Qadianism: A Critical Study (Part I)
Edited by Faraz Abdul Moid
11th Rabi al-Awwal, 1378 AH
Towards the end of December 1957, and in the beginning of January 1958, an International Islamic Colloquium was held in Lahore under the auspices of the Punjab University in which a large- number of distinguished and noted scholars of the Muslim world and Western countries took part. Quite a few outstanding `Ulama representing Middle Eastern countries were there. Despite having received an invitation to participate, the writer was unable to reach Lahore until after the colloquium had ended. The points that had been raised during the colloquium continued to be debated by many people.
The scholars who had come from Egypt, Syria and Iraq to participate in the conference showed considerable keenness to collect correct information about the fundamental beliefs and doctrines of Qadianism, the well-known religious movement of India and Pakistan. This curiosity on their part was justified and natural. For, it was in this part of the world that Qadianism was born and developed. Hence, from here alone authentic material and information could be procured. The Pakistani and Indian friends of these guests felt the existence of a serious lacuna: the absence of any book on the subject in present-day Arabic which could be presented to them. It was owing to this feeling that, when the writer reached Lahore, he was ordered by his spiritual teacher and guide, Hazrat Mawlana ‘Abd al-Qadir Raipuri, to write a book on this subject in Arabic.
During his trips to the Middle East and his stay in Egypt and Syria, the writer had himself felt the need of such a work, but the subject had failed to capture his imagination. The subject was on the whole out of tune with his temperament. Despite his repeated efforts the writer did not succeed in forcing himself to study any of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Qadiani’s writings. Hence, when he undertook the task, he had little familiarity with the subject. But the demand had been made from a personage the compliance of whose wish was a matter of deepest spiritual satisfaction to the writer and this enabled him to devote himself to a thorough study of Qadianism. Within a few days the room where the writer was staying at Lahore changed into a full-fledged library on Qadianism. The work then started in earnest and for one month the writer remained so deeply immersed in the subject that he lost almost all touch with the outside world and had his mind free for no other subject.
The writer’s mental framework being that of a student of history, he launched upon his intellectual journey from the very beginning of the movement surveying every stage in its progress and development. The writer’s observations, therefore, moved along the lines through which Qadianism had passed during its course of development. This approach helped the writer to grasp the real nature of the Qadiani movement, its gradual evolution, and its motivating factors. This approach uncovered a number of aspects which might have remained hidden otherwise. The writer delved deep into the writings of the founder of this movement, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Qadiani, and it is through this first hand source that he has tried to arrive at unprejudiced conclusions, trying to maintain the detachment of a historian in respect of the message, the movement, and the practical achievements of Qadianism. The result of this study has been published in the form of al-Qadiyani wa al-Qadiyaniyah in Arabic.
After the book had been prepared, Hazrat Mawlana ‘Abd al-Qadir Raipuri ordered its translation into Urdu. Since actual excerpts in Urdu were required for the Urdu edition, an entire library of books available only in Lahore was required once again. Another trip was made, after which this book was rendered into Urdu. This Urdu edition could better be regarded as an independent work because a number of valuable additions and modifications have been made during the process of its preparation. For some time literature on controversial religious subjects has had a peculiar language and style, so much so that this language and style have come to be regarded as part and parcel of religious writings. This writer has not considered himself bound by this polemical tradition. This book has been written with historical objectivity rather than the bigoted zeal of a debater. This will perhaps disappoint those who have been used to polemical writings. For this the writer offers no apology. The class of people for whom it has been written and the purpose which actuated its writing did not warrant any other style of expression.
The writer thanks all those friends and well-wishers who have been a source of guidance in the study of the subject, who provided him with the material needed for writing this book and for facilitating the completion of the work. If this book serves Islam in any way, all such people share its reward.
The writer wishes to impress on his readers one thing: wisdom requires that a person should refrain from risking even as trivial a thing as one’s monetary savings, and one should be careful in choosing the people to whom these should be entrusted. If wisdom demands such precaution in worldly affairs, it should not be difficult to guess what a tremendous amount of precaution should be exercised in the matter of faith on which depends a person’s salvation and his felicity in the eternal life of the Hereafter. It is evident that in such a matter one should exercise extreme precaution; one should try to use one’s discretion to the utmost, and to divest oneself of all emotional predilections, worldly attachments and material interests. This book, through its authentic and systematically arranged information obtained from the statements and writings of the founder of Qadianism himself and through authentic historical information about the movement can prove of help to many a person to arrive at an intelligent appreciation of Qadianism.
Muslim India in the Nineteenth Century
The nineteenth century is a period of unique importance in modern history. It is the century in which intellectual unrest and various kinds of conflicts and tensions found in the Muslim world reached the climax. India was one of the main centers of this unrest and tension. Here, the conflicts and tensions between the Western and the Eastern cultures, between the old and the new systems of education, in fact, between the old and the new worldviews, and between Islam and Christianity were mounting. The forces concerned were locked in a fierce struggle for survival.
The movement began at a time when the well-known struggle of 1857 for the country’s independence had been suppressed. This had shocked the Muslims to the core; their hearts were bleeding, and their minds paralyzed. They were confronted with the danger of double enslavement: political as well as cultural. On the one hand, the victorious power. The British had launched upon a vigorous campaign to spread a new culture and civilization in India. On the other hand, the Christian missionaries were scattered all over India bent upon active proselytisation. To be able to shake the confidence of Muslims in their own beliefs and to make them skeptical as to the bases of the Islamic Shari’ah, even though they might not be converted to Christianity, was deemed by them an important enough achievement. The new generations of Muslims, which had not been thoroughly grounded in Islam, were their main target. The schools and colleges which were introduced along the foreign pattern were the main fields of their activity directed at spreading intellectual confusion. The efforts were not altogether unsuccessful and even incidents of conversion to Christianity began to take place in India. But the main danger of that period was not apostasy (in the sense of ostensible conversion from Islam to Christianity), but skepticism and atheism. Religious debates between Muslim `Ulama and Christian missionaries took place frequently, leading in general to the victory of the `Ulama of Islam. This established the intellectual superiority and greater vitality of Islam against Christianity. Nevertheless, intellectual unrest, skepticism, and weakness of faith grew apace.
This was one aspect of the situation: the situation vis-a-vis the external menace. Looked at internally, the situation was even worse. Mutual disagreements between Muslim sects had assumed frightful proportions. Each sect was busy denouncing the other. Sectarian polemics were the order of the day, leading often to violent clashes, even to bloodshed to litigation over controversial sectarian issues. The whole of India was in the grip of what might be termed a sectarian civil war. This too had given birth to mental confusion and created breaches in the Muslim society and disgust in the people and had considerably damaged the prestige of the Muslim `Ulama and of Islam.
On the other hand, immature Sufis and ignorant pretenders of spiritual excellence had reduced the Sufi orders to a plaything. They gave wide publicity to their trance utterances and inspired pronouncements. One found people everywhere making overly extravagant claims and going about proclaiming their ability to perform astounding miracles and to receive messages from the High. The result of all this was that the Muslim masses had developed an uncommon relish for things esoteric, for miracles, for supernatural performances, for inspired dreams and prophesies. The more a person had to offer people by way of these things, the greater was his popularity. Such people used to become the center of popular veneration. Hypocritical dervishes and cunning traders of religion took full advantage of the situation. People had developed such a liking for esoterics that they were readily prepared to accept every new fantasy, to support every new movement, and to believe in every esoteric claim however baseless and imaginary.
Muslims were generally in the grip of frustration and had fallen prey to defeatism. The failure of the struggle of 1857 and of a number of other recent religious and militant movements was fresh in their memory. Many of them had despaired, therefore, of bringing about any change and reform through normal processes and a large number of people had begun to await the advent of some charismatic personality, some divinely appointed leader. At places one heard that at the turn of the century the Promised Messiah would make his appearance. In religious gatherings people commonly referred to the numerous forms of misguidance and evil which were to appear on the eve of the Doomsday. Prophesies and esoteric statements such as those of Shah Niamat Ullah Kashmiri helped people to forget the bitterness of the current situation and strengthened their morale. Dreams, prophesies, and other esoteric pronouncements had magnetic appeal and kept their spirits high.
The province of Punjab, in particular, was the center of mental confusion and unrest, superstitions and religious ignorance. This province had suffered for eighty years under the yoke of the Sikh Raj, an overbearing military tyranny. During this period the religious belief and devotion of Muslims had weakened considerably. True Islamic education had been almost non-existent for long. The foundations of Islamic life and Islamic society had been shaken. Their minds were seriously in the grip of confusion and perplexity. In brief, to borrow the words of Iqbal:
The Khalsa (Sikhs) took away both the Qur’an and the sword,
In their realm, Islam was just dead.
This situation had paved the ground in the Punjab for the rise of a new religious movement based on novel interpretations and esoteric doctrines. The temperament of a good number of people of the region where this movement arose has been portrayed by Iqbal in these words:
In religion, he is fond of the latest,
He stays not for long at a place; he keeps on moving;
In learning and research he does not participate,
But to the game of Mentors and Disciples, he readily succumbs;
If the trap of explanation anyone lays,
He walks into it quickly from the branch of his nest.
It was towards the end of the nineteenth century that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad appeared on the scene with his unique message and movement. For the spread of his message and for the fulfillment of his ambitions, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad found a fertile ground and a congenial period of time. He had numerous factors to his advantage: the general unrest in the minds of people, the exotic-loving temperament of the people, the general despair with regard to the efficacy of moderate and normal means of reform and revolution, the decline in the prestige of and confidence in the `Ulama, the popularity of religious debates which had vulgarized the religious curiosities and propensities of the people and made them, to a large extent, free-thinkers. Furthermore, the British rulers (who had a bitter experience with Mujahidin movement and felt, therefore, considerable consternation for the spirit of jihad and the religious enthusiasm of Muslims), warmly welcomed this new religious movement which pledged loyalty to the British government and even made this loyalty an article of faith, and whose founder had a long and close association with the government. All these factors provided the congenial atmosphere in which Qadianism came into existence, won converts, and developed into an independent sect and religion.
Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Qadiani
(This chapter purporting to lay down the biographical outlines of the founder’s life is based chiefly on the statements and writings of the Mirza himself, supplemented by the work of his son Mirza Bashir Ahmad, Sirat al-Mahdi, and other standard works of the Qadianis.)
Genealogically Mirza Ghulam Ahmad belonged to the Barlas branch of the Moghuls. (Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, Kitab al-Bariyah, p. 134 n.) But after some time he came to know by means of “inspiration” that he was, in fact, of Persian origin. To quote his own words:
“The revelation (ilham) about me is that: Were it that faith was hanging from the Pleiades it would still have been seized by the man from Persia. (This tradition occurs in the Sihah with a little variation of words. In some reports there occurs the phrase ‘Rijal Min Faras‘ [men from Persia] instead of Rajul [a man]. The `Ulama and the Mujahidin interpret this hadith to refer to Salman al-Farisi and other `Ulama and holy men of Persia famous for their devotion and service to the cause of faith including the Imam Abu Hanifah, who was also of Persian origin.) And then, there is also a third revelation about me: Verily, those who disbelieved the man from Persia disproved their religions. God is thankful for his endeavour. All these “revelations” show that our forefathers were Persian. And the truth is what Allah has made manifest.” (Kitab at-Bariyah, p. 135 n.)
In one of his works he writes:
“It should be remembered that apparently the family of this humble one is that of the Moghuls. No record has been seen in the history of our family, showing that the family was Persian. What has been seen in certain records is that some of our grandmothers were of noble and noted Sayyid families. Now it has come to be known through the word of God that ours is a Persian family. We believe in this with all our conviction since the reality, in respect of genealogies, is known to none the way it is known to Allah the Exalted. It is His knowledge alone which is true and sure and that of all others is doubtful and conjectural.” (Arabain, Vol. 11, p. 17 n.)
Mirza Gul Mohammad, the great grandfather of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, owned considerable property. In Punjab he had a good-sized estate. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad had mentioned in detail the aristocratic pomp and splendour of this ancestor of his, his habit to feed a large number of people at his table, and his religious influence. (Kitab al-Bariyah, pp. 136-42 n.)
After his death, his estate declined and the Sikhs confiscated the villages of that estate. This decline continued to such -an extent that no other land remained in the ownership of his grandfather, Mirza Ata Mohammad, except Qadian. Later on, the Sikhs occupied even that and drove the Mirza’s family out of Qadian. During the last years of Ranjit Singh’s rule, Mirza Ghulam Murtaza, the father of the Mirza, returned to Qadian and the Mirza later received five villages out of the landed property of his father. (ibid, pp. 142-44 n.)
