Press Notices on the Death of the Promised Messiah [Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian]

The Review of Religions (English), June 1908 Issue (Vol. 7, No. 6, pp. 235–238)

Below we give quotations from some Indian newspapers that have noticed the death of the founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement [Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian]. In reading these notes it should be borne in mind that religious prejudice was strong against the deceased leader in certain quarters. We do not intend to criticise these remarks, but we might be allowed to contradict in the beginning the estimate of the adherents of the movement and the probable date of the birth of the founder which may more correctly be placed at 1836 or 1837.

The Civil and Military Gazette, Lahore:

“Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Khan of Qadian in Gurdaspur District, who died at Lahore last Tuesday at the age of sixty-nine, was a notable Muhammadan preacher and founder of the Qadian sect said to number twenty thousand adherents. The Mirza, who was held in great respect, was many years ago in the service of the Government, but resigned in order to devote himself entirely to religious and educational work. Himself a landowner and jagirdar, Mirza exerted his influence with his co-religionists to support law and order. He had come to Lahore on a mission of peace to arrange for the establishment of a society to promote harmony and union between Hindus and Muhammadans. A couple of days before his death he interviewed several Hindu gentlemen of position in Lahore seeking their cooperation for the carrying out of his idea. His remains were taken to Qadian, the headquarters of the sect of which he was the founder and head, and the funeral ceremonies will take place there.”

The Pioneer, Allahabad, May 30th [1908]:

“If one of the Prophets of Mount Carmel could return from the upper world and resume his mission among mankind, he would hardly be a more incongruous figure among twentieth century surroundings than was Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Khan of Qadian, whom death has overtaken, as it overtakes all in these days, at his home in the Punjab. Of late years the Mirza under the influence of advancing years had relapsed into quietude, but at one time his name was as familiar to people out here as that of Dr. Booth. His position as a Muhammadan theologian we are not qualified to appreciate, but it is certain that he had at one time a very large following, the result of his personal influence and teaching. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad never doubted of himself or his calling and believed with absolute sincerity that he had been endowed with inspiration and of superhuman powers. But instead of living in the eighth century B.C., his lot was cast in the nineteenth A.D., and he had to accommodate himself to his surroundings. So instead of going off to the desert and taking up his abode under a gourd or in a cave, he took in the newspapers, joined in current controversies, remained a good citizen and a loyal adherent of the British Government. Yet sometimes the other side of his nature would get the upper hand, as when he challenged the astonished Bishop Welldon to a contest of miracles after the manner of Elijah and the priests of Baal, the result to decide once and for all which was the true religion. Even then the Mirza was ready to accept every modern guarantee against deception, but the Anglican champion would not take up the appeal … Those who have moved the world in religion have been much more akin to Mirza Ghulam in temperament than to a modern Archbishop of Canterbury. Had Ernest Renan been in India during the last twenty years, he would certainly have gone and studied the Mirza, and the result might have been some added flashes of insight in the wonderful account of the prophets of Israel. Our insular instincts do not encourage such affinities, and the result is that our theological literature is what it is — stamped with the limitations of the Deanery and the Close. In any case the Seer of Qadian was a man who does not come every day. Peace to his ashes.”

The Unity and Minister, Calcutta, 7th June [1908]:

“Death has been announced of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, known as the prophet of Qadian in the Punjab. The deceased was a very interesting personage. It has been evident from the days of the caliphs that the different traits of Muhammad’s character were respectively parcelled out among his disciples. The spirit of devotion peculiar to the Prophet of Arabia prevailed in a prominent measure in some, the zeal for aggressive propagandism was the special trait of others, and kindness and humility were inherited by some others. The Qadian prophet was endowed with the gift of prophecy. He claimed inspiration in his teachings and declared himself as the prophet. By the force of character and conviction, he gathered around him about twenty thousand adherents. He was a good scholar and was well-versed, not only in the tenets of his own religion, but of Christianity and Hinduism. His magazine entitled Review of Religions, which was ably conducted, showed an acuteness of his power of criticism. He too was imbued with the idea of harmony of religions which so much pervades the religious world at the present time. He tried to reconcile the essential traits of Hinduism with those of Christianity and Muhammadanism, but he exposed unsparingly some of the doctrines of the Christian religion which he believed to be erroneous. He always tried to preach loyalty to the Government and the Loyal Manifesto issued by him some time ago did great good to his followers and fellow-believers. The death of such a man cannot but be deplored by the community.”

The Aligarh Institute Gazette:

“The deceased was an acknowledged writer and the founder of the ‘Mirzai’ sect. Born in 1839 or 1840, he received a thorough education in Oriental sciences. To his last day he was a lover of books, and shrank from all mundane occupations. For some years he was a state servant at Sialkot, but having resigned his post, returned to his home at Qadian in the Punjab. From 1874 to 1876 he wielded his pen against Christians, Aryas and Brahmos. In 1880 he began his career as an author. His first book was a defence of Islam to which he invited a reply, offering a reward of Rs. 10,000. He claimed to be the appointed Messiah for the nineteenth century. In 1889 he began to make disciples, of which he is reported to have had 15,000. He often met the learned of other faiths, and was on several occasions denounced a kafir [non-Muslim]. He was several times hauled up in law courts, and has left behind fully eight books written by himself, of which twenty are in Arabic … The deceased was undoubtedly a great champion of Islam …”

The Arya Patrika, Lahore:

“Every man has both lights and shades in his life, and it is humane to see the bright side when he leaves the world. Mirza Qadian with all weaknesses professed to live a great part of his life for a religious cause, and whatever might have been the merits of his personal views on matters of religion his name is connected with a religious society which he has organised. Muhammadans will judge best the part played by Mirza towards the progress of Islam, but one notable mark in his teachings which others can see was a broader and more tolerant view of the religion of Muhammad than is ordinarily found among the Muslims. The attitude of Mirza towards the Arya Samaj was never friendly, and his personality excites conclusive emotions in our breast when we remember the past history of the Arya Samaj.”