The Review of Religions had the honor of hosting the global God Summit; a virtual two-day conference with the sole purpose of talking about God. Over the course of the event, various personal incidents from different parts of the world about experiencing God were shared, along with Masterclasses, RoRTalks and more. One of the interviews conducted for this event was with Sahibzada Mirza Waqas Ahmad, son the Fifth Caliph and Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba). Sahibzada Mirza Waqas Ahmad was asked about how His Holniess (aba) instilled the concept of God within his children at a young age, and how the same concept can be instilled in the youth today. Below is is a transcript of the English translation of this interview originally conducted in Urdu, for the benefit of readers.
In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Ever Merciful
By the grace and mercy of Allah, the Review of Religions is conducting a conference for the very first time called ‘The God Summit’, in which different speakers and various scholars of the jama`at will speak about Allah Almighty. They also asked me for an interview in order to ask some questions pertaining to Huzoor (aba) [His Holiness], and how during our childhood, he shared the concept of God with us and how he instilled this concept in our hearts. As we all know, by the grace of Allah Almighty, after becoming the Khalifa, all of Huzoor’s (aba) guidance is shared with members of the jama`at [Community]. But before his Khilafat, when we were young, how did Huzoor (aba) introduce the concept of God to us?
To explain the concept of God to a child who is growing up – as parents are well aware – is quite a difficult task in some aspects. Because as children get older, they ask questions and various things are explained to them, like ‘This is your mother and this is your father; this is called water and this is called milk; this is a toy.’ And when we speak about Allah Almighty, then the first questions which children ask are, ‘Who is God? Why can’t we see Him?’ These things are apparently difficult to explain, because we explain things to children with physical objects or visually. So how did Huzoor (aba) establish the concept of God in the hearts of children at this stage?
By the grace of Allah, before Khilafat, both Huzoor (aba) and my mother were very firm in their belief of the Unity of God. When Huzoor-e-Anwar (aba) [His Holiness] dedicated his life, his first posting was in Ghana. During our time in Ghana we were children and we also started school in Ghana, which is in Africa. I do not remember too much from my childhood in Africa, but there is one incident which I remember. After we had started going to school – it was a Christian school – some time later there was a program in which everyone had to say ‘Jesus is the son of God’. Since our childhood, Huzoor (aba) and our mother had told us that something like this may happen, and we should never say that Jesus is the son of God.
Both Huzoor (aba) and our mother were very particular about the fact that their children should believe in the Unity of God. Hence from our childhood, our mother taught us a chapter of the Holy Qur’an; in fact just a little while ago, Huzoor (aba) inquired whether or not we have taught our children Surah al-Ikhlas [Chapter 112 of the Holy Qur’an]. These days in the Waqf-e-Nau syllabus, perhaps they begin with the smallest chapter and so they teach Surah al-Kauthar [Chapter 108 of the Holy Qur’an]. But Huzoor (aba) said that first, the children should be taught Surah al-Ikhlas, because this chapter speaks of the Oneness and Unity of God; and keeping in mind the condition of the world today, children should be taught this chapter first so that the concept of God being One and without partner can be established in their hearts. Surah al-Ikhlas is as follows:
قُلۡ ھُوَ اللّٰہُ اَحَدٌ
لَمۡ یَلِدۡ ۬ۙ وَ لَمۡ یُوۡلَدۡ
وَ لَمۡ یَکُنۡ لَّہٗ کُفُوًا اَحَدٌ
[The Holy Qur’an 112:2-5]
‘Say He is Allah the One. Allah, the Independent and Besought of all. He begets not, nor is He begotten. And there is none like unto Him.’
Huzoor (aba) and our mother taught us this chapter since our childhood, and in fact Huzoor (aba) says that this chapter should be taught to the next generation and after learning it, they should be taught its meaning as well. So this was a practical effort that was made; as the Holy Prophet (sa) has stated that at the very outset, the Adhan [call to prayer] should be recited in the child’s ear so that the first thing they hear is the name of Allah and the first thing which enters their minds is the magnificence of Allah. So this was one method which Huzoor (aba) and our mother utilized and constantly told us that God is One, He has no son, and there is no one who compares to His attributes. So along with other prayers, teaching us Surah al-Ikhlas was a practical effort made which helped to instill the concept of the Unity of God in our minds as children.
