Sabahat Ali Rajput, Silicon Valley, USA
Some questions are so old that they predate the ones asking them.
Questions about God – from His grand existence to what that means for our own – are perhaps the greatest questions of all.
On June 19 & 20, 2021, The Review of Religions was honoured to host the first-ever God Summit – an international conference on the nature, existence, and real-world application of God in the 21st century.
Streamed on The Review of Religions’ YouTube channel, the God Summit brought together over 50 talented speakers of the community from various corners of the world, representing countries such as Ghana, USA, UK, Canada, Germany, the Czech Republic, Australia, and India. With over 16 hours of programming spanning two days, the God Summit aimed to discuss a variety of questions on the existence of God: from powerful personal testimonies of people whose prayers had been answered, to talks on suffering, prophecies, science and new atheism, to live Q&A sessions, word-on-the-street segments, and even an engaging children’s programme.
But these were simply a running red carpet for the blessed words of the Promised Messiah, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian (as), and video clips of His Holiness, the Fifth Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba), on various aspects of God Almighty, which ran throughout the programme. They served as the minarets of light for a global audience who were eager to further their understanding of their Creator.
As Syed Amer Safir, Chief Editor for The Review of Religions, explained:
‘The God Summit came about through the inspiration of the repeated guidance of His Holiness (aba), who guided us in this direction – to keep on creating the means to fulfil the main purpose for which the Promised Messiah (as) set up this magazine, which was to prove the existence of God. In essence, the entire God Summit is an inspiration from His Holiness’ (aba) guidance to us.’
Some of the most affecting segments of the summit included the true stories of Ahmadi Muslims worldwide who shared their deeply personal experiences of witnessing the powerful hand of God Almighty in both miraculous and moving ways.
For example, British imam Tahir Khalid and his family recounted the ineffable shock and agony of being first-time parents who were told that their baby was in such poor condition that they would have to choose between letting him live a painfully debilitating life or the equally unthinkable alternative. It was then that he reached out to the Khalifah of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba), for prayers and guidance, who firmly told him to let the boy live and that he was praying for his recovery. By the grace of God, today the boy is alive and healthy on all accounts, despite the predictions of the doctors.
There are dozens of these miraculous stories, but it’s not always the case that prayers are answered through miraculous recovery. And so, we also featured stories of those who donned the raiment of resignation to the will of Allah Almighty, even when events did not unfold in the way they had wanted.
Such was the tremendously moving account of Mazhar Ahsan, a young graduate of Jamia Ahmadiyya UK, the training seminary for missionaries of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, who passed away while still finishing his studies, and who had his whole life ahead of him. From the astonishing positivity that he exuded on his death bed, to the unshakable conviction of his family members in their Beloved Creator, this story was a perfect example of how God gives patience and grace to those going through difficult trials.
This, and true stories like it, gripped audiences of all ages. These were living modern-day examples that rekindled and revived the faith of intellectuals and lay people, men and women, and people from all walks of life.
A verse of poetry from the works of Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad (ra), Hazrat Khalifatul Masih II, the Second Successor to the Promised Messiah (as), introduced these incidents:
‘We witness so many divine signs that it is beyond count,
Our faith does not stand feebly upon mere fables and folklore.’
And indeed, these stories showed that God is living and He still answers prayers: witness the story of Nabeel Bhatti, entitled ‘From the Jaws of Death’, and describing his miraculous recovery from what was thought to be a fatal illness.
The opening few lines of various doctors and medical experts are enough to establish the harrowing gravity of his illness:
‘In reality, I’ve seen people like that…die, and die very quickly.’
British physician Dr Shabir Bhatti, who was familiar with the case, explained, ‘Just by looking at him, I thought, this guy is not going to survive the night.’
Yet Nabeel’s father did not waver in his faith for a moment. He respectfully told the doctors, ‘You have done all you could…now I just leave everything up to the Supreme Being.’
In response, some of the medical staff sought to re-emphasise just how certain Nabeel’s death was from a medical perspective. One doctor pressed on, ‘If you think that he’s going to walk out from here, you are mistaken and deluded.’ A third colleague chimed in, ‘…we do appreciate your faith and we do appreciate your hope, but that won’t be enough, unfortunately.’
From the several astonishing dreams that Nabeel saw in this whole process, to the reassurance that God had already given to his grandmother of his survival and recovery, to the unceasing love and support from His Holiness, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih V (aba), who continuously prayed, prescribed homeopathic medicines, and got updates from the family, the story left audiences afresh in their conviction that God Almighty answers those who call upon Him with sincerity and patience.
In the words of a healthy Nabeel Bhatti who is alive to tell his story today, nearly two years later:
‘This is actually not about me at all…this is about God, this is about Allah. It’s His blessings and it’s His work. I was just fortunate enough to be that medium through which He showed His divine manifestation.’
