The Great Reformer (Vol. 2) [‘Mujaddid-e-Azam’]

Biography of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian

by Dr. Basharat Ahmad

Translated by Akram Ahmad

Chapter 24: Mr. Pigott’s claim of Divinity, and the Prophecy of his Destruction

Mr. Pigott’s Claim of Divinity:

In the same year 1902, sometime after Dr. Dowie had made his claim, a clergyman, Rev. J. H. Smyth-Pigott, laid claim before his church congregation in England that he was Divine. He claimed that he was Jesus the Messiah, who is god, and whose Second Coming is widely awaited.

Upon learning of these claims, one of Hazrat Mirza’s disciples, Mufti Muhammad Sadiq, wrote Mr. Pigott a letter and received in response two public notices. When Mufti Sadiq read out the notices to Hazrat Mirza, he commented on their rationality of the posters as follows:

“Rational arguments are valued and leave behind their mark, but the charm of ignorant talk is fleeting. Well, the false Messiah has stepped into London first, but now the voice of the true Messiah will reach London.”

Resolve to invite Mr. Pigott to the Truth:

When Hazrat Mirza supplicated to God about Pigott, he saw in a vision on the morning of November 20, 1902 that someone gave him four or five books on which the words:

تسبیح تسبیح تسبیح

“Glory, glory, glory”

were written. After that it was revealed:  

اللّٰہ شدیدالعقاب۔  انہم لا یحسنون

“Allah is surely severe in requiting (evil). Surely, they are not doing good.”

Elucidating upon this revelation, Hazrat Mirza stated:

“He (Pigott) has not done a good thing by fabricating a lie against Allah, the Most High, and by planning against Him. The words, ‘severe in requiting’ (اللّٰہ شدیدالعقاب) show that the fate of this person will not be good and that God’s punishment will encompass him. In truth, it is the height of arrogance to claim Divinity.”

Then Hazrat Mirza resolved to invite Pigott to the truth, and in this way to show the radiant face of Islam to the whole world.

Prophecy regarding Pigott:

Accordingly, Hazrat Mirza warned Mr. Pigott through a letter written in English and a public notice that was widely disseminated to British newspapers that a severe punishment will overtake him if he did not repent. The British media took notice of this warning, and the newspaper Sunday Circle, London, for example, published an article in its issue of February 14, 1903 titled,

“An Indian rival to the Reverend J. H. S. Pigott of Clapton.”

Discussing the prophecy of Hazrat Mirza, the article stated:

“The Indian Messiah applies to Mr. Pigott’s conduct the epithets of insolent, blasphemous, arrogant, presumptuous, extravagant, insulting and so forth. Then follows the terrible warning of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad: ‘The jealousy of God,’ he says, ‘has come into motion on account of the insult offered to His sacred name and to His Messengers by the haughty assertion of a man who calls himself God and the Lord of earth and heaven, and my true, pure, perfect and powerful God has, therefore, commanded me to warn him of the punishment that awaits him. If he does not repent of this irreverent claim, he shall soon be annihilated, even in my lifetime, with sore torment proceeding from God and not from the hands of a man. This warning of punishment is from God who is the God of earth and heavens. His jealousy shall consume the pretender, so that none may again defile the earth with such false and arrogant claims.’”

Mr. Pigott disappears after being Exposed:

Mr. Pigott did not respond to Hazrat Mirza’s letter. He turned out to be smarter than Dowie, and saw that there was no benefit in claiming to be a Divine Messiah. He therefore abandoned his claim, and became immersed in a life of carefree enjoyment. He escaped the punishment of death because he abandoned his claim to be Divine, but the dishonor and abasement that he suffered were severe. Rev. Pigott had founded an Agapemone (Abode of Love) at Spaxton in Somersetshire where he resided with his disciples. One of his female disciples bore him an illegitimate son. In short, what to speak of Divinity, he even ceased to be a respectable and pious person. Pursuing a life of hedonism, he passed into obscurity and was wiped off the face of the earth.

APPENDIX:

Reproduced below is an article from New York Times of October 11, 1908:

SAY ABODE OF LOVE IS PUBLIC SCANDAL

Twenty-five Young Women Reside in Community of the Rev. Smyth-Pigott at Spaxton.

CALLS HIMSELF MESSIAH

A Mrs. Read, Wife of Famous Cambridge Oarsman, Called the Real Head of the Concern.

Special Correspondence The New York Times.

LONDON, Oct. 8.—“The Agapemone,” or “Abode of Love,” which was founded a few years ago at Spaxton, in Somersetshire, by a clerk in holy orders, the Rev. J.H. Smyth-Pigott, who posed as the Messiah, has again been attracting considerable attention, and the authorities are being urged to discover some means of putting an end to a state of things assuming the proportions of a public scandal.

Smyth-Pigott is not a married man. Nevertheless there was recorded at the local Registrar’s office last week the birth of a child born to Smyth-Pigott and his “spiritual wife” “Sister” Ruth, another inmate of this “Abode of Love.” To this baby, a boy, was given the name of “Power,” and, as the reverend gentleman with the double-barreled name already possessed a daughter to whom he had given the name “Glory,” he evidently regards them as either tributes to or examples of his self-assumed Divine power and glory.

