We have already seen1 that Ahmad proclaimed that as the promised Messiah he had come in the spirit and power of Jesus Christ, and that his similarity to Christ, in character and office, was such that he was called "Jesus" in several revelations in order to confirm the resemblance — not to say, the identity. In this chapter we have to look on the other side of the picture to determine his conception of the Jesus of history who, as 'Isa, is referred to in many passages of the Qur'an. The question with which we are first confronted is the extent to which he drew on Muslim and Christian sources, respectively, for the materials of the finished portrait of Jesus that was in his mind. In the Qur'an we find many ambiguous titles and characteristics ascribed to 'Isa,2 such as " a word from Allah " (III, 40), " a spirit from Allah " (IV, 169), " One brought near," i.e., to Allah (III, 40), "worthy of regard " (III, 40), a prophet (nabi), a messenger (rasul). He was said to have come with a Book, the Injil (Gospel), to have been born of the virgin, Mariam, by a direct creative act of Allah (III, 42), and to have performed many miracles, including certain legendary miracles in the cradle and in youth, and, as a climax, the raising of the dead (III, 43). Although there is at least one passage in the Qur'an which clearly refers to the death of Jesus (III, 47),
Muhammad unquestionably rejected the crucifixion, holding that Jesus was taken up alive into one of the heavens, apparently in his earthly body (IV, 156). There the Qur'an seems to leave him, and tradition takes up the tale with its prophecies of the second coming. From the above it appears that Muhammad had learned enough about the historic personage, Jesus Christ, probably from some heretical Christian teacher or monk, to lead him to give to 'Isa a unique place among those to whom he accorded prophetic rank. The picture he draws, however, is the barest sketch of a person, resembling rather a wax figure on which a number of descriptive titles have been hung than the vigorous and compelling personality, of
flesh and blood, who dominates the New Testament. It is, therefore, small wonder that Muslims have not been attracted to the figure of 'Isa in the Qur'an, and have proceeded to construct still a third character (unhistorical, like Muhammad's 'Isa) out of Muslim and Christian traditions and legends — a character which differs as widely from the 'Isa of the Qur'an as the traditional Muhammad differs from the historic character who stands revealed in the pages of the Qur'an.3
As will appear more at length hereafter, Ahmad not only rejected the orthodox conception that Jesus was never crucified, but the taking up alive into heaven as well, seeking to prove that he eventually died like all ordinary mortals, and was buried in Srinagar, Kashmir. Otherwise he seems to have felt bound to accept the Qur'anic portrait of 'Isa as historical, but he was obviously not familiar with the legendary Jesus, described at length, for example, in the well-known Qisasu'l Anbiya (" Stories of the Prophets"). However, it was, as we have shown (pp. 31, 32), the Jesus of history with whom he really believed himself to be in some mysterious way identical. A flesh and blood personality it was who figured continually in his thinking and writing and who, if he had been able to analyze the content of his thinking on the subject, he would probably have discovered was for him actually the true, historic Jesus, whose life is recorded in the New Testament narrative.
His confusion of thought arose, of course, from a prior confusion regarding the Christian Scriptures and the Injil, referred to in the Qur'an as Allah's revelation, or the Book, given to 'Isa. There is no evidence that Muhammad did not regard this revelation as identical with the Scriptures possessed by the Christians of his day. His charging the Christians with error in doctrine came in time, however, to be taken by Muslims as referring to a wilful corruption by the Christians of the Injil, so that its statements could no longer be accepted as trustworthy on the ground that Muhammad had regarded them as inspired.
