HE WORLD WE KNOW TODAY is so different from that of a mere hundred years ago. The age of air travel had not yet dawned. The fledgling flight of the Wright brothers was to remain, for many more years, a dream to be realized. Massive ships towering high like mountains were not yet built and the era of submarines was not as yet afloat. Nevertheless, there was a stir in the air, like that at the early break of dawn. A dazzling new day of revolutionary scientific inventions was breaking.
The air in the realm of religion was also vibrant with an expectancy of a different nature. There was talk in every religion of the near advent of a Divine Reformer of global dimensions. Who would come and where, was the most hotly debated question. The air was tense with claims and counterclaims. But nowhere was the tension of inter-religious debate so intense as in the subcontinent of India.
Christians and Muslims were awaiting the arrival of the Messiah among them. The Hindus were no less enthusiastic about the manifestation of their Lord Krishna. The Buddhists did not lag behind either, in hoping for the re-advent of Buddha.
In that atmosphere of multi-religious conflict, a voice was heard loud and clear, from a person of humble origin by the name of Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas of Qadian. He electrified the atmosphere with his outstanding advocacy of the supremacy of Islam over all other faiths. He threw challenges on behalf of Islam in every direction with such powerful arguments based on scriptural and logical evidence as compelled the champions of other religions to take serious note of him. 'A new warrior has risen for the defence of Islam,' was the clamour everywhere.
The Muslims of the subcontinent were astir with joy and hope. Till the entry into the arena of this new champion of the Muslim cause, Islam was the least ably defended of all the combatant religions. Meteoric was his rise to fame among the Indian Muslims when the first few volumes of his monumental work Brahin-e-Ahmadiyyah were published. Glowing tributes were paid to him by eminent Muslim scholars of that time. Leading articles were published in his praise by the Muslim press. But it was not to last long.
The situation changed dramatically when he pronounced, one day, that God had revealed to him that Jesusas, son of Mary, was dead. He died many long years after his deliverance from the cross like any other human prophet. In his name and in his spirit and style it was he, Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas who had been raised as the Messiah of the latter days, to fulfil the prophecies of the second advent of Jesusas. A fuller discussion on this will follow in Part VII. For the present it should suffice that his fame had reached heavenly heights before he made this claim. But the first thing that claim cost him was that fame which turned overnight into notoriety. His name was still known from end to end in the vast subcontinent of India among the people of Islam, but no longer with honour and dignity and with hopes and aspirations. The hunter of the enemies of Islam became the most hunted person by the very Muslims whose battles he had fought. All his friends turned into foes, all his well-wishers wished him dead rather than accept the death of Jesus Christas and his spiritual rebirth among the Muslims. He was maligned and vilified and abused and opposed with such frenzy as the subcontinent of India had not witnessed before. It was at this moment of total betrayal by the world of Islam, and undisguised hostility by the rest of the religions, that he was reassured by God that He would not abandon him. Many prophetic warnings were vouched to him concerning the Divine chastisement for those who led campaigns of bitter antagonism against him. Many Divine warnings were bestowed to him regarding heavenly punishments of a much wider application, so that the people at large might draw their lesson from them, but they heeded not. He was falsified. But his prophetic warnings of Divine chastisement could not be falsified.
NE SUCH WARNING related to the impending epidemic of the plague which was to play exceptional havoc in the Punjab, the province of India to which he belonged. The most emphatic warning delivered by him to the world was bestowed upon him in the words of the following Divine revelation:
'A Warner came unto the world, but the world accepted him not; yet God shall manifest His favour and demonstrate his truth with powerful assaults.' 1
Plague, as we have already mentioned, was just one of the many punitive signs which he prophesied. But it was so great a sign of extraordinary import that we have specifically selected it as a category by itself. It was not just a sign of the truth of the Promised Messiahas,
it was a sign of the truth of the Quran and the Bearersa of the Quran. Again it manifestly proved the claim that revelation is a most reliable means of transferring knowledge from the realm of the unknown to that of the known. The visitation of the plague which was revealed to the Promised Messiahas was in fact a Quranic prophecy reasserted during his time, because his was the age when it was destined to be realized.
