Instructions and Guidance for the Ahmadiyya Jamaat
by Maulana Muhammad Ali
Chapter 3: Our Progress
Nothing in the world remains static. When a nation stops progressing, it necessarily starts declining. Till a certain time the Muslims possessed the urge to go forward in the world, but as soon as this urge died down the process of national decline set in. Eventually the stage was reached where sons of the Muslims began to join Christianity and Hinduism. Whether that number is small or large is not the question, but there is no doubt that this is a backward step. Unless we too turn our attention to making our Movement progress, decline will set in. Therefore each one of us must anxiously ponder about the ways in which our Movement can progress.
1. Zeal and Conviction of Faith:
The most necessary requirement in the advancement of the Jamaat is that the fervour of faith of the members of the Jamaat should grow. Any community’s strength depends on the zeal which it feels towards its particular objective. It is generally observed that in the works of the Muslims the urge of faith is largely absent, and this is why whatever they set out to do remains lifeless. It was the fervour of faith by which the Companions of the Holy Prophet achieved the impossible. They were few in number but their pure souls were filled with the zeal of faith by which they overcame the greatest tribulations and the darkest difficulties. The conviction was so firm in their hearts that Islam was destined to triumph, and that ultimately people would submit to the greatness of God, that even obstacles as great as mountains could not stand in the way of this faith.
Today, however, faith in the final triumph of Islam has died from the hearts of the Muslims, except for a few, and the apparent circumstances seem to be opposed to this prospect. Therefore it was essential that God Himself rekindle this flame anew in the heart of a man, so that sparks from it bring dead hearts to life, and those hearts become filled with the faith that even mountains will crumble before the spiritual might of Islam and the Quran, and Islam shall triumph in the world despite its utter powerlessness and helplessness. All visible means of the success of Islam had entirely ceased to exist, and it was impossible to create faith in its success except by God Himself regenerating it in a man’s heart. Therefore God filled the heart of the Mujaddid of the time with this conviction, and sparks from the fire which was kindled within him illuminated the hearts of those who joined him. That powerful awareness was created in an entire community which leads to the sacrifice of possessions and lives for the Divine cause.
To keep alive this awareness and to nourish and strengthen it by one’s sacrifices, so much so that it penetrates into others as well, is the first requirement of our progress. Just as the zeal of faith and the urge of love leads to the making of sacrifices, so does the making of sacrifices further strengthen that zeal of faith and urge of love. These two things are interdependent, and today the only way in which we can maintain and develop that zeal of faith created in our hearts by the man sent by God is to sacrifice our possessions and lives in the Divine cause.
2. Meetings and Gatherings:
Our most powerful way of making progress is to increase our mutual relations and interaction. The meeting of human beings with one another is like the rubbing together of two stones, which by friction creates energy. As regards meeting one another, the gathering at the Centre of the Movement in Lahore has the greatest importance. This gathering takes place once a year on the occasion of the annual Jalsa, and all members must make the effort to come. Besides this, whenever possible, one must try to strengthen the mutual bonds of meeting.
In addition, every Jamaat must arrange for gatherings to take place from time to time in its city or locality. One gathering is on Friday for the prayers, which every Jamaat must hold in its particular area. It is essential that our Movement makes arrangements for the holding of Friday prayers everywhere. The Friday khutba is a highly useful part of education which the Muslims have limited to a few words of Arabic or recitation of some poetry. Its real purpose, however, is to awaken the nation, create high morals in it, make it aware of important national projects etc., but no attention is paid to these objects in mosques generally. Therefore for our progress it is essential to make our separate arrangements for the holding of Friday prayers.
Apart from this, it is also necessary to hold another weekly gathering at every place, at which important affairs of the Jamaat are discussed and speeches or lectures are given which allow not only one man’s knowledge to benefit everyone else but enable members of the Movement to be equipped for the work of preaching and propagation. For such meetings, Sunday is the most suitable day as it is an official holiday. For these gatherings, a religious topic should be chosen, relating to our Jamaat or the teachings of Islam or another religion, and all members should participate in the discussion.
