Fulfilment of Prophecies
| Translators Note:
Our opponents deny that Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad
fulfils the Hadith prophecies about the coming Messiah; and they
also ridicule some of the prophecies made by Hazrat Mirza himself.
To refute this criticism, this Section outlines the basic principles
governing the fulfilment of prophecies, by taking examples of admittedly
fulfilled prophecies from the Quran and Hadith. If these principles
are applied, all criticism against Hazrat Mirza on this score is
I. Prophecies require interpretation
The 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 fulfilment. 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 wada
(lit. promise), while those delivering a warning are known as waeed
(lit. conditional threats). Wada strengthens ones
faith by conveying good news that are then fulfilled. The purpose of
waeed 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 Josephs history, mentions
three dreams containing prophecies which were interpreted and fulfilled
1. Josephs own dream is mentioned in the following words:
I saw eleven stars and the sun and the moon, bowing down before
me. (The Holy Quran, ch. 12, v. 4)
This prophecy, which indicated the greatness to which Joseph was to rise,
was not unravelled 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
I saw myself carrying bread on my head, and the birds were
eating of it. (12:36)
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:
And the king said, I saw seven fat kine which were being devoured
by seven lean ones, and seven green ears and seven others which were
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:
- I was asleep when a cup of milk was brought to me. I
drank of it until its freshness could be seen coming out of my nails.
Then I gave what remained to Umar ibn al-Khattab. People asked, What
did you take it to mean, O Messenger of God? He said, Knowledge.
(Bukhari, Book 3: Kitab al-Ilm, ch. 22)
- While I was asleep I saw people brought before me wearing
shirts, some of which extended as far as their chests, while others
were shorter than this. Umar was brought before me, and he was wearing
a shirt which was [so long that it was] trailing. People asked, What
did you take it to mean, O Messenger of God? He said, Religion.
(Bukhari, Book 2: Kitab al-Iman, ch. 14)
- I was asleep when I saw two gold bracelets on my hands. I
was perturbed by them. Then a revelation came to me in my dream to
blow on them. I did, and they blew away. I took them to mean the two
liars to arise after me, the first Aswad Ansi, and the second Musailama,
the liar of Yamma.
(Bukhari, Book 61: Kitab al-Manaqib, ch. 25)
- I saw in a dream that I moved my sword and the leading part
of it broke. This was the misfortune to befall the Muslims on the
day of [the battle of] Uhud.
(Bukhari, Book 92: Kitab al-Tabir, ch. 44)
- In a dream I saw cows being slaughtered. These were the Muslims
on the day of Uhud.
(ibid., ch. 39)
- I saw, as it were, a black woman with dishevelled hair, leaving
Madina till she reached Mahyaa which is called Juhfa. I took
it to mean that the pestilence of Madina had shifted there.
(ibid., ch. 41)
- The Holy Prophet said: I saw [in a dream or vision] a spotted
dog putting his mouth in the blood of members of my family. This was
taken to mean Shimr [the assassin of Imam Husain] who had leprosy.
- Imam Husain, peace be upon him, said that he heard his father
[Hazrat Ali] say: I heard the Holy Prophet say that a ram would violate
the sanctity of the Kaba so I wonder if I am that ram.
.br The commentators of Hadith have written that this prophecy applied
to Abdullah Ibn Zubair.
- It is related from Aishah that the Holy Prophet said [to
her]: You were shown to me in a dream twice [before marriage]. A man
was carrying you wrapped up in a silk cloth saying, This is your wife,
look at her face. So when I opened it up, it was you. I said, If this
is from God it shall be fulfilled.
(Bukhari, Book 92: Kitab al-Tabir, ch. 20)
These hadith show that dreams and visions usually stand in need of
II. Errors in interpreting dreams and visions
1. Sometimes errors are made in interpreting various matters related
to a prophecy, such as the time when it is to be fulfilled. The Holy Quran
God indeed fulfilled the vision of His Messenger: you shall
enter the Sacred Mosque, if God please, in security, your heads shaved
and hair cut short, not fearing. (48:27)
The Holy Prophet was in Madina when he saw in a dream that he had entered
Makka and was performing the Tawaf (circuits) around the Kaaba.
