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Mirza Mahmud Ahmad retreats from his belief about the “coming Ahmad” prophecy

Stand-point abandoned after Maulana Muhammad Ali disproves it

Introduction

In this article we raise an interesting episode that has been lost sight of in the course of time. It fell out of view because, on this particular new-fangled doctrine of theirs, the Qadiani Jama‘at capitulated several decades ago after the Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement refuted their stand-point.

The Holy Quran makes mention of a prophecy which, it says, was made by Jesus who foretold that a prophet would come after him “his name being Ahmad” (Ch. 61, v. 6). This prophecy was fulfilled by the appearance of the Holy Prophet Muhammad — may peace and the blessings of Allah be upon him.

However, at the time of the Split in the Ahmadiyya Movement around the year 1914, Mirza Mahmud Ahmad (2nd Head of the Qadiani Jama‘at) loudly proclaimed that this prophecy was, in fact, fulfilled by the coming of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, and did not apply to the Holy Prophet Muhammad. This heretical interpretation was strongly refuted by Maulana Muhammad Ali in his writings.

Then Mirza Mahmud Ahmad, in a response published in 1921, performed one retreat from his previous stand by writing that this prophecy applies “directly” to Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad and “indirectly” to the Holy Prophet Muhammad. Some thirty years later he performed a complete retreat by writing in his commentary on the Quran that “This verse contains a prophecy about the Holy Prophet Muhammad” (Urdu commentary) and “Thus the prophecy mentioned in the verse under comment applies to the Holy Prophet, but as a corollary it may also apply to the Promised Messiah, Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement” (English commentary).

Details are discussed below.

Mirza Mahmud Ahmad’s view at time of Split

In his book Anwar-i Khilafat, published in 1916, which is the text of a speech delivered by him at the December 1915 annual gathering of his followers, Mirza Mahmud Ahmad has argued most emphatically that the prophecy of Jesus about the coming Ahmad, referred to in the Quran in 61:6, does not apply to the Prophet Muhammad but to Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. In this book, he deals with the points of difference between his followers and the Lahore Ahmadis. The first issue that he raises in this connection is the interpretation of the prophecy about the coming Ahmad. We quote below some of his statements on this issue from Anwar-i Khilafat.

Quotation 1:

“The first issue is whether Ahmad was the name of the Promised Messiah or of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, and whether the verse of Sura Al-Saff which mentions the prophecy about a messenger whose name would be Ahmad, applies to the Holy Prophet Muhammad or to the Promised Messiah.

My belief is that this verse applies to the Promised Messiah, and he is the one who is Ahmad. … The more I ponder, the more my conviction grows, and I believe that the word Ahmad that occurs in the Holy Quran applies to the Promised Messiah. In proof of this, I have evidences by the grace of God which I am prepared to put before the scholars and learned ones of the whole world. So much so that I am prepared to offer a reward: if anyone can disprove my evidences and show from the Holy Quran and authentic Hadith that Ahmad was the name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, and not his attribute, and that the signs about Ahmad given in the Holy Quran apply to the Holy Prophet, and that the Holy Prophet applied this prophecy to himself, I will pay that person a monetary penalty as mutually agreed between the two parties.”

— pages 18-19, original edition, Anwar-i Khilafat. See here for Urdu text.

Quotation 2:

“I have read out the verses of the Holy Quran giving the news about Ahmad, in which Ahmad is mentioned. Now I will explain by the grace of God that in these verses the real person meant by Ahmad is the Promised Messiah, and the Holy Prophet Muhammad only fulfils it because of his attribute of being Ahmad; otherwise, the man having the name Ahmad, to whom this news relates, is only the Promised Messiah.”

— pages 20, original edition, Anwar-i Khilafat. See here for Urdu text.

Quotation 3:

“Hence the messenger named Ahmad, whose news is given in this verse, cannot be the Holy Prophet Muhammad. Of course, if all those signs of this messenger called Ahmad were fulfilled in his time then we could undoubtedly say that since by the name Ahmad in this verse is meant the messenger having the attribute of Ahmad, why should we apply it to someone else? But even this is not the case, as I will prove later on.”

— pages 23, original edition, Anwar-i Khilafat. See here for Urdu text.

Quotation 4:

“This prophecy does not contain any word to show that it is about the Khatam-un-nabiyyin, nor any word to cause us to apply this prophecy necessarily to the Holy Prophet Muhammad.… There is no Hadith report of any kind, whether true or false, weak or strong, of whatever standard of authenticity, mentioning that the Holy Prophet Muhammad applied this verse to himself and declared himself as fulfilling this prophecy. When that also is not the case, why should we apply the prophecy to the Holy Prophet Muhammad, in contradiction to the subject-matter of the verse?”

