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How I Used the Word ‘Nabi’ (Prophet) in My Writings by Maulana Muhammad Ali

How I Used the Word ‘Nabi’ (Prophet) in My Writings

by Maulana Muhammad Ali

In this book, published in 1941, Maulana Muhammad Ali exonerates himself from the allegation that he believed in Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian to be a Real Prophet (Nabi) before the Split in the Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam.
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I state this with great sorrow that Qadiani scholars failing in finding any legitimate excuse for their open violation of the clearly stated beliefs of the Founder of Ahmadiyya Movement [Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian] and in order to hide their feelings of shame on this account take refuge under spreading misunderstandings about me. I like to state this in clear terms that if any of my or any other Ahmadi’s writings are against the beliefs of the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement then such writings are not admissible. Simultaneously, I will like to make it clearly understood that still this day I have never imagined even for a moment, that the Founder of the Movement ever claimed Prophethood in the real sense of the word by denying which any Muslim will go out of the Pale of Islam. But I had never denied that following the example of the Founder I have at times used the word ‘Nabi’ (Prophet) in my writings in its metaphoric, simile, or literal sense meaning thereby a person who predicts or makes prophecies. Such a use of the word ‘Nabi’ is neither inclusive with the Founder nor with me as it is commonly found in the writings of Auliya-Allah [Saints of Allah], an example whereof is this verse of the Maulana-e-Room:

“O disciple, he (Murshad-e-Kamil) is the Prophet of his time” — “OO NBI-E-WAQT.E. KHWESH AST AYE MUREED”

But what is more regrettable is the fact that, in spite of my repeated clarifications to this effect, the Qadiani Scholars do not make even a hint of my clarifications in their writings. I, therefore, draw the attention of all seekers-after-truth (and I have not lost hopes that there may still be some such persons amongst the Qadianis too) to the following three facts:

Firstly, had I ever attributed the same meanings to the word ‘Nabi’ in my writings which the Qadianis do, then most evidently, like Qadianis, I too, in any of my writings, would have called those who do not believe in the Founder of the Movement, a Kafir [non-Muslim]. Not once but at scores of times I have challenged these gentlemen to point out or quote even one reference from my voluminous writings wherein I may have called a non-Ahmadi a Kafir. Till this day, they have not been able to point out any such quotation and Allah willing, they shall not be able to find one till dooms day. This should have sufficed but I went to the extent of adding this to it, and this too I have done repeatedly, that in the same ‘Review of Religions’, from which they quote for the use of word ‘Nabi’ by me, an explanation of the word ‘Nabi’ has been given by me. Why do not they quote the same? It is beyond honesty in a debate that certain references may be quoted and others suppressed. And when I offered these in support of my case, even then they indulge in repeating the allegations without making even any mention of my reply. I have repeatedly drawn attention to the fact that if I have used the word ‘Nabi’ (Prophet) then I have explained the sense or meanings in which I have used the word ‘Nabi’. The ‘Review of Religions’ which is quoted for showing the use of the word ‘Nabi’ in my writings, in the earlier volumes of the same ‘Review of Religions’ but much later than the Qadiani presumed abrogatory date of 1901, the following words will be found:

“If the doors of Prophethood had not been closed, then a Muhaddath has elements and potentials of becoming a Prophet and with reference to these elements and potentiality application of word Prophet on a Muhaddath is permissible, i.e., we can say that ‘A Muhaddath is a Prophet’. (Review of Religions, Vol. 3, 1904, p. 117)

“It is this Ummah [the Muslim nation] alone in which people though not prophets, are favoured with the speech of Allah like Prophets and though not Messengers (Rasul) but signs of Allah appear to them like Messengers”. (Review of Religions, Vol. 3, p. 131)

Don’t the above two quotations make it abundantly clear that I am using the word ‘Nabi’ (Prophet) in its literal dictionary meanings and not in its terminological shariah [religious law] sense; and I consider the doors of Prophethood closed; and don’t believe in the appearance of Prophets and messengers in this Ummah, but believe in the appearance of people like or similar to them — in accordance with the Hadith, “Ulema of any Ummah are like the prophets of Israel.”

