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Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (c. 1897)
Mirza Ghulam Ahmad
Mirza Ghulam Ahmad group
Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (seated centre) with some of his companions at Qadian c.1899
Jama Masjid, Delhi, watercolour, 1852
Jama Masjid, Delhi, 1852, William Carpenter
John Alexander Dowie in his robes as Elijah the Restorer
Alexander Dowie in his robes as "Elijah the restorer"

Mirza Ghulam Ahmad with son.jpg|thumb|Mirza Ghulam Ahmad with his son, Mirza Sharif Ahmad]] Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (Persian: مرزا غلام احمد) (February 13, 1835–May 26, 1908), a religious figure belonging to India, was the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. He claimed to be the Mahdi as well as the being the Mujaddid of the 14th. Islamic century.


Early Life

Ghulam was born in Qadian, Punjab in India in 1835 the surviving child of twins born to an rich family. He is reported to have spent a lot of time in the mosque and with the study of the Qur'an and his religion, Islam. This did not lead him to fulfill his father's wishes of his son becoming a lawyer or civil servant. He did attempt to become a lawyer, but failed the test. In his course of studying religious topics, he would often interact with many Muslims, non-Muslims, and with Christian missionaries whom he would engage in debates.

Prior to His Claim

When Ghulam was thirty five years old his father died. At this time Ghulam claimed that God had begun communicating with him, often through direct revelation. Initially, Ghulam's writings from this time were intended to counter what he perceived to be anti-Islamic writings originating from various Christian missionary groups. He also focused on countering the effects of various groups such as the Brahmo Samaj. During this period of his life he was well received by the Islamic clerics of the time.

Post Claim

As time progressed, his writings began to exhibit his claims of being the mujaddid or reformer of his era. These writings were compiled in one of his most well-known works: Barahin Ahmadiyya, a work consisting of 5 volumes while originally planned 50 volumes and collected advance money from people. He explained that since there is only a dot difference between 50 & 5, therefore his promise was fulfilled. In later volumes, he would essentially claim to be the messiah of Islam. This proved and continues to be very controversial, as traditional Islamic thought holds that Jesus is the Messiah, who himself will return in the flesh at the end of times. Ghulam countered this by claiming that Jesus was dead, and had in fact escaped crucifixion and died in India. According to ghulam, the promised Mahdi was a spiritual, not military leader as is believed by most Muslims. With this proclamation, he also began to step away from the traditional idea of militant Jihad, and redefined it as a “spiritual” battle rather than a physical one. In addition to these controversial claims, he would later claim that Guru Nanak, the first Sikh Guru, was in fact a Muslim.

These writings began to turn the general Muslims ulema (religious clerics) against him, and he was often branded as a heretic. Some accused Ghulam of working for the British who were trying to use him to remove the concept of Jihad from Indian Muslims.

Ghulam founded the Ahmadiyya movement 1889. He claimed that the Ahmadiyya Movement stood in the same relation to Islam, as Christianity stood to Judaism at the time of Jesus. The mission of the movement according to Ghulam was the prorogation of what he considered to be Islam in its pristine form. Mirza Ghulam's teachings which differed from other Muslims of the time can be summarized as following:

  • That Muhammad is the last prophet to bring a new law/religion but not the last prophet altogether... and Prophethood within the Islamic dispensation is continued after him, and that he himself was a Prophet besides claimant of Imam mehdi and massiah.
  • The Qur'an has no contradictions (or abrogations), and has precedence over the Hadith or traditions; i.e., that one verse of the Qur'an does not cancel another and that no Hadith can contradict a verse of the Qur'an. Hadith that appear to contradict the Qu'ran are not accepted by Ahmadi Muslims.
  • Jesus (called Yuz Asaf) was crucified and survived the 4 hours on the cross, then was revived from a swoon in the tomb. He died in Kashmir of old age whilst seeking the "Lost Tribes of Israel".
  • That Jihad can only be used to protect against extreme religious persecution, not as a political weapon or an excuse for rulers to invade neighbouring territories.
  • That the "Messiah" and "Imam Mahdi" are the same person, and that Islam will defeat the Anti-Christ or Dajjal in a period similar to the period of time it took for nascent Christianity to rise (300 years). Mainstream Muslims believe that Jesus was not crucified, but made to look as though he had been, and that he ascended to heaven from where he will return personally in the flesh to revive Islam.

Mirza Ghulam is widely acknowledged to have devoted his life to furthering the cause of his movement and countering allegations of heresy against his person till his death at Lahore in 1908.

Origin of name

The Ahmadiyya movement in Islam was founded in 1889, but the name Ahmadiyya was not adopted until about a decade later. In a manifesto dated November 4, 1900, the founder explained that the name referred to Ahmad, the alternative name of the prophet Mohammed. According to him, ‘Mohammed’, which means ‘the praised one’, refers to the glorious destiny of the prophet who adopted the name from about the time of the Hegira; but ‘Ahmad’ stands for the beauty of his sermons, and for the peace that he was destined to establish in the world through his teachings. According to Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, these names thus refer to two aspects of Islam, and in later times it was the latter aspect that commanded greater attention. In keeping with this, he believed, his object was to establish peace in the world through the spiritual teachings of Islam. He believed that his message had special relevance for the Western world which according to him had descended into materialism.

Mirza Ghulam Ahmad's Legacy

One of the main source of dispute during his lifetime and continuing since then, is Mirza Ghulam Ahmad's use of the terms “Nabi” (prophet) and “Rasool” (messenger) when referring to himself. Muslims consider the prophet Muhammad to be the last of the prophets and believe that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad's use of these terms is a violation of the concept of “finality of prophet hood”. His followers fall into two camps in this regards, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community who believe in a literal interpretation of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad's prophet hood (with some qualifications), and the Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement who believe in an allegorical interpretation of these two terms. This among other reasons caused a split in the movement soon after Ahmad's death.

Followers of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad have faced relentless persecution of various types over the years. In 1974, the Pakistani parliament amended the Pakistani constitution to declare Ahmadi Muslims as non-Muslims for purposes of the constitution of the Islamic Republic. In 1984, a series of changes in the Pakistan Penal Code sections relating to blasphemy that, in essence, made it illegal for Ahmadis to preach their religion openly as Islam, leading to 1000s of arrests and prosecutions.

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