Religious Concepts

Faith, Certainty and Insight – Part 3


Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as), The Promised Messiah & Imam Mahdi

The Promised Messiah (as) wrote over 80 books in Arabic, Urdu, and Persian. Excerpts of his collected works have been translated into English and organised by topic. The Review of Religions is pleased to present these excerpts as part of a monthly feature. In this series, the Promised Messiah (as) describes the transformation one must undertake to achieve a high level of converse with God.

This is the third part of a multipart series.

Extracts from The Essence of Islam, Vol. III, 66-78.

Every true seeker naturally wishes to know what he should do to achieve this high stage of converse with the Divine. The answer is that this stage is a new existence at which one is given new faculties, new powers and a new life. This new existence cannot be achieved without the surrender of the previous existence. When the previous existence is wholly discarded through a true and real sacrifice, which means the sacrifice of life, honour and wealth and all other trappings of the ego, this second existence immediately takes its place.

The signs of the discarding of the previous existence are that previous characteristics and emotions are replaced by new characteristics and new emotions, and one’s nature undergoes a tremendous change. All states of existence, relating to morals, faith and worship, are so transformed that they appear to take on a new colour.

In short, one becomes a new person and God Almighty also appears anew. New delights, previously unknown, are experienced in gratitude, steadfastness and remembrance of God. One feels clearly that he has full trust in his Lord and cares the least for everything other than Him. The contemplation of the Being of God Almighty overwhelms the heart to such a degree that every being other than Him disappears altogether and all material means appear useless and contemptible. Devotion and loyalty surge up to such a degree that every calamity appears light, and even the experience of calamities and misfortunes is perceived as a delight. When all these signs are perceived, it should be realised that the previous existence has suffered a total death.

Such a death invests a seeker with wonderful powers to exercise in the cause of God. He is given the power to perform all those heavy tasks which others only talk about but cannot perform, and to carry the burdens that others only estimate but cannot lift. He does all this, not of his own strength, but with the assistance of a great divine power, which renders him firmer than the mountains, and bestows upon him a faithful heart. He is then able, for the glory of God Almighty, to do such things and manifest such devotion as is beyond the power of man. He cuts asunder from all besides Allah, and removes all intervening barriers and obstructions. He is tested and persecuted and encounters diverse types of trials and is afflicted with such calamities and misfortunes as would have destroyed mountains and darkened the sun and the moon; but he remains steadfast and endures all hardships cheerfully. Even if he is ground to dust by the mortar and pestle of calamities, no sound proceeds from him except: ‘I stand with God.’ When a person arrives at this stage, he rises above the conditions of this world and is given, by way of reflection, all of the guidance and high status that were bestowed upon previous prophets and messengers, and he becomes their heir and their deputy.

—A’ina-e-Kamalat-e-Islam, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 5, pp. 233-237

The Soul at Rest

The third question is: what are the spiritual states?…According to the Holy Qur’an, Nafs-e-Mutma’innah [the soul at rest] is the source of spiritual states that conveys a person from the stage of a moral being to that of a godly being, as Allah the Exalted, has said:

*يَـٰٓأَيَّتُهَا ٱلنَّفۡسُ ٱلۡمُطۡمَئِنَّةُ * ٱرۡجِعِيٓ إِلَىٰ رَبِّكِ رَاضِيَةً مَّرۡضِيَّةً * فَٱدۡخُلِي فِي عِبَٰدِي * وَٱدۡخُلِي جَنَّتِي

That is: ‘O Soul at Rest with thy Lord, return to thy Lord, He is well pleased with thee and thou are well pleased with Him. So join My true servants and enter My garden.’[1]

The highest spiritual condition man can achieve in this life is to be at peace with God Almighty and all his comfort, joy and delight should be centred in God. This is the condition called the heavenly life, whereby a person is granted heaven in return for his perfect devotion and loyalty. Other people await the promised heaven but such a person enjoys heaven in this very life. Arriving at this stage, a person realises that the worship which is prescribed for him is truly a nourishment for the soul upon which his spiritual life largely depends, and that to arrive at that condition he need not wait for another life; rather he can attain it in this very life. At this point we come to realise that all the reproof that Nafs-e-Lawwamah [the reproaching self] administers to him on his unclean life, and yet fails to rouse fully his longing for virtue and to generate real disgust against his evil desires and to bestow full power of adherence to virtue, is transformed by this urge which is the beginning of the development of the soul at rest. On arriving at this stage, a person becomes capable of achieving complete prosperity. All passions of the self begin to wither and a strengthening breeze begins to blow upon the soul, so that the person concerned looks upon his previous weaknesses with remorse. At that time nature and habits experience a complete transformation and the person is drawn far away from his previous condition. He is washed and cleansed, and God inscribes love of virtue upon his heart and casts out from it the impurity of vice with His own hand. All the forces of truth enter the citadel of his heart, and righteousness occupies all the battlements of his nature, and truth become victorious and falsehood lays down its arms and is put to flight. The hand of God governs his heart and he walks under God’s shadow. God Almighty has indicated all this in the following verses:

