100 Years Ago… – Dialogue with a Liberal Christian

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Hazrat Khalifatul Masih II r.a. in England

Al Hakam, 14 July 1918

On 5 July 1918, a liberal and educated Christian youth, who in reality was in pursuit of the true religion, came to visit Hazrat Khalifatul Masih [may Allah be pleased with him]. He met Hazrat Khalifatul Masih II for the first time, and as a result of this preliminary meeting, a conversation ensued regarding certain subtle matters. 

However, it was not the intention of the gentleman to commence a religious discussion on that day, and for this reason, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih also understood that the perfect opportunity would be when he commenced [to convey to him his message]. At one moment, he created a semblance of a doubt which was, in fact, an attack on the motive of the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him. 

On that occasion, the sight was worthy of being witnessed; despite suffering poor health that day, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih became prepared to answer him with great fervour, stirred by the esteem and respect which he held for the Holy Prophetsa. Moreover, he delivered such sagacious answers that the gentleman was compelled to regret his misgiving. I shall not mention his name in this dialogue. 

In order to maintain historical chronology, I should add that following the Asr prayer, the gentleman came at a time when Hazrat Khalifatul Masih was not in good health. He had not even been outside since morning and he was about to leave. However, he overlooked his health for this objective. Ayyadahullahul-Ahad. [May the One God strengthen his hand.]

Chaudhry Muhammed Ismail Khan Sahib, District Superintendent, made the preliminary introduction. Then, Huzoor began the conversation in the following words.

Huzoor: Which religion do you adhere to?

Christian: I am apparently Christian but, in my opinion, religion should be founded on theories of nature. The principles of every religion should be based on these. Those matters which are proven to be incorrect on the basis of experience and observation should not be included in religion. They should not be contrary to reason and logic.

Huzoor: The sum and substance of what you say is that the foundation of religion should lie on reason and logic. Experience and observation are only branches of reason and logic. However, as you have entered into the sphere of religion, whether God exists or not, are you still convinced of a being who consciously acts?

Christian: If such a being exists, his attributes should also be in accordance to the law of nature. 

Huzoor: The question which requires addressing currently is not regarding attributes. Rather, the question is whether such a being [God] exists or not?

Christian: Yes, a power exists. 

Huzoor: So you believe that there is a power that is not necessarily conscious?

Christian: The capability of such a power is like machinery; it functions automatically. 

Huzoor: When He is functioning and has created nature, then won’t you have to accept such a conscious Being?

Christian: Yes, one should. 

Huzoor: There are some who reject the fact that He is conscious. 

Christian: I do not believe matter to have been created because matter gets conserved. Moreover, God cannot even cause it to disappear. Similarly, there are a few things which have not been created; one is space; the other is time, and lastly, matter. They contain Divine attributes or, in other words, they do not have a beginning, nor an end. It is these which are Divine attributes. 

Huzoor: We do not actually believe God to be limited to these attributes. I shall, Insha-Allah, expound on the reality of Divine attributes when the discussion proceeds onto the topic. 

Christian: God possesses the attributes of Qahhar [Subduer] but is void of the attributes of Raheem [Merciful] and Kareem [Kind]. 

Huzoor: I have already mentioned that I shall prove this when the appropriate time comes to discuss the topic of Divine attributes. Presently, I only enquired from you about the religion to which you adhere to discern to what extent you are convinced of the existence of God in religion. The manner of dialogue with a person who has no interest in any religion would be different as they do not adhere to any law. However, a person who is religious can be conversed with, on the basis of the principle which he believes to be true. Therefore, it should be understood which religion you propose for yourself, even if it is a combination; a portion taken from Arya Samajists, a portion from the irreligious, a portion from Jews, a portion from Christians or a portion from Muslims. 

Christian: I also do not believe in miracles. 