So he and his Companions marched forth towards Makka, being certain that
the vision would be fulfilled that very year. However, this could not
come about, and the Muslims had to return, having concluded the peace
treaty of Hudaibiyya. A few of the Companions began to wonder why they
had failed to achieve their goal, so much so that Umar asked the Holy
Prophet if he had not said that they would go to the Kaaba and perform
the Tawaf. The Holy Prophet said, Yes, but did I also say
that it would be this year? They said, No. He then told them that
they would certainly go to the Kaaba and perform the Tawaf.
This proves three points:
2. The Holy Prophet Muhammad related:
- The prophet or other holy man who is the recipient of the prophecy
from God is not informed of all the details relating to its fulfilment.
- The recipient of the prophecy can commit an error of personal judgement
in interpreting the prophecy.
- It is in order for the prophesier to take some legitimate course
of action on the basis of his own interpretation of the prophecy (as
in this instance the Holy Prophet attempted to go to Makka to perform
the Tawaf on the basis of his dream, to fulfil the prophecy).
I saw in a dream that I was migrating from Makka to a place
having date trees. So I thought that this would be Yamama or Hajar,
but it turned out to be Madina.
3. It is related from Aishah:
(Bukhari, Book: Qualities of the Companions, 63:45)
Some of the wives of the Holy Prophet asked him, Which one
of us shall join you first after your death? He said, The one with
the longest hands. So they compared their hands before him, and it
was Sauda who had the longest hands. But we learnt afterwards [upon
the death of the first one of his wives to pass away after him] that
it meant the length of the hand in giving charity, and the first one
to join him after his death was Zainab, who loved to give in charity.
(Bukhari, Book 24: Kitab al-Zakat, ch. 11)
III. Delay and abrogation of prophecy
Sometimes the prophecy made by a godly person about himself is actually
fulfilled after him through his followers. Hadith records:
It is not necessary that all the prophecies made by a prophet or other
appointed one of God should be fulfilled within his lifetime. The Holy
Quran, addressing the Holy Prophet on the subject of the promised destruction
of his opponents, says in this regard:
- The Holy Prophet said, I was asleep and the keys to the
treasures of the earth were brought before me till they were placed
in my hands. Abu Huraira said, The Holy Prophet departed from this
world, and you [O Muslims] are bringing forth those treasures.
(Bukhari, Book 92: Kitab al-Tabir, ch. 11)
- Ismaili said: People who interpret dreams say that the Holy
Prophet saw in a dream that Usaid ibn Abi al-Ais was the Chief of
Makka, having become a Muslim. However, he died while still a disbeliever,
and the dream was fulfilled in his son Uttab who became a Muslim.
Be patient; surely Gods promise is true. Whether We
[God] show you some of those things with which We threaten them [i.e.
the opponents], or cause you to die [before the fulfilment], in any
case, they will return to Us. (40:77)
In accordance with this, countless prophecies made by the Holy Prophet
Muhammad have been coming to pass since his death even up to today, and
will continue to find fulfilment till the end of the world.
Prophecies can sometimes be abrogated, as the Holy Quran says:
And it is not in the power of a messenger to bring a sign
except by Gods permission. For every term [of fulfilment of
a prophecy] there is a command. God effaces what He pleases and establishes
what He pleases. (13:38)
IV. Prophecies of Chastisement
In case of waeed, i.e. a prophecy of death, destruction or
doom, the fulfilment is conditional upon the subsequent behaviour of those
against whom the warning is directed. The prophesied punishment may come
to pass, or it may be mitigated or even set aside altogether, depending
on their reaction. The Holy Quran has given three types of examples in
Those who do not heed the warning of the coming doom and destruction
cannot escape the punishment. The Quran cites the instance of the prophet
Salih who warned his people as follows: This is the she-camel
of God, a sign for you. So leave her alone to pasture in Gods
earth, and do her no harm; otherwise, a punishment shall afflict you
(7:73). However, their reaction was: Then they hamstrung the she-camel
and revolted against their Lords commandment, and said: O Salih,
bring us the punishment with which you threaten us, if you are a messenger
[of God]. So the earthquake seized them, and they were motionless bodies
in their houses (7:77,78).
The second kind of people are those who, while not repenting fully
upon hearing the warning, are frightened by it temporarily. In this
case, even if they do not make their inner fear openly known, God will
still grant them a period of respite to turn to Him, so that the punishment
can be averted. If, however, they abuse this respite to continue their
opposition to the Divine cause, God sends down His punishment upon them.
A case in point is that of the Pharoah and his people who opposed Moses.
Every time an affliction from God befell them, they would go to Moses
and say: O enchanter, call on your Lord for us, as He has made
the covenant with you; we shall surely follow the guidance (43:49);
but then, when We removed from them the chastisement, they broke
the pledge (43:50). When the punishment would again come, they
would say: Our Lord, remove from us the chastisement, for surely
we are believers (44:12). In reply God says: We shall remove
the chastisement a little, but you will surely return to doing evil
Finally, there are those who are so frightened by the prophecy of
doom that they turn fully to repentance and seeking of forgiveness from
God. Speaking of Jonahs nation, the Holy Quran says:
And why was there not a town which believed, so that their
belief should have profited them, except the people of Jonah? When
they believed, We removed from them the chastisement of disgrace in
this worlds life. (10:98)
Classical commentators make the following observations about this case:
Another example of doom being averted from someone because of their turning
to good deeds is recorded in a commentary of the Quran as follows:
- Jonah told them that their time-limit was forty nights.
They replied, If we see the omens of destruction we shall believe
(Tafsir Kashshaf, p. 599)
- Jonah was sent to Nineveh from Mosal. The people of Nineveh
denied him and persisted in this [denial]. Then Jonah promised them
the punishment to befall in thirty, or some say forty, nights.
(Baidawi, vol. iv, p. 186)
- Jonah told them, Your time-limit is forty nights.
(Tafsir Kabir, vol. v, p. 42)
- It is related from Ibn Masud and others that God sent
Jonah to the people of Nineveh in the land of Mosal. They rejected
him. He then promised them the coming of punishment within an appointed
period, and left them angrily.
(Fath al-Bari, vol. vi, p. 325)
- After thirty-five days had elapsed, a terrifying, dark, smokey
cloud appeared. It enveloped the city and turned surfaces black. So
they put on sackcloth and went out into the field along with their
women and children ... and they manifested faith, repentance and humility.
So God had mercy on them and removed their punishment from them. This
happened on a Friday on the day of Ashura [i.e., 10th
A washer of clothes passed by Jesus and a company of his disciples.
Jesus said to them, Attend his funeral at mid-day today. However,
he did not die. When the angel Gabriel appeared, Jesus asked him,
Did you not give me the news of the death of this washer of clothes?
He said, Yes, but afterwards he gave in charity three pieces of bread,
and was therefore reprieved.
(Ruh al-Bayan, vol. i, p. 257)
The chief points to bear in mind about prophecies have been noted above.
Critics who lack this knowledge stumble here due to their prejudice and
hostility. But a study of the Holy Quran, Hadith and classical Muslim
literature shows that the whole subject of prophecies is a veritable science
the terminology of which is composed of metaphors and allusions. Some
measure of ambiguity and uncertainty are necessarily to be found in a
prophecy, as has been shown here.
These principles also apply to the prophecies of the Holy Prophet
Muhammad relating to the latter days when, according to these presages,
the world was to turn away from religion, become a stranger to spiritual
matters, and be heedless of Divine commandments. The tribulations of
the Dajjal were to have been at their height, and at this juncture
a man having the characteristics of Jesus was to have been sent to the
world for its spiritual regeneration. The Holy Prophet, having received
intimation from on High, told Muslims of the dramatic events to happen
after the appearance of the Dajjal and of the signs of the coming
of the Messiah, explaining to them all the details of these happenings.
All these prophecies are dominated by metaphorical descriptions for
the simple reason that the Holy Prophet was shown these scenes of the
future through his spiritual, not physical, senses. The metaphors require
interpretation according to the established criteria for prophecies,
and cannot be taken literally.