Mahdi and Messiah
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The task before him was a difficult one. The Muslims had lost that love and zeal for the spread of Islam, which led the earlier sons of Islam to the distant corners of the world. Many people, however, came to him and took the pledge. While preparing himself and his followers for the great conquests, he made an announcement which fell like a bombshell among the Muslim public - that Jesus Christ was not alive, as was generally believed by the Muslims, but that he had died as all other prophets had died, and that his advent among the Muslims meant the advent of a mujaddid in his spirit and power; that no Mahdi would come, as generally thought, to convert unbelievers with the sword, as this was opposed to the basic teachings of the Quran, but that the Mahdi's conquests were to be spiritual; and that the prophecies relating to the advent of a Messiah and a Mahdi were fulfilled in his own person. It was about eighteen months after his call to bai'a that this announcement was made and it changed the whole attitude of the Muslim community towards him. Those very people who hailed him in his capacity of mujaddid as the savior of Islam now called him an impostor, an arch-heretic and Anti-Christ.
Recluse and soldier
Hazrat Ahmad based both his claims, the claim to mujaddidship and the claim to Messiahship, on Divine revelation, and it is easy to see that nothing but the fullest conviction that he was commanded by God could have led him to adopt a course which, he knew, would bring him from the height of fame and distinction, to which he had attained, to the depth of degradation in the eyes of his own community. If public esteem and fame were the goal of Hazrat Ahmad's aspirations, he had indeed achieved them. He knew that his departure from an established popular conception must injure his reputation and turn his very friends and admirers into foes; but he cared little for public opinion and even less for fame. He was then an old man and the fifty-five years of his earlier life show but one desire - the desire to see Islam triumphant in the world - and they point to but one aim - the aim to serve the cause of Islam.
His father had often remonstrated with him on account of his neglect of his worldly concerns and had exhorted him to look after the family estate, but in vain. He had not shown the least desire to become a great man in the world; he did not even care to maintain the position which his family enjoyed. His love of solitude continued unabated to the last and the only thing for which he would come in contact with others was to uphold the dignity of Islam and to safeguard its honor. He was a recluse all his life, except when duty called him to fight the battle of Islam, and then he was a soldier who could wield his weapon against each and every assailant. The stream of life, which had flowed consistently and constantly in one direction, could not suddenly take a turn in the opposite direction. The hand of God had undoubtedly been preparing him from early life to champion the cause of Islam, and he was at this point Divinely directed to remove, by his claim to Promised Messiahship and Mahdiship, the two great obstacles, which stood in the way of the propagation of Islam.
Today any one can see that Islam and Christianity are the only two religions contending for the spiritual mastery of the world, all other religions being limited to one or two countries. At the time when the Promised Messiah began to work, Islam seemed to have been utterly vanquished by Christianity, not only by reason of the temporal ascendancy of Christianity but also because Christians were complete masters in the field of propaganda, Muslims being almost entirely unrepresented. In this helpless state, the Muslims had, to a very great extent, come under the influence of the Christian propaganda, which, on the one hand, impugned the character of the Holy Prophet, and, on the other, laid stress on the superiority of Jesus Christ over the Founder of Islam. In support of this latter allegation were brought forward certain erroneous views which had taken root among the Muslims; for instance, that Jesus Christ was alive in the heavens while all the other prophets had died, and that he would reappear in the world when Islam would be in great distress, and thus that he would, in the real sense, be the last Prophet and the savior of Islam.
To establish the superiority of Islam and to open the way for its conquest of the world, it was necessary not only to clear the character of the Holy Prophet of those false charges but also to uproot those erroneous doctrines. Thus, when Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was commissioned for the great task of leading Islam to a world-conquest, when the Divine mantle of mujaddidship fell upon his shoulders and when he began to enlist, through bai'a, an army of soldiers to fight the spiritual battle of Islam, God gave him the knowledge that the prevailing view of the Muslim world relating to Jesus Christ was erroneous and not supported by the Holy Quran, that Jesus Christ had died as had all other prophets and that his prophesied second advent was to be taken in a metaphorical sense and to mean the advent of a reformer (mujaddid) with his spirit and power.
Two baseless doctrines
The two matters were so closely correlated that in the solution of the one lay the solution of the other. If Jesus was dead, his personal second advent was impossible, and that prophecy could be interpreted only in the same way as Jesus himself interpreted the prophecy of the second advent of Elijah. The false conception that Jesus was alive in heaven was, however, so deep-rooted in the Muslim mind that they would listen to no arguments which militated against this long-cherished belief, even though they were based on the absolute authority of the Holy Quran and the Hadith. They were not in a mood to think that, in the very fitness of things, this exactly should be the mission of the mujaddid of this age. Christianity, practically the only adversary of Islam and the most formidable, had this one main prop to support its whole structure of doctrines and dogmas - Jesus sitting with God in heaven. To pull this main prop down would mean the crumbling of the whole like a house of cards, and this work had to be done to open the way for the conquests of Islam in the West.
