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The Purpose of Religion

Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as)
The Review of Religions, April 1997

A visitor by the name of Maulvi Hamid Hussain Sahib had come to Qadian to meet Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Promised Messiah (as). The newcomer raised various issues and concerns which were explained by the Promised Messiah (as) during the course of their conversation which took place on 11 October 1902. Presented below is an English translation of the conversation, the original Urdu text of which is in Malfoozat, Vol. 3, pp. 425-33.

[Translator's Note: The conversation presented is set against the backdrop of the religious concepts and issues that were popular at the time. The Promised Messiah's response to the issues raised is primarily addressed to the questioner with his level of knowledge and understanding in mind. Hence, the conversation may appear to develop swiftly around concepts. As a result the translation of this text into English has necessitated the frequent use of parenthesis for the purposes of clarification of the translated text only while attempting to remain as close as possible to the original Urdu text.]

Translated by Amatul-Hadi Ahmad

The Promised Messiah (as) (addressing Maulvi Hamid Hussain Sahib): You should stay here for about seven days at least - such a firm resolve and then to return so early is not right. In worldly affairs so much care is taken when making thorough investigations and searches. The person who is hasty in making up his mind puts others in difficulty also. Moreover, expressing a view which is contrary to the actual event is equivalent to committing a murder. There are many things such that the more one considers them, the more their outcome appears better and better.

A person needs two things to reach the truth. One, God-given sense and intelligence, and the other, God-given understanding and good nature. People who do not have any affinity (with these) develop in their hearts nothing but aversion and objections and this is the reason why people in the past have, in the main, rejected the men of truth.

You have come from a distant place and no sooner have you arrived then there has developed a barrier and I have heard only of one barrier! Without a conversation involving opposing views there cannot be a demonstration of truth. Some people come here and hypocritically say 'yes' to everything. Consequently, they do not derive any benefit at all. You should raise objections to your heart's content and I am ready to answer fully.

Maulvi Hamid Hussain Sahib: The followers of all religions consider their own religion to be the correct one. How can we decide?

The Promised Messiah (as): The thing is that these days, as has always been the case, for a religion to be identified as the true religion, it is necessary that it contains two elements. Firstly, its teaching should be pure and there should be no objection of human intelligence or conscience against the teaching. This is because it is impossible for God's injunctions to be impure. Secondly, there should be attached to it a system of heavenly support (for the follower) so that through it a person may recognise God and be able to witness all of God's attributes so that he is protected against sin. Even if a person is already with a true religion (he may not be able to benefit from it if the second condition is not fulfilled) if, that is, the religion does not provide for the follower a 'craft' (by means of which its fountainhead may be reached). The example of such a religion is like a spring which is placed at an inaccessible point, surrounded by a tall mountain or a wall or by thorny bushes. How is one to reach such a spring? So, a spring like this is of no use to us. The necessary condition is that there should be such means available as are necessary for the development of true knowledge of God. This is essential because it is a certain fact that the human being is constantly plagued by the 'worms' of various trials such as excessive laziness, etc. that keep 'devouring' him and keep him from God. It is due to these (shortcomings) that there is distance between a human being and God. Hence, there should be in a (true) religion such means that pull him towards God and by developing complete certainty take him to God.

People of the world may think that they do not deny the existence of God but their deeds cry out that they do deny God. I have often stated this fact in my books. You see, if there is a hole which is occupied by a snake, would a person, knowing this fact, go near it or would he put his hand inside it? If some wild animals are living in a cave, would anyone go in there knowing this fact? Would a person eat something that he knew to be poisonous? So, we know that it is one of the necessary conditions of certainty that if one knows a thing to be fatal, one does not go near it. Why then is it the case that a person usurps the rights of others, takes bribes, steals, commits evil deeds, and has no control over his anger, and so on. It is old age that eventually distances him from many of these sins but as long as he has control over his faculties, he indulges in all manner of evil deeds which implies that he has no belief in God. Every person can observe and bear witness for himself that (in his acts) he does not exercise balance and control as he should. The greatest aim, therefore, is that one should take note of the imbalances that display themselves (in one's actions) and try to discover the cause. One would then realise that one does not fear God as one should. Sins are reduced sometimes as a result of beneficence and sometimes as a result of fear as, for instance, at times of epidemics and plagues even the more mischievous people start to perform the formal acts of worship (such as salaat).

