The fourth argument or the fourth group of arguments relates to a prophecy contained in the Holy Quran which assigns to the Promised Messiah the important task of leading Islam again to triumph over other religions. The Promised Messiah did this by proving Islam’s superiority over other religions. He could do this only With the help and grace of God, and the fact constitutes an important argument in support of his claim. The Holy Quran says:
‘He it is Who has sent His Messenger, with guidance and the religion of truth, that He may make it prevail over all other religions.‘ Al-Taubah, 33; Al-Fath, 29; Al-Saff, 10
From the Sayings of the Holy Prophet (peace be on him), it appears that the triumph of Islam over other religions which is promised in this verse was due to take place in the time of the Promised Messiah. The liquidation of the Dadjjal, the destruction of Gog and Magog and the defeat of Christianity are tasks appointed for the Promised Messiah according to the Holy Prophet (peace be on him). These dangers have been described as the gravest in the history of Islam. We are also told that the Dadjjal or Missionary Christianity would succeed in dominating all other religions. The defeat of Christianity by Islam would, therefore, mean the defeat of all other rivals as well.
The words ‘make it [Islam] prevail over all other religions’ relate to the time of the Promised Messiah. On this point almost all Muslim commentators seem to agree. For instance, in the well-known Jami al-Bayan, vol. 29, under the verse in question we have:
‘The time of which this verse speaks is appointed for the coming of Isa bin Maryam [i.e. his second coming].’ Tafsir Jami al-Bayan, vol. 29.
On rational considerations also, the view seems to be sound. The variety of religions found today in the world did not exist before. Contacts between religions and between peoples have increased beyond all expectations. The invention of the printing press has immeasurably facilitated the printing and circulation of books. There is also a spirit of competition between religions. The number of competing religious groups has much increased. In the time of the Holy Prophet (peace be on him), there were only four religions which rose against Islam. They were the idol-worshippers of Mecca, Christians, Jews and Magians. The many other religions and religious and ideological groups which have since appeared in the world were then unknown. Therefore at that time the triumph of Islam over all other religions could not be contemplated in a full sense of the term. That is possible today. Today all religions have come out into the open. New methods of transport and communication have intensified the struggle between religions and ideologies.
It seems therefore that, according to the Holy Quran, the Hadith, and rational considerations, the visible triumph of Islam over other religions was destined to take place in the time of the Promised Messiah, this being the most important of the objects of his advent. If a claimant to the office of Promised Messiah is able to accomplish the grand task, no doubt will be left as to the truth of his claim. Facts which I shall now enumerate will show that Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad has accomplished the appointed triumph of Islam. Therefore he is the Promised Messiah.
Before Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad announced his claim. the condition of Islam had so deteriorated that Muslims themselves had begun to despair. Some did not hesitate to announce the doom of slam. The general situation of Islam also pointed to an inevitable end. Missionary Christianity was busy driving Islam out of all its strongholds It was felt that in less than a hundred years Islam would disappear from the world. So dismayed had Muslims become under the Christian attack that even the physical descendants of the Holy Prophet (on whom be peace), the Syeds, had abandoned Islam and joined Christianity in their thousands, to say nothing of other Muslims. These converts were not just nominal Christians. They played a vital part in the preparation and publication of vituperative literature against Islam and its Holy Founder (peace be on him). They would mount public rostrums and make foul attacks on the Holy Prophet (peace and the blessings of God be upon him). Some of these attacks were so heart-rending that Muslims were becoming demoralized. Indeed, so great was their demoralization that even the Hindus, whose religion has long since ceased to be a living force, who had never ventured into the missionary field, and who had ever been occupied in a futile defence of their religion, decided to come out and attack Islam and claim converts from Islam to Hinduism. The well-known Hindu sect of Aryas set themselves the task of converting Muslims to Hinduism and launched a campaign for this purpose. The scene was pitiful. It was as though a brave man who had been dreaded by all when he was alive, now lay dead and was preyed upon by vultures. When the man was alive, these birds dared not even come near him, but now they were tearing his flesh and feeding on him. Muslims who wrote in defence of Islam would do so apologetically. They would say, for instance, that the laws of Islam were meant for an earlier time; that time had gone, so the laws were not relevant today. It was wrong, therefore, to find fault With them. At this time of despair and disaster came Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (on whom be peace) and started his defense of Islam. His first attack on behalf of Islam proved stupefying for the enemy. He wrote his famous book, Barahin-i-Ahmadiyya, which contained an exposition of the rational foundations of Islam. In this he also included a challenge to the detractors of Islam to produce on behalf of their religions even a fifth of the arguments contained in the Barahin-i-Ahmadiyya. If any non-Muslim exponent should succeed in doing so, he could claim a reward of Rs 10,000. Many tried to take up the challenge and reply to the book, but none succeeded. The country resounded with the book’s fame. The enemies of Islam were dumb-founded. Islam, which until then had been powerless to defend itself, had now launched an offensive against enemy faiths. The sword of Islam had fallen on them all. They were routed.
