Chapter III-The Ahmadiya Movement and Orthodox Islam
Ahmad was ever boasting of his uncompromising orthodoxy. If he departed from the beliefs of a majority of his co-religionists on some points, it was only because they had themselves failed rightly to understand the original purport of Islam. He was sent to correct their errors and once more give them the true guidance. Ahmad and his followers may be held to represent the analogue in Islam of that school of Christians who will brook no study of comparative religions, because they hold that there is but one religion, incomparably sublime. In the year 1903 Ahmad received a letter from a religious liberal in America, who wrote that every religion contains some truth and some falsehood --- being but the radius of a circle whose centre is God. This creed, which Baha'Ullah1 would doubtless have applauded, Ahmad spurned. He was glad that his correspondent had been led to see the folly and falsehood of Christianity, but regretted that he had not studied Islam and so discovered that "it is the only religion which not only claims to be free from every error and falsehood, but also offers proof of this freedom from error,no other religion on the face of the earth satisfying either of these requisites " (Review of Religions, III, p. 29). Two years later a writer in the Review of Religions commented on some remarks by Rev. E. W. Thompson, M.A., in the London Quarterly Review, to the effect that in India there are elements of positive worth, not merely of curious interest, which the Christian missionary can accept thankfully, and use in the building up of the fabric of the Christian Church and nation" (Review of Religions IV, p. 317). Ahmad's editor asserts: " This statement involves an admission that Christianity is not a perfect religion in itself. The superiority of Islam lies in this, that while it has from the beginning preached that every religion was founded on truth and that errors found their way into it later on, it has at the same time taught that it is a perfect religion, and that there is no religious truth which is not to be met with in it. Such a perfection can not be claimed by any religion besides Islam " (Review of Religions IV, p. 318).
The unique inspiration of the Qur'an is, of course, an integral element in this perfection.
"The Holy Qur'an is, in fact, the only book which asserts that every word of it came from an eternal higher source, and that the Prophet only dictated what he heard. Other inspired books claim to be inspired only in the sense that they were infused into the mind of the writer, while the Qur'an was not infused into the mind, but rehearsed before the Prophet by the Angel Gabriel, and then repeated by the Prophet exactly as he heard it " (Review of Religions, I, p. 277).
Nevertheless the Qur'an while inspired must not be considered devoid of reason, enforcing its precepts simply on the basis of their origin :
"In connection with these remarks it should be borne in mind that the truth of the Holy Qur'an does not depend merely on its uninterrupted transmission and authenticity, for it proceeds on the argumentative line. It does not compel us to accept its doctrines, principles, and commandments simply on the authority of revelation, but appeals to reason in man and gives arguments for what it inculcates" (Teachings of Islam, pp. 171, 172).
And in another place Ahmad writes, contrasting the Bible and the Qur'an: "The Bible is a collection of myths and stories and fables and idle tales, fit for women only, whereas the Qur'an is pure philosophy, free from myths and fables."
On the subject of divine inspiration, as distinguished from the human inspiration of genius, Ahmad stated his position as follows :
"Before proceeding further it is necessary to remove a misconception regarding Ilham2 (inspiration). Ilham does not mean that an idea is infused into the mind of a person who sets himself to think about a thing. A mere poet is not inspired, in the theological sense, when brilliant ideas flash upon him as he sits down to make verses. In this case there is no distinction between good and bad. When the mental powers are applied to a subject, new ideas will flash upon the mind according to the genius of the thinker and without any regard to the good or bad nature of the subject. If the word, Ilham, is taken to mean the occurring on a particular occasion of new ideas, a thief or a dacoit or a murderer may as well be called Mulham (the inspired one of God) on account of the ingenious plans which suggest themselves to his mischief-making mind for the perpetration of evil deeds. Such a view of Ilham (inspiration) is held by men who are quite ignorant of the true God, who with his word gives peace and consolation to hearts and knowledge of spiritual truths to those who are not aware of them. What is Ilham (inspiration) then? It is the living and powerful Word of God in which he speaks to or addresses one of his servants whom he has chosen, or intends to choose, from among all people. When such conversation or utterances run on continually in a regular method, not being insufficient or fragmentary or enveloped in the darkness of evil ideas, and have a heavenly bliss, wisdom and power in them, they are the Word of God with which he comforts his servant and reveals himself to him" (Teachings of Islam, pp. 177, 178).
He then proceeds in the passage following to read himself into the select class of recipients of minor inspiration. Although he claimed to be a prophet, with evidentiary miracles, he made no claim to wahy, so far as I can discover. He avoided running counter to the universal Muslim belief that Muhammad was the last of the prophets and the seal of the prophets" by asserting that his prophetship was not in its own right, but in and through Muhammad, in whose spirit and power he had come.3
Of Muhammad we are told, as we should expect, that he "spoke not a word of himself, but only that which he heard from God" (Review of Religions, I, p. 277). Not only was Muhammad's utterance inspired, but his life was sinless4 as well. All sins imputed to him by Christian writers Ahmad attempted to refute, including his marriage to Zainab, the divorced wife of Zaid, which Ahmad defended, and the so-called "lapse of Muhammad"5 or "compromise with idolatry," found in a number of traditions, which Ahmad denied in toto. Muhammad is variously referred to as a true Saviour, an Intercessor, a miracle-worker, and a perfect manifestation of the Divine Being.
Ahmad held that the sunna6 was given with the Qur'an for the guidance of mankind. The traditions, he wrote, can be believed because of the unequalled "pains taken by Muhammadan writers in ascertaining the true facts of the Holy Prophet's life, and in sifting the traditional lore" (Review of Religions, III, p. 44). Some variations are admitted, but "Traditions cannot be divested of their authority, and the historical value they possess, by the mere consideration that even the minute scrutiny of early collectors may not have freed them from every error, while their authenticity can be further tested by the consideration that no authentic tradition can contradict the Holy Qur'an" (Review of Religions, III, pp. 449, 450).
It must be added that a further test of the authenticity of any tradition in Ahmad's eyes was that it should not contradict the particular interpretation of Islam for which the "promised Messiah" claimed divine sanction in our day.
