After reciting the Tashahhud, Ta’wwuz, and Surah Al-Fatihah, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih V (aba) recited verse 157 of Surah al-A’raf and then stated: The translation of this verse is as follows: “And ordain for us good in this world, as well as in the next; we have turned to Thee with repentance.’ God replied, ‘I will inflict My punishment on whom I will; but My mercy encompasses all things; so I will ordain it for those who act righteously, and pay the Zakat and those who believe in Our Signs.” (7:157)
It is evident from this verse that God Almighty manifests His favours upon His servants in extraordinary ways. God Almighty states that, “My Mercy encompasses all things.” ‘Rahmah’ [mercy] means ‘to be lenient’, ‘to be gracious’ and it means ‘the coming forth of mercy’ It means that God Almighty treats His servants with such kindness that has no bounds. Here, God Almighty says that my objective is not to punish people. Some people have this gross misconception [saying] that, “Why did He create Man, if He was to punish him.” God Almighty says that, “This is not my objective. However, those people become recipients of my punishment, who exceed all bounds of evil deeds. Moreover, my punishment is temporary, and it serves to reform. Eventually, a time will come that even the dwellers of hell will partake of My boundless Mercy.
Then, at another place God Almighty states: That is, ‘surely, the mercy of Allah is nigh unto those who do good’. Those who do good are those people, who fulfil their duties in accordance with all of its requirements. Furthermore, the Master of the heavens and the earth says that if we tread on the path of righteousness and if we continue to act in accordance with His commandments whilst believing in His signs, we will most certainly become deserving of His mercy. The very first aspect that has been mentioned by God Almighty here is Taqwa (God-fearing righteousness). In fact, if a person truly comprehends Taqwa (God-fearing righteousness), then all other virtues and acquiring strength in one’s belief are encapsulated within it. Therefore, one must utilise all of one’s faculties properly, and in accordance with the commandments of God Almighty and to fulfil their due right.
The Promised Messiah (as) explains, “Furthermore, this is achieved through restraining one’s faculties from unlawful use and to remain mindful of their hidden onslaughts.” That is, to restrain them from improper occurrences and to remain mindful of them as Satan utilises these limbs and faculties in order to secretly attack. This is the responsibility of man. Only then will he truly be able to tread on the path of Taqwa (God-fearing righteousness) and only then will he truly be able to fulfil the commandments of God Almighty. Furthermore, God Almighty has defined righteousness as a garment in the Holy Qur’an. Hence, ‘Libas-ul-Taqwa’ [garment of righteousness] is an expression from the Holy Qur’an. This indicates towards the fact that spiritual beauty and elegance can only be attained through Taqwa (God-fearing righteousness).
We are currently passing through the days of Ramadhan and only a week remains. We find in a Hadith [tradition of the Holy Prophet (sa)] that the first ten days of Ramadhan are a period of mercy, the second ten days are a period of forgiveness and the last ten days are a period of being saved from the fire. During Ramadhan, when a person observes the fast and along with it acts in accordance with the commandments of God Almighty greater than before, when he increases his worship and progresses in righteousness, he then becomes the recipient of God Almighty’s Mercy even greater than before. This practice need to become the part of a believer’s life and only then, it is going to be effective. Otherwise, if after the month of Ramadhan, we fall prey to worldly affairs, forsake righteousness, do not pay heed to the commandments of God Almighty, become weak in faith and disregard the signs of God Almighty, then it is similar to the case of a person building a safe fortress and then ruining it and destroying it with his own hands.
Therefore, God Almighty has made Ramadhan a source for obtaining His mercy more than ever before and to attain His nearness. The Mercy of God Almighty and His forgiveness is not limited to a few days. It is not possible to be delivered from fire if His forgiveness is sought only for a few days or a small period of time and it is accepted. During these days of Ramadhan, one has to wake up early to keep the fasts and there are other engagements as well. It is necessary to guard oneself against media and vulgarities, which are polluting their minds and are corrupting morals and these people are moving away from faith. Hence every Ahmadi should pay close attention towards this and make every effort in this regard.
Whilst elaborating on this further, the Promised Messiah (as) states: “When God admonishes one about His punishment, it does not mean that it will most certainly occur. Rather, owing to His Holy and Pure Being, it is necessary that He punish one who commits an offence. However, when the offender seeks to fulfill the due right of imploring for forgiveness and repentance and supplicates with utmost emotion then His Mercy overcomes His Wrath and conceals it with in it.”
