Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih recited the following Quranic verse at the start of his Friday sermon:
‘And when My servants ask thee about Me, say: ‘I am near. I answer the prayer of the supplicant when he prays to Me. So they should hearken to Me and believe in Me, that they may follow the right way.’ (2:187)
The first twenty days of Ramadan have already passed, very quickly and imperceptibly. Now, the last ten days begin. Many letters are received by Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih speaking of seeking beneficence of Ramadan, people mention this to him in person as well. Indeed, a believer should be concerned to derive maximum beneficence from Ramadan. If an Ahmadi is not thus concerned the objective to accept the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace)is negated. He came to this world to bring a spiritual revolution that was to take man closer to God. His advent came to pass to bring about the following: to steer thoughts and concerns towards forging a connection with God, to strengthen faith and take it to higher level, to discharge the rights to mankind alongside developing our spirituality, to draw our attention to bring about pious changes in ourselves and to always self-reflect for this purpose. He came to generate a spiritual revolution that would draw attention to the ways and means to attain the above.
It is God’ grace and favour that time and again He provides us with occasions to attain these pieties and Ramadan is a very great and most blessed opportunity among such opportunities. Certainly, fortunate are those in whom desire to bring about spiritual revolution is created during Ramadan and they also make effort for it. However, efforts will only be beneficial when only those ways and means are adopted which God has taught. Self-made ways and means do not avail. It has been mentioned previously that nearness to God cannot be attained by relying on ‘apparent’ Salat alone although such apparent actions are important and one cannot attain nearness to God without them, for example eating of Sehr and Iftar and other actions are obligatory. However, it is wrong to say that one finds God by arranging a gathering of ‘Dikhr’ (remembrance of God) or that one pays the dues of devotion to God this way. Not at all; in order to attain this one has to practice the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) which he advised his Ummah to do. In addition to the outward actions, one needs to bring about inward pious changes and to take them to a high level. This too is an important commandment and one needs to generate an ardour to attain this.
The Quranic verse 2:187 speaks of the method to attain God’s love and speaks of that status when man becomes a true believer. While God’s love for His servants exudes in this verse, it also gives us further insight into the Hadith that relates that God states: ‘If man comes one span nearer to Me, I go one yard nearer to him, if he comes one hand close to Me, I go two hands closer to him and if he comes to Me walking, I go to him running.’ Such is God’s love for those who try to truly pay the dues of devotion to Him. While the word Ebaadi (My servants) in the verse indicates God’s love for Hus servants, it also shows that He does not say ‘I am near’ to the call of every person. One who does not want to go even a span towards God does not come in the category of ‘Ebaadi’. In this verse God has not used the word Bashr (man), rather Ebaadi is used signifying the addressee to be one who is inclined towards becoming an Ebd (servant).
How does one pay the dues of being an Ebd? This takes us towards the commandment in which God has drawn our attention to the purpose of our creation and has stated that His servants are those who, having recognised the purpose of their creation, make efforts towards it day and night. As regards our purpose of creation, God states: ‘And I have not created the Jinn and the men but that they may worship Me.’ (51:57) Thus God has stated that being an Ebd means having to continually raise the standard of one’s worship. One should not be only mindful of this purpose of creation during Ramadan. Rather, one who wishes to be a true Ebd has to keep it in view all the time. God states that when the blessing of fasting brings about further spiritual progress, tell those who ask about Me that I come closer during Ramadan and tell those who were already drawn to Me that I come even closer during Ramadan. God comes down to the lower heaven for those who worship Him during Tahajjud outside of Ramadan. However, in Ramadan His affection grows further still and fortunate are those who take full advantage of it and then promise that they will continue with the efforts for Tahajjud and Nawafil (optional Prayers) through which they have experienced nearness to God that they will continue with their regularity in Salat and reading the Holy Qur’an. God Who knows the state of our hearts says to the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) to tell His servants that if they seek from Him with the promise that they will make efforts to continue their dues of devotion for Him, He will remain close to them in Ramadan and also after Ramadan.
The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) said: ‘Allah the exalted has created man so that he may acquire His knowledge and nearness; ‘And I have not created the Jinn and the men but that they may worship Me.’ One who does not keep this objective in view and is lost day and night in thoughts to attain the world; that how can he purchase such and such land, build such and such house, possess such and such property. What other treatment can be given to such a person other than this that God calls him back after giving him a short respite?’
He also said: ‘Man should have an aching in his heart to attain nearness of God. For this reason, he will be worthy in God’s view. If he does not have this aching in his heart and only aches for the world and all that is in it, then ultimately, he will be finished after given a brief respite.’
