Coming from every distant track: David Samuel Margoliouth, English orientalist visits Qadian

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Last Updated on 7th April 2021

Awwab Saad Hayat, Al Hakam

David Samuel Margoliouth (17 October 1858 – 22 March 1940) was a well-known English Orientalist. For a short time, during his full academic and research career, he was an active priest with the Church of England. He was also a professor of Arabic at Oxford University.

His period of teaching (1889 to 1937) spanned nearly 48 years, during which, in 1916, Prof Margoliouth was invited by the University of Punjab in Lahore to deliver a lecture on Islamic history.

Inspired by its universal fame, Prof Margoliouth arrived in Qadian on 16 December 1916 to meet with Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIra. In Qadian, he was extended hospitality by the Jamaat. 

When he made his way to meet Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra, accompanying Huzoorra at the time were Hazrat Mufti Muhammad Sadiqra, Hazrat Maulvi Sher Alira, Hazrat Dr Khalifa Rashiduddinra, Hazrat Chaudhry Fateh Muhammad Sayalra, Hazrat Sheikh Yaqub Ali Irfanira, Hazrat Maulvi Abdul Rahim Nayyarra, Chaudhry Ghulam Muhammad Sahib, Hazrat Maulvi Syed Sarwar Shahra, Hazrat Hafiz Roshan Alira and the editor of Al Fazl

During the conversation between Huzoorra and Prof Margoliouth, Hazrat Chaudhry Fateh Muhammad Sayalra served as the interpreter. This conversation has been preserved and published in Al Fazl in the issue of 19-22 December 1916. 

At the time of this conversation, Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmadra was only 27 years of age, whilst Prof Margoliouth was more than twice his age.  

In the beginning, as a gesture of respect, Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra stated, “We are very pleased to have you here. Did you face any problems travelling on the unpaved roads?”  

Prof Margoliouth: There were no problems. I arrived here with ease. 

Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIra: I have heard you possess a special interest in history. Are there any principles, in your view, which every historian should bear in mind [when studying history]? 

Prof Margoliouth: I have not devised any new principles. In my view, the method adopted by Muslim historians for historiography is very careful and correct. All we do is express their thoughts and events in English.

Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIra: Which of the history books on the [early] Islamic era, which are in the Arabic language, do you prefer? 

Prof Margoliouth: With regard to the philosophy of history, I prefer The Muqaddimah of Ibn Khaldun.  

Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIra: I do not mean the philosophy of history, but common historical events.

Prof Margoliouth: I give more preference to Miskawayh [Persian philosopher] than other historians.

Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIra: Our movement’s claim is that we present Islam in its true and original form, which was presented to the world through the Holy Prophetsa. And in our view, we explain things clearer and more distinctly than what history presents to the world because everything we present is based on observation. And, for historians, the definitive argument for an event is observation. Anything besides this cannot be acknowledged. However, no one can dare to deny that which has been witnessed. For example, if it is written in a history book that there was a city in such and such a place and someone goes there and sees that there is a city there – or, if not a city, then ruins are there; or similarly, if it is written that there is a mountain in such and such a place and a person sees the mountain in that place, then there will be no doubts about this statement of history or geography. However, that which no one has witnessed cannot be said to be absolutely correct and accurate unless the means of knowing it is reliable and trustworthy.

Bearing this in mind, we must look at how and by what means Islam was presented to us and whether those means are reliable or not. Secondly, we must look at what Islam teaches and states through [the lens of] experience and observation, and see whether it [Islam] is, or not as it claims. The founder of Islam, the Holy Prophetsa, had a strong relationship with Allah the Almighty, and Islamic history narrates events that support this claim. Now, if a person follows [the teachings of] Islam and establishes a connection with Allah the Almighty, he will be convinced that what has been said about the founder of Islam is correct; that he was not a liar, whether it is the Holy Prophetsa, Abu Bakrra, Umarra, Uthmanra, Alira.  

Critics, today, believe that Islam was perfected by different men on the basis of the assumption that it is a man-made religion and [speculate] how [it was possible for] a single person to give such a message. 

Upon observation, [the teachings of Islam] prove that Islam possesses extraordinary power within itself, then this idea [which critics cling on to] becomes invalidated and one is compelled to believe that what the history of Islam presents is true. Today, when a person can reach God Almighty by following its teachings, then how is it not possible, for the person who conveyed this teaching to not have established a connection with God Almighty?

Witnessing [the teachings of Islam] will definitely prove that this man [the Holy Prophetsa] must have had a strong relationship with Allah Almighty and no historian can deny this. However, in spite of this, if anyone still claims that [Islam] is wrong, then, other than laughing at such a ridiculous claim, what more can a man of intellect do? They have themselves witnessed the truth through experience and observation; following its teachings resulted in the same outcome for them which Islam has claimed from the beginning.

