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The Search for God

Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as)
The Review of Religions, February 1997

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Presented below is the first part of a conversation between a non-Muslim visitor and Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian, the Promised Messiah (as), which took place in Qadian in March 1901. The original transcript of the conversation in Urdu is taken from Malfoozat, Vol. 2, pp. 226-243.

Translated by Amatul-Hadi Ahmad


In March 1901 a gentleman in search of truth, came to see Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as) of Qadian. The gentleman who was from the district of Gujarat, India, made the following statement at the start of the conversation:

'Right from the beginning I could feel a sense of religious values within me and in accordance with this I had been, in my thinking, doing some good deeds. I feel much troubled at the thought of being surrounded by those who chase after the world and there is a sense of agitation within me. Once I was strolling on the banks of the river Jehlam when I became aware of a strange experience conveying sense of love from which I derived much pleasure and enjoyment. Whichever way I turned I felt a sense of delight (anand) - in eating, in drinking, in walking, in every movement and every gesture there was love. After a few hours this experience disappeared but its effect continued for at least two months, that is to say, a lesser degree of pleasure still remained with me for two more months. At present I am in a strange state of perplexity. I have tried very hard to regain that experience but I have not been able to find it again. In its search I have been to Lahore to see Babu Ibnash Chandar, a foreman, who is a very active member of Braham Samaj. Unfortunately, he could not see me for much longer than a few minutes, and that only in his office. After that I went to see Pundit Shiv Narain Satianand Agnihotri. I saw how much these people feel spirituality. I worked in their school as third master for about two months and concentrated on self-improvement. I had only gone there to make something out of my life. During my time there I did begin briefly to 'see' something but I was not satisfied and I did not find the peace and love that I desired. I still wished to stay there patiently, but I had to leave due to ill health.

In my own town I once heard Sheikh Maula Baksh Sahib reading your paper from the Great Conference of Religions. I was going somewhere, lost in my own thoughts when my ears caught the sound of his voice. In an unusual manner, I felt it in my soul that these words carried a light within them and that the person who had written these words must also carry a light within him. I read that paper several times and I had the desire to come to Qadian. However, perhaps due to the new developments surrounding the issue of the death of Lekhram, whenever I asked a Muslim for the address (of the writer of that paper) no one would tell me. Perhaps they feared that I was intending to come and murder Mirza Sahib! My agitation, however, was becoming greater and it is now that my wish has been fulfilled. I want to make something of my life and it is for this purpose that I have come to you, Huzur.'

To this the Promised Messiah (as) responded in the following words.

The Promised Messiah (as): The truth is that a person should not be satisfied with the outer shell alone and no person likes to be satisfied with just the shell. Rather, a person wishes to move forward and Islam seeks to take him to that very kernel and spirit which a person by nature wishes to attain. The name of Islam is a name in which the soul finds pleasure. For the soul there is no satisfaction to be found in the names of any other religion. What spirituality is to be found in the name 'Arya'? Islam has been created for peace, for 'shanti ' and for satisfaction for which the human soul hungers and thirsts. It is so in order to convey to the person who hears the name (Islam) that he who truly believes in this religion and practices it, is a person who has true knowledge of God. But the thing is that if a person wishes that everything should happen at once, that a person should attain to the highest levels of knowledge of God in an instant, that can never be. In this world everything happens gradually. There is no knowledge or skill that a person does not have to learn with patience and dedication. It is necessary that he should move systematically through the different stages. You see, the farmer has to wait after he has sown the seed. First he puts one of his dearest things into the ground from where they can easily be picked by animals or 'swallowed' by the earth or wasted through some other means. But experience gives him comfort that a time will come when these seeds of grain which have now been entrusted to the earth, will bear result and in time there will be a green and lush field, and this seed thrust into the ground will turn into his food and livelihood.

