Notes and Comments: Progress of the Ahmadiyya Sect

The Review of Religions (English), January 1903 Issue (Vol. 2, No. 1, pp. 41–42)

The sect has made a wonderful progress during the last three years. In 1898 it numbered only a few hundred, but today it counts more than a hundred and fifty thousand. An idea of this progress during the first half of these three years can be had from the Census Reports, though even there the returns are incomplete. The notice announcing the name of the sect was issued after the commencement of the Census operations and was not sufficiently circulated among the members living far and wide to enable them to get themselves enumerated as members of the Ahmadiyya sect, and no distinctive appellation had been appropriated before that time. The Bombay Census Report (Census of India, 1901, Vol. IX, Bombay, Part I) alone shows 11,087 persons belonging to the Ahmadiyya sect. It is, however, in the Punjab, the centre of the operations of the Promised Messiah, that the sect is progressing by bounds and strides, and, therefore, the numbers there are far greater. Of this, however, we shall say something later on. The Bombay Census Report contains the following remarks on this sect:

“The founder of this sect, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, Chief of Qadian, has made special efforts to secure the complete return of his followers at this census. He claims to be a Messiah and has described the particular tenets of his sect in a document received at an early stage of the census operations. They can be very briefly summarised as follows:

“In the words of the circular,

‘the characteristic mark of the sect is that it not only repudiates the doctrine of jihad with the sword, but does not even look forward to its enforcement at any future time. Wars undertaken for the propagation of religion it regards as absolutely unlawful.’

“The founder of the sect then traces a parallel between himself as Messiah or Imam and the founder of Christianity. He claims that his advent was foretold and that he is charged with laying the foundation of peace and goodwill.

“After laying down some excellent rules of conduct for his disciples, he explains his reasons for naming the sect ‘The Ahmadiyya’ by referring to the two names of the Prophet —

‘the Jalali name Muhammad, significant of his triumphant career, and the Jamali name Ahmad, pointing to the peace and tranquillity that he was to spread in the world.’

“By denouncing the doctrine of jihad and all crimes of violence committed in the name of religion, the Imam claims that he and his disciples can be fitly documented as ‘Ahmadiyya.’

“The progress of the sect may be followed in the future enumerations and should be a matter of some little interest to the Orthodox Musalmans [Muslims] of India. It does not appear from the document referred to that any provision has been made for a successor to the founder as Imam on his decease.”

This progress is, however, very small in comparison with the vast progress made during the latter half of the last three years. With the general decrease of the population on account of the great number of deaths caused by the plague, there has been a very large increase in the numbers of the Ahmadiyya sect. The acceptance of the teachings of the Promised Messiah has proved the only safe refuge from the violent attacks of the plague and people have run to him in time of distress and thus fulfilled the truth of the words revealed long since, saying,

یا مسیح الخلق  عدوانا

“Thou Messiah, who hast been sent as a mercy to mankind, intercede for us with thy Lord.”