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The Holy Spirit

Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad (aba)
The Review of Religions, May/June 1997

Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad, the Fourth Head of the Ahmadiyya Community, on various occasions, offers people from different faiths and beliefs the opportunity to put to him any questions or issues of interest to them. Presented below is the answer given by Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad to a question which was raised at a session held in London on 29 January 1995.

Transcribed by Amatul-Hadi Ahmad

Questioner: In Christianity reference is always made to the Holy Spirit and to the law of the Ten Commandments. Is there something equivalent to this in Islam?

Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad: First of all, the concept of the Holy Spirit is not something unique to Christianity although it is the case that it has been much highlighted in Christianity where it is spoken about in such loud terms that it seems as if the Christians have appropriated this concept entirely. The concept of the Holy Spirit is, in fact, found in every religion under one title or another. Without this concept no religion can exist as such. The Holy founder of the Ahmadiyya Community, Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as) has spoken volumes on this subject with reference to the Qur'an and with reference to the Christian experiences before that and I will, first of all, give you a gist of that to help you understand the concept of the Holy Spirit which can be divided into two parts.

One aspect of this understanding relates to the role of the Holy Spirit as one that governs, administers and supervises all affairs relating to prophecy and revelation and this spirit is referred to as holy in the sense that it has nothing of its own mixed with the revelation that is delivered by God originally, to be delivered to some servants of His on earth. This institution of conveying prophecy or revelation has always been under the command of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps it is in this sense that St. John refers to the Word and that it was always with him and the Holy Spirit. He puts it slightly in a confused way, but basically I think, if that is what he means, the Holy Qur'an supports the view that the Holy Spirit is that being that has the key task of responsibility in the government of matters relating to revelation and that is the arch angel to whom we also refer to as Jibriel (Gabriel). This is one meaning of the Holy Spirit.

The other meaning which has also been made abundantly clear by the Holy Founder of the Ahmadiyya Jama'at, with reference, of course, to the Qur'an and the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa). These matters which previous Muslim scholars were unable to fathom, were explained by the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Jamaat in great depth. He speaks of the Holy Spirit in terms of one's contact with God which makes one holy permanently and eternally and in whatever area one has that experience, that internal revolution, in that much a person comes into contact with the Holy Spirit and you see people repent their sins, sometimes they are agonised about the errors they have made but also we find that despite their being genuine in all this sometimes they return to the same misdeeds. According to Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as), this is because in those areas they have not yet made contact with the Holy Spirit because the Holy Spirit comes to stay - it never leaves you but this phenomenon can be piecemeal because everyone is not a prophet of God. Everyone cannot have that security against sin vouched to him absolutely and forever as the meaning of the term Holy Spirit implies. So it happens in ordinary lives that any servant of God who is repentant of some of his sins and conscious of many others, constantly endeavours to move away from his sins to a state of goodness, such a person is helped by this arch angel and in response to his deep rooted desire to become clean, once he is cleaned with the help of this arch angel, he remains clean. He never reverts to those things. This process continues until death and if we find evidence of this happening in the life of a person even if he has not reached the ultimate of his journey, he would be considered among the holy and his relationship with the Holy Spirit would be established by God. This is the meaning of the Holy Spirit which we understand with reference not only to the Holy Qur'an but also with reference to Injeel, (the Gospels) and the earlier books.

Now there is one other thing which you also mentioned in your question that has not yet been covered by this answer but it does directly relate to this answer so I am going to enlarge upon this, and that is about the Ten Commandments.

Now, if St. Paul was right in his understanding of the law with reference to flesh then there should not be any Commandment at all because according to his understanding, the law was made flesh. By Jesus (as) the Son of God, as he understood him to be, acquiring flesh for himself and punishing the flesh, he practically did away with all law and from then on all you need is the Holy Spirit without reference to any law. So if he did away with all the law and did away with all the flesh, why keep a limb alive in the name of the Ten Commandments. So that proves that his understanding of the Law versus Christianity was not right. In fact, what Jesus (as) was emphasising and here I return to the issue of the Holy Spirit that the people earlier, the people of the Book of Moses (as) had overmuch emphasised the shell against the spirit. They stuck to the laws of the Old Testament without endeavouring to follow the spirit of the law. So outwardly they were very staunch even extremist, zealot Jews and Jewish leaders who appeared to be a living image of the Torah but according to Jesus Christ (as) if you were to peep into their hearts you will find them empty of the Spirit of God. So he emphasised the Holy Spirit, in fact he said it is the Holy Spirit which is all important but he never meant to do away with the law as a whole so that is why you find the Ten Commandments also which are the essence of the Judaic teachings. So there is no contradiction in Jesus (as), no contradiction in the belief in the Holy Spirit and the belief in the Commandments whatever they be -- they are one and the same thing. But one must follow the spirit of the law but it cannot survive without the letter, without the shell.

Have I answered your question or is there something you would like me to explain further?

Questioner: Being brought up as Christian, you are taught to put your trust in Jesus. How can you transfer this trust to Islam?

Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad: You see, if you trust a prophet of God, in fact you trust all the Prophets of God and here I refer to the preaching efforts of the Jehovah's Witnesses who always emphasise the claim of Jesus (as) that Jesus Christ (as) is the way, he is the Alpha, he is the Omega as if to the exclusion of all others. That is not how we understand the nature of religions. In fact, in every religion you will find similar claims with reference to the time and with reference to the people who are being addressed by that religion. That, in fact, is the only way. But it does not mean universally the only way, the only way in exception to all others. In fact what it means is now in this context, unless you follow me, you will not be redeemed and the same is the claim found in every religion. Here we have a religious scholar who has searched far and wide in the teachings of Buddhism and Hinduism and this and that and he would bear witness to this fundamental claim to be found in every religion. But the Holy Qur'an resolved it by saying that all who were sent for the deliverance of mankind from sin, who came from the same God, they must be accepted, all, one and all, must be accepted without exception because they call to the same path, to the path mentioned in relation to Jesus (as) seems to be a separate path, but the Holy Qur'an resolves the problem for us by emphasising the fact that the path remains the same, it is the callers to that path who differ. At that time it was Jesus who called to the path of Allah. In the society around him which he was addressing he was the only caller to that path. But of, course, there were others, in India, in China, in Africa. Even among the Aborigines in Australia, also among the American Indians, as they are called now. So this is what we understand from the word, the path, the only way, and other similar expressions.

Questioner: I understand from the introduction that the Ahmadiyya Movement was founded in 1889, that is, over a hundred years from now. During this period when did it come to light that there is a difference between the Ahmadiyya Movement and the main Islamic Movement and what was the cause of this difference?

Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad: First of all, there is no difference between the main Islam and the Ahmadiyya Community. The question is an erroneous one. If there was any difference between Islam and the Ahmadiyya Community, I would leave the Ahmadiyya Community because Islam is the religion, Islam is the unchangeable faith and the path that has been revealed for the benefit of the whole mankind forever, as we believe in it. So it is an erroneous way to refer to the differences of Ahmadiyyat and others. The right question should be, 'When did the differences between the Ahmadiyya understanding of Islam and the understanding of the mainstream Muslims come to light'? Is that your question?

Questioner: Yes.

Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad: OK. With that I agree. It did happen that there were differences in the Ahmadiyya understanding of Islam and the non-Ahmadiyya understanding of Islam which came to light very strongly and powerfully at a certain stage in our history. It all began, as if suddenly, when Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as) of Qadian (the Holy Founder of the Ahmadiyya Community) declared that according to the revelation he had received from God, Jesus Christ (as) was not a son of God, he was a prophet, and according to this revelation, all prophets of God have passed away. There is none [of the past prophets] who is bodily living today in the world. They delivered their ministries, they were given different leases of life but ultimately they all passed away like human beings. Jesus (as) being no exception.

Having declared that, he said that as far as the prophecies of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa), the Holy Founder of Islam, are concerned, he referred to a Jesus (as) coming again in the latter days. So if Jesus (as) is dead as was being claimed, then what does it mean? Who would come? Will Jesus (as) be raised from the dead? In answer to this question he said that God has also told him that he was the same Jesus (as) whose advent was prophesied in the traditions of the Holy Prophet of Islam (sa) but that it was only a title. It was not a prophecy meaning that the old Jesus (as) would be reconstructed for his body or his spirit to revisit a human spirit like people believe happens in reincarnation. He explained that what was meant was that somebody in character and style of Jesus Christ would be born in Islam. He would be given the title 'Jesus' to indicate his similarity with Jesus (as). He would do for Islam what Jesus (as) had done for Judaism in the context of Jesus-Judaism relationship and he further enlarged upon this to make us fully understand. He did not leave it as mere claim, arguments relating to the claim were made so clear and understandable that it has become a thing of such common sense that you do not require any other strong arguments in favour of this claim.

He said it always happens in this way. No person whose re-advent is prophesied ever comes again. He said look at the history of the claims that are found in almost every religion that someone who was born hundreds of years before would revisit, like Elijah (as) was to revisit before the coming of Christ. He said that if, for the sake of argument, we accept all the stories of ascension to be correct all over the world, then show us one single incident in the entire history of mankind when the same person who was prophesied to revisit actually revisited in person or even claimed to have revisited in person, not bodily. Jesus (as) did claim that Elijah had come again, but it was not in person. It was John the Baptist to whom he referred. So, his coming according to Jesus (as) was the coming of John the Baptist. It is exactly in the same sense that the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Community claimed that his coming is the re-advent of Jesus (as) means somebody who would work on the same pattern, in the same style as Jesus (as) had done in Judaism. Now, a brief example, otherwise the answer to this question would take longer than perhaps we can afford. The point is what did Jesus (as) do? He transformed the attitude from hard, merciless attitude of vengeance to the all-forgiving attitude of what you understand as the spirit of Christianity today. So this is what he did in Islam. He said, look here, Islam never emphasised the role of the sword or of any form of coercion in the path of calling people to God. It was always only a defensive war that is permitted in Islam but never a war of attrition which uses force to change the ideas of the world. That can only be done through sacrifice, perseverance, through love. So that is Jesus (as) reborn, isn't it? And that is why he was punished and his Community is still being punished and you read so much in the Arab world, in newspapers and such like that Ahmadies do not believe in Jihad, the holy war. Of course, we believe in the holy war, but not in the unholy war. A war waged in the name of holiness which sheds blood of the people just for the sake of converting them is the most unholy war one can conceive and the most stupid thing that can happen to man. It was against that which the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement, the Promised Messiah (as) waged a holy war just as Jesus (as) did, bringing suffering upon himself as a result. So, this is just one example but as I said we only have limited time here.