The claim to the office of Messiah had not yet been announced. The hostility which the announcement of the claim later produced had not yet arisen. The Barahin-i-Ahmadiyya and its challenge were well received by Muslims. Thousands of them declared openly that the writer was the Mujaddid (reformer) of the century. A saint and scholar of Ludhiana wrote:
‘We the sick look to You; for God’s sake come and be our Messiah.’
The publication of Barahin-i-Ahmadiyya initiated a movement for the defence and support of Islam. At last the enemies of Islam had to admit that Islam was not dead but as alive as ever. Uncertainty and lack of confidence overwhelmed them. They began to fear for their future. The most powerful among the enemy religions, which was full of pride over its universal success and regarded Islam as its prey, has suffered such a blow that its votaries take to their heels as soon as they hear of the approach of an Ahmadi exponent. A Christian missionary cannot stand before an Ahmadi. Through the efforts of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, Islam has again become dominant over other religions. The weapons of Islam are Islam’s arguments; and arguments may be slow in their effects, but the effects they produce endure.
Even though Christianity still holds a very strong position in the world as a whole and other religions also continue as before, their death-knell has been sounded and their back is broken. Traditional loyalty and social conformity prevent large numbers of adherents of other religions from joining Islam openly. Therefore, to superficial observers, the triumph of Islam is not so evident. But the deeper signs are there.
A keen observer can judge the future from small beginnings. The tree can be seen in the seed. Hazrat Mirza Sahib has attacked non-Muslim faiths so effectively that they cannot now escape their fate. Sooner or later they Will lie dead at the feet of Islam. Let us now proceed to recount in some detail how Hazrat Mirza Sahib attacked the enemy faiths.
The success which Christianity has achieved over a long period of history is based on the Christian belief that Jesus died on the cross and so atoned for the sins of his followers. Resurrected from death on the cross he now sits in Heaven on the right hand of God. This story has had a tremendous effect on many generations of human beings. The death of Jesus ‘for others’ roused tender emotions in those who heard the account. His Resurrection and his ascent to Heaven to the right hand of God inspired awe and made people revere him as God. These two beliefs, death on the cross and Resurrection, Hazrat Mirza Sahib disproved with the help of the New Testament itself. He proved that Jesus could not have died on the cross. It was known that even if a man remained nailed to a cross for three days, he did not necessarily die. Jesus remained on the cross for only three or four hours. It is also recorded in the New Testament that when he was taken down, a spear thrust in his side brought out warm blood [John 19:31-4]. One cannot extract warm blood from a dead body. Moreover, Jesus had prophesied (and this prophecy remains in the New Testament records) that he would come down alive from the cross. Did he not say:
‘An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.’ Matthew 12:39-40.
It is known that the prophet Jonas had been devoured alive by a whale but had come out alive. Jesus was to show a sign similar to this sign. So he was to enter the tomb alive and come out alive after three days and three nights. Arguments advanced by Hazrat Mirza Sahib were based on the New Testament records. So Christians were dumb-founded. They could not meet the attack. They are unable to do so even today, The whole theory of the death of Jesus on the cross for the atonement of the sins of others fell to the ground. The main attraction of Christianity for credulous believers disappeared. Christianity lost one of its legs.
The other leg on which Christianity stood was the belief in the Resurrection of Jesus and his ascent to Heaven to a seat on the right hand of God. BV arguments again drawn from the New Testament, Hazrat Mirza Sahib broke this second leg too, as he had broken the first. Hazrat Mirza Sahib proved from the New Testament records that after the event of the cross Jesus did not ascend to Heaven but journeyed to the East, going into Iran, Afghanistan and India in search of the lost tribes of Israel. We know from the New Testament that Jesus ever reminded his audiences that he had come to gather the lost sheep of Israel:
‘And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring.’ John 10:16
It is known from history that Nebuchadnezzar, a Babylonian king, had taken prisoner ten out of the twelve tribes of Israel and had driven them into exile in Afghanistan. As Jesus had to gather the lost tribes, it was necessary for him to journey to Afghanistan and Kashmir that they might receive his message. If he had not journeyed to that part of the world, his coming would have failed.
