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Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian (the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement; the Mujaddid (Reformer) of the 14th Century Hijrah; and, the Promised Messiah and Mahdi) <Please read his biography in the 'Biography' section>

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Books Section > The Great Mujaddid [Mujaddid-e-Azam] -- Vol. 3 [Biography of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Sahib of Qadian] by Dr. Basharat Ahmad Sahib > Chapter 4: The Propagation of Islam

Chapter 4:
The Propagation of Islam:

Idea of presenting Islam to the West:

The Holy Imam not only carried out a defence of Islam, but he also went a step further and presented Islam very forcefully to the whole world at a juncture when it was overcome by materialism and atheism, and at a time when Muslims were labouring under an inferiority complex and were suffering political decline. The Muslim heart had been so intimidated by the Christian and the materialistic civilisations, that it was gripped by total despair over the prospect that the Christian nations of Europe, which were in the vanguard of scientific and political progress of the world, might turn their attention towards Islam.

A Muslim could not for a moment imagine that he could present his religion, Islam, to these developed nations. On the contrary, he began to think it an embarrassment even to mention his religion and felt ashamed at being called a Muslim. Even those Muslim elders who did write something about Islam, such as Syed Ameer Ali and Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, did so by way of apology. Anything that they found in Islam to be contrary to the taste of the European people they apologetically tried to explain away as if the European philosophy and their tastes were proven verities, and if anything contrary to these were found to exist in Islam, they apologetically tried to reinterpret it to suit European thought.

This was the inferiority complex that had engulfed the educated Muslim class, so much so that the very idea of presenting Islam to the West never even crossed their mind. At such a time a proclamation went forth from Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad from the little-known hamlet of Qadian, a proclamation quite unique and distinct from anything in the whole world, saying that though the political decline of Muslims had reached its lowest point, the time for its spiritual dominance had come, in accordance with the divine promise of the Holy Quran: So that He may make it dominant over all other religions (61:9).

The political decline of Muslims is a matter distinct and separate from the spiritual dominance of Islam. Historically speaking, this has been an ongoing process, that at the time of the political descent of Muslims, God has caused the conquering and ruling nations to accept Islam and then become its servants. When the Tartars razed Baghdad to the ground and when the vanquished Muslims were trampled under their feet, God, Most High, threw the whole world into amazement by showing the miracle of the Tartars entering the fold of Islam and by making these people the servants of Islam.

When the material sword of the Muslims wanes, its spiritual sword begins to wax. God, Most High, shows such miracles to demonstrate to the world that Islam is not dependent on any material sword for its dominance. Its dominance has always come through spirituality and will always come about through it. Truth and Godliness are never in need of a government or a sword for their spread and propagation. Truth is always recognised through its own merit.

Hence, if the eternal verities of the Holy Quran and the excellent example of the Holy Prophet are presented to any people in a correct and sensible manner, there is no reason why the human mind should not accept these. The Holy Imam did not confine himself to merely making a verbal claim, but he implemented it practically by writing a voluminous book, Barahin-i Ahmadiyyah, about the truth and the reality of the Holy Quran and the Holy Prophet’s prophethood, and very boldly presented it to the world. He made an announcement, both in Urdu and in English, throughout India, Europe and America, that if anyone could refute any of its three hundred arguments, the Holy Imam would give him a reward of ten thousand rupees. It was this advertisement which caused Mr. Alexander Webb, the well-known American convert to Islam, to accept the religion. No one has so far dared to respond to the challenge contained in this book and the challenge still stands.

This book, Barahin-i Ahmadiyyah, offers no apology for Islam; rather, the unique and wonderful thing that stands out in this book, apart from its intellectual arguments, is that it has taken Islam to be the real basis of its authority and has presented its spirituality vis-à-vis the materialism of Europe and has demonstrated the dominance of the spirituality of Islam over Europe’s materialism. It tells us that by denying the spiritual dimension of man, Europe has closed its eyes to the most important factor of mankind’s destiny. That is to say, out of the two eyes, one of spiritual knowledge and the other of material sciences, Europe’s right eye, the eye of spirituality, is closed. In its race for scientific knowledge, it has become like a one-eyed person who is blind in the right eye.

