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100-Year Rewind: The Review of Religions December 1920 Edition

Review of Religions December 1920 Edition

The Review of Religions has begun a monthly series called the “The Hundred-Year Rewind”. We will highlight a particular issue of the Review of Religions from a 100 years ago and offer summaries to some of the articles published in that edition along with a link to the original magazine in PDF form here to read in full.

Islam, II

(An Authoritative Exposition)

The editor outlines at the beginning of the article, ‘This series of articles is specially intended for those seekers of truth who have discovered the inner emptiness of the materialistic and skeptic [sceptic] philosophy of the times and hope to find in Revealed Religion some ‘true basis of faith and a power to bring it into action’.‘ This is the second part of the series in which the author addresses the following subjects.

Distinctive Signs of A Godly Man

Proof of the true recognition of God cannot be confined to the mere assertion or belief of a claimant but must be accompanied by evidence, distinguishing between a true and false claimant.

  1. ‘The genuinely godly man undergoes a transformation.‘ All of his faculties are intensified beyond human comprehension. He becomes totally immersed in the love of God and serves as a mirror, through which humanity can behold the Divine face. ‘It is this what is expressed by the expression of God ‘coming down’ in his person.
  • ‘He enjoys the privilege of converse with God.‘ This is not an imaginary communion. Rather, its proof lies in prophecies regarding future events or regarding other individuals.
  • He receives the assistance of God in all situations of life.‘ At times of extreme difficulty, when everything points to the contrary, he is reassured by God of safety and victory and so it transpires.
  • He is charged with a special magnetism which attracts to him the hearts of the righteous and under his influence, there is induced in them the fire of love for God.‘ A magnetism, not characterised with power, wealth or fame, but with simplicity, meekness and honesty. He draws their attention from this physical and limited world into the spiritual and everlasting world.

Looking around the world and pondering over the creation of the heaven and the earth, a person can infer the necessity of an intelligent and all-wise being, but not further. It is the miraculous life of a godly man that serves as absolute proof for the existence of God. A godly man walks against the trend of the world. He is weak and alone, yet, ultimately triumphs. His prophecies are announced to the world, not kept in secret. The author beautifully portrays this concept in the following words, ‘A design foretold, a plan pronounced, a resistance by the existing social order conscious and studied, urged by a sense of danger and pique, and the process of overcoming the resistance prolonged not over months and years but over decades, surely all these preclude any possibility of accident in the case.

Misconceptions Concerning Miracles

Various misconceptions have formed among the public concerning miracles. Some consider them freaks of nature, others as cases of the suspension of natural laws. It is true that some miracles circulated regarding the deeds of saints and divine teachers are nothing more than figments of the imagination of the narrator – raising the dead, physical food being brought down from heaven, as well as a living man being raised to the skies. Nevertheless, miracles exist and will be discussed below.

Miracles

‘And just as light in the physical world may not be seen save by one possessed of the faculty of vision, so also in the case of miracles, there are certain conditions in the recipients precedent to the experience. Intelligence, insight, freedom from passion and bias, a disposition to revere and to live by the dictates of truth, justice and goodness, these are the conditions precedent to the experience.

Miracles cannot be comprehended by all, but require the engagement of particular faculties. They are phenomena within the laws of nature and serve the purpose of distinguishing between the wise and the fool, the true and the false and reality and deception. Just as a geologist points to and is able to identify the reality hidden under the surface of the earth, the godly man comes to point out and show the world the eternal truths hidden from the common eye.

The godly man provides miracles according to the need and intellectual capability of the time.‘The godly man must answer questions of which the age cries for solution…It is therefore that to a world priding in a curative skill the godly man shows miracles of cure, to a world boasting of its literary perfection are given miracles of literature and to a world worshipping reason and science are granted miracles of knowledge and wisdom.‘ It must, however, be noted that miracles are never shown in a superfluous manner as this would spoil the purpose they intend to serve; to distinguish between our physical and spiritual faculties.

Even the deepest contemplation of the world of mute nature can merely lead to the probability, or necessity of an intelligent creator, not to certain conviction of this creator actually existing. In order for man to detest sin, love virtue and undergo a spiritual and moral transformation, he must acquire a positive assurance regarding God, which can merely be achieved through witnessing the living face of God through miracles and signs.

The truth of a religion can be gauged through two means. Firstly, through the consideration of its teachings (method of reason) and secondly, by witnessing God through miracles. The second means provides certainty to the first means and removes any doubt one might hold regarding the authenticity and reliability of the teachings alone. Both means of establishing the truth must go hand in hand and cannot exist without the other. ‘Miracles, in fact, are intended to stamp with the hall mark of truth and certainty a previous finding of the human reason or to give a decisive judgement when reason fails to come to a decision.

