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A Brief Sketch of the Ahmadiyya Movement

Translation of Chapter 1 of the book Tahrik Ahmadiyyat

by Maulana Muhammad Ali

Read the Preface


  1. Early life of the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement
  2. A new phase in his life and his claim of being a mujaddid
  3. The admittance of his piety and righteousness and his unique service to the cause of Islam
  4. Announcement for accepting bai‘at
  5. The claim of Messiahship
  6. He was neither desirous of fame nor fortune
  7. Nor was he mad
  8. Passion for spread of Islam
  9. The thought of propagating Islam in the West
  10. The claim of Messiahship was made to remove an obstacle from the way of Islam
  1. The claim of Mahdihood was made to remove another obstacle from the way of Islam
  2. Conditions of the Ulama
  3. Preaching of Islam was declared to be the jihad of this age
  4. Allegation of claim to prophethood and the fatwa of heresy
  5. No claim to prophethood
  6. Opposition continues
  7. Research work
  8. Why the name Ahmadiyya was adopted. Not because Ahmad was a part of the Founder’s name but because it was one of the two names of the Prophet Muhammad
  9. The preaching of Islam to West
  10. Propagation of Islam among Hindus
  11. Death of the Founder
  12. Two branches of the Movement

Early life of the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement

It was probably in the year 1835 C.E. that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement, was born. He was the son of Mirza Ghulam Murtaza. His ancestors had emigrated from Samarqand to India in 1530 C.E. during the reign of Mughal Emperor Babur and settled down in the Gurdaspur district, Punjab, India. Here they founded the present town of Qadian , which was originally named Islam Pur Qadi. This was shortened to Qadi and then to Kadi and finally it became Qadian. His family belonged to the Mughals and descended from Haji Barlas. On this account the Founder and his ancestors were called Mirza and for this reason, too, he was reputed as Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian.

He received his primary education in his own village and then in the town of Batala, about ten miles away from Qadian. In his youth, under the instructions of his father, he was occupied with the management of agricultural lands. In this connection he had to conduct law-suits relating to his family estate which were quite repulsive to his nature. He did it only in obedience to his father’s advice. To fulfil his wishes, too, be accepted a Government job at Sialkot and remained there from 1864 C.E. to 1868 C.E. Besides his day’s work during this period he would spend his time alone in reading the Holy Quran. Nevertheless, he entered into many controversies with Christian missionaries during his stay at Sialkot. In 1868 C.E. he was called back to Qadian to attend to the cultivation of land under the instruction of his father. But his heart was not in this work; so he spent most of his time in studying the Holy Quran. He loved solitude and disliked worldly pursuits. To this effect he wrote to his father once mentioning that he would like to spend the rest of his life in solitude.

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A new phase in his life and his claim of being a mujaddid

His father died in 1876 C.E. and a new era dawned upon him. He devoted himself completely to the cause of Islam. About that time a new movement, known as Arya Samaj (founded in 1875 C.E. at Bombay, India), had started among the Hindus. This movement attracted his attention in particular. Articles on religious subjects were published by him in various papers in 1878 C.E. Some of them were in refutation of the beliefs of the Arya Samaj. In his controversies with Swami Dayananda Sarasvati (1824-83 C.E.), the founder of the Arya Samaj and some other Arya Samaj leaders, we observe his great enthusiasm and deep scholarship about Islam.

In 1880 C.E. he started his first and renowned book Barahin Ahmadiyya, the first four volumes of which were published by 1884 C.E. In his work the truth of the teachings of Islam was established by forceful arguments, and the objections against Islam by Arya Samaj, Brahmo Samaj and Christians, the three great movements of that age, were thoroughly dealt with and their basically wrong principles were powerfully refuted. He emphasised in this book the necessity of Divine Revelation, throwing light on its different aspects. He further showed that relevation was not simply a phenomenon of the past but God also spoke to His chosen ones in this nation. In this connection he refferd to his own visions and inspirations and mentioned the fulfilment of some of these. It was in 1880 C.E. while writing this book that the truth shone upon him that he was the mujaddid (renewer of faith) of the fourteenth century of Hijrah and was appointed to defend the cause of Islam. This announcement was made in the book Barahin Ahmadiyya but he did not form any organisation immediately, and continued his defence of Islam against the Arya Samaj, which was imitating the Christian missionaries in its vitusperation against Islam. The announcement of his being a mujaddid, was not only published in Barahin Ahmadiyya but was also issued in a separate manifesto, 20,000 in number, in which after referring to the publication of Barahin Ahmadiyya he states:

    “This servant of Allah has given a manifest proof by the grace of Allah the Almighty that many of the true inspirations and signs and wonders and news of the unseen and Divine secrets and visions and prayers that have been accepted are a part of the religious experience of this servant of the faith, the truth of these being borne witness to by many of the religious opponents (the Aryas for instance). All these matters have been stated in this book, and the author has been given the knowledge that he is the mujaddid of this time and that spiritually his excellences resemble those of Messiah, the son of Mary, and one of them bears a very strong resemblance and a close affinity to the other.” (Ishtihar, published 1885 C.E.)
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The admittance of his piety and righteousness and his unique service to the cause of Islam.

