In the Name of Allah, The Most Gracious, Ever Merciful.
Muslims who believe in the Messiah, Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Qadiani (as)
SOME DISTINCTIVE FEATURES OF ISLAM
A Speech Delivered by
Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad
at the University of Canberra, Australia
© 1992 ISLAM INTERNATIONAL PUBLICATIONS LTD
A new edition also available in PDF
TABLE OF CONTENTS
NO MONOPOLY OF TRUTH
While speaking on the subject of the distinctive features of Islam, the first and most attractive feature that strikes one, is its most endearing disclaimer that Islam has a monopoly of truth, and that there have been no other true religions. Nor does it claim that Arabs alone have been the recipients of God's love. Islam is the only religion that totally rejects the notion that truth is the monopoly of any single faith, race or people; instead, it professes that divine guidance is a general bounty that has sustained humanity in all ages. The Quran tells us that there is neither a race nor a people, who have not been blessed with the bounty of divine guidance, and there is neither a region of the earth nor ~ body of people who have not received prophets and Messengers of God [l].
Contrary to this worldwide Islamic view of the manifestation of Allah's favour upon all people of the earth we are struck by the fact that no Book of any other religion verifies or even mentions the possibility of other peoples and nations having received light and guidance from Allah at any stage in history. In fact, the truth and validity of a local or regional religion is often emphasized so greatly, and the truth of other faiths ignored so totally, as if the sun of truth had only risen and set upon the limited horizon of certain people to the exclusion of the rest of the world, so to say, abandoned and condemned to eternal darkness. For instance, the Bible presents only the God of Israel, and it repeatedly says: Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel .
It does not, even in passing, verify the truth of religious revelations bestowed on other lands and upon other peoples. Thus, the belief of the Jews that all Israelite Prophets were sent only to the tribes of Israel is in full conformity with the intent and message of the Bible. Jesus had also declared that his advent was intended for the guidance of the Hebrew tribes alone. and had said. I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel , and he admonished his disciples in the words: Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before swine .
Similarly, the Hindu religion also addresses its books only to those of high birth. It is said: If one of base birth should per chance hear a text of the Vedas, the King should seal his ears with molten wax and lead. And should he recite a portion of the Scripture, his tongue should be severed; and should he succeed in reading the Veda, his body should be hacked to pieces .
Even if we disregard such drastic injunctions, or offer some less severe explanation of them, the fact remains that the holy books of various faiths do not, even by implication, allude to the truth of the religions of other lands and peoples. The basic question that arises here is, that if all these faiths were in fact true, then what was the wisdom in presenting the concept of God in such limited and restricted terms? The Quran readily furnishes a solution of this predicament. It says that even before the revelation of the Quran and the advent of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, (peace be on him), divine Messengers had indeed been sent to every nation and every part of the globe. but their sphere was regional and their assignments temporary. This is because human civilisation had not yet reached a stage of development which merited the commissioning of a universal messenger, bearing a universal message.
The very first leaf of the Holy Quran praises the Lord Who is the Sustainer of all the worlds, and its last passage urges us to pray to the Lord of mankind. Thus both the first and the last words of the Holy Quran present the concept of the entire universe, and not merely that of a God of the Arabs or the Muslims. Verily, no one before the Holy Prophet of Islam had beckoned the whole of humanity, and no book before the Holy Quran had addressed the entire world. The first such claim was made in favour of the Holy Prophet of Islam in these word: And We have not sent thee but as a bearer of glad tidings and a Warner of all mankind, but most men know not . And then Say '0 mankind, truly I am a Messenger to you all' .
And when the Quran calls itself a message for all the world , it upholds itself as the guidance with which is linked the true development and advancement of mankind.
The Quran has repeatedly been called the 'Verifier' of other Books and Muslims are admonished to believe in all other Prophets in exactly the same manner as they believe in their own Prophet. In our faith, it is forbidden to make a distinction among any of them, much less to believe in some and reject others. The Quran says: All (of us) believe in Allah, and in His angels, and in His Books, and in His Messengers saying, We make no distinction between any of His Messengers .
