Death and the Afterlife Prophets

QUESTION & ANSWER – Belief and Guidance

30 The Review of Religions – June 2003 Where is the line drawn between those who go to paradise and those who go to h e l l ? Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad: The Holy Qur’an draws this line very conspicuously for mankind and yet invisibly. I shall explain this – it is not a paradox, it is a situation of compulsion. The Holy Qur’an states that man would not be burd e n e d beyond his capacity, (Ch.2: v.287). This is an overriding law. A person will have ‘earned’ his reward [by way of good deeds] and this will be for him, and against him is what he does by way of wrong doings. This is a very important principle. When we talk of misbehaviour or wrongdoing we forget that this should be judged and under- stood as a relative act, dependent upon the diff e re n t c i rcumstances from which deeds arise. The misbehaviour of a child who has been brought up in an impoverished environment should be judged a c c o rdingly and diff e re n t l y from that of a child who faces m o re fortunate circ u m s t a n c e s . For example, should the more fortunate child steal, it is in a scenario where he is not compelled to steal for food and QUESTIONER Belief and Guidance Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad, the Fourth Head of the Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam, (God’s Mercy be upon him), o ff e red to people of all nationalities, faiths and beliefs the opportunity of raising questions and discuss issues that were of interest to them. Presented below are answers to some questions that were raised in two sessions held in London. Compiled by Amatul Hadi Ahmad 31The Review of Religions – June 2003 such like. [One can include many other crimes in this category]. These days, some judges have already started to take note of circ u m s t a n c e s b e f o re passing a sentence. H o w e v e r, it is impossible for man to clearly see the line that d i ff e rentiates between a tru l y committed criminal and the one who may have some justification. The Holy Qur’an tells us it is only God who would see these lines and he would re w a rd mankind justly according to the situation in which one behaved in a certain manner. Should state and religion be kept separate, in other words, is there a place in the modern world for a theocratic state? Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad: Certainly not – according to the Holy Qur’an there is no room for a theocratic state. Islam is a religion that emphasizes the role of secularism in govern- ment. I have recited to you [during the speech] many verses of the Qur’an in which this has been clearly and repeatedly mentioned. These verses command that one must discharge one’s responsibilities, as members of government, with the principle of absolute justice – re g a rdless of the religion, colour or creed of the people over whom one rules. The only known system of dispensation of government in Islam is that based on absolute justice. Religion was needed at times when humanity was not cultured or civilised. Do you agree that religion is making mankind uncivilized today? More killings have been done in the name of religion. Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad: First of all I beg to differ with the statement that more killings have happened in the name of religion. I think the killings that w e re caused by the second world war were far more than all the killings in the whole human history done in the name of religion. If you look at QUESTIONER QUESTIONER Belief and Guidance 32 The Review of Religions – June 2003 the killings that have been attributed to religion more closely, you would be horrified to learn that it is politics that is exploiting religion to spre a d h a t red and to encourage the killing of others. The people who move the pawns have invisible hands and it is the move of ‘pawns’ that you observe. What we understand by religious madness is that it has been employed to disturb the peace of mankind re p e a t e d l y. H o w e v e r, it is not because of religion itself. No religion at its s o u rce when it is pure ever advocates hatred in the name of love and murder in the name of God. Always at the source, when religion is at its purest, religion is at the receiving end of c ruelties. It admonishes patience, it admonishes love in return for cruelty and hatred. It is not true religion that is responsible for bloodshed – it is either the misconceived or corrupted and distorted concept of religion or exploitation of religion when it has become c o r rupted at the hands of politicians that is re s p o n s i b l e , (with due apologies to the politicians present today)! Why is it essential for human beings to have the help of Prophets and why do Prophets have certain names and denominations attached to them? Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad: The question raises the issue that if a Prophet is born amongst the Muslims, why should Christians change their religion to accept that message? The same is true of Hindus, of Confucianists, of Zoro a s t r i a n s and of so many others. Why should man be put to such a trial, not only to change his way of life but also to change the name of the religion in which he is born. This, in fact, is the fundamental obstruction in the way of acceptance of other P rophets. However, the question is automatically resolved if the way in which the Holy Qur’an explains the office of Prophethood is understood. QUESTIONER Belief and Guidance 33The Review of Religions – June 2003 According to the Qur’an, the theory of Prophethood is that God always makes Himself known by manifesting Himself t h rough the agency of those whom He chooses to speak to and He chooses only such people who are