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The Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement for the Propagation of Islam (A.A.I.I.L. - Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha'at-e-Islam Lahore)

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 1: The Condition of the Muslims Before the Call by the Holy Imam


Chapter 1:
The Condition of the Muslims Before the Call by the Holy Imam:


Before recounting the services of the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement to the faith of Islam, it would be appropriate to highlight the plight of Muslims prior to the call by the Holy Imam of the fourteenth century Hijrah.


Muslims had Hit the Lowest Mark Politically:

Before the advent of the mujaddid of the fourteenth century, the political condition of Muslims had hit an all-time low. They had lost control of their rule over a lot of countries and some other dominions were in the process of being lost. In India, Mogul rule had come to an end; in Egypt, control had fallen into British hands; in Sudan, the British had established their hegemony after martyring the Mahdi of Sudan. France had set up its hegemony over Northern Africa, gaining control over Tunis, Algeria and part of Morocco. Spain had occupied most of Morocco, and Tripoli (Libya) was taken by Italy. The entire Muslim dominion of Zanzibar had been divided between the Germans and the British. Turkistan had been completely swallowed by Russia, and Iran was giving up the ghost, being caught in the clutches of Russia. Afghanistan had been reduced to the status of a native princely state of India, and was completely under British influence. The Arabian Peninsula had no life left in it.

The erstwhile pride of the Muslims, the Sultanate, which enjoyed the title, "The Servant of the Two Holy Places", was in its death throes, and political observers, looking at the frequent onslaughts by the Russians and the political intrigues of European powers, had given the verdict that this sick man of Europe would only last a few more days. The Muslim kingdom of Mysore had come to an end with the martyrdom of Tipu Sultan. In short, the political condition of the Muslims had reached its lowest point.

Unfortunately, an erroneous notion had crept into Muslim thought, that political and material power were essential for the establishment of the Faith, and since political power had gone out of Muslim hands, there was no way, it was thought, that Islam could once again gain ascendancy over the world. If one goes through the speeches by the Muslim ‘ulama and leaders of the time, and reads the poetry, prose and literature, one would come face to face with nothing but despair. The Muslim world had come to the conclusion that the last stand had been taken in the person of Tipu Sultan, and since this effort proved unfruitful, there was no way left for their survival.

This depressing plight of the Muslims moved Maulana Altaf Hussain Hali to write an elegy for the Muslim people, a poem in which he has drawn such a pathetic sketch of their downfall that one’s eyes are filled with tears and one’s heart with grief, pain, regret and despair.

Here are two stanzas as a sample:

Ammirown ki tum soenn chukay dastan sub
Chulun ho chukay a’lamonkay bayan sub

Sharifown ki haalut hai tum peh aya’n sub
Bigurrnay ko tayyar baithay hain ya’n sub

Yeh bowsida ghar ub gira’ keh gira’ hai
Satoon markazay saql say hut chukka hai

You have listened to the sorry tale of the rich,
And we have described the character of the ‘ulama as well.

The condition of the genteel folk is apparent to you,
In fact, all of them are ready to fall into decay.

This derelict house is on the verge of falling down,
Its main pillar has shifted from its central place.

Yeh jo kuch hoowa ik shamma’ hai uska
Keh jo waqt ya’rown pah hai aanay wala’

Zamanay nay oonchay say jiss ko giraya
Woh aa’khir ko mittee mein mill kurr rahay gaa

Nahee girjaa kuch qaum mein ha’ll ba-qee
Abhi aur honaa hai paamaal ba’qi

All this that has happened is only an iota,
Of what is going to happen to our friends (the Muslims).

Whoever is thrown down by the forces of time,
Is eventually going to hit the dust.

Even though the nation has no life left in it,
Yet further destruction is still in store for it.

In short, Muslims realised that they had now been reduced to a permanently degraded and subject people, like the Jews, and seeing that not only this world was set against them, but also since no one had come down from heaven to their rescue, they had also lost faith in their religion. The despair that had engulfed Muslims at that time finds no parallel even in the extirpation of the kingdom of the Bani Ummayyah (the Ummayads), the destruction of the Abbasids, nor in the decline of the majestic Muslim rule in Spain. This wave of despair was universal in dimension, and as every wise person knows, such despair is a very dangerous thing. Once it engulfs the heart of any individual or people, courage is extinguished and the will to act is lost. People lose their will to struggle and the motivation to progress and make effort evaporates. Such an individual or people have nothing to wait for, except demise.


