Islam is the only Living Religion

On those who render perfect obedience to God and His Apostle – on whom be peace and blessings – God will confer one of four dignities according to their deserts. Those who attain the highest stage of perfection will be made Prophets, those next to them will be made Siddiqs, i.e., favourites of God; those coming after them will be made Shaheeds, i.e., those from whose eyes the veil has been removed but who have not yet attained the dignity of special friends; and those that are next below them will be made Salih, i.e., they will be righteous men who are trying to impro v e themselves but who have not vet been admitted to the inner presence of God. These are the best companions whose company benefits others. These different stages of development can be attained only through the Grace of God, and God well knows His servants. (Holy Qur’an, Ch.4: vs. 69, 70.) For an exhaustive and full discussion of this subject it seems necessary to understand and explain the meaning and object of religion, to know what re a l l y constitutes its life, to define and examine the various re l i g i o u s systems of the world, and then to apply the test of livingness to all of them with a view to finding out which is the really Living Religion. But keeping in view the limits of time and space I should like to adopt another method which, I believe, will not only shorten the process but simplify it at the same time. This pertains to the practical effect of re l i g i o n on the lives of its followers as distinct from the internal s c rutiny of its principles and teachings. ‘A tree is known by its f ruits,’ says Jesus Christ( a s ), and this is no less true when applied to religions. Instead of involving ourselves in the dry, vague, and abstract intricacies of logical, historical, and metaphysical discussions of the various p roblems of Eschatology, 40 The Review of Religions – June 2003 Islam is the only Living Religion By Maulana Abdur-Raheem Dard Reprinted from The Review of Religions, London, May, 1925. E t h o l o g y, Ethnology, Sociology, and Anthropology we deal d i rectly with concrete and patent facts which re q u i re no more than common sense to be understood; just as in practical life we need not know the terms of Biology and Botany to know a tree, so to judge a religion we need not necessarily know the technicalities of Materialism, Polytheism, Anthro p o m o r- phism, Agnosticism, and Pantheism, etc. How do we know that fire burns or that water quenches our thirst? Is it by any anthro – pological excavations or subtle philosophical discussions that we know the practical effects of things so essential for us in this world? The child learns all these things by simple observation and experiment. He feels the necessity of water, observes other people drinking it, himself makes an experiment, and gets at the secret of the thing. He does not, rather he cannot aff o rd to, analyse the component parts of water and then think of using it. W h e re in the nature of things experiment is not possible he decides by observation and i n f e re n c e . And so can every man possessing common sense get at the truth of religion. He should only know the object of religion, the purpose which it should serve, and then he can easily decide as to what religion is really a Living Religion. The one which fulfils its object is surely a t rue, a real, and a Living Religion; and the other not. A little consideration will show that God is the essence of all religion. Cicero said, ‘Men were called religious from “relegere”, because they re c o n s i d e re d , carefully and, as it were, went over again in thought all that appertained to the worship of the gods.’ Lactantius re g a rd e d religion as ‘the idea of an obligation by which man is bound to an invisible God.’ Or to avoid the word ‘God’ we may define religion, in the words of C. G. D’Alviella, as ‘The conception man forms of his relations with the supernatural and mysterious powers on which he believes to depend.’ Or, as Mill puts it, ‘The essence of religion is the strong and earnest direction of the emotions 41 Islam is the Only Living Religion The Review of Religions – June 2003 and desires towards an ideal object, recognised as of the highest excellence and as rightfully paramount over all selfish objects of desire.’ Or we may say, with H. W. Garrod, that ‘Religion seeks an object to which the whole self of a man can go out in an ardour of joyous devotion.’ According to Islam, which, I think, is the best definition, Religion seeks to strengthen man’s relation with God and to perfect his dealing with His cre a t u res. We see t h rough all these descriptions that God in one way or another forms the very essence of religion. It is the recognition of God, in a word, as an object of worship, love, and obedience that makes a religion. D e l e t e God from it and you omit the whole thing. N o w, what is the object of worship and love? Every one of us has friends and relations to love and superiors to obey, and we know practically what the words ‘love’ and ‘obey’ signify. ‘What is love? Ask him who loves,’ said Shelley. And it is quite true. We know what we do for a person we love. We seek to please him, serve him, see him, and talk to him; and as they say ‘love begets love’ we are not satisfied unless we are convinced