The above are the quotations from my writings in 1904. Again in 1914, when I observed some doubts being created, I wrote a note on an article published in Review [The Review of Religions] under the title “Ahmad is a Prophet” (I was not the author of this article), and my note on this article read as under:

“The word Prophet (Nabi) has not been used in its Shariah terminological meanings because in that sense Holy Prophet Muhammad, peace be on him, is the Last of the Prophets. Rather the word Prophet in this article has been used in its wider meanings indicating one who makes prophecies after receiving news from Allah and it is that favour which is promised by Allah to all righteous Muslims in the Holy Quran in the verse: “LAHUM-UL-BUSHRAA FIL HAYAT AD DUNYA”

“And for them are glad tidings in this life; and it was this favour which was granted to Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Qadiani in abundance.”

Secondly, these meanings were not coined by me. Those days Qadiani schools used to make everyone believe that they are not using the word ‘Nabi’ in its Shariah terminological meanings, but only in its literal sense, meaning thereby a person who makes prophecies; that they believe that Prophethood terminated with the Holy Prophet (Muhammad), peace be on him, and they don’t believe in the coming of any prophet after him, whether new or old. I don’t want to burden this pamphlet with many quotations, and quote from the writings of two stalwarts of Qadian. Let us first take Maulvi Sarwar Shah Sahib who is not only a teacher of the Khalifa of Qadian (Mian Mahmud Ahmad), but is also an author of the commentary on the Holy Quran. He wrote:

“The word ‘Nabi’, depending on its roots, carries two meanings. Firstly, one who receives news about the unseen from his Allah. Secondly, a spiritually elevated person, whom Allah favours with lots of divine speech and informs him in news of the unknown or future. He is a Nabi and in this sense I consider all Mujaddideen [Reformers] of the past as Nabis of various degrees.” (Badar, February 16, 1911)

Now I quote the stalwart, Mufti Muhammad Sadiq Sahib. He wrote:

“(Maulana) Sahib inquired as to whether we believe that Hazrat Mirza Sahib is a Nabi (Prophet). I submitted that in this matter we have the same belief as all other Muslims, that the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) is the Last of the Prophets; there will be no prophet after him, whether old or new; however, the process of divine speech revelation continues. Through complete subjugation and submission to the Holy Prophet righteous persons in this Ummah in the past have been receiving the gift of divine speech or Ilham [inspirational revelation] and such people will continue to receive this gift in future too. Since Hazrat Mirza Sahib was a recipient of Ilham and through the process of Ilham Allah had informed him upon many events of the future about which his prophecies came true, therefore, Mirza Sahib was one who made prophecies and in Arabic lexicon this is called a ‘Nabi’. (Badar, Vol. 9, No. 51-52)

Both these stalwarts are still alive. Why does not someone ask them as to whether they were practising deception on people by stating their beliefs to Muslims in this manner?

Leaving aside others, let us now take the example of the Khalifa himself as to what he used to state at that time:

“Thirteen hundred years have passed and none has met success by claiming prophethood…. After his advent why has this process been closed? What can be a greater sign than this that whosoever became claimant of Prophethood did not succeed. Thus it was an indication to the fact “That Allah has the knowledge of all matters,” i.e., we made him the Last of the Prophets (or the seal of the Prophets); now there will be no Prophet after him and now there will be no false claimant to prophethood that we will not cause his death. Hence it is a historic prophecy which can not be rejected. If it is possible, then present it to us.” (Tush-heez-ul-Azhan, April, 1910)

Similarly on March 14, 1911, an article of the present Khalifa-e-Qadian (Mian Mahmud Ahmad) was published in ‘Al-Hakam’ wherein the following words appear:

“Allah brought all types of Prophethoods to an end by establishing the Holy Prophet (Muhammad), peace be on him, in the state of the Last of the Prophets (Khatam-an-Nabiyeen)”.