“Sister Ruth” is one of twenty-five young women who reside in the Agapemone. To outsiders who betray undesirable curiosity in regard to the conditions that obtain within the strictly-guarded abode, efforts have been made to pass them off as domestic servants under the rule of Mrs. Read, the wife of Smyth-Pigott’s chief supporter and main financial backer. This man is Charles Stokes Read, who was once a famous Cambridge oarsman, rowing for the light blues in 1872, when Oxford was defeated in a snowstorm. He again rowed with the victorious Cantabs in 1873 and 1874. On leaving college Mr. Read went into business in the City of London, and both on the Stock Exchange and as a Director of several companies evinced capacities which speedily secured him a handsome fortune. His relations with Smyth-Pigott naturally did not meet with the favor of his fellow-Directors, and a little while ago he was called upon to resign from the board of one company.

Read attended a meeting of the board and made this statement:

“It is because I know that the Lord Jesus Christ has come again, and is now dwelling at Agapemone, and because of my firm adherence to that belief, in spite of the hatred and contempt poured out on him, that I am cast out by my colleagues.”

Before he fell in with Smyth-Pigott, Read and his wife were both ardent members of the Salvation Army. Gen. Booth quickly perceived their value, and appointed them to posts in what was at that time the most difficult department of his organization—the financial office. From the start, according to The Daily Chronicle which has been leading the campaign against the Agapemone, they were successes—particularly Mrs. Read. She became a favorite in the slums, and was at hoe in a drawing-room meeting or knocking at the rich gates of the West End in behalf of Lazarus and his friends. She had one defect from the Salvationists’ standpoint, however; she was too self-assertive. She could not screen herself behind the cause. She was a glutton to work, and to absorb herself the glory of her achievements. “I’ll manage my own horse”—and Mrs. Read was a dashing rider—she once said to a superior, who insisted upon her conformity to a certain business line of action. There can only be one rule where Mrs. Read sojourns, and it is an open secret that the beloved Smyth-Pigott is but a spiritual figurehead at the Agapemone. He reigns—Mrs. Read rules.

When Smyth-Pigott crossed the path of the Reads—then living at a snug villa at Romford—no home could have been brighter and happier. Man and wife were absorbed in the work of the Salvation Army—he fighting its battles on the Stock Exchange during the day and encountering the vilest and bitterest persecution at open-air gatherings at Romford at night, while Mrs. Read was spreading the propaganda among the rich.

On the occasion of one open-air meeting Mr. Read, who was a physical Hercules, permitted a woman to cover his face with dirt by means of a broom and a rowdy to pelt him with rotten eggs, peasemeal, and soot. Instead of retaliating he shouted above the yells of the mob, “Victory for God!”

Only once did the giant lose his self-possession, and that was when a domestic Salvationist had her bonnet torn off her head by a bully as she was entering Read’s grounds, where a marquee was erected in lieu of a hall. Read drew the line at that. He seized the bully by the back of the neck, swung him around his head, and threw him into a yard adjoining the marquee ground. His wife, with characteristic authority, sternly reproved her husband for his un-Christian conduct, quoted Scripture and the army’s regulations, and then ordered him to attend to the door!

Smyth-Pigott was in charge of the meeting which followed, at the close of which there was a fireside conference upon the position of affairs. It was at this gathering that Smyth-Pigott announced to the Reads the revelation of Agapemone “testimony,” and that he was on the verge of accepting it. It was a great shock to Read. He had heard of the extraordinary views entertained by the Agapemone as to marriage, and pleaded in vain with his wife to renounce Smyth-Pigott and his new-fangled and dangerous doctrine.

By strategy, by coaxing, by the counsel of friends diplomatically arranged, Read endeavoured to withdraw his wife from the religious maelstrom to which she was drifting. But she was infatuated with the “spiritual frame” of Smyth-Pigott.

Read was amazed by what he called the “supernal love” of his wife, and having a decided leaning to examine the basic foundations of his wife’s new faith. From that moment he was as clay in the hands of the potter. Pigott and Mrs. Read sung the lullabies of the dispensation of glory to him and read of the higher and serene life in which evil passion becomes non-existent, and the natural is spiritualized in deed and truth.

Read surrendered. The consummation was a new marriage, the actual bond of which was to be but social and spiritual. And from the time he fell at the feet of Smyth-Pigott and acclaimed him as the Messiah come again, Charles Stokes Read has been a consistent and inveterate devotee of the cult. He manages the finances of the Bridgewater Abode. Mrs. Read engages the servants, directs the general affairs of the household, and fixes up the programme of indoor and outdoor recreation.

This week witnessed a fresh and surprising development—the marriage of two young disciples of the so-called Messiah, one of them a son of the Reads, the other one of the alleged “domestic servants.” As yet it has been impossible to obtain any information regarding this match, other than that there was a regular ceremony before a registrar.

Whether or not the union is supposed to be merely spiritual in its nature—in accordance with the doctrines that it is claimed prevail in the Agapemone—or whether this legalization of their attachment means that the young couple have weakened in their adhesion to the strange tenets of the Agapemonites is a point which has not yet been elucidated.

Meanwhile Truth comments on the whole affair as follows: “It is no novelty, unfortunately, that a man laying claim to the holiest character should use it as a cloak for the vilest depravity. The history of religious imposture is full of such cases, and women have in all ages shown a peculiar complacency in ministering to prophets of this type. The particular character that the man Pigott has assumed makes the scandal of his life a horrible outrage on religion as well as decency, and the question is naturally being asked whether nothing can be done to suppress this Agapemone. I suppose there would be good grounds for certifying him as a lunatic if he could be brought within the jurisdiction of competent authority. Is there no means of getting at him in this way?”

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