Chapter IV-The Ahmadiya Movement And Christianity
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
Christians can in no way be identified with the God of the Son of Mary."
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 :
"Jesus also insulted his mother on this occasion, and the apology, that he was under the influence of wine, cannot excuse him, for on another occasion (Matt. 12: 48), when to all appearances in a sober state, he behaved even more rudely towards her" (Review of Religions, I, p. 463).
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 :
"It should be borne in mind that the attribution of the claim of divinity to Jesus Christ is a false accusation against him, for he never made the extravagant assertion that he was actually God. The only reasonable inference that can be drawn from his words is that he claimed to be an Intercessor with God, and no one has ever denied the intercession of the prophets with God" (Review of Religions, III, p. 416).
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:
"In short, I hold him in abomination, who, being born of a woman, says that he is God, although I declare Jesus Christ to be free from the charge that he ever claimed divinity for himself. With me such a claim is the most horrible sin and an arch-heresy, but I, at the same time, know that Jesus was a good and righteous servant of God, who never presumed to assert Godhead " (Review of Religions, I, p. 348).
We leave our readers to solve the riddle.
False claim to prophetic office. It is said (a) that since Elias had not come previous to Jesus, according to Jewish prophecy, Jesus could not have been the Messiah ; (b) that the Kingdom which the true Messiah would set up was to be a temporal Kingdom upon earth, and Jesus, realizing that he could not fulfil this prophecy, tried to satisfy the Jews with " a few assertions which practically meant nothing" (Review of Religions, I, p. 152); (c) that his own prophecies proved false, to wit (1) " Greater works than these shall ye do" (John 14: 12); (2) " To-day thou shalt be with me in Paradise" (Luke 23: 43); whereas he was to spend the next three days in hell; (3) "This generation shall not pass away till all these things be fulfilled" (Matthew 24: 34).
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,
"Blessed are they who out of respect for the word of Jesus free themselves from all prejudice in considering this point and do not stumble" (Review of Religions, II, p. 192).
"The Gospel teachings have no superiority over the teachings of the earlier prophets. The teachings contained in the Gospels have, on the other hand, been taken from earlier sources, including the Talmud. The Jews have always forcibly asserted that there is no originality in the Gospel teachings, but that they are only plagiarisms from Jewish sacred books" (Review of Religions, II, p. 167).
"It is hardly an exaggeration to say that whatsoever we learn from the Old Testament to be characteristic of the prophets is proved by a study of the Gospels to be characteristic of Jesus " (Review of Religions, V, p. 477) .
"Jesus was no more than a humble preacher of the law of Moses, notwithstanding the extravagances of those who deify him " (Review of Religions, I, p. 239).
"He called the prophets and saints that went before him thieves and robbers (John 10: 8), notwithstanding that his teachings were all borrowed from them " (Review of Religions, I, p. 451).
On the other hand, continuing to allow Ahmad to answer Ahmad, we are told :
"Every new age stands in need of a new reformer and a new magnetizer. . . . To take one instance only, the Mosaic law laid stress upon vengeance only in all cases, while Jesus taught unconditional forbearance and non-resistance. Both these teachings were required by the special circumstances of the time when they were taught. As the law of Moses goes to one extreme by laying too much emphasis on retaliation, the teaching of Jesus goes to the other extreme by enjoining forgiveness and pardon of the offender in all
cases " (Review of Religions, II, p. 167).
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:
"But in spite of his apparent helplessness, Jesus did not despise the sword altogether. ' He that hath no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one,' 1 he remarked on one occasion, and the later history of Christianity shows clearly that however wide may have been the departure of the Christian nations from the other teachings of Jesus, they have been quite faithful to their Master in acting up to the above injunction " (Review of Religions, V, p. 390).
Helplessness and failure. This is constantly insisted upon, in contrast to the ultimate worldly success of
Muhammad, the argument being that God visits with worldly success his true leaders among men. The taunt of the Jews (Matt. 27: 42) is repeated, that if Jesus had been God he would have saved himself from his enemies.
"Can we reasonably imagine the All-powerful God arrested by weak human beings, put into custody, chalaoed14 from one district to another, beaten and smitten on the face by constables, and in the clutches and at the mercy of a few individuals" (Review of Religions, I, p. 112) .
