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) mentions the need and purpose of religion.
Extracts from The Essence of Islam – Vol. I. pp. 3-14
This is the first part of a multi-part series.
The Purpose of Religion
The true purpose of adopting a faith is that one should acquire such certainty concerning God, Who is the fountainhead of salvation, as if one can see Him with one’s eyes. The wicked spirit of sin seeks to destroy a man and a person cannot escape the fatal poison of sin till he believes with full certainty in the Perfect and Living God and till he knows for certain that God exists, Who punishes the offender and bestows upon the righteous everlasting joy. It is a common experience that when one believes in the fatal effects of anything one does not have recourse to it. For instance, no one swallows poison consciously. No one deliberately stands in front of a wild tiger. No one deliberately thrusts his hand into the hole of a serpent. Then why does a person commit sin deliberately? The reason is that he has not that certainty in this matter as he has in other matters of the kind that we have mentioned. The first duty of a person, therefore, is to acquire certainty with regard to the existence of God, and to adopt a religion through which this certainty can be acquired so that he should fear God and shun sin. How can such certainty be acquired? It cannot be acquired through mere stories. It cannot be acquired through mere arguments. The only way of acquiring certainty is to experience God repeatedly through converse with Him or through witnessing His extraordinary signs, or by keeping company with someone who has that experience.
—Nasim-e-Da‘wat, Ruhani Khaza’in, Vol. 19, pp. 447-448
The purpose of religion is that man should obtain deliverance from his passions and should develop personal love for God Almighty through certain faith in His existence and His perfect attributes. Such love of God is the paradise, which will appear in diverse shapes in the hereafter. To be unaware of the True God, to keep away from Him, and not to have any love for Him, is the hell which will appear in diverse shapes in the hereafter. Thus, the true purpose is to have full faith in Him. Now the question is which religion and which book can fulfil this need. The Bible tells us that the door of converse with God is closed and that the ways of obtaining certainty are sealed. Whatever was to happen, happened in the past and there is nothing in the future…Of what use then is a religion that is dead? What benefit can we derive from a book that is dead? What grace can be bestowed by a god who is dead?
—Chashma-e-Masihi, Ruhani Khaza’in, Vol. 20, pp. 352-353
The purpose of accepting a religion is that God, Who is Self-Sufficient and is in no need of His creation or its worship, may be pleased with us, and that we should experience such grace and mercy as should wipe out our inner stains and rusts so that our breasts may be filled with certainty and understanding. This is not possible for a man to achieve through his own devices. Therefore, God the Glorious, keeping hidden mainly His own Being and the wonders of His creation, for instance, souls, bodies, angels, heaven, hell, resurrection, prophethood, etc. and yet disclosing them partially through reason, appointed his servants to believe in all these mysteries.
—Surmah Chashm Arya, Ruhani Khaza’in, Vol. 2, p. 81
Recognising a True Faith
In order to recognise a true religion it is necessary to look at three matters. In the first place, one must see what is the teaching of a religion concerning God. That is to say, what does a religion state with regard to the unity, power, knowledge, perfection, greatness, punishment, mercy and other attributes of the Divine…
Secondly, it is necessary that a seeker after truth should inquire what does a religion teach with regard to his own self and with regard to human conduct. Is there anything in its teaching which would disrupt human relationships, or would draw a person into courses which are inconsistent with modesty and honour, or would be contrary to the law of nature, or would be impossible to conform to or carry out, or make it dangerous to do so. It would also be necessary to see whether some important teaching needed to control disorderliness has been left out. It would also be necessary to discover whether a religion presents God as a Great Benefactor with Whom a relationship of personal love should be established and whether it lays down commandments which lead from darkness into light and from heedlessness to remembrance.
Thirdly, it is necessary for a seeker after truth to satisfy himself that the god presented by a religion should not be one who is believed in on the basis of tales and stories and resembles a dead being. To believe in a god who resembles a dead being, belief in whom is not by virtue of his having manifested himself but is due to one’s own good faith, would be to put him under an obligation. It is useless to believe in a god whose powers are not felt and who does not himself make manifest the signs of his own existence and life.