Coupled with the wrong notion that Jesus Christ was alive in heaven and would come down, there was another equally unfounded conception, and equally detrimental to the cause of Islam, namely that the Mahdi would appear just at the same time and would wage war to enforce Islam at the point of sword. Already Islam had been misrepresented in the West as having been established by means of the sword, and the doctrine of a Mahdi coming to wage war to establish the superiority of Islam only lent further support to the misrepresentations of the Christian West, causing the hatred against Islam to become deeper and deeper day by day. That false notion also had to be cut at the very roots. "There is no compulsion in religion" (2:256), was a clear principle established by the Holy Quran, and there was not a single instance in which the Holy Prophet brought the pressure of the sword to bear on any one individual let alone a whole nation, to compel the embracing of Islam. "Fight against those who fight against you" (2:190), was the only permission that Islam gave in the matter of fighting, and even the Holy Prophet, to say nothing of the Mahdi, could not go against the Holy Quran. The Mahdi (lit., the guided one), was only another name for the Messiah - such was the announcement made by Hazrat Ahmad, and in support of this was quoted the Prophet's hadith:
Storm of opposition
Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad had thus, in the very cause of Islam, to combat the idea that, for its conquests, Islam stood in need either of Jesus Christ or the sword. He emphasized that men endowed with great gifts, even men like the Messiah, could rise among its followers, and that the spiritual power of Islam was greater than all the swords of the world; but Mulla mentality was too narrow for these broad views. Led by Maulvi Muhammad Husain, the Ahl Hadith leader, who had only six years before acclaimed Hazrat Ahmad as one of the greatest sons of Islam, and as one who had rendered unique service to the cause of Islam by his powerful arguments and by the heavenly signs which he had shown to his opponents, the 'ulama now declared him to be an arch-heretic. Some of them even went so far as to declare that he and his followers could not enter mosques or be buried in Muslim graveyards, that their property could be taken away with impunity and that their marriages were void. The storm of opposition that followed those fatwas can better be imagined than described, but all this opposition did not make Hazrat Ahmad swerve an inch from the position, which he had taken. The most hostile critics have nothing but praise for his courage in the face of the bitterest opposition, even of attempts at physical violence. Thus wrote Dr Griswold:
Resolution to carry Islam forward
As I have stated, the opposition came not from one quarter but from all sides. All sects of Islam denounced him, just as they had all praised him before, while the Christians and the Arya Samajists, against whom he had been fighting in the cause of Islam for so long a time, were only too glad to join hands with the Muslims. In spite of all, Hazrat Ahmad stood adamant. No abuse, no denunciation, no persecution, no threat of murder disturbed for a single moment the equilibrium of his mind or caused him to entertain for an instant the idea of relinquishing in despair the cause which he had so long upheld. Nay, in the midst of a widespread and bitter opposition on all sides, he reaffirmed with still greater force his resolution to carry the message of Islam to the farthest ends of the world, and his conviction that Islam would triumph became greater. It is the unique spectacle of a soldier carrying on the fight single-handed while the powerful forces of opposition were arrayed before his face, and the very people for whom he was fighting was hitting him in the back. The claim to Promised Messiahship was advanced in three books, which appeared one after another at short intervals. In the first of these he writes:
Significance underlying claim
Apart from the narrow-minded Mulla who could not grasp the significance underlying Hazrat Ahmad's claim to Promised Messiahship, even the educated Muslim thinks that this claim brought nothing but schism in the house of Islam. It is true that much of Hazrat Ahmad's time was taken up, after 1891, with controversy against the orthodox, and it became bitter too at times, but the internal struggle never made him lose sight of his real objective, which had indeed become more marked and definite. As to internal dissensions, they were already there; in fact, the Muslims had lost all objectives except fighting amongst themselves on the minutest points of difference. Therefore, they had no eye for the higher issues involved in Hazrat Ahmad's claim, but spent their whole force in carrying on a struggle about minor differences.
