The greatest problem which confronts the world of Christianity today is not lack of understanding as much as the lack of desire and will to accept truth. Christianity, whether it is mythical or factual, has become an inseparable part of Western civilization and has played an important role in their colonization and imperial conquests. It supports their political and economic systems and provides them with a unifying and coherent force that keeps them as one powerful and unified entity. It has played a vital role in building and cementing the complex socio-political and economic system of the West. What we understand by Western civilisation or Western imperialism and its economic domination has all been pervaded with some Christian elements. In its present state, Christianity seems to be more inclined to serve material causes of the West better than its spiritual cause. While in the past the role of Christianity was more in the direction of supporting Christian beliefs and building moral values.
The most historic role played by Christianity, however, lies in building and enhancing Western Imperialism. The conquest of the orient was done with Christian fervour. In particular the battles fought with the Muslim empire were strongly motivated by the Christian hatred of Islam.
Christianity and Colonialism
When colonial rule subjugated almost the entire continent of Africa and tied them crown to toe in the chains of political bondage, they did not have to wait long until they were bound hand and foot in the chains of economic slavery as well. Imperial conquests are meaningless without an economic subjugation of the people. Not far behind the political and economic lords came the Christian priests, robed in humility and self-sacrifice. Their purpose to visit Africa appeared to be diametrically opposed to that of their political and economic vanguard. They came not to enslave, so they said, but to liberate the souls of Africa. It is surprising why the Africans did not question this purportedly noble intention. Why did they not respectfully enquire of the benign philanthropic leaders of the Church, as to why should they take pity on their souls and their souls alone? Could they not see how mercilessly their bodies had been enslaved? How wantonly had they been robbed of their political freedom? How they were bound in the chains of economic slavery? Why did they not take pity on their physical state of captivity and why were they only interested in liberating the souls of an enslaved people?
The inherent contradiction is obvious, but alas it was not so obvious to those who fell prey to the Christian designs. Africa is naive indeed, and as much naive today as it was two hundred years ago. Africans still do not see the perpetration of their political and economic slavery through the invisible, remote controlled system of neo-colonialism. They still do not realize that for them Christianity is only a means of subjugation. It is like an opiate that has lulled them into a deep sleep of forgetfulness. It gives them a false sense of belonging to their rulers in sharing at least something on equal footings with them.
It is the same sense of belonging which has led them to imitate the so expensive style of Western life. The trees remain planted on foreign soils, but only the fruits are transported across to a people who have somehow become addicted to its taste. This is a small illustration of how Christianity has always been indispensable for the Western imperial and economic domination of the Third World.
In the West itself, regardless of whether a common man understands the complexities of Christian dogma or not, he sees Christianity as an integral part of his culture and civilization. It should be remembered that the real strength of Christian values, wherever they survive, does not lie in its mythical set of beliefs. But instead it lies in its emphasis on kindness, sympathy and service to the cause of suffering and other such values that have almost become synonymous with Christianity. Although these values are common to all religions of the world and they seem to be the goal, Divinely set to be attained by all humanity, yet somehow, the powerful Christian propaganda continuously emphasises these roles in relation to Christianity alone and, as such, has succeeded in convincing people at large. This message of sympathy, kindness, godliness and gentle behaviour, plays magic on ears with its mellow music. It is this world of romance which generally attracts people to the Christian faith. However, side by side, yet divorced from it operate the hard, political and economic realities of Western life and its subjugation of the rest of the world.
It seems that the dogmatic paradoxes that the Christians have to live with, have somehow been transferred into their worldly behaviour as well. Kindness, humility, tolerance, sacrifice and many other such noble words go hand in hand with cruelty, suppression, gross injustice and large scale subjugation of the defenceless peoples of the world. Rule of law, justice and fair play seem only to be valid currencies operable internally in the Western cultures. In the areas of international relationships however, they are treated as stupid and obsolete terms to be taken seriously only by the naive.