أُوْلَـٰٓئِكَ كَتَبَ فِي قُلُوبِهِمُ ٱلۡإِيمَٰنَ وَأَيَّدَهُم بِرُوحٍ مِّنۡهُۖ [2]

وَٱعۡلَمُوٓاْ أَنَّ فِيكُمۡ رَسُولَ ٱللَّهِۚ لَوۡ يُطِيعُكُمۡ فِي كَثِيرٍ مِّنَ ٱلۡأَمۡرِ لَعَنِتُّمۡ وَلَٰكِنَّ ٱللَّهَ حَبَّبَ إِلَيۡكُمُ ٱلۡإِيمَٰنَ وَزَيَّنَهُۥ فِي قُلُوبِكُمۡ وَكَرَّهَ إِلَيۡكُمُ ٱلۡكُفۡرَ وَٱلۡفُسُوقَ وَٱلۡعِصۡيَانَۚ أُوْلَـٰٓئِكَ هُمُ ٱلرَّـٰشِدُونَ * فَضۡلًا مِّنَ ٱللَّهِ وَنِعۡمَةٗۚ وَٱللَّهُ عَلِيمٌ حَكِيمٌ [3]

جَآءَ ٱلۡحَقُّ وَزَهَقَ ٱلۡبَٰطِلُۚ إِنَّ ٱلۡبَٰطِلَ كَانَ زَهُوقًا [4]

These verses mean that: ‘These are the ones in whose hearts Allah has inscribed faith with His own hand and whom He has helped with the Holy Spirit.’

‘O believers, Allah has made faith attractive to you and has instilled its beauty and grace in your hearts. And He has made your hearts averse to disbelief, wickedness and disobedience and has impressed upon your hearts the repugnance for evil ways. All this has come about through the grace and favour of Allah.’

‘Truth has arrived and falsehood has fled. How could falsehood ever stand up to truth.’

All this pertains to the spiritual states which a person attains at the third stage. No one can acquire true insight unless he arrives at this condition. The fact that God inscribes faith on their hearts with His own hand and helps them with the Holy Spirit means that no one can achieve true purity and righteousness without His help. At the stage of ‘the reproaching self’, a person repents time and again, yet he keeps falling down, and begins to despair and to consider his condition beyond remedy. He remains in this situation for a period and when the appointed time comes, a light which possesses divine power descends upon him at night or during the day. With the descent of that light, he undergoes a wonderful change and he perceives the control of a hidden hand, and beholds a wonderful world. At that time he realises that God exists, and his eyes are filled with a light they did not possess before.

The question is, how shall we discover that path and how shall we acquire that light? Be it known that in this world every effect has a cause and behind every move there is a mover. For the acquisition of every type of knowledge there is an appointed way, called the straight path. Nothing can be achieved in this world without conformity to the rules that nature has laid down in this respect from the very beginning. The law of nature teaches us that to achieve any objective there is a straight path and that the objective in question can be achieved only by following that path. For instance, if we are sitting in a dark room, the straight path for obtaining the light of the sun is for us to open the window that faces the sun. When we do that, the light of the sun instantly enters the room and illuminates it. Thus it is obvious that for the acquisition of God’s love and real grace there must be some window, and there must be an appointed method for the acquisition of pure spirituality. That way is that we should seek the straight path which leads to spirituality, just as we seek a straight path for the achievement of all other purposes. Does that method consist in seeking to meet God only through the exercise of our reason and by following our self-appointed ways? Can the doors that can only be opened by His powerful hands yield to our logic and philosophy? Can we find the Ever-Living and Self-Subsisting God through our own devices? Certainly not. The only straight path for the achievement of this purpose is that we should first devote our lives, together with all our faculties, to the cause of God Almighty, and should then occupy ourselves with supplication for meeting Him, and should thus find God through God Himself.

A Lovely Prayer

The most lovely prayer which instructs us concerning the time and occasion of supplication, and depicts before us the picture of spiritual zeal is the one that God, the Beneficent, has taught in the opening chapter of the Holy Qur’an.