Just as Europe is the standard-bearer of scientific knowledge, so is Islam the standard-bearer of spiritual knowledge. Europe should not become so proud because of its progress in material sciences that it should go beyond its limits and deny the existence of spiritual science without putting it under observation and under test. It should bear in mind that if the East must become a humble student of the West in learning material sciences, the West also needs to be a humble student of the East in learning spiritual sciences and knowledge. We should go to the expert for instruction in any branch of knowledge. An expert in spiritual knowledge is not necessarily an expert in material sciences and the expert in material sciences cannot claim that he is also an expert in spiritual knowledge. We shall not go to a prophet to enquire about the method of construction of an aeroplane, but we shall go to the expert in this field. Similarly, it will be utter foolishness to go to an expert in material sciences instead of a prophet or a seer to enquire about Godliness and spirituality. To build a house we will consult an architect and not a doctor, but we will not go to an architect to get a disease diagnosed.

If this is the state of affairs within the material sciences themselves, then as regards the boundaries of the spiritual and the material sciences, we find that a distinct difference exists between the two. So the material progress of Europe should not overawe Muslims and frighten them into making far-fetched interpretations of the decisive principles of Islam and presenting them apologetically to the Europeans. We should, instead, make up the deficient aspect of humanity, left deficient because of materialism, through the spirituality of Islam, and should try to rectify the errors and mistakes committed by materialism about spirituality.

The Holy Imam has projected Islam in a glorious manner in his book, Barahin-i Ahmadiyyah. In doing so, contrary to the practice of worldly philosophers, he adopted the way of the prophets and their perfect followers. That is, his line of argument runs from the inward to the outward. For instance, in talking about the existence of God and spirituality, the first thing he announced was:

"I have acquired a sure knowledge of the existence of God by being a witness to things spiritual, and He responds to my entreaties and enters into dialogue with me, and I give testimony to the truth of Islam after having received intimation from Him."

Having said this, he went on to give his philosophical arguments which were free of errors and mistakes, having been based on his being a visionary, and so strong and firm were they that he very boldly offered a reward of ten thousand rupees to anyone who could repudiate any of his arguments.

One should never forget this speciality of the Holy Imam, that the picture he painted of Islam was based on the Holy Quran and the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet. Even his arguments were inferred from the Holy Quran. To add anything of his own to heighten the effect while presenting Islam, or to hide any aspect for fear of people, or to take refuge in far-fetched interpretations, he considered as cardinal sins. It was an axiom with him that a religion which is not clearly based on the Quran and the Sunnah cannot be Islam and must be the product of the exponent’s own imagination. That is why he greatly disliked the Naturalist tendencies of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan or the Chakralvi interpretation of the sect called Ahl-i Quran. His pen was always busy opposing them. He considered all innovations, which some of the jurists of Islam and the latter-day Sufis intermingled with pure Islam, to be very bad.

He carried out the duties of a mujaddid in a perfect manner, and in that way he rid Islam of all the adulterations and innovations that had been made in it by the ignorance of the public, by blind taqlid (blindly following the four Imams), by the erroneous practices of the so-called Sufis and by the forced interpretation of the Naturalists and the Chakralvis as they reacted to the pressures of modern philosophy. He then presented to the world the pristine and original Islam based on the Quran and the Sunnah.

He neither made out Islam to be a dry collection of questions of Law, bereft of any spiritual content, as the Ahl-i Hadith scholars did, nor did he adopt a wrong connotation of spirituality, nor did he follow the innovations of the latter-day Sufis. Instead, he presented a pristine Islam to the Muslim public after ridding it of all these errors so much so that even for the derivation of his arguments, he would not stray from the Quran, for it was his firm conviction that human philosophy was liable to error.

Greek philosophy neither carried any worth in the Holy Imam’s sight nor was he daunted by modern philosophy. He had not been even remotely touched by the inferiority complex that had affected the modern educated Muslims towards Western philosophy because of their slavish mentality. Whenever there was a conflict between the viewpoint of Western philosophers and that of Islam, he would never be intimidated by Western philosophy, but he would very manfully and boldly take up the question and would review it deeply through the eye of a researcher and would pinpoint the errors of Western philosophy. This work was done by him with such facility that the discerning observer would be left wonder-struck by the ease with which a resident of a small village, and one who was unfamiliar with the English language and Western sciences, could pinpoint the errors of Western philosophy and could make the truth of Islam come out triumphant.

It was clearly obvious that this was God-inspired knowledge given to him from Above. He had undergone the spiritual experience and was at that stage of certitude and God-gnosis where there could not be a moment’s doubt or misgiving in his mind. His belief in Islamic principles was as certain as two and two make four. Therefore, he never became perturbed when there was a confrontation with Western philosophy, and would throw a researcher’s glance at the disputed point with great courage, bravery and with a definite belief in his success, and would eventually defeat the falsehood like a victorious general, pointing out the error of Western philosophy and highlighting the truth of Islam. Again, he would make a presentation of the truth of Islamic principles in such a beautiful and attractive manner that people would become enamoured of these principles and their hearts would melt and flow like water.