Caution was also exercised, as we lived in a country where there was a large number of Christians as it is a predominantly Christian country. There are Muslims there as well, but there are far more Christians and the priests had great influence in Africa, especially in Ghana. So going to school we knew that Jesus was not the son of God, and instead we were taught to say that Jesus was a prophet of Allah. In school, when we did not say that Jesus is the son of God, the teacher who was very strict physically punished us because of this. We went home and said that when we do not say that Jesus is the son of God, the teachers physically punish us. Upon this, Huzoor (aba) said, ‘Alright, do not say this [that Jesus is the son of God], we will meet with the teacher and explain everything to her’. The same thing happened the next day; the teacher became angry and punished us again. Then Huzoor (aba) went [to the school] to met with the headteacher and told her the Oneness of God is a fundamental belief of ours; we believe in the Unity of God and we believe Jesus to be a noble and righteous prophet. However, we do not accept him to be the son of God.
After explaining this, Huzoor (aba) left, and I remember that night, Huzoor (aba) told us about the story of Hazrat Bilal (ra); how there were so many idol worshippers in Arabia, and there was no concept of God. Then, when the Holy Prophet (sa) presented the concept of the Unity of God and claimed to be a prophet, some of the very first people to accept him were the poor, the needy and slaves. Hazrat Bilal (ra) was also among them. Huzoor (aba) often used to relate this story to us, that when Hazrat Bilal (ra) became a Muslim, he was tortured a great deal; Makkah was an extremely hot place, and in this heat his master would make him lie down on the burning hot sand, then he would place blazing boulder on his chest and strike him, whilst telling him to declare the greatness of Lat and Uzza – the names of two of their idols. Since Hazrat Bilal (ra) was not fluent in Arabic, he simply repeated the words ‘Ahad, Ahad’, God is One, God is One. When his master would tire of striking him, he would tie a rope around Hazrat Bilal’s (ra) neck and hand him over to mischievous and delinquent children of Arabia in order to drag his body. Hazrat Bilal (ra) would endure injuries, despite which he would continuously repeat the words ‘Ahad, Ahad’. Thus, Huzoor (aba) said, ‘it is alright if you endured physical punishment and had to make a sacrifice for the sake of the Unity of God, but you can never say that Allah has a partner and you cannot make any compromise in this regard’. These days in the West, some children are peer-pressured; they come under pressure from teachers and fellow children. Especially during Christmas time in Christian schools or Church schools, people think that it is normal and there is no harm, and that they will later re-instill the concept of God [in their children] by taking them to the mosque; and so if they say this in school [that Jesus is the son of God] then there is no harm.
Aside from this, seeing as Huzoor (aba) and our mother worshipped God Almighty and were very serious and disciplined about this and fulfilling the rights of Allah, this also subliminally established the concept of God within us. It was the practice of Huzoor (aba) that rather than advising us verbally, he would lead by example and we would see how Huzoor (aba) was praying. By seeing the manner in which Huzoor (aba) or our mother offered salat and prayed, we understood even in our childhood that there is a Higher Power to Whom they are praying. Then when Allah Almighty would bestow His blessings, we would have conversations about them at home, that after praying to Allah Almighty a certain hardship was removed or a certain problem was solved. This automatically established the concept of God in our minds.
The concept of God and having a connection with Allah Almighty is a two-way relationship. This too was explained to us by Huzoor (aba) and our mother, that through prayer, we should strive to establish a connection with God and should seek only from Him; because as a result of seeking from Him, when the prayers are accepted, then a bond will automatically be established with God. These were some aspects of the concept of God which we understood and learned in our childhood.
