The Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement
A Short Study of the Life of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian
by Maulana Muhammad Ali
Chapter 3: Mujaddid of the Fourteenth Century Hijra
Claim as Mujaddid:
As I have already stated, Ahmad was not a mere controversialist. He was a student of religion who had made a close study of Islam as well as of other religions and had come to the conclusion that, while other religions contained only partial truth, Islam contained the whole truth, and was, on account of this superiority, destined to be the future religion of the world. To establish this fact he began to write a book called Barahin Ahmadiyya, the full name being Al-Barāhīn al-Aḥmadiyya alā ḥaqqiyyat Kitāb Allāh al-Qurān wal-nubuwwat-il-Muḥammadiyya, i.e., “The Ahmadiyya proofs for the truth of the Book of God, the Quran, and the prophethood of Muhammad”.
Two years later, i.e., in the closing year of the thirteenth century of Hijra, he issued a third part of the same book, in which were published several revelations which he had received from God, in one of which he claimed to be the promised reformer, mujaddid, of the fourteenth century of Hijra. This revelation, which is published on page 238 of the book, runs thus:
“The Beneficent God has taught you the Quran so that you may warn a people whose fathers have not been warned, and so that the erroneous path of the guilty may be seen manifestly. Say: I have been commanded by God to deliver His message and I am the first of believers.”
At the same time he issued a manifesto stating plainly that he was the mujaddid of that century. In this manifesto, he wrote, after speaking of this book:
“This servant of Allah has given a manifest proof by the grace of God the Almighty that many of the true inspirations and signs and minor miracles and news relating to the unseen and Divine secrets and the 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 and others). All these matters have been related 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 the excellences of Messiah, the son of Mary, and that the one of them bears a very strong resemblance and a close relation to the other.”1
At that time, the Muslims highly appreciated the great services which Ahmad had rendered to the cause of Islam, and greatly admired not only his learning and his powerful refutation of the opponents of Islam, but also his righteousness and piety, and, therefore, they hailed these claims as quite opportune. It was just the commencement of the fourteenth century of Hijra, and a hadith of the Holy Prophet promised to them a reformer at the commencement of each century. Besides the hadith, the condition of things in the world of Islam called yet more loudly for the appearance of a reformer. Islam was at the time between two fires — disputes and dissensions which frittered away the whole energy of the Muslim world, and the most terrible attacks on it from without. Here was a man who rose far above all internal dissensions, refusing to take any part in them, and who directed his attention solely to the attacks from without; a soldier of Islam who championed the cause of Islam most powerfully, meeting every opponent on his own ground; a learned man whose exposition of the Holy Quran exactly met the need of the time; the fame of his piety was spread far and wide; and what more was needed for a reformer? His claim to be the mujaddid was, therefore, generally accepted by the Muslims, laymen as well as theologians.
An Epoch-making Book:
Two years later, in 1884, came out the fourth part of Barahin Ahmadiyya, which contained a most powerful exposition of the truth of Islam. This book may rightly be regarded as marking a new epoch in the religious literature of Islam, and it was accorded that position by the greatest ulama of the time. Its real object was to establish the Truth of Islam by a long series of cogent and irrefutable reasons and arguments, but by way of comparison dogmas of other religions were also included and subjected to the search-light of reason, and thus the beauties of Islam were manifested all the more clearly. Even such a hostile critic as Walter admits that:
“…this book was quite universally acclaimed (in so far as it was read), throughout the Muhammadan world as a work of power and originality.”2
The book won this recognition in spite of the fact that it contained all the material which formed the basis of later differences with the orthodox Muslims. In this work were published the author’s revelations in which he was addressed as messenger, prophet and warner. His claim to be inspired by God was never contested. Thus, Maulvi Muhammad Husain, the head of the Ahl Hadith (Wahabi) sect in the Punjab, wrote a review of Barahin Ahmadiyya, and the following paragraph from this review shows how wide was the acceptance accorded to this book by men of all shades of opinion, the author being a declared Hanafi, to which school of thought he adhered to the last:
“In our opinion, it is in this time and in the present circumstances, a book the like of which 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 and his person and his pen and his tongue and 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 anyone 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 the opponents of Islam, especially the Arya Samaj and the Brahmo 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 may come to them and witness the truth thereof, and who have made non-Muslims taste of the same.”3
Muslims of the Ahl Sunnat wal-Jamaat sect generally admit the existence of saints, or auliya Allah, who have been recipients of the gift of Divine inspiration, while the Ahl Hadith, popularly known as Wahabis, are generally looked upon as denying the continuance of this gift; nevertheless, here we find the head of the Ahl Hadith sect, not only admiring the powerful arguments contained in Barahin Ahmadiyya against all sorts of opponents of Islam but also laying special stress on the fact that the author’s religious experience was of such a high character, in holding communion with God and in receiving inspiration or revelation from Him, that he had been successful in giving practical proof of such revelation to its deniers. This is only one indication of how Muslim India received Ahmad’s claim as mujaddid of the fourteenth century of Hijra. The purpose of his being raised as a mujaddid was also made clear in Barahin Ahmadiyya. I quote Ahmad’s own words:
“The spiritual triumph of the religion of Islam which would be brought about by conclusive arguments and shining proofs is destined to be accomplished through this weak mortal, whether it is in his life-time or after his death. Though the religion of Islam has been triumphant from the beginning on account of its truthful arguments, and though from the earliest times its opponents have met with disgrace and dishonour, its conquests over the different sects and nations 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 creating me in this age and by granting me hundreds of heavenly signs and extraordinary matters relating to the future, and deep knowledge and truths, and by giving me knowledge of hundreds of sure arguments, to spread and propagate knowledge of the true teachings of the Quran among all nations and in all countries.”4
Baiat to Serve Islam:
Matters remained in this condition for several years during which time Ahmad was generally admitted to be the religious leader and inspired reformer of the Muslims. During that time, he maintained a hard struggle against the onslaughts of the Arya Samaj, which had become very powerful, and which followed in the footsteps of the Christian missionaries in abusing the Prophet of Islam. He undertook an important journey to Hoshiarpur, where in March 1886 a controversy was arranged and held between him and L. Murli Dhar, an Arya Samaj leader of Hoshiarpur. The proceedings of this controversy form a part of his book Surma-i Chashm-i Arya, and the important question discussed in it is the Arya Samaj doctrine which denies the creation of matter and soul by God and the permanence of salvation.
On the first of December 1888, he announced that Almighty God had commanded him to accept baiat and to form into a separate class those who came to spiritual life through him. He wrote:
“I have been commanded that those who seek after truth should enter my baiat, in order to give up dirty habits and slothful and disloyal ways of life and in order to imbibe true faith and a truly pure life that springs from faith and to learn the ways of the love of God.”5
Baiat is, among the Sufis, the oath of fealty which the disciple takes when giving his hand into the hand of his spiritual guide, but the baiat which Ahmad wanted from his followers was a promise to guard the cause of Islam, to deliver its message, and to place the service of Islam above all other considerations. There were ten conditions which the disciple had to accept, the eighth of these being:
“That he will regard religion and the honour of religion and the sympathy of Islam as dearer to him than his life and his property and his honour and his children and everyone dear to him.”
These ten conditions were retained after his claim to the Promised Messiahship and up to the end of his life, but when disciples came in larger numbers, these were shortened, the following words taking the place of the eighth condition:
“I will place religion above the world.”
It is easy to see that this pledge was quite different from the ordinary pledge which is taken in the Sufi orders, and its object was no other than to uphold the honour of Islam at all costs, to guard Islam against all attacks and to carry its message to the farthest ends of the world. Here was a spiritual commander who needed a spiritual force to guard the spiritual territories of Islam and to lead Islam to further spiritual conquests.
- See Majmua Ishtiharat, 1986 edition, v. 1, p. 24 (Editor). ↩
- H.A. Walter, The Ahmadiyya Movement, p. 16. ↩
- Ishaat-us-Sunna, vol. vii, no. 6, June to August, 1884, p. 169–170. ↩
- Barahin Ahmadiyya, pp. 499–502. ↩
- See Majmua Ishtiharat, 1986 edition, v. 1, p. 188 (Editor). ↩