Again we behold the strange contradiction. When Ahmad is arguing in favour of his theory that Jesus
escaped from the cross, and knew beforehand that he would escape, one reason given is that "Jesus knew it full well that God would never destroy him and his mission, but that ultimately success would crown his efforts" (Review of Religions, II, p. 192).
Passing over some minor matters relating to Jesus' character, such as loss of temper, inconsistency and provincialism, we come to the fundamental question of his death. Ahmad declared, unqualifiedly and repeatedly that if Christians were right in their assertion that Jesus died and rose again, Christianity was true and he was an impostor. It is therefore important to examine in detail his alleged proof of Christianity's error in this respect. His position may be summarized as follows :
Jesus did not die on the cross, but was taken down by his disciples in a swoon, and healed within forty days by a miraculous ointment called, in Persian, Marham-i-'Isa.15 He then travelled to the East on a mission to the ten lost tribes of the children of Israel, believed by Ahmad to be the peoples of Afghanistan and Kashmir, and finally died at the age of 120, and was buried in Khan Yar Street, in Srinagar, the capital of Kashmir.
The alleged proofs of this unique theory are contradictory and utterly unsound. As proof that Jesus did not die on the cross, the fanciful " swoon theory," ridiculed by Strauss and now discarded, was adduced to the effect that Jesus, whose legs were not broken, was taken down from the cross in an unconscious condition by his disciples, and later revived, a fact held to have been confirmed by the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus, which were those of a living man, not a disembodied spirit. In other passages Ahmad seems to be advocating in part the so-called "fraud theory," which held that Jesus' dead body was removed from the tomb by his disciples to make possible their assertion that he had risen from the dead. Ahmad would modify the theory to make the body still alive when removed from the tomb, so that Jesus could then be spirited out of the country within forty days. In support of this theory Jesus' prediction in Matt. 12: 40 is quoted, declaring that, "As Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the fish, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." By interpreting the analogy literally Ahmad asserted that Jesus must have been alive continuously in the tomb, as was Jonah in the belly of the fish.
The passage in Matt. 16: 28, "There be some standing here who shall not taste of death till they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom," was interpreted by Ahmad, as we have seen (p. 88), to mean that Jesus must still have been alive at the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus in 70 A.D.
Ahmad also argued that if Jesus had actually risen from the dead and ascended into heaven, as Christians believe, Christianity to-day would not be spiritually dead, as he declared that it is.
So much for the escape from death on the cross. Even more fantastic are the "proofs" of Jesus' subsequent activities in the East and death and burial in Kashmir. First of all there is the a priori reason, based on Jesus' declaration : " I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel " (Matt. 15: 24). Who and where, Ahmad asked, were these lost sheep ? He replied that Jesus referred to the " ten lost tribes " of the original children of Israel.16 These tribes, he asserted, were the ancestors of the inhabitants of Afghanistan and Kashmir, to whom Jesus must therefore have gone with his Gospel. The Hebrew characteristics and antecedents of the Afghans and Kashmiris were brought forward to substantiate the declaration, which did not originate with Ahmad, that they represent the remnants of the original Kingdom of Israel.17 It was insisted upon by Ahmad that, since there is no record of Jesus' having visited those regions before his crucifixion, he must have done so afterward, a fact borne out by his words in John 10 : 16, "And other sheep I have which are not of this fold . . . they shall hear my voice."
So much for the a priori argument. As far as the historic evidence that Jesus came out to the East is concerned, Ahmad cited as his primary authority Nicolas Notovitch's Unknown Life of Christ, in which the author claimed to have seen an ancient manuscript in Tibet, describing a journey of Jesus to India for purposes of study during the interval between his visit to the Temple at Jerusalem and his baptism by John. Even had this story of Notovitch not been exploded by Prof. J. A. Douglas, of Agra, in 1895,18 it is difficult to see how Ahmad could think that a visit of Jesus to India in his youth, before his active ministry began, lends any support to the theory that he passed his later life, and died, in Kashmir.
