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Report by Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din about the Congress of Religions, Paris, July 1913
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Report by Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din about the Congress of Religions, Paris, July 1913

After this Congress was over, Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din sent a letter addressed to the Head of the Ahmadiyya Movement, Maulana Nur-ud-Din, about the proceedings, which was published in the Ahmadiyya Community newspaper Badr (issue dated 21 August 1913, pages 4–5). The following is the translation of the letter from Urdu.

Letter of the Khwaja Sahib from Paris

From Paris, Hotel ……
20 July 1913

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

To the honoured leader and master, Khalifat-ul-Masih,

Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah wa barakatuh.

Yesterday the Religious Congress ended well. God’s good grace was upon us. Glory be to Allah! What means does God provide, and how the ways for Islam are now opening up! The place is Paris in the country of France, the meeting is of all Western nations. People are gathered from America, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Russia, France, England, Spain, and in fact all Western countries. Moreover, the participants are no ordinary people. They are professors, scholars, and scholars too of theology, that is, doctors of divinity. There, your servant explains the beauties of Islam. As to what the result will be, or how far I was successful, or what benefits there will accrue in the future, I am delighted by thinking over these questions. I was in a state of ecstatic happiness yesterday when during my speech, at a time when the hall was almost full, I declared that:

The future religion of the world shall be Islam.

Only my heart knows the satisfaction I have felt by coming here. The organisers of the proceedings gave me a prominent place at the meeting, that is to say, on the dais. In addition to the president and the secretaries, I was sitting there among the five or six religious scholars. My residential and food expenses were also paid by the organising committee.

The lecture I had written in London for this meeting was not suitable for this occasion. It was long, in the first place, and secondly, the aims of the meeting were not what I had understood to be in London. Here each speaker had twenty minutes, but they relaxed this rule for me and I spoke for thirty minutes. Although I had to leave the lecture unfinished, I was in fact myself embarrassed that I had already taken up fifty percent more time. I did have to write the lecture afresh after arriving here. What I can say of Divine help and assistance! I prepared the lecture in three hours, couched in fine language.

What pleases me is not that I presented Islam before a large gathering of religious scholars of the West and it made a good impression on the audience, but that my eyes have been opened by coming here. God has opened a very fine way and created entirely new means. The time for the rising of the sun from the West has come near. Shortly, I am about to make an appeal to Ahmadi and non-Ahmadi Muslims, in which I will explain the situation in detail, but I am writing a summary here because these events will be a source of great satisfaction for you, sir [Maulana Nur-ud-Din]. This was not an ordinary religious congress, as I had earlier believed, but a congress of liberal Christian sects.

These people have freed themselves from the bonds of the church and are dissatisfied with the prevalent form of the Christian religion. During the Congress there was discussion on whether Christianity means the religion taught by Paul and the church or something else. These scholars believe that the future religion should be one that, by deeply influencing man’s deeds and morals, creates truly spiritual life. They do not appear to me to accept the divinity of Jesus and the doctrine of atonement. Instead, most of them are Unitarian and they are behind this movement. As to what should be the foundations of morals, they said almost what Hazrat Aqdas [Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad] presented at the Great Conference of Religions [at Lahore in 1896]. Disagreement with Paul was expressed in mild terms and the morals taught by Jesus were considered insufficient, it being thought necessary to supplement them. Jesus was regarded as their messenger and guide in the sense that he taught some principles according to the needs of his time and laid the foundations of a religion of morality which needs completion. If new verities and new moral principles are found elsewhere or are created, they can be adopted. In this context it was discussed what relationship should there be with other religions.

Glory be to God, what a time has come upon Christianity! It was not stated categorically but acknowledged that there are truths to be found in other religions, and all other religions must be studied dispassionately and fine principles adopted from them. It was explained that they have the permission of Jesus to do so. This was a reference to the statement of Jesus in which he prophesies that “when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth” [John 16:13]. Therefore the Congress considered it necessary that criticism of other religions should be given up and they should be left as they are to develop and flourish. If there are any merits in them, then these should be adopted. In this context, Christian missionary activity was disapproved. In fact, it was thought advisable to discontinue it; attempts should not be made to efface any other religion. It was not stated in clear words but indirectly that other religions are from God. Anyhow, to say so was my duty. When I discussed the verses “for every nation, a messenger” [10:47] and “there is not a people but a warner has gone among them” [35:24], the eyes of the audience were opened and the hall echoed with approval. Sir, please consider that when pleasure is being expressed at the idea that all religions are from God, how far have these people gone? If all Christian nations accept this belief, the missionary movement would finish today.

