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. Here the Promised Messiah (as) describes the concept of God in other religions and explains the different types of His attributes.
Extracts from The Essence of Islam, Vol. I, 49-61.
All Praise belongs to Allah
Alhamdulillah. All praise belongs to the True God Who combines in Himself all perfect attributes and Whose name is Allah. In the idiom of the Holy Qur’an, Allah is the name of that perfect Being Who is truly worthy of worship, combines in Himself all perfect attributes, is free from all defects, is One without associate and is the fountainhead of all beneficence. In His holy book, God Almighty has described His name Allah as combining in itself the attributes of all other names and qualities. No other name has been given this rank. Thus, the name Allah comprehends all other perfect attributes.
Alhamdulillah, therefore, means that all types of praise, overt and covert, relating to personal perfection or relating to natural wonders, are the characteristic of Allah, and no one is His associate in them. It also means that all true praise and perfect qualities, which the wisdom of a wise one can think of or the reflection of any thinker can conceive of, are comprehended in God Almighty. There is no excellence, the possibility of which is vouched for by reason, of which God Almighty is bereft like an unfortunate human being. The wisdom of no wise one can point to an excellence which is not to be found in God Almighty. The maximum of all excellences that a person can conceive of is found in Him. He is perfect from every point of view in His Being, His attributes and His good qualities, and He is absolutely free from all defects. This is a truth which distinguishes a true religion from a false one.
Defective Concepts of God in Other Religions
A study of all religions would reveal that there is no religion, other than Islam, which teaches that God Almighty is absolutely free from all defects and possesses to the full all praiseworthy qualities.
Concepts of Hindus and Arya Samajists
The average Hindu considers his deities as partners in providence and as sharers in God’s actions. He even regards them as capable of altering God’s designs and of upsetting His decrees. The Hindus also believe that their Parmeshwar, at one time or the other, by way of transmigration, was born in the shape of a human being or some animal even as filthy as swine, and that he became involved in all their ills and vices. In that condition, he was subject, like others of the species, to hunger and thirst, pain and hurt, fear and sorrow, disease and death, humiliation and disgrace, and helplessness and weakness. Thus, it is obvious that such beliefs negate the high qualities of God Almighty and reduce His eternal and everlasting glory and majesty.
Their brothers, the Arya Samajists, who claim that they follow the Vedas strictly, deprive God Almighty of the power of creation. They hold that souls are uncreated and self-existing like God Himself, whereas reason would consider it a defect in God Almighty that He should be the Master of the world and yet should not be the Lord and Creator of something, and that the life of the world should not depend upon His support but should be self-existing. Assume that the following two questions were to be submitted to sane reason: (i) Is it more appropriate and in accord with the perfect praiseworthiness of the All-Powerful God that He should have brought into existence the whole universe out of His Own perfect power and should be its Lord and Creator and that the whole of the universe should be dependent upon His Providence and that the attribute of creation and its power should be inherent in His being and that He should not be subject to birth or death; (ii) Or is it more in accord with His status that the whole of creation, which is under His control, should not be created by Him and should not be dependent upon Him for its existence, and that He should not be its Creator and Lord and should not possess the attribute of power of creation and He should not be free from the defects of birth and death.
Reason would never hold that He Who is Master of the world is not its Creator and that the thousands of wonderful qualities that are found in souls and bodies are self-existent, and there is no one who created them and that God Who is called the Master of all is master only in name. Nor would it hold that God is without power of creation or is helpless and defective and is given to the consumption of impure articles, or is subject to death, pain, suffering, inaction, or ignorance. On the contrary, reason bears witness that God Almighty should be free from all these low attributes and defects, and should possess full perfection. Full perfection demands the possession of full power. If God Almighty does not possess full power, is not the Creator of anything and is not able to safeguard Himself against loss or defect, He would not have full perfection and by lacking full perfection He would not be worthy of perfect praise.