The Religious Decline of Muslims:

The political decline of Muslims was accompanied by the political ascendancy of Christianity, and the Padres of Europe and America, in order to further their political ends, decided to spread the Christian faith throughout the world. Since they had nothing but myths in their religious house to offer to the world, the only way to success, they thought, was to level a barrage of unfair criticism and objections against the faiths of other nations and thus make the followers disgruntled and disillusioned with their respective religions. Thus, they hoped to create a spiritual vacuum in people’s life, to be filled by the vapour of Christianity. Since they could find no worthwhile opponents to their faith except Islam, the main thrust of their onslaught was, therefore, aimed at it. They realised that the universal appeal of Islamic principles and their appeal to reason might catch the imagination of the world, thus causing damage to the Christian political interests and empires; hence they left no stone unturned in fabricating all types of charges against Islam and throwing all types of untenable objections at it.


The Christian Onslaughts:

The crusades that the Christian missionaries started against Islam at this time were not like the crusades of long ago, waged with arms; these were waged with the pen. Their attack on Islam was four-pronged. The first thing that they exploited was the ascendant position ascribed to Jesus through the wrong interpretations of the Qur’an and the Hadith by the Muslim ‘ulama and the exegesists. These made him not only look superior to the Holy Prophet Muhammad and endowed him with special characteristics and properties, but a touch of divinity could easily be discerned in his person: for instance, his ability to create birds, to cure diseases, to quicken the dead, to have knowledge of the Unseen, his remaining intact in his original physical form in heaven even till today, and his salvaging the sinking ship of Islam in the Last Epoch. The Christians took advantage of these erroneous beliefs, and by arguing from the Muslims own admitted doctrines, they managed to mislead them from the path of Islam and made them Christians.

Secondly, they collected a horde of mythical and fabricated sayings of the maulawis [Muslim clergymen] or the wrong exegesis of the mutashabihat (allegorical) verses of the Qur’an or weak traditions and made these the basis of thousands of objections against Islam. Further, by fabricating myriad charges of their own, they succeeded in enticing Muslims away from their religion and thus making them easy prey of the Christian faith.

Their third stratagem was that they collected all the objections raised by the atheists and the materialists against religion in general and brought them to the attention of the Muslim youth through numerous tracts, books, and through their schools and colleges. There was no doubt that these also cut at the roots of their own Christian faith, but they did not care and were prepared to damage their own cause for the sake of subverting Islam. Their only objective in doing so was that Muslims should not remain Muslims. They rather preferred that Muslims should become atheists or agnostics. Once they had become agnostics, the lure of participating in the power and rule of the world would automatically draw them into the Christian fold. When religion lost all esteem in their eyes, they would necessarily think it a boon to become part of a society that was in power and at the helm of affairs. Consequently, atheism and agnostic teachings were given wide publicity and the Muslim youth became alienated from Islam by judging each tenet of Islam against the touchstone of these philosophies.

Fourthly, in spite of these unholy attacks on Islam, the Padres still feared lest the Christian nations of Europe discover the sublime and judicious principles of Islam, for this would automatically result in Islam gaining ascendancy. Therefore, they authored numerous books in which they had resorted to painting the worst possible picture of the Founder of Islam by indulging in diverse fabrications, even going so far as to publishing pictures showing Muslims offering obeisance to the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) or the Holy Prophet worshipping the sun. Numerous pictures were published in which the Holy Prophet had a Qur’an in one hand and a sword in the other whilst being surrounded by beautiful damsels, thus insinuating that the Holy Prophet, God forbid, had spread the faith by the sword and that he used to indulge in debauchery.

The divine punishment for this impudent and insolent disrespect shown to the "Chief of the Innocents" and the "Imam of the Pious" (peace be on him) is that all the Christian nations can be seen to be indulging in all types of debauchery, drunkenness and sexual licentiousness and more than that, they themselves are engaged in getting their principles accepted by other people by the use of pressure, force and attacks by not only the sword, but even by using artillery, guns, tanks and air power for this purpose.

In short, the worst and the most fallacious propaganda against Islam was carried out in Europe and the West by the Christian missionaries, authors and even politicians.


The Onslaught by the Arya Samajists in India:

The political power of the Christians helped them much in their anti-Islamic propaganda. Along with the spread of their political ascendancy in the world, the propagation of their faith also kept spreading. Following their example, other communities were also encouraged to attack Islam, and one finds the Arya Samajists at the forefront in this activity. The reason for this was that the Hindus, like the Christians, also felt threatened by Islam.

