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Contents of the Evidence

Supplement to Section 6: Terms nabi and rasul for non-prophets
5. Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad
6. Non-English material

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Supplement to the Evidence
Section 6:
Terms nabi and rasul for non-prophets

Further to the explanations given in Section 6, regarding the use of the terms nabi (prophet) and rasul (messenger, apostle) in Islamic literature for those who are not prophets, additional material is given below.

1. Earlier Islamic Authorities

1. The Holy Quran

i. In the story of Joseph, it is recorded:

“And the king said: Bring him [Joseph] to me. So when the messenger (rasul) came to him ... ” (12:50).

Here the word rasul is applied to a king’s messenger.

ii. In ch. 36, verses 13–21, there is mention of three ‘apostles’ (Arabic: mursalun, pl. of mursal) being sent by God to a town:

“When We sent to them two, they rejected them both; then We strengthened [the two] with a third, so they said: Surely we are apostles to you” (36:14).

Sayyid Muhammad Ismail Shaheed says that they were muhaddases who are being termed mursal (i.e. rasul) here. He writes:

“In this verse, what is the meaning of the claim made by these three: ‘We are apostles to you.’? ... bearing in mind the relationship between muhaddasiyyat and risalat, it should be accepted that Muhaddases too are called rasul.”

(Abqaat, Urdu translation by Manazir Ahsan Gilani, published in A.P., India, p. 402)

iii. A verse in the Quran says:

“We sent before you [O Muhammad] no messenger and no prophet but when he desired, the devil made a suggestion respecting his desire; but God annuls what the devil casts, then does God establish His Messages” (22:52).

Ibn Abbas, a Companion of the Holy Prophet and an illustrious commentator of the Holy Quran, has explained this verse by saying:

“and no muhaddas

i.e. the Quranic words “no messenger (rasul) and no prophet (nabi)” here also include a muhaddas. The following authorities record these words of Ibn Abbas:

1. Sahih al-Bukhari (Book: Qualities of the Companions, ch. Umar; 62:6).

2. ‘umdat al-Qari, a commentary on Bukhari, ch. Qualities of Umar.

3. Shah Wali-ullah of Delhi. See Al-Khair al-Kasir, Fifth Khizana (see p. 97 of its English translation, published by Ashraf, Lahore, 1974).

4. Sayyid Muhammad Ismail Shaheed. He writes: “The reason why apostleship (risalat) is sometimes ascribed to those who are muhaddas is that the Quranic verse, ‘We sent before you no messenger and no prophet’, is reported in a reading from Ibn Abbas with the words ‘and no muhaddas’ added” (Abqaat, p. 401).

5. Imam Jalal-ud-Din Suyuti. See the Urdu book Ahmadiyya Tahrik, by Malik Muhammad Ja‘far Khan, p. 25, Sindh Sagar Academy, Lahore.

2. The Hadith

i. In Sahih Bukhari, we read:

“Then the rasul of the rasul of God came to him” (Kitab al-Maghazi; book 64, ch. 81).

ii. In the collection of Abu Dawud it is recorded:

“The Holy Prophet said: Praise be to Allah Who granted the rasul of His rasul that which pleases him” (Part 27, ch. 71).

In these two extracts, the Holy Prophet is called the rasul of God, and the messenger sent by him to someone is called “rasul of the rasul of God”.

iii. In another hadith report in Sahih Bukhari, a man sent with a message by the Holy Prophet Muhammad has been called a rasul (Kitab al-Azan; book 10, ch. 51).

iv. In a well-known hadith, the Holy Prophet Muhammad is reported to have said that as many as 124,000 prophets had appeared in the world. Two eminent scholars write:

“Know that the hadith which mentions a very large number of prophets includes muhaddases in its count. And the word mursal in it is synonymous with nabi.”

(Shah Wali-ullah in Al-Khair al-Kasir, The fifth Khizana, p. 246; See also p. 97 of its English translation cited above.)

“Some scholars of Hadith have said that in the report quoted from the Holy Prophet Muhammad about the number of prophets, the word prophets (anbiya) refers not only to nabi but also includes those who are muhaddas.”

(Ismail Shaheed in Abqaat, Urdu translation by Manazir Ahsan Gilani, published in A.P., India, p. 402)

3. Hazrat Abu Bakr and Umar — prophets

Shaikh Ahmad of Sirhind writes:
“What can these people gain from the qualities of the Shaikhain [i.e. Abu Bakr and Umar]? These two exalted men, on account of their eminence and greatness, are counted among the prophets and have their qualities.”

