The Search for God (part 2)

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

Part 1 | Part 2

Presented below is the second and final part of a conversation between a non-Muslim visitor and Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as) 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. 233-42.

Translated by Amtul-Hadi Ahmad

Continuation of the discourse by the Promised Messiah (as): I don't know the inner state or the intention of everyone who comes to see me and states that he has come for God and wishes to find God. I must, however, say this that the first thing a person who actively seeks God must do is to check and rectify his beliefs. He should ascertain (for himself) what sort of God it is that he is trying to find. Is the God that he is seeking really the Creator and the Master of the world? Is he a God that possesses all good attributes and is pure from all deficiencies and negative characteristics? Or, is the God that he is searching for the child of a woman or some other such weak and feeble god from among the 330 million gods (which are said to exist). I say this because if one's beloved and the centre of one's desires is stood at the edge of an ocean, what will be gained by diving in! For example, the Christians state that the Messiah son of Mary is God even though he was born from the womb of a woman in the same way as any other human being is born and he ate and drank and had all the attendant human needs including those of ridding the body of waste matter. Now, this much is possible that someone should love him but human wisdom can never suggest that such a weak human being may also be God or that gods are given birth by women. When the first step is on the ground of falsehood, what hope can there be of the second step being on the ground of truth? Rays of light fall upon the heart as a result of believing in a living God who is the possessor of all perfect attributes. Where is this to be found with a belief in a mortal being and the worship of an image of weakness and feebleness?

There is an Arabic saying: 'He who seeks has no religion'. A seeker should abandon all prejudices and suspend all beliefs and then begin his search for true beliefs. Only then can there be any hope of progress. In this search God should be the foundation stone. If this is the case then the final 'stone' will also be God. Rushing these things is not a good thing. It usually causes deprivation for an unfortunate person. For instance, if you did not stay with us for a while and leave, and then say such things as, 'There was nothing there', or 'I didn't get anything from there', then, tell me, what will be our loss in that? There are many in this world who can talk like that but they are unfortunate and deprived. You see, if some shapes of geometry are presented to a child, he may like some of them but his liking them can be of no benefit to him because he is unaware of their properties and does not know what benefits can be gained from them.

I have seen people who make objections against Islam and I have collected these objections and I say this truly that the point on which those who are unfamiliar with these matters have raised an objection, is precisely the point where a treasure of wisdom, truth and deep knowledge is buried and the person who objects has nothing but foolishness and blindness. With their objections they prove that they are narrow-minded and possess an unprincipled nature otherwise they would not have raised objections against what is, in fact, a mine of deep and true knowledge. It is for this reason that I advise you to pursue your search for the truth with gentleness and patience.

You are in search of God. The best way for you is that you, first, check and correct your beliefs which will help you in identifying what that something called 'God' is that you wish to find. This will enable you to progress in your knowledge of God. There is in the true knowledge of God a strong capacity to absorb love and it can become a means of developing in you the love of God. Without this any claims of love are like the superficial fruit which disappears after a few days.

You should remember this and this is our religion, that God's light does not shine upon a person until that light descends from the heavens. It is absolutely true that blessing comes down from the heavens. Until God himself reveals his light for the one who seeks him, the speed of (progress) of the seeker is like that of a worm and that is how it should be because he is engulfed by all manner of ignorance and darkness as well as facing the difficulties of this path. But when the light (of God) shines upon him, his heart and his mind become bright and being thus enlightened by the light his speed becomes as fast as lightening. Questioner: Hazoor, I am not an adherent of any religion. The Promised Messiah (as): If someone comes to us having decided that they will not agree to anything then we can say nothing--what can we say? But if someone possesses intelligence, he will be compelled to make some path (for himself).

What is religion? It is that path which a person adopts for himself. Every person needs to adopt a path. Even the non-religious person who does not believe in God needs to adopt a path (for his life) and that is mazhab ('religion'). But, yes, the point under consideration should be whether the adopted path is a path through which one could attain true steadfastness, eternal pleasure, peace and satisfaction.

You see, mazhab (religion) is a common word which means a space for walking upon, that is, a path and this word in itself is not specific to faith. Specialists in the field of every type of knowledge and skill such as medicine, geography, astronomy, the study of nature, etc., all have a mazhab (a direction) which they follow. No-one can dispute this. This is a necessary aspect of human life to which there can be no exception. So, just as the human soul requires a body and meaning requires word and perspective, so man needs mazhab (a path). It is not our concern, nor are we arguing that someone should say 'Allah', or 'God', or 'Premaishar'. Our concern is just this: what does he understand about the deity that he calls upon? I say that you can call him whatever name you like but you should say what he is. You should define the characteristics you have attributed to him. It is the issue of the attributes of the divine being that is the major problem which should be given serious consideration.

