Instructions and Guidance for the Ahmadiyya Jamaat
by Maulana Muhammad Ali
Chapter 1: Distinctive Features of our Community
The first point is that we must never forget the distinctive features of our community, by adhering to which we remain distinguished from others. I will only refer to a few main such features.
1. Propagation of Islam:
Our real and most prominent distinction is that our lives have one particular aim, that is, the propagation of Islam. I do not deny that there may be many other people in the world the aim of whose lives is the propagation of Islam. However, it is our distinction because our community came into existence for this very purpose of spreading the name of God and His Messenger in the world. In fact, our community has been created to keep alive the work which Allah assigned to the Mujaddid of this century and the Imam of this age. This was to break the doctrines of the Cross and to take Islam to the world till it is triumphant over all religions. The “breaking of the Cross” was particularly selected because the most powerful obstacle to the spread of Islam is the religion of the Cross, i.e. Christianity.
When a man or a community makes a certain purpose the goal of life, then whatever work he or it does should help in the attainment of the goal. But nothing becomes the goal of life by merely saying so. It is when a man understands what is the goal of his life that there arises an urge in his heart for work to that end. For its attainment such a passionate love is created in him that even if thousands of difficulties are found in its path, they all pale into insignificance in the face of his determination and courage. No attraction or love can divert his attention from this work.
We saw with our own eyes the powerful passion and fervour which existed in the heart of the Promised Messiah for raising aloft the word of Allah. That passion set alight, not hundreds, but thousands of hearts, and ultimately produced a revolution in the world. Those very Muslims who were entirely indifferent to the work of the propagation of Islam, as they held it to be of no importance, are today calling out from all directions for the necessity of this work. At all hours, he had but one anxiety: How can the name of God be made to reach the most distant lands? This was the object for which he prayed in the middle of the night, and for which he wept in the court of the Lord. All else was sacrificed for this purpose. That same condition must be created in our hearts today, the same urge, the same shedding of tears before the Lord, and the same sacrifices. This I consider to be the first distinction of our community.
No goal can be reached, nor a step taken towards its attainment, until great sacrifices are made for the cause. Therefore if we have really made as the aim of our lives the propagation and preaching of Islam, it is essential that another distinction be created in us, namely, that we make unparalleled sacrifices for the attainment of this goal. The sacrifices may be of life or of possessions:
“They struggled hard in the way of Allah with their possessions and their lives (Holy Quran, 8:72).”
A person cannot make any sacrifice unless he considers his life and his property, which Allah has given him, as a trust from God which he must cheerfully return in His way when demanded by Him. In the verse,
“Surely Allah has bought from the believers their lives and their property; for them is the Garden (Holy Quran, 9:111),”
the reference is to exactly this fact.
Therefore the second distinction which must exist in us is that we must be ever ready to leave our homes and countries for the exaltation of the word of Allah when required, and do so without any hesitation. If we have to bear physical hardship, we must bear it, and if we have to spend money we must give the highest priority to that expenditure and be pleased to spend it. And when we have nothing to spend, we should feel pained over it, and have the deep desire in our heart that Allah may give us something to spend in His way.
3. Knowledge of Religion:
As the work of the propagation of Islam requires us to have adequate knowledge of Islam, on the one hand, and of the religions of the nations among whom we seek to spread Islam, on the other, the third distinction of our community ought to be that each one of us, whether great or small, must make the fullest effort to acquire knowledge of Islam and other religions. This is not a difficult task. Every person, despite being busy earning a livelihood, can find some time to devote to increasing his knowledge. Those who are literate can peruse the relevant books as a pastime.
In the attainment of religious knowledge, the study of the Holy Quran occupies the highest place. Then come Hadith, life of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, and Islamic history. From among other religions, our nearest neighbour is the Hindu religion. It is absolutely essential to acquire familiarity with the principles of this faith, and in particular with those of its modern sect the Arya Samaj, so that by knowing their beliefs we can present the true religion to them in the most appropriate way.
The Christian religion, as I have mentioned earlier, is the biggest obstacle in the path of the progress of Islam. For the triumph of the faith of Islam it is imperative that each one of us, according to his capacity, makes sufficient preparation to be able to face this religion. Besides this, one must know something of the other great religions of the world.
The writings of the Promised Messiah not only cast a tremendous amount of light on all these questions in this age, but give in our hands the knowledge before which untruth cannot make a stand. Therefore it is absolutely imperative for us to be familiar with his books and to read them over and over again. And not only to read them ourselves, but to include them in the field of study of our next generation at the earliest stage. Familiarity with his books creates within a person a great urge to serve the cause of truth and gives him the strongest power to confront false beliefs, and this is needed above all at the present day.