The publication of Barahin Ahmadiyya made a deep impression on the Muslims. They loved its author for his righteousness and piety, for his service to the cause of Islam, for his scholarly writings and for his bold stand against the opponents of Islam. How greatly he was respected by the Muslims of India is evident from a review of the Barahin Ahmadiyya by the Maulawi Muhammad Hussain of Batala, the leader of the sect Ahl Hadith. The nature of this review is enhanced when it is borne in mind that there were differences between the Ahl Hadith and the Hanafi school of thought and it was to the latter group to which the author of the book belonged. I quote below a part of the review:

    “In our opinion, this book in this age and in the view of the present circumstances, in such that the like if it has not been written up to this time in Islam, and nothing can be said about the future; ‘Allah may bring about another affair after this’. Its author, too, has proved himself firm in helping the cause of Islam, with his property, with his pen and tongue and with his personal religious experience, to such an extent that an example of it is rarely met with among the Muslims who have gone before. If any one looks upon these words of ours as an Asiatic exaggeration, let him point out to us at least one such book as has in it such forceful refutation of all classes of opponents of Islam, especially the Arya Samaj and let him give us the addresses of two or three persons, the helpers of the cause of Islam, who, besides helping Islam with their properties and their persons and their pens and their tongues, have also come forward with their religious experience and have proclaimed, as against the opponents of Islam and the deniers of revelation, the manly challenge, that whoever doubted the truth of revelation might come to them and witness the truth thereof, and who have made non-Muslims taste of the same.” (Isha’at al-Sunnah, Vol. 7, June-November, 1884 C.E., Batala, India.). 
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Announcement for accepting bai‘at

At that time there were those who expressed a desire to enter into his bai‘at (pledge of allegiance) but he refused it by saying that God Almighty had not directed him to do so. At last on 1st December 1888 C.E. he announced that God had commanded him to accept bai‘at and form a Jama‘at (group):

“I have been commanded that those who seek after truth should enter my bai’at in order to give up dirty habits and slothful and disloyal ways of life and in order to imbibe faith and a truly pure life that springs from faith and to learn the ways of God.”
He also wrote that he had received ilham (revelation) in this respect saying: “Trust in God and make the ark (boat) before Our own eyes and according to Our own revelation.”. This bai‘at was not like that of the sufis but its main purpose was to defend and extend the cause of Islam and to place the service of Islam above all considerations. Accordingly out of the ten conditions which have been mentioned elsewhere the following are the words of the eighth condition:

    “That he will regard religion and the honour of religion and the sympathy for Islam dearer to him than his life and property and his honour and his children and every one dear to him.”

Later on when shortened these conditions the following words were retained to convey the whole sense:

“I will hold religion above the world.”

Obviously the work of defence and propagation of Islam could not be carried on without the formation of a strong organisation and this naturally could not be achieved without an adequate pledge, which was made by giving one’s hand into the hand of the Founder. So this is the principal significance of bai‘at in the Ahmadiyya Movement. At this announcement many Muslims entered his bai’at.

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The Claim of Messiahship

Hardly a year and half had passed before a third period of his life started when he announced that it was disclosed to him that Jesus Christ was dead and the Messiah whose advent was promised to Muslims would be a mujaddid of this nation and that the prophecies relating to the advent of the Messiah were fulfilled in his own person.

He further made it known that the reports relating to the appearance of a Mahdi also referred to the coming of the Messiah who would spread Islam in the world, not by the sword as was commonly believed but by arguments and reasoning relating to the spiritual force which underlay the truth of Islam. The coming of Mahdi who would propagate Islam at the point of the sword, he said, was against the express teachings of the Quran.

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He was neither desirous of fame nor fortune

What were the reasons that led him to make these new claims? Did he seek cheap popularity, or was it monetary gain that he aimed at? Both these are evidently out of the question. After the lapse of so many years it is these very claims that are a stumbling block in the way of Muslims acknowledging his great merits. Who can deny the service which Mirza Ghulam Ahmad had rendered to the cause of Islam? Muslims on the whole were absolutely indifferent to the propagation of Islam and it was only he who stirred them up to activity for this noble task. But many persons would stop here to question, why did he put forward such claims then? Let every one do the thinking for himself. Did he crave reputation that he put forth such a claim? As a religious leader he enjoyed the highest reputation. He was loved for his righteousness and piety, he was honoured for his learning and scholarship, he was renowned for his strong defence against the opponents of Islam. Such a claim did actually ruin his fame and he knew that a storm of opposition would rise against him, as the world was not easily going to accept such claims. And a storm of opposition did rise. He knew that hatred would take the place of love. And so it happened. The man who was thought to be the champion of Islam a few days before came to be regarded as its worst enemy. He whose talks were listened to with great respect and delight became straightaway an object of curses and accusations. It can also be very well realised that, if he had any intention of gaining wealth, all these methods were not in any way conducive to this end. Different is the technique of acquiring fame and fortune. Such a person should never excite the hostility of men around him but always try his level best to maintain good relations with them even if were to act like a hypocrite.

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Nor was he mad

Had he become mad, then? This is the question. The forceful arguments he advanced in favour of Islam simply nullify this charge. If there were any truth in this allegation during his life, nobody should at least assert it now. The success of his mission shows that he possessed a very strong will and this is sufficient to give the lie to the allegation that he was mad or had a diseased mind. The opposition which he had to face was the severest that any man has ever met with in this age. All communities — Christians, Hindus and Muslims — were united in their opposition against him. Yet he faced all this storm of opposition with a calmness which is granted to very few. When a mad person has to face opposition, his mental equilibrium, becomes more aggravated. But the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement never lost his calmness of mind for moment, even when he was faced with the most serious situation, In the midst of all trials and afflictions, with even the Government of the day keeping a careful watch on him owing to his claim to be the Mahdi, he was doing the work of propagation of Islam with a zeal and energy which one would in vain seek elsewhere.

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Passion for the spread of Islam

His own writings also stand a mirror to his inner self. In his first book Barahin Ahmadiyya, the purpose of his being raised as a Mujaddid is the predominance of Islam over all other religions. In his own words:

    “The spiritual triumph of the religion of Islam which would be brought about by conclusive arguments and shinning proofs whether it is in his life-time or after his death, is destined to be accomplished through this humble servant. Though the religion of Islam has been triumphant from the beginning on account of its strong appeal to the mind of man and though from the earliest times its opponents have met with disgrace and discomfiture, its conquests over different sects and nation depended on the coming of a time which, by opening the ways of communication, should turn the whole world into a kind of united states.”

    “Thus God intends, by raising me in this age and by granting me hundreds of heavenly signs and a vision of extraordinary matters relating to the future, and deep knowledge and truths by giving me knowledge of hundred of sure arguments, to spread and propagate the knowledge of the true teachings of the Quran among all nations and in al countries.” (Barahin Ahmadiyya, pp. 498-502.).

