God, Man, Love and Islam

by Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian

The Islamic Guardian (UK), April to June 1981 Issue (Vol. 2, No. 2, pp. 3–5)

Note by the Editor: It is widely asserted that Islam is a harsh religion of lifeless, mechanistic rituals, and from this faith the concept of love between man and God and among fellowmen is entirely absent. In 1897, a Christian college teacher challenged Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad to show any verses of the Holy Quran where the word love, he asked, “has been expressly used enjoining on us to love mankind and to love God, and stating that God also loves mankind.” A condensed version of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad’s brilliant reply, taken from The Four Questions Answered (1897), is reproduced below.

Let it be fully realised that this very thing is the essence of the Quranic teaching that, as God is One and without any associate, we should regard Him as one and without any associate with reference to our love for Him. Accordingly, the Kalimah [declaration of faith],

“There is no ilah (god) save Allah,”

which is ever on the tongue of a Muslim, points to this for the word ilah means an object of love and passion that is worshipped. This Kalimah is so closely knit with Islam that it is its insignia, chief symbol or distinctive mark. It is called out five times a day from the minarets of mosques. At every daybreak the Muazzin [caller to prayer] gives the call:

اَشْهَدُ اَنْ لَّآ اِلٰهَ اِلَّا اللّٰهُ

“I bear witness that I have no dear object, no beloved, none worthy of worship, save Allah.”

At noon this same call rises forth from the Islamic places of worship; again in the afternoon, again at sunset, and once again early in the night, this call resounds in the atmosphere and ascends to the sky. Does this glorious pageant come to view in the practice of any other religion in the world?

Besides, the very connotation of the word Islam (lit. submission) also signifies love. For, to lay one’s head before God, and to be ready to sacrifice one’s self in all sincerity, which are the connotations of the word Islam, are actions which proceed from the fountainhead of love. Thus, it appears from the word Islam that the Quran has not confined love for God to a mere verbal profession, but has taught us to tread actually on the path of love and sacrifice. What other religion is there in this world, the founder of which has called it “submission” (Islam)? Surely Islam is a very precious name replete with the connotations of truth, sincerity and love; and, accordingly, blessed is the religion called Islam.

Likewise, in regard to man loving Him, Allah says in the Holy Quran:

وَ الَّذِیۡنَ اٰمَنُوۡۤا اَشَدُّ حُبًّا لِّلّٰہِ ؕ

“They are the believers who love God most” (The Holy Quran, 2:165).

At another place He says:

فَاِذَا قَضَیۡتُمۡ مَّنَاسِکَکُمۡ فَاذۡکُرُوا اللّٰہَ کَذِکۡرِکُمۡ اٰبَآءَکُمۡ اَوۡ اَشَدَّ ذِکۡرًا ؕ

“Remember God as you remember your fathers, even remember Him with greater and stronger love” (The Holy Quran, 2:200).

Yet at another place in the Holy Quran, He says:

وَ یُطۡعِمُوۡنَ الطَّعَامَ عَلٰی حُبِّہٖ مِسۡکِیۡنًا وَّ یَتِیۡمًا وَّ اَسِیۡرًا ﴿۸﴾ اِنَّمَا نُطۡعِمُکُمۡ لِوَجۡہِ اللّٰہِ لَا نُرِیۡدُ مِنۡکُمۡ جَزَآءً وَّ لَا شُکُوۡرًا ﴿۹﴾

“Believers are those who from their love for God feed the indigent, the orphans, and the captives, and tell them, We give to you only because we love God and seek His pleasure, we seek no recompense from you, nor the expression of your gratitude” (The Holy Quran, 76:8, 9).

In short, the Holy Quran is full of verses where we are asked to demonstrate our love for God in word and deed, and to love Him above all else. But the other part of this question is: Where is it written in the Holy Quran that God also loves mankind? In answer, it should be known that verses also abound in the Holy Quran which say that God loves those who turn to Him, He loves those who do good deeds, and He loves those who practise resignation. Of course, it is nowhere written in the Holy Quran that He also loves him who loves unbelief, sin [and] tyranny. To denote His feelings towards such men Allah uses the word ihsan (benevolence). Accordingly, He says:

وَ مَاۤ اَرۡسَلۡنٰکَ اِلَّا رَحۡمَۃً لِّلۡعٰلَمِیۡنَ ﴿۱۰۷﴾

“We have sent thee (O Prophet of God), for We had compassion on all that in the universes” (The Holy Quran, 21:107).

Now, the infidel, the faithless, the law-breaker, and the wicked are all covered by the word “universes.” To them the door of His mercy is open in that they may attain to salvation when they act up to the guidance of the Holy Quran.

The third part of the question is: Where is it written in the Holy Quran that man should love man? The answer is that to denote such relation the Quran has used the words compassion and sympathy instead of love for love finalises in worship and therefore the word in its real connotation is particular to our relation with God only. To express similar relation between man and man the words compassion and sympathy have been used in the Divine idiom instead of love. This is because the fullness of love desires to express itself in worship, while the fullness of compassion desires acts of sympathy. Other religions have not appreciated this distinction, and have given to others that which was due to the Divine Being alone. As for Jesus, I do not believe that any such idolatrous utterance emanated from him, but I am of the opinion that these detestable sayings have been interpolated into the Gospels subsequent to Jesus, and have been unjustly imputed to him. In short, in the Holy idiom of God, compassion is the word used to denote the relation between fellow beings, as when He says:

ثُمَّ کَانَ مِنَ الَّذِیۡنَ اٰمَنُوۡا وَ تَوَاصَوۡا بِالصَّبۡرِ وَ تَوَاصَوۡا بِالۡمَرۡحَمَۃِ ﴿ؕ۱۷﴾

“They are the believers who preach truth and compassion” (The Holy Quran, 90:17).

At another place He says:

اِنَّ اللّٰہَ یَاۡمُرُ بِالۡعَدۡلِ وَ الۡاِحۡسَانِ وَ اِیۡتَآیِٔ ذِی الۡقُرۡبٰی وَ یَنۡہٰی عَنِ الۡفَحۡشَآءِ وَ الۡمُنۡکَرِ وَ الۡبَغۡیِ ۚ یَعِظُکُمۡ لَعَلَّکُمۡ تَذَکَّرُوۡنَ ﴿۹۰﴾

“Allah enjoins that you should deal justly with people, further that you should show benevolence to them, and, furthermore, that you should show towards them the sympathy which a blood relation bears towards another relation” (The Holy Quran, 16:90).

One should consider this. What more sublime teaching can there be in this world than that which does not limit kindness towards one’s fellows to the extent of benevolence only, but has also expounded a higher stage where one does good from a natural urge? Surely, none. For, though a man, when he shows benevolence, does a good deed, he, however, looks forward to some return and recompense. He, therefore, sometimes shows resentment against those who deny this kindness or show ingratitude, and sometimes in moments of strong feeling he proudly reminds the beneficiary of the favours he conferred. But to do good from a natural urge, which the Quran has likened to doing good to one’s relations, is really the highest stage of goodness beyond which there is no other stage for it is like the maternal kindness and compassion for the child, to take an example, which is a natural urge unattended by any desire for gratefulness on the part of a helpless suckling.

From: The Four Questions Answered (1897)