The Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement

A Short Study of the Life of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian

by Maulana Muhammad Ali

Chapter 12: The Ahmadiyya Movement

I will bring to a close this short study of the life of the founder of the Ahmadiyya movement by considering two more questions — Was he mad? Was he insincere? I have read a book recently written by an anonymous Shia writer which ends with the considered view that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was a madman. A madman could not build a house or design a plan of the building of a house, and yet we are asked in all seriousness to accept it as a fact that the man who founded a movement, and built up such an important community as the Ahmadiyya, was a madman. To call such a man mad is nothing but madness.

The Ahmadiyya Movement as the West sees it:

I give a few brief quotations from recent Western writers showing what the Ahmadiyya movement is.

The Moslem World:

“…they are a very remarkable group in modern Islam, the only group that has purely missionary aims. They are marked by a devotion, zeal and sacrifice that call for genuine admiration… Their founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, must have powerful personality.” — p. 170

“… all their mental energy is concentrated on painting Islam as upholder of broad, social and moral ideals.” — p. 170

“Their vindication and defence of Islam is accepted by many educated Muslims as the form in which they can remain intellectually loyal to Islam.” — p. 1711

Murray Titus, Indian Islam:

“…the Ahmadis are at present the most active propagandists of Islam in the world.” — p . 217

“The movement initiated by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad occupies a unique position, in relation to both the orthodox party and the rationalistic reformers represented by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan and his Neo-Mutazilite followers. Ahmad himself declaimed bitterly against the professional mullas of Islam, who kept the people in darkness, who had allowed Islam to die of formalism, who had not prevented the division into sects… At the same time, he could not tolerate the rationalizing expositors of Islam, such as Syed Amir Ali and Prof. S. Khuda Bakhsh, who were beginning to throw doubt on the Quran, as a perfect work of Divine revelation.” — p. 222

“…here we find the newest and most aggressive forms of propaganda against Christianity which have ever originated, and from here a world-wide programme of Muslim Foreign Missions is being maintained and financed.” — p. 2292

Whither Islam?:

“This religious movement through its own dynamic force has attracted wide attention and secured followers all over the world.” — p. 214, under India by Lt. Col. M.L. Ferrar.

“What is of more interest to the outside world than the beliefs of either branch and their relations with the orthodox is the vigorous life and the fervent missionizing character of the movement.” — p. 217, ibid.

“The doctrine of the Ahmadiyya is of a highly ethical character and it directs itself particularly towards the intellectuals.” — p. 288, under Indonesia by Prof. C.C. Berg.

“…how movements like the Ahmadiyya, with its strong ethical powers and its no doubt deep religious feelings, are able to exercise a certain influence far beyond what has so far been considered to be the frontiers of Moslem territory.” — p. 309, ibid.

“To it belongs also the credit for the development of a modern Moslem apologetic which … is far from negligible.” — p. 353, by Prof. H.A.R. Gibb.3

Islam at the Crossroads:

“…the movement resolves itself mainly into liberal Islam with the peculiarity that it has definitely propagandist spirit and feels confident that it can make an appeal to Western nations, an appeal which has already been made with some measure of success.” — p. 1094

Well-organised, Intellectual Movement:

Can any sane person for a moment entertain the idea that a madman could bring to life such a strongly-organised, vigorous and rational movement?

The second question is — was he insincere? Here again I ask the reader to consider if an insincere man could produce such devoted and sincere followers? Insincerity could give birth only to insincerity, and it is the height of folly to call a man insincere who gathers about himself not only devoted and sincere but also intelligent men who are admittedly the best Muslim missionaries today, and who are leading an admittedly intellectual movement. Moreover, the whole course of Ahmad’s life from early youth shows that he was devoted to the cause of the propagation of Islam. Again, an insincere man could not but have some ulterior motive, but the founder of the Ahmadiyya movement cannot be shown to have any such motive. After all, what did he gain by this so-called insincerity? He was at the height of his fame when he laid claim to Promised Messiahship, and he sacrificed by this claim the reputation which he had built for himself during half a century. An insincere man would have done his best to retain the fame which he had acquired and the honour in which he was held. Nor did he make any estate for himself. On the other hand, when he was informed that his end was nigh, he at once constituted a society to which he entrusted complete control of management and of finances. He did not care for the acquisition of either wealth or honour, and sincerity marks every step that he took for the building up of the cause of the propagation of Islam, even every word that he wrote. If such a man could be insincere, truly the world must have become devoid of sincere men!



  1. A Christian Missionary Quarterly. Vol. xxi, no. 11, April 1931, under article Islam in India Today by Rev. H. Kraemer, pages 170–171.
  2. Murray T. Titus, Indian Islam, Oxford University Press, 1930.
  3. Whither Islam? A Survey of Modern Movements in the Moslem World, edited by H.A.R. Gibb, 1932.
  4. De Lacy O’Leary, Islam at the Cross Roads, Kegan Paul, London 1923.