From Dr T. Ijaz, November 16, 2003.
I. Maulvi Nurrudin sahib greatly clarifies what is meant by nabi as applied to Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (MGA). He knows non-Ahmadis mistakenly believe that a nabi can no longer appear in the ummah since the Islamic Shariah is final, but explains non-shariah nabis can appear, since nabi is a term of spiritual status par excellence, who receive gift of prophecy. He did not use the dictionary to counter the idea MGA is an actual nabi – he is only countering the idea he is a Shariah nabi. Moreover, there is a similar quote from MGA that I will quote later (point V) that makes Nuruddin’s statement even more clear. That the community believed in Mirza Ghulam Ahmad as a real prophet is clear even from Paigham-I- sulha, before the split, as I will quote later (point IV).
II. MGA was a nabi in the sense former nabis were called nabis, contrary to what you say. MGA states: (The Badr March 5 1908, emphasis mine): “Among the Israelites there have been several nabis to whom no law was revealed. They only announced prophecies which they received from God and which served to establish truth and prestige of the Mosaic religion. It was these prophecies that entitled them to be called nabis. The same is the case with my mission. If I am not to be called a nabi, what other distinctive word is there which will distinguish me from other recipients of divine revelation?”
MGA is saying the term nabi is applied to him not merely in a technical sense, but because he was a nabi in the sense of the word former prophets were called nabis. He was raised as an Imam directly by Allah for a specific mission through Divine revelation, as other nabis. He is also careful to point out that he is not a law-bearer, like many of the Israelite prophets, thus one should not object to him being called nabi on that basis, since the term “nabi” does not automatically imply law-bearer or law modifier.
As I will show later, it is wrong to say he is only a muhuddas. Being in the highest stage does not exclude him from holding other titles. From 1901 and beyond, he stated he had the rank nabi, whereas before he specifically told his followers to replace the word nabi with muhuddas in his writings.
III. Regarding Muhammad Ali’s statement in his book History of the Prophets, I am not clear what your objection is. In the book where he outlines the lives of the prophets, he states true nabi in Islamic parlance has two characteristics: the person is blessed with gift of prophecy by Allah, and raised by Allah directly (i.e informed by Divine revelation) with a mission to revive a community. It is absolutely correct to say that when Allah appoints a person directly, by revelation, and the person is commanded by Allah to deliver the message, (thus also called rasul) and it is made incumbent by Allah that the people should accept the person he has spoken to and form a community around him, that person can only be a nabi. Remember the saying of the Prophet Muhammad, (paraphrasing): “once the Messiah appears you must go to him, even if it means crawling on your knees over glaciers. Convey my salaam to him and pledge allegiance (baaya) at his hands”. The Messiah addressed himself to all Muslims and peoples of the Earth and proclaimed a universal message.
You are right that Maulana Sahib has written that all nabis should bring books. He has quoted Quran 2:213 “ Allah raised prophets…and revealed with them the book…” and 57:25, “We sent our messengers with clear arguments, and sent down with them the book…” If by kitab he meant all prophets brought a Law, then he is wrong based on the Quran and what MGA has said quoted earlier. Nowhere in the Quran does it state that each nabi definitely brought a separate kitab. You can also take the Quranic passages to mean one nabi brought the book (law) and a number of others served and enforced the book. For instance, one verse says: “We gave the Israelites al-Kitab” (45:16). The Book was really only given to Moses, but all Israelites are included because they all followed Moses. Similarly another verse states: “And we bestowed on him Isaac and Jacob, and We placed Prophethood and the Book among his descendants” (29:27). Another verse states makes it even more clear: “Surely we revealed the Torah, in which was guidance and light, the prophets who submitted themselves enforced it and judged matters by it for the Jews” (5:44). This is proof of the fact that God sent a number of prophets who did not bring any new Law but that they served and enforced the Law of Moses.
In one manner however every prophet did indeed bring a kitab, as long as one realizes the broad meaning of the word. According to Maulana Muhammad Ali in “The Religion of Islam” page 152 (footnote), he states the word kitab signifies Divine revelations, written or not, and freely used to denote Divine decrees. The short letter by Solomon admonishing people is also called kitab in the Quran (27:28). Thus kitab can be considered revelations, and the pronouncements of the nabi based on the revelations are kitab, but not a Law. In this sense, the Promised Messiah was given a kitab since it is clear even from the Quranic usage of the term, it does not always imply new Law. He proclaimed the Divine decrees and instructions revealed to him to correct the mistaken beliefs of the Muslims and revived the true Islam.
