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The Essence of Islam, Vol.1 part II

14 The Review of Religions – March 2004 When I reflect upon the whole word of God, I find that in its teachings it seeks to reform the natural conditions of man and to raise him step by step to higher spiritual levels. In the first place God desires to teach man the elementary rules of behaviour and culture and thus to change him from the wild condition of animals, and then to bestow upon him elementary moral conditions which can be described as culture or civilisation. Then He trains him and raises him from the elementary moral conditions to a high moral stage. All this is in truth one stage, which is the reform of natural conditions, and the only difference is one of degree. The All-Wise One has presented the moral system in such a way whereby man should be able to move from a lower moral level to a higher moral level. The third stage is that man should be devoted to winning the true love and pleasure of his Creator and the whole of his being should be devoted to God. It is at this stage that the faith of Muslims has been named Islam which means to be wholly devoted to God and to keep nothing back [Islami Usul ki Philosophy, now printed in Ruhani Khazain (London, 1984), Vol. 10, p. 10]. This is the second 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, Allah be pleased with him and quoted from The Essence of Islam. All references throughout, unless otherwise specifically mentioned, are from the Holy Qur’an. The Essence of Islam – Vol.1, part II 15 The Essence of Islam – Vol. 1, Part II The Review of Religions – March 2004 It is foolish to imagine that religion means a few things that are mentioned in the Gospel. All matters that are essential for the perfection of man are com- prehended within the scope of religion. Religion comprises all those matters which lead man from his wild condition to the condition of true humanity and then lead him from the condition of humanity to a life of wisdom and thereafter lead him from a life of wisdom to a life that is devoted to God [Kitabul Bariyyah, (Qadian, Ziaul Islam Press 1898); Now printed in Ruhani Khazain (London, 1984), Vol. 13, p. 71]. There is no doubt that the Gospel does not provide for the full nurture of the tree of humanity. We are sent into the world with many faculties and every faculty demands that it should be used on its proper occasion. The Gospel emphasises only the faculty of meekness and gentleness. Meekness and forgiveness are good qualities when exercised on the proper occasion but their use on every occasion would be greatly harmful. Our cultural life which comprises the interplay of d i fferent kinds of tempers demands that we should exercise all our faculties with discretion on the proper occasion. It is true that on some occasions forg i v e n e s s and forbearance would benefit materially and spiritually a person who has done us harm. On other 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. 16 The Essence of Islam – Vol. 1, Part II The Review of Religions – March 2004 occasions, the exercise of those faculties would encourage the offender to commit greater mis- chief and do more harm. Our spiritual life resembles our physical life to a large degree. It is our experience that the use of only one type of food and medicines would upset our health. If we were to confine ourselves over a period to the use of cooling articles of diet and refrain altogether from the use of warming articles, we would become a prey to some disease like paralysis, Parkinson’s disease or e p i l e p s y. On the contrary, if we confine ourselves to warming articles of diet, so much so that even the water that we drink must be warm, then equally we would be liable to some other kind of disease. C o n s e q u e n t l y, in order to maintain our physical health we must keep a balance between hot and cold and hard and soft and movement and rest. We should follow the same rule in respect of our spiritual health. God has bestowed no evil faculty upon us. Indeed no faculty is evil in itself. It is the misuse of a faculty that is evil. For instance, envy is evil but if we use it for a good purpose, that is to say, as a competition in goodness, it becomes a high moral quality. The same is the case with all moral qualities. Their misuse renders them harmful and their use on the proper occasion in a moderate manner makes them beneficial. It is, therefore, a mistake to cut off all other branches of the tree of humanity and to put the entire emphasis on forgiveness and forbearance. That is why this teaching has failed of its purpose and Christian sovereigns had to enact codes of law for the punishment of offenders. The current Gospel cannot bring about the perfection of the human self. As the stars are dimmed when the sun rises and then disappear from sight altogether, the same is the case of the Gospel in comparison with the Holy Qur’an [K i t a b u l B a r i y y a h, (Qadian, Ziaul Islam Press 1898); Now printed in Ruhani Khazain (London, 1984), Vol. 13, pp. 48-49]. A study of the religions of the world reveals that every religion, except Islam, contains some mistake or the other. This is not because they were all false in their 17 The Essence of Islam – Vol. 1, Part II The Review of Religions – March 2004 origin, but because after the advent of Islam, God gave up the support of other religions and they became like neglected gardens which had no gardener to look after them, and for the irrigation and upkeep of which no arrangement had been made, so that gradually they began to decay. Their fruit-bearing trees became dry and barren, and thorns and weeds spread all over. Those religions lost all spirituality which is at the root of all religion and nothing was left but bare words. God did not suffer this to happen in the case of Islam as He desired that this garden should flourish throughout. He made provision in each century for its irrigation and thus rescued it from decay. Although at the beginning of each century when a man of God was appointed for its reform the ignorant people opposed him and were averse to the reform of anything which had become part of their habits and customs, yet God Almighty adhered throughout to His way. In these latter days also, which is the time of the last battle between guidance and error, finding the Muslims heedless and neglectful in the beginning of the fourteenth century, God recalled His promise and made provision for the revival of Islam. But other faiths were never revived after the advent of the Holy Prophet, peace be on him; and they all died. There was no spiritual life in them and errors took root in them, as dirt accumulates in a garment which is much