The Concept of Christians
This is the case of the Hindus and Aryas. What the Christians attribute to God Almighty by way of His Glory is a matter which can be determined by a single question. God Almighty, Who is Perfect and Eternal and Self-Sufficient and Non-Dependent, had carried on all His great works through eternity by Himself. He alone created the universe without the aid of a father or son and bestowed upon souls and bodies all the powers that they needed and is Himself the Guardian, Supporter and Controller of the universe. He brought into being, through His attribute of Rahmaniyyah, all that souls and bodies were to need without waiting for any action on their part, and created the sun and the moon and numberless stars and the earth and thousands of bounties contained therein out of His pure grace, without the assistance of any son. Then the same Perfect God in the latter days, discarding all His glory and power, became dependent upon a son to make provision for the salvation and forgiveness of mankind, and that son so inferior as to possess no kind of similarity to the Father. He did not create like the Father any portion of heaven or earth which should bear testimony to his godhead. The Gospel of Mark 8.12, describes his helplessness in the words that he sighed and said: ‘Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign shall be given to this generation.’
When he was put upon the cross, the Jews said that if he would come back to life they would believe in him. But he did not show them this sign, nor did he prove his godhead and perfect power in any other way. Such miracles as he worked had been worked in large numbers by previous prophets and even the water of a pond possessed properties that manifested similar miracles (See chapter 5 of the Gospel of St. John). As he himself confessed, he was not able to show any sign in support of his godhead.
Being born of a frail woman, he, according to the Christians, underwent such disgrace, humiliation and helplessness throughout his life, as is the portion of the unfortunate and deprived ones. He was a prisoner for a period in the darkness of the womb and was born through the passage polluted by urine, and passed through every condition to which the birth of human beings is subject, and did not escape a single one of them. Then he confessed in his own book, his ignorance, lack of knowledge and powerlessness and that he was not good. That humble servant, who was without any reason described as the son of God, was inferior to some of the major prophets in his intellectual attainments and in his actions. His teaching was also imperfect, being only a branch of the Law of Moses. How then is it permissible to attribute to the All-Powerful God, Who is Eternal and Everlasting, this calumny that having been Perfect in His Being, and Self-Sufficient and All-Powerful, He in the end became dependent upon such a defective son and suddenly lost all His glory and His greatness? I do not believe that any wise person would permit such humiliation to be imagined concerning the Perfect Being Who comprehends all perfect qualities.
—Barahin-e-Ahmadiyya, Ruhani Khaza’in, Vol. 1, pp. 435-441, footnote 11
Attributes of God
It needs no argument that the true and perfect God, to believe in Whom is the duty of every creature, is the Lord of the worlds. His Providence is not confined to a particular people, age or country. He is the Sustainer of all peoples, of all ages, of all places and of all countries.
He is the fountainhead of all grace. Every physical and spiritual power is bestowed by Him, and the whole universe is sustained by Him and He is the support of all. God’s grace comprehends all peoples, all countries and all ages, lest any people should complain that God bestowed His bounties upon others, but not upon them, or that others received a Book from Him for their guidance, but they did not, or that in other ages He manifested Himself through His revelation, inspiration and miracles, but that He remained hidden in their age. By bestowing His grace upon all He obviated all these objections and out of His vast qualities He did not deprive any people or any age of His physical or spiritual bounties.
—Paigham-e-Sulh, Ruhani Khaza’in, Vol. 23, p. 442
Thank for Allah’s Beneficence (Urdu Poem)
O Allah, Maker of things, Concealer of faults, All-Powerful;
O my Dear, my Benefactor, my Sustainer!
How should I thank You, O Bestower of Great Favours?
Where can I find the tongue to express my gratitude?
It is entirely Your grace and favour that You have chosen me;
Otherwise, there was no shortage of humble servants in Your court.
Those who vowed friendship turned into enemies;
But You did not abandon me, O Fulfiller of all my needs.
O my Unique Friend, O Refuge of my life, You alone are sufficient for me;
I can’t do anything without You.
But for Your grace, I would have long been reduced to dust;
Then Allah knows where this dust would have scattered.
May my heart and soul and very being be sacrificed in Your way!
I know of none who loves like You;
Since the beginning, I have been brought up under the blessed shadow of Your protection;
Like a suckling was I nursed by You.
In no son of man have I found the fidelity that You have;
Nor have I come across, apart from You, any compassionate friend.
People say that the unworthy are not accepted;
But despite being unworthy, I have been granted acceptance in Your court.
So numerous are Your favours and bounties bestowed upon me;
They will remain uncountable to the Day of Judgement.
