Chapter V-The Ahmadiya Movement and the Indigenous Religions of India

Toward Hinduism in all its ramifications Ahmad turned an uncompromisingly hostile face. For all its cherished beliefs he had only sneers. After stating, "Of all the birds I have an extreme liking for pigeon flesh, because it is the emblem of the Christian Deity " (Review of Religions, I, p. 347), Ahmad ironically praised the Hindus for not making their sacred cow an article of diet.1 He scoffed at the theory that the Ganges water can wash away sins, considering it analogous to the Christian doctrine of sanctification. The Vedas were denounced as having given birth to the lowest forms of fetishism and idolatry, and to religious festivals, among some Hindus, which are "characterised by horrible scenes of incest and adultery." Their polytheistic tendencies are contrasted with the strict monotheism of the Qur'an : "I would like to be told in which part of the world the four Vedas2 have blown the trumpet of monotheism. In India, which is the home of the Vedas, we find that a variety of creature- worship prevails, such as worship of fire, the sun, Visnu, and so on, so that the bare mention of such worship is a disagreeable task. Travel from one end of India to the other, and you will find the entire Hindu population deeply immersed in nature-worship. Some worship Mahadevajee,3 others sing odes in honour of Krisnajee,4 and the rest prostrate themselves before idols of every description " (Review of Religions, XV, p. 204). The editor of the Review of Religions, in the issue for July, 1908, quotes from the Vedic Magazine, for June, the reasons there given by Professor Max Miiller (taken from his India : What it Can Teach Us) for his belief that the religion of the Vedas is not monotheistic (Review of Religions, VII, p. 272). Likewise, the alleged universality of the Vedas is vigorously disputed.

Of the heroic figure of Rama5 it is said: "Rama of Hindu mythology has also been deified, but he too had to suffer the disaster and disgrace of his wife being kidnapped." In another passage we are asked to " consider the jealousy which Ram Chandra showed when his wife Sita was kidnapped by Ravana" (Review of Religions, II, p. 140). This jealousy is not, however, condemned. The Puranas6 are described as "fabulous legends," and again, of Hinduism as a whole it is said, " the whole system is a mere plaything, a mass of fabulous traditions, which must vanish away before the light of science and knowledge." The
doctrine of transmigration is condemned because, (1) "It divests the Divine Being of all his glorious attributes and of his power and control over the universe"; (2) it "sweeps away all distinctions between legality and illegality" and vitiates the purity of family life, "for it is possible under this fantastic law that a
person's own mother, daughter or sister may be re-born to be his wife" (Review of Religions, I, p. 409-410); (3) it is unfair to the soul that, after having once attained salvation, it should be "turned out of the salvation house to undergo another series of births and deaths, and this merely because of the helplessness of God and his inability to create new souls" (Review of Religions, VII, p. 477).

Notwithstanding the worthlessness of the Vedas, in Ahmad's eyes, the members of the Arya Samaj7 are
denounced for their neglect and ignorance of the Vedas, in spite of their boasted regard for them. Replying to an Arya attack on those former Hindus who had adopted the Ahmadiya version of Islam, the Review of Religions contemptuously stated

"for the information of the public that the Qadian Arya Samaj shall be the last body in the world to prove its Vedic learning and erudition. So far as we know, the body is constituted of village shop- keepers, money-lenders, retail grocers and small hucksters, who are ignorant of the Vedas. In contrast with this class of shopkeepers, who have deserted their old Hindu faith for that of Pundit Dayanand, the Hindus who accepted Islam are mostly educated young men, of whom some have studied up to the B.A. standard, and who read the Vedas in Urdu and English and spend day and night in the study of religious lore."

The attack on the Aryas gathered around two foci:

1. The assertion of the co-eternity of soul and matter with God, which " borders actually upon atheism, and is practically a denial of the need of God's existence."

2. The doctrine of Niyoga,8 held to mean that " if there is a woman who is living in actual matrimony and has a living and healthy husband who cannot raise male children to her, i.e., either only daughters are born or there exists some other reason on account of which some time passes without the birth of a child, it is the duty of the husband to invite a third person to his house to have sexual connection with his wife ; and this shameful course may be continued until eleven male children are born to the woman from the stranger's seed " (Review of Religions, II, pp. 139-140).

In "The Message of Peace," however, Ahmad seemed to accept the Vedas as genuine scriptures, and rightly declared that the justification of the repulsive practice of Niyoga could not be found in them :

"Similarly the doctrine of the Niyoga is attributed to the Vedas. Human nature revolts at this hateful doctrine. But as I have already said, we cannot believe this to be the teaching of the Vedas. . . . That millions of people have been believing it to be the word of God is, however, a sufficient reason of its truth, for it is impossible that the word of an imposter should enjoy the honour which the Vedas have enjoyed " (Review of Religions, VII, p. 256).

