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) continues to describe the different stages through which one must pass to attain spirituality.
This is the fifth part of a multipart series.
Extracts from The Essence of Islam, Vol. III, 93-106.
When a person stands before a mirror, all his features are reflected in it; similarly, a believer who completely discards his ego so that no part of his own being survives, becomes like a mirror and all the features and qualities of the Divine are reflected in him. It can be said that the mirror, which reflects all the features of the one standing before it, becomes his vicegerent; in the same way a believer, by reflecting divine qualities, becomes a vicegerent of God and reflects divine features. As God is Hidden beyond hidden and is transcendent in His Being, in the same way, a perfect believer becomes hidden and transcendent in his being. The world cannot appreciate his reality as he is placed far away from the sphere of the world. It is a wonderful thing that after this holy change in the perfect believer, when he loses his self altogether for the sake of God and emerges in a new garment of holiness, God, Who is Unchangeable and Ever-Living and Self-Subsisting, too appears to him in a new guise. This does not mean that any change takes place in the eternal attributes of the Divine. He is eternally unchangeable, but there is a new Divine manifestation for the perfect believer.
When the believer brings about a change in himself, a change manifests itself in the Divine, the nature of which we cannot fathom. This happens in such a manner that God’s unchangeable Being is not affected by the dust of events. He remains unchangeable as ever.
It is a change of the type as has been mentioned, that when a believer moves towards God Almighty, the Almighty moves much more swiftly towards him, though it is obvious that as the Divine is not subject to change, He is also not subject to movement. All these expressions are metaphorical and the need for their use arises because experience testifies that as a believer assumes a new being by discarding his ego in the cause of God, God also assumes a new aspect vis-à-vis the believer, and deals with him in an exclusive manner. God reveals to him of His kingdom and mysteries that which He does not reveal to others, and displays for his sake that which He does not display for the sake of others. He helps and succours him in a manner that causes people to marvel. He manifests extraordinary happenings for such a person, and works miracles in his support and establishes his supremacy from every point of view. He invests him with a strange kind of magnetism, whereby a whole world is drawn to him and only those remain unaffected who are eternally unfortunate.
All this shows that when a true believer carries out a holy change in himself, God Almighty also appears to him with a new kind of manifestation. This is proof that God has created man for Himself, and when man turns towards God Almighty, from that very moment God turns towards him and becomes his Guardian, his Providence, his Supporter, and his Helper. If the whole world were to be on one side and a true believer on the other, it is the believer who would stand supreme, because God is true in His love and always fulfils His promises. He does not let one who becomes His to be destroyed. Such a believer when thrown into the fire finds himself in a garden; and when pushed into a whirlpool emerges in a beautiful orchard. His enemies design stratagems against him to destroy him, but God frustrates all their plans and projects, for He is with him at every step. In the end, those who seek to humiliate him die in disgrace and end in failure, but he who becomes God’s with his whole heart and soul and determination, never dies without realising his desires. His life is blessed and is prolonged till he achieves his purpose. All blessings are by virtue of sincerity and all sincerity is in seeking the pleasure of God, and all seeking of God’s pleasure ensues from discarding one’s own pleasure. This is the death which is followed by life. Blessed is he who partakes of this life.
—Barahin-e-Ahmadiyyah, part V, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 21, pp. 230-243
Excellences of the Men of God
The excellences of the men of God who have a relationship of love and friendship with Him are not confined to prophecies alone. Verities are disclosed to them and they are granted spiritual comprehension. The wonders and mysteries of the Shariah and proofs of the truth of Islam are revealed to them. The inner meanings of the Holy Qur’an and the fine points of the Word of God are miraculously conveyed to them. They become heirs to miraculous wonders and heavenly knowledge both of which are bestowed directly upon those whom God loves. They are favoured with special love and are invested with devotion and sincerity like Abraham (as). The holy spirit is reflected in their hearts. They become God’s and God becomes theirs. Their prayers bring about extraordinary results. God’s jealousy is roused in their support. They are blessed with victory over their opponents in every field. Their countenances shine with the light of divine love. God’s mercy comes down upon their dwellings like rain. Like a beloved child, they rest in the lap of God. God displays greater wrath in their support than a wild tigress whose young is threatened. They are protected against sin, attacks of the enemies, and errors of teaching. They are the kings of heaven. God hears their supplications in a wonderful manner, so much so that kings have recourse to them. The Lord of Glory resides in their hearts. They are invested with a divine prestige and their countenances display royal self-sufficiency. They consider the world and its inhabitants to be less than a dead insect. They know only the One and melt under His fear every moment. The world falls at their feet, and it is as if God manifests Himself in human form. They are the light of the world and the pillar of this mortal universe. They are the princes of true peace and they are the sun that dispels darkness. They are hidden beyond hidden and no one truly recognises them, except God, and no one truly recognises God except themselves. They are not God but it cannot be said that they are distinct from God. They are not immortal but it cannot be said that they die. Can a wicked person, whose heart and thoughts and life are foul, ever resemble them? Certainly not, except for such resemblance as a shining pebble may sometimes have with a diamond.
