بسم الله الرحمـن الرحيم
Did Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Claim to be a Prophet?
This is the first part of a series of articles containing original references from the writings of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian (d. 1908) in clarification of whether or not he considered himself a Prophet. There is no doubt that Ghulam Ahmad proclaimed himself the Mujaddid of the 14th century after Hijra, and that he claimed to be a Muhaddath, meaning someone who receives divine inspiration. Likewise, Ghulam Ahmad stated about himself that he was the promised Messiah and the expected Mahdi. None of these claims are intrinsically heresy strictly speaking. They are, of course, open to dispute, but do not touch upon any of the Articles of Faith in Islam or any other fundamental doctrine of the Religion. It is only the controversy regarding Finality of Prophecy that makes Ghulam Ahmad a controversial figure, and the basis upon which the majority of Ulema and even the National Assembly of Pakistan declared him and his followers – the Ahmadiya/Qadiani sect – as disbelievers. This controversy even existed within the Ahmadiya community itself. Ghulam Ahmad’s son, Mirza Mahmud Ahmad, was elected his second successor in 1914, while a dissenting party, led by Maulana Muhammad Ali, based in Lahore, soon broke away and formed their own group. Their dispute was not merely administrative but also theological. The Lahori group emphasized that Ghulam Ahmad was not a prophet nor ever claimed to be one, while the Qadiani group, led by Ghulam Ahmad’s son, which quickly became the dominant faction, considered Ghulam Ahmad to be truly a prophet, albeit subordinate to the Shari’a of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. In other words, the Qadiani faction consider Ghulam Ahmad to be both a prophet and an ummati. But what is the reality of this controversy? The truth is Ghulam Ahmad himself wrote extensively on it, attempting to clarify his very nuanced position and technical claims. But one thing he made absolutely certain and which is not in dispute is the fact that he declared himself subordinate to the Shari’a of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, a member of his Ummah and Millat, and sent for the purpose of reinvigorating Islam, particularly with regard to defending the Religion against the hostile intellectual attacks of Christian missionaries and aggressive Hindus. Secondly, there is no doubt that Ghulam Ahmad considered himself a recipient of divine revelations, inspirations and visions. These were collected in the form of a book entitled Tadkirah. This, along with Ghulam Ahmad’s claim to being the promised Messiah prophesied in the Hadith, referred to therein as ‘Jesus son of Mary’ were the obvious basis for the impression that Ghulam Ahmad was claiming Prophethood for himself. The Holy Quraan proclaims that sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ is the ‘Seal of the Prophets’ and in authentic Hadith he is reported to have said ‘there is no prophet after me’. So the reader should beware that Ghulam Ahmad acknowledged these divine texts of the Quran & Sunnah which make it explicitly clear that sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ is the Last Prophet. He attempted to explain his own claim to ‘prophetic experiences’ in terms that would comply with the letter and spirit of the doctrine of Finality of Prophecy. There are literally hundreds of references from the writings and statements of Ghulam Ahmad where he flatly denied any claim to Prophecy. However, it has been suggested that Ghulam Ahmad’s alleged claim to prophecy was gradual, and that his latter writings ‘abrogate’ his earlier ones. Thus his earlier, repeated and emphatic denials of prophethood must be disregarded in light of his clear claims to being a Prophet evident in the writings of his final years. I shall, in sha Allah, examine this theory. It is my thesis that Ghulam Ahmad did not alter his position on this controversy and maintained throughout his life that he was not a prophet in the real or technical sense. In other words, the Lahori position on this controversy is closer to Ghulam Ahmad’s. Though it should be remembered that the Lahori-Qadiani controversy is very technical, nuanced and largely semantical.
Mirza Ghulam Ahmad wrote the book Haqiqat-ul-Wahi (lit. ‘Reality of Divine Revelation’) in the last years of his life. The book was published in May 1907, approximately one year before his death. In this book, Ghulam Ahmad addresses the impostor John Alexander Dowie (1847-1907), who claimed to be the Prophet Elijah and a new Messenger of God. In response to such a heretical claim from the perspective of Islam, Ghulam Ahmad said:
وانك تفترى على الله فى دعوى النبوة والنبوة قد انقطعت بعد نبيّنا صلى الله عليه وسلّم
اور تو دعواۓ نبوت میں اللہ پر افتراء کر رہا ہے اور سلسلہ نبوت تو ہمارے نبی ﷺ کے بعد منقطع ہوگیا۔
Translation: “And you have lied upon God in your claim to Prophethood while Prophethood has ceased after our Prophet [Muhammad] ﷺ.” (Ruhani Khaza’in v.22 p.688; Damimah Haqiqat-ul-Wahi al-Istifta p.64)
So this is a very clear and explicit statement from the pen of Ghulam Ahmad during his last years, in a book published just one year before his death, in which he proclaims that Prophethood has been terminated after Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and anyone who claims prophethood, like John Alexander Dowie, is lying upon God. To be continued in sha Allah.