The Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement

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

by Maulana Muhammad Ali

Chapter 8: Not a Prophet

His Claim Misunderstood:

Every great man has been misunderstood to a certain extent, and so has Ahmad. The most serious of these misunderstandings is that which states that he claimed to be a prophet. This charge was laid against him by his opponents when he first claimed to be the Promised Messiah, and a section of his followers, the Qadianis, have now joined hands with them in bringing discredit upon his movement. We have already noted, while discussing his claims, that he claimed to be a mujaddid in 1882, and that his claim to Promised Messiahship was advanced in 1891. It was on the occasion of the latter claim that he was charged by his opponents with laying claim to prophethood, and he forthwith denounced that as a false charge, declaring definitely and unmistakably that he had never claimed to be a prophet, that he believed in the Holy Prophet Muhammad as the final Prophet, and that he looked upon any claimant to prophethood after him as a liar. A few quotations from his writings have already been given (see chapter 5). After reading those statements, no one can honestly attribute to him a claim to prophethood.

How then did the misunderstanding arise? When Ahmad laid claim to Promised Messiahship on the ground of his being the like of Jesus Christ, an objection was brought forward that Jesus Christ was a prophet and that none but a prophet could be his like. The following answer to this objection is met with in the first book in which a claim to Promised Messiahship is advanced:

“Here, if it is objected that the like of Jesus must also be a prophet because Jesus was a prophet, the reply to this in the first place is that our Lord and Master [Prophet Muhammad] has not laid it down that the coming Messiah shall be a prophet; nay, he has made it clear that he shall be a Muslim and shall be bound by the law of Islam like ordinary Muslims … Besides this, there is no doubt that I have come as a muhaddath from God, and muhaddath is, in one sense, a prophet, though he does not possess perfect prophethood; but still he is partially a prophet, for he is endowed with the gift of being spoken to by God, matters relating to the unseen are revealed to him, and, like the revelation of prophets and messengers, his revelation is kept free from the interference of the devil, and the kernel of the law is disclosed to him, and he is commissioned just like the prophets, and like prophets it is incumbent on him that he should announce his claim at the top of his voice.”1

Denial of Prophethood:

It should be borne in mind that in the terminology of the Islamic law a muhaddath is a righteous person who is not a prophet but who is spoken to by God. When confronted with the objection that he claimed to be the like of Jesus but that Jesus was a prophet, and therefore his like must also be a prophet, Ahmad offered the above explanation, the gist of which is that he was a muhaddath and that the muhaddath was, in one sense, a prophet, though his prophethood was partial and not perfect. It was this statement which was misinterpreted by his opponents as a claim to prophethood, and, on this basis, he was denounced as a kafir or heretic. To remove the misunderstanding, he emphatically denied again and again that he was a claimant to prophethood and emphasised that he claimed to be only a muhaddath:

“There is no claim to being a prophet but a claim to being a muhaddath, and this claim has been advanced by the command of Allah.”2

“…I lay no claim whatever to actual prophethood.… wherever the word nabi (prophet) is used in my writings, it should be taken as meaning muhaddath, and the word nabi (prophet) should be regarded as having been blotted out.”3

“It does not befit God that He should send a prophet after the Khatam-un-nabiyyin, or that He should re-start the system of prophethood after having terminated it. … I am not a prophet but a muhaddath from God, and a recipient of Divine revelation so that I may re-vitalise the religion of the Holy Prophet.”4

“One of the objections of those who call me a kafir is that I lay claim to prophethood and say that I am a prophet. The reply to this is that it should be known that I have not laid claim to prophethood, nor have I said that I am a prophet, but these people have made haste to make a mistake in understanding my words … I have said nothing to these people except what I have written in my books, that I am a muhaddath and that God speaks to me as He speaks to a muhaddath … and what right have I that I should lay claim to prophethood and get out of the pale of Islam?”5

“These people have not understood my words and they say that I am a claimant to prophethood, and this allegation of theirs is a clear lie.”6

“I firmly believe that our Holy Prophet Muhammad is the Last of the Prophets (Khatam-ul-anbiya), and after him no prophet shall come for this nation (umma), neither new nor old. … Of course, those who are muhaddath will come, who will be spoken to by God … I am one of these.”7