It may not be without merit to examine if universality in itself is a desirable feature, and why Islam has laid such great stress upon it. Ever since Islam has brought the message of the unity of mankind, the pace of the march towards such unity has continued to accelerate in every sphere. An example of this march in our times is the establishment of different international bodies and federations. Indeed, these are but milestones along the long and devious journey towards unity among all mankind. So, the need that is keenly felt by the advanced and civilised man of today, had already been fulfilled by planting the seed of its solution in the message of Islam 1400 years ago. Today, of course, the rapid development of travel and communications has lent a new impetus to the march towards unity among peoples and nations.
A question that arises is: if all religions were in fact founded by Messengers from God, then why is there any difference in their teachings? Can the same God send down different teachings? This question is answered by Islam alone, and this, too, is a distinctive feature of this religion. Islam holds that there are two basic causes of differences between various religions. First, that varying conditions had needed varying dictates and rules, and the All-Knowing and All-Wise God had provided guidance for different ages, regions and peoples in accordance with their respective needs. Secondly, the contents of various faiths faded and wilted under the vicissitudes of time, hence they were not preserved in their original form. In some cases, the followers themselves introduced innovations and variations to suit changing needs, and the originally revealed Books continued to be interpolated for this purpose. Obviously, such adulteration of divine message ultimately mandated fresh guidance from the Original Source. As God has said in the Quran: They pervert the words from their proper places and have forgotten a good part of that with which they were exhorted .
If we examine the history of differences between various faiths in the light of the principles enunciated by the Quran, we find that the differences tend to diminish as we reach nearer the source itself. For instance, if we limit the comparison of Christianity and Islam only to the life of Jesus and the four gospels in the Bible, then there will appear only very minor differences between the basic teachings of the Bible and the Quran. But, as we travel further down the road of time, the chasm of these differences becomes wider and wider, till it becomes totally unbridgeable - and all because of human endeavour to revise that which was originally revealed. The history of other faiths also reveals the same basic reality, and we find strong corroboration of the Quranic view, that the direction of human changes and revisions of the divine Message has always been from the worship of one God to that of several, and from reality to fiction, from humanity to deification of human beings.
The Quran tells us that the surest way to distinguish a true religion, despite its subsequent mutilation, is to examine its origin. If the origin reveals the teaching of the unity of God. Worship of none save the One God. And a true and genuine sympathy for all humanity. Then such a religion, despite subsequent changes, must be accepted as true. The founders of religions that satisfy this criteria, were indeed righteous and pious beings and true Messengers deputed by God between whom we should make no distinction and in whose truth we must believe fully. They have certain fundamental features common to all regardless of differences in time and place. Thus expounds the Holy Quran:
And they were not commanded but to serve Allah, being sincere to Him in obedience, and being upright, and to observe Prayer, and pay the Zakat. And that is the religion of the people of the right path. 
Another distinctive feature of Islam is that it not only proclaims its universal character but also lays claim to being eternal and it then proceeds to fulfil the preconditions of such a claim. For instance a Message can be eternal only if it is complete and perfect in every aspect and also guaranteed with regard to the verity of its contents. In other words, its revealed Books should bear divine guarantee against human revision and tampering. In so far as the teachings of the Quran are concerned, The Almighty Himself claims in the Quran: I have this day perfected your faith for you in every way and, having completed My bounty upon you. have chosen for you Islam as religion .
As I have already said for a teaching to be eternal, it is not sufficient merely that it should be complete and perfect, but that there should also exist a guarantee for its perpetual preservation in its original form. The Quran amply satisfies this fundamental requirement, and the One Who sent down the Quran has proclaimed it in the clearest terms that:
We have sent down this Book and verily We shall safeguard It .
In other words, God Himself will safeguard it and will never allow it to be tampered with. One method of the preservation of the text has been, that in accordance with Divine Will, there have always been hundreds of thousands of people in every age who have committed the text of the Quran to memory, and this practice continues to this day. And the principle measure of safeguarding the real import and essence of the Message has been the divine practice of appointing guides, reformers and revivers in the latter ages. They would be commissioned as spiritual leaders by the Almighty Himself and under divine guidance, would settle differences and controversies among the followers of Islam, thus safeguarding the true spirit of the Holy Quran.