Below is a glimpse for our readers into some of the many other segments from the God Summit.
From Preaching Gospels to Finding Allah
American Seldon Harris, Presbyterian minister for 25 years, who struggled to find His Creator only to discover Him in Islam Ahmadiyyat while in Africa, recounts his breathtaking story and how much contentment he has found at long last.
‘When I do my daily prayers, I know that Allah is listening to me as if I am the only person in the universe.’
‘Since I have become an Ahmadi Muslim, I feel like I have direct access to God – that I never had as a Christian.’
‘I look now back on my journey, and I thought it was all by chance, but no, Allah was with me every step of the way.’
My Journey to God
Jonathan Butterworth, a former agnostic and law professor, talked about how he discovered the permanence of the Creator against the impermanence of the world around him:
‘He alone endures, all else is but perishable. To love others is only an idle tale.’
‘I knew this feeling because I’d had it myself – and I knew that my friends and my family had it as well – there’s something inside of the heart that is burning and it’s looking for something, and we don’t know what it is, and every heart wants to find that ultimate source of love, (so) where do we find it?’
Living Testimonies of a Living God
Abdul Quddus Arif is an imam of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and delivered an inspiring talk narrating the accounts of various young Ahmadi Muslims from around the world who witnessed the divine hand of God through prayer in today’s day and age, along with some extraordinary anecdotes of His Holiness, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba), the Fifth Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, and the miraculous acceptance of prayer witnessed by people. As he pointed out: ‘We call this missing peace and contentment Allah. As God Almighty Himself has said, hearts can only find contentment when remembering Him.’
‘In times of complete loss, Allah the Almighty is the only hope. He makes the impossible possible.’
Navigating the Deadly Australian Floods
We follow an Ahmadiyya imam, Ata-e-Rabbi Hadi, who found himself trapped in the pitch of night with his family as the infamous 2020 floods surged all around him. This is the story of how he navigated that perilous journey through prayer, witnessing miraculous things along the way. At several points throughout the journey, they could have been trapped by the floods – each time, they seemed to miraculously escape injury and harm.
‘There are so many intimate details of this whole experience that would be impossible for me to share. However, one thing is for sure: we had once again witnessed that Allah is truly the Best of Planners.’
Khilafat: Living Testimony for the Existence of God
An interview with Abid Waheed Khan, the press secretary of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, was filled to the brim with current stories of Ahmadi Muslims around the world who had seen the impossible unfold because of guidance and prayers from the Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba).
For example, a young couple were told by doctors to decide between the life and death of their fetus, who showed clear signs of severe, life-threatening disability during medical tests, consulted His Holiness (aba) and told the doctors, ‘He is my spiritual leader; whatever He decides, I will follow.’
On this occasion, despite the doctors’ recommendation, His Holiness (aba) instructed them, ‘If you are a sincere Ahmadi, do not abort the child. If you let her live, she will be fine.’ The couple returned to the doctor the next day to announce that they would not abort the child. As the father entered the office, before he could say anything, the doctor announced, ‘Congratulations. Since the last test, we took some more tests and scans and realised that our initial diagnosis was completely wrong. We’ve looked again, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with your baby, and we expect a full, healthy delivery.’
The Ahmadi father responded to the doctor, ‘What you’re telling me is not a surprise. I knew this yesterday.’
If God Exists, Why Is There Suffering in the World?
This question is one which every human being has faced at some point and is a question widely asked by atheists as well as believers. One of the most popular talks of the summit, this deep disquisition by Imam Azhar Hanif delved into all aspects of the nature of suffering and its purpose.
He asked, ‘Would you rather be an amoeba which does not feel pain and suffering, or a human? An amoeba is a single-celled organism, but nobody wants to be a worm or an amoeba because such beings have a lower level of consciousness. Nobody believes such creatures are better than humans, not even atheists.’
Imam Hanif went on to share a fascinating illustrative story:
‘[Suffering] is the difference between water and oil,’ he explained. Once, water said to oil, ‘I am pure, and you are dirty, so why, when we are together, are you above me?’
Oil replied, ‘You do not understand the trials I went through. I started life as a seed, deep underground, in the dark, then I fought my way to the surface, but then people cut me down, and dragged me out. They refined me, grinded me, cut me, pushed me, then I became oil. Through this process, should I not have risen above you?’
Imam Azhar Hanif went on to cover various aspects of suffering and trials, painting a picturesque mural of the grand scheme of life. He touched on various elements, from the progress that results from rising above suffering, to the divine system of handsome recompense that awaits those afflicted by sickness and ill health in this world, to the enormous role of human hands in the proliferation of suffering, as well as the deliberate silence of human beings in the face of it.
