The final part of Paigham-e-Sulh (A Message of Peace), the last written work of Hadhrat 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.
Here, I do not wish to censure any particular people nor do I intend to hurt anyone’s feelings. But, with a deep sense of mortification, I observe that Islam, being a religion of peace, never attacked the founder of any religion. The Qur’an is that revered book which laid the foundation of peace between nations and acknowledged the truth of all Prophets belonging to all the different nations. It is the Holy Qur’an which enjoys the unique distinction of teaching us with regards to the Prophets of the entire world that:
[…We make no distinction between any of them, and to Him we submit. [Ch.3:V.85]]
Therefore, O Muslims, you should declare: We believe in all the Prophets of God belonging to this world and we do not discriminate between them as to reject one and accept the others. Name one book like the Holy Qur’an which is so dedicated for the cause of peace. The universal beneficence of God has not been confined by the Qur’an to any specific House. It acknowledges the Prophets of the House of Israel, one and all, be they Jacob(as), Isaac(as), Moses(as), David(as) or Jesus(as). And it acknowledges the Prophets of other nations regardless of whether they dwelt in India or Persia. None of them have been labeled as deceitful or imposters. On the contrary, it clearly proclaims that Prophets appeared in every nation and in every township and laid the foundation of peace between all the peoples. Alas, this Messenger of peace is abused and treated with contempt by all peoples alike.
O my dear countrymen, I have not expressed this view to offend you or to hurt your sensibilities in any way. But I do desire to submit, in all sincerity, that those who have made it their second nature to vilify the Prophets of other faiths and consider this unjustified behaviour to be a part of their faith commit an act of unwarranted interference in the affairs of others. They not only sin against God, but they are also guilty of sowing the seed of discord and enmity among mankind. Now answer me with hand on heart: if someone abuses another’s father or accuses another’s mother of unchaste conduct, will this not be tantamount to assailing the honour of his father himself? If anyone retaliates with similar abuses, will it not be appropriate to say that in reality the blame lies with the person who initiated it? In that case he himself would be the offender of his parents’ honour. God, through the Holy Qur’an, has cultivated refined and respectful etiquettes. He admonishes:
[…revile not whom they call upon beside Allah, lest they, out of spite, revile Allah in their ignorance… [Ch.6:V:109]]
In other words, do not even abuse the idols of the non-believers lest they abuse your God out of ignorance. Now consider that this is the Qur’anic teaching despite the fact that it treats idols as of no significance. Yet God teaches the Muslims to abstain from insulting even the idols and admonishes them instead to adopt a course of gentle persuasion lest the idolaters should be provoked, in turn, to abuse God. The Muslims would then be responsible for such abuses. What manner of people are they who revile the name of this great Prophet of Islam and speak of him with utter disrespect, brutally assailing his honour and tarnishing his spotless character. He is the highly revered Prophet whose name is held in such awe as when uttered the great Muslim kings vacate their thrones and bow their heads to his commands. They consider it an honour to be counted among the humblest of his servants. Is this respect not a bounty of God? Those who dare insult the recipient of such honour do, in fact, quarrel with God Himself. The Holy Prophet Muhammad(saw) holds such a high station with God that to prove his truth He has shown the world great miracles. Is this not the work of His Mighty hand, which has bowed the heads of 200 million people before Muhammad(saw)’s threshold? Granted that every Prophet had many a heavenly signs in his support, but the peerless signs shown in Muhammad(saw)’s support outnumber them all. They continue to appear even today as they were manifested in the past.
Alas, you cannot understand an argument as plain as this: when the earth is filled with sin and becomes uncouth and when wickedness, debauchery, and impertinence weigh heavier on the scale of God than acts of righteousness, it is then that God’s mercy requires of Him to send one of His servants who would set the disorder right. Sickness and disease call for a healer. You of all people should be able to understand this better than others. You hold the view that the Vedas were not revealed at a time when the ocean of sin was in spate, but that they were revealed, instead when the calm of sinlessness prevailed over land and sea. Do you then consider it inconceivable that a Prophet should appear when the flood of sin rages high and rapidly inundates every country of the world?
I do hope that you are not so ignorant of the facts of history. When our Holy Prophet(saw) honoured the office of prophethood with his advent, the age had plunged into utter darkness and no aspect of human conduct was free from the blemish of sin and false beliefs. Pundit Dyanand writes in his book Satyarath Prakash, that even in the land of Aryavart [which takes pride in its monotheistic beliefs] idolatry had replaced the worship of God, and the Vedic faith had become extensively corrupted.
