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South Africa court case (1982-1985)

Contents of the Evidence

13. Claim to be Messiah not against Islam
5. Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad
6. Non-English material

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The Evidence
Section 13:
Claim to be Messiah not against Islam

Translator’s Note:
This Section quotes Muslim ulama of modern times to show that a claim to be Promised Messiah or Mahdi, as that made by Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, is not disallowed in Islam. It also gives his own views to the effect that the prophecy of the coming of the Messiah, and its interpretation in any particular way, is not related to the fundamentals of Islam, but is a secondary issue of the faith.

13.1: Ulama on claim to be Messiah or Mahdi

1. Maulana Abul Jamal Ahmad:

“If Mirza Ghulam Ahmad claims to be the Mahdi and the like of the Messiah, this does not militate against the Shari‘ah. Nor do we have any reason to deny it because the services he has rendered to the religion of Islam can undoubtedly prove him true in the claim to be Mahdi. As regards the saying that he was a prophet and messenger, and recipient of revelation, and that the Holy Prophet Muhammad was not the Khatam an-nabiyyin and prophethood did not end with him — this cannot at all be accepted.”

(Hikmat Baligha, vol. ii, p. 4)

According to this statement, the claim to be Mahdi and the like of the Messiah is permitted by Islamic Shari‘ah. What is objectionable is to deny that the Holy Prophet was Khatam an-nabiyyin, and to claim prophethood for oneself. We have already proved that Hazrat Mirza believed the Holy Prophet to be Khatam an-nabiyyin and the Last Prophet, and he held that no prophet could come after the Holy Prophet Muhammad, neither new nor old. The revelation which he claimed to receive was wahy wilayat (revelation received by saints in Islam), which, as shown earlier, is recognised by Muslim theologians as continuing, and which many Muslim saints in history claimed to receive.

2. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad

In his well-known book Tazkira, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Indian Muslim theologian and political leader, wrote:
“This shows how the Reformers among Muslims have always had to face trickery, cheating and blood-thirsty verdicts from the Ulama. And unlimited fraud and deception was employed against them in order to incite the governments of the day against them. What has the question of whether a certain individual was or was not the Mahdi to do with the beliefs in Islam? It is not the basis of sin or goodness, nor the criterion of faith and unbelief. If a person accepts as Mahdi a man who calls to the law of Islam, enjoins good and forbids evil, it does not corrupt his Islamic beliefs.”

(Tazkira, Lahore, first published 1919, p. 69)

3. Khawaja Ghulam Farid of Chachran (d. 1904)

This famous Sufi saint was a contemporary of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. Commenting upon the latter’s claim to be the Mahdi, he said:
“Mirza sahib has given many signs in support of his claim to be Mahdi. Two of these signs which he has explained in his book provide a high quality of evidence about his being the Mahdi ...”

(Isharat-i Faridi, Persian edition, p. 70)

When someone put to him the objection: If we do not find the characteristics of the Messiah and Mahdi in Mirza sahib, how can we accept him as such? The Khawaja replied:
“The characteristics of the Mahdi are secret, and not those which people have in mind. Why is it surprising that this very Mirza Ghulam Ahmad sahib could be the Mahdi? One hadith says that Messiah and Mahdi is the same person. It is not necessary that all the signs of the Mahdi should appear as people have them in mind in accordance with their views and comprehension. If it had happened as people expected, everyone would recognise the Mahdi and believe in him. In fact, when we look at the prophets we find that only a few people in a prophet’s nation would recognise the signs and believe in him. Others would remain doubtful, and some would not recognise him at all. These people would deny and be known as unbelievers. If the entire nation of every prophet could recognise him, they would all become believers. Look at the history of the Holy Prophet. His qualities and signs were prophesied in the scriptures. When he appeared, people did not find some of the signs to be as they had thought them to be. Those to whom these things became clear, they became believers. Those to whom these things did not become clear, they denied. The same applies to the Mahdi. So if Mirza sahib is the Mahdi, what is the thing which prevents it?”

