In the Name of Allah, The Most Gracious, Ever Merciful.
Love for All, Hatred for None.
Some of the American newspapers were liberal and fair in the treatment of this "News-story." The Boston Herald carried a detailed and documented feature on Dowie in its issue of June 23, 1907. It devoted a full page to the Prophecy of Ahmad along with a large size portrait of him. The feature was headed with two banners. They ran:
"Great is Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, The Messiah Foretold Pathetic end of Dowie."
The Boston Herald then recalled some of the observations of Alexander Dowie, which he made in great contempt about Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. The paper also repeated the haughty assertion of Dowie in reply to Ahmad's challenge: In India, there is a foolish Messiah... If I put my foot on them, I would crush out their lives.
The paper also quoted another direct reference made by Dowie in this journal, the Leave of Healing (December 12, 1903). If I am God's Prophet, there is none on God's earth. At another place Boston Herald quoted him as saying in his journal (Feb. 14, 1904), "I pray to God for the day to come when the Crescent shall disappear and may God destroy it." The Boston Herald was not the only paper which carried a feature on the great "prayer-duel." Even in the lifetime of Dowie, American newspapers like the New York Commercial Advertiser (October 26, 1903) immediately after the New York fiasco, published the following challenge of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad at great length which an Indian newspaper had not the courage to publish. The story in the New York Commercial Advertiser ran thus:
"Far far away-India, comes a printed circular from Mirza Ghulam Ahmad who writes from Qadian in the Punjab. He has issued a challenge to Elijah III (Dowie) to make his prediction, but so far Zion City's own and special Messiah has failed to reply. In support of his claim, the Indian Messiah declares that when the Lord saw how badly things were being managed on earth, He raised him in the land of Punjab for His works are wonderful."
Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was further quoted as saying:
"I am the true Messiah who was to come in the last ages. This has Almighty spoken to me. I do not claim to be the Promised Messiah by my own assertion, but Almighty God, who made the earth and heaven, has borne witness to the truth of my claim. The evidence of God has passed His grace on me in far greater abundance than upon the Messiah who has gone before me. In the looking glass of my person, the face of God is revealed to a far greater extent than in that of Jesus' person. If these simply are my own words and there is no authority for them, then I am a liar; but Almighty God bears witness to my truth. No one can give lie to me. Thousands of times, I should say, times without number, has He borne witness to the truth of my claim. A sign of evidence of God in my favor will appear in the death of Mr. Piggot -- the arrogant pretender to divinity, who shall be brought to destruction within my life time. Another sign will appear on Dr. Dowie's acceptance of my challenge. If the pretender of Elijahship shows his willingness by any direct or indirect means to enter the lists against me, he shall leave the world before my eyes with great sorrow and torment. These two signs are for Europe and America."
Mirza Ghulam Ahmad emerged victorious in this historic prayer duel. It was left to an American newspaper to acknowledge this historic event. The Truth Seeker, another leading American Journal, referred to the clear victory of Ahmad in its issue of June 15, 1907. In an editorial captioned The War of the Prophets, it said:
"Dowie called Muhammad (Holy Prophet) as king of impostors. He not only prophesied that Islam will meet its destruction at the hands of Zion, but he used to pray daily that the crescent is wiped out from the surface of the earth. When the news of the prophecy reached the Indian Messiah, then he challenged the Elijah and invited him to join him in a prayer-duel that whosoever is the liar should die in the lifetime of the true Messiah.
Qadiani Messiah prophesied that if Dowie accepted the challenge, he would die in his (Ahmad's) life time with great disgrace and adversity. And even if he did not accept his challenge, even then his end is drawing close and death will overtake him. His Zion City will meet a great fall. This indeed was a great prophecy that Zion will fall on bad days and Dowie will die in his lifetime. This was dangerous assertion on the part of the Promised Messiah that he should challenge the Elijah the second in the contest of a long age, especially when the challenger himself is about fifteen years older than Dowie and had many diseases.
It was a great sign for the Americans who witnessed this miracle with awe and reverence. It is, therefore, only fit and proper that God-fearing and righteous among the people of this country, take heed and listen to the call of Ahmad, the Promised Messiah; so that the blessings of the Al-Mighty should be with them forever.
