Death and the Afterlife End Times

Question & Answer: Understanding Islam

I would like to pursue the issue of the spread of Islam. This is an area where Islam is perhaps greatly misunderstood. Let us take Iran, for instance – would you say what is happening in Iran is according to religion – is that Islam? Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad: In the Muslim world so much is happening in the name of Islam that if one particular Muslim state is considered to be re p resentative of Islam then what would be your verdict of another Muslim state that is behaving in contradiction to that? If the behaviour of, for instance, Iran is taken to be re p resentative of Islam, then why should the behaviour of, let us say, Iraq not be representative of Islam? This would leave Islam in a paradoxical situation. The brand of Islam found in Libya is different from the brand of Islam found in Iran and the behaviour of Jordan and Saudi Arabia may be different yet again from other Muslim countries. One Muslim country may stand for a concept QUESTIONER 25The Review of Religions – February 2003 Understanding Islam During his visit to Nigeria in 1988, Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad, the Fourth Head of the Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam was invited by BTV, a Nigerian television company, to take part in a series of televised interviews. During these sessions a number of questions regarding Islam and Ahmadiyyat were raised by the BTV presenter of the programme. Presented below are answers to some of the questions that were raised during one such session. Prepared by Amatul Hadi Ahmad that may be at variance from some other country of Islam. Hence, the governments of these countries have no right to state that they re p resent the tru e nature of Islam. The true nature of Islam can only be reflected through the Holy Qur’an and the tradition of the Holy Prophet(sa) of Islam. I would like to pursue this question a little more because we find that these days, in most of the trouble spots of the world there is an Islamic nation displaying religious intolerance and absolute fanaticism. Why is this so? Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad: These, unfortunately, are the signs of decadence. One should try to understand this by analysing the global phenomenon of developments in religion every-where in the world. Christianity, for instance, began with the message of sacrifice, of turning the other cheek – not revenge but f o rgiveness. However, is that what we generally find in the Christian world today? Questioner: No. Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad: They have no right, therefore, to change the message of Christ but they do have the right to change their own behaviour [and go against their religion]. However, if they do so, they would be defying Christianity – they would not then have the right to represent Christianity. The same is happening to the world of Islam. People can only be considered true Muslims if their behaviour accords completely with the teaching of the Holy Qur’an – that is the only judge. You have spoken about the signs of decadence. Are you implying that it is the signs of the ‘end’ [of the world]? Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad: It is the ‘end’ only in the sense that this age, with all the signs that have appeared within it, has been re f e r red to in the old QUESTIONER QUESTIONER 26 Understanding Islam The Review of Religions – February 2003 scriptures as the world of ‘latter days’. The word ‘latter’ means the ‘second part’ or the ‘end part’. Here the word ‘end’ is not used in the sense that there is a sharp edge to it in that tomorrow the world will explode and that will be the end. In reality, when such matters are spoken of in religious terminology, one day can stand for a very long period. We know that according to the Bible and the Holy Qur’an, the entire creation was [over] seven days. What then is meant by a ‘day’? A day can cover a very large period. Hence, in religious terminology when reference is made to the ‘end of time’, it means a long period – a few centuries even, or may be more. This is because the Holy Qur’an tells us that ‘al yom’ [a day] has different meaning according to whether it is applied to God’s s t a n d a rds or to human s t a n d a rds. According to the Holy Qur’an, one day of God may be as long as five thousand years and may even be as long as fifty thousand years. Hence, if one day can be fifty thousand years or perhaps more, (God has not revealed everything to us), it means that we should not interpret such terms according to our own standards where these have been used by God. According to God’s standards it could be anything between a short period of a thousand or so years or a much greater span of time. I am from Africa, and one thing that is very widespread in Africa is the fear of witchcraft. What is your view about this? Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad: The Holy Qur’an does not permit witchcraft and, in fact, does not recognise it. In reality the Holy Qur’an mentions a kind of witchcraft or, let us call it magic in one particular instance, and explains the nature of magic t h e re. Having understood this point, we have no right to misinterpret this notion because the Holy Qur’an has made it manifestly clear as to what magic is. I am referring to the incident of Moses( a s ) when he was confronted by the magic of Pharaoh and his magicians. QUESTIONER 27 Understanding Islam The Review of Religions – February 2003 Referring to the magicians, the Holy Qur‘an states that what they did was not magic – it was not that they converted the ropes into snakes, they applied magic to the eyes of the onlookers, to the eyes of the observers: S a h a rou a’ayonannas-e [ t h e y enchanted the eyes of the people – Holy Qur’an, Ch.7: V.117] It was made to appear to them that the ropes had turned into snakes. This ‘magic’ has been analysed by the Holy Qur’ a n itself. It was, in fact, a kind of hypnotism that does not bring about a real change in the matter created by God. On the contrary, it affects human thought and p e rception and it can cause illusions in the human mind. Up to this point we agree with the notion of ‘magic’ but we believe that it should not be applied for the purposes of exploitation of the weaker people. If at all, it should be applied for the well being of the people as, for instance, in the healing of people t h rough hypnotism. To this extent we support it but otherwise not. How would you define idol worship? Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad: In my opinion idol worship is idle worship! What I mean is that it is useless, meaningless worship How can you beg anything from something that is carved by yourself? What about the stone in the Ka’aba? Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad: We do not worship the stone in the Ka’aba at all. QUESTIONER QUESTIONER 28 Understanding Islam The Review of Religions – February 2003 OF COURSE, WE AGREE WITH THE CONCEPT OF LIFE AFTER DEATH BUT ONLY WITH THE CONCEPT OF LIFE TAKING ON A DIFFERENT FORM AFTER DEATH. Do you not kiss it? Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad: Kissing something is not worshipping that thing. If you kiss a handkerchief in the memory of a dear one, is that worshipping? What then is the significance of the stone in the Ka’aba? Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad: The Holy Prophet(sa) of Islam has made the significance known to us. The fact is that the expression of love in memory of a dear one is not worshipping. It happens in every day life and is part of the human psyche. If one loves and kisses something or someone in memory of that which one reveres and loves, it is only an expression of that reverence. People send letters to loved ones and sometimes, out of love for the person writing the letter, they kiss the letter. The significance of the stone in the Ka’aba can be explained in similar terms. According to the Holy Prophet of Islam(sa), when the first house of God was about to be built, God showere d ‘stones’ from the heavens to provide the building material for that house. We now understand the meaning of that more fully. It must have been a meteoric s h o w e r. Meteors must have rained on that particular are a under the command of God. The ‘stones’ that came from ‘heaven’ were used to build the very first house of worship of God. According to the Holy Prophet(sa) of Islam, the black stone in the Ka’aba is one of the remnants of the stones that were showered from ‘heaven’. It is because of the very historic nature of this event and in memory of that event, we kiss this particular stone as a blessed thing – but we treat it as a stone and there is nothing wrong with that. We do not consider it to contain any powers whatsoever – we do not beg anything of it. People talk about life after death – what is your view about this? QUESTIONER QUESTIONER QUESTIONER 29 Understanding Islam The Review of Religions – February 2003 Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad: Of course, we agree with the concept of life after death but only with the concept of life taking on a different form after death. According to the Holy Qur’an, evolution of life is directed from lower levels of development and lower values, to higher levels of development, and higher values with the result that if one looks at the path of evolution of life, one would be surprised to learn that in the lower animals there is very little consciousness but the g reatest consciousness is granted to man who stands at the highest point of evolution. Man is the most conscious, the most cautious, of all the c re a t u res – his knowledge extends far beyond his area of close vicinity. He is, thus, prepared for the final stage and that is to receive the message f rom high above, from God Almighty. In the previous stages of evolution, life did not possess this capacity. However, having been granted this capacity, man’s journey is forward , towards his Creator – towards God who created him. The whole process [of evolutionary development towards higher consciousness] gave man a direction. That is to say, he was made capable of understanding God, so that ultimately, he could travel towards Him. It is travel towards God in the form of soul. The Founder of the Ahmadiyya C o m m u n i t y, Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad(as), has written a book which is known by the title Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam. In this book he discusses this subject at length. His observations are based entirely on the verses of the Holy Qur’an and also on some traditions [of the Holy Prophet(sa) of Islam]. He states that, according to Islamic point of view, man’s soul receives influences from his character and conduct here in this world. Man shapes the future of his soul by his actions – by his good deeds or bad deeds. Shaping the soul in what way? Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad: Shaping the soul [through one’s QUESTIONER 30 Understanding Islam The Review of Religions – February 2003 deeds to achieve its ultimate objective]. The direction of the soul’s journey after it ultimately departs from the physical body depends on whether the soul is hell bound or heaven bound. If a person is evil, [he knows deep down that he is doing wrong]. Every person knows the effect his deeds, good or bad, have upon his inner self. If we carried out an introspective analyses of our own selves, we would be surprised to find that each good act we perform cre a t e s something noble within us – we have a sense of nobility within us. Similarly, every evil a person commits leaves him with the sense of having lost something [from within him] and gradually, what is re f e r red to as his conscience, dies. On the contrary, in the case of a good person, his good deeds gradually take him to the point w h e re he rises above the inclination to do evil. This is the formation of soul that I have re f e r red to. When a pious person’s soul departs, that soul is ready to be granted a new beginning, a new [heavenly] life. A c c o rding to the Pro m i s e d Messiah(as), the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Community, the new form of the soul [after death] would be like a ‘body’, a spiritual body, from which would arise another soul and this would be a further evolution of one’s creation. In other words, the newly created soul and the ‘spiritual body’ from which it arose would have a relationship similar to that which existed between a person’s soul and his physical body here on earth. In relative terms our soul would be ‘coarse’ in comparison with the new ‘soul’ which would be born from within that earlier soul and a new spiritual body would come into being and that is the body in which we would live forever after our death. 31 Understanding Islam The Review of Religions – February 2003