Prof Margoliouth: I also agree; if there is a witness to the authenticity of an incident, then there is no doubt about its validity. 

Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIraI am glad you agree with this; however, the people of European countries have not paid attention to this and are determined to disprove the history of Islam and the founder of Islam, which have reached them historically. However, no historical opinion can be conclusive. In this day and age, we see that in war, rumours are spread that a certain incident took place in such and such manner; however, after a while, it is proven false and another rumour is spread. So if, in the current circumstances, news can be contradicted, then how can we expect for there to have been no contradictions in the past. When this is the case today, then surely a historical incident cannot be deemed certain and absolute. 

Some aspects of historical evidence remain doubtful and no one can claim that such and such historical record happened as it was recorded [in history]. However, there is no room for doubt in that which is mentioned in history and is still witnessed today.  

You see, Islam claims that the Holy Prophetsa had a close connection with Allah the Almighty; he received help and support from Allah and was sent as a messenger to the world. If there was a person who failed to verify this upon scrutinising the historical evidence from various angles, but a different person, who had successfully achieved all these things by acting upon the teaching of Islam, testified that whatever had been recorded in certain historical records was absolutely true because the basis of rejecting it was only indirect inference, but he had verified it by directly witnessing it, then which of the two testimonies would be credible? If a person rejected this historical evidence, in spite of such testimony, on the basis of other historical records or some other issues, then the person who has directly witnessed those matters would reserve the right to ask that person the following question: “Since we have been able to achieve those things even in this age by following the teaching of Islam, then how is it possible that the things that have been recorded in history be wrong?’ 

Prof Margoliouth: Of course, that which is witnessed cannot be denied.

Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIraDifferent religions have their own books of history and they claim that their history is true and in doing so, attempt to disprove the traditions of other religions. The easiest way to resolve this disagreement is to settle it with the support of seeing [what is stated in their revealed books]. Otherwise, the differences can never be resolved, on the basis of traditions alone. 

So, where people of Europe attempt to draw a conclusion by examining history, if they also pay attention to drawing conclusions on the basis of direct experiences, then we would be ready to prove the claims of Islam on its behalf.

Our religious leader has opened this path of research and said that people of all religions have historically made some claims; for example, Christians say that so and so sign appeared from the Messiah [of Nazareth]; and thus, this proves his truthfulness. However, people of other religions say that it is wrong [to believe] that such miracles were shown by the Messiah [of Nazareth]. Likewise, Hindus claim that their elders showed such and such signs. Yet, people of other religions don’t agree. Similarly, Muslims state that through the Holy Prophetsa such and such signs manifested, but others refuse to believe them. Now, it is not possible to resolve which religion’s miracles were manifested because each religion presents its own phenomenon historically. However, the signs of that religion which can still be witnessed [today] shall surely be recognied as true. 

So, even today, we are ready to present the same signs and [show] God’s help and support which appeared in the time of the Holy Prophetsa and which the opponents of Islam now call impossible and improbable. They have already fulfilled this claim. 

Even now, if a conference was held on this kind of investigation, which was attended by representatives of all religions, we would certainly also attend it. Representatives of every religion should present evidence of the distinguishing features of their religion which have come to them through traditions, on the basis of direct experience in this age. The claim and the historicity of that religion shall be accepted, the followers of which are able to prove these matters through direct experience. Those that are not able to prove in this manner, their claim shall not be considered worthy of our attention. If we are able to demonstrate and prove in that conference on the basis of direct experience that the signs that were shown for the Holy Prophetsa are still possible then … 

(At this point, it should be remembered that a sign is not one that is shown on people’s terms. By the appearance of miracle, I [Huzoorra] do not mean that the opponent asks for a sign and it shall manifest; rather, it means that if all the religions or one of the great religions, particularly Christianity, agrees to decide in this manner, then in addition to those signs that the Promised Messiahas has shown and that fall under the category of direct experience, some of which are yet to be manifested, God Almighty is capable of manifesting any of the miracles mentioned in the Noble Quran or the authentic ahadith in support of Islam. And if such a duel takes place, then He most certainly will show such a miracle in order to establish such an argument against the enemies of Islam, which will pave the way for the domination of Islam.)

So, what reason is there for the world to not consider Islam as the true religion and the Holy Prophetsa as a true messenger? How could our Master and Leader, Muhammad, the Chosen One, may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, not have accomplished what his servants and slaves are able to do? He most certainly could. 

Prof Margoliouth: Do you believe in the miracles recorded in Dala‘il al-Nubuwwah.  

Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIra: We believe in the miracles that are mentioned in the Holy Quran and authentic ahadith. We do not accept books that are written as stories to please the common people. No religion is free from such books in which some people write, in exaggerated parables, without conducting any research, to elevate the status of the prophet they follow. We do not accept such books; however, not acknowledging them does not mean that our Prophetsa did not show any signs. He most certainly did. But only those signs which are mentioned in the Holy Quran and ahadith; and it is with regard to these signs that we claim can still appear. 

