Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as), The Promised Messiah and 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) explores the meaning of salvation in other religions, namely in Hinduism and Christianity, before explaining the true means to attaining it.
This is the third part of a multipart series.
Extracts from The Essence of Islam, Vol. II, 272-282.
The Vedas Represent God as Vengeful
It is worthy of note that of all the religions, that of the Vedas is the only one which presents Permeshwar as wrathful and vengeful and is opposed to the doctrine that God Almighty forgives the sins of His servants through repentance and seeking forgiveness. Yet it also teaches that Permeshwar is the Master of all creation and controls the fate of all animates, and He is the one before Whom all sinners are brought. Unfortunately for mankind, He possesses the attribute of wrath whereby He punishes sin with dire chastisement, but He does not possess the attribute that He can forgive anyone’s sin through repentance and supplication. Once a default is committed, there is no acceptance of repentance and no attention is paid to any supplication though it is obvious that man, on account of his natural weakness, cannot safeguard himself against sin and is apt to stumble at every step, yet the Vedas do not offer any way of salvation. The Vedas have only one prescription, which is altogether wrathful and vengeful and which is that for the least sin it prescribes a long and endless chain of incarnations. A sinner deserves mercy on this account also that his weak faculties that fall into sin are not self-created but are created by God. In this situation man deserved that allowance should have been made for this. According to the Aryas, Permeshwar makes no allowance in awarding punishment for the fact that He too has something to do with the occurrence of sin.
The Vedas have laid it down as a condition for salvation that man should be purified completely from sin. Judged by the standard of the law of nature, it will be found that it is impossible for man to fulfil this condition, for till man carries out all the obligations that he owes to God Almighty, he cannot claim that he has fulfilled all the requirements of obedience. The law of nature and the book of man’s nature bear witness that at no stage of progress and perfection can man be acquitted of the default that he has not been truly grateful for all divine bounties and has fallen short in the complete fulfilment of divine commandments. Thus if man can attain salvation only by carrying out all the obligations that he owes to God Almighty, without a single default, this way of salvation is an impossibility. No one can attain that degree of fulfilment of obligations and therefore no one will attain salvation. That which is impossible and is contrary to the law of nature and contradicts the book of nature cannot be a divine commandment.
Seek through the East and the West and you will not be able to discover one person who is wholly free from, and innocent of, all defaults and neglects and who has fulfilled all the rights due to man and who claims that he has carried out all the obligations of obedience and gratitude. If there is no such person in the world today, then be sure that such a one has never existed, nor is there any hope of his coming into existence in the future. Then, as it is impossible in view of the law and the book of nature that any person on his own strength should be able to discharge all his obligations to God Almighty, and should be completely grateful to Him. The experience of every person bears witness to this. Therefore it does not behove a book that claims to be from God, to make salvation dependent upon a matter which is impossible to achieve. It is possible, however, that, as in many other respects the Vedas had been perverted, this might also be a perversion and may not be the true teaching of the Vedas.
—Chashma-e-Ma‘rifat, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 23, pp. 50-52
The Christian Concept of Salvation is Contrary to Justice and Mercy
The Christians are agreed that after Jesus, revelation has been sealed and has been left behind and now there is no way of receiving it, and that the door of grace is closed till the Judgement Day. This may be the reason that they have invented a new way of attaining salvation and have proposed a new prescription which is contrary to all principles and is altogether opposed to reason, justice and mercy. It is said that Jesus took upon himself the sins of the whole world and consented to death upon the cross so that through his death mankind might be delivered. God put His innocent son to death to save sinners. We fail to understand, however, that the hearts of people can be purified from the foulness of sin through such a wrongful death and how, by the slaughter of an innocent one, the past sins of others can be forgiven. This is opposed both to justice and to mercy, inasmuch as it is contrary to justice to seize an innocent one in place of a sinner and it is contrary to mercy to kill one’s son in this hard-hearted manner. Besides, all this has achieved nothing.
—Lecture Lahore, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 20, p. 163
The Holy Qur’an does not endorse the doctrine of salvation which is set out in the Gospel, namely, the crucifixion of Jesus and his atonement. The Holy Qur’an affirms that Jesus was a great prophet and was the beloved of God and near to Him and honoured, but he was only a man. It does not consider it necessary for salvation that the burden of a sinner should be placed upon an innocent one, nor does reason permit that for the sin of X, Y should be held responsible. No government has ever followed this principle.