Questioner: I believe that the purpose of mazhab (religion) is to correct one's nature.

The Promised Messiah (as): There is at present the King, Edward VII. Now, even if we did call someone else that, it would be forced, it would not make that person a king. What we desire is exactly this that the true God should be identified and all the other presumptions should be abandoned.

What is Islam? The very name of Islam has been given by Allah to connote the 'nature' of Allah. Islam is a natural religion, (i.e. it takes human nature fully into account). But when is the truth of these matters revealed? It is revealed when a person stays in the company of a holy person with patience and steadfastness. There is great blessing in steadfastness. Look at the honey-bee. When it engages in its hard work steadfastly, it produces something so fine and useful as honey. Likewise, a person finds God when he engages in the search of God with steadfastness. What is more, he not only just finds God, it is my belief that he actually 'sees' him.

In the acquisition of worldly knowledge how much expenditure of finance and time is involved. These (procedures of acquiring) knowledge clearly point to the rules of acquiring spiritual knowledge. The path that a beginner should adopt in the realm of spiritual knowledge is that he should, first, acquire familiarity with the (nature of) God's being and then he should gain familiarity with God's attributes, familiarity with which would take him to the level of certainty about God. It is then that he will be informed about God's being and about his perfect attributes and at that point his soul will speak from within that it has found God and is fully satisfied. When there is such faith in God that it reaches the level of certainty and a person feels that he has 'seen' God and has acquired a familiarity with God's attributes, at that stage a person develops a hatred for sin. The nature (of such a person) that was once attracted towards sin, now hates it, and this condition is known as tauba, i.e. repentance.

The point that after acquiring total faith one's nature comes to hate sin is something that can be clearly and easily understood. You know that there are poisons such as strychnine or that there are some poisonous animals -- why does man fear them? Simply for this reason that experience shows that a certain poison, taken in a certain quantity, proves fatal. Many have been seen to have died after an intake of poison and that is why one is not inclined towards taking poison - one fears it. When this is the case, what then is the reason that all manner of sins are committed, so much so that if there was even a paisa (a small coin) lying in the street, someone would stoop down to pick it up, when a brief enquiry could establish its owner. I know that there have been cases where for such paltry amounts as 12 aanas the lives of innocent children have been taken. You can see from the proceedings of the courts what dark and fearful scenes emerge. Lies are told for the most petty things. The bad and evil deeds are flowing like a river in full flow. Why is this? Simply because there is no belief in God. People are afraid of snakes and poisons because they believe them to be fatal and they have faith in such things being dangerous. If there is complete faith in God, then I see no reason why there would not be a hatred of sin.

There are two things which are important for a human being -- to safeguard against the bad and to run towards the good and there are two aspects of goodness. One is the abandonment of harmful acts and the other is the performance of deeds which are of benefit to others. A person cannot achieve perfection merely through giving up bad deeds unless there is also a move towards the performance of deeds which benefit others. This is an indicator of how much change has, in fact, taken place (in a person) and the higher levels of goodness are granted only when a person has faith in the attributes of God as well as knowledge of those attributes. Unless this condition is fulfilled, one cannot even protect oneself against bad deeds, leave alone being beneficial to others which is a great thing indeed. Is it not the case that people also stand in awe of kings and there is fear, to an extent, of the penal system of India and many people do not go against the law? Why then the audacity to go against the law of the one who is Judge Supreme! Is there any other reason for this than that there is no faith in him -- this is the only reason.

In short, the first stage of safeguarding oneself against bad deeds can only be successfully completed when there is faith in God. The second stage should then be one of searching for the path that was adopted by God's holy people and there is only one such path which has been adopted by all the God's holy people who by treading this path benefited from God's beneficence. The way to discover this path is this that one should try to ascertain what kind of relationship God had with the holy people.

The first stage of safeguarding against the bad is acquired through the manifestation of awe-inspiring (Jalali ) attributes of God because he is the enemy of those who indulge in base and shameless acts. The second stage is granted through the manifestation of God's Jamali attributes, i.e. attributes of beneficence and beauty. The ultimate, however, is that nothing can be achieved unless one is granted strength and power from God in the form of what, according to Islamic terminology, is known as ruhul qudus (the holy spirit). It is a force which is granted by God and with its descent comes inner peace and tranquillity (sakeena) and there develops a natural love and attraction for goodness. The person endowed with ruhul qudus runs to perform good deeds with pleasure and enjoyment whereas others see it is as a heavy burden. Just as even a child enjoys eating something delicious, so when a person develops a relationship with God and the holy spirit descends upon him from God, the performance of good deeds for such a person becomes like drinking a sweet and delicious drink. The beauty that exists within goodness begins to become apparent to him and he runs helplessly towards good deeds and the thought of bad deeds makes him shudder.

