& Islamic Review
March April 1998
Vol. 75 No. 2
Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha‘at Islam Lahore Inc., U.S.A. u
1315 Kingsgate Road, Columbus, Ohio, 43221 1504, U.S.A.
ISSN: 1060–4596Editor: Dr. Zahid Aziz. Format and Design: The Editor.
Seven criteria for the
right interpretation of the Holy Quran
From the book Barakat-ud-Du‘a
by Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad
The first criterion for its right interpretation is the evidence provided by the Holy Quran itself. It should be remembered with full attention and concentration that the Holy Quran, unlike ordinary books, is not dependent on other sources for substantiating and exposing the truths it contains. It is like the perfectly proportioned edifice, moving a single brick from which would change the shape of the whole structure. It contains no truth within it that is not supported by ten or twenty pieces of evidence from within itself. If we interpret a verse of the Holy Quran in a certain way, we should see to it that affirmative evidence for it is provided by other verses of the Holy Quran. If such evidence is lacking or if in fact the interpretation is clearly contradicted by other verses, then we should understand that it is totally false, for it is not possible for there to be a contradiction amongst the various verses of the Holy Quran. The distinguishing feature of a true interpretation is exactly this that the Holy Quran contains abundance of evidence in support of it.
The second criterion is the interpretation of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, may peace and the blessings of Allah be upon him. There is no doubt that our beloved and honored Prophet had the greatest understanding of the Holy Quran. If an interpretation can be directly proven to be from him, every Muslim is duty bound to accept it unhesitatingly and without fear. His failure to do so is an indication of deviant and atheistic tendencies.
The third criterion is the interpretation of Companions of the Holy Prophet Muhammad. There is no doubt that the Companions of the Holy Prophet were the recipients of the spiritual light directly from him, and the prime inheritors of prophetic knowledge. They were blessed by Allah the Most High, and their understanding received Divine assistance because the Quran was not merely words to them but a matter of actual experience.
The fourth criterion involves pondering over the Holy Quran with a pure mind. There is an affinity between a pure heart and the Holy Quran. Allah says: "[it is a book] which none touches save the purified ones" (56:78,79). To a person with a pure mind the matters of sacred knowledge of the Holy Quran are opened up because of the affinity between the two. He is able to recognize and appreciate them. His heart bears testimony that this is the true path, and his inner spiritual light is an excellent standard for the recognition of the truth. Unless a person has experienced such a spiritual condition, and has traversed the difficult and narrow path traveled by the prophets, it is inappropriate for him that, due to insolence and pride, he should lay claim to be an interpreter of the Holy Quran. In this case the interpretation would be based merely on his personal whim, which has been forbidden by the Holy Prophet who said: "whosoever interprets the Holy Quran on basis of his personal whim and considers it a good interpretation, his interpretation is still a bad one."
The fifth criterion is the Arabic language. The Holy Quran has established its own resources to such an extent that much more searching into Arabic lexicons is not needed. Nevertheless, it can enhance one’s insight, and at times attention is drawn towards the hidden secrets of the Holy Quran by delving into Arabic lexicons and a concealed meaning comes to light.
The sixth criterion for understanding spiritual matters is the physical creation. There exists a complete congruity between both these realms of God’s creation.
Seventh criterion: Revelation to a saint.
The seventh criterion is the revelations of sainthood (wilayat) and visions of the non-prophets to whom God speaks (muhaddas). This criterion encompasses all the previous criteria because the recipient of the revelation as given to saints is totally imbued with the color of the prophet whom he follows. Without possessing prophethood (nubuwwat) nor new commandments, he receives all that is given to a prophet. True knowledge is bestowed upon him in a sure manner, and not only that, but all the matters revealed to the Prophet whom he follows are given to him as a gift and honor. What he says is not sheer conjecture, but he speaks after having seen and heard. This path is open to the Muslim umma. It is entirely impossible that there should not remain any real heir [of true knowledge], and instead a man who is a worm of the material world and seeks worldly honor and fame should inherit the spiritual knowledge of prophethood. Allah the Most High has promised that besides the pure of heart no one else shall receive the knowledge of prophethood. In fact it is to sport with this pure knowledge to suggest that any person, despite his impure condition, can claim to be a inheritor of the prophet. And it is also an act of profound ignorance to deny the existence of real heirs and to hold the belief that the sublime mysteries of prophetic knowledge are now only to be accepted as a tale of bygone days, so that they no longer exist before our eyes, nor is it possible for them to do so, nor does there exist any example of them.
This is not the case, however, for had it been so then we could not call Islam a living religion. Like other religions, it would also be a dead religion, and belief in prophethood would also be a tale of yore, only known by reference to the generations gone by. But God the Most High did not will this, for He was quite aware that the undeniable proof for the truth of prophethood and the living faith of Islam, which can silence the deniers of Divine revelation always and in every age, can only be sustained if Divine revelation in the form of sainthood continues forever. Therefore, thus did He ordain it. The muhaddas are those individuals who are blessed with the honor of Divine communication. The essence of their soul bears a strong resemblance to that of the prophets, and they are a continuing sign which serves as a reminder for the wonderous qualities of prophethood, so that the subtle concept of the coming of revelation does not become devoid of proof, reduced to a mere narrative, in any age.
