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QUESTION & ANSWER – Faith and Belief

The belief in religion through firm conviction in faith rather than scientific reasoning is discussed as well as how experiences concerning God and faith can be explained and understood.

23The Review of Religions – September 2003 [ Tr a n s l a t o r’s Note: All references to the verses of the Holy Qur’an are given in Arabic as they occur in the text. The English translation, presented in Italics, is taken from the translation of the Holy Qur’an by Hadhrat Maulwi Sher Ali S a h i b( r a ). Where the Promised Messiah(as) has himself stated a certain interpretation of an Arabic verse, this is incorporated in the main body of the text]. The path that a beginner should adopt in the realm of spiritual knowledge is that he should, first, acquire familiarity with God’s attributes such that it takes him to the level of certainty about God. It is then that he will be informed about God’s being and about His perfect attributes and at that point Spiritual Progress 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 advent had been foretold 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. Presented below is a compilation of extracts that have been taken from the discourses and speeches of Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad(as) of Qadian, the Promised Messiah and Mahdi, as recorded in the collection entitled Malfoozat. Malfoozat is the title of the ten volumes that contain the collection of discourses, speeches and addresses of Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad(as) of Qadian, the Promised Messiah and Mahdi. Translated by Amatul Hadi Ahmad 24 The Review of Religions – September 2003 his soul will speak from within that it has found God and that it is fully satisfied. When there is such faith in God that it reaches the level of certainty and a person feels that he has ‘seen’ God and has acquired a familiarity with God’s attributes, at that stage a person develops a revulsion for sin. The nature that was once attracted to sin, now hates sin and this condition is known as repentance. The point that after acquiring total faith one’s nature comes to hate sin, is something that can be clearly and easily understood. There are in the world some poisonous animals as well as poisons such as strychnine. Why does man fear these? Simply for this reason that experience shows that a certain poison, taken in a certain quantity, proves fatal. Many have been observed to have died after an intake of poison and that is why one is not inclined towards taking poison – one fears it. When this is the case, what then is the reason that all manner of sins are committed, so much so that if there was even a very small coin lying in the street, someone would stoop down to pick it up when a brief enquiry could establish its o w n e r. I know that there have been cases where for such paltry amounts as 12 annas the lives of innocent children have been taken. You can see from the proceedings of the courts what dark and fearful scenes emerge. Lies are told for the petty things. Bad and evil deeds are flowing like a river in full flow. Why is this? Simply because there is no belief in God. People are afraid of snakes and poisons because they believe them to be fatal and they have faith in such things being dangerous. I see no reason why there should not be a hatred of sin if there were complete faith in God. There are two things that are important for a human being to safeguard against the bad and to run towards the good. There are two aspects of goodness. One is abandonment of harmful acts and the other is performance of deeds that are of benefit to others. A person cannot achieve per-fection merely through giving up bad deeds unless there is also a move towards doing deeds that benefit others. This is an indicator of how much change has, in fact, taken Spiritual Progress 25 Spiritual Progress The Review of Religions – September 2003 place and the higher levels [of goodness] are granted only when a person has faith in the attributes of God as well as knowledge of those attributes. Unless this condition is fulfilled, one cannot even protect oneself against bad deeds, leave alone being beneficial to others which is a great thing indeed. Is it not the case that people stand in awe of kings and [here in India] people fear, to an extent, the penal system of India and many people do not go against the law. Why then the audacity to go against the law of the One who is Judge Supreme! Is there any reason other than that there is no faith in God – this is the only reason. In short, the first stage of safeguarding oneself against bad deeds can only be successfully completed when there is faith in God. The second stage should then be one of searching for the path that was adopted by God’s holy people and there is only one such path that has been adopted by all G o d ’s holy people who by treading this path benefited from God’s beneficence. The way to discover this path is that one should try to ascertain what kind of relationship God had with the holy people. The first stage of safeguarding against the bad is acquired