In short, a true religion is of necessity -- one in which are found the two elements of pure teaching and availability of means that gradually lead and take one to God. However, these two aspects are not found in any religion except in Islam. Islam has presented the nature of God with such clarity that no other religion can match it. On the one hand the teaching of Islam is of an excellent quality and on the other, if a person brings about a change in himself, light and blessings descend upon him, even after only a day (of true change).

It is an unfortunate development that these days there have come to be many sects in Islam. It is as if in every home there is a different sect. This has created a sense of anxiety. On the one hand there are the Shi'a who have made Hussain (ra) an idol similar to (the pre-Islamic idol-god called) Laat. So, a person is left to wonder what he can turn to when the Shi'a have become worshippers of Hussain (ra), the 'Khwarji ' abuse (Hadhrat) Ali (ra) and in between are Ahle-Sunna whose beliefs give the appearance of being balanced but in reality they have now adopted beliefs that are akin to shirk, i.e. polytheism. For instance, they have turned the Messiah (Jesus (as)) into a creator who gives and takes away life. However, (despite all this) the pure religion is one which carries with it the standard of the Qur'an.

A person may apparently become anxious as to how he can attain (the aims of) such a pure religion but remember seek and ye shall find, and persist with patience and righteousness, remembering that God is above all need. What need has he of anyone? However, if a person is humble before God, he is showered with God's grace and beneficence and God opens the eyes' of such a person. (To attain this state) he should repent, pray and ask for forgiveness and should never despair. Every one is 'ill' and no one can achieve a wholesome existence until one has 'seen' God. A person should feel saddened (at this) and should become aloof from the world and having broken all ties with the world, he should develop a relationship with God otherwise he will remain unclean and impure. The person who cares for his well-being should, therefore, acquire certainty about God. (It is an observation worth noting that) at the time of Jesus (as), sins were less in number whereas the (Christian) belief in atonement (of sins by Jesus (as)) has filled the world with sins!

A human being, can achieve nothing, however, through his own efforts. It is stated in the Hadith (the Traditions of the Holy Prophet (sa) of Islam) that you are all blind but he whom God has given eyes. You are all deaf but those to whom God has given ears, and so on. Hence, when God begins to guide a human being there is created in his heart an 'admonisher'. So, there can be no satisfaction until there develops an 'admonisher' within the heart. In matters of religion, therefore, until there is righteousness there can be no support from the Ruhul Qudus, i.e. the Holy Spirit and a person without this support will necessarily stumble and fall.

The root of this (pure) religion (of Islam) is in righteousness and goodness and this is not possible unless there is certainty about God and certainty, in turn, does not come from anywhere other than God. That is why God has stated (in the Holy Qur'an):

We will surely guide in Our ways those who strive after Us. (Ch. 29: v. 70)
A human being should, therefore, leave this world aside, and cast his eye over his own life and should take pity upon his own condition by considering what he has made of his life. He should carefully consider matters and not just follow the apparent (meaning of) words and should occupy his time in prayer. (If this procedure is followed) it is hoped that God will show his path to such a seeker. One should stand before God with a good heart and pray to him with tearful humility and anguish. He will then find guidance.

There is a section of people that does not accept what I say. I have no argument with that. Rejection seems to be part of their temperament. A person with a good nature, on the other hand, does not require much explanation. Fire erupts from a stone as a result of being struck because that fire is already present within the stone and is only in need of the stone being struck. But what can come from a stone that does not contain (fire) within it! Every good deed is accepted only when there is righteousness within, otherwise it is not accepted. The example of life is like that of a block of ice -- no matter how many covers it is kept under, it goes on melting.