And when the sentence is passed against them, We shall bring forth for them an insect (Da'bbah) out of the earth, which shall wound them (Tukallemo) because people did not believe in Our Signs.2
The word da'bbah as used by the Quran has already been defined with reference to another verse discussed earlier. It applies to all animals, from the tiniest to the most massive ones, which move along earth surfaces with a locomotive mechanism.3
It is highly important to understand the significance of this prophecy, which has a very potent message for the people of this age. Many a past Muslim scholar and commentator of the Quran has related this prophecy to the age when the Mahdi and the Messiah would appear. Although they could not fathom the entire import of the message, they still came surprisingly close. 'Allamah Isma'il Haqqi Al-Buruswi (d. AH 1137) commentating on the above verse in Ruhul Bayan wrote that the Mahdi would come and then the Dajjal (anti-Christ) would appear followed by the Messiah. During this time da'bbah will emerge and after that the sun will rise from the West.
The Shi'a scholar, Mullah Fath-Ullah Kashani (d. AH 988), in his commentary Minhaj-us Sadiqin, has made the following comments:
'According to some of our friends this verse (i.e. relating to the emergence of da'bbah) points to the advent of the Divine authority who is the Mahdi of the Muslim people (Ummah).'
This is as far as these commentators could go from their study of Hadith in conjunction with the above Quranic verse. They did not offer any explanation as to the nature of da'bbah. It was left to Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas, in his capacity as the reformer of the latter days to further elaborate and explain the true implication of this prophecy in the light of the Divine revelations and visions bestowed upon him.
In February 1898, Hazrat Ahmadas received revelations about an impending plague, and he immediately published this important warning through newspapers and pamphlets to the world at large. He explained that the plague of which he had foretold was the same calamity implied in the verse relating to the appearance of al- da'bbah ()
He further observed that the word tukallemo () mentioned in the verse has two basic meanings. One is to wound and the other is to speak. The context in which this verse is set clearly relates to an animal of a sort which would bite the people for having rejected the signs of the Lord. The alternative meaning requires the da'bbah to speak to the people. This he does by implication indicating that this punitive measure is a result of their denial. Thus he speaks as he wounds by discriminating between good and bad.
After this initial warning, many others followed, further elaborating the nature of the impending plague and the manner in which it would strike. The Promised Messiahas was told in no uncertain terms that this plague would devastate large areas in the Punjab, and village after village would be emptied of life. Death would knock at every door and strike the townships from end to end leaving a trail of horror behind as it went. Qadian, the township where he himself dwelled, would be no exception, he declared, but the plague there would be employed to further enhance the sign of his truth. It would strike all around his house but would not be permitted to step within its four walls.
'I will save all who dwell in the House.'4
For those who sought and cared for his shelter, he made it clear that this promise of security would not be confined only to such as occupy his house physically but would also cover those who dwell in his spiritual home—the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. Thus he delivered manifest warnings to all who rejected him and gave glad tidings of miraculous protection to all who believed.
When he mentioned that the Ahmadis would be miraculously saved from this affliction, he made it clear at the same time that in exceptional cases, the Ahmadis who were Ahmadis in name only may also suffer. But by and large, they would be saved in such outstanding proportion as would leave no doubt in the mind of the observer that this protection was in no way accidental.
HE TALE OF THE PLAGUE in the Punjab is an amazing tale indeed. It testifies to the truth of the Promised Messiahas in letter and spirit. How could a man claim protection even from the common cold as a sign of his truth? To speak of the plague to show distinct partiality to his followers was too tall a claim to be made by an ordinary mortal if God Himself had not vouchsafed it to him. It was an exceptionally tall claim indeed that all who would sincerely submit to his authority as the Divinely appointed Imam of the age would be spared the agony of the plague.
When finally the hour struck, it struck to toll the bell over the funeral of his sworn enemies. Many among them had publicly vowed that it would be Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas himself who would die of the plague. But it was they themselves who were stricken by the plague along with their families, one after the other, until none were left to mourn their death. It did spare, as was promised, his followers, by an outstandingly large margin. A margin which could not be explained away by any factor of chance or accident. No earthly logic could account for the distinct partiality with which the plague treated the Ahmadis in hundreds of villages of mixed population. This miracle repeated itself everywhere with such brilliance as even the blind could see. And the blind did see and rushed towards the safe haven of Ahmadiyyat in such numbers as had never happened before. And lo, they were saved. But alas for those who possessed the faculty of sight that they were blinded by its dazzling brilliance. There were villages where no one was left to carry the coffins of the victims of the plague to the nearby graveyards, except the followers of Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas. They carried the corpses of the disbelievers on their shoulders to the burial ground without the least fear of contracting the plague.