3. Learning the Quran:
As it is only the Holy Quran that creates spiritual strength within us, it is essential that in all large Jamaats instruction (dars) in the Quran must be instituted. It will also provide the benefits of holding a gathering of the community. Besides this, every member whether man or woman, boy or girl, must recite something from the Holy Quran daily and also try to understand its meaning and translation. This is the means of our self-purification and the way which can lead to our progress.
4. Reading Religious Literature:
It is essential for all members to be acquainted with the religious knowledge which is broadcast from the Centre of the Movement because through knowledge only can inner strength be produced within man. Some of this religious knowledge can be easily mastered by anyone. In particular our magazines, Urdu or English, are worth mentioning in this connection. A magazine is not burdensome to read, even for the most lethargic person, and if some of it consists of scholarly material a man can acquire a great deal of knowledge without much exertion.
Besides this, the magazines contain important news of all kinds about the Movement, with which all our members should keep abreast. Therefore it is essential for every member of the Movement who can read to get our community’s magazine Paigham Sulh, and those who know English should also receive The Light. This will not only keep alive their connection with the Movement, but they will also continue to gain valuable knowledge without much effort.
5. Education and Training of the Next Generation:
It is essential that our younger generation be imbued with the same love of faith and zeal for the propagation of the word of God as is the case with their elders. However, this cannot happen unless this awareness is created within them by means of education. For this purpose we have established a high school of our own at the Centre of the Movement in Lahore. Those friends who can do so should send their children to this school. True love for one’s children is simply that they should be shown the way which leads to happiness and prosperity. Those parents who refuse to let their children be separated from them, preferring to deprive them of education, are harming their children in the name of love. Similarly, those parents also do not really love their children who, out of parental attachment, refuse to send them to our school here while it is our own community’s school where their children can be influenced by noble ideas and, along with becoming capable of earning their livelihood, can also become servants of the Divine faith.
If they wish their children to become the joy of their eyes, it is necessary that they educate them under the principles which can instill the right aspirations within them. Thus the children will be a source of true happiness for their parents in this life, and after their death they will remain as the best memorial left behind by the parents and be the servants of the Divine faith. Our school not only provides religious education of the highest standard, but is also distinguished in secular education and moral supervision.
I would also say that those parents who wish to give higher education to their children should consider entering them in the teaching profession. If after qualification they wish to take up employment they can do very useful propagation work as well because they can influence their students. And if Allah puts it into their hearts, they can become missionaries of Islam as well.
6. Care of the Poor and Destitute:
No community can make progress unless it makes arrangements for the care and welfare of its poor, destitute, widows and fatherless children. The life of the Holy Prophet Muhammad is the most shining example of this truth. He had the greatest urge in his heart for helping the poor and the destitute, and each one of us must have a similar urge. The greatest men in the world have come from the ranks of the poor and the dispossessed. The Holy Quran says:
“Did He [God] not find thee [O Prophet] an orphan and give thee shelter?” (The Holy Quran, 93:6).
Therefore, to care for the poor of our community must be the first duty of each one of us. When you are strongly determined to do this, the grace of Allah creates the means and resources with which to do it. The life of even the poorest member of the community must be considered as a valuable treasure, and so far as we have the power we must try to make that life useful.
7. Fraternal, Social and Marriage Relations:
For the progress of the community it is also essential that, so far as possible, we should have strong, loving bonds of all kinds among ourselves. It is true that spiritual brotherhood is a most effective means of creating mutual love, but this is further strengthened by physical relationship. This is why the Promised Messiah wanted the marriage relations of our Jamaat to be within ourselves, so far as possible.
To this end, arrangements have been made here at the Centre of the Movement to provide all possible assistance to those members who seek marriage relations for their sons and daughters.
Besides this, the bonds within the Jamaat must be much stronger than bonds of physical relationship. When someone is ill or facing other difficulties, members of the Jamaat must consider themselves like parts of one and the same body, and do all that is possible to help a brother who is suffering in any way. They should share in one another’s sorrows as well as joys, occasions of mourning as well as marriage, just as people who are related share these occasions with one another.
8. Reporting Shortcomings and Weaknesses:
Wherever in the Jamaat any weaknesses are felt, anything which is noticed as requiring to be put right, or if an idea occurs to a member for the improvement of the community, these must be reported to the Centre from time to time. To remain silent in these respects does harm to the Movement. It may not be possible to correct all the shortcomings so reported, or to act upon all the suggestions, nonetheless all such information must be conveyed to the Centre. Every effort will be made to make improvements.