The Mirza ‘s family maintained very loyal and cordial relations with the recently established British power in the Punjab. Several members of the family had shown great enthusiasm in consolidating the new government and had come to its rescue on several critical occasions. To cite the words of the Mirza himself:
“I come from a family which is out and out loyal to this government. My father, Murtaza, who was considered its well-wisher, used to be granted a chair in the Governor’s Durbar and has been mentioned by Mr. Griffin in his History of the Princes of Punjab. In 1857 he helped the British Government beyond his power, that is, he procured cavaliers and horses right during the time of Mutiny. He was considered by the Government to be its loyal supporter and well-wisher. A number of testimonials of appreciation received by him from the officers have unfortunately been lost. Copies of three of them, however, which had been published a long time ago, are reproduced on the margin. Then, after the death of my grandfather, my elder brother Mirza Ghulam Qadir continually occupied himself with service to the Government and when the evil-doers encountered the forces of the British Government on the highway of Tammun, he participated in the battle on the side of the British Government.”‘
Birth, Education, Upbringing
The Mirza was born during the last phase of the Sikh rule in the year 1839 or 1840 at Qadian in Gurdaspur District. His own writings show that at the time of the struggle of Independence in 1857, he was sixteen or seventeen years old.” (Kitab al-Bariyah, p. 146, n.) Mirza Bashjruddin Mahmood, in his Address to the British Crown Prince in 1922, has mentioned the year of his birth to be 1837 (p. 35). According to this, in 1857, his age would be 21. This alteration seems to have been made in order to vindicate the Mirza’s prophecy which has been mentioned by him as a Divine inspiration in the following words: “We shall cause you to live a good life for eighty years or close to that” (Arabain, Vol. 111, p. 39).
The Mirza received his education up to the middle-class at home. He studied books on grammar, logic, and philosophy under the guidance of Mawlawi Fazl-i-Ilahi, Mawlawi Fazl-i-Ahmad, and Mawlawi Gul ‘Ali Shah. He studied medicine from his father who was an experienced physician. During his student life, the Mirza was very studious. To quote his own words:
“During those days I was so thoroughly engrossed in books as if I was not present in the world. My father used to instruct me repeatedly to curtail my reading, for, out of sympathy for me he feared that this might affect my health.”
This, however, did not continue for long. Under the insistent pressure of his father, the Mirza had to engage himself in the endeavour to get back his ancestral land property which subsequently led to litigation in law courts. He writes:
“I feel sorry that a lot of my valuable time was spent in these squabbles and at the same time my respected father made me supervise the affair of landlordship. I was not a man of this nature and temperament.”
The Mirza later took employment with the Deputy Commissioner of Sialkot for a small salary. He remained for four years in this service, that is, from 1864 to 1868. During this period he also read one or two books of English. More over, he also took the examination of Mukhtar but flopped. In 1868 he resigned this job and came to Qadian and began to look after his land property. But most of his time was spent on reflecting on the Holy Qur’an and studying works of Tafsir and Traditions.
From his very childhood, the Mirza was very simple. He was unaware of worldly matters and appeared to be a little absent minded. He did not even know how to wind a watch. When he had to know time, he took out the watch from his pocket and began to count, starting from one. And even then, while he counted with his finger he also kept on counting the figures aloud lest he should forget. He could not just look at the watch and find out what time it was. Due to absent mindedness, it was difficult for him to differentiate between the shoes of the left and the right feet. Mirza Bashir Ahmad writes:
“Once some one brought for him gurgabi (a type of shoe used in Punjab). He put them on, but could not distinguish between the right and the left. Often he used to wear them on the wrong feet, and then feel uncomfortable. Sometimes when he would be hurt by the use of the wrong shoe, he would get irritated and say that nothing of those people was good. Mother said that she had inscribed signs indicating right and left on the shoes for the sake of his convenience and yet he used to put the shoes on the wrong feet. Hence she later removed the signs.”
Due to very frequent micturition the Mirza used to keep earthen marbles in his pockets. He also carried [clumps] of gur [a type of raw sugar] for he was excessively fond of sweets.
Mirza’s Physical Health
In his youth, the Mirza was so afflicted with hysteria that sometimes he used to fall down unconscious as a result of hysteric fits. The Mirza used to interpret these fits variously as hysteric and melancholia. He also suffered from diabetes and copious urination. Mentioning at one place that “I am a permanently sick person,” he adds:
“Headache, giddiness, insomnia, and palpitation of the heart come by fits and the lingering ailment in the lower part of my body is that of diabetes. Often I urinate up to a hundred times during the day or night. And all the other disorders of debility and exhaustion which are the natural results of such excessive urination have also fallen to my lot.”
In his youth, the Mirza engaged himself in vigorous spiritual exercises and courses of rigid self-discipline. He also fasted continuously for long periods of time. In one of his long spells of spiritual exertion, he fasted continuously for six months. In 1886, he passed another period of exclusive worship and prayer at Hoshiarpur. Later on, due to ill health and debility, he had to give these up. On March 31, 1891 he wrote to Nuruddin: “Now my health can no longer bear the rigours of supererogatory devotion and even a little bit of severe devotion and meditation or contemplation causes illness.”
The Mirza began his life in ordinary circumstances: a life of hardship and poverty. But as his mission spread and he became the spiritual head of a prosperous sect, he grew prosperous and began to lead a comfortable life. He, too, was conscious of this change in his state: the ostensible difference between his earlier and later periods of life. In 1907, he wrote:
“Our living and our well-being had depended solely on the meager income of our father. Among outsiders, none knew me. I was an unknown person, living in the desolate village of Qadian, lying in a corner of anonymity. Then, God, according to His prophecy, turned a whole world towards me and helped us by such continuous victories that I have no words to express my thanks. Considering my own position, I did not hope to receive even ten rupees a month. But the Exalted Allah, who raises the poor from dust and brings the arrogant down to the earth, helped me to such an extent that up till now I have received about three hundred thousand rupees or, maybe, even more.”
In the footnote, he adds:
“Although thousands of rupees have come by means of money orders, yet more have been passed on to me directly by sincere friends as gifts, or in the shape of currency notes enclosed with letters. Some sincere people have sent currency notes or gold anonymously and I do not even know what their names are.”
Marriage and Children
The Mirza’s first marriage took place in 1852 or 1853 with one of his own relatives. This wife gave birth to two sons: Mirza Sultan Ahmad and Mirza Fazal Ahmad. In 1891, he divorced the lady. In 1884 he took another wife, the daughter of Nawab Nasir of Delhi. The rest of the offsprings of the Mirza were all from this wife. Three sons were born from her: Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmood, Mirza Bashir Ahmad (author of Sirat al-Mahdi), and Mirza Sharif Ahmad.
When in 1891 the Mirza declared that he was the Promised Messiah, and later on in 1910 that he was a prophet of God, the Muslim `Ulama began to refute and oppose him. Among those prominent in opposing him was Mawlana Thana’ullah Amritsari, the editor of Ahl-i-Hadith. On April 5, 1907, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad issued an announcement in which, while addressing the said Mawlana, he wrote:
“If I am such a big liar and impostor as you portray me in each issue of your magazine, then I will die in your lifetime, for I know that the life period of a mischief-maker and liar is not very long and ultimately he dies an unsuccessful man during the life of his greatest enemies and in a state of humiliation and grief. And if I am not a liar and impostor and have been honoured by God’s communication and address to me, and if I am the Promised Messiah, then I hope that, with the grace of God and in accordance with God’s practice, you will not escape the punishment of the rejecters (of Truth). Thus, if that punishment which is not in man’s but in God’s hand, that is, fatal diseases like plague and cholera, do not afflict you during my lifetime, then I am not from God.”