Ahmad and his followers have subscribed to the five pillars (arkan) of Islam, as is indicated in a lecture on " Fundamental Doctrines of the Muslim Faith,"7 delivered in December, 1906, at the annual gathering of the Sadr Anjuman-i-Ahmadiya,8 and we are pleased to note that he taught a spiritual and ethical rather than a mechanical and literal obedience to the law. He was unsparing in his condemnation of those orthodox Muslims of whose performance of their religious duties he writes :
"In short, though there are some people who still carry out some of the precepts of Shari'at (religious law), they do it in a way that their actions fail to produce the effect which ought to have been produced. Their Namaz, their Roza, their Zakat and their Hajj are just the kind of actions performed by players, one of whom sometimes assumes the role of king and takes his seat and holds his court, though actually he is a beggar. . . . This worship of theirs has no value in the sight of God" (Review of Religions, XIV, p. 449).
Regarding Shahadat, the verbal witness of the Muslim to the unity of God and the prophetship of Muhammad, Ahmad denied that "The utterance of the above-mentioned words with the tongue is sufficient for the attainment of salvation"; and he continued: "Almighty God sees the hearts and mere words have no importance in his sight. . . . The realization of the signification of these words involves that a man should have no object of love besides God, nor any object of worship or desire besides him" (Review of Religions, VI, p. 25).
Similarly of Salat or Namaz, the Muslim worship prescribed five times daily, he wrote :
"The utterance of certain words with the lips is not prayer. It is a necessary condition for the acceptance of prayer that the heart should completely melt before God, and the grace of God should be taught with patience and perseverance. . . . All the movements in prayers are expressive of the deepest humbleness before God" (Review of Religions, VI, 28).
Of the third pillar, saum, or fasting during the month of Ramadan, he said :
"Fasting is necessary for the perfect purity of the soul. . . . The fact is that the suffering of hunger and reducing the quantity of food which one generally takes is an essential step in the spiritual progress of man. . . . Man does not live by bread alone.9 . . . The man who fasts should bear in mind that fasting does not mean only abstaining from food for a stated time. Its true significance is that man should abstain from every kind of evil" (Review of Religions, VI p. 30).
Regarding Zakat, or almsgiving, he held that
"What Islam aims at teaching by this institution is that a man should not so love the wealth of this world as to feel it difficult to part with it in the way of God" (Review of Religions, VI, p. 31).
The fifth pillar, the pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj),
"Represents the last stage for the spiritual wayfarer," when he "has all his lower connections entirely cut off and he is completely engrossed with Divine love. The true lover finds his highest satisfaction in sacrificing his very heart and soul for the beloved one's sake, and the circuit round the house of God is an emblem of external manifestation of it" (Review of Religions, VI, pp. 31-32).
It might be noted here that Ahmad himself never made the pilgrimage to Mecca, perhaps because of his poor health.
At this point a few further quotations from The Teachings of Islam may be in order, showing, like those just given, a spiritualized treatment of Qur'anic verses that is more akin to the interpretations of the Sufis (the Muslim mystics) than to those of the orthodox commentators.
With regard to the sources of man's threefold nature (physical, moral and spiritual) he declared :
"To return to the subject in hand, as I have already stated, there are three sources which give rise to the threefold nature of man, viz., the disobedient soul, the self-accusing soul, and the soul at rest.10
Accordingly there are three stages of reformation, answering respectively to the three sources. In the first stage we are concerned with mere ignorant savages, whom it is our duty to raise to the status of civilised men by teaching them the social laws relating to their daily mutual relations. The first step toward civilization, therefore, consists in teaching the savage not to walk about naked, or devour carcases, or indulge in other barbarous habits. This is the lowest grade in the reformation of man. In humanizing people upon whom no ray of the light of civilization has yet fallen, it is necessary, first of all, to take them through this stage and make them accustomed to morals of the lowest type. When the savage has learned the crude manners of society, he is prepared for the second stage of reformation. He is then taught the high and excellent moral qualities pertaining to humanity, as well as the proper use of his own faculties and of whatever lies hidden beneath them. Those who have acquired excellent morals are now prepared for the third stage, and, after they have attained to outward perfection, are made to taste of union with, and the love of, God. These are the three stages which the Holy Qur'an has described as necessary for any wayfarer who travels in the path of God" (The Teachings of Islam, pp. 19, 20).
Of the third stage, "the soul at rest," regarding which so many Sufi treatises have been written, he had this to say, in part:
"We have already stated in the beginning of this discourse that the source of the spiritual conditions is the soul at rest which takes a man onward in his moral progress and makes him godly; in other words, transports him from the moral to the spiritual regions. Upon this topic the following verse has a plain bearing : 'O thou soul! that art at rest and restest fully contented with thy Lord, return unto him, he being pleased with thee and thou with him; so enter among my servants and enter into my Paradise!' (LXXXIX, 28,30). In discussing the spiritual conditions, it is necessary to comment upon this verse in some detail. It should be borne in mind that the highest spiritual condition to which man can aspire in this world is that he should rest contented with God and find his quietude, his happiness and his delight in him alone. This is the stage of life which we term the heavenly life. The pure and perfect sincerity, truth and righteousness of a person are rewarded by Almighty God by granting him a heaven upon this earth. All others look to a prospective paradise but he enters paradise in this very life. It is at this stage, too, that a person realizes that the prayers and worship, which at first appeared to him as a burden, are really a nourishment on which the growth of his soul depends, and that this is the basis of his spiritual development. He then sees that the fruit of his efforts is not to be reaped in a future life only. The spirit, which, in the second stage, although blaming a man for the impurities of life, was yet powerless to resist the evil tendencies or to blot them out wholly and too infirm to establish a man upon the principle of virtue with firmness, now reaches a stage of development in which its efforts are crowned with success. The sensual passions die out of themselves and the soul no more stumbles but, strengthened with the Spirit of God, it is ashamed of its past failings. The state of struggle with evil propensities passes away; an entire change passes over the nature of man and the former habits undergo a complete transformation. He is perfectly estranged from his former courses of life. He is washed of all impurities and perfectly cleansed. God himself plants the love of virtue in his heart and purifies it of the defilement of evil with his own hand. The hosts of truth encamp in his heart and righteousness controls all the towers of his heart. Truth is victorious and falsehood lays down its arms and is reduced to subjection. The hand of God sways over his heart and he walks every step under his shelter" (The Teachings of Islam, pp. 96-98) .