The idea is entirely untrue that the prophets left this world without a spiritual inheritance and that to express any opinion regarding them now is no more than relating a story of the past. Quite contrary to this, the spiritual heirs of the prophets have been raised in every century during the time of need. In the present century, this humble servant has been chosen for this purpose. God, the Most High, has sent me for the reformation of this age, so that those errors which cannot be corrected without the special assistance of Allah be removed from the minds of the Muslims, the non-believers be given a proof of the true and living God, and the glory and truth of Islam be manifested by fresh signs. Accordingly, this is what is happening. Knowledge of the Holy Quran and the finer points and subtleties of Divine revelation are becoming more apparent. Heavenly signs and miracles are being manifested and Allah is showing once more the excellence, light and blessings of Islam. Those who are blessed with insight should witness this, and he who possesses true fervor should ask for it. Anyone who has even an iota of love for Allah and His Prophet should wake up, and test this, and enter into this Movement chosen by God the Most High, the foundation stone of which He has laid with His own hand. To say that the revelation to saints (wahy wilayat) has ended, heavenly signs are no longer manifested, and prayers are no more accepted, is the path of spiritual annihilation, not prosperity. Dismiss not the blessings of Allah. Arise and evaluate through personal experience, and if you find that I am a man of ordinary mind, ordinary intellect, and ordinary words, do not accept me. If, however, you see a manifestation of Divine Power and perceive the luminescence of His hand, exhibited only by those who are the supporters of truth and receive Divine communion, then show acceptance.
Understand this with certainty, that the greatest favor of Allah the Most High upon His servants is that He does not want to keep Islam as a dead religion. He always wants to leave open the ways to ascertain belief, give spiritual knowledge and censure the hostile critics of Islam. To show somebody who does not believe in Divine revelation and calls it a figment of imagination, can there be a better argument to mute his criticism than to show him a living example of such Divine blessing? Is this good news or bad news that heavenly blessings remained only for a few years in Islam, which then became a dead and dry religion, and should this be the sign of a true and living faith?
Lessons in the Quran – 7
Translation of Mr. N.A. Faruqui’s book Mu‘arif-ul-Qur'an
Translated by Dr. Mohammad Ahmad, Ohio
Closeness to God achieved through Islam.
Today we will discuss the last two verses of this magnificent and comprehensive prayer, Al-Fatihah. In the previous lesson, I have discussed in detail the verse, "The path of those upon whom Thou hast bestowed favors," and it was pointed out that these were the people who attained the purpose of their creation, i.e., Allah Almighty. Whosoever achieves this goal is successful in this world and the Hereafter. He does not have any sadness, worry or desire left, because he has found the perpetual peace and happiness which exists only in a relationship with God.
All religions have made this claim that they have come to inform people about God, and to help them establish a relationship with Him. There is no doubt that when these religions first came into existence, they were actually revealed by God to fulfill this purpose. Today, however, there does not exist within them a path which leads directly to God, nor can He be reached by following them. For example, association with God has crept into their beliefs. Belief in One God lays down before mankind only the objective of reaching Him. Polytheism, on the other hand, presents the concept of many gods before man. Which one of these various deities should he be searching for? None of these religions today can, therefore, truly claim to have found God. In the beginning, when the straight path (siraat al-mustaqeem) did exist within them, those who followed their teachings were able to establish a relationship with God. An affirmative sign of this was that He would communicate with them. Today, none of the followers of these religions can make such a claim, nor can they submit evidence that they are recipients of Divine communion in the form of ilham or wahy (revelation from God). According to an Urdu couplet of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (Reformer of the 14th. Century Hijra):
We have tasted this fruit only from the garden of Muhammad.
The Perfect Model of Righteousness.
Now only by following Islam, the guidance of the Holy Quran, and the living example of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, people of different time periods can become closer to God to the extent that He communicates with them. In this age of materialism and atheism we have witnessed a shining example of this in the life of the Reformer of the 14th century, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. A living proof of this are the thousands of Divine revelations (ilhams) and true visions bestowed upon him, which are available in print. A great number of these were fulfilled during his lifetime, and there are many that continue to do so even today, after his death. It is essential to mention over here "those upon whom favors are bestowed," and their leader, the Holy Prophet Muhammad, who once again pointed out the straight path to the world. He was the one to whom the Al-Fatihah was revealed, and he reached his exalted spiritual status by acting upon its guidance. By following, "Thee do we serve and Thee do we beseech for help," he not only became the perfect exemplar of one who serves with humility, but also the best of mankind and foremost of all prophets. Who else is there who not only became beloved of God himself, but also led others in this direction? Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad has described this beautifully in one of his Persian couplets:
"In the person of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, all excellences of prophethood have reached their full manifestation."
Therefore, he is inevitably the last of, and the seal of, the prophets (khatam an-nabiyyin). No deficiency remains behind to be fulfilled by another prophet. Think about the difficult task that was accomplished by the Holy Prophet Muhammad. He became the best exemplar for the whole of the human race, for all nations, and all ages till the Day of Resurrection. ‘O! Allah exalt Muhammad and those who follow him, and grant them peace and blessings.’
The Holy Prophet Muhammad was able to follow the straight path in this life and reach his destination with unparalleled success. The ultimate manifestation of this was the Mi‘raj (grand vision of Spiritual Ascension) of the Holy Prophet in which he was able to meet Allah face to face. A poet has put this so well in an Urdu couplet:
"During the night of the Mi‘raj you ascended above all the spiritual heavens, and the status you achieved was not attained by any other prophet."
Also observe (by reading his life history) how well he imbued himself in the color of Allah’s attributes described in the Al-Fatihah. "All praise be to Allah" was not only a part of his physical recitation, but he became a living manifestation of it.
The Holy Prophet, according to Hazrat Ayesha (his wife), emulated the Divine attributes described in the Holy Quran to such an extent that: "His character was the Holy Quran." If prophets before him described it as "coming of the Lord," this was the reason for it. He manifested the coloring of the Lord of the Worlds (Rabb-il-aalameen) to such an extent that he became the mercy for all nations (Rahmat-un lil-aalameen). The spiritual and moral nurturing of the whole world for all times is now dependent on his example. This is because he had the unique distinction of being the only prophet who, out of his great concern for all of humanity, cried and supplicated day and night for their spiritual and moral welfare, and for their well-being in this world and the Hereafter. It is for this reason that Allah Almighty has said more than once in the Holy Quran, "Will you kill yourself with this grief (that they do not come towards righteousness)." This was mentioned in the Holy Quran also with the intent that if we want to follow the footsteps of this holy person, we should also borrow a spark from the fire of his yearning, to ignite this flame in our hearts.
Along with his great concern for the human race, the Holy Prophet also left behind a legacy of priceless treasures in the form of his sunnat (example) and hadith (sayings) for the benefit of mankind. This knowledge was acquired by him through his extraordinary spiritual and moral progress. He thus became colored in the spiritual beneficence of Al-Rahman. His conduct was, therefore, purely selfless as the Holy Quran remarks, "I do not ask of you any return on this". Despite being completely imbued in the coloring of Allah, he did not give himself, or allow anybody else to give him, a status beyond that of a humble servant. Other prophets, though lagging behind him in spiritual status, were elevated by their followers to the status of a God or an associate with Him. Despite being a virtual ruler of his community, the Holy Prophet still kept himself and his household in a state of poverty and hunger. He did not ask anything in return for his service and benevolence to humanity. This is the meaning of being a servant of Al-Rahman, who provides everything for His creation without asking anything in return. If He asks for obedience with humility in return, it is for the benefit of mankind. Unless man serves Allah with humility, He is unable to nurture him spiritually, just like the parents of a child are unable to contribute towards his development unless he follows their guidance. Now consider the manifestation of the attribute of Al-Raheem in his character. It is provided in its most excellent form for the believer, as the Holy Quran states: "To the believers (he is) compassionate, merciful" (9:128). Those who joined the Holy Prophet and followed his footsteps, definitely benefited from his bounteous nature and mercy. We also witnessed the manifestation of the Divine attribute Maliki-yaum-id-deen (Master of the Day of Requital) in his conduct. Thus on the day when Makka was conquered, the day on which the victor and the vanquished were to receive their due, he magnanimously forgave all his enemies.
Those who did not Benefit from Divine Guidance.
Now let us consider the last verses of this chapter Al-Fatihah:
"Not those upon whom wrath is brought down, nor those who went astray."
This is the prayer seeking protection from falling into the ways of those upon whom the wrath of Allah was brought down, or those who went astray. When truth comes into this world, those who are presented with it tend to fall into three categories. Those who accept it, and act upon it, are included in the description of those "upon whom Thou has bestowed favors." Some unfortunate ones, however, not only reject the truth, but also attempt to destroy it along with its followers. These people after being given ample opportunity for reform and repentance are destroyed by Allah. The word used for ‘destruction’ in Arabic, besides conveying the meaning of ‘to annihilate,’ also indicates the breaking of the power or hold of a people or nation. If Allah does not destroy those planning the destruction of truth, then truth itself and those that follow it would be eliminated. How could this be acceptable to Allah Who has, "power over all things"? Thus those who are destroyed, or whose power is eliminated, are the ones, "upon whom wrath is brought down." There is also the third category of people i.e., "those who went astray". These are the ones who either ignore the truth and remain persistent in their insubordination, or after having initially accepted the right path, they later on reject it. Because of their action in pursuing falsehood over truth, they are left by Allah to wander in their deviant ways.
The Prophet of Allah gave the example of the Jews as "those upon whom wrath is brought down." They did not accept Prophet Jesus (Isa), in fact tried to destroy him. He cited the Christians as an example of "those who went astray" because after accepting Jesus they elevated him to the status of Son of God, or in fact God. This is the way of excess or exaggeration (ifrat), the way of the Jews being that of diminution (tafrit), both of these being human weaknesses. Thus, for example, man either becomes totally engrossed in pursuit of worldly gain and gives up his religion, or follows the other extreme of becoming a monk, nun, or a sadhu (Hindu ascetic). The Holy Prophet said: "The best way of all is the middle course, which is the straight path." This is why the Muslims are enjoined in their daily prayers to ask for the straight path, so they can guard against the two extremes.