(Maktubat, Daftar I, part iv, letter no. 251, p. 64)

4. Muhiyud-Din Ibn Arabi

“Sainthood is general prophethood, and the prophethood which brings with it a law (shari‘ah) is special prophethood.”

(Fatuhat Makkiyya, part ii, p. 24)

Regarding his views and the terms he has used, modern theologians comment as follows:

  1. Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi writes:

    “The prophethood and apostleship which he terms ‘general’ is also meant in the root sense, i.e., receiving news of the unseen and preaching [Islam]. It is not meant in the real sense, for which the Shaikh uses the term law-bearing prophethood. Hence, commenting on a hadith which speaks of the granting of prophethood to one who has memorised the Quran, he interprets it in the root sense and explains the difference between such a person and a prophet.”

    (Al-Tanbiyya al-Tarbi fi Tanziyya Ibn Arabi, published 1346 A.H., pp. 99--100)

  2. Mufti Muhammad Shafi of Deoband writes:

    “The Shaikh has referred to qualities of prophethood, mubashshirat [revelation of non-prophets], and sainthood as being prophethood without a religious law.”

    (Khatm Nubuwwat, part iii, p. 31)

5. Jalal-ud-Din Rumi

He has used the word nabi in his poetry to refer to perfect believers among the Muslims. Present-day theologians comment on this as follows:
  1. Maulana Abdul Majid Daryabadi wrote in his newspaper:

    “Till now what I have found most disturbing about the Qadiani claims is that, in whatever sense it may be, how could a claim to prophethood be made by a Muslim? But recently, by co-incidence, I found an example of it in the poetry of Maulana Rumi. And that too, not in some apocryphal work, but in the renowned and famous, authentic book Masnawi. Regarding the status and excellence of the spiritual guide it is written:

    ‘When you give your hand into the hand of a spiritual guide, you seek to imbibe wisdom as the mentor is the knowing and discerning. O disciple, he is a prophet of his time, as his person radiates the light of the Prophet.’

    “It is clearly stated here that the perfect spiritual guide is the prophet of the time because he reflects the light of prophethood. Great theologians, philosophers, and spiritual men have written commentaries on the Masnawi, but none of them took exception to this form of expression. Rumi’s own son, Sultan Walad, has made the following comment: ‘The exaggeration in likening a saint to a prophet refers to the penetrating effect of his guidance; otherwise, at no time was prophethood thinkable after the Holy Prophet Muhammad.’ — Masnawi, vol. v, p. 67, footnote 13, printed at Kanpur.

    “Obviously we will still call it lacking in due caution, but it is equally obvious that instances of such lack of caution are to be found in the writings of the great religious leaders of classical times.”

    (Newspaper Sidq Jadeed, 8 August 1952)

  2. Allama Khalid Mahmud, an opponent of the Ahmadiyya Movement, quotes another verse from Rumi and explains it as follows:

    “ ‘In the path of virtue be anxious to serve humanity, so that you may attain prophethood within the Muslim nation.’

    This does not refer to the attainment of the rank of prophethood, but the attainment of qualities of prophethood. If there is brevity here, it should be interpreted in the light of Maulana Rumi’s belief about the finality of prophethood given earlier. To interpret a writing contrary to the intent of the author is utterly against the rules of knowledge and integrity. In this respect, the Maulana refers to every spiritual guide who follows the Sunna as metaphorically a prophet: ‘O disciple, he is the prophet of his time, for he shows the light of the Prophet’.”

    (‘Aqidat al-Umma fi Ma‘ni Khatam an-Nubuwwat, published by Idara Hifz-i Muarif-i Islamia, Lahore, 3rd ed., 1965, p. 112)

  3. In an introduction to Rumi’s Masnawi, Maulana Sajjad Ahmad writes:

    “Usually the word nabi is used in a specialised sense, but Rumi applies nabi to reformers of a high rank, as in the verse: ‘In the path of virtue be anxious to serve humanity, so that you may attain prophethood within the Muslim nation’.”

    (Muqaddama Masnawi Rumi, p. 23)

6. Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi

He quotes the classical theologian Sayyid Abdul Wahhab Shi‘rani and then gives his own comment:
“ ‘When the Holy Prophet Muhammad realised that some people among his followers would take the termination of revelation with dislike, he proposed a part of apostleship (risalat) for the specially-chosen ones of his nation. He instructed those who were present at his preaching to convey the teachings to those who were absent. Hence he commanded them to deliver the message, so that the word rusul [pl. of rasul] may apply to them.’

“Now look, in this text he has referred to mere preaching as apostleship.”

