Prophecies require interpretation
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critics of the Ahmadiyya Movement are constantly raising
the objection that some sign or other of the coming of
the Messiah or the Mahdi has not been fulfilled by Hazrat
Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, or that some prophecy or other has
not been fulfilled through him. These objections would
not have been raised if the critics had known of the
coherent and well-defined philosophy in Islam relating to
prophecies and their fulfillment. We deal with this
subject in case the objectors are really unaware of the
logic underlying prophecies and of the fine and subtle
points taught by Islam in this respect.
By way of introduction, to prophesy means to give information in advance of some event to happen in the future. The Arabic word for prophecy is naba'-un. There are two kinds of prophecies: Warnings and glad tidings. Prophecies giving good news are called wa`da (lit. promise), while those delivering a warning are known as wa`eed (lit. conditional threats). Wa`da strengthens one's faith by conveying good news that are then fulfilled. The purpose of wa`eed is to warn people of the grave consequences of their evil deeds, so that they may turn to God and mend their ways. Hence the aim of prophecies is to create living faith in God in the hearts.
Prophecies received through spiritual, not physical, senses
The first point to note is that when God informs His chosen ones and other righteous servants of events of the future, or shows them a scene with physical happenings, the recipient receives this information not through his physical senses such as the eye, but through his spiritual senses in a dream or vision. Furthermore, all religious scriptures and all the religious savants of Islam are agreed that most dreams and visions need to be interpreted, there being only one prophecy in a hundred which may be fulfilled literally.
The Holy Quran, in its account of Joseph's history, mentions three dreams containing prophecies which were interpreted and fulfilled metaphorically:
1. Joseph's own dream is mentioned in the following words:
This prophecy, which indicated the greatness to which Joseph was to rise, was not unraveled until Joseph had risen to become the head of the Treasury in Egypt. When he attained that honour, he said: "This is the interpretation of my dream of old which my Lord has made to come true" (12:100). Hence the significance of the dream was that great and powerful men would obey him, not that anything would literally bow down to him.
2. A fellow-prisoner of Joseph had a dream which he related as follows:
Joseph interpreted the dream in this way: "He shall be crucified so that birds will eat from his head" (12:41).
3. The king of Egypt, the country where Joseph was imprisoned, had a puzzling dream as follows:
In interpreting this dream, Joseph took "seven fat kine" to be seven years of good harvest and "seven lean ones" to be seven years of drought.
From these three examples, it will have become obvious that while the words of a prophecy may say one thing, they are taken to mean something different. It will also be seen that even sinners and disbelievers can have true dreams.
Besides the above examples from the Holy Quran, the Hadith books contain numerous instances of dreams and visions of the Holy Prophet Muhammad which he related, and which were interpreted by him or his followers in a metaphorical sense. A few such examples are given below:
These hadith show that dreams and visions usually stand in need of interpretation.