One year after the publication of this announcement, on May 25, 1908, the Mirza fell ill, being afflicted with diarrhea at Lahore. Along with loose motions, he also had vomiting. He was put under treatment at once, but weakness increased and his condition became critical. The next day, on May 26, he breathed his last in the forenoon. About his death, his father-in-law [Mir Nawab Nasir] has stated:
“The night on which Hazrat Mirza Sahib fell ill, I was asleep at my place. When he felt very uncomfortable, I was awakened. When I went to Hazrat Sahib he addressed me and said, ‘Mir Sahib, I am ill with cholera’. After this, in my opinion, he did not speak a clear word till he died the next day after ten o’clock.” ( Hayat-i-Nasir, ed. Shaykh Yaqub Ali Irfani.)
The dead body was carried to Qadian. On May 27, 1908 the burial took place and Hakim Nuruddin became his successor, the first Khalifah of the Qadiani movement.
Hakim Nuruddin: The Qadiani Saint Paul
Hakim (Hakim means a physician practicing the traditional system of Greek-Arabian medicine) Nuruddin Bhairawl occupies a position of unique importance in the history of Qadianism, second only to that of its founder. In fact, some observers are of the view that the said Hakim was the real brain behind the movement, that the intellectual currents of this movement sprang from his mind.
Birth and Early Education
Hakim Nuruddin was born in. 1258 AH (1841 AD) in Bhaira, District Sargodha (Punjab). (These are based on Akbar Shah Khan Najibabidi’s Mirqt al-raqzn Hayat Nuruddin. Najibabadi was a pupil of the Hakim. These biographical details were related to him by the Hakim himself at the time when Najibabadi was his student as well as a devout follower.) Thus in 1857 he was 16 years of age, and was younger than the Mirza by just one or two years. His father, Hafiz Ghulam Rasul, was an Imam in a mosque in Bhaira, and was a Faruqi by lineage.
The Hakim’s early education took place in his home village. He read books on Fiqh in Punjabi language under the guidance of his mother. Then he went to Lahore. He was taught Persian by Munshi Qasim Kashmiri and learnt calligraphy from Mirza Irhim Dayrawi. But neither of the two attracted him. Both his teachers were Shias. In 1855 AD (1272 AH) he returned home and remained for some time studying under Mir Haji Sharafuddin. It is around this time that he began to learn the Arabic language systematically.
Under the influence of a bookseller who belonged to the movement of Sayyid Ahmad Shahid, there arose in him the urge to translate the Holy Qur’an, and he anxiously read Taqwiyat al-Iman and Mashziriq-al-Anwar. A little later, he returned to Lahore and acquired some knowledge of Medicine. While his education was at a very advanced stage, he took employment with the Normal School, Rawalpindi. There he taught Persian and at the same time learned arithmetic and geography from another teacher. After passing a tahsil examination, he became headmaster in Pindi Dandan Khan and once more resumed the study of Arabic. After four years, he ceased to remain in service and began to devote all his time to his own studies. For some time, he studied under Mawlawi Ahmaduddin (who was known as Buggiwale Qazi Sahib). Then, his love for knowledge made him travel to several parts of India. In Rampur he resumed his studies, studied Mishkat al-Masabih under Mawlana Hasan Shah, Sharh al-Wiqayah under Mawlawi Azizullah Afghani, Usul al-Shashi and Maibazi under Mawlawi Irshid Husain; the Diwan al-Mutanabbi under Mawlawi Sa’dullah; Sadra, etc., under Mawlawi ‘Abd al-‘Ali, and the higher books on logic like Mir Zahid Riaalah and Mir Zahid Mulla Falal half-heartedly. At this time, he enthusiastically supported Isma’il Shahid and sometimes used to speak to his teachers with great boldness.
From Rampur he went to Lucknow and began to study medicine under a famous physician, Hakim ‘Ali Husain. When ‘Ali Husain went to Rampur on invitation from Nawab Kalb-i-Ali Khan of Rampur, Nuruddin accompanied him. During his stay in Rampur he further studied literature under Mufti Sa’dullah. On the whole he remained with Hakim ‘Ali Husain for a period of two years and then went to Bhopal in order to complete his education in Arabic and to study Hadith. Bhopal, in those days, had become a great center of learning. The fgovernmental patronage of knowledge and learning had attracted a good number of scholars. In Bhopal he stayed with and was patronized by Munshi Jamaluddin Khan, the Chief Minister. During his stay, Nuruddin took lessons in Bukhari and Hidayah from Mawlawi Abd al-Qayyum (the son of Mawlana Abdul Hai Burhanwat, who was a Khalifah of Hazrat Sayyid Ahmad Shahid). From Bhopal he went on a visit to the Holy cities of Mecca and Medina in order to complete his education and also in order to attain other worldly felicity. An interesting anecdote is related in this connection, which was narrated by Nuruddin himself. While leaving for the Holy cities, he asked Mawlana Abd al-Qayyum to tender him some advice. He said, “Never become God or Prophet.” Abd al-Qayyum explained that by “not becoming God” what he had meant was that if any of his desires were frustrated, he should not feel greatly dejected, for to be able to do what one likes is the attribute of God alone. By “not becoming the Prophet” he meant that if people rejected his fatwas, he should not deem them to be condemned to hell, for it is the disobedience of the Prophet sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam alone which condemns one to hell (Mirqat al-Yaqin, p. 79).
In Mecca, he studied Abu Dawud under Shaykh Muhammad Khazraji, Sahih Muslim under Sayyid Husain, and began to study Musallam al-Thubut under Mawlana Rahmatullah Kayranawl, the author of Izhar al-Haq. Sometimes, he had heated discussions with his teachers and showed trends towards non-conformity and exaggerated confidence in the soundness of his own views and intelligence. (Mirqat al-Yaqin, p. 95-97.)
At Mecca be finished his study of Abu Dawud and Ibn Majah under Shaykh Muhammad Khazraji. In the meantime Shah ‘Abd al-Ghani Mujaddidi had arrived in Mecca. Later on when Shah Mujaddidi returned to Medina, the Hakim joined him and after taking an oath of allegiance to him remained as his student for six months.