In reality the statements of an opponent are only tested when he is asked about them. I have explained my viewpoint and my purpose. I used to have many Christian visitors but now they don't come. I always say this to them that they should prove their religion to be a living religion. The dead we will have to carry and the living one will carry us. They cannot make a response to this. Sixteen thousand pamphlets have been sent by registered post to Europe and America. There has been no response. Our God is a living God, He hears our call. He answers us. So, why should we believe in a god who was put on the cross. These people are very mischievous and they have nothing but talk. I was fifteen years old when debates between them and myself began. They have nothing except objections, nothing else whatsoever, and they always raise objections against the Holy Prophet (sa) of Islam. As a result of their objections, the ignorant and the unfortunate begin to entertain doubts. Moreover, at the same time these people (the Christians) tempt the (ignorant and unfortunate Muslims) with worldly reward and as a result of the many objections that are raised, they begin to doubt (their own beliefs) and renounce their own faith. I have heard that as much as twenty-nine hundred thousand people in India have been led by them to renounce their faith. In short, this religion (of Christianity) is an enemy of Islam.

There are also the Aryas but they do not even have a government of the world with them. What kind of a challenge can they pose? One newspaper has presented its findings that due to the existence of the Arya sect (of Hinduism) a large number of Hindus are becoming Muslims. Many are dying but many of them are also leaving their religion. So this religion is nothing. The plague began in Hindu areas first, in places such as Bombay, Sialkot, Jalandhar etc., and when it reached the Muslims, it included the Hindus there also.

[Maulvi Hamid Hussain Sahib, here, raised a question regarding the Wajoodi sect].

The Promised Messiah (as): In my view the matter of Wajood (Existentialistic belief) and Shahood (belief in the omnipresence of God as a mystical experience) is worthy of serious consideration. My belief is that it is an arrogant mistake to take a step where one should not.

The Wajoodi makes a philosophical claim and says that just as a doctor can tear up a dead body and see what is inside it, so he has seen God. In addition there is the claim 'All praise be to Allah who has created all things and He is the eye of them all.' This is a very big claim, indeed. Shahoodi belief, (on the other hand) is the name for the supremacy of love. Just as a piece of iron thrown in the fire becomes red hot and if someone were to call it 'fire' in its red hot state, he may be excused because it was totally covered by fire. As stated by a poet (in a Persian verse):

I have become you, and you have become me,
I am body and you are life,
No one can now say,
you and I are a separate entity.
In short, the basis of Shahoodi belief is this that a human being can enrich himself greatly from God's being. When the love of God and the love of his creatures comes together within a heart, that person then takes on a different hue and in this state he observes himself as having become totally lost in God. His own being is obliterated and it is God that he sees everywhere. The Wajoodi, on the other hand, requires a reality -- he has nothing to do with love just as today's Wajoodis have nothing but a claim that 'I am God'. (On the contrary), one who is of Shahoodi belief says that a human being is a human being and God is God, that is to say, that by way of shahood, (the omnipresence of God) he finds himself seeking and being lost in God.

If (it was the aim) that man should become God then he should have (in actuality) become God, either in this world or in the next. But it is a proven fact that man is a human being here as well as in the next world. This garment (of humanity) does not appear ever to come off. Every person, does indeed have his own particular way -- many people derive a great deal of pleasure from merely listening to Qawwali (i.e. a style of song) but it is not, in my view, a pursuit conducive to the attainment of (spiritual) knowledge. If, however, there were to be proof in this world (that a man could become God) then it would be necessary that we should be able to see at least one person who possessed the qualities of God.