— pages 23, original edition, Anwar-i Khilafat. See here for Urdu text.

Quotation 5:

“Why should the meaning of this verse be distorted to apply it to the Holy Prophet Muhammad just in order to prove that no messenger can come after him? Has the fear of Almighty God departed from the hearts of the people so much that they alter His word in this way and distort its meaning by misinterpreting it so blatantly? As long as truth had not come, people had no choice. But now that events have proved that by Ahmad is meant a servant of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, it is not the way of true believers to be stubborn.”

— pages 24, original edition, Anwar-i Khilafat. See here for Urdu text.

Quotation 6:

“To sum up, it is not proved in any way that the name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad was Ahmad. So this leaves only two choices. One is that this prophecy applies to some other man having the name Ahmad. The other is that the prophecy does not mean that his name would be Ahmad but rather that his attribute would be Ahmad, and as the Holy Prophet Muhammad had the attribute Ahmad hence this prophecy can be applied to him in this sense. However, this [second choice] does not work because the signs of the person having the name or the qualities of Ahmad that are given here are not fulfilled in the Holy Prophet Muhammad, as will be shown later. This leaves only one way, that the prophet whose name or whose attribute is Ahmad, as the case may be, shall be someone after the Holy Prophet Muhammad, from among his servants. Our claim is that it is the Promised Messiah who is that messenger, the prophecy about whom is given in this verse.”

— pages 31, original edition, Anwar-i Khilafat. See here for Urdu text.

Quotation 7:

“Now I present evidence from the Holy Quran that the one who fulfills this prophecy can only be the Promised Messiah and no one else.”

— pages 33, original edition, Anwar-i Khilafat. See here for Urdu text.


Maulana Muhammad Ali refutes this wrong interpretation

Maulana Muhammad Ali refuted these ideas and arguments most forcefully in his Urdu book of some 90 pages entitled Ahmad Mujtaba, published in December 1917. He also covered the same subject in English in his book Split in the Ahmadiyya Movement, published in January 1918. Both these books are available online:

In Anwar-i Khilafat Mirza Mahmud Ahmad had referred to the issue of who is the prophesied Ahmad as “the first issue” (see quotation 1 above). So Maulana Muhammad Ali in his book Split in the Ahmadiyya Movement has treated this as the first issue of difference, as he writes:

“I shall now take the three doctrines which M. Mahmud is
promulgating and which are opposed to the teachings of the
Promised Messiah. I take first the question whether Ahmad was not a name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad and whether the prophecy of Jesus relating to the appearance of a messenger named Ahmad was not fulfilled by the advent of the Holy Prophet. I give it precedence over the other questions, both because the idea that the prophecy of the advent of the messenger named Ahmad was fulfilled by the appearance of the Promised Messiah seems to have been the nucleus about which the doctrine of his prophethood was formed, this being the first question brought into prominence by M. Mahmud after the dissension of 1914, and because it illustrates how it was after the death of the Promised Messiah that these doctrines grew up.” (p. 18 of the reprinted edition of 1994)

First stage of retreat

In response to the above book Split in the Ahmadiyya Movement by Maulana Muhammad Ali, an Urdu book A’inah-i Sadaqat by Mirza Mahmud Ahmad was published in December 1921. It was translated into English as The Truth about the Split, published in 1924 and later reprinted from Rabwah in 1965. Replying to Maulana Muhammad Ali, Mirza Mahmud Ahmad now expressed his belief as follows:

“Regarding the prophecy Ismuhu Ahmad contained in the Holy Quran (61:6), my opinion is that the passage contains a double prophecy, relating to two persons, one a counter-type and the other his prototype. The counter-type of course is the Promised Messiah, while the prototype is the Holy Prophet. The passage under reference speaks directly about the counter-type. A reference to the prototype of course comes in, but only indirectly in as much as the counter-type of a prophet necessarily presumes the existence of his original.”

— pages 57–58 of the 3rd edition. Available online at the Qadiani Jama‘at website: www.alislam.org/library/split/

Here he admits at least that the prophecy applies “indirectly” to the Holy Prophet Muhammad, while applying “directly” to the Promised Messiah. But he goes on to say:

“For these reasons and on certain other grounds, I hold the opinion that the subject of this prophecy is primarily the Promised Messiah who is the reflex of the Holy Prophet and the counter-type of Jesus Christ. But the whole question is one regarding which no decision on the basis of revealed authority has been left by any of the prophets. Any discussion of the question therefore has little more than mere academic interest. If any person holds a different view regarding the interpretation of the verse, all that I shall say is that he is mistaken, but I shall never deem him, on that account, any the less an Ahmadi, and much less shall I deem him a sinner. In short, the question as to who is the proper subject of this Quranic prophecy is not at all of such moment as to make it a problem of any great religious importance.”