Among later Muslim theologians and commentators the attitude toward the Christian Scriptures runs all the way from that of Ibn Hazm (d. 1063 A. D.), who held that the only authentic knowledge of 'Isa is that contained in the Qur'an, to Fakhr-ud-din ar-Razi (d. 1209 A.D.), who frequently used Gospel passages to illustrate the Qur'an.4 Ahmad would perhaps have us believe that he held to the former of these extremes, but, after analyzing all of his references to the Scriptures and to Jesus, confused as they are, I am inclined to think that, in his subconscious mind at least, belief in the historicity (although not, of course, in the divine inspiration) of the New Testament narrative prevailed. For practical purposes it would hardly be unfair to say that he admitted as true, temporarily, such parts of the New Testament as were needed to reinforce the argument in which at any moment he happened to be engaged. That none of it could be the inspired Word of God he was convinced, for the reason that it had been translated out of the original tongues, and on the orthodox ground that the texts were known to be full of errors due to deliberate corruption by the Christians. Thus he writes:
"Jesus Christ had imparted pure and simple teachings to his disciples in the shape of Injil, which was deliberately corrupted by his subsequent so-called followers to such an extent that the present God of
In order to cast doubt on the historicity of the Christian Scripture in the minds of his readers, he liked to quote from the Encyclopedia Biblica, of which he possessed a copy, seeking to convey the impression (possibly his own opinion) that the views of a certain extreme school of German critics of the last century, therein contained, are those of established Christian scholarship to-day. It is clear that he did not possess an historic sense sufficient to make him in any degree a true " higher critic" on his own account, nor was he willing to be bound by any one canon of criticism, even had he been able to recognize it. He felt that he was free to pick and choose, as suited his purposes, among the writings of those orthodox and liberal Christian scholars to which he had access. In the Review of Religions for May, 1903, for example, we read :
"The most trustworthy book containing the views of higher critics, and written by professed Christians, is the Encyclopedia Biblica, in which it is stated in column 1881 (Vol. II) that in all the Gospels there are only five absolutely credible passages about Jesus " (Review of Religions, II, p. 194).
These are then given as Mark 10: 17; Matt. 12: 31; Mark 3: 21; Mark 13: 32; Mark 15 : 34; and Matt. 27: 46. The last two are parallel passages, and only the latter is mentioned in the original article in the Encyclopedia Biblica. These five were considered historical by the author5 because they were opposed to any theory of Jesus' sinlessness and divinity, and, therefore, would not have been forged by his disciples. As we shall see, however, Ahmad did not limit himself to these texts in his effort to prove that both Christians and Muslims have wrongly conceived of Jesus.
One further introductory remark should be made at this point. Ahmad claimed that his reason for attacking Jesus was to be found in the alleged Christian attack upon Muhammad. If Christians did not like his words about Christ they were to blame, because they themselves had maligned Muhammad. Moreover, there was an inherent connection between the two attacks, for the sinlessness of all the prophets stands or falls on the same ground. 1 If Muhammad was not (as Ahmad believed he was) sinless, then neither was Jesus, and if (since) Jesus was not sinless, Ahmad was prepared to make out as bad a case for him as possible. Finally, Ahmad frequently said that he was not making the charges on his own account, but was only repeating attacks made by Jews and some professed Christians. What, he asked, could the Christians say in reply ? Many times he declared that they could say nothing, that the attacks were unanswerable ; and in making that assertion he certainly so far associated himself with the attacks and aspersions as to justify us in giving, as approved Ahmadiya doctrine, whatever he and his editors have written about Jesus Christ. Furthermore, the animus lurking in the statements is scarcely disguised at all, and in more than one place he gives as his own some of the criticisms which we quote below. It is not a pleasant task to write this chapter of Ahmadiya doctrine, but it is necessary since it is fundamental to a right understanding of the movement ; and it may even be desirable, on wider grounds, since Ahmad and his editors seem to have canvassed the literature of all ages and nations, in so far as it was accessible to them, in order to ascertain, and to unite in one mighty and virulent attack, all the efforts that have been made to besmirch and belittle the character of Jesus of Nazareth.