through the manifestation of J a l a l i attributes, that is, awe-inspiring attributes of God because He is the enemy of those who indulge in base and shameless acts. The second stage is granted through the manifestation of God’s Jamali A PERSON CANNOT ACHIEVE PERFECTION MERELY THROUGH GIVING UP BAD DEEDS UNLESS THERE IS ALSO A MOVE TOWARDS DOING DEEDS THAT BENEFIT OTHERS. THIS IS AN INDICATOR OF HOW MUCH CHANGE HAS, IN FACT, TAKEN PLACE AND THE HIGHER LEVELS [OF GOODNESS] ARE GRANTED ONLY WHEN A PERSON HAS FAITH IN THE ATTRIBUTES OF GOD AS WELL AS KNOWLEDGE OF THOSE ATTRIBUTES. UNLESS THIS CONDITION IS FULFILLED, ONE CANNOT EVEN PROTECT ONESELF AGAINST BAD DEEDS, LEAVE ALONE BEING BENEFICIAL TO OTHERS 26 Spiritual Progress The Review of Religions – September 2003 attributes, that is, attributes of beneficence and beauty. The ultimate, however, is that nothing can be achieved unless one is granted strength and power from God in the form of what is known in Islamic terminology as Ruhul Qudus, the Holy Spirit. It is a force that is granted by God and with its descent comes inner peace and t r a n q u i l i t y, S a k e e n a, and there develops a natural love and attraction for goodness. The person endowed with R u h u l Qudus runs to perform good deeds with pleasure and enjoyment whereas others see it is as a heavy burden. Just as even a child enjoys eating something delicious, so when a person develops a relationship with God and the Holy Spirit descends upon him from God, performance of good deeds for such a person becomes like drinking a sweet and delicious drink. The beauty that exists within goodness begins to become apparent to him and he runs helplessly towards good deeds and even the thought of bad deeds makes his soul shudder. The nature of these matters, h o w e v e r, is such that they cannot be adequately expressed in words because they are matters of the heart. The true significance of these matters can only be known through feeling them when one is granted fresh signs of light. One should not, however, begin to feel proud and should not consider experiences of deep emotion that at times one may have, to be the ultimate spiritual state. Such experiences are of a temporary nature. Sometimes it does happen that a person reading a novel cries at the painful circumstances described there. The reader of the novel clearly knows that it is an imaginary story and not a true one. Hence, if crying or feeling a sense of deep emotion were to be the basis of true happiness and enjoyment, nowhere would there be people more advanced in spiritual enjoyment than in Europe because thousands of novels are published there and millions of people shed tears while reading t h e m. The truth is that it is part of the nature of man that he laughs at something humorous and cries in situations that lead him to tears and, at times, he also derives a 27 Spiritual Progress The Review of Religions – September 2003 certain pleasure from this. This pleasure, however, cannot be the basis of any spiritual discernment. For instance, a man falls in love with a woman and in his emotional state, makes up verses and recites them which make him both happy and sad and he weeps. There is in human beings this capacity whether it is used appropriately or inappropriately. A person should not be satisfied at just being in possession of this capacity. God has endowed [mankind] with this capacity so that the true seekers may not be deprived and, when used appropriately, it should act as a prelude to the next stage of spiritual development and should become like a faculty. In short, matters such as crying or the abandonment of certain other material things or relationships are of a temporary nature. One should not become inactive through reliance upon them. Matters upon which a true knowledge of God can be based are such that if a person is tried in the path of God again and again and is thrown into the river of difficulties and tribulations, even then he should not be perturbed and should keep moving forward. After this, he is made aware of the knowledge he has of God and it is this that is a true pleasure and a true bounty. At such a time there is a deeply felt emotion but this emotion is not temporary, rather it is filled with joy and pleasure and the soul flows towards God like a spring of pure water. In other words, before reaching the true ocean, one sees a mirage that also appears like an ocean. The person who is deceived by illusion and does not move forward, loses hope and is left without any achievement or success. On the other hand, the person who does not give up and keeps moving forward, is the one who attains the desired aim. (Malfoozat Vol. 2 pp.237-241) Worship of the God that we believe in does not require strenuous mystical exercises nor does it pose any need for images and idols. In our religion, the attainment of [closeness to] God and the witnessing of His manifestations does not neces- sitate undergoing extreme physical exercises. On the contrary, those who love God truly, are able to find Him very quickly through an 28 Spiritual Progress The Review of Religions – September 2003 easy path and this we have seen for ourselves