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 conventionally one would 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 act of opening the 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. 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 even 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 which 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, the Caliph of the worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in his Friday Sermon dated 20th March 2020, quoted Phillips Johnston from the Daily Telegraph 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 on 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 unexplainable. 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 His Holiness Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (peace be upon him) the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community:
‘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 the Biblical Scriptures and the Holy Quran and have seen that when it comes to describing Almighty God, the Holy Quran is at the forefront. Unlike Genesis and Mathew in which 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’ 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 Verse 2 of the Holy Quran, God says that he is Rab-bul-Aalameen, which is loosely translated as Lord of all the worlds. An in-depth study into the Arabic wording will show that with this statement God has eluded to a number of subjects. For the sake of brevity, I would like to touch upon only two. The word Rab comes from the root word Rabba meaning to gradually cause something to reach its apex, to nourish it into perfection. The word Aalameen is the plural of the word Aalam which is derived from the root word Alama, meaning to know. For this reason, Aalam 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 the many scientific theories regarding creation and evolution, which were formulated within the past two centuries. This is precisely why in another verse of the Holy Quran, God Himself asks:
Secondly, the statement Rab-bul-Aalameen (Lord of all the worlds) is a call to all humanity to realise that God does not differentiate between His creation. He is not Rab for just Muslims who read the Quran. In fact, he is Rab, 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. Meaning that each and everyone 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 on to describe how he deals with His creation. He says that he is Rahman (the Most Gracious) followed by Raheem (the Ever-Merciful). Both of these attributes come from the same root word; however, due to their apparent morphological differences, they both describe two separate concepts.
On the one hand, the word Rahman (the Most Gracious) denotes that the Lord of all the worlds has not just created life and gradually brought it to perfection but He has also provided all the necessary means and faculties needed for the development of His creation gratuitously, 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 Raheem (the 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 (the Most Gracious) deals with life pertaining to this world and the latter deals with the life one prepares for the hereafter. This is why the Holy Prophet of Islam is reported to have said that Rahman generally pertains to this life and Raheem generally pertains to the hereafter.
Finally, the Author of the Holy Quran completes His introduction by referring to Himself as Mãlik- e-Yaum-ud-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. Mãlik 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 which 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 responsible for manifesting the final outcome of our progression in this life. Meaning, our hereafter is a literal reflection of our spiritual selves in this world.
The founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community who claimed to be the Promised Messiah, His Holiness Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad explains that God not only introduces 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 Rab-bul-Aalameen (Lord of all the worlds) and Rahman (the Most 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 Raheem (the Ever-Merciful) and Mãlik-e-Yaum-ud-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. Manifested through the ugly side of human nature, through acts of hoarding and panic buying, increasingly being witnessed day by day, 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-ud-Din, ever ready to reward those who are good to them like Raheem, altruistically good to others like Rahman, and unbiasedly compassionate to all and ever ready to help others progress like Rab-bul-Aalameen, instead of worshipping their passions or those who only lead them to self-harm – the world would most surely be a better place.
Our highest delight is in our God for we have seen Him and have 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 bereft! Run to this fountain and it will satisfy you. It is the fountain of life that will save you.
(His Holiness Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Promised Messiah and Mahdi–Founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community)