Washington DC Sheikh Mubarak Ahmad Feb. 18, 1985
FATE OF A FALSE PROPHET
A PROPHECY OF THE PROMISED MESSIAH FULFILLED
By Syed Hasanat Ahmad
The deep impression Alexander Dowie created on the American mind can be judged from the following, written by Mr. Napes, in the Independent New York of August 1, 1901:
"When I left Church, my heart was full of respect for this prophet and his followers, for these people with dedication and sincerity are trying to follow the teachings of the Holy Book."
Dowie claimed the divine power of healing and his fame spread so fast that it caught the imagination of many credulous and wealthy Americans. The progress was so tremendous that soon his Apostolic Church had its own bank, its own printing plant and thousands of people were flocking to this movement.
Elated with this unprecedented success, fond of drama and pageantry, Alexander Dowie fixed the midnight of December 31, 1899, the turn of a new century, as the Zero hour for the formal launching of a new Jerusalem of his movement-the Zion city, to be located along the banks of the beautiful Lake Michigan.
Before a galaxy of thousands of joyous Americans, at the Altar of a leading church of Chicago, hung a rich velvet curtain 25 feet high and 25 feet wide, hiding from the eyes of the eager spectators the much-awaited "object".
As the clock struck twelve, ushering a new year and a new century, Alexander Dowie, dressed in rich crimson gown, drew the curtain. And lo! A blueprint of the Promised land was unfolded. This blueprint was a piece of land eleven square miles, along the bank of Lake Michigan. People were weeping with joy-a new Jerusalem being born before their eyes.
The Night drama having ended, soon an unprecedented rush started for securing a piece of land in this holy city. So tremendous was the demand for a piece of land that lots had to be drawn to avoid bickering among the followers.
Leaves of Healings, the official organ of the movement began rolling out of a new printing plant and started carrying out colorful details at every stage of its construction.
On July 15, 1901 -- exactly fifteen months after the night drama -- the gates of this holy city were formally opened. Nine months later, on March 31, 1902, Zion became a legal entity. Alexander Dowie was the Genghis Khan of this city. His word was the law. Banks, stores, hotels, restaurants, shopping centers, industrial areas, factories and Mills, all that was in the town, belonged to Dowie-the Elijah.
Munsey's magazine, September 6, 1902, published an article by Grover Townshend, saying:
"Alexander Dowie ranks with the outstanding personalities who founded a new city capable of housing a million people. A city, which its founder proposes to convert into a spiritual headquarters of the whole world."
John Alexander Dowie had come to the USA in June 1888 and founded the Christian Catholic Church in 1896, which came to be known later as the Christian Catholic Apostolic Church.
The Elijah of the modern times enjoyed the most robust health, claiming that being a messenger of God, no disease could touch him. He arrogated to himself the much attributed power of Jesus Christ and claimed that he could heal all kinds of diseases.
Jesus Christ wandered from settlement to settlement to announce that the kingdom of Heaven was at hand, but this "successor" travelled by the most expensive mode of travel, occupying the most luxurious and expensive hotel rooms. A well paid army of evangelists worked for him all over the United States proclaiming to the people: "the advent of Elijah, blessed are those who join him and his band of followers as early as possible."
The success of the movement became established so early that Dowie was now planning to raise up many cities like Zion.
In 1902, one of the issues of Leaves of Healings carried a prophecy of John Alexander Dowie that all the Muhammadans living on the face of the earth would be destroyed unless they bowed before the Cross. He further prophesied:
"That nation, that people and that kingdom that will not recognize him and the Christian Catholic Church of the Zion as the forerunner of the Church of the living God, that nation and that kingdom will perish because God has said it so."
Dowie was at the peak of his career. His voice was obeyed like an oracle. An army of followers was around him. His sway over the masses was growing so much that a leading U.S. daily, the New York commercial Advertiser in its issue of October 1903 acknowledged this fact.
"Since Dr. Dowie is the messenger of the powerful deity who was crucified by the Jews, I would entreat him to refrain from destroying the whole body of Muhammadans living on the face of the earth. If they do not take the son of Mary for their God, the fault is not theirs. Where is the requisite proof of Jesus' deity and how can they be convinced of the divinity of the one whose very tomb has been discovered in this very country. Nay, more than this, they have in their midst the Promised Messiah whose appearance is in accordance with the Prophetic promises, at the close of the sixth and on the commencement of the seventh thousand year and with a host of heavenly signs."
Alexander Dowie did not take notice of this polite invitation. He ignored this straightforward assertion and continued to be abusive.