In the same way, we ask the followers of other religions to prove, through observation, the signs which their revealed books claim. 

Prof Margoliouth: In your opinion, is the miracle of Shaq-ul-Qamar [the splitting of the moon], which has been mentioned in the Quran, correct or not? 

Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIra: Why not? When [the incident] is mentioned in the Holy Quran, then there can be no doubt in its authenticity.  

Prof Margoliouth: Could this miracle be [manifested] again in this day and age?

Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIra[It can be manifested today] in the same manner that the Holy Quran has mentioned it. What the Holy Quran describes of this [indecent] is different from what is generally known. The Holy Quran says that Shaq-ul-Qamar is a sign of “the Hour” [i.e. the last hour or the time of reckoning]. Now, we would give the term “the Hour” that meaning according to which it is considered a sign of the Hour. That meaning is that the moon was the sign of the kingdom of Arabia.

The Holy Prophetsa was shown, in the form of a vision, that the moon split in two and this vision was also shown to others. This type of vision that is visible to others has occurred even in this age. It is possible that the Holy Prophetsa was shown, in this vision, that the moon had split which meant that the kingdom of Arabia would be destroyed. The door to such type of vision is not closed; it is still open.

Evidence to the fact that qamar [moon in Arabic] refers to the kingdom of Arabia is found in the famous incident when the Holy Prophetsa invaded Khaybar. There, [Hazrat] Safiyyah, the daughter of the chief, saw that the moon was placed on her lap. When she told this dream to her father, he slapped her and [rhetorically] asked if she desired to marry the king of Arabia.

The dream was fulfilled when Khaybar was conquered, and she got married to the Holy Prophetsa. So, the moon was the symbol of the rule of the Arabs, and its split predicted the collapse of the kingdom of Arabia.

Prof Margoliouth: Can the miracle of the uniqueness of the Quran be shown again?

Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIra: It has been shown at least 20 times during this era. Our Imam, Hazrat Mirza Sahib, wrote many books in the Arabic language. He set a reward of up to 30,000 rupees and challenged people all over the world to write something similar to this. But no one was able to compete with him. He did not study in any Arabic school, nor did he visit Arabia, nor did he study with a famous teacher. However, in spite of this, he challenged the Arab scholars all over the world, yet no one accepted [his challenge]. 

This was a proof against the allegation that is raised against the Holy Prophetsa that if he was unlettered, how could he have produced the Quran and that the Quran must have been the result of some society’s shared endeavour. This allegation was baseless because even today a man, who was unlettered in a way, by authoring unparalleled books, has proven that the work of his Mastersa was certainly superior. 

Those who issued fatwas against Hazrat Mirza Sahib are still present in India. They can testify that he did not study in any Arabic school, nor did he visit Arabia. His mother tongue was not Arabic, yet he challenged the Arab scholars all over the world. However, no one dared to accept [his challenge]. Al-Manar’s [an Islamic magazine] editor could not reply to this challenge; instead, he wrote that there were many mistakes in his [the Promised Messiahas] books. However, when he was given an answer and was challenged, he was so ashamed and embarrassed that he could not reply and shied away from an encounter.

Prof Margoliouth: If one accepts this challenge, who will decide [its outcome]?

Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIra: Hazrat Mirza Sahib has also decided this. He said that the one who accepts the challenge may himself appoint a judge (provided that the judge is not one of his disciples, followers, etc). However, when the judge makes his decision, he should swear, “If I make any false decision, may God’s punishment befall me within a year.” If no such torment befalls them within the year, which is particularly significant and awe-inspiring, then the reward will be presented. 

Prof Margoliouth: You have shown  great courage and open-mindedness. I have benefited a lot from this discussion and I am grateful to you. 

Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIra: We have a parting message that we give in the hope that you will deliver it to your circle, which is that the world can never progress with harshness and rigidity. It proves to be very useful if a matter is decided through mutual understanding and love. In the same way, if Europeans conduct their research on Islamic matters out of love, it will benefit them and increase mutual love.

Prof Margoliouth: I will try and spread this message within my circle. 

Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIra then gave him some Arabic books of the Promised Messiahas [such as] Ijaz-ul-MasihLujjatun Nur, and Sirat-ul-Abdal; to which Prof Margoliouth expressed his gratitude. Since Prof Margoliouth had to go back to Lahore in the evening, he was, after this brief conversation with Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIra, shown [various sites including] Bahishti Maqbarah, Minarat-ul-Masih, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih’s Ira library, and the buildings in Darul Ulum.

Perhaps it was the effect of this meeting, that after approximately eight years, when a list of invitees for Wembley’s Conference of Living Religions was being compiled, Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra was requested to attend. Prof Margoliouth’s name was also among those who invited Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIra with great sincerity and love on this occasion.

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