Introduction to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community
By Falahud Din Shams
In the 19th century, Islam as a religion and Muslims as a nation were helpless. Muslim empires were crumbling all over the world. In the subcontinent of India, the Mughal Empire was brought down by the British. Islam was being attacked by all other faiths in such a manner that it was an obvious degradation. Muslims had not experienced such humiliation in 1,300 years of their existence. At one point it was estimated that there were 70,000 Christian missionaries actively working in British India. Even some of the educated scholars of Islam were being converted to Christianity and in turn were converting their congregations to Christianity. There was no one to defend Islam and it manifested in the general helplessness and depressed feelings among the Muslim masses. In 19th century literature, prose and poetry, the Muslim nation was referred to as “Ummat marhooma” meaning the “deceased nation”. This pathetic situation was not limited to a particular area. The same situation existed with the Muslims of British India, in the Middle East or any other region of the world. Even many Muslims thought that the end of Islam was near and there was nothing that could change this phenomenon.
Founder of Ahmadiyya Community
In 1835, a person was born by the name of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad in the village of Qadian. God was to appoint him in the defense of Islam. He wrote a book Braheen-e-Ahmadiyya and declared that the only living religion is Islam and the only living prophet is Prophet Muhammad. He challenged all religious scholars of all faiths to debate him.
His announcement was unique because he stated that he has received revelation from God and that he is the Messiah and Mahdi that people were anticipating for several centuries. His argument was that revelation and prophethood can only be achieved by following a living religion and a living prophet. Since other religions cannot and have not produced any person who receives revelation, therefore, their religion cannot be a living one.
He announced this very argument in the following words:
“The recognition of the Living God we have achieved through this Perfect Prophet and through his light. The honor of converse with God, through which we behold His countenance, has been bestowed upon me through this great Prophet. The ray of this sun of guidance falls like sunshine upon me and I continue illumined only so long as I am adjusted towards it “
[Haqiqat-ul-Wahi, (Qadian, Magazine Press 1907); Now published in Roohani Khaza’in (London, 1984), Vol. 22, pp. 115-116].
He openly and clearly declared that his status in the Eyes of God was only achieved by following the Holy Prophet Muhammad. He states this in the following quote:
“It would not have been possible for me to have attained this grace if I had not followed the footsteps of my lord and master, the pride of all the prophets, the best of mankind, Muhammad, the chosen one, peace and blessings of Allah be on him. Whatever I have achieved, I have achieved by following him, and I know from verified reliable experience that no man can reach God and obtain a deeper understanding of His ways without following that Prophet, may peace and blessings of Allah be on him.” (Roohani Khaza’in, Vol. 22: Haqeeqat-ul-Wahi, pp. 64-65)
Belief about Jesus
Because of his claim of being the 2nd Messiah, the question arose as to the belief among Christians and Muslims about Jesus son of Mary coming back to the world.
The founder of the Ahmadiyya Community announced that Jesus did not die on the cross because it would have been a disgraceful death. Since Jesus son of Mary was a pure and innocent prophet of God, He saved him from the death on the cross. He explained that the real mission of Jesus was to preach the lost sheep of the house of Israel who were scattered in many countries. He established by arguments and reasoning from the gospels as well as from the history that Jesus traveled to other countries and eventually settled in Kashmir, India. He also announced that the tomb of Jesus is in Srinagar, Kashmir on Khanyar Street. He announced that Jesus would not be coming down from the skies. Hadhrat Ahmad claimed and proved that all the prophecies whether in the New Testament or in the Hadith of the Holy Prophet Muhammad were fulfilled in his person.
Hadhrat Ahmad, the Promised Messiah, restored dignity to the status of Jesus. The Scriptures says that anyone who hangeth on the tree is accursed of God. When someone is accursed, it means that he becomes an enemy of God and God becomes his enemy. That is the reason
Satan is referred to as accursed. Ahmad refuted any thought that he was in any way insulting Jesus. Instead he was describing the real status of Jesus, a prophet who taught worship of one God and fulfilled his mission of preaching to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. He stated his real feelings about Jesus:
“In Mosaic dispensation the Son of Mary was the Promised Messiah and in the Islamic
Dispensation I am the Promised Messiah; so I honor greatly the one whose name I bear. Anyone who asserts that I do not hold Jesus son of Mary in high esteem is a mischief-maker and a liar. I honor not only Jesus son of Mary but also his four brothers, as they were all sons of the same mother. I also regard his two real sisters as holy, for they are all the children of Holy Mary.”
[Kashti-e-Nuh, Roohani Khaza’in, vol. 19, pp. 17-18]
Message of the Founder
It is remarkable to note that this claim and voice were raised in the small village of Qadian. There was no post office, no bus stop, no train station, telegraph or telephone service. Amazingly, this voice was heard throughout the world, even in the United States of America. Guests started arriving to visit him from all over the world. This was the fulfillment of the prophecy “wherever the carcass is, eagles shall gather together.” In a short time Qadian was full of life and activity. Young people started to devote their lives and become missionaries. It was an unheard concept of Muslim missionaries to go anywhere to challenge other faiths. They were taking trains; embarking upon the decks of ships and even walking to the far away lands of Africa, Middle East, Europe and America. They were giving the glad tidings that the Messiah, the Prince of peace, had come and peace is at hand for mankind.
Officially, the Ahmadiyya Community was established in March 1889. Hadhrat Ahmad announced his purpose and mission in the following words:
“God almighty has raised me, a humble servant, in this age so that the Islamic teachings may be published and propagated to all nations and all countries and thus leave no excuse for them. For this purpose God has provided me with hundreds of heavenly signs, knowledge about the hidden things, sciences, facts and I have been provided with hundreds of logical arguments. God Almighty has provided for me the means and methods of publicizing the religion, the arguments and proofs to an extent that no other nation in history was equipped with these blessings. All of the hidden opportunities that have been provided to me were not given to any one of them. These are the blessings of Allah and He gives it to whomever He chooses.” (Braheen-e-Ahmadiyya page 575)
Name of the Community
The name of the community “Ahmadiyya” was chosen by its founder for a very specific reason. Many people may think that the name is used because the name of its founder was Ahmad but this is not the case.
Holy Prophet Muhammad had two names: Muhammad and Ahmad. The name Muhammad reflected his majestic attributes and Ahmad referred to his attributes of peace and harmony. When the Holy Prophet declared God’s message, his first thirteen years of life in Mecca was a reflection of the name Ahmad. He was persecuted; the Meccans punished his followers in diverse ways. His response was of peace and harmony and he showed patience and perseverance. His life in Medina of ten years was the reflection of his name Muhammad when he defeated his enemies and finally became victorious and God established his majestic attributes.
The attribute of the name Ahmad would also be revived in the latter days according to the prophecies. This reason for choosing the name of the community was clearly stated by its founder:
“There was a prophecy that the name Ahmad would be manifested again in the latter days and that a person would appear through whom the qualities of beauty, which characterized Ahmad, would be manifested, and all fighting would come to an end. For this reason, it has been considered appropriate that the name of this sect should be the Ahmadiyya Sect, so that everyone hearing this name should realize that this sect has come into being for the spread of peace and harmony and that it would have nothing to do with war and fighting.”
[Majmu‘ah Ishtiharat, vol. 3, pp. 364-366]