This does not mean that one is not to do worldly tasks. The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) has also explained elsewhere that one who has land or a business and does not work hard for it, does not pay the dues. Both worldly and spiritual matters should be executed in conjunction. The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) has explained to us that we should have an aching to be close to God and it is also important to gain knowledge of God. God states that when effort to attain nearness to God is made with an aching, the desire will manifest into action. This will come to pass when faith will further develop, when one will try and hearken to God at everything with sincerity of intention. Man is weak and human frailty means that there are ups and downs. However, one should become conscious of mistakes immediately and turn to Taubah (repentance) and Istaghfar (seeking forgiveness from God) and to try and rid of the weakness. It should not be that one practices all virtues during Ramadan but remains involved only in worldly matters for the rest of the year with the thought to resume the effort to be an Ebd of God the following Ramadan. With the commandment to fast, God has mentioned the commandment to hearken to Him and this hearkening should continue between one Ramadan and the next. Then alone will it bring spiritual dividends. If we do not think on these lines and we do not make an effort to attain this objective, then we cannot be included in the category of those who are called Ebd.
The process of becoming an Ebd is not a process of a few days or a month; it is a continuous process and because a believer is specifically drawn to such matter during Ramadan, that is why attention is drawn to this matter in conjunction with fasting. God has declared how one can spiritually progress and become an Ebd by stating in the Qur’an: ‘Say, ‘We will adopt the religion of Allah; and who is better than Allah in teaching religion, and Him alone do we worship.’ (2:139) Adopting the [religion] colour of God signifies to instil God’s attributes in oneself and this is essential to become a true Ebd. In worldly terms, let alone loving and blood relationships even in a master servant relationship, the servant adopts the master’s preferences. In an anecdote about a king and his courtier the king receives some aubergines (egg plants) as a gift. The aubergines are highly appreciated and the king starts eating them every day. The courtier starts praising the aubergines in extremely exaggerated terms. Eventually the king falls ill due to eating the vegetable every day. As a result the king criticises the aubergines, and the courtier joins in the criticism. The king asks the courtier how he could criticise the aubergines after praising them so much. The courtier replies, ‘my lord, I am your servant and not servant to the aubergines.’ However, when one adopts/imbues/instils the colour of God one adorns one’s life in this world as well as one’s ending.
By adopting Divine attributes a person gains nearness to God. When a believer imbues God’s colour he or she attain his or her purpose of creation. He or she tries to practice that which God likes and tries and resists what God dislikes. The commandment ‘to adopt the religion/colour of God’ signifies that God has put the capacity in humans to adopt His attributes within their own sphere and to also demonstrate them. For example, man can adopt the Divine qualities of Malikiyyat (quality of being the Master), Rahmaniyyat (quality of being Gracious), Raheemiyyat (quality of being Merciful) and Rububiyyat (quality of being the Sustainer/Nurturer) on human level. Man can adopt the quality of being Sattar (One Who covers the faults of others) and of Wahab (the Bestower), in fact these qualities are sometimes demonstrated in the life of an ordinary person. A true believer imbues the colours/qualities of God to attract His love. It is essential to demonstrate these qualities to attract the love of God, to save humanity from sin and to attain the purpose of one’s creation. Ultimately, this demonstration becomes a source of merit in God’s sight. The verse commanding to adopt the religion/colour of God goes on to say that believers should announce that ‘…Him alone do we worship…’ because the object is to attain His pleasure and to spend life in accordance to His commandments. This commandment is not for one month; rather every moment of a believer’s life should be spent following it. We should reflect on this matter during this Ramadan as we try to bring pious changes in ourselves, we should reflect on the Divine attributes during this Ramadan and also try and put these attributes in practice during this Ramadan, we should pay the dues of worship of God during this Ramadan and we should pledge and try to link all of this to the next Ramadan. When all this will happen, we will be the recipient of the glad-tiding of ‘I am near’ as well as observe manifestation of ‘I answer the prayer of the supplicant when he prays to Me.’
The focal point of our prayers should not be just our worldly needs. Rather, having adopted Divine attributes we should be inclined to those virtues to which we have been commanded. By stating ‘they should hearken to Me’ God draws our attention to His commandments and to the fact that a believer should understand his or her responsibilities.