بِسۡمِ ٱللَّهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ * ٱلۡحَمۡدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ ٱلۡعَٰلَمِينَ[5]

‘Every possible praise belongs to Allah alone, Who is the Creator and Sustainer of all the worlds.’

ٱلرَّحۡمَٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ[6]

‘He provides for us out of His mercy before any action proceeds from us, and after we have acted He rewards our actions out of His mercy.’

مَٰلِكِ يَوۡمِ ٱلدِّينِ[7]

‘He alone is the Master of the Day of Judgement. He has not committed that day to anyone else.’

إِيَّاكَ نَعۡبُدُ وَإِيَّاكَ نَسۡتَعِينُ[8]

‘O You Who comprehends all these attributes, we worship You alone and seek Your help in all our affairs.’ The use of the plural pronoun ‘we’ in this context indicates that all our faculties are occupied in His worship and are prostrate at His threshold. Every person by virtue of his inner faculties is a community and a nation. The prostration of one’s entire faculties before God constitutes the condition referred to as Islam.

ٱهۡدِنَا ٱلصِّرَٰطَ ٱلۡمُسۡتَقِيمَ * صِرَٰطَ ٱلَّذِينَ أَنۡعَمۡتَ عَلَيۡهِمۡ[9]

‘Guide us along the straight path and establish us firmly on it; show us the path of those on whom You have bestowed Your bounties and favours.’

غَيۡرِ ٱلۡمَغۡضُوبِ عَلَيۡهِمۡ وَلَا ٱلضَّآلِّينَ[10]

‘And save us from the paths of those who incur Your wrath, and could not reach You and lost their way.’

Amin. O Allah, accept our supplication.

These verses tell us that divine bounties and favours are bestowed only upon those who offer their lives as sacrifice in the cause of God and, devoting themselves wholly to and being occupied entirely with His pleasure, continue to supplicate so that they might be granted all the spiritual bounties that a human being can receive by way of nearness to God, meeting Him and hearing His words. With this supplication they worship God through all their faculties, eschew sin and remain prostrate at His threshold. They safeguard themselves against all vice and shun the ways of God’s wrath. As they seek God with high resolve and perfect sincerity, they find Him and are filled with the cups of divine knowledge…

Steadfastness in Faith

The true and perfect grace that conveys a person to the spiritual world depends upon absolute steadfastness, by which is meant the degree of sincerity and faithfulness that cannot be shaken by any trial. It means a relationship with the Divine, which should be so strong that it cannot be cut by a sword or consumed by fire or damaged by any other calamity. The death of dear ones or separation from them should not interfere with it, nor should fear of dishonour affect it, nor should a painful death move the heart away from it in the least degree. Thus this door is very narrow and this path is very hard. Alas, how difficult this is!

Alas, how very difficult! This is indicated by Allah the Glorious in the following verse:

قُلۡ إِن كَانَ ءَابَآؤُكُمۡ وَأَبۡنَآؤُكُمۡ وَإِخۡوَٰنُكُمۡ وَأَزۡوَٰجُكُمۡ وَعَشِيرَتُكُمۡ وَأَمۡوَٰلٌ ٱقۡتَرَفۡتُمُوهَا وَتِجَٰرَةٌ تَخۡشَوۡنَ كَسَادَهَا وَمَسَٰكِنُ تَرۡضَوۡنَهَآ أَحَبَّ إِلَيۡكُم مِّنَ ٱللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِۦ وَجِهَادٍ فِي سَبِيلِهِۦ فَتَرَبَّصُواْ حَتَّىٰ يَأۡتِيَ ٱللَّهُ بِأَمۡرِهِۦۗ وَٱللَّهُ لَا يَهۡدِي ٱلۡقَوۡمَ ٱلۡفَٰسِقِينَ[11]

Meaning: ‘Tell them: If your fathers and your sons and your brethren and your wives and your kinsfolk and the wealth that you have acquired with great effort, and the trade the dullness of which you apprehend, and the dwellings that you fancy, are dearer to you than Allah and His Messenger and striving in His cause, then wait until Allah pronounces His Judgement. Allah will never guide the disobedient people.’

This verse clearly shows that people who put aside the will of God and give preference to their relatives and their properties, are evildoers in the estimation of God. They will surely be ruined because they preferred something to God.

This is the third stage in which a person becomes godly who welcomes thousands of calamities for the sake of God, and leans towards Him with such sincerity and devotion, as if he has no one related to him except God, and all others have died. The truth is that until we submit ourselves to death we cannot behold the Living God. The day our physical life undergoes death is the day of the manifestation of God. We are blind until we become blind to the sight of all besides God. We are dead until we become like a corpse in the hand of God. It is only when we face God completely that we acquire the steadfastness that overcomes all passions of the self; and such steadfastness brings about the death of the life which is devoted to selfish purposes.

