This series, The Essence of Islam, sets out in the words of the Promised Messiah Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad(as), a summary of some outstanding topics. 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). The text below is quoted from The Essence of Islam, Volume 2. All references throughout unless otherwise specified, are from the Holy Qur’an.
True Salvation is Bestowed in this Very World
It is not possible that without obtaining light and by remaining blind you should attain salvation through anyone’s blood. Salvation is not something which will be bestowed after this world. True and real salvation is bestowed in this very world. It is a light which descends upon the hearts and shows who is floundering in the pit of ruin. Follow the way of truth and wisdom for thereby you will find God. Create warmth in your hearts so that you might be able to move towards the truth. Unfortunate is the heart that is cold, and ill-starred is the nature that is melancholy, and dead is the conscience which is not bright.
Be not less than the bucket that falls into the well and comes out full, and be not like the sieve which cannot hold any water, water which enters it from one side and goes out at the other. Try that you should become healthy and that the poisonous heat of the fever of seeking the world may be removed in consequence of which there is no light in the eyes, there is no hearing in the ears, the taste of the tongue is corrupted, there is no grip in the hands and there is no strength in the feet. Cut asunder one relationship so another might be established. Block your heart in one direction so that it might find its way in another direction. Throw away the foul insect of the earth so that you might be bestowed the brilliant diamond of heaven. Turn to the fountainhead which revived Adam(as) with the Divine Spirit, so that you may be bestowed kingdom over all things that was bestowed upon your father.
[The Review of Religions – Urdu, vol.1, pp.23-29]
Love of God Leads to Salvation
Next to understanding, what is needed for salvation is the love of God. It is obvious that no one seeks to torment a person who loves him.
Love attracts love and pulls toward itself. If one loves another truly then even if one does not inform that person of one’s love, it at least has this much effect that the person loved cannot become an enemy of the one who loves. That is why it has been said that a heart inclines towards another heart. The cause of the power of attraction which Prophets and Messengers possess, whereby thousands of people are drawn towards them and love them so much that they are prepared to lay down their lives for them, is that their hearts are filled with sympathy for mankind so that they love people even more than a mother loves her children, and desire their comfort even by suffering pain and hardship themselves. In the end their power of attraction begins to attract good hearts towards themselves.
Thus when man can perceive the hidden love of a person, although he cannot physically see that which is hidden, how can Allah Almighty, the Seer of the unseen, remain unaware of the sincere love of anyone? Love is a wonderful thing. Its fire overcomes the fire of sin, and puts out the flame of disobedience. True and personal and perfect love cannot coexist along with punishment. One of the signs of true love is that part of the nature of a true lover is that he is fearful of his beloved cutting asunder from him, and considers himself lost if he commits the slightest mistake. He considers it poison to oppose his beloved, and always yearns to meet him, and is so deeply affected by distance and absence that he becomes like one dead. He estimates as sin not only that which the common people regard as sin; for instance, murder, adultery, theft, bearing false witness, but he considers the slightest neglect as a great sin, and so also that leaving God he should have the least inclination towards anything else.
He is therefore, constantly occupied with Istighfar [seeking forgiveness] before the Eternal Beloved. As his nature is never reconciled to any separation from Allah Almighty, he considers the least neglect which might result from his humanness as a mountain of sin. That is the reason why those who have a holy and perfect relationship with Allah Almighty occupy themselves constantly with Istighfar. It is a characteristic of love that a true lover is always fearful lest his beloved should be annoyed with him. The heart of a true believer is thirsty that God should be wholly pleased with him, he is not even content if Allah Almighty tells him that He is pleased with him. As the winebibber is not satisfied with drinking once and always demands more, in the same way when the love of the Divine surges up in the heart of a person, it demands that it should win the pleasure of God, more and more. The intensity of love demands more and more Istighfar. That is why those who love God perfectly concentrate on Istighfar all the time.
The great sign of an innocent one is that he should be occupied with Istighfar more than others. The true meaning of Istighfar is to supplicate God that, through His grace, the human weakness through which a person might stumble and be guilty of sin, might be covered up and not manifested. Then the meaning of Istighfar is extended for common people so as to comprise a supplication that whatever default might have been committed, Allah Almighty might be pleased to safeguard the supplicant from its ill consequences and poisonous results, in this world and in the hereafter.