His followers drew his attention to accept the invitation. In the issue of December 27, 1902, of the Leaves of Healings, he replied with great contempt:
"In India, there is a foolish Messiah who writes to me often telling me that the tomb of Jesus Christ is in Kashmir and the people sometimes say to me, why do you not reply to this and that or other things. Reply! Do you think, that I shall reply to these gnats and flies. If I put my foot on them, I would crush out their lives. I give them a chance to fly away and live."
At another place, in the same month of December, in another issue of the Leaves of Healings, Alexander Dowie displayed some haughtiness, when he observed, "My part is to bring out the people from the East and the West, from the North and the South and to settle them in the cities of Zion, until the time shall come, when all the Muhammadans are swept away."
In the face of this abusive language, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad still tried to reason with him. He repeated his plea and invited him to a more convincing method of deciding who is the liar. Using, in his usual way, the language of moderation, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad said:
"Whether the God of Muhammadans or the God of Dowie is the true God, may be settled without loss of millions of lives which Dr. Dowie's prediction intended. The method is simple and plain. Without threatening the whole body of Muhammadans with destruction, he should choose me as his opponent and pray to God that of us two, whoever is the liar may perish first. I look upon the son of Mary as a weak human being, although I recognize him as a Prophet of God, while Dr. Dowie takes him as the Lord of the Universe. Which of us is on the right path is the real point at issue. If Dr. Dowie has the courage to accept the challenge, he will hereby open a way for all others to follow and accept the truth. Dowie fixes the appearance of the Promised Messiah within next twenty five years, while I give him the tidings that the Promised Messiah has already appeared. Let Dr. Dowie, like an honest gentleman, obtain permission from his Lord to accept the challenge and take his stand against me. I am an old man of 66 years and Dr. Dowie is eleven years younger (Dowie was 55) therefore on grounds of age he need not have any apprehension. Moreover, I am suffering from various diseases and my life does not depend on health but upon the Will of God. If the self made deity of Dr. Dowie has any power, he shall certainly allow him to appear against me and procure my destruction in his lifetime, and he will have in his hand a clear manifestation of his mission."
Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was comparatively an unknown figure in the United States, yet his brave challenge to John Alexander Dowie evoked countrywide publicity and the text of his challenge was extensively published in the American newspapers, such as:
Mirza Ghulam Ahmad waited for a reply to his challenge, but none was forthcoming. On August 23, 1903, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad made a further public announcement:
"It should be borne in mind that Dr. Dowie has not given any reply to my challenge made in September last (1902) nor has he even so much as mentioned it in his paper (i.e., Leaves of Healings). For an answer to my challenge, I will wait for a further period of seven months from this day (i.e., August 23, 1903) if he accepts the challenge within this period and fulfills its conditions, as published by me, and makes an announcement to the effect in this paper, the World will soon see the end of this contest. I am about 66 years of age, while Dr. Dowie is about 55 years. Therefore, compared to me he is still young. Since the matter is not to be settled by age, I do not care for this great disparity in years. The whole matter rests in the Hands of Him, Who is the Lord of Heaven and Earth, and Judge over all the Judges and He will decide it in favor of the true claimant. But, if Dr. Dowie can not even now gather courage to appear in the contest against me, let both the continents bear witness that I shall be entitled to claim the same victory as in the case of his death in my life-time. If he accepts the challenge, the pretension of Dr. Dowie will be settled. Though he may try hard as he can to fly away from the death which awaits him, yet his flight from such a contest will be nothing less than a death to him and the calamity will certainly overtake him in Zion for he must face the consequences of either acceptance of the challenge or its refusal."
Mirza Ghulam Ahmad spoke with a conviction and belief that cannot be the product of human ingenuity. Thus all avenues of flight for Dr. Dowie were closed. In either case, whether the challenge was accepted, refused or ignored, his doom was forecast with a conviction that could only be described as divinely inspired. The text of the handbill of August 23, 1903 was again extensively published by the newspapers of Europe and the United States, and these papers kept on commenting on it. About forty papers editorially commented on this challenge. Judging from the extent of the publicity that it gained, it could be safely said that nearly two and a half million people came to know about the proposed Prayer duel.
Dowie, who had so far kept silent and kept himself out of this contest with Ahmad, unwittingly entered this contest, when he described Ahmad as a "Worm", and said he could kill him with his foot.
For a long time, this modern Elijah had been nursing a fond wish to storm New York as never had been done before. Having reached heights that no other American clergy had yet reached, Dr. Dowie announced with much fanfare, the holding of a Mass Rally in October 1903 at Madison Square Gardens in New York, a venue known for big international gatherings.
