Comparison of religions in the works of the Promised Messiah a.s. – Part II
Hafiz Ijaz Ahmad Tahir Lecturer, Jamia Ahmadiyya UK
Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian, the Promised Messiah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, was the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat and originally wrote The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam as an essay in Urdu, Islami Usul Ki Philosophy. It was presented at the second Conference of Great Religions in Lahore.
Organised by a Hindu named Swami Sadhu Shivgan Chandar, the purpose of the conference was to gather learned representatives from many of the world’s leading religions in order to discover the true religion. Each representative was asked to present to the audience the beauties of their own religion based on its source, proving that it was the true religion.
The idea behind the conference was that, having listened to proofs and arguments from a variety of religious faiths, the audience would be better informed to make their choice.
“We have never before heard such a pleasing lecture. In truth, the representatives of the other religions did not address the questions posed by the conference. Most speakers dealt largely with the fourth question, only briefly passing over the other ones. A majority of the speakers talked much but said little. The exception was Mirza Sahib’s paper, which gave a detailed and comprehensive answer to each of the individual questions. The audience listened with great interest and with undivided attention to a lecture which they found to be most superior and outstanding.
“We are not followers of Mirza Sahib, nor do we have any kind of contact with him. However, we cannot be unjust in our commentary. In answering the questions, Mirza Sahib relied solely on the Quran. Every major Islamic principle was beautifully expounded using logical and convincing arguments. To first use logical arguments to prove the existence of God and to then quote the Word of God is a style which we find most charming. Not only did Mirza Sahib expound on the philosophy of Quranic teachings, he also explained the philosophy and philology of the Quranic language. In short, Mirza Sahib’s lecture was complete and comprehensive, replete with gems of knowledge, wisdom, truths and mysteries. The philosophy of the Divine was so marvellously expressed that the entire audience was left spellbound. His lecture was the best attended with the hall being packed from top to bottom.
“The entire audience listened attentively. To illustrate the difference between Mirza Sahib’s lecture and those of other speakers, it would suffice to say that people flocked to hear his paper while, out of boredom, they deserted the others.” (Chaudhvin Sadi, Rawalpindi, 1 February 1897)
After the conference, it was unanimously agreed and announced that this article of Hazrat Ahmad(as) was the best. As mentioned above, one of the merits was to present teachings from the divine book and then also provide arguments through the particular book of religion.
Setting up rules to identify the true religion or divine religion, the Promised Messiah(as) advised in his books to the seekers of truth that if they would like to compare between religions or they would like to find the truthfulness of any religion, then they should be looking for three important aspects in a religion.
“In order to recognise a true religion, it is necessary to look at three matters. In the first place, one must see what the teaching of a religion is concerning God. That is to say, what a religion states with regard to the unity, power, knowledge, perfection, greatness, punishment, mercy and other attributes of the Divine …
“Secondly, it is necessary that a seeker after truth should enquire what a religion teaches with regard to his own self and with regard to human conduct. Is there anything in its teaching which would disrupt human relationships or would draw a person into courses which are inconsistent with modesty and honour, or would be contrary to the law of nature, or would be impossible to conform to or carry out or make it dangerous to do so? It would also be necessary to see whether some important teaching needed to control disorderliness has been left out. It would also be necessary to discover whether a religion presents God as a Great Benefactor with Whom a relationship of personal love should be established and whether it lays down commandments which lead from darkness into light and from heedlessness to remembrance.
“Thirdly, it is necessary for a seeker after truth to satisfy himself that the god presented by a religion should not be one who is believed in on the basis of tales and stories and resembles a dead being. To believe in a god who resembles a dead being, belief in whom is not by virtue of his having manifested himself but is due to one’s own good faith, would be to put him under an obligation. It is useless to believe in a god whose powers are not felt and who does not himself make manifest the signs of his own existence and life.” (Nasim-e-Da‘wat, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 19, pp. 373-374)
The beauty of the above criteria is that one cannot run away from the original revealed scriptures and their teachings. If they are true religions and also provide perfect teachings, then they should not be looking around to get support for their claim as divine guidance is given by the divine book. In this way speakers and writers are confined to present the teaching and claims from their authentic particular divine book as well as providing arguments from their books.
Hazrat Ahmad(as) devised another criterion for writing on the topic of comparative studies of religions. He would never use ineffective and inappropriate allegations that could later be countered by the scholars of other faiths, resulting in further discord between two groups. On the contrary, the Promised Messiah(as) always provided the references from the revealed books of others, and then proved through scriptural and rational arguments the weakness of their religions and ideologies.
In his book Mi‘yar-ul-Mazhib (The Criterion for Religions), the Promised Messiah(as) presented a comparison of religions in accordance with the above method and discussed three world religions and teachings in order to recognise a true religion.
Firstly, one must analyse what the teaching of a religion is concerning God from their particular revealed books. Hazrat Ahmad(as) proved that the God of Islam is a living God and remains functional as ever, conversing with man to this day. Here he simply lays down the rule of nature that it is in the nature of man that he considers God powerful and omnipotent. While thinking this, he turns to seek help from God as it is natural. And Islam, being a religion of nature, truly speaks about the living God. If one’s God is unable to perform certain simple actions like keeping himself alive or remain dead for a while or considered dead as per the Christian teachings, how would such a God be helpful in times of difficulties?
