Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad(rh)
The Review of Religions, October 1996
On 13 January 1996, on the occasion of the inauguration of a new Ahmadiyya centre in Leicester, UK, the Fourth Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association in Islam, Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad, hosted a large session with guests representing various faiths. He gave enlightening answers to all the questions that were put to him. Presented below is an edited transcript of two questions raised at that session and the response to them by Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad. Transcribed by Amatul-Hadi Ahmad.
Questioner: My question is about Lord Krishna (as). We Hindus treat Lord Krishna (as) as the creator, the preserver and the destroyer of all beings. As he himself said, ‘of all the creations, I am the beginning and the end and the middle. I am unborn and without beginning. Though I am the Lord of all sentient beings, I still appear every millennium in my original transcendental form.’ My question is, how far does this religious philosophy conform with the philosophy of Islam?
Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad: First of all, I beg to differ with you as far as the interpretation of these lines is concerned. I have been a student of comparative religion. I found that every religion, however idolatrous it may appear to us today, was fundamentally a monotheistic religion because if one does not accept this universal principle then arguments between religions will have no end whatsoever and each religion will be understood to have emanated from a different source, from a different God.
Now, as against the understanding of the Vedas which you have presented to us, you should have remembered also that this is exactly what Jesus Christ (as) said, that I am the Alpha, I am the Omega, and this is not only said by Jesus Christ (as) but also in the Holy Qur’an there is mention of this truth that the Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) is the source and means of people reaching God and when you say Khatemun Nabiyyeen (i.e. the `seal of all the Prophets’) then it can be understood as Omega. But in another `Hadith’ (tradition of the Holy Prophet (saw)) he claims himself to be the very first, the Alpha and according to all the Muslim sects together, in view of some Qur’anic verses and declarations of the Holy Prophet (saw), he was the first to be born.
Now, the question here is that there are some translations made by yourself or somebody else, which indicate that Krishna (as) claimed that he was never born, that he is eternal. I have read the Bhagawat Geeta myself with deep attention and I have discovered only evidence of the truth and unity of God, and Krishna (as) himself only claimed to be a Messenger, no more. For instance, his being called `murli dhar’ (flute player). Apparently, the flute is singing the song or creating the music but there is breath behind it. Then he has more hands than ordinary people and he has a body, a well defined body, but instead of two hands he has four hands and he is also known to have possessed wings. Now, what do these symbols, or if they are not symbols, the literal facts indicate, that is the question! As you said, he gave us the glad tiding that every one thousand years `I will reappear in my original form’. Is this the original form of God? Is this the space of human stature, with four arms, he can be confined and then disappear somewhere and then begin to rule from there. This is a very, very limited understanding of the nature of God which he has created. How could Lord Krishna (as) say that? There has to be some misunderstanding of his message or misinterpretation of his words. Such misunderstandings do appear in every religion because of the specific religious terminology. Take, for instance, the use of the word `wings’. The Holy Qur’an also uses the word `wings’ in relation to angels. But the Holy Qur’an makes it specifically clear that these are not the `wings’ used to fly with, only that the `wings’ are indicative of attributes. So, if there are `two arms’, the attributes are half the number possessed by a person who has four arms. The angels grew in attributes and in this world, according to the Holy Qur’an, they have four wings. But in the hereafter they will have eight ‘wings’ and these are all metaphorical terms and figures, let’s say. For instance, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) himself is told to lower his ‘wing’ of mercy over those who believe him. Then the people are told to lower their ‘wings’ over their parents. So these usages of the same word ‘wing’ elsewhere in the Qur’an makes it very clear to us that they are just terms which have been misunderstood and misapplied.
In short, according to the Ahmadiyya belief, Hazrat Krishna (as) was a holy Messenger of Allah. He used a language of symbols to convey to the world of that time some truths and if you read the Bhagawat Geeta in detail, it is not just an account of war between two factions. It is, in reality, a masterpiece of description of goodness pitched against evil, or evil pitched against goodness. A battle between darkness and light.
Now, turn to Zoroastrianism, what Zoroaster says is again the same thing in different terms. He speaks of fire against darkness, and makes fire the symbol of truth which is God and darkness a symbol of falsehood which is the devil. One finds similar symbolic statements in the Bible and in the Holy Qur’an, but there they do not mean that evil had a separate entity in itself and emanated from a God who was independent of the God of goodness.
So, these are symbolic terms and the use of similar terminology is found in every religion. It is our duty not to be confused by them but to come to a reasonable, sensible understanding whereby we could reconcile the world religions as have emanated from the same single source that is God.
I hope this will be sufficient as I don’t think it will be very profitable to go much further into a debate on this issue.
Questioner: I am engaged in private Catholic Evengalisation. As Jesus (as) was dying on the cross he said, ‘Father, forgive them for they know not what they do’. My question is, Jesus (as) said, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the light – nobody can come to the Father except through me’. Any comment, please?
Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad: I have already answered this question in answer to the question raised here by our Hindu friend when he spoke of Krishna (as) having made the same claim, long before Jesus (as) mind you, I have read the fundamental books of all major religions and I find reference to exactly the same thing in so many statements of either the prophets or the divine scriptures. The Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) has made exactly the same claim. So, you must remember that it is a time related claim. It has to be made by every Prophet because if a Prophet says, ‘I am not the way’, then he is denying himself. He is rejecting the necessity of the people to find God through him. Hence, in Islamic terminology, in the Holy Qur’an, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) is mentioned as Waseela, the ‘doorway’ to God. I have read that so many times. I love reading the Bible as well but because I have studied other religions (and read their books) I can immediately find similarities between the style of expression. But this only means that in relation to God, a Prophet becomes himself an eternal truth because if he speaks the language of God and God alone then he also becomes eternal, not in person, not in relation to his human form, but in relation to his views and ideas and ideology. So, if a person belongs to an eternal God, he must have some features of that eternal God or aspects of his character transferred to himself, otherwise the claim of such a person that he is in communion with God, or that he belongs to him, would be falsified if he cannot show any signs. So these are the fundamental signs which are shown by all the major Prophets of the world that they have become identified with an eternal Super Being and in them you find the ‘Alpha’ and the ‘Omega’ and the ‘door’. I hope this will be sufficient for you to understand our viewpoint on this issue.