The First Forty Years
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HAZRAT MIRZA GHULAM AHMAD, the founder of the Ahmadiyya movement, was born at Qadian, a village in the Gurdaspur District, Punjab, in 1836. His father's name was Mirza Ghulam Murtaza, and the family is descended from the Barlas tribe of the Moghul family. His ancestors had long resided In Khurasan, a province of Persia, and were the dignitaries of the land. In the tenth century of the Hijra, when Babar ruled India, one of his ancestors, Mirza Hadi Beg, emigrated from Persia, most probably on account of some family dissensions, and with his family and about' two hundred attendants sought refuge in India. Settling in a vast and fertile sub-Himalayan plain, called the Majjha, he there built a village, about 70 miles from Lahore in a northeasterly direction, and called it Islampur. The ruling monarch granted him a vast tract of land as a jagir with the right to exercise the powers of a Qadzi (magistrate) or chief executive authority. Hence, Islampur became known as Islampur Qadi Majjhi, ultimately shortened to Qadi, and at last became known as Qadian.
In the latter days of the Moghul Empire, when it was undergoing the process of dissolution, the jagir granted to the ancestors of hazrat Ahmad became an independent state. In the early days of the Sikh rule, when anarchy and oppression were the order of the day and Islam and the Muslims were being persecuted everywhere, Qadian remained for a long time the centre of peace and prosperity. Mirza Gul Muhammad, the great-grandfather of hazrat Ahmad*, was then the head of the family and, after the manner of the good Oriental chiefs, his purse was open for the learned and his table ministered freely to the poor and to the strangers. He had only eighty-five villages in his possession but, on account of his great love for piety and learning, many of the learned men who could not find shelter elsewhere felt assured of a warm reception at Qadian.
After the death of Mirza Gul Muhammad, his son, Mirza 'Ata Muhammad, became the chief, but he was soon overpowered by the Sikhs, who seized village after village until not a single village, except Qadian, was left in his possession. This place was strongly fortified, but a body of Sikhs, called Ram Garhis, made an entry into the town under false pretences and took possession of the village. Mirza 'Ata Muhammad and his whole family were made prisoners and deprived of their possessions. Their houses and the mosques were made desolate, and the library was burned to the ground. After inflicting all kinds of torture, the sikhs ordered the family to leave the village of Qadian. Thus, expelled from their home, they sought shelter in another state, where his enemies poisoned Ata Muhammad. In the latter days of Ranjit Singh's ascendancy, Mirza Ghulam Murtaza obtained five villages from the jagir of his ancestors and re-settled at Qadian. Below is reproduced the opening paragraph of Sir Lepel Griffin's account of the family, published in the Punjab Chiefs:
The Sikh anarchy was, soon after Hazrat Ahmad's birth, replaced by the peace and security of the British rule, and the Punjab Muslims once more breathed freely. The family naturally welcomed the change, and Mirza Ghulam Murtaza showed his staunch loyalty to the British rule in the Mutiny of 1857. In recognition of his services, he received a handsome pension and was highly esteemed by the officials.
Hazrat Ahmad's own impressions of the Sikh misrule and the persecution of Muslims were deep-seated, and he always spoke of the coming of the British as a blessing and as saving the Punjab Muslims from slavery and annihilation. It is for this matter-of-fact statement, which finds frequent expression in his writings, that he has been criticized by a certain school of politicians, who, therefore, regard him as favoring an alien government.
In his childhood, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad received his education at home. He learned the Holy Quran and some Persian books from a tutor named Fazl Ilahi, and later on some books on Arabic grammar from another tutor, named Fazl Ahmad. When he was seventeen or eighteen years old, a third tutor, Gul Ali Shah, was employed to teach him the ordinary Arabic textbooks of those days. He also studied some works on medicine from his father, who was a famous physician in his time.
Righteous and God-fearing
From his early days, Hazrat Ahmad had studious habits and he loved to remain in seclusion with his books. His father was, on that account, very anxious about him and repeatedly asked him to leave his seclusion and books for the more practical business of life, by which he meant that he should assist him in carrying out the plans which he was conceiving for the recovery of his lost jagir. Such worldly occupations were hateful to Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, and he cared nothing for the restoration of the lost dignity and honor of the family. In obedience to his father's wishes, however, he did whatever was required of him. At one time he was compelled to accept Government service at Sialkot, where he passed four years of his life, 1864 -1868. His experience in this line of life made upon his heart a deep impression of the degeneracy of those with whom he came in contact in that sphere of action, and therefore he did not mix with them. When his day's work was finished, he would go straight to his residence and bury himself in the pages of his books. Only those who were interested in religion, whether Muslims or non-Muslims, sought his company. It was there that he came in contact with some Christian missionaries, with whom he had conversations on religious topics.
Speaking of those days, Maulvi Sirajuddin, the father of Maulvi Zafar Ali Khan, who is one of the greatest opponents of the Ahmadiyya movement wrote in his paper, the Zamindar:
So deep was the impression made upon Maulvi Zafar Ali's father by Hazrat Ahmad's piety and learning that he paid him a visit at Qadian, later in 1877. His impression then, to which, as editor of the Zamindar, he subsequently gave expression was still the same:
At last, his father recalled him from Government service, and he was, for a time, again required to carry on the lawsuits relating to his father's estate, but the task was extremely repugnant to him. Even while thus obeying the orders of his father, he devoted a part of his time to the refutation of Christian attacks on Islam.
The town of Batala, about eleven miles from Qadian, was an important Christian missionary centre. He frequented the place in connection with the affairs of the estate, and it pained him to see how Christian propaganda, unrefuted as it was, misled ignorant Muslims. The Batala Muslims, when hard-pressed by Christian missionaries, would come to Qadian to seek his help, and he sent them back well armed to meet the situation.
Mirza Ghulam Murtaza died in June 1876. The following account of his death is from his son's pen: