundred thousand rupees should not be considered too great a task for such an important cause. The majority of people who are outside the fold of our Jama‘at are disunited in their views and are diverse in their nature. They do not follow a leader, obedience to whom they would consider incumbent. This is why I cannot undertake anything on their behalf; as yet they consider me to be a kafir [imposter] and dajjal [dissembler or antichrist]. But I trust that when the Hindus enter into an agreement with me, they [the other Muslims] will also not be so daring as to abuse the Book and the Rishis of such a civilised people and thereby invite the abuse of the Holy Prophet(saw) in retaliation. Such abuses will then be rightly blamed on those who act irresponsibly. As such action is contrary to modest and virtuous behaviour, I do not expect that after this treaty they would permit their tongues to wag. It should be mandatory that to make the contract binding, ten thousand adult representatives from both parties should sign it.
My dear ones, there is nothing like peace and compromise. Let us unite with the blessing of this treaty and be one nation. You know full well that denial on both sides has thrown us apart and that our country is suffering greatly. Visualise how blessed it could prove to testify to each other’s truth. Come, give this a try now. This is the best course for achieving peace. Pursuing any other course would be like ignoring a dangerous abscess: merely because it looks clear and shiny, while, in reality, it contains rotten and putrid matter.
I need not elaborate on the ever-increasing, mutually hypocritical attitude and discord between the Hindus and Muslims. This is rooted not in religious differences alone, but has also secondary causes which pertain to worldly ambitions. For instance, the Hindus have always shown their desire to have more say in the affairs of government and country. They have been demanding that they should, at the very least, always be consulted in such affairs and that the government should always pay special attention to their demands. They also desire that they be posted at the higher-ranking offices as the British are. The Muslims made the blunder of not joining this campaign of Hindus out of fear that they were small in numbers. They were afraid that whatever benefit was to be had from such campaigns would be drawn by the majority Hindu community and not the Muslims. So they not only abstained from joining this cause, but they also obstructed the passage of Hindu efforts by openly opposing it. Thus mutual enmity increased.
I admit that such factors contributed to furthering the enmity which had already existed. But I cannot accept them to be the real reason. I beg to differ with those who believe that religious disputes are not at the root of Hindu-Muslim enmity and discord, and that the disputes are in fact political in nature.
Everyone can easily understand why Muslims are reluctant to join forces with Hindus in demanding their due rights and why they have been refusing to join Congress and why again, having perceived the soundness of the Hindu strategy, they began to follow the same path step after step while maintaining a distinct and separate entity, taking great care not to be identified with them. They did not join the Hindus, but created a similar but separate Muslim organisation. Dear Friends! I reassert that the underlying factor responsible for this behaviour is religion, and nothing else. If today the same Hindus embrace the Muslims while pronouncing the Kalimah Tayyibah; [there is none worthy of worship except Allah and Muhammad is His Messenger], then Muslims would cease to oppose them forthwith. Conversely, if Muslims renounce Islam and embrace Hinduism and start worshipping fire, air, etc., in accordance with the Vedic injunctions, then those differences which are labelled as political will suddenly vanish as if they had never existed.
It is thus evident that the underlying factors in all enmities and grudges are the religious differences. It is such religious differences which, since times immemorial, reach a climax and then invariably give way to extensive bloodshed.
O Muslims, I say: If Hindus treat you as a different nation merely because of religious differences and you respond to them in the same manner, the matter will not end here. How can you achieve a sound, healthy relationship unless you take appropriate remedial measures against this root cause? It is possible that you may temporarily enjoy a friendship, but only superficially. The ultimate sincerity of heart, worthy of being called sincerity, can only be achieved if you genuinely change your attitude towards the Vedas and the Vedic Rishis by accepting them to be from God. Likewise, the Hindus should also change their niggardly attitude by testifying to the truth of our beloved Holy Prophet(saw). Remember, and remember it well, that this is the only principle which can establish a genuine truce between you and the Hindus and this is the only water which can wash away all malice embittering your relationship. If the hour has finally come when these two nations, who have for so long fallen apart, are destined to be reunited, then God will open up their hearts to this purpose as He has already opened up our hearts to the same.
It is essential, however, that you treat Hindus with sincerity and kindness and let decent behaviour be your second nature. Refrain from all such measures as would cause them pain, except those that are essential or obligatory according to our faith. Consequently if the Hindus sincerely accept the proposition of testifying to the truth of our Holy Prophet(saw) and of having faith in his truth, then what remains regarding the split on the issue of cows can be dispensed with. Remember if we are permitted to eat something, it does not follow that we have to eat it. Everything permissible is not obligatory. There are many things which we know to be lawful yet we do not necessarily practise them. To treat Hindus with decency and kindness is one of the important Islamic injunctions. If for the sake of achieving a higher goal one forgoes a right, it will not be against the spirit of the Divine law. To consider something to be lawful is one thing, to utilise it is another. The spirit of piety requires that you abstain from whatever God has forbidden; to actually pursue the path of gaining His favour and to have the welfare of His creation at heart; to treat others with goodness and sympathy and to respect all the holy Prophets and Messengers from God, and to accept them as reformers and to not discriminate between them; and to serve all mankind irrespective of denominations. This is the essential requirement of our faith. How can we ever be at peace with such people who – without justification and without regard for the fear of Allah – speak of our Holy Prophet, Hadhrat Muhammad(saw) with disrespect, and abuse him and refrain not from the use of foul language? In truth, I declare that it is possible for us to make peace with the serpents fed on brackish soil and the wolves of the wilderness, but not with those who make wanton attacks on our Holy Prophet(saw) who is dearer to us than our lives, our mothers and our fathers. May Allah cause us to die as Muslims. We are not willing to do anything at the cost of our faith.
(The third and final part of A Message of Peace will feature in the next edition)