Huzoor: Contrarily, I believe in them. When I shed light on this topic, you will be able to ask questions about them. By the grace of God, our duty is to make you accept the fact that nature does not deny miracles; it is to leave you speechless, whereas to satisfy you is in the Hands of God.

Afterwards, progressing on from this conversation, the Christian gentleman said; “I cannot understand how Jesus was born fatherless” and added, “A priest met me who was irreligious but slightly afraid. When I informed him that I do not accept these notions, he quickly replied that he also rejected such notions. He said that in reality, there are many people in Europe who do not accept these matters.”Hazrat Khalifatul Masih II supported these remarks and stated, “In Britain, there are even certain bishops who disbelieve in these principles of Christianity.” Moreover, referring to a narration of Hazrat Maulana Maulvi Nuruddin Sahib, Khalifatul Masih Ira, he said, “There was once a priest who would preach and did not believe in the divinity of Jesus. Hazrat Maulvi Sahibra enquired the method in which he would carry out his preaching. He replied, ‘I specifically limit my preaching to morals.’”

Thus, the conversation ensued on the subject of irreligiousness in Christianity for a while. In truth, this was manifest proof of the success of the Promised Messiahas which a Christian was giving; the fact that the foundations of Christianity have become so unstable that Christians who adhere to Christianity, look at it with aversion. This is the reality of the breaking of the cross. People are disassociating themselves from Christianity, from within. At present, Christianity is more of a nationality than a true religion. 

In relation to this, the Christian gentleman said regarding the Arya religion, “I do not consider it to be a religion. I regard it to be a political body and it has been named a religion for the fulfilment of this purpose. This is because there can be no unity without it.” Then, a dialogue ensued on the topic of unity.

Huzoor: We see unanimity also occur for political reasons. However, only a true religion can create true unity. Until there is no unity in principle, nothing is worthy of being called “unity”. Unless there is unity through God and His Prophet, the essence of unity cannot be established. This is why the true purpose of man is to follow the true religion. 

Christian: Religion cannot be separated from politics. 

Huzoor: This is emotional talk. However, religion cannot be based on politics. It is one thing for politics to play a part in religion and another for religion to be based on politics. The basis of a true religion can never be on politics. The actual objective of religion is something entirely different; it is the creation of the love and cognition of God, and the improvement of the morals of man.

Christian: It is true that the foundation of religion should not be on politics. I have observed the Arya Samaj that they are actually a political body. 

At this juncture, the discussion proceeded on the topics of the Shuddhi movement; the “untouchable castes”; that the Arya Samajists cleanse their souls but do not give them the same level of respect; issues surrounding marriage and food [regarding the “untouchables”]. 

Huzoor: There is no doubt that the Christians have excelled further than the Arya Samajists, but, at times, even in some of their churches, we find that there is segregation of classes and ranks. However, Islam removes such distinctions and does not leave any room for this. 

Christian: No doubt, Islam does succeed in this respect that there is no distinction among worshippers in mosques, however the opponents have caused great harm to religion.

Huzoor: Freedom exists within Islamic places of worship to such an extent that through his practical example the Holy Prophetsa illustrated this by granting the Christians of Najran permission to worship in his mosque. This was the method to repel religious misunderstandings, to foster mutual unity and togetherness in relation to true doctrines. 

Christian: That was an era when they wished to draw people towards themselves. 

Huzoor: That was such an era when Islamic conquests had already taken place. 

Christian: The Prophet’s plan was to bring Christians under their fold by any means possible. He must have granted such permission on this basis. 

Huzoor: This is the same thing that we wish today as well. Let alone the Christians, we wish that the entire world enters the fold of Islam. However, you should bear in mind that one should not argue regarding the intentions of religious matters which men carry out. In this manner, if intentions and motives are assumed regarding every matter, no piety can exist, nor any morals or acts of compassion. One can even go so far as to accuse their father of carrying out an act to merely satiate their sensual desires and to enquire what right he has left. This is an extremely foul and erroneous path. Doing this, squanders away good deeds and causes all noble matters to go to waste. No doubt, this benefits everyone, but to attack someone’s intentions and say that it was in a person’s interest for them to do such a thing is incorrect. You say that differences between religions have caused loss, but would it not benefit you if the religions unite as one?

