The Need for Religion


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On this page we aim to describe the purpose of life, what it means to have faith and the necessity of divine revelation. 


Mirza Ghulam Ahmad 

PEACE BE UPON HIM

Mirza_Ghulam_Ahmad_(c._1897)

(1835-1908)

 

What is the purpose of life?

“Different people, being short-sighted and lacking high resolve, appoint different purposes for their lives and limit themselves to worldly goals and ambitions. But the purpose that God Almighty has appointed for man in His Holy Word is as follows: “I have created men and jinn so that they may know Me and worship Me.” Thus the true purpose of man’s life is the worship of God, His understanding and complete devotion to Him. It is obvious that man is not in a position to appoint the purpose of his own life, for he does not come into the world of his own accord, nor will he depart therefrom of his own will. He is a creature and the One Who created him and invested him with better and higher faculties than those of all other animals, has also appointed a purpose for his life. Whether anyone penetrates to it or not, the purpose of man’s creation without a doubt is the worship and the understanding of God and complete devotion to Him.

At another place God Almighty has said in the Holy Qur’an:

“Surely, the true religion with Allah is Islam (complete submission).”

(Holy Qur’an, 3:20)

“Follow the nature made by Allah— the nature in which He has created mankind… That is the right religion.”

(Holy Qur’an 30:31)

That is, the religion which provides true understanding of God and prescribes His true worship is Islam. Islam is inherent in man’s nature and man has been created in accord with Islam. That is the everlasting faith.

This means that God has desired that man should devote himself to His worship and obedience and love with all his faculties. That is why He has bestowed on man all the faculties that are appropriate for Islam…

Here we wish to state briefly that the true purpose of the internal and external limbs and faculties that have been bestowed on man is the understanding of God and His worship and His love. That is why, despite occupying himself with diverse projects in this life, man does not find his true welfare except in God. Having had great wealth, having held high office, having become a great merchant, having ruled a great kingdom, having been known as a great philosopher, in the end he departs from all these involvements with great regret. His heart constantly rebukes him on his total preoccupation with worldly affairs and his conscience never approves his cunning and deceit and illicit activities. An intelligent person can appreciate this problem in this way also, that the purpose of everything is to be determined by its highest performance beyond which its faculties cannot operate. For instance, the highest function of a bullock is ploughing or irrigation or transportation. Its faculties are not adapted to anything else. Therefore, the purpose of a bullock’s life are just these three things. It has no power to do anything else. But when we look into the faculties of man and try to discover what their highest reach is, we find that he seeks after God, the Exalted. He desires to become so devoted to God that he should keep nothing as his own and all that is his should become God’s. He shares with the other animals his natural urge towards eating, sleeping etc. In industry some animals are far ahead of him. Indeed the bees extracting the essence of different types of flowers produce such excellent honey that man has not yet been able to match them. It is obvious, therefore, that the highest reach of man’s faculties is to meet God, the Exalted. Thus the true purpose of his life is that the window of his heart should open towards God.” – Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam, p. 164-167


Why don’t we see a worldly benefit for those who believe in God? 


What is religion?

“All matters that are essential for the perfection of man are comprehended within the scope of religion. Religion comprises all those matters which lead man from his wild condition to the condition of true humanity and then lead him from the condition of humanity to a life of wisdom and thereafter lead him from a life of wisdom to a life that is devoted to God.”Essence of Islam Vol. 1, Page 12 to 13

 

What is the purpose of religion?

“The real purpose of religion is to recognise God Who has created the universe and to arrive in His love at a stage where the love of everything else is burnt up and to have sympathy with His creatures and to put on the garment of true purity…the prevalence of sin in today’s world is due to lack of understanding”Essence of Islam, Vol. 2, page 251

 

Which religion should we choose?

“…no one swallows poison consciously. No one deliberately stands in front of a wild tiger. No one deliberately thrusts his hand into the hole of a serpent. Then why does a person commit sin deliberately? The reason is that he has not that certainty in this matter as he has in other matters of the kind that we have mentioned. The first duty of a person, therefore, is to acquire certainty with regard to the existence of God, and to adopt a religion through which this certainty can be acquired so that he should fear God and shun sin.” Essence of Islam Vol. 1page 3

 

How does Islam seek to reform mankind?

“…it seeks to reform the natural conditions of man and to raise him step by step to higher spiritual levels. In the first place God desires to teach man the elementary rules of behaviour and culture and thus to change him from the wild condition of animals, and then to bestow upon him elementary moral conditions which can be described as culture or civilization… man should be able to move from a lower moral level to a higher moral level”Essence of Islam Vol. 1, page 12

 

What is the Islamic understanding of ‘faith’ (imaan)?