A Comprehensive Prayer.
Al-Fatihah is such a broad and comprehensive prayer that it is useful for man in all his conditions and times of need. For example, for a student, "The Day of Requital" is the day when he sits for an examination. "Those upon whom Thou hast bestowed favors" are the ones who qualified with flying colors. Those who do not succeed are the ones "upon whom wrath is brought down," and "the ones who go astray" are the ones who qualify with marginal grades and stray around in life with the hope of achieving success. I would like to give one other example of the general benefit of the Al-Fatihah, and then close this discussion. In the case of a surgeon who decides to operate on a patient, the day of surgery for both of them is the day of requital. Those upon whom favors are bestowed would include the surgeon who is successful, and the patient who regains his health. The condition of those upon whom wrath is brought down would occur when the patient dies, and thus is a source of disappointment for the surgeon and ruins his reputation. For the relatives of the deceased it becomes a day of irreplaceable loss and profound sadness. The state of those who went astray would occur when the patient did not die, but also did not fully recover.
Every individual has to face situations in life on a daily basis where he is at a loss in deciding the appropriate course of action. For example, in the case of a merchant making a crucial business decision, or a parent giving the hand of his daughter away in marriage, or a person trying to decide to travel to a certain destination. If one considers these situations under yaum-id-deen and asks for guidance towards the right path to avoid wrong decisions and pitfalls, it becomes quite apparent how helpful Al-Fatihah is in everyday life. In applying this to one’s mundane affairs one should not, however, forget that the most excellent meaning of Al-Fatihah is prayer for the moral and spiritual guidance of mankind. The answer to the prayer "Guide us on the right path" comes subsequently in the opening verse of Al-Baqarah:
"I, Allah, am the best Knower. This Book, there is no doubt in it, is a guide to those who keep their duty."
The guidance asked for is thus provided by the revelation of the Holy Quran. One can, therefore, appreciate the immense spiritual grandeur of Al-Fatihah in answer to which the whole of the Quran was revealed.
Thus from whatever perspective we look at the saying of the Holy Prophet that "I have been given two blessings that no other prophet has received, Al-Fatihah and the last section (ruku) of Al-Baqarah," it is so true. I have endeavored to comment only briefly on Al-Fatihah, otherwise it is a sea of spiritual knowledge and wisdom, the treasures of which are limitless. "Glory be to Allah, all praise is His. Glory be to Allah, the Great." n
‘Id al-Fitr address
At Darus Salaam, London,
on 29 January 1998
by Mr. Nasir Ahmad
Former editor The Light, Lahore, Pakistan
There are two major festivals in Islam: ‘Id al-Fitr and ‘Id al-Adha. These festivals are celebrated by Muslims throughout the world with unusual zeal and fervour. It is noteworthy that all religious festivals are usually connected with the birth, death or a significant event in the life of a particular religious personality. As an example, the Christian festivals of Christmas and Easter are celebrated in commemoration of the birth and the ascension to heaven of Prophet Jesus respectively. Islam is the only religion in which this does not hold true. The purpose of the aforementioned Islamic festivals is the spiritual development of man: to strengthen the innerself in order to resist evil, to make a conscious effort to practise good, to develop an awareness and concern for the welfare of fellow human beings and above all, to promote spirit of sacrifice.
To celebrate the festival of ‘Id al-Fitr is to give thanks to Allah and to express joy and happiness at the completion of a month-long spiritual exercise of fasting. Fasting enables man to develop the character to turn away from evil tendencies and to focus on practising good. This ultimately inculcates in our hearts righteousness and gives us the ability to empathise with those less fortunate than ourselves. Success is when the goodness nurtured is acted upon and one actively seeks ways to alleviate the suffering of the needy. It may be by giving food or financial aid; it may be by any means achievable by man.
Fasting is an exercise which draws man closer to Allah and gives him an insight into what it means to feel thirst and hunger. We are urged to realise and act upon our feelings of empathy for those deprived of the basic necessities. The Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAL) is reported to have stated the essence of religion succinctly in two sentences: Al-azmatu li-amrillah wash-shafaqatu li-khalqillah, i.e. to show highest regard for the commandment of Allah and compassion and kindness to His creatures.
Concern for the promotion of the welfare of fellow human beings and acts of kindness has been clearly expressed in ch. 107 of the Holy Quran, entitled al-Ma'un, i.e. Acts of Kindness. I recited the Arabic text at the beginning of this sermon. This chapter brings to the fore the importance which Islam gives to alleviating the burden of the poor. Anyone who pays scant attention to this is spoken of as belying religion. Prayer to God and helping the poor are repeatedly stated in the Holy Quran as two fundamentals of Islam; we are told that even prayer is mere show if it does not generate feelings of love and sympathy. The translation is as follows:
"Hast thou seen him who belies religion? That is the one who is rough to the orphan, and urges not the feeding of the needy. So woe to the praying ones, who are unmindful of their prayers! who do good to be seen, and refrain from acts of kindness."
Let us examine ourselves and note how far we have progressed during this month-long exercise to cleanse our innerselves, to subdue our evil inclinations and to develop the inclinations to spend for the well-being of others. The real celebration of ‘Id al-Fitr lies in instilling the spirit of kindness in our thoughts, in our behaviour and in our dealings with others.