—Barahin-e-Ahmadiyya, part V, Ruhani Khaza’in, Vol. 21, p. 127
Two Types of Divine Attributes – Immanent and Transcendental
God Almighty, in order to bestow perfect understanding upon His humble creatures, has set out in the Holy Qur’an two aspects of His attributes. First, He has described His attributes metaphorically as resembling some human qualities. For instance, He is Noble, Merciful, and Beneficent. He can be angry as well as loving. He has hands and eyes, legs and ears. He has been creating throughout eternity, though nothing has been eternally co-existent with Him. However, species have long existed and even that is not essential for the operation of His attribute of creation, for though creation is one of His attributes, the manifestation of His unity and singleness at certain times is also a part of His attributes. None of His attributes falls into permanent disuse, but a temporary cessation of its operation is permissible.
Thus God manifested His attributes of resemblance to man. For instance, God is Creator, but to some degree, man also creates or fashions; and man can be called noble for, up to a point, he possesses the quality of nobility; and man can be called merciful for, up to a point, he possesses the quality of mercy. He also has the quality of anger; and he has eyes and ears, etc. This could create a suspicion in one’s mind that man resembles God in respect of these attributes, and God resembles man. Therefore, God, by contrast, has also mentioned in the Holy Qur’an His attributes of transcendence, i.e., such attributes of which man does not partake at all in his being or in his qualities. God’s creation is not like man’s creation, nor is God’s mercy like man’s mercy, nor is His wrath like man’s anger, nor is His love like man’s love, nor is He in need of space like man.
The Holy Qur’an sets out clearly that in His attributes God is quite distinct from man. For instance, it is said:
لَيۡسَ كَمِثۡلِهِۦ شَيۡءٞ ۖ وَهُوَ ٱلسَّمِيعُ ٱلۡبَصِيرُ
Nothing in essence shares its substance or attributes with God. He is All-Hearing, All-Seeing.
At another place it is said:
اَللّٰہُ لَا اِلٰہَ اِلَّا ھُوَ ۚ اَلۡحَیُّ الۡقَیُّوۡمُ ۬ۚ لَا تَاۡخُذُہٗ سِنَۃٌ وَّلَا نَوۡمٌ ؕ لَہٗ مَا فِی السَّمٰوٰتِ وَمَا فِی الۡاَرۡضِ مَنۡ ذَا الَّذِیۡ یَشۡفَعُ عِنۡدَہٗ اِلَّا بِاِذۡنِہٖ ؕ یَعۡلَمُ مَا بَیۡنَ اَیۡدِیۡھِمۡ وَمَا خَلۡفَھُمۡ ۚ وَلَا یُحِیۡطُوۡنَبِشَیۡءٍ مِّنۡ عِلۡمِہٖ اِلَّا بِمَا شَآءَ ۚ وَسِعَ کُرۡسِیُّہُ السَّمٰوٰتِ وَالۡاَرۡضَ ۚ وَلَا یَـُٔوۡدُہٗ حِفۡظُھُمَا ۚ وَھُوَالۡعَلِیُّ الۡعَظِیۡمُ
This means that: True Being and True Existence and all true qualities belong only to God and that no one is an associate with Him in respect of them. He alone is alive in His Being and all others are alive through Him. He exists in His own Being and everything else exists through His support. As He is not subject to death so also He is not subject to even temporary cessation of His senses like sleep or slumber; but others are subject to death, sleep and slumber. All that you see in the heavens or in the earth belongs to Him and manifests itself and exists through Him. There is no one who can intercede with Him without His permission. He knows all that is before or behind people, that is, His knowledge comprises that which is manifest and that which is hidden. No one can encompass any part of His knowledge except that much which He permits. His power and His knowledge encompass the heavens and the earth. He supports all and nothing supports Him. He is not wearied by supporting the heavens and the earth. He is above all weakness and feebleness and lack of power.
The Throne of Allah – His Station of Singleness and Transcendence
At another place it is said:
إِنَّ رَبَّكُمُ ٱللَّهُ ٱلَّذِي خَلَقَ ٱلسَّمٰوٰتِ وَٱلۡأَرۡضَ فِي سِتَّةِ أَيَّامٖ ثُمَّ ٱسۡتَوَىٰ عَلَى ٱلۡعَرۡشِ
Your Lord is Allah, Who created the heavens and the earth in six periods and then settled Himself on the Throne.