of the fact that the person we love also loves us in return, which we can know by his practical behaviour towards us and verbal assurances given to us in his own words. Exactly similar is our case with God. The principal object of a religion, apart from its teachings on morality, society, life after death, and God, etc., is to lead men practically to God so as to satisfy their deep yearning for union with Him. Now to call a religion living we must see if the God it presents is living or not. If a religion presents a God Who is not living it must be called a dead religion. I may, by the way, point out here that the words ‘living religion’ are sometimes used to denote that the followers of that religion are living; just as a living language is one which is spoken by a people so a living religion sometimes means a religion which is professed by some living people. But when I use the words I do not mean that its followers are living, I mean 42 Islam is the Only Living Religion The Review of Religions – June 2003 the religion itself. How then can we know whether the God presented by a religion is living or not? The answer to this question is very simple. If a religion takes us to God, and we practically realise that the object of loving Him is fulfilled, we shall undoubtedly be convinced of the fact. When, after our efforts in accordance with that religion, to please God, serve Him, and talk to Him we find that we are loved in return by Him, and we have the honour of talking to Him, we shall be perfectly justified to call that religion a Living Religion, and that God a Living God. So far the adherents of all religions will, most pro b a b l y, a g ree with me in saying that religion, in order to be living, must present a Living God. All the advocates of the various religions honestly hold that the God which each one presents is a Living One. If a fact were proved by simply making an assertion, then every individual religion is a living religion to the exclusion of all others. If a log of wood were to pass off as a living tree yielding fruit, and if a dead body w e re to pass off as a living human being, then the assertions of all the advocates might of course be taken for granted. But even the most foolish of human beings would not commit this mistake. He knows by his every-day experience that a living tre e blossoms and yields fruit, and that a living person moves and speaks. He knows the signs of life and can therefore very easily distinguish the living from the dead. So can a man of ordinary common sense distinguish a Living God from a dead one. The adherents of all re l i g i o n s believe and admit that God spoke and helped the people in the past. And to show that it is a fact I give here some quotations and brief re f e rences from the sacred books of the world:- God spoke to Adam (Gen. 2:16), Noah (Gen.6:13), Abraham (Gen.12:1), Hagar (Gen.16: 8), Isaac (Gen.26:2), Jacob (Gen.28:13), Moses (Exo.3:4), A a ron (Exo.4:27), Joshua (Josh.1:1), Children of Israel (Jud.1:2), Gideon (Jud.7:2), Samuel (Sam.1, 3:4), David 43 Islam is the Only Living Religion The Review of Religions – June 2003 (Sam.1, 23:11), Elijah (Kings 2, l:4), Solomon (Chro.2, 1:11 ) , Zechariah (Chro.2, 24:20), Huldah (Chro.2, 34:23), Job (Job 38:1), Ahaz (Isaiah, 7:10), Isaiah (Isaiah, 38:4), Jeremiah (Jer. 1:4), Ezekiel (Ezk. 18:1), Hosea (Hos. 1:2), Daniel (Dan. 9:22), Joel (Joel 1), Amos (Amos 1:3), Obadiah (Obd. 1:1), Jonah (Jonah, 1:1), Malachi (1:1), Zechariah (1:3), Haggai (1:3), Zephaniah (1:1), Habakkuk (2:2), Christ (St. Mark, 1:11). About Confucius( a s ) it is said, ‘Twice or thrice he did vaguely intimate that he had a mission from heaven and that until it was accomplished he was safe against all attempts to injure him Of Buddha(as) we read that the ‘ A rchangel Brahma came and ministered to him’ (Encyclopaedia Britt.). The origin of Vedas is also ascribed to Divine Revelation. About Zoroaster(as) we read in the Encyclopaedia that ‘He experienced within himself the i n w a rd call to seek the amelioration of mankind and their deliverance from ruin, and re g a rded this inner impulse, intensified as it was by long, contemplative solitude and by visions, as being the call a d d ressed to him by God Himself. Like Muhammad(sa) after him, he often speaks of his conversations with God and the a rchangels (Encyclopaedia Britt.). About the Holy Qur’an God Himself says: ‘And this Book, We have revealed it as a blessing; then follow it and fear to do w rong, that ye may have mercy.’ (VI., 156.). The Sikhs claim that the Almighty addressed Guru Nanak as follows:- ‘All have missed the right path, thou direct them to the right path.’ ‘Go thou into the world and make all repeat the One name, Establish a true religion and remove untruth.’ (History and Philosophy of Sikh Religion, by Khazan Singh, E.A.C. Page 349.) Now having seen that the followers of all religions believe that God spoke to His chosen 44 Islam is the Only Living Religion The Review of Religions – June 2003 ones in the past, it becomes quite evident that He can and does speak with men, and that the words of Cicero: ‘Think not that any such thing can happen as we often see in plays, that some god, coming down from heaven, should join the assemblies of men, hold intercourse on the earth, and converse with mortals’ are not quite true. We cannot imagine that so many personages living in diff e re n t countries, diff e rent times, and under diff e rent circ u m s t a n c e s who laid claim to revelation and made it good by practically o v e rcoming all those who opposed and persecuted them were a host of absolutely false and wicked impostors. Nothing short of madness and stupidity could conceive them as such. At the same time we see that God spoke to them in this very world so that no one can object to its possibility now. To say that our union with God will take place in the next world is of no use to us. ‘We cannot afford to trust our spiritual welfare to the life to come. No man is permitted to visit this world twice, and if he can find nothing in this life, and in the life to come he discovers that he has all along been in erro r, where lies the remedy? Even supposing that there is no God and no future life, he shall have wasted this life in running after a delusion. We are told to do this or that, but what we want to know is what will God do in return for our deeds? Our acts and conduct are like knocking at a door, but the question is, will it be opened to us? If the door is not to be opened to us and our knocking is to be in vain, what has our re l i g i o n taught us? An incongru o u s noise which we could have made without the guidance of a religion. All that it has done for us is that it has created in our hearts a longing which it cannot satisfy. A true religion, therefore, must teach us something whereby we can cause the door to open before we leave this world, so that, before our retreat is finally cut off, we may be assured that we are following the right path. 45 Islam is the Only Living Religion The Review of Religions – June 2003 Now let us see which of the religions of the world fulfils this object. We cannot, of course, make or recommend here an individual experiment for this purpose, because any eff o r t made in this direction will take a very long time. Therefore it is wise to depend on observation and evidence. We find that none of the followers of M o s e s( a s ), Jesus ( a s ), Buddha ( a s ), Z o ro a s t e r( a s ), Confucius ( a s ), Guru Nanak, Rama Chandra, or K r i s h n a( a s ) has, after their respective times, ever laid any claim to Divine Revelation or union with God. To have actually attained to union with God is quite a different thing; we do not know a single instance in which even a claim has ever been made to that. Jesus(as) says: ‘And these signs shall follow them that believe: In my Name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues, they shall take up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover.’’ (Mark xvi., 17:18). Do we meet anywhere with such believers in Jesus(as) now? Has any one ever laid claim to these things? Why, if not, we ask? Is it that the words of Jesus ( a s ) a re wrong and untrue? Have they lost their meaning? Are the Christian teachings so difficult to act upon that during a period of 2,000 years none of the creatures of God has been able to attain to such high position? What use is a religion upon which mankind has acted for so long a time, and yet has failed to bring forth the promised fruit? God spoke to people so often after Moses(as) that there hardly passed a period of 50 years without someone being selected for that honour. Why is it, we ask the Jews, that there have now passed more than 2,000 years and the whole race of Israelites has failed to produce a single worthy son of theirs who could talk to God? He used to speak to their children of yore. Why has He forsaken them now? Why is it, we ask the Buddhists, that the words of Buddha(as) are not realised now? Where are those ascetics about whom he says that they ‘can leave this world and reach even the 46 Islam is the Only Living Religion The Review of Religions – June 2003 heavens of Brahma himself’ ? Where is he who, according to Buddhism, ‘can acquire the power of hearing the sounds of the unseen world as distinctly as those of the phenomenal world more distinctly, in point of fact’? Where are those whom Buddha(as) p romised ‘divine vision’? He died in 470 B.C., and since that time none has ever reached these heights of spiritual pro g re s s . Has humanity become degraded and degenerated so much? We do not think if it were a fact our scientific men could make the deaf hear and the dumb speak? We challenge the advocates of all the religions of the world combined together to point to a single person who has during the last 500 or 1,000 years ever laid claim to Divine Revelation. We are sure there is none; at least we do not know of any. Has God ceased to exist then? Has He lost His attributes? Has He no power of speaking? The attributes of God are ever existing and He is not subject to diminution or decline. Then why has He been silent during all these centuries? If He has ceased to speak, how are we to assure ourselves that He has not ceased to hear, and that His other attributes are u n i m p a i red? Would not His silence justify the conclusion that He can no longer see, and that He has lost the attribute of knowledge, and that He has lost the power to watch over and protect us, and that the universe is now going on of itself? If His other attributes are acting just as they used to do, why has He ceased to speak? We cannot accept a God Who is deaf, dumb, or