Of the stories of the unique birth of Jesus, as given in the Qur'an (XIX, 22-34; XXIII, 52), Ahmad makes no categorical denial. He seeks, however, in various ways, to belittle their importance. Adam, too, '" had neither father nor mother ";6 " thousands of worms (are) brought into existence without any father"; "learned physicians of the Greek and Indian schools have . . . shown the possibility of a child being formed in the mother's womb without the seed of man " (Review of Religions, I, p. 72). John's birth, like that of Jesus, had a supernatural element, but, far from proving John and Jesus divine, " these births were in fact a sign that the gift of divine revelation was departing from the house of Israel. For Jesus had no Israelite father, and the parents of John were not in a condition to beget children " (Review of Religions, II, p. 1007). In numerous passages (for example, Review of Religions, I, p. 144ff), usually under cover of quoting from Jewish or other writings, aspersions are cast on the character of the mother of Jesus, which we cannot give here, but which, together with much of the harsh criticism of Jesus, have evoked bitter and crushing replies from orthodox Muslims.8 We pause only to mention one curious argument in this connection, to the effect that "The ur'anic statement that Jesus had no father cannot serve as a weapon in the hands of a Christian controversialist. The revelation of the Qur'an is not with him a Divine Revelation, but the fabrication of a man" (Review of Religions, I, p. 144). One wonders, then, on what ground Ahmadiya writers constantly quote the Bible, in confirmation of some of Ahmad's claims and teaching, when in its present form it is for them no more of a divine revelation than is the Qur'an for the Christians.
Regarding the miracles of Jesus, related in the New Testament and, in general, attested by the Qur'an, with numerous differences and additions, there exists the same apparent ambiguity in the mind of Ahmad's followers. Nowhere is it actually asserted that Jesus performed no miracles, but we are told, " Miracles are the only evidence on which the Deity of Jesus is supported, but to speak of his miracles as proof of his divinity is to produce one assertion in support of another. They lack the requisite evidence with which their own truth can be established. They have themselves no legs to stand upon, and it is, therefore, absurd to expect them to support something else. There is no reason why they should not be regarded as marvels and prodigies, carrying no more weight than the fictions recorded in the Puranas" (Review of Religions, I, p. 453). And again it is said that Jesus himself denied having performed any miracles when he declared, "A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign, and there shall no sign be given unto it " (Matthew 12 : 39). At times, however, the miracles of Jesus are admitted for the sake of proving the sinfulness of the acts involved, as in the first miracle at Cana, the cursing of the fig-tree, and the destruction of the herd of swine into which the evil spirits had been sent.
In one place the " neurotic theory " of Jesus' miracles is quoted from the Encyclopedia Biblica,9 in accordance with which those miracles only are accepted which might be attributed to psychical influence on nervous maladies. In other passages the miracles are said to have been spiritual in their character, healing those afflicted with the leprosy of sin, et cetera. In various places we read that, after all, the miracles of Jesus were no greater than those of the Old Testament prophets, who must be considered [...] as much as Jesus, on the basis of miracles [...] fact Jesus' miracles are in one place called
"Only imitations, much inferior to the original works of wonder done by the Israelite prophets in abundance" (Review of Religions, [...], p. 196).
An instance of Jesus' inferiority to Elijah is satirically suggested in that
"Elijah was honourably taken up to the heavens in a [...] but Jesus Christ had not even a donkey to ride upon in his [...] ascent, which by no means could have been an easy task" (Review of Religions, I, p. 454).
Again, it is said that the miracles wrought by Muhammad by means of his divine power far exceeded the miracles of Jesus, the only miracle of the latter referred to in the passage being the one (suggested to Muhammad, [...] thought, by a similar story in the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas the Israelite) found in the Qur'an (III, 43), [...] relates that Jesus created a bird out of clay. In the immediately following sentences of the Qur'an the miracles of the healing of the blind and lepers and the raising of the dead are narrated, but the Ahmadiya writer does not [...] refer to them.