When men of God appear in the world, a type of spirituality descends from heaven on account of the blessings that they enjoy and all temperaments are activated, and those whose hearts and minds have affinity with true dreams begins to experience such dreams and visions, as when rain brings down water from the sky the subsoil water also rises, and every kind of vegetation begin to sprout. On the contrary, if rain is held back over a period of time, the water in the wells also dries up. Thus the men of God are in fact heavenly water and with their coming the waters of the earth also swell.
—Tohfah-e-Golarhviyyah, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 17, pp. 170-172
Comprehension of the Divine
The fifth excellent element of Surah al-Fatihah is that it comprises the complete and perfect teaching which is needed by a seeker after truth and which constitutes a perfect code of conduct for progress towards nearness to God and comprehension of the Divine. Such progress begins from the point when the seeker, purely for the sake of God, imposing a death upon his ego and submitting to hardship and pain, discards all those desires of the flesh which constitute a barrier between him and his Master. Such desires turn his face away from God, directing it towards personal enjoyments, physical emotions, habits, thoughts, designs, other creatures and involve him in their fears and hopes. The average degree of progress is that all the effort that has to be made for the suppression of the self and all the pain that has to be endured in discarding familiar habits should appear as bounties, and labour should be perceived as delight and pain should be felt as comfort, and constraint should be appreciated as cheerfulness. The higher grade of progress is that the seeker should cultivate such union, love, and accord with God and His will and designs that his self ceases to have an identity and influence of its own. The Being and attributes of God should be reflected in the mirror of his own being without any trace of darkness or suspicion through perfect surrender, which should create the utmost inconsistency between the seeker and his personal desires so that the reflection of the Being and attributes of the Divine should become clearly visible. In this statement there is not a single word that endorses the false theories of Wujudi , or of the Vedantists , because these people do not recognise the essential and eternal distinction between the Creator and His creation.
They have been grievously misled by their doubtful visions which are often experienced in a condition of imperfect progress, or result from practices which induce a type of insanity, or those who, in a condition in which they are not in full possession of their senses, overlook the difference that subsists between the Divine and the human spirit in respect of powers, faculties, qualities and holiness. It is obvious that the Almighty Whose eternal knowledge comprehends the smallest particle and to Whom no defect or default can be attributed and Who is free from every type of ignorance, stain, weakness, grief, sorrow, pain and commitment, cannot in essence be the same as one who is subject to all these deficiencies. Can man, who for his spiritual progress is subject to many contingencies which have no limit, be the same or identical with that Perfect Being Who is subject to no contingency? Can he who is mortal and whose soul suffers from the obvious deficiencies of creation, with all his stains and weaknesses and impurities and defects and shortcomings, be the equal of the Lord of glorious attributes Who is eternally perfect on account of holy excellences and qualities?
سُبۡحٰنَهُۥ وَتَعٰلٰى عَمَّا يَصِفُونَ
What we mean by this third stage of progress is that in that stage the seeker surrenders himself so completely to the love of God and that Perfect Being approaches so close to him with all His perfect attributes, that the manifestations of divinity overcome his personal desires to such a degree that he develops a complete dissociation from and enmity with his personal emotions as well as with everyone who is subject to such emotions.