(Al-Tanbiyya al-Tarbi fi Tanziyya Ibn Arabi, pp. 100–101)

7. Maulana Abdur Rashid, head, Ahl-i Hadith school, Lahore:

“The meaning of the Sufis is clear from these quotations. They refer to the prophets as ‘prophets with a law’, and call the saints of this nation as ‘prophets without a law’. This is the terminology of the Sufis, and it is an accepted principle that ‘there cannot be any argument as regards [use of different] terminology, and each has the right to use his own terms’.”

(Khatm-i Nubuwwat aur Nuzul-i Masih, p. 74)

2. Hazrat Mirza’s stand

1. Clearest Public Statement

Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad once made a public declaration which makes absolutely clear the issue of the use of the word nabi for one who is actually a muhaddas. In February 1892, he ended a debate with a Muslim theologian in Lahore by issuing the following written statement:
“Be it known to all the Muslims that all such words as occur in my writings Fath Islam, Tauzih Maram and Izala Auham, to the effect that the muhaddas is in one sense a prophet, or that being a muhaddas is partial prophethood or imperfect prophethood, are not to be taken in their real sense, but have been used according to their root meaning in a straight-forward way; otherwise, I lay no claim whatever to actual prophethood. On the other hand, as I have written in my book Izala Auham, page 137, my belief is that our leader and master Muhammad mustafa — may peace and the blessings of God be upon him — is the last of the Prophets.

“So I wish to make it clear to all Muslim brothers that, if they are displeased with these words and if these words give injury to their feelings, they may regard all such words as amended, and instead consider me to have used the word muhaddas. For I do not like to create dissension and discord among the Muslims.

“From the beginning, as God knows best, my intention has never been to use this word nabi as meaning actually a prophet, but only as signifying muhaddas, which the Holy Prophet has explained as meaning one who is spoken to by God. Of the muhaddas it is stated in a saying of the Holy Prophet: ‘Among the Israelites who were before you, there used to be men who were spoken to by God, though they were not prophets, and if there is one among my followers, it is Umar.’

“Therefore, I have not the least hesitation in stating my meaning in another form for the conciliation of my Muslim brethren, and that other form is that in every place instead of the word nabi the word muhaddas should be understood, and the word nabi should be regarded as having been deleted.”

(Majmu‘a Ishtiharat, vol. i, p. 313)

This writing was drawn up in the form of an agreement and signed by eight witnesses.

2. A published letter

In August 1899, Hazrat Mirza wrote a letter to someone, explaining the use of the words nabi and rasul about him. This letter, which was also published at that time in the Ahmadiyya newspaper Al-Hakam, is reproduced below:
“The situation is that, although for twenty years I have been constantly receiving Divine revelation, often the word rasul or nabi has occurred in it. ... There are many such revelations in which the word nabi or rasul has occurred regarding myself. However, that person is mistaken who thinks that by this prophethood and messengership is meant real prophethood and messengership, by which the man concerned is called a ‘law giver’. In fact, by the word rasul is only meant one sent by God, and by the word nabi is only meant one who makes prophecies, having received intimation from God, or one who discloses hidden matters.

As these words, which are only in a metaphorical sense, cause trouble in Islam, leading to very bad consequences, these terms should not be used in our community’s common talk and everyday language. It should be believed from the bottom of the heart that prophethood has terminated with the Holy Prophet Muhammad, may peace and the blessings of God be upon him, as God Almighty says: ‘He is the Messenger of God and the last of the Prophets’. To deny this verse, or to belittle it, is in fact to separate oneself from Islam. The person who exceeds the limit in rejection is in the same dangerous condition as the one who, like the Shiahs, exceeds the limit in acceptance. It should be known that God has ended all His prophethoods and messengerships with the Holy Quran and the Holy Prophet. I have come into the world, and have been sent into it, merely as a servant of the religion of Islam, and not to discard Islam and create some other religion. One must always protect oneself from being waylaid by the devil, and have true love for Islam, and must never forget the greatness of the Holy Prophet Muhammad.

“I am a servant of Islam, and this is the real reason for my coming. The words nabi and rasul are figurative and metaphorical. Risalat in the Arabic language is applied to ‘being sent’, and nubuwwat is to expound hidden truths and matters upon receiving knowledge from God. So, bearing in mind a significance of this extent, it is not blame-worthy to believe in the heart in accordance with this meaning.