International politics, diplomacy and economic relationships know no justice other than that which serves the national interest. Christian values, however good they may be, are not permitted to step across into the domain of Western politics and economy. This is the most tragic contradiction of the modern times.
When it comes to the image that it projects, Christianity is only presented in the form of an attractive Western culture and civilization calling the world of the Orient to a life of comfortable carefree permissiveness in comparison to the generally rigid codes of their decadent religious societies. This message of emancipation is largely misunderstood by the semi-literate masses of the Third World as something very attractive. Add to this the additional psychological advantage of acquiring a sense of belonging to the advanced world through the commonness of religion and then one begins to recognise the true role of Christianity in attracting in large numbers the down trodden and, in many cases, outcast and oppressed people who are at the lowest rungs within their own class- ridden societies. It is beyond their scope to understand Christian dogma. It only serves as lifting their human status, but only spuriously so.
From the above it should become evident that the Christianity we are talking about is so distant from the Christianity of Jesus Christ. To conceive of Western culture as Christianity is a manifest error. To attribute the current forms of Christianity, in its various spheres, to Christ is indeed an insult to him. There are exceptions of course to every rule. No statement is applicable in absolute totality to any group of large numbers. No doubt, there is a small number of individual islands of hope and life in the Christian world where Christian sincerity, love and sacrifice are genuinely practised. These are the Islands of hope around which rage oceans of immorality that are slowly and gradually corroding and finally claiming more edges of these islands. Had the Christian world not been bejewelled with such shining examples of Christianity practised in the spirit of Jesus Christ, however far and few between, a total darkness would envelope the Western horizon. Without Christianity there is no light in the Western civilization, but, alas, that light is also fast fading.
It is essential for the Christian world to return to the reality of Christ and to cure themselves of their split identity and inherent hypocrisy. To continue to live in a world of myths and legends is potent with grave perils. The main purpose of this exercise is to awaken the Christian world to the potential dangers attendant upon the widening parallax between their belief and practice. Myths are fine as long as they serve the purpose of subjugating the lowest rungs of the society to the hierarchy of a system which controls them and exploits their ignorance by keeping them doped. But when it comes to the beliefs playing a vital role in bringing a dead people to life and reconstructing their fast degenerating moral values, then such myths are of no avail. They are mere fantasies and fantasies can never play a meaningful role in human affairs.
The Re-Advent of Jesus Christ
The application of the observations made so far can now be demonstrated. The vital question of the survival of humanity today, revolves around the central image of Jesus Christ. It is highly essential, therefore, to understand his reality. What was he and what role did he play in the first instance as Christ in the decadent society of Judaism? How seriously can we take the promise of his second advent in the latter days? These are the vital questions we must address.
If the image of Jesus Christ is not real and is only a product of human imagination, then it is impossible to visualize his re-advent. It is so because, Jesus was not a product of fantasy. He was a real man and only as such could he be reborn as a human child and not descend as a phantom revisiting mortals. Such fantasies never visit the realities of human life. As such, a people who are living with myths and legends, will continue to do so without there ever being a chance for them to recognise their redeemer if and when he comes.
If Jesus was actually the Son of God, as the Christians would have us believe, then of course he would return in glory, resting his hands on the shoulders of real angels. But if this is merely a romantic fantasy of Christian hopes and aspirations then, as such, this incident will never happen. Never shall the world see this bizarre event of some god descending from heaven in a human form along with a troop of angels supporting him and singing his hymns.
The very idea is repulsive to human logic and human conscience. It is the wildest fairy tale that was ever invented to lull the faculties of a people. On the other hand if the Ahmadiyya understanding of Jesus Christ is accepted, it would replace this fantastic scenario with one which is not only acceptable to human understanding, but is also powerfully supported by the entire religious history of mankind. In that case we would be expecting a saviour no different from the Christ of the first advent. We would be expecting a humble man, born of humble origins like the Jesus Christ of the first advent, to begin his ministry in the same style as he once did. He would belong to a religious people resembling the Jews of Judea, both in their traits and circumstances. They would not only reject and disown him at his claim to be the Promised Reformer, which they were expecting as their redeemer from God, but would also do all that lay within their powers to annihilate him. He would relive the life of Christ all over again and would be treated with the same contempt, hatred and arrogance. He would suffer once again, not at the hands of his own people, but at the hands of similar hostile forces which opposed him before. He would also suffer at the hands of the supreme foreign imperial power under whose canopy he would be born among an enslaved people.
