H.A. Walter's The Ahmadiya Movement

Introductory Review

The Ahmadiya Movement. By H. A. Walter. ("Religious Life of India Series.")

New York: Oxford University Press, 1918. 185 pages.

Reviewed in article 'Recent Works on Oriental Religions' by A. Eustace Haydon, published in The American Journal of Theology, Vol. 24, No. 2 (Apr., 1920), pp. 288-293. Published by: The University of Chicago Press

"The Religious Life of India Series," of which Mr. H. A. Walter's book, The Ahmadiya Movement,'is the second volume, is intended to give to all who are interested in India a knowledge of the various existing forms of her religious life. This volume is a fine example of sympathetic interpretation of an alien faith. The author, who, unfortunately for India and scholarship, did not live to see his book through the press, says that he has attempted only to give an unprejudiced, accurate sketch of the Ahmadiya movement "as its founder and his disciples themselves conceived it and, so far as I could, in their own language."

Islam in India has been subjected to the impact of modern cultural currents. In the All-Indian Moslem League it is a political movement. Under the leadership of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan and Syed Amir 'Ali it has become a religion, on the one hand, of rationalistic eclecticism and of assertion of Moslem spiritual superiority on the other. In both cases the old standards of Islam are abandoned. Ghulam Ahmad came as the prophet of a revival of genuine religion. He claimed to be the Messiah of the Jews, the expected Madhi of Islam as well as the embodiment of the spirit of Jesus and the incarnation of Krisna. Out of this claim sprang the Ahmadiya movement in 1889. It did not break with orthodoxy, though it criticized its formalism and abuses. While claiming that no religion is worthy of the name of religion which is not sympathetic to all humanity, its founder nevertheless urged an unceasing polemic against all contemporary religions as well as against Western civilization. Mr. Walter finds the secret of the success of the movement in the fact that it provided a religion of emotional power for Moslems who were stifled by rationalism and the empty formalism of orthodoxy.

One moves easily in this narrative. All unusual terms and obscure references are explained at once in the footnotes; and the maker of the index maintained the high excellence of the book.