—Nasim-e-Da‘wat, Ruhani Khaza’in, Vol. 19, pp. 373-374
The religion that claims to be from God must show signs of being from God and should bear God’s seal, which should attest the fact that it is from Him. Islam is such a religion. That God Who is hidden is known through this religion and manifests Himself to the true followers of this religion. A true religion is supported by the hand of God and through such religion God manifests Himself that He exists. The religions that depend entirely upon stories are only a form of idol worship. Such religions do not possess the spirit of truth. If God is alive as He was, and speaks and hears as He did, there is no reason why He should continue to be silent as if He does not exist. If He does not speak in this age, then equally and certainly He does not hear either. In other words, He is now nothing. That religion alone is true which demonstrates that God hears and speaks in this age also. In a true religion, God attests His existence through His speaking.
Search for God is a difficult matter. It is not an affair of worldly philosophers and wise men. Observation of the heavens and earth only leads to the conclusion that although orderliness indicates that the universe should have a Creator yet it is not proof that such a Creator in fact exists. There is a great deal of difference between ought to be and is. The Holy Qur’an is the only book that sets forth His existence as a fact and not only urges the seeking of God but makes Him manifest. There is no other book which makes manifest the Hidden Being.
—Chashma-e-Masihi, Ruhani Khaza’in, Vol. 20, pp. 351-352
Religion does not mean disputes, abuse and harsh words that are indulged in, in the name of religion. In this context, no one pays attention to the suppression of inner vices or the establishment of true relationship with the Beloved. One party attacks another party like dogs and every kind of ill conduct is exhibited in support of religion. Such people do not realise why they came into this world and what is the main purpose of their lives. They continue to be blind and ill-natured and give their bigoted sentiments the name of religion. They exhibit their bad manners and employ their loose tongues in support of a fictitious god of whose existence they have no proof. Of what use is a religion, which does not teach the worship of the Living God? The god that they present is no better than a corpse. He walks with the support of others; when that support is withdrawn, he falls to the ground. The only thing they gain from such a religion is bigotry. They lack altogether true fear of God and true sympathy with mankind, which is the best of characteristics.
—Barahin-e-Ahmadiyya Part V, Ruhani Khaza’in, Vol. 21 p. 28
Islam – The True Religion
Remember, to establish its truth, a religion which claims to be from God must prove its excellence in two respects: First of all, it should be so comprehensive, perfect, complete and free from every defect in its doctrine, teachings and commandments, that reason should not be capable of proposing anything better; and there should be nothing lacking in it. It should be ahead of all other religions in this respect. The Holy Qur’an puts forward this claim by proclaiming:
ٱلۡيَوۡمَ أَكۡمَلۡتُ لَكُمۡ دِينَكُمۡ وَأَتۡمَمۡتُ عَلَيۡكُمۡ نِعۡمَتِي وَرَضِيتُ لَكُمُ ٱلۡإِسۡلَٰمَ دِينٗا 
This day have I perfected your religion for you and completed My favour upon you and have chosen for you Islam as religion.
This means that God requires us to conform to the reality inherent in the word Islam. Here there is a clear claim that the Holy Qur’an comprehends the perfect teaching and that the time of the revelation of the Holy Qur’an was the time when such perfect teaching could be revealed. The Qur’an alone is entitled to make this claim. No other heavenly book has put forward such a claim. Both the Torah and the Gospel refrain from making this claim. On the contrary, the Torah sets out God’s commandment that:
‘I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, and put My words in his mouth and whosoever will not hearken unto My words I will require it of him.’
It is obvious, therefore, that if the Torah had been adequate for meeting the needs of subsequent ages, there would have been no necessity for the coming of another Prophet, listening to whom was made obligatory. In the same way the Gospel has nowhere claimed that its teaching is perfect and comprehensive. But there is a clear confession that:
‘I have yet many things to say, but ye cannot bear them now but that when the Paraclete is come he will lead you to the whole truth.’