The Hindu faith offers nothing but idol-worship and strict observance of the caste system. So when a Hindu got educated, he would most likely become a Christian or a Muslim. Christianity was the creed of an alien government, and the Hindus looked upon it as something alien, but Muslims had been living together with the Hindus in the same land for over a thousand years, and to the Hindus, the Islamic doctrines of tauheed (unity of God) and the equality and fraternity of the human race were very attractive and pleasing, hence the apprehensions in the Hindu camp that they would gradually be absorbed into Islam.

Dayanand Sarsawati sensed this danger, and since the Hindu faith also had nothing to offer to counter these attractions, the only recourse open to them was to engage in carrying out as many onslaughts on the Islamic faith as possible, and to paint it in as dreadful a colour as possible. They had no problem in getting this ammunition from the Christian camp. They borrowed their store of objections and fabrications and this enforced their armoury. Thus, they succeeded in making their Hindu brethren as suspicious of and inimical to Islam and to the Muslims as was humanly possible.


The Onslaught by Modern Western Thought:

Many other minor religious communities followed in their footsteps and started a barrage of criticism against Islam. But the greatest effect on the religious world, in general, and the Muslim world, in particular, was made by the materialistic and the atheistic teachings contained in Western thought, and which Christian Europe considered their main weapon for spreading disgust and disillusionment among Muslims regarding Islam.

The renowned scholar and historian, Maulana Shibli Naumani, in his treatise, "Ilm-ul-Kalaam", observes:

"The danger that Islam is faced with now is greater than the danger that Islam had to face during the Abbasid period. Western thought has found its way into every home, and freedom of expression is so great now that telling the truth was not so easy in the past as telling untruth is nowadays. Religious thinking has generally undergone a violent change, as if hit by an earthquake, and modern educated people have been totally overawed by Western thought. I myself have been witness to many such incidents, where a young man goes to a maulawi with a certain question about Islam and the maulawi comes up with some cooked-up reply, to which the young man makes an objection. This gets the maulawi irritated, and flaring up, he shouts: ‘Go, rejected one! What damage would it do to Islam if scum like you leave the faith! Nay, it would be you who would burn like a log in hell!’"

What a realistic sketch of the prevalent conditions Maulana Hali has drawn in his elegy:

That old computation of the Greeks
The so-called wisdom…in fact a veil of deception
Which has been proved to be useless through experience
And which practice has proved to be just rubbish.
But we consider it the Holy Writ
Nothing should be added or subtracted from it.

Though the Psalms, the Torah, the Gospels, the Qur’an
All agree that these are subject to abrogation
But the principles enunciated by the Greeks
For these there is no possibility of any amendment or abrogation
Not even till the last vestige of life on earth remains
Not a diacritical point of these ought to be changed.

The findings coming out of Western sciences and technology
Though these have been shining on our Indian stage for a hundred years
But prejudice has put a veil before our eyes
That we cannot perceive truth when we see it.
Aristotle’s conjectures are ingrained on our minds
And even if divine revelation now comes
We would not believe it.

Those enamoured of Greek philosophy
Agreeing wholeheartedly with the Greek philosophers,
Prostrating themselves at the door of Aristotle
And following in the footsteps of Plato,
They are nothing but the bull pulling the village oil-expeller
Going round and round,
Remaining where they have been all their life.

When the old-school Muslim ‘ulama did peep out of their sanctuaries, all they saw was a hazy religious horizon; and there was a general outcry for a new dialectic. All admitted the need for this, but there was a difference of opinion about the basic principles on which it ought to be based. The modern educated group argued that this new dialectic must be based on entirely new principles, because the old type of criticism of Islam had given way to entirely new attacks. In the old days, Islamic thought had to contend with Greek philosophy, which was based entirely on guesses and conjectures, whereas today Islam was faced with clear and practical scientific thought and these could not be countered by intelligent guesses and theoretical possibilities.

But what efforts were made towards development of this new dialectic? In fact, nothing was done. Our respected ‘ulama continued to beat the same old refrain and continued to use the old "spears" and "arrows" of Greek philosophy against the armour of modern Western thought, and this proved quite ineffective. Today, the scientific world demands observation and experience in everything and the hypotheses, conjectures, pedantic terminologies and the twists and turns of Greek theorems do not suffice in today’s world. But what did our ‘ulama have in addition to these? Nothing! They were unacquainted with the English language, English sciences and Western philosophy, so when they heard some objection based on these from a third party, their usual response would be to stamp the critic as a kafir (unbeliever) and a heretic. And if they did gird up their loins to make a reply, the best they could do was to counter with a few terms from Greek philosophy and theorems, providing little satisfaction to the critic. If he countered them with Western philosophy and destroyed their arguments, they would flare up and, declaring him a kafir and a heretic, would pronounce him to be outside the pale of Islam.