P.D. Ouspensky, a prominent Russian journalist of the early twentieth century, writing on the subject of the re-advent of Jesus Christ shared almost the same view.
It is by no means a new idea that Christ, if born on earth later, not only could not be the head of the Christian Church, but probably would not even belong to it, and in the most brilliant periods of the might and power of the Church would most certainly have been declared a heretic and burned at the stake. Even in our more enlightened times, when the Christian Churches, if they have not lost their anti-Christian features, have at any rate begun to conceal them, Christ could have lived without suffering the persecution of the ‘scribes and Pharisees’ perhaps only somewhere in a Russian hermitage.1
This is the only real process by which all divine messengers and reformers are raised. Any concept other than this is hollow, spurious and meaningless.
It always happens that at a time when prophetic fulfilment of divine reformers takes place, the people for whose redemption they are sent fail to recognise him. In that period of history they have already transformed the image of their reformer from reality to fantasy. They begin to expect a fantasy to appear and materialize, while what happens is merely a re-enacting of the religious history as it invariably occurred from the time of the first divine reformer. They always appear as humble human beings born of human mothers and during their lifetime are always treated as humans. It is much later after their death that process of their deification begins. As such, their smooth acceptance during their re-visit becomes impossible.
When such religious people are confronted with the realities of the divine reformers, who always appear as ordinary humble human beings, they are rejected outright. When you are expecting a fairy to come or a phantom to materialize, how can you accept the coming of an ordinary human instead? That is the reason why the world failed to see and recognise the second advent of Jesus Christ that has already taken place.
A tall claim perhaps, which is more likely to be simply rejected by most readers. How could Jesus have come and gone without the world having taken a serious note of it? How could he have gone unnoticed by the entire world of Christianity and Islam? The modern times have seen many such claimants who even created momentary stirs and storms in many a cup, but where are they today?
It is an age where in many countries, cults erupt like mushrooms and bizarre claims of Jesus having returned or having sent his forerunner are made sporadically. This claim could perhaps be just one of those. Why should any serious minded person waste his time to even contemplate this? Certainly, serious doubts would be created and a grave dilemma would indeed be faced. We seek to indulge the reader’s attention by requesting him to visualize a situation where Christ would actually have come. Is his revisit just a fantasy or can he really revisit the world in person or through proxy? This is a question which has to be resolved before we can attempt to answer the various doubts mentioned above.
Is the world, be it Christian or Muslim, really in a psychological state of mind to accept the second advent of Jesus? If so, in what form and in which way? If we see it from the vantage point of both Muslims and the Christians, Jesus, if he were to ever return, would come with such glory and clear signs, descending from the heaven in broad daylight with angels supporting him, that it would be impossible for even the most sceptical to refuse to accept him.
Sadly, only a Jesus of fantasy is acceptable to the world of today, a Jesus the like of which never came before in the entirety of human history. If religious history is to be taken seriously, one finds scores of instances where founders of religions or other divines are reported to have ascended to heaven bodily. These claims are so numerous and so widespread that it seems to be a universal trend of man to concoct such stories in order to elevate and superhumanise their religious leaders. The question is how can we deny all these reportings which are accepted and believed by perhaps billions of people in the world today? The Christians and Muslims alone who believe in this and other similar bizarre events number beyond two billion. So a reader may enquire as to what right, we or anyone else in the world has to reject all such beliefs as unreal and imaginary. We agree that examining it from this angle will require a ponderous exercise to refute such claims as being unsupported by the scriptures of the religions which entertain them. Once one is led into this maze of possible and alternative interpretations, it ends up only as a question of preferences and choices. It then becomes anybody’s game to interpret scriptures or reported religious history as literal or metaphorical. To step into this quagmire of conflicting explanations would serve no purpose. Yet there is one exit from this onerous exercise that we can show the readers and invite them to follow or reject as they please.
For arguments sake let us accept all such claims of religious leaders having ascended to heaven and take them at their face value. If the case of Jesus Christ’s reported ascent is to be treated in a superficial sense and his second coming to be interpreted as literal and real then there is no reason why we should refuse to accept other similar cases in the world. Why make the exception of Elijah, King of Salem or the Twelfth Imam of the Shiite faction in Islam or the ascension of Hindu Gods or other similar holy men and the so-called personifications of God? It is safer, therefore, to avoid entering into such unproductive, futile debates with those who entertain similar beliefs. One may enquire, from all such credulous believers in fantasy, if they can point out a single revisit, in person, of those who are reported to have disappeared by ascending into remote heavenly recesses. Can the entire human history present a single example of the bodily return of any person to this world who is reported to have bodily ascended? Show us if there is one.
Looking at the total absence of literal fulfilment of such claims, one is left with two choices. Either to reject such claims as fraudulent, or accept them only metaphorically, as Jesus did in the case of Elijah’s second coming. It becomes evident from this that those who await Jesus’ literal descent from heaven have created a barrier between themselves and the reality of Jesus. If Jesus comes again he will come only as a human being just like all the expected divine reformers before him. If he appears today as an ordinary humble person, having been born in a land similar to the land of Judea in Palestine and commissioned to play the same role he played during his first advent, will the people of that land treat him in a manner other than he was treated before?
The Promised Messiah
Such is the case of the second advent of the Messiah in whom we believe. It happened just over a hundred years ago that a humble man of God, by the name of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian was informed by God that Jesus of Nazareth, Son of Mary, whose literal second coming is being awaited both by the Christians and the Muslims alike, was a special prophet of God who passed away like all other prophets of God. Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad declared that Jesus was not bodily alive and was never bodily lifted to any heavenly space to await his revisit to this earth. He had died like all other prophets of God and was no more than a prophet. The second advent of Jesus Christ, a belief common to Christians and Muslims alike, he was told, was to take place spiritually and not literally. As such, he was told that God had raised him in the fulfilment of that prophecy.
Mirza Ghulam Ahmad belonged to a noble family of the Punjab. His family pursuits were mostly concerned with building the family’s fortune and honour, but he distanced himself from worldly pursuits and spent most of his time in the worship of God and religious studies. He was a man almost lost to the world, little known even in the small township of his birth. Then slowly he began to emerge on the religious horizon of India as a stalwart and a champion of the cause of Islam. He became known as a holy man of such fame that he commanded respect not only among Muslims but also from the followers of other religions. People began to witness in him a man in communion with God; whose prayers were answered; whose deep sincere concern for humanity and the suffering of people was beyond question.
Islam, during this period in India
was unfortunately in a most pitiful state. It was targeted by the Christian
missionaries, who in accordance with the policies of the British Empire, launched
a vitriolic campaign not only against Islamic teachings but also against the
Holy Founder of Islam. Also, in Hinduism, the major religion of India, extremely
ambitious movements were taking form with a two pronged plan. To revive Hindu
culture and practice and to eliminate Islam and the Muslims from India, portraying
them as aliens having no right to remain rooted on its soil. The most aggressive
among them was the Arya Samaj Movement, which was founded by Pandit Swami Dyanand
Sarsooti (1824–1883) in 1875. This perhaps further motivated Hazrat Mirza Ghulam
Ahmad to begin extensive research in comparative religions in defense of Islam.
His studies further strengthened his belief in the superiority of the teachings of Islam. He was impressed by the distinctive approach of the Quran to human problems. The Quran, he discovered, after presenting a course of human conduct did not stop at that instruction arbitrarily, but continued to build strong, logical arguments supported by evidence that the prescribed course was the most appropriate option in the given context.