It is a pity that the Aryas have also taken a wrong stand on the question of salvation, as have the Christians and they too have forgotten the reality. According to the doctrine of the Aryas, repentance and seeking forgiveness amount to nothing. Till a person goes through all the incarnations, which are appointed as a penalty for a sin, salvation cannot be attained and when attained, it is only limited. Permeshwar has not the power to forgive sin, and true repentance, which is a spiritual death and is a fire in which a person is willing to consume himself in order to please Permeshwar, amounts to nothing. This shows the miserliness – God forbid – of Permeshwar. When He directs His servants to forgive those who offend them and does not act upon it Himself, He seeks to teach His servants that which He does not practice Himself. In such case the followers of that religion are bound to think that if Permeshwar does not forgive the sins of an offender then how can they do that which is contrary to the qualities of Permeshwar? What would be the plight of the subjects who are under the rule of kings and sovereigns, who like Permeshwar, have no notion of forgiving offenders?
Besides, what evidence is there to prove the reincarnation of souls? We have never observed that the soul of a person who has died has entered into another body. Then such punishment is also useless, for if a soul which is reborn is not warned that it has been placed in a lower incarnation on account of a particular sin, how will it refrain from that sin?
It should be borne in mind that while human nature possesses many excellent qualities, it is also subject to the defect that on account of its weakness it is prone to commit sins and defaults. The Almighty Who has made human nature has not invested it with the inclination to commit sins so that He might condemn man to torment, but so that His attribute of forgiveness might be manifested. Sin is doubtless a poison, but the fire of repentance and istighfar [seeking forgiveness from God] converts it into an antidote. Thus after repentance and remorse, sin becomes the means of progress and roots out from inside a person the feeling that he amounts to something and stamps out arrogance and pride and self-exhibition.
Salvation is Only Possible Through Grace
Remember that no one can attain salvation through his deeds; salvation is attained purely through grace. The God in Whom we believe is Most Merciful and Benevolent. He is Almighty and suffers from no weakness and defect. He is the Source of all manifestations, and is the Fountainhead of all grace, and is the Creator of all creation, and is the Master of all bounties. He comprises all praiseworthy and perfect qualities, and is the Source of all lights, and is the Life of all lives, and is the Sustainer of everything. He is close to everything but we cannot say that He is all things. He is higher than everything, but we cannot say that there is something intervening between Him and us. He is Imperceptible and Hidden and yet is more manifest than everything. All true delight and comfort is in Him. This is the true philosophy of salvation.
—Chashma-e-Ma‘rifat, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 23, pp. 414-416
The Christian doctrine that God loved the world, and to provide salvation for the world He arranged to put the burden of the sins of the disobedient ones and of disbelieves and of wicked ones on His beloved son Jesus, and made him accursed in order to deliver the world from sin and hanged him on the accursed rood, is false in every aspect and is shameful. If it is appraised from the point of view of justice, it is obviously wrong that the sin of X should be fastened upon Y. Human conscience does not approve that the punishment of an offender should be inflicted upon an innocent one.
If one reflects upon the reality of sin from the point of view of spiritual philosophy, that also condemns this doctrine. Sin is a poison which is generated when a person is deprived of obedience to God, His eager love and His loving remembrance. As a tree which is uprooted from the earth and is unable to suck water begins to dry up and loses its greenness, the same is the case with a person from whose heart the love of God is uprooted so that it begins to dry up and falls into sin. In God’s law of nature there are three remedies for this dryness. One is love; the second is istighfar which means the desire to suppress and cover up, for so long as the root of a tree is firm in the earth there is hope of its greenness; and third is repentance, that is to say, to turn humbly towards God in order to draw the water of love and to get close to Him and to pull oneself out of the darkness of disobedience with the help of good deeds. Repentance is not merely by word of mouth but is completed by good deeds. All virtues are for the perfection of repentance, for the purpose of all is to approach close to God.
Prayer is also repentance for through it we seek nearness to God. That is why God having created the life of man and called it the soul, inasmuch as its true comfort lies in the affirmation of the existence of God and His love and His obedience. He also called it self, inasmuch as it seeks union with God. To love God is to be like that tree in the garden which is firmly planted in the ground. This is man’s heaven. As a tree sucks the water of the earth and draws it into itself and thereby expels its poisonous vapours, so is the condition of a person’s heart. It sucks in the water of God’s love and is thereby enabled to easily expel its poisonous matter and, being based in God, is purely nurtured and spreads and exhibits pleasant greenness and brings forth good fruits. But he who is not firmly related to God, cannot suck in nourishing water and therefore dries up progressively and in the end loses its leaves and only dry and ugly branches are left.
