The Essence of Islam, Vol.1, part 1

8 The Review of Religions – January 2004 This is the first of a series to be printed over the next few months in The Review of Religions it sets out, in the words of the Promised Messiah(as) Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, a summary of his exposition of four outstanding topics: ISLAM; ALLAH, THE EXALTED; THE HOLY PROPHET(sa), and THE HOLY QUR’AN. The original compilation, in Urdu, from which these extracts have been translated into English, was collated with great care and diligence by Syed Daud Ahmad, may Allah have mercy on him and may He reward him graciously for his great labour of love. Amin. The English rendering is by the late Muhammad Zafrulla Khan. All references throughout, unless otherwise specifically mentioned, are from the Holy Qur’an. Islam, the True and Living Faith Islam means losing oneself for the sake of God and surre n d e r i n g o n e ’s own pleasure for the pleasure of God. I perceive that t h rough believing in Islam fountains of light are coursing through me. The true purpose of adopting a faith is that one should acquire such certainty concerning God, Who is the fountainhead of salvation, as if one can see Him with one’s eyes. The wicked spirit of sin seeks to destroy a man and a person cannot escape the fatal poison of sin till he believes with full certainty in the Perfect and Living God and till he knows for certain that God exists, Who punishes the offender and bestows upon a righteous one every lasting joy. It is a common experience that when one believes in the fatal effects of anything one does not have recourse to it. For instance, no one swallows poison con- s c i o u s l y. No one deliberately stands in front of a wild tiger. No one deliberately thrusts his hand into the hole of a serpent. Then why does a person commit sin deliberately? The reason is that he has not that certainty in this matter as he has in other matters of the kind that we have mentioned. The first duty of a person, therefore, is The Essence of Islam – Vol.1, part 1 9The Review of Religions – January 2004 to acquire certainty with regard to the existence of God, and to adopt a religion through which this certainty can be acquired so that he should fear God and shun sin. How can such certainty be acquired? It cannot be acquired through mere stories. It cannot be acquired through mere arguments. The only way of acquiring certainty is to experience God repeatedly through converse with Him or through witnessing his extraordinary signs, or by keeping company with someone who has that experience. (Naseem-e-Dawat, (Qadian, Ziaul Islam Press, 1903); now printed in Ruhani Khazain, Vol.19, pp. 81-82) The purpose of religion is that man should obtain deliverance from his passions and should develop personal love for God Almighty through certain faith in His existence and His perfect attrib- utes. Such love of God is the paradise which will appear in diverse shapes in the hereafter. To be unaware of the true God and to keep away from Him and not to have any love for Him is the hell which will appear in diverse shapes in the hereafter. Thus the true purpose is to have full faith in Him. Now the question is which religion and which book can fill this need. The Bible tells us that the door of converse with God is closed and that the ways of obtaining certainty are sealed. Whatever was to happen, happened in the past and there is nothing in the future. . . . Of what use then is a religion which is dead? What benefit can we derive from a book that is dead? What grace can be bestowed by a god who is dead? (Chashmai Masihi, (Qadian, Magazine Press, 1906); now published in Ruhani Khazain (London, 1984), Vol. 20, pp.20-23) The purpose of accepting a religion is that God, Who is Self- Sufficient and is in no need of His creation or its worship, may be pleased with us, and that we should experience such grace and mercy as should wipe out our inner stains and rusts so that our breasts may be filled with certainty and understanding. This is not possible for a man to achieve through his own devices. Therefore, God the Glorious, keeping hidden mainly His own The Essence of Islam – Vol.1, part 1 10 The Review of Religions – January 2004 Being and the wonders of His creation, for instance, souls and bodies, angels, heaven, hell, resurrection and messengership etc. and yet disclosing them partially through reason, appointed his servants to believe in all these mysteries. (Surma Chashm Arya, (Qadian, 1886); now published in Ruhani Khazain, Volume 2 (London, 1984), p. 33). In order to recognise a true religion it is necessary to look at three matters. In the first place, one must see what is the teaching of a religion concerning God. That is to say, what does a religion state with regard to the Unity, power, knowledge, perfection, greatness, punishment, mercy and other attributes of the Divine. Secondly, it is necessary that a seeker after truth should inquire what does a religion teach with regard to his own self and with regard to human conduct. Is there anything in its teaching which would disrupt human relation- ships, or would draw a person into courses which are inconsistent with modesty and honour, or would be contrary to the law of nature, or would be impossible to conform to or carry out, or make it dangerous to do so. It would also be necessary to see whether some important teaching needed to control disorderliness has been left out. It would also be necessary to The Essence of Islam – Vol.1, part 1 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. 