The first book in which he wrote about his claims is Fath Islam. This also deals with the triumph of Islam in the world. The object of his advent is described thus :

    “Do not wonder that God the Most High in this time of need and in the days of this deep darkness has sent down a heavenly light and, having chosen a servant of His for the good of mankind in general, has sent him to make uppermost the religion of Islam and to spread the light brought by the most excellent of His creatures, (i.e. the Prophet Muhammad) and to strengthen the cause of Muslims and to purify their internal condition.” (Fath Islam, 2nd ed., p. 5.)

And again :

    “The truth will win and the freshness and light of Islam which characterized it in the earlier days will be restored and that sun (of Islam) will rise again which rose in the full resplendence of its light before. But it is necessary that heaven should withhold its rising till our hearts bleed with labour and hard work and we sacrifice all comfort for its appearance and submit ourselves to all kinds of disgrace for the honour of Islam. The life of Islam demands a sacrifice from us and what is that? That we lay down our lives in this way. And on this death depends the life of Islam, the life of Muslims and the manifestation of the living God. This is in other words is called Islam. And the revival of this Islam is the will of the Most High God.” (Ibid., pp. 8, 9.)

This book is full of such ideas and at the end verses in Persian will be found that reflect the innermost thoughts of the author. Below I quote a few of them :

    “It is fit that the eye of every Muslim should shed tears of blood over the distressed fate of Islam and dearth of Muslims.

    Lo ! whose soul is destitute of all goodness and beauty finds faults with the Best of all the Messengers.

    The wicked one, the wretched, flings arrows at one sinless : it is proper that heaven should rain stones on earth.

    Unbelief is raging on all sides like the armies of Yazid. The religion of truth lies diseased and destitute like Zain-al-‘Abidin.

    The learned are engaged day and night in mutual feuds out of their selfishness and the pious people are absolutely indifferent to the real needs of Islam.

    For the sake of his own lower self everyone goes in a certain direction : the flank of Religion is left with a gap and every foe has sprung up out of his hiding-place.

    O you Muslims ! Are these the signs of being a Muslims? Distressed is the lot of Islam and you are pledged to the carcass of the world.

    A hundred thousand simpletons have turned away from the Religion; a hundred thousand have fallen victims to the snares of the cunning.

    All calamities have befallen the Muslims only because for the sake of Religion of Islam and they have no courage.

    Even if the whole world turns away from the Religion of Mustafa (the Holy Prophet) the sense of their honour is not roused and they remain as motionless as the still-born child.

    Their thoughts are all immersed in the direction of this vain world and their wealth is wasted in the cause of their women and children.

    It was by keeping religion in the forefront that Muslims first rose to eminence. Surely they can again rise to eminence by following the same way.

    O God ! When shall the hour of Thy help come ? When shall we see those blessed days and years again ?

    These two worries about the Religion of Ahmad have melted away my heart, the multitude of the enemies of Islam and dearth of the helpers of religion.

    Come soon, O God, and shower upon us the rain of Thy Mercy or take me away from this place of fire, O Lord !

    Lord ! Bring forth the light of Guidance from the Rising place of Thy Mercy and give light to the eyes of the misguided with Thy clear signs.

    As Thou hast granted me truthfulness in this state of grief, I hope that Thou wilt not cause me to die in failure.

    The work of the truthful is never left incomplete, for them there always lied hidden in the sleeve, the hand of God.”

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The thought of propagating Islam in the West

All these writings reflect the great passion he had for the propagation of Islam, and his writings of this period are full of hope that the days of the triumph of Islam had come nigh. It is still astonishing that, while living in village absolutely cut off from all modern movements, neither knowing the English language nor having any contact with the Western world, he particularly set before himself the task of propagating Islam in the west. He had visions in which he saw himself expounding the truths of Islam in England. The spiritual history of Islam offers many examples of Muslims saints who under the direction of similar visions were successful in spreading the light of Islam in various countries which wee shown to them in their visions. It was due to the untiring efforts of such saints that Muslims have grown to such large number in India. Hadrat Khwajah Mu’in al-Din Chishti (537-633 A.H) was one of them who saw in vision during his stay at Madinah that the Holy Prophet had commanded him to go to India to preach Islam. So he went there and was successful in showing the light of Islam to thousands of non-Muslims. The Mujaddid of the present century in a vision found himself preaching Islam in the West. In one of his books published as early as 1891 C.E he writes:

    “This humble servant has been shown in a vision that the rising of the sun from the West signifies that the Western world which has been involved of old in the darkness of disbelief and error shall be illuminated with the sun of Truth, and those people shall have the light of Islam. I saw that I was standing on a pulpit in the city of London and explaining the truth of Islam in a well reasoned address in the English language, and after this, I caught a large number of birds that were sitting on small trees and in colour they were white and their size was probably the size of the partridge. So I interpreted this dream as meaning that, though I may not personally go there, yet my writings would spread among these people and many righteous English men would fall a prey to the truth.” (Izala Auham, 1891 C.E., pp 515-16.)

He had such a great faith in it that he mentions it at several places in this book and at one place he expresses his desire of writing a commentary of the Quran for this purpose. He says :

    “At this critical moment a man has been raised by God and he desires to manifest the beautiful face of Islam to the whole world and open its ways to the Western countries.” (Izala Auham, 1891 C.E., p.769 ).