Moreover, the great cause of Islam - its onward march in the world - had nothing to lose from the claim to Promised Messiahship; Jesus' death added only one more to the numerous prophets who, including the Holy Prophet Muhammad, had all died; but to Christianity it meant the death of its central figure, with whose death collapsed the whole structure of its dogmas. Nay, the cause of Islam gained immeasurable strength therefrom; for, as long as the Muslim believed that Jesus was alive in heaven and that he would make his descent at some future time to bring about the triumph of Islam, his mentality remained one of fond dreams never to be realized, and that was largely the reason why the Muslim had lost the zeal and energy of the earlier days for carrying forward the message of Islam. Islam's triumph was, he believed, bound up with the coming of Jesus Christ and of Imam Mahdi, and he had nothing to do but to wait and see. Such was the hidden process of thought, which made him quite inactive. That the Messiah who was to come had already appeared was an idea which shifted the responsibility to his own shoulders; nay, it brought back to him the zeal to carry forward the message of Islam. If the Messiah had come, the time had also arrived for the world conquest of Islam. This was the great mental revolution achieved among those who accepted Hazrat Ahmad as the Messiah; a mere handful of men, but carrying the message of Islam to the farthest ends of the world, while the millions of the orthodox are either idle or occupied with their internal dissensions.
From defence to attack
In Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad's own work, two changes are clearly witnessed with his claim to Promised Messiahship. The first is that, as far as the contest with Christianity was concerned, he had hitherto been carrying on a defensive war -clearing the Holy Prophet of the false charges brought against him by the Christian missionaries; but his new claim involved an aggressive line of action - the destruction of the very foundations on which the Church, as distinguished from the Christianity preached by Christ, was built. Right at the beginning of Fath Islam, his first pamphlet making the new announcement, he wrote clearly:
Thus the contest between Christianity and Islam was no longer to be limited to the defence of Islam; the spiritual forces of Islam had to be gathered together to attack Christianity itself.
Dajjal and Gog and Magog
The other change which resulted from the claim to Promised Messiahship was that it gave a definite direction to the mission which Hazrat Ahmad believed had been entrusted to him, namely to bring about the triumph of Islam and to lead it on to a world-conquest. Henceforth, Europe or the Western world became his special objective, and that new idea was born as a twin to the idea that he was the Promised Messiah.
Both ideas - the idea that he was the Promised Messiah and the idea that his mission was to carry the message of Islam to the Western world - took their birth at one and the same time. It was not a casual coincidence; the two ideas were closely interrelated. The advent of the Promised Messiah did not stand alone in eschatological prophecy; it was essentially combined with the idea of the appearance of the Anti-Christ (Dajjal) and of Gog and Magog (Ya'juj wa Ma'juj). In fact, the Promised Messiah's first and foremost work was to be to put an end to the influence of the Dajjal and of Gog and Magog. Now the prevalent idea among the Muslims was that the Dajjal was a one-eyed man who would make his appearance in the latter days with the treasures of the world at his command, that he would lay claim to Godhead, carrying even paradise and hell with him, and that he would traverse the whole earth in forty days, visiting every habitation of men, inviting them to accept his divinity and enriching those who followed him, and that Gog and Magog would be an extraordinary creation of God, who would spread over the whole earth. The truth, which had remained hidden for thirteen centuries after the Holy Prophet Muhammad, flashed upon Hazrat Ahmad's mind at the very time when he was raised to the dignity of Messiahship.
This truth was that the Dajjal and Gog and Magog of the prophecies were no other than the Christian nations of Europe and America. In their religious attitude, in contradicting the teachings of Christ and the teachings of all the prophets of God, they represented Gog and Magog. Thus, when announcing his claim to Promised Messiahship, after discussing at length the prophecies relating to their appearance, he wrote in Izala Auham, his first great work on the subject, under the caption, 'It was necessary that the Anti-Christ should come forth from the Church':
Islamization of Europe
One wonders when one finds that a man who lived in a village, far removed from all centres of activity, who did not know a word of English, whose knowledge of Europe was almost negligible, has visions that he is delivering a speech in English in London and explaining the truths of Islam to Europeans, and that the people of Europe will accept Islam. The history of Islam shows how such visions have materialized before. The great saint of Ajmer, Khwaja Mu'in al-Din Chishti, saw in a dream, while in Madina, that he was preaching Islam in India, and the saint of Qadian sees in a vision that he is spreading Islam in Europe. India has fulfilled the dream of the saint of Ajmer, and Europe is undoubtedly on its way to fulfil the vision of the saint of Qadian.
Amidst all the persecution to which he was subjected, Hazrat Ahmad's heart throbbed with but one desire - the desire to spread Islam in the West - and that was the message with which he came as the Promised Messiah. Europe was identical with Dajjal, and the Messiah must overcome the Dajjal. Flames of the fire of opposition rose high on all sides, but he had an eye on the goal and he proposed to sit down calmly in the midst of this fire and write books disclosing the beauties of Islam and meeting the objections not only of Christian missionaries but also of those whom materialism was bringing in its train: