by Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as)
The Review of Religions, January 1997
Translated by Amatul-Hadi Ahmad
On the evening of 16 August 1902, after the evening prayer, the Promised Messiah (as), as was his practice, sat down with his companions, for general conversation and discussion. Someone presented him with a note requesting consideration for employment and the Promised Messiah (as) spoke briefly about the subject of material means of existence. The original Urdu transcript of this discourse is contained in Malfoozat, Vol. 3, pp. 331-337.
The mystery of shortage and abundance of provisions (rizq) is something not easily grasped by people. On the one hand there are in the Holy Qur’an promises made by God with the believers that ‘Allah is sufficient for him who places his trust in Allah’ (Ch. 65, v. 4). Also, ‘He who is mindful of his duty to Allah, for him Allah will prepare a way out of his difficulties and will provide for him whence he expects not’, (Ch. 65, vs. 3-4). God further states (in the Holy Qur’an), that ‘In the heavens is your sustenance and also that which you are promised’ (Ch. 51, v.23). And, again, swearing by his own being, God states, ‘By the Lord of the heavens and the earth, the Qur’an is certainly the truth even as that is true which you speak’ (Ch. 51, v. 24). Just as you cannot speak with your own tongue and then deny it, so such promises have been made by God Almighty. Yet, in spite of these promises, it is observed that there are many who are righteous and good with good fortune who practice Islam yet they suffer from a shortage of rizq (the material means of their livelihood). If they have enough for the night, they don’t have sufficient for the morning and if they have some for the day, they don’t have any for the night.
[Here Hadhrat Maulana Nur-ud-din Sahib (ra), a devout companion of the Promised Messiah (as), stated: ‘When I first came here, the Promised Messiah (as) was writing the book, Alamat-ul-Muqarabin, (i.e. Signs of Those who are Close to God). On my return, I stayed in Gujarat and there a person asked me as to what Hadhrat Mirza Sahib was writing at the time. I told him that he was writing a commentary on the verse Innal abrara lafi naeem, (Ch. 82, v. 14), [meaning, ‘Verily the virtuous will be in bliss’]. At this he commented, ‘Are the disbelievers not living in comfort? Buggies are to be seen (carrying them) everywhere all day long.
The Promised Messiah (as) commented: Your having recited this verse has reminded me of another verse of the Holy Qur’an, Waliman khaafa maqamah Rabbehi jannatan (meaning, ‘But for him who fears his Lord, there are two gardens of paradise’) (Ch. 55, v. 47). Yes, such events are observed but experience bears witness that such things cannot be attributed to God. It is our faith that the promise made by God with regard to the bestowing of rizq (material provisions) upon the righteous is true and that God Himself bestows rizq upon the righteous as described in the above verses. All that is described in the above verses is true and if we observe the world of godly people, we will note that no one from among the virtuous has ever died of hunger — the virtuous being those who have been accepted as such by the true believers who bore witness to their righteousness. It wasn’t just the case, however, that they did not die of hunger, they did not suffer from the anguish of the shortage of provisions to any extreme degree, even though they may not have had the highest standards of well being. The Holy Prophet (saw) had adopted a life of poverty, but from his generosity it can be seen that his poverty was self-imposed rather than being a form of punishment. In other words, there are in this path many difficulties that one has to confront. There are some who are apparently righteous and good but they face a shortage of provisions. Seeing all this, one has to admit that the promises made by God are all true, but the element of human weakness needs to be recognised.
[Hadhrat Maulana Nur-ud-din Sahib (ra) here stated that he had received a letter from someone in London who had written to him that he should come to London to see whether it was the Christians who had attained paradise, or the Muslims? Maulana Nur-ud-din Sahib added that he had responded by writing back to him that the true Christianity was that of Jesus (as) and his disciples and the true Islam was that of the Holy Prophet(saw) and his companions and he should make a comparison of the two and see for himself].
