بسم الله الرحمـن الرحيم
Did Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Claim to be a Prophet?
(Hadith of Sahih Muslim)
As alluded to in the first part of this series, the controversy over whether Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian claimed to be a prophet resulted in the split of his Jama’ah (congregation) after his death and the death of his first successor and right-hand man, Nuruddin (d. 1914) into two factions, the Lahoris and the Qadianis. The latter quickly became the dominant group, led by Ghulam Ahmad’s talented son, Mirza Mahmud Ahmad (d. 1965), while the former were led by the educated Maulana Muhammad Ali, yet consistently remained a marginal group with a very insignificant following. Although I have, through research, come to the conclusion that Ghulam Ahmad did not claim prophethood, let not the reader think that I belong to the Lahori faction, who call themselves the Ahmadiyyah Anjuman Ishaat-i-Islam, Lahore (AAIIL), and are currently led by a certain Dr. Abdul Karim Saeed. It should also be noted that the split between the Qadiani and Lahori factions around 1914 were also due to difference in ideology and method of administration of the religious-based community founded by Ghulam Ahmad. While the Lahoris argued that Ghulam Ahmad had bequethed that his community should be administered by a council or ‘Anjuman’ and that the elected Khalifah, al-Hajj Maulana Hakim Nuruddin, was merely in a symbolic position, the Qadiani faction asserted the critical importance of the institution of Khilafah and regarded the elected Khalifah as the supreme head of the movement, with the Anjuman being subordinate to him. While the Lahoris seem to be closer to accurately representing the position of Ghulam Ahmad regarding the issue of the finality of Prophethood, the reader should note that the Lahoris have several other beliefs and tendencies on the basis of which it can be said that they too are a misguided sect. For example, the Lahore Ahmadiyah reject the belief in the virgin birth of Jesus of Nazareth (peace be upon him), and have published books entitled Wiladat-al-Masih putting forward their heretical view that Joseph the Carpenter was Jesus’s biological father (God forbid). Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian, like all orthodox Muslims, affirmed the virgin birth of Jesus, a fact which the Lahoris themselves admit. In denying the miracle of the virgin birth, the Lahoris reveal an altogether naturalist streak that characterizes their thought and approach to Islam. The Lahoris may also be characterized as modernist and excessively liberal, though Ghulam Ahmad, based on an elementary study of his writings, was clearly opposed to many of the fundamental ideas of ‘modern’ and ‘liberal’ interpretations of Islam.
Coming back to the issue of Prophethood, the Qadiani faction, it may be noted, due to their position that Ghulam Ahmad was a real prophet albeit not a law-bearing one but subordinate to the Shari’ah of Muhammad, refer to Ghulam Ahmad as ‘Prophet’ and ‘Messenger’ casually and frequently in their writings and discourse. They also eagerly participate in debates and discussions with other Muslims regarding the issue of ‘Finality of Prophethood’ with the aim of persuading their opponents that Prophecy has not ended but continues until Judgment Day. Qadiani missionaries and polemicists often quote Verses of the Holy Quran to prove the possibility of future prophets after sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ, for example, the well-known Ayat-al-Mithaq (Surah 3:81). It should be noted that Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian himself never engaged in such debates to prove the ‘continuation’ or ‘possibility’ of Prophethood after sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ, especially by casting novel interpretations on Quraanic verses, but rather repeatedly and emphatically affirmed his belief in the finality of Prophethood. Nevertheless, the Qadianis argue that because Ghulam Ahmad claimed to be the promised Messiah spoken of in the Hadith as descending before Judgment Day, he is in a special and unique category apart from other saintly figures and reformers that have previously come and will continue to appear in the Ummah. The Qadianis cite a Hadith from the Sahih of Imam Muslim b. al-Hajjaj al-Nishapuri in which Jesus son of Mary, during his second advent, is named as نَبِيُّ اللَّهِ (Prophet of God) four times upon the tongue of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. Since Ghulam Ahmad claimed to be the fulfilment of the second coming of Christ, he necessarily made a claim to real and literal Prophethood, since the second coming of Jesus has been referred to as ‘Prophet of God’ no less than four times in the Hadith of Sahih Muslim. But here I shall quote the words of Ghulam Ahmad himself in explanation of that Hadith which will refute the ‘Qadiani’ argument decisively
آنے والے مسیح موعود کا نام جو صحیح مسلم وغیرہ میں زبان مقدس حضرت نبویص سے نبی اللہ نکلا ہے وہ انہیں مجازی معنوں کے رو سے ہے جو صوفیہ کرام کی کتابوں میں مسلّم اور ایک معمولی محاورہ مکالمات الہیہ کا ہے۔ ورنہ خاتم الانبیاء کے بعد نبی کیسا۔
Translation: “The name ‘Prophet of Allah’ given to the coming promised Messiah in Sahih Muslim, etc., out of the tongue of the Prophet [Muhammad] ﷺ is from the angle of these metaphoric meanings which are established in the books of the Sufis, and is an ordinary expression in the divine converse. Otherwise, how can there be a prophet after the Seal of the Prophets [Muhammad ﷺ]?” (Ruhani Khaza’in v. 11 p. 28; Anjam-i-Atham p. 28 footnote)
In other words, Ghulam Ahmad interpreted the reference to the coming Messiah as ‘Prophet of God’ metaphorically, aligned to the type of metaphoric ‘Prophethood’ spoken of and described in the books of Sufism. His rhetorical question ‘otherwise how can there be a prophet after the Khaatam-al-Anbiyaa?’ demonstrates that an understanding that the coming Messiah will literally be a prophet in the real sense is an erroneous doctrine. Throughout the writings of Ghulam Ahmad, we find him, quite ironically, assaulting the traditionalist and folk Muslim belief in a literal return of Jesus of Nazareth to this world on the basis that such a belief contravenes the notion of sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ being the last and final Prophet full stop. Ghulam Ahmad’s contribution to Islamic thought was in fact out of a sincere concern for the upholding of the doctrine of Finality of Prophethood, and not, God forbid, out of careless disregard for it. He attempted to reconcile the Finality of Prophethood with the belief in the coming of the Messiah by interpreting the coming Messiah’s ‘prophetic experiences’ as belonging to that genus of ‘prophecy’ described by the Sufis. Ghulam Ahmad repeatedly asked that how could the mainstream Ulema believe that Jesus, a prophet in his own right, would not only return to this world in the future, but remain for forty years and throughout that duration receive divine revelation from God, while simultaneously feigning allegiance to the doctrine of the Finality of Prophethood of Muhammad ﷺ. To be continued, in sha Allah.