“However, in the terminology of Islam, nabi and rasul mean those who bring an entirely new Law (shari‘ah), or those who abrogate some aspects of the previous law, or those who are not called followers of a previous prophet, having a direct connection with God without benefit from a prophet. Therefore, one should be vigilant to see that the same meaning is not taken here, because we have no Book but the Holy Quran, and no religion but Islam. We believe that our Prophet, peace and the blessings of God be upon him, is the last of the Prophets, and the Holy Quran is the last of the Books. Religion should not be made into a children’s game, and it should be remembered that I make no claim contrary to that of being a servant of Islam. The person who ascribes to me the contrary is making a fabrication against me. We receive grace and blessings through our Holy Prophet, and receive the benefit of knowledge from the Quran.

“It is, therefore, pertinent that no person should entertain anything in his heart contrary to this direction; or else he shall be answerable for it before God. If we are not servants of Islam, then all our work is in vain and rejected, and shall be called to account.”

(Letter dated 17 August 1899, published in Al-Hakam, vol. iii, no. 29, August 1899)

3. Followers of Hazrat Mirza

An objection is sometimes raised that Hazrat Maulana Muhammad Ali, the great leader of the Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement, in his writings during the life of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad and until the Split in 1914, has referred to him as ‘prophet’ and ‘messenger’. In clarification, the Maulana has pointed out that he used these terms about Hazrat Mirza in the same senses as those explained by Hazrat Mirza himself, which have been dealt with above, i.e. in a root or metaphorical sense, meaning only a saint. In fact, at that very time, in the period before the Split, many followers of Hazrat Mirza gave the same explanation of the use of these terms about him.

Maulana Nur-ud-Din (d. 1914), who became the Head of the Ahmadiyya Movement on Hazrat Mirza’s death in 1908, wrote a letter to one Sardar Muhammad Ajab Khan in October 1910, making a sworn declaration of his beliefs. In this letter, published at the time, he writes:

“To cut open the heart and look into it, or make others look into it, is beyond human power. If one relies on oaths, I see no oath equal to: By Allah, the Great. Neither you nor anyone else will accompany me after my death, except my faith and deeds. As this matter will be presented before Allah Almighty, I swear by Allah, the Great, by Whose leave heaven and earth exist, I believe Mirza sahib to be the Mujaddid of this century. I believe him to be righteous. I believe him to be a slave of Muhammad, Messenger of Allah, and a sincere servant of his Shari‘ah. And Mirza too considered himself to be a life-sacrificing slave of the Arabian Prophet, Muhammad ibn Abdullah.

The dictionary meaning of the word nabi, we believe, is one who gives news, having received knowledge beforehand from Allah Almighty, not one who brings a shari‘ah. Both Mirza sahib and I consider any person who rejects even an iota of the Holy Quran or the shari‘ah of the Holy Prophet Muhammad to be a kafir and an accursed one. This is my belief, and this was also I consider the belief of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad sahib. If anyone rejects this, refuses to accept it, or calls us hypocrites, his affair is with God. — Nur-ur-Din, in his own hand, 22 October 1910.”

(Badr, 27 October 1910)

Even those followers of Hazrat Mirza who subsequently became the leading figures of the Qadiani group, used to put forward the same explanation in those days. Below we give some published statements from prominent Qadianis, in which they held that no prophet could come after the Holy Prophet Muhammad, and that the word nabi applied to Hazrat Mirza only in a root or partial sense; and importantly, that it applied to him only in the sense in which it could be applied to any saint in Islam.

1. Mufti Muhammad Sadiq

He was the chief missionary of the Qadianis, and editor of Badr. In October 1910 he reported in this paper an account of his meeting with the famous Muslim scholar Maulana Shibli, and at the end of his article he reproduced the letter by Maulana Nur-ud-Din quoted above. This account is as follows:
“Shibli asked if we believe Mirza sahib to be a prophet. I replied that our belief in this respect was the same as that of other Muslims, viz., that the Holy Prophet Muhammad is the Khatam an-nabiyyin. After him, no other prophet can come, neither new nor old. However, the phenomenon of Divine revelation still continues, but even that is through the agency of the Holy Prophet. By receiving spiritual benefit from him, there have been men among the Muslims who had the privilege of Divine revelation, and in future too there shall be such. As Hazrat Mirza sahib was also privileged with Divine revelation, and in his revelations God gave him many news of the future as prophecies, which were fulfilled, for this reason Mirza sahib was one who made prophecies. Such a one is called nabi in Arabic lexicology, and in Hadith too the coming Promised Messiah is called nabi.

“To this Shibli replied that according to the dictionary meanings this was so, and in the Arabic language this word does have this meaning, but the ordinary people become perturbed because they do not know this significance. I said that, with us, the question of Mirza sahib’s prophethood was not such that it was included in the conditions of the Pledge (bai‘at), nor was it required to be acknowledged when taking the Pledge, nor did we go about preaching it ...

