Featured The Nature of God

What is the Meaning of “Union with God”

What is the Meaning of “Union with God” (Hazrat Mirza Bashir-ud-din Mahmud Ahmad) It is really beyond the power of man to describe such an essentially spiritual experience; it can be realised but can hardly be fully described. He alone who experiences this condition can understand the nature of it, but he cannot convey an adequate impression of it to another, for it is an entirely novel experience and people can understand the nature of only those experiences through which they have themselves passed. For instance, we can describe the taste of sugar to a man who has himself tasted it and when we say to such a person that a certain thing is very sweet he will at once realise our meaning. But a man who has never tasted sugar can never fully realise what sweetness means. We can give him a poor and imperfect idea of it by distinguishing it from other things which can be tasted, but the only perfect way of making him understand what sweetness signifies would be to put a lump of sugar in his mouth and to tell him that it is sweet. Similarly the nature of the experience of a meeting with God cannot be put in words, but as this is a matter which concerns faith and on which depends the whole spiritual progress of man, God invests those who have gone through it with such attributes that everybody can perceive that they stand in a special relationship towards the Living God. Just as a machine becomes alive when it is connected with an electric current, and people can at once recognise that some mighty force is working through it, so is the case with those who attain to union with God, and since the beginning of time this fact has been proclaimed in the same way. The fact that Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad (on whom be peace and the blessings of God) and the other prophets of God were His favourites was proclaimed to the world only through the manifestations of God’s attributes for them; otherwise the nature of the relationship in which each of them stood towards God was not and cannot be understood by any stranger. With beings that belong to the world of spirit a relationship can be established only through perfect understanding and knowledge. The Holy Quran describes this understanding or realisation as being of three kinds or having three stages. The first stage is called knowledge or realisation by inference. In this stage a thing is not itself visible but its effects are visible from which a man can conclude that the thing exists. The second stage is knowledge 0 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS or realisation by sight. In this stage not only are the effects of a thing visible but the thing itself is seen, although its nature has not been completely realised. The third stage is the stage of perfect realisation or experience, that is to say, as complete an understanding of the nature of a thing as it is possible for a man to have, both through an observation of its effects on others and a realisation of its effects on himself. This is called perfect realisation. These three stages may be illustrated by a reference to the knowledge and realisation of fire. When a man sees smoke from a distance, he concludes that there must be a fire from which it issues, but he cannot be certain of it, for there is the possibility that his eye might be mistaken and what he imagines to be smoke may be merely dust or a mist. But if he draws nearer and sees the flames with his own eyes, his certainty will increase, but perfect realisation of the nature of the fire cannot be achieved till he puts his hand in it and experiences its burning effect. There are sub-divisions of these stages of realisation, but these are the principal ones, and man is constantly striving to attain them. We find that when a child begins to grow up, he wants to realise the nature of everything and is not afraid to put his hand in the fire to experience its effects. 1 imagine there would be very few children in the world who have not, at some time or other, scorched their hands in an attempt to find out the effects and nature of fire. Islam lays down the same three stages of realisation. The first stage is, that a man hears about the manifestation of God’s attributes from others, or reads in books as to how God used to deal with His servants in the past, and he begins to think that there must be some reality underlying it. But this creates no more than a temporary impression on his mind. For, when he begins to strive in the same path himself he at first meets with disappointment and very often loses courage, like a man who, from a distance sees smoke rising up, begins to advance towards it, but as he proceeds further he sees nothing but smoke without any other indication of a fire, till he begins to imagine that his eye had deceived him and that what he had seen was not smoke but possibly a speck of cloud or some other similar thing. Only such persons are satisfied with the ancient records of the lives of holy men as never strive to have an experience at first hand themselves, and whose self-complacency remains, therefore, unshaken. This, however, is far from being enviable. Islam does not confine man to the first stage of realisation, it keeps the door open to the highest stage, and it claims that any one striving after God in accordance with its teachings, gain in understanding and realisation in proportion to his efforts, and that there is no stage of realisation, which was opened for others but from which men are now debarred, I have explained that true realisation is a purely inward condition of mind; it is that sharpness of spiritual vision by which man begins to perceive the attributes of God in a new light. It is that keenness of spiritual perception by which man discovers himself clothed with the attributes of God, but as every condition and experience has an outward manifestation, the perfect realisation of God or, in other words, union with WHAT IS THE MEANING OF “UNION WITH GOD” 7 God, has also its outward manifestation by which the other people as well as the man himself realise the relationship with God. It is obvious that when two things approach each other the peculiar quality of one affects the other. For instance, a man who approaches fire begins to feel its heat, and a man who approaches ice begins to feel cold; similarly, if he touches aperfume, his body or his clothes begin to emit its fragrance, and if he is near another man who utters a speech, he can listen to it. In the same way, it is necessary that a man who attains to a stage of union with God should manifest certain qualities which should show that he has attained to that state of blessedness. For, if there is nothing more than a mere verbal assertion, how can we distinguish between the claims of an imposter and a righteous servant of God, and what benefit can other people derive from seeing or associating with the latter? Islam has described three stages of union with God, which can be distinguished by their manifestations. They are the proof of a man having attained to union with God, and they are also the means of increasing one’s belief in God. The first stage is that of acceptance of prayer. The second is that of revelation, and the third is the stage in which man becomes the manifestation of divine attributes.—(Ahmadiyyat or the True Islam). PROHIBITIONS FOR MEN All relates: I saw the Holy Prophet take a piece of silk in his right hand and a piece of gold in his left and heard him say: The wearing of these two is unlawful for the males among my followers. (Abu Daud) Abu Musa Ash’ari relates that the Holy Prophet said: Wearing silk and gold has been made unlawful forthe males among my followers and lawful forthe females. (Tirmidhi) Huzaifah relates: The Holy Prophet forbade use eating or drinking out of gold or silver vessels, and wearing of silk and brocade or sitting on them. (Bokhari)