9. Increase and Extension of the Jamaat:
The last point I wish to make in this connection is that all the matters of internal improvement mentioned above constitute the first step of our real progress. Our real progress is the expansion of the size of the Jamaat. Although the object of the creation of our Jamaat is the propagation and the preaching of Islam, this work itself requires the existence of an organised Jamaat. Many notions are prevailing among the ordinary Muslims which themselves prove to be a great obstacle in the work of the propagation of Islam; for example, to believe that Jesus is alive in heaven in his physical body, without undergoing any bodily change or requiring any food and drink, to consider that this Umma stands in need of the coming of an Israelite prophet, to hold the belief that a Mahdi will come to spread Islam by the sword, killing anyone who does not accept Islam, or to believe in the coming of a prophet after the Khatam an-nabiyyin. All such beliefs are acting as a dangerous impediment in the way of the propagation of Islam. So it is essential to create a Jamaat whose beliefs, on the one hand, are free of these false notions, and on the other hand the object of its existence is only the propagation of Islam. The progress of such a Jamaat is really the progress of Islam itself.
We must all, therefore, be concerned about extending the size of the Jamaat. Allah has taught every Muslim that the way to avoid loss is for him to call others to the truth (Chapter 103 of the Holy Quran). As we have received the greatest blessing of the truth through the Promised Messiah, it is our duty to take this blessing to our other Muslim brothers. Following the teaching,
“warn your nearest relations (The Holy Quran, 26:214),”
each one of us should first turn his attention to his close relatives. This field is open for everyone, and he has an audience. Our task is to convey the truth. So everyone should begin with his near relations first, then take his friends, then those with whom he has some dealings, and then people further afield.
But removing wrong notions from the hearts cannot be done in just one attempt. It takes continuous struggle, and we must never tire in that struggle. If we preach to one hundred people, and ninety-nine of them do not accept what we say, we must still hope that the remaining one man will accept it. The issues towards which the Mujaddid of the Age has drawn attention are, in reality, absolutely vital for the existence and the success of Islam. Eventually Muslims will turn to this way. But there must be opposition in the beginning. Without caring about this opposition, we must strive to call all Muslims to this path, the true path of the service of Islam.
While striving to make our Muslim brothers understand these matters, we must also have recourse to the prayer that Almighty Allah may open their hearts for the acceptance of the truth brought by the Promised Messiah, so that the face of Islam be purified of all the ugly blots upon it and all of us together be able to spread the teachings of Islam in the world.
10. Giving Up Wrong Customs:
Another matter which I wish to bring to the attention of all members is that every one of us must first bring about reform in his own household. Our homes should present a model of Islamic simplicity, refraining from all kinds of wrong customs and traditions. In Muslim homes the prevalence of idolatrous practices has ruined the morals, while extravagance and wasteful spending has destroyed their wealth and property.
Shirk is not only to bow down before someone other than Allah, but to entreat others than Allah to fulfil your wishes is just as much shirk. To make offerings at the tombs of saints, and to ask for your needs to be met through them, is shirk. At times of misfortune and trouble, one must turn only to God and bow before Him only. Of course, to make use of any means and to employ efforts does not conflict with turning towards God and seeking His help.
Similarly, on the sad occasions of mourning and the joyous occasions of marriage, the various customs and traditions should be abandoned in favour of Islamic simplicity. Most such customs cause a man to ruin himself financially for the sake of keeping up appearances. The Holy Quran treats such expenditure as
“spending to be seen by people,”
which must not be done by a Muslim. There are many people who, when following such a custom, deceive themselves by saying that they will do it just this once, out of necessity, but will never do so again. This is exactly the wrong path which leads those who commit a sin to eventual destruction. Any sin or evil custom can only be uprooted if you have the courage to ignore the opposition and the difficulties that you face as being of no importance.
Besides this, it must be borne in mind that our homes can only be freed from the shackles of these wrong traditions and customs if the women and the children are given instruction in the true teachings of the faith. Therefore, all our members must try as hard as they possibly can to make their homes into true models of religious observance, and arrange for proper education in the Holy Quran, Hadith and Islamic history to be provided within their homes.