The purpose of the advent of the Promised Messiah

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An address delivered by Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmadra on 29 January 1926. Translated from the original Urdu to English by the Fazl-e-Umar Foundation.

After reciting the tashahud, ta‘awuz and Surah al-Fatihah, Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih II and Musleh-e-Maud, may Allah be pleased with him, said:

In the world of religion, every recipient of divine revelation raised by God comes with a purpose and mission.

Most [fundamental] truths were disclosed to human beings in the earliest days of their existence, but despite this, it is part of human nature to neglect certain essential principles unless they are repeatedly emphasised. Consequently, God Almighty asserted certain truths relevant to the needs and circumstances of a particular time through His prophets and chosen ones.

Presently, I will not elaborate on the movements brought by these earlier messengers, for they are clear and evident. Instead, today, I wish to discuss the specific mission with which the Promised Messiahas came into this world.

By this I do not mean the teachings he brought with him like the earlier prophets did, but rather the way of thought he desired to spread in the world. Indeed, all prophets sought to establish a new mode of thinking that met the requirements of their people.

Similarly, I will not discourse on the vices these prophets wanted to remove or the virtues they wished to establish and which the Promised Messiahas also emphasised during his lifetime. For example, every prophet stressed belief in the Unity of God. However, this tenet gradually became more comprehensive and lucid in accordance with the intellectual development of humankind.

Like earlier prophets, the Promised Messiahas also taught belief in the oneness of God but elucidated it in such a manner that was unparalleled by any other prophet of any other faith [except for the Holy Prophetsa himself]. This is a subject which I recently discussed in one of my sermons.

Likewise, the love of God Almighty is a virtue emphasised by all the prophets, including the Promised Messiahas.

In the current age, one prevalent failing is the tendency to give preference to the affairs of the world, over one’s religion. The Promised Messiahas affirmed the importance of removing this shortcoming. Thus, rather than [focussing on] the efforts he undertook to establish belief and good conduct, I will speak about the intellectual transformation he initiated, and the things its encompassed. That is to say, the spirit that underlies both faith and action.

Looking at the teachings of the Promised Messiahas with this purpose in mind, it is clear that he advanced two [overarching] concepts in an unparalleled way.

The first is the message of hope. In truth, all prophets guided their people towards a certain way of thinking based on the needs of their time and circumstances. Accordingly, the Promised Messiahas also instilled hope in the people of the world.

By hope, I do not mean a sense of easiness that makes a person free of worry, or [hollow] optimism bereft of action, or [empty] supplications marked by helplessness. Rather, I am referring to that hope which arises from knowing that God has indeed endowed human beings with all the subtle strengths, hidden capacities, and inherent faculties necessary to fulfil their primary purpose [in life] – that is, to attain the nearness of God. It was to this end that human beings were created with such phenomenal powers, strengths, and capabilities.

This is the type of hope I refer to; to know that despite the limitations of our physical existence, we have infinite capacities and all conceivable abilities to achieve this singular purpose. This idea had never before been presented with such force and cogency as was done by the Promised Messiahas.

In earlier times, prophets would inspire both hope and restraint through various means. They would strive to revive the spiritually dead; they would endeavour to eradicate superstitions and bring people back to the truth; they would warn those who were idle and heedless; and they would stop people possessed of arrogance from trampling upon the emotions of others. Even so, no prophet [apart from the Holy Prophet] ever offered the [same magnitude] of hope as the Promised Messiahas did.

The second teaching presented by the Promised Messiahas in a new and original manner – and which became a core theme of all his writings and discourses – the idea of self-reformation. He argued that nothing in the world is, in itself, the object of anything; actions are merely a shell under which lies the kernel, like a dress layered over a body; and that this kernel or body is the spirit underlying all conduct. Actions that produce mischief, vice, disarray or conflict are futile, no matter how virtuous and honourable they may appear to be. Any deed that does not generate spiritual enhancement is, in its essence, meaningless. Hence, the Promised Messiahas emphasised that the drive for self-improvement must be at the heart of all our actions. However, this does not mean the type of self-reform once described by a poet in the couplet:

دروغ مصلحت آمیز بہ از راستی فتنہ انگیز

That is, if wisdom dictates it, it is better to speak a lie than a truth that leads to disharmony. These are little more than empty words that advocate for momentary gain over long-term consequences. People who adhere to such reasoning have not thought it through properly. Intentions that underlie actions are not perceptible. Whenever people, including children, hear a lie, they draw from this that a person they once trusted has deceived them. The intention behind the lie is irrelevant. Such actions have the potential to spread dishonesty and cause national moral decay.

Lying can sometimes quell a disagreement that would otherwise arise from speaking the truth, but ultimately falsehood will destroy peace in the world.

Such people give no thought to the wider consequences of their actions, nor do they understand that truthfulness does not necessarily mean the full disclosure of information; that there is a middle ground between telling the truth and lying – that is to say silence. Why would a person not choose silence when it is an option for them, especially if a truth runs the risk of creating discord and lying is inherently immoral?

However, the Promised Messiahas did not imply that a person should always step back from such matters that fuel conflict when he spoke of self-reformation. Some issues bring long-term gains, even at the expense of short-term loss. The Promised Messiahas noted that a person should see things through a longer-term perspective that considers all the possible consequences of an action – whether physical or spiritual, religious or secular, or whether they concern the creation [of God] or [God] the Creator. He said that a person ought to act prudently based on an assessment of all the factors.

