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Jesus and the Promised Messiah – Spiritual Similarities

16 JESUS AND THE PROMISED MESSIAH SPIRITUAL SIMILARITIES. (Bashir Ahmad Orchard) The great advantage of studying the lives and keeping the company of holy men of God is that one may perceive their virtues and heavenly way of life and so become inspired and stimulated to emulate them. This is what religion is all about. It is a way of divine living wherein one endeavours to manifest the attributes of God in one’s thoughts, words and deeds. It is a heart felt aspiration which is ardently expressed by every sincere and earnest Muslim when reciting the Sura Fatiha (the opening prayer in the Holy Quran) in his or her daily prayers. How fervent are the words: Thee alone do we worship and Thee alone do we implore for help. Guide us in the straight path, The path of those on whom Thou hast bestowed Thy favours, those who have not incurred Thy displeasure and those who have not gone astray. In presenting this treatise on some of the spiritual similarities which were shared by both Jesus and Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Promised Messiah and Holy Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam, I will endeavour to confine my observations only to the spiritual aspect of their personalities and will avoid historical comparisons such as both living under governments of foreign occupation and being brought to trial on false charges by their enemies etc. I will focus my attention only on the sanctity, spiritual beauty and holiness of their lives. Those qualities were, of course, also common to the lives of all Messengers of God. I would commence by saying that there are two kinds of spiritual characteristics which may be manifested to a greater or lesser extent in a Messenger of God in accordance with his status and mission. They are known in Arabic as Jalal and Jamal. Jalal indicates strong majestic power while jamal signifies a more subdued and gentle nature. Moses and the Holy Prophet Muhammad (may be peace be on them) were Jalali prophets as they came to establish new laws of God being the founders of Judaism and Islam respectively. They were opposed by the swords of their enemies against whom they were compelled under divine command, to stand up and fight in self defence. They had the gigantic task of establishing a new law from God under circumstances which seemed humanly impossible. They were involved in dominant actions of various kinds even up to REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 17 delivering condign punishment to those guilty of offences. At the same time, of course they were paragons of virtue doing nothing contrary to God’s will. Indeed, they shone like the sun. On the other hand Jesus and the Promised Messiah may be likened more to the soft, gentle and silvery light of the moon. They were characterised by Jamali manifestations of gentleness, humility, and quietude because their work was not to establish a fiery new law but to persuade mankind back to the right path from which they had digressed. They were subordinate Messengers of God. Nevertheless, like all Messengers of God, they were sinless. In this sense they were all on an equal footing. Jesus laid much emphasis on living the good life and drawing souls to God through the practice of exemplary conduct. He wanted that his followers should be known by their fruits keeping in mind that every good tree brings forth good fruit (Matthew 7: 16,17). He further said: Let your light so shine before men, that they mail see your good works. (Matt 5:16) Be ye therefore perfect… (Matth 5:48) Jesus expressed the importance of radiating a heavenly demeanour in one’s deportment and conduct which can only be acquired through prayer, humility, piety, devotion, good works and watchfulness. Similarly the Promised Messiah called the attention of his followers to the Quranic exhortation: Excel one another in virtue. (2:149) He also said, regarding the relationship of his followers with God: Become entirely His, living wholly for His will and pleasure. God’s will and His pleasure should be the supreme thought in your mind, so that satan may have no chance to let you stumble. He (a true believer) should tread the path of righteousness to the minutest detail according to the best of his ability. Giving an illustration of this point the Promised Messiah once said: As for me I once spoke to my wife in rather a loud voice and I felt that my voice had a tone of displeasure, although I had uttered no offensive or harsh words. Thereafter I continued to ask the 18 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS forgiveness of God for a long time and offered many prayers in an attitude of humility and gave some alms also, thinking that that loud voice was due to some hidden sin of mine. Commenting on this remark of the Promised Messiah, one of his companions and disciples, Maulvi Abdul Karim, had stated: Such minute regard of subtle points of morality could not be attained by an ordinary man. Not withstanding that I myself and hundreds of Muslims tike me boast of being the followers of Islam and of the practice of the Holy Prophet and, without doubt, do not intentionally discard the law nor proudly transgress the bounds of God, yet we totally lack this high degree of holy piety and such keen perception of right and wrong. We consider ourselves to be most fortunate and regard ourselves as having attained the highest degree of morality when begin to abstain from the common sins and the ordinary acts of disobedience without paying heed to doubtful points and subtle issues of disobedience. We try to avoid only the apparent and basic sins. Such microscopic perception, however,as is possessed by the Promised Messiah can be attained only through perfect faith and proper fear of God. On one occasion when the Promised Messiah was on a journey he stayed in the house of one of his desciples. The season was extremely hot so a bed was prepared for him on the flat roof of