Two other stories, introduced by Ahmad as evidence for his theory, were the well-known tale of Barlaam and Josaphat,19 in which various traditions are related with respect to an Indian prince (supposed to have been Buddha), variously styled Josaphat and Yus Afat ; and an ancient tale translated into Urdu, Ikmdl-ud-Din ("Perfection of Faith"), now out of print, written by a Persian historian, Muhammad Ibn-i-Bahwaih, in the fourth century of Islam, which narrates the history of an Indian prince and saint named Yus Asaf, who wandered to Kashmir, where he died. In neither case did the hero, Yus Afat or Yus Asaf, an Indian, have any connection whatever with Palestine or that section of the world, so that there is no shadow of a reason for identifying him with Jesus, even if we admit the bare possibility that there actually was such a man, who lived in India proper, or in Kashmir, many centuries ago, and at his death was buried in Srinagar, Kashmir.
This brings us to Ahmad's culminating " proof " of his theory, the alleged "great discovery" that the tomb of Jesus is on Khan Yar Street, in Srinagar, Kashmir. In the summer of 1913, after considerable difficulty in learning its exact location, I visited this tomb, resembling hundreds of other tombs of Muhammadan saints, with rags tied to the inner gate by those (both Muslims and Hindus) who had left money with the keeper to pay for the intercession of the occupant of the tomb. The Muslims of the city, for the most part, hold that this tomb was in the possession of the Hindus until the time of Bulbul Shah,20 who decided that it was the tomb of a Muhammadan prophet and honoured it as such. Since that time Muslims have been in possession, calling it the tomb of an unknown prophet, named Yus Asaf. This tomb, Ahmad declared it had been miraculously revealed to him, is the tomb of Jesus Christ. The first proof he brought forward was that the Kashmiris believed it was the tomb of a prophet, and since Muhammad was the last of the prophets, and is known to be buried in Medina, this must have been the tomb of his predecessor, the prophet Jesus. But the more important proof had reference to the name Yus Asaf. Ahmad said that the word Yus, or Joseph, the Josaphat to whom reference has been made, was a corruption of Yasu,21 called the original name of Jesus. The word Asaf he declared to be the Hebrew word asaf, to gather, which he said had reference to Jesus' mission as the gatherer of the ten lost tribes.
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."
And, later on, "The incontrovertible testimony afforded by the tomb itself, backed as it is by the unanimous oral testimony of hundreds of thousands of men, and by the written evidence of ancient documents, becomes, in our opinion, too strong to be resisted by the most determined of sceptics." No such testimony and no such documents exist.
The above paragraphs contain all the evidence on which Ahmad and his followers soberly undertake to re-write for us the history of the Christian era.
Coming to Ahmadiya conceptions of Christian doctrines, we find them vague and distorted. The
doctrine of the Trinity22 Ahmad attacked with a virulent animosity, which, considered in connection with his access to Christian writings, makes his misstatement of the true Christian position seem deliberate rather than unintentional. In different passages the Trinity is said to be denied by nature, human nature, the Jewish prophets, the Qur'an, and by Christ himself. A familiar argument is the following: "Everything, in its simplest form, has been created by God in a spherical or round shape, a fact which attests to and is consistent with the the Unity of God. . . . Had the doctrine of the Trinity been true, all these things should have been created in a triangular shape " (Review of Religions, I, p. 65).
The doctrine of the Trinity is thus summed up by a recent Ahmadiya writer :
"Christianity requires one to accept the enigma that there are three Godheads, who are separate, at the same time one ; that each of them is absolutely perfect in himself, though it is a menta impossibility to think of more than one being who is absolutely perfect" (Review of Religions, XV, p. 440).
There are many ironical references to the Persons of the Trinity, such as the following, in exculpation of the Jews who (for purposes of Ahmad's immediate argument) crucified Jesus :
"If the three persons of Godhead ever agreed on a matter, they agreed upon this that the Sen should suffer upon the Cross. The Father wished it, the Son wished it, and the Holy Ghost wished it, and none of the three was a sinner on that account. Why are the poor Jews then condemned for wishing the same thing ? . . . Moreover, the Jews are not alone involved in the matter, the Gods themselves, including the one that suffered, had first of all come to the decision " (Review of Religions, I, p. 457) .
