Featured Freedom of Religions

QUESTION & ANSWER – Faith and Belief

33The Review of Religions – September 2003 My question is about acquiring faith. I think that people come to believe in God through faith rather than through scientific p roof and I wondered how Islam helped people to acquire that faith? Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad(ru): I think the scientific proof is there but, unfortunately, most people are prejudiced in favour of atheism. This is because believing in something that you cannot see, you cannot touch, cannot feel in any way is very difficult. As people become more educated, the more they think that mysteries, of course, they are, but to believe in a mystery over and above other mysteries is more difficult. This is what they say. This is what they claim but it is inaccurate. The mystery of creation is a mystery that you must either understand or reject. The evidence, however, is so powerful that you cannot reject it. One’s mind is incapable of understanding it, yet the principle of evidence is given precedence over the principle of faith. As far as human faith is concerned, it could not have QUESTIONER Faith and Belief Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad, the F o u rth Head of the Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam, (God’s Mercy be upon his soul), offered to people of all nationalities, faiths and beliefs the opportunity of raising questions and 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 34 The Review of Religions – September 2003 visualised these mysteries to have happened ‘naturally’. There are objections against this belief that are repeated all over the human scientific experience – yet they have to believe what they see. This is the only principle that can help people to realise the existence of God scientifically because if you remove God, no existence is possible – which is the problem. If one considers the issue from different scientific angles, one will reach the same point. According to the science of Entropy, everything must disappear altogether from existence, may be in many trillions of years, but whatever energy exchange takes place, it loses a part of that energy in a form which is irretrievable. It, therefore, dissipates into space, into thin air. Every time the process of recreation of a universe takes place, in the form of a big bang or whatever you may believe, the universe which comes into being is slightly less than the universe that had died before it. This principle has to be understood in minute detail. The result would be that, call it trillion into trillion years, u l t i m a t e l y, the whole universe must come to an end – there should be nothing left. Visualise now eternity – had the existence of the universe become impossible eternally before, you and I should not have been sitting here! This is the greater objection that the scientists should face – and many scientists do face it and say that they are driven to believe in the existence of God because of this – there is no way out. The question then arises, ‘does God also lose his energy or does he not’? This question was addressed by Aristotle, and Aristotle, who lived many thousands of years ago, was wiser than the scientists of today. He calculated philosophically and logically that because existence of anything is not possible without a first cause, that because the existence of created things is not possible because they lose energy – in action we lose energy – hence, the first cause would be conceived in a manner such that Faith and Belief 35The Review of Religions – September 2003 it does not lose energy. That is exactly the Qur’anic vision of creation with the ‘word’, a concept that is also found in the Bible. The word is not action – the word is vision or wish for something. God is not created so He must have some attributes that are not created. Created attributes are not the attributes of the Creator. There is a divide between the two. If that is not true then the Creator must also have been created. Hence, logically if we begin with the concept of a Creator, he must be d i fferent from whatever he created. Our arguments are based on our experience of the creation. The nature of the Creator we do not know. Hence, according to the Qur’an the nature of the Creator is such that He visualises a thing and it begins to be and finally comes into being in its complete form – the energy is balanced in such a manner that nothing is lost. For instance, if you bring together matter and a n t i – m a t t e r, the result is zero. This, therefore, is a vision of God to create something out of nothing. Without losing His energy at all, He realises a thing in two separate areas out of non- existence and both are created in their own zone while no extra e n e rgy is required for their creation through their coming t o g e t h e r. Similar rational arguments can be given in favour of God as believed in religion. There are, however, many areas of further discussion and objections against this view. I do not have time to repeat everything that I have already stated on this subject on previous occasions but I would refer you to my book, [R e v e l a t i o n , R a t i o n a l i t y, Knowledge and Truth] in which this and related issues have been discussed at length. I think the rational community of the world will agree that this is the dilemma we are facing. We must believe in God or not believe in our own existence – that is the issue. This is the only dilemma. If we deny the existence of God, we must also deny our own existence and that we cannot! Both are linked inseparably. Faith and Belief 36 The Review of Religions – September 2003 There is a great difficulty in trying to understand people’s claims to have had experiences of God and faith. How should such claims be postulated and understood? Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad(ru): The role of religion, at present, is almost at an end as far as mass convictions are concerned because that time is lost. These days, the religious leaders seem to have turned to the last line of defence and they talk of religious experiences that are based around the individual and do not have to be shared by others. Even if they do not believe in those experiences, at least the person who goes through that expe- rience will be influenced by that and will modify his or her life a c c o r d i n g l y. Hence these days there is so much talk of spiritual experiences. I believe this is a very dangerous area that will not hold water for long. This is because experiences can be quoted from one side and countered from another. However, when experiences are only in relation to personal behaviour and remain as such, not much harm is done but it so happens that personal experience are related and attached to dogmas and beliefs. People begin to justify dogma through supposed experiences of some individuals. When the situation develops to this stage, it enters a dangerous area simply because dogmas from, for example, Buddhism, Confucianism and Muslim Sufism and so on, all suddenly erupt to contradict each o t h e r. Consequently, all the benefit [of the individual experience] may be lost. I believe that, provided the individual religious experience is not used as evidence in support of the dogmatic truth of the people who go through this religious experience, it is all right. It can even be good for the person having the experience. However, such experiences can be of two types. It can be a rational experience or it can be an irrational experience. QUESTIONER Faith and Belief 37The Review of Religions – September 2003 Rational experience is only that which is repeatable, like science. Under the same circumstances it should be capable of repeating itself and demonstrate its truth everywhere in the world, provided one adopts an appropriate attitude. So far this has not been the case with the great majority of the ‘experiences’ that are used to gain mass support. The fraudulent people very quickly take over this area and they take over on a mass scale, as has been witnessed in Africa, Syria and Egypt, for example, as spiritual healers. There are so many spiritual healers in the name of Islam, those who apparently work miracles exploiting the ignorance of the people. So much confusion is, in fact, born out of this that it cannot be adopted as a safe instrument for rehabilitating faith sufficiently for it to guide one’s actions. My question is why I should be a Muslim, a follower of Prophet Muhammad, and how can I become one? Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad( r u ): If you become a believer in God, that is the first step towards religion and when you become a believer in God the best approach to this issue should be to ask, which is the religion that can help you get closer to God quicker than other religions, with greater certainty and with less danger? As such, when you look QUESTIONER Faith and Belief THESE DAYS, THE RELIGIOUS LEADERS SEEM TO HAVE TURNED TO THE LAST LINE OF DEFENCE AND THEY TALK OF RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCES THAT ARE BASED AROUND THE INDIVIDUAL AND DO NOT HAVE TO BE SHARED BY O T H E R S. E V E N I F T H E Y D O N O T B E L I E V E I N T H O S E E X P E R I E N C E S, AT L E A S T T H E P E R S O N W H O G O E S THROUGH THAT EXPERIENCE WILL BE INFLUENCED BY THAT AND WILL MODIFY HIS OR HER LIFE ACCORDINGLY. 38 The Review of Religions – September 2003 upon religions in comparison with Islam, Islam’s distinctive features will rise above upon the horizon where they could not be confused with features of other religions. For instance, when you believe in God, you also believe in the universality of God. It is impossible for you to believe that God sent His Messengers only to one particular people, at one particular time and forgot all His other creation everywhere else in the world. If it is such a God, it is better not to believe in Him. God can only be believed in if He is universal. Therefore, one should find elements of universality in religion. In whichever religion you find universality depicted and maintained, that is the best religion. For instance, when one becomes a Christian, it is not essential for one to believe in Buddha(as), to believe in Krishna(as), to believe in Zoroasthra(as) or in any other Prophet of God. Belief in Christ alone is considered to be s u fficient. One cannot even believe in the truth of the Prophet Muhammad(sa) because if one did, one would not remain Christian. In Islam, it is exactly the opposite. A belief in Islam requires a person to believe in B u d d h a( a s ), to believe in Krishna(as), to believe in Jesus(as), to believe in Moses(as), to believe in all the Prophets of God who appeared all across the world. What, then, is to be considered a better teaching? Islam, obviously! It is a universal religion. It relates to the concept of God having created all human beings. If you were to compare Islamic teachings with teachings of other religions, you will be led to Islam by the force of a rgument, by the force of rationality. There will be no other choice left for you. That is one way of reaching Islam. The second is by praying to God. If you want to reach God, why not ask Him which is the best path? If you turn to Him with all sincerity, with a resolution that if He leads you to a faith, whatever that may be, you will follow it, God will, then, take care of you. This is the surest and the easiest path to God. Faith and Belief 39The Review of Religions – September 2003 If Islam has an objective to unite people why is it that the believers are so disunited today and what has the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association done towards uniting people? Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad(ru): It is correct that those who believe in Islam today are disunited. Those who believe in Christianity today are also disunited. Those who believe in other religions are also disunited. The fact is that truth does not disunite – it unites. If one were to apply the same standard to the Ahmadiyya Community, one would find that Ahmadis whether they are in Kosovo or in Mauritius, in Europe or in America, wherever they are they are all united. This is the strength of the Ahmadiyya Community. This is why we claim that our objective is to unite people. We have demonstrated our unity. The Ahmadiyya Community is a united body even though it is spread all over the world. Some non-Ahmadi scholars have also noted this fact and they say it is amazing that Ahmadis are the only religious people who are united not only in their beliefs but also around a central authority of the Caliphate that moulds their character alike. For instance, Immigration Off i c e r s who see and interview Ahmadis arriving in the UK from all over the world for the Annual Convention, remark that they are amazed at the fact that all Ahmadis share a certain similarity of conduct and general d e m e a n o u r. It is the unity of Ahmadis that is proof of the truth of Ahmadiyyat. QUESTIONER Faith and Belief