Reverend Pfander, a European priest and a staunch defender of the Christian faith, also endorses these views in his book, Mizan-ul-Haq. He observes that at the time of the inception of Islam, the Christians had become the most corrupt among all the religious denominations. The lewd and wanton conduct of the Christians of the time was a source of shame and dishonour for Christianity. The Holy Qur’an, justifying its revelation, speaks of the same in the following verse:
[Corruption has appeared on land and sea… [Ch.30:V.42]]
That is: corruption has appeared on the land and the sea. This verse implies that every nation, whether in a state of ignorance or whether it presumed itself to be wise, was not free from corruption. Thus it is established on the authority of all testimonies that the entire mankind, during the age of Prophet Muhammad(saw) were they oriental or occidental, those belonging to the land of Aryas or those who were dwellers of the Arabian desert, so also those who inhabited islands, had all become moral destitutes. There was not one among them whose relation with God was without blemish. Evil practices contaminated the entire earth. Why then cannot a man of sound mind understand this simple matter of commonsense that it was the right time and the right age, with reference to which human reason can accept, that an exceptionally eminent Prophet must be raised?
As to the question concerning the reformation which this Prophet brought about with his advent, none can answer like a Muslim with reference to the overwhelming evidence of the great reformation brought about by the Holy Prophet of Islam(saw). It is beyond the scope of a Christian, Jew or Aryan to answer this question with such clarity and with the support of such irrefutable evidence.
The first phase of the Holy Prophet(saw)’s reformation began with that of the Arabs. The Arabian Peninsula was in such a hapless state that it was hard to refer to its dwellers as humans. Name an evil which they did not exhibit; name a form of idolatry which they did not practise. To steal and rob was the order of the day, and committing pointless murder was like trampling an insignificant ant under their feet. They murdered innocent children and usurped all that belonged to them. It was not rare for them to bury their daughters alive. They took pride in fornication and boasted of it in their songs. Drinking was so common among them that there was no house without cellars of wine. They led the whole world in gambling. Beasts would feel ashamed at being likened to them and snakes and wolves would be disgraced if called Arabs. When our Prophet(saw) stood up with a resolve to reform them and decided to cleanse their hearts with all his spiritual intent, within a matter of a short time they displayed such rapid changes as transformed them from beasts into humans and then from ordinary humans into a cultured people and from a cultured people they became Godly and became totally immersed in the love of God. For the sake of that love they suffered every torture as though their sense of pain had been paralyzed. They were subjected to extreme suffering by different modes of torture and were ruthlessly flogged. They were made to lie on burning sand and imprisoned. They were deprived of food and water until they reached the verge of death; but at every trial they continued to march forward.
There were so many among them whose children were slain before their very eyes and there were many among them who were themselves crucified in front of their children. The singular devotion with which they laid down their lives is such that even to think of it agitates one to tears. If it is not the command of God and the power of spiritual attention of His Prophet(saw), which worked magic on their hearts, what else could it have been which gravitated them so irresistibly towards Islam? What magic transformed them and made them bow on the threshold of a humble man who had once treaded the streets of Makkah without any kind of friendship, wealth, or power? There had to be a spiritual hand which lifted them from such lowly depths to such dazzling heights. Even more amazing is the fact that many among them were those who, in their earlier stages of rejection, were sworn enemies of the Holy Prophet(saw) and thirsty after his blood. I see no greater miracle than this that one so helpless, poor and penniless as he, could wash their hearts of all the stains of enmity and hatred and draw them so powerfully towards himself. So much so that they cast away their royal garments willingly for the sake of God and accepted the humility of being clothed in sackcloth.
Some, in their ignorance, blame Islam for Jihad to spread its message and of gaining converts at the point of sword. They claim that these converts were forced to change their religion under the threat of the sword. Woe to them a thousand times! They have exceeded all limits in their injustice and in their efforts to conceal the truth. O pity! What is wrong with them, that they wilfully turn away from realities? Our Holy Prophet(saw) did not appear in the land of Arabia in the capacity of a monarch. It, therefore, cannot be suspected that he had royal majesty and power with him, such that the people gathered under his banner for fear of their lives. Now the question one faces is simply this: When he waged his lone spiritual battle for the pronouncement of God’s Unity and for the establishment of the truth of his ministry in a state of utter helplessness and poverty, then where was that sword which struck terror in their hearts, and coerced the meek into submission? And had they refused to believe or had they persisted in their rejection of him, from which king did he beg for a contingent army to be sent to his aid so that they may be forced to yield?