Another thing is that a few days ago, I read that someone went to an elder and told him that he wished to spread the message of God to the world and asked him for some advice – [in other words] he wished to do tabligh. The elder said to him that while doing tabligh, his goal should be to speak as little as possible. This meant that his actions should become a means of tabligh which people can see. In a household, children can learn about God through the conduct of their parents and then they start to believe in Him. Physically speaking, is it difficult to explain to a child in the beginning about Who God is, where He is and why He cannot be seen. However, God creates a connection whereby He Himself instills His love in the hearts of people and grants them knowledge of His existence, then He tells people that they must make an effort as well. In any case, God makes His existence evident to a person at least once, then it depends on how that person develops and increases that connection. Hence, it is a two-way connection, as the Promised Messiah (as) has stated that the connection between man and God goes both ways and man must strive in order to recognize God and further his connection with Him.
The second question which The Review of Religions team has asked is that after Huzoor (aba) became the Khalifa, what are some practical examples which can help increase others in faith and can serve as inspiration with regards to having a connection with God. By the grace of mercy of Allah Almighty, I believe one of the many blessings of MTA is that from the time Huzoor (aba) became Khalifa to now, we can watch almost every day of his life. In this way, there is not a single jama`at event which was graced by Huzoor (aba) and has not been covered by MTA for historical record. In this way, from the time he became the Khalifa to now, Huzoor (aba) has continuously given guidance to the jama`at. The very first guidance he gave was that the jama`at should pray, because it is through prayer that everything will be achieved and the caravan of Ahmadiyyat will progress beyond all others. Then, after becoming the Khalifa, the greatest change which comes about is that before, the Khalifa had a silent and hidden relationship with God, but now that connection has become apparent to everyone. Due to being a successor to the Promised Messiah (as), that connection takes on a new light and people begin looking at it differently. The reason for this is that people realize the fact that in terms of faith, the person nearest to God in this world is Khalifatul-Masih [the Caliph], who is discharging the duties of successorship to a prophet. The Promised Messiah (as) explained that one of the duties of prophets, and one of the reasons for his advent was to bridge the gap that had come about between man and God; to restore the relationship which had been become lost. And this duty has always remained Huzoor’s (aba) top priority.
After becoming the Khalifa [Caliph], his prayers now encompass the entire jama`at [Community]. People write letters to him for prayers and express their hardships; in other words, people are always looking towards this one person and ask him for prayers. If they have a worry they ask Huzoor (aba) to pray, if they have an upcoming exam they write a letter to Huzoor (aba) requesting him to pray. This is a huge responsibility upon the Khalifa. As Huzoor (aba) has stated in multiple sermons, the Khalifa is always praying for everyone. Every member of the jama`at looks to Huzoor (aba) when they are worried or facing any hardship, whether it be at the jama`at level or personally, and they write to Huzoor (aba) for prayers and guidance. When the Khalifa has to give guidance, whether it be guidance for the jama`at or an individual, it is a very serious matter and decisions can be made only through prayers and the grace of God. A small example is that during these days of the coronavirus pandemic, I have seen people asking whether [their loved ones] should be put on a ventilator or if the ventilator should be removed; [some say that] the doctors are advising to keep the ventilator on [while others say] the doctors recommend to remove it. This is the extent to which people would be asking Huzoor (aba), and Huzoor (aba) would respond to each one according to their situation. On many occasions Huzoor (aba) advised that the ventilator should be left on until the person passes away and he gave various other responses. To some who requested prayers Huzoor (aba) would reply, ‘May Allah bestow His grace, everything will be fine’; to others he would reply, ‘May Allah have mercy, the situation seems quite difficult.’ These were some of Huzoor’s (aba) responses.
By the grace of Allah, after Huzoor (aba) became the Khalifa, we have witnessed many incidents of the acceptance of prayer. We have also seen by the grace of Allah in some instances where prayers were not exactly accepted, but they were fulfilled in a different way. As the Promised Messiah (as) has stated, in a true connection between man and God, sometimes God listens and other times He imposes His will. By the grace of Allah I have seen such examples and have witnessed many miracles. There have also been trials and people had to face hardships. In any case, the result of every instance was that I saw the Khalifa further increase in his connection and love for God Almighty.