Besides the New Testament, Hazrat Mirza Sahib drew on the evidence of history and geography to support his views. He quoted ancient history to prove that the early followers of Jesus came to India. In Tibet had been found a book similar in content to the books of the New Testament. This book contains an account of the life of Jesus. Evidence of this kind shows that Jesus travelled in these parts. Hazrat Mirza Sahib pointed to evidence visible today in Afghanistan and Kashmir in the names of towns, villages, rivers, and tribes, to show that these regions were peopled by Jews. The most outstanding evidence lies in the name Kashmir itself, which is modification of Kashir. The original inhabitants of Kashmir called their country Kashir, literally ‘Like Shir’ or ‘Like Syria’, Shir being Syria. Similarly, Kabul and other geographical names in Afghanis- tan are imitations of names in Syria. The physiognomy, facial features, shape of head, etc., of the people of Afghanistan and Kashmir resemble those common in Israel. Hazrat Mirza Sahib’s crowning triumph, however, was his discovery of the tomb of Jesus. He traced it in Khanyar Street, Srinagar. From the ancient history of Kashmir it appears that this tomb has long been described as the tomb of a ‘prince prophet’ who came from the West nineteen hundred years ago. The old inhabitants of Kashmir described the tomb as the tomb of Isa Sahib.
In short, on evidence drawn from different directions, Hazrat Mirza Sahib proved that Jesus died a natural death and was buried in Kashmir, and the promise of God contained in the Holy Quran:
‘and we gave them [,Jesus and Mary] refuge on an elevated land of green with streams of running water,’ Al-Muminun, 51.
was literally fulfilled. The description in the verse is a description of Kashmir. This account of the life and death of Jesus, including an account of his tomb, made belief in Jesus as God no longer possible. The God Jesus was dead. Belief in him will never live again.
Christianity in our time occupies a distinct position because of its political power, its territorial expansion, its missionary activities, and the scientific and intellectual progress made by its followers. Therefore to prove the superiority of Islam over this leading world religion God provided Hazrat Mirza Sahib With special weapons. To deal With other religions he was provided with another master weapon, This one weapon was enough to defeat all of them. The weapon relates to the prophecies contained in the books of all religions which foretell the coming of a great reformer in the latter days. In expectation of these prophecies being fulfilled, followers of all religions waited or wait for the coming of a prophet, an Avatar, or whatever. With the coming of such a reformer is linked the hope of revival fostered by followers of different religions. Such prophecies exist in the books of Hindus and Zoroastrians. Other religious groups, large and small, also have such prophecies recorded in their holy books. In all of them there is a description of the Promised One and his time. The signs of the appointed time enumerated by different sources are very similar. If in some sources more signs are related than in others, the additional signs also point to the same time. Hazrat Mirza Sahib concluded that the prophecies of all religions which foretell the coming of a reformer in the latter days relate to the same time.
Prophecies which foretell events many thousands of years before they occur must have a divine origin. They cannot have been the concoction of either man or Satan. We have the clear teaching of the Holy Quran on the subject:
‘. . . and He reveals not His secrets to anyone except him whom He chooses, namely a Messenger of His.’ – Jinn, 27-8
Knowledge of the unseen or knowledge of the future is revealed only to true Messengers of God. At the same time it seemed contrary to reason that at one and the same time every religious community, every group, should have a Rasul, Nabi or Avatar sent to it to effect its domination over all the others. This would mean Messengers of God in conflict and competition with one another. It also seemed absurd that at some time every religious community or group should triumph over every other. In short, while these prophecies are true and divine, they cannot apply to different persons for if they did, it would mean conflict and confusion. It would be against any rational arrangement. The only conclusion we can draw, therefore, is that these prophecies, recorded in religious books and handed down to our time by different religious communities, really relate to one and the same person. The purpose of God in transmitting these prophecies was that the different religious communities of the world should each look forward to the coming of a teacher. The Promised One would then come in the fullness of time, proclaim the truth of Islam, and invite the followers of all religions to the fold of the one true religion. Thus I would he effect the triumph of Islam over all religions. We can say therefore, that the Mahdi was none other than the Messiah; Krishna none other than the Messiah; the Promised One of the Zoroastrians, Maisodarbahmi none other than the Krishna, the Mahdi, or the Messiah of early prophecies. So the different religious communities should look forward to one and the same teacher. The coming of this one was prophesied under different names, each familiar to one or other community, and each community looked eagerly for his appearance. Thus the different groups in the world would think of the Promised One as the Promised One of prophecies described in their own books, and in their own language. He would seem to them one of their kin, not a stranger. When, at last, he did appear and the signs of his time and the truth of his claim became evident, they would on his testimony and invitation accept Islam and become Muslims.
The divine plan seems analogous to a dispute between many groups, to effect a settlement among whom someone proposes that each appoint an arbiter. After each group has named its arbiter, it is found that they have each named the same person, only giving him each their own favoured name. Peace, under these circumstances, is irresistible.
Hazrat Mirza Sahib, therefore, said that the prophecies contained in different religions about the coming of a reformer related to the resent time, and it was futile to expect more than one Messenger of God at a time, each trying to spread his version of truth and to push the interests of his own group in the world. It was evident that the different religions, under different names, were looking for- ward to one and the same person. The Promised One was none other than the Promised Messiah of Islam. A prophet or messenger does not belong to any one community. He is of God. Whoever is willing to join him for the sake of God, can claim him as his prophet or messenger. The Promised Messiah, therefore, belongs to all. The followers of all religions can claim him as their own. heir spiritual advancement is linked With him. They have to accept him as their leader and preceptor. They can do so only by accepting Islam and becoming Muslims. They will thus fulfil the grand prophecy which promises the triumph of Islam over other religions .