O seekers of truth! Rest assured that all these allegations are fabrications by those who are sworn enemies of Islam. Cast a glance at history. Muhammad(saw) was that same orphan whose father died shortly after his birth and whose mother passed away leaving him behind as a child of only a few months. That child on whom God had extended His hand of support was nurtured in His care without any other patronage. During those hard times of orphanhood, he tended goats belonging to others. None was his mentor except God. And even up to the age of twenty-five, none of his uncles were willing to offer their daughter’s hand in marriage to him as it appeared that he would be unable to meet even the basic household expenses. Moreover, he was unlettered and was not trained in any skill or profession. As he approached the age of forty, lo, there he was with his heart powerfully drawn towards his Lord, Allah, the Gracious. There was a cave, a few miles from Makkah by the name of Hira. It was here that he would retire by himself and, concealed from the eyes of men, become lost in the remembrance of God. One day, in that very cave, while he was praying in seclusion, God revealed Himself to him, and he was told: The people have turned their backs on the path of Allah and the earth is befouled with sin. So I [God Almighty] appoint you as My Messenger and send you to the world, so that you may warn the people that they should turn back to their Lord before His punishment befalls them.
Being unlettered, he was frightened by this command and beseeched God: I know not how to read and write. Then God filled his bosom with all faculties of spiritual knowledge and enlightened his heart. With the blessing of his quwwat-e-qudsiyyah [power of purification], the humble and meek started entering the circle of obedience to him. But the powerful leaders mustered all their forces to oppose him tooth and nail. They went even to the length of plotting to kill him and many men and many women were put to agonising death. As a last measure they surrounded the house of the Holy Prophet(saw) with intent to murder him. But who can touch him whom God protects. God revealed to him: leave this town forthwith and I will remain with you at every step.
Accordingly he left Makkah and took Abu Bakr(ra) along and remained in hiding for three nights in the cave of Thaur. The enemy gave chase, and with the aid of a tracker were led to the cave. That tracker traced their footsteps right up to the entrance of the cave, telling them: here the track ends, so search for him in this cave. If he is not to be found here then the sky must have swallowed him. Who can limit the boundless wonders of God’s creation? In a single night, God so manifested His will that a spider spun its web across the mouth of the cave from end to end and a pigeon built its nest at the entrance of the cave and even laid its eggs therein. When the tracker urged the Makkans to enter the cave, an old man thus retorted: this tracker must be mad. I have been seeing this web across the mouth of the cave since the time when Muhammad(saw) was not even born. At this, people began to disperse and gave up the idea of searching the cave.
After this, the Holy Prophet(saw) travelled to Madinah secretly. The majority of the inhabitants of Madinah accepted him, causing the people of Makkah to seethe in rage, lamenting: our prey has slipped out of our hands. They then became occupied in plots to murder the Holy Prophet(saw). A small party from among the Makkans who had accepted Muhammad(saw) also left Makkah and migrated to different countries. Some took shelter under the Emperor of Abyssinia.
Some, however, were left behind in Makkah as they lacked adequate provisions for such journeys; they were tormented to the extreme. The Holy Qur’an mentions how they wailed and moaned day and night to God.
The cruelties of the infidels from among the Quraish exceeded all bounds. They started to murder the helpless, poor women and orphaned children. They went to the extent of killing some women with such ruthlessness as to have bound their legs each to different camels tightly and driving them in opposite directions. Thus they died as they split in two.
When the transgression of these merciless infidels reached this stage, God, who turns to His servants with mercy revealed to His Messenger: The supplications of the afflicted have reached Me. Thus this day, I permit them to stand up to their persecutors and remember that a people who raise their sword against the innocent will themselves perish by the sword. Yet, transgress not, because God does not befriend those who transgress.