The Great Religions Conference at Lahore:

Those who attended the Great Religions Conference at Lahore in 1896 cannot forget the ecstasy that the public experienced by listening to his lecture. In this religious declamation contest, many a champion scholar was present to throw light from his own religious point of view on the five questions set by the organisers, and representatives of all the major religions of the world - the Christians, Sanatan Dharmi Hindus, the Arya Samajists, the Brahmo Samajists, the Dev Samajists, the Sikhs, the Jews and the Muslims, etc. - were present at this conference. The five questions on which each representative read out his thesis were:

  • The physical, moral and spiritual conditions of man.
  • Man’s life after death.
  • The real purpose of man’s existence in the world.
  • The effect of karma (one’s actions) on man’s life in this world and in the Hereafter.
  • Sources of knowledge (gyan or gnosis).

Obviously, these five questions covered all the aspects of the aims and objectives of religion and every representative had to shed light on these questions from the viewpoint of his own faith. But regrettably, the replies given by all the representatives of religions, with the exception of the Holy Imam, could not provide the public with any satisfying insights. The biggest shortcoming was that whatever presentation they made was mostly based on their own imagination. They hardly presented anything from their religion’s revealed Books, and whatever little they read out, was not the presentation of their religion, but was a representation of their own ideas.

However, the replies given by the Holy Imam to these questions were so satisfying and full of knowledge and wisdom that it must be taken as fact that his essay was the gist and the essence of the whole conference. His essay handsomely fulfilled the purpose of the conference. Whatever presentation he made was based on the Holy Quran and there was nothing in it from himself. On each topic of the lecture a quotation of a Quranic verse was given, and whatever he inferred from these verses and the verities and insights that he expounded through these verses caused all the educated and knowledgeable class, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, to nod their heads in amazement. As for the Muslims, they swayed with ecstasy on hearing the masterful exegesis of the Quranic verses, and the representatives of the other religions were amazed by listening to this endless ocean of verities and insights and many a prominent atheist and heretic bowed his head before these truths. The magical spell was so intense that no one was aware of himself anymore. Friend and foe alike, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, were all sitting transfixed like statues, and the lecture had such a supernatural effect that it appeared as if the angels were descending from heaven with bowls full of light.

Every heart that was present was drawn to it as if a hidden hand were driving it to this world of ecstasy, so much so that, in this intense state of rapture, none noticed the expiry of the time limit set for the end of the conference. When the chairman of the conference announced the end, the listeners were greatly shocked, because not even the reply to the first question given by the Holy Imam had been completed. While these pearls of wisdom and knowledge were in the process of being scattered, the spell was suddenly interrupted and anxiety arose because of the running out of time.

It was the turn of Maulawi Mubarak Ali of Sialkot after the Holy Imam and he announced that he would gladly donate his allotted time to the Holy Imam’s lecture. The audience showed such happiness and joy over this announcement that it was a cause of wonder to see this public reaction. The result was that Maulawi Abdul Karim of Sialkot, who was given the duty of reading this essay, continued reading until four-thirty in the afternoon and the time allowed for the conference ran out. Still the reply to the first question had not been exhausted.

Eventually, the audience insisted that the lecture should be read out to its end without interruption, so the organisers of the conference, which included representatives from all the religions, announced that this essay would continue to be read irrespective of the time taken. The first question came to an end at five-thirty, but the public kept insisting that the essay should be read to its end. Eventually, the organisers of the conference extended it for one more day, especially to accommodate this essay.

It took seven and a half hours spread over two days to complete the essay. During the reading of it, the public was in such a state of transport that some had tears of joy in their eyes and soft-hearted people in the audience even kept crying profusely. The listeners felt as if they were ascending stairs of faith and God-gnosis. One felt as if a vial of the elixir of life was being poured into one’s heart through the ears as each point of gnosis was made and as each pearl of knowledge and wisdom was disclosed. The entire city of Lahore was greatly stirred by this lecture. Not only the organisers and judges of the conference, but all and sundry, those for and those against, all conceded that "the essay by Mirza Sahib was triumphant". Even the opposition press conceded the excellence and superiority of this essay. The English daily of Lahore, The Civil and Military Gazette, admitted in clear terms that "in this religious conference, the essay by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian, was superior to all the others." At this conference, Islam was granted such a clear victory over other religions that one felt that the Quranic promise: So that He can make it overcome all other religions (61:9) had found its fulfilment.