Of course, there is the question as to whether the Quranic claim of its preservation is also supported by reliable corroborative evidence. A clue to the answer to this question lies in the fact that there are a very large number of non-Muslim researchers who, despite themselves, have totally failed to show that the text of the Quran has been tampered with, in the slightest manner after the passing away of the Holy Prophet of Islam. In fact, there are many non-Muslim researchers who have felt compelled, after their extensive searches in this field, to affirm openly that the Quran has indeed been preserved and safeguarded in its original form. For instance, Sir William Muir in his work, The Life of Muhammad, says: 'We may, upon the strongest presumption, affirm that every verse is the genuine and unaltered composition of Muhammad himself . Also, "There is otherwise every security, internal and external, that we possess the text which Muhammad himself gave forth and used" . Says Noldeke: Slight clerical errors there may have been, but the Quran of Uthman contains none but genuine elements, though some times in very strange order. The efforts of European scholars to prove the existence of later interpolations in the Quran have failed .
As regards Islam's distinctive and unique claim that the teachings of the Quran are complete and perfect and fully capable of guiding humanity in all ages, this too, is fully capable of guiding humanity in all ages and is also fully supported by reason. It is not possible in a brief space of time to deal with this subject in detail, and I must confine myself to a brief reference to some guiding principles and illustrative examples. First, we must consider how Islam succeeds in meeting the demands of changing times, thus forestalling the need for any revision in its teachings. It is indeed fascinating to study Islam's practical guidance in this regard of which I shall now place a mere sample before you:
These were a few facets of the principles of Islamic teachings. I shall now discuss them a little further so that my submission may be understood more fully.
Islam condemns the institution of interest in all its forms and strongly urges its total elimination. The motive force it presents in place of interest, to move the economic wheel, is called Zakat. Obviously, I cannot treat this subject in detail in the time available, and will, therefore, just say a few words on the methodology adopted by the Quran to present the essence of its teachings in this important sphere. Zakat is a system of taxing capital, realised from the well-to-do. Apart from meeting the demands of the State, this tax is intended to meet the needs of the poor. In other words, this system not only meets the requirements of the government machinery, but also guarantees to fulfil the demands of social welfare. All that has been done is to lay down the basic principle, leaving it to those with insight and understanding to settle the details in accordance with the conditions prevailing in a particular environment at a given time. The Quran says that in the wealth of those who possess over and beyond their basic needs, is also the share of those who are unable to meet their basic needs and are considered deprived in their environment. This clearly establishes that it is the right of every person to have certain basic necessities of life provided to him in every land and society, and those made responsible for meeting this obligation are the ones who possess more than their basic needs, leaving it to the State to decide upon the modus operandi, which is to ensure that the system is fair, just and equitable and adequately fulfils its basic purpose.
The other major international question confronting us today is that of the determination of the form of government for a given region or country. Here, too, the guiding principles of Islam are so pertinent, weighty and elastic that their truth and- practicability become self evident. No one can deny that a particular form of government is considered suitable or unsuitable only when applied to a specific set of conditions obtaining, and it is idle to imagine that a particular political system can fulfil the needs of all people for all times. This is why Islam does not specify a particular form of government. It neither presents a democratic or socialist form, nor recommends kingship or dictatorship. Instead of dilating upon the methods of establishing governments, Islam enunciates the principle of conducting political and governmental affairs in a specific manner, and imposes the condition that, no matter what the form, the responsibilities of a government will always be discharged justly and fairly, with sympathy; always fulfilling and upholding basic human rights. Thus, instead of emphasising the first segment of the commonly accepted definition of democracy, i.e.; government, by the people:, Islam emphasises that, whatever the form of the government, it must in all events be for the people.