It enabled him, at last, to champion the cause of Islam, which at that time was practically defenceless. Thus he performed the most pressing requirement for the defense of Islam in India at that period. He began his public life by holding dialogues and debates on a smaller scale which gradually expanded into much wider circles. His fame as the most competent and formidable proponent for the cause of Islam began to spread far and wide.
It was in that period of time that he commenced the authoring of one of the greatest literary religious works that he ever undertook. This book, Brahin-e-Ahmadiyya, was planned to be published in fifty volumes but he could only publish the first five while tumultuous events overtook him and from then on it was no longer possible for him to pursue that scholarly task to its conclusion. However, subsequently he authored many other books in response to the dictates of the time. His books covered almost the entire subject which he had originally intended to cover and much more. In fact he did more than fulfil his promise though not under the title. It is amazing how he could produce such vast literature almost single handed, without much clerical help. The books, epistles and treatises which he authored numbered around one hundred and ten.
It was not just his literary works that won him such wide recognition in the entire Sub-Continent but also his spiritual qualities played a vital role in wining him wide-scale fame and respect.
In this twilight of his rising and widening reputation he was commissioned by God to bear the grave responsibly of reformer of the latter days as expected and awaited by almost all religions of the world. From the Muslims point of view he was the Al-Mahdi, the divinely guided reformer. From the view point of both the Christians and the Muslims he was raised to the status of the Promised Messiah to fulfil the prophesies of the second advent of Jesus Christ. However, this appointment cost him all the fame and popularity that he had earned previously. Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the divinely appointed spiritual reformer of the age was abandoned forthwith and rejected not only by the followers of other faiths but more strongly so by the Muslims of India themselves, the people whose cause he had been so competently and vehemently pleading.
It was practically a new spiritual birth for him. As he had come alone to the world so he was to start a new life as a single man in the world of religion, practically abandoned by all around him. But God did not abandon him. He was repeatedly assured by God’s succour and support through different revelations that he received during the period of intense hostility.
A warner came into the world but was not accepted, but God will accept him and will establish his truth with mighty signs.
I shall spread thy message to the ends of the earth.
These are some of the early revelations which sustained him during the state of utter desolation and rejection he suffered at the hands of his opponents. More than a hundred years have passed since and the picture that has slowly but steadily emerged, fully supports his claims and prophesies and the truth of his revelations.
That one man has grown into ten million people all over the world in a hundred and thirty four countries spread over five continents. His message has reached the corners of the earth, from the farthest west to the remotest east. He is accepted as the Promised Guided Leader and the Promised Messiah of the second advent in the Americas, in Europe, in Africa, in Asia and even in the distant islands of the south east Pacific, such as Fiji, Tuvalu, Solomon Islands etc. Despite this, his followers, can best be described as a small pool insignificant in volume, as compared to the large sea of the Christian world.
The achievements of Hazrat Mirza
Ghulam Ahmad’s Movement would require an account too lengthy for the small
space available here but it is essential to note that no other religious movement
in the modern times has progressed and spread so rapidly with such a firm step.
It is not a cult, nor is it a popular craze. It is a serious message—an uphill
task which requires great effort and discipline on the part of those who venture
to follow it. Those who follow it do so by accepting grave responsibilities
that are to be discharge throughout their lives. It is almost as austere as
the early Essene society. To accept Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad’s claim as the
Promised Messiah is not hob-nobbing with romance but is a commitment of a life
time. Those who get initiated in his Community have to deny most of the vain
pleasures of their lives, yet not in the style of the ascetics and the hermits,
but with deep conviction, commitment, satisfaction and contentment of heart
that enables them to sacrifice and persevere in his cause to a high degree
of excellence. He has created a world-wide community which has no equal in
financial sacrifices. Where all earning member of the Community commit themselves
to pay at least a sixteenth of their income towards the noble cause. The spirit
of voluntary sacrifice and the amount of voluntary labour which is performed
throughout the world is mind boggling. Yet all this is done without the least
coercion of any type. Those who are able to put in their share of labour or
financial offerings consider themselves fortunate to be able to do so.