This approach to other religions was so vital and so effective that the other religions were unable to resist it. Every religion contains a prophecy about a reformer in the latter days. The signs relating to the reformer relate to the present time. All those signs have been fulfilled. There is only one claimant to spiritual office and this one is the Promised Messiah, the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement. Followers of religions which teach these prophecies can choose one of two courses: they can deny the prophecies handed down to them; or they must admit that the Promised One of Islam is also the Promised One of their own prophecies, and they must then accept him and accept Islam. A third course does not exist. Either of the two courses which are open would lead to the triumph of Islam. If the followers of other religions deny the prophecies contained in their respective religions, they deny the truth of those religions. This would be a clear triumph for Islam. If they do accept these prophecies and accept the only claimant to spiritual office who answers to their descriptions, they enter the fold of Islam. Again, it would be a triumph for Islam.
This powerful approach by Hazrat Mirza Sahib must produce great results. As time goes on, followers of other religions must turn more and more to Islam, so that the time must come when the only dominant religion in the world will be Islam. The Promised Messiah has sown the seed. This is what messengers and prophets do. The tree grows out of the seed and yields its fruit, but in God’s own time. The people of the world taste the fruit and enjoy its sweetness and its flavour and rest under its shade, but only when the time comes.
One religious group seems to have escaped Hazrat Mirza Sahib’s vital and irresistible approach to the religions of the world. This group is the Sikhs. The Founder of the Sikhs, Guru Nanak, came long after the Holy Prophet (on whom be peace and the blessings of God!. However, even the Sikh Holy Book contains the prophecy about a messenger in the latter days. It is clearly written in the Sikh cords that the Promised Reformer will appear in Batala (Batala is the Tehsil in which the village of Qadian is situated); the Sikh prophecy, therefore, has been literally fulfilled in the person of Hazrat Mirza Sahib. The difficulty which the Sikh religion raises is hat the Holy Prophet (on whom be peace and the blessings of God) was Khatam al-Nabiyyin, the Seal of the Prophets, the source and sanction of all prophets. How could a religious group, even one as small as the Sikhs, arise after the Holy Prophet (peace be on him)? Hazrat Mirza Sahib received special guidance from God in dealing With the Sikh religion. He saw in a vision that Guru Nanak (the mercy of God be on him) was not the founder of any religion. He was a follower of Islam and a true Muslim.
Hazrat Mirza Sahib started investigating. He found that the Granth Sahib, the Sikh scripture, which is a collection of sermons and speeches by Bawa Guru Nanak (the mercy of God be on him), contains exhortations for the five daily prayers, the annual fasts, Zakat, and the Haj. Those who fail to observe these fundamental religious duties are severely warned. From other Sikh books it appears that Bawa Sahib was wont to live in the company of Muslim saints. He visited the tombs of Muslim saints and there spent his time in meditation. He joined them in congregational prayers. He went to the Hedjaz for Hajj, and visited Baghdad and the other holy places of Islam. The most important discovery, however, was a cloak (Chola) which the Sikhs guard and adore as a relic. On this cloak are written chapters and verses of the Holy Quran – chapter 112, for instance, the famous verse of the ‘Throne’, and the verse ‘Surely the true religion with Allah is Islam’ (3:20). The Kalima of Islam, ‘There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is His Prophet,’ is written in a bold hand. As the Sikh devotees did not know Arabic, they revered these writings as divine mysteries. They did not realize that the writings were a declaration of Islam by Bawa Sahib. By arguments based on the Sikh books and connected with the relics held sacred by them, Hazrat Mirza Sahib began to tell the Sikh community that their great founder was a Muslim. The impact on the Sikh community was very real. They already show a tendency to be sympathetic to Islam, and as the true meaning of these discoveries dawns upon them they will realize that they have only strayed from the faith of their founder. The faith of the early Sikhs was Islam. They gradually dissociated themselves from it because of political controversies. These controversies, as historical research tends to prove, were due to Hindus, not Muslims. They have made the relations between Sikhs and Muslims very bitter. But the Sikhs are a brave people. One can hope that they will put truth above politics, forget the past, and join Islam. When they do so, the air will resound with the cry Sat Sri Akal (‘Hail, the One True God’). The reformer promised in their scripture has appeared according to the promise in the Tahsil of Batala. It is up to them to accept and join him and join the effort he has initiated on behalf of Islam,
The third method of attack which Hazrat Mirza Sahib employed to bring about the triumph of Islam over other religions was his exposition of a grand conception taught by Islam. This conception relates to the attitude of each religion towards other religions. Before Hazrat Mirza Sahib’s time, it was common; in fact, it was thought just and right for each religion to regard other religions and their followers as false. Excepting some individuals and some groups, all Jews believed Jesus to be a liar; all Christians believed the Holy Prophet (peace be on him) of Islam to be so; Zoroastrians regarded the prophets of the other faiths in the same way; and the other religions in their turn treated the Zoroastrian prophet similarly. Followers of each of the four faiths regarded the other religious teachers as false, and the followers of these religions regarded the founders of the four as false and so on. Disputes between religion and religion had become most degrading. Each religious community was at war with every other, and yet sensible persons could spot evidence of truth in all religions. In any case, it seemed cruel to regard the founders of religious traditions as false. One could not easily persuade oneself to think so. But was there a solution?