—Siraj-ud-Din ‘Isa’i ke Char Sawalon ka Jawab, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 12, pp. 328-329
Repentance, Istighfar, and Intercession as Means of Salvation
It is the eternal natural law of God that He forgives sin through repentance and istighfar and accepts the prayers of the virtuous by way of intercession. But we have never observed that X should strike his head with a stone and this should cure the headache of Y. Then we do not know by what law the suicide of Jesus can remove the inner disease of others. Nor are we aware of any philosophy on the basis of which the blood of Jesus can wash out the inner impurity of anyone else. Indeed observation contradicts this. Till Jesus had made up his mind to commit suicide, the Christians possessed the quality of virtue and the worship of God, but after the event of the crucifixion it appeared as if a dam had burst and the banked-up water had spread in every direction. That has happened to the passions of the Christians. There is no doubt that if Jesus laid down his life deliberately, he acted very improperly. Instead if he had devoted his life to admonition and preaching, it would have done much good to people. What good did his improper act do? If after his suicide Jesus had come back to life and had ascended to heaven in the presence of the Jews, they would have believed in him. As it is, the Jews and all wise people consider the ascension of Jesus to heaven a fiction.
—Chashma-e-Masihi, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 20, pp. 347-348
I had apprehended that some false charge would be laid against me. For when an enemy is completely refuted he delivers an attack against life and honour. So it happened in my case and this charge of conspiracy to murder was laid against me…The Christian missionaries were greatly offended with me. My activities had occasioned them great loss. In addition to heavenly signs, my criticism of their doctrine had ripped apart the warp and woof of their religion. Their doctrine of atonement was totally refuted by my pointing out that if the curse of the sins of all the sinners had settled on Jesus, it meant that his heart had been emptied of all understanding of God Almighty and His love and that he had become an enemy of God. As a curse in its true meaning is not permissible in the case of a righteous one like Jesus, then how can the doctrine of atonement be supported which is based entirely upon his becoming accursed? I had also pointed out that no act of the Divine is contrary to His eternal way and that means that there should be a large number of illustrations. If sending a son is the way of God then there should be many more sons of God so that a way might be established and some sons should be crucified for the jinns and some for men and some for those creatures which dwell in other spheres. This objection was also such that a moment’s reflection on it would rescue a person from the darkness of Christianity…
I pointed out that the doctrine of atonement is also untenable, for its purpose would be either that in consequence of it sin should be abolished altogether, or that every type of sin, whether relating to the rights of God or the rights of people, should be continuously forgiven. The first supposition is entirely false. We observe that the men and women of Europe have not been able to abstain from sin after the atonement and that the people of Europe are guilty of all manner of sins. Alright, leave that aside, and consider the case of ‘prophets’ whose faith was stronger than that of others, even they could not escape sin, and the disciples of Jesus too were involved in sin. Thus there is no doubt that the atonement is not a dam that can bank up the flood of sin. As regards the second supposition, that those who believe in the atonement would be exempted from all punishment for sin, and that whether they commit theft or robbery or murder or misconduct of every description God will not call them to account; this also is untrue as it would cancel God’s eternal commandments and destroy the purity of the law.
—Kitab-ul-Bariyyah, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 13, pp. 59-60
The Curse of Sin Cannot be Transferred
The Christians should have shown what provision the Gospel has made for that certainty with regard to the existence of God which bestows upon man the insight of the fear of God and burns up the fuel of sin. How can sin be discarded through useless means? These people do not realise that it is altogether unrealistic and wholly fictitious that the sins of the whole world were cast upon one person and that the curse of the sinners was taken from them and was imposed on the heart of Jesus. This would mean that thereafter, with the exception of Jesus, everyone had acquired a pure life and the understanding of God and that Jesus alone was burdened with a curse which was a collection of millions of curses. But when we see that every person has his sins with him and that everyone feels the passion that nature has bestowed on him, whether he accepts Jesus or not, it shows that the accursed ones have not been separated from their cursed lives and that their curse has not fallen upon Jesus. As a curse is firmly fixed to its subject, how could it then have been transferred to Jesus? It is the height of injustice that the curse of every wicked and accursed one, who believes in Jesus, should fall on Jesus and that the person himself should become free from blame and pure. If this unending chain of curses, which will extend to the Judgement Day, will continue to be heaped upon poor Jesus afresh, when will he be freed from curses?… This would mean that Jesus would never see the day again when he should dwell under the shade of the love of God and the light of His understanding. All that this doctrine would achieve would be that a holy one of God might be subjected to unending foulness.
—Kitab-ul-Bariyyah, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 13, pp. 63-64
 The word ‘prophet’ has been used here in the biblical sense and not as an Islamic term. [Translator]