This means that having created the heavens and the earth and all that is in them and having manifested His attributes of resemblance, He then addressed Himself to His station of transcendence and aloneness, in order to demonstrate His attributes of transcendence which station is beyond of beyond and is farthest away from creation. That station which is the highest is called the Throne.
The explanation of this is that in the beginning all creation was non-existent and God Almighty manifested Himself at a station which was beyond of beyond and is named the Throne, that is a station which is higher than and above all the worlds. There was nothing except His Being. Then He created the heavens and the earth and all that is in them. When creation came into being, He hid Himself and desired that He should be known through His creation.
It must be remembered that divine attributes never fall into permanent disuse. Except God, no one enjoys eternal personal existence, but the permanence of species too is requisite. No divine attribute falls into permanent disuse, but there is temporary disuse. As the attribute of creation and the attribute of destruction are inconsistent with each other, therefore, when the attribute of destruction comes into full operation, the attribute of creation falls into disuse for a period. In short, in the beginning it was the time of the operation of the divine attribute of Singleness and we cannot say how often this period repeated itself, except that it is eternal and without limit. In any case, the attribute of singleness has priority in time over other attributes. That is why it is said that to begin with, God was alone and that there was no one with Him. Then God created the heavens and earth and all that is in them and in that context He manifested His attributes that He is Noble, Merciful, Forgiving, and Acceptor of repentance. But he who persists in sin and does not desist is not left without chastisement. He also manifested His attribute that He loves those who repent, and His wrath overtakes only those who do not desist from wrongdoing and disobedience…
Nothing approximates to the Attributes of Allah
All His attributes are appropriate to Him. They are not like human qualities. His eyes etc. are not physical and none of His attributes resembles human attributes. For instance, when a man is angry he suffers from anger himself and his heart loses its comfort and perceives a burning sensation and his brain is oppressed and he undergoes a change; but God is free from all such changes. His wrath means that He removes His support from one who does not desist from mischief and, according to His eternal law, He metes out to him such treatment as a human being metes out to another when he is angry. Metaphorically, it is called God’s wrath. In the same way, His love is not like the love of a human being, for a human being suffers in love also when he is separated from his beloved. But God is not subject to suffering. His nearness also is not like the nearness of a human being, for when a human being approaches near someone he vacates the space which he had occupied before. But God, despite being near is far, and despite being far is near. In short, every divine attribute is distinct from human qualities. There is only a verbal resemblance and no more. That is why in the Holy Qur’an Allah the Exalted says:
لَيۡسَ كَمِثۡلِهِۦ شَيۡءٞ
That is: Nothing approximates to God Almighty in its being or its qualities.
—Chashma-e-Ma‘rifat, Ruhani Khaza’in, Vol. 23, pp. 272-276
Permanence of Allah’s Attributes
God will never cease to operate. He is always the Creator, the Providence, the Sustainer, the Gracious, the Compassionate and always will be. In my opinion, it is sinful to debate about the One of such Majesty. God has not imposed belief in anything which He has not demonstrated.
—Malfuzat, Vol. IV, p. 347
As the stars appear stage by stage God’s attributes also appear stage by stage. Man is sometimes under the shadow of the divine attributes of glory and Self-Sufficiency and sometimes he is under the shadow of His attributes of Beauty. That is indicated in His saying:
كُلَّ يَوۡمٍ هُوَ فِي شَأۡنٖ
It is a foolish notion that after sinful people have been condemned to hell the divine attributes of mercy and compassion will cease to operate and will not be manifested, inasmuch as the permanent cessation of the operation of divine attributes is not permissible. The basic attribute of God Almighty is love and mercy and that is the mother of all attributes. It is the same attribute which sometimes comes into operation in the shape of the attributes of glory and wrath for the purpose of human reform, and when the reform has been effected then love appears in its true form and remains in operation forever as a bounty. God is not like a short-tempered person who loves to torment. He wrongs no one, but people wrong themselves. All salvation lies in His love and all torment is to draw away from Him.
—Chashma-e-Masihi, Ruhani Khaza’in, Vol. 20, pp. 369-370
 The Holy Qur’an, 42:12.
 The Holy Qur’an, 2:256.
 The Holy Qur’an, 7:55.
 The Holy Qur’an, 42:12.
 ‘Every day He reveals Himself in a new state.’ – The Holy Qur’an, 55:30.