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Rise of Sun in the West and the capture of birds

Promised Messiah's vision confirmed by the Holy Quran

Speech at the North American Islamic Ahmadiyya Convention (Columbus, Ohio, August 1996)

by Zahid Aziz, Editor, The Light

(The Light & Islamic Review : Vol. 73; No. 4; Jul-Aug 1996; p. 7-10)

Introduction / Support in the Holy Quran / Argument between Abraham and his king / Hazrat Mirza and the modern materialism / Claim to have control over life and death / Reply to materialist's claim / Vision of capturing birds / How to catch and tame birds in this age? /

The Holy Quran:

"Have you not thought of him who disputed with Abraham about his Lord because Allah had given him kingdom?

When Abraham said:

'My Lord is He Who gives life and causes to die', 

he said:

'I give life and cause death.' 

Abraham said:

'Surely Allah causes the sun to rise from the east, so make it rise from the west.'

Thus he who disbelieved was bewildered. And Allah guides not the unjust people." -- 2: 258.

Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad:

"Similarly, the rising of the sun from the west which will take place, we believe in it. However, what has been shown to me in a vision is that the rising of the sun from the west means that the Western countries which have been involved in the darkness of unbelief and misguidance from ancient times will be illuminated by the sun of guidance and will receive a share of Islam." -- Izala Auham, page 515.


The Holy Quran:

"And when Abraham said, My Lord show me how You give life to the dead. He said: Do you not believe? He said: Yes, but that my heart may be at ease.

He said: Then take four birds, then tame them to incline to you, then place on every mountain a part of them, then call them, they will come to you flying; and know that Allah is Mighty, Wise." -- 2:260.

Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad:

"I saw in a vision that I was standing on a pulpit in London, delivering a well-reasoned speech in English showing the truth of Islam. Afterwards, I caught many birds who had been sitting on small trees, who were white in colour . . . I interpreted it to mean that, although I may not go there, but my writings will spread among those people and many righteous Westerners will fall prey to the truth.

In fact, the Western countries have up to this time shown very little aptitude for spiritual truths, as if God had bestowed all religious wisdom upon Asia and given all material wisdom to Europe and America. . . . Now Almighty God intends to cast a look of mercy upon them." -- Izala Auham, p. 515-516.

The passages from the writings of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad that I have quoted above on the right are very well-known to Ahmadis.

In the first, he refers to a hadith in Bukhari, that a sign of the last days is that the sun will rise from the west, and interprets it as the sun of Islam rising in Western countries.

In the second, which immediately follows the first, he describes a vision of his in which he saw himself making a speech in London, and at the end of this address he caught a number of birds who had been sitting nearby on trees.

Support in the Holy Quran

The question I wish to discuss is, Does the Quran have anything to say on this. Every authentic saying of the Holy Prophet must have some support or grounding in the Quran. And all the interpretations of Islamic issues given by Hazrat Mirza will also be found to have support in the Quran, because his interpretations were Divinely-inspired.

In this connection I refer to the first verse of the Quran that I have quoted (2:258).

Narratives in the Holy Quran such as these are generally taken as describing events of the past, but the Quran tells us that the stories of the earlier prophets which are related in it also speak prophetically about similar happenings which shall take place in the future (see, for example, the Quran, 11:49). I will now discuss this verse and show how it relates to the work started in this age by Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad.

Argument between Abraham and his king

The verse records an argument between Abraham and the king of his time about the power of God. Abraham says that God gives life and causes death. But the king, considering himself as all-powerful, argues that he has the power to decide who lives and who dies. So Abraham then says to the king that if you have this kind of power over the laws of God, can you also change the law of God and cause the sun to rise from the west instead of the east. And the king realizes that he is powerless over the laws of nature.

This is the standard interpretation of this verse. But there seems to be no obvious reason why Abraham should ask the king if he was able to make the sun rise from the west. What has that to do with giving life and causing death?

If we look at this verse in the light of what Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad has written in the passage that I have quoted, then the meaning of the verse becomes clearer. Hazrat Mirza himself has not at all mentioned this verse in connection with this writings of his, but it turns out that what he has written gives us a very coherent interpretation of this verse.

Hazrat Mirza and the modern materialism

Abraham's argument with the possessor of the kingdom is prophetically the argument of Hazrat Mirza with that greatest possessor of the material kingdom, the modern West. Just as Abraham held an argument with the king, so did Hazrat Mirza hold an argument with the nations under whose rule he lived.

The subject of the argument is the power of God. And the disbeliever is arguing because God has given him kingdom or control over the material world, making him think that he had become all-powerful. This is exactly what the Dajjal or the modern materialistic world have come to think.

Abraham said that it is God Who gives life and causes death. Similarly, Hazrat Mirza said that real life, which is spiritual life in human beings, which brings about the moral reform of man, can only be produced by revelation from God. Spiritual awakening cannot be brought about merely by human efforts. No intellectual or philosopher can, by his thought, produce a philosophy which will generate spiritual life. No government or worldly authority, by means of its power, can bring about moral reform. It can only be done by the spiritual power contained in the word of God.