We come now to consider the character of Jesus of whom Ahmad wrote plainly, "In the same manner this Promised one (Ahmad) has inherited the perfection of Jesus Christ " (Review of Religions, II, p. 67). Here there is the same apparent distinction, about which he himself seemed never clear, between a vague, ideal Muslim Jesus (not exactly the 'Isa of the Qur'an) and a human, [sinful] Jesus appearing in the Christian Gospels, of whom [he] writes :
"If the sinlessness of a person is to be inferred from the faultiness of his conduct as admitted by his hostile critics, we would [refer] them to the Jewish writings, which seriously attack Jesus and his mother's conduct ;10 and if it is to be inferred from the assertion of the person himself, we would refer them to the Gospel text where Jesus confesses that he is not good or sinless" (Review of Religions, I, P . 207).
Jesus' baptism by John is held to be one proof of his confession of sinfulness. We will here briefly recapitulate the alleged "sins of Jesus ":
Drunkenness. This is inferred from the institution of sacrament of the Lord's Supper, from his being called "a gluttonous man and a winebibber," and from his turning the water into wine at the wedding in Cana (Review of Religions, I, p. 114).
Vulgar abuse of the Jews, who, in return, " showed a leniency toward him far surpassing that of any of the modern priestly and missionary classes, however civilized the latter may be in appearance" (Review of Religions, I, 371).
"There is not the least indication in the Gospels that the priests [...] a single abusive word for Jesus in opposition to all this [...] deluge of calumny and abuse. This contrast throws much [...] upon the morality of Jesus" (Review of Religions, I, [...])
At other times Ahmad deals less gently with the Jews who persecuted Jesus, and "on account of the wickedness of their hearts, failed to recognize the Reformer, and declared him to be a false prophet and pretender" (Review of Religions, II, p. 55).
"They persecuted and tortured him, and at last brought him to law for alleged malcontentedness. . . . The priests in both cases (Jesus' and Ahmad's) fail to effect their evil designs, and the providence of God saves his chosen servants" (Review of Religions, II, 55).
Ahmad also frequently excuses his own denunciation of his enemies on the analogy of Jesus' arraignment of the Sadducees and Pharisees.
Cowardice. The evidences alleged to prove this trait [...] — (a) his prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, combined with the statement in Hebrews 5 : 7, which is interpreted to mean that because of his prayer he was [...] from death (though another passage asks, " Can [...] admit of the All-knowing God to have prayed the [...] night long without being listened to?"); (b) his [...] himself in the garden" (Review of Religions, II, [...]) in the attempt to escape arrest and crucifixion ; and (c) his cry on the cross (Matt. 27: 46) "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani" (Review of Religions, IV, p. 355).
Disrespect to his mother. Referring to the marriage at Cana, we read :
Friendliness with women of ill-repute. In this connection reference is made to the incident narrated in Luke 7: 37, 38, to the " too familiar connections of Jesus with Mary Magdalene, who, they say, was of a dubious character" (Review of Religions, I, p. 141) and to an incident said to be quoted from The Jewish Life of Christ11 that Jesus "once praised the beauty of a woman, and upon this one of the elders, who had taken Jesus in tutorship, enraged at this impropriety of his pupil's conduct, cut off all ties of love with him " (Review of Religions I, p. 141). It is said that accusations like those above are " freely published and circulated, not only in the streets of London but in distant corners of the world, India itself being no exception" (Review of Religions, I, p. 120).
Blasphemy. He is said to have " slighted Almighty God by making himself his equal, and holding his sacred name in disrespect " (Review of Religions, I, p. 141). And again, "The most disgusting and blasphemous words attributed to Jesus are those which contain his assertion of Godhead. This he did in spite of the knowledge that he was born from Mary's womb" (Review of Religions, I, p. 452) . Here, however, we are faced with another inexplicable contradiction. When there is need of proving that Jesus when he said, "Why callest thou me good? There is none good but One, that is God " (Mark 10: 18) did not mean that he himself was God, we are told:
"If Jesus had distinctly put forth his claim to Godhead before the Jews, he would have been regarded by them as an heretic and the most sinful of men, who, by the law of Moses, deserved to be put to death" (Review of Religions, I, p. 110).