Returning to Qadian from an overview of the Punjab, let us see what was happening there. Everything went according to the prophecy, but for an incident or two which appeared odd and discordant. It so happened that a prominent follower of the Promised Messiah, Maulawi Mohammad Ali by name, suffered from a very intense fever with all the symptoms resembling the plague. Even the glands under his armpits had swelled threateningly, causing severe pain and distress. The best available medical aid was provided, but without avail. His agony did not abate. He just could not reconcile himself to the fact that he, a companion of the Messiahas, should meet such an end, contrary to the Divine promise. The agony of the plague in itself was unbearable, add to this the torture of conscience which might have tormented him, lest in the sight of God he was counted out of His true servants.
Thus he tossed in his bed and cried and wailed that someone should hasten to the Promised Messiahas to inform him of his miserable plight and urge him to visit him and bless him. This is what the Promised Messiahas did forthwith. It did not perturb him in the least that the patient was medically declared to be suffering from plague. He went to his bedside and put his hand on the forehead of Maulawi Sahib, speaking words of solace and comfort, reassuring him that as certainly as he was the true Messiah, Maulawi Sahib would not die of plague. It did not take Maulawi Sahib long to watch these prophetic words fulfilled. As the Promised Messiahas stood talking to him, his hand still resting on his forehead, his temperature subsided rapidly, leaving no sign of the fever or the plague behind. He sat up and touched himself here and there, bewildered at the rapidity with which the fever had vanished. So also were bewildered those who sat around awaiting his death but were destined instead to watch the miracle of his survival. He lived many long years after that before he died in Lahore in 1951, at the ripe old age of 77.
OW COULD the plague differentiate between people who believed in the Promised Messiah and those who did not will always remain a mystery, but not for those who believe in the limitless attributes of the Omnipotent God.
A genuine question arises here as to what solid evidence can be presented for the satisfaction of neutral enquiry in support of whatever has been recorded in this chapter as facts. The problem is that the only direct evidence which can be produced is internal. The witnesses are all Ahmadis or those who converted to Ahmadiyyat after watching this miracle. There is no external evidence except that which is indirect and implied, yet it is powerful because it stems from hostile witnesses. The major problem is that no independent enquiry was constituted at that time by any neutral authority. There were only two parties, Ahmadis and non-Ahmadis. Of all the facts and figures in relation to the behavioural pattern of the plague, the only record available is from the archives of whatever was published in contemporary newspapers, magazines, pamphlets, posters and books. The only scrutiny regarding the reliability of this material which can be made is circumstantial.
The most important factor worthy of note here is that a strong vibrant interest had been created in the nature, claims and activities of the Ahmadiyya Jamaat in the period under review. An exceptionally hostile, strong non-Ahmadi press was giving sharp, pungent, negative coverage to whatever was happening in the newly emergent world of the Ahmadiyya Jamaat. Whatever was said or done by Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas of Qadian and whatever happened to him was keenly observed and eagerly recorded by his opponents. A full and rather overexcited coverage was given to anything and everything which could be turned against him. This hostile coverage was not confined merely to the non-Ahmadi Muslim press, but the Christian and the Hindu press did not miss the least opportunity either to censure him and bring him to disrepute at the slightest excuse. Had the coverage of the Ahmadiyya press on the issue of the plague been ever so slightly wrong, it would be impossible for the bitterly critical non-Ahmadiyya press to ignore it.
All through the period of seven years, or thereabouts, that the plague remained active in the Punjab, Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas, the Promised Messiah would never let the public interest in the outcome of the plague in relation to the Ahmadis wane or die. Many of his well-known adversaries were locked with him in spiritual duels and every now and then claims and counterclaims were published regarding which of the two would die smitten down by the plague, as a sign of God's wrath. Many of his adversaries began to die one after the other and the remaining waited in suspense and fear. But the plague touched him not. It touched neither him nor his wife, none of his sons or daughters were afflicted by the plague either. Not even a mouse was ever found having died of plague within the four walls of his house.
He published these facts repeatedly adding fuel to the fire, invoking the hatred of his enemies and causing them to pray against him more than ever before to bring the curse of the plague upon him. But all in vain. Nothing happened to him and to those who lived within the boundaries of his physical and spiritual abode of peace and security. Can anyone produce a single line ever published in any newspaper or magazine or book of his time which falsified his claims by listing the names of any victims of the plague who belonged to his family or dwelled in his house?
