Thursday, May 30, 2019

Teachings for A Blissful Life

The Book of God, the Holy Qur’an, contains enduring teachings, useful for our every day life. The wisdom underlying those ethical principles are so profound and so true that it is by following those teachings that humans can hope for remaining on the correct and straight path of spiritual quest- the Way of seeking God. In his writings, the Promised Messiah and Mahdi Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as) of Qadian used to provide fascinating interpretative expositions on Qur’anic verses in order to substantiate and illuminate his spiritual themes. While not a literal translation of Qur’anic verses, these explanations of the Promised Messiah (as) often tease out the subtle points of wisdom contained within those verses in a succinct and accessible language for everyone. 

Reproduced below is a collection of Qur’anic verses, as explained by the Promised Messiah (as), revealing the ethical and moral universe in which God expects and invites man to abide by, so as to enable him to attain a blissful and heavenly life in this very world.

1. ‘God commands you to abide by justice and fairness. But if you wish to attain greater perfection, then treat people with compassion and do good even to those who have done you no good. And if you aspire to even higher perfection, then be of service to others out of personal sympathy and natural impulse, without any desire to win gratitude or to put anyone under obligation, and be kind to them just as a mother is kind to her children out of a natural urge. God also forbids you to commit excesses, to remind people of the good you have done them, or to be ungrateful to those who have been kind to you’. (Al-Nahl, 16:91).

2. This theme is further elaborated in the following verse: when the truly righteous feed the poor, the orphan and the captive, they do so selflessly, only out of love for God, and say to them: ‘We only serve you for the sake of God, from you we require neither gratitude nor reward.’(Al-Dahr, 76:9-10)

3. With regard to retribution or forgiveness, the Holy Quran teaches us: 

The retribution for an injury is an injury to the same extent. Tooth for a tooth, eye for an eye, and abuse for an abuse, but whosoever forgives — and the forgiveness results in reformation rather than mischief, and he who has been forgiven rectifies his behaviour and desists from evil — his forgiveness is better than retribution, and the forgiver shall have his reward [with God]. It does not teach us that, having been struck on one cheek, we should in all circumstances turn the other cheek also, for this goes against true wisdom. Doing good to an evil-doer can be as unjust as doing evil to a good man. (Al-Shura, 42:41)

4. The Holy Quran further says:  

i.e., if someone is kind to you, show him even greater kindness. All rancour between you will thus turn into a friendship so close that it borders upon kinship. (Ha-Mim al-Sajdah, 41:35)

i.e., do not backbite one another: would any of you like to eat the flesh of a dead brother? Nor should a people ridicule another, proclaiming their own superiority and thinking of others as inferior, for those who are ridiculed may well be better than themselves. 

Surely, the more honoured in the sight of God is he who is greater in virtue and righteousness. The distinction of nation or caste is immaterial to Him. 

Do not call people with contemptuous names which they consider offensive, or else you will yourselves be considered evil in the sight of God. Keep away from idols and from falsehood, for they are both impurities. 

When you speak, speak wisely and reasonably and abstain from idle talk. 

Your whole body and all your faculties should be subservient to God, and all of you should together devote yourselves to His service. (Al-Hujurat, 49:12-14; Al-Hajj, 22:31; Al-Ahzab, 33:71; Al-e-‘Imran, 3:104)

5. Allah also says:

O you who are unmindful of God, your desire for the world has made you heedless, and you do not relent until the time comes for you to enter the graves. You are wrong in doing so, and you will soon know. Indeed, you will soon know. If you possessed true awareness, you would see your own hell and realize that you are leading an infernal existence. And if you possessed even greater awareness, you would see with the eye of certainty that your life is indeed an infernal one. A time comes when you shall be thrown into hell and have to answer for all your indulgences and excesses and, having been overtaken by chastisement, shall reach the state of perfect certainty. (Al-Takathur, 102:2-9).

These verses show that there are three stages of certainty: The first is attained through knowledge and inference, as, for instance, when you see smoke rising from afar and infer through reason and deduction that there must be a fire in that direction. You reach the second stage of certainty when you see the fire with your own eyes. And you arrive at the third stage when you put your hand into the fire and experience firsthand its property of burning. These, then, are the three stages of certainty: ‘Ilmul Yaqin [certainty by knowledge], ‘Ainul Yaqin [certainty by sight], and Haqqul Yaqin [perfect certainty].

These verses teach us that our true happiness lies in nearness to God and love for Him. The moment we turn away from Him and lean towards the world, we begin the life of hell, and everyone is bound to realize this sooner or later, even if he does so when he is at death’s door and is about to leave behind all his worldly possessions and relations.