In order to the realisation of perfect union with God two means are given:
"Returning to the main point of the subject under discussion, the Holy Qur'an has taught us two means for a perfect spiritual union with God, viz., complete resignation to the will of God, which is known by the name of Islam, and constant prayers and supplications, as taught in the opening sura of Al-Qur'an, known by the name of Fatiha.11 The essence of the religious code of Muhammadism is contained in Islam and the Fatiha. These are two channels which lead to the fountain of salvation and the only safe guides which lead us to God" (The Teachings of Islam, p. 118).
Ahmad's conception of the life after death accepts and improves on the most advanced spiritual interpretations that we have seen elsewhere of the passages of the Qur'an referring to the hereafter. Numerous echoes of New Testament verses and teachings can be noted. Somewhat fuller quotations are needed here :
"From the manner in which internal conditions are represented in physical forms in dreams we can form an idea of the embodiment of the spiritual conditions of this world in the life to come. After our earthly course is ended, we are translated to regions where our deeds and their consequences assume a shape, and what is hidden in us in this world is there unrolled and laid open before us. These embodiments of spiritual facts are substantial realities, as, even in dreams, though the sight soon vanishes away, yet so long as it is before our eyes, it is taken to be a reality. As this representation by images is a new and a perfect manifestation of the power of God, we may as well call it, not a representation of certain facts, but actually a new creation brought about by the powerful hand of God. With reference to this point, Almighty God says in the Holy Qur'an : 'No soul that worketh good knoweth the blessings and joys which have been kept secret for it' (XXXII, 17) , to be disclosed after death. Thus Almighty God describes the heavenly blessings that the righteous shall enjoy in the next life as having been kept secret because, not being like anything contained in this world, no one knows aught about them. It is evident that the things of this world are not a secret to us; we not only know pomegranates, dates, milk, etc., but frequently taste of them. These things, therefore, could not be called secrets. The fruits of paradise have, therefore, nothing in common with these except the name. He is perfectly ignorant of the Holy Qur'an who takes paradise for a place where only the things of this world are provided in abundance. In explanation of the verse quoted above, the Holy Prophet said that heaven and its blessings are things which 'the eye hath not seen, nor hath ear heard, nor hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive of them.'12 But of the things of this world we cannot say that our eyes have not seen them, or that our ears have not heard them, or that our minds have not conceived them. When God and his Prophet tell us of things in heaven which our senses are not cognizant of in this world, we should be guilty of cherishing doctrines against the teachings of the Holy Qur'an if we supposed rivers flowing with the milk which we ordinarily drink here. Can we, moreover, consistently with the idea of heaven, suppose flocks of cows and buffaloes reared in the paradisiac grounds and numerous honeycombs hanging on trees with countless bees busily engaged in collecting honey and hosts of angels engaged day and night in milking cows and getting honey and pouring them continuously into streams to keep them running on? Are these ideas in keeping with the teachings of the verses which tell us that this world is a stranger to the blessings of the next world? Will these things illumine the soul or increase the knowledge of God or afford spiritual food as the heavenly blessings are described to do? It is, no doubt, that these blessings are represented as material things, but we are also told that their source is spirituality and righteousness" (The Teachings of Islam, p. 122ff).
"Whatever the good men enjoy spiritually in this life are really blessings not of this but of the next life, and are granted to them as a specimen of the bliss that is in store for them in the next life in order to increase their yearning for it. It should, moreover, be borne in mind that the truly righteous man is not of this world, and hence he is also hated by the world. He is of heaven and is granted heavenly blessings, just as the worldly ones are granted the dainties of this world. The blessings which are granted him are really hidden from the eyes, the ears and the hearts of men of the world, and they are quite strangers to them. But the person whose physical life is annihilated in the heavenly enjoyments is made spiritually to taste of the cup which he shall actually quaff in the next world, and hence the truth of the words:
'These were the fruits which were given us formerly.' But he shall at the same time be perfectly aware that those blessings were quite unknown to the world, and as he too was in this world, though not of this world, so he also shall bear witness that his physical eye never saw such blessings, nor his ear ever heard of them, nor his mind ever conceived of them in the world" (The Teachings of Islam, p. 127).
"It should also be borne in mind that the Holy Qur'an describes three worlds or three different states of man's life. The first world is the present one, which is called the world of earning and of the first creation. It is here that man earns a reward for the good or bad deeds he does. Although there are stages of advancement for the good after resurrection, yet that advancement is granted simply by the grace of God, and does not depend upon human efforts.
"The second world is called barzakh.13 The word originally means any intermediate state. As this world falls between the present life and resurrection, it has been called barzakh. But this word has from time immemorial been applied to an intermediate state, and thus the word itself is a standing witness to the intermediate state between death and after life. . . . The state of barzakh is that in which the soul leaves the mortal body and the perishable remains are decomposed. The body is thrown into a pit, and the soul also is, as it were, thrown down into some pit, because it loses the power to do good or bad deeds along with its loss of control over the body. It is evident that a good state of the soul is dependent upon the soundness of the body. A shock communicated to a particular point of the brain causes a loss of memory, while an injury to another part is certain to deal a death-blow to the reasoning faculty and may destroy even consciousness. Similarly a convulsion of the brain muscles or a hemorrhage or morbidity of the brain may, by causing obstruction, lead to insensibility, epilepsy or cerebral apoplexy. Experience, therefore, establishes the fact beyond all reasonable doubt that with all its connections severed from the body the soul can serve no purpose. It is simply idle to assert that the human soul can, at any time, enjoy a bliss without having any connection with a body. . . . Now if the soul is unable to make any advancement in this brief life without the assistance of the body, how could it, without a body, attain to the higher stages of advancement in the next life?