One more reference will suffice :
"The manner is very amusing in which the three Persons of Trinity shifted the responsibility of the reformation of mankind from one to the other. There was the Father, who, having a certain superiority, in name if not in reality, thought of restoring man to his original state — one should think it means the savage state, for the human progress has been gradual from a lower to a higher stage23 — but he found his hands tied by the strong manacles of justice. Out of filial reverence the Son offered himself, but when he came into the world, he went away with the empty consolation that the third partner shall come and teach them all truths and guide them into all truth. The third Person, being only a pigeon, found himself unable to undertake the teaching of truths, but thought he had done his duty by teaching the apostles a few dialects, which they were thus able to speak stammeringly " (Review of Religions, I, p. 280).
Could deliberate blasphemy go to greater lengths?
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 Christians also entertain the belief that a man shall be condemned to eternal hell for every sin, and that his tortures will know no end. But the wonder is that, while proposing endless torture for other men, the Son of God is made to bear punishment for three days only. This unrelenting cruelty to others and improper leniency to his own Son is absolutely inconsistent with the mercy and justice of God"24 (Review of Religions, III, pp. 327, 328).
The doctrine of the Incarnation is thus summarily dealt with :
"Christianity requires one to believe God begat a Son to whom he made over the godhood of the universe" (Review of Religions, XV, p. 440).
In spite of Ahmad's dislike of Christian missionaries, of a piece with his inherent hatred of all professional men of religion, including Muslim mullahs and maulvis,25 he felt some respect, if not admiration, for the Christian missionary organization.
"The huge sums of money that are spent, the bulky volumes and the numberless leaflets that are written, the restless activity of the Christian evangelistic societies, and the plenty of resources they have in hand, are quite unknown in the history of any other movement" (Review of Religions, I, p. 340).
Its success is readily admitted, as was needful since it represents Dajjal (anti-Christ), and Dajjal must have become very successful before the promised Messiah appears to put him to flight. He quotes from Maulvi Sher 'Ali, B.A., one of his followers :
"Lives are risked and money is squandered like water. Human brain cannot devise any means which have not been made use of by Christian missionaries. They have spread all over the world like locusts. They have been to every land and have made their way into every home. There is no ear but has heard their voice, no eye but has read their mischief-spreading writings, and there are very few hearts which have not imbibed some kind of pernicious influence from them. Immense is the loss that Islam has suffered at their hands. . . . There were days when apostacy was unknown to Islam, but now thousands of Musalmans have gone over to Christianity. Many among the Muhammadans have found the temptation of Christianity to be irresistible, and thousands of the naked and hungry have adopted Christianity. Noble families have also fallen a prey to this Great Tempter. . . . The Holy Prophet said that 70,000 Musalmans shall follow the Dajjal. This prophecy, too, has been more than fulfilled " (Article on Anti-Christ, Review of Religions, IV, pp. 34-435).
The success of Christian missions among high-caste Hindus in India is disputed, as the number of conversions is so few, although in the Review of Religions for October, 1908, a Hindu writer in the Vedic Magazine is quoted to this effect :
"Christ got only twelve disciples in three years, and one of them betrayed him, another denied him and all fled at the time of his crucifixion. Thus the slow growth of a religious community need not deceive us. Who expected that the missionaries would convert all the Hindus in India the moment they landed? . . . When we look at the difficulty of the task that lay before these alien intruders, we are staggered at the amount of success they have attained. They come with a new Gospel ; they have strange manners ; they speak an unknown tongue. They work among a people who are deeply attached to their religion. To my mind the Christians are increasing at a rate which is truly appalling. . . . Remember Christians have doubled in thirty years. Let this formula be repeated so often that you learn to estimate its terrible significance, which is — that the death-shadow is approaching the Hindu community" (Review of Religions, VII, pp. 406-407).