Claim to have control over life and death

Arguing against this, the king says: I give life and cause death. The modern materialistic world also makes this claim. It considers physical and material life to be all-in-all, and it is indeed able to give physical life and cause physical death in ways that in the past were considered impossible for man. By means of modern medicine, people have been given a new lease of life who would have otherwise died. People who could not have children can now produce offspring, sometimes in the most mind-boggling ways. As to death, millions can be killed in an instant by modern weapons. There are even weapons that will only kill people and not damage property. Modern materialistic civilization does claim, or at least create the very strong impression in the human mind, that it has control over life and death. Even writing a hundred years ago, Hazrat Mirza said that man's control over nature by means of the knowledge and the inventions of the West had created the impression in many minds that man now (and this is a hundred years ago) had acquired the powers of God.

Reply to materialist's claim

The reply given to this claim of the materialist is as follows:

"Allah causes the sun to rise in the East, Can you make it rise from the West?"

Hazrat Mirza similarly told the world that the sun of spiritual guidance, revealing deep religious truths, had risen in the east. Note that the Holy Prophet Muhammad is called a light-giving sun in the Quran. And his challenge is: Can Western materialistic philosophy and science, by means of its human exertions and endeavour, create such spiritual knowledge and guidance that was taught by Divine revelation to the Holy Prophet? God made the sun of religious truths to rise in the east, can you by your humanly developed knowledge make such a sun rise in the West?

No, you cannot. But God can bring that light to the West. And that is the message with which Hazrat Mirza arose: that spiritual enlightenment cannot come to the West by means of its philosophies based on materialism and pure reason, and its physical sciences; it will come when the revelation of God in Islam reaches the West.

Vision of capturing birds

In his book Izala Auham, after giving the interpretation of the sun rising in the West, Hazrat Mirza describes his famous vision of preaching Islam in London and then catching birds in his hand. It is very curious that in the Quran too, very shortly after the verse which I have been discussing there is one referring to the catching of birds.

Abraham asks God to show him how life will be given to the dead. The answer given to him by God is interpreted by our traditional scholars of religion as follows. They say that God asked Abraham to take four birds, cut them up into pieces and mix the meat up (rather like what our ladies have been doing in the kitchen at this Convention). Then he was told to place parts of this meat on mountains around him, and call out to the dead birds. God would then raise them to life and they would come to him flying, and he would know from this demonstration that God can raise the dead to life.

Apart from the ridiculous nature of this story, this interpretation does not show us the answer to Abraham's question. His question was not whether God could give life to the dead, but how, by what means, God gives life to the dead, and this is not explained by this story.

Sensible interpreters of the Quran have written that what Abraham is asking is how God brings spiritually dead people to life, people who had no inclination to accept religious teaching and ran away from it. So God gave him the example of birds. They run away from people when they are approached. But God told Abraham that if he were to take some birds, and tame them till they became familiar with him, then they would obey his call even at a great distance from him.

How to catch and tame birds in this age?

I will now apply this verse to the work of Hazrat Mirza of awakening the spiritually dead nations to the call of Islam, and draw a parallel with his vision about catching birds. A very curious similarity is that just as Abraham is told that the tamed birds would hear and obey his call even from great distances, Hazrat Mirza too while living in India sees his call reaching thousands of miles away in London and birds responding to it.

What is meant by "taming" the birds "to incline to you" can be seen from the vision that Hazrat Mirza has described. He makes what he calls a well-reasoned speech in English explaining the truth of Islam and birds fall into his lap. So you tame those birds by presenting the true picture of Islam, removing their misconceptions and fears about Islam. Just as birds fly away from you when you approach them because they apprehend danger from you, similarly the Western people are repelled by the mere mention of Islam because of the danger they perceive from it. So you tame these human birds gradually by correcting their wrong ideas which are making them fear Islam as a threat. You calm and soothe their fears, and show them the attraction of Islamic teachings.

Hazrat Mirza did this by strongly emphasizing the peaceful nature of Islam, that it does not preach the use of violence or force, that jihad is not fighting a war to defeat non-Muslims, and that Islam teaches Muslims to live as law-abiding citizens of whatever country or rule they happen to be living under. A repeated theme in his writings which occurs with great stress is that Islam does not pose any violent, physical or war-like threat to the dominant Western powers of the world. On the other hand, he challenged their beliefs, philosophies and ideologies most vigorously and boldly. That was, in fact, a major aspect of his mission.

Unfortunately, the traditional Muslim religious leaders do the opposite. Their statements about Islam actually reinforce and feed the prevalent, wrong image of Islam, and increase the fears that people are wrongly entertaining. They portray Islam as a challenge to the West in the political domain, and do very little to challenge the West intellectually in the domain of beliefs and ideologies.

To conclude, I have shown how the knowledge contained in the Quran about bringing dead nations to life has found its manifestation in the work started by the Founder of this Movement.

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