"In short, various arguments prove conclusively that, according to the Islamic principles, the perfection of the soul depends upon its permanent connection with a body. There is no doubt that after death this body of clay is severed from the soul, but then in the barzakh every soul receives temporarily a new body to be in a position to taste of the reward or punishment of its deeds. This new body is not a body of clay, but a bright or a dark body prepared from the actions of this life. Such is the Qur'anic description of the body in the barzakh, viz., that the soul has a new body, which is bright or dark according to the good or bad actions which a man performs. It may appear as a mystery to some, but this much at least must be admitted, that it is not unreasonable. The perfect man realises the preparation of such a bright body even in this life. Ordinary human understanding may call it a mystery which is beyond human comprehension, but those who have a keen and bright spiritual sight will have no difficulty in realizing the truth of a bright or a dark body after death prepared from actions in this life. In short, the new body granted in the barzakh becomes the means of the reward of good or evil. I have personal experience in this matter. Many a time, when fully awake, I have seen visions in which I saw those who were dead. I have seen many an evildoer and a wicked person with a body quite dark and smoky. I have personal acquaintance with these matters, and I assert it forcibly that, as Almighty God has said, every one is granted a body, either transparent or dark. . . .
"The third world is the world of resurrection. In this world every soul, good or bad, virtuous or wicked, shall be given a visible body. The day of resurrection is the day of the complete manifestation of God's glory, when every one shall become perfectly aware of the existence of God. On that day every person shall have a complete and open reward of his actions. How this can be brought about is not a matter to wonder at, for God is all-powerful and nothing is impossible with him" (The Teachings of Islam, pp. 131-136).
"The third point of importance that the Holy Qur'an has described in connection with the life after death, is that the progress that can be made in that world is infinite. The word of God says : 'Those who have the light of faith in this world shall have their light on the day of judgment running before them and on their right hands, and they shall be continually saying: "O Lord, perfect our light and take us in thy protection, for thou hast power over all things" (LXVI, 8). This unceasing desire for perfection shows clearly that progress in paradise shall be endless. For when they shall have attained one excellence they shall not stop there, and seeing a higher stage of excellence shall consider that to which they shall have attained as imperfect and shall, therefore, desire the attainment of the higher excellence. When they shall have attained to this they shall yet see another higher excellence, and thus they shall continue to pray for the attainment of higher and higher excellences." This ceaseless desire for perfection shows that they shall be endlessly attaining to excellences (The Teachings of Islam, pp. 142, 143).
"In short, heaven and hell, according to the Holy Qur'an, are images and representations of a man's own spiritual life in this world. They are not new material worlds which come from outside. It is true that they shall be visible and palpable, call them material if you please, but they are only embodiments of the spiritual facts of this world. We call them material not in the sense that there shall be trees planted in the paradisiacal fields just like those that are planted here below, and that there shall be brimstones and sulphur in hell, but in the sense that we shall then find the embodiments of the spiritual facts of this life. Heaven and hell, according to Muslim belief, are the images of the actions which we perform here below" (The Teachings of Islam, pp. 144, 145),
One is irresistably reminded in reading the last passage of Fitzgerald's translation of the familiar quatrains, LXVI and LXVII, of the Ruba'iyat of Omar Khayyam:14
" I sent my Soul through the Invisible, Some letter of that After-life to spell :
And by and by my soul returned to me, And answer'd, ' I myself am Heav'n and Hell ':
" Heav'n but the Vision of fulfill'd Desire, And Hell the Shadow from a Soul on fire,
Cast on the Darkness into which Ourselves, So late emerged from, shall so soon expire."
As was to be expected, Ahmad had no patience with the newer school of thinkers and writers in Islam who have abated somewhat the earlier claim of Islam to miraculous perfection and originality. The Right Hon. Syed Amir 'Ali, the distinguished jurist and apologist of Islam, now living in London, and S. Khuda Baksh, M.A., an Oxford graduate and former professor in Presidency College, Calcutta, are scholarly enough to admit that the sources of Islam can largely be traced in the older religions of the world, so many of which were represented in pre-Islamic Arabia:15 and especially in Judaism and Christianity. Ahmad, by a priori reasoning, declared this to have been impossible, whatever certain scholars may say:
"The Christians have spent too much time and labour, and they have spent it in vain, in showing that such and such a story in the Holy Qur'an corresponds with another found in an earlier Jewish or Christian writing. The sources of Islam are not determined by any alleged correspondence, but by the effect which its teachings had. If the Jewish and Christian writings were the source from which Islamic teachings and principles had been taken, their effect should have been at any rate inferior to that of the originals from which they were taken. But the inability of Jewish and Christian teachings to bring about a pure transformation in the lives of a people whom Islam, only within a few years, changed so entirely is a conclusive proof that the source of Islam was far purer and higher than the Jewish and Christian writings" (Review of Religions, IV, pp. 272, 273).
The alleged benighted condition of pre-Islamic Arabia and the marvellous transformation wrought by Islam in every department of life is a frequent subject of Ahmad's enthusiastic comment.
"The Arabs were then in such a degraded state that they could hardly be called men. There was no evil but was to be found in them, and there was no form of shirk16 but prevailed among them. Thieving and dacoity formed their business, and the murder of a human being was with them like the trampling under foot of an ant. They killed orphans to appropriate their property, and buried their daughters alive under the ground. They took pride in adultery and openly spoke of indecent things in their poems, which were immoral in the highest degree. Drinking prevailed to such an extent that no house was free from it, and in gambling they beat every other people. In short, they were a disgrace even to the beasts and snakes of the desert.
"But when the Holy Prophet rose to regenerate these people, and when he devoted his whole attention to the purifying of their hearts and cast his holy influence on them, he worked such a transformation among them in a few days that from their savage stage they rose to be men, and from the stage of men they advanced to the stage of civilization, and thus progressing step by step they became godly men and finally they were so annihilated in the love of God that they bore every pain with the utmost resignation"17 (Review of Religions, VII, pp. 264, 265).
He takes sharp issue with the rationalistic school of Muhammadans who seek to account for Muhammad and his revelation on other than supernatural grounds. After saying that unprejudiced European scholars are bound to recognize in Muhammad "a great and wise Reformer and the noble benefactor of mankind" (Review of Religions, I, p. 311), he proceeds,
"But even the Mu'tazilite, author of the Spirit of Islam18 and the founder of the Aligarh College,19 could go no further, nor see deeper into the facts, for they had no assurance of the open voice of God and his clear word, of a superhuman power and of an external revelation that did not proceed from the human heart" (Review of Religions, I, p. 311).