This is the spirit and essence of Islamic Jihad which has been maliciously portrayed in the wrong light. God is forbearing, indeed, but when the mischief of a people crosses all limits, then He does not let the transgressors go unpunished. Then He Himself creates conditions which result in their destruction. I know not how and from where our opponents heard that Islam was spread by the might of the sword. God in the Holy Qur’an pronounced that there is no compulsion in Islam:
[There should be no compulsion in religion….[Ch.2:V.257]]
That is: The religion of Islam does not permit any compulsion in matters of faith. Who commanded the application of force and what were the means of coercion available to them? And again, such people as are coerced into changing their faith do not display such dedication and such quality of belief that without any financial returns and despite being a mere few hundred they dare to confront the army of thousands. When the same reached the number of one thousand, they somehow acquired the strength to defeat enemies running into hundreds of thousands. They readily offered their lives in defence of their faith, to be slaughtered like sheep and goats. They stamped the testimony to the truth of Islam with their own blood. Moreover, they became so enamoured with the task of spreading the Unity of God that, willingly accepting all kinds of hardships like ascetics, they crossed the deserts of Africa to disseminate the message of Islam so that their blessed teachings should bear the fruit of truth. Thus they succeeded in converting tens of millions of Chinese people to Islam.
Then they entered India in the style of dervishes wearing sackcloth and succeeded in converting many from the Arya faith to Islam. They even reached the frontiers of Europe and raised loud and clear the message:
[There is none worthy of worship except Allah [Muslim creed]]
Can you claim in honesty that such as these are really the fruits of the sword of Islam, whose hearts remain infidel while the tongues alone profess the faith. Nay! It is the work of those whose hearts were filled with the light of faith. Nothing but God dwelled in their hearts.
Now we turn our attention to the study of Islamic teachings and its true nature. It should be clearly borne in mind that the predominant purpose of Islamic teachings is to establish the Unity and Majesty of God on earth, to completely eradicate idolatry and to gather all scattered religious denominations around a single article of faith and turn them into one people.
The religions which appeared before Islam and the Prophets and Messengers who came were confined to the reformation of their own respective nation and country; whatever they did for their moral uplift was all aimed for the benefit of their own people. This is why Jesus(as) unambiguously admitted that his teachings were for the House of Israel alone. It is reported that when a woman who did not belong to the Israelites beseeched him with humility for him to show her ‘the way’, he rejected her plea. The poor woman even went to the extent of likening herself to a dog to evoke pity, and implored guidance. He again rejected her plea on the ground that he was sent only for the sheep of the House of Israel. Finally, she was silenced. But our Prophet(saw) nowhere pronounced that he had been sent only for the Arabs. On the contrary, the Holy Qur’an commands him to say:
[Say ‘O Mankind! Truly I am a messenger to you all from Allah…[Ch.7:V.159]]
That is, tell the people that I am a Messenger to you all from Allah. It should be remembered that it was no fault of Jesus(as) that he gave such a curt answer to the woman. The time had not yet come for a universal teaching. This was the teaching vouchsafed to Jesus(as) by God: You are specifically sent for the House of Israel. You have no concern with others. As I mentioned above, the moral teachings of Jesus(as) were confined to the Jewish people. The Torah taught “a tooth for a tooth, an eye for an eye, and an ear for the ear”1. The purport of the teaching was to provide a commandment to the Jews to establish justice and prevent them from committing transgressions and excesses. This was necessary because having spent four hundred years in slavery, cruelty and meanness had become their second nature. Hence the profound Wisdom of God so planned that to counter the overemphasis of cruelty and revenge in their natures, the teachings of forgiveness and love was highly stressed to the same degree. Hence the moral teaching found in the Gospels is specifically for the Jewish people and not for the whole world as Jesus(as) had no concern with other people.
The teaching which Jesus(as) brought did not only have the drawback of not being addressed to all mankind, but it also had another shortcoming. As the Torah overemphasises revenge to one extreme, the Gospels, turn to the other extreme as regards the teaching of forgiveness. Both these scriptures fail to bring into focus all the possible branches of human nature. As for the Torah, it remains concerned with only one branch, while the Gospels hold fast to the other exclusively. Both teachings lack balance. As it is evident that to punish on every occasion is not appropriate nor is it in accordance with the dictates of justice, likewise to forgive and to overlook faults indiscriminately is contrary to the spirit of human reform. In view of this the Holy Qur’an does not entirely agree with either, but instead proposes the following:
[The recompense of an injury is the like thereof, but whoso forgives and his act brings about reformation, his reward is with Allah. [Ch.42:V.41]]
So an injury can only be avenged to the extent of the injury received, as is taught by the Torah. But whoever prefers to forgive, as is taught by the Gospels, then such forgiveness is only permitted when the person forgiven is likely to respond with reform and the final outcome is positive and healthy and the whole episode ends up well. Otherwise, the routine teaching remains the same as that of the Torah.
1. See (Exodus, 21:24), (Leviticus, 24:20), and (Deuteronomy, 19:21). [Publisher]