“It seems appropriate at this point that I should include in this paper a recent letter by Hazrat Khalifa-tul-Masih [Maulana Nur-ud-Din] which he has written in reply to Sardar Muhammad Ajab Khan, and made it a sworn statement ... ”

(Badr, 27 October 1910, p. 9)

Mufti Muhammad Sadiq then goes on to quote the letter by Maulana Nur-ud-Din, which has been given above, in support of his explanation. The Mufti’s account and the Maulana’s letter corroborate each other, and the two together make it abundantly clear that Hazrat Mirza was only being considered as one of the saints, recipients of revelation, and mujaddids who arose throughout Islamic history.

2. Maulavi Sayyid Sarwar Shah

He was the top most theologian of the Qadianis. In 1911, replying to a critic who objected to the use of the word ‘prophet’, he wrote a reply which was published in the paper under the title ‘Word nabi or mujaddid’. He wrote:
“The word nabi, according to its origins, has two meanings: firstly, one who receives news of matters unseen from God; secondly, a man of a high status, to whom God grants the distinction of abundant revelation, and informs him of news of the unseen, he is a nabi. In this sense I believe that all the previous mujaddids were prophets of various grades.”

(Badr, 16 February 1911)

3. Mir Muhammad Saeed

He was head of the Qadianis in Hyderabad, Deccan. In a book written in 1904 as a reply to a critic, he said:
  1. “Hazrat Mirza sahib has claimed to be a muhaddas, and the definition of muhaddas which is established from the hadith in Sahih Bukhari etc. is that of a kind of partial prophethood which is in the sense of zill and through another’s agency, and is granted to every muhaddas among the Muslim people.”

    (Anwaar-ullah, p. 263)

  2. “To sum up, Hazrat Mirza sahib has only claimed to be a muhaddas — and not an actual prophet which negatives the Khatam an-nabiyyin, and is against [the hadith] ‘There is no prophet after me’.” (ibid., p. 269)

4. Mirza Bashir-ud-Din Mahmud Ahmad (d. 1965)

He was the well-known first leader of the Qadianis. In 1910 he wrote an article entitled Najaat (Salvation) which appeared in the monthly Tashhiz al-azhan, of which he himself was the editor. In this article, he explained the meaning of the Khatam an-nabiyyin verse of the Quran (33:40) as follows:
“In this verse God has said that the Holy Prophet is the Khatam an-nabiyyin, and none shall come after him who may be raised to the status of prophethood, and who may abrogate his teachings and establish a new law. Nay, however many saints (wali) there are, and righteous and pious persons, they will get all that they get through service to him. Thus God has said that the Holy Prophet’s prophethood was meant not only for his times, but that in future too no prophet would come. ...

“Another point must be remembered here, viz., that in this verse God says: ‘God is ever Knower of all things’. This does not appear to have an obvious connection here because it was not necessary to say, regarding the things God has explained, that He is the Knower of everything. The fact is that the Holy Prophet’s being the Khatam an-nabiyyin contains a prophecy. This is that before the Holy Prophet Muhammad there arose hundreds of prophets in the world who had great success. In fact, there does not appear to be a century in which no claimant to prophethood could be found. So Krishna, Ramachandra, Buddha, Confucius, Zoroaster, Moses and Jesus are those whose followers still exist in the world, and are energetically doing their work, each group putting forward the claim of its truth. But thirteen hundred years have now passed since the Holy Prophet’s claim, and no one has ever attained success by claiming prophethood. After all, prior to his time people used to claim prophethood, and many of them were successful, whom we believe to be true. But why has this arrangement stopped with his advent? Obviously because of the prophecy that he is the Khatam an-nabiyyin. Now we ask the opponents of Islam, what greater sign can there be than the fact that, after the Holy Prophet, no person who claimed prophethood was successful. It is this which is referred to in the words: ‘God is ever Knower of all things’. That is to say, We have made him Khatam an-nabiyyin and We know that no prophet would come after him, and any liar making such a claim would be destroyed. This, therefore, is a historical prophecy which no one can possibly refute.”

(Tashhiz al-azhan, April 1910, vol. v, no. 4, pp. 151–152)

Here the significance of Khatam an-nabiyyin has been clearly explained to be that no prophet can come after the Holy Prophet Muhammad, nor can the status of prophethood be attained after him. The highest anyone among the Muslims can rise to, as indicated in the second sentence of the above extract, is the position of wali or saint.


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