The revered speaker opened with:
I bear witness that there is no god but Allah, the One, and I bear witness that Muhammad is His Servant and Messenger. I seek refuge with Allah from Satan, the rejected.
He then recited:
In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Ever Merciful. All praise belongs to Allah, Lord of the worlds, Most Gracious, Ever Merciful, Master of the Day of Judgment. Thee do we worship, and Thee do we implore for help. Guide us to the straight path, the Path of those on whom Thou hast bestowed Thy favours, not of those who earned Thy wrath nor of those who went astray. (1:1-7)
In the creation of the heavens and the earth and in the alternation of the night and the day there are indeed Signs for men of understanding; those who remember Allah while standing, sitting, and lying on their sides, and ponder over the creation of the heavens and the earth: ‘Our Lord, Thou hast not created all this in vain; Holy art Thou; save us, then from the punishment of the Fire.
Our Lord, whomsoever Thou causes to enter the Fire, him hast Thou surely humiliated; and the wrongdoers shall have no helpers. Our Lord, we have heard a Crier calling us unto the faith; ‘Believe ye in your Lord’, and we have believed. Our Lord, forgive us, therefore, our errors and remove from us our ills, and in death number us with the righteous.
Our Lord, bestow upon us that which Thou has promised us through Thy Messengers; and humiliate us not on the day of Resurrection. Surely Thou doest not contrary to Thy promise.
Their Lord would answer their prayer: I will not suffer the work of any worker from among you, whether male or female, to be lost. You are spiritually akin one to another. Those, therefore, who have emigrated, and have been driven forth from their homes, and have been persecuted in My cause, and have fought and been slain, I will surely remove from them their ills and will admit them to Gardens through which streams flow — a reward from Allah, and with Allah is the best reward. (3:191-196)
Then he proceeded:
I thank God Almighty for His grace and mercy in letting us once again fulfill the sign He has vouchsafed for the identification of His messenger, His emissary, in our time. We thank God for His grace and mercy in letting us gather once again, not for any worldly honour or purpose, nor for wealth or physical comfort, but for His cause, His name, His remembrance and for strengthening faith in His Being. I also pray to God that He make our motives pure and our deeds right and appropriate.
The Name ‘Minhajut Talibin’
I turn now to the subject-matter of the speech that I have had in my mind for some time. The subject is so universally important that everyone seeks information about it. Many more than I can count have been questioning me on it. The questions they want answered have to have clear-cut prescriptive answers. So it is prescriptions they expect to have. The question everyone wants answered is: “What methods, exercises, ways, can we adopt, which can procure release for us from sin and prompt us to do only good.” The readiest answer is: Adopt the right way, abjure all sin. But as everybody knows that is not enough, They say: We have read the Quran, we have read the Hadith as best as one can, and we have read the books of the Promised Messiah, and made the necessary effort to steer clear of sinful living, but we have not succeeded. Now, having done all that, what more can we do?
The question is quite legitimate. How to get over this weakness of man — that despite knowledge, despite effort and will, he does not always succeed in choosing and treading the right path. When I sat down to note some of the important points, I soon became aware that some topics comprised in this theme were bound to overlap topics discussed by me in an earlier speech delivered at an earlier Conference, published under the title, Irfan Ilahi (Deeper Knowledge of God). So I started re-reading that speech. I found that in the course of it I had made a promise that I would discuss this theme sometime in the future. This speech, therefore, is closely connected with the earlier speech. It is only by the grace of God, that I have been reminded of my promise and I proceed to fulfill it.
As I began I was reminded of yet another thing. It was a long forgotten vision that I saw soon after the death of the Promised Messiah — peace be on him. At the time I did not realise its significance. In the vision, I found myself sitting on a prayer mat after prayer. In my hand I am holding a book about which I am told is by Hazrat Shaikh Abdul Qadir Jilani. The name of the book is Minhaj al-Talibin (Way of the Seekers). I read the book and put it aside. I then recalled that the book was to be returned to Hazrat Khalifatul Masih I, and I begin to look for it. During the search I found another book. Simultaneously I found myself repeating the words:
No one knows about the hosts of Thy Lord, except He Himself.
I thought there was a book bearing that title by Hazrat Shaikh Abdul Qadir Jilani, and I should find it. So I enquired from Hazrat Khalifatul Masih I, who told me that there was no book with just that title but that there was one with a somewhat similar title, namely Ghaniyyat al-Talibin. I continued my search and found that there was no such book by Hazrat Shaikh Abdul Qadir Jilani or anyone else. It then occurred to me that it might be that I myself would have the opportunity to write a book with that title. The name Abdul Qadir indicated that the book would be the result not of my own thinking so much as the result of special understanding bestowed upon me by God. Therefore, I decided to call this speech Minhaj al-Talibin.
I have mentioned two of my earlier speeches, Irfan Ilahi and Najat (usually translated Salvation but the Islamic significance of which is best conveyed by Fulfillment). The three themes are related to each other. I will not discuss the relationship in detail, but shall touch cursorily on some aspects that would be helpful in understanding the main theme. The truth is that while the earlier speeches contain the theoretical framework of the whole subject-matter, the present speech shall dwell upon the practical application of the theoretical part.