Thus, Moses confessed the incompleteness of the Torah and drew attention to the teaching of the Prophet who was to come. In the same way, Jesus admitted the incompleteness of his teaching and said that the time had not yet come for the perfect teaching to be disclosed but that when the Paraclete arrives he would set forth the perfect teaching. In contrast the Holy Qur’an does not, like the Torah and the Gospel, leave the matter for another book to complete but announces the perfection of its teaching in the words:
ٱلۡيَوۡمَ أَكۡمَلۡتُ لَكُمۡ دِينَكُمۡ وَأَتۡمَمۡتُ عَلَيۡكُمۡ نِعۡمَتِي وَرَضِيتُ لَكُمُ ٱلۡإِسۡلَٰمَ دِينٗا 
…Here is thus a great argument in support of Islam that by virtue of its teaching it prevails over every religion and no religion can compete with it in respect of the perfection of its teaching.
The second kind of success, which is peculiar to Islam and not shared by any other religion, and which fully testifies to its truth, is that it manifests its living blessings and miracles of which other religions are wholly deprived. The signs that Islam exhibits not only establish its superiority over other religions but also enable it to draw the hearts of the people by exhibiting its perfect light. The first characteristic of Islam, which we have stated above, that is to say, the perfection of its teaching, is not quite conclusive in establishing that Islam is a true religion revealed by God. A bigoted opponent who is not farsighted may assert that it is possible that a teaching might be perfect and yet it may not proceed from God Almighty. This first characteristic relieves a wise seeker after truth of many doubts and brings him close to certainty, but does not establish the matter conclusively and beyond doubt till it is combined with the second characteristic. When both these characteristics are combined, the light of the true faith reaches its perfection.
A true faith comprises thousands of proofs and lights but these two characteristics are enough to carry conviction to the heart of a seeker after truth and expound the matter to the satisfaction of all deniers of truth. Nothing more is needed in addition. I had originally intended that in support of the truth of Islam I would set down three hundred arguments in Barahin-e-Ahmadiyya. But on further reflection I perceived that these two characteristics are a substitute for thousands of proofs and thus God made me alter my plan.
—Barahin-e-Ahmadiyya, Part V, Ruhani Khaza’in, Vol. 21, pp. 3-6
God Almighty is not held back from exposition of the claim of the Holy Prophet [peace and blessings of Allah be on him]. He came like a sun and manifested his light from every point of view. He who turns away from this true sun, will come to no good. We cannot credit such a one with good faith. Can anyone who is afflicted with leprosy and whose limbs are corrupted with leprosy, claim that he is whole and is not in need of treatment? Should he say so, can we credit him with good faith? Should such a person insist that he cannot arrive at the truth of Islam, despite good faith and despite every effort such as he puts forth in his worldly affairs, his matter rests with God. We have not come across any such person and we consider it impossible that anyone equipped with reason and a sense of justice should prefer some other faith to Islam. Foolish and ignorant people adopt the position under the dictates of their lower selves that belief in the unity of God is enough, and that it is not necessary to follow the Holy Prophet [peace and blessings of Allah be on him]; but it is to be borne in mind that a Prophet is the mother of belief in unity, who gives birth to it and points to the existence of God. Who knows the exposition of the truth better than God Almighty Himself? He filled heaven and earth with signs to prove the truth of the Holy Prophet [peace and blessings of Allah be on him] and now in this age He has sent me and has displayed thousands of signs like heavy rain, which prove the truth of the Holy Prophet [peace and blessings of Allah be on him]. What then is lacking in the full exposition of the truth? He who has sense enough to oppose why can he not think out the way of acceptance? He who pretends that he can see at night, why can he not see in the full light of day? Indeed the way of acceptance is much easier than the way of rejection.
The case of a person whose reason is defective and whose faculties are not normal should be committed to God, and we have nothing to do concerning him. He is like children who die at an early age. But a wicked denier cannot excuse himself on the ground that he is acting in good faith. It should be considered whether his faculties are such that he can appreciate questions of unity and prophethood. If he is capable of appreciating them and denies out of ill will, he cannot be excused. Can we excuse a person who observes the light of the sun and yet persists in asserting that it is not day but night? In the same way, we cannot excuse those who deliberately indulge in wrong reasoning and are unable to repel the arguments that are put forward on behalf of Islam. Islam is a living faith. A person who can distinguish between the living and the dead, how can he set aside Islam and accept a dead religion?