The Promised Messiah (as) states that one of the ways to attract the Mercy of God Almighty is through seeking forgiveness and repentance. What is the true essence of Istighfaar [seeking forgiveness]? What does it really mean? Regarding this, the Promised Messiah (as) says: “The true and essential meaning of Istighfaar [seeking forgiveness] is to request God to overlook and conceal the mortal weaknesses and to seek God’s support from His strength.” What is the objective of Istighfaar? It is to conceal a person’s weaknesses for humans are weak. It is so that God Almighty provides support to the human nature. So that He may safeguard humans from sinning and committing mistakes. The Promised Messiah (as) says, “This word has been taken from ‘Ghafar’ which means to cover up. Hence, it means that God covers the natural weaknesses of the person seeking forgiveness.”
Then whilst further expounding on the topic of istighfar the Promised Messiah (as) states, “There are some people who are aware of the sins they are committing and there are others who are completely unaware of them. They do not even know they are committing a sin, they have become completely insensitive to it and they are completely oblivious to what sin is. For this reason God Almighty has made it forever incumbent upon us to do istighfar so that man may continue to seek forgiveness for every sin; be it outward or hidden, whether he is aware of it or not, whether it is the sin of his hand, his foot, his tongue, his nose, his ear or his eye or anything else. However, many body parts there are, there should not be a single sin carried out by any of them. Thus, one should continue to seek forgiveness.”
The Promised Messiah (as) further states, “We should always recite the prayer of Hazrat Adam (as): ‘Our Lord, we have wronged ourselves; and if Thou forgive us not and have not mercy on us, we shall surely be of the lost.’ (7:24) …. No affliction afflicts them without the permission of God, just as the following supplication was revealed to me – [Arabic] ‘O my Lord, everything is subservient to You, O Lord, protect me and help me and have mercy on me’.”
Therefore, to come under the protection of God Almighty, to attain His succour and help and to gain His mercy it is necessary to make an effort, do Istighfar and to pray. We often use the terms Istighfar and Taubah, so in order to clarify the difference between the two the Promised Messiah (as) has stated, “Istighfar [seeking forgiveness] and Taubah [seeking repentance] are two different things. … Istighfar is the aid and strength which is sought of God Almighty. The aid and strength are granted by carrying out Istighfar by God Almighty to protect man from sin, whereas Taubah means to stand on one’s own two feet.”
Further elaborating on how one can protect themselves from the fire through seeking forgiveness and repentance, the Promised Messiah (as) says: “For man, repentance is not a futile act or something worthless. Furthermore, its effects are not only confined to the Hereafter, rather, through this ones worldly life as well as their faith are resolved. They become blessed with peace and serenity in this life as well as in the Hereafter. Observe that God Almighty states in the Quran: Our Lord, grant us comforts in this world as well as peace and serenity in the world to come, and protect us from the torment of the Fire. (2:202) The Promised Messiah (as) further states, “The hellfire does not only refer to the fire that will burn on the Day of Judgment. However, one who lives a long life is able to witness that there are thousands of fires in this world. Those who have experienced this will know that there all kinds of different fires that exist in this world. Various forms of calamities, fear, murder, poverty, illnesses, failures, fear of humiliation and deprivation, numerous kinds of grief and sorrows, affliction relating to one’s wife, children, etc. and relations turning sour with near relatives all constitute as fire. Therefore, a Momin [believer] prays to be saved from every kind of fire. Since one has attached himself to God Almighty and prays to be saved from all kinds of calamities which can cause one to experience difficulty and hardship in their life and are in likeness to the fire.
The Promised Messiah (as) once drew the attention of the Jama’at to frequently recite the following prayer: “Our Lord, grant us good in this world as well as good in the world to come, and protect us from the torment of the Fire.” Therefore, we also need to pay heed to this, so that God Almighty out of His Mercy may save us from all forms of fire in this world and in the hereafter.
May God Almighty enable us to sincerely devote ourselves to God Almighty. May we attain His Taqwa and grow stronger in our faith and belief, so that we always partake from His Mercy. May it never happen that we are deprived of His Mercy and receive His punishment on account of our ill deeds. May God Almighty always bestow His Mercy upon us.