There are many incidents. I believe Nabeel Bhatti Sahib will have a speech in this conference as well as Ibrahim Ikhlaf Sahib; I have personally witnessed that when Nabeel Bhatti Sahib became ill, Huzoor (aba) instructed Dr Shabir Bhatti Sahib to find out what the doctors were saying. When I asked Shabir Bhatti Sahib around Isha time, he told me that the doctors were of the opinion that he may not remain alive until the time for Fajr and that this was his maximum time remaining. I informed Huzoor (aba) about what the doctors were saying. Huzoor (aba) replied, ‘Is this what the doctors are saying?’ Then Huzoor (aba) became silent and continued with the work that he was doing. From this I understood that Huzoor (aba) did not take what the doctors had said very seriously. Through his actions, he expressed that the doctors are not God. And by the grace of Allah he was cured miraculously. After having been in a critical condition, he survived the jaws of death. Similarly when Ibrahim Ikhlaf Sahib became ill, Huzoor (aba) said, ‘Allah will bestow His grace, there is no need to worry.’ There have been other instances as well. However as a result of such instances, some people reach the false conclusion that God-forbid, God-forbid, Allah Almighty must accept every prayer. The Promised Messiah (as) has stated that this is a relationship in which sometimes God accepts what a person asks for and other times He imposes His Own will. If it is only a one-way connection then it apparently seems as if one will only accept God so long as their wishes are fulfilled and things are exactly as they desire and if God does anything according to His will then they will abandon Allah. This notion contradicts the real concept of God. God is the Master, He knows everything, it is He Who accepts prayers and He loves His servants and shows mercy more than anyone else. At the same time, Allah has also said that one should pray, and leave the final decision to God.
Another aspect I have observed is that after he became Khalifa, I have never seen Huzoor (aba) despair or worry and wondering what will happen – though there are times when one may be concerned about something but Huzoor (aba) always has firm faith that God exists and says that we can find the solution to any problem by praying to Allah Almighty. And when God’s decree manifests, Huzoor (aba) has always happily accepted it. One of the biggest changes was that after becoming Khalifa, not only did Huzoor (aba) have a personal connection with God, but now it was also his duty to establish a connection between the world and God.
I remember when the first Peace Conference was held, there were some organizers who, out of their naivety, lack of judgement or innocence, gave Huzoor (aba) a suggestion about saying something regarding world affairs and politics. I remember Huzoor (aba) was sitting and said, ‘The only thing I thought of for my speech at today’s Peace Conference is that I should tell people about the rights owed to God and the reason for which God created humankind.’ And the majority of Huzoor’s (aba) speech at the first Peace Conference was devoted to this, that the purpose of man’s creation is to worship God, to fulfill the rights owed to God. Huzoor (aba) also touched briefly on the topic of fulfilling the rights owed to God’s creation, but the majority of the speech was devoted to calling people towards Allah. So this is a great task entrusted by God to Huzoor (aba) and through the ability granted by God, Huzoor (aba) is carrying forth this mission.
Another question which The Review of Religions team has asked, since I have had the opportunity of serving in Khuddamul Ahmadiyya [Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association], is regarding the youth here in the UK and their level of connection with Khilafat and God and the steps which have been taken by the organization [of Khuddamul Ahmadiyya] to establish that connection. By the grace of Allah, in my experience I have seen that the concept of God is present in the youth of Europe and the UK to quite a degree. It cannot be said that it is one-hundred percent present but it is there. The children of those parents who have made efforts believe in the concept of God. There are those who have become influenced by Western philosophy and ideologies, but the system of the jama`at and the prayers of the Khalifa have brought them back towards God. When I was serving in Khuddamul Ahmadiyya, I remember Huzoor-e-Anwar (aba) instructed that arrangements should be made for Khuddam [the youth] to meet Huzoor (aba). We would especially organize group meetings (mulaqats) for the young Khuddam, in which Huzoor (aba) would meet with them and talk to them. The company of a righteous person can have a great impact. The spiritual influence and company of the Khalifa has a profound impact. Huzoor (aba) also advised that the youth should adopt good company. In line with keeping good company, Huzoor (aba) also instructed to tell the youth that they should be weary of internet and online chatting and stay away from engaging with those who involve themselves in vain activities as that also falls under bad company.