    “Then so far as it lies in my power I intend to broadcast, in all the countries of Europe and Asia, the knowledge and blessings which the Holy spirit of God has granted me… It is undoubtedly true that Europe and America have a large collection of objections against Islam, inculcated through those engaged in Mission work; and that their philosophy and natural sciences give rise to another sort of criticism. My enquiries have led me to the conclusion that there are nearly three thousand points which have been raised as objections against Islam. To meet these objections a chosen man is needed who should have a river of knowledge flowing in his vast breast and whose knowledge should have been specially broadened and deepened by Divine inspiration … So my advice is that … writings of a good type should be sent into those countries. If my people help me heart and soul I wish to prepare a commentary of the Holy Quran as well, which should be sent to them after it has been rendered into the English Language. I cannot refrain from stating that this is my work and that no one else can do it so well as I do or he who is an offshoot of mine and thus is included in me.” (Ibid., 771-73)

These are the writings of that period i.e. 1890-91 C.E. when he claimed to be the Promised Messiah. Two years after he wrote a book entitled Nur al-Haqq in Arabic, and along with it is found its Urdu translation. Here, too, he prophesied about the spread of Islam in Europe, saying that respectable persons and members of the British Government would accept Islam :

    “Likewise we observe that eminent members of this Government are gradually inclining towards the unity and abhore these erroneous beliefs … I know that these persons are like eggs which will ultimately hatch into the young ones of Islam, and their minds will be turned towards the Divine Religion.” (Nur al-Haqq, Vol. 1, 1894 C.E., p. 44. )

The burning passion of his heart was to carry the message of Islam to the whole world , particularly to Europe and other Western countries, where only a dark picture of Islam had been drawn. His aspirations were to some extent materialised when he started an English monthly, The Review of Religions from Qadian to present the true picture of Islam before the English-knowing public. This plan was further developed after his death when at first the Woking Muslim Mission was established in England in 1912 C.E., later the German Muslim Mission at Berlin in 1922 C.E. Thence forward the work of promulgating the teachings of Islam was carried from one country to another. Doubtless the passion which was at the back of all these plans originated from the heart of this pious and solitary figure of Qadian. 

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The claim of Messiahship was made to remove an obstacle from the way of Islam

If the whole matter is scrutinised closely, we mark that there were two great obstacles to the propagation of Islam among the Christian nations.

One was the belief that Jesus Christ was alive in the heavens and that he would come back again and the other was the wrong notion that the Mahdi would appear at the same time to spread Islam by the sword. The belief in the ascension of Jesus Christ and the continuity of his physical existence, definitely strengthened the Christian view in his Divinity or Sonship. Christian missionaries took full advantage of this belief, and advanced them as strong arguments for Jesus Christ’s Godhood. The Quran, they said, clearly mentioned that the messengers were not given bodies which could exist without food: “Nor did we give them bodies not eating food, nor they abide.” (21:8). This argument was in fact extensively used by the Christian Missionaries to mislead the Muslims. Thus in a tract called Haqa’iq Quran issued by the Christian Book Store, Ludhiana (India) it is stated:

“Question 6. Again it is written of all the prophets : Nor did We give them bodies not eating food, nor did they abide, i.e., We have not made for them such bodies that they should be able to live for ever without eating and drinking. Therefore one who can live without eating and drinking, notwithstanding a mortal body, is unique and superior to all other prophets otherwise the statement made in this Quranic verse will have to be admitted as being wrong. Christ who from about two thousand years is alive in the heavens without food and drink cannot be counted as one of the apostles and the prophets whose life depends on eating and drinking. If the Muhammad does not possess these attributes, is it not manifest that Christ is superior to and by far greater than he?”
See also Al-Masih fi’l Islam (Arabic), printed in Egypt.

Many Muslims erroneously believed as the Christians did, that Jesus Christ was taken up to the heavens with this material body and that, though possessing the same body as on this earth, he did not stand in need of food and his mortal body had also not undergone any change. The logical conclusion of such a belief must be that the body of the Jesus Christ was not made of the same stuff and stock as the body of other prophets who were human beings and mortals. As his body has not suffered any change during the last two thousand years, he was definitely different from all other human beings and this made him a participant in Divine attributes!

Now as long this mistaken belief in bodily ascension of Jesus Christ is prevalent among Muslims, Islam can make no appeal the Christian world; rather Muslims will be carried away by the Christians propaganda. The time had come to dispel all these doubts

To spread the light of Islam in Europe it was essential therefore to eradicate such false notions with regard to Jesus Christ; without this Islam could not flourish in Christendom. Moreover, the central and basic doctrine of the Christian faith was that Jesus, having been taken up alive in the heavens, had taken away the sins of his followers, and if, it was shown that Jesus Christ had died a natural death like other mortals, that basic doctrine would fall to the ground. The death of Christ was, therefore, rightly regarded by the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement as taking away the heart out of Christianity.

The belief that Jesus Christ was alive in the heavens was intertwined with the belief in his physical descent in the latter ages. Unless the truth about the doctrine of his descent was properly explained, the belief in his life could not be adequately shaken. Thus, when God willed that Islam should flourish among Christians, He informed the Mujaddid of the fourteenth century of Hijrah that according to Quran and reports of the Prophet Muhammad, Jesus Christ was dead and the descent of son of Mary did not mean the coming of the same person again but signified only the appearance among the Muslims of a mujaddid who would be specially commissioned to carry the message of Islam to the Christian world as the following couplet show:

    “As I have been given light for the Christian people,
    The name of the son of Mary has been given to me for this reason.”

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The claim of Mahdihood was advanced to remove another obstacle from the way of Islam.

Likewise, to clarify the objection that Islam was spread at the point of the sword, it was essential to eradicate the false doctrine of the coming of a Mahdi who would also spread Islam by arms. As long as this false belief prevailed among Muslims it was not possible to convince the world that Islam, as its very name showed, was the religion of peace, and that it could bring about a revolution in the world without the use of physical force. Islam never stood in need of violence or coercion for its spiritual conquests. As it did in the past, in future too it will capture the hearts of people by the sheer beauty of its teachings. It was further disclosed to him that the authentic reports did not mention the coming of a Mahdi who would bring a sword upon non-Muslims and convert them to Islam. On the contrary, Mahdi was just another name for the coming Messiah as is stated clearly in a hadith.

    “There will be no Mahdi except ‘Isa (Jesus).” (Ibn Majah, 35:24.)