Keeping fast in obedience to the Divine commandment is to seek mercy and grace of Allah for our lives on this earth and to seek His forgiveness and protection against the consequences of our unmindful trespasses. A nation whose individuals observe righteousness, perform their duties conscientiously, and protect and uphold the rights of others, rightly deserves to be called ummat-an wasat-an, i.e. an exalted nation, stated by Allah in the Holy Quran. Otherwise, if we observe fasting but act selfishly, fail to fulfil our obligations, and are negligent in protecting and safeguarding the rights of others, then we have wasted a most opportune time. Allah has strongly condemned such negligence in these words: "So woe to the praying ones, who are unmindful of their prayers, who do good to be seen, and refrain from acts of kindness."
The name ‘Id al-Fitr signifies that it is an occasion when every earning member should pay the fitrah: the charity for breaking fast. The earner also contributes on behalf of his dependants. This is done before the congregational prayer. During the time of the Holy Prophet (SAL) and the four Righteous Caliphs, it was collected and distributed in an organised manner. Fitrah is more extensive in its application than Zakat. Zakat is paid on accumulated wealth that has been in possession for a year and is distributed to needy Muslims only. Fitrah is paid by the earning members of a family and can be given to non-Muslims.
During this blessed month, every Muslim makes an effort to give charity and act with kindness in a myriad of possible ways. It is reported about the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAL) that he used to be more kind and generous during the month of Ramadan than any other month. For this reason, besides voluntary charity and acting with kindness during the month, an obligatory charity at the conclusion of the month has been instituted. In this way the right of the needy has been kept in sight during this festival so that they may also join in the festivities in a befitting manner.
The month of Ramadan is also the anniversary of the revelation of the Holy Quran. It reminds us that the glowing guidance emanating from within its pages is there to regulate our conduct through spiritual exercises in order to attain high moral and ethical standards. As we all know, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAL) undertook vigorous worship, made earnest entreaties and supplications to Allah for years in the lonely cave of Hira before he could attain such an enviable height of moral character: his friends and foes in unison called him al-Amin which means the most trustworthy. This blessed month should motivate us to strive to achieve higher moral standards and deepen our sense of service to humanity. This is how Islam — a message of peace — can bring true peace and happiness in our lives.
The most important aspect of fasting is to inculcate in us an attitude of God-consciousness. In this frame of mind, a Muslim does good deeds and acts for the well-being of his fellow human beings. This does not arise because of the fear of law or merely for display, but purely for the love and pleasure of Allah. This is where fasting holds a special place amongst the various acts of worship. It is during Ramadan that a Muslim maintains a very high sense of obedience in following the dictates of Allah. He will not stray even when there is little possibility of detection by another. Such meticulous observance does merit special reward. That is why we find reported in the Hadith that Allah revealed to the Holy Prophet (SAL): "Fasting is for Me and I will grant reward for it." This shows the importance of fasting in creating God-consciousness in a Muslim and from which arises righteousness and perfection. It is interesting to find similar remarks made by prophet Jesus, and I quote from Matthew ch. 6 verse 18: "That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which is in secret, shall reward thee openly."
Finally, by fasting we not only try to cleanse our innerselves and seek Allah’s blessings and forgiveness, but the exercise also provides us with the strength to continue our journey along the road leading to righteousness and service. This brings to mind a very important principle of life: unless we keep up a constant struggle to keep ourselves on the right path, there is every likelihood of straying. For this reason, incorporated in our five daily prayers are the words: "O Allah, keep us on the right path." This is recited at least 17 times. In another place in the Holy Book a similar, beautiful phrase can be found: innal hasanat yuzhibnas sayyiaat, i.e. Surely good deeds take away evil deeds.
Ladies and gentlemen! As light dispels darkness and knowledge removes ignorance, similarly striving to keep to the path of truth leads to perfection and success. Attitude of God-consciousness and good conduct of individuals collectively produce peace, happiness, love and affection in society.
In summary, fasting is meant to purify our innerselves; a high degree of self-control can be achieved and a deep sense of responsibility and service towards fellow human beings. Here again, I will refer to a very simple commandment to be found in the Holy Quran pertaining to service to humanity. The Holy Quran says: "And those who find it extremely hard may effect redemption by feeding a poor man." It is a very sound principle that a person who finds it difficult to fast is exempted from fasting but Allah has enjoined even him to feed a poor person. This highlights the fact that even if a person cannot fast he is obligated to consider the needs of the poor. So showing sympathy and service to fellow human beings is on a par with the five daily prayers to Allah.
Training and spiritual exercise for self-discipline and service to fellow human beings, very much a focus during the month of Ramadan, continues during the rest of the year. This takes the form of the five daily obligatory prayers and weekly Jumu‘ah congregation. In our daily prayers we chant: Ihdinas siratal mustaqeem, i.e. to keep us on the right path, and at the end of the Friday sermon, we are reminded of our spiritual and social duties and responsibilities in these words:
In-nal laa-ha ya‘-muru bil ‘ad-li wal ih-saan wa ee-taa-i zil-qur-baa wa yan-haa ‘a-nil fah-shaa-i wal mun-ka-ri wal-bagh-yi, ya-‘i-zu-kum la-‘al-la-kum ta-zak-ka-roon. ‘I-baa-dal laah, uz-ku-rul-laa-ha yaz-kur-kum wad-‘oo-hu yas-ta-jib-la-kum wa-la zik-rul-laa-hi ak-bar.