A comparison between man-made gods of worldly people and a Messenger of God can be shown as follows: The Messiah (Jesus as)) has been turned into a God and Muhammad (sa), the Holy Prophet of Islam, was a Messenger of God. Now observe that the Messiah was himself caught but the person who tried to ensnare the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa), himself died (in the process). You should now exercise justice (and observe) how the person who is known as a human being leaves his matter in the hand of God and he who chases after him is himself killed whereas the Jews about whom it is stated (in the Holy Qur'an) that 'they were smitten with destitution and desecration', (Ch. 2, v. 64), were able to capture the one who is called 'god' within an hour and prepared to kill him. Take heed O' ye, who are able to discern! If at this point someone argues that (the events faced by Jesus (as)) were merely an aspect of him as a god, then we would have to ignore this argument (as an irrelevance). As far as I know, God speaks to me and shows marvels and miracles but I am still a human being. The existence of the wall is separate from the existence of sunshine (that shines upon the wall). The opening chapter of the Holy Qur'an which begins with the words, 'All praise belongs to Allah, the Lord of all the worlds, most Gracious, ever Merciful, Master of the Day of Judgement .....' (Ch. 1, vs. 2-4), gives expression to the need for there to be a Lord who is the Sustainer and for there to be a creation (that is sustained by him). Proof should, therefore, be provided for others who are assumed to be god. God made man as a created being and in this world, too, he is the created. How is it possible then that we should believe the moon or the sun, (or any other created being) to be God? All Prophets of God, from time to time, show signs of fear and concern. If they possessed any aspect of the Godhead why would they have feared?

Among my own community of followers there was a person by the name of Maulvi Ahmad Jan who had leanings towards the Wajoodi belief. He did not, however, enter into any discussion on this matter with me. He died a short while ago having spent his whole life in this (quest). We are not to be bought by anyone for any price! I adopt the most perfect and bright path available. I am no enemy of the Wajoodis. On the contrary, I consider them to be worthy of pity.

At this Maulvi Hamid Hussain Sahib presented the verse of the Holy Qur'an, referring to God, 'He is the First and the Last' (Ch. 57, v. 4) in support of the belief in the Unity of Existence, i.e. Pantheism (Wahdat Wajood ).

The Promised Messiah (as): The word of God is such that the detailed explanation of some of its verses is given by some of its other verses. The explanation of 'the First' is this that 'He was when there was nothing else' and the explanation of 'the Last' is given by the verse 'All that is on the earth will perish' (Ch. 55, v. 27). We certainly prefer the meanings which have been told to us by God.

It is a sad state of affairs that the Wajoodis of the present age do not adhere to the (forms of worship such as) fasting and salaat (i.e. formal prayer) and they do not even open the Qur'an. I talk of this country where in places such as Jalundhar, Hushiarpur, Sialkot etc., I have often seen these people in the company of drunkards, cannabis addicts and atheists. They commonly state that a Wajoodi is a person who does not even utter the name of God, on the contrary, he believes that whatever exists is that which is created. In short, these people say that the best Wajoodi is the one who is known by others as an atheist. Everyone is responsible for his own words and actions!

It is proven by the Torah and the Hadith which states 'He was when there was nothing else' that God existed when there was nothing in the heavens or the earth. This is the accepted view of all the 'followers of the Book'. If people then twist and turn its meanings, that is beyond our control. Some people are very keen on following their personal taste and preference. This, in a way, is like poison. We should not approve of interpretations on the basis of personal preference. We should, instead, look at the Torah, the Qur'an and the Hadith, all of which state that there was such a time when there existed none of the things that exist now (but God still existed). In my view the notion of Wahdat Wajood (i.e. Pantheism) has also developed through following personal taste and preference when all the previous (Holy) Books prove the interpretation (we have adopted) and its explanation exists in the Holy Qur'an and the Torah. However, there is no need for such arguments. For a human being the most important thing is that he should, first, simply believe in the existence of God and as his belief develops, truths (relating to these matters) will reveal themselves.

As you will be aware, there is an illness in which the sense of taste is lost. Whether things are sweet, bitter, savoury, or sour, they all seem tasteless and as a result we know that there is such a thing as the sense of taste. There is another sense which is related to the nose - the person who loses this sense is known as Akhsham (i.e. one without the sense of smell). Some people lose their sense of hearing. Hence, just as some senses are lost in this way, sometimes it so happens that the senses relating to religious and spiritual perception are also lost and as a result, like Sayyed Ahmad Khan, a person comes to consider matters such as the acceptance of prayer to be impossibilities.