6. A Blissful Life

Elsewhere in the Holy Quran, God says:

i.e., anyone who gives up sin in deference to the honour and majesty of God, and in dread of the day when he shall be called to account before Him, for him there are two kinds of paradise. The first will be given to him in the form of a blissful existence in this world, where he will experience a holy transformation and God Himself will provide for him. The second paradise will be the eternal one, which will be granted to him after death because he feared God and preferred Him to all things mundane including his own egoistic desires. (Al-Rahman, 55:47)

i.e., I have prepared for the disbelievers — who do not love Me and are inclined towards the world — chains and collars and a fire that burns in their hearts. Their feet are chained by their love for the world; their indifference to God serves as a collar for their necks, which does not allow them to look upwards but keeps them prone towards the world, and their hearts are constantly burning with craving for the world.

As for the righteous, they are, in this very life, given a drink tempered with camphor — kafur — which cools their worldly loves and desires. They are given a spring from which this drink flows, and they cause it to flow into a running stream so that all who are thirsty may drink their fill of it. Once this spring has turned into a stream, and the power of faith has begun to grow, and Divine love has taken root in their hearts, the believers are then given another drink, this time tempered with ginger — zanjabilThe camphorated drink they were given at first was only meant to cool the love of the world, and they now need a warming drink to set their hearts ablaze with Divine love. They need the second drink because the mere giving up of sin does not lead to perfection. The spring from which the drink flows is called salsabil, which means ‘Ask about the path that leads to God.’ (Al-Dahr, 76:5-7; Al-Dahr, 76:18-19).

Verily, he who purifies his self is released from the shackles of his carnal passions and is granted a heavenly life, but whosoever allows his self to get mired in the material world, and does not turn to heaven, shall languish in grief and sorrow. (Al-Shams, 91:10-11)

7. Prayer for Guidance 

Since it is not possible to attain these stages by our own efforts, the Holy Quran urges us again and again to pray as well as to strive. It says:
i.e., pray and I will accept your prayers. (Al-Mu‘min, 40:61)

i.e., if My servants ask you what is there to prove My existence, and why they should believe in Me, tell them that I am very near. I answer anyone who calls Me, I hear his voice, and I speak to him. For their part, let My servants make themselves deserving of My converse and have perfect faith in Me, so that they may find My path. (Al-Baqarah, 2:187)

i.e., We surely show Our path to those who toil for it and make every effort in Our quest. (Al-‘Ankabut, 29: 70)

i.e., if you wish to see God, then pray and strive, and another requirement is that you should keep the company of the righteous. (Al-Taubah, 9:119).

These are the commandments that lead us to the true objective of Islam which, as I have said before, is that man should surrender himself completely to God, like a sacrificial lamb, giving up all his desires and intentions, and losing himself in God’s will. He should bring about a virtual death upon himself, completely immerse himself in God’s love, obey Him on the basis of love alone and for no other motive, and acquire eyes that see with Him, ears that hear with Him, a heart that is completely devoted to Him, and a tongue that only speaks when He speaks. This is the stage where the labours of a spiritual wayfarer culminate, and man’s baser self is annihilated, and God’s grace grants him a new life through His living word and shining light, and honours him with His sweet converse. The subtlest of lights, which neither reason can discover nor eye can penetrate, now draws closer to him by itself, as God Almighty says:

i.e., We are closer to him than his jugular vein. (Qaf, 50:17)

It is thus that mortal man is honoured with His nearness and his eyes are given a fresh light that cures his blindness; he sees God with his new eyes, and hears His voice, and feels himself immersed in His light. This is the culminating point of religion, where, having beheld God, man removes the soiled garb of his earthly existence and dons the magnificent robes of Divine light. It is not only on the basis of a promise that he waits for the Hereafter to behold God and to enter paradise, for in this very world he sees God, and speaks to Him, and partakes of the delights of paradise, as God says: 

Those who say that our God is He Who possesses all the perfect attributes and has no associate, either in His person or in His attributes, and remain steadfast, and their faith is not shaken by calamities or misfortunes or even when they come face to face with death, it is upon such people that angels descend, and God says to them, "Fear not these calamities, nor have any dread for your mighty foes, nor grieve over past misfortunes, for I am with you. Rejoice, for I will grant you in this world the paradise that you have been promised." (Ha-Mim al-Sajdah, 41:31)

These statements are not without testimony, nor are these promises such as have not been fulfilled. There have been thousands of righteous Muslims who have tasted the fruits of the spiritual paradise in this life, and God has declared the true followers of Islam to be heirs to the diverse blessings that were given to all the righteous people of the past.....'

----(Adapted from Lecture Lahore by the Promised Messiah (as)]