well suited to serve His cause. For example, in a society in which most people are not truthful – even if they don’t lie directly but imagine things and exaggerate – if God chooses a certain person who is given to these vices, consciously or unconsciously, what would be the result? Would God not be misrepresented to the people? If He chooses someone who is weak of heart and who cannot go through the stress of opposition, will he not lose the message half way? So, God has to be selective. He has to select only such a person who is highly capable, mentally as well as in the quality of heart, to be perfectly suited to the office of Prophethood. This is how He, according to the philosophy of Islam, chooses His messengers. The second part is that whatever name He gives to a religion is just a transient thing. What is important for man is to decide whether someone has been sent by his Creator or not. That is the only thing that man should judge. If he worries about labels, then he is dictating to his Lord. He attaches a condition to God and says that whoever comes must have this tag with him or he would not, for instance, accept Christ if he came with a diff e rent tag. S i m i l a r l y, Muslims naturally would not believe in a Prophet f rom among the Christians. They would say that the name of the religion that is true is Islam and so they will only accept God’s messengers under the condition that He sends them with the tags of their choosing and not any other. This means that one is dictating terms to God. All that God is interested in is that He wants to see loyalty towards Him with no other loyalty standing in the way. That is the only test He puts mankind through and whenever He sends a mes- senger, man is always put to the same test. At such times some people adhere to the religion of the people they are born amongst. They say: ‘How can Belief and Guidance 34 The Review of Religions – June 2003 we accept such and such a person when he has come from a diff e rent country, from a d i ff e rent race, from among a d i ff e rent people and in the name of a diff e rent re l i g i o n when we were expecting somebody to come from within our own religion’. These are the hindrances created in the way of man’s acceptance of the truth. Hence, only those people accept a divine message whose loyalties lie with their Creator alone and not with some denomination or name of a religion. This is why we are duty bound to seek out a P rophet wherever he comes. Why, however, is this so? The reason why we need Prophets is that Prophets come only during an age that is distorted. A prophet appears at a time when mankind has, as a whole, gone astray, with the exception of a few; when man has turned his back to his Lord and begun to feel the pride of knowledge; when he considers himself not dependent on any o u t w a rd source and believes himself to have gained maturity and majority; when he thinks that he does not stand in need of any outside help or any super- natural interference. Only then does God send Prophets to cut man back to size with the message that either he turns to his Lord and submits to him or else be destroyed as a civil- isation – and that is exactly what has happened in previous ages. There is a fallacy from which the present day man is suffering. We consider that we are the most advanced people on earth and a person belonging to previous generations and ages was backward. Since he was not mature, he could not see things as wisely as we can and could not make choices because he was so far behind in history. This fallacy from which man is suffering is entirely deceptive because if one looks at the march of humanity and takes a c ross section at any stage in h i s t o r y, the man of that age would be the most advanced. He would be going through the same psychological complex of superiority because to him we are not visible. To the man of previous ages, the only visible trace is of the man behind him. Belief and Guidance 35 Belief and Guidance The Review of Religions – June 2003 This is the situation of man whether he lived 4000 years ago or 6000 years ago. He would have the same haughty attitude and would be thinking that he is at the summit of things – the first in the procession of manhood. He thinks he belongs to people who have attained maturity in terms of human thought and so he is fre e . According to the Holy Qur’an, the same question was raised by Pharaoh some 3000 or so years ago. ‘Why do we need a God or Moses? Are we not adult enough? We know what is wrong and what is right. We alone are our gods and we don’t need any other god’. Exactly the same question was raised by people before the Pharaohs, the people of Noah and by yet others before them. In short, this is a question that has been asked again and again. However, if we accept that man needs an outside agency, that is, a Messenger of Allah to guide him – he needs it today as much as he needed it in the past. The second aspect from which we should look at this very important and philosophical question is this that however advanced man is, in relation to his Creator he stands at the same place of ignorance. As Einstein once beautifully put it that in a way you cannot be closer to God because He is unlimited in His powers and His attributes. The ratio that, a c c o rding to Einstein, a knowledgeable or a wise person has with his Cre a t o r, is mathematically the same ratio as an ignorant person will have with his Creator because man is zero as compared to the infinity of God. Hence, the relationship will always remain unchanged. However much pro g ress you make in this age with respect to your Creator and His wisdom, you remain ignorant and an ignorant person always stands in need of guidance from a wiser person – that relationship cannot be changed.