The nature of these matters, however, is such that they cannot be adequately expressed in words because they are matters of the heart. The true significance of these matters can only be known through feeling them when one is granted fresh signs of light. One should not, however, begin to feel proud and should not consider experiences of deep emotion that, at times, one may have, to be the ultimate spiritual state. Such experiences are of a temporary nature. Sometimes it does happen that a person reading a novel cries at the painful circumstances described there. The reader of the novel clearly knows, however, that it is an imaginary story and not a true one. Hence, if crying or feeling a sense of deep emotion were to be the basis of true happiness and enjoyment, nowhere would there be people more advanced in spiritual enjoyment than in Europe because thousands of novels are published there and millions of people shed tears while reading them.

The truth is that it is in the nature of man that he laughs at something humorous and cries in situations which lead him to tears and, at times, he also derives a certain pleasure from this. This pleasure, however, cannot be the basis of any spiritual discernment. For instance, a man falls in love with a woman and in his state of ardour, makes up verses and recites them which makes him both happy and sad and he weeps. There is in human beings this capacity whether it is used appropriately or inappropriately. A person should not be satisfied at just being in possession of this capacity. God has endowed (mankind) with this capacity so that the true seekers may not be deprived and, when used appropriately, it should act as a prelude to the next stage of spiritual (development) and should become like a faculty.

In short, matters such as crying or the abandonment of certain other material things or relationships are temporary things. One should not become inactive through reliance on them. Matters upon which a true knowledge of God can be based are that if a person is tried in the path of God again and again and is thrown into the river of difficulties and tribulations, even then he should not be perturbed and should keep moving forward. After this, he is made aware of the knowledge he has of God and it is this that is a true pleasure and a true bounty. At such a time there is a deeply felt emotion but this emotion is not temporary, rather, it is filled with joy and pleasure and the soul flows towards God like a spring of pure water. In other words, before reaching the true ocean, one sees a mirage which also appears like an ocean. The person who is deceived by the illusion and does not move forward, loses hope and is left without any achievement or success. On the other hand, the person who does not give up and keeps moving forward, is the one who attains the desired aim.

God has placed different states within the human soul. Among these is the state of feeling deep emotion which makes one cry. One person may become affected by the mere recitation of a few verses of poetry while another person moves on, not relying on such measures and reaches the true point of his journey. Remember this that for the true seeker of truth, there is the condition that wherever he finds truth, he should take it. This is a light which guides him. At the present time there has started in the world a 'battle' to attract people (to different religions). The Arya are trying to pull people to their beliefs, the Brahmu are calling to themselves and the Dev Samaj people are inviting to their faith, whilst the Christians present Christianity. In other words, every group tries to attract people to itself and the circle of differences between them is becoming ever wider. However, what we are giving an invitation for and that which we can inform any seeker of truth is this that he should search for God. Take the Aryas, for instance, they swear at and curse all holy and truthful people. For them no matter how much a person truly loves (God) and no matter how holy he is, he can never attain salvation. According to their beliefs, God has not even created the smallest atom. Now, tell me, how can a true seeker of truth place any hope on such a Premaishar (God) and how can the omnipotence and majesty of God create in his soul any deep emotion that could take him away from sin, when he considers that not a single atom of his existence has been created by God. Again, if we accept that God did not bless any other country with his word, other than that of the Vedas, one is left without hope. In short, our advice is that whoever wishes to tread the path of seeking the truth, the purpose and the aim of his search should be the search for God. When he acquires true belief in the true and one God, there will flow a river of truths and of true knowledge of God.

Remember that truths and fine points are related to knowledge. The greater the knowledge, the more truths will reveal themselves. Thus, when carrying out one's research (into these matters) one should keep one's heart clean and pure. The more the heart is purified of prejudice and selfishness the quicker the true meanings will be understood. The difference that exists between light and darkness is understood even by the most ignorant of people. The true thing and the accurate thing is one and the same.

The summary of the whole of my speech, in a word, is this that between two points there is only one straight line. These are matters which are worthy of consideration. You should stay here with patience and steadfastness. By God's grace it is not impossible that you should find the path which has been tried and experienced by millions of holy people and such people still exist.

(The Promised Messiah (as) finished his discourse at this point. The questioner stayed in Qadian for some time and benefited from the company of the Promised Messiah (as)).

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