4. Observance of the Teachings of Islam:
Our fourth distinctive feature must be observance of the teachings of Islam and respect for its institutions. No group and no individual can be successful in taking the truth to others unless they act on those true teachings themselves. Only those words can have an effect upon the hearts of others which come out of the depth of a person’s own heart. And whatever is in the heart casts its influence upon the body and its limbs, and is manifested in the individual’s actions. Many people think that, irrespective of their practical actions, they are entitled to convey to others what they believe in their hearts to be true. This may be valid to some extent, but if a man’s belief is too weak to influence his own actions, how can his words influence other people? Whoever wishes that his words should have an effect upon others — and every one of us should have this desire — he must first produce an effect upon his own actions. The work of influencing others comes after that stage. We can bring the world to submit to the Holy Quran, but only when our own heads have bowed to it first with humility.
5. Tolerance and Broad-mindedness in Propagation:
Our fifth distinctive feature is to be broad-minded in the propagation of the religion. The Holy Quran has taught us that prophets appeared among every people. Therefore, even the thought of denigrating the sacred scripture or the revered founder of another religion ought not to enter our minds. Of course, if there is a flaw in the teaching of a religious sage, or if a scripture contains a teaching unacceptable to the human mind or impossible to act upon, it is quite another matter to point that out. But we must have respect in our hearts for the founders and the scriptures of every religion.
All religions lead man to have a connection with God to one extent or another. But the perfect connection can only be attained by following the religion of Islam. The teachings of all the other religions were, in the first place, meant only for particular ages and particular nations, limited as regards both time and place. Secondly, the accounts of the lives of the founders of those religions were not preserved accurately, and many wrong stories mixed up with the truth gained currency. In the same way, all the sacred scriptures had undergone alterations. As a result, human beings needed a religion which was free from the limitations of nation and time, whose founder’s life was known in the light of history, and whose scripture was unaffected by alteration. Only such a religion could produce a perfect connection between man and God, and that religion is Islam.
By embracing Islam, a person does not lose what he had before, nor does he respect any the less a revered figure he respected before. On the contrary, by accepting Islam his heart is opened to honouring all the other founders of the great religions of the world as well, and his mind is broadened to accepting every truth. Therefore, a man who calls others to Islam should already possess this broadness of heart and mind, thus being able to present the truth without attacking any other religious personality.
Earlier religions undoubtedly possessed light within them, but that light was not strong and became still more dim. The previous prophets acted as lamps in a dark night, but after the sun of prophethood has risen — the Holy Prophet Muhammad — people must open their hearts to receive the brightness of this world-luminary instead of taking light from the earlier lamps.
Tolerance Among Muslims:
In place of speaking ill of others, the superiority of the truth should be put forward. The religion which has taught such broad-mindedness towards other faiths and their revered figures cannot obviously teach you to hate the other sects and parties of the Muslims themselves. Consequently, we Ahmadis must honour the revered figures of all the sects of Islam. No mortal is free of faults, but we should aim to keep in view the good qualities of the leaders respected by various sects and acknowledge their work and services.
We must have no part in reviling or denouncing any sect of Islam. Most importantly, when a person professes the words
“There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah,”
we should regard his being called a kafir by anyone to be the most abhorrent sin of all. If there is tolerance in our hearts for those of other faiths, this being the very teaching of the Holy Quran, then to be intolerant towards our own Muslim brethren and call them as kafir is contrary to this breadth of mind. From Hazrat Abu Bakr onwards, we should honour every imam, wali, muhaddas and mujaddid, truly from the bottom of our hearts, and bear no ill-will or malice towards any sect of Islam. Of course, in accordance with the teaching of the Quran,
“they exhort each other to truth (The Holy Quran, 103:3),”
we must call all Muslims towards the truth established by the Mujaddid of this age, and when the beliefs of a sect are mistaken we must make this fact quite clear, and act according to the words of the Quran:
“not fearing the censure of any censurer (The Holy Quran, 5:54).”
6. Holding Work of Propagation in High Honour:
The last point I consider important to mention here is that there must be true respect in our hearts for the service of Islam and raising aloft the word of Allah. If you think about it, to spread the name of God in the world and to call to the truth is the most honourable work because it was the work done by the prophets and they are the most eminent people among mankind. No other work can reach the exalted and elevated status which this work holds. However, in practice most people treat it as menial and degraded work. When we wish to see our relations and friends reaching some high rank, what comes to our mind is some worldly position, success in business or ownership of property. To prepare them to spread the name of God appears to be degrading. We make up various excuses for this attitude, for example that we do not wish to see our children being dependent on someone for their livelihood, as if this risk only exists if we prepare our children for the service of the faith. The actual fact is that there is no respect for this work in our hearts, even though we may sometimes hold in honour those who do this work because of their eminence.
There is no doubt that it is also important that we respect above all those people from among us who go forth to work in the way of God and to proclaim His word. This is also a source of encouragement to those engaged in this work. But the criterion of true respect is only this, that when we are in search of a respectable line of occupation for our children and near ones, we should also sometimes consider the work of the propagation of the word of God, and prepare them for service of the faith by regarding it as work worthy of the highest honour. If, after being trained for this work, they do not serve the faith, we would not be liable before God.