After pilgrimage and visit to the Holy places, Nuruddin returned to his native place, Bhaira, and stayed there for some time. During his stay be debated with people as to whether the current customs and usages conformed to the teachings embodied in the collections of Hadith, which turned some people against him. This led him to realise the ignorance and stagnation of the common people and his own superiority and intellectual excellence. He also went to Delhi during the Durbar of Lord Lytton and there met Munshi Jamaluddin Khan, the Chief Minister of Bhopal, who brought him to Bhopal. After a short stay at Bhopal, Nuruddin once more went back to Bhaira and started practising medicine there. Soon his reputation as a successful physician spread and he was invited by the Maharaja of Jammu to serve him as his personal physician. For a considerable period of time he served the ruler of Jammu, Poonch, and Kashmir and gained considerable influence there by dint of his ability as a physician and his eloquence, knowledge, and wit. He had become a very close confidant of the Maharaja and thus quite powerful.
An Ardent Follower of Mirza
There were many similarities of character and temperament between Hakim Nuruddin and Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. It is difficult to say how they came into contact with each other. Their first meeting, however, took place at Qadian in 1885. When the Mirza wrote Barahin-i-Ahmadiyya, Nuruddin wrote a book supporting it. His admiration for the Mirza increased so much so that he took an oath of allegiance at his hands and accepted him as his spiritual guide, his leader, and pledged to follow him. The following letter of Nuruddin shows the depth of his attachment to the Mirza:
“My master, my guide, my leader: Assalam-o-Alaykum wa Rahmat ullah,
It is my prayer to be ever present before you and to learn from you all that for which the Imam of the age has been made the Mujaddid. If it is permitted, I would resign my job and spend day and night in your exalted service; or if it is ordered, I would give up my present engagements and go around the whole world, summoning people towards the true religion and would lay down my life in this cause. I am a martyr in your cause: whatever I have is not mine; it is yours. Respected guide and mentor, with utmost sincerity I say that if all my wealth and belongings are sacrificed in the cause of religious preaching, I will have achieved my purpose. If the buyers of Barahin in advance are uneasy at the delay in the publication of the book, please permit me to render the humble service of paying them all their dues from my pocket.
“Respected pir and guide: this worthless one, ashamed of himself, says that if this offer is accepted it would be a pleasure for him. What I mean is that I may be permitted to bear the entire cost of printing Barahin and that whatever proceeds there might be from its sale should be spent on your needs. My relationship with you is the same as that of Faruq (with the Prophet sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) and I am prepared to sacrifice all in this path. Please pray that the end of my life be like that of Siddiqs (the truthful ones).”
Nuruddin’s faith in the Mirza was very deep indeed. It so happened that when the Mirza wrote Fath-i-Islam and Tawdih al-Maram someone asked Nuruddin – before he had seen these books – if any other Prophet could come after the Holy Prophet sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam. “No”, he replied. “And if someone claims to be a Prophet?” he was asked. Nuruddin replied that if someone did claim so, it would be seen whether he was truthful or not; and that his claim would be accepted if he was truthful. After narrating this incident, Nuruddin himself adds:
“This was just the case of prophetbood. My faith is that even if the Promised Messiah were to proclaim himself to be the bearer of a Shari`ah and abrogate the Qur’anic Shari`ah, I will not reject that claim. For, when we have accepted him (i.e. the Mirza) to be truthful and to have been commissioned by God, then whatever he will say will of necessity be true and we will have to think that the (Qur’anic) verse in respect of khaatim an-nabiyyin (the last of the Prophets) has a different meaning.” (Sirat al-Mahdi;, pp. 96-99.)
During Disassociation with the Court of Jammu, Nuruddin wrote Fasl-ul-Khitab in four volumes under the guidance of the Mirza in which he refuted Christianity. He kept on contributing very magnanimously to the publication of the works of the Mirza and quite often the Mirza took large sums of money as loans from him and praised him for his religious enthusiasm, his readiness to help the religious cause, and his large-hearted generosity. The famous couplet of the Mirza about Nuruddin is:
“How good would it be, were every one – in the Ummat a Nuruddin;
That would be so, if the light of faith burnt in the heart of everyone.”
For several reasons, particularly , the intrigues of the courtiers, the Maharaja’s attitude towards Nuruddin subsequently changed. In 1893 or 1894, his service with the Maharaja was terminated and Nuruddin returned to Bhaira. After a brief stay and practice of medicine there he moved to Qadian permanently and dedicated his life to supporting the Mirza and spreading his movement.
Accession to Khilafat
On the Mirza’s death on May 26, 1908, he became his first Khalifah. The followers of the Mirza paid their allegiance to him and be was proclaimed to be the “Khalifah of the Promised Messiah”, and “Nuruddin the Great.” For quite some time Nuruddin remained hesitant whether he should consider those who did not believe in the Mirza’s prophethood to be unbelievers. Later, he was converted to the view that they were unbelievers. There was some controversy about his nomination as the Khalifah. Some people strongly opposed it. On one such occasion he said:
“I say by God that it is God Himself who had made me the Khalifah. So, who now has the power to snatch from me the robe (literally the covering sheet) of this Caliphate? It was the Will of God Himself, and was in the light of His Own wise consideration, to make me your Imam and Khalifah. You can attribute to me a thousand short-comings. They, in fact, will be attributable not to me, but to God Himself who appointed me the Khatifah.” (Review of Religions, Qadian, V61.14 No 6, p. 234 [cited from Ilyas Barni’s Qadiyani Mazhab].) On another occasion he said:
“God has made me the Khalifah. Now, neither can I be dismissed (from Caliphate) by your biddance nor has anyone the power to remove me. If you force me any further, bear in mind that I have at my disposal many Khalid bin Walid who will punish you as (Khalid bin Waild had punished) the apostates. (Tashkhiz at-Azhan, Vol. 9 No. 11 cited by Barni)
Nuruddin remained the Khalifah of the Qadiani movement for six years. In 1914 he fell from a horse and died on March 13, 1914. A few days before his death, his tongue had ceased to be functional. (The Daily Al-Fadhl, Qadian, 23 Februlry, 1932, [cited from Qadiani Mazhab],) He nominated Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmood, the eldest son of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, to be his successor and Khalifah.
A study of Nuruddin’s life shows that he possessed a mercurial nature and remained a prey to mental conflicts during the greater period of his life. From the very beginning he had a bent towards “free-thinking”. First of all, he freed himself from the bonds of the four Muslim schools of jurisprudence and carried his non-conformism to an extreme. Then he came under the influence of Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan’s literature and assimilated his way of thinking. This was the time when some elementary knowledge of physical sciences was finding its way to India and the rationalists among Indian Muslims were becoming deeply impressed by it. Those who had a religious inclination attempted to harmonize Qur’anic teachings with scientific knowledge. If this harmonisation presented any difficulty, they tried to overcome it by offering far-fetched interpretations of Qur’anic verses and the Quranic terminology. Nuruddin’s teaching of Tafsir was representative of this intellectual trend. (A good example of his way of thinking is found in the Tafsir of his pupil Mawlawi Muhammad Ali Lahori. His Tafsir is found in English as well as Urdu.)