Today the proceedings of this meeting are available in book-form under the title, Jalsa-i A'zam Tehqiq-i Mazahib ki Ru’idad, in which the speeches by all the religious representatives have been reproduced. If one reads these, one feels as if all of them are nothing but dim earthen lamps whose flickering light has been obliterated by the light of the sun-like splendour of the Holy Imam’s essay. On reading his essay, one’s heart is filled with the light of faith in the truth of Islam and the soul goes into ecstasy from the enjoyment of God-gnosis.

When Maulana Muhammad Ali translated the Holy Imam’s essay under the title, The Teachings of Islam, and when it was published in England, it became the source of guidance for hundreds of Englishmen who consequently became Muslims. The well-known Russian writer, Count Tolstoy, was amazed on reading it in the pages of the Review of Religions and greatly praised it in one of his letters.

Not only this essay, but the entire literature on Islam produced by the Holy Imam is so magnificent and full of truth, knowledge and wisdom, that even the most inveterate opponent, if not bereft of justice and fairness but searching for truth, would be greatly impressed by it. His head would bow before the truth and the beauty of Islam. Very eminent judicious minds, though disagreeing with his claim, conceded that the services that he has rendered to Islam find no parallel in the thirteen-hundred-year history of the religion.

I have reproduced earlier in this book the review of Barahin-i Ahmadiyyah by Maulawi Muhammad Hussain Batalvi, the chief opponent of the Holy Imam, but it bears repetition, so ponder over it again.

"In our opinion this book, at this time and in view of the present circumstances, is such that the like of it has not appeared in Islam up to now, while nothing can be said about the future. Its author, too, has been so constant in the service of Islam, with his money, life, pen and tongue, and personal experience, that very few parallels can be found in the Muslims. If anyone considers our words to be an Asian exaggeration, let him show us at least one such book which so vigorously fights all the opponents of Islam, especially the Arya and Brahamo Samaj, and let him name two or three persons who have supported Islam, not only with their wealth, lives, pen and tongue, but also by personal spiritual experience, and who have boldly thrown the challenge to all the opponents of Islam and the deniers of Divine revelation, that whoever doubts the truth of God speaking to man, he may come and observe it for himself, thus giving other religions a taste of this experience" (Isha'at as-Sunnah, vol. vii, no. 6, pp.169-170).

There is no doubt that the acclaim by many persons in praise of the services rendered by the Holy Imam to Islam was stifled by the fear of takfir (being declared a kafir) by the maulawis. But the admission of his services to Islam by the eminent and judicious minds of India on his death, made through the national press, has been highlighted above in chapter III for the benefit of the reader. This was just a glimpse. If anyone wants to go into further detail let him peruse the literature produced by the Holy Imam and satisfy himself.

The means adopted for the propagation of Islam:

The Holy Imam adopted diverse ways for the propagation of Islam. Apart from lectures, leaflets and books, he started a monthly journal under the name, The Review of Religions, under the editorship of Maulana Muhammad Ali, MA, and many incisive articles from the pen of the Holy Imam and that of Maulana Muhammad Ali appeared in it. These dealt mostly with the doctrines and principles of Islam and other topical questions of religion. Maulana Muhammad Ali translated the Holy Imam’s articles, which were in Urdu, into English.

This journal caused quite a stir both in the Christian and the Islamic worlds and the recognition of Islamic superiority and excellence started to appear from friend and foe alike. The dominance of Islam over all other religions became an actual possibility. A favourable breeze swept through the four corners of the world and this strengthened the faith of Muslims in the truth of Islam and compelled non-Muslims to abandon their hatred of Islam and to develop a respect for and a recognition of its greatness.

But he was not content with this alone. Since it was a mission that would take centuries for fruition, he founded a community in order to ensure the continuity of the movement under the Quranic directive: And from among you there should be a party who invite to good and enjoin the right and forbid the wrong. And these are they who are successful (3:103). From this community, he took a pledge of "making the Faith take precedence over one’s worldly concerns". He exhorted his followers to sacrifice their all, their lives, their minds, and their wealth in the way of the Lord and in the mission for the propagation of Islam.


Books Section > The Great Mujaddid [Mujaddid-e-Azam] -- Vol. 3 [Biography of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Sahib of Qadian] by Dr. Basharat Ahmad Sahib > Chapter 4: The Propagation of Islam


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