Sunday, 3 April 2011

'The Light of the World' & the Passion to Preach

The Light of the World is an allegorical painting by William Holman Hunt (1827 - 1901).  It represents the figure of Jesus Christ preparing to knock on an overgrown and long-unopened door, it is captioned with the quotation from the 'Book of Revelations' in The Holy Bible
Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.  [1]
Hunt said about it that "I painted the picture with what I thought, unworthy though I was, to be by Divine command, and not simply as a good subject."[2]  Toward the end of his life, Hunt painted a life-size version, which was hung in St Paul's Cathedral, London, following a world tour as the 'Sermon in a Frame' where the picture drew large crowds.  On a visit to the cathedral I saw a lady genuflecting before the painting and weeping with emotion.

There is a passage in the Discourses of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad - The Holy founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community which always reminds one of this painting and leaves one wondering whether he may have seen it himself when the painting was shown in India.  He says:
If it were in our power we would have gone door to door like beggars and preached the true creed of Almighty God.  So that it may serve as a safeguarding of the people from this destructive idolatry and disbelief which has spread across the world.  If Almighty God were to teach us the English language we would embark upon a tour in order to preach and end our life in this cause even though we may be killed for it.  [3]

[1] The Holy Bible.  Revelation 3: 20.  Authorised King James version.  (1611).
[2] Hunt, William Holman.  Pre-Raphaelitism & the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood i.  (London: Macmillan, 1905.  350).
[3] Ahmad, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam.  14 June 1902.  Malfoozat ii [Discources ii].  219.