The success of Christian missions among the low-caste peoples and the outcastes of India is sneeringly conceded. We wonder that any professed representative of so democratic a religion as Islam could thus quote with approval a Hindu writer:
"We think the good days of Christianity have gone by. . . . Nowadays the converts are found among the Pariahs, the Chandals, the Chamars, the sweepers, the butchers, the butlers, and the most degraded and demoralized people, who are the pests of the country, and whose touch defiles the higher class men. These dunces, drunkards, debauchers, and starving rogues are now counted by millions among the Christian converts in India, and the higher class people do still remain as 'untouched' by the influence of Christianity as ever" (Review of Religions, III, p. 378).
In the Panjab Census Report for 1901, it was said of Ahmad that he began his work "as a Maulvi with a
special mission to sweepers " (Review of Religions, II, p. 83). Ahmad's petition to Government to issue a denial of this statement26 is interesting for the light which it reflects on the missionary activities of the Ahmadiya movement in contrast to Christianity. I quote it in part :
"2. That this statement is altogether false and groundless, and most injurious and harmful to my honour and reputation.
"4. That the sweeper class is specially associated with crimes, and to represent me as connected with that class when there is not the slightest foundation for such a charge is to represent me as being in a state generally considered disgraceful. The sweepers in this country are looked upon as the most degenerate class of people, and the statement made in the Census Report is calculated to do the greatest harm to my reputation, and to hurt the feelings not only of myself, but also of the thousands of the most loyal and respectable subjects of the Government who follow me as their guide and leader in all religious and spiritual matters.
"5. That my principles and doctrines, which I have been preaching since the very beginning, are morally so sublime and spiritually so exalted that they are not suited to, and accepted by, even Muhammadans of a low type and bad morals, to say nothing of the sweepers, and that they are accepted only by intelligent and noble-minded men who lead pure and angelic lives, and that my followers actually include in their number Ra'ises,27 Jagirdars,28 respectable Government officials, merchants, pleaders, learned Maulvis and highly educated young men " (Review of Religions, II, p. 83).
How different was Jesus' attitude, reflected in his saying, now so often quoted in India, " I came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance " (Luke 5 : 32).
The Christian establishment of schools, colleges and hospitals is praised without qualification in several passages, although in one place we read :
"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).
The Christian missionary attitude of alleged antagonism toward Islam is fiercely censured, although in his later years Ahmad seems to have discovered a new attitude of respect and sympathy on the part of some Christian missionaries toward Islam, and even admitted that they were setting the Aryas a good example in this respect.
We need not linger long over Ahmad's invectives, already alluded to, on the subject of the degeneracy and weaknesses prevalent in Christian lands. He does not, like his pupil, Khwajah Kamal-ud-Din,29 attribute the weaknesses and failures of Christianity in history to St. Paul, as though he were its founder. Rather, he writes conclusively, "The deadliest sin is to be attributed to him (Jesus) that he is at the root of all Christian corruption " (Review of Religions, I, p. 159). There is the usual contradiction, however, to be found in the first number of the Review of Religions:
"It cannot be denied then that the fold of Christ to-day is walking in a path different from that in which it walked in the days when the presence of its holy keeper exercised its wholesome influence over it. . . . Is the wholesale debauchery and excessive drinking of Christian Europe in accordance with what Jesus taught ? . . . It is not true that it is all owing to the absence of the holy personage who worked so wonderful a transformation in the apostles?" (Review of Religions, I, pp. 3, 4).
The free intermingling of the sexes is held responsible for much of the immorality in the West, and over against it the Muslim requirement of "the veil" is upheld as the ideal. Such prostitution as exists in Western lands is charged to the Christian ideal of monogamy, and the Muslim practice of polygamy is given the credit for the alleged absence of the social evil in Muslim countries, where woman's position is held to be higher than in Christendom. Drunkenness and gambling are declared to be everywhere prevalent in Christendom, and, in this connection, absent from Islam.30 The Christian missionaries and clergy are charged with being as corrupt and drunken as the entire Christian civilization of which they are the professed exponents. That Christianity is dying out is asserted with the same monotonous regularity that characterizes the assurance that the day of Islam's revived glory and power has been ushered in by the promised Messiah.
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.
See Cornhill : History of the People of Israel, Chicago, 1898, p. 126 ; or any other authoritative Old Testament history.
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.
Cf. "Islam in Kashmir," by H. A. Walter, in The Moslem World, IV, p. 340.
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.