“Faith means acceptance at a stage when knowledge is not yet complete, and the struggle with doubts and suspicions is still in progress. He who believes, that is to say, has faith, on the basis of probability and likelihood and despite weakness and the lack of perfect means of certainty, is accounted righteous in the estimation of the Supreme One. Thereafter, perfect understanding is bestowed on him as a bounty, and he is given to drink of the cup of understanding after partaking of faith. When a pious one, on hearing the call of a Messenger, a Prophet or a commissioned one of God, does not just go about criticizing, but takes that portion which he can recognize and understand on the basis of clear proof the means of acceptance and faith, and considers that which he is unable to understand as metaphorical or allegorical, and thus removing all contradiction out of the way, believes simply and sincerely, then God Almighty, having pity on him and being pleased with his faith, and hearing his supplications, opens the gates of perfect understanding for him and leads him to perfect certainty through visions, revelation and other heavenly signs. “Essence of Islam Vol. 3, Page 48

 

What are the signs of true faith?

“The true and perfect grace that conveys a person to the spiritual world depends upon absolute steadfastness, by which is meant the degree of sincerity and faithfulness that cannot be shaken by any trial. It means a relationship with the Divine, which should be so strong that it cannot be cut by a sword or consumed by fire or damaged by any other calamity. The death of dear ones or separation from them should not interfere with it, nor should fear of dishonour affect it, nor should a painful death move the heart away from it in the least degree.”Essence of Islam Vol. 3, Page 73 to 74


Why doesn’t God put us straight into heaven?


What is the relationship between faith and reason?

“The Word of God directs us: Have faith and you will be delivered. It does not tell us: Demand philosophical reasons and conclusive proofs in support of the doctrines that the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) has presented to you, and do not accept them until they are established like mathematical formulae. It is obvious that if the teaching of a Prophet is to be accepted only after being tested by the canons of current knowledge, that would not be faith in the Prophet; inasmuch as every verity when it is established clearly, becomes binding, whether it is set forth by a Prophet or by anyone else. Even if expounded by a vicious person it has to be accepted. That which we would accept by putting our trust in a Prophet, and by affirming his righteousness, must be of a nature which possesses a probability of truth in the estimation of reason and yet leaves room for a foolish person to incline towards its rejection as false; so that by taking the side of truth and affirming the righteousness of a Prophet we may be rewarded for our well-thinking, penetrating intelligence, respectfulness and faith. This is the purport of the teaching of the Holy Qur’an that we have set forth.

But thinkers and philosophers have never followed this way and have always been heedless of faith. They have always been in search of the kind of knowledge which is demonstrated to them as being immediate, incontrovertible and certain. 

It should be remembered that God Almighty, by demanding faith in the unseen, does not wish to deprive the believers of certainty of understanding the Divine. Indeed, faith is a ladder for arriving at this certainty of understanding, without which it is in vain to seek true understanding. Those who climb this ladder surely experience for themselves the pure and undefiled spiritual verities. When a sincere believer accepts Divine commands and directions for the only reason that God Almighty has bestowed them upon him through a righteous bearer, he becomes deserving of the bounty of understanding. That is why God Almighty has established a law for His servants that they should first acknowledge Him by believing in the unseen, so that all the problems they face may be resolved through the bounty of true understanding. But it is a pity that a hasty one does not adopt these ways. The Holy Qur’an contains the promise of God Almighty that if a person, who accepts the call of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) on the basis of faith, seeks to comprehend its reality and strives after such comprehension, the reality will be disclosed to him by means of visions and revelations and his faith will be elevated to the stage of the understanding.” – Essence of Islam, Vol.2, page 48- 50

 

Salvation depends on faith

I affirm repeatedly and emphatically that if religious doctrines had been self-evident like philosophical propositions and mathematical equations, they would certainly not have been considered the basis for achieving salvation.

Dear brethren, rest assured that salvation depends upon faith, and faith is related to the unseen. If the underlying reality of things had not been concealed, there would have been no faith, and without faith there would be no salvation. It is faith alone which is the means of winning Divine pleasure. It is a ladder for achieving nearness to God, and a spring for washing away the rust of sin. We are dependent upon God Almighty, and it is faith that discloses this dependence. We are dependent on God Almighty for our salvation and our deliverance from every ill. Such deliverance can be achieved only through faith. The remedy for the torments of this life and the hereafter is faith. When, through the power of faith, we find that a difficulty is not impossible of resolution, it is resolved for us. It is through the power of faith that we are able to achieve that which appears to be impossible and contrary to reason. It is through the power of faith that miracles and extraordinary events are witnessed, and what is considered impossible happens. 

It is through faith that we are convinced of the existence of God. He remained hidden from philosophers, and thinkers could not discover Him; but faith leads to God even a humble one who is clothed in rags, and enables him to converse with Him. The power of faith is the means of contact between a believer and the True Beloved. This power leads a poor humble one who is rejected of mankind to the palace of holiness, which is the throne of Allah and, gradually removing all intervening obstructions, reveals the countenance of the Eternal Beloved. 