This is the whole significance underlying his claim of being the Messiah and Mahdi, which aimed only at removing the two great obstacles that blocked the advancement of Islam.

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Condition of the Ulama

Seen against the background of the narrow mentality of the learned in religion (ulama) of this age, the great object of carrying the message of Islam to the world, which the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement set before himself, appears to be inspiration from God. The intellectual occupation of the ulama as that time had sunk to such a low level that wranglings on petty differences of religion were thought to be the greatest service of Islam, and declaring one another kafir was regarded as the only means of strengthening Islam.

Footnote: When the Mufti Kifayat-ullah, President of the Jami’at al-Ulama’, India, came to Lahore at a conference of the ulama a delegate of the Ahmadiyya Movement put before him a proposal that as the kafir making habit of ulama was creating great disruption in the ranks of Islam, therefore, it should be entirely given up. The disappointing reply he gave was that how could the ulama abandon the only means they had for setting the Muslims right.

It was indeed a great advance, a complete revolution, to turn the ideas of Muslims from the petty dispute undermining the strength of Islam, in which they were engaged, to the high and noble ideal of serving the whole of humanity by making the truth accessible to them and revealing to them the beauties of the last and the perfect Divine message. The energy of the Muslims, which was not only being wasted but was also working to their own destruction, had to be given a new direction so as to become a source of strength to Islam.

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Preaching of Islam was declared to be the jihad of this age

The Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement put forth this object of propagating Islam not as an ordinary matter but regarded it as a mujahida, a means of purification of the soul. Mujahida is a technical term for the purification of the soul through various spiritual exercises. The spiritual leaders took people into their bai’at to make them advance spiritually, and would suggest to their disciples (murids) different adhkar (recitals of the praise of God) and mujahidat (painstaking in remembrance of God). The Founder of Ahmadiyya Movement replaced all these adhkar and mujahidat by something of real benefit to the cause of Islam, and more in accordance with the Sunnah (practice of the Prophet). Besides, there was no trace found in the life of the Prophet of many of the ‘mystic methods’ which were introduced by these sufis with the result that these had brought Muslims into a hopeless state of inertia. The Founder, while taking bai’at, would ask his followers to strive hard for the cause of Islam and participate with all their might in jihad for the spread of Islam. And in this way he awakened the dormant powers of the Muslim nation and directed them to the attainment of a higher object. The purification of the soul, he taught, could be attained not by hard exercises which could not be traced to the ways of Prophet and his companions but by a spiritual jihad of carrying the message of Islam to other people. And with this he clarified the significance of the term jihad, too, and explained that jihad which necessitates fighting with sword is allowed only in particular circumstances while the jihad which is always permissible is the jihad with the Quran.

“And strive against them a mighty striving (jihad-an kabira) with it (i.e., with the Quran)” (25:52).
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Allegation of claim to prophethood and the ruling (fatwa) of heresy (takfir)

It was natural that people should differ in respect of and protest against such ideas. The first note of dissent against a belief avowed for years and received as a heritage from foregone generations is always unpleasant and repulsive to the generality of people but the religious leaders or the ulama went a step further, Being already addicted to the bad habit of calling one another kafir for minor differences they straightaway made it a point of kufr versus Islam. The same Maulawi Muhammad Hussain of Batala who had written six years before, when reviewing the Barahin Ahmadiyya that the like of it “has not been written before in Islam” and that the example of its author could not be met among the Muslims Ulama before, became the leader of takfir (denunciation of Muslims as unbelievers) and drafted a long Istifta’ (note asking for fatwa or ruling), on which the ulama readily declared the Founder as an arch heretic, a kafir, Dajjal, (Antichrist) etc. This was based on the allegation that the Founder was a claimant to prophethood. I quote the words which served as the foundation of this charge :

    “Here, if it be objected that the like of Messiah should also be a prophet because the Messiah was himself a prophet, the reply to this in the first instance is, that our Holy Prophet has not made prophethood a condition for the coming Messiah but has clearly stated that he shall be a Muslim and bound by the law of the Quran like ordinary Muslims.… Besides this there is no doubt in it that this humble servant has been raised by the Most High God for this community in the capacity of a muhaddas and a muhaddas is in one sense also a prophet. Though he does not possess perfect prophethood, nevertheless he is partially a prophet, for he is endowed with the gift of being spoken by God, and matters unseen are manifested to him and like the revelations of messengers and prophets his revelations are also made free from intervention of the devil. And the real kernel of the law is disclosed to him and he is commissioned just like prophets, and it is obligatory on him, like prophets, that he should announce himself at the top of his voice, and anybody who rejects him deserves punishment to some extent. And by prophethood here means nothing but that the above mentioned characteristics are met within him.

    If the plea is put forward that the door of prophethood has been closed and a seal has been set on the revelation that descends on prophets, I say that neither door of the prophethood has been closed in all respects nor a seal has been set on every form of revelation. On the contrary, the door of revelation and prophethood has been partially open for this nation ever since. But it should be carefully borne in mind that the prophethood, which is continued for ever is not perfect prophethood, but as I have just mentioned is only a partial prophethood which in other words is termed muhaddasiyyat. (Taudih Maram, 1891, pp. 19, 20.)

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No claim to prophethood

These statements were, however, misrepresented as being a claim to prophethood, and the Founder of the Movement who stood for the revival and propagation of Islam was denounced as kafir being outside by the pale of Islam. In reply to this, he made his position further clear by repeated announcements in his books and manifestos. The first announcement thus made was a manifesto which he published on 2nd October 1891 C.E., and which was read out by him personally in the great Jami‘a Masjid (Central Mosque) of Delhi:

    “I have heard that some of the leading Ulama of this city are giving publicity to false charges against me that I lay claim to prophethood, or do not believe in angels, or in heaven and hell, or in the existence of Gabriel, or in Lailat al-Qadr (the Grand Night), or in miracles and the mi‘raj (Ascension) of the Holy Prophet. So to make the truth known to all and sundry, I do hereby publicly declare that all this is complete fabrication. I am not a claimant to prophethood, neither I a denier of miracles, angels, Lailat al-Qadr, etc. On the other hand, I confess belief in all those matters which are in the Islamic principles of faith , and, in accordance with the belief of Ahl Sunnah wal Jama’ah, I believe in those things which were established by the Quran and Hadith, and consider that after our Master Muhammad Mustafa (may peace and the blessings of God be upon him), the Last of the messengers, any claimant to prophethood and messengership is a liar and an unbeliever (kafir). It is my conviction that apostolic revelation (wahy risalat) began with Adam, the chosen one of God, and come to close with the Messenger of God, Muhammad Mustafa (may peace and the blessing of God be upon him).”