There is an incident in context to the previous question; Huzoor (aba) used to relate an incident regarding the First Khalifa (ra). Once, there was a student who came to the First Khalifa (ra) and said that he was having atheistic thoughts and he felt like he was becoming an atheist. The First Khalifa (ra) [the First Caliph] told him to change his seat in the classroom and move away from the person he was sitting with. Some time later, he met him and that student told the First Khalifa (ra) that his thoughts were getting better. The fact of the matter was that the student he used to sit beside was an atheist and that too, a very active atheist, and those thoughts were transferring into his mind. Hence, Huzoor (aba) would say that the company one keeps has a great impact and so efforts should be made to ensure that the youth keep good company.
This is the same thing which Huzoor (aba) is advising to Khuddamul Ahmadiyya even today in virtual meetings with children and youth from all over the world as well as the administrations of Khuddamul Ahmadiyya, especially the meetings with young children and the opportunities they get to ask their questions. The impact of sitting in such company also serves as a great means for becoming nearer to God Almighty.
I have personally experienced this as well. Some children have shared their thoughts with me after meeting Huzoor (aba) and they say that they feel a personal connection with Huzoor (aba) and as a result, their connection with God has also strengthened.
Another very important thing which Huzoor (aba) instructed was that we should go and meet those people who have become distant from the jama`at and who have incorrect concepts about God and the jama`at, Khilafat and prophets, and we should try to speak with them on an individual basis. By the grace of Allah this proved to be very beneficial, and when we met people individually who were going through various things, we told them to write to Huzoor (aba) for prayers. There were some who did not have jobs, some who had exams, others who were waiting for their immigration cases to be passed. By the grace of Allah, when people experienced the acceptance of prayer first hand, many increased in their relationship with God as a result.
According to the instructions of Huzoor (aba), and I believe this is still happening today, ijtimas are given themes, and in one Ijtima, a program on the topic of having a connection with God was conducted. In that program, Khuddam and children were asked to present incidents pertaining to their connection with God. There was a sizeable number of people who had some sort of connection with God. They believed in God and the acceptance of prayers and this was something which people had experienced. There were many incidents like these.
Then, according to the instructions of Huzoor (aba) we had the opportunity of debating with various atheistic societies. Our teams would meet Huzoor (aba) individually and Huzoor (aba) would give them some guidance. Huzoor (aba) said that no one should have any sort of inferiority complex nor should they fear; if a challenge needed to be presented to atheist then that could be done as well; [telling them] that we prove the existence of God though prayer and effort, if they wished to have some scientific or data-based proofs then we could provide those as well. The Western society asks for proof of everything, and so Huzoor (aba) said that we should say to them that making efforts is a commandment of God as is prayer. We can use both these methods and so based on any data that they provided, we could show them some results. Huzoor (aba) presented various examples, such as social scientists who say that they conducted a survey and these were people’s responses; and if they want data evidence, then there are millions of people who believe in God and have a connection with Him, and this has been the case for centuries. Many people have attested to the acceptance of prayer and the existence of God, so why are they not accepted? Our students and children were quite confident and they went on to many large societies and participated in debates. This was all due to the prayers and guidance of Huzoor (aba). All praise belongs to Allah. It cannot be said that the atheists began believing in God, but in any case they were silenced. Even if some did not desist, debates never really finish, but they understood that this is a strong community that has strong arguments and practical experiences through the grace of God upon this community and the blessings associated with the Promised Messiah (as) and these things cannot be presented by anyone else.
So this was the confidence which Huzoor (aba) instilled in the youth here.