These are the two primary teachings presented by the Promised Messiahas and following them has the potential to solve the issues faced by the world today. The light of these teachings can penetrate the bleakest recesses of the world and extinguish [spiritual] darkness. 

Members of our community must remember that this is an age of hope and self-reform in which despondence will be driven away because despair comes from Satan. There is a prophecy concerning the Promised Messiahas which says that he would destroy the head of Satan. And in Arabic, Satan is called Iblis and defined as one who despairs.

Hence, this prophecy signifies that the Promised Messiahas would eradicate despair. But by no means does it imply that he would eliminate this emotion that has been created by God and is meant to endure until the Day of Judgment. In truth, Iblis has been created as an opposing force to the angels to drive human beings away from virtue.

Thus, if Iblis were eliminated altogether, it would imply that the angels were no longer needed. However, this cannot be the case as angels will continue to exist until Day of Judgement, after which it is unclear what will become of their existence.

Consequently, the existence of Iblis is essential for human beings to attain the nearness of God. They cannot be deserving of reward without passing through trial and difficulty. The absence of Iblis would, therefore, amount to an absence of paradise and all the bounties of God Almighty.

Note that goats and cattle cannot attain paradise because Iblis does not act as a counterforce for them. Meanwhile, human beings are granted paradise owing to their struggle against Iblis. Thus, only after being subjected to trials and tribulations do people become deserving of reward. In short, Iblis cannot be destroyed given the afflictive role he plays in the [development] of human beings.

Did the Promised Messiahas completely eradicate evil from the world? No, and it would have been impossible for him to have done so. For if he had, evil would not persist in the world. So the prophecy about defeating Iblis did not mean that the Promised Messiahas would wipe the force that incites people to evil from the face of the earth. Instead, it meant that he would trample despair and bring about real hope in its place. Aside from this, there can be no other interpretations of this prophecy.

Therefore, one mission of the Promised Messiahas was to bring a message of hope, eradicate despair and hopelessness and generate winds of positivity in the world. Every individual who embraces this hope is assisting the Promised Messiahas in defeating Iblis.

Conversely, anyone who gives in to despair and pessimism works towards sustaining that which the Promised Messiahas was sent to destroy. In the same way, those who take short-term actions hamper the mission of the Promised Messiahas, for a person who is prudent in their conduct will only adopt a course of action that produces good results, after having assessed its spiritual and material merits. Only such people support the mission of the Promised Messiahas.

Thus, I call on all my friends and brothers to pay heed to the message brought by the Promised Messiahas: to trample the head of Iblis by developing hope and optimism within themselves. But it must be remembered that hope always co-exists with fear. Even though hope is born when there is a strong prospect of attaining something, there is always a persistent fear of hurdles coming in the way. Thus, the word hope is closely connected with fear.

The Promised Messiahas elevated our community to a place of optimism which was far removed from despair. Had the nation to whom the Promised Messiahas was sent not been gripped by despondency at the time of his advent, a [divine] prophecy pertaining to the vanquishing of Iblis could not have been made.

In the age in which the Promised Messiahas was sent, Muslims, themselves, were predicting that Christianity would devour Islam within a century. In this way, they were succumbing to Christianity and moulding the teachings of Islam in ways that were more compliant with Christian beliefs.

Yet, how different are things today? Whether or not people believed in the Promised Messiahas, the currents of hope brought by him in the world inevitably reached them. Even those who rejected the Promised Messiahas were drenched by his rain. For example, in Europe and other Western nations, there are many people who now write in favour of belief in the afterlife. [These were people] who had previously subscribed to false ideas and denied the afterlife from a sense of hopelessness. In this way, not only did the Promised Messiahas bring the light of hope for Muslims, but also for Europeans [and other Western nations as well].

The Promised Messiahas has written that even though a prophet does not travel to every place, God Almighty still inspires the hearts of people everywhere through His angels; therefore, everyone experiences the ripples created by the advent of His prophet.

In this way, an extraordinary change is affected in the world through His prophet, because of the divine help he receives through the agency of the angels. Thus, even though the Promised Messiahas never visited Western nations and until now, nor have our missionaries, the emerging advancements [in all disciplines] are a by-product of the same waves created by the Promised Messiahas.

Indeed, a prophecy of the Holy Quran also speaks of nations that will aspire to excel one another in the time of the Promised Messiahas.

This desire is also a mark of hope and one can see this taking place in all nations. [For example] Hindus, who, for centuries, were passive about their faith and did not permit others to join their religion, now admit to [the importance of] growth in gaining prevalence in the world and have more readily begun to accept converts.

Similarly, the Jews, who did not previously allow [gentiles] to enter their faith, are now doing so with the purpose of bolstering their numbers.

These nations are like the shrubs that grow next to mushrooms. The rain of hope emanating from the Promised Messiahas has no doubt reached other [nations] and uplifted their spirits.

Therefore, it would be a cause of great regret if our own community squandered the spirit with which it was endowed, while others benefitted from it. If simple shrubs can grow as a result of the rain of the Promised Messiahas, then why not ripe fruits?

I therefore call on the community to have true hope and forsake pessimism, for anyone who gives in to despondency cannot be faithful to the Promised Messiahas. A person can only remain connected with him, if their heart becomes a fountain of infinite hope.

I pray that God the Exalted fills in the members of our community with optimism and eradicates all despair, which is the true source of ruin and destruction. Amin.

(Al Fazl, 5 February 1926; Translated by the Fazl-e-Umar Foundation)

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