(ibid., pp. 123 – 124)

4. Sayyid Abul Ala Maudoodi (d. 1979)

He is the best known Sunni religious and political leader of this age in Pakistan, and well-known all over the Muslim world. He wrote:
  1. “Whatever may be said about the Mahdi, everyone can see that his position in Islam is not such that being a Muslim and receiving salvation depends upon recognising and accepting him. If that had been his position, he would have been explicitly mentioned in the Quran, and the Holy Prophet would not have rested content with explaining this to a couple of individuals, but would have conveyed it to the whole nation in the way in which we find that Unity of God and the Last Day have been preached. Anyone having even a little understanding of religious matters cannot see for an instant why a question which is so crucial to the faith could be left to a few isolated reports. And these reports are of such a low order that compilers like Malik, Bukhari and Muslim did not like to include them in their collections.”

    (Rasa’il wa Masa’il, Maktaba Jamaat-i-Islami, Lahore, 1951, Part I, p. 68)

  2. “The scholars of Hadith have criticised the reports about the coming of the Mahdi so much so that one group does not believe at all in the coming of the Mahdi. Criticism of the reporters shows that most of these hadith were related by Shiahs. History shows that every faction has used these reports for political and religious purposes, and attempted to apply the signs contained in them to their own man. For these reasons I have concluded that these reports are correct so far as the basic fact of the coming of the Mahdi is concerned, but the explanation of the detailed signs is probably not genuine.”

    (ibid., p. 64)

13.2: Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad’s views

  1. “First, it should be known that belief in the descent of the Messiah is not a belief which is one of our fundamentals of faith or one of the pillars of the religion. In fact, it is a prophecy among hundreds of prophecies, which has nothing to do with the basis of Islam. Islam was not an incomplete religion till the time this prophecy was explained, nor did it become more complete when this prophecy was explained. It is not necessary that prophecies should be fulfilled in the literal sense.” (Izala Auham, p. 140)

  2. “I do not claim that Messiahship has ended with me, and no Messiah shall come in the future. Nay, I say repeatedly that, let alone one, more than ten thousand Messiahs can come. It is possible that one may come with worldly power and glory, and also possible that he may first arise in Damascus [according to the prophecy literally]. But, my friends, excuse me from believing and accepting that the very same Messiah, son of Mary, who died, shall descend from heaven with his physical body.” (ibid., pp. 294 – 295)

  3. “My belief, and the belief of my followers, about Mahdi and the Promised Messiah is that all the hadith of this sort about the Mahdi are unreliable and untrustworthy. In my view these may be divided into three classes, within which they all fall.

    “Firstly, those hadith which are unsound and wrong. ... Secondly, there are those hadith which are weak, and due to mutual contradiction and conflict are removed from the level of reliability. ... Thirdly, there are those hadith which are authentic, whose authenticity is proved by repeated occurrence, and which have either been fulfilled in some previous age ... or they are such that they do not speak of physical rulership and warfare, but indicate and even state clearly that he shall not have worldly kingship and rule, nor would he fight or shed blood or have an army, but that he would re-establish faith in the hearts by spirituality and power of the heart, as is the hadith ‘There is no Mahdi except Jesus’ recorded in the Hadith book of Ibn Maja. ... This hadith means that no Mahdi shall come except the man who shall come with the temperament and disposition of Jesus, i.e., he shall be the Promised Messiah as well as the Mahdi. He shall come with the temperament of Jesus, following his technique of teaching, i.e., he shall not return evil for evil, nor shall he fight; rather, he shall spread guidance by means of a pure example and heavenly signs. ... His teaching shall be, do not fight for the faith, but spread it by means of the light of truth, and the miracles of good morals and Divine nearness. I say truly that he who now fights for the religion ... he disobeys God and His Prophet, and goes outside the instructions, limits and duties set by them. I wish to inform our benevolent government that the Promised Messiah who has received guidance from God, and who follows the path of Jesus, is myself.” (Haqiqat al-Mahdi, pages i – iii)

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