Christian: Yes

Huzoor: Then, can it be said that you say such a thing for your own reasons and benefit? Thus, the thought of personal gain is abandoned where benefit on a wider scale is targeted. If it is brought under focus, there can be no righteousness or morals left in the world. Neither will anybody be worthy of being called a father, nor a mother. No relationship can remain, and our system of civilisation and morals would be brought to ruin. 

If a religious individual deems themselves to be true, or in other words, that their religion is from God, it is their definite objective to desire for the entire world to enter its fold. If such a person does not possess this desire and objective, it would mean that they do not believe that religion to be from God. It is a lofty moral stage where a man desires for others what he wishes for himself. 

Thus, if this was the desire of the Holy Prophetsa, it is not objectionable, rather, it is a magnificent quality which cannot be found among others. This is because, when it is said that other religions do not desire as such, one would have to admit that the Founder of Islam was the most superior. Further, his superiority continued to be established because other religious people did not manage to abide by this objective. This is not mere conjecture. 

The fact of the matter is that the Holy Prophetsa was the most superior because he came for the entire world and was for all times to come. The rest of the prophets used to come for specific areas and nations. For this reason, the sphere of their courage and capabilities was not as vast as the Holy Prophet’ssa. Yet, at this juncture, the only question at hand is whether the permission to worship in his mosque which the Holy Prophetsa had granted the Christians of Najran was based on a self-centred objective. I have mentioned in principle that these supposed objectives are totally foolish. The first and foremost characteristic and principle of a true religion is that self-centred behaviour is repelled from religion. Furthermore, it is outstanding practical proof that Islam has not only repelled such behaviour but bestowed open acceptance, and to term it as a self-centred objective would be largely incorrect. It is wrong to attack the motives of such matters.  For instance, there exist many rituals at weddings, which waste much money. However, if somebody, summoning the courage, breaks the trends of adhering to these rituals, they would of course gain financial benefit. Yet, would this not be as a result of their moral courage?

Christian: If such a person does not intend to spend that money, only then is it a sign of their moral courage. 

Huzoor: Again, this is an attack on his motive and this is repugnant. If they have saved money, would they not need to spend it? However, this would be the result of halting that undesirable ritual rather than the objective. You should be able to differentiate whether such an action was the outcome, the objective or the reason. Thus, it must nevertheless be recognised to be moral courage, especially when it is due to the fact that such a person is not miserly, and their other actions are of such a lofty standard that they act as a shield against objections upon their motive. 

Similarly, reflect upon the life of the Holy Prophetsa. He was a person who proclaimed that salvation could be achieved by accepting those doctrines which he presented and who plainly recited to the Christians, “They surely disbelieve, who say that Allah is the third of three”; a person who powerfully refuted the divinity of Jesus Christ and declared the doctrines of the disbelievers to be false; who announced to his people, who were idolaters, that their idols were the fuel of the fire; then, allowing the people (whose doctrines he had forcefully refuted before them) to worship in his mosque in order to repel the selfish attitude which other religions had, can never be termed an selfish objective. 

This is such a wonderful proof of the sincerity and truthfulness of the Holy Prophetsa that Europeans of great renown who would raise allegations – such as the biased person of [William] Muir – were compelled to admit that it would have been very easy and convenient for him – had he desired for people to join him – to merely halt from condemning their idols, and as a result, the entire nation would have been prepared to support and obey him. 