through practise. If a human being takes one step towards God, He takes two towards that person. If a person walks speedily towards God, God runs towards him and enlightens his heart. In my view the idol makers did not understand the wisdom of the secret of God remaining as the Unseen and the Hidden. It is precisely these attributes of God that open the way of desiring and seeking Him and as a result lead to the path of all knowledge and search. All the knowledge that has been acquired by man was at some time ‘hidden’ from and unseen by man. It was man’s effort and search that shone through and made him attain the desired jewel [of knowledge] that was sought. A true lover is just like that. The absence of his beloved makes no d i fference to his love. On the contrary, the apparent separation creates a sort of anguish and pain that further enhances the feelings of love. How can a person who searches for God, idol in hand, rightly claim to have true and sincere love [of God] when without the idol his attention cannot be fully focused towards that Being of pure and complete beauty. A human being should examine the state of his own love [of God]. If it is the case that like the love- sick lover he sees the face of his beloved at every moment, no matter what he is involved in, and his full attention is focused on the beloved then he should know that he is truly in love with God and that God’s love and light exist within him. However, if it is the case that the various activities of life and external bonds and obstructions distract his attention [from the countenance of God] even for one moment, then I say truly that such a person is not a true lover of God and that is why the light and brilliance that is accorded to the true lovers [of God] is not granted to such a person. This is the very point at which most people have stumbled and have gone on to deny the very existence of God. Ignorant as they are, they did not examine their own love and without taking stock of it they began to have wrong notions about God. Hence, in my 29 Spiritual Progress The Review of Religions – September 2003 view God’s remaining invisible and hidden is for the purpose of m a n ’s progress in the path of sincerity and in the attainment of true guidance. It further serves the purpose of cleansing and sharpening man’s spiritual capacities in order that God’s light may be manifested in him. [Malfoozat Vol. 1, pp.318-319] In my view a person cannot gain any benefit until he becomes inclined towards a pure change in himself through his efforts. To quell the rebellious spirit within oneself is a great achievement in a person’s struggle on this path. It is through the rule of this rebellious spirit, Nafse Ammara, that a person is deprived from fulfilling his obligations to God and from doing his duty to fellow man. There are, in fact, only two parts in the Shari’a [Islamic Law]: One is the duty to God and the other is the duty to fellow human beings. What is the obligation to God? It is just this that God should be worshipped and that none other than Him should be considered worthy of worship. It is, moreover, the obligation to occupy one self with remembrance of God and to act in accordance with His teachings and to abstain from that which He has forbidden and to guard oneself at all times against that which He has made illegal. Obligation to one’s fellow human beings is briefly that one should not oppress others or be cruel to others. One should not usurp the rights of others and should abstain from bearing false witness. The above two propositions are so comprehensive that all types of sins, crimes and evil deeds and the principles of all types of goodness are encompassed by them. By the same token, however, the extent of difficulty of achieving them is also great. It is easy for someone to say that he can safeguard himself against sin through his own strength. Man, however, can never separate himself from his nature. The nature of man is not like a part of his clothing that, should it become filthy he can cut it off and remove it. The nature of man is an integral part of the soul from its birth. Human nature has been created so that it fears and abstains only from such things that it considers to be the cause of harm 30 Spiritual Progress The Review of Religions – September 2003 to it or to be the cause of its destruction. No one would have seen a person taking strychnine knowing it to be poison nor can one have seen someone holding a snake knowing it to be deadly and a real danger to his life. Would anyone enter a village without good reason knowing that it was in the grip of a plague that was taking a heavy toll of lives? What is the reason for these safeguards? Just this that these things are considered to be extremely dangerous to one’s life. It is therefore, the case that man can find salvation from sins and other ills only when he is aware of the certainty of their harmful effects, more so than he is aware of the harmful effects of snakes and thieves and such like. M o r e o v e r, a person can only achieve this if the Majesty and the Greatness and the Omnipotence of God Almighty are kept before him. Man is capable of