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QUESTION & ANSWER: Belief in the Supreme Being

52 The Review of Religions – May 2003 I have recently read a book in which it was mentioned that Allah has ninety-nine names. What is the exact number of the names of Allah? Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad: Allah has so many names that we cannot know them all but given the five senses that we possess, He manifests Himself in a way that we are able to understand. Allah is not limited—our understanding is limited. Hence, if the names are ninety-nine or one hundred and one it is irrelevant. The fact is that God has manifested Himself to man who has limited faculties. It should be the faculties of man that determine how God can make Himself manifest to a person. God cannot manifest Himself to mankind beyond their capacity to understand. For instance, if you begin to show your face to a blind person and say to him, ‘look, how beautiful I am – look at my nose, look at my face and my eyes’—what can the blind person do? Nothing! You have all those attributes of your figure, the shape, the colour, the birth marks, the strength or weakness of your body—there are hundreds of possibilities that are related just to sight but you cannot display yourself to a person who does not possess QUESTIONER Belief in the Supreme Being Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad( r a ), the Fourth Head of the Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam, off e red to people of all nationalities, faiths and beliefs the opportunity of raising questions and issues that were of interest to them. P resented below is a compilation of answers to questions that were raised in sessions held in London on 8 August 1997, 29 January 1995, 23 April 1997 re s p e c t i v e l y. 53The Review of Religions –May 2003 Belief in the Supreme Being sight. Similarly, Allah does not display Himself meaning- lessly—he does not manifest those of His attributes that are not perceivable by beings that possess only the limited faculties of five senses. However, after death, the senses will be sharpened and we may be gifted with some new senses and Allah may then appear to possess new attributes—new manifestations will in fact be showered upon us in a manner that we cannot even dream of now. In the same book it is stated that certain names of Allah can be recited repeatedly to ward o ff certain evils and remove problems. Should we believe in this? Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad: Repetition of any name cannot, by itself, ward off evil but the repetition of certain names can give you the strength to concentrate on the meaning of those names. Each attribute of Allah is apparently single but when you concentrate on it and repeat it, new meanings may appear before your vision, just as when you move the kaleidoscope and by giving it a d i ff e rent twist new figure s appear before your eyes. Similarly, repetition of the name or attributes of Allah is in fact designed to create that effect on your minds as, for instance, the attribute of Rahman (the Beneficent) being repeated in the sense that Rahman covers the whole of the universe. The word ‘Rahman’ is apparently a single attribute but it covers the whole history of mankind, the whole history of creation, the whole history of God’s re l a t i o n s h i p with man and so on. You cannot exhaust even just this attribute alone if you were to go on repeating it throughout your life. Hence the purpose of repetition of Allah’s names is to gain a deeper understanding of their meanings. Although the vastness of the meanings they already contain goes far beyond our imagination, we should still reflect upon the meanings of those attributes and enlarg e them before our vision by repeating them and, with the Grace of Allah, the more we know of Rahman, the more QUESTIONER 54 The Review of Religions – May 2003 Belief in the Supreme Being contact with Rahman we can attain. In short, when we repeat an attribute of Allah when we face a specific problem or difficulty, this has to be the true purpose and this is the only useful purpose. Otherwise, the repetition of God’s attributes like a parrot does not serve any cause. Being brought up as a Christian, one is taught to put one’s trust in Jesus. How can one transfer this trust to Islam? Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad: The fact is that if you trust a Prophet of God, you trust all the Prophets of God. Here I refer to the preaching efforts of the Jehovah’s Witness who always emphasise the claim of Jesus that Jesus Christ is the way, he is the Alpha, he is the Omega as if to the exclusion of all others. That is not how we understand the nature of religions. In fact, in every religion you will find similar claims with reference to the time and with reference to the people who are being addressed by that religion. That, in fact, is the only way. However, it does not mean the only way u n i v e r s a l l y. What it means is that at a specific time and place, unless the people follow the appointed Prophet, they cannot be redeemed and the same is the claim found in every religion. Here [in the session today] we have a religious scholar who has re s e a rched in depth the teachings of Buddhism and Hinduism as well as other religions and he would bear witness to this fundamental claim to be found in every religion. However, the Holy Qura’n resolves this by stating that all [Prophets] who were sent for the deliverance of mankind from sin, came from the same God and, as such, they must all be accepted without exception because they call to the same path. The path mentioned in relation to Jesus seems to be a separate path but the Holy Qura’n resolves the problem for us by emphasising the fact that the path remains the same, it is the callers to that path who differ. However, in the society around a Prophet that he was a d d ressing, he was the only caller to that path. There were, of QUESTIONER 55The Review of Religions –May 2003 Belief in the Supreme Being course, others – in India, in China, in Africa. Even among the Aborigines in Australia and also among the American Indians, as they are now called. In short, this is what we understand from the word, ‘the path’, ‘the only way’ and other similar expressions. Is religion not just an excuse created by man to explain his own existence? Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad: If we remove this so-called deceptive reason, will man cease to exist? Certainly not! Whether religion is right or wrong, man still exists. This so-called reason has no relationship with the realities of life. Religion was created very soon after man was c reated because prior to the creation of man we do not find the evidence of any religion in the subhuman forms of life. The creation of human beings goes hand in hand with religion and it is not the work of philosophers or sociologists that the concept of God exists. It is a universal concept that existed indepen- dently of any knowledge of what people believed in other parts of the world. It was this universal presence of belief in the whole world that convinced many an atheist, at least to a degree, that this is a very strong and potent reason why we must respect the possibility of the existence of God. Those who have not been fully convinced, still believe that if any one a rgument can re a s o n a b l y convince us to ponder over the question seriously, this is the argument: Why should the idea of God be found all over the world in all ages? Turn to the continent of Australia where the Aborigines are known to have the longest, continuous civili- sation since times immemorial. The knowledge or evidence we have of their beginnings leads some scholars to date the origin of their civilisation to some forty-thousand years – others place it at some sixty-thousand years, and there are some who push it even further beyond. The evidence from their civilisation of the belief in God is so baffling, so amazing that the so-called sociologists who thought that God is the creation of human QUESTIONER 56 The Review of Religions – May 2003 Belief in the Supreme Being imagination, as the question suggests, have no answer to the evidence presented by Australia. The Australian Aborigines are divided into six-hundre d independent tribes – some say more, others say a little less, but generally speaking the overall consensus is that they are divided into six-hundre d independent tribes. Each of the independent tribes has its own language that is not known to its neighbours. Historically, they did not relate to each other except for occasional encounters at the borders of their territories where they only met briefly with one another. The question here arises as to why the idea of one Supreme Creator should exist in all these independent tribes? Some Christian scholars who w e re strong believers in Christianity and were also sociologists suggested that this was so because of the arrival of Christianity – when it reached Australia, so did the idea of God. H o w e v e r, other Christian scholars have exposed this idea to be totally wrong and without foundation. They state that there is positive evidence that long before Christianity reached the s h o res of Australia and long b e f o re western civilisation reached there, the belief in a Supreme Creator existed. There is such a host of evidence available on this issue that no sane person can reject or deny it. This should be enough reason for the gentleman who asked this question to revise his opinion about the existence of God and the role that religion has played in it. Hence, there are only two options available to us—either there is a God who created human beings as well as religion or there is no God and it is human being who have c reated their so-called cre a t o r. The whole issue of creation can be re-examined from this perspective, beginning with the origins of life, ending our journey with the consummation of life into human beings. Each step that was advanced in the direction of the evolvement of human beings was an organised step. Life is not eternal and this has been proved beyond a shadow of doubt. The possibility of life began with the ‘big bang’. It began with the 57The Review of Religions –May 2003 Belief in the Supreme Being ‘big bang’ that occurred around twenty-billion years ago and ever since then life has emerged out of nothing. This issue has been discussed in detail by me in one of my books which is about to be published1, where I have proved with scientific evidence that even the most firm believers in blind evolution have to admit repeatedly that for this they cannot find any answer. Upon contemplation of the wonders of evolution created or packed in a small space of one billion years, even those who are atheists begin to calculate thro u g h mathematics of large numbers the time it should have required for evolution to take place and to reach its consummation, by blind chance. The figure they have worked out is not only mind-boggling, it is also impossible for an ord i n a r y person to conceive. The figure they have reached is ten raised to the power of 249 which means that one needs to place 249 zeros to the right of the number one. Whatever figure that is, that is what would be needed, not for the completion of the whole evolution, but just for the creation of the first brick of life, the proteins that are needed for building DNA’s and iron. The rest is still to be calculated. In short, if you do not believe in philosophies, you can turn to the scientists. Find out how man could have been created, how could the very first organism of life have been created without the existence of a pre c e d i n g conscious Being, an all- knowledgeable Being Who was eternal! Issues like these and many others that compel a fair-minded scientist to believe in God have been discussed in my book1 that I have just referred to and when it is published, I hope it will be made available to you. 1. Revelation, Rationality, Knowledge and Truth by Mirza Tahir Ahmad, Published by Islam International Publications Ltd (1998).