The Aryas are particularly denounced because of their violent abuse of, and attacks upon, Muslims and Christians. The Review of Religions, in 1908, quoted from Arya writings a series of attacks on Christian
teaching, such as that Christ was "an ignorant savage, who did wicked deeds and who set up a fraud to become a religious leader" (Review of Religions, VII, p. 121), and then said of them :

"We are surprised to find that the very expressions which are considered adornments of sacred books in an uneducated country like India are punished with imprisonment in free and advanced England. .... How far the right to criticize entitles a man to depict another in the darkest colours and to use abusive and contumelious language is a different question, which I shall not try to answer in this article. It is, however, clear that the line must somewhere be drawn between liberty and license" (Review of Religions, VII, pp. 124-125).

That there is a limit, nevertheless, to the British Government's toleration of such " contumelious language " was illustrated in 1914 in the prosecution, under the Indian Press Act, of the Editor of Badr, an Ahmadiya vernacular paper, because of articles, relating to the birth of Jesus Christ, tending to bring subjects of Great Britain in India into contempt.9

In Ahmad's last " Message of Peace," several times referred to above, he made the astonishing proposal of a kind of union of his sect with the Arya Samaj, and with Hinduism generally, on a basis of mutual concessions, as follows :

" If, in order to have complete peace, the Hindu gentlemen and the Arya Samajists are prepared to accept our Holy Prophet, may peace and the blessings of God be upon him, as a true prophet of God,
and give up denying and insulting him, I will be the first man to sign an agreement to the effect that we, the members of the Ahmadiya sect, shall always continue to believe in the Vedas and to speak of the Vedas and the rishis10 in the most respectful terms, and bind ourselves to pay to the Hindus a penalty of Rs. 300,000 in case we fail to fulfil the agreement. If the Hindus cordially wish for this peace they should also sign a similar agreement. This agreement will be as follows : 'We believe in Muhammad Mustafa, may the peace and the blessings of God be upon him, and regard him as a true prophet. We will always speak of him respectfully, as a true believer should. And if we fail to fulfil this agreement, we shall pay to the leader of the Ahmaiya movement Rs. 300,000, as a penalty for breach of agreement. . . . But in order to make the agreement strong and sure, it will be necessary that it should be signed by at least 10,000 intelligent men on both sides" (Review of Religions, VII, p. 257).

There was, of course, no response to this impossible proposal, which was regarded by the Hindus as a kind of gambling venture.

Little attention was paid by Ahmad to the quiescent Brahma Samaj.11 It is referred to as having been really a hindrance rather than help to the spread of Christianity, because, although it admits the greatness of Christ, "those who have any Christian proclivities find a refuge in the vagueness of Brahmaism."

More attention is paid to the Sikh off-shoot of the parent Hindu tree. Guru Nanak,12 the founder, sought to teach " religion, pure and undefiled " — the remembrance of God and the doing of good — and made his appeal to Hindu and Muslim irrespectively. Ahmad, however, claimed to have made the unique discovery that Guru Nanak was a genuine and acknowledged Muslim, and was sent to teach Hindus the truth of Islam :

" It is undoubtedly true that the person of Nanak was an embodiment of divine mercy for the Hindus, and he was, as it were, the last avatar of the Hindu religion who tried hard to purge the hearts of Hindus of the great hatred which they entertained against Islam, but to the great misfortune of this country the Hindus did not avail themselves of the holy teachings of Nanak. On the other hand, the Pundits of the Hindu religion persecuted this great man only because he admitted the truth of the religion of Islam. He had come to bring about a union between Hinduism and Islam, but he was not listened to " (Review of Religions, VII, p. 248).

Ahmad gave many reasons, besides the fact of direct revelation, for his statement that Guru Nanak was a Muslim. At Dera Baba. Nanak, in the Panjab, there is preserved a chola (cloak) said to have been worn by Nanak and his successors up to the fifth guru.13 According to Ahmad, this chola was said to have had a miraculous divine origin, and tradition declared also that verses from the sacred scriptures of all religions had been written upon it by the hand of God. Several hundred coverings, placed over the chola by successive generations of Sikhs, obscured the writings : but by special arrangement, on the 30th of September, 1895, the coverings were removed to allow Ahmad, who had undertaken a pilgrimage for the purpose, to view the sacred relic. Ahmad then discovered that " From top to bottom the verses of the Holy Qur'an, especially those refuting the false doctrines of other faiths with regard to Divine Unity and attributes, were written upon it " (Review of Religions, II, p. 32).14

And we are told that obviously " Nanak wore the chola, that no one might be deceived as to the religion he professed. . . . How could he be best known as a Muhammadan except by wearing a cloak which could not be worn by any but the truest Muhammadan ? " (Review of Religions, II, p. 33).

