Criticism

Though Sohail Ahmed has not penned formal responses to any of the Outreasoned articles, the occasional anonymous protégé has at times answered for him, usually on that beacon of sophistication — Reddit. One such individual, who goes by the Twitter name Wamaadraka, (ironically a Quranic phrase that means, “What can make thee understand?”), has criticised our general argument found in the article “Faith: An Impossible Game?”. Since many important points can be derived from analysing this criticism, it is worth a detailed response.

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The Reddit post of the anonymous critic

In our article, we argue that Ahmadiyya Islam is the only religious platform that offers the promise of certainty, not simply the offer of faith, in ascertaining the existence of God. This claim is the backbone of the argument that faith is not therefore an “impossible game” in Ahmadiyya Islam that forces people to waste their life chasing after the promise of divine reward, without knowing for certain whether their path is true or not. On the contrary, Ahmadiyya Islam claims that those who follow its path sincerely will progress from faith and belief, to certainty, through witnessing the signs of God, especially through the possibility of personal spiritual experience. In criticism of this, the writer formulates the following argument:

  1. To obtain certainty of faith according to Ahmadiyya theology, one must obtain personal spiritual experiences
  2. One must, according to the writings of the Promised Messiahas himself, be a “perfect individual” to rely on one’s spiritual experiences as sources for certainty of faith, at all. Unless one is such a perfect individual, one becomes susceptible to Satanic insinuations and false revelations. These may:
    1. Convince a person that he is “perfect” when he is not
    2. Thus deceive a person into false beliefs. 
  3. As such, “it is the stuff of impractical legends”. Thus, the claim that Ahmadiyya Islam does not lay out an “Impossible Game” is false; it is only theoretically possible, but not practically so. 
  4. Further, the Promised Messiahas writes that, on account of the various talents and qualities God has bestowed upon different individuals, not all are born with the capabilities for full or even significant spiritual experience. As such, like people who are congenitally blind, such individuals are unlikely to experience significant spiritual experience. How can one know whether one is such an individual or not, if one does not experience spiritual experiences. It may be that the individual is such a person, in which case, one is left chasing a spiritual experience that is not possible. This again recreates the situation of the “Impossible Game”, simply by it being a possibility
  5. Given the above factors, one cannot rely upon the promise of the Ahmadiyya Muslim teaching to be a means of attaining perfect certainty, since spiritual experience cannot be guaranteed to each and every person. The Promised Messiah (as) himself wrote that belief in a God who cannot make His powers felt is not worth believing in, therefore, the position of an atheist is supported by the Promised Messiah’sas own reasoning. 

Is the critic right?


Refutation

Three Means of Certainty

The first of two fundamental errors the critic makes is in the very first premise of his argument, specifically: 

To obtain certainty of faith according to Ahmadiyya theology, one must obtain personal spiritual experiences.”

In fact, at no point in any of the Outreasoned articles did I write that certainty of God’s existence and of the truth of Ahmadiyya Islam can only be experienced by one’s own spiritual experience. On the contrary, I explicitly stated the opposite. Thus I wrote, as is quoted by the critic himself, in his own article

To rely solely on one’s subjective feelings is indeed a dangerous path. That is why God offers objective evidences through his prophets. If you are unwilling to accept those evidences, nor accept the testimony of many thousands of Ahmadis who have witnessed similar objective evidences in their own families, then that is your decision based on your belief that all such people are either stupid or self-deluded. But don’t blame the faith for a lack of objective evidences, of which there are thousands, nay, tens of thousands.

Does Religious Practice Cause Cognitive Bias?

He further quoted me again, directly, making the same point, in another article, where I wrote: 

Secondly, most Ahmadis adhere to their beliefs based on the personal experiences they have of answered prayer, revelation either to themselves, or witnessed through members of their family, not on the basis of abstruse theological interpretations. If a person perceives a tree before them it is through touching it and tasting its fruits, not through pondering on its root structure.

Do Ahmadis Not Know their Own Theology?

In both articles I emphasised that certainty of faith can be obtained not only through one’s own personal spiritual experiences, but by witnessing the objective evidences present in the lives of those with whom one is in close association.

