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An American Impostor - A sign for West

This relates to the end of Dowie, the American impostor. It is a Sign for the Christians in general and for the people of America in particular.

I now proceed to narrate the prophecy which proved a Sign for Christians in general. In addition to being a Sign for Christians, it also proved a Sign for people in the West. Alexander Dowie was well-know in America. Australian by birth he had acquired American citizenship. In 1892 he started preaching. He claimed powers of healing and, people gathered around him. In 1901, he claimed to be fore-runner of the second coming of Christ, just as Elijah was a fore-runner of his first coming. The second coming of Christ was then a much discussed subject. The signs laid down for it in the scripture had appeared and people interested in religion were eagerly waiting. The publication of his claim brought to Dowie a further increase of followers. He bought some land and founded a town called Zion. He declared that Christ would descend in that town. Many rich people, out of eagerness to have the first view of Christ on his second coming paid large sums of money for land to build houses in that town. Dowie began to rule in that town as an uncrowned king. Soon his followers numbered more than 100,000. He sent preachers to different Christian countries. Full of hatred of Islam, he employed foul abuse against it. In 1902, he published a prophecy that unless Muslims of the world became Christian, they would meet with death and destruction. Hazrat Mirza Sahib, the Promised Messiah, heard of this and wrote a leaflet in reply. In this, Hazrat Mirza Sahib enumerated beauties of Islam and said it was quite unnecessary for Dowie to predict and proclaim the destruction of Muslims in the world. He (Hazrat Mirza Sahib) had been sent by God as the Promised Messiah. So, Dowie could enter into a prayer contest with him. The result of this contest would enable all people of the world to determine the Truth. This leaflet by Hazrat Mirza Sahib was published in September 1902, the publication having been arranged on a very large scale in both Europe and America. From December 1902 to the end of 1903, newspapers in Europe and America kept commenting on this leaflet. About forty of them sent to Qadian, copies if issues containing their comments. Judging from the extent of publicity it could be said that quite two to two and a half million people came to know about the proposed prayer contest.

Dowie did not write in reply to this leaflet; but went on praying for the defeat and destruction of Islam. He also renewed his attacks. On February 14, 1903, he wrote in his paper: I pray to God that Islam should soon disappear from the world. O God, accept this prayer of mine. O God, destroy Islam.

Again, on August 5, 1903, he wrote in his paper: The black-spot on the mantle of man (Islam) will meet its end at the hands of Zion.

Hazrat Mirza Sahib saw that Dowie was in no mood to retreat from his hostility; so he issued another leaflet some time in 1903. This leaflet was called "Prophecies about Dowie and Piggot". Piggot was a pretender of England. Hazrat Mirza Sahib wrote in this leaflet that he had been sent by God to re-establish belief in the Oneness of God, to put an end to all attempts to associate others with this One God; that he had a Sign to show to America. The Sign was that if Dowie should enter into a prayer contest with him and that if he should decide, directly or indirectly, to accept his challenge, then in Mirza Sahib's life-time Dowie would leave the world in great pain and misery. Hazrat Mirza Sahib went on to say that Dowie had been invited to enter this prayer contest before, but had made no reply. He was now allowed seven months more. During this time he could publish his reply. The leaflet ended by saying: "Be sure, calamity is due to befall Dowie's Zion."

Then in the end, without waiting for Dowie's reply, he prayed: "God, ordain that the falsehood of Piggot and Dowie may soon become potent to people."

This leaflet also was published in the West on a very large scale. Newspapers in Europe and America commented upon it. Glasgow Herald of Britain and New York Commercial Advertiser of America published summaries of it. Millions of persons came to know of it.

When this leaflet was published, Dowie's star was at its zenith. The number of his followers was increasing. So rich were they that every new year Dowie received presents worth a thousand dollars from them. Dowie owned many industrial establishments. His bank balance amounted to about twenty million dollars. His staff of servants was larger than that of the richest in the land. He was in excellent health. Health, he said, was his special miracle. He claimed the miraculous power of healing by the touch of his hand. Dowie had money, health, followers, influence, everything in abundance.

On the publication of the second leaflet by Hazrat Mirza Sahib, people asked Dowie why he did not reply to the Indian Messiah? Dowie said contemptuously:

"There is a Muhammadan Messiah in India who has repeatedly written to me that Jesus Christ lies buried in Kashmir, and people ask me why I do not answer him. Do you imagine that I shall reply to such gnats and flies? If I were to put down my foot on them I would crush out their lives. I give them a chance to fly away and live."
Foolishly enough Dowie, who had so far kept out of any contest with Hazrat Mirza Sahib, now entered the contest, though he had continued to say, he had not. He forgot that Hazrat Mirza Sahib had written clearly that even if Dowie entered the contest indirectly, he would have to leave the world in great pain and misery, while Hazrat Mirza Sahib was still alive. Dowie described Hazrat as a worm and said he could kill him with his foot. Dowie, thus, had entered the contest and invited the punishment of God.

Dowie's vanity and ostentation increased. Some days later, he again described Hazrat Mirza Sahib as the `foolish Muhammadan Messiah'; also wrote, `If I am not a messenger of God on this earth, then no one is.' In December 1903, he openly entered the contest. He declared that an angel had told him that he would be victorious over his enemies. The declaration was a counter- prophecy, a prophecy of the death of Hazrat Mirza Sahib. The spiritual contest which was developing gradually, now became patent and open. After this last declaration, the Promised Messiah wrote nothing and in accordance with the Quranic injunction, `And wait as they also wait,' he waited for the Judgement of God. God is slow but firm in His grip.