A clear refutation of this charge of being a claimant to prophethood has been made in all his books which appeared after that. Below are given a few quotations only :

    “Their is no claim of prophethood but of muhaddathiyyat which has been advanced by the command of Allah.” (Izalah Auham, 1891, p. 421.)

    “These people have forged a lie against me who say that this person claims to be a prophet.” (Hamamat al-Bushra, 1893, p. 8.)

    “I lay no claim to prophethood. This is only your mistake.” (Jang-i Muqaddas, 1893, p. 67.)

    “If this be the objection that I have laid a claim to prophethood … what can I say except that the curse of Allah be upon the liars and impostors.” (Anwar al-Islam, 1894, p.39.)

    “This is an absolute fabrication made against me … that I lay a claim to prophethood.” (Anjam Atham, 1897, p. 45.)

    “They accuse me unjustly of this calumny that I have laid a claim to prophethood.” (Kitab al-Bariyya, 1898, p. 182 footnote.)

[For further quotations, go here.]

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Opposition continues 

In spite of all these repeated announcements the ‘ulama’ kept on raising a storm of opposition against him, doing their best to denounce him and put him to trouble. Even violence against him was justified. Some went so far as to issue fatwas that he and his followers should not be allowed to enter mosques and that their dead were not to be buried in Muslim graveyards, that their marriages should be considered void and that their property could be taken away with impunity. But the Founder suffered all this with patience and fortitude. On the one hand, he refuted these false charges and, on the other, he stood firmly against Arya Samaj and Christians with the result that Arya Samajists, Christians and Muslims all formed a block against him on religious grounds. Pandit Lekhram, an Arya Samajist, ‘Abdullah Atham a Christian missionary and the Maulwi Muhammad Hussain of Batala with a batch of Hanafi, Sunni, Shi’a and Ahl Hadith ‘ulama’ fought tooth and nail against him. This opposition was not confined to religious controversies only. False case were filed against him in courts, too. A well-known case from among these is the charge of abetment to murder brought forward by Doctor Henry Martin Clarke of the Church Missionary Society. The allegation was that the Founder had deputed somebody to murder Doctor Clarke. The Maulwi Muhammad Hussain of Batala acted as a witness and Chaudhry Ram Bhaj Dat, an Arya Samajist, conducted the case free of charge.

But for want of evidence the case was dismissed. The Founder was asked if he intended to sue his accusers criminally, but he replied in the negative. He preferred a quite life from early youth. Even when his father asked him to follow law suits relating to his estate he did it with great reluctance. All the prosecutions in which he was involved now were borne by him with calmness. In spite of all this he kept himself busy in expounding the beauties of Islam. Those who entered into his bai’at would listen to scorn and sneers and suffer trials and tribulations cheerfully. They were sometimes handled violently and deprived of their rights, too, but they bore all this patiently. On the other hand, they felt a solace and comfort in their troubles, so much so that a very learned scholar of Afghanistan was stoned to death, along with his companion, by the orders of the Amir. They preferred death to denying faith in the Founder in spite of the request and insistence of the Amir of Kabul, who was willing to set them free if they denied the Mujaddid.

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Research work

 The attention of the Founder was not confined to the religious doctrines only. In the comparative study of religions most of his writings should be regarded as a research work. In 1895 C.E. he went to the village of Dera Baba Nanak to find out the truth about the Chola (cloak) of Nanak (the Founder of the Sikh religion.) The Chola is kept at this place as relic of Baba Nanak, whose followers now call themselves Sikhs. The Chola was shown to him by the custodian, and to the amazement of all who went with him he found that the writings on the Chola were all verses of the Quran that bore testimony to the truth of Islam. On his return he wrote a book, called Sat Bachan in which besides giving a sketch of the Chola, he put forth solid arguments showing that Baba Nanak really believed in the truth of Islam. Similarly, he carried on an investigation about the tribes of Israel and was successful in proving that those tribes had emigrated from Palestine and settled down in Afghanistan and Kashmir. About Jesus Christ, too, it was historically proved that, though he was nailed to the Cross, he did not die on it but journeyed to Afghanistan and Kashmir after the incident of the Cross and that he preached his message to the Israelite tribes that had settled there. The Founder also produced historical evidence that the tomb of the Jesus Christ was at Srinagar (Kashmir) in Mohalla Khanyar.

He also carried on a research to show that Arabic was the mother of languages. 