There may be people who display various qualities merely as a means of pretence and ostentation; for the desire of public admiration or due to the pressure of social opinion. Even in this case, miracles serve as a means of distinguishing between the truly godly man and an impostor. ‘That such a distinguishing mark should exist is supported by the evidence of nature…Gold and brass, the diamond and the crystal may to the untrained eye seem very much alike, but there are always available the tests by which the specialist will the one from the other.

At present, the nature, objective, limitations and necessities of miracles have been discussed. In the subsequent articles, the author will present actual instances of miracles from the life of the Promised Messiah (as), Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian.

The Star in the East

(Abdul Hashem Khan Choudhry)

Mrs Annie Besant founded the “Order of the Star in the East” in January 1911, in an attempt to invite those believing in and awaiting the near coming of a great teacher. In a brochure, she highlighted the purpose of the order as well as the qualities, tasks, and difficulties this teacher may have to encounter. The reasons and arguments presented by Mrs Besant are rather similar to those presented by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. As such, the author has presented several quotations from the pamphlet in questions and compared it with the writings and advent of the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, proving that Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian, the Promised Messiah (as), was in fact, the fulfilment of this long-awaited teacher. Some of the quotations from this brochure have been presented below.

To whatever religion in the world we turn, we find in all alike a tradition of the existence of great Spiritual Beings, great Sons of God who are truly human and yet divine, who represent for the men and women of those particular faiths the highest and noblest ideals of the human heart; those Elder Brethren of the race who come periodically to teach this tired old world how God would lead man’s life.

If the tradition holds true of the past, is it unreasonable to speculate on the possibility of such a Life being one more lived among men in the present or the future? Has Humanity so thoroughly learnt all its lessons that it has passed beyond the need of further teaching? Surely not. Can we say as yet that Brotherhood and Co-operation are the ruling factors in men’s lives? This was alone would give the lie to such a statement. It is, indeed, a significant fact that for some years past men’s minds all over the world seem to have been turning towards the possibility, nay, more, the probability, of the advent of one of these great Elder Brothers of the race. Men saw how much in the world was out of joint; how, in spite of the increase of fabulous wealth and luxury, on the one hand, there was a corresponding increase of poverty and misery on the other hand. It has been well said that ‘the tears of the poor and the miserable undermine the thrones of kings,’ and for those who had the open vision this mighty modern civilization was seen to be crumbling like the civilisations of the past under the weight of poverty and misery produced by its mad race for material gain. Is it any wonder that there were prophets and seers who, believing that the spiritual was the only real, looked for the coming to earth again of a Son of God to lead His people out of the wilderness of selfishness and greed into the promised land of Love and Brotherhood?

Many Christians to-day believe that all the signs of the times are a fulfilment of those prophecies which the Christ made to His disciples, indicating the signs which should precede His second coming. It is difficult to read the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew and not be struck by the extraordinary similarity between the conditions, he outlines and those that prevail in the world to-day. No wonder that in the midst of the misery and bloodshed and horrors of the present time there are yet to be found those who can ‘lift up their head rejoice’ because their ‘salvation draweth nigh’. He will come, our Great Emmanuel, to bring Peace and Love to this war-stricken world.

In Buddhist lands the word has gone forth that the great Rishi Maitreya the Bodhisattya, the Lord of Compassion, will shortly come to earth to heal and bless the nations. In Burma a Buddhist monk is preaching of the coming of the Great One, and thousands follow his teaching and are striving to live in preparation for the great event…

‘So from East and West and North and South the cry goes up, ‘How long, O Lord, how long?’ and the answer rings forth over the world, ‘When ye have made ready, then I come.’

‘If he came from the East, the home of spirituality the East which has sent forth all the world’s great Teachers, would his greatness be recognised in the form of a despised coloured man? Would the proud and arrogant people of the West sit at the feet of a coloured man to drink at Wisdom’s spring? In some of the British Colonies he would not even be allowed to land.

Other Opinions Regarding the Advent of the Great Teacher

Mrs Besant has quite rightly pointed out that the expectation of a great teacher was not confined to one particular order or faith. Rather, all world religions were in hope and wait for this teacher and clearly indicated that the time of his advent was now. The author presents an interesting analogy. Let us suppose that various countries around the Indian Ocean gave similar reports of an approaching storm and each gave an estimated time of impact, yet, another country in the same area announced that it had already encountered the storm, which might not exactly tally with the other estimations. Despite these slight differences, will any observer be justified to deny that this storm was encountered? No!

