(The Review of Religions presents English Translation of a Friday Sermon delivered by Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad (ra), the Promised Reformer and Second Caliph of the Worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community; Friday, 7th August 1931 in Shimla, India.)
Translated by Mansoor Dahri for The Review of Religions translation team.
The Review of Religions takes full responsibility for any errors in translation.
After reciting Tashahhud, Ta’awwudh and Surah Al-Fatihah, His Holiness said:
Last Friday, I mentioned that Allah the Almighty has taught us the prayer:
ٱهۡدِنَا ٱلصِّرَٰطَ ٱلۡمُسۡتَقِيمَ
‘O God! Guide us in the straight path’. 
But what is this straight path? It is the path of the people on whom God has bestowed His favours. Elsewhere أَنۡعَمۡتَ عَلَيۡهِمۡ [‘on whom Thou hast bestowed Thy blessings'] is further explained by
فَأُوْلَـٰٓئِكَ مَعَ ٱلَّذِينَ أَنۡعَمَ ٱللَّهُ عَلَيۡهِم مِّنَ ٱلنَّبِيِّـۧنَ وَٱلصِّدِّيقِينَ وَٱلشُّهَدَآءِ وَٱلصَّـٰلِحِينَۚ
[‘(It is they who) shall be among those on whom Allah has bestowed His blessings – the Prophets, the Truthful, the Martyrs, and the Righteous.’]
In other words, following the straight path means belonging to a group or category of people on whom God has bestowed His blessings, such as the Prophets, the Truthful, Martyrs, or the Righteous.
I have previously stated that, just as there is a spiritual rank of the ‘Righteous’ [salih] there is also a secular status of salih and that is someone who has adapted to the era in which they live. But this only applies to positive adaptations and not negative ones; in other words, a salih rejects the era’s evil and adopts what is good or beneficial. They should acquaint themselves with understanding new fields of knowledge, and if there is anything flawed or inaccurate the should reject it, and whatever is true and accurate they should accept.
Just look at the college students in your own country; although they are learning about the latest research in the natural and social sciences and trying to shape themselves in accord with the modern era, because the books that they are reading and the knowledge they are learning was authored by those who tried to use that very science to prove the divinity of a human, our students are rejecting the existence of God altogether because of this knowledge.
They proclaim that the theory of evolution contradicts the existence of God Almighty but, in fact, they seem to be wholly unaware that people have believed in the theory of evolution since time immemorial; all that Darwin did was shed some extra light on certain hidden aspects of it. The truth is that, even before Darwin, people have always observed that a child is born after nine months and that a seed takes a very long time to grow into a tree. Gradual progress and development can be seen everywhere in nature, yet people did not assume that this natural process contradicted the existence of God.
In addition to this, they claim that Darwin also proposed the theory of adaptability, which states that the success of an organism depends on how well it adapts to its environment. But over 1,300 years ago, Islam removed the deficiencies of this status and and declared it to be the lowest status of a believer; [the Arabic root] sa-la-ha (صَلَحَ) or ‘righteousness’ means to adapt yourself to your environment in the best possible way. Thus, a salih or righteous person is not someone who fails to keep up with the times but instead is someone who adapts to the times while safeguarding themselves from each and every one of its vices.
The second rank is that of a martyr (shaheed), which in the Arabic language means ‘witness’. Apart from the spiritual rank, shaheed can also signify a secular rank. In this world, the first stage of development for a person is to acquire knowledge; the second stage of development is to pass on this knowledge to other people as a teacher.
So what Allah the Almighty is essentially saying in this verse is that a true believer should not only be thorough in acquiring up-to-date knowledge, but should also become so adept and accomplished that they can teach it to others. And on this note, you can see for yourselves how far today’s Muslims have reached the status of shaheed and to what extent they teach others religious or secular knowledge.
Now observe how the Europeans, who have spread all over the world, teach people religious and secular knowledge. In order to spread secular knowledge, they have opened schools and universities in places where there used to be complete lack of knowledge and education. And in order to spread religious knowledge, their missionaries go to Africa, Australia, and other faraway places in order to spread their religion, when in fact that it is Islam that lays emphasis on preparing groups of people well-versed in religious and spiritual knowledge and then sending them off to teach others.