Thus the source of true salvation is the personal love of God the Glorious, which draws to itself the love of Allah Almighty through humility, supplication and constant Istighfar. When man’s love of God becomes perfect and its fire burns up human passions, then God’s love for him suddenly falls upon his heart and pulls him out of the foulness of the lower life. He then acquires the colour of the holiness of God, the Ever-Living and All-Sustaining, and he partakes by way of reflection in all Divine attributes. He then becomes a manifestation of Divine reflections and through him all the mysteries hidden and latent in the eternal treasure of Rububiyyat, are disclosed to the world.
[Chashmah-e-Masihi, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol.20, pp.378-380]
Do not expect that any other design can purify the human ego. As darkness can be dispelled only by light, in the same way the remedy for the darkness of sin are the Divine reflections in word and action, which in a miraculous way descend upon a good heart from God with fierce rays, and show him that God exists, and remove the foulness of all doubts and bring satisfaction and contentment. By the strong attraction of His heavenly power, that good person is raised to heaven. All other remedies that are put forward are false and useless. But for complete purification, understanding alone is not enough. It must be accompanied by earnest prayers. Allah Almighty is Self-Sufficient and to attract His grace there is a great need of prayers that are accompanied by weeping, crying, sincerity, piety, and tribulation of the heart.
It is a common observation that though a suckling infant fully recognises its mother and loves her and the mother also loves it, yet its crying has a close relationship with the mother’s milk. When the infant cries bitterly due to hunger, the mother is so affected by its crying and weeping, that milk is generated by her body. In the same way, every seeker should prove his spiritual hunger and thirst by his weeping and crying, so that the spiritual milk of Allah Almighty might be produced, that would satiate him.
For spiritual purification, understanding alone is not enough. Heart-rendering weeping and crying like small infants, is also necessary. Do not give up hope and do not be discouraged by the thought that you are involved in many sins, and that your supplications cannot have much effect. Man has been created for the love of God and even if he is aroused by the fire of sin, he possesses the faculty of repentance which can extinguish that fire. You will have observed that however much water is heated, it still puts out a fire when it is poured over it.
Ever since Allah Almighty created man, his heart has always been cleansed through this means. Without the Living God manifesting His Existence, Power and Godhead through word and action, and displaying His shining Majesty, man cannot be purified from sin by any other means.
[Barahin-e-Ahmadiyya, Part V, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol.21, pp.33-34]
How to Establish A Relationship with God
The means which the Holy Qur’an has taught us of establishing a spiritual and perfect relationship with God is Islam, and the recitation of the prayer set out in Surah Fatihah [opening Chapter of Holy Qur’an]. This means that one must first devote one’s life to the cause of God, and then should be occupied with the prayer that Muslims have been taught in Surah Fatihah. This is the essence of Islam. This is the only means of reaching God and drinking of the water of true salvation. This is the only means which the law of nature has appointed for man’s higher progress and his meeting with God. Only those find God who enter into the spiritual fire, which is the essence of Islam. They occupy themselves with the supplication taught in the Surah Fatihah.
Islam is the burning fire which by consuming our lower life and by burning up our false deities, offers the sacrifice of our lives and properties and honour before our Holy God. We drink the water of a new life from this spring, and all our spiritual faculties establish a relationship with God. Like lightning, a fire emerges from inside us, and another fire descends upon us from above. By their meeting all our passions and the love of anything beside God are consumed, and we become dead to our previous life. This condition is called Islam by the Holy Qur’an. Through Islam our passions suffer a death, and through prayer we are revived again.