So when democracy is mentioned among other forms of government the real stress is laid on its quality. It is emphasized that it should not be a hollow democracy, but that those electing their rulers should be competent people, motivated in all honesty to elect only those who are really fit and equal to the task. This has been made a pre-requisite of any election to office by the Quran:
Verily, Allah commands you to give over the trusts to those entitled to them, and that, when you judge between men, you judge with justice .
And then, whatever government may be established, it is obliged to govern with justice, without any discrimination of race, colour, or creed.
Now I shall briefly summarise the rules that flow from the basic fundamentals given in the Quran about any system of government:
I shall now cite a few important examples of Islamic principles which perhaps need particular emphasis in the world today. The first concerns Islamic teaching in respect of equity and justice. Other religions do not present a comprehensive direction about the administration of justice and fair play, and even if they mention this at all, it is in terms that can scarcely be applicable to us today. In fact, some parts of these directions appear to conflict directly with the intellect and sensibilities of our age, and one cannot but conclude that these teachings have either become corrupted or were intended only for local and temporary application. As Judaism presents God as only the God of Israel to the exclusion of every one else, no wonder then, that it does not even in passing deal with the fundamental question of Human Rights as such.
As for Hinduism it seems outright hostile not only to the non-Hindu but also to the Hindu of a low caste, hence narrowing further the field of God's mercy to a much smaller section of the human race. Hinduism decrees: If a Brahmin is unable to return a loan to one of low caste, the other has no right to demand its return. But if one of low caste is unable to return a loan taken from a Brahmin, he is to be made to work as a labourer for Brahmins till such time as he is able to pay back the loan in full. .
Again, in Judaism we fail to detect a concept of justice toward one's enemy. It is said: And when your Lord your God gives them over to you, and you defeat them; then you must utterly destroy them; you shall make no covenant with them . I shall now, by way of comparison, cite a few examples of Islamic teachings in the same areas, The Quran enjoins, - and I quote:
Your eye shall not pity; it shall be life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot. .
Doubtless, such emphasis on vengeance causes not mere wonder but also saddens our heart. However, I am not citing this example to castigate another teaching but to show that when viewed in the light of Quranic principles even such drastic measures may also sometimes be justified. The Quran thus helps us in following the conflicting teachings of other faiths in a spirit of sympathy and understanding which, too is an exclusive feature of Islam. According to the Quran, the extraction of full vengeance was decreed only to meet the specific needs of a particular period. This was necessary to give heart to the Israelites to make them stand up for their rights after they had remained victimized and enslaved for a prolonged period, and had as a result, become cowardly and developed a deep-seated complex of being an inferior people. Obviously, in such a situation, it would not have been proper to emphasize forgiveness, as it would only have made the Israelites sink deeper into their morass and not given them the confidence and courage to break the shackles of abject bondage. This teaching, therefore, was right and proper in the situation which then existed, and was indeed given by the AII-Wise God. On the other hand, when we consider the New Testament, we find that in contradiction of the previous Scripture, the Old Testament, it emphasizes forgiveness to such an extent that it totally deprives the Israelites of the right to extract any vengeance whatsoever. The real reason for this was that practising the previous teaching over a long period of time, the Israelites had become hardhearted and ferocious, and this could only be remedied by suspending for a certain period their right to extract vengeance. This is why Jesus admonished them:
You have heard that it was said, 'an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth, but I say to you do not resist one who is evil. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also, and if anyone would use you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well. 
Islam holds these two opposing teachings to be complementary, each suited to the conditions and situation prevailing at the time, and neither, therefore, able to lay claim to being universal or eternal. This perfectly stands to reason, for man was still progressing through earlier stages of development and had not yet become one community to which could be vouchsafed a law that would be final and universal. We believe that Islam is that final law and presents a teaching not influenced by place or time which fact is amply illustrated by its teaching in the matter being considered. The Quran says: -
Remember that the recompense of an injury is an injury the like thereof; but whoso forgives and thereby brings about a reformation, his reward is with Allah. Surely, Allah loves not wrongdoers 
Islam thus combines the best features of both the earlier teachings with the vital addition that forgiveness is commended provided it is likely to result in an improvement and in the correction of the defaulter, that being the real objective. If not, then punishment is held to be necessary, but not exceeding the degree to which one is wronged. Surely, this guidance is in full conformity with human nature and is as practicable today as when it was revealed fourteen centuries ago.