Now, you should consider this that the production of food and the means of existence sufficient to keep a person alive for one day, requires a period of six months when the life for which the food is thus produced is finite. How can it then be possible for the spiritual 'food', being nourishment for the spiritual life which is eternal, to be attained in a matter of days? It is true that God has power over things such that, if he so wishes, he is able to do whatever he wills in an instant, and it is our belief that nothing is impossible before him. Islam has not presented a God who, like the God presented by the Aryas can neither bring into being a spirit nor anything material and cannot give peace and eternal salvation to the truthful and to those who seek after him. Not so. Instead, Islam has presented a God who is unique in his powers and strengths. There is none who can compare with him and none who has a share in his powers and attributes. But, yes, his law is such that everything is done gradually and systematically. Hence, if one is not patient and does not have positive expectations, success is difficult. I remember once a person came to me and said that the holy people of earlier times used to make people reach great (spiritual) heights with one blow of their breath. I told him that he was mistaken. This is not God's way of doing things. If you were to lay the floor in a house, it is necessary to first, repair any parts which are in need of repair and wherever there is any filth or dirt, to cleanse it and to purify it with a disinfectant. In short, the ground will be made ready for laying the floor only after a great many schemes and methods have been employed. The human heart is the same. Prior to its becoming worthy of being inhabited by God, it is the throne of Satan and the seat of his government. It is necessary for the destruction of this government (of Satan) for the sake of the other government (of God).

Very unfortunate indeed is the person who sets out in search of the truth and then does not hold positive expectations (regarding the outcome). Learn at least from the potter and see how much he has to do to make a pot of clay. Watch the laundry man, how much hard work he has to do when he begins to clean dirty and soiled clothes. Sometimes he puts the clothes on the boil, sometimes he rubs them with soap and through different means draws out the dirt and at last the clothes come out clean and white. All the dirt that was in them is washed out. If there is need for so much patience for such inferior things then how foolish is the person who, for the sake of reforming his life and for the sake of the removal of the dirt and filth found in his heart, desires that they should all be drawn out with a single blow and the heart should thereby be cleansed!

Remember, patience is the condition for self-reform. Then the second thing to remember is that the purification of morals and of the soul cannot take place without close contact with a person who is pure. The first door that opens, opens because of the removal of filth. However, there still remain those impurities which have a connection (with one's inner self). In the company of a pure person, these inner impurities find an antidote and begin to be gradually removed. This is because there can be no relationship with the pure spirit, which in the Holy Qur'an is called 'Ruh-ul-Quds', the holy spirit, unless there is some affinity with it. We cannot say when such a relationship is created but, certainly, one should practice the means for its attainment. One should 'turn to dust' upon this path and tread upon it with patience and steadfastness. God will not waste the efforts of one who strives hard and such a person finally will be rewarded with that light for which he had been searching. I am surprised and do not understand how it is that a human being acts so daringly when he knows that God exists!

The person I have just mentioned, who had said to me that the earlier holy men turned people into saints just by blowing over them, was advised by me that such stories were incorrect and that this was against God's law. Instead, a person should strive (for God), it is only then that God will open his path for him. The man did not pay any attention to this and left. After some considerable time he came to see me again -- his condition this time was even worse than before. In short, it is the misfortune of man that he adopts the rule of hurry and when he sees that nothing can be achieved in a hurry as God's law is gradual and systematic -- he becomes agitated. The result is that he becomes an atheist - this is the first step to atheism. I have seen people who either present great wishful claims that they wish to become this or that, and on the other extreme, in the end they accept a life of a low level of (moral) existence. Once a person came to me to ask for some help. He was a Jogi, (a person wrapped in dyed cloths, symbolising asceticism). He told me that he had gone to such and such a place to beg from some dead person. It appeared from his condition and his conversation that his view was that one should exist on charity, asking for it from others. The real and true fact is this that one should strive with patience. God watches till the last limit. Whoever is seen to be weak and deceitful, such a one cannot find the path to his honoured presence. Even though the alchemist knows that up to now nothing has been achieved, he still carries on patiently with his experiments. My meaning is this that first there is need for patience. The true purpose is that there should develop a love of God. But I say that love is yet another level or it is a consequence. First of all, however, it is necessary that there should also develop a certainty about the existence of God. After this there develops in the soul, of its own accord, an aptitude for absorption and the soul is naturally attracted towards God. Pleasure and enjoyment from this increases as one's vision and knowledge (of this dimension) increases. Without knowledge there can never arise any pleasure. The real basis of fervour is knowledge. It is true knowledge that gives rise to love. It is the union of knowledge and love that results in pleasure. Remember this that a glimpse of beauty by itself is not sufficient to give rise to feelings of love without there being any knowledge of it. Consider it certain that without knowledge, love is impossible. Without the knowledge of him who is the beloved, what kind of love would that be? To say otherwise is an imaginary thing. There are many who consider a humble human being to be a god. What sort of pleasure can people find in such a god? Like the Christians who make Jesus into a God and then call out, 'God is love, God is love'. Their love cannot be a true love. It is merely a wishful and imaginary love when it has not been their fortune to have acquired true knowledge of God.