And since it was a part of his creed that early Muslim society was far more perfect than that of to-day, he held in abhorrence the teaching of modern Muhammadan exponents of Islam, who recognize that polygamy was and is an evil, but hold that since it was an improvement on former practices in Arabia, and therefore a step upward for the early Muslims, Muhammad was justified in making it a part of Islam at that time, whereas Muslims to-day may not at all be justified in adhering to a custom that is inferior to the higher ideal of monogamy.20 Ahmad, while he was bound to admit that polygamy was more nearly universal among early Muslims than to-day, argued that the fact was due to the early wars against the enemies of Islam, by reason of which "the Muslim society was cut off from their kith and kin and there could not be intermarriage between the Muslims and the unbelievers" (Review of Religions, IV, p. 145). Hence polygamy prevailed to a greater extent than to-day, as a matter of justice to the women of Islam. And we read further:
"In the matter of ignoring these circumstances, not only are those Muslims to blame who, like Mr. Amir 'Ali and Mr. Dilawar Husain, both of whom belong to the Shia sect, look upon polygamy as an evil, but even those cannot be acquitted of the charge who, while defending polygamy as an institution needful for human society, like the late Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, have still expressed pleasure because it is less frequently practiced now, as if the early Muslims practiced it without any lawful necessity" (Review of Religions, IV, p. 145).
Ahmad's contention is that polygamy should be contrasted not with monogamy but with celibacy. Replying to Mr. Dilawar Husain, a vigorous champion of monogamy in Islam, the Review of Religions says:
"He should bear in mind that according to Islam monogamy is the rule, while polygamy and celibacy are two necessary exceptions, which, if prohibited, must bring about great mischief. If he has got any reason to attack this position, he is welcome to the discussion, but if he has got nothing but to repeat the old stories of Mr. Amir 'Ali and others, he should better assume silence" (Review of Religions, IV, p. 174).
One cannot help feeling that Ahmad's interest in this question of the existence of the supernatural over against a rigid rationalism had a somewhat personal bearing. If Muhammad's revelation in the seventh century was not to be considered supernatural to-day, there was little likelihood of any widespread recognition of the validity of Ahmad's claim in the twentieth century. To the Muhammadan Educational Conference, the Muhammadan College at Aligarh, the All-India Moslem League,21 the Nadwat-ul-Ulama,22 and all such "Muhammadan Revival Associations," as he termed them, Ahmad was unceasingly hostile. One of his followers asks pertinently :
"Where is the living model whose example we must imitate?" (Review of Religions, I , p. 321). . . . "I ask the Nadwa which view of Islam is it going to offer to Europe? Is it Islam in the light in which the late Sir Syed Ahmad took it, which represents God as worthless and idle, denies revelation, the efficacy of prayer, angels, prophecy and supernatural signs, and describes the Holy Qur'an as a dry book devoid of the miraculous?" (Review of Religions, I, p. 329) .
Other views of these "Advanced Muhammadans," which Ahmad repudiates, were the abolition of purdah23 the modification of rules regarding prayers, fasting, alms, and pilgrimage, and the rejection of the later "Medina Suras" of the Qur'an. He strongly supported the Muslim prohibition of the drinking of intoxicants, and required of his followers abstention from tobacco smoking as well.
We shall see, when we come to consider Ahmad's attitude towards Christianity, how staunchly he stood his ground on such moot points as divorce, the veil, and the ceremonial law of Islam, spurning any attempt within Islam to adapt Muhammad's teaching and practice to present-day customs in Christian lands. Meantime, we must turn from his picture of an ideal Islam, believed to have been brought into the world by Muhammad, to view the actual Islam which he saw around him, and which he unsparingly denounced.24
Like the Jewish religion in the time of Jesus, he declared that Islam had become a religion of spiritless ceremonialism.
"I have come at a time when the Muhammadan society has, like the Jewish, been rotten to the core, and spirituality, which is the lite and essence, having departed, nothing has remained in the hands of the Muslims but the husk of lifeless ceremonies. . . ." (Review of Religions, III, p. 399).
In a letter written by Maulvi Abdul Karim to the Nadwat-ul-Ulama, in reply to an invitation requesting the attendance of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad at its annual gathering at Calcutta, it was said:
"Forms and ceremonials have again got the upper hand, while the inner life, the essence of the law, the spirit that gave life to the form itself, is quite gone. Mosques and monasteries are full of bodies, but the soul is not there. . . . Divine commandments are set at naught, and the corruption of licentiousness, atheism and transgression is widespread" (Review of Religions, I, p. 322).
As in the time of the pre-Islamic Arabs, social and moral conditions are beyond description:
"It needs no demonstration to prove that Muhammadan degeneration has passed all bounds, and that they are now standing on the verge of the pit of fire from which a blessed and mighty hand had drawn them back at first. The same dissentions and disputes, the same division in the camp, which marked the pre-Islamic Arabs, is witnessed among those who claim to be following the banner of Islam. . . . Luxurious habits, transgressions, drunkenness, gambling and laziness, evils from which the mighty magnetizer had granted them a deliverance, have again the upper hand" (Review of Religions, I, p. 318).
There is now no real enthusiasm for Islam, only ignorant superstition, which shows itself in slavish imitation of the Christian civilization of the West, on the part of some, and a blind worship of tombs and saints, on the part of others.
"There can be no denying the fact that the vast majority of Muhammadans who claim to believe in the true God have really no faith at all " (Review of Religions, I, p. 62).
" There is, no doubt, a great change in the object of superstition, but that is of little use. If the 'ignorant' Muhammadans are to be blamed for an excessive reverence for tombs and miracles of saints, the 'advanced' Muhammadans have a blind admiration for everything Western" (Review of Religions, III, p. 441).
The condition of Muslims is such that followers of other creeds are alienated rather than attracted.
"Thus if there is any obstacle to the path of Islam it is the practical life of the Muslims themselves, and the sight of the same not only causes a repugnance in the followers of other creeds, but also alienates from Islam the feelings of the future generations of Muslims. The fact cannot be denied that in most Muslim families, it is to be found that the concern with religion is diminishing from father to son. Only a very small percentage of Musalmans can be found who are sincerely convinced of the truth of Islam. In most cases religion has been left merely a matter of custom and habit" (Review of Religions, XIV, p. 453).