Next Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih expounded the moral responsibilities as well as responsibilities towards people of those who hearken to God. God states: ‘…you enjoin what is good and forbid evil and believe in Allah…’ (3:111) Only those will practice this in the true sense who practice virtues and avoid what is bad. It is true that keeping an eye on self-reflection draws one to adopt Divine attributes. This is a huge responsibility ascribed to believers. Hearts are more inclined to fear and awe of God during Ramadan and reflection on one’s deeds. If one reflects and ponders over the standard God has fixed for one who wishes and prays to be true believer, one will be drawn to bring about pious changes in oneself. One should always keep the following Divine pronouncement in view: ‘Most hateful is it in the sight of Allah that you say what you do not do.’ (61:4). There is a great need for us to self-reflect during these days. In particular, Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih addressed office-holders of all levels, of central administration as well as of the auxiliaries and Waaqfeen e Zindagi that they need to self-reflect. This is also applicable to Ahmadis in general that if they counsel something, its influence should also be evident in their own lives. If this commandment to enjoin what is good and forbid evil is for Muslims in general how much more do those who are appointed to the task need to be mindful of its obligation? If the standards of worship of the office-holders only improve during Ramadan, it is tantamount to contradiction in word and deed and it is most disliked by God.
Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih often draws the attention of office-holders in meetings that if the office-holders on every level, of every auxiliary enhance their standards of worship, the current attendance at mosques can increase two to three times. Similarly there are other commandments that require attention. There is the commandment to be equitable even if one has to give testimony against oneself or against one’s parents or close relations. If we analyse, generally speaking, we do not see this standard. On one hand we seek signs of acceptance of prayer, wish to be included in God’s servants but when it is time to give testimony, we find ways to save our own from being found guilty. Rather, at times effort is made to save oneself and one’s relatives and somehow apportion guilt on another person. At times people write in that such and such office-holders were mentioned or shortcomings at Jalsa etc. are pointed out. Rather than the office-holders or the relevant department reform itself, investigations are launched into who made the complaint. This should not be their concern, it is not their business. If the said shortcoming exists, they should try and remove it and even if it does not exist they should engage in Istaghfar so that God may save from punishment of sin that is not committed and correct report should be submitted. It is up to Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih how he responds to the person who makes the complaint or whether he responds or not. Anonymous complaints are not worthy of attention any way. It is incumbent on the office-holders to accomplish their pledges and their trusts and to properly fulfil when they have been entrusted with.
[The essence of] true testimony demands that attention is drawn to correction/reformation rather than find out the name of the person who complained. If Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih wishes to give the name of whoever complained, he would and he often does. However, it has also been observed that efforts are made to harass that person. This is far-removed from Taqwa and is not the correct way to observe trusts and pledges and is not the right implementation of God’s commandments. If a connection with God is desired, we need to try and practice the commandments in every matter and on every level. This advice is not limited to the office-holders only. In order to become an Ebd of God, every Ahmadi should try and practice every commandment of God. Try and perfect your faith, inculcate humility and crush your inner idols of vanity and arrogance, establish high standards of truth, instil the habit to pardon and forgive, avoid back-biting, try and pay the dues of trusts and abide by justice. Not only ‘abide by justice’ but better than that, ‘treat with grace’ and then ‘give like the giving of kin to kin.’
Be kind and courteous to your acquaintances and neighbours. This is an important teaching of the Qur’an. If we were to understand the definition of neighbour as explained by the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) and extend its scope as far as he has defined, our mutual grievances would be removed, its scope would extend to more than one house. Rather, it will extend to a hundred houses, to the next city and beyond to other country. We will be drawn to each other’s right and will begin to shun finding faults in others. We will be saved from back-biting which God has likened to eating the flesh of one’s dead brother. How abominable back-biting is, but many among us indulge in it without thinking. When attention is drawn to them about it they reply that they only mention the drawbacks that are present in a person. At times families sit and talk about office-holders in negative light. This is also back-biting. The response from such people is that so and so has the shortcomings and that they are not lying. The Holy Prophet (peace and blessing of Allah be on him) said that if your brother has some shortcomings and you mention them in his absence, it is indeed back-biting. If he does not have the shortcomings that you mention then that is slander. Therefore, it is our duty to avoid these ills and to adopt virtues, and then alone will we be included in those who enjoin good and forbid evil. It should always be remembered that hearkening to God’s commandments is only true when we also practice all that He commands us to do. We should first reform ourselves and then the world, which is our task. Then alone will we be validation of ‘believe in Me’, otherwise, our faith is not complete. By stating ‘hearken to Me’ followed by ‘believe in Me’, God has declared that practice of every commandment and every kind of high moral alone will complete one’s faith and will make one keen in servitude of God.
In these last few days of Ramadan we should promise that having taken our spiritual and moral conditions to a high standard, we will also maintain them, we will try and draw God’s grace and will continue to do so. We will try our utmost to become His Ebd and will make it endure. May God enable us to do so.