After understanding the importance of patience, it is then necessary for one to, first, correct one's beliefs. Hindus present one thing as God, the Christians another and the Chinese yet another. The God of the Muslims is the God that they have, through the Qur'an, presented before the world. Until that God has been identified and recognised, there can be no relationship or love with God. Nothing can come of mere claims.

After there has been a correction of beliefs, the second stage is to progress in the knowledge of God by staying in the company of righteous persons and by asking God, through prayer, for the ability to see the path of truth. As the ability to see the truth and the knowledge of God increases, so will there be the development of love. It should be remembered that without the true knowledge of God, there can be no progress in love. You see, man does not love tin or iron as much as he loves copper, and he does not hold copper as dear as he does silver, and gold is even more of an object of desire. Jewels and diamonds are considered to be yet more desirable. What is the reason for this? It is this that man receives knowledge about metals which results in an increase in his desire for some of them relative to others. In short, the truth is that the cause of progress in love and for the increase in the value of and the desire for love is knowledge. Before a person can desire pleasure and enjoyment, it is necessary that he attains knowledge. However, the most important element on which are based all the others, is patience together with a positive attitude. Until there is patience to an amazing degree, nothing can be achieved. When a person perseveres with untiring patience and strives and struggles in the path of God, then God the Almighty in accordance with his promise, opens the path of guidance for him. As is stated in the Holy Qur'an: 'We will surely guide in our ways those who strive after us'. (Ch. 29, v. 70), i.e. those who adopt Our way and strive and struggle, We do guide them towards our path and doors are opened for them. It is very true when it is said, 'Those who seek, shall find'.

I will say this, however, that a person who comes to me (apparently searching for God) and then after a cursory conversation, walks away, such a person mocks with God. This is not the way of seeking God nor has God set up such a system.

So, the first condition for the search of God is a true desire and the second is to be patiently committed to this search. It is a fact that as one progresses in age, one increases in experience. Does this not necessitate living in the company of a holy person? I have seen many men who in their early years abandon the world and cry out loudly but ultimately their end is such that they are found to be totally engrossed in worldly matters and in fact became worms of the world. Some trees bear a sort of fruit which is of a temporary nature, as is the case with the mulberry tree. This tree displays an early show of a fruit all of which falls away and the real fruit then follows later. Similarly, the desire to search for God also arises temporarily. If one does not at this stage show patience and a positive attitude, the temporary desire is not only extinguished, but is obliterated from the heart forever and turns one into a worm of the world. However, if one works with truth and with a positive attitude, this temporary fervour and thirst for the search of truth does give rise to a real and true desire which progresses daily, so much so that if there is a mountain of difficulties and tribulations on the way, the true seeker will not care in the least and will continue to progress in his aim. So, the person who at the time of the initial fervour and desire is patient and understands that he has to stay loyal to this feeling for the rest of his life, is a person of good fortune. But he who gives up after a few experiments and becomes tired, all that is left for him is that he should go round saying that he has seen many who just talk and found many who were just like shopkeepers, but that he found none who could show the truth nor any who could lead to God!

To be continued.

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