One cause of the decline of Islam and the deplorable social conditions among Muslim peoples is to be found in the forged traditions and fatwas25 circulated by the maulvis, for whom Ahmad entertained no admiration.26
"We are commanded not to kill man, not to commit an outrage upon his honour, and not to seize his property dishonestly. But some Muhammadans have broken all these commandments. They take away the life of an innocent person and never shudder at the inhumane deed. Empty-headed maulvies have circulated fatwas to the effect that it is lawful to seduce or seize the women of unbelievers or heretics, and to steal and misappropriate their properties. . . . The social relations of the Muslims are deplorable. Traditions have been fabricated that act like poison upon their moral conditions and break the Divine laws" (Review of Religions, I, p. 23).
The present hard-heartedness of Muslims in their decline has led to a blood-thirstiness whose issue in Afghanistan was the murder of two followers of the Ahmadiya faith.
"I think the chief reason of the decline of Muhammadans is that the feelings of love and sympathy are on the wane in their hearts. I do not judge all Muhammadans to be guilty of this hard-heartedness, but it cannot be denied that there are millions among them who are thirsty of the blood of their own kind" (Review of Religions, I, p. 340).
We cannot vouch for the accuracy of the following description of the martyrdom of one of Ahmad's followers in a purely Muhammadan country. The parties referred to are Maulvi Abdul Latif and the Amir of Afghanistan : ---
"When he refused to listen to all expostulations, the Amir drew up the judgment with his own hands and caused it to be hung about his neck. He then ordered his nose to be bored, and a cord to be passed through the hole, by which he was drawn to the place of execution. While he was carried in this state of torture, he was mocked, abused and cursed. The Amir with his Muftis and Maulvis watched and enjoyed this painful sight. When he was buried to his waist in earth the Amir once more approached him and gave him promise of pardon on condition of his renunciation of his faith, but no words could tempt him to such a heinous deed as the renunciation of truth for the sake of a few days' comfort. Upon this there was again a tumult among the barbarous Qazis and Muftis that he was a Kafir (Unbeliever) and should be stoned to death without further delay. The Amir then ordered the chief Qazi to throw the first stone. The Qazi requested the Amir that, as he was the ruler, he should take the initiative. But the Amir excused himself, saying that it was a matter of religion, in which supreme authority lay with the chief Qazi. At last the first stone was thrown by the Qazi, which gave Maulvi Abdul Latif a fatal wound. The next stone was thrown by the unfortunate Amir, and after this there was a volley of stones from all sides, and within a few minutes the martyr disappeared in a heap of stones. Orders were then given by the Amir for watch to be kept on his dead body, because he had said that he would rise after the sixth day. This occurred on the 14th July, 1903" (Review of Religions, II, p. 446).
We now come to one of Ahmad's cardinal principles, and the point of sharpest divergence between his faith and that of the majority of Muslims : to wit, his conception of jihad, or holy war.
When Muhammad proclaimed the revelation : "Kill them (the infidels) wherever ye shall find them," and similar injunctions relating to "holy warfare,"27 he laid upon his followers a sanction only slightly less binding than the five "pillars" already mentioned.28 In particular, a saying of the Prophet : "War is permanently established until the Day of Judgment," has come down, with the Qur'anic passages, establishing the fact that the Dar al- Islam ("Abode of Islam") and the Dar al-harb (" Abode of War ") remain in a state of fixed antagonism until, by reason of conquest, there shall be only the one Dar al-Islam. The observance, however, is said to be in force when any single tribe or party of Muslims is engaged in the jihad, and it is only in times of special need that the entire body of Muslims is expected to take part actively in the war. When a country of the unbelievers is overcome, the citizens are given their choice of accepting Islam, and paying the jizya (poll tax), or being put to death by the sword. Many Sufis hold that there is a greater jihad against a man's own rebellious nature, and a lesser jihad against unbelievers.
Along with this doctrine there has become fixed in the average Muslim's mind by many traditions the belief that the Mahdi who is to come will be a man of blood, who will lead forth the entire host of Islam in a world-wide and altogether victorious jihad. Ahmad fought early and late against this conception --- a campaign which was related to his frequent declarations of loyalty to the British Government which might conceivably become the active object of jihad as popularly conceived. Whether Ahmad's attitude, in a strictly Muhammadan country, would have been similar to that of the many "bloody Mahdis"29 it is idle to surmise. Dr. Griswold has drawn attention to one potentially significant sentence in Ahmad's "five principle doctrines," published in a memorial to Sir William Mackworth-Young, under date of March 5th, 1898, as follows :
"To preach Islamic truths with reasoning and heavenly signs, and to regard ghaza or jihad as prohibited under present circumstances" (Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, p. 11). (Dr. Griswold's italics.)
Dr. Griswold compares this to the bull of Pope Gregory XIII, issued in 1580, which released the English Catholics from the obligation to resist Queen Elizabeth (imposed by the bull of Pope Pius V), and allowed them to continue their allegiance to her until they should be powerful enough to rebel openly. If Ahmad's phrase means anything. Dr. Griswold says, it must mean the same, but he generously adds,
"It is possible, however, that the phrase is meaningless, being used for the sake of literary padding, with an inadequate sense of its implication. We will give Mirza Sahib the benefit of the doubt, especially since the phrase occurs nowhere else, so far as I know, in his writings " (Mirza Ghulam Ahmad p. 12).
Ahmad was much perturbed by Dr. Griswold's emphasis on that ambiguous sentence in his pamphlet, and issued a reply declaring that "present circumstances" are here contrasted with conditions at the time when jihad was sanctioned. This may indeed have been in Ahmad's mind, although it only emphasizes his divergence from orthodox Islam, which allows no possibility of jihad being prohibited until the end, although it may be suspended in different parts of the world at different times. If, then, jihad is no longer in force, according to Ahmadiya teaching, the question might be asked why it existed in the early history of Islam as the Qur'an and authentic histories of the spread of Muhammadanism give abundant evidence that it did. Ahmad's answer to this was that Muhammad and the early Khalifas had recourse to the sword, first to protect themselves from barbarian enemies and, afterward, to punish the latter for their barbarities. Ahmadiya reasoning here is naive and interesting. It is hard to see how those who assert that the early enemies of Islam were given the option of conversion or death can in the same breath argue that Islam was not propagated by force. We quote :
"It must also be stated here that permission for self-defence and murdering the enemies of Islam was not given to the Muslims until the Arabs had, on account of their excessive oppressions and outrages and innocent bloodshed, rendered themselves culpable and liable to be punished with death. But a clemency was even then shown to such of them as embraced Islam. The unity of religion established a relation of brotherhood, and all past wrongs were forgotten. It is here that some opponents of Islam have stumbled, and from this they draw the conclusion that the new religion was forced upon the unbelievers. In fact, the case is just the reverse of what the objectors have thought. There is no compulsion here ; it was a favour to those who had rendered themselves liable to death. It is apparently absurd to take this conditional mitigation of just punishment for compulsion. They deserved to be murdered, not because they did not believe in the mission of the Prophet, but because they had murdered many an innocent soul. The extreme penalty of the law was upon them, but the mercy of the Gracious God gave them another chance of averting this merited capital punishment" (Review of Religions, I, pp. 20-21).