the house where it was much cooler than inside the building. He noticed that there was no parapet around the edge of the roof and recalled that the Holy Prophet had forbidden anyone from sleeping on a roof which had no parapet. There was no other open space in the building where he could sleep but he insisted that he should sleep indoors where, it was very hot and uncomfortable. Such was the care and attention he gave to every instruction of the Holy Prophet Let us now look at the attitude adopted by Jesus and the Promised Messiah towards Jihad which is often wrongly understood to mean holy war on the battle field where as its general meaning is to strive in the cause of God by any legitimate means. More than three thousand years ago the law which God revealed to Moses permitted the Israelites to engage in war when the necessity arose. Despite the fact that Jesus did not come to destroy or change the law but rather to fulfil it (Matthew 5:17), he found it expedient in his time not to promote any kind of violent action. He directed his followers to dwell peacefully with their opponents even to the extent that they should not resist evil (Matthew 5:39). When an REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 19 armed band of men came to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane and took him away for trial, one of his disciples, Peter drew his sword and cut off the ear of one of them whereupon Jesus instructed him: Put thy sword into the sheath (John 18:11) In more or less a similar way, though not exactly, the Promised Messiah emphasised that current conditions did not warrant Jihad with the sword and advocated peaceful means of propagating and defending Islam against the onslaught of anti-Islamic propaganda especially, I regret to say, by Christian missionaries. No doubt the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) .did resort to Jihad by the sword after years of insufferable persecution when the very existence of Islam was at stake and in danger of extermination. Furthermore he did so only after God had directed him to do so. On the other hand the Promised Messiah explained that the time and circumstances were different and that his followers should propagate and defend Islam by expounding its beautiful teachings through peaceful means and exemplary conduct as taught in the Holy Quran and explained by the Holy Prophet. This, he declared, was the real and effective jehad for this age. Love, sympathy and forbearance were prominent features in the characters of Jesus and the Promised Messiah. Let me quote a few extracts from Jesus’s well known Sermon on the Mount: Blessed are the meek, the merciful and the peacemakers. Whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. ‘ Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you. (Matthew ch.5) After being ridiculed, dishonoured, spat upon, scourged and crucified on the cross, Jesus practised what he preached when he called out from the cross to God saying: Father forgive them for they know not what they do. (Luke 23:24) Let us now turn to the Promised Messiah. It has been reported by one of his close companions Maulvi Abdul Karim, in his book A Character Sketch of the Promised Messiah that: 20 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS He does not speak of his enemies in public and when reference is made to any one of them by one of the persons present, he does not speak ill of him. This clearly shows that his heart is incapable of burning without fire of enmity One day the Promised Messiah said ‘I have such control over my passions and God has made myself so submissive to me that even if a man goes on abusing me in my face in the foulest manner for one year, he would at last himself feel ashamed and will have to admit his failure to move me even a little’. I will now quote a few pertinent extracts from the writings of the Promised Messiah in connection with the attitude which we should adopt towards others: You should have no ill feeling for anyone whosoever. I say that you should forgive and over look the faults of others. Develop more and more your power of forbearance. Never return evil for evil. Take every hardship and injury with the proper degree of forbearance. During this month of August in 1897 a Christian missionary by the name of Dr. Henry Martin Clark brought a false charge of attempted murder against the Promised Messiah. He Alleged that the Promised Messiah had sent a young man to murder him. On hearing the case and investigating the matter, the magistrate.Lieut. Col. M, W. Douglas, realised the falsity of the charge and discharged the Promised Messiah telling him that he was now at liberty to prosecute his accusers. He replied that he did not want to prosecute anybody and showed his magnanimous forbearance by forgiving them. At this point I would like to emphasise that I am quoting many exhortations of Jesus and the Promised Messiah along with some events in their lives not just for the purpose of conveying information about their way of life, but primarily with the hope and prayer that we may absorb these spiritual gems in our hearts and that they may flower and fructify in our own lives. As I mentioned earlier this is what religion is all about. It is up to us to decide what we are going to do about it. If we have done nothing or little about it in the past then now is the time to resolve to make up our minds to change our way of living for the better which was the message of Jesus and the Promised Messiah. On the other hand, if as devout Ahmadis, we have been doing much about it then that is indeed REVIEW OH RELIGIONS 21 very gratifying. Nevertheless, on self analysis, we will find that there is still so much more that we can do in moulding our lives in conformity with the high ideal of Ahmadiyyat the True Islam which requires of us that we adorn ourselves with every virtue and make our good lives an example to others. Let me now turn to a spiritual likeness between Jesus and the Promised Messiah upon which I have already touched. It