blind. Human nature revolts against such an idea, it has always revolted and it will continue to revolt against it. Such a God is no better than a lifeless image; nay, He is worse than that, because He has no form even. He is a mere n o n e n t i t y. Can we owe allegiance to a mere non- existence? Can we love, obey, and worship a defective and imbecile deity? No, certainly not. Our God is Almighty, Omniscient and free from every kind of shortcoming and defect. He is All-good, All beauty, All-love, All-mercy, and All-excellence. He does not leave 47 Islam is the Only Living Religion The Review of Religions – June 2003 the world to grope after Him. Whenever He sees that His creatures have gone astray, He raises someone from among themselves to guide them to the right path with His words of p o w e r. He provides everything we re q u i re for our physical life, t h e re f o re, He cannot be expected to be so unwise and c ruel as to leave the best portion of our existence – the soul – quite unfurnished with the necessary spiritual food and guidance. Just imagine what an infinite universe has been created for the satisfaction of our physical needs. There is a sky with innumerable stars and planets, including among them a sun and a moon which give us light and warmth-so essential for our well-being. Think of the vast expanse of the atmosphere a round us, full of pure and fre s h air to make us breathe and infinite space to allow us to build, rise and fly wherever we p l e a s e . Take the earth itself, look to the series of rivers, mines and mountains so wonderfully distributed over its s u r f a c e . Just see the diff e re n t strata suited for the pro d u c t i o n of various vegetable gro w t h s . Think of the animal and vegetable kingdoms, what a wonderful and exquisite scale of c reation we notice in the universe, how beautifully, e fficiently and mysteriously it works to a common end! T h e whole of this gigantic and magnificent system of org a n – isation is simply meant for p roviding man the crown of c reation the necessities and luxuries of his physical life. B u t what use is our body without a m i n d ? Is it not a mere machine without the power and f o rce to make it work for an end? What has God pro v i d e d for our soul’s spiritual guidance? Can we see with our eyes without the light of the sun? Can we breathe with our lungs without the air outside? Can we eat with our mouths without there being anything to eat? Just in the same manner we stand in need of heavenly guidance and Divine re v e l a t i o n to make proper use of our reason and intellect. As our eyes a re imperfect without the light of the sun, so our intellect, 48 Islam is the Only Living Religion The Review of Religions – June 2003 h o w e v e r, good and healthy it might be, is imperfect without the light of Divine re v e l a t i o n . Every idea that comes into the mind of man is, however, not to be looked upon as revelation, it may be called inspiration to a certain extent, if it is right and good, but it is not re v e l a t i o n which signifies the word of God Himself. If there really exists a God, He must out of His infinite m e rcy guide and help us in a befitting manner. If He does not p rovide us with any spiritual guidance He is guilty of the g rossest injustice towards us. Our soul is undoubtedly more p recious than our body. Our body perishes when we die, but our soul survives. It is disconnected from the body and t r a n s f e r red to some other sphere w h e re it pursues its endless course of pro g ress and spiritual advancement. We live after our death and it is our life after death which is the real life. This world is transient and the life we lead here is very short-lived, it is only like an empty dre a m c o m p a red with the life to come. So it would be attributing the g reatest of injustice and cru e l t y to suppose that God does not p rovide for our souls the necessary spiritual guidance, as He has so bountifully done for our physical bodies. We cannot conceive that the perfect God can ever be so unjust or cruel as to leave His cre a t u res in distre s s and aff l i c t i o n . Moreover, we cannot be certain of His existence unless we know that He speaks. Being infinite, He has no body and therefore we cannot see Him physically. So if He does not speak to us and help us in a manner to make Himself known, we cannot be convinced of His existence. Reason at its best can simply tell us that there should be some God, but ‘should be’ is not ‘IS’. It is our conviction with regard to His existence, as it is with all other things, that can keep us from the various kinds of sins and temptations. If we are sure that there is a snake in a hole, we will not put our hand into it; if we know that there is fire, we will not jump into it; in the same manner, if man knows and is perfectly sure that there exists a God who will call him to 49 Islam is the Only Living Religion The Review of Religions – June 2003 account for everything he does or says, he will never dare to commit any sin. But if he does not know or if he is not perfectly convinced of it, he will surely not care for anything. The other thing which keeps a man from sin is love. If we love what is good, we will hate what is evil. We know that God is All-beauty; beauty inspires love, and love cannot be satisfied without