Arise then, and seek faith and burn the dry and useless tomes of philosophy; only through faith shall you achieve blessings. One particle of faith is better than a thousand volumes of philosophy.

Faith is not only the means of achieving salvation in the hereafter, but also provides deliverance from the torments and curses of this life. We find deliverance from soul-melting sorrows through the blessings of faith. It is faith through which a perfect believer finds comfort and joy in the midst of anxiety, agony, torment and sorrow, and when he is confronted with failure in all directions and all the familiar doors appear locked and barred. Perfect faith removes all feeling of distance and separation. There is no wealth that can be compared to faith. In this world everyone, with the exception of the believer, is overwhelmed with grief. In this world everyone is afflicted with the agony of loss and unfulfilled desires, except a believer.

Faith! how sweet are your fruits and how fragrant are your flowers; praise be to Allah, how wonderful are your blessings and what beautiful lights shine in you. No one can reach the Pleiades unless he is inspired by you. It has pleased God Almighty that now you should arrive and philosophy should depart. Nothing can stop His grace.”

Essence of Islam Vol. 2, pages 50-52.


Why did God create us if he doesn’t need us? 


 What are the different stages of certainty of faith?

“There are three spiritual grades, of which the first is called certainty by inference, the second is called certainty by sight, and the third blessed and perfect condition is called certainty by experience. Human comprehension cannot become perfect nor can it be washed clean of all impurities until it arrives at the stage of certainty by experience, since this stage does not depend only on observation, but envelops the human heart as an immediate experience; and the seeker, plunging into the flaming fire of Divine love, totally negates his ego. At this stage human comprehension moves from theory to experience and the lower life is utterly consumed. Such a man is seated in the lap of God Almighty… a seeker who has arrived at this stage is invested reflectively with Divine attributes. He surrenders himself so completely to the pleasure of God that he speaks under the direction of God, sees under the direction of God, hears under the direction of God, and moves under the direction of God, as if there is only God inside his mantle. His humanity is completely subordinated to Divine manifestations.”  – Essence of Islam Vol. 3, Page 77 to 78

 

Can man reach God by his own efforts alone?

“Those who truly seek God know well that comprehension of God can be achieved only through God Himself, and God alone can bestow full recognition of Himself. This is not a matter of man’s own choice. By no contrivance can man discard sin and achieve nearness to God unless he is granted full comprehension. No atonement can be of help, nor is there any way of being purified from sin, except through that perfect comprehension which generates perfect love and perfect fear. These two alone provide a barrier against sin. When the fire of the love and fear of Allah is set ablaze, it reduces all causes of sin to ashes. This holy fire and the foul fires of sin can never coexist. Man cannot desist from evil, nor can he advance in love, until he is blessed with full comprehension, and that does not happen until God Almighty sends down living blessings and miracles.” Essence of Islam Vol. 3, Page 54

 

Why is it important to have true certainty of faith?

“Remember, it is never possible to get rid of sin without the certainty of faith. Without certainty, it is not possible to live the life of angels; without it, it is not possible to discard debauchery; without it, it is not possible to undergo a holy change and to be drawn towards God in an extraordinary manner; without it, it is not possible to leave the earth and climb to heaven; without it, it is not possible to have perfect fear of God; without it, it is not possible to tread along the delicate paths of righteousness and to purify one’s conduct of all traces of ostentations. Similarly, it is not possible without this certainty to reject worldly riches and honour, and be heedless of the favour of kings and to believe in God alone as one’s treasure.” – Essence of Islam Vol. 3, page 55


Why should we follow religion if we can be peaceful without it? 


Three types of people who receive Divine Communications

First there are those who possess no merit in themselves and have no relationship with God Almighty. On account of their intellectual appropriateness they experience true dreams and visions that are not characterized by any sign indicating their acceptability to God and their being loved by Him, nor are they of any benefit for them. Thousands of wicked and vicious people share such experiences with them. It is often observed that despite such dreams and visions their conduct is not praiseworthy and their faith is very weak, so much so that they do not have the courage to bear true witness and they do not fear God as much as they fear the world and they cannot separate themselves from the wicked…

Their dreams are of a category which might be described as resembling the experience of a person who perceives smoke from a distance but sees neither the light of the fire nor feels its warmth. Such people have nothing to do with God and spiritual matters; they have been given only smoke which yields no light.

The second category of people who see true dreams or receive revelations are those who have some relationship with God but that relationship is not perfect. Their dreams and revelations resemble the experience of a person who perceives the light of fire from a long distance in a dark and cold night, which enables him to avoid potholes, thorns, rocks, serpents and wild beasts, but which cannot save him from dying of cold. If such a person does not arrive within the warm circle of the fire, he is also destroyed in the same manner as the one who walks in the dark.

