Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of
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Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of
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2: The Kaleidoscopic View of Religion:
Thus, centuries before the construction of the Christian Church, different countries had already evolved a system of religion which Christianity repeated word by word in the writings of the early Fathers. In the names of these virgin-born incarnates people were initiated into their cult through baptism. Their votaries worshipped the Cross, and their great festivals were Easter and Christmas. In fact, the Roman Catholic Church, the first Church on Pauline lines after Jesus, is just a replica of the old cult of mystery; and Christian worship remains sun-worship with all its old features. How can we stigmatize Paganism as a false religion when all its features did but forestall the official Church in the West? If Paganism is falsehood, the formal Church must, ipso facto, be falsehood too. Anyhow, current Christianity is not a religion if by religion is meant a code of life that may help man to live worthily in this world and in the hereafter.
Doubtless Islam is not free from some sort of formalities. Muslims also make sacrifices, but my happiness knew no bounds when I read in the Quran:
It is not righteousness that you turn your faces towards the East and the West, but righteousness is this, that one should believe in God and the last day and the angels and the book and the prophets, and give away wealth out of love for Him to the near of kin and the orphans and the needy and the wayfarer and the beggars and for (the emancipation of) the captives, and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate; and the performers of their promise when they make a promise, and the patient in distress and affliction and in time of conflict - these are they who are true (to themselves), and these are they who guard (against evil). (2:177)
What a wonderful, decisive and bold statement! It brushes ceremonialism completely away. Islam has a few formalities but they seem to me to be essential formalities - one of them being the turning of the face, when in prayer, towards Makka. It indicates the place that gave birth to Islam, and is hence a necessity; but the above verse says that doing so in itself is not a virtue unless thereby we are helped to observe certain beliefs and actions which are there set out. In fact, Muslims turn their faces to Makka to remember and renew the inspiration they first received from that sacred place; and if turning our faces to Makka is in itself of no value, then what of other ceremonial acts?
Muslims do observe sacrifice, but not to appease Divine wrath. One of the objects is to Feed the poor man who is contented, and the beggar (22:36). This institution also supplies an occasion for being benevolent to others, and it is a symbol of the religion of God; as the Quran says, we have to submit to His will as the animals under the knife have to submit to ours. And then a verse on the subject in the following thundering words denudes sacrifices of the merits that had been attached to them by other religions - such as the propitiation of Divine anger:
Not their flesh, nor their blood, reaches God, but to Him is acceptable the guarding (against evil) on your part; thus has He made them subservient to you, that you may magnify God because He has guided you aright; and give good news to those who do good (to others). (22:37)
I know of no other formality in Islam; and if ceremonial piety is in itself of no consequence, then Hinduism and Judaism cannot satisfy human needs as a code of religion. Christianity no doubt did away with all the ritual that Jesus observed himself, because his personal sacrifice, as they say, atoned for it and absolved the believers in the blood from the ceremonial burden. But another set of rituals and formalities entered into the Church as a legacy from Paganism, and the position is worse than before.
I cannot conclude these general remarks on religion and turn to the special doctrines of Islam before emphasizing one thing, though I have made reference to it in the foregoing: that is the necessity for Quranic Revelation at a time when the old Books of God had become hopelessly mixed with folk-lore. Every religion of the world has based its teachings on a Revelation from on High. It has pleased the Lord to guide humanity into the right path by revealing His Will to the world. The position is quite a tenable one, but if His Revelation sometimes suffers in purity and becomes vitiated, should He not send another Revelation to take the place of the old one? The Lord of the Universe observes the same course in all His dispensations. He creates things for our use, and when they disappear or become impaired or allayed there comes a fresh supply of such needful things. What is true in physical dispensations must be true also in the spiritual sphere. How can a believer shut his eyes to the necessity of a new Revelation if the old one has admittedly become corrupt? But none of all the Revelations given to the various nations of the world in olden days had remained in their original form - a fact now admitted by all - at that period of the Christian era, and a new Revelation, the Quran, was a necessity.