IV. You claimed that Mirza Mahmud was involved in perhaps trying to falsely elevate the status of MGA soon after his death. The facts on the ground and reality is however, a minority of people were trying to “water-down” the status of MGA which lead to this rebuttal in Paigham Sulha (emphasis mine):
“It has been gathered that some people have been involved in creating a misunderstanding that by those at the back of this journal, or one of them, anyway, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Promised Messiah and the Mahdi, is being assigned a position far below the one, in fact which belongs to him. We, all the Ahmadies connected with this newspaper, in one way or other, go on solemn oath, before God Who knows the innermost secrets of what lies in the mind openly and honestly declare that is view being imputed to us is nothing more than gross accusation, a pernicious charge against us. We solemnly hold that the Promised Messiah is the Prophet for this age, a Prophet, and Messenger from God, raised to deliver Muslims and all Mankind from sins and evil” (Paigham Sulha Oct 16 1913)
V. As mentioned in an earlier email, Muhammad Ali Sahib’s, 1906 statement is powerful evidence that he believed the same. “It has always been the way of Allah that, out of those people themselves, he raises a prophet entrusted with a mission to spread righteous teaching…this is what has come about in our time.” The article was a review of Mirza Mahmud Ahmad’s article on the fact MGA was a nabi, entrusted with same mission as other prophets. Nowhere in this work of Mirza Mahmud does it state MGA is merely a saint doing the work of a prophet. This is the view Maulvi Muhammad Ali has endorsed.
In the earlier writings of MGA, prior to 1901, as you quote, there are strong statements from MGA that saints would do work of prophets now. His writings post 1901 clearly portray a different story. One example is given here. MGA tackled the question on the rise of a prophet after Prophet Muhammad both before 1901 and after 1901.
Before 1901, In Izala I Auham, page 575, MGA wrote about a person having difficulty understanding how the Messiah for the Muslims can be a prophet. The question posed to MGA was: “Jesus, son of Mary, at the time of his coming would be one of the followers of the Holy Prophet, how could he be a full fledged prophet as well, especially as Hazrat Muhammad is the last and final prophet?!
MGA explained: “one of the believers of the Holy Prophet, who received communications from God, because of his spiritual attainments, can be considered (figuratively speaking) as a prophet whose other name is muhaddas”.
Later, as written in Zamima Barahin I Ahmadiyya, 1905, Vol V, page 138, the same question was asked: Some people say if it is true that in Bukhari and Muslim it is written that Messiah would be a member of this ummat; but in Muslim when it stated that Messiah would be a nabi-ullah, then how can we hold that he would belong to this ummat?
The gentleman was having difficulty grasping how a prophet to come later to revive Islam and be an ummati at the same time. It was a common misconception among the Muslims then (even now) that a prophet could not be an ummati and prophet at the same time. Even MGA believed in that mistaken concept at one time. For example in Al-Hakam (1899, No 29 vol 3), he stated that in Islamic terminology, prophets and messengers imply “they bring shariah or cancel some of the edicts of the previous shariah or they are not called the followers of the preceding prophet and keep in touch with God directly without receiving any benefit from any other prophet”.
Did MGA simply say again it is metaphor, that the future Messiah would be merely a saint doing the work of a prophet?
On the other hand he wrote on his conception of the word nabi and how one can appear in the ummah as a nabi:
“The true meaning of this word (nabi) is only this that he should be one who received tidings, by means of wahyi from Allah and have communion with Allah in considerable abundance and amplitude. That he should be a bearer of a new Shariah is not essential or binding. NOR is it necessary that he should NOT be a follower of an earlier nabi who had a Shariah of his own…therefore there is no harm if an ummati should come to be a nabi of this kind, especially when the nabi received the blessing after loyal obedience to the earlier nabi in question.”
MGA says: Nabi first of all means to have considerable communion with Allah, blessed with revelation and it is not essential that they bring a Shariah. The words NOT ESSENTIAL that he (nabi) brings a Shariah proves that a definition has been sent down of a nabi, in the real sense. Some prophets bring shariah, some don’t. They are still prophets. Once MGA clarifies that point, he explains that the prophet to come now must be a follower of previous prophet with the shariah. Further the nabi would receive the blessing after loyal obedience to the earlier nabi, a different stance than the writing from 1899. Of course, a muhaddas does not bring a new Shariah by definition, proving he is speaking of true prophethood, not a metaphoric nabi to mean saint.