The translation is as follows: "Surely Allah enjoins the doing of justice and the doing of good (to others) and giving to the kindred, and He forbids indecency and evil and rebellion. O servants of Allah, remember Allah, He will raise you; call on Him, He will answer your call. And verily remembrance of Allah is greater than everything."
Therefore Ramadan is not the end. It is a month chosen to concentrate the mind on the issues of self-discipline and service to fellow human beings. It is akin to the practice in the West of setting aside days and weeks for sponsored walks or other events to highlight some social or moral problem.
Thus, nurturing a sense of empathy and concern for fellow human beings leads to the ennoblement of the human character and is a prime object of the religion of Islam. I would like to quote a well-known saying of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAL):
"A Muslim is one from whose hands and tongue other Muslims are safe."
So Islam teaches and urges one to act for the creation of a society where peace, amity, mutual love, tolerance and service to fellow human beings prevail in the minds, conduct and behaviour of its followers. May we all maintain the spirit of Ramadan throughout the rest of the year, so that Allah may bless our lives here and in the hereafter. Amin.
And now my apologies for a little digression. If I may, I would like to say a few words about the Ahmadiyya Movement. It is a movement for the defence and propagation of Islam. Its main thrust has been against the wrong beliefs of the Church centering around the Prophet Jesus. Muslims believe that all the prophets of God believed in and preached the unity of Godhead. The Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement put forward cogent arguments culled from the Holy Quran, the Holy Bible and the Hadith of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAL) that Prophet Jesus preached the Unity of God, did not die an accursed death on the Cross, and after miraculously escaping death on the Cross went in disguise to the East and settled in Kashmir, preaching to the Lost Tribes of Israel. These ideas are now being put forward by scholars in the West. I will mention here some of the well-known books on this subject: Jesus Died in Kashmir by A. Faber-Kaiser, Jesus lived in India and The Original Jesus and the Buddhist Sources of Christianity, both by Holger Kersten. I discussed these and others and also the contribution made by the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement in my lecture delivered here in December 1996. I also referred to a BBC television programme entitled "Who was Jesus" shown in April 1977.
Today I will very briefly mention another very interesting television programme entitled "Jesus before Christ", shown on Channel 4 in 1997. The main thrust of the programme was to show how the original Jesus became Christ of the Church. The presenter was Mr. A.N. Wilson and the following experts contributed:
The presenter and the participants discussed various aspects of Jesus’ life and teachings. I will refer to the two most interesting comments made by the presenter:
"The Christ of Faith who lives in the hearts of believers has little or nothing to do with the Jesus of history. Behind the Christian myth there was a real man, not a God. That is the Jesus that interests me; a figure whose distinctive, ethical and religious teachings startle us, even when we have abandoned any belief in miraculous events such as his ascension into clouds. The real Jesus, the Jesus of history, has been crushed and all but obliterated by the Christians, who, not content with making him into a God, have made him into an occasion of wars, persecutions and inquisitions. But in my experience it is only when you have raked away the theology and stopped bowing down to Jesus as if he were divine, that you begin to see him as the inspiring and vivid figure that he is."
And now a question about the divinity of Jesus put forward by Mr. Don Cupid, Prof. of Philosophy of Religions at the University of Cambridge to Dr. George Caired, Professor Elect of New Testament at the University of Oxford. The question was: "Would it mean God incarnate, God himself, in human form?"
The reply was: "The early Christians did not think of him as God, and they had good reason not to do so because they observed him praying to God. It is as simple as that."
Let us now enjoy what the Holy Quran said 15 hundred years ago in this regard:
"O people of the Book, exceed not the limits in your religion nor speak anything about Allah but the truth. The Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, is only a messenger of Allah and His word, which He communicated to Mary and a mercy from Him. So believe in Allah and His messengers and say not ‘three’." (4:171)
Ladies and gentlemen! In the midst of the ordinances about Fasting there occurs a very significant verse:
wa i-zaa sa-a-la-ka ‘i-baa-dee ‘an-nee fa-in-nee qa-reeb. u-jee-bu da‘-wa-tad daa-‘i i-zaa da-‘aa-ni fal yas-ta-jee-boo-lee wal-yu‘-mi-noo-bee la-‘al-la-hum yar-shu-doon.
It means: "And when My servants ask thee concerning Me, surely I am nigh. I answer the prayer of the suppliant when he calls on Me, so they should hear My call and believe in Me that they may walk in the right way." This verse speaks of the nearness of God to man and of the acceptance of prayers. It shows that fasting is a spiritual exercise and it brings about spiritual awakening in man. Thus fasting and worship are intended to awaken in us a living consciousness of the existence of God.