When they have done their training in gaining this wisdom
And when the headgear denoting their having graduated adorns their head
And if they possess some originality in their mind
Then the greatest display of this ability is witnessed.
When, once they declare day to be night
They would insist on it till everyone agreed.

All they have to offer a student is to teach him what they know
And tell him what they know.
Teach all the refrains that they have learnt
And make him a parrot like themselves.
This is the sum-total of their learning
And this they boast of in the circle of their peers.

They are not worthy of finding employment with the government,
Nor competent enough to open their mouth in front of the officials,
Nor are they fit to graze sheep in the jungle
Nor able to carry a load in the market.
Had they not been educated, they would have learnt their keep in a hundred ways
But with this education they are a total loss.

If one asks them, Sir, whatever have you learnt?
What was the objective of this education?
Does it benefit your worldly affairs or your faith?
Or does it have any other benefit?
They would answer it with the delirious babble of a man not in his senses
Yet not able to answer the question.

Neither can they bring an argument in favour of the messengership of God,
Nor can they highlight the truth of Islam,
Nor can they show the grandeur of the Qur’an,
Nor can they throw light on the Divine Reality.
All their arguments have become defunct today
And their sword is no use against today’s artillery.

When they speak, they speak to incite hatred
Given to rhetoric that would make hearts bleed
Dilating upon the belittlement of the sinners
And engaging in takfir (declaring someone an unbeliever) of their Muslim brethren.
This is the way of our ‘ulama
And this is the way of our leaders.

If someone goes to them with a question
He would come back with a load of rubbish on his head.
And if he displays the least doubt about it
He would surely be branded the inmate of Hell.
Once he brings an argument to his lips
It would be difficult for him to escape unscathed.

Sometimes they make their neck-veins swell
And sometimes bring froth to their mouths.
Sometimes they would call him a swine or a dog
And sometimes they would lift their staff to hit him.
May an evil eye never fall on such pillars of the Faith
For they are a wonderful paradigm of the Holy Prophet.

If someone desires to please them and be pleased with them
One condition is that he should be from the Muslim community.
The mark of prostration should be prominent on his forehead
And there should be no shortcoming in his appearance with regard to the Shari‘ah.
The moustache and the beard must be according to the Law.
And the waistband must be of the right length.

In doctrine he should be in agreement with His Holiness
And be in unison with His Holiness in all details and fundamentals of the Faith
And should be very suspicious of His Holiness’ competitors
And be full of praises for His Holiness’ disciples.
If it is not so, then he is the reject of the Faith
Not fit to be in the company of the Elders.

Let there be no accord and love between the Sunnis and the Shi‘as,
Nor a community of interest between a Numani and a Shafi’i.
Let the hatred between a Wahhabi and Sufi not subside,
And let a Muqallid (Follower) send curses on a Ghair-Muqallid (Non-Follower).
Let there be such strife among the followers of the Qiblah
That the whole world should laugh at this God-inspired Faith.

Should someone resolve to reform this state of affairs
Then he is to be considered worse than Satan himself
And anyone having anything to do with him
Has gone off the straight path
For both are about to destroy the Shari‘ah
And both – the master and the disciple – are rejects of God’s court.

(Mussadas-e-Hali)

As portrayed by Maulana Hali, our ‘ulama did not have the time to create a new dialectic; for them the hobby of making Muslims, the followers of the Qiblah, fight one another and of branding them as kafirs was so interesting a pastime that they had little time for anything else. There used to be endless debates between the Muqallids and Ghair-Muqallids, the Hanafis and the Wahabis; and there used to be violent scenes between the Shi’as and the Sunnis. Hanafis and Wahabis would set about thrashing one another even inside the mosques. Court cases and strife over minor things like saying Amin audibly or inaudibly, or between the two pronunciations of dwalleen (those gone astray) were well-known.

Maulana Nazir Ahmad Dehlavi used to narrate an incident that occurred in his Court. Once two parties, one in favour of pronouncing the Arabic word, dwalleen, as dwalleen, and the other group pronouncing it as zwalleen, came up before him as a Judge. He asked one group which party they were and they said they were the dwalleen. He then asked the other group what they were and they said they were the zwalleen. "I laughed and said, ‘Both of you have gone astray!’" he said.

