An appeal to the Muslim youth of British India by Hazrat Musleh-e-Maud and a questionnaire for readers

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Last Updated on 3rd August 2022

Ata-ul-Haye Nasir, Al Hakam

Hazrat Musleh-e-Maud
Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih IIra

Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih IIra had a huge desire to witness Muslim unity and thus, he proposed various schemes for the progress of Islam. 

In 1932, Huzoorra wrote an article, titled To the Youth of Muslim India, in which he granted valuable guidance to the youth of British India and urged them to play their role for the progress of Islam. 

Huzoorra stated:

“Friends, the present age, in spite of its loud protestations in the cause of peace, is in a state of constant war, and nations are matched against nations, ideas against ideas, sentiments against sentiments, and religion against religion and it is impossible for any individual dealing with his fellow-men to remain unaffected by these conflicting forces. But the community to which you happen to belong, stands alone without any arrangement for its protection and care. No doubt, for such a state of things, you may well complain about your elders in the words of Hafiz:

درمیانِ‭ ‬قعرِ‭ ‬دریا‭ ‬تختہ‭ ‬بندم‭ ‬كردہ‭ ‬اى‭ ‬

‭ ‬باز‭ ‬مى‭ ‬گوئى‭ ‬كہ‭ ‬دامن‭ ‬تر‭ ‬مكن‭ ‬ہشیار‭ ‬باش

“‘Thou hast tied my plank in the middle of the sea; and still thou wouldst ask me to be vigilant and to keep my clothes dry.’ 

“But nevertheless, I cannot help pointing out with regret that you too, on your part, have not evinced that spirit of firmness which has always been the special characteristic of the Muslims. It seems that you have thrown down your weapons before the on-slaughts of contrary and opposing ideas without making one last effort. 

“If we turn to Europe which is the birthplace of the present conflict of ideas, we may see there the young men still striving with their might and main to support a religion which has its basis in the divinity of a man. They have not yet thrown down their weapons. But in your case, you seem to have given up all hope of victory without even a struggle, and to have bowed down your heads in submission without even raising a voice in protest. […]

“I cannot, however, help admitting that in this matter your elders far more than yourselves have been to blame. It is they who neglected to take note of your difficulties and failed to furnish you with the means required to face them. Under such circumstances it occurred to me that I should come to your help in this struggle and assist you in winning victory in a battle which is not only raging all about you, but has also been going on within your minds.

“The first thing which I have to point out to you in this connection is that the new ideas which are being presented to you are not meant for you alone. They had their origin in Europe and particularly in the universities of that continent; but nevertheless, Europe has not yet bidden adieu to its religion. The Missionaries who are employed in proclaiming Christianity all over the world and whose number is well over a lac are all graduates of those universities. 

“The Ministers who are attached to the church establishments are even considerably more in number. These also are graduates of the same universities. The majority of the people are believers in God to Whom they offer prayers and worship. They also have faith in the life after death. They also believe that their own salvation and the salvation of the world are linked with the question of religion. The same arguments and the same philosophy which are presented to you are also presented to them, perhaps in larger quantities and fresher forms, very often through the mouths of their first propounders, but they are not carried away by such arguments and philosophy. 

“I do not mean to say that inasmuch as the young men of Europe do not believe in the new doctrines, such doctrines are necessarily false. Such a contention would obviously be absurd. What I mean to point out is that the new philosophy is not so established and verified a truth as not to admit of discussion of its merits; and that it can hardly be said that at the present time only such people do believe in the truth of religion as are not conversant with the new philosophy, and that there are many who are far more versed than yourselves in the new philosophy and yet have not been shaken in their belief in the truth of religion. It is therefore your duty to weigh carefully and impartially the merits of the new philosophy and not to accept it simply because it is associated with the name of some well-known philosophers of the West.

“Professor Joad who is a well-known writer and whose works are read with great interest in literary circles has in his book, The Present and Future of Religion, furnished a very interesting diagram from which he has concluded that the present-day religions have failed to give any satisfaction to men. The diagram is based upon the answers received from the readers of the Nation and the Daily News to certain questionnaires published in those papers.” (The Review of Religions, Vol. 31, May 1932, pp. 133-135)

Joads Book 1
Title page, page 15, 223 and 224 of The Present and Future of Religion, mentioning the results of questionnaires published by The Nation and The Daily News

Professor Cyril Edwin Mitchinson Joad (1891-1953) was an English philosopher and broadcasting personality. He used to appear on a BBC Radio wartime discussion programme, titled The Brains Trust

In 1926, a well-known periodical, the Nation prepared a questionnaire on the state of religious belief; for instance, “Do you believe in God?”; “Do you believe that Christ was divine?”, etc. The answers to these questions were then published in the Nation’s 16 October 1926 issue.  