Prophecies and the Future
This masterclass explored the role of divinely-revealed prophecies in demonstrating the existence of God. Imam Abdul Ghany Jahangeer Khan took the audience through numerous prophecies, from amazing descriptions of modern transportation vouchsafed to the Prophet of Islam (sa) in 7th-century Arabia to true dreams revealed to ordinary people today. How could a person over a thousand years ago possibly have envisaged with such staggering specificity the exact description of an entire era? This is another powerful piece of evidence for the existence of God.
God is One Prayer Away
In this mini-documentary, National President of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Canada, Lal Khan Malik, recounted the rising desperation of a family trying to escape life-and-death religious persecution. The overwhelming obstacles that blocked his best efforts to send his family to Dhaka, in present-day Bangladesh, seemed impossible to surmount. Yet, through the power of prayer, between the arrival of a single unexpected plane and the last flight for Dhaka, his desperate and sincere pleas to God Almighty turned the tables. Suddenly, the small plane that wouldn’t start even for a high-ranking government official, and which had exactly the number of seats needed to carry his family, began to function so that they could travel on it. Thus, his family literally witnessed how the providence of God can alter the direction of fate in amazing ways.
The Qur’anic Miracles of Cosmology – The Life & Legacy of a Star
Dr Munazza Alam, a Harvard-trained astronomer, explored how ‘stars are the factories of our reality,’ and how, as a professional astronomer, her study of the Holy Qur’an and Islamic descriptions of the cosmos inspires her toward greater understanding of her own profession.
Is God a He?
One of the hottest subjects of the last several decades, the question of gender equality has emerged as an intellectual and social pivot of the 21st century. A common misconception attributed to the use of the male pronoun for God in the Abrahamic (and many other) faiths is explored from a theological and linguistic vantage point by Reem Shraiky, a native Arabic speaker and experienced translator.
She explained that God is, in essence, without any gender. He is referred to in the masculine because of certain general principles of the Arabic language. For example, ‘the feminine form is exclusive to females, while the masculine form can either be general to include both males and females, or exclusive to males. If something cannot be described by gender, then it is described in the masculine.’
Using astutely chosen examples from the Arabic language, she pointed out: ‘There is no masculine linguistic tendency used consciously against women. If this were the case, we would find all words expressing evil to be feminine.’ Yet there are many positive expressions and words that are feminine, while many of the most negative expressions and words are masculine.
Personal Experiences of His Holiness (aba) with God
Syed Amer Safir, Chief Editor of The Review of Religions, shared the details of an exclusive interview he conducted with His Holiness (aba), Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih V (aba), on his experiences with God. For instance, His Holiness mentioned a revelation of the Promised Messiah (as) which once appeared to him in a dream.
‘Such men will help you whom We have inspired from the heavens.’
His Holiness (aba) explains, ‘I understood the meaning of this to mean that Allah the Almighty would help me in extraordinary ways.’ Thus, relating to such gems, he granted a rare glimpse into his inspiring communion with Allah Almighty, detailing how he communicates with God, from visions to the acceptance of prayers, and more. 
How His Holiness (aba) Taught the Concept of God to His Children
One of the most illuminating talks was delivered by Mirza Waqas Ahmad, son of His Holiness Hazrat Mirza Masrooor Ahmad (aba), on how His Holiness instilled a belief in God in his children.
‘His Holiness and our mother were both very particular about the fact that their children should believe in the unity of God,’ he explained. One story manifests their dedication to the oneness of God. Mirza Waqas relates that his teacher in primary school in Ghana used to tell them to say that Jesus (as) was the son of God. When he did not say it, his teacher would hit him. He came home and told His Holiness (aba) about this, and he then explained to his son about the torture that Bilal (ra), a companion of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa), would have to go through due to his faith. As he told his son, ‘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 a compromise in this regard.’ He then went to the school the next day to speak to the teacher as well. In this way, His Holiness (aba) worked to inculcate a belief in God.
With invaluable contributions from a diverse group of collaborators across four continents and including men and women of all ages, planning began in January of 2021. In order to cater to the multitude of demographics – from young children growing up in increasingly atheistic societies to the parents bringing them up – The Review of Religions coordinated surveys to determine the most demanding issues facing Ahmadi Muslims about the existence of God.
The dozens of segments (many of which were produced with the valuable assistance of Muslim Television Ahmadiyya Studios in various countries of the world) were a direct reflection of the voice of Ahmadi Muslims from different walks of life all over the world. That diversity was reflected in the audience: over the two days of the summit, the live YouTube stream garnered 98,000 views from all over the world. Indeed, all of the sessions of the God Summit combined have almost 300,000 views at press time, showing how vital the subject is.
About the Author: Sabahat Ali Rajput is an imam of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Silicon Valley, USA. He serves as a member of the editorial board and is also editor of The Existence Project for The Review of Religions.
 See the April 2021 edition of The Review of Religions for the full interview with His Holiness (aba).