The first question that occurs when we begin to investigate the subject systematically is: What is the object, the end of the creation of man? This question — as was but proper — has been answered by God Himself:
And I have not created the Jinn and the men but that they worship Me. (51:57)
Man must become an image of God, if he is to achieve the purpose of his creation. In Arabic Abd means slave. Abudiyat literally is humility or subordination of the utmost degree. This degree of subordination implies complete readiness to receive the impress of another. To become Abd is to receive and reproduce the total impression of another. It is to accept another as sovereign and model. Now mark the words:
Man has not been created but for the one purpose of becoming an imitation, an image of God.
This purpose to achieve fulfillment needs absorption by man of the attributes of God.
The great spiritual teachers, prophets, messengers, were sent with this end in view. We read:
Our Lord, raise up among them a Messenger from among themselves, who may recite to them Thy Signs and teach them the Book and Wisdom and may purify them, surely Thou Art the Mighty, the Wise. (2:130)
This was Abraham’s prayer at the time of the renovation of the Kaaba. Abraham implored God to send a Messenger who should show them His Signs, teach them the Law and the Wisdom behind the Law, also purify them and deliver them from sin. He indeed is the God of Power, the God of Wisdom.
A spiritual teacher (as we learn from holy books and from history) arises to strengthen faith by Signs, to teach men what is right and what is wrong, to give them a law and to point to the wisdom behind the law, and to train them to live in accordance with the Law and the Knowledge so imparted. Man should acquire faith, belief, knowledge of right and wrong and — this is important — make himself pure, a worthy image of God, so as to deserve to sit in His holy company.
For our community this is no ordinary question. It is indeed a life-and-death question for us. Amongst us has come a prophet, a divinely-appointed teacher. We accepted him. To quicken our faith he has recited to us the Signs of God. Having had the grace of knowing, recognising, accepting such a person, should we still remain as unclean as before? What have we achieved by believing in him? Once the Promised Messiah — on whom peace — happened to dilate on the spiritual stages a believer should successively pass through one by one. Hazrat Maulvi Burhanuddin of Jhelum, one of the most zealous companions of the Messiah, was also present. What the Messiah said went straight to his heart. While the Messiah spoke, he listened, in a state of deep self-examination. As soon as the Messiah finished, Maulvl Sahib lost self-control and broke down completely. His sobs of remorse shook him. Addressing the Messiah he said: At first I joined the Wahabbis and tried to propagate the sayings of the Holy Prophet, on whom be peace. For this I suffered and was often beaten up and ill-treated. Then God sent you and you I accepted. This let loose another wave of fury against me. Once again I am being beaten up, stoned and subjected to persecution. Having toiled and suffered so much, I am still the ignoramus that I was.
Thus what do we gain by believing in a prophet if we remain the same old bunglers? We are a community who have seen a prophet and who have lived with him. We ought to change and change to a marked degree. We ought to feel we really have surrendered our hand of allegiance to a living model of spirituality; nay, to God Himself. If Ahmadis do not achieve this quality of spiritual achievement, then what have they achieved? The Promised Messiah has warned us; he has told us what he expects of us. Reflect how serious and important is the goal set for us. On the need to purify ourselves, the Promised Messiah is reported to have said in the dearest possible words: (I quote from Badr the leading journal of those days):
Only he has purified himself, who has set right his relationship with both God and man, his Creator and his fellow-creatures. We must discharge our obligations to both. God requires that we must live in practice every word we utter in affirmation of God. God is One, without associate. What we affirm with our tongues we must illustrate by our deeds, not ever reducing God to the status of man. We owe to our fellow-creatures that we harbour no malice, hatred, prejudice, rancour, desire to harm, or intent against them to injure. It is not easy to attain these negative virtues. You are still very distant from this spiritual station. Have you set right your personal relations with your brethren? I am afraid not. You have not given up complaints and counter-complaints nor backbiting. You trample over other people’s rights. God wants you to live like brothers and to function as parts of one organic whole. Thus alone can you attain spiritual bliss. If human beings cannot deal honestly with their own brothers, how can they with God? True, God’s claim on our obedience is very great. But the measure of how pure your account is with God is how pure it is with His creatures. One who is not straight and sincere with men cannot be straight and sincere with God, To be straight and sincere is no small matter. It is something big and difficult. Sincere love is one thing, insincere and hypocritical love, quite another. When a believer falls ill, another believer goes and visits him to express his concern. If a believer dies, fellow-believers join his funeral. No questions should be raised over small matters. It is best if such things are ignored. God does not approve of your living at a distance from one another. Without true love, there is no Jamaat — it is the end of the Jamaat. Badr (1908)
I ask forgiveness of Allah, my Lord, for all sins and I turn wholly to Him.
This is the quality of Taqwa (fear of God) the Promised Messiah inculcates in his counsels to the Jamaat. So it behoves us to cultivate Taqwa (fear of God in its true spirit). Only then shall we be able to fulfill the purpose of our lives, the purpose which underlines the coming of the Holy Prophet, the coming of the Promised Messiah, on both be peace.