11The Review of Religions – January 2004 discover whether a religion presents God as a Great Benefactor with Whom a rela- tionship of personal love should be established and whether it lays down commandments which lead from darkness into light and from heedlessness to remembrance. Thirdly, it is necessary for a seeker after truth to satisfy himself that the God presented by a religion should not be one Who is believed in on the basis of tales and stories and resembles a dead being. To believe in a God who resembles a dead being, belief in whom is not by virtue of His having manifested Himself but is due to one’s own good faith, would be to put Him under an obligation. It is useless to believe in a God whose powers are not felt and Who does not Himself make manifest the signs of His own existence and life. (Naseem-e-Dawat, (Qadian, Ziaul Islam Press, 1903); now printed in Ruhani Khazain, Vol.19, pp.12, 13). The religion that claims to be from God must show Signs of being from God and should bear the seal of God which should attest the fact that it is from God. Islam is such a religion. That God Who is hidden is known through this religion and manifests Himself to the true followers of this religion. A true religion is supported by the hand of God, and through such religion God manifests Himself that He exists. The religions that depend entirely upon stories are only a form of idol worship. Such religions do not possess the spirit of truth. If God is alive as He was, and speaks and hears as He did, there is no reason why He should continue silent as if He does not exist. If He does not speak in this age, then equally and certainly He does not hear either. In other words, He is now nothing. That religion alone is true which demonstrates that God hears and speaks in this age also. In a true religion, God attests His existence through His speaking. Search for God is a difficult matter. It is not an affair of worldly philosophers and wise men. Observation of the heavens and earth only leads to the conclusion that although order- liness indicates that the universe should have a Creator yet it is not proof that such Creator in fact exists. There is a deal of difference between ought to be and is. The The Essence of Islam – Vol.1, part 1 12 The Review of Religions – January 2004 Holy Qur’an is the only book which sets forth His existence as a fact and not only urges the seeking of God but makes Him manifest. There is no other book which makes manifest the Hidden Being. (Chashmai Masihi, (Qadian, Magazine Press, 1906); now published in Ruhani Khazain (London, 1984), Vol. 20, pp.19-20). Religion does not mean disputes, abuse and harsh words indulged in the name of religion. In this context, no one pays attention to the suppression of inner vices or the establishment of true relationship with the Beloved. One party attacks another party like dogs and every kind of ill conduct is exhibited in support of religion. Such people do not realise why they came into this world and what is the main purpose of their lives. They continue blind and ill- natured and give their bigoted sentiments the name of religion. They exhibit their bad manners and employ their loose tongues in support of a fictitious god of whose existence they have no proof. Of what use is a religion which does not teach the worship of a Living God? The God that they present is no better than a corpse. He walks with the support of others. When that support is withdrawn, he falls to the ground. The only thing they gain from such a religion is bigotry. They lack altogether true fear of God and true sympathy with mankind which is the best of characteristics. (Braheen Ahmadiyyah, Part IV, p.19). Two conditions are necessary for a religion which claims to be from God. In the first place, a religion should be so comprehensive and perfect and complete and free from every defect in its doctrine, teachings and commandments, that reason should not be capable of proposing anything better; and there should be nothing lacking in it. It should be ahead of all other religions in this respect. The Holy Qur’an puts forward this claim by proclaiming: This day have I perfected your religion for your benefit, and have completed My favour unto you, and have chosen for you Islam as your faith (Ch.5:V4). That is to say, God requires us to conform to the reality inherent in the word Islam. Here there is a clear claim that the The Essence of Islam – Vol.1, part 1 13The Review of Religions – January 2004 Holy Qur’an comprehends the perfect teaching and that the time of the revelation of the Holy Qur’an was the time when such perfect teaching could be revealed. The Qur’an alone is entitled to make this claim. No other heavenly book has put forward such a claim. Both the Torah and the Gospel refrain from making this claim. On the contrary, the Torah sets out God’s com- mandment that He would raise a Prophet from among the brethren of Israel and would put His word into his mouth and that whosoever does not lend ear to that word of God would be accountable for his default. It is obvious, therefore, that if the Torah had been adequate for meeting the needs of subsequent ages, there would have been no necessity for the coming of another Prophet, listening to whom was made obligatory. In the same way the Gospel has nowhere claimed that its teaching is perfect and comprehensive. But there is a clear confession that there were many things which had still to be said but that the disciples had not