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Why the name Ahmadiyya was adopted. Not because Ahmad was a part of the Founder’s name but because it was one of the two names of the Prophet Muhammad

In spite of the great opposition of the ‘ulama’ and other people his followers went on increasing in number. Before the census of 1901 C.E. the thought of knowing the number of his followers occurred to him. Till that time they were called ‘Mirzais’ or ‘Qadianis’ by others, the Founder himself having given no name to the Movement. Had he not given any name to his followers one of these names must have found place in the official papers of the Government. Realising this difficulty he made an announcement about his Movement on 4th November 1900 C.E. the following passage of which will suffice for our purpose:

    “As, on the occasion of the official census, arrangements have been made that every section which is distinguished from other sections with regard to doctrines should be registered in a separate column and whatever name that section likes and suggests for itself should be entered in official documents … therefore the name which is appropriate for this Movement and which we approve for our community is Muslims of the Ahmadiyya section … This name has been given to this section because our Holy Prophet, peace and the blessing of God be upon him, had two names, one Muhammad and the other Ahmad. The name Muhammad was indicative of his jalal (glory or grandeur) which contained a prophecy that the Holy Prophet would punish with the sword those who took up the sword to annihilate Islam and murdered hundreds of Muslims. But his name Ahmad reflected his jamal (beauty) which meant that the Holy Prophet would spread peace and harmony in the world. So Almighty God made a division of these two names in this manner that in the Makkan period of his life there was a manifestation of his name ‘Ahmad’ where it was taught that Muslims should go on advancing the cause of Islam while suffering all kinds of persecutions, and in his life at Madinah the name Muhammad was manifested when overthrow of the opponents was considered necessary by Divine wisdom and by requirements of justice. But it was prophesied that in latter ages there would be a manifestation of he name ‘Ahmad’ again … Thus, on account of this, it is fit that this section should be called the Ahmadiyya section.” (Announcement dated 4th November 1900.)

So the name ‘Ahmadiyya’ was given to this Movement not because ‘Ahmad’ was a part of the Founder’s name, but because ‘Ahmad’ was one of the two names of the Prophet Muhammad. By referring to the significance of the name ‘Ahmad’, he showed that the domination of Islam would be effected in this age only by the beauty and attraction of its teachings and the sword would not be needed for its defence as it was not needed in the Makkan period of the Holy Prophet’s life. There was also a reference in this name to the fact that Islam, after gaining glory and temporal power, would once again become feeble and helpless in many respects. The association of the name of the Movement with the name of the Holy Prophet shows that he did not consider it necessary to bring forward his own personality.

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The preaching of Islam to West

 In the year 1901 C.E. he laid the foundation of carrying the message of Islam to the West by starting a monthly magazine in English. This was really the beginning of the spread of Islam in Europe. I quote his own words:

    “It was always a matter of great anxiety to me and I felt distressed that the great truths and deep knowledge (of the Quran) and strong arguments in support of Islam and matters which brought solace to the mind of man, which have been manifest to me, had not yet been made known to the educated people of this country or the seekers after truth in Europe. My anxiety in this matter was so great that I could bear it no longer. But as it is the will of God Almighty that before I leave this mortal abode the objects which I have set before myself should all be accomplished so that there may be no regret in my heart when I depart from this world, a way has been suggested to fulfil this real object of my life. Some friends have, after holding a consultation with sincerity of purpose, directed my attention to the bringing out of a monthly journal in the English language for the fulfilment of the object I have stated above … And we have decided that this journal should be edited by the Maulawi Muhammad Ali (M.A.), pleader and Khwaja Kamal al-Din, pleader.” (Tabligh Risalat, Vol. x, pp. 1-2)

This journal bearing the name of the Review of Religions was started in the beginning of 1901 C.E. under the editorship of the writer of these lines. It gained popularity very soon and remained for a long time the only journal in English relating to Islamic matters. As is apparent from its very name, comments were also made in this journal about other religions. This magazine was, however, a source of enlightenment to Muslims and non-Muslims alike. A very hostile critic of Islam writes :

    “This paper was well-named, for it has given its attention to a remarkably wide range of religions and to a great variety of subjects. Orthodox Hinduism, the Arya Samaj, the Brahamo Samaj and Theosophy; Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism and Zoroastrianism; Bahaism, Christian Science and Christianity have all received attention; as well as Islam in all its ramifications, both ancient and modern, such as the Shi‘ite, Ahl Hadith, Kharijites, Sufis and such representative exponents of modern tendencies as Sir Syed Ahmed Khan and Syed Amir Ali.” (H. Walter, The Ahmadiyya Movement.)

The articles which were published in the Review of Religions had drawn the attention of eminent men in Europe, like Count Tolstoy and others. The English and American Press also commented on its articles. To mention only a few of them : the Glasgow Herald, Church Family News Paper, (New York), Commercial Advertiser, Union Sequel, (Chicago), Literary Digest, (New York), Burlington Free Press, Sunday Circle, (London).

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Propagation of Islam among Hindus

In November, 1904 C.E. the Founder made an announcement at Sialkot (the Punjab) that as he was Mahdi for Muslims, and Messiah for Christians, he was also raised for Hindus as a manifestation of Krishna. In his own words :

    “Raja Krishna as revealed to me was so great and perfect a man that his equal is not to be found among the Hindu Rishis and Avatars. He was an Avatar i.e., prophet of his time and he received the Holy spirit from God … He was a true prophet of his time but many errors were introduced into his teachings afterwards. His heart overflowed with the love of God and he loved virtue and hated evil. Almighty God had promised to raise a spiritual manifestation of his in the latter ages, and He has now fulfilled this promise through me.” (Lecture Sialkot, November 1904, p 20)

The main object of this announcement was stated by him in the beginning of this lecture:

    “It should also be made clear that Almighty God has raised me not only for Muslims but also for the reformation of Hindus and Christians.”

Obviously, self-aggrandizement was not the object when he declared to the world that the time had come when all the communities of the world should unite. The argument for this unity he advanced was that all the prophecies relating to advent of a reformer of latter days had been fulfilled in a single person, a humble servant of the Holy Prophet Muhammad. And this proved that Islam was the only religion where all the nations could unite. If the Promised reformer of Muslims, Christians and Hindus is only one person, this will remove many of their differences, and lead them towards oneness and harmony which is the greatest object of religion.

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Death of the Founder

In December 1905 the Founder was informed by Almighty God that his end was nigh. Therefore he published a small pamphlet entitled Al-Wasiyyah (i.e., The Will) and in accordance with that he formed an Anjuman (Society) which was named a little later on as Sadr Anjuman Ahmadiyya (the central Society of the Ahmadis). This Anjuman was entrusted with full powers to deal with matters relating to the movement and was further declared as his own successor when he died.