Those who found time from these frivolities would try their talents at topics like whether a crow is lawful or unlawful as food, or some other such petty subject. If they ever resolved to do something more impressive, they would start a discussion on the possibility of lying by God, or whether the Holy Prophet possessed knowledge of the Unseen. Days would be spent in setting out the agenda of these debates and in deciding who would have the right to speak first and who would have the right to reply. They would pull out old authoritative books and current quotations. In the meantime, people would be preparing big cauldrons and cooking pulao (meat and rice dish). Finally, the warmth of the pulao would prove to be too much for them and they would even start manhandling each other over the settlement of the preliminaries. The police would be called in and the debate called off. Peace would be restored.

As was the usual practice in those days, and it prevails even now, instead of giving logical and convincing arguments during the debate, they would make all efforts to arouse the feelings of the mob and thus try to conceal the weakness of their respective cases. Finally, they would end up by declaring the opponents as kafirs and outside the pale of Islam. This practice of takfir (declaring one an unbeliever) is still so widespread, and so much pride is taken in it, that, according to Maulana Nazir Ahmad Dehlavi, if all the fatwas (proclamations) of heresy were to be gathered together, not a single Muslim would be left in the fold of Islam. Shi’as used to brand the Sunnis as kafirs and vice versa; the Hanafis were dubbing the Wahabis kafirs and vice versa. So when each half considers the other half as kafir, who then are Muslims?

This market of takfir is booming on all sides. Once Maulana Sadruddin, who later became the Amir [Head] of the Ahmadiyya Jama‘at, Lahore, said to Mufti Kafayatullah, the President of the Jami‘atul Ulama: "You are the head of a major association of the ‘ulama. Please do something about this practice of takfir." Maulana Kafayatullah replied: "Why should we try and abolish this practice? This is the only weapon left in our hands for setting the Muslims straight! If we abandon it, what leverage do we have left in our hands, and how can Islam be safeguarded without it?"

In other words, if Islam can survive, it can only survive through takfir. Takfir seems to them to be the only way for the propagation, defence and establishment of Islam. Unable to convert non-Muslims to Islam, the least they can do to help Islam is to throw Muslims out of the fold of Islam!

When many Englishmen accepted Islam at the hand of Khwaja Kamaluddin, the famous Muslim missionary in England, and since Khwaja Sahib, being an Ahmadi, was locally known as a kafir, this situation was portrayed very beautifully by Maulana Shibli in one of his poems:

Are you not aware of the condition of the people of Europe?
Said I once to a Maulavi Sahib.
Thousands there are inclined towards Islam
Though not yet ready to declare it openly,
And even those who would flare up even at the mention of Islam
Are not showing any sign of this old prejudice.

But alas! We have been unable to produce missionaries
And if there are some, they are not true Muslims according to you.
But has none in your group any feeling for this duty?
Are you yourself not prepared to undertake this work?

He got annoyed and said: What a cheek and how discourteous!
Must you say things that are impertinent?
Don’t you see we are engaged day and night in the takfir of Muslims?
So we are not sitting idly by.

The ‘ulama had no time to spare from their preoccupation with making Muslims fight among themselves and in dubbing them kafirs. Where could they find the time to pay attention to the criticism levelled by the Christians, the Arya Samajists and the atheists? And how could they pay attention, for they had not the capability to face them. The only route of escape and the only way to guard their scholastic reputation was, therefore, not to pay any attention to this onslaught. And if any Muslim brought these objections before them, he was to be branded a kafir, an agnostic, and driven away instead of being given a satisfactory reply.


Emergence of the Dialecticians:

The reaction to this attitude of the ‘ulama was that there emerged a party of modern dialecticians, led by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, in exactly the same manner as the emergence of the Mu’tazilah during the Abbasid period, when Greek philosophical thought was translated into Arabic and the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle and their creed of religious freedom gave birth to a lot of agnostics and heretics who started bombarding Islam with diverse objections in the light of the Greek dialectics.

Prior to this, Muslims used to believe in a straightforward doctrine without entering into any labyrinth of intellectual debates. Instead of useless verbal duels, they were more attuned to acting on the Islamic injunctions. With the passage of time and remoteness from the golden period of the Holy Prophet, a weakness crept into both the faith and the deeds of Muslims, and the practice of futile debates found its way into Muslim life. The arrival of Greek philosophy added fuel to this fire. People started raising all sorts of objections against Islam. The ‘ulama of those times did not like to even listen to these objections and would not allow the authors of such criticisms to enter their sittings.

This could not be a substitute for an enduring answer. This upheaval in the public’s mind forced the learned ‘ulama to pay heed to this problem. A group of ‘ulama, influenced and affected by Greek philosophy, tried to mould Islam to fit this philosophy. No doubt this group contained some elders who argued very logically and rendered good service to Islam, but they were so overawed by Greek thought that they made Islam subservient to it. Wherever there was a contradiction between Islamic and Greek philosophy, they tried to interpret Islam to suit Greek philosophy.

