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 edition, the Promised Messiah (as) describes God’s purpose for creating man, and the means to attain this objective.
Extracts from The Essence of Islam, Vol. II, 461-473.
Though different people, on account of their short-sightedness or lack of courage, appoint various types of objectives for their lives and stop short at worldly purposes and desires, yet the purpose that God Almighty has specified in His Holy word is:
وَمَا خَلَقۡتُ ٱلۡجِنَّ وَٱلۡإِنسَ إِلَّا لِيَعۡبُدُونِ
I have created jinn and men so that they should recognise and worship Me.
According to this verse the true purpose of human life is the worship and understanding of God Almighty and devotion to Him.
Only the Creator can Enjoin the Purpose of Life
It is obvious that it is not open to man that he should himself lay down the purpose of his life by his own authority inasmuch as man does not arrive in the world of his own will, nor will he depart from this world of his own will. He is a created being and He Who created him and bestowed upon him better and higher faculties than those bestowed upon other animates, has enjoined a purpose for his life. Whether anyone comprehends that purpose or not, without doubt the purpose of man’s creation is the worship and understanding of God Almighty and to lose himself in Him.
—Islami Usul ki Philosophy, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 10, p. 414
اِنَّا عَرَضۡنَا الۡاَمَانَۃَ عَلَی السَّمٰوٰتِ وَالۡاَرۡضِ وَالۡجِبَالِ فَاَبَیۡنَ اَنۡ یَّحۡمِلۡنَھَا وَاَشۡفَقۡنَ مِنۡھَا وَحَمَلَھَا الۡاِنۡسَانُ ؕ اِنَّہٗ کَانَ ظَلُوۡمًا جَھُوۡلًا
This means that the divine trust, by which is meant the love of God and complete obedience to Him even in the face of hardship, was offered to the angels and the whole of creation and the mountains, all apparently full of strength, but they all refused to undertake it, being afraid of its grandeur. But man undertook it for he possessed two qualities, that he could force himself in the cause of God Almighty and could advance so far in love of Him as to forget altogether everything else.
—Taudih-e-Maram, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 3, pp. 75-76
The Three Objects of Life
The real purpose of all the external and internal limbs and faculties that have been bestowed on man is understanding and worship and love of God. That is why, despite a thousand occupations, man does not find his true well-being except in God Almighty. Having acquired great wealth, or achieved high office, or having become a great merchant, or having acquired governing authority, or become a great philosopher, he departs in the end from these worldly involvements with a sense of frustration. His heart rebukes him all the time about his deep concern with the world and his conscience never approves his wiles and deceits and wrongful actions. This problem can be appreciated in another way. The purpose of the creation of a thing is determined by its highest achievement beyond which its faculties cannot rise. For instance, the highest a bullock is capable of is ploughing, or irrigation, or transportation, and therefore these are the purpose of its life and it cannot rise above them. But when we take stock of man’s faculties and powers to discover his highest capacity, we find that he is invested with the faculty of seeking after God so much so that he desires that he should become so devoted to God’s love that he should have nothing of his own and that everything should become God’s. He shares his natural needs like food and drink and rest with other animates, and in industry some animals are ahead of him; for instance, the bees produce such excellent honey from every type of flower that man has so far not been able to compete with them. It is clear, therefore, that the highest capacity of man is meeting with God Almighty and thus the true purpose of his life is that the window of his heart should open towards God.
How to Achieve the Purpose of Life
The question is how and through what means can man achieve this purpose?
Let it be clear that the principal means for achieving this purpose is the correct recognition of and faith in the True God. If this first step is wrongly taken and a person sets up a bird, or an animal, or any of the elements, or a human being as his god, it cannot be expected that his subsequent steps would be taken along the straight path. The True God helps His seekers; but that which is dead cannot help the dead. Allah the Glorious has illustrated this point beautifully in this verse:
لَہٗ دَعۡوَۃُ الۡحَقِّ ؕ وَالَّذِیۡنَ یَدۡعُوۡنَ مِنۡ دُوۡنِہٖ لَا یَسۡتَجِیۡبُوۡنَ لَھُمۡ بِشَیۡءٍ اِلَّا کَبَاسِطِ کَفَّیۡہِ اِلَی الۡمَآءِ لِیَبۡلُغَ فَاہُ وَمَا ہُوَ بِبَالِغِہٖ ؕ وَمَا دُعَآءُ الۡکٰفِرِیۡنَ اِلَّا فِیۡ ضَلٰلٍ
Worthy of worship alone is the same true God Who is Omnipotent. Those on whom they call for help beside Him, do not respond to them at all. Their case is like that of one who stretches forth his hands towards water and ask it to enter his mouth. But will it come do so? Not at all. Thus all the prayers of those who are not cognisant of the True God are futile.