For this second life revelation is necessary. Arrival at this stage is called meeting with God, that is to say, beholding God. Arriving at this stage a person establishes a relationship with God, as if he sees Him with his eyes. He is bestowed strength and all his senses and inner faculties are illuminated, and the attraction of a pure life is generated with great force. On arriving at this stage God becomes the eye of a person with which he sees, the tongue with which he speaks, the hand with which he grips, the ear with which he hears and the feet with which he walks. This is the stage to which Allah the Exalted refers by saying:
…The hand of God is above their hands… [Ch.48:V.11]
…It was not thou who didst throw but it was God Who threw… [Ch.8:V.18]
At this stage complete unification ensues with Allah Almighty. His holy Will saturates the human soul and moral faculties that were weak become firm like mountains, and reason and intellect acquire a high degree of delicacy. This is the meaning of the verse:
…He strengthened them with a spirit from Himself… [Ch.58:V.23]
At this stage the streams of love and devotion well up in such a manner that to die for Allah Almighty, and to endure thousands of hardships for Him, and to be disgraced for His sake, become as easy as breaking a straw. A person is pulled towards Allah Almighty and does not know who is pulling him. A hidden hand upholds him, and to do God’s Will becomes the purpose of his life. At this stage Allah Almighty appears very near as He has declared:
…We are closer to him than his jugular vein. [Ch.50:V.17]
In this condition a person is like ripe fruit which falls of itself from a tree. In the same way, all the low relationships of such a person come to an end, and his relationship with God becomes so strong that he draws away from creation, and is honoured with the converse of Allah Almighty. For achieving this level the doors are still open as they were open before, and God’s Grace bestows this bounty upon the seekers today as He bestowed it before. But this path is not found through mere words and this door is not opened by useless talk and boasts. There are many who desire but there are few who find. The reason is that this rank depends upon true endeavour and true sacrifice. You can go on talking till Judgement Day without avail. To sincerely step out into the fire of which people are afraid, is the first condition of this path. If there is not practical eagerness, it is vain to talk of it. In this connection Allah Almighty says:
When My servants inquire from thee concerning Me, tell them I am close. I respond to the call of the supplicant when he calls Me. So they should seek to attain my nearness through prayers and be guided [Ch.2:V.187]
[Islami Usul ki Philosophy, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol.10, pp.394-396]
The philosophy of salvation is that those who establish a holy and perfect relationship with God, become the manifestations of that light which has no decline. Falling into the fire of His love they depart from their existence like a piece of iron, which when heated in the fire assumes the character of fire, though it is not fire and is still a piece of iron. Just as through the manifestations of God a surprising change takes place in His lovers, in the same way God also makes a change for their sake. It is true that God is unchangeable and is free from change, but for such of His servants He manifests such wonderful works as if He is a new God, and not the same God Who is the God of common people. This happens to the degree that righteous servants of God move towards Him through their pure deeds and their sincerity and fidelity, so much so that they become dead to their previous existence. God also moves towards them with such benevolence and help, that He displays this help and support and jealousy for them, in an extraordinary way.
It is impossible and contrary to God’s Benevolence that He should condemn to hell a servant of His who is devoted to Him in his love with his whole heart and soul, and with full sincerity, in a manner which is the characteristic of true love. Such a servant does not consider anyone equal to Him, and regards everyone in contrast with Allah Almighty as nothing. He is ready to lay down his life in His cause. How can such a person be the subject of torment? Indeed the truth is that perfect love is salvation. Can you deliberately cast into the fire a child of yours whom you love? Then how will God Who is altogether love, cast into the fire those who love Him with every particle of their beings, sunk in His love? No sacrifice is greater than the sacrifice of a person that so loves the True Beloved, that he should realise that no one besides Him is dear to him. Not only this, but he should give up the love of his own self, and should adopt a bitter life for His Sake. When he arrives at this stage, then undoubtedly he attains salvation.