Indeed, in the first quoted passage of the Promised Messiah’sas celebrated English compilation, The Essence of Islam, he makes this point explicitly in response to the rhetorical question: “How can such certainty be acquired?” He then gives three options. Thus, the Promised Messiahas writes: 

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. How can such certainty be acquired? It cannot be acquired through mere stories. It cannot be acquired through mere arguments. The only way of acquiring certainty is to experience God repeatedly through converse with Him or through witnessing His extraordinary signs, or by keeping company with someone who has that experience

Essence of Islam Vol 1, p. 3

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Essence of Islam, Vol 1, addresses the allegation of the critic on its very first and second page.

Aside from this passage dealing a blow to the view that certainty can be acquired by “mere arguments”, it demonstrates the absurdity of the following statement of the critic:

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After misrepresenting me as saying that certainty of faith can only be obtained through personally received, directly from God spiritual experiences, the critic has the gall to claim that it is “so difficult to obtain official positions after more than a century of the Jamaat’s existence” on the question of how to obtain certainty of faith. Somehow the first page of the first volume of Essence of Islam was not obvious enough for him.

This passage demonstrates that according to the Promised Messiahas there are three routes to acquire certainty of faith:

  1. Experience God’s communication repeatedly;
  2. Witness God’s extraordinary signs;
  3. By keeping company with someone who has that experience (of converse with God). 

In light of this passage, the two objections that form that backbone of the critic’s argument, are shown to be mere paper-tigers: 

  1. OBJECTION 1: What if one is of a lower spiritual station and may be subject to Satanic insinuations and deception into wrong beliefs?
  2. OBJECTION 2: What if one suffers from a spiritual handicap, as those who are congenitally blind and cannot see the sun, such that one is unable to receive personal spiritual experiences to such a level that one cannot attain certainty through this route? 

Both these criticisms are done away with when one considers that two of the three methods given to obtain certainty do not involve the individual receiving revelation at all: witnessing the fulfilment of extraordinary signs, and keeping company with the righteous servants of God, on whom God’s converse descends. If these two are also a means of attaining certainty, then even if one is subject to satanic insinuations, and even if one is spiritually handicapped, one can still attain certainty through these other methods.

The critic has therefore strawmanned my argument that I gave from the Promised Messiah’sas writing, by omitting two of the three provisions given for the attainment of certainty by the Promised Messiahas. Only on the shaky foundation of a strawmanned argument does their house of cards stand. 



The Need for “Organised” Religion

This criticism, and the answer to this criticism in fact, proves the need for organised religion. Let’s see how.

Extraordinary Signs

The second method, referred to as “witnessing His extraordinary signs”, pertains to such events that are grand in nature and which are fulfilled for the sake of one of God’s righteous servants. This method enables people who are at a far distance from the commissioned or appointed one of God to obtain certainty in the individual or religious faith in question. 

Take for example the prophecy of the Promised Messiahas that the plague would ravage the Punjab but that his followers would by and large be spared from it. This prophecy was extensively published both throughout India and also throughout lands afar. When it occurred, it enabled people who had never met him, and never even seen his face, to send letters of bai’at accepting his religious claims, for they attained certainty of his truth and of the existence of God.  

Similarly, the prophecy of World War I, promulgated by the Promised Messiahas, shows similar characteristics. This sign, including the prophecy of the death of the Czar of Russia, was extensively published through the Review of Religions in 1914, as the war was breaking out, with the 2nd Khalifarawriting repeatedly that this would be the grand event in which the Czar of Russia would be deposed. This magazine was published in a number of countries, and many people accepted the claims of Ahmadiyya Islam through them, attaining certainty of God’s existence. 

Untitled The Review August 2015 12 web copy page 54 of 83 1

New Zealand Herald, 21st April 1906, reports the prophecy of the global calamity

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August 1914 Review of Religions warns that the Global War is a fulfilment of the “Grand Prophecy” of 1906. Link here.

Indeed, the fulfilment of the prophecies of the Promised Messiahas as laid out in the book Invitation to Ahmadiyyat are such powerful grand signs, that people continue to attain certainty in God’s existence and the truth of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas, to this day. Take, for example, Mahershala Ali, who cites this book, and specifically the section on the Twelve Prophecies of the Promised Messiahas, as a key player in his acceptance of Ahmadiyya Islam: 

A year and a half later, on June 23, 2001, I joined the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community at the 53rd Annual Convention in Silver Spring, Maryland. It was through reading lnvitation to Ahmadiyyat by the Second Khalifa, specifically the portion on prophecies, along with very simple, logical answers by Brother Ali Murtaza, to what I had believed were difficult questions, that convinced me of the truth of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad and the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.