abandoning his greed, his wishes and even his heart’s desires. For example, a diabetic, having been advised by his doctor to give up sweet things, abandons them for the sake of saving his life. The same is true [in the spiritual realm] of greed and selfish desires. If it is the case that the greatness of God and His awe has taken hold of a p e r s o n ’s heart, disobedience to God would seem like consuming fire and he would feel it to be worse than death. The more a person gains knowledge of God’s power and control over all things and the more he becomes certain that disobedience of God will lead to a severe punishment, the more he will abstain from disobeying God and from breaking His laws. You should note that some people ‘die’ even before they meet their death. What kind of people are those who are referred to as ‘the virtuous’, ‘the devotees’ and the Aqtab, that is, those who shine like a pole-star acting as a spiritual pivot for others to follow. What is it that these people come to acquire that is so extraordinary? It is the certainty [of knowledge about God] that they come to possess. Certain and definite knowledge necessarily and by nature forces a human being towards a certain direction. In relation to God, vague suspicion cannot be enough. 31 Spiritual Progress The Review of Religions – September 2003 Doubt cannot be of benefit. Efficacy has only been placed in certainty. The certain knowledge of God’s attributes has an effect greater than that of a terrifying lightening. It is such an effect that makes the virtuous and holy people bow their heads before God and throw themselves down before Him. Remember, then, that the greater the certainty, the greater will be abstention from sins. At first glance it may appear that there are many who make such claims but their example is like that of a pimple that shines because it is full of puss and areas surrounding it also seem to glisten as a result. It is, h o w e v e r, full only of obnoxious matter that is nothing but puss and filth. Alongside claims of piety, there should be signs of abstention from sins. Light, sunshine and heat are signs that the sun is out. Could anyone consider the claim of a person who says at night that the sun is out when there are no signs of the sun, as being worthy of acceptance? No, certainly not. Similar is the situation of those who say that they believe when the signs of true belief are not with them – signs such as total dislike of sins and signs of God’s favour and blessings are absent from them. What is required is that a person should abstain completely from all that is against the pleasure of God and should consider the disobedience to God and sins generally to be worse than eating fire. Moreover, one should not be influenced by the material splendour or might of anyone in opposition to God. Even more than that, one should not be in the least concerned about anyone’s ability to benefit or harm besides the will of God. In this regards all others should be treated as worthy of no more attention than a dead insect. One should become such that one’s tranquility and every move is brought under the will of God, losing oneself in God completely. The achievement of all these matters is beyond the strength of man. It is not within the power of a person to attain all these blessings and to safeguard against all the impurities. It has, therefore, been the way of God that for this purpose, He commissions and sends a human being [as Messenger] to the world and manifests His extraordinary powers 32 Spiritual Progress The Review of Religions – September 2003 at the hands of the Messenger. [The distinguishing signs of such a person are that] God accepts his prayers and informs him of this and bestows upon him a flow of revelation, conversation and other forms of communication. M o r e o v e r, there are manifested at his hands such great and extraordinary signs that the worldly people are humbled through witnessing them. At the same time, the manifestation at his hand of brilliant and mighty signs in his support, fills the hearts of [good] people with greater knowledge of God and with the pleasure of certainty to such an extent that it is as if they have ‘seen’ God. It is through witnessing such mighty signs of God’s greatness and power that the hearts of men are purified from the thought of everything besides God and it is thus that they are able to suppress and burn away their selfish desires that are the birthplace of sin. Their hearts then come to be occupied by the awe of G o d ’s greatness, of His majesty and omnipotence. In short, it is through such means that God [through His Messenger] prepares a party of men whose hearts are p u r i f i e d . The condition that dissolves sins develops only when God manifests His awe-inspiring attributes of Greatness and Omnipotence. Such manifes-tations grip the world and strike utter terror in the hearts of people like that of a terrifying lightening storm that strikes fear in the people. So it is during the time of a Messenger of God that the manifestation of the awe-inspiring attributes of God’s greatness brings about a pure change in the world. [M a l f o o z a t Vol. 10, pp.319-322]