—Islami Usul ki Philosophy [The Philosophy of the Teachings of ISlam], Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 10, pp. 377-383

Personal Merit and Relationship with God

There are three types of people who partake of heavenly signs. First there are those who possess no merit in themselves and have no relationship with God Almighty. On account of their intellectual appropriateness they experience true dreams and visions that are not characterised by any sign indicating their acceptability to God and their being loved by Him, nor are they of any benefit for them. Thousands of wicked and vicious people share such experiences with them. It is often observed that despite such dreams and visions their conduct is not praiseworthy and their faith is very weak, so much so that they do not have the courage to bear true witness and they do not fear God as much as they fear the world and they cannot separate themselves from the wicked. They dare not bear such true testimony as might offend a person of high status. They are slothful and lazy in respect of religious obligations and are wholly preoccupied with worldly anxieties and grief. They deliberately support falsehood and abandon truth. They are guilty of dishonesty at every step and some of them do not even restrain themselves from vice and sin and have recourse to every unlawful device for the purpose of acquiring worldly benefits. The moral condition of some of them is deplorable and they are riddled with envy, miserliness, self-conceit, arrogance and pride. They have recourse to every meanness and are characterised with diverse types of shameful ills. Some of them see only evil dreams, of which a number come true, as if their brains have been fashioned only for evil and ill-omened dreams. They are not capable of having dreams that benefit them or indicate something good for another person. Their dreams are of a category which might be described as resembling the experience of a person who perceives smoke from a distance but sees neither the light of the fire nor feels its warmth. Such people have nothing to do with God and spiritual matters; they have been given only smoke which yields no light. The second category of people who see true dreams or receive revelations are those who have some relationship with God but that relationship is not perfect. Their dreams and revelations resemble the experience of a person who perceives the light of fire from a long distance in a dark and cold night, which enables him to avoid potholes, thorns, rocks, serpents and wild beasts, but which cannot save him from dying of cold. If such a person does not arrive within the warm circle of the fire, he is also destroyed in the same manner as the one who walks in the dark.

The third category of people who experience true dreams and revelations can be compared to a man, who, on a dark and cold night, is not only guided by the bright light of a fire, but actually enters its warm circle, and is fully safeguarded against the effects of the cold. Only those people arrive at this stage who burn up the garment of low passions in the fire of love for the Divine and adopt a life of bitterness for the sake of God. They perceive death ahead of them and run forward to meet it. They accept every torment in the cause of God. For the sake of God, they become enemies of their ego and exhibit such a degree of strength of faith against it that even angels marvel at it. They are spiritual champions and all satanic assaults prove utterly ineffective against their spiritual strength. They are truly faithful and devoted. Scenes of worldly pleasures cannot mislead them nor can they be turned away from their True Beloved by their love of wife and children. In short, no bitterness can frighten them nor can any physical pleasure bar their approach towards God. No relationship can disrupt their relationship with God.

There are three spiritual grades, of which the first is called certainty by inference, the second is called certainty by sight, and the third blessed and perfect condition is called certainty by experience. Human comprehension cannot become perfect nor can it be washed clean of all impurities until it arrives at the stage of certainty by experience, since this stage does not depend only on observation, but envelops the human heart as an immediate experience; and the seeker, plunging into the flaming fire of divine love, totally negates his ego. At this stage human comprehension moves from theory to experience and the lower life is utterly consumed. Such a man is seated in the lap of God Almighty. Just as a piece of iron, when heated in fire, assumes the appearance and qualities of fire, in the same way, a seeker who has arrived at this stage is invested reflectively with divine attributes. He surrenders himself so completely to the pleasure of God that he speaks under the direction of God, sees under the direction of God, hears under the direction of God, and moves under the direction of God, as if there is only God inside his mantle. His humanity is completely subordinated to divine manifestations. This subject is delicate and is above common understanding; I shall, therefore, not explore it further.

—Haqiqat-ul-Wahi, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 22, pp. 22-25

[1] The Holy Qur’an, 89:28-31.

[2] The Holy Qur’an, 58:23.

[3] The Holy Qur’an, 49:8-9.

[4] The Holy Qur’an, 17:82.

[5] The Holy Qur’an, 1:1-2.

[6] The Holy Qur’an, 1:3.

[7] The Holy Qur’an, 1:4.

[8] The Holy Qur’an, 1:5.

[9] The Holy Qur’an, 1:6-7.

[10] The Holy Qur’an, 1:7.

[11] The Holy Qur’an, 9:24.