The Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement
A Short Study of the Life of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian
by Maulana Muhammad Ali
Chapter 5: Opposition
Controversies with Ulama:
Though his real objective was the spread of Islam in the West, he could not avoid controversy with the orthodox ulama who opposed him tooth and nail. Often would he say that, if the ulama left him alone, he would devote himself, heart and soul, to the cause of the advancement of Islam, but he had perforce to write a large number of books, tracts and pamphlets to explain his own position, and to carry on a number of controversies. The first controversy took place at Ludhiana, soon after the announcement of his claim to Promised Messiahship, with Maulvi Muhammad Husain of Batala, his erstwhile admirer, and lasted from 20th to 29th July 1891. Particulars of this controversy are contained in a pamphlet called al-Haqq.
In September he went to Delhi, the great stronghold of orthodox ulama, and there he met with the severest opposition. The Muslim religious leaders made inflammatory speeches, full of misrepresentations, to rouse their followers to behave quite savagely. All plans of a controversy with the Delhi ulama failed, and at last in the end of October a controversy was held with Maulvi Muhammad Bashir who was invited from Bhopal.
As far as the claim itself was concerned, there was nothing in it that could be called heretical. Every Muslim had a right to interpret the Quran and the Hadith, and Mirza Ghulam Ahmad did not for a moment deny those authorities, but put on them an interpretation different from that which the orthodox Mullas held, and on that score no one could find fault with him. He again and again explained that the Holy Quran repeatedly spoke of the death of Jesus Christ and did not, on a single occasion, state that he was alive in heaven or that he was raised up bodily to some upper region. Therefore his advent, as spoken of in Hadith, could be taken only in a metaphorical sense, and the claim to Promised Messiahship was only an offshoot of his generally recognised claim to mujaddidship. The ulama could not meet him on that ground — the position was so clear — and therefore they resorted to misrepresentations, saying that he denied certain articles of the Muslim faith; for instance, that he claimed to be a prophet and thus denied the finality of the prophethood of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, that he denied the existence of angels, that he denied miracles and so on.
Refutation of False Charges:
These charges were refuted by him again and again. The following manifesto was issued by him at Delhi on 2nd October 1891. It is headed An Announcement by a Traveller, and opens thus:
“I have heard that some of the leading ulama of this city are giving publicity to the false charge against me that I lay claim to prophethood and that I do not believe in angels, or in heaven and hell, or in the existence of Gabriel, or in Lailat-ul-Qadr, or in miracles and the Miraj of the Holy Prophet. So, in the interest of truth, I do hereby publicly declare that all this is complete fabrication. I am not a claimant to prophethood, nor am I a denier of miracles, angels, Lailat-ul-Qadr, etc. On the other hand, I confess belief in all those matters which are included in the Islamic principles of faith, and, in accordance with the belief of Ahl Sunnat wal-Jamaat, I believe in all those things which are established by the Quran and Hadith, and I believe that any claimant to prophethood and messengership after our lord and master Muhammad Mustafa (may peace and the blessings of God be upon him), the last of the messengers, is a liar and an unbeliever. It is my conviction that Divine revelation, which is granted to messengers, began with Adam, the chosen one of God, and came to a close with the Messenger of God, Muhammad Mustafa, may peace and the blessings of God be upon him.”1
A few days later, he addressed an assembly in the Jami Masjid (Central Mosque) of Delhi in the following words:
“Other charges which are advanced against me that I am a denier of Lailat-ul-Qadr, miracles and Miraj, and that I am also a claimant to prophethood and a denier of the finality of prophethood — all these charges are untrue and absolutely false. In all these matters, my belief is the same as the belief of other Ahl Sunnat wal-Jamaat and such objections against my books, Tauzih Maram and Izala Auham, are only an error of the fault-finders. Now I make a plain confession of the following matters before Muslims in this house of God — I am a believer in the finality of the prophethood of the Last of the Prophets (may peace and the blessings of God be upon him) and I look upon anyone who denies the finality of prophethood to be a heretic and outside the pale of Islam. Similarly, I am a believer in angels, miracles, etc.”2
No Claim to Prophethood:
It is rather strange that he was charged as laying claim to prophethood in his book Izala Auham which contains a large number of statements expressly denying a claim to prophethood and expressing faith in the finality of the prophethood of Muhammad. I refer here to only one such statement which is given in the form of question and answer:
“Question: In the pamphlet Fath-i Islam, claim has been laid to prophethood.
“Answer: There is no claim to being a prophet but a claim to being a muhaddath,3 and this claim has been advanced by the command of Allah. Further, there is no doubt that muhaddathiyya also contains a strong part of prophethood… If then this be called metaphorically prophethood or be regarded as a strong part of prophethood, does this amount to a claim to prophethood?”4
Early in the following year he went to Lahore where he held a controversy with Maulvi Abdul Hakim. That controversy was brought to a close by the following announcement which Ahmad made in the presence of several witnesses:
“Be it known to all the Muslims that all such words as occur in my writings Fath-i Islam, Tauzih Maram and Izala Auham, to the effect that the muhaddath is in one sense a prophet, or that muhaddathiyya is partial prophethood or imperfect prophethood, are not to be taken in the real sense, but have been used according to their root-meaning; otherwise, I lay no claim whatever to actual prophethood. On the other hand, as I have written in my book Izala Auham, p. 137, my belief is that our lord and master Muhammad Mustafa (may peace and the blessings of God be upon him) is the last of the prophets. So I wish to make it known to all Muslims that, if they are displeased with these words and if these words give injury to their feelings, they may regard all such words as amended and may read instead the word muhaddath, for I do by no means wish to create any dissension among the Muslims. From the beginning, as God knows best, my intention has never been to use this word nabi as meaning actually a prophet but only as signifying a muhaddath, which the Holy Prophet has explained as meaning one who is spoken to by God. Of the muhaddath it is stated in a saying of the Holy Prophet:
لَقَدْ كَانَ فِيمَنْ كَانَ قَبْلَكُمْ مِنْ بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ رِجَالٌ يُكَلَّمُونَ مِنْ غَيْرِ أَنْ يَكُونُوا أَنْبِيَاءَ، فَإِنْ يَكُنْ مِنْ أُمَّتِي مِنْهُمْ أَحَدٌ فَعُمَرُ
Among those that were before you of the Israelites, there used to be men who were spoken to by God, though they were not prophets, and if there is one among my followers, it is Umar — Sahih Bukhari, volume 1, page 521, part 14.
Therefore, I have not the least hesitation in stating my meaning in another form for the conciliation of my Muslim brethren, and that other form is that wherever the word nabi (prophet) is used in my writings, it should be taken as meaning muhaddath, and the word nabi should be regarded as having been blotted out.”5
This writing was drawn up in the form of an agreement and signed by eight witnesses. Certainly there could be no plainer words, and, though Maulvi Abdul Hakim withdrew from the debate on receiving this plain assurance, yet those who had signed the fatwa of kufr persisted in their false charges, saying that these assurances were meant only to deceive the public.
- See Majmua Ishtiharat, 1986 edition, vol. 1, pp. 230–231 (Editor). ↩
- Ibid., vol. 1, p. 255 (Editor). ↩
- One who is spoken to by God, though not a prophet. ↩
- Izala Auham, pp. 421–422. ↩
- See Majmua Ishtiharat, 1986 edition, vol. 1, pp. 312–314 (Editor). ↩