The Nature of God

The Purpose of Initiation

21Review of Religions – May 2002 [ Tr a n s l a t o r’s note: All references to the verses of the Holy Qur’an are given in Arabic as they occur in the text. The English translation, presented in italics, is taken from the translation of the Holy Qur’an by Hadhrat Maulvi Sher Ali Sahib( r a ). Where the Pr o m i s e d M e s s i a h( a s ) has himself stated a certain inter- pretation of the Arabic verse, this is incorporated in the main body of the text]. Compiled and translated by Amatul Hadi Ahmad One should know the benefit of becoming initiated through the act of Bai’at, that is, taking the Oath of Allegiance [at the hand of the Promised Messiah] and why it is necessary. It is the case that until the value and benefit of something is known, its true worth cannot be gauged. In any home there are all manner of things such as, for example, currency in both large and small denominations, wood, and other such things. The method of guarding different posses- sions is decided by their value and worth. A person will not The Purpose of Initiation Presented below are two excerpts from the collection entitled Malfoozat. First is an address delivered in 1895 by Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad(as) of Qadian, the Promised Messiah and Mahdi. The second is an excerpt from an address by the Promised Messiah delivered in 1907. For the purposes of translation, the original Urdu text of the two excerpts is taken from the collection entitled ‘Malfoozat’, Vol.1, pp.2-5 and Vol.10, pp.93-95 respectively. The founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community was Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. In 1891, he claimed, on the basis of Divine revelation, that he was the Promised Messiah and Mahdi whose advent had been foretold by the Holy Prophet of Islam (peace be upon him) and by the scriptures of other faiths. His claim constitutes the basis of the beliefs of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. 22 Review of Religions – May 2002 care for pennies as he would for pounds. As for pieces of wood and such like, these are usually just thrown to one side of the house without much care for their security. In short, greater care is taken in safeguarding things whose loss would cause greatest hardship. Similarly, in Bai’at, the thing that has the highest position is repentance or ‘t a u b a ’ w h i c h mean ‘returning’. This is the term that describes the act of ‘returning’ from the state of sin in which a person finds himself – sins with which he has devel- oped a deep relationship and hitherto had considered them his ‘abode’. It is as if he has made ‘sin’ his place of residence. The meaning of repentance or ‘tauba‘ then is to leave such a place of abode and the meaning of repentance or rujoo’u is to adopt the virtues of purity and piety. It will be known that to leave one’s own land where one has been living is a very heavy burden and one undergoes a multitude of difficulties in doing so. When a person leaves even a house, he suffers so much. When he has to leave his country, he has to break off ties with all the friends he has known there. He also has to leave behind all the household items such as beds, rugs and bid farewell to his neighbours, the streets and lanes, the shops – all that he has to leave behind when he has to go to a new country never to return to his old country. This is what is meant by ‘ tauba’ or repentance. The friends of sin are different from the friends of right- eousness. Sufis have referred to such a change, from a state of sin to righteousness as ‘death’. He who repents has to cope with a great deal of disturbance and interruption to his life and at the time of true repentance there are many great obstructions that appear before a person. However, God is Merciful and Beneficent. He does not take the life of a person who has repented until He has granted such a person better alternatives [for all that he has had to give up]. Allah loves those who turn to Him. (Ch.2: v.223) The Purpose of Initiation 23Review of Religions – May 2002 This verse points to the fact that a person who repents becomes poor and helpless, that is why God likes him and loves him and grants him entry into the fold of the people of goodness. Other nations do not consider God to be Merciful and Beneficent. Christians consider God to be cruel and the Son merciful in that the Father did not forgive but the Son had to give up his life to get that forgiveness. It is foolishness of the highest degree to consider that there should be such a great difference between the Father and the Son. It is more usual to expect that there should be some similarity of manners and morals between the father and his progeny but in Christianity no such similarity is proposed. Had it been the case that God was without m e r c y, it would have been difficult for man to exist even for a moment. God who created thousands of things prior to the human being in order that his acts may have a beneficial outcome for him, how could could it even be imagined about such a God that He would not accept repentance and acts of goodness! The nature of sin does not lie in this that God should create sin and then thousands of years later. He should think of a way to forgive. Just as a fly has two wings, one wing containing cure and the other poison, likewise, a human being has two ‘wings’ – one of sin and the other of shame, repentance and a deep concern [over his own misdeeds]. This is a common sequence of events like, for example, a person who beats his slave and then feels regret [about his cruelty]. It is as if the two ‘wings’ are working together, the poison along with the antidote. The question here arises as to why the poison was created? The answer to this is that the poison itself becomes the antidote after it has been made to undergo certain changes. The poisonous elements having been removed, it becomes an elixir. Had there been no sin, the poison of arrogance, conceit and haughtiness would have become excessive in man. Repentance lessens the devel- opment of the extremely dangerous attitudes of arro- gance, pride and haughtiness. The Purpose of Initiation 24 Review of Religions – May 2002 When the Innocent Prophet [the Holy Prophet Muhammad( s a ) o f Islam] asked for repentance seventy times then what should we do? It is only the person who is happy with sin, who does not repent from sin. He who knows sin to be sin will ultimately abandon it. In the Hadith, the traditions of the Holy Pr o p h e t( s a ), it is stated that when a person repeatedly weeps before Allah, asking for forgiveness, ultimately, Allah says: ‘I have forgiven you. Yo u can now do whatever you wish’. This means that his heart has been changed and now sin would be naturally as repugnant to him as when a person sees sheep eating grass, he does not desire to do the same. Likewise the person who has been forgiven by God will not indulge in sin. Muslims develop a natural aversion to eating pig flesh whereas they indulge in all kinds of other acts that have been forbidden. The wisdom of such an aversion