—Haqiqat-ul-Wahi, Ruhani Khaza’in, Vol. 22, pp. 180-181
Progressive Development by Following Islam
When I reflect upon the holy word of God, I find that in its teachings it seeks to reform the natural conditions of man and to raise him step by step to higher spiritual levels. In the first place God desires to teach man the elementary rules of behaviour and culture and thus to change him from the wild condition of animals, and then to bestow upon him elementary moral conditions which can be described as culture or civilisation. Then He trains him and raises him from the elementary moral conditions to a high moral stage. All this is in truth one stage, which is the reform of natural conditions, and the only difference is one of degree. The All-Wise One has presented the moral system in such a way whereby man should be able to move from a lower moral level to a higher moral level. The third stage is that man should be devoted to winning the true love and pleasure of his Creator and the whole of his being should be devoted to God. It is at this stage that the faith of Muslims has been named Islam, which means to be wholly devoted to God and to keep nothing back.
—Islami Usul ki Philosophy, Ruhani Khaza’in, Vol. 10, p.324
The Need for Islam
It is foolish to imagine that religion means a few things that are mentioned in the Gospel. All matters that are essential for the perfection of man are comprehended within the scope of religion. Religion comprises all those matters which lead man from his wild condition to the condition of true humanity and then lead him from the condition of humanity to a life of wisdom and thereafter lead him from a life of wisdom to a life that is devoted to God.
—Kitab-ul-Bariyyah, Ruhani Khaza’in, Vol. 13, p. 89
There is no doubt that the Gospel does not provide for the full nurture of the tree of humanity. We are sent into the world with many faculties and every faculty demands that it should be used on its proper occasion. The Gospel emphasises only the faculty of meekness and gentleness. Meekness and forgiveness are good qualities when exercised on the proper occasion but their use on every occasion would be greatly harmful. Our cultural life, which comprises the interplay of different kinds of tempers, demands that we should exercise all our faculties with discretion on the proper occasion. It is true that, on some occasions, forgiveness and forbearance would benefit materially and spiritually a person who has done us harm.
On other occasions, the exercise of those faculties would encourage the offender to commit greater mischief and to do more harm. Our spiritual life resembles our physical life to a large degree. It is our experience that the use of only one type of food and medicines would upset our health. If we were to confine ourselves over a period to the use of cooling articles of diet and refrain altogether from the use of warming articles, we would become a prey to some diseases like paralysis, Parkinson’s disease or epilepsy. On the contrary, if we confine ourselves to warming articles of diet, so much so that even the water that we drink must be warm, then equally we would be liable to some other kind of disease. Consequently, in order to maintain our physical health we must keep a balance between hot and cold, hard and soft, and movement and rest. We should follow the same rule in respect of our spiritual health. God has bestowed no evil faculty upon us. Indeed no faculty is evil in itself; it is the misuse of a faculty that is evil. For instance, envy is evil but if we use it for a good purpose, that is to say, as a competition in goodness, it becomes a high moral quality. The same is the case with all moral qualities. Their misuse renders them harmful and their use on proper occasion in a moderate manner makes them beneficial.
It is, therefore, a mistake to cut off all other branches of the tree of humanity and to put the entire emphasis on forgiveness and forbearance. That is why this teaching has failed in its purpose and Christian sovereigns had to enact codes of law for the punishment of offenders. The current Gospels cannot bring about the perfection of the human self. As the stars are dimmed when the sun rises and then disappear from sight altogether, the same is the case of the Gospel in comparison with the Holy Qur’an.
—Kitab-ul-Bariyyah, Ruhani Khaza’in, Vol. 13, pp. 66-67
 The Holy Qur’an, 5:4.
 The Bible, Deuteronomy 18:18.
 The Bible, John 16:12-13.
 ‘This day have I perfected your religion for you and completed My favour upon you and have chosen for you Islam as religion.’ – The Holy Qur’an, 5:4.