A speech in support of Islam was made by a professor of Hebrew from Geneva University, answering the objections that are commonly raised against Islam. He emphasized that the present-day religion created by the church has spread greed, envy, killing and oppression, caused wars in the world and destroyed true spiritual life.

What is most pleasing is that these people are, one and all, Christian clergymen and professors in various universities who have spent their entire lives researching religion. Some of them were, in the beginning, removed from their positions and employment. It is also satisfactory to note that more than three-quarters of them belong to the older age group.

I have mentioned that they used indirect language, the reason being that most of them are employed by the church and if they were more direct they would risk dismissal from their jobs. Two lectures before mine, an Oxford professor said in his half-hour lecture that other religions also contain truth, like Christianity, and that other religions are not false. However, he phrased this in very guarded words.

Afterwards I attended a dinner, to which I had been invited along with other selected persons by an aristocratic lady. She told me there that she was delighted by my speech. She receives The Islamic Review and said that she much liked the thoughts of a Sufi that I had reproduced in the July issue. In fact, those Sufi thoughts are actually taken from the writings of Hazrat Ali, and I had described the writer as Sufi. The word Sufi is very popular here these days.

To sum up, the gist of this Congress was that some other religion is required for the future which should have an effect on man’s practical life, being based entirely on faith. The principles and foundations of morals should be sought. Study of all religions should be carried out in a spirit of friendship and love. One of the venerable scholars, a former president of their organisation, said that the future religion of the world would be:

love for God and His creatures.

I said during my speech that this is not correct and is irreverent. The future religion of the world would be:

obedience to God and affection towards His creatures.

I said that this is the definition of Islam given by our Holy Prophet Muhammad. I said to them: the future religion of the world which you have decided for yourself is in line with the definition of Islam given by the Holy Prophet. As to whether the religion known as Islam is such a religion or not is a matter to be examined.

This movement began six years ago. It would not be right to say that all Christian countries are in support of this; in fact, they would be opposed to it. However, this movement is in the powerful hands of the leading, top-most religious scholars of the European nations. If this spirit, which is today as a seed, grows, flourishes and prospers, then the days of the spread of Islam would be near.

They are dissatisfied with the present religion and searching for a new faith. Therefore this is the time to present Islam. You will be surprised to hear that all the principles and criteria that they have determined for the religion of the future, we should make no amendments in them but merely present verses of the Holy Quran and sayings of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, and ask: do these satisfy your requirements or not?

While staying here I have made introductions with all these senior scholars, whom I respect. They have happily accepted copies of the Islamic Review. I believe that I have found the people among whom The Islamic Review should be propagated. At present this movement is supported by 120 societies and 100 highly learned clergymen and academics. I shall try and hope to succeed in obtaining the names and addresses of all the members of this Congress in order to issue the magazine for them. By the favour of God I have been able to hold conversations with most of the professors. Their religious knowledge could be gauged from the expressions on their faces as they deferred to me, sitting with me for hours and joyously listening to fine points of spiritual truth. Congratulations, O Mirza [Ghulam Ahmad], this is your miracle!

I had an interesting talk with a professor from Germany. He said that Hindus are giving new interpretations in support of idol-worship and justifying it in entirely new senses. I replied that this is just human nature. When a man’s knowledge is broadened and he thereby finds flaws in his earlier beliefs, still his love and life-long attachment for them do not allow him to give them up. Then a clash takes place between knowledge and the past attachments. Those who are weak-willed adopt a middle course. They are disenchanted with the old wine, so by putting it in new bottles they relieve their consciences. He entirely agreed with this. Then he laughed heartily when I told him that this is what your Congress has been doing for the past four days, putting old wine in new bottles. Anyhow, this is only natural. It is an intermediate phase and will lead to beneficial results. The professors promised me that they would spread The Islamic Review within their circles.

After coming here I have realized how Islam should be presented in future and which principles should be borne in mind when preaching to them from the Quran. How truly has the Holy God said: “Call to the way to your Lord with wisdom” [16:125].

I will send a detailed proposal to you sir, after printing it.


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From Badr, 21 August 1913, pages 4–5.

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