Repentance The Nature of God

Belief and Practice

24 The Review of Religions – January 2003 It is in the nature of man that he wishes to avoid the harm and to enjoy the benefits of whatever he b e l i eves to be the case. Fo r example, arsenic is a poison and a person does not wish to taste it, as he knows that even a small amount of this poison can kill. Why then, having acquired a belief in God, will he not derive the conclusions that relate to that belief? If a person’s belief in God were to equal even the belief that he has in arsenic [that it kills] then his selfish emotions and desires would turn cold and a death would come over them. Instead we have to accept that the [declarations of belief in God] are only utterances — belief has not yet acquired the colours of certainty. Hence, such a person deceives his own self when he states: ‘I believe in God’. The first duty of a human being, therefore, is that he should correct the belief Belief and Practice Presented below is a compilation, in translation, of excerpts taken from Malfoozat relating to the topic of relationship between religious beliefs and actions. Malfoozat is the title of the ten volumes that contain the collection of discourses, speeches and addresses of Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian, the Promised Messiah and Mahdi(as). Translated by Amatul Hadi Ahmad The founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community was Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad(as). In 1891, he claimed, on the basis of Divine revelation, that he was the Promised Messiah and Mahdi whose a d vent had been fo retold by Muhammad, 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. 25The Review of Religions – January 2003 he has in God. That is, he should prove with his deeds and actions that they are not in conflict with the commandments of God and are not against the glory of God. The deception whereby a person states that he believes in God, despite the fact that there is no testimony of his deeds to that effect, is a kind of ‘illness’ and a ve ry serious ‘illness’ at that. Illnesses are of two types. In one type of illness, pain is felt, such as a pain in the forehead or pain in the kidneys. The other type of illness is one in which pain is not felt and as a result, through ignorance, the patient does not attend to the illness. For instance, there is the mark of leucoderma, which apparently does not give rise to a ny sensation of pain, but ultimately it may produce danger- ous consequences. Hence, a belief in God that is not attested through actual practice is an ‘illness’ of the second type. Belief, in this case, is m e re ly customary based on w h a t ever has been heard fro m fathers and forefathers about the existence of some God. Such a belief is not that of a person who has felt it within him and tasted of it. When belief is created by such heartfelt declaration, it is sure to cleanse away all the impurities of sin and the true signs of belief will begin to manifest themselve s . Until such signs are manifested, it is all the same whether one believes or not. The reason for this is that [without signs] there is not the certainty of belief and without certainty there are no fruits of belief. A person will not tread near dangers of which he is certain. For example, if there were a danger that a pillar holding up the roof of the house is broken, one would not live in it or even go near it. Similarly, if one knows that a snake lives at a certain place and moves around at night, one would never go near that place at night. A person acts like this because he has firm knowledge about those dangers. Hence, if one’s belief in God, does not produce the slightest effect, not even one equivalent to the effect and certainty produced by a penny’s worth of arsenic, then know that such a person does not believe in God. Reality is that the root of all evil is the careless attitude t ow a rds spiritual know l e d g e. [Malfoozat, Vol.4, pp.312—313] Belief and Practice 26 The Review of Religions – January 2003 What is the true sign of faith and what is its meaning? It is to believe, and then to have certainty about that belief. When a person believes something truly with his heart, he has a sense of certainty about it and his actions are then in accordance with that belief. For instance, if a person knows that arsenic is a poison and that one dies as a result of taking it, or that a snake is a deadly enemy and whosoever is bitten by it has to fight for his life, he would never eat arsenic nor attempt to put as much as a finger inside a hole that is occupied by a snake because he has firm ‘faith’ or knowledge of these matters. Nowadays [given the spread of the plague] people believe that contact with the plague is fatal and that is why people abandon and run miles from the house that is visited by the plague. In short, actions follow in accordance with in whatever it is that one has complete faith. The question then arises as to why any sins should remain when there is belief in the existence of God and there is mindfulness of reckoning? Is the belief in God weaker than even the belief in a snake? People claim to be believers and yet there is no difference to the level of theft, lies, adultery, alcoholism and general sinfulness and impiety — there is no lessening of hypocrisy and ostentation. There is only a verbal declaration of faith — other than that faith and religion are nothing in practice [as far as the majority of people are concerned]. We already observe that a person n ever wastes anything that he believes to be beneficial. We have never seen a rich man or a poor man dispose of his wealth and possessions by throwing them away. On the contrary, we have not seen anyone throw away even a single penny. What is more, a person regrets the loss of even a small item of use such as a needle should it break and he has to t h row it aw ay. Howeve r, in people’s view belief in God is not even equal to a needle and its value for them does not equal even the value of a needle then, accordingly, no benefit accrues to them. [Malfoozat, Vol.5, pp.329—330] Belief and Practice 27The Review of Religions – January 2003 God Almighty is greater than all else; He has the most knowledge; He is the true Creator of man and of every particle that exists. It is He Who is also the Creator of man’s nature and He is All-Wise. If it is the case that with His complete wisdom and complete k n ow l e d g e, He suggests that something is harmful for you that indulging in it would not benefit you at all, then it is not for a wise person to go against this. We see that when a doctor advises a patient to abstain from something, the patient acts on that advice without any argument. Why does he act in this way? He does so because he considers the doctor to be in possession of much greater knowledge than he possesses himself. Similarly, there are things that are harmful for man’s body or spirit whether man himself understands that or not. There are some things that would be harmful even if God had not g i ven a ruling about them. In medicine also there are some things that are considered