Amidst the ever-changing landscape of beliefs, creeds, and doctrines, a true religion proves its worth by lasting through the ages. It is said that “time allows all to be revealed” – and how correct this is! Indeed, a religion asserting universal and timeless validity must endure the test of time.
Throughout history, a multitude of religions have emerged, each proclaiming to hold the mantle of truth. But, as the river of time flows, the light once kindled by their founding prophet gradually begins to fade. Hence, the advent of a Latter-Day Messiah, destined to revive faith, is a belief embraced by most major world religions today.
In fact, this need for reform extends beyond faith and into secular ideologies too. Historians label the 19th century “The Age of Reform”. Marxism, Liberalism, and Feminism were on the rise, alongside other reform initiatives such as the movements of abolition and suffrage. However, these attempts to reform society were not able to stand the test of time. They would serve an acute purpose, but were unable to present a complete model of life for ages to come, especially in a time where every new day would demand new answers to rapidly emerging situations.
In this period, the Quranic signs of the Latter Days were being fulfilled in abundance. Was this a coincidence?
The technological progression in this century alone was such that it had not been witnessed for millennia. The printing press had been around since the onset of the age of modernity but became more common and popular by the late 18th and early 19th centuries, directly fulfilling “when books will be spread abroad.” (Surah at-Takwir, Ch.81: V.11) Likewise, the first steam-powered rail journeys began in the early 19th Century, marking a significant advancement in transport and rendering she-camels obsolete. (Surah at-Takwir, Ch.81: V.5)
It was in this fast-changing global scene that Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas appeared in an unknown village of British-ruled India, at a time when Islam was under attack – not only by other faiths but also from within. Muslims were becoming bereft of the true teachings of Islam, as prophesied by Prophet Muhammadsa himself. Their reform and the renaissance of Islam were needed as a matter of urgency. Attempts were made by the likes of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, founder of the Aligarh Movement. Having made a significant contribution to the Muslim awakening, it had little appeal to the general masses and remained elitist in its very outlook. Their approach was seen as “Anglophile”, where every interpretation of Islam seemingly aimed at appeasing the Western secular ideology. Hence, their footprint faded with time.
Having noticed how literary movements were sweeping across the world through colonial rule, Hazrat Ahmadas spent most of his early life immersed in books – trying to understand what the attacks on religion were and how they ought to be addressed through the same tool, i.e., reasoning and argumentation. By reading, writing, and debating with adherents of diverse beliefs, he skilfully championed the veracity of Islam. His endeavours restored the love, faith, and assurance of Islam within the hearts of Muslims, earning him the respect of contemporary scholars. However, when, upon divine instruction, he declared himself the Messiah of the Age, those very individuals and Muslim groups who once sang his praises, turned into his most vehement adversaries – quite in line with the history of prophets, and testified by the Holy Quran.
Become his enemies they did, but they could not contain the powerful theology he imparted. His mission? To dispel the distortions that had wound their way into the tapestry of Islamic teachings. For example, he proved that Jesusas passed away like every other prophet (also revealing the fact that he is buried in Kashmir. This was not a mere claim; it was fortified by clear verses of the Quran, ahadith, classical and medieval scholars, Arabic lexicons, and stacks of historical and medical records.
He cleared up misconceptions regarding the advent of the Messiah and Mahdi. The “breaking of the cross” was nothing but a metaphor for the demolition of the doctrine of Christianity, which is exactly what he did. Alongside this, Hazrat Ahmadas clarified that Allah is a living God and still speaks today as he did before. He rectified the key concepts of angels, revelation, jihad, and much more.
Now, the reality is this. It has been over 130 years since Hazrat Ahmadas presented his God-given insights on fundamental Islamic concepts. And this was not just one-sided. He actively participated in debates with people of different faiths and even Muslims themselves. This theological understanding of Islam that he put forward was tried and tested, and it has stood the test of time. He issued countless challenges for people to come forward and refute his understanding of Islam. And, if proven wrong, he offered to burn all his works and change his beliefs. But who could step up and disprove him? To this day, these challenges are active.
Does it come as a surprise then, that when the theology of Ahmadiyyat cannot be refuted, opponents turn to mockery, slander, banning books, and even killing members of the Community? Surely, if the literature was so clearly wrong, all it would take for a wise person is to read the books. Reading his works should have thus been promoted in Muslim countries, but instead, a ban has been placed on all Ahmadi literature. What else could be behind this ban? Obviously, only the fear of people getting to know the truth.
But, leaving aside the areas where his works are banned, in the parts of the world where his literature and his message have reached, he has been accepted by the fair-minded in large numbers. This alone is enough proof of the fact that anyone who would want a modern understanding of Islam, would look for someone who could provide it with divine guidance and not mere opinion.
Therefore, as mentioned, there have been a plethora of reform movements that have come and gone. But the salient feature of the call of Hazrat Ahmadas, was that he assured with conviction that his own passing would not lead to the demise of his Community. Instead, a second manifestation – the dawn of Khilafat – would follow.
This unique element of the Ahmadiyya Muslim theology – that the Promised Messiahas left behind, i.e., the Qudrat-e-Thania – means that the Ahmadiyya theology will never die. There will always remain a system, namely Khilafat, to provide guidance in any given circumstance.
This alone makes the Ahmadiyya theology different from any other sect whose leaders died, and so did their reform. The Ahmadi Muslims are the only ones who have had, and will have, divinely guided instructions right to the end of the world. Insha-Allah.