Another guidance given by Huzoor (aba) that I recall is something that he said to a young missionary who was about to enter the field of duty and would have to present the concept of God to others. Huzoor (aba) told him that he must always keep one thing in mind as an office bearer of the jama`at and a missionary, which is that his rule is not be established in the world, rather it is Allah’s rule that is to be established in the earth. The purpose of saying this was to show that sometimes office bearers become more concerned with the respect that they are being shown. So Huzoor (aba) explained that it is God’s rule which will be established in the world and everyone must strive to establish God’s rule in the world. This was an excellent point which we explained to our office bearers in our administrations as well as to others, that the purpose of the system of this jama`at is to establish God’s rule in the world.
Another question which has been asked is that having had the opportunity of working with the youth, what advice can I give those who are involved in immoral activities are have become distant from Allah Almighty?
In this regard, I once had the opportunity of presenting a matter before Huzoor-e-Anwar (aba) which was that some Khuddam were involved in certain vices which were moral evils and it was becoming difficult for them to rid themselves of these things. Apparently it seemed as if they were involved in the jama`at and believed in Allah and His Messenger (sa) – there were also some who didn’t but wanted to make an effort. Huzoor (aba) advised that first, they should be told that that those who wish to become closer to God, establish a connection with Him, and abandon their evil habits, must first establish firm will-power within themselves. They should firmly assert that they will not commit a certain act. They should have firm resolve of this in their hearts and then they should strengthen their will-power. This way, if certain situations arise where it is possible to fall back into committing that evil, then they can stop themselves. At the same time they should constantly recite ‘istighfar’ [prayer for seeking forgiveness from Allah]. They should seek Allah’s help and support along with reciting ‘istighfar’. Some people think that if they commit evil, then do ‘istighfar’, and then commit evil again thinking that they have already repented for the previous sin, then they will never be able to be free from sin. In order to become free from sin, along with constantly reciting ‘istighfar’ one should have firm resolve that they will not repeat the same mistake again. This will be a big factor if they are serious and wish to rid themselves of evil. Nothing can be attained without effort. If one wishes to go to school or has to write exams, then they will have to study. Whatever one wishes to do in the world, even if it is sports, one must make the effort, strive and struggle, otherwise nothing can be achieved. So when it comes to Allah Almighty, we should not take this lightly and think that we will be able to establish a connection with God without making any effort. This too will require some effort, and God says that even if you strive a little, He will bestow His blessings in your efforts. If you take one step towards Him, He will take two steps towards you. Allah Almighty has stated on numerous occasion in the Holy Qur’an that if one moves towards Him, He moves even closer to them. Hence, Huzoor (aba) said that effort must be made, will-power must be exhibited and one must abstain from evil. If this is not done, then a person can never be reformed.
It is also the case that sometimes people instantly establish a connection with God. In such instances I have seen that an event occurred in the person’s life which caused them to come towards God. So establishing a connection with God along with the prayers of the Khalifa can only happen through God’s grace. God can establish this connection with whoever He pleases. These people experience such things that they leave behind their old lives filled with evil. But those who are unfortunate and do not wish to leave that life behind remain indulged in it and there is no human effort which can do anything for them. In any case, Huzoor’s (aba) guidance was that new ways should be found to approach people so that they become close to the jama`at.
Another guidance which Huzoor (aba) gave us at an administrative level was that we should always be thinking about new ways by which we can reach out to those who have become distant and have moved away from God, do not believe in Him and have become distant from the system of the jama`at and bring them closer to the jama`at. In order to do this, Huzoor’s (aba) guidance was to take firm Ahmadis who are around the same age and have common interests such as sports or other outdoor activities through which they can be brought closer to the jama`at.
As I mentioned earlier, the company one keeps does have an impact. Hence, by the grace of Allah we have made efforts in this regard which are still ongoing, as a result of which some Khuddam who were once distant became close [to the jama`at] again. There are also those who became close and then became involved in various jama`at work and thus continued to progress. There are also those who came close for a while, but then distanced themselves again. Hence this requires constant effort which the jama`at constantly does under the supervision and guidance of Huzoor (aba).