In Sirat al-Mahdi, Mirza Bashir Ahmad writes:
“In the beginning, Hazrat Nuruddin, the first Khalifah, was deeply under the influence of the way of thinking and the work of Sir Sayyid. But, subsequently, due to contact with Hazrat Sahib, this influence gradually wore off.” (Sirat al-Mahdi, Vol. 1, p. 159.)
But a study of his ideas as well as those of his disciples makes it evident that either because of the influence of Sir Sayyid’s ideas or because of his own predilection he remained the same all his life. His mind [had] been moulded into a rigid frame and his mental attitudes had become too hardened to change.
A more careful study of his life reveals that along with his enlightenment and rationalism, there was a strong superstitious element in his personality. Despite all his non-conformism and rationalism he attached great importance to dreams and “inspirations”. It has been observed that not infrequently people who stand for intellectual freedom, in fact, for intellectual revolt, also have an inherent trait of superstitiousness. Their frame of mind is basically apologetic. Such people keep on raising the banner of revolt all their lives against certain institutions or personalities, but, at the same time, when they submit before someone, their power of free-thinking and independent judgement-is totally paralysed. Man’s life is a strange combination of action and reaction; and his personality a complex of divergent, even mutually conflicting, elements. Nothing is more difficult to understand and analyse than the driving urges of a man’s personality.
Mirza as Champion of Islam
We have covered so far a part of the life of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, his life in his township in district Gurdaspur, where we saw him immersed in the study of religious books. His works published after 1880 indicate that the main subjects of his study were different religions, particularly Christianity and Indian religions such as Sanatan Dharma and Arya Samaj.
This period is known for the religious polemics. The educated people of the time had a relish for religious debates and controversies. We have already seen that Christian missionaries were busy propagating Christianity and refuting Islam. The British Government, which was officially the defender or the Christian Faith, patronised these activities, considering India a gift of Jesus Christ. On the other hand were the preachers of the Arya Samaj movement who were enthusiastically trying to undermine Islam. The British who were aware of the dangerous possibility of inter-communal concord in India, a manifestation of which was the struggle for Indian independence of 1857, found it expedient to encourage religious controversies. The British political interest was served by these controversies in so far as they led to mutual hatred, intellectual bewilderment, and moral chaos in the country so that the religious communities of India might be disposed at least to tolerate a government which sought to protect all of them and under whose shadow all could carry on their holy debates. In such an atmosphere, anyone who arose to defend Islam and falsify other religions naturally attracted the attention of all Muslims.
The ambitious and far-sighted Mirza chose this field for his adventures. He undertook to produce a voluminous work to demonstrate the truth of Islam, the Divine origin of the Qur’an, and the Prophethood of the Messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه و سلم by rational arguments on one hand, and to refute Christianity, Sangtan Dharma, Arya Samaj, and Brahmo Samaj etc. on the other hand. He named this book Barahin-i-Ahmadiyyah.
The Barahin and the Mirza’s Challenge
The writing of Barahin started in l879. (Sirat at-Mahdi, Vol. 11, p. 157.) The author undertook to put forward one hundred arguments in support of Islam. In this undertaking the Mirza also had correspondence with other learned people whom he requested to communicate to him their views in order to help him in this venture. Those who complied with his request included Mawlawi Chiragh Ali who was a noted colleague of Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan. The Mirza included some of his articles and researches in his work. At long last this work, which was anxiously awaited by hundreds of people, did break into print in four volumes. Along with this book, its author also published an announcement in Urdu and English and sent it to rulers and ministers of States, to Christian clergymen, and to Hindu Pundits. In this book the Mirza announced for the first time that he had been appointed by God to demonstrate the truth of Islam and that he was prepared to satisfy the followers of other religions about his religion. The announcement categorically stated:
“This humble slave (the author of Barahin-i-Ahmadiyyah) has been appointed by the Glorious Almighty to strive for the reform of God’s creatures and to show to the ignorant the straight path (which leads to true salvation and by following which the light of heavenly existence and of Divine pleasure and graciousness can be experienced even in this world) in the manner of the Israelite Prophet of Nazareth (Messiah) with utmost humility and self-denial, self-abasement and gentleness. It is for this purpose that Barahin-i-Ahmadiyyah has been written, of which thirty-seven is to be found in parts have been published. Its summary the announcement enclosed with this letter. But since the publication of the whole book would require a long time, it has been decided that this letter along with the English announcement should be published and one copy of each sent to the honorable priests of Punjab, India and England and other countries wherever possible.” (Supplement to Barahin-i-Ahmadiyyah, Vol.1 by Merajuddin Umar, p. 82)
The Mirza challenged the world to come forward with any book parallel to this one, and invited the representatives of other religions to prove the truth of their religions by the same or even lesser number of arguments than he had put forward. He wrote:
“I, the author of this book, Barahin-i-Ahmadiyyah, make this announcement with the promise to make a reward of 10,000 rupees to the followers of all faiths and religions who deny the truth of the Glorious Qur’an and the Prophethood of Hazrat Muhammad Mustafa صلى الله عليه و سلم (God’s benediction and salutation be on him) and in support of it I commit myself to a formal legal undertaking and a Shar`i pledge that if any of these deniers can show that their scriptures have as many and as sound arguments as found in the Holy Qur’an and which we have mentioned herein to demonstrate the truth of the Glorious Message and the veracity of the Apostleship of the Khatim-al-Ambiya صلى الله عليه و سلم (God’s benediction and salutation be upon him) which have been derived from the Sacred Book (Qur’an) itself; or if they cannot come forward with an equal number of arguments, then half, or a third, or a fourth, or fifth of the number of our arguments; or if they find that impossible, then at least to refute our arguments one by one; then, in either of these cases, provided three authors accepted by both the parties unanimously express the view that the condition has been fulfilled in the manner it should have been fulfilled, the announcer (of this announcement) shall hand over to such a respondent without an excuse or hesitation the occupancy and ownership of his property valued at Rs. 10,000. (Barahin-i-Ahmadiyyah, Vol.1, pp. 17-22.)
The Mirza called upon the Muslims to make monetary contributions to this great service which he wanted to render to the cause of Islam and to participate in it generously. It seems that the response of Muslims to this call was not as enthusiastic as the Mirza had expected. In the later volumes of Barahin he has mourned their lack of enthusiasm. The announcements which formed the preface of the book are significant. In them we find some indications of the driving forces of the Mirza’s personality. In them we notice his habit of boastfulness and self-adulation and his confidence in “heavenly signs” as means of establishing his claims and persuading people. Along with all that, the statements unmistakably smack of his commercial mentality. (Barahin, Vol. 1.)