to be ‘sins’ [that is, they prove ve ry harmful for a human being] and lack of medical knowledge is no excuse for the person who goes against the medical principles. [He would still suffer the harmful consequences were he to indulge in such things]. If someone chooses not to believe this, they can check this with doctors and physicians. The point to remember is simply this that the root of sin is those actions that lead man away from purity and righteousness. The true love of God and union with God is the true pleasure and re a l comfort. Thus, moving away from God and being distant from Him is also sin and is the source of pain, sorrow and hardship. All that God d i s l i kes because of His ow n sanctity is ‘sin’. There are some matters on which people may not agree but majority is commonly agreed that lying, stealing, adultery and cruelty are such acts that all nations and religions jointly consider them to be sins. Remember, however, that the root of sin is precisely those acts that distance man from God, that are against His sanctity, against His wishes and against man’s nature. It is such acts that constitute ‘sin’. Belief and Practice 28 The Review of Religions – January 2003 E ve ry person can sense [the aspect of] sin [or goodness in their actions]. If someone slaps an innocent person and knows that he had no right to do so, he will at some later time, when he assesses his action with a cool head, himself feel ashamed and will sense that it was a bad deed on his part . C o nve r s e ly, should someone feed a h u n g ry person, give a drink of water to one who is thirsty and clothe someone who is without clothes, such a person will have an inner sense of having been go o d and having performed a blessed deed. A person’s heart and conscience and the light of belief remind him whether his various actions are a good deed or a sinful a c t . [Malfoozat, Vol.10, pp.357—358] God wishes that even if His serv a n t has erred and displayed we a k n e s s , he should repent and there by enter [a state of] peace. You should re m e m b e r, there fo re, that the day when a person repents from his sins is a ve ry blessed day indeed and is the best of days because on such a day he finds a new life and is b rought closer to God. In this respect, this day is a day of repentance (as many among yo u h ave today vowed that on this day t h ey repent for their sins and in the f u t u re, so far as is possible fo r them, they would abstain fro m sins). In accordance with God’s pro m i s e s , I trust that eve ry person who has repented with a true and sincere h e a rt, shall be fo r g i ven all his p revious sins by God. It is to such people that the Hadith [tradition of the Holy Pro p h e t( s a )] applies that: ‘The one who repents from sin is like the one who has not committed sin.’ That is, we can say that it is as if such a person never committed any sin. However, I say this again that for the achievement of this objective, the condition is that one should move towards true purity and true piety. More ove r, repentance should not merely be a verbal repentance, but should be realised through action. It is no small matter that someone’s sins should be forgiven – it is a matter of great magnificence. [Malfoozat, Vol.7, pp.148—149] Belief and Practice 29The Review of Religions – January 2003 Repentance is in reality a very e f fe c t i ve means of aiding and s t i mulating the development of good morals and leads one to achieve moral perfection. In other words, for the person who wishes to re form his character, it is essential that he should re p e n t sincerely with a firm resolve. It should be re m e m b e red that t h e re are three conditions fo r repentance without the fulfillment of which true repentance cannot be achieved. The first of these three conditions is to rid oneself of ill thoughts that lead to bad inclinations and evil propensities. In reality, thoughts exercise great influence — every action has a notional existence in the form of ‘thought’ that precedes the action. H e n c e, the first condition fo r repentance is that evil thoughts and notions should be discarded. For instance, if a man has an illicit relationship with a woman and wishes to repent, [in order to prepare himself mentally for this course of action], he should think of her as being unattractive and remind himself of her negative features. This is so because, as I h ave just stated, thoughts and fancies exe rcise a powe r f u l influence. I have read that some Sufis carried their powers of thought to such extremes that they actually ‘saw’ some people in the form of an ape or a pig. In other words, thought influences that which is perceived. The first condition of re p e n t a n c e, t h e re fo re, is that all ideas and thoughts that are considered to give rise to evil pleasures should be discarded altogether. The second condition of true repentance is remorse — that there should be some expression of re g ret and embarr a s s m e n t . E ve ryo n e ’s conscience admon- ishes him over every evil but the conscience of an unfo rt u n a t e person is left suspended by him. A person should express remorse over his sin and evil action and should reflect upon the fact that the pleasure to be derived [from bad deeds] is temporary. He should also consider that each repetition of an evil deed causes a lessening of pleasure derived from it and that in the end, in old age, when his faculties are weakened, he will necessarily have to give up all such pleasures. Why then Belief and Practice 30 The Review of Religions – January 2003 indulge in that which in the end has to be given up, even in this life? Most fortunate is the person who turns in repentance and becomes determined to discard all corrupt thoughts and evil fancies and h aving succeeded in ridd i n g himself of these impurities he should feel remorse and regret for his past ill deeds. The third condition [of true repentance] is a firm resolve that he will not reve rt to those previous vices. If he adheres to this re s o l ve, God will bestow upon him the strength of true repentance and he will be rid altogether of his vices [and he will be enabled to] replace these with good morals and praisewo rt hy deeds and this is a victory over o n e ’s morals. [M a l fo o z a t, Vo l . 1 , pp.138–139] Remember that without go o d deeds, faith is just as useless as an excellent garden is useless when it is left without water. No matter how excellent a tree is and how good the fruit it gives, when the owner is careless about nourishing it with water, then we are all familiar with the consequences. The same is true of the tree of faith in spiritual life. Faith is a tree for which deeds of go o d n e s s become like streams of water to nourish that tree. Moreover, just as a farmer after sowing and watering the seeds, has to work hard in many other ways to ensure a good harvest, so is the case in the spiritual realm. God has made it necessary and essential that for the attainment of the fruits of spiritual rew a rd and blessings, there should be great effort and striving. [M a l fo o z a t, Vo l . 1 0 , pp.395—396] Belief and Practice