The philosophy of Aristotle and Plato was made the standard of truth, and if any Qur’anic principle did not come up to that standard, it could not be true. The entire thinking of Ibn-e-Rushd, the famous Muslim philosopher, revolves around this principle. No doubt these elders were well intentioned and they wanted to prove the truth of Islam, but they were so overwhelmed by Greek philosophy that in their estimation the truth of the Qur’an could only be proved if it came up to the standard of the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle. This group became known as the Mu’tazilah.

Opposed to these were the conservative ‘ulama who followed the Hadith of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) and did not consider it lawful to enter into any interpretation. These were called the Hanabilah, for their main leader and imam was Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal. For instance, words like yud (hand), Samee (One Who hears) and Baseer (One Who can see) occur in the Qur’an in respect of Allah. This group did not make any interpretation of these words and silenced the critics by saying: "We are not aware of the reality of these, and your question is bid‘a (undesirable innovation)."

Some extremists with the Hanabilah even believed in the corporeal existence of Allah; hence they were called the Zahiriyyah wa Mushabbah. A detailed discussion of the different Muslim sects is not intended here. It is sufficient to say that there were approximately two main divisions: the Mu’tazilah and the Hanabilah. Thereafter, when the ‘ulama of the Ahle-Sunnat-wal-Jamaat (the Sunnis) realised that these two groups occupied extreme and opposing positions, another middle-of-the-road dialectical school came into being. Its principles were determined by Imam Abul Hassan Ash‘ari, and this group is therefore called the Asha’irah. If the reader is interested in knowing more about them, he should read Maulana Shibli’s book, Ilm-ul-Kalam. Detailed discussion is eschewed for fear of undue length.

Most of the Shafi’i ‘ulama were from the Asha’irah. When Imam Abu Mansoor Mataridi amended the Asha’irah principles after deep study, his followers were called the Mataridiyah. Most of the Hanafi ‘ulama were Mataridiyah. The highest positions of eminence among these are occupied by Imam Ghazali and Imam Razi.

Imam Ghazali was from the Asha’irah, but he did not consider it binding to stick to its principles. He was the first one to openly and courageously disclose the errors in the philosophy of Aristotle and Plato. He took advantage of the accepted truisms of their philosophy and harnessed Greek philosophy in the service of Islam, mixing the Islamic dialectics with Greek philosophy to prove the logical and reasonable basis of Islamic doctrines, yet he kept Greek philosophy subservient to Islam. Whenever there was a contradiction between the two, he tried to prove the truth of religion and the error of philosophy. How much he succeeded in this endeavour is another issue. But this was his principle and it was contrary to the Mu’tazilah’s viewpoint. During this encounter, when Imam Ghazali taking the side of religion, rejected Greek philosophy, Maulana Shibli, getting offended, said: "Here Imam Ghazali has taken up the refrain of Asha’irah."

But in this Maulana Shibli is mistaken, for it was the principle of Imam Ghazali that he was bound by his religion and not by philosophy. He was the mujaddid of the fifth century Hijrah, and it is a mujaddid’s function to show the religion of Islam to be superior to the prevalent philosophy, if it goes against the admitted doctrines of the faith.

Maulana Shibli became cross with Imam Ghazali over several issues, one of them being the eternal antiquity of matter. Islam does not believe in the eternal antiquity of matter. It does not consider anything to be eternally ancient, except Allah. But the Greek philosophers believed in the eternal antiquity of matter. Impressed by this belief of the Greeks, the Mu’tazilah also accepted this concept of the eternal antiquity of matter and satisfied their conscience by saying that this is not a religious doctrine. But this was a false reassurance, as will be shown later on, God willing. When Imam Ghazali was confronted by this doctrine, he refuted the objections of the Greek philosophy to matter having been created by using the admitted axioms of their own philosophy. But Maulana Shibli disagreed, saying that it was only a play on words, and Imam Ghazali succeeded then, but if one were to confront him with the Western philosophy of today, all his arguments would vanish into thin air. For example, it is an observation of today’s science that if we burn wood it would turn into ash, but would not vanish into nothingness. Nor have we seen anything coming into being from nothingness. Therefore, all Imam Ghazali’s arguments were futile according to him. A reply to Maulana Shibli’s observations above will be given later on.

