Further proof of an Amendment in the Definition of Nabuwwat
Further proof that at this time the Promised Messiah had amended his conception of Nabuwwat is furnished by the fact that before 1901 he had held that for a Nabi it was binding that he should not be an Ummati of an earlier Nabi . But towards the end of that year, and for all subsequent times, he does not hold that for a Nabi it is at all binding that he should not be an Ummati, that he should not be a follower of an earlier Prophet; nor does he consider that an Ummati, becoming in reality a Nabi, could be held objectionable in any way; and he took himself to be really a Prophet. In Zamima Barahin-i Ahmadiyya, Vol. V, page 138, he puts down the question raised by someone, as follows:
"Some people say, if it is true that in Bokhari and Muslim it is written that the Jesus to come would be a member of this Ummat ; but in Muslim when it is stated in plain words that he would be a Prophet, then how can we hold that he would be belonging to this Ummat?"
This question bears witness that the man asking this question considers it impossible that an Ummati should become a Prophet, since, according to him, whoever was an Ummati, in the prevailing meaning of the term, he could not be a Prophet. On the basis of the popular term, there is confusion and an uneasiness in his mind that in Muslim when it is clearly stated that the Promised Messiah would be a Nabi, how can it be true what has been said in Bokhari and Muslim that the Promised Messiah would rise from this Ummat itself? This question indicates that in the eyes of the man who asked this question, a follower, an Ummati of the Holy Prophet could not become a Nabi, The Promised Messiah answers this question as follows:
"The answer is that all this unfortunate confusion has risen from a misconception in regard to the real meaning of Nabi . The true meaning of this word is only this that he should be one who received tidings, by means of Wahyi from Allah, and have communion with Allah in considerable abundance and amplitude. That he should be the bearer of a new Sharia is not essential and binding. Nor is it necessary that he should not be a follower of an earlier Nabi, who had a Sharia of his own. Therefore, there was no harm if an Ummati should come to be a Nabi of this kind, especially where that Ummati received the blessing after loyal obedience to the earlier Nabi in question."
Evidently, to the time when he wrote his letter of August 17, 1899, for a Prophet who brought no complete and perfect Sharia or new commandments, the Promised Messiah thought the condition binding that he should not be an Ummati of any Nabi ; he should have a link with Allah, independently of an earlier Nabi . In other words, like the man who asked this question, the Promised Messiah held that an Ummati could not rise to be a Nabi . The letter under reference belongs to a period earlier than 1901. But subsequently to the time when the Promised Messiah modified his conception in regard to Nabuwwat, in the passage quoted above, from Zamima Bahrahin-i-Ahmadiyya, Part V, he states the real meaning of Nabi is only this that he is blessed by a communion with Allah which embraces knowledge of matters beyond the ken of human beings; the bringing of a new Sharia is not essential for him; nor even that he should not have been an Ummati of another Prophet. In fact the implication is absolutely clear here, that for an Ummati to become a Nabi, in the real sense of this term, is not at all objectionable in any respect. He has openly and clearly said:
"Therefore there is no harm if an Ummati should come to be a Prophet of this kind, especially where that Ummati received the great blessing after loyal obedience to the earlier Nabi in question."
Here we have the Promised Messiah trying to persuade the man who raised this question that his idea that an Ummati could not become a Nabi was the result of failure on his part to get to the real meaning of the term. He was taking it that an Ummati could not become a Prophet, even though really it was not essential for a Nabi that he should bring a new Sharia, nor that he should not be a follower of any earlier Prophet. The only binding condition was an amplitude of communion with God embracing knowledge of things unknown, things impossible to be known to human ken. Under the reports in Bokhari and Muslim, the Promised Messiah, therefore, could be Prophet, even though he was an Ummati, since, in view of the real inner meaning, an Ummati was not debarred from becoming a Nabi .
This sentence written by the Promised Messiah, namely, that "for him it is not essential that he brings a Sharia ", is a firm argument that in this place a definition has been set down of a Nabi, in the real and true sense of Nabuwwat . It is not here a case of the definition of a Mohaddath, who at best is only a partial Nabi, or an incomplete, an imperfect Nabi . The words "it is not essential," indicate that a Nabi could be one who brought a new Sharia or new set of commandments; at the same time a man could be a Nabi without bringing any new Sharia or new set of commandments. As for a Mohaddath, pure and simple, he is just one who does not, in any case, in any circumstances, bring a new Sharia, or a new set of commandments.
Evidently, therefore, the sentence used here is one precisely out of the question if it is being written in regard to a Mohaddath . It can only be brought in if the discussion concerns a real Nabi, in the real sense of the word, as distinct from the popular, but erroneous meaning of the expression. Had the Promised Messiah been discussing a Nabi, taken in the sense of a Mohaddath, he would have said that he never brings a new Sharia . He would not have said that it was not binding for him to bring a new Sharia in any case, since only he can be expected to be the bearer of a new Sharia, who is a Prophet, in the real and the true meaning of the word.
Similarly, the next sentence "nor is it essential that he should not be the follower of an Apostle with a new Sharia in his hands." This cannot be said in regard to a mere Mohaddath, for a mere Mohaddath in any case, is subject to a Nabi who came with a new Sharia . He can never be independent of an earlier Nabi . The sentence in question conclusively bears out that the Promised Messiah, here, is talking about the real meaning of the Nabi who, possibly, could be the follower of an earlier Nabi, or not be a follower of any earlier Nabi . Thus we have here a definition of the Nabi, in the proper sense of this word, not of a Mohaddath, who must necessarily be a follower of a Nabi . Only a real Prophet can be in a position where, possibly, he is not bound to be a follower of another Nabi . We positively find the Promised Messiah holding that it is permissible for the follower of an earlier Nabi to become a Nabi himself: and in this correct and proper meaning of the expression in question, he concludes there can be no valid objection against an Ummati rising to be a Nabi . It is in the light of this true and real meaning of Nabi that he wrote:
"To hold an Ummati to be a Nabi of this kind does not lead to any harm, nor does it create any real obstacle."
It is in the light of this true and valid meaning of Nabuwwat that the Promised Messiah has called himself a Prophet. But, of course, he is not a Nabi with a new Sharia ; nor an independent Nabi : he is an Ummati first, a Nabi afterwards. If the Promised Messiah had not altered the conception of Nabuwwat in his mind, in terms of the old conception, equally acceptable for the questioner as well, he could have answered the question, briefly and convincingly, that in Muslim the Promised Messiah had been called a Nabi in the sense of Mohaddath, use of the word Nabi having been made only figuratively. Therefore, the Bokhari and Muslim were correct in calling him an Ummati ; since a bare Mohaddath, from one angle was an Ummati and from another angle he was a Nabi as well, though incomplete and only partial, only in some respect, not in others.