By the Dawn’s Early Light; Mahershalalhashbaz Ali; p.83

Other, more recent examples of grand signs through which a person can attain certainty, include the Mubahala of the 4th Khalifara with the military dictator of Pakistan. On the 3rd June 1988, Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmadra opened the challenge of Mubahala, a prayer duel, against the then dictator of Pakistan, Zia ul Haq. On August 12th 1988, after receiving divine communication of Zia’s impending destruction, he stated that there was now no way back for Zia ul Haq to be saved and that he would most certainly be destroyed. On August 17th 1988, five days after that announcement, Zia ul Haq was killed suddenly and unexpectedly in a plane crash, the circumstances of which are still not clear. This is all clearly detailed, with the original sermons dated, in this part of a documentary on his life.

A Man of God Documentary (Muslim Television Ahmadiyya); taken from Tahir Archive YouTube Channel, documenting the Mubahala (prayer duel) and catastrophic outcome for General Zia ul Haq

Even more recently, we have examples from the current 5th Khalifaaba also. As narrated by the 5th Khalifaaba himself, regarding his tour of Fiji, we have an extraordinary instance of divine grace manifested when, through the prayers of the Khalifa and the believers with him, a tsunami was turned away from the island. Thus, Al-Hakam reports: 

Huzooraba explained that it was the mercy of God that He has not sent down the full weight of natural calamities on the people who are causing disorder in the earth. People commonly ask why such people are not captured by God and reprimanded, however God Almighty states at different places that He gives such people respite. 

Even the biggest superpowers on the earth cannot stop natural disasters. If they come to God Almighty, only then can they seek protection from these calamities and it is only God Who can halt them. Huzooraba recalled an incident that occurred a few years ago, saying:

“While on a tour in Fiji, one day early in the morning before Fajr, I received phone calls from Nazir-e-Ala in Pakistan and the news had it on BBC that a severe Tsunami was headed for Fiji that would cause devastation. There was great panic. Various loved ones began calling too. The time for prayer came and we left our residence for the mosque. Before prayer, I announced to all worshippers that in our prostrations we would pray for Allah to divert this Tsunami elsewhere. I would pray and I told them that they should follow me in this. We prayed and Allah bestowed calm there and then. When we returned, we realised that the Tsunami had diverted. This is God’s power. Superpowers cannot halt these calamities, however He listens to the prayers of His servants, His believers, His worshippers.”

Al Hakam; The Living God in the age of materialism and atheism – Hazrat Khalifatul Masih delivers concluding dars of Ramadan 2019

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A BBC Report of the strong earthquake that rocked Tonga, threatening Fiji with a tsunami, quelled through the grace of Allah, through the prayer of the 5th Khalifa of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.

These are grand living signs that constitute the second means of attaining certainty of faith, however, they require an unbiased, pure heart. Those who are swayed by personal biases, instead of recognising the truth, find excuses to disbelieve in the significance or truth of such events. 

These are grand living signs that constitute the second means of attaining certainty of faith, however, they require an unbiased, pure heart. Those who are swayed by personal biases, instead of recognising the truth, find excuses to disbelieve in the significance or truth of such events. 



The Company of the Righteous

The third method relates to keeping company with the righteous. The Promised Messiahas laid immense emphasis upon attaining certainty of God’s existence through keeping the company of the righteous. His books are filled with pages and pages of exhortations to his followers to abandon their worldly pursuits and come and sit in his company so that they may witness in him the signs of God’s existence, through the fulfilment of prophecies that were occurring on a near daily basis:

I am not here relating some old stories, but only that of which I have personal knowledge. I have found superlative power in the Holy Qur’an and I have observed a wonderful quality that comes from complete devotion to the Holy Prophetsa. No other religion possesses such power and such quality that can lead its sincere follower to the station of sainthood. God not only honours the true servant with His word but also shows him through His actions that He is the God Who has created heaven and earth, so much so that his faith transcends the far flung stars. I have personal experience in this regard. God talks to me and has shown more than a hundred thousand signs at my hands. Thus, though I honour all Prophetsas and their books, I believe that Islam alone is the living faith, for through it God has manifested Himself to me. Anyone who doubts this statement of mine should come over to investigate these things and stay with me for at least a period of two months. I shall be responsible for his expenses during his stay. A religion worth the name must be a living religion which is able to exhibit God through living and fresh demonstration of His powers. A mere claim on behalf of a religion is vain and without basis.