The result of. these disputes was the increase of rancour and religious antagonism. Hindus read about their own religious teachers and were moved by their great moral and spiritual qualities, yet they heard others say that those teachers were liars and pretenders. This surprised them as much as it annoyed them. Naturally they thought the detractors were actuated by malice and by unwillingness to understand. Similarly, the followers of other religions read about their own founders and were persuaded of their spiritual qualities, and when they heard them abused they were enraged. An insuperable difficulty had arisen. How could respect and reverence for religious teachers be established? Those who examined the question without prejudice and without preconceptions could not think that the Universal God would choose one people for His favours and forget all the others, Nobody dared say so, however. Each religious group thought that to accept the founders of other religious groups amounted to a repudiation of their own religious position,
Liberal Hindus invented a solution. They began to teach that all religions are from God: different religions are like different routes leading to the same goal, and the Hindu religion was the best of these routes. This ingenious solution was open to two serious objections and these seemed unanswerable. The first objection was that if all religions, as we find them today, are from God and lead ultimately to Him, why do their teachings differ on vital and important matters? There could be differences on matters of detail, but there should be no difference on fundamentals. Many roads may lead to a mansion, but it would be absurd to think that roads coming from the east should reach it via the west or the north or the south. They can suffer small divergences, but their general direction should be the same. In fundamental and abiding truths there can be no great disagreement or difference. There can be differences, for instance, in modes of worship, in details of religious duty, and so on; but it is difficult to imagine that to the Jews and the Muslims God said ‘I am One,’ while to the Zoroastrians he said ‘I am two,’ to the Christians ‘I am three,’ to the Hindus ‘I am many,’ to the Chinese ‘I am everywhere and everything.’ Nor is it possible that to one group (the Muslims) God should declare that He transcends all things and is far from incarnating Himself even in human frame; to another (the Christians) that He could certainly incarnate Himself in the human frame; and to yet another (the Hindus) even in the frames of lower animals. Nor can it be that to the Muslims He should teach that life after death is inevitable, and to the Jews that it is not; nor that He should say at one time (to Islam) that the dead cannot return to life, at another (to Hindus) that they can and that after death human beings pass into a series of lives. In short, it is possible that teachings which come from God may show slight variations depending upon the people addressed (their time, surroundings, and so on); but there can be no vital difference, no disagreement in the description of historical events, for instance, or in the content of the basic propositions. Religious teachings as we find them today differ from one another not just in detail but also in fundamentals. Differences of a fundamental character cannot be attributed to a Universal God, and religious teachings which are so very different from one another cannot all lead to Him.
The second objection to this liberal Hindu conception is that in some sense Hindus regard their own religion as superior to others (even though those others may also lead eventually to God). The Hindu religion is the best, the oldest, and so on. This is a very difficult position. If God had revealed the best religion in the beginning, what need was there to reveal after it religions that were less than the best? If mankind were capable of receiving and benefiting from a perfect religion in the very beginning, there was on point in sending inferior religions in subsequent times. It seems contrary to reason to think that the best religion should have come in the infancy of the human race, and that later on, when human sciences and arts had become more advanced, we should have inferior religions. It is more reasonable to think. that the later religions should be more perfect, more advanced than the earlier ones, or if not more, at least as perfect, as good.
These two difficulties were insuperable. For those who proposed to reconcile religions in the Hindu way, the important question was: What exactly was God’s arrangement for the guidance of mankind from the earliest times to today?
The Christians also presented a solution to the problem of conflicting religions. They said that God invited the whole of mankind to His guidance. He did this through Jesus Christ. God had no favourites; for Him all sections of humanity were equally deserving of His help and guidance. But even this solution did not solve the difficulty. The question still remained: What had God done for the guidance of mankind before He sent down Jesus? From the Bible we learn that the message of Jesus Christ was meant for Israel, not for others. However, even if it is true that Christian teachers later on addressed the Christian message to all peoples of the world, the question remains: What did God do for the many millions of human beings who had gone before Jesus? Had they gone without divine guidance? The message of Jesus could not reach those who had lived and died before his time.