The author follows this by presenting various opinions about the time for the advent of this great teacher. A sermon was published on 16th March 1916 in the Times of India, which said, ‘The prophecies of the second coming of Christ are fulfilled on all sides and in every walk of life conditions exist as foretold by the prophets as signs of the times.

Professor Telang, speaking of the Hindu belief said in 1916, ‘The present was a time that required a great Teacher, a Master genius who would create a flutter in our hearts, who would make people look deep down into their hearts and who would lead us safely to righteousness amidst all the troubles that surround us.

In the same meeting, Mrs Sarojini Naidu, one of India‘s representative women said, ‘The coming world teacher, if he came would not be a Buddha, or a Zoroaster or a Christ or Muhammad but would combine in himself the compassion of Buddha, and the moral power of Zoroaster, and the self-sacrifice of Christ and the organising power of Muhammad.

The Fulfilment of the Prophecies – The Promised Messiah (as)

Several false claimants appeared in the past. However, they fell short in meeting the criteria and suffered a bitter end. Just as the storm was forecast around the Indian Ocean, this great teacher was expected to appear in the East. None other than the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian (as), claimed to be the expected reformer sent by God and fulfilled each and every expectation and criteria. The author has presented several quotes from the writings of the founder of the Community. A rather comprehensive extract has been given below.

When Almighty God saw that the world was steeped in iniquities, transgressions and errors, He raised me to draw it from the state of degradation and commanded me to preach the truth and reclaim the world from the evils into which it had fallen. So, exactly at the time when the thirteenth century of Hejira had come to a close and the world had entered upon the fourteenth century, I announced my mission in obedience to the Divine commandment and made it known to the people through my words and writings that I was the Reformer promised to appear at the commencement of the fourteenth century for the reformation of the faith, so that I should re-establish upon the earth the faith which had vanished from its face, and that being strengthened by God, I might draw the world by the powerful attraction of His hand to true virtue, piety and righteousness and remove the prevailing errors in doctrine and practice. A few years after this I was informed in clear and plain revelations from the Divine Being that I was the very Messiah who had been promised from the beginning for the last days and that I was also the last Mahdi, who was ordained to appear at a time when Islam was in decline and errors prevailed, and who being guided in the right path by the Almighty God Himself, was destined to offer heavenly truth anew to the world, and the glad tidings of whose advent had been given by the Holy Prophet, may peace and blessings of God be upon him, thirteen centuries ago…The certain truth of my revelation is not only established by the heavenly signs which accompany it, but every word of it was found to be in accordance with the letter and the spirit of the Holy Quran when its truth was tested by this criterion. Its truth was further demonstrated by the appearance of the promised signs. The Sun and the Moon eclipsed in the month of Ramazan in those very days, in accordance with the prophecy which declared a peculiar eclipse of the sun and the moon in the time of the Mahdi. The plague also made its appearance and havoced [havocked] the Punjab. The visitation of the plague in the last days was also foretold in the Holy Quran as well as by the former prophets and its devastation was described to be a general devastation to which no village or town would be an exception. Thus it has come to pass in accordance with the prophetic word. Of its appearance in this country Almighty God informed me more than twenty-two years before its outbreak and revelations on this point were afterwards granted in abundance, frequently expressing the same meaning in different forms.

The hour cried for a world reformer, for someone to take the world out of darkness and into light, to reunite man with his Creator, to bring about a moral transformation and unite mankind. This has been and is being fulfilled by the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian, the Promised Messiah and Mahdi (as).

Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian, the Promised Messiah and Mahdi (as)

Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian, the Promised Messiah and Mahdi (as)

At the end, the author sets out three methods of testing the authenticity and accuracy of any claim and invites the readers to ponder over and apply them.

  1. To test it by the same standards the claims of previous Prophets were tested. This, however, can be complicated for some, as their divine teachings do not present a complete and authentic account of the lives of previous claimants.
  • To test it by reason, conscience and by its practical effects. However, even this method is not sufficiently conclusive as reason and conscience may err.
  • Lastly, by testing the practical result of the claim; to see whether the path pointed out by the claimant has actually succeeded in leading man to his goal, God.

Where the ‘Jehad’ Has Its Spring

The author discusses the misunderstanding that prevails in the minds of Muslims and non-Muslims alike regarding the definition of Jihad; associating it with a physical religious war, waged against the disbelievers.

The founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community pointed out that the origin of this lies in the ignorance of the so-called “Maulvis”, or religious clerics, and the misrepresentation of the enemies of Islam. After mentioning a couple of instances of the wrong understanding people hold regarding Jihad, the author goes on to present the true meaning of Jihad as given and taught by the Promised Messiah (as):

Listen to me for I have come to deliver to you the Command of God that Jehad with the sword is now at an end but the real jehad yet remains and much must still be done for the purification of the soul. I do not speak these words myself but such is the will of God. Consider the words Yazaulharb [1] spoken of the Promised Messiah in the Sahi Bukhari, i.e., the Messiah shall put an end to religions wars. I therefore give the word that those who follow me, should withhold themselves from such deeds. Let them cleanse their hearts of all moral defilement and advance the fellow feeling and sympathy for the oppressed. They should exert themselves to spread peace over the earth, for thus would they propagate the faith.

Some people may hold this false belief that in the early days of Islam, the sword was used for its propagation. However, the author debunks this false belief by stating that the Holy Qur’an categorically teaches, ‘There should be no compulsion in religion.‘ [2] Similarly, when the Muslims did finally have the upper hand and were in a position to demand reparations for cruelties they had endured, to impose punishment upon each and every individual, they chose to forgive and show mercy.

The English Muslims’ Greetings to the Messengers of Ahmad

(Mrs E. Maudling)

Greetings my Brother,

Tho‘ oft thou art weary

Of sowing seeds, always, monotonous, dreary

The land seems unfertile, so stony and steep

It seems, it’s just sowing, and seldom to reap;

And down on thy knees thou must pull up the weed

With back aching badly—must put in each seed.

Untiringly watch them, oft water with tears,

Till glory to Allah, the first leaf appears.

Work on, not weary, or sleeping or waking,

Harvest is plentiful then for thy taking;

Root up the rank weeds, turn over the dry sod,

Then garner the harvesting on for thy God,

What are thy puny trials to those that he bore,

Thorn crowned and bleeding, hungry, weary heart sore,

What, if thy journey be uphill all the way,

The summit victorious, dawn of new day,

Hosts of the sainted will reach out to greet thee

Those fondly loved ones will hasten to meet thee,

Look from the heights then, see the seeds thou hast sewn

From the tiny acorns to mighty oaks green.

Then in that time, hast thou laboured in vain?

Thy trials, tribulations have yielded much gain.

News and Notes

  • Six recent conversions were reported in England, five of whom were English and one was French
  • The mission in America is progressing and attracting attention.
  • The Ahmadi brothers in Ceylon, Sri Lanka, are firmly established upon their faith despite facing persecution by non-Ahmadi and non-Muslim compatriots. They have purchased a central site for the Jama’at and are raising funds to establish it.
  • The President of the Primitive Methodists said, during their annual conference, that there was a great need for a revival of pure religious fervour as more and more people were being led away from spirituality, instead of turning to Spiritualism, Theosophy and Christian Science. Exigencies. However, in order to meet the needs of the time, it was feared that ‘the Church has been too much inclined to compromise with Paganism.‘ (The Pioneer, 17-9-20)
  • The Christian Church has taken on so many forms over the course of history that one becomes doubtful whether it possesses any central core or fact. Two of its most recent developments are The Community Church and The Labour Church, which do not have the doctrines of Trinity, the sonship of Jesus, vicarious sacrifice and redemption through Christ at their core.
  • In Mark 16:17-18, Jesus said, ‘And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.‘ [3]

A man in America put this promise to the test, by allowing a rattlesnake to bite him as well his infant child. The test failed and both died a few hours later.

  • The leader of the Community wrote letters, addressing special conferences assembled at Allahabad and at Lucknow, to consider the terms of the Turkish peace. Two points of emphasis were:
    • That the question of the Turkish peace be detached from the question of Khilafat.
    • That the universal hostility towards the Turks had its basis in religious prejudice, not in any hate of the Turkish race.

Following reports supported this view. As such, the remedy for the disaster was an active diffusion of the faith, not political propaganda, and this was only possible under the banner of the latest Islamic Reformer, the Promised Messiah (as).

  • An American paper made a comment on the alliance between the Bolsheviks and the Turkish Nationalists, highlighting the American ignorance towards Islam. It pointed at the “irony” of the Bolsheviks overthrowing the orthodox Church in Russia, only to form an alliance with followers of a religion, whose founder desired to convert everyone by the means of the sword, which is, of course, in complete contradiction with the teachings of the Holy Qur’an, as well with the practical example of the Holy Prophet (sa).

[1] موسوعة الحديث : مسند أحمد بن حنبل : 9117 (maktaba.co.in)

[2] The Holy Qur’an, chapter 2, verse 257.

[3] The Holy Bible, Mark, chapter 16, verse 17-18

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