is this that it sets an example of repugnance to make people understand how they should hate sinfulness. No matter how numerous are a person’s sins, he should never stop himself from praying. Prayer is an antidote. Such a person will see how it is that through persistent prayers sinful deeds will come to be disliked by him. Those who allow themselves to be without hope having drowned in sin without turning to repentance, such people ultimately reject Prophets and the efficacy of their blessing. This is the true nature of repentance. [The question here arises as to] why such a repentance forms an essential part of Bai’at, that is the Oath of Allegiance at the time of Initiation? The fact is that the human being generally lives in a state of thoughtless care- lessness [with regard to spiritual matters]. When he offers to become an Initiate at the hand of a person who has been granted by God a spiritual change in his own life, he seeks to partake of this change. Just as grafting on to a tree changes the essential nature of that which is grafted, so this relationship [of the Initiate through his Oath of Allegiance] The Purpose of Initiation 25Review of Religions – May 2002 should bring about the same effect. The light and blessings that are the mark of the one at whose hands one takes the Oath of Allegiance, begin to manifest themselves in the life of the Initiate provided the rela- tionship is sincere and true. If the relationship is like that of a dried branch that has been grafted on to a tree, there can be no change. True benefit comes only when a new Initiate becomes like the branch of a tree – the greater is this relationship, the greater will be the spiritual benefit. Bai’at or Initiation that is merely verbal and customary does not give any benefit. A person can only truly share in the benefit when he abandons his selfish desires and with sincerity and love joins the one to whom he has sworn his allegiance. The hypocrites at the time of the Holy Prophet(sa) remained without true belief because they did not develop a truly sincere relationship with the Holy Prophet(sa). That is why a mere verbal assertion of La Ilaha illallah [that is, there is no God but Allah] was of no avail to them. Hence, it is necessary to develop a relationship based in sincerity and true love [with the one at whose hand one has become Initiated]. The lack of a true relationship together with the lack of any inclination to develop such a relationship brings no result. The regret and complaints of such a person are of no use. The relationship of love and sincerity should be developed and inculcated. As far as is possible, the new Initiate should aim to become like the person at whose hand he has taken the Oath of Allegiance by following his practice and by adopting the strength of his convictions. The selfish soul of man promises him a long life but this is deception. There can be no reliance upon the length of one’s life. One should hasten to lean towards truthfulness and towards wor- ship and one should take account of one’s deeds from morning till night. [Malfoozat, Vol.1, pp.2-5] The best and satisfactory state of a human being is one in which he is correct and clear in what he does and what he practices. The state of his deeds should vouch for the fact that the The Purpose of Initiation 26 Review of Religions – May 2002 blessing of God is with him and that he is always supported by extraordinary and powerful divine signs. It is only then that he is with God and God is with him. Satan creates an opportunity for himself in everything to deceive and divert people [from the right path]. It is because I have repeatedly presented my own revelations that some people have had the idea that they too should do the same. This is a trial for them in which they have been assisted by Satan and taken to the path of destruction. Consequently, they began to receive satanic revelation and to hear voices from within themselves. People such as Chiragh Din, Ilahi Bakhsh, Faqir Mirza and many other met their destruction in this path and there are many others still who are treading the same path. Members of my Community should move away from such matters. On the day of Judgement God will not ask them how many dreams they had, rather, they will be questioned about righteous acts and as to how many good deeds they performed. Revelation is an act of God – it is not an act of man. To consider an act of God to be the cause of pride and joy is the work of an ignorant person. Observe [the life of] the Holy Prophet(sa) and see how he used to worship. Sometimes he would stand up all night such that his feet became swollen. Upon enquiry from his wife as to why he strove so hard when he had been purified of sin, he replied: ‘Should I not be a grateful servant (of God)’? A person should never give up hope. The onslaught of sins is very severe and reform seems difficult but one should not despair. Some people say that they are sinners and as such they are overwhelmed by (demands of) the self so how is it possible for them to become righteous? They should consider that a believer is never without hope. He who despairs [and believes that there is no hope] is none other than Satan himself. A believer should never be weak. No matter how much a person is overwhelmed by his sins, God has placed such ability in man that he eventually does overcome sin. God has placed in man a power that burns away The Purpose of Initiation 27Review of Religions – May 2002 sin and this power is there in m a n ’s nature. You will know that no matter how much water is heated and it can be heated so much that it burns whatever it touches, but even then if this water is poured over fire, it will quell the fire. This is because God has placed this characteristic in water such that if it is poured over fire, the fire is put out. Likewise, no matter how much a person is immersed in sin, no matter how much he is drowning in bad deeds, even then he has the capacity to put out the fire of sins. If this ability had not been given to man, he could not have been held accountable for himself. What is more, even the appearance of Prophets and Messengers would have been unnecessary. The reality is that the nature of man is pure. It is the case that for the body if there is hunger and thirst, there is also food and water. If we need air to breathe, there exists air. Hence, when it is the case that all that is required for the physical body is provided, why then should there not be a provision for the requirements of the soul? God Who is ever Merciful and ever Forgiving and Who covers up the faults of his servants, has provided all the necessary provisions for the preservation of the soul. If a human being were to search for the spiritual water, he will find it. If he searches for the spiritual bread, it would certainly be given to him. Just as there is a law of the physical world, so there is a similar law relating to the spiritual world but the condition is that one must seek. He who seeks shall find. He who strives to find God will certainly meet the pleasure of God. [Malfoozat, Vol.10, pp.93-95] The Purpose of Initiation