This is a community that is entirely independent in its financial affairs. This universal system of voluntary contribution is being exercised for the last hundred years with remarkable purity and moral integrity. Therein lies the secret of its success in maintaining its independence from outside influences for over a century. That however, is only one angle of observation. Looking at the quality of his followers from other angles provides no less a fascinating scenario. It is a community which stands out in its moral, peaceful co-existence, mutual love and deep respect for human values. It is a religious community that is highly admired the world over for its respect of law and regard for decent human relationships irrespective of religion colour or creed.
To a reader it may seem that we have outstepped into a track which has no relationship to the subject of our address. Let us most respectfully point out that such an observer has missed the point. The relevance of this discussion can be better understood in the light of a profound observation of Jesus Christ that a tree is recognised by its fruit.2
If anyone today is seriously interested in determining the bona fides of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad’s claim, this is the best and the most dependable criterion. On this criterion it can be judged whether he is indeed that Promised Messiah whose advent had been foretold not only by Jesus Christ himself but also by the Holy Founder of Islam. To discover what manner of followers he has been able to produce and what the passage of a century has done to them would be a very rewarding exercise. The question would also arise if they have been treated by the age in a manner similar to the followers of Jesus Christ in the first century of Christianity? Again the question must arise as to what was the attitude of God towards him in the face of the many attempts that were made to annihilate and exterminate him and his Community? Has the attitude of God been in favour of, or has it been against such a hunted community? If like the early Christians, the followers of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad also experience the same pressing support of God against all odds? If whenever they were ground through the mill of persecution, instead of being pulverised they emerged on the other end even larger than before and more powerful and more respected, then of course the claim of such a claimant cannot be trivially waived. It is no longer a tall claim of a mad man, or a fanciful cobweb of a day dreamer’s imagination. Ahmadiyyat has become a reality to be taken seriously on a much wider horizon than Christianity could ever be taken towards the end of its first century.
Here is the case of a Messiah who was a fact of history and not the product of fiction, and here again is the case of a Messiah whose re-advent was as realistic as was his first appearance as a commissioned divine leader. It is entirely up to the people of this age to choose to live continuously in a world of legends and fancies and to keep eternally awaiting the promised reformers of their religions and creeds or to accept the hard realities of this life. On one thing we must agree, that many a religious leader has been elevated from the common human ranks to that of the ranks of deities. Many a time, religious leaders have been imagined to have ascended to heaven to await somewhere in the empty recesses of space for their second visit to the planet earth. There is no reason why one should accept one of such claims and reject another, because they are merely claims, without any positive, scientific proof to support their validity. Hence there is no option but to either accept them all or to reject them in their entirety. This would be the only honest and just course of action. One thing however is certain, that once departed from their terrestrial existence, regardless of the manner in which their followers believed them to have departed, never in the entire history of mankind has anyone ever revisited the Earth. Again, one thing is most certain that all such divines and spiritual leaders who have been elevated to the status of deities or partners of God, began their lives like ordinary humble human beings and lived until their deaths the life of a human. It was only their followers who turned them into gods. But remember, that none of them ever demonstrated his role in the running of nature. There has always been only One hand alone which seems to govern the laws of nature. The mirror of the heavens and the laws of nature at every level reflect the face of one God and one God alone. The Holy Quran says:
‘They allege: The
Gracious one has taken unto Himself a son. Assuredly, you have
uttered a monstrous thing! The heavens might well-nigh burst
thereat, and the earth cleave asunder, and the mountains fall
down to pieces, because they ascribe a son to the Gracious One;
whereas it becomes not the Gracious One to take unto Himself
a son.’ (19:89–93)
- P.D. Ouspensky, A New Model of the Universe, pg
Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubener & Co. Ltd. 1938
- Make a tree good and its fruit will be good,
or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is
recognized by its fruit.