These are only a very few of the numerous statements made by Ahmad clearly denying any claim to prophethood. It is further explained in these statements that, when he called the muhaddath “in one sense a prophet”, he was using the word prophet in a literal sense, not in its proper or technical sense, and this is also called a metaphorical use of the word. It was the height of folly on the part of his opponents, and no less is it on the part of his followers belonging to the Qadian section, to take the word in a real sense when the person who uses it expressly states it to have been used in a metaphorical sense. This position he maintained to the last. Thus, in one of his last writings, Haqiqat-ul-Wahy, published less than a year before his death, he wrote:

“This servant does not say anything but what the Holy Prophet said, and he does not go a single step out of his guidance; and he says that God has called him a prophet by His revelation, and I have been called so by the tongue of our Messenger, Mustafa; and he means nothing by prophethood but that he is frequently spoken to by God… and we do not mean by prophethood what is meant by it in the former Scriptures.”8

“And God does not mean by my prophethood anything but being frequently spoken to by Him, and the curse of God is on him who intends anything more than this … and our Messenger is the last of the prophets and the chain of messengers has come to an end in him … and nothing remains after him but being frequently spoken to by God, and that, too, on condition of being a follower of his … and I have been called a prophet of God in a metaphorical sense, not in the real sense.”9

These few quotations should set all doubts at rest with regard to Ahmad’s alleged claim to prophethood. He claimed to be only a muhaddath, but, as the word nabi (prophet) occurred in some of his revelations, as also in a hadith of the Holy Prophet in relation to the coming Messiah, he explained that it was used metaphorically, not in the real sense of the word, and that metaphorically a muhaddath could be called a prophet because he was spoken to by God. Therefore, wherever he used the word “prophet” regarding himself, it was in a metaphorical sense. Never did he mean by it that he was a prophet in the real sense of the word, but only that he was spoken to by God; and that God speaks to His servants in this umma is a fact generally admitted by all Muslims.

Sufi Terminology:

The one theme of all the writings of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad is the superiority of Islam over all other religions because of the continuity of the gift of revelation in this religion. It is on this point that his earlier as well as later writings lay particular stress, and not the least change is observable in his views on this point. In the terminology of the Sufis of Islam, when a person attains to what is called fana (self-extinction) in following the Holy Prophet Muhammad, he is granted the gift of revelation in abundance and he becomes a buruz (manifestation) of the Holy Prophet. This stage is variously termed zilli, buruzi, majazi, juzi, or naqis prophethood. The word zill means a ‘shadow’ or an ‘image’, buruz means an ‘appearance’ or ‘manifestation’, majaz means ‘metaphorical’, juz means a ‘part’, and naqis means ‘imperfect’. These terms have also been used by the founder of the Ahmadiyya movement. The idea underlying all these phrases is one and the same. It is not prophethood in the true sense but the appearance of some qualities of prophethood in a person who is not a prophet, hence he is called a buruz; and as through him are imaged certain characteristics of prophethood he is called a zill or image of the original; he is a prophet not in the true sense of the word but in a metaphorical sense (majaz); and he receives only a part of what constitutes prophethood or an imperfect prophethood because the revelation of prophecies is only a secondary work of a prophet. The primary work of a prophet is the making known of the Divine will or religious truths for the guidance of man, and as all religious truths necessary for the guidance of man have been revealed in the Holy Quran, a prophet cannot come after the Holy Prophet.

Ahmad himself thus explains zilli nubuwwat as follows in Haqiqat-ul-Wahy:

“But zilli nubuwwat, the significance of which is receiving revelation simply by the grace of Muhammad, shall continue to the Day of Judgment, so that the door to the perfection of men may not be closed.” — p. 28

That a zilli prophet is not actually a prophet is also clear from the fact that in a saying of the Holy Prophet a king is called zillullah or the zill of God. As zillullah is not actually God so a zilli prophet is not actually a prophet. This point was very lucidly put forth by him in a book called Mawahib-ur-Rahman published in January 1903:

“God speaks to His saints (auliya) in this umma, and they are given the semblance of prophets, and they are not really prophets, for the Quran has made perfect the needs of Law.” — p. 66



  1. Tauzih Maram, pp. 17–18.
  2. Izala Auham, pp. 421–422. This is quoted more fully in chapter 5.
  3. See Majmua Ishtiharat, 1986 edition, vol. 1, pp. 312–314 (Editor). This is quoted more fully in chapter 5.
  4. Ainah Kamalat Islam, p. 377 and p. 383.
  5. Hamamat-ul-Bushra, p. 79.
  6. Hamamat-ul-Bushra, p. 81.
  7. Nishan Asmani, p. 28
  8. Haqiqat-ul-Wahy, Arabic Supplement, p. 16.
  9. Haqiqat-ul-Wahy, pp. 64–65.