Chashma-e-Ma‘rifat, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 23, p. 428; reproduced in Essence of Islam, Vol 4, p.122-3

In Malfuzat Volume 1, the Promised Messiahas describes precisely, perhaps, the condition of the critic, and warns people in words that specifically address the concerns of the critic: 

Hence, in this day and age, it is imperative that you learn the modern sciences and study them with toil and effort for the purpose of service to the Faith and the supremacy of God’s Word. However, it is my experience—and so I would like to warn you—that those who became entangled in secular knowledge alone, and became so absorbed and engrossed in such study that they did not receive an opportunity to sit in the company of spiritual and saintly people, and were also themselves devoid of spiritual light, they too have usually stumbled. They became distanced from Islam and instead of looking at these sciences in light of Islam, they made useless attempts to bend Islam to secular thought. And by doing so, in their own fancy, they became defenders in the cause of service to country and nation. But remember, no one can accomplish this task, i.e. of serving the Faith, unless they possess within themselves heavenly light.

Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as), Malfuzat Volume 1, p. 67

Here the Promised Messiahas specifically addresses the question at hand – what are the means for obtaining spiritual light if one cannot acquire it oneself? The answer he gives is that one should “sit in the company of spiritual and sainty people”. Indeed, this is the reason why there is a long tradition in Islam of seeking the Imam of the age, and sitting at his feet to benefit from his company. People’s entire lives were spent in this search. Indeed, this was precisely the impetus and driving force behind the 1st Khalifa, Hazrat Hakeem Maulvi Noor-ud-Dinra seeking out teachers in Mecca and Medina, before ultimately finding the Imam Mahdi and the Promised Messiahas. When he looked upon his face for the first time, he said, he realised that his quest to find his teacher was over: 

Maulawi Nur-ud-Dinra was so deeply stirred by the announcement of Hadrat Mirza Sahibas that he set out forthwith for Qadian to meet him and judge for himself. All through the journey he occupied himself with earnest supplications for guidance. He has described his instant reaction on seeing him in the following words: “As soon as I beheld him, my heart testified that this was the Mirzaas and I would lay down my life for him.” It was the end of his search. He had found that which he was seeking. He was then forty-three years old.

Sir Muhammad Zafrulla Khan; Hadrat Maulawi Nooruddin Khalifatul Masih I, p. 75

This was the condition of a man who himself received revelation from Allah; yet he sought out a teacher. What then is the condition of those who neither experience personal contact with God, due usually to their own lack of patience and obstinacy, nor do they seek out the company of the righteous? 

In today’s age, we are blessed with a Khalifa, a living representative of the Promised Messiahas with whom one can meet, as well as form a bond of love through writing to, and through whom many signs of God’s existence have been manifested. Not only are signs shown through him to those who develop a bond of love with him, but further, he himself regularly narrates examples of signs from people in the community who have written to him, most often during his Friday Sermons. 

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The Khalifa of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, his holiness, Mirza Masroor Ahmad, tours the world to deliver the message of Ahmadiyya Islam and to tend to the spiritual needs of his followers. Screenshot from WSJ.

Indeed, certainty in God’s existence can be obtained simply through association with other members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community. This is why the Quran emphasises the necessity of keeping company with the righteous, time and time again, so that even if one is susceptible to satanic thoughts, and even if one’s spirituality is below the necessary level, one may yet attain certainty through witnessing the fulfilment of prophecies of other holy people, in whose company one resides. In one of the articles quoted, we provided the following instance of revelation, given to an Ahmadi lady whose spiritual experience regarding the identity of the future Khalifa was narrated to her husband, who objectively witnessed the fulfilment of her revelation. It is a good illustration of the point under consideration. Thus, Mrs Farzana Ajmal of Para Chinar, District Kohat, Pakistan, writes, as compiled in the article “Dreams Foretelling the Fifth Khilafat” by Imam of the UK, Ataul Mujeeb Rashed sahib: 