It is an authentic account that a delegation of the leaders of disbelievers came before the Holy Prophetsa and presented every feasible possibility to lure him, so much so that they said, “We are prepared to appoint you as our king. Just refrain from condemning our idols.” However, he replied in clear words, “If the sun is placed in my right hand and the moon in my left, I still cannot cease from inviting others to the unity of God”. This was such a moment when the Holy Prophetsa would have gained every kind of respect and honour; he would not only have been reconciled with the entire nation, but he would have gained power and authority. Yet he did not abandon conveying the message and inviting others, for even a single moment. This is such an account which eternally answers the question of the objectives and motives of the Holy Prophetsa

It should be well comprehended that motives are always judged on the basis of actions. For instance, you visit a person at his home who happens to live in Lahore and is your friend and you only go to meet him. Then a second person asserts that you came to Lahore for an errand and that you came on the pretext of a meeting to save hotel expenses. Or they assert that you only came to carry something back. You would of course declare this to be a clear attack upon your motive because this was not established by your other actions. 

The determining of a motive can either be through actions or if the person declares the motive himself. 

Similarly, if a person approaches the rulers of a government and makes tall claims of being their servants, but upon meeting their enemies, they say that they are, in fact, with them or they malign them behind their back, such a person would surely have to be called a flatterer. Yet it would be foolish to accuse a person of flattery who courageously notifies the rulers of their errors while at the same time, professing obedience to them. 

Thus, had you studied the former deeds of the Holy Prophetsa before objecting, you would not have mustered the courage to do so. 

Look, the Holy Prophetsa lived in Mecca for thirteen years. The entire nation was against him and would subject his community to all kinds of pain and suffering. If his sole objective was to bring others under his fold (which is what those who wish to increase their numbers do and who do not differentiate between the pious or wicked) he would not have observed prayer whilst facing Baitul Maqdas [Al Aqsa Mosque, Jerusalem]. Rather, he would have prayed facing the Ka‘ba which would have pleased the disbelievers of Mecca. The influence of the Jews and Christians was not [in Mecca], thus, for popularity, it was not required for him to do so. Despite the enmity of the whole nation, their continual persecution of various kinds and the fact that they would have been pleased by such an act, he did not adopt such a path which would have been understandable to a materialistic planning human. 

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Hazrat Khalifatul Masih II r.a. along with Hazrat Mufti Muhammad Sadiq r.a. and a guest

Then, he travelled to Medina, and there, such people were present who knew Baitul Maqdas to be their own qibla [direction towards which a person prays] and who held great regard for it. However, upon arrival, the Holy Prophetsa faced the Ka‘ba. From this, we can clearly understand how he desired to propagate his faith. His aim was not to please any individual, nation or community, rather, his objective was purely the pleasure of God. For the fulfilment of the task for which God the Almighty had selected him, he did not care in the slightest for the enmity and opposition of any community or group. These accounts are powerful witnesses of the resolve and sincerity behind his motives, objectives and the ways he carried out his actions. 

One who ponders deeply upon these accounts of the life of the Holy Prophetsa – provided they have a conscience – will have to confess to the grandeur of the Holy Prophetsa.

The Holy Quran also mentions that the foolish object against this, but the answer is that the objective behind it is to distinguish those of stronger faith.

Now, tell us: can any wise person of a sound mind say that a person whose actions are as such and whose life has passed in such a manner that they never cared for any greed while conveying the truth, nor did any suffering prevent them from doing so; who is completely unaffected by anybody in this pursuit, in such a state when they gain victories and are given sovereignty, they say to observe prayer in the mosque just to please the Christians? On the contrary, they would have to confess that this action of the Holy Prophetsa was to spread tolerance.  

(O Allah bless Muhammad and the people of Muhammed and cause them to prosper – Editor) 

Then, we observe that the teachings of the Holy Quran regarding the freedom of mosques are magnificent and cannot be located in other religions at all. The Holy Quran has declared the act of stopping people from wirshipping the Divine in mosques to be the greatest injustice. No one can truthfully raise objections after all the accounts that I have succinctly mentioned and after studying the teachings of the Holy Quran collectively. 

(Translated by Fateh Alam)

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