The difference between this stage and the second stage is that though in the second stage also complete accord is established between the will of the seeker and the will of God and the pain that proceeds from God is felt as a bounty, yet his relationship with God is not such as to charge him with personal enmity towards everything beside God, so that the love of God should not merely be the goal of the heart but should become its characteristic. In short, in the second stage accord with God and opposition to all beside Him is the goal of the seeker and he finds pleasure in the achievement of that goal, but in the third stage of progress these two become an integral part of his being from which he cannot depart under any circumstances, because it is not possible for something to be separated from itself. On the contrary such departure is possible in the second stage. So long as the sainthood of a seeker does not arrive at the third stage it is not permanent and is not secure against peril, the reason being that so long as the love of God and opposition to all beside Him does not become characteristic of a person, some traces of wrong linger in him because he has still not fully discharged his obligations to Providence and falls short of perfect liqa’. But when the love of God and accord with His will saturate his being, so much so that God becomes his ears with which he hears, and becomes his eyes with which he sees, and becomes his hands with which he grips, and becomes his feet with which he walks, then there is left in him not a trace of wrong and he becomes secure against every hazard. This stage is indicated in the verse:
ٱلَّذِينَ اٰمَنُواْ وَلَمۡ يَلۡبِسُوٓاْ إِيمٰنَهُم بِظُلۡمٍ أُوْلٰٓـئِكَ لَهُمُ ٱلۡأَمۡنُ وَهُم مُّهۡتَدُونَ
It should be realised that these three grades of progress which are the root of all knowledge and comprehension, and indeed are the essence of faith, are set out in the Surah al-Fatihah beautifully and in the most orderly manner. The first stage of progress which is the preliminary step towards nearness to God has been inculcated in the verse:
ٱهۡدِنَا ٱلصِّرٰطَ ٱلۡمُسۡتَقِيمَ
To abandon every kind of misguidance and to turn wholly to God by adopting the straight path is to climb the steep hill which has been described as fana, inasmuch as to discard at one stroke all familiar ways and habits and to abandon suddenly all personal desires to which one has been subject all one’s life and to turn straight towards God, away from all considerations of repute and honour and self-esteem and showing off, deeming everything beside Allah as non-existent, is an enterprise that amounts to death. Such a death is the source of spiritual birth. Until a grain is buried in the earth and gives up its shape, it is impossible for a new grain to come into being. In the same way the body of spiritual birth is created from the death which is fana. As the ego is defeated and its operation and will and its turning towards creatures are progressively obliterated, so do the limbs of spiritual birth go on being fashioned until, when complete annihilation of self is achieved, he is given the robe of the second being and then comes the time of:
ثُمَّ أَنشَأۡنٰهُ خَلۡقًا اٰخَرَۚ
As this complete effacement is not possible without the help and the special attention of the All-Powerful, therefore this supplication has been taught:
ٱهۡدِنَا ٱلصِّرٰطَ ٱلۡمُسۡتَقِيمَ
which means ‘Lord! establish us along the straight path and deliver us from every type of misguidance.’ This steadfastness and treading along the straight path, which we are commanded to seek, is a hard enterprise and at first it appears to the seeker like the attack of a lion that must prove fatal. But if the seeker is steadfast and accepts this death, there is no death for him after that. God is too Noble to confront him again with the blazing fires of hell. In short this perfect steadfastness is the fana [death] which completely demolishes the whole system of the being of a servant of God. He has to withdraw suddenly and totally from every type of desire, lust, design and selfish pursuit. This is the stage where human effort and human striving are in the forefront and all the labours of the saints and the seekers arrive at their climax. Thereafter follow heavenly bounties in which no human effort is involved and God Himself provides a hidden chariot and heavenly charger for viewing the heavenly wonders.
The second step in the progress towards nearness of God is indicated in the verse:
صِرٰطَ ٱلَّذِينَ أَنۡعَمۡتَ عَلَيۡهِمۡ
‘Guide us along the path of those on whom Thou hast bestowed Thy favours.’