The subject of Islam's distinctive features is a very vast one, and I have been able to deal with only just a few aspects that I had chosen for this presentation. Time will permit no more than a passing reference for certain other aspects which I would not wish to omit:
In the end, I would give all seekers of peace the glad tidings that Islam alone is the faith that guarantees peace in all spheres and at all levels: individual, social, economic, national. Islam alone bears a name, the literal meaning of which is 'peace', and one who becomes a Muslim, not only enters a safe haven himself but also guarantees it for others, and shuns all actions that might lead to inequity and disruption. The Holy Prophet said that a Muslim is he whose word and deed do no harm to others . The momentous address of the Holy Prophet delivered shortly before his death, and after the performance of what has come to be called the Farewell Pilgrimage, is an eternal charter of peace for all mankind. Islam enjoins peace not only between men, but also between man and his Maker, so that not only other men remain unharmed from the word and deed of a Muslim, but he himself remains safe from God's wrath and censure, the recompense which is merited as a result of committing transgression. So, a Muslim's peace is obtained in this world and also extends to the hereafter. Islam's teachings, if followed by the nations of the world, are fully capable of saving them from strife and destruction. Islam is a living faith and claims to be able to place the relationship of man with God on the same plane as it was in the days long past. Islam does not consider revelation and communion with God to be a thing of the past. It believes that the avenues of spiritual bliss trodden upon by Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and, above all, the Prophet of Islam, are still open and beckoning to those desirous of close communion with God.
The Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam believes that these claims have been fulfilled in our age in the person of its founder Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad who was born in 1835 in the remote village of Qadian in India. He was enabled by divine mercy to tread the path of piety and righteousness, and, strictly following the teachings of Islam, was blessed with intimate communion with the Almighty. He received divine revelation which also formed the basis of his many prophecies, whose unfailing fulfilment has continued beyond his life.
In accordance with divine direction, he founded the Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam in the year 1889, and, leaving behind a dedicated and vibrant Community of disciples numbering several hundred thousands, he departed from this earthly abode in 1908. His mission continues, and the Community has all along been headed by elected successors.
While describing his mission, The founder of our Movement had said:
I have been sent that I should prove that Islam alone is a living religion. And I have been blessed with spiritual powers that render helpless those of other faiths, and also those from among us who are spiritually blind. I can demonstrate to every opponent that the Quran is a miracle in its teachings, its enlightened knowledge, its deep and delicate insight, and in its perfect eloquence. It excels the miracles of Moses, and those of Jesus a hundred fold. 
He goes on to say: I am the light in the darkness of this age. He who follows me, will be saved from the pits and ditches dug by the Devil to entice those straying in the dark. He has sent me so that I should lead the world, gently and in peace, to the One True God, and re-establish the moral excellences of Islam. And I have been given heavenly signs to satisfy those who seek the truth .
I now end my address with another quotation from the writings of the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement, which is a call to the whole of mankind:
The mirror which enables you behold That lofty Being, is His communion with man. Let one whose heart yearns for the truth, stand up and search. I tell you in all truth, that if souls search honestly and hearts really thirst for the truth, then men should look for the right method and the right path. But how will this open, and how will this veil be lifted? I assure all seekers that Islam alone gives the glad tidings of this path, for others have long since placed a seal on God's revelation. But, be assured that God has not placed this seal: this is a mere excuse conjured up by man in his deprivation.
Verily, as it is not possible to see without our eyes, or hear without our ears, in exactly the same way, it is impossible to behold the countenance of That Beloved, without the help of the Quran. I was a young man, and now I am grown old, but I have never found anyone who has drunk of the ultimate spiritual elixir, except from this holy spring .
Doubtless, this call is a life-giving message for every soul that seeks the real truth.