“On the day of Huzoor’s (4th Khalifa’s r.h) death my husband departed for London. I was alone and remained constantly glued to the television. Khilafat Committee was in session and the people outside were anxiously waiting and praying for Allah’s help. Every eye was fixed on the closed doors of the London Mosque. I was very tired and momentarily went into a state that can be described neither as sleep nor as wakefulness. In that state, I saw a light descend from the heavens and enter the election site. It occurs to me that the Khalifa’s name will begin with the letter ‘M’ (meem in Urdu).  Thereafter, that light enters a man whose name is ‘Masroor’. The following words echo in my heart and also come to my lips: ‘Allah has already made His choice and has filled the heart of that person with light.’ At that moment the vision broke and I returned back to full consciousness. I was trembling all over, but internally I was convinced that Allah had made His choice, and now it was only a matter of time before that decision would be revealed. I called my husband who was outside the London Mosque and narrated to him what I had experienced. He then told me that an announcement was being made and asked me to hang up.  The same was being telecast on the MTA and the very next moment I heard you announce that Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad had been elected the Khalifatul Masih V. May Allah grant him a long, blessed, healthy and wholesome life (Ameen).”

In another letter dated Nov 2nd, 2005 she further explains:

“Before his election I had never even heard of Huzoor. The same was the case with my husband, neither of us knew him in any way. Only after he was elected to his office did we first see him and hear his name. I am convinced that a Khalifa is indeed made by God.”

In this spiritual experience, this lady was clearly told the name of the next Khalifa in advance through a vision experienced during wakefulness. Taking this account at its face value, it is clear that it is as much a sign for her husband, who witnessed the fulfilment of her narrated experience, as it was for herself. He heard her narrate, on the phone, her spiritual experience, stating that God had told her that the future Khalifa’s name would be “Masroor”. A few minutes later after putting the phone down, on the other side of the world, her husband sees with his own eyes the appointment of a man named “Masroor” to Khilafat.

Be honest. If you were in his shoes, would your certainty of faith not increase after that? 



The Need for Organised Religion

Both the second and third means of attaining certainty are only possible because of the structure brought through “organised religion” and highlights the entire purpose behind the creation of a community of devoted worshippers. Today is an age in which “organised religion” is derided and looked down upon as a backward institution, hearkening from a medieval era. Why not pursue the spiritual path individually, as a lone mystic seeking God? Why the need for a community, for a leader, for an institution, for office-bearers and employees? Is the lone mystic not more pure in his search for God? Is he or she not more noble? Is that solitary path not a better means to seek God, while avoiding the harms that come with the institutionalisation of religion? 

No, is the simple answer. For an institution is a necessity for facilitating two of the three major routes by which the purpose of religion, and indeed the purpose of life, may be fulfilled: to provide a framework facilitating the dissemination of extraordinary signs as well as to bring people together, thus enabling the opportunity to sit in the company of spiritual and saintly people so that the light of one should illuminate others, and thus attain certainty of God’s existence. 

These two means of attaining certainty constitute the major reason for the formation of a Jama’at of holy people, as per the Promised Messiah’sas reasoning: so that a conglomeration of holy and pious individuals should be formed, so that through their close association, and through the propagation of God’s signs shown through them, the light of God’s certainty should spread to the whole world. This is also the secret and importance of congregational prayer, for it forces into close association people from a wide spectrum, and enables, through communal meeting, those of a lower standard of spirituality to come into contact with those of a higher standard:

Congregational prayer is promised to be more rewarding because it makes for unity. To translate this unity into practice, Islam enjoins with great emphasis that when we line up for prayer, our feet should be in line, the lines should be straight, and all worshippers should stand close to one another with a view to uniting the many into one, so that the light of one should illuminate others, thus removing the divide which causes egoism and selfishness. Remember, man is gifted with the power to absorb the light that others radiate. It is for the realization of this unity that we are enjoined to offer daily prayers in the local mosque, the weekly prayers in the central mosque, Eid prayers in the Eidgah, and, once a year, to ensure the congregation of Muslims from all over the world in the House of God — the Ka‘bah. The purpose of all these injunctions is none other than forging unity.

Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas, Lecture Ludhiana, p. 47

The Khalifa is the focal point for the Jama’at. Like the Queen Bee, which regulates the unity of her brood, her offspring, and the hive, through producing chemical signals to direct each individual, so too the Khalifa continues to remind members of the extraordinary signs in the history of Islam and Ahmadiyyat, while new and fresh signs continue to be manifested through him. He further regulates the organisation of the Jama’at and perpetuates it through directing the spiritual efforts of his spiritual children — the members of the Jama’at. The Nizam of the Jama’at is the organisation through which members are held together in close association to the Khalifa and to each other. And just as when the Queen dies, and the bees scatter, without Khilafat, the spiritual workers of a religious community become disunited, fractured, and fragmented. No longer in the sanctuary of a Jama’at, of a hive, they are as isolated bees, subject to the natural elements, buffeted by storms and calamities, picked apart, one by one, through the vicissitudes of worldliness and materialism. 

Yet despite this immense and immeasurable blessing the Khalifa brings, strangely, it is he and the institution he heads, the Jama’at, that are most often the victims of the most vicious attacks by such ex-ahmadis, who, in the very same breath, lament that they cannot obtain spiritual certainty through attachment to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at (community). What foolishness is this? What self-deceiving madness? Wa maa adraaka!

Yet despite this immense and immeasurable blessing the Khalifa brings, strangely, it is he and the institution he heads, the Jama’at, that are most often the victims of the most vicious attacks by such ex-ahmadis, who, in the very same breath, lament that they cannot obtain spiritual certainty through attachment to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at (community). What foolishness is this? What self-deceiving madness? Wa maa adraaka!



The Ladder of Certainty

The second false premise found in the critic’s argument relates to the second point in his argument, specifically: 

One must, according to the writings of the Promised Messiah (as) himself, be a “perfect individual” to rely on one’s spiritual experiences as sources for certainty of faith, at all.

The critic argues that the Promised Messiahas states that unless one is “perfect”, one’s revelatory experiences should not be relied upon at all as a means of attaining certainty, since they may be satanic in nature. This is not what the Promised Messiahas meant, since he himself gave the criteria by which a person may ascertain whether a revelatory experience is satanic in nature or not. Thus, he writes: 

Now, when satanic inspirations are so frequent, one will naturally doubt the credibility of all revelations. No revelation would seem to be reliable in view of the possibility that it might be of satanic origin. More so, when the same thing happened to a great Prophet like Jesusas. This seriously undermines the credibility of the recipients of revelation. Is revelation then a kind of ordeal? The answer to this question is that this is no occasion to lose heart, for it is the Divine Law that in this world everything valuable and precious is accompanied by adulterations. Look! there are pearls that are recovered from rivers and then there are cheap pearls which people make artificially and sell. Now the trade of genuine pearls cannot be stopped just because there are imitation pearls also, for the jewellers whom God Almighty has endowed with insight, recognize at a single glance the genuine pearl from the fake one. Hence, the jeweller of the pearls of revelation is the Imam of the age. By keeping his company, a person can readily distinguish between the real and the artificial. O mystics! O victims of this alchemy! tread this path with care and remember that true revelation, which is purely from God Almighty, is accompanied by the following signs…

Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas; The Need for the Imam, p. 29-30)

He goes on to identify 10 signs by which true revelation may be distinguished from satanic revelation. Two of them are the following: 

5. True revelation continues to make a person more and more pious with each passing day, and cleanses his inner impurities and filth, and enhances his moral condition. 

6. True revelation is testified by all the inner faculties of a man, which are illumined by a new and divine light. He finds a change in himself, his earlier life suffers death and a new life begins, and he becomes a medium of compassion for mankind at large.

If true revelation is not to be given to anyone except those who are already perfect, then what is the meaning of true revelation making a person “more and more pious” by which an individual’s “inner impurities and filth” are cleansed? What “inner impurities and filth” if the recipient is already a “perfect” individual?

What the Promised Messiahas was therefore arguing was that perfect reliability cannot be obtained except by those who are perfect in their relationship to God. However, certainty is not a binary matter. One is not either 100% certain of a thing or 0% certain. On the contrary, certainty of faith is a ladder up which one progresses through stages. Spiritual effort on the part of a person draws the mercy of God, through which God may bestow a sign upon that individual. That sign may, in turn, spur the seeker to greater spiritual effort, thus opening up the door for further spiritual experience, and so on and so on. Certainty thus develops through signs of greater and greater strength, frequency and clarity. Certainty of faith is a ladder which is ascended through repeated witnessing of God’s signs and through repeated efforts at self-purification and effacement of the ego. 

