Ancestry and Birth
The first independent biographer of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, H.A. Walter, writes:
"was born in the village of Qadian, Gurdaspur District, Panjab, on the eighteenth of June, 1839. (Footnote: Recent references to the date of Ahmad's birth place it vaguely 'some time in 1836 or 1837' (Review of Religions, XV, p. 26), but the date given here is the one generally accepted by his biographers.), the year marked by the death of Ranjit Singh, the great Sikh ruler and warrior."
Why was the date being pushed back? Mirza repeatedly prophesied that God had told him: 'your age will be eighty years - a few years less or few more, and you will live to see distant progeny..'. Perhaps it was an effort by his followers to retroactively fulfill the prophecy.
A proof of this post-facto distortion can be seen here:
- Asal-i-Musaffa, first edition published in 1901 (before Mirza's death), showing the date of birth as 1839 or 1840
- Asal-i-Musaffa, second edition published in 1913 (after Mirza's death), where the date of birth was changed to 1836 or 1837
This change happened right after the death of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, as evidenced from the Review of Religions published right after his death in June-July 1908. While reprinting the obituaries of Mirza, the Review added this note:
"We do not intend to criticize these remarks, but we might be allowed to contradict in the beginning the estimate of the adherents of the movement and the probable date of the birth of the founder which may more correctly be placed at 1836 or 1837." (Review of Religions, 1908, page 235)
As Walter has researched, Mirza was born in 1839, and died aged 69. Here are the references from his books:
- Mirza writes that he was born in 1839 or 1840 and he still did not have facial hair by 1857: Kitab-ul-Bariyya, RK 13, p 177.
- Mirza was married at 15, and says that he had a son one year later – Mirza Sultan Ahmad. We know from government sources of the time that Mirza Sultan Ahmad was born in 1856, although Zafrullah Khan (in 'Ahmadiyyat - Renaissance of Islam') tries to show Mirza Sultan Ahmad being born in 1853. Also, it is narrated that Mirza 'was still a child' himself when his eldest son was born. (Seeratul Mahdi, 2nd edition, page 53). This would again place his birth at 1839-1840.
- Mirza wites that his father died on 20 August 1875 (RK 18, p 585), and he was 34 or 35 when his father passed away (RK 13, page 192), again pointing to 1839 and 1840.
- In Lecture Ludhiana (RK 20, p 293), Mirza has stated his age as 67, this lecture was given on 4th of November 1905, pointing to 1839.
- In Haqiqat ul Wahi (RK 22, P209) he wrote his age is almost 68. This book was written in 1907, pointing to 1839.
- The Review of Religions of June 1906 (in Mirza's lifetime) says that he 'was born at Qadian in the year 1839 C.E., which was marked by the death of Ranjit Singh, the Sikh ruler of the Punjab.' It was this same Review that tried to revise the date one month after Mirza's death.
- H.D. Griswold wrote a brief biography of MGA in 1902 and called him about 64 years old.
- The last word should go to H.A. Walter, the first independent biographer of MGA (see above), who also had vast access to government records. He records the date of birth as 18 June, 1839.
When Mirza's date of birth was revised by his followers, the only citations from Mirza's writings that were used were the ones where he would state his age when throwing a death challenge to an opponent and tried to show that he was much older than the opponent and thus more likely to die. For example, 'I am approximately 60' or 'I am approximately 70’. However, wherever Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was specific, and whenever that specific information was published in his lifetime, it was ALWAYS 1839 or 1840.