The second means of achieving the true purpose of life is to become aware of the perfect beauty of God Almighty, for beauty is something which naturally attracts the hearts and generates love. The beauty of God Almighty is His unity and His greatness and His other attributes, as the Holy Qur’an says:
قُلۡ ھُوَ اللّٰہُ اَحَدٌاَللّٰہُ الصَّمَدُلَمۡ یَلِدۡ ۬ۙ وَلَمۡ یُوۡلَدۡوَلَمۡ یَکُنۡ لَّہٗ کُفُوًا اَحَدٌ
This means that, in His Being and His attributes and His glory, God is One without associate. All are dependent upon Him and every particle derives its life from Him. He is the Source of grace for everything and receives no grace from anything. He is neither a son nor a father for none is equal to Him. The Holy Qur’an repeatedly draws attention to God’s perfection and greatness and points out that such God is the Besought of all hearts and not one who is dead or weak or lacks mercy or power.
The third means of achieving the purpose of life is to become aware of the benevolence of God Almighty for love is generated by beauty and benevolence. The benevolent attributes of God Almighty are set forth briefly in the Surah al-Fatihah, where it is said:
اَلۡحَمۡدُ لِلّٰہِ رَبِّ الۡعٰلَمِیۡنَ الرَّحۡمٰنِ الرَّحِیۡمِ مٰلِکِ یَوۡمِ الدِّیۡنِ
It is obvious that the perfection of benevolence consists in that God Almighty created His servants from nothing and thereafter His Providence was bestowed upon them and He became the support of everything, and all types of His mercy were manifested for His servants. His benevolence is without limit and beyond count as is repeatedly set forth in the Holy Qur’an, as, for instance:
وَاِنۡ تَعُدُّوۡا نِعۡمَتَ اللّٰہِ لَا تُحۡصُوۡھَا
If you try to number the bounties of Allah, you will certainly not be able to count them.
The fourth means of achieving the true purpose is prayer, as is said:
ٱدۡعُونِيٓ أَسۡتَجِبۡ لَكُمۡۚ
You pray and I shall accept your prayer.
There is repeated urge towards prayer, so that man should achieve his purpose not through his own power, but through God’s power.
The fifth means of achieving the purpose of life is striving in the cause of Allah with one’s property and one’s faculties and one’s life and one’s reason, as He says:
جَاھِدُوۡا بِاَمۡوَالِکُمۡ وَاَنۡفُسِکُمۡ فِیۡ سَبِیۡلِ اللّٰہِ
وَمِمَّا رَزَقۡنٰھُمۡ یُنۡفِقُوۡنَ
وَالَّذِیۡنَ جَاھَدُوۡا فِیۡنَا لَنَھْدِیَنَّھُمۡ سُبُلَنَا
Dedicate in the path of Allah your possessions, your lives, and your selves to their fullest capacity.
And devote to the divine cause all that you have been granted by God including reason, knowledge, understanding and skill.
And those who strive after Us in every way, We guide them along the paths that lead to Us.
The sixth means for achieving the purpose of life is steadfastness; that is to say, that a seeker should not become tired and should not be daunted by trials, as Allah the Exalted says:
اِنَّ الَّذِیۡنَ قَالُوۡا رَبُّنَا اللّٰہُ ثُمَّ اسۡتَقَامُوۡا تَتَنَزَّلُ عَلَیۡھِمُ الۡمَلٰٓئِکَۃُ اَلَّا تَخَافُوۡا وَلَا تَحۡزَنُوۡا وَاَبۡشِرُوۡا بِالۡجَنَّۃِ الَّتِیۡ کُنۡتُمۡ تُوۡعَدُوۡنَ
On them who affirm: Our Lord is Allah; and then remain steadfast, angels descend, re-assuring them: Fear not, nor grieve, and rejoice in the Garden that you were promised. We are your friends in this life and in the hereafter.