(The Promised Messiah (as) continued): In spiritual matters it is not given to every one to derive the correct conclusions. Some people go to London and see that there is much freedom there. The habit of drinking alcohol is so widespread that shops selling alcohol stretch for miles. There is no difference between adultery and non-adultery. Is this paradise? This is not what is meant by paradise. You see, a human being has a wife and he has a relationship with her. Birds and animals also have such relationships. But God has endowed the human being with the capacity for purity and cleanliness and for knowledge and comprehension and as a result of the senses and the capacities with which the human being has been endowed, he derives greater enjoyment from the relationship with his partner than do the animals. The animals do not have similar senses and comprehension and, hence, they do not hold their partners in any special regard, like the dog, for instance.
So, if human beings with all their capacities cannot attain enjoyment (through legitimate relationship) and instead live their lives like animals, what then is the difference between them and the animals? God has stated that paradise is for the believers and this has been stated because true enjoyment from the pleasurable things of this world can only develop when there is true righteousness accompanying it. He who abandons righteousness and frees himself from the barriers of halal and haram, (i.e. that which is permitted and that which is not permitted), such a person falls from his true status and comes down to the level of animals.
When in Hyde Park, in London, shameless acts are committed openly like animals and there is no modesty, and if a person, suppressing his humanity, observes this, he would wish to repent a thousand times from such paradise and from such pleasure and would ask God to save him from such a shameless and debased group of people. To think that the life of such a group of people is a life of paradise is utter foolishness.
The truth is that the key to paradise is righteousness. How can a person who has no trust in God, find true enjoyment? It is sometimes observed that when people who have no trust in God, have money stolen from them (the shock of this is so great that) they lose their ability to speak. And look at these, so called, dwellers of paradise who commit suicide in such large numbers and they do this at the slightest thing. This shows how weak of heart and lacking in inner strength they really are, that they do not have the capacity to bear sorrow. Those who do not possess the capacity to bear sorrow and to confront difficulties, do not have the means of true enjoyment (rahat). Whether we can make them understand this or not, whether anyone can understand this or not, the truth of the matter is this that the true enjoyment from pleasure-giving things can only be truly enjoyed through righteousness. The righteous person has enjoyment in his heart and possesses an everlasting pleasure (suroor). You see, if a person has a relationship or friendship with another person, how happy he is to see that friend. How much greater enjoyment a person would derive if he had a relationship with God! But he who does not have a relationship with God, what hope can he have? And paradise begins with hope.
There are so many suicides in these civilised nations from which we can deduce that there is no happiness. A suicide is committed at the slightest loss of happiness. But the person who possesses righteousness and has a relationship with God, possesses that everlasting happiness that comes with faith.
All things of this world suffer change and alteration. Various tribulations come one’s way. Illnesses attack. Sometimes one’s children die. In short, some difficulty or other, some pain, some sorrow is there. This world is a place of troubles and these things prevent one from sleeping with ease. The more one’s circle of relations widens, the more the sphere of difficulties and tribulations widens. As the circle of relationships becomes enlarged through different stages, these troubles can make fifty sorrows out of one. If a person is alone, he will have less worries but when he has a wife, children, parents, sisters, brothers and other relations, then the slightest trouble becomes a problem for him. Given the totality of these relationships, one could only find happiness if no one (from his circle of relationships) became ill or suffered any problem or difficulty. The thought that wealth brings happiness is also incorrect. Happiness does not come with wealth by itself. If one’s health is not good or, for example, one suffers from a poor stomach, would that be a life of paradise? So, we learn from this that wealth is not the source of happiness. The truth is that the person who has a relationship with God, he is the one who, in every respect, enjoys a life in paradise (a life of true happiness). This is because God is omnipotent and He has the power to keep away from a person all manner of difficulties as well as the power to protect him against suffering caused by financial problems. Should such problems ever arise, then God grants the capacity to face them with courage and strength.
The totality of the dimensions which are necessary for the well being of a person are not possessed (by anyone), not even a king. These are all in the hands of only the One, the King of Kings, who grants to whomsoever He wishes. It is sometimes observed that there are a type of people who have a great deal of wealth but they become a victim of illnesses such as consumption, and life for them becomes very bitter. So, who can take care of the millions of problems that are with human beings? If there is sorrow, who can grant a person forbearance? It is God alone who can do so.