This flies directly in the face of history, for every true account of the early history of Islam shows that Muhammad and the early Khalifas acted continuously on the offensive.
At the present time, Ahmad frequently remarked, Indian Muslims are happily situated under Christian rule just as, in the days of Muhammad, the pioneers, driven from Mecca by the authorities, found a safe and happy refuge for a time under the Christian king of Abyssinia.
If among present-day Muslims the followers of Ahmad, with their avowed abhorrence and repudiation of the idea of a " bloody Mahdi," are to be considered, ipso facto, loyal to the Government, the implication is suggested that the generality of Muslims must, on the contrary, be disloyal. This imputation they naturally resented. It may be worth while to quote in full, as giving the other side of the case, a communication to the Lahore Civil and Military Gazette (May 22nd, 1907), written by a Muslim of the orthodox party, in reply to one of Ahmad's familiar "exhortations to loyalty," issued at a time when a number of disloyal outbreaks were occurring in North India:
"The 'exhortation' to his followers, of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian, the founder of a new sect, to refrain from participating in all disloyal movements, which has appeared in your paper as an appendix to Khwajah Kamal-ud-Din's communication, is all very well inasmuch as it aims at promoting the loyalty of a certain section of the Indian population ; but this noble object should on no account be made the pretext by anyone to bring false accusations against those whom one does not like on other grounds.
"Referring to the execution of Abdul Latif, a follower of his, in Afghanistan, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad states in his 'exhortation' that the deceased was stoned to death by Amir Habibullah for the only fault that, having become one of Mirza's followers, 'he opposed the doctrine of jihad,' in accordance with the Mirza's teachings. To say the least of it, this is a very vague way of putting things. If, however, by saying so the Mirza means --- and by the general drift of his 'exhortation' it appears that he means it --- that the view held by Amir Habibullah Khan as well as by the general mass of Muhammadans in India and elsewhere, about the doctrine of jihad, is calculated to shake the loyalty of the Muhammadans in India, it should be emphatically declared that such an assertion is entirely unfounded, and is either based upon ignorance, or something else which is unworthy of a noble cause.
"It may also be stated here, for the information of the public, that Abdul Latif's real fault, which cost him his life, was that he had become a heretic (murtadd) ,30 an offence which under Islamic law is punishable with death. He became a heretic by following Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, a pronounced heretic among Muhammadans. . . . (Signed) Syed Muhammad" (Review of Religions, VI, p. 230).
Ahmad may well have congratulated himself that he lived under British rule, and as a branded heretic was saved the harsh fate meted out to his followers in Muhammadan Afghanistan.
If Ahmad depicted in dark colours the decadence of Muslims, and, in bright colours, the joy and security of living under a modern Christian government, the question naturally follows whether he inferred from those facts the superiority of the Christian civilization and ethics. This he by no means did, arguing as follows :
"The Christians, who from the present material backwardness of the Muhammadan nations, hastily draw the conclusion of the failure of Islam to raise its adherents to a high standard of progress, should cast a glance at the history of Christianity and the Christian people in the thirteenth century after Christ, and they will, we hope, be convinced that their conclusions are illogical. Whatever the present material backwardness of the Muhammadans as compared with the nations which are generally known as Christians, it is a fact that never at any stage of their history they were steeped in such ignorance as the Christians in the Middle Ages, when Christianity was as old as Islam is at present. In fact, it cannot be denied that while with the progress of Christianity civilization has decayed and with its deterioration civilization has made progress among the Christian nations, the relations of Islam to civilization have been different" (Review of Religions, VI, p. 424).
In other words, the pure principles of Islam brought to Muslims a high civilization early in its history, and the decadence of Islam is due to its departure from pristine ideals. Christian nations have attained to their present civilization not because, but in spite, of the ideals of Jesus Christ, in whose spirit and power Ahmad came.31 In January, 1908, the Review of Religions quoted, with seeming approval, some remarks in a book called, The Awakening of Islam, by William Heaford, from the French of Yahya Siddyk, in which the same logic is carried further, associating Islam, in its former and future perfection, with modern science, and Christianity with ignorance and obscurantism. We read that this author
"Claims that the ideas of modern science, which have everywhere proved so fatal to Christianity and which in every European country are producing their natural fruit in European unbelief and triumphant rationalism, will serve to rehabilitate and vindicate Islam" (Review of Religions, VII, p. 43).
In the next chapter we shall deal in detail with Ahmad's view of Christianity and its founder, and in this connection we shall see that another charge made by Ahmad against modern Islam is its false belief in the taking up of Jesus into heaven, while another person, substituted for him, suffered death on the cross.
It would seem that Ahmad painted the picture of present-day Islam as black as possible largely in his own interest. If the decadence of Islam has been due to its falling away from the teaching and example of the living Muhammad of the seventh century, its rejuvenation in the twentieth century can only come through the teaching and example of a living "magnetizer," to use a favourite Ahmadiya expression. This person is the promised Messiah. His sound and conclusive arguments, his manifestation of heavenly wisdom and power, his mediation and intercession, can alone avail to counteract the present evil tendencies in the world, by bringing anew to faithless Muslims that certainty regarding divine truth, that perfect knowledge of God, in which, he held, salvation from sin consists.
1 Baha'Ullah (1817-1892) was the founder of the Persian sect known as the Baha'is, an outgrowth of Babism. It claims to be the universal religion of brotherhood and peace.