According to Hindus, God can only join the body and spirit and not the creator of certain matters. In this case their God is only a sort of engineer who joins certain matters and does not create them. It is against the nature of God.
Every believer wants His God to deal with all situations, but in the case of Jesus(as) and the gods of Hindus, they have limited capacity to perform certain tasks. In this case, the God of Islam stands forth in all situation to help His people. The Promised Messiah(as) established the supremacy of the true living God of Islam over other religions by setting this natural rule of comparing with the teachings of other religions.
The Promised Messiah(as) says:
“For although the supposed Parmeshwar of the Aryas has no power to create anything, they still say that at least he has the power to combine things that already exist. But Jesus of the Christians could not demonstrate even this much power when the Jews drew him on the cross and said, ‘If you now save yourself, we will believe you.’ And yet he could not save himself though it was no big task; all he had to do was to combine his spirit with his body. The poor man failed to do even that. Thereafter his apologists spun the tale that he was resurrected in the sepulchre.” (The Criterion for Religions, p. 12)
The Promised Messiah(as) contended that the teachings contained in the Holy Quran were completely in accord with the instincts of human need. The comparative study thus presented in this book gives to the reader a bird’s-eye view of the existing religions and brings out brightly the characteristics of Islam. Islam is strictly in accord with human nature and appeals to mankind.
Thus, in many of his books, he proved that the God of Islam is a living God and not like the Christ of Christians or gods of Hindus who are unable to create even themselves. Human nature requires reason and logic and the Promised Messiah(as) not only proved his points through scriptural evidence, but also discussed in detail with reason. A religion should not be contradictory to reason and logic. It should have a matter of rationalism. While tackling Hindus and Christians, Huzoor(as) answered many of their questions with reason.
Another important aspect mentioned by the Promised Messiah(as) and we have seen this in many of his books is seeking divine help and calling to God for support. At many occasions, we have seen that the Promised Messiah(as) urged his opponents to call their gods and he would seek help from his God, proving whose God was a living God and which religion was a living religion.
“Then, the second kind of supremacy found in Islam, and not shared by any other religion, which puts the absolute seal of certainty upon its truth, is that it manifests living blessings and miracles, which other religions are entirely deprived of. These are the kind of perfect Signs through which Islam not only triumphs over other religions, but also – by showing its perfect light – draws hearts to itself.” (Barahin-e-Ahmadiyya Part V, p. 5)
As the Promised Messiah(as) proved that Islam’s God still listens, speaks and fulfills the needs of His people, the Promised Messiah(as) asked the followers of different religions to come and pray together and seek help from God with prayers. Stop raising baseless allegations, rather come and stay with me to see the miracles of God and observe the acceptance of prayers.
“In this age, too, God Almighty manifests great Signs in support of Islam, and I say this from my own experience. If all the nations of the world were to unite against me and a comparison be made as to whom God reveals the unseen, whose prayers He accepts, whom does He help, and for whom does He manifest great Signs, I call God to witness that I would be victorious. Is there anyone who will step forward against me for such a trial!!? God has bestowed thousands of Signs upon me just to let the opponents know that Islam is indeed the true faith. I do not seek any honour for myself but I seek honour for the one for whom I have been sent.” (Haqiqatul-Wahi [The Philosophy of Divine Revelation], p. 219)
Futher, Hazrat Ahmad(as) says:
“Do none of you wish to test this and accept the truth if he finds it? What are you holding on to; corpse wrapped up in a shroud? What more do you possess? A handful of dust? Can that corpse be God? Can it answer you? Come forward. Shame on you if you fail to respond and compare this decomposed corpse with my God. I tell you that before forty days have passed, He will put you to shame through heavenly signs. Polluted are the hearts that do not approach with true intent and yet go on denying, and unclean are the temperaments that lean towards mischief and not towards the pursuit of truth. O clerics who oppose me! If you be in doubt, come and stay in my company for a few days. If you do not witness God’s signs, then seize me and treat me as a liar. I have furnished you with full proofs, and until you refute these proofs, you have no answer. The signs of God are descending like rain. Is there no one among you who would come to me with a true heart? Not even one? A warner came to the world and the world did not accept him. But God will accept him and will establish his truth with powerful assaults. Peace be on him who follows the guidance.” (Anjam-e-Atham, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 11, pp. 345-347)
Thus, he repeatedly challenged the clerics and scholars of all religions. Similarly, any person who would like to experience God, to come and witness.
ہر طرف آواز دینا ہے ہمارا كام آج
جس كى فطرت نیک ہے وہ آئے گا انجام كار
“This day, our mission is to proclaim [the true message] in every direction. Whosoever is of pious nature shall eventually come [to you].”
Hence, in this day and age most of the world is indifferent towards religion as they perceive it to be a medieval and backward concept, or they have abandoned religion as their ideology could not grant them communion with God, and there is nothing that attracts them towards faith.
Many beliefs are seen to be illogical and against human rationale. However, it is Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad(as) alone that has shown to the world that there is wisdom, logic and rationale within religion, particularly in Islam. He showed the connection between nature and religion.
If we are to ever succeed in calling anyone towards the true faith in this era, then we are bound to act upon the criteria that has been set out by the Promised Messiah(as).