Patience is a great thing which does not allow deep sadness to come near even in times of great difficulties and tribulations. There are some rich people who during the period of ease and enjoyment become extremely proud and full of self importance but at the slightest trouble they cry out loud like children. We do not know of anyone who has not been affected by some accident and whose relations have not suffered some sorrow. Whose life is one of paradise? Only of that person upon whom there is God’s blessing. That is why it is a big mistake when, seeing someone dressed in white, people say such a person is heavenly. If you were to ask such people they will tell you about the many tribulations they have had to confront. Just observing someone’s clothes, or seeing them riding in buggies or drinking alcohol and assuming (that they are happy and living in paradise) is incorrect. Other than that, a life of complete freedom is in itself a life of hell. What could be more of a life of hell than one in which there is no respect for God and no relationship with God. A dog can eat something dead or he can act badly (he is free to do so) — Will this be a life of paradise? Likewise, a person who eats dead things and commits acts of shamelessness, who knows no distinction between wealth that is halal, (i.e. obtained legitimately) and that which is haram (i.e. obtained illicitly), this would be an accursed life which bears no resemblance to a life of paradise.
It is true that a life of paradise is one (in which one is safeguarded against all ills) but it is only for those who trust in God completely and thus in accordance with the promise vouchsafed by God in the verse ‘And He (Allah) takes care of the righteous’, (Ch. 7, v. 197), i.e. they come under God’s protection and care. On the other hand, the days of a person distanced from God are spent in fear and wishful thoughts. He cannot be happy. There was a person in Sialkot who used to take bribes. He used to say that all he ever sees are chains. The fact is that a bad deed should have a bad ending. It is for this reason that the soul can never be content with bad deeds. So, where is the pleasure in bad deeds? The act of every bad deed pinches at the heart and a person feels a weight upon him and he is forced to ask himself, ‘What foolishness is this?’ And as a result he curses himself. They also reach horrendous extremes, one man killed a child for the sake of a few coins!
In short, life is nothing but to safeguard oneself against bad deeds and to trust in God because he who places his trust in God before a trouble confronts him, he it is who is helped by God in time of trouble. He who sleeps before trouble strikes him, is destroyed at the time of trouble.
God is not in need of anything from anyone. When places such as Bicaneer suffered from drought, people there went so far as to eat children. This happened because they did not live their lives belonging to someone. Had they lived for God, the children would not have suffered this fate. It is clear from the Hadith (the traditions of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw)) and from the Holy Qur’an as well as from the previous Holy Books that the bad deeds of the parents sometimes bring calamity for the children. The verse of the Holy Qur’an ‘He cared not for the consequences thereof’ (Ch. 91,v. 16), points to this that those who spend their lives carelessly, God too becomes careless about them. You see, a servant who does not greet his master for a few days, causes his master displeasure. So, why should God care for him who breaks his ties with Him. (It is with this in view that) God states that He destroys them and does not care for their progeny either. From this it can be understood that when a righteous person dies, having done good in his life, God cares even for his progeny as can be seen from the verse (of the Holy Qur’an, stating that) ‘Their father had been a righteous person’ (Ch. 18,v. 83). For the righteousness and capability of this father, God made such great prophets as Moses (as) and Khizr (as) perform labour, to mend the wall which now belonged to his sons. What great status must such a person have (in God’s sight)! God covered up the real situation of the sons by not mentioning any details about them because it would divert from the praise of their father and also because God covered up (the details of the sons) for the sake of their father.
The same subject has been mentioned in earlier Holy Books where (God has stated) that he takes care of up to seven generations of the progeny of a righteous person. The Prophet David (as) also has said that he has never seen the children of a righteous person begging for food.
In short, true joy is a provision (‘rizq’) from God which is not given to those who remain outside the pale of obedience to God.