This discovery by Ahmad is held to be another proof of his Messiahship.

"As, on the one hand, a death-blow has been dealt to the Christian error of resurrection and ascension, by the discovery of Jesus' tomb in the Khan Yar Street, at Srinagar, the false notion of the Sikhs that Nanak professed any religion other than Islam has been brought to naught by the discovery of the sacred chola. Through centuries of Sikh warfare, the chola was preserved to serve as a testimony of the truth of Islam at the appointed time when the sun of its truth was to shine forth in its full effulgence .... the chola was miraculously preserved so that it may both fulfil the prophetic word in relation to the appearance of the Promised Messiah to accomplish the object of making Islam the predominant religion by strong arguments and heavenly signs, and be a testimony to the truth of Islam by showing that it was from this source that the founder of a great religion received all his blessings" (Review of Religions, II, p. 35-36).

Other evidence, of Nanak's Muhammadan tendencies adduced by Ahmad were that he dressed like a Muslim, frequented the company of Muslim saints, and ascetics, performed the pilgrimage to Mecca, married into a Muhammadan family, and spoke of the deity in the terminology not of Hindu thought but of the Muslim Sufis. It was even said that he enjoined, and himself observed, the Muslim requirements as to repeating the Kalima,15 keeping the fasts, performing the prayers and refraining from prohibited food.

The two following quotations from Macauliffe's book, The Sikh Religion,16 will indicate what basis there is in Sikh history and tradition for the chold story, and for Ahmad's other alleged proofs of Nanak's devotion to the Muslim faith.

"The Guru (Nanak) set out towards the east, having arrayed himself in a strange motley of Hindu and Muhammadan religious habiliments. He put on a mango-coloured jacket, over which he threw a white safa, or sheet. On his head he carried the hat of a Musalman Qalandar,17 while he wore a necklace of bones and imprinted a saffron mark on his forehead in the style of Hindus. This was an earnest of his desire to found a religion which should be acceptable both to Hindus and Muhammadans without conforming to either faith" (I, p. 58).

"After his (Nanak's) successful discussion with the Yogis, the Guru decided to visit Makka, the pole star of Muhammadan devotion. He disguised himself in the blue dress of a Muhammadan pilgrim, took a faqir's staff in his hand and a collection of his hymns under his arms. He also carried with him, in the style of a Musalman devotee, a cup for his ablutions and a carpet whereon to pray. And when an opportunity offered, he shouted the Muhammadan call to prayer like any orthodox follower of the Arabian prophet" (I, p. 174).18

Ahmad had no such love for modern Sikhism as he pretended to have for its founder; which is not surprising when one remembers the vicissitudes undergone by his own family in the days of Sikh ascendancy in the Panjab. He once said :

"The brief term of Sikh ascendency was marked by complete anarchy and bloodshed, and the people were plunged into unspeakable misery. ... At last the measure of Sikh iniquity became full to the brim, and the time came when the plundering career of these marauders was to receive a check. The British came from the East like a rising sun and dispelled the dark clouds of Sikh tyranny. They gave the country not only peace and tranquillity, but above all religious liberty, which to me seems the greatest boon which a just ruler can confer upon a subject people."

Ahmad had little personal contact with the Buddhist religion, which is practically non-existent to-day in India proper, and hence we find few references to it in his writings and in those of his followers. To-day, however, the sect is spreading in Buddhist Burma, and no doubt more attention, of an unflattering variety, will be paid to that religion by Ahmadiya writers in the future.

Buddha's alleged weaknesses are referred to in one place as follows :

"Whenever a man has been deified God has shown his weakness and infirmities in all points. Buddha was made a God, but in the discharge of his duties as a husband and a father, the most sacred of the obligations of man towards man, he was an utter failure. Nor was he able to observe the other duties towards his fellow-beings, and thus entirely neglected one of the two parts of the law. As to the other part, viz., his duties toward God, he offers no better example. He did not believe either in miracles or in the acceptance of prayer. Thus he could not find out the path in which the elected of God have walked."