It should be remembered that those who are the recipients of the overt and covert bounties of God are not exempt from suffering. Indeed they are afflicted with such calamities and torments that would have destroyed altogether the faith of another. They are described as the recipients of divine favours because on account of their overwhelming love for God they view calamities also as bounties and derive pleasure from everything that they experience at the hand of the True Beloved, whether of pain or of comfort. Thus this is the second stage of progress towards nearness in which everything that proceeds from the Beloved appears a bounty and is a source of delight. This condition results from perfect love for and sincere relationship with the Beloved. It is a special gift which has nothing to do with design and planning. It is a pure divine favour and when it is received the seeker is relieved of all burdens and every pain is perceived as a favour, and elicits no complaint or grievance. This is a condition of revival after death, because in this condition he encounters favours from every direction and is, therefore, appropriately described as one who is the recipient of favours. This condition is also described as baqa, inasmuch as in this condition the seeker feels as if he has been revived after death and perceives great cheerfulness and is relieved of all the constraints of humanness and experiences the nurturing lights of the Divine descending upon him as bounties. At this stage, the door of every favour is opened to him and divine favours proceed towards him in full force. This stage is also called experience of God, inasmuch as in this stage the wonders of Providence are revealed to the seeker and he experiences such divine favours as are hidden from others. He is favoured with true visions and is honoured with the words of God and is informed of the delicate mysteries of the hereafter, and is given a large portion of knowledge and comprehension. In short, he becomes the recipient of so many overt and covert bounties that he arrives at that stage of certainty in which he feels as if he is beholding the True Designer with his eyes. Such perfect knowledge of heavenly mysteries is called experience of God. This is the stage at which a person is granted love of the Divine, but it does not yet become his characteristic.
The third stage of progress, which is the ultimate step in treading the paths of nearness to God has been described in the verse:
غَيۡرِ ٱلۡمَغۡضُوبِ عَلَيۡهِمۡ وَلَا ٱلضَّآلِّينَ
This is the stage when the love of God and the enmity to all beside Him become characteristic of the seeker and dwell in him as his temperament. In this stage the seeker is naturally enamoured of divine qualities and the personal love of God so grips his heart that any departure therefrom becomes impossible and not to be thought of. If his heart and soul are wrung in the machinery of severe tests and trials, nothing but love for the Divine emerges therefrom. At this stage the seeker experiences delight only in the throbbing of his love for the Divine and regards it as the true comfort of his heart. This is the stage when all progress towards nearness to God terminates and the seeker arrives at the climax that has been determined for human nature.
—Barahin-e-Ahmadiyyah, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 1, pp. 586-624, footnote 11
God Almighty is most Benevolent and Merciful. When a person turns to Him with sincerity and devotion He demonstrates even greater sincerity towards him. Such a one never perishes. God Almighty has great qualities of love, loyalty, grace and benevolence, and the power to demonstrate divine might, but he alone witnesses them fully who is completely lost into His love. Though He is most Benevolent and Merciful yet He is Self-Sufficient and Independent, therefore he alone is blessed with a new life by Him who welcomes death in His cause. He alone is awarded heavenly bounties who discards everything for His sake.
One who establishes a perfect relationship with God resembles a person who perceives the light of fire from afar and then approaches it close and plunges into it till he is completely consumed, and there is nothing left but the fire. In the same way the one who has established a perfect relationship with God Almighty approaches Him until the fire of divine love envelops him and the flame of light wholly consumes the framework of his ego and takes its place. This is the climax of the blessed love of God. Its principal sign is that it generates divine qualities in him who experiences it, and he takes on a new life, entirely different from his previous life, which is generated by the burning up of the low attributes of humanness by the flame of light. A piece of iron which is thrown into fire and is wholly possessed by the fire, takes on the appearance of fire; still we cannot call it fire despite the fiery characteristics it shows. In the same way he who is enveloped from head to foot in the flame of divine love becomes a demonstrator of divine manifestation, but it cannot be said that he is God. He is a creature of God who has been enveloped in that fire. After he is completely possessed by that fire he demonstrates a thousand signs of perfect love so that through them he is recognised by a wise seeker after truth. One of those signs is that from time to time God, the Benevolent, causes His eloquent and delicious words to issue from his tongue, which are invested with divine glory and blessing and the perfect demonstration of the hidden, and are accompanied by a light which indicates that they are a certainty and not a matter of doubt. They possess a divine brilliance and are free from every impurity. Very often they comprise great prophecies which relate to vast and universal affairs. Those prophecies are matchless in quantity and quality. No one can ever produce their match. They are charged with divine majesty. Through their perfect power they reveal the countenance of the Divine. They are not like the utterances of soothsayers but carry with them signs of the love and acceptance of their proponent, and are filled with the spirit of divine support and help. Some of these prophecies are related to himself or to his children, or wives, or relations, or friends, or enemies, and some have a wider scope. To him are revealed matters that are not disclosed to others, and to him are opened the doors of the unseen which are not opened to others. The word of God descends upon him as it descends upon holy Prophets and Messengers of God and is certain and free from doubt. His tongue is so honoured that the words that issue from it cannot be matched by anyone both with regard to their literary excellence and their meaning. His eye is given a visionary power through which he can see hidden events. Very often written statements are presented before his eyes. He meets the dead as if they were alive. Sometimes he views things from a distance of thousands of miles as if they were lying at his feet.
