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 3: Publication of ‘Al-Huda’ (The Guidance) and the Challenge to the Editor of ‘Al-Minar’
The Al-Minar Proclamation:
Hazrat Mirza had written the book Ijaz-ul-Masih in Arabic, and it was his wish that the book should be disseminated widely in Arabic-speaking countries like Syria and Egypt. With this objective in mind, the book Ijaz-ul-Masih was dispatched to various scholars and newspaper editors in Egypt. The popular newspapers of Egypt in those days were Al-Minar, Al-Manazir, and Hilal. Hilal was a Christian publication, while the other two were Muslim publications. The editors of each of these newspapers were among those who were sent copies of Ijaz-ul-Masih.
The editors of Al-Manazir and Hilal lauded the book and greatly praised its eloquence and scholarship. But the book gave offense to the editor of Al-Minar, a person with rather parochial views, and he boldly asserted that he could write a book like it any time he set his mind to it. Al-Minar’s editor further added that Ijaz-ul-Masih was replete with errors, but he failed to point out even a single error whether of grammar or content. The editor of Al-Minar was evidently under the impression that as Arabic was his mother tongue, a mere statement by him that Ijaz-ul-Masih was not particularly meritorious and that it was filled with errors would be accepted at its face value by the residents of India who were not native speakers of the Arabic language. He never imagined that anyone from India would have the audacity to challenge his bold assertions.
Upon seeing the issue of Al-Minar that contained these bold allegations, the clerics sympathetic to Pir Golarwi were overjoyed. Instead of bothering to read Ijaz-ul-Masih to investigate the alleged errors of the Arabic language in that book, they simply relied on the words of Al-Minar’s editor. As these clerics professed to be doctors of religion and were very proud of their self-proclaimed prowess in the Arabic language, it behooved them to have independently verified the assertions of Al-Minar’s editor. However, bigotry and envy had blinded them, and righteousness was simply not one of their concerns. To add to this, the defeat of Pir Golarwi had greatly disheartened them. The statement of Al-Minar’s editor now presented these clerics with an opportunity to recoup their loss. They had the editor’s critique reprinted in a newspaperpublished from Rawalpindi called Chaudveen Sadee (Fourteenth Century), and enthusiastically gave it wide publicity.
The editor of Al-Minar quickly learned that he had misjudged in assuming that nobody would dare challenge him because he happened to be a native speaker of Arabic. Hazrat Mirza immediately published a proclamation on November 18, 1901, with the title Al-Minar. In that proclamation, Hazrat Mirza exposed the deception that the editor of the newspaper Al-Minar was trying to perpetrate. Hazrat Mirza stated that he was not going to let the matter rest simply by citing the unbiased commendations from the editors of the other two newspapers. Instead, he would write a pamphlet in the Arabic language, and he challenged the editor of Al-Minar to write a pamphlet in response to it. Hazrat Mirza dismissed the editor’s boast that he could easily write a comparable pamphlet by likening it to a manifestly similar claim of the unbelievers (in the time of the Holy Prophet):
وَ اِذَا تُتۡلٰی عَلَیۡہِمۡ اٰیٰتُنَا قَالُوۡا قَدۡ سَمِعۡنَا لَوۡ نَشَآءُ لَقُلۡنَا مِثۡلَ ہٰذَاۤ ۙ اِنۡ ہٰذَاۤ اِلَّاۤ اَسَاطِیۡرُ الۡاَوَّلِیۡنَ ﴿۳۱﴾
“And when our messages are recited to them, they say: We have heard. If we wished, we could say the like of it; this is nothing but the stories of the ancients” (The Holy Quran, 8:31).
The question was that if Al-Minar’s editor could indeed write as eloquently as Hazrat Mirza’s book, then why did he not go ahead and do so?
Hazrat Mirza added that the editor of Al-Minar should not think that he was an expert of the Arabic language merely because it was his mother tongue. In fact, the Arabic spoken in Egypt was not of a high literary standard. In support of this contention, Hazrat Mirza cited a quote by the Encyclopedia Britannica from a researcher on the Arabic language who had stated that of all the prevailing dialects of Arabic, the most inferior was the one spoken in Egypt.
The Publication of Al-Huda (The Guidance):
Following this, Hazrat Mirza waited for a response from Al-Minar’s editor. But when a response was not received, Hazrat Mirza published another highly eloquent and learned book in Arabic. This book was titled Al-Huda, and it was published on June 13, 1902. Motivated by the thought that the people of India should also derive benefit from Al-Huda, and that the significance of the challenge should also be made evident to them, Hazrat Mirza provided an Urdu translation along with the Arabic text of the book. In Al-Huda, Hazrat Mirza examined the critique by Al-Minar’s editor and suggested that if the editor was sincere in his criticisms, then he should have supported his claim that mistakes were to be found in Hazrat Mirza’s book Ijaz-ul-Masih by pointing out the exact nature of those mistakes. Hazrat Mirza added that if the editor prided himself on his superior ability in the Arabic language, then the editor should have the courage to come forward and write a book in response to Al-Huda, which should possess the level of eloquence and learning that was to be found in Hazrat Mirza’s work Al-Huda.
In Al-Huda, Hazrat Mirza also provided a perspicacious analysis of the sorry state of Muslim scholars, leaders, newspaper editors, and the Muslim masses in general. He also stated that the remedy for the ills afflicting the Muslim community was to be found through the Reformer (mujaddid) of the fourteenth century Hijrah. Hazrat Mirza also furnished arguments to support his claim that he was the Reformer of the fourteenth century Hijrah.
Editor’s failure to accept the Challenge is a Testimonial to Hazrat Mirza’s Mastery of Arabic:
Special care was taken to ensure that this book, Al-Huda, should reach Al-Minar’s editor. But the editor never responded. He neither pointed out the mistakes in Ijaz-ul-Masih, nor did he write a book in response to Hazrat Mirza’s book Al-Huda. In this manner, the miracle of the knowledge of the Arabic language that Allah had granted to Hazrat Mirza Sahib was brought to its full realization.
Prior to the above narrated incident, Hazrat Mirza had issued a general challenge to the scholars of India, Arabia, Turkey, Syria, Egypt, Iraq and all other countries to compete with him in writing a scholarly text in Arabic. Although this challenge was general, it was the scholars of India who were especially addressed. In the confrontation with the editor of Al-Minar, however, the challenge to write a book comparable to Al-Huda was addressed to a person whose native language was Arabic and who was used to writing Arabic essays daily in his capacity as the editor of a famous Arabic newspaper. But it was merely through the grace of Allah that the superlative literary capabilities of Al-Minar’s editor came to naught, and he walked away from a challenge to write a text in his native language against Hazrat Mirza. This outcome was nothing short of a Divine miracle. While the outcome of this incident put the seal of authenticity on the Divinely inspired Arabic knowledge of Hazrat Mirza, it also brought to an end the short-lived jubilation of the clerics in the wake of the critical comments of Al-Minar’s editor.