Though he knew that his end was quite near he carried on his work of expounding Islamic truths with the zeal of a young man. During the last two years he wrote voluminous books such as Haqiqat al-Wahy, Barahin Ahmaddiya (Vol. V), Chashmah Ma’rifat, etc.

For change of climate at the end of April 1908 he went to Lahore. Here he was busy in writing his last book Paigham Sulh (‘Message of Peace’) which aimed at bringing about friendly relations among Hindus and Muslims when suddenly he fell ill with an attack of diarrhoea, a chronic disease to which he was liable since his youth. He breathed his last on his bed at 10 a.m. on 26th May 1908 C.E. The last words on his lips were “O my beloved God, O…my …beloved…God!” The civil surgeon of Lahore certified that death was not due to an infectious disease, and it was on the production of this certificate that the authorities permitted the carrying of his body to Qadian the next day where it was laid to eternal rest.

    “Thus ended an eventful life which in short space of eighteen years — 1890 to 1908 — not only had revolutionised many of the existing religious ideas but has even taken definite steps in an entirely new direction-the presenting of Islam to, and spiritual conquest of, the West. Deep religious mysteries which had baffled human minds for centuries had been unravelled. The second advent of Christ, the tribulation of the Antichrist, the prevalence of Gog and Magog, the coming of Mahdi and similar other topics were mysteries which affected the two great religions of the world, Christianity and Islam, both contending for the mastery of the world, and an inspired man was indeed needed to lift the veil from the face of these mysteries. Such a man was Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. He was gifted not only with inspiration to elucidate the deepest mysteries, but also with the faith and energy which enabled him to give a new direction to the dissemination of Islam which had hitherto found the West deaf to its message. Christianity was out to conquer the Muslim world; in temporal matters it had ousted Islam, but, in spiritual domain, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad made a bold start and gave a challenge to Christianity in its very home. It is as a result of that challenge to Christianity that mosques are being built in the greatest centres of Christianity, that a vital change is being brought about in the attitude of Europe towards Islam, and that thousands of cultured and advanced Europeans are finding a haven of peace under its banner.” (Maulana Muhammad Ali, The Founder of the Ahmadiya Movement, pp. 80-1)
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Two branches of the Movement

 After the death of the Founder all the work of the Movement according to his Will (al-Wasiyyah) remained in the hands of the Sadr Anjuman Ahmadiyya and the leadership of the Movement fell to the lot of the Late Maulawi Nur-ud-Din. This condition existed till his death which occurred in March 1914. During this period the Movement made rapid progress. Of much more importance besides its progress was that it became increasingly popular among the general body of Muslims Apparently there were no signs of a split in the Movement. However, on two matters opinions became gradually divergent but did not gain much strength because of the powerful personality of the Late Maulawi Nur-ud-Din. One of these centred round the relation of the Head with the Anjuman and the other the takfir of Muslims i.e., denunciation of Muslims as unbelievers.

 As the first point was related to the internal management of the Movement, therefore, it did not assume much importance, neither at that time nor afterwards, though it was one of the controversial points at the time of the Split. Nevertheless the second point, which was not only connected with the teachings of the Movement but also with the fundamental principles of Islam, was the final cause of Split after the death of Maulawi Nur-ud-Din. One section kept on adhering to the belief that all those who did not believe in the Founder, whether they had heard his name or not, or if they had heard his name and looked upon him as a Muslim or even accepted him as mujaddid or the Promised Messiah in their hearts, were to be adjudged among the kafirs and outside the pale of Islam unless they had formally entered into the bai’at of the Founder.

  • “…all those so-called Muslims who have not entered into his [Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad’s] bai‘at formally, wherever they may be, are Kafirs and outside the pale of Islam, even though they may not have heard the name of the Promised Messiah.”
    (Mirza Bashir-ud-Din Mahmud Ahmad, The Truth about the Split, page 55)
  • “…not only are those deemed to be Kafirs who openly style the Promised Messiah as Kafir, and those who although they do not style him thus, decline still to accept his claim, but even those who, in their hearts, believe the Promised Messiah to be true, and do not even deny him with their tongues, but hesitate to enter into his Bai‘at, have here been adjudged to be Kafirs.”
    (pages 139 -140)
The other section believed that every one professing the Kalima (“There is no God but Allah, Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah”) was a Muslim though he might belong to any sect of Islam, and nobody went outside the pale of Islam unless he denied himself the messengership of Muhammad (may peace and the blessings of God be upon him). The question of the prophethood of the Founder which is at present considered to be the main controversial point between the two sections, has, in fact, arisen out of the question of takfir. This doctrine of kafirization of Muslims could not be held valid unless Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was raised to the status of prophethood. The split was, however, caused in the Movement chiefly on this ground in March 1914. The first section, which denounced Muslims as kafirs and believed that the door of prophethood was open after the Prophet Muhammad, kept their headquarters at Qadian and the other section established theirs at Lahore.

[For further discussion of these points, go here.]

Although the Qadian group is greater in number than the Lahore group, the latter exercises more influence among the general Muslims than the number of their adherents would suggest as has been admitted by the Reverend Kraemer in one of his articles, a part of which is quoted below :

“The Lahore group who have seceded from the original community on the ground that they venerate their founder as a Mujaddid (renewer of religion) and not as a prophet, are therefore more acceptable to public opinion in Islam. They have the same spirit of opposition against Christianity as the Qadianis, but their activity is more exclusively concentrated on the proclamation of Islam as the only religion that is in conformity with reason and nature. The crisis of Christian Europe gives them much material to expose this religion and extol Islam … In their bitter aggressiveness they mere out the same treatment to Christianity that has often been meted out by Christianity to Islam … Their influence is far wider than the number of their adherents would suggest. Their vindication and defence of Islam is accepted by many educated Muslims as the form in which they can remain intellectually loyal to Islam.”
(The Rev. H Kraemer , The Moslem World, The Hartford Seminary Foundation Hartford Connecticut, U.S.A., Vol. XXXI, April 1931 C.E., pp. 170-1)