VI. Your post 1901 quotes and especially your appeal to Haqiqatul Wahyi does not contradict anything above, and in fact serves to reinforce my position. On page 30 of the book is the quote (context is the superiority of Muslim ummah over Moses’ ummah), that there have been thousands of auliya, who received their position through following Muhammad; however on top of that now we have one who is now ummati and nabi. You are wrong to say therefore he is merely only in the highest group of believers among three levels. He was not a mere muhaddas. There was a time when MGA used to say that whenever his followers were to see the word “nabi” in relation to him, they were instructed to mentally cross it out and replace with “muhaddas”. However later he was to say, the term muhuddas did not do proper justice to his actual rank, and insisted nabi also should be used! As long he believed a nabi could not be ummati, he interpreted rising of a nabi in ummah to be metaphorical, that is, muhuddas in reality, and claimed just that, out of modesty. Later, he realized through Divine revelation an ummati can truly rise to the level of nabi.
For attainment of zilli prophethood, the door remains open, as MGA writes in Haqiqatul Wahyi. Of course thousands of righteous servants of Allah in the past received a share of zilli nabuwwat, though it was not perfect. Just as there were prophets before Muhammad perfect and complete within their sphere and times, they were incomplete and imperfect in relation to the prophet. In the same way, all previous auliya in the ummah bore a reflection to their master, Prophet Muhammad, but were imperfect and incomplete in relation to the Promised Messiah. They were, as you say, at a very high spiritual level, and reminded people of the prophets of the past. The reflection attained by the Promised Messiah however was the highest obtained and thus he rose to spiritual height of nabuwwat by Allah. He was distinct. Thus MGA states: “If the other servants of God, as have gone before my time, had taken an equal share with me in the amplitude of tangible communion with Allah, and knowledge of things unknown, they would have come to deserve being called nabi” P 391, Haqiqatul Wahyi.
MGA wrote he was the perfect, full and complete zilli nabi. In one book he stated: “I am not a rasul and prophet in the sense of having brought a new shariah, a new claim and a new name; and I am nabi and rasul that is with respect of perfect zilliyyat. I am the mirrors in which the qualities and nabuwwat of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, have been perfectly reflected” (Nozul – I- Masih page 3).
As the perfect zilli nabuwwat is true nabuwwat, MGA wrote in “A Misunderstanding Removed”: “It must be borne in mind there is a pledge in favor of this ummat that it will receive all those identical blessings which the earlier prophets and siddiqs received. So, included in these favors and blessings, are the nabuwwats, and prophecies, on the basis of which the earlier prophets came to be known and accepted as prophets”. The quotation from Vol 5, Brahin Ahmadiyya also proves ummati and zilli prophethood is real prophethood.
A quotation from Haqiqatul Wahyi (page 390) shows further he attained the spiritual rank of nabi: “It has been foretold that in the ummat of the Holy Prophet, there shall appear one who will be called Jesus Son of Mary and will be called Nabi which means that he will be getting the excellence of communion and communication and the matters unseen disclosed to him with such abundance that cannot be done except to a prophet. As Allah says ‘Allah does not grant anyone a full power and dominance on matters pertaining to the unknown obtainable on the basis of amplitude and clarity except in the case of His own chosen Apostle.’ And it is a thing established that the amplitude and abundance of communion and the volume of knowledge in regard to the unknown bestowed on me by Allah, in the last thirteen hundred years, has not been granted to anyone else”
The quotation from Haqiqatul Wahyi goes on: “In short, in point of amplitude of wahyi from Allah and knowledge of things in realms of the unknown, I am the only specific individual; before my time, in the entire number of auliya, abdal, and aqtab, in this ummaat from me, no one has been given this abundance. On the basis I am the only one singled out to be called nabi.” Needless to say, if you replace the word “nabi” with “muhuddus”, the pre 1901 instruction, the passage is meaningless, since he is saying the only muhuddus is himself, and no else ever attained that status in the ummah. Thus, he says, by reaching the rank of nabi, he is superior to all saints and holy personages who previously appeared in the ummah.