It is appropriate to remark at this point that Maulana Shibli has not been fair to Imam Ghazali, the reason being that Imam Ghazali had to reply to the objections only through the axioms of philosophy in vogue in his time. He did not have access to today’s philosophy so that he could ponder over its scientific deductions; he had to use the same coin in which the objection was phrased. And so apt was his reply that even Maulana Shibli had to resort to modern Western philosophy to rebut the views expressed by Imam Ghazali and could not get any help from Greek philosophy. If Maulana Shibli accuses Imam Ghazali of indulging in twists and turns of semantics, were the objections also not phrased in similar terms? The whole of Greek philosophy is nothing but a labyrinth of semantics, so why complain?

Whatever work Imam Razi did on this question was a continuation of Imam Ghazali’s. He has raised his foundation on the same principles, though he sometimes rejects even the correct ideas of philosophy in his zeal. Nevertheless, the basic tenets are the same.

Closer to our times, Shah Waliullah further raised this edifice. He not only proved the correctness of Islamic doctrines through philosophy and did so in a very logical and detailed manner, but he also tried to explain the philosophy and the wisdom of the commandments of the Shariah. This was a great service of his. The turning wheel of time has overturned everything and neither could Greek philosophy maintain its sway nor is any value set on its line of argument; and the reason for this upheaval was modern Western philosophy and scientific experiments. The whirlwind of materialism that originated in Europe engulfed all the Eastern countries and darkened the religious horizons. This materialism overwhelmed even spirituality.


The need for a new dialectics to cope with Western philosophy:

The time for semantics had gone. The Western philosophical challenge demanded proof of everything in common-sense terms, based on straightforward logical axioms and proven by experience and observation. It scornfully laughed at the logical antics of Greek philosophy. It was the challenge of Western philosophy that influenced and overwhelmed Sir Syed Ahmad Khan and his peers. These elders tried to clothe religion with reasonableness, but made the same mistake as was committed by the Mu'tazilah in the heyday of Greek philosophy; that is, they made religion subservient to Western philosophy. Wherever they found religion to be at odds with Western philosophy, they tried to interpret religious doctrines in order to suit the dictates of Western philosophy. In other words, they were the Mu'tazilahs of these modern times.

The dominant feature of Western philosophy was its materialism. In fact, it was nothing but materialism and it totally rejected the spiritual aspect of human existence. Hence accordingly, the new dialectics developed by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan turned the spirituality of religion into materialism. Matter was considered to be eternal; God, being made the Ultimate Cause, became a non-beneficent Personality; the efficacy of prayer was denied; prophethood was deemed to be a natural quality, and prophetic inspiration was considered to arise from within the human mind and then to enter human consciousness. Angels were declared to be another name for the forces of nature; miracles were negated through finding material causes for their occurrence; Heaven and Hell were lost in philosophical semantics, bereft of their substance and regarded as descriptions of the shape of the state of one’s inner consciousness. Our ‘ulama had nothing to counter this new philosophy except their fatwas (edicts) of heresy, so they contented themselves with dubbing Sir Syed Ahmad Khan and his group as a band of Naturalists and issued fatwas of heresy against them.

The demand of these times, therefore, was that some divinely inspired reformer, who should be a herald of spirituality, should appear and should make Islam emerge triumphant in this confrontation with Western philosophy. Furthermore, he should use modern Western thought to give added support to the concepts of Islam.

In this context, it would be fitting to quote Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. Mentioning the darkness of the times of the previous mujaddids, he writes:

"These stories (about the darkness of the previous mujaddids) are the stories of epochs that were, when compared to the present times, like very prosperous times. Have a good look at the present times and their obscurity and then mourn the paucity of light and of persons who would serve as beacons of light. A cry is going around seeking servants (that is, servants of the faith – Author) and workers, but no such volunteers for this task are to be found anywhere. Sovereigns, bullion and diamonds are being offered as wages for just putting one brick in place in the fallen wall, because the smaller the number of workers, the greater the wages. The treasure of goodness has been thrown open for looting and the door to honour and status is open for every wayfarer. Is there anyone who would be so fortunate as to plunder these treasures and would enrich himself with this success and riches, riches for which we know not how many seekers had shed tears of eagerness and had made earnest prayers?" (Tazkirah, pp. 250-251).