Ladies and gentlemen, believe me, the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, wanted his followers to have a living faith in Allah, so he exhorted them to acquire such a close friendship with Him that His love and compassion may become their guide and protection. He said:
"How unfortunate is the person who is not aware that he has a God Who has supreme control over everything in this world. Our praise and all the excellent pleasures lie in our subservience to Him. I have seen Him and have found every beauty in Him. It is a treasure worth acquiring even if one has to give one’s life. It is a priceless jewel worth buying, even at the expense of one’s being. O unlucky ones! Make haste towards this spring; it will provide you with sustenance. It is this spring of life which will save you. What should I do and in what manner should I impress this good news upon the hearts of people! Should I blow the trumpet in public to inform them that this is their Lord! What medicine should I apply to cure their deafness so that they are capable of listening? If you become servants of Allah, then rest assured, Allah will always be by your side. You will be sleeping and Allah will take care of you and will destroy the evil plans of your enemies. I do not prevent you from taking recourse to worldly means, but I will certainly advise you not to put all your faith in these means, for it is Allah alone Who is the Creator of these means. If you have eyes, then you can see for yourselves that Allah alone is the Lord and everything besides Him is worthless and insignificant."
Brothers and sisters! The Ahmadiyya Movement is like a telescope through which one can observe ever-glowing beauties of the Holy Quran and the Living thoughts of Holy Prophet Muhammad SAL.
May we all be true followers of the Holy Quran and the Holy Prophet Muhammad. Now I greet you all with a very warm and happy ‘Id Mubarak. May Allah bless you, your children, everyone here and those who could not join us today in this blessed gathering of ‘Id al-Fitr. May Allah keep you all in health and happiness and be with you always. Amin.
The Death of Jesus – 1
by Maulana Hafiz Sher Mohammad
Part 1: Evidence of the Holy Quran
The Holy Quran emphatically proves that Jesus has passed away like other mortal human beings, and is no longer alive anywhere. It clearly states that Jesus possessed only human characteristics, and was in no way divine but a servant of God and his messenger. From birth to death, he was subject to all the physical and biological limitations that God has ordained for human beings.
First evidence: All human beings live and die in this world.
Prophets belong to the human race, and they are, therefore, subject to the eternal Divine law that human beings live and die in this world. The Quran states :
In these verses God has set forth His law that all human beings shall live their lives, with their physical bodies, on earth. Furthermore, it is opposed to the Divine law, according to which prophets have to bear persecution here on earth, that Jesus should be raised up to heaven when he was opposed by the Jews. His supposed physical life in heaven for two thousand years without food or drink is also opposed to the Divine law expressed in the above verses.
Second Evidence: Physical life depends on food and drink.
God has described His law, applicable not only to ordinary people but to all prophets as well, that life depends on food and drink:
Of Jesus and his righteous mother, it is stated : "They both used to eat food" (5:7). So if Jesus no longer eats food — all Muslims hold that he does not eat food in heaven — he cannot, by the Divine law stated above, be alive with his physical body. The body requires food, so Jesus no longer eating food must be dead.
Third Evidence: Human body suffers ravages of time.
There is not a single human body in the world which is impervious to change. The living body is necessarily changing all the time. The Quran states:
As regards the meaning of the word khulñ d (translated above as abiding for ever), the famous Quranic dictionary of Imam Raghib explains:
"Khulñ d is that a thing be immune from decay, and that it endures in an unchanging condition. The Arabs call such a thing khulñ d... i.e., to persist in one condition, not being subject to change" (pp. 153, 154).
According to Arabic lexicology, therefore, khulñ d signifies persistence in one and the same state, with no change or decay taking place. In the verses above, a Divine law has been explained under which every person is affected by the passage of time. He is first a child, then an adult, then old and finally he dies. This is corroborated by many other verses, for example:
A general law of God has been stated here, to which no human being is an exception. From being a child, a person develops physically to attain his fullest development. After that he begins to decline, and ultimately reaches his ‘second childhood’ when he loses all his former attainments.
If, for the sake of argument, Jesus were to return to this world, he would be about 2000 years of age, and hence, according to the above Divine law, too old to be capable of doing anything at all. In fact, it is certain that, under this law, Jesus died a very long time ago.
Lahore Ahmadiyya branch formed in Poland
All praise is due to Allah that we have formed a Lahore Ahmadiyya Jama‘at in Poland on February 7th 1998.
Seven years ago when we started the translation of the Holy Quran and The Religion of Islam into Polish, we had no idea as to how we would be able to spread our literature among the Polish people. Now that the translation of The Religion of Islam is complete and the Holy Quran translation is nearing completion, Almighty Allah has brought about the formation of a Lahore Ahmadiyya Jama‘at in Poland for this purpose. We believe that this is due to the prayers of the late Head of our Movement, Hazrat Ameer Dr. Saeed Ahmad Khan, who encouraged us to undertake this translation project.
In March 1997 the U.S.A. Jama‘at received a letter from Salman Ahmad (Edward Spyra) in Poland who wanted literature on the differences of beliefs between the Qadiani Movement and the Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement and the reasons for the split in the Ahmadiyya Movement in 1914.
Sister Samina replied to their letter and sent them some literature. In April 1997 Salman Ahmad replied that they wanted our literature to be available in the Polish Language. Sister Samina sent them our bigger books including the English Translation of the Holy Quran and The Religion of Islam. They wrote back saying that in their opinion the Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha‘at Islam Lahore was the only Movement in Islam with the right beliefs, and they wanted to join the Movement and open a branch in Poland.