union with Him, and there is no other way of union with God except conversation. His word is sweet. It is all love. A true lover cannot live without talking to his beloved. It is his life. So is the case of a person who loves God. It would not only be gro s s injustice but tyranny to think that God does not or cannot speak to console His devoted servants and lovers. It is u n t h i n k a b l e . I give you the glad tidings that Islam claims to teach THAT w h e reby the door of re v e l a t i o n and communion with God may be opened, nay, it claims that t h rough it the door has alre a d y been opened to many who have in this very life entered it and seen the Face and Majesty of God, and that if you so desire, it can, God willing, do the same for y o u . The messenger of the latter days, the prophet Ahmad ( a s ), claims that he has enjoyed communion with the True and Living God by acting upon the teachings of Islam. He has held converse with the Almighty and he has made this claim good by making prophecies which have been and are being fulfilled, by working miracles which were witnessed not only by those who believed in him, but also by those who opposed him, by curing the sick in the most wonderful manner. There is every kind of evidence available to prove all this. You can see documentary evidence, you can talk and inquire from living witnesses of all that has been said, you can know the p rophecies which still await fulfilment. Nay, you can still see his son and second successor, who claims that God speaks to him, and that he has heard the living word of God with his own ears [This article was published in 1925: Ed]. Can the followers of 50 Islam is the Only Living Religion The Review of Religions – June 2003 any other religion point to such a person in the near past like the P romised Messiah( a s )? Can they name any one still living with whom we may be able to talk and converse on this point? I am sure there is none. Why then do we find such people in the world of Islam? Is God angry with others? Jesus says: ‘Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire . Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.’ Islam or the Holy Qur’an is a living tree, because it has b rought forth good fruit. A corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit. The Holy Qur’an is p u rely the Wo rd of God the A l m i g h t y, and I invite the Western people to read it and accept it. Seekers after truth and searchers for guidance, bless your stars that the Book revealed by God for the good of mankind is p resented before you. O yearners for spiritual life, here is p resented to you the chalice brimful of that life-giving Elixir which, thirteen centuries back, restored the dead to life, that you may be able to slake your thirst and enjoy the true life. A fool, indeed, is he who is far away f rom God and yet considers himself in the land of the living; and ignorant, really, is one who, though steeped in spiritual darkness, thinks himself to be in the light. In truth, he alone is living who lives a heavenly life, and none is more lifeless than one who lacks life of the spirit. The dead entombed in graves are decidedly not so defunct as those buried in their living c o r p o real framework. The sepulchre of earth is certainly not so hideous as the tomb of flesh, because, while the hard earth of the former is immune from the inroads of the devil, the flowing fluid of the latter is subject to the continual inrushes of the Evil One. He, of course, is in the light whose heart is illumined by the heavenly light, because the external light cannot 51 Islam is the Only Living Religion The Review of Religions – June 2003 avail, unless there is light within. One whose inside is dark will continue to remain in darkness, even in the broad daylight. There are many who take pity on the blind, but more pitiable are those whose minds lack spiritual sight. There are many who take compassion on the deaf, but none takes compassion on those whose minds are closed against truth. Those are really deserving of pity who have minds, but do not understand; who have eyes, but do not see; and who have ears, but do not hear. Such people are little better than irrational animals, because they are unconscious of the life of the spirit which is the real source of all life. Life of the spirit is the kind of life which knows no death. Out of sympathy for such men, I offer this tre a s u re of guidance with the utmost regard and affection, hoping that unbiased minds will surely pay their very best attention to it, and sincerely ponder over the same. No book on the surface of the earth enjoys the peculiar privilege of everlasting life, except the Holy Qur’an of Islam. All others have fallen a prey to death and decay; but this book is ever yielding rich fruit which is the token of life. Even today, men who follow it, feel the same thrill of life as did those who acted upon it at the time of its revelation. Know ye, lovers of life, that there is no living book under the vault of heaven, except the Holy Qur’an; there is no living faith under the sun, except the sacred Islam; and there is surely no living prophet in the world, but the Holy Prophet(sa) of Arabia or one who gets His spirit and becomes completely like-minded with Him. 52 Islam is the Only Living Religion The Review of Religions – June 2003