His ears are also blessed with the faculty of hearing hidden sounds. He can often hear the voice of angels and finds comfort in it at times of disturbance. Even more surprisingly, he can sometimes hear the voice of inanimate objects, vegetables, and animals.
فلسفی کُو منکر حنّانہ است
از حواس انبیاء بیگانہ است
In the same way his sense of smell can perceive hidden fragrance. Very often he can smell good news and can perceive the bad odour of disagreeable matters. His heart is endowed with the faculty of intuition. Many things flit across his mind and prove true. Likewise, satan has no influence over him for satan is left no part in him. On account of his complete surrender to God, his tongue becomes the tongue of God and his hand becomes the hand of God. Even apart from revelation, whatever issues from his tongue is not from him but from God, inasmuch as his own being is wholly consumed and destroyed and he is given a new and holy life which all the time reflects divine light.
His forehead is blessed with a light which is not granted to any except the lovers of God, and sometimes its brilliance is such that even a non-believer can perceive it, particularly when he is persecuted and turns to God Almighty seeking His help. That time of devoted attention to God is a special hour and divine light is manifested in his countenance.
His hands, feet and body are invested with a blessing in consequence of which the clothes worn by him become blessed and on some occasions touching them or handling them becomes the cause of the healing of spiritual or physical ills.
In the same way God, the Lord of Honour and Glory, invests his dwelling with a blessing, which safeguards it against calamities. God’s angels watch over it.
His city or town is blessed in a special manner. Even the dust over which he treads receives a blessing.
His desires take on the colour of prophecy. When he feels an intense desire for something to eat or drink or wear or behold, that thing becomes available.
His pleasure and displeasure also presage a corresponding happening. When he is greatly pleased with someone, that is an indication of the future rise of that person; and when he is wroth with someone, that indicates the latter’s decline and ruin, inasmuch as by virtue of his complete surrender to God he dwells in the mansion of truth and his pleasure and displeasure become the pleasure and displeasure of God, not in consequence of his desire but by virtue of divine attention.
In the same way, his supplication and attention are in a different category from those of other people and are charged with special effect. There is no doubt that except in cases of absolute divine decrees, if his attention is fully devoted towards the removal of a calamity, God Almighty averts it, whether it affects an individual or a group or a country or a sovereign. The secret of it is that such people are totally lost to their own beings; therefore, very often their will coincides with the will of God. Thus when their attention is directed intensely towards the removal of a calamity and is wholly concentrated on God it is the divine way that in such a situation God hears them and does not reject their supplication, though sometimes their prayer is not heard so that their being the creatures of God may be demonstrated and they may not be deified by the ignorant ones.
—Haqiqatul-Wahi, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 22, pp. 16-20
- Those who believe that God and the material world are one and the same thing.
- Believers in the Vedic doctrine of the eternity of souls.
- ‘Holy is He and exalted far above what they attribute to Him.’ – The Holy Qur’an, 6:101.
- ‘Those who believe and mix not up their belief with injustice; it is they who shall have peace and who are rightly guided.’ – The Holy Qur’an, 6:83.
- ‘Guide us in the straight path.’ – The Holy Qur’an, 1:6.
- ‘Then we developed it into another creation.’ – The Holy Qur’an, 23:15.
- The Holy Qur’an, 1:6.
- The Holy Qur’an, 1:7.
- ‘Those who have not incurred displeasure, and those who have not gone astray.’ – The Holy Qur’an, 1:7.
- ‘The philosopher, who denies the phenomenon of Hannanah;* Is unaware of the senses of the prophets.’*Hannanah is the name of a tree trunk against which the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) leaned while delivering his sermons in the mosque. Later on, a pulpit was built, and when the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) stood on it to deliver his sermon, [according to narrations] Hannanah started crying and its cries were heard not only by the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) but also by his companions.