The question had no satisfactory answer, therefore. The status of different religious messages had to be defined. Without a just definition of status, the different religions found themselves involved in unending war with one another. Hazrat Mirza Sahib turned to the Holy Quran for an answer to this question and presented a new outlook, a new standpoint. The Holy Quran says:
‘. . . and there is no people to whom a warner has not come.’ Al-Fatir, 25.
According to this teaching there has not been a single people at any time in history or anywhere in the world who have not had a warner from God, a teacher, a prophet. According to the Holy Quran there have been prophets at all times and in all countries. India, China, Russia, Afghanistan, parts of Africa, Europe, America – all had prophets according to the theory of divine guidance taught by the Holy Quran. When, therefore, Muslims hear about prophets of other peoples or other countries, they do not deny them. They do not brand them as liars. Muslims believe that other peoples have had their teachers. If other peoples have had prophets, books, and laws, these constitute no difficulty for Islam. They only confirm the universalistic conception Islam has taught. However, Islam teaches that the earlier teachings were commensurate with the needs and capacities of earlier peoples. The perfect teaching which God eventually sent through the Holy Prophet peace and the blessings of God be on him) came at a time when mankind was sufficiently advanced to receive and to benefit from such a teaching. The Holy Prophet was sent to all mankind. This conception of divine teaching is the most comprehensive we can have. No people are left out of the plan of divine guidance. Today Islam is the only way, the only guide, because it is the last and the ,most perfect. With the arrival of the most perfect teaching, earlier teachings must be superseded. Their supersession is not only inevitable according to the Islamic teaching: it is also a patent fact of story. The books of earlier religions have been without divine protection. They have suffered from human interpolation and extrapolation. They have become distorted. They are still true because of their divine origin, but they are also false because of the distortions they have suffered since. This conception of divine teaching over the ages which Hazrat Mirza Sahib expounded out of the Holy Quran proved irresistible. Should anyone choose to reject this conception, he will have to admit that God gives guidance to some people but not to others, an idea no man with sound common sense can accept. If, however, it is admitted that God’s guidance has been received everywhere, at all times, then the truth of Islam cannot be questioned, because Islam is the last religion and it is Islam which teaches how God’s guidance reached different peoples in different times.
This view of God’s guidance has a peculiar appeal. Men of education and wide sympathies, subscribing to any religious views, are impressed and persuaded by it. They find that the conception is not easy to deny. The denial of it entails denial of God. If they cannot deny God, nor the Islamic conception of God’s guidance, they have to accept Islam. They have no other alternative. The narrow and confused view of divine guidance which prevailed before was changed into a genuinely liberal, clearly formulated view of divine guidance by the Promised Messiah. This, among other things, made for the victory of Islam in our time.
The fourth method of approach which Hazrat Mirza Sahib em- ployed for a demonstration of the superiority of Islam consisted of a new conception of religious controversies. This conception also proved irresistible and unanswerable; and again, the conception was defined under divine guidance. Its formulation changed all current conceptions and methods of religious debates. Hazrat Mirza Sahib proposed rational and equitable criteria for the assessment of religious claims. The enemies of Islam could find no fault with them; nor if they accepted them, could they hold their own against Islam. If they rejected the criteria, they were defeated. If they accepted them, they were likewise defeated. The enemies of Islam had no chance in the conflict and no escape from it.
What was this new conception of religious debate? Before the time of Hazrat Mirza Sahib religious debates were of unlimited scope. One side in a debate could raise any objections it liked against the other side. At the same time it could make any claim it liked on its own behalf. With such unlimited scope, there was no end to religious debating and no end to the bitterness it produced; and all this, without any benefit to the human quest for truth. If a race is to have a result, it must be run according to some rules. without rules we cannot spot the winner. For instance, if no direction is appointed for the participants, we can never name the winner. So it was with religious disputants. Even they must have a direction set for them. Before Hazrat Mirza Sahib’s time, a religious disputant could attribute any conception he liked to his books. That conception could have been borrowed from some other book or from some other teaching. But a religious exponent could say it belonged to his religion, his book. The ensuing debate was not about any existing religious conception but about imaginary conceptions: at the most, conceptions entertained by individual disputants, not by the religions they disputed about. Seekers after truth derived no help from such debates. After the fullest discussion they stood just where they did before. Hazrat Mirza Sahib showed the futility of this sort of debating. He laid down the principle that if a divine book is divine and meant for the guidance of mankind, it must speak for itself. It must lay down its teaching in its own clear words. It must also lay down the arguments which it wishes to urge for its teaching. If a divine book fails to state its teaching and its arguments clearly, that divine book is of little use IS to anyone. If the teaching and the arguments for the teaching are to be formulated by the votaries, what use is the divine book? Can the religion which such a book teaches be divine? No, it must be a man-made religion. For it we owe nothing to God. Instead, God owes something to us, because we formulate both the teaching and the arguments for Him. Hazrat Mirza Sahib taught that for the successful conclusion of religious debates and discussions, it was : necessary that votaries of revealed books should not attribute any teaching to those books unless they could cite the teaching from the books, and unless they could also cite from them the arguments for that teaching, The criterion of the merit of religious arguments proved a mighty one. The advocates of other religions could not object to it, for objecting to it would have meant that the teachings attributed to particular religious books did not exist in those books. If they did exist, they should be found and quoted. Further, if any teachings could be quoted, it should be possible also to quote from the books themselves the arguments on which the teachings were based. Certainly it was not too much to ask this. The human mind fashioned by God is rational, and it refused to acccept a proposition not based on rational grounds. It is impossible that God should invite men to accept propositions without citing any reasons in support of them. Advocates of religious books, therefore, could not take exception to this criterion; it would have been an admission of weakness. But neither did they find it easy to accept the criterion. Many people will be surprised to learn that when the claims of other religions were examined in the light of this criterion, it was found that nine out of ten claims made on their behalf were not supported by the revealed books to which they were attributed. When teaching attributed to the books could be quoted from the books, it was seldom or never supported by arguments provided by the books themselves, as if God was able to put forward large propositions but had to depend upon others for the arguments.