The third category of people who experience true dreams and revelations can be compared to a man, who, on a dark and cold night, is not only guided by the bright light of a fire, but actually enters its warm circle, and is fully safeguarded against the effects of the cold. Only those people arrive at this stage who burn up the garment of low passions in the fire of love for the Divine and adopt a life of bitterness for the sake of God. They perceive death ahead of them and run forward to meet it. They accept every torment in the cause of God. For the sake of God, they become enemies of their ego and exhibit such a degree of strength of faith against it that even angels marvel at it. They are spiritual champions and all satanic assaults prove utterly ineffective against their spiritual strength. They are truly faithful and devoted. Scenes of worldly pleasures cannot mislead them nor can they be turned away from their True Beloved by their love of wife and children. In short, no bitterness can frighten them nor can any physical pleasure bar their approach towards God. No relationship can disrupt their relationship with God.”Essence of Islam Vol. 3, Page 75 to 77

 

How can we achieve the highest spiritual grade?

“The truth is that until we submit ourselves to death we cannot behold the Living God. The day our physical life undergoes death is the day of the manifestation of God. We are blind until we become blind to the sight of all besides God. We are dead until we become like a corpse in the hand of God. It is only when we face God completely that we acquire the steadfastness that overcomes all passions of the self; and such steadfastness brings about the death of the life which is devoted to selfish purposes.” – Essence of Islam Vol. 3, Page 75


Mirza Bashir-ud-din Mahmood Ahmad

MAY ALLAH BE PLEASED WITH HIM

Khalifatul_Masih_II

(1889-1965)

 

 Why do I believe in Islam?

First of all, I believe in Islam for the reason that it does not compel me to accept all those matters the sum total of which is called Religion merely on authority, but furnishes convincing arguments in support of its doctrines. The existence of God and the nature of His attributes, angels, prayer and its effects, Divine decrees and their sphere, worship and its need, Divine Law and its benefits, revelation and its importance, resurrection and the life after death, heaven and hell — with regard to every one of these, Islam has given detailed explanations and has established their truth with strong arguments to the satisfaction of the human mind.

Islam, therefore, furnishes me not only with faith, but also with the certainty of knowledge which satisfies my intellect and compels it to admit the need of religion.

Secondly, I believe in Islam as it does not base itself upon the experience of people who have passed away, but invites everybody to a personal experience of that which it teaches and guarantees. It claims that every truth can, in some manner or the other, be put to the test in this world, and it thus satisfies my reason.

Thirdly, I believe in Islam as it teaches that there can be no conflict between the word of God and the work of God, and thus resolves the supposed conflict between science and religion. It does not ask me to ignore the laws of nature and to believe in things which are contrary to them. On the contrary, it exhorts me to study the laws of nature and derive benefit from them. It teaches me that, as revelation comes from God and He also is the Creator of the universe, there can be no conflict between that which He does and that which He says. It invites me, therefore, in order to understand His revelation, to study His work, and in order to realize the significance of His work, to study His word, and thus satisfies my intellectual yearning.

Fourthly, I believe in Islam as it does not seek to crush my natural desires but guides them along right channels. It does not, by altogether crushing my desires, reduce me to a stone; nor does it, by leaving them uncontrolled and unrestrained, reduce me to an animal, but, like an expert irrigation engineer who harnesses uncontrolled waters and makes them run into irrigation channels, thereby bringing prosperity to waste areas, it converts my natural desires by proper control and guidance into high moral qualities.”

It does not say to me: God has given you a loving heart but forbids you to select a life companion, or that He has endowed you with the sense of taste and the capacity to appreciate good food, but has forbidden you to eat such food. On the contrary, it teaches me to love in a pure and proper way which would ensure through my progeny the perpetuation of all my good resolves. It permits me to use good food, but within proper limits, lest I should eat my fill and my neighbor should go hungry. By thus converting my natural desires into high moral qualities, it satisfies my humanity.

Fifthly, I believe in Islam for the reason that it has dealt fairly and lovingly not only with me but with the whole world. It teaches me not to discharge my duties towards myself but insists upon my dealing fairly with every other person and thing, and has furnished me with proper guidance for this purpose.”

-Read the full article here.


Why did God create the devil? 


Further Resources

Ask Islam

  1. What is the essential element of Islam? – see answer here.
  2. What is the most compelling aspect of Islam? – see answer here.
  3. If non-Muslims can go to heaven, then why accept Islam/Ahmadiyyat? – see answer here.
  4. Is Hell eternal? – see answer here.

Review of Religions

  1. What is the meaning of ‘Union with God’? – see answer here
  2. What are the fundamental principles of faith? – see answer here
  3. How does Islam help people acquire faith? – see answer here
  4. What is the need for self-purification? – see answer here

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