The claims of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad to be Messiah and Mahdi
were of an entirely different, and indeed opposite, nature from
the Bahai claims.
Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad said that the Holy Prophet Muhammad had
brought the final, everlasting religion, law and scripture. So any
truthful claimant sent by God could ONLY appear within the Islamic
religion. And the work of any such claimant could ONLY be the defence
and propagation of Islam (as taught in the Quran and by the Prophet
Muhammad). Therefore Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad is a Messiah and
Mahdi within Islam carrying forward the
mission of the Prophet Muhammad, and being entirely
subject to the authority of the Quran and
Prophet Muhammad like any other Muslim.
Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad's claim to be the Messiah is based on
the prophecies within Islam speaking of the return to this world
of Jesus, who is then expected to fight the "Antichrist" and lead
Muslims to victory over him. He is supposed to have ascended to
heaven and would return from there to earth. God opened the mind
of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad to the fact that, according to the
Quran, Jesus died like all other mortals die (though not on the
cross); moreover, no person can go up to heaven in bodily form,
live there and return; and furthermore, the return of Jesus violates
the Islamic belief that no prophet can come after the Prophet Muhammad.
Pointing to a religious principle that the second advent of a person
never means his personal return, but the coming of one resembling
him, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad interpreted this prophecy of the
return of Jesus as meaning the coming of someone like him, and he
applied it to himself on the grounds of the similarity of his circumstances
with those of Jesus (e.g., Muslims of his time were beset with similar
evils to those characteristic of the Jews at the time of Jesus,
as can be read in the Gospels, their worldly and political condition
was also like that of the Jews of Jesus' time).
Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad explained in detail who the "Antichrist"
was that he was to fight (i.e. the materialism of modern Western
civilization), in what manner he was to fight this Antichrist (i.e.
purely spiritually and intellectually), etc. A key sign of the coming
Messiah was that he would "break the cross". Hazrat Mirza Ghulam
Ahmad interpreted it as refuting the false doctrines of Christianity
of atonement, Divine sonship of Jesus, etc. Therefore Hazrat Mirza
Ghulam Ahmad's mission became to fight both the materialistic side
and the religious side of Western civilization, with arguments.
For Muslims, his claim to be the Messiah means that he will lead
them to victory over their opponents, especially the Christian world
(victory here means victory in argument and proof). And for Christians,
his claim to be Messiah (or the second coming of Jesus) has the
significance that he, as a come-again Jesus, is correcting their
wrong beliefs about Jesus, and teaching them that Jesus was a mortal
prophet of God who lived and died (though not on the cross) like
other mortal prophets, and was not the son of God or a part of Godhead.
These were of course the teachings of Islam which Hazrat Mirza Ghulam
Ahmad is putting forward to Christians.
The following important differences between the Ahmadiyya claims
and the Bahai claims must also be pointed out:
1. One of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad's basic aims was to
teach the world the Islamic doctrine of the absolute oneness of
God, which strongly rejects the concept that any human being can
ever be a manifestation of God. The Bahai teachings are that there
have been various manifestations of God on earth (Moses, Jesus,
Muhammad, Baha-ullah). Therefore Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was teaching
the opposite of the Bahai beliefs.
2. As noted above, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad proclaimed
that the Islamic scripture, teachings and law are valid forever,
and will never be abrogated or replaced. Again this is exactly
the opposite of Bahai beliefs which teach that Baha-ullah's
scripture and law have abrogated and replaced the Holy Quran and
the Shari'ah of Islam.
3. The Prophet Muhammad taught that prophets before him
had been sent by God to all nations, and he required his followers
(Muslims) to believe in all of them. Moreover, he taught, as stated
in the Quran, that these prophets had prophesied to their nations
of the appearance of the Prophet Muhammad and had instructed their
followers to believe in that Promised Prophet when he came. So the
Prophet Muhammad became the converging point of the previous prophets
and religions. He addressed the whole of humanity, while the previous
prophets addressed only their individual nations. He was thus the
Last and Final Prophet through whom all humanity is to be united.
To preach the oneness of humanity and to seek to unite religions
on fundamentals in the seventh century,
as the Prophet Muhammad did, at a time when no one even knew what
the whole world consisted of, is a clear proof of the Prophet Muhammad
getting revelation and knowledge from God. But for someone in
the nineteenth century like Bahaullah to repeat similar ideas
(i.e. unity of humanity) cannot be called new revelation coming
from God, particularly when he himself originally arose from within
the religion of Islam.