Preaching and Politics
In the third and fourth volumes of Barahin-i-Ahmadiyyah, the Mirza openly praised the British government and enumerated at length its acts of benevolence towards Muslims in the sections entitled, An Important Appeal to Islamic Associations: The Precarious Condition of Muslims and the English Government. In this appeal he urged all Islamic Associations to prepare a joint memorandum and send it to the government with signatures from all prominent Muslims. He also reiterated the services rendered by his family to the British and stressed the impermissibility of jihad.
Thus we find that even the first work of the Mirza was not free from panegyrics to the British government or from political admonitions to the Muslims to remain loyal to the British.
The Magnum Opus
The Mirza worked on this book from 1880 to 1884. After the publication of the fourth volume there came a long period of gap and the fifth and the last volume appeared in 1905, that is, full twenty-five years after the commencement of the work. In the fifth volume the author mentioned that the publication of the last volume had remained in suspension for twenty-three years. During this period a large number of people who had paid in advance for all the five volumes but had received only four volumes had passed away. Several other people who had paid in advance had expressed their disapproval and resentment at not receiving the promised volume for which the Mirza apologized in the fifth volume. In this volume he has also mentioned that previously he had in mind to bring forward 300 arguments to prove the truth of Islam, but later he gave up the idea. In the same way, instead of fifty, be would bring out only five volumes. The reason for this change of mind was that the difference between the two figures was merely that of a zero. In his own words:
“Earlier I had thought of writing 50 volumes, but now I have confined myself to writing five since the difference between the figures fifty and five is just that of one dot (that is zero). Thus the promise has been fulfilled by the publication of five volumes.” (Preface of Barahin-i-Ahmadiyyah, Vol.5, P. 7.)
In Sirat al-Mahdi, Mirza Bashir Ahmad writes:
“Now that four volumes of Barahin-i-Ahmadiyyah have come out in print, its preface and notes all relate to the time of publication and it contains very little of the original work, that is, not more than a few pages. This can be gauged from the fact that out of the 300 arguments which he had written, the Barahin-i-Ahmadiyyah contains only one argument and that too not in a complete form.” (Sirat al-Mahdi, Vol. 1, p.7.)
Anyone who studies Barahin-i-Ahmadiyyah is bound to be impressed by the author’s prolificity, perseverance, and diligence. These virtues, at best, could stand him in good stead as a successful debater and an able writer on religious polemics with Christians and Arya Samajis. In this huge work, however, one does not find any worthwhile research. Nor does one find that familiarity with the sources of Christianity, its ancient literature, its doctrines and history, and the grasp of its fundamental concepts as one finds, for example, in the works of Mawlana Rahmatullah Kairanwi (d. 1309 A.H. /1891 A.D.), the author of lzhar al-Haqq and Izalat al-Awham. Nor does one find that sweetness and elegance of expression, and that originality and brilliance of argument that one finds in works such as those of Mawlana Muhammad Qasim Nanotwi’s (d. 1297 A.H./ 1879 A.D.) Taqrir Dilpazir and Hujjat al-Islam.
Inspirations and Bragging
The reader also frequently encounters in the Mirza’s book references to his Divinely inspired revelations, to miracles, and to Divine communications and prophecies, and last but not the least, his boastfulness. All this leaves an unpleasant taste in the mouth and transforms the book, which claims to embody a sober academic discussion and a dignified religious debate, into a work of personal bragging – a work in which, again and again, the author stoops to self-advertisement and self-glorification.
The central theme of the book is that Divine inspiration had not ceased and should not cease. This inspiration itself is the most powerful proof of the validity of any claim and the truth of religion and faith. Whoever will follow the Holy Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم perfectly will be endowed with the external and internal knowledge which had been granted originally to the Prophets, and the person will, therefore, become possessed of sure, categorical knowledge. The intuitive knowledge of such people would resemble the knowledge of the Prophets. It is these people who have been called Amthat in Hadith and Siddiq in the Qur’an. The time of their advent would resemble the time of the advent of the Prophets. It is such people who will establish the truth of Islam and their inspiration will be of a categorical nature. (Barahin-i-Ahmadiyyah, Vol.3, p. 231 and 244)
In trying to prove the continuity of this inspiration, he cites his own inspirations and writes:
“We have several examples of this inspiration before us. But in the one which took place just now at the time of writing these notes, on March 1882, it has been revealed as a prophecy that through this book and on becoming informed of its contents, the opponents will ultimately be defeated; that seekers of Truth will find true guidance; perversion of belief will be uprooted; and people will help and turn their attention and come around (me) etc., since God will put this into their hearts and direct them to it. (Barahin-i-Ahmadiyyah, Vol.3, p. 238.)
This has been followed by a more recent lengthy inspiration which is almost an entirely incoherent collection of different Qur’anic verses. This inspiration embraces about forty lines of the Barahin and contains about fifty-three or fifty-four Qur’anic verses, interspersed with a few Traditions of the Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم. Besides, there are a few sentences by the Mirza himself which are an example of what might be termed as poor Indian-ized Arabic. The last lines of the inspiration which contain a comparatively smaller proportion of Qur’anic verses read as follows:
“Live in the world like a stranger or traveller. Become one of the righteous and the truthful. Bid whatever is good and forbid whatever is bad and send your salutations to Muhammad صلى الله عليه و سلم and his progeny. Prayer alone brings man up. Verily I will raise thee towards Myself and I have put love from Me (in the hearts of people). There is no god but Allah. So, write and let it be published and sent to the world. Grasp Unity (of God), Unity (of God), O people of Iran and give glad tidings to those who believed that they have a standing with their Lord. And read out to them what has been revealed to thee from thy Lord And do not swell thy face for the creatures of God and do not get tired of people. The people of al-Suffah? And who are the people of al-Suffah? Thou shalt see their eyes wet with tears and they will send their salutations to thee. O Lord of ours! We heard a herald calling towards belief, a summoner towards Allah, and a bright lamp. Be of hope! (Barahin-i-Ahmadiyyah, Vol. 3, p. 242.)
In the same way, an inspiration has been reproduced in the fourth volume of the same book. This inspiration too is an incoherent conglomeration of Qur’anic verses and Qur’anic expressions. It also contains some very obvious errors of Arabic language and grammar (which have been indicated by us by question marks):
“And when it is said to them believe as men believed they say: Should we believe as they believe who are stupid? Beware! it is they who are stupid, but they know not, and wish that you should compromise with them (?) Say: Unbelievers! I worship not that which you worship. It was said to you: turn to god but you turn not; and it was said to you, subdue your souls, but you subdue them not. Does thou seek of them any reward that feel burdened (in accepting your message). No, we brought Truth to them (gratuitously) and it is Truth to which they are averse. God is pure and free from whatever they attribute to Him. Do people think that they would be left by merely saying: We believed, and they would not he put to a trial ? These people love to be praised for deeds which they have not performed, while nothing is hidden from God and nothing is good which God does not make good and no one can restore him to His favours who has fallen from His grace.” (Barahin-i-Ahmadiyyah, Vol.4, p. 509.)