In regard to this, Professor CEM Joad wrote:

“Those who gave affirmative answers to these questions, the sort of answers, that is to say, which would be given by persons generally in agreement with the main doctrines of the Christian religion, numbered between 30 and 35 per cent of the whole. The remainder were either agnostic or avowed atheists. The believers in organised religion as formulated in the tenets of a church numbered only 25 per cent. 

“The Daily News, which shortly afterwards invited its readers to answer the same questionnaire, returned a poll of roughly 63 per cent affirmative answers. Far more people believed that the Bible is inspired than that the first chapter of Genesis is historical. […] In due course American newspaper readers were confronted with the same question; the returns showed an 80 per cent majority for orthodox belief. 

“The inference is obvious: the Nation is read by the best educated classes in the community – by professors, by University men, by teachers, writers, scientists, and, presumably, by politicians; the Daily News by the lower middle classes, not so well educated, valuing respectability and anxious to do and think the right thing. 

“The American figures, taken at their face value, are sufficiently startling. But, on reflection, one is inclined to wonder what their face value is worth. Many Americans who do not believe, desire to be [considered among those who are] thought to believe, and in a land which is notorious for irreligion it is more than the position of any public man is worth to profess doubt. Belief in God, moreover, like belief in natural purity and prosperity, is sedulously boosted by the Press, which is quite capable of suppressing evidence pointing to a state of affairs other than that which it makes it its business to profess to desire. 

“Certainly the answers to a questionnaire prepared by the Institute of Social and Religious Research, indicating the attitude of American students to compulsory attendance at religious services, do not suggest that those who swell the congregations at college chapels are animated by genuine religious motives.” (The Present and Future of Religion, Ernest Benn Limited, 1930, pp. 15-16)     

While quoting the results of these questionnaires, Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra stated:

“I quote some of those questions here. One was, ‘Are you a believer in the existence of a personal God?’ Of the readers of the Nation, 743 answered ‘Yes’, and 1024 said ‘No’. But of the readers of the Daily News 9,991 said ‘Yes’, and 3,686 said ‘No’. Thus altogether, 10,754 were ‘Yea’s’, and 4,710 were ‘No’s’. Another question was: ‘Are you a believer in the immortality of the human soul?’ Of the subscribers of Nation 807 said ‘Yes’ and 882 ‘No’. Of the subscribers of the ‘Daily News’ 10,161 said ‘Yes’ and 3,178 said ‘No’. That is altogether 10,968 appeared to be believers and 4,060 to be deniers of the doctrine. Another question was: ‘Do you believe in the divinity of Jesus in a sense in which you are not prepared to believe in the divinity of any other man?’ Of the answers received by the Nation, 659 were ‘Yea’s’ and 1,136 were ‘No’s’. Of those received by the Daily News, 9,549 were ‘Yea’s’ and 4,179 were ‘No’s’. That is, altogether 10,208 were ‘Yea’s’ and 5315 were ‘No’s’. 

“Whatever conclusion might be drawn by Professor Joad from the above figures it is apparent that at present, even in Europe, the centre of atheism, not more than 33 per cent of the educated people are dissatisfied with their religion and that even now 2/3 of the people are believers in their own way in the existence of the Divine Being. Even the said Professor has been forced to admit that although at the present time religion has failed to bring any satisfaction to men, there is a strong current of public opinion supporting the need for religion; and that religious publications are still the best-sellers in Europe.

“Such being the condition of Christianity, should not the Muslim youngmen who possess a religion supported by reason and argument be far more firm in their faith? Certainly, they should be and there is no doubt about it that if they had the opportunity to study Islam and the Holy Quran their loyalty and attachment to their religion would have been beyond question. But unfortunately, necessary material for such a study is entirely wanted nor does anybody care to provide it. 

“It is not my intention in the present article to adduce arguments in support of the truth of Islam. My object here is to invite the attention of the Muslim Youth to the duty which rests upon them in this connection. I only wish to point out that a study of human psychology and human history goes to prove that religion exercises a powerful influence either for good or evil not only upon the spiritual condition of man, but also upon his intellectual and material condition; and that not only the truth or falsehood of a religion but also our own attitude towards it – right or wrong – has a good deal to do with the amelioration or deterioration of our condition. 

