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South Africa court case (1982-1985)

Contents of the Evidence

14. Fulfilment of Prophecies
5. Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad
6. Non-English material

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The Evidence
Section 14:
Fulfilment of Prophecies

Translator’s 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 banished.

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 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:

“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 as follows:

“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 dry.” (12:43)
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:

  1. “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)

  2. “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)

  3. “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)

  4. “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-Ta‘bir, ch. 44)

  5. “In a dream I saw cows being slaughtered. These were the Muslims on the day of Uhud.”

    (ibid., ch. 39)

  6. “I saw, as it were, a black woman with dishevelled hair, leaving Madina till she reached Mahya‘a which is called Juhfa. I took it to mean that the pestilence of Madina had shifted there.”

    (ibid., ch. 41)

  7. “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.”
  8. “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 Ka‘ba so I wonder if I am that ram.” .br The commentators of Hadith have written that this prophecy applied to Abdullah Ibn Zubair.
  9. “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-Ta‘bir, ch. 20)

These hadith show that dreams and visions usually stand in need of interpretation.

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 says:
“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 Ka‘aba. 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 Ka‘aba 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 Ka‘aba and perform the Tawaf. This proves three points:
  1. 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.
  2. The recipient of the prophecy can commit an error of personal judgement in interpreting the prophecy.
  3. 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).
2. The Holy Prophet Muhammad related:
“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.”

(Bukhari, Book: Qualities of the Companions, 63:45)

3. It is related from Aishah:
“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:
  1. “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-Ta‘bir, ch. 11)

  2. “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.”
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:
“Be patient; surely God’s 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 God’s 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 wa‘eed, 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 this regard.

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 God’s 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 Lord’s 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” (44:15).

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 Jonah’s 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 world’s life.” (10:98)
Classical commentators make the following observations about this case:
  1. “Jonah told them that their time-limit was forty nights. They replied, If we see the omens of destruction we shall believe in you.”

    (Tafsir Kashshaf, p. 599)

  2. “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)

  3. “Jonah told them, Your time-limit is forty nights.”

    (Tafsir Kabir, vol. v, p. 42)

  4. “It is related from Ibn Mas‘ud 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)

  5. “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 Muharram].”
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:
“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)

V. Summary

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.

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