In Anwar-i Khilafat he had claimed that he had evidences which he was “prepared to put before the scholars and learned ones of the whole world” and to offer a reward to those who could disprove them and show that the signs about Ahmad apply to the Holy Prophet (see quotation 1 above). He had questioned why the fear of Almighty God had departed so much from the hearts of the people that they distorted the meaning of this verse in order “to apply it to the Holy Prophet Muhammad”. But now, in A’inah-i Sadaqat, he describes this issue of who is Ahmad as merely academic and unimportant, and allows even his own followers to hold that it was the Prophet Muhammad.

Final retreat

The final Qadiani Jama‘at retreat on this point came in their translations of the Quran some thirty years later. They have published a 5-volumed English translation of the Quran with commentary by Mirza Mahmud Ahmad or taken from his writings. His commentary on the verse about the Ahmad prophecy consists of a total of 129 lines of print, out of which 122 lines are devoted to showing that the Ahmad of this prophecy is the Holy Prophet Muhammad. Having exhaustively argued that the Holy Prophet Muhammad fulfilled this prophecy, he writes in this footnote:

“Thus the prophecy mentioned in the verse under comment applies to the Holy Prophet, but as a corollary it may also apply to the Promised Messiah, Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement…”

— continuation of footnote 4226 on page 2622. (This work is available online at this link on the Qadiani Jama‘at website.)

Almost the same comment is found in their 1-volume English Translation of the Quran with Short Commentary. We have copied the image of the page from this short commentary on which this entire footnote occurs and display it at this link. It can be seen that almost 90% of the content of the footnote establishes that this prophecy applies to the Holy Prophet Muhammad.

The statement that this prophecy applies to Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad as a “corollary” is the exact opposite of what Mirza Mahmud Ahmad wrote in his book The Truth about the Split at his first stage of retreat. Let us compare the two side by side:

The Truth about the Split Footnote in translation of Quran
“The passage under reference speaks directly about the counter-type [Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad]. A reference to the prototype [Holy Prophet Muhammad] of course comes in, but only indirectly…” “Thus the prophecy mentioned in the verse under comment applies to the Holy Prophet, but as a corollary it may also apply to the Promised Messiah…”

In the first statement above, the prophecy is said to apply directly to Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad and indirectly or consequently to the Holy Prophet Muhammad. In the second one, the same prophecy is said to apply to the Holy Prophet Muhammad in the first place and then consequently or as a corollary to Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad.

In his Urdu Quran commentary Tafsir-i Sagheer the footnote under this verse is clear and brief:

Tafseer-i Sagheer

“This verse contains a prophecy about the Holy Prophet Muhammad. … Hence in this verse there is news directly about the Holy Prophet Muhammad and indirectly about a spiritual image of his who is mentioned in the next Sura.

— page 743 of Tafsir-i Sagheer; bolding is ours. (This book is available online at this link on the Qadiani Jama‘at website.)

This may be compared with his following statement in A’inah-i Sadaqat (which has already been quoted above from the English translation of this book The Truth about the Split):

A'inah-i Sadaqat

“For these reasons and on certain other grounds, I hold the opinion that the subject of this prophecy is primarily the Promised Messiah”

A’inah-i Sadaqat, p. 36

Answers own challenge!

Perhaps the most bizarre aspect of this complete about-turn is that in his original book of 1916, Anwar-i Khilafat, Mirza Mahmud Ahmad had thrown a challenge, as already quoted above:

“I am prepared to offer a reward: if anyone can disprove my evidences and show from the Holy Quran and authentic Hadith that …the signs about Ahmad given in the Holy Quran apply to the Holy Prophet, and that the Holy Prophet applied this prophecy to himself, I will pay that person a monetary penalty as mutually agreed between the two parties.”

Thirty years or so later, Mirza Mahmud Ahmad in effect answered his own challenge by proving that the prophecy in this verse applies to the Holy Prophet Muhammad directly!

This represents a triumph of the Lahore Ahmadiyya Jama‘at and Maulana Muhammad Ali. The issue of who is the Ahmad in this prophecy was considered as the “first issue” of the difference about prophethood between the two groups of the Ahmadiyya Movement. On this very first issue, the Qadiani Jama‘at was forced to recant on its belief.

See here the Urdu text of quotations from Anwar-i Khilafat
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