Now it is a food for thought that coming to end of all types of Prophethood is admitted; it is also admitted that after the Holy Prophet, peace be on him, there has been no claimant to prophethood except those false claimants who were put to death and now it is proclaimed that the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement was a claimant to prophethood. The previous belief of the Qadiani Khalifa Sahib and Qadiani Ulema [clerics] was that they used to state that the word Nabi, has been used as a metaphor and simile carrying its literal lexicon meanings; and they used to deny its application in its Shariah terminological meanings; and they believed that all types of Prophethood has come to an end with the Holy Prophet, peace be on him; and they did not believe in the appearing or coming of any prophet, whether new or old (and now they say that the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement was a prophet).

Thirdly, above all let us examine as to what was the belief of the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement about himself. There is no doubt that he used the word ‘Nabi’ in certain meanings and that in fact was the basis of Fatwa-e-Kufar [pronouncement that a certain person is a kafir or unbeliever] against him in 1891. It is worth considering that when the claim to Prophethood was attributed to him, what was his reply to that?

1. “There is no claim to Prophethood but to Muhaddathiyyat [recipient of Divine communication] which has been made under the command of Allah. There is no doubt in it that Muhaddathiyyat has a potential of Nabuwwah [prophethood] in it … if it be declared a metaphoric Nabuwwah, then does it mean that there is a claim of ‘Nabuwwah’?” (Azala-e-Auham, pp. 421–422)

2. “They have fabricated a lie against one who says that this fellow claims to be a prophet.” (Hamamat-al-Bushra, p. 8)

3. “We also curse the claimant to prophethood.” (Majmua-e-Ishtaharat, p. 224)

4. “Can such a wretched fabricator who lays claim to Prophethood and Messengership have any belief in the Holy Quran?

A person who believes in the Holy Quran and considers the verse: “WA LAAKIN RASUL ALLAH-E WA KHATAM AN-NABIYEEN” (but Messenger of Allah and the Last of the Prophets) as words of Allah, can he say that after the Holy Prophet Muhammad, peace be on him, he is a messenger and a Prophet … our Holy Prophet (Muhammad) peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, is the Last of the Prophets, and after him no Prophet will appear, whether new or old … but some time in the Ilhamat [Revelation to Saints] of Allah such words are used about Auliya Allah [Saints] as a matter of metaphor or simile and these do not carry real meanings. The whole dispute is this, that prejudice-ridden ignorant people have dragged such words to different direction. The name of the Promised Messiah that has been stated by the Holy Prophet, peace be on him, as ‘Nabi Allah’ in Sahih Muslim [one of the authentic books on Hadith, i.e., Sayings of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him], that is in this metaphoric sense which is established in the books of Auliya-e-Karam [saints] and is an ordinary phraseology of Divine speech, otherwise how can a prophet appear after the Last of the Prophets.” (Anjam-e-Atham [footnote on pp. 27–28])

What else can be said in clarification; these words are used as metaphor and simile and do not carry real meanings; ignorant, prejudiced people are fabricating a false charge against him by putting real meanings on these words. It is a matter for contemplation for Qadiani Ulema as to who is playing the ‘ignorant prejudiced’ person’s role and whom the Founder is calling a ‘wretched fabricator’; not one or two, but hundreds of such quotations can be cited. They don’t think this much that these words have been written about those persons who had attributed a claim to Prophethood to the Founder; then the deception of the abrogation of writings previous to 1901 was invented. The Founder did not write so anywhere, nor had any Ahmadi ever thought of it before 1914. When Khalifa-e-Qadian invented this in his desire to declare Muslims as Kafir [unbelievers], that the writings of the Founder previous to 1901 have been abrogated. If anyone had known it then, even now any Ahmadi may step forward to state an oath that he had knowledge before the writing of Khalifa-e-Qadian, that a change in the claims of the Founder had occurred in 1901 and all his previous writings on this behalf were abrogated. In reply to this deception about change in claims of the Founder a quotation of 1903 which is later than 1901 from the Founder’s book ‘Mwahibur Rahman’ should suffice. The Founder writes at pages 66, 67 of this book under the title of “Some words about my beliefs”.

Can there be greater injustice than this that in spite of such clear writings of the Founder, he is being declared a real Prophet. There is no greater misfortune for Ahmadiyya, that its own people are accomplishing about which there was a complaint against opponents.

Muhammad Ali
President Ahmadiyya Anjuman Ishaat
Islam Ahmadiyya Buildings, Lahore

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