In December 1997, when Sister Samina was in Pakistan, Salman Ahmad phoned the office in Columbus, Ohio, saying that they wanted to form a Jama‘at and that we should visit them for this purpose.
On returning to Columbus, Sister Samina had several conversations with Salman Ahmad on this subject. He told her that there were six members who wanted to join the Jama‘at. Dr. Noman Malik also talked to Salman Ahmad. Samina and Noman then decided to go to Poland and asked Dr. Zahid Aziz to accompany them. Sister Samina faxed the Pledge (bai‘at) form to Poland, which the new members signed.
Sister Samina and brother Noman flew to London on 6th February where they were joined by Zahid Aziz. From London we flew to Poland via Berlin, reaching Warsaw on the morning of February 7th 1998.
Salman Ahmad met us at the airport and accompanied us to the hotel where in the afternoon we were joined by another member, Mahmood Zahia. We discussed the formation of the Lahore Ahmadiyya Jama‘at in Poland till late in the evening.
Salman Ahmad and the other members are young people ranging in age from 25 to 31 years. Only Salman is married, and his wife Aisha is as committed to the Jama‘at as he is. They have a three year old son. The Polish Jama‘at members became Muslims 5 to 10 years ago and till recently had been members of the Qadiani Movement.
However, they were not comfortable with the Qadiani belief that Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was a prophet after the Holy Prophet Muhammad and that blind obedience should be rendered to the Khalifa. After reading our books, they wrote to the Qadiani head, Mirza Tahir Ahmad, and resigned from the Qadiani Movement. The Qadiani leadership exerted considerable pressure on them to rejoin the Movement but they stood firm. Now they are boycotted by the Qadiani Movement.
The next day Salman Ahmad and Mahmood, joined by Bashiruddin and Aisha, came to the hotel and stayed with us till late at night. They presented their signed Bai‘at forms to sister Samina which were countersigned by Zahid Aziz who has been authorized by the Central Anjuman to accept the Pledge (Bai‘at) of new members. Sister Samina then phoned the Head of the Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement, Hazrat Ameer Dr. Asghar Hameed, in Lahore and gave him the good news of the formation of the Jama‘at in Poland. Then Hazrat Ameer personally spoke with Salman Ahmad.
We discussed the procedure for establishing a new Jama‘at in detail with them. Salman Ahmad had come prepared with a list of documents and affidavits to be drafted by the U.S.A. Jama‘at for registering the branch in Poland. Sister Samina assured them that she would send these documents as soon as they returned to the U.S.A. Dr. Noman Malik explained to them the democratic and brotherly set up of the Lahore Ahmadiyya Jama‘at and stressed the importance of the spiritual bonds which held our branches together, in contrast with the dictatorial and autocratic Qadiani system.
Dr. Zahid Aziz gave a long talk about the Ahmadiyya Movement, its formation, objectives, beliefs, the reasons for the split, and the achievements of the Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement. Salman Ahmad translated the talk into Polish for those who did not understand English well. Parts of this meeting have been recorded on video tape.
Sister Samina and Dr. Noman Malik had brought a case filled with books for free distribution, and the members were overjoyed to see these books. We informed them that the Polish translation of The Religion of Islam had already been completed. This translation had been undertaken by the U.S.A. Jama‘at at the request of the late General Abdullah Saeed. The translation of the Holy Quran into Polish is almost complete, and is being personally funded by Sister Samina.
We all met twice with the Polish translator, Mr. Wojciechowski. Discussions were held about which other books to translate. Salman Ahmad and the other Polish brothers were anxious to have the smaller booklets and pamphlets translated so that they could begin propagation among the Polish people.
They firmly believed that many young Poles, especially in the universities, would accept Islam if presented with the enlightened and spiritually attractive teachings of Islam as expounded by the Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement.
After discussions among ourselves, the officers of the Polish Jama‘at were elected as listed below:
1. Salman Ahmad (Edward Spyra), President. Occupation: Journalist.
2. Mahmud Zahia (Artur Gregore), Secretary. Occupation: Assistant Secretary to the Prime Minister of Poland.
3. Bashiruddin (Darek Vfnalefski), Treasurer. Occupation: Colonel in Polish army.
4. Mehmet Ali (Tomasz Grzyb), Vice President. Occupation: Sales Manager, Fishing Company.
5. Aisha Zohra (Katarzyna Arczewska), Assistant Secretary. Occupation: Medical Student.
6. Abdullah (Stawek Tomaszewski), Assistant Treasurer. Occupation: Sales Dept. Honda Dealer.
A videotape of our meeting with our Polish members will be sent to all Jama‘ats. Members are requested to pray for our brothers and sisters in Poland that Almighty Allah may bless their efforts to establish a strong Jama‘at in Poland.
There is a great need for translating our literature into Polish. Also for officially registering the Jama‘at in Poland we need to have a functioning center. Funds are required to rent or buy a place. Without an official address, we cannot register the Jama‘at. Members are requested to donate generously for translation and printing of our literature into Polish.