100 Years Ago… – The way to live a spiritual life: An English Ahmadi lady’s advice

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The Review of Religions (English), March 1920

We give below the text of a paper which Miss Beddon, one of the English ladies who have recently joined the Ahmadiyya movement, read before a meeting of ladies and gentlemen held on January 11th, 1920, at the headquarters of the Ahmadiyya Movement in England at 4 Star Street, Edgware Road, London, W. 2. The paper was meant as a New Year greeting and contains a good deal of spiritual food for those who are desirous of leading truly Muslim lives. We congratulate our sister Haneefah on her pure and wise thoughts and pray that God may help her to become a pattern and example for others.

(Editor of The Review of Religions in 1920)

January 11th—New Year greetings

I have been asked by our brothers to say a few words to you this evening, and I assure you it is with great pleasure I greet you as sisters and brothers this new year of 1920, wishing you all happiness. I feel that those of you who are not already sisters or brothers in the faith cannot possibly obtain the perfect happiness which is to be found. I therefore urge you to find out the beauties of Islam, join our brotherhood, know all you can of our Holy Prophet Muhammad, on whom be peace, and you then will indeed have a Happy New Year. We must establish ourselves in a sense of God’s presence, by continually conversing with Him. We must feed and nourish our souls with high notions of God. This will create great joy, by being devoted to Him. Walk closely with Him. Say to yourselves daily, hourly if possible, Oh, for a closer walk with God, a calm and heavenly ray, a lamp that shines upon the road that leads me unto God. It is lamentable we have so little faith in our God, who is also our Creator, our Sustainer, Nourisher, and Cherisher. We must enliven our faith, give ourselves up to God, with regard both to things temporal and spiritual, and seek our satisfaction only in the fulfilling of His will, whether He lead us by suffering, or by consolation, for all are equal to a soul truly resigned.

To arrive at such resignation as God requires, we should watch attentively over all the passions which mingle as well in spiritual things, as those of a grosser nature. God will give light concerning these passions to those who truly desire to serve Him. You may go to Him as often as you please, and He will not think you troublesome. No, He continues to bestow His favours in abundance. He requires no great matters of us, a little remembrance of Him from time to time, a little adoration, sometimes to pray for His grace, sometimes to offer Him your sufferings, and sometimes to return Him thanks for the favours He has given you and still gives you, in the midst of your troubles, and to console yourselves with Him the oftenest you can.

Lift up your hearts to Him, when at your meals, and when you are in company; the least little remembrance will always be acceptable to Him. You need not cry very loud. He is nearer to us than we are aware of. It is not necessary for being with God to be always at the mosque or the church. Oh no, He made a mosque of our heart wherein to retire from time to time, to converse with Him, in meekness, humility, and love. Everyone is capable of such familiar conversation with God; some more, some less. He knows what we can do. Let us begin then. Perhaps He expects but one generous resolution on our part. Have courage; we have but little time to live, so let us live and die with God. Sufferings will be sweet and pleasant to us while we are with Him, and the greatest pleasures will be (without Him) a cruel punishment to us.

Use yourselves then by degrees thus to worship Him, to offer Him your heart from time to time, in the midst of your daily life. Act with a general confidence in God with love and humility; confess your faults. Let it be your business to keep your mind in the presence of your Lord. If it sometimes wanders, and withdraw itself from Him, do not much disquiet yourselves for that. Trouble and disquiet serve rather to distract the mind than to recollect it. The will must bring it back to tranquility. If you persevere in this manner, God will have pity on you. One way to recollect the mind easily in the time of prayer and preserve it more in tranquility, is not to let it wander too far at other times, but keep it strictly in the presence of God. One does not become holy at once. We must help one another by our advice, and yet more by our good examples.

I am filled with shame and confusion, when I reflect on one hand upon the great favours which God has done, and incessantly continues to do me, and on the other, upon the ill use I have made of them and my small advancement in the way of perfection. Since by His mercy He gives us still a little time, let us begin in earnest. Let us return with a full assurance to that Father of Mercies who is always ready to receive us affectionately. Let us renounce, let us generously renounce for the love of Him, all that is not He. He deserves infinitely more. Let us think of Him perpetually. Let us put all our trust in Him. I doubt not but we shall soon find the effect of it in receiving the abundance of His grace with which we can do all things, and without which we can do nothing but sin – we cannot escape the dangers which abound in life without the actual and continual help of God. Let us then pray to Him for it continually, but how can we pray to Him without being with Him. How can we be with Him, but in thinking of Him often?

And how can we often think of Him but by a holy habit which we should form of it? You will tell me that I am always saying the same thing. It is true for this is the best and easiest method I know, to invite all the world to it. We must know before we can love. In order to know God we must often think of Him, and when we come to love Him, we shall then also think of Him often, for our heart will be with our treasure.

I have endeavoured to point out to you the necessity of prayer, which is the soul’s desire. The soul must be fed. Common sense must tell us that our souls need daily food just as much as our bodies. If it is a law in physical life that we must eat to live, it is also equally a law in spiritual life. Many of you here tonight perhaps say: Give us this day our daily bread, is a prayer that includes the soul as well as the body, and unless our religion contains this necessary, for our weekday lives as well as our Sunday lives, it is a grievous failure. The religion of Islam is full of principles that fit into human life, and the soul that would grow strong must feed itself on these as well as on the more dainty fare of sermons and services. It is of vital importance, that we choose the right sort of spiritual food upon which to feed.

If unwholesome physical food injures the physical health, so also must unwholesome mental food injure the spiritual health. There is such a thing as spiritual indigestion, just as there is physical indigestion. More and more are the most skillful physicians urging the fact that the state of our health, is largely dependent upon the food we eat, and gradually mankind are learning, that to secure good health for our bodies we must eat only health giving food. This is equally true on the spiritual plane although it is not so generally recognised. The laws of spiritual hygiene, are as real and as inexorable as the laws of physical hygiene, and it is of vital importance to our soul health that we should realise this.

Leanness of soul arises far more often than we think from the indigestible nature of the spiritual food we have been feeding upon. We are not satisfied to eat the food God has provided for us, and we hunger for the flesh pots of Egypt. We do not like our providential surroundings perhaps or our church, or our preacher, or our work, and we all the time think we could be better if only our circumstances were different. It is that our souls loathe the light food God has provided and we question as the Israelites did. I tell you, my sisters and brothers, the soul that feeds on the wind of doctrine or on the “ashes” of earthly vanity will find itself brought into a state of desolation and distress, and this not because of God’s wrath, according to our understanding of that expression, but because of the unchangeable law of spiritual hygiene, that improper soul food must produce illness of soul, just as improper food for the body must make the body ill.

This New Year which is now with us, makes a new epoch in our lives. With so many conflicting thoughts it is desirable that harmony of some sort should exist. Islam gives us, this the real introduction to this New Year. Let our actions be based on unity. With the Moslem prayer always
before us – “show us the way” in Islam, there is nothing between you and your God. Perfect unity existing, is not this a beautiful thought? No mediator required. And now as we tread our way through this new year, beset with all its trials, let us remember our God – remember we are at unity with Him, and say as many times a day as we possibly can:

Allah-o-Akbar Ash-hadu-Alla-Ilaha Illallahu;

God is great, there is no one but Him;

Could we but kneel and cast our load,

E’en while we pray unto our God,

Then rise with lightened cheer,

Sure that the Father who is nigh

To hear the famished raven’s cry

Will hear, we need not fear.

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