This is an indication that the pleasure of God Almighty is won through steadfastness. It is true that steadfastness is more than a miracle. Perfect steadfastness is that one should find oneself surrounded on all sides by calamities and one should find one’s life and honour in danger and nothing comforting should be available, so much so, that God Almighty should stop – by way of trials – the comforting visions and dreams and revelation and should leave one in the midst of terrifying fears, but that at such a time, one should not abandon courage and should not step back like a coward and should not let one’s fidelity be weakened. One’s sincerity and loyalty should not be shaken, one should be pleased with the humiliation, one should be reconciled to death, one should not await the support of a friend, one should not seek glad tidings from God, because of one’s delicate situation, and one should stand up straight despite helplessness and weakness and the lack of every comfort. One should stretch forth one’s neck, saying: Whatever is to happen, let it happen; one should face courageously whatever has been determined and one should not be impatient nor complain till the trial is over. This is the steadfastness the reward of which is God. This is the quality by virtue of which the dust of messengers, prophets, siddiqs and martyrs is still so fragrant. This is indicated by the Glorious God in the prayer:
اِھْدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الۡمُسۡتَقِیۡمَصِرَاطَ الَّذِیۡنَ اَنۡعَمۡتَ عَلَیۡھِمۡ
meaning, O Allah! show us the path of steadfastness by treading along which one wins Thy bounties and favours and Thou art pleased. This is also indicated in another verse:
رَبَّنَاۤ اَفۡرِغۡ عَلَیۡنَا صَبۡرًا وَّتَوَفَّنَا مُسۡلِمِیۡنَ
meaning, Lord: at this time of trial send down upon our hearts the comfort that should make us steadfast and do Thou so ordain that we should die in a state of submission to Thee; At the time of trials and misfortune, God Almighty causes a light to descend upon the hearts of those who are dear to Him, being strengthened by which they face misfortunes calmly and, out of the sweetness of their faith, they kiss the chains that are put round their feet in His cause. When calamities descend upon a man of God and signs of death appear, he does not contend with his Lord that He might be safeguarded against them, inasmuch as to persist at such a time in supplications for security amounts to fighting God Almighty and is contrary to complete submission. A true lover advances forward at a time of calamity and holding life as nothing, and saying goodbye to love of it, submits himself completely to the will of his Lord and seeks only His pleasure. Concerning such people, God the Glorious says:
وَمِنَ النَّاسِ مَنۡ یَّشۡرِیۡ نَفۡسَہُ ابۡتِغَآءَ مَرۡضَاتِ اللّٰہِ ؕ وَاللّٰہُ رَءُوۡفٌۢ بِالۡعِبَادِ
It means that the man of God dedicates his life in the path of God and, in return, earns the pleasure of Allah.
These are the people who receive the special mercy of Allah. In short, this indeed is the spirit of the steadfastness which we have described and which leads to the God. Let him who wills, grasp this point.
The seventh means of achieving the purpose of life is keeping company with the righteous and to follow their example. One of the needs of the advent of Prophets is that man naturally seeks a perfect example, for it fosters eagerness and resolve. He who does not follow a good example becomes slothful and goes astray. This is indicated by Allah the Glorious in the verses:
كُونُوْا مَعَ الصَّـٰدِقِينَ
صِرٰطَ ٱلَّذِينَ أَنۡعَمۡتَ عَلَيۡهِمۡ
Keep company with the righteous, and adopt the path of those on whom Allah’s favours have been bestowed before you.
The eighth means of achieving the purpose of life are pure visions and dreams and revelation from God Almighty. To travel towards God is to tread upon a very delicate path which is attended by diverse types of calamities and sufferings. It is possible that a person may be overtaken by forgetfulness in pursuing this unfamiliar path or may give up hope and should abandon further advance. Therefore, the mercy of God Almighty seeks to comfort him in his progress in this journey and strengthen his heart and to uphold his resolve and to increase his eagerness. Thus it is God’s way that from time to time he comforts those who are voyaging along this path with His revelation and manifests to them that He is with them. Thus strengthened, they perform this journey with great eagerness. He has said:
لَھُمُ الۡبُشۡرٰی فِی الۡحَیٰوۃِ الدُّنۡیَا وَفِی الۡاٰخِرَۃِ
There are several other means for achieving the purpose of life which the Holy Qur’an has set out, but considerations of space forbid us from setting them out here.
—Islami Usul ki Philosophy, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 10, pp. 415-422
Worship Benefits Man Himself
Question: God Almighty being Gracious and Benevolent, His direction that man should worship Him is for the benefit of man and not that it adds in any way to God’s honour.