The grip of God got hold of the feet under which Dowie wanted to trample down the Messiah of God. Dowie's feet became impaired. Far from being able to trample over the Messiah with them, he could not even rest them on the ground. He had an attack of paralysis. From this, however, he recovered after a few days. But two months later, on December 19, he had a second attack which prostrated him. Disabled completely, he left his work to his secretary, and himself went in search of health to an island supposed to possess a curative climate for paralytics. But the Anger of God followed him. Dowie had described the true Messiah as a worm. Now Dowie himself was to be reduced to the status of a worm. The miraculous powers of which he used to boast began to desert him. After he had left home, his followers began to wonder why he who had the power to heal others could not heal himself? And he needed not even to pray but only a touch of his hand. Why did he fall ill at all? They began a search of his rooms which had been inaccessible until now. They found bottles of wine. His wife and his son declared that Dowie drank heavily in secret though he had prohibited his own followers from drinking or using any intoxicants. He had prohibited even tobacco. His wife declared that she had been loyal and faithful to him even during the days of his poverty, but she had been sorely disappointed to know that to marry a rich old woman, Dowie had started saying it was lawful to take more than one wife. In promulgating this law he was finding an excuse for bigamy. Dowie's wife produced letters which this woman had written in reply to Dowie's. His followers became infuriated. They decided to check the accounts of the moneys of Dowie's organisations. It was found that Dowie had misappropriated about five million rupees (a million and a half dollars). It also appeared that he had given presents worth more than rupees 100,000 to young girls in the town.

Upon these disclosures the leading follower of Dowie decided to depose Dowie. They sent him a telegram which said: "Unanimously the organisation seriously objects to your expensive habits, hypocrisy, misstatements, exaggerations, and ill-temper. Therefore, you are hereby deposed from your office." Dowie could not refute these charges. At last all his followers turned against him. As a last effort he wanted to address them and convert them again to his side. But when he alighted from the train, only a few persons had come to receive him. Hardly anyone paid any attention. He turned to the law courts but, the law courts gave no help in maintenance. On the other hand, his paralysis had reduced him to a complete helplessness. His negro servants had to carry him from room to room. He lived in un-mingled misery and pain. A few friends of his continued to visit him during these last days. They advised him to have proper treatment, but Dowie did not agree. He knew he had been advising others against treatment. How could he have any treatment himself?

At last out of about 100,000 followers, only about 200 remained with him. He had failed in the law courts. His paralysis had advanced. He could not endure his mounting troubles. He lost balance of mind and became practically insane. In this condition he appeared before some of his followers who saw the once robust, pompous fore-runner of Christ, swathed all over. Dowie said his name was Jerry! He had been battling with Satan the night before! In the battle his general had been killed! He himself had received injuries! Those who heard this scattered speech knew what had happened. Dowie had gone mad. The last followers left Dowie. The words of Hazrat Mirza Sahib were fulfilled. Mirza Sahib had said that before his eyes Dowie would leave this mortal world "in great pain and misery". On March 8, 1907, Dowie died, abandoned and disgraced. When he died, he had only four men with him and his assets amounted to about thirty rupees.

A worse picture of pain and misery cannot be imagined. Dowie's death was an object-lesson, a Sign for the people of the West. Many newspapers declared that the prophecy of Hazrat Mirza Sahib had been fulfilled. They could not but do so. I quote some of the newspapers of those days:

"Ahmad and his adherents may be pardoned for taking some credit for the accuracy with which the prophecy was fulfilled a few months ago." (Dunville Gazette, June 7, 1907)

"The Qadian man predicted that if Dowie accepted the challenge, `he shall leave the world before my eyes with great sorrow and torment.' If Dowie declined, the Mirza said, `the end would only be deferred; death awaited him just the same, and calamity will soon overtake Zion.' That was the grand prophecy: Zion should fall and Dowie die before Ahmad. It appeared to be a risky step for the Promised Messiah to defy the restored Elijah to an endurance test, for the challenger was by 15 years the older man of the two and probabilities in a land of plagues and famines were against him as a survivor, but he won out." (Truth Seeker, June 15, 1907)
It is quite true that Hazrat Mirza Sahib was much older than Dowie. So there were more chances for Dowie to survive Hazrat Mirza Sahib.
"Dowie died with his friends fallen away from him and his fortune dwindled. He suffered from paralysis and insanity. He died a miserable death, with Zion city torn and frayed by internal dissension. Mirza comes forward frankly and states that he has won his challenge." (Herald of Boston, June 23, 1907)
These quotations from the American newspapers show that the prophecy made an impression not only on Christians but also on freethinking editors of the American newspapers. They had been so impressed by the grandeur of the prophecy that they felt constrained to write about it. They were not able to deny its truth or its importance. Whenever the Sign of the death of Dowie is narrated before Western audience, they will have before them the testimony of scores of newspapers, edited by fellow-countrymen and fellow-believers. Western audiences on hearing about Signs of this kind, will be compelled to admit that Islam is the true religion. Salvation is not to be found outside of Islam. On being convinced, they will give up their prejudices and old beliefs. They will enter Islam and declare their faith in the Holy Prophet (on whom be peace) and in his servant the Promised Messiah (on whom also peace). Coming events cast their shadows before. In America, several hundred persons have already joined the Ahmadiyya Jama'at.
(By Hazrat Al-Haaj Mirza Bashir-ud-Din Mahmood Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih II, Second Successor to the Promised Messiah, in his book "Dawat-ul-Amir", English translation: "Invitation to Ahmadiyyat" pg. 251-257)