The Promised Messiahas further writes in the same book that his age was destined to be one in which revelatory experience would be experienced by the general population, even including children: 

The age of the Promised Messiahas, however, has even greater distinction in that it is recorded in the books of earlier Prophets and Hadith of the Holy Prophetsa that, at the time of his advent, this radiation of spirituality will become so universal that women too will begin to receive revelations, minors will make prophecies, and ordinary people will be inspired by the Holy Spirit. All this will be a reflection of the spirituality of the Promised Messiahas. This is just like the light of the sun which falls upon a wall and illuminates it, and if the wall is white-washed with lime, it becomes all the more radiant. And if it is inlaid with mirrors, the light becomes too intense even for the eyes to behold. The wall, however, cannot claim this light as its own, for after sunset, not a trace of it remains. Likewise, all revelational light is a reflection of the light of the Imam of the age.

Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas; The Need for the Imam, p. 7

Thus, the critic misrepresents the Promised Messiahas as arguing that all revelation beside that of prophets of God is utterly dubious. This is not true. Certainly, no-one’s revelation is 100% reliable besides that of a prophet of God or one who is perfect in his or her relationship with God. To conclude from this that no revelation has any benefit nor any capacity to generate certainty of faith, through repeated witnessing of the fulfilment of prophecies one receives, is sheer folly. If this was the case, then why does the Promised Messiahas speak of children and ordinary people being blessed with the Holy Spirit, in the above passage? Was he speaking of their satanic revelation? Of course not! Once again, the critic’s argument is based on a false conclusion from a passage of the Promised Messiah’sas writing.

That in this divinely supported Jama’at, even children experience revelation is borne out by even a cursory glance at the literature of the Jama’at, especially the Friday sermons of His Holiness, the Khalifa of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. Often, speech after speech after speech is filled with accounts of ordinary people who write to him, narrating their extraordinary experiences of true prophecy and being granted insights into unseen matters by God. Beyond this, even a casual association with Ahmadi Muslims will unearth numerous incidents, in almost every family of the community, of extraordinary experiences of God communicating essential and important information, prior to important life-events.



Is it Fair?

The last refuge of the critic may be that it is unfair that some should have a greater natural predisposition to direct spiritual experience than others. He or she may argue that though Ahmadiyya Islam may therefore be a legitimate way to attain certainty, whether through one’s own spiritual experience or through witnessing that of others, it is unjust that God should parcel out spiritual propensity in this manner to some and not to others.

If the critic chooses this line of argumentation, then this would be folly, for the question of justice and injustice only arises on the basis of rights. Ultimately, not a single iota of this universe, let alone any creature, has any right to have been brought into existence. We were nothing, and God gave us life. Whatever we receive, by way of natural variation, in whatever measure, is a grace from His Holy Hand, for we had no right to life, when we did not exist in the first place. The question of justice and injustice proceeds from rights. We have no rights against the Creator. 

Further, the critic should ask him- or herself: if the variation in human talent and temperament is to be a bone of contention, why stop there? Why not proceed on and object to the much greater gulf between a dog and a man? Is not the dog entitled to complain to his owner that God should not have provided man with the faculty of speech and reasoning that he, the dog, is denied, thus enabling man to put forward his entreaties and solicit the mercy of the divine, while the gruff canine must be content only with howling at the moon? 

The variation in human temperament is only the thin end of the wedge.


Conclusion 

In summary, the objection of the critic fails at the first hurdle. They mischaracterise the argument as stating that personal spiritual experience is the only means of attaining certainty that God exists. This is an error, and it seems, from the style of writing, to be a genuine error; an oversight. That, I suppose, is the benefit of @wamaaadraka having written their attempted criticism anonymously. They now have the benefit that they can reflect over the arguments given in this article, free from the promptings of the ego, wounded and bruised through public humiliation. They can think clearly, and freely, bound only by the prejudices and biases of their own mind. I hope and pray that they free themselves of them, that they consider the errors in reasoning they have made, and that they seek the opportunity to sit in the company of spiritual and saintly people in order that the light of one should illuminate others.

Further Reading

On the 14 July 2021, this article was updated with the quote from the critic’s article beginning with the words “Readers may take this…” along with the paragraph that follows “After misrepresenting me as saying”.