In the attitude of the present head of the movement toward other religions, there is evident at times a more eclectic and irenic spirit than we have found in Ahmad. In an article by him in Review of Religions, for March, 1916, he upholds the thesis that all religions are from God, but that either they have been limited to a certain people and locality, or else they had lost their original character at the time when the Qur'an, containing the universal and final religion abrogating all others, was sent down to Muhammad. This is bringing up-to-date and making definite for India to-day the principle enunciated in the Qur'an that to every people a prophet and book were sent, after which Muhammad, the last of the prophets, came to the Arabs with the Qur'an, by which all previous revelations were abrogated.19 In accordance with this development we read, in the article mentioned above :

"So in comparing Islam with other faiths, nothing is farthest (sic) from my purpose than to call other faiths pure human undertakings and the prophets of the world so many imposters. On the other hand, it is my bounden duty as a Muslim to bear witness to the truth of all the righteous servants of God, wherever they had happened to appear, and admit without any reserve or demur the truth of the Indian prophets, Rama and Krisna, quite as readily as that of the Israelite prophets. It is, again, my business to testify to the truth of the Persian sage, Zoroaster, or any other heavenly personality who claimed to be the recipient of Divine revelation, who was backed up with Divine succour and favour, and for whose acceptance millions of minds were opened by God " (Review of Religions, XV, p. 84).


1 Anyone living outside of India can scarcely realise what a studied insult this is to a Hindu whose practice of vegetarianism has for him the most sacred significance. Cf. p. 69, Note 2.

2 Rigveda, Samaveda, Yajurveda, Atharvaveda.

3 "The Great God," a name of Siva, who is associated with
Brahma and Vi§nu in the Hindu Trimurti.

4 1 An incarnation of the god, Visnu, the hero of the Bhagavadgita ("Song of Love").

5 One of the two best-known incarnations of the god Visnu, the other being Krisna. He is the hero of the great Hindu epic, the Ramayana, which tells of the theft of Rama's faithful wife, Sita, by the demon Ravana, and her eventual recovery by her husband.

6 A group of sectarian Hindu sacred writings that followed after the Vedas and the Upanisads, in the first millennium of the Christian era. They contain the later myths, mostly of an unwholesome character, attaching to Krisna.

7 The Arya Samaj, founded by Swami Dayanand Sarasvati in 1875, holds that only the original Vedic hymns are fully inspired, and that they contain all the truths of religion and of natural science. It believes in one personal God and in transmigration and karma as the law of human life. Matter and soul, as well as God, are considered eternal, and the three constitute a kind of trinity for both religion and science. The Samaj is aggressively missionary in character.

8 This form of temporary marriage, established by the founder of the Arya Samaj, is now for the most part repudiated by his followers. A man might contract this relation with eleven women in succession, and a woman with eleven men. For further details see the article on the Arya Samaj in Hastings' Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, II, p. 60.

9 See also p. 69, Note 2.

10 A seer, or inspired poet, in general; used specifically in the Purinic period for "seven primeval personages born of Brahma's mind, and presiding, in different forms, over each manwantara." Balfour : Cyclopedia of India, I, p. 424.

11 A theistic reforming movement, which appeared in Calcutta in the first quarter of the nineteenth century. It was an attempt to form a pure spiritual religion by blending some of the leading ideas of Hinduism and Christianity. It has now split into three sections, the Adi Samaj, the Sadharan Samaj, and the New Dispensation Samaj. Its three great leaders have been, successively, Ram Mohan Ray, Debendra Nath Tagore and Keshub Chandra Sen.

12 Nanak (1469-1538), like Kabir, his contemporary, condemned the system of divine incarnations and preached against idolatry as practiced in Hindu temples. He retained the doctrine of Transmigration and Karma, and made no change in the Indian social system. Many Muslims as well as Hindus became his disciples, and it is possible, though not historically established, that he made the pilgrimage to Mecca. The Granth Sahib, or Noble Book, the sacred scripture of the sect, is now accorded almost idolatrous worship.

13 There were ten gurus in all. After that the Granth Sahib became the abiding guru.

14 I have questioned several well-informed Sikhs about this incident, but found them unable to verify it.

15 The witness of the Muslim that there is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his Prophet.

16 Max Arthur Macauliffe, The Sikh Religion, in six volumes, Oxford, 1909. The author spent many years in compiling the contents of this massive work from the writings in the vernacular of the Sikhs themselves. The historical portions are of value rather for the picture they give us of the great Guru, as his followers have conceived him, than as a trustworthy historical document.

17 An order of Muslim darwishes, or ascetics ; also used of any faqir.

18 I am informed by my friend, Sardar Tara Singh, of the staff of the Khalsa (Sikh) High School, in Lahore, that there is supposed to be a chola of Guru Nanak at Dera Baba Nanak, and that there are Arabic characters upon it which no one has been able to decipher.

19 Cf. Qur'an, LXI, 5; LXIV, 46.

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