The third rank is that of a siddiq. A siddiq is someone who comes very close to the rank of a prophet and whose basic essence is the same. But their relationship is that of friendship rather than brotherhood. Prophets directly receive knowledge from God – who is like a Father to them – and so they are brothers to each other. But a siddiq does not have this same relationship with a prophet and instead has to independently struggle and strive and put effort into attaining any sort of parity with a prophet, with whom a siddiq can then be united in friendship. This is the rank of a siddiq in spiritual terms. In secular terms, a siddiq is someone who keeps making progress in knowledge and learning until they reach such a degree of proximity to the designer of an invention or the founder of a field of science or technology that they begin to resemble them. We can observe that, although a spiritual siddiq does not acquire knowledge directly from God, they can nevertheless very accurately explain and expound upon the knowledge they have acquired through prophets. It is exactly the same with a secular siddiq. Allah the Almighty therefore states in this verse that a believer should make progress in knowledge and learning to such an extent that they are viewed by people as having an incredibly deep and inextricable association with those inventions or fields of science or technology even if they themselves are not the original inventors or founders.
The fourth rank is that of a prophet. A spiritual prophet receives revelation from God in the form of actual words and learns spiritual knowledge directly from Him. By analogy, there are also secular prophets of scientific progress who do not, of course, receive revelation in the form of actual words but do, in fact, receive hidden insights from God and then spread their new knowledge throughout the world. Edison used to say that he would sometimes just be sitting around and then suddenly the right idea for a new invention would strike him like lightning. Since such prophets are prophets of science, the revelations that flash into their minds are purely of a scientific or technological nature. An idea is put into their head and they make new discoveries every day and bring to light new forms of knowledge and astound the world with their amazing inventions.
The bare minimum that Almighty God desires from believers in worldly terms is that they should strive to acquire secular knowledge. The step above that is that they should have such a mastery of that knowledge that they can teach others. Then the next step is that they should make such remarkable progress that, even if they are not the inventor of anything or the founder of any field, they resemble the original inventor of a device or the first person to make a discovery in a field of science or technology. And whenever an invention or a new field of knowledge is discussed, their name should inevitably come up along with that of the inventor or founder. But there is a step even above this and that, of course, is for true believers themselves to discover new fields of knowledge and design new inventions. If this happened, all fighting would stop, because fighting is the result of ignorance. There is no sin or vice or evil thing that ignorance did not spawn and there is no virtue or piety or good that knowledge did not bring to this world. If every Ahmadi achieved this, then people would begin to see paradise in this very world. We obviously cannot make the spiritual paradise of the hereafter literally appear in this world but we can at least show them this one. If every Ahmadi reached these ranks, then everyone would also want to enter this paradise. Because so many people only seem to see hell wherever they look in this world, they commit suicide as a result. But if they had seen paradise then they would never have taken their own lives. If Ahmadis build such a paradise, then the people of the world will quickly join us. Establishing paradise is a major undertaking but right now our community still has some members who quarrel for the pettiest of reasons. God establishes a kind of paradise through a prophet, but if we quarrel with our fellow human beings we will be cutting the trees of that already established paradise with our very own hands. No one should ever say that it would make no difference if they only cut down one tree. Because if everyone starts thinking like that then there would no longer be any trees left in paradise. Then God will send another prophet to cultivate another paradise.
The lowest of the four ranks is that of salih, or that person who lives appropriately in the environment that God has put them in. It is therefore incumbent on all of our dear members to achieve the rank of salih and behave appropriately in their environment and situation through their words and actions. If someone finds that they cannot do this, then they should at least try to develop the capability to become a salih, because God also takes effort into consideration. I cannot, under any circumstances, accept the idea that a person who dies whilst still fighting against their evil nature might not be deemed victorious and that God would not forgive such a person. The dear members of this community should therefore, at the very least, struggle and strive to develop the capability of being a salihin [pious people].
I pray to Allah the Almighty that He grants the whole of this community the ability to strive for these four ranks and that He grants everyone a place in at least one of them.
(Originally published in Al-Fazal, 18th August, 1931)
 The Holy Qur’an, 1:6
 The Holy Qur’an, 1:7
 The Holy Qur’an, 4:70