At this stage of love, he has no need of passing through the chain of transmigration, nor has he the need to have anyone crucified for his sake. At this stage of love a person does not merely imagine that he has attained salvation, but his love teaches that the love of God is with him and the love of God causes contentment and peace to descend upon his heart. God begins to treat him as He has always treated those who are dear to Him and accepted by Him. He accepts most of his prayers and teaches him fine insights, and informs him of many hidden things, and brings about changes in the world according to his desire. He makes him known and accepted in the world with honour, and disgraces the person who persists in enmity towards him, and strives to disgrace him. He supports him in an extraordinary manner and puts his love in the hearts of millions of people, and manifests wonderful things through him. The hearts of people are drawn to him through Divine revelation, and they hasten to serve him with diverse kinds of gifts, money and other articles. God speaks to him in delicious and majestic words as a friend may speak. The God Who is hidden from the eyes of the world manifests Himself to him, and comforts him with His words, at the time of every sorrow. He communicates with him in His eloquent, beautiful and majestic words. He answers his questions and informs him of things that are beyond the knowledge and power of man. He does this not like astrologers, but like mighty kings whose words are full of majestic power. He discloses to him prophecies which are a sign of his honour and of the disgrace of his enemies, which indicate his victory and the defeat of his enemies. In this way through His words and His works, He manifests His existence to him. Then that servant being purified of all sin arrives at the perfection for which he has been created.
[Chashma-e-Ma’rifat, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol.23, pp.418-421]
Faculties for Seeing God Can be Developed in this Very World
The Holy Qur’an teaches us that salvation is a matter that is manifested in this very life as He has said:
But whose is blind in this world will be blind in the hereafter also… [Ch.17:V.73]
This means that a person takes with him from this world the faculties for seeing God and the means of eternal salvation. God has repeatedly indicated that the means of man’s attaining salvation is eternal, as God Himself is Eternal. It is not that after a time He considered that if men cannot attain salvation by any other means, he should bestow salvation on them by killing Himself. A person can be described as having attained salvation when all his passions are consumed, and God’s Will becomes his will, and he becomes so devoted to God in his love, that nothing remains his and everything becomes God’s. All his words, deeds, movements and designs become for God, and he perceives in his heart that all his delights are now in God, and that a moment’s separation from His Creator means death for him.
He should be so inebriated with the love of God that everything beside God should be naught in his estimation. If the whole world should attack him with swords and should seek to separate him from God through fear, he should remain steadfast like a firm mountain. The fire of perfect love should flare up within him and he should hate sin. As other people love their children, wives and friends, so that their love pervades their hearts, and the death of any of them distresses them as much as would their own death, that type of love and indeed a greater love, should be generated in his heart for God. It should be so great that he should become like an insane person in the grip of that love, and should be ready to endure every torment and every wound for the sake of that love, so that Allah Almighty may be pleased with him.
When a person is overcome to this degree by his love for God, all his passions are burnt up by the fire of love and a great revolution takes place in his nature. He is bestowed a heart that he did not possess before, and is bestowed eyes that he did not have before, and he is so much affected by certainty that he begins to see God in this very world. That hellish, burning desire for the world with which the nature of the worldly is afflicted, is totally removed from him, and he is bestowed a life of comfort, pleasure and delight. This condition of his is called salvation, inasmuch as his soul falling upon the threshold of God with love and devotion, finds unending comfort. The union of his love with the love of God transports him to a station of devotion which is beyond description.
[Chashmah-e-Ma‘rifat, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol.23, pp.416-417]
Who Deserves Salvation?
Salvation is not attained through one’s effort, but through the grace of Allah Almighty. The law that Allah Almighty has appointed for acquiring this grace is never falsified. That law is:
He who seeks a faith other than Islam, it will not be accepted from him… (Ch.3:V.86)
…If you love Allah then follow me, Allah will then love you… (Ch.3:V.32)
Salvation is not something the blessings and fruits of which will be perceived by man, only after his death. It is something the effects of which are manifested in this very world. A person who has attained salvation is bestowed a heavenly life in this world. The followers of other religions are altogether deprived of this. If it is argued that today, Muslims are also in the same condition, the answer is that they are deprived because they do not follow the Book. A person who possesses a medicine but does not use it and is careless, will derive no benefit from it. That is the case of the Muslims that have a Holy Book like the Qur’an, but do not follow it. Those who turn away from the Word of Allah Almighty are deprived of light and blessings. Turning away is of two kinds; one, in action and the other in doctrine. A person cannot partake of light and blessings unless he acts as Allah Almighty has commanded:
Keep company with the righteous. (Ch.9:V.119)
[Malfuzat, vol.IV, pp.206-207]