is the importance of obeying all the commandments of God. They emphasised the error and dire consequences of observing some commandments and of ignoring, neglecting and disobeying other equally important ones. The mission of Jesus was to re-establish the Law of Moses which some fourteen hundred years earlier had been revealed for the guidance of the Israelites. Jesus had declared: I have not come to destroy the law but to fulfil it. (Matthew 5:17) He had come to revive and instil in the hearts of the people the true spirit of their religion which they had lost. Jesus said with reference to the religious leaders of his time: Do not do after their works; for they say and do not. (Matthew 2:3) Jesus then went on to insist upon the utmost need of keeping all the commandments of God: Whosoever shall break one of the least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the Kingdom of heaven. (Matt 5:19) The Promised Messiah was also adamant on the importance of giving proper attention to all the commandments of God: Anyone who violates a divine commandment for the sake of his appetites will not be admitted to the kingdom of heaven. Try and see. therefore that not a jot out of the Holy Quran becomes a witness against you. you should not have to answer for anything. You are accountable for every evil deed – however small Take care, therefore, and do nothing which is contrary to the teachings of God, or the guidance contained in the Quran. 1 say to you truly that he who fails to observe even one of the 700 22 REVIEW OH RELIGIONS ordinances of the Quran, closes the door of salvation upon him by his • own hands. These exhortations confirm what I have already said that it is not good enough to observe some commandments of God and to neglect others. Every housewife knows that in order to bake good cake she must utilise all the required ‘ingredients and follow all directions listed in the cookery book. If she leaves out the eggs, butter or the flour, if she does not stir the mixture properly or heat the oven to the right temperature she is certainly not going to make a good cake. Likewise if a Muslim does not follow all the directions of the Holy Quran and the directions of the Holy Prophet then one may justifiably conclude that he is not going to make a good Muslim. The warning of Jesus and the Promised Messiah, therefore, should not be taken lightly. I now wish to turn to a common feature regarding thier countenances which convey without words that they were imbued with the spirit and light of God. They emanated and radiated divine lustre, and on their faces shined heaven’s serene and holy light. We read in the Bible that on one occasion Jesus had a waking vision in which he met the two prophets Moses and Elijah when we are told: His face did shine like the -sun. (Matth.l7:2) In the year 1900 the Promised Messiah, under divine direction, delivered his famous revealed sermon in Arabic after Eid ul Azha prayers in Masjid Aqsa, Qadian. He spoke in the most eloquent Arabic and the words flowed from his tongue without any conscious effort on his part. He was’moved by the spirit of God. He seemed to be speaking from another world. Describing his appearance at that time one of those who was present said: He seemed to be, in the grip, as it were of the Supreme Being; and his half closed eyes, with a flow and halo of divine light, which shed lustre all round, convinced everybody present that the speaker before them was at that time certainly in a different world to theirs. There is the instance of man prejudiced against the Promised Messiah, who visited Qadian for medical treatment from Hazrat Maulvi Nur ud Din who was elected the first Khalifa after the demise of the Promised Messiah in 1908. When his health had improved and he was planning to return home some one reminded’ him that he had not seen the Promised Messiah. He was taken to the mosque which was empty at that time. All of a sudden the Promised Messiah entered. Immediately the man saw the REVIEW OH RELIGIONS 23 bright and holy face he fell at his feet under stress of great emotion and, there and then declared his pledge of allegiance. It does not mean, of course, that everybody who beheld the countenance of Jesus or the Promised Messiah were instantaneously transformed. Nevertheless many of them recognised their spiritual power although they did not accept their claims. Then there are others who were spiritually blind. Even the pagan Roman governor, Pontious Pilate, who tried Jesus in the presence of the fury of the Jews, had to admit that he could find no fault in him (Luke 23:4). Once a Christian missionary by the name of Mr. Walter visited Qadian and asked one of the Companions of the Promised Messiah what it .was that impressed him most about his holy master. He replied: I have known the Promised Messiah from a time earlier than the day he put forth his claim. Another face so pure, and lit up with such spiritual light, I have never seen in my life. That light and his magnetic personality were for me the greatest argument in his favour. What we constantly hungeredfor was just an opportunity to have a look at that illumined face. Later on Mr. Walter wrote a book called The Ahmadiyya Movement in which he wrote: Those older Ahmadies whom I have questioned as to their reasons for joining the Movement have, most of them, laid greater stress on the personal impression made upon them by Mirza Sahib’s forceful and winning personality. During the course of this treatise I have focused the-spotlight on some of the spiritual beauties which attracted and won the hearts of the faithful followers of Jesus and the Promised Messiah. The manifestation of these holy qualities is able to do more in attracting mankind to the truth than all learned theological arguments although, of course, they have their essential value. In the end I would close with the words: May we shed light in every step; in every word spoken and written; in every glance and in every action. May we be illumined with the light of heaven – Amen.