Hazrat Mirza Sahib in this way demonstrated that advocates of different religions invented high-sounding principles or borrowed beautiful thoughts from others and attributed them to their respec- tive religions. They then confronted the advocates of rival religions with these inventions. Futile debates ensued. If such propositions could be proved superior and strong, they would prove only their own superiority and strength or the superiority and strength of the minds of their authors. It would not prove the superiority of their religions if the propositions which had been proved superior and strong were not to be found in the religious books to which they were attributed. Against all this, Hazrat Mirza Sahib showed that all the teachings and claims which Islam put forward could be quoted from its book, the Holy Quran. The arguments for those teachings can also be quoted from the book. Hazrat Mirza Sahib illustrated this in many different ways and on many different occasions. The enemies of Islam were defeated. They found it impossible to meet the challenge or to escape its fatal results. The challenge is and will remain unanswered. It invites religious disput- ants to a criterion which it is impossible not to accept and Which, if accepted, makes impossible the dissemination of false claims or the application of false standards in religious debates. The more Muslims insist on this criterion, the more the advocates of false religious will withdraw from the field. The weakness of their position will become more and more clear to their followers, and the triumph of Islam over other religions will become more and more evident.
The fifth method of approach which Hazrat Mirza Sahib (peace be on him) employed in his controversy with other religions proved completely fatal for them. It brought Islam a victory which nobody could question. Hazrat Mirza Sahib reminded the enemies of Islam that the ultimate object of religion was to enable man to establish contact With God. Therefore, an important criterion of truth among religions was the degree and quality of contact which each religion succeeded in promoting between God and man. Such contact connoted the degree of truth present in each religion. With it we could determine how far a given religion was acceptable to God. Contact between man and God should have visible signs. We know from ordinary experience that when two things come into contact with each other, each has some effect on the other. When we go near a fire we burn or at least experience the heat, and when we drink water we slake our thirst and become bright and braced up. Good food adds to our weight. Exercise tones the muscles and lends beauty and form to the body. Similarly, drugs have their effects, helping or hampering the normal functions of the body. It would be the strangest thing in the world if contact with God were found to have no effect whatever – if we were to prostrate our- selves in prayer for incredibly long periods, fast almost unto death give to charity to the end of our resources, and yet experience no change in ourselves or in the conditions in which we live. If all our religious works, our penances and our sacrifices are to end in nothing, why should we seek any nearness to God? What good is it to us? When we establish nearness to an earthly ruler and prove ourselves deserving of his attention and favour, we experience the results of nearness. We receive honour and esteem. Our petitions are heard, our troubles removed. Others who observe us from far feel that we enjoy the favour and attention of the ruler. But nothing can be known or seen of the results, of a man’s contact with God. No effects can be observed in terms of self-improvement or in terms of our relations with others. We continue as we were.