The same goes for the overall publications of the Ahmadiyya press in those days which became conspicuous by their silence on such mishaps. No death is recorded by them in the family of the Promised Messiahas nor among those who lived around him. It is worthy of note that the Ahmadiyya Press routinely covered all incidents even remotely related to the Promised Messiahas.
As far as the members of the Community outside Qadian were concerned, they were spared by the plague in an outstandingly large proportion. The death rate among the non-Ahmadis who died of the plague stood far higher by comparison to the very rare cases of Ahmadi deaths in the same villages.
Had this claim of the Ahmadiyya Press been wrong, the antagonist press must have played it up and capitalized on it. That it did not happen should be reasonably treated as strong indirect external evidence, by default.
Another irrefutable proof in favour of the Ahmadiyya claim is the fact of exceptionally accelerated growth of Ahmadiyyat during the years of the plague. The figures which were regularly published in the Ahmadiyya organ Al-Hakam, presented an enormous rise in the rate of conversion to Ahmadiyyat during this critical period. No denial of these figures was ever made by the non-Ahmadiyya press. They were figures of real people occupying real villages and towns. Why did not any section of the antagonist press give Al-Hakam the lie and publish counter evidence? Such are the times when silence speaks louder than words.
The fact that Ahmadiyyat spread far more rapidly during 1898–1906, the years of the plague in the Punjab, is indelible. According to the periodically published data in Al-Hakam, by the year 1902, the number of Ahmadis had risen from some tens of thousand to a hundred thousand. By the year 1904 the Ahmadi population had swelled to two hundred thousand. By 1906, the year when the plague finally beat a retreat, the number of Ahmadis had risen to four hundred thousand plus.
N VIEW OF THE ABOVE, it should be borne in mind that had the prophecy of the Promised Messiahas been proved wrong, Ahmadiyyat must have been wiped out from the face of the earth. After the plague had taken its full toll, whatever number of Ahmadis were spared must have been stricken by the 'exposure of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad'sas falsehood'. But that was not so. As the number of hostile opponents of Ahmadiyyat was counted down by the plague, the number of Ahmadis grew and swelled. Ahmadiyyat marched forward in leaps and bounds.
... In that surely are Signs for a people who reflect.5
Concerning the verse of the Quran upon which this entire prophecy is based, let us draw the reader's attention to the fact that this verse in itself is a miracle. To capture its miraculous beauty, the reader must be assisted to fully admire its fascinating subtleties. In the following passage, we have attempted to achieve this purpose. The following points need to be emphasized:
At the time of the Quranic revelation, the reasons for the spread of the bubonic plague were not known. No knowledge existed about the manner in which rats might have played a part in infecting others. It was certainly not their bites which did so. It was also not known that there existed a tiny wingless insect—the flea, which was the carrier of this fatal disease. Nor was it known that it was the bite of this flea which injected the plague virus into the bloodstream of its victims. If the Quran had been authored by a human, he could never have predicted the spread of the plague by the bite of an animal classified as the da'bbah.
Now we know that the animal which spreads the plague is an insect. Now we also know that an overwhelmingly large proportion of insects is winged, and those which are wingless are infinitesimally fewer by comparison, such as the lice, the silverfish and the non reproductive termites. And finally, it is now that we have come to know that the flea, despite being an insect, is also a da'bbah by virtue of its being wingless. It is this exceptional quality of the flea which rightfully entitles it to be called da'bbah, or the relevant Quranic verse could be censured as definitely wrong.
We humbly invite the attention of naturalists to this unique example and beg them to search their minds and hearts. Can they really dismiss this exception as a mere accident?
- Nozul-ul-Masih—Ruhani Khaza'en (1984) Vol.18 pp.466–467
- Translation of 27:83 by the author.
- LANE, E.W. (1984) Arabic-English Lexicon. Islamic Text Society, William & Norgate. Cambridge.
- Tazkirah—Collection of the Revelations and Dreams of the Promised Messiah—HAZRAT MIRZA GHULAM AHMAD OF QADIAN. (1969) Published by Al-Shirkatul Islamiyyah Ltd. p. 428
- Translation of 30:22 by Maulawi Sher Ali.