“If we do not take religion seriously and our interest in it is only nominal, then it is useless and a very heavy burden which is sure even to bring disaster to an army. The struggle of life would never permit us to carry any such extra burden. We should either accept a religion whole-heartedly or reject it altogether. Having accepted a religion it does harm to our morals and injures our power of action if we remain indifferent to it. It does not, therefore, behove you to say that it is a matter of indifference to you in what religion you are born and that there is little need for you to give any serious thought to it or else to abandon it, because in such a case the necessary consequence would be a mental stagnation which would deprive you of the power of boldly facing and overcoming difficulties not only in religious but also in worldly matters, and would implant in you the habit of shirking your duties. 

“If you attach yourselves to a religion without caring to give serious thought to it or letting it in any way to influence the course of your actions, then you hang, as it were, a mill-stone around your neck which as long as it is there it would be sheer foolishness to expect to swim across the sea of life. Thus it is your plain duty either to accept Islam whole-heartedly or to reject it fully and completely so that you may not be a loser either in this world or in the next. 

“No nation can progress without having a definite goal in view and no national goal can be fixed except with the help of religion or philosophy. When we accept merely in name those common principles which could furnish us with a common goal, we shut against ourselves, as it were, the door of unity. Under such circumstances, it is natural that every member would fix for himself a goal of his own. Such disharmony and disunity can lead nowhere but to defeat and disaster. 

“It is true that if we reject our present religion our attention must be devoted to the creation of a new point of union and contact and if we succeed in our objective, then we shall achieve our national goal. Thus, the question of religion is not one to which we can afford to be indifferent. You must either establish a right relation with it or reject it altogether; otherwise you shall be throwing away without using the most powerful instrument of human progress and shall be casting yourselves at the mercy of your enemies. 

“In the end, I wish to tell you that since the means at my disposal are not sufficient to approach you all, I propose to publish a series of monthly tracts dealing with the subjects bearing upon the need of religion in general and that of Islam in particular. 

“I propose to distribute those tracts among such college students only as express their desire to have them and agree to bear half of their cost. For example, if the tract should cost an anna each, they would agree to pay half an anna, the other half being borne by the Anjuman-e-Taraqqi-e-Islam, Qadian. 

“From time to time I propose to publish questionnaires. Only such students who will answer these questionnaires will be supplied with the said tracts. The purpose of these questionnaires will be to ascertain the tendencies and mental inclinations of the students. For, it is clear that, in order to treat a disease, one must first be acquainted with its diagnosis. One such questionnaire is given at the end of this article. If any one of you should care to peruse this article, I will request him to fill in the questionnaire and return the same either to me or to the Secretary Anjuman-e-Taraqqi-e-Islam, Qadian. He should also state that he is willing to be a subscriber to the said tract. 

“I may add that except in case the tract will have to be sent to you separately by post, the price of the tract would not exceed one pice [paisa]per month. If however the number of subscribers in a college is not such as to justify the appointment of an agent to distribute the tracts, in that case you will have to bear half of the postal charges also, which would amount one pice for a tract. Thus in order to save yourselves the cost of postage, you will have to secure at least two dozen fellow-subscribers. In that case the whole of the postal charges will be borne by the Anjuman-e-Taraqqi-e-Islam.

“Lastly I wish to add that all matters relating to the finance and management of these tracts will be in the charge of the Anjuman-e-Taraqqi-e-Islam. My connection with the tract will be solely confined to its subject matter. Therefore all remittances should be made to the Secretary, Anjuman-e-Taraqqi-e-Islam, Qadian, and not to me. 

Questionnaire

“1. Do you believe in one God Who is the Creator of this Universe? 

“2. Do you believe that God even now interferes in the affairs of this world?

“3. Do you believe man to be a free agent or a creature of circumstances? 

“4. Do you believe in predestination? 

“5. Do you believe that human soul will subsist after death? 

“6. Do you believe the doctrine of the transmigration of the soul is worth consideration?

“7. Do you believe in worship and prayer to be a necessary instrument for the spiritual growth of man? 

“8. Do you believe that the teachings of the Holy Quran are fit to be acted upon at all times? 

“9. Do you believe that the Law of Islam can even now be followed in practice and ought to be followed? 

“10. Do you believe that Islam will have a revival? 

“11. Do you believe that Islamic culture possesses any such peculiar excellences that would justify special efforts and sacrifice on our part to preserve its distinctive and separate existence? 

“12. Do you believe in the existence of angels as intelligent beings?” (The Review of Religions, Vol. 31, pp. 135-140, May 1932; Partially edited by Al Hakam)

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