yet the strength to bear them but that when the Paraclete would come he would lead them to the whole truth. Thus Moses confessed the incompleteness of the Torah and drew attention to the teaching of the Prophet who was to come. In the same way Jesus admitted the incompleteness of his teaching and said that the time had not yet come for the perfect teaching to be disclosed but that when the Paraclete arrives he would set forth the perfect teaching. In contrast the Holy Qur’an does not, like the Torah and the Gospel, leave the matter for another book to complete but announces the perfection of its teaching in the words: This day have I perfected your religion for your benefit, and have completed My favour unto you, and have chosen for you Islam as your faith. (Ch.5:V.4)… Here is thus a great argument in support of Islam that by virtue of its teaching it prevails over every religion and no religion can compete with it in respect of the perfection of its teaching. The second characteristic of Islam, which is not shared by any other religion and which attests its truth, is that it manifests its living blessings and miracles of which other religions are wholly The Essence of Islam – Vol.1, part 1 14 The Review of Religions – January 2004 deprived. The signs that Islam exhibits not only establish its superiority over other religions but enable it to draw the hearts of the people by exhibiting its perfect light. The first characteristic of Islam which we have stated above, that is to say, the perfection of its teaching, is not quite conclusive in establishing that Islam is a true religion revealed by God. A bigoted opponent who is not far- sighted may assert that it is possible that a teaching might be perfect and yet it may not proceed from God Almighty. This first characteristic relieves a wise seeker after truth of many doubts and brings him close to certainty, but does not establish the matter conclusively and beyond doubt till it is combined with the second characteristic. By their combi- nation the light of the true faith reaches its perfection. A true faith comprises thousands of proofs and lights but these two characteristics are enough to carry conviction to the heart of a seeker after truth and expound the matter to the satisfaction of all deniers of truth. Nothing more is needed in addition. I had originally intended that in support of the truth of Islam I would set down three hundred a rguments in Braheen Ahmadiyyah. But on further reflection I perceived that these two characteristics are a substitute for thousands of proofs and thus God made me alter my plan. (Preface to Braheen Ahmadiyyah, Part V, pp. 2-5). God Almighty is not held back in exposition of the claim of the Holy Prophet, peace be on him. He came like a sun and manifested his light from every point of view. He who turns away from this true sun, will come to no good. We cannot credit such a one with good faith. Can anyone who is afflicted with leprosy and whose limbs are corrupted with leprosy, claim that he is whole and is not in need of treatment? Should he say so, can we credit him with good faith? Should such a person insist that he cannot arrive at the truth of Islam, despite good faith and despite every effort such as he puts forth in his worldly affairs, his matter rests with God. We have not come across any such person and we consider it impossible that anyone equipped with reason and a sense of justice should prefer some other The Essence of Islam – Vol.1, part 1 15The Review of Religions – January 2004 faith to Islam. Foolish and ignorant people adopt the position under the dictates of their lower selves that belief in the Unity of God is enough, and that it is not necessary to follow the Holy Prophet, peace be on him; but it is to be borne in mind that a Prophet is the mother of Unity that gives birth to it and points to the existence of God. Who knows the exposition of the truth better than God Almighty Himself? He filled heaven and earth with signs to prove the truth of the Holy Prophet(sa), and now in this age He has sent me and has displayed thousands of signs like heavy rain which prove the truth of the Holy Prophet, peace be on him. What then is lacking in the full exposition of the truth? He who has sense enough to oppose why can he not think of the way of acceptance? He who pretends that he can see at night, why can he not see in the full light of day? Indeed the way of acceptance is much easier than the way of rejection. The case of a person whose reason is defective and whose faculties are not normal should be committed to God, and we have nothing to do concerning him. He is like children who die at an early age. But a wicked denier cannot excuse himself on the ground that he is acting in good faith. It should be considered whether his faculties are such that he can appreciate questions of Unity and Prophethood. If he is capable of appreciating them and denies out of ill-will, he cannot be excused. Can we excuse a person who observes the light of the sun and yet persists in asserting that it is not day but night. In the same way, we cannot excuse those who deliberately indulge in wrong reasoning and are unable to repel the arguments that are put forward on behalf of Islam. Islam is a living faith. A person who can distinguish between the living and the dead, how can he set aside Islam and accept a dead religion? [Haqiqatul Wahi, (Qadian, Magazine Press 1907); now published in Ruhani Khazain (London, 1984), Vol. 22, pp. 175- 176] The Essence of Islam – Vol.1, part 1