That he truly was a prophet of Allah is borne out by his statements on his rank compared to Hazrat Isa, again in Haqiqatul Wahyi. It is not the full truth to say MGA was greater simply because the Muslim Messiah had a greater universal mission than the Jewish Messiah as Prophet Muhammad was the greatest prophet. The fact is as long as he thought that it was necessary for a prophet to bring a Book or attain prophet directly and independently, MGA denied being a prophet and believed he could not be superior to Hazrat Isa, being a prophet of Allah. But when he realized his status as nabi, he had no hesitation to declare his superiority over Jesus. Again, Haqiqatul Wahyi bears this out.
On page 148 of Haqiqatul Wahyi, he writes about a question posed by someone: “on page 157 of Taryaqul Qolub, (pre 1901) a book of which I am the author, it is written: ‘Let no one be misled to imagine that in this address I have held myself to be superior to Hazrat Masih, since this superiority is only in certain respects, and of a kind which a man, who was not a nabi, could have over one who was a nabi’.
Then in later writings, in apparent complete contradiction to the above, MGA goes on to give quotes from his own pen stating (quoting from Review of Religions) the Promised Messiah is categorically greater than the first Messiah.
Thus there was a contradiction in the eyes of the questioner. The answer to this contradiction, as MGA writes, was due to his realization he indeed was an actual nabi now, through constant wahyi to this effect. His words:
“In the beginning I believed that I had no comparison with Jesus son of Mary; he was a prophet and one of the chosen ones of God. If there was disclosed anything indicating my superiority, I considered it as a minor and partial phase. However when revelations from God poured upon me like rain I could not keep this belief. I was clearly given the title of a prophet – in one respect a prophet and in the other an ummati”.
Before I close this section, a comment on the oft repeated quote from Haqiqatul Wahyi: “I have been called a nabi by way of metaphor, not by way of reality”. Metaphor = majaz or zill
It should be borne in mind that in the spiritual scheme of Islam and specifically Ahmadiyya theology, followers can progress spiritually only by obedience to the Prophet Muhammad. He is the only real person and his followers are mere images, in varying degrees of perfection. MGA was the perfect, complete zilli nabi, but there have been literally thousands of people who attained high spiritual ranks through obedience to the Prophet Muhammad, hence called, walis, etc. but can be called “partial zilli nabis”.
That is why MGA wrote, “the real and perfect Mahdi has been only one in the whole world – the prophet Muhammad” (Arabeen II P 16).
Of course, MGA is the real Mahdi, but compared to the Prophet Muhammad he is not the real Mahdi. In relation to the Prophet Muhammad his nabuwwat is only an image or metaphor so to speak, but it does not negate he is a nabi on his own, in the same way being only an image of Imam Mahdi does not negate he truly is Imam Mahdi.
VII. On the topic of Muhammad Ali Sahib and his problems with Anjuman H Islam, the Maulana did not answer their specific questions/concerns on whether his beliefs changed. You have given more background, which I appreciate, but you have not refuted anything. Anjuman H Islam was suspicious because there was an obvious discrepancy between his previous writings from around 1906 and the current views of the organization he leads. Instead of “grabbing the bull by the horns” he answered their question with another question. When pressed specifically to explain his writings of 30 years ago on the status of MGA and whether he modified them, he ducks away from the straight-forward question the Anjuman H Islam were hoping to get clarification on.
He insisted that the fatwa should simply be based on the writings of the present day that state the Promised Messiah was not a real prophet knowing this would be acceptable to them. His personal writings from thirty years ago were to be off the table. I strongly disagree with the notion that Maulana Sahib’s previous writings need not be considered. It is impossible. He was not just another Tom, Dick and Harry. He was the religious leader and founder and prominent intellectual. To understand the founder’s writings and discourses, even prior to the formation of his religious organization, are critical to understanding the organization as this form the edifice of the organization. Anjuman H Islam had strong grounds for being suspicious, but got no real response.
VIII- On “Ahmad” in the Quran, read Nazir’s “Truth Prevails” chapter 4; in it he has quoted MGA from Ejazul Masih, and Tohfa Golarwia. This should be sufficient.
What I don’t understand is since MGA clearly applies the prophecy to himself, why doesn’t Muhammad Ali Sahib say so in his Quran commentary that it can apply to him also? Says MGA:
“These people inquire again and again where in the Holy Quran has the name been mentioned. They do not seem to be aware that Allah named me Ahmad. The pledge of Bai-at is taken in the name of Ahmad. Is not this name found in Quran?” (Al Hakam Oct 17 1905 page 10).