And again, more positively :
As 'Isa in the Qur'an does not claim intercession for himself, this must be a reference to the words found in Hebrews 7: 25, here accepted by Ahmad as authentic.12
Finally, Ahmad, who claimed to have had personal communications from Jesus, said:
We leave our readers to solve the riddle.
Over against this we have to place the fact, already alluded to,13 that Ahmad grounded his claim to have come in " the spirit and power" of Jesus (Review of Religions, II, p. 192) on the fact that John had come in "the spirit and power of Elias " (Luke 1 : 17); and he explains the prophecy analogous to (3) " There be some standing here who shall not taste of death till they see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom" (Matt. 16: 28) as a vindication of Ahmadiya teaching that Jesus did not die on the cross, but was still living at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem. Other prophecies referring to the second coming point to Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, and, we are told,
Impracticability of central teaching of non-resistance. Ahmad frequently contrasts this teaching with Muhammad's more aggressive and warlike policy, declaring that "It tends to corrupt the morals of the oppressor by emboldening him in the commission of evil, and endangers the life of the oppressed " (Review of Religions, I, p. 159). Nevertheless, the wars of Christendom are charged up to the example and precept of Christ:
Finally, there is the direct testimony of the Kashmiris themselves. In the pamphlet, An Important Discovery Regarding Jesus Christ, published by the Anjuman-i-Isha 'at-i-Islam, we read that the testimony of "ancient documents of unquestionable authenticity and veracity receives considerable support from the statements of those who have read with their own eyes an old, now effaced, inscription upon the tomb, and who assert that it is the tomb of Jesus Christ."
The doctrine of the Trinity is thus summed up by a recent Ahmadiya writer :
Neither is any attempt made to set forth fairly the Christian position regarding the Atonement, rejected by Muhammad, or to attack it consistently and logically. It is repeatedly referred to as the " blood-bath " (Review of Religions II, p. 135), which gives Christians a fancied immunity from sin, and hence " has emboldened in vice most of those who trust in it " (Review of Religions, II, p. 136). It is declared to have " struck at the very root of the purity of heart among the general body of its indorsers" (Review of Religions II, p. 136). A contrary theory, which makes every Christian pay eternally for every sin, is attributed to Christians by Ahmad, in a lecture delivered at Lahore in 1904 :
"The arguments (for Christian missions) derived from the establishment of hospitals and schools are too silly to have the slightest effect upon any reasonable person" (Review of Religions, V, p. 438).
1 P. 31ff.
2 The word 'Isa is believed to be a corruption of the Hebrew "Esau," the name by which Jesus had been satirically designated in Jewish writings, and which Muhammad probably accepted as genuine. There are many Muslim explanations of the name. For a discussion of this subject see The Moslem Christ, by S. M. Zwemer ; Oliphant, Anderson & Ferrier, Edinburgh, 1912, p. 33ff.
3 Regarding this traditional Jesus, cf. Zwemer, The Moslem Christ, and Sell and Margoliouth, "Christ in Muhammadan Literature," in Hastings' Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels, II, p. 882ff.
4 See footnote to article, " Christ in Muhammadan Literature," by E. Sell and D. S. Margoliouth, in Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels, II, p. 885.
5 Prof. P. W. Schmiedel, author of the article, "Gospels," in Encyclopedia Biblica, Macmillan & Co., New York and London.
6 The Qur'an declares that Adam, like Jesus, was born by a direct creative act. Allah breathed into him his spirit. See Qur'an, 111,52.
7 The supernatural birth of John (Yahya) is described in the Qur'an, XIX, llff ; XXI, 89.
8 Cf. p. 104 for the British Government's action taken against an Ahmadiya periodical because of a scurrilous article which it published treating of the virgin birth of Jesus. It is worth noting that Professor Siraj-ud-Din states, in the article by him to which allusion is made on p. 46, that Nur-ud-Din, the successor of Ahmad, told him during Ahmad's lifetime that he himself believed that Jesus' birth was a natural one, but that he would not admit this in Ahmad's presence for fear of incurring the displeasure of his chief.