2 Islam knows of two forms of divine inspiration --- wahy, major inspiration, granted to the prophets; and ilhdm, minor inspiration, granted to the saints generally --- by means of which knowledge comes into their minds through direct illumination, as opposed to that which comes through study and deduction. Cf. Macdonald: The Religious Attitude and Life in Islam, Chicago, 1909, p. 252ff. For an excellent summary of the orthodox position, see article by Macdonald on "The Doctrine of Revelation in Islam," in Moslem World, VII, p. 112
3 Cf. p. 37.
4 Cf. p. 81, Note 1.
5 After Qur'an LIII, 20, where several Arabian idols are mentioned, tradition says that at the first recital of the Qur'an Muhammad added, hoping to win the Meccans by this compromise, " These are the exalted females, and verily their intercessions may be expected." This is one of the verses that were later abrogated and do not now appear. For the original traditions in which the story appears, see Goldsack, Muhammad in Islam, Madras, 1916, pp. 48-52.
6 That is, the custom or usage of the Prophet which has been handed down for the guidance of the Muslim people in the traditions. Each tradition (hadis) contains a sunna, a narrative of what the Prophet said or did or did not do on a certain occasion.
7 This lecture first appeared in sections in Review of Religions in 1907, and afterward was published by Luzac & Company, London, in 1910, under the caption, The Teachings of Islam, from which quotations have already been made.
8 "Chief Ahmadiya Society," founded before Ahmad's death in accordance with instructions contained in his will, the contents of which were made known in 1905. See p. 113
9 This quotation from Jesus' words in the temptation in the wilderness (Matt. 4 : 4) is interesting here.
10 For a statement of the Sufi teaching regarding the three states of the soul referred to in Qur'an, XII, 53; LXXV, 2; and LXXXIX, 27, respectively, see Macdonald, The Religious Attitude and Life in Isld,)i pp. 229, 230.
11 Cf. p. 41, Note 2.
12 Corinthians 2: 9.
13 The verse of the Qur'an (XXIII, 102) in which this word appears is the source of the Muslim conception of an intermediate state.
14 Edition of Edward Heron-Allen, London, 1899, pp. 98,100.
15 Cf. Syed Amir 'All, The Spirit of Islam, Lahiri & Co., Calcutta, 1902, Introduction, p. lix ; and S. Khuda Baksh, M.A., Essays Indian and Islamic, Probsthain & Co., London, 1912, p. 10. The chief religions from which Muhammad borrowed were Christianity, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Sabseanism and the pagan religion of Arabia. This subject is treated at length in W. St. Clair Tisdall, The Original Sources of the Qur'an, London, 1905.
16 Cf. p. 41, Note 1.
17 Reference to any authentic history of the period will show how Ahmad has distorted facts in this extreme statement.
18 Syed Amir 'All admits his sympathy with the position of the Mu'tazilite (free-thinking) wing of Islam, which gives reason a place beside tradition and revelation, and makes man the author of his own actions (See his The Spirit of Islam, p. 321, and Macdonald, The Development of Muslim Theology, Jurisprudence and Constitutional Theory, New York, 1903, Part III, Chap. 1, p. 119ff.
19 Sir Syed Ahmad Khan (1817-1898) — the progressive Indian Muslim who founded in 1875 the Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College at Aligarh, U.P., and, in 1886, the Muhammadan Educational Conference. He was a thorough-going rationalist, and sought to accommodate Islam to modern ideas and Western education. See also pp. 133, 134.
20 See The Spirit of Islam, p. 192, and Essays Indian and Islamic p. 231.
21 Cf. p. 136.
22 "Council of the Learned," an association of educated maulvis in North India, whose chief undertaking has been the carrying on of a theological seminary for the training of a new school of enlightened Muhammadan priests. Its headquarters are in Lucknow.
23 The Urdu word for "curtain," used in India of the institution of " the veil " imposed upon Muslim women by the "Agreement" (ijma') of the Muhammadan community, and arising out of Muham- mad's injunction, originally affecting his own wives, in Qur'an, XXIV, 32. It enjoins that a woman may appear unveiled only in the presence of other women and of her husband and nearest male relations
24 For a frank and searching treatment of this subject by a recent writer of a different school, see Essays Indian and Islamic, Chapter VII, " Thoughts on the Present Situation," p. 2l3ff.
25 See p. 16. A compilation of these _fatwas_, pronounced against Ahmad, exists in Urdu.
26 Maulvl Ilahi Baksh, of Lahore, in his polemic against Ahmad, Asa'-i-Musa ("Rod of Moses"), has given (pp. 143-146) an appalling alphabetical list of the abusive epithets applied to Muslim maulvis by Ahmad.
27 Cf. Qur'an IX, 5, 6 ; IV, 76, 79 ; II, 214, 215; VIII, 39, 42 ; and many traditions in the Mishkatu'l Masabih. A convenient resume may be found under jihad, in Hughes : Dictionary of Islam, pp. 243-248. 2 Cf. p. 57.
28 Cf. p. 57.
29 Such, for example, as Syed Ahmad, of Mysore and Hyderabad (1444-1504), Muhammed Ahmad, of Dongola (proclaimed Mahdi of the Sudan in 1878), Syed Ahmad, of Oudh and the Panjab (Conqueror of Peshawar in 1830), and Syed Muhammad Husain, of Persia, the founder of the secret order of the Senusites.
30 For the laws relating to the death penalty for the murtadd (an apostate, not a heretic) see Hughes : Dictionary of Islam, p. 16. In a translation of the "Multaka ul Abhar" (Meeting of the Seas), a Turkish text-book of canon law by Ibrahim of Alleppo, Constantinople, 1290, A.H., pp. 396-397, the following summary is given : — " A man guilty of apostatizing is allowed a three days' respite if he desires it, after which, refusing to recant, he is to be killed. If he recants and again apostatizes he is again given the opportunity to reconsider. So in the third offence, but the fourth time he must be killed at once. His recantation must include renunciation of his espoused religion, as well as acceptance of Islam. He may lawfully be killed on sight, however, only the murderer in this case receives a reproof." I am indebted for the references and the translation to Prof. M. H. Ananikian, of Hartford, U.S.A.
31 For a contradictory Ahmadiya position, see p. 99.