Hazrat Mirza Sahib insisted that a religion which claims to be a living religion produces visible results for those who act upon its teachings and its provisions. A true follower of such a religion should find God and enjoy His favour. Such nearness between God and man should also have some signs. Advocates of different religions, therefore, should desist from attacking one another, from making large claims on their own religion’s behalf, and from pointing to the weaknesses of other religions. Instead they should provide evidence of spiritual life and vitality which they have derived from the practical observance of their religion. They should show what degree of nearness to God they have acquired through their religion. They should present examples of individuals who have practised their religions and reaped the spiritual benefits which the religions promise. A religion which proves its worth by criteria of this kind should be accepted as living and true. A religion which cannot prove its worth in this way should be rejected as dead and false. It burdens its followers instead of bearing their burdens. It does harm rather than good. Association with it brings disgrace in this world and punishment in the next. This criterion of a living religion could not be questioned. As soon as it was proposed, it fell like lightning on other religions. They began to look about for a method of saving themselves from disgrace. The Promised Messiah proclaimed that evidence of life was to be found only in Islam Other religions were wholly devoid of it. Did anybody wish to question this? If so, he had only to enter into a trial of strength wit the Promised Messiah. Nobody dared, and there was nothing to wonder at in this. No religion had any life left in it. Loud an vociferous advocacy of one’s religion is easy. To put forward evidence of God’s love and concern is difficult. Did God love a given religion? Was He interested in it? The current religions could offer no evidence of even fleeting attention by God. How could they offer evidence of his love and interest?
The Promised Messiah’s challenge was addressed to Hindus, Christians Jews, everybody. But nobody came forward. In different ways and on different occasions he invited leaders of other religions to test the quality of contact with God. But to no avail. He invited the Bishop of Lahore, the head of the large diocese of North India. to have a trial with him over the efficacy of prayer. Had not the New Testament promised that if Christians had faith equal to a mustard seed, they would be able to move mountains? Muslims, likewise had been told in their books that true believers could rely on the help and support of God and on the success of their prayers. It was fitting for the Bishop, therefore, to join in prayer to God and find out whose prayer was heard – a Christian’s or a Muslim’s. The Bishop turned a deaf ear. He found it safe to Ignore the Promised Messiah s challenge. The Bishop’s silence proved exasperating Some- English-edited newspapers attacked the Bishop Bishops drew fat salaries and made loud claims, they said, but when it came to a .contest or trial of some sort, they withdrew from the field. The Bishop was not to be moved. In spite of criticism, in spite of ridicule, he kept putting off the challenge.
The Promised Messiah repeated the challenge again and again. But nobody dared accept it. This approach on behalf of Islam proved as unanswerable as all the others. Every right-thinking person must acknowledge its importance and relevance. Its result was victory for Islam. Non-Muslims must become more and more aware of the lack of life in their respective religions. At the same time, they must also become aware of the visible life in Islam. The superiority of the truth of Islam must become more and more evident. In theoretical discussions one can feel undefeated to the end , but when an issue is a practical and a factual one, the truth must be found on one side or the other. This approach proposed and used by the Promised Messiah must show its deadly effects as time goes on. In the view of the right-thinking men, Islam has already won. No other religion can claim to be alive. The victory of Islam is already apparent.
The five types of approach employed by the Promised Messiah on behalf of Islam led Islam to victory over other religions The work of the Promised Messiah is therefore done. If Hazrat Mirza Sahib is not the Promised Messiah, then the question is: What more will the true Messiah do when he comes? Will he convert people to Islam at the point of the sword? What use will forcible conversions be to Islam, or to the converts? Consider a little: if Christians were to start converting Muslims by force, what should all of us and other decent men think and say of them? Should we not say this was wicked and foolish? Should we not then condemn the true Messiah in the same way for doing the same thing? No, no, no. Forcible accessions to Islam would be a menace. They would harm Islam immeasurably and would turn all decent and freedom-loving men against it. The ‘Promised’ Messiah should have no use for the sword. His method must be the method of argument. By argument by rational approach, by appeal to observation and experience, Hazrat Mirza Sahib has already proved Islam victorious. Hazrat Mirza Sahib, therefore, is the Promised Messiah. He has done what the Promised Messiah was to do.
Sometimes it is said that the arguments used by Hazrat Mirza Sahib were not his own arguments, but ones that existed already, so how can the victory of Islam brought about by such arguments be attributed to him? The objection is futile. A sword without a swordsman can accomplish very little. It can do its work only when someone can be found who can wield it. The situation of Islam at the time of the Promised Messiah was that the sword of argument which Islam had always used was present, but Muslims were not only not able to use it but were not even aware of its existence. The Promised Messiah received from God a fresh insight into the meaning of the Holy Quran. He deduced anew the truths of Islam and restated the arguments on which they were based. He then used those arguments in the defence of Islam and in Islam’s battle against other religions. He taught the use of those arguments to his followers and others. The victory of Islam, therefore, is due to him. The Holy Quran, instead of helping Muslims and Islam, had become an encumbrance, a source of embarrassment for them. But for the Promised Messiah, it would have remained so. A gun without a gunner becomes a menace not for the enemy but for the owner. For want of understanding, the Holy Quran had become a burden, a liability. Hazrat Mirza Sahib announced his claim and created a new faith, a new hope. The blessings and benefits of the Holy Quran began to show. He met the enemies of Islam with arguments which they were powerless to resist. They first found themselves defending and later found even defence difficult. Some addressed memorials to the Government, praying it to stop Mirza victory of Islam became certain. Nothing could now prevent its truimph over other religions.