9 Article on " Gospels," Vol. II, Column 1885.
10 Cf. p. 86, Note 1.
11 I have not seen this book. For the Jewish attitude toward Jesus the reader is referred to the article by R. Travers Herford, on " Christ in Jewish Literature," Hastings' Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels, p. 879; and to the article, "Jesus of Nazareth," by Dr. S. Krauss, in The Jewish Encyclopedia, Funk & Wagnalls, New York, Vol. VII, p. 160. These articles show by contrast how one-sided and unfair was Ahmad 's reference to Jewish writers as authority for his own arraignment of the character of Jesus.
12 See p. 36, Note 3.
13 P. 28.
14 Luke 22 : 36. A common Urdu word, meaning " made to go."
15 Cf. p. 41.
16 It is now conceded by most scholars that the search for the ten lost tribes is a fanciful quest based on the false assumption that the entire population of the Kingdom of Israel was carried away captive by Sargon II, King of Assyria, and that it then maintained its distinct ethnic peculiarities. Only a small part of the population is now thought to have been exiled to Mesopotamia and Media (I Chronicles 5 : 26), and it was doubtless soon absorbed in the native population.
17 The following paragraph from the article on Afghanistan in the Encyclopedia Britannica, Ed. 1910, Vol. I, p. 315, will serve to show what basis there was for Ahmad's contention : — " But the Hebrew ancestry of the Afghans is more worthy at least of consideration, for a respectable number of intelligent officers, well acquainted with the Afghans, have been strong in their belief of it ; and though the customs alleged in proof will not bear the stress laid on them, undoubtedly a prevailing type of the Afghan physiognomy has a character strongly Jewish. This characteristic is certainly a remarkable one ; but it is shared, to a considerable extent, by the Kashmiris (a circumstance which led Bernier to speculate on the Kashmiris' representing the ten lost tribes of Israel), and, we believe, by the Tajik people of the Badakshan."
18 Cf. J. N. Farquhar : Modem Religious Movements in India, Macmillan, New York, 1915, pp. 140, 141. Also Prof. Douglas' article in The Nitieteenth Century for April, 1896.
19 Cf. article " Barlaam and Josaphat," in The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Funk & Wagnalls, New York, I, p. 485, where the origin of the story, falsely ascribed by some to John of Damascus, is traced to an Indian story, the Lalitavistara, composed some time between the beginning of the Christian era and 600 A.D. The version of the story in the Qadian library, which I have seen, is that contained in Volume X of the Bibliothcque de Carabas.
20 The popular name of Syed Abdur Rahman, who, arriving in Kashmir from Turkestan with 1,000 fugitives in the fourteenth century, is given the credit of establishing the Muhammadan religion in Kashmir.
21 Yesu is the name for Jesus in Urdu.
22 Regarding the Trinity, Muhammad in the Qur'an represents Jesus as answering in the negative the question asked him by Allah: — "Oh, Jesus, Son of Mary, hast thou said unto mankind, ' Take me and my mother as two gods beside God'?" (Qur'an V, 116). He apparently here conceived of the Christian Trinity as consisting of the Father, Jesus and Mary.
23 This evolutionary conception is foreign to orthodox Islam.
24 This is a misrepresentation of the Christian and (by implication) of the Muslim view of eternal punishment for sin, in which both religions believe.
25 Cf. p. 69, Note 2.
26 Undoubtedly a mistake due to Ahmad's having been confused with his first cousin, Mirza Imam-ud-din, who undertook such a mission to the Chuhra, or sweeper, community.
27 Ra'is is a person of authority, a chief.
28 Jagirdar is the holder of a jagir, the perpetual tenure of a tract of land subject to quit rent and service.
29 Cf. Muslim India and Islamic Review, I, p. 137.
30 See, however, p. 68ff.