Answer: It is true that through the worship of God man’s own welfare is intended, yet the Rububiyyat of God Almighty demands that by avoiding evil and devoting himself to His worship and obedience, man should achieve his good fortune. If man does not wish to follow that path His wrath is aroused not for His own sake, but for the sake of man and He subjects man to diverse types of warnings and admonitions. If man still does not take heed, he is consumed in the fire of rejection and of despair. It is not permissible that anyone should say to Him: Why do You bother about what would harm me or benefit me? Why do You admonish us and send revealed Books and punish us? If we worship You, it would be for our own good and if we do not worship You, we shall suffer loss. Why should You worry? Should anyone say that, and indeed if the whole world and all mankind were to supplicate Him that He should spare them His admonitions and commandments and revealed books, and that they do not desire paradise, but would be content with this world and should be left forever to it, that they do not desire the great bounties of the hereafter, that He should not interfere with their actions and should abstain from planning rewards and punishments for them and should not concern Himself with their benefit or their loss, their supplication would not be granted even if they continued to submit it throughout their lives with crying and weeping. It is not enough that a person is free and worships God for his own benefit and that Permeshwar has no concern with it, but the glory and greatness of God demand that man should carry out the worship of God and should follow the ways of goodness. His Godhead naturally demands that the signs of servitude should be manifested before Him and His perfection demands that man should humble himself in His presence. That is the reason why in the end His chastisement overtakes the disobedient, the vicious and those who persist in wrong-doing. His Blessed Being has eternally possessed the power to award reward and impose punishment; otherwise, He would not occupy Himself awarding good recompense to the virtuous and ill recompense to the vicious. Were it not for His attribute of awarding recompense, He would have kept silent and abstained altogether from bestowing recompense. Therefore, though it is true that the harm or benefit of man’s actions reverts to him and the greatness and kingdom of God Almighty are neither increased nor decreased thereby, yet it is true and is a firm verity that His attribute of Rububiyyah demands that His servants should be firmly established in their position of His worshippers, and that if anyone should raise his head in the slightest degree out of arrogance, his head be immediately smashed. In short, there is a demand in God’s Being for the manifestation of His greatness, His Godhead, His supremacy, His glory and His kingdom, and recompense and the requirement of obedience and servitude and worship are the consequences of that very demand. For the manifestation of His Rububiyyah and Godhead, He has created this variegated world.
Had His Being been free from this desire of manifestation, why should He have addressed Himself to creation at all? Who had coerced Him that He should create the universe and by establishing a relationship between souls and bodies should make this world the manifestation of His wonderful powers? He must have possessed a power of determination that moved Him to the creation of the universe. There are indications in His holy word, the Qur’an, which show that God Almighty created the universe so that He should be recognised through His attribute of creation, and after creation He showered His mercy and benevolence upon the world so that He should be recognised through His mercy and benevolence. In the same way, He instituted punishment and reward so that His attributes of retribution and bounty might be recognised. After death, He will raise up mankind again so that He might be recognised as All-Powerful. His purpose in all His wonderful works is that He should be recognised. Thus, by the creation of the world and by the system of recompense, what is desired is the understanding of God, which is the essence of worship. This proves that God Almighty Himself demands that His creatures should attain His understanding, the perfect reality of which is known through worship. As a beauteous one on account of the perfection of his beauty desires to display it, so God Almighty, Who possesses to perfection the reality of beauty, desires that His excellence should be disclosed to people. This proves that God Almighty demands worship which is the basis and means of recognition from His servants and His supremacy attends to the destruction of one who opposes His desire and denies His worship and turns away from it. If you reflect over the world and observe carefully that which God Almighty has hitherto meted out to rebels and nonbelievers and that which He has always done to the faithless ones and the wrongdoers, you would realise that without doubt it is an established verity that God Almighty, by the demand of His Being, loves goodness and hates evil and is at enmity with it. He desires that people should discard vice and should adopt goodness, and though goodness or evil, which man practices, does not in any way interfere with God’s kingdom, yet that is His demand. It is thus obvious that if God Almighty had not created the souls, He would have no right to demand from any soul why it did not render to Him that perfect worship that is due to one’s Creator.
—Surmah Chashm Arya, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 2, pp. 263-268
 The Holy Qur’an, 51:57.
 The Holy Qur’an, 33:73.
 The Holy Qur’an, 13:15.
 The Holy Qur’an, 112:2-5.
 ‘All praise belongs to Allah, Lord of all the worlds, The Gracious, the Merciful, Master of the Day of Judgement.’ – The Holy Qur’an, 1:2-4.
 The Holy Qur’an, 14:35.
 The Holy Qur’an, 40:61.
 The Holy Qur’an, 9:41.
 The Holy Qur’an, 2:4.
 The Holy Qur’an, 29:70.
 The Holy Qur’an, 41:31-32.
 The Holy Qur’an, 1:6-7.
 The Holy Qur’an, 7:127.
 The Holy Qur’an, 2:208.
 The Holy Qur’an, 9:119
 The Holy Qur’an, 1:7.
 ‘For them are glad tidings in the present life and also in the hereafter.’ – The Holy Qur’an, 10:65.
 This extract is from the debate held in 1886 between the Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as) (the Promised Messiah), and Lala Murlidhar, an Arya Samajist.