A team of top-notch organizers spent ten months of hard work carefully planning out details for the rally of rallies. The New York Journal (Feb. 3, 1903) reported the news under a banner: "INVASION OF NEW YORK BY DOWIE'S ARMY."
With the backdrop of Ahmad's prophecy, Alexander Dowie wanted to make it a memorable event in the history of American clergy. Although Zion city was 900 miles from New York, yet he considered it absolutely necessary to marshall 3000 soldiers of the movement to impress the minds of New York.
Dr. Dowie had an eye on the millions of New Yorkers who would be a source of immense revenue. Dr. Dowie knew well that if he captured the hearts of the New Yorkers, he had literally captured the entire United States. Prospects were simply unlimited. Preliminaries began weeks in advance. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent on publicity.
The Zero hour struck on October 18, 1903, 57 days after Ahmad's handbill announcing the divine verdict. From early dawn, on October 18, the Madison Square Gardens started filling. Gradually it was packed to capacity. It was literally overflowing. Thousands could not get an access and had to be content on standing outside. Three thousand Guards of Zion Restoration Host, as they were called, had lined up and over fifty different bands were in attendance. There was a stillness as the proceedings commenced. All the fifty bands located at vantage points struck Zion tunes. This was followed by a comely songstress singing religious hymns. It was Dowie's hour.
Dowie was fortified by the conviction that his awaited moment had come. The setting had been to his heart's content. His magic was his voice. His spell lay in his voice. His remarkable oratory, on several occasions had held great gatherings spellbound in Chicago. The greater the gathering the greater the spell and the magic of his voice. The hypnotic effect of his voice rose to heights corresponding to the size of the gathering, and this was the greatest gathering he was ever to address.
With measured and majestic gait, Alexander Dowie approached the rostrum, his followers eagerly awaiting that charm and magic for which he was so well known. But lo! that charm and magic which was his sole asset suddenly left him.
He made a false start, and then made another effort to cast his magic spell. The mammoth crowd was eager to hear him speak, but before hundreds of thousands of people of New York and among some of his closed followers, he stood there speechless. It had never happened before. People who had eagerly been awaiting to listen to Alexander Dowie now had begun to stir and then slowly started moving to leave the arena. Dowie asked the Zion Guards to close the door, but it had a reverse effect. More people left and eventually it developed into a stampede.
What did happen, nobody knew. Was it a heavenly sign? What was clear at that moment was that thousands of New Yorkers left a furious Alexander Dowie making desperate efforts to save whatever was left of this gigantic rally on which he had pinned his hopes of great victories. He fondly hoped to convert at least a hundred thousand New Yorkers to his creed.
The Chicago Examiner in an issue four days before this rally had estimated that no less than a hundred thousand New Yorkers would become his followers. Next morning (October 19, 1903) the leading daily of the time, The New York American carried the news of the rally with the banner reading: "NEW YORK-THE WATERLOO OF THE ELIJAH." Another leading daily, the New York Times carried the news with the heading: "MASSIVE GATHERING DESERTS ELIJAH."
Not only this, Alexander Dowie had to muster all his courage and persuasion to hold back his own followers for a few days more in New York but even they disappointed him. Despite a great deal of cajoling and coaxing, the three thousand Zion Guard, described as Zion Restoration Host, insisted on a speedy return and left for Zion.
A crestfallen Dowie escaped to Zion by rail that dropped him at Zion station unsung and unheard.
That was the first heavenly strike that Dowie received after he was challenged by Ahmad and that within two months of the challenge.
Conscious of his bold prophecy that he would be victorious over his enemies and conscious of his fast falling popularity, Dowie was now desperately looking for fresh pastures where he could rehabilitate himself as the Elijah. He decided to undertake a world tour to win converts. The tour took him to Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, France, Germany, Italy, and finally to England, the land of his mother.
This world tour brought further cracks into the Catholic Church of Zion Movement. In Honolulu, he was found reveling in the company of scantily dressed alluring girls. On arrival in Australia he was refused accommodation by every hotel in Melbourne. The success which he enjoyed during his earlier sojourn in Australia before he migrated to the United States had deserted him. He left for Europe.
In desperation and bitterness, he abused and insulted the loyal editor of the Leaves of Healings. This devoted follower had accompanied him to send details of the successes he was to achieve on this world tour. He resigned and left his company.