Apart from these revelations in the Arabic language there are two revelations in English as well. (Ibid, pp. 554 and 556.)
Mirza’s Beliefs in the Barahin
In the four volumes of Barahin (published 1880-1884), the Mirza expressed merely the view that ilham (Divine inspiration) had not ceased and would not cease, and that the legacy of the Prophets continues in respect of inspired comprehension of things in respect of the illumination of faith and categorical knowledge. In this book he has also frequently mentioned that be had been commissioned by God to reform the world and spread the message of Islam; that he was mujaddid (renovator) for the present age, and that he bore resemblance to Jesus (peace be on him).” (Sirat at-Mahdi, Vol. 1, p. 39. ) In this book he also adheres to the notion of the ascension of Jesus to the heaven and that he would return to the earth. In the appendix to his book, Nuzul al-Masih, published in 1902, and in volume 5 of Barahin, which came out in 1905, the Mirza has admitted that he used to subscribe to the above view and has even expressed his surprise at his having believed in the ascension and return of Jesus. In Barahin he had also strongly rejected the idea of any fresh revelation and of the advent of any new Prophet. The reason for this belief was that the Qur’an and its teachings were in no danger of being distorted nor was there any danger of Muslims reverting to pre-Islamic ignorance and paganism. On the contrary, he admitted that the attitude of the polytheists, owing to contact with the monotheists, is gradually tending towards monotheism. This being the case – that the main dangers which revelation and prophethood seek to avert were no longer real – there was no need for any new Shari`ah, or any fresh ilham (inspiration). This also established the termination of prophethood with the advent of the Holy Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم:
“Now, since it is rationally impossible and inconceivable that the true teachings of the Glorious Furqan will be distorded or changed, or the darkness of polytheism and worship of God’s creatures would predominate again, it is also rationally inconceivable that there should be a new Shari`ah, or the sending down of a new inspiration (ilham). For that which leads to impossibility is itself also impossible. Thus, it is proved that the Holy Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم was in reality the last of the prophets. (Barahin, Vol.4, p. III n.)
Reception of the Book
It seems that the book was enthusiastically welcomed in the religious and academic circles of the country. Indeed the publication of this work was very well-timed and the Mirza as well as his friends publicised it with great zest. The secret of the success of the book seems to lie in the fact that it challenged other religions and, instead of apologising on behalf of Islam, it took the offensive against them. Noted among those who appreciated and enthusiastically supported this book was Mawlana Muhammad Husain Batalawi. In his magazine Isha’at al- Sunnah, he wrote a long review eulogising the book in six issues of the magazine. (Vol.8, 684nos., 6-11. ) In this review the book was lavishly praised and commended as a great academic achievement of the time, a masterpiece of research and authorship. Not much later, the Mawlana felt alarmed at the big claims and “inspiration” of the Mirza and, subsequently, became one of his staunch opponents. On the other hand, there were many who were alarmed even by his first book and who began to feel that its author had set himself on a path which would lead him, in the near future, to claim prophethood for himself. Among these far-sighted people were the two sons of the late Mawlana Abdul Qadir Ludhianawi, Maulana Muhammad and Maulana Abdul Aziz. The Ahl-e-Hadith scholars of Amritsar and some scholars of the Ghaznawi family opposed him from the very beginning and denounced his inspirations as fantasies.” (See Isha’at al-Sunnah, June, 1884. Vol. Vil, No. 6)
This book brought the Mirza out of obscurity and put him on the stage of public renown so that countless eyes were turned towards him. In Sirat at-Mahdi, Mirza Bashir Ahmad has aptly observed how this book brought the Mirza to the limelight:
“Before writing Barahin, the Promised Messiah spent a life of anonymity and in this isolation his was the life of a darwish. Before Barahin he had become known to some extent as a result of his having written a series of articles in some newspapers but all this was very meagre. In fact, it is the announcement of Barahin-i-Ahmadiyyah which, for the first time and for good, placed him before the country and introduced him to those interested in academic and religious matters. The eyes of the people began to turn in amazement towards this anonymous villager who had promised to write a great book about the truth of Islam in such a challenging manner and with the promise of a huge sum of money as reward (to anyone who could refute his arguments). Thus the sun of guidance which had already appeared on the horizon now began to rise higher. Later the publication of Barahin-i-Ahmadiyyah created an extraordinary stir in the religious circles of the country. In general, the Muslims welcomed him as a great Mujaddid. As for the opponents of Islam, this book came to them as a bomb- shell and created great turbulence in their camp. (Sirat al-Mahdi, Vol 1, pp. 103-104. )
The Mirza himself says the following about his life before the publication of Barahin:
“This was the time when nobody knew me; when nobody was either in favour of or opposed to me, for, at that time, I was a non-entity; I was just one among the people, hidden in the corner of anonymity. (Tatimmah Haqiqat al-Wahy, pp. 27-28.)
“All the people of this town (i.e. Qadian) and thousands of other people are aware that at this period of time I was, in fact, like a dead body which had been buried in the grave for centuries and no one even knew whose grave it was. (lbid, p. 28. )
Debates with Arya Samajis
In 1886, the Mirza had a debate with Murli Dhar of Arya Samij in Hoshiarpur. He has written a full-fledged book about this debate, Surmah-i-Chashm-i-Arya (Kohl for the Eye of the Arya). This is the second of his polemics on religions and religious sects.
The topic of the first day’s debate was the rational and historical proof of the miracle of cleaving the moon. The Mirza not only strongly affirmed this miracle but the miracles of other prophets as well. He showed that the occurrence of miracles and supernatural incidents was rationally possible. He took the position that because of the inherent limitations of man’s intellect, knowledge, and experience, he had no right to deny miracles and thus make the claim to comprehend this vast universe in its entirety. He repeatedly stressed that the knowledge of man was very limited and the range of possibilities very wide. (Surma-i-Chashm-i-Arya, pp. 557) (so that the notion that man’s knowledge could be comprehensive was untenable). He also stressed that in religious matters, faith in the unseen was essential and that this was not in conflict with reason, for the latter could not be all comprehensive in its range. In fact, whatever rational objections the Mirza pointed out to the belief regarding the ascension of Jesus to the heavens and his descent in future and his stay in the heaven for several centuries and the so-called ‘rationalist’ trend in his later writings can best be refuted by the arguments that he himself advanced in this book. The personality of the author in this book is quite different from the one in his later writings.
These two books made the Mirza excessively self-appreciative; he became aware of his ability as a writer and debater and became confident that he was capable of initiating a new movement and influencing his environment. It seems that this discovery proved to be the turning-point in his life. Henceforth, instead of debating with Christians and Arya Samajis he turned towards Muslims and began to challenge them to debate with him.