Last Updated on 27th March 2020
Mohammad Atae Rabbi Hadi, Missionary Jamaat Australia
For many years now, like many people, I have been suffering from a certain illness. It seems as though I am allergic to grass pollen and am among the 3.1 million Australians who suffer from this condition every hay fever season.
The paradoxical nature of this specific condition is that where one would conventionally open the window to help with breathing and obtaining fresh air, leaving the window open during a high pollen-count period can have a disastrous effect on a hay fever sufferer, resulting in allergic rhinitis and conjunctivitis i.e. inflammation of the eyes and mucus membranes in the nose.
In simple terms, instead of allowing you to breathe, the simple action of opening a window can result in severe discomfort and suffocation – ironic, I know. This has been the predicament that I have found myself in for many years now and it continuously leads me to think one thing, that is: we do not possess the same degree of control over our lives as we may like to think.
But rather, we are, in actuality, at the mercy of a higher entity. This year in particular, I have been compelled to ponder over this matter ever more than before. Aside from the ongoing disasters that have been plaguing the world at large, in Australia, we entered the year with unprecedented bushfires wreaking havoc all across the country, followed by epic floods.
Now, the world has been brought to a standstill by COVID-19. Sovereign countries and superpowers of the modern world are at the mercy of a virus that is forcing them to enact strict lockdowns and no matter how much they try to buy some time to save their economy and infrastructure, it seems as though the worst is yet to come.
Referring to this, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih Vaa in his Friday Sermon dated 20 March 2020, quoted Phillips Johnston from the Daily Telegraph (“At times like this, we realise just how powerful mankind really is”, The Daily Telegraph, 17 March 2020) stating:
“‘It is extraordinary to think that in the space of a fortnight, our world has been turned completely upside down’ … ‘Further’, he says, ‘all our plans are put on hold, our hopes for the future now uncertain.’ He then writes that neither the threat of nuclear war (during a war), nor the multiple recent social crises have shown an effect like this pandemic has today. He further writes that ‘even during the last war, people went out to the theatre and the cinema, to restaurants and cafes, to clubs and pubs. Indeed, that is one way they got through. Yet that is denied to us.’… So, this virus has compelled the world to reflect about returning to God.”
Of course, some may argue that this higher entity is in fact mother nature and the question of a Conscience Creator is completely absurd. A mere theory devised to explain the un-explainable.
However, the profundity of my inability to combat a minor illness and its paradoxical nature, as well as the crippling force of COVID-19, reminds me of a couplet written by Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, peace be upon him, the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat:
بنا سکتا نہیں اِک پاؤں کیڑے کا بشر ہرگز
تو پھر کیونکر بنانا نورِ حق کا اُس پہ آساں ہے
“Man cannot make even a foot of an insect; How then can it be easy for him to create the Divine Light?”
Faced with the mathematical perfection of the universe and their own inherent limitations, there are many today who, I am sure, ask themselves similar questions. Whenever faced with such thoughts, I am utterly humbled by my position in the cosmos and start to think that there must be more to this creation than meets the eye.
If that is the case, what if the question of a higher entity does not need to remain a subjective theory produced by our own mental faculties? What if the subject has already objectified its own existence through a simple formal introduction?
As a theologian, I have studied Biblical Scriptures and the Holy Quran and have seen that when it comes to describing the Almighty God, the Holy Quran is at the forefront. Unlike Genesis and Matthew, wherein the former begins with a scientifically flawed account of the creation of the Universe and the latter starts off with an equally flawed and contradictory narration of Jesus’as genealogy – providing evidence of human error – the Holy Quran begins with the Author introducing Himself.
The Author, who Muslims believe to be God, introduces Himself using four fundamental attributes, which act as a key to comprehending not only the book itself but also the physical and spiritual realm.
In chapter 1 (Surah al-Fatihah), verse 2 of the Holy Quran, God says that He is “Rabb-ul-alamin”, which can be translated as “Lord of all the worlds”. An in-depth study into the Arabic wording shows that with this statement, God has alluded to a number of subjects.
For the sake of brevity, I would like to touch upon only two. The word rabb comes from the root word rabba, meaning to gradually cause something to reach its apex, to nourish it into perfection. The word alamin is the plural of the word alam, which is derived from the root word alama, meaning to know.
For this reason, alam primarily means that by means of which one knows a thing. Hence, the word has come to be applied to all beings or things by means of which one is able to know the Creator.
Therefore, the first thing we come to know about God is that He did not just create everything in one fell swoop, rather the creation of the universe and everything within it was a gradual process guided by God’s lordship.
Furthermore, this creation was not left unattended, rather every single being and entity gradually evolved from an insignificant state to the perfection we see today. This may seem surprising to many theologians and scientists who are not familiar with the Quranic texts and do not expect it to be coherent and logical, however the fact of the matter is that this was a statement made by God thirteen centuries before many scientific theories regarding creation and evolution, which were formulated within the past two centuries, were presented.