in use but which is never washed. People who had no concern with spirituality and who were not free from the stains of earthly existence corrupted these faiths to a degree that they no longer resemble the originals. Consider the case of Christianity, how pure was its origin. The teaching set forth by Jesus was not perfect as compared with the teachings of the Qur’an, because the time had not yet come for the revelation of the perfect teaching and people were not yet strong enough to bear it, yet that teaching was an excellent one and was appropriate for its own time. It guided to the same God to Whom the Torah guided but after Jesus, the god of the Christians became another god who found no mention in the Torah and was not at all known to the children of Israel. Belief in this new god upset 18 The Essence of Islam – Vol. 1, Part II The Review of Religions – March 2004 the whole system of the Torah and all the guidance contained in the Torah, for deliverance from sin and attaining true salvation and a pure life, was frustrated. Salvation and deliverance from sin now depended upon the confession that Jesus had accepted crucifixion for the sake of the salvation of mankind, and that he was the very God Himself. Many permanent laws of the Torah were abrogated and the Christian faith was so changed about that if Jesus were to come back to the earth he would not be able to recognise it. It is a matter of surprise that the people who were admonished to adhere to the Torah set aside its commandments at one stroke. For instance, it is nowhere stated in the Gospel that though the To r a h forbids the eating of the flesh of swine yet it is now permitted, nor does the Gospel say that though circumcision is prescribed in the Torah yet that commandment is now abrogated. But all this was done and that which had never been said by Jesus became part of religion. However, as it was God’s design to establish a universal religion namely Islam, the decay of Christianity was an indication of the appearance of Islam. It is also well established that Hinduism had been corrupted before the advent of Islam and that throughout India idol worship had become common. Part of this corruption resulted in the doctrine that God Who is not dependent upon matter for the exercise of His attributes is, in the view of the Aryas, so dependent for the creation of the universe. This led to another false doctrine that all particles of matter and all souls are eternal and uncreated. Had they considered deeply the attributes of God, they would never have said so; for if in the exercise of His eternal attribute of creation, God is dependent like a human being on matter, then how is it that in the exercise of the attribute of hearing and seeing He is not so dependent as is man. Man cannot hear without the agency of air and he cannot see without the aid of light. Then is God also dependent upon light and air for seeing and hearing? If He is not so dependent, be sure that He is not dependent upon matter for the exercise of His attribute of creation. It is entirely false that He is dependent upon matter for the exercise of any of 19 The Essence of Islam – Vol. 1, Part II The Review of Religions – March 2004 His attributes. It is a great mistake to attribute human weaknesses to God; for instance, that He cannot create something from nothing. Man’s being is limited and God’s Being is unlimited. By the power of His Being, He can create another being. This is of the essence of Godhead. He is not dependent upon matter for the exercise of any of His attributes, for had that been so, He would not be God. Nothing can obstruct Him. If He were to desire to create a heaven and earth instantly, He would be able to do so. Of the Hindus those who, in addition to knowledge, partook of spirituality also and were not committed to bare logic, never believed that concerning God which the Aryas set forth today. This is the result of the lack of spirituality altogether. All this corruption, some of which is unmentionable and is opposed to human purity, was an indication of the need of Islam. Every reasonable person is bound to confess that a short while before Islam, all other faiths had become corrupt and had lost all spirituality. The Holy Prophet, peace be on him, was a great reformer in the cause of truth who restored the lost verities to the world. No prophet shares with him the pride that he found the whole world in darkness and by his advent that darkness gave place to light [Lecture Sialkot entitled ‘Islam’, (Sialkot, Mufid Aam Press, 1904); Now published in Ruhani Khazain ( L o n d o n , 1984), Vol. 20, pp. 1-5]. First of all it is necessary to set out what is the reality of Islam, what are the means of arriving at that reality and what are the fruits of following that reality; for this knowledge is essential for the purpose of understanding many mysteries. It would be of great benefit for our opponents that they should study these matters with attention, for many of the doubts which assail their minds are the result of their failure to reflect upon the complete and perfect reality of Islam, its sources and its fruits. . . . The opponents of religion also would benefit greatly by this study. They would understand what religion is and what are the signs of its truth. In the idiom of Arabic, Islam means money paid as earnest to 20 The Essence of Islam – Vol. 1, Part II The Review of Religions – March 2004 conclude a bargain, or to commit some affair to someone, or to seek peace, or to surrender a claim or point. The technical meaning of Islam is set out in the verse: The truth is that whoever submits himself completely to the will of Allah and acts righteously shall have his re w a rd with his Lord. No fear shall come upon such, nor shall they grieve ( C h . 2 : V. 113). This means that a Muslim is one who commits himself wholly to the cause of God Almighty; that is to say, one who devotes himself to God Almighty, to following His designs and to winning His pleasure, and then becomes steadfast in doing good for the sake of God Almighty and devotes all his faculties to that cause. In other words, he belongs entirely to God Almighty both doctrinally and in practice. Doctrinal belonging means that one should esteem one’s being as something which has been created for the recognition of God Almighty and His obedience and the seeking of His love and pleasure. Practical belonging means to do all the good that is related to every one of one’s faculties with such eagerness and attention as if one beholds the countenance of the True Beloved in the mirror of one’s obedience [Ayenae Kamalat- e – I s l a m, (Qadian, Riyadh Hind Press 1893); Now printed in Ruhani Khazain (London, 1984), Vol.5, pp 57-58].