During his visit to Germany, the American Ambassador refused to make an appointment for him with William Kaiser.
The reception in London was even worse. It was outright disgraceful and shameful. People refused to listen to him. In disgust he had to leave England in disguise.
When he returned to the United States, he faced a hostile press wanting to know the exact nature of his relationship with a "Charming Damsel" - a constant companion throughout his world tour.
Logic and reason fail to give a satisfactory answer to this sudden change in Dowie's fortunes-except Ahmad's public challenge of August 23, 1903.
The irony of this whole episode is that Alexander Dowie was facing charges on the very count he attacked Islam. In an issue of the Leaves of Healing (September 12, 1903) Dowie had attacked the teachings of Islam which permitted polygamy and described it as a lustful teaching. He wrote, "Islam drew Quraish tribes in the name of carnal lust so that they could live a life of self-gratification."
What a divine punishment! The hidden hand of God was mercilessly chasing this self-styled Prophet and Elijah. The prophecy of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of August 23, 1903, was so all embracing that it offered no escape route to Alexander Dowie.
Something further happened! His followers and companions sensing the approaching end revealed that Zion was financially in a bad way. Alexander Dowie was gradually inching towards his final end.
Two years after the historic fiasco of New York, in September 1905, he made a final effort and staged another drama to catch the old spark of his great fame.
On a Sunday in September 1905, he summoned an extraordinary meeting of the Central Tabernacle, the supreme body of Zion movement. He took great pains in organizing and planning this meeting. There was a long line of Zion guards which he duly inspected before entering the Hall. He ascended the high alter, dressed in the costume of modern Elijah. All eyes were on him. There was a pin drop silence as he started his traditional oratorical performance. Newcomb, his biographer, says that on that evening he was superb and at his best. This historic sermon was followed by the Lord's supper. After the supper, Dowie appeared in his white silken robes before his followers. Verses from the Bible were recited and then the traditional bread and wine were served among those who were present. The main function was drawing to a close. Dr. Dowie was only to make some valedictory remarks before it ended. Suddenly Dr. Dowie shook his right hand violently as if something had bitten it. He did it several times. His followers silently watched. Then lo! All of a sudden he fainted and collapsed. Paralysis had hit him. The tongue that wagged to abuse the Holy Prophet of Islam and his spiritual son, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, stopped wagging.
His own wife and son disowned him. They revealed his misdeeds. Dr. Dowie's son got hold of letters that the modern Elijah had written to a rich heiress of Switzerland, Miss Hofer. Startling disclosures came to light that he was involved with several women. His private rooms were found to be stocked with the choicest wines, although he denounced publicly all intoxicating liquor. He was found intoxicated on several occasions. His own followers denounced him as an impostor.
Great was his fortune, but still greater was his adversity. Great was his rise, but still greater was his fall. He asserted that disease was a sin, and claimed the power of healing and yet he was laid low by the worst of diseases. Denounced and cast out, John Alexander Dowie was leading a miserable life.
On February 20, 1907, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad issued another handbill announcing the appearances of another heavenly sign. The Handbill said:
"God has informed me: I will reveal a fresh sign which will be a great victory. This will be a sign for the whole world." (i.e., its appearance will not be confined to India only) The sign will be at the Hand of God and everyone should wait for it. God will manifest this sign shortly. It will be an evidence of divine help. It will be in testimony of this humble being who is being abused by all. Blessed is he, who hearkens this sign."
Within a fortnight of the publication of this handbill came the death of John Alexander Dowie in the first week of March. The death of Dowie within the lifetime of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad caused a great sensation. The news of the death of Dowie was extensively published in the United States. Even in India, details of his death were carried by The Pioneer Lukhnow (March 11, 1970); The Civil & Military Gazette (March 12, 1907); and The Indian Daily Telegraph (March 12, 1907).
It was not merely the death of Dr. Dowie that got publicity but also the disgrace and the shame which this modern "Elijah" faced at the hands of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. Also that both the contenders invoked divine help and assistance and how tellingly the words of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad were fulfilled.
This indeed was a great prophecy that Zion will fall on bad days and Dowie will die in his lifetime. This was dangerous assertion on part of the Promised Messiah that he should challenge the Elijah the second in the contest of long age, specially when the challenger himself is about fifteen years older than Dowie and had many diseases. Circumstances were against Ahmad, but ultimately Ahmad emerged victorious.
It was an acknowledgement from a non-Muslim, non Indian paper.