This is precisely why, in another verse of the Holy Quran, God Himself asks:
“What is the matter with you that you do not ascribe dignity to Allah? And certainly, He has created you in stages. Have you not observed how Allah has created seven heavens tier upon tier?” (Surah Nuh, Ch.71: V.14-16)
Secondly, Rabb-ul-alamin (Lord of all the worlds) is a call to all humanity to realise that God does not differentiate between His creation. He is not Rabb for just Muslims who read the Quran.
In fact, he is Rabb, the nourisher, provider and sustainer for all of creation. The Author of the Quran does not begin His book by favouring a specific nation, rather He makes a general statement regarding His relationship with all creation.
This means that each and every person has an equal chance at creating a relationship with the Creator. After introducing Himself as the originator and progressive developer of the Universe and everything within it, God then continues to describe how He deals with His creation. He says that he is “Rahman” (Gracious) followed by “Rahim” (Ever-Merciful).
Both attributes come from the same root word, however, due to their apparent morphological differences, they both describe two separate concepts. On the one hand, Rahman (Gracious) denotes that the Lord of all the worlds has not just created life and gradually brought it to perfection, but He has Himself also provided all the necessary means and faculties needed for the development of His creation, without any demand being made by the created.
Take for example oxygen, water and light or our lungs, stomach and eyes; these are all required for our existence and physical growth, but not once have we had to ask for them and neither can we imagine a life without them. On the other hand, the attribute, Rahim (Ever-Merciful) signifies that when man makes proper use of the means and faculties granted to him, God not only rewards his hard work, but also inspires him with a desire for further good actions, opening for him unending avenues of progress and development.
So, in short, both these attributes deal with two aspects of human life. The former Rahman (Gracious) deals with life pertaining to this world and the latter deals with the Hereafter one prepares for.
This is why the Holy Prophetsa of Islam is reported to have said that Rahman generally pertains to this life and Rahim generally pertains to the Hereafter.
Finally, the Author of the Holy Quran completes His introduction by referring to Himself as Malik-e-yaum-id-din (Master of the Day of Judgement).
Again, due to the limitations of the English language, one can only comprehend so much from the literal translation of this statement, however, as usual, a deeper study into the Arabic lexicon will show that this statement is imbued with depth and meaning. Malik not only means Master, but it also signifies one who possesses sole ownership.
By referring to Himself with this name, God has once again described the manner of His mercy and grace. Here, He points out that unlike worldly rulers who are bound by a prescribed law, He has full authority over His creation. He forgives whomsoever He pleases and favours whomsoever He pleases. This inspires hope in the hearts of many who find themselves weak and in need of God’s mercy, reminding us that it is not purely our actions that will grant us salvation, rather our salvation is wholly dependent on the grace of God.
Another aspect of this attribute is that where God has full control over who He wishes to extend His grace to, being the Master of the Day of Requital, He also has full authority to punish one who is engulfed in sin. Hence, the fourth attribute, not only further reminds us of His great mercy but also works as an equipoise for those who wish to take undue advantage of God’s kindness.
This attribute also draws our attention to our final destination, which is the Hereafter. It explains that our noble end is wholly dependent on our spiritual evolution, which takes place in the order of these four attributes of God – the fourth being responsible for manifesting the final outcome of our progression in this life. This shows that our Hereafter is a literal reflection of our spiritual selves in this world.
The founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat, the Promised Messiahas explains that God not only introduced Himself in this order in the Holy Quran, rather through reflection, one can also observe these attributes being manifested in this order throughout one’s life. As Rabb-ul-alamin (Lord of all the worlds) and Rahman (Gracious), He has set everything on a path of evolution by altruistically granting them inherent characteristics for growth; human progress and suffering is a result of their proper or improper use.
His attributes of Rahim (Ever-Merciful) and Malik-e-yaum-id-din (Master of the Day of Judgement) enable progress and bring about a final outcome. These are the four attributes with which God – the Author of the Holy Quran – introduces Himself and explains why only He deserves to be worshipped.
In a world plagued with continuous disasters, while we continue to witness atrocities being committed against mankind, a virus not visible by the human eye has unveiled the most basic human instinct of survival. Although governments have enforced measures to prevent seeing the ugly side of human nature – acts of hoarding and panic buying – indeed, no matter which background or faith one belongs to, one must agree that without trust in a higher entity, one may end up losing all hope in humankind.
If the people of the world were to become just and equitable like Malik-e-yaum-id-din; ever ready to reward those who are good to them like Al-Rahim; altruistically good to others like Al-Rahman and unbiasedly compassionate to all and ever ready to help others progress like Rabb-ul-alamin instead of worshipping their passions or those who only lead them to self-harm, the world would most surely be a better place.
“Our paradise lies in our God. Our highest delight is in our God for we have seen Him and found every beauty in Him. This wealth is worth procuring though one might have to lay down one’s life to procure it. This ruby is worth purchasing though one may have to lose oneself to acquire it. O ye, who are deprived! Hasten to this fountain as it will satiate you. It is this fountain of life that will save you. What am I to do? How shall I impress the hearts with this good news? What sort of a drum am I to beat in the streets in order to make the announcement that this is your God, so that people might hear? What remedy shall I apply to the ears of the people so that they should listen?” (Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas, the Promised Messiah and Imam Mahdi, Noah’s Ark, p. 35)