The present epoch far exceeds the times of the previous mujaddids in its deviation, mischief and darkness, and is crying out for some mujaddid and divinely-inspired reformer. Again, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad writes:

"Though this was not the opportune occasion for dilating upon the topic of ‘The Renaissance and Renovation of the Ummah’, yet whatever came out through the tip of my pen was brought forth because of the thought that perchance the study of these conditions and occurrences might prove beneficial to those interested in reform. Perchance some hearts may be stirred and eyes dazzled so as to follow in the footsteps of these mujaddids and righteous reformers of the ummah. Perchance some man of action and determination may say ‘Aye’ to the call of the times and thus become the answer to the cry of the age. If there is a worthy mission in this age, this is it. And if there is a search on, it is for such a person" (Tazkirah, p. 250).


The appearance of the Mujaddid of the times:

Evidently God, Most High, fulfilled His Quranic promise: Verily We have sent down this Reminder and We are its Guardians (15:9), at the lowest point of Muslim political and religious decline, and sent Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad at the head of the fourteenth century Hijrah with the mission of the renovation of the faith, in accordance with the promise of the hadith: "Verily Allah raises at the head of every century for this ummah, one who renovates its faith for it" (Abu Da'ud).

A cry went out from a remote and little known village called Qadian in response to the universal hopelessness of Muslims and in response to a dire religious need. It reassured Muslims thus: "There is no cause for losing hope and no need to get alarmed by the onslaughts of false faiths. Islam is a living faith and its God is a Living God. Even today He is as much alive as He was thirteen hundred years ago; nay, as He has always been. And He is the God Who sent down the Quran and declared Islam to be His eternal and everlasting faith. He is the One who has sent me as the mujaddid and the successor of Islam so that I may, in accordance with the divine promise, that He might cause it to prevail against all other faiths (HQ:48:28), cause Islam to overcome all other faiths of the world and to overcome this new Western materialistic philosophy. Though the worldly political dominance of Islam is no more, the time for its spiritual dominance has come. This is the time for the fulfilment of the divine promise so that He might cause it to prevail over all other faiths in all its glory; that is, that Allah will cause Islam to overcome all other faiths, whether these be of the Jews, the Christians, the Hindus, the Arya Samajists, the Sikhs or the Buddhists, or whether they be dazzling institutions, bewitching the eyes of the world, like materialism, Bolshevism, Fascism, Nazism, etc."

Just read the inspiring writing of the Holy Imam in this connection:

"Be sure that Islam has no need to sue for peace like a vanquished and helpless combatant. Nay, this is the time that is ripe for the display of the spiritual sword of Islam, just as it once displayed its temporal sword. Remember this prophecy, that the enemy will shortly retreat in a humiliating manner and Islam will achieve victory. However forceful might be the assaults of modern sciences and however new and modern might be their weapons, defeat is their ultimate destiny. I say out of thankfulness for the bounty, that I have been vouchsafed the knowledge of the inner strength of Islam and its powers, and I say, basing my conviction on this knowledge, that not only will Islam defend itself against the onslaught of modern philosophy, but it will prove the ignorance of these antagonistic sciences. God, Himself, is the Pilot of this ship. He will always save it from storms and adverse winds, as He has promised: Verily We have sent down the Reminder and We are its Guardians (HQ:15:19)" (A’ina-i Kamalat-i Islam).

The following incident reflects the spirit that the Holy Imam wanted to infuse in the hearts of Muslims in this universal time of despair - a spirit of hope and faith: Once Hazrat Maulana Nur-al-Din said to the Holy Imam: "Sir, you wish to propagate Islam in Europe and America. On the other hand, the people of these countries are getting allergic to the very name of religion." To which the Imam replied: "So much the better. The slate is being wiped clean. This will cause a better imprint (of Islam on their minds). Let the imprint of the divinity of Jesus, son of Mary, be erased from their hearts so as to make room for Islam. Maulawi Sahib," he went on to say, "the new moon is only visible to a sharp eye, not to everyone. But when the full moon shines, everyone, nay, the whole world, sees it. So my eyes have seen the crescent heralding the spiritual dominance of Islam. God willing, a time will come when it will shine as a full moon, and then the whole world will see it."


He backed up his claim with actions:

The Holy Imam did not confine himself to just making a verbal claim, but he gave it a practical shape. Though he had been engaged in the rebuttal of false faiths from his very adulthood, yet the first demonstration of the freshness and power of his dialectics was made through his well-known and famous book, Barahin-i Ahmadiyyah, which left both Muslims and non-Muslims wonder-struck, and on reading which both friend and foe had to concede that no such defence and preservation of Islam had been done in the past thirteen hundred years.

After going through this book, Maulawi Muhammad Hussain Batalavi, a top scholar and a leading figure of the Ahl-i Hadith party of the Punjab, wrote the following review:

"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).

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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 1: The Condition of the Muslims Before the Call by the Holy Imam

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