Did the Promised Messiah a.s. deeply study and master Arabic before his claim?


Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Promised Messiahas, states:

“Another sign for him [the Promised Messiah] is that God Almighty has granted great eloquence to his statements in the Arabic language, with due regard to truth and wisdom, even though he is not an Arab, nor was he well-versed in their language, nor had he thoroughly studied the vast corpus of Arabic literature.

“Likewise, he is not from amongst those who have been fed milk from the breast of eloquence. Yet there was not even a single human being who could compete with him in this fierce battle. In fact, they [his opponents] did not even come close to [challenging] him out of the fear of humiliation.

“This [God-given eloquence] is, in fact, the drink that no other has sipped in this age. God offered him to partake of this drink, so he drank it from the Lord of all mankind. You neither reflect, nor act with righteousness.

“So where are you going? Do you say that he is a poet? Actually, the poets do not speak except in vain talk, and they wander aimlessly in every valley. Have you ever seen a poet who does not forsake truth and verities, and does not utter anything except points of cognition and subtle truths, and does not speak except in wisdom, and does not utter anything but subtle points replete with knowledge [about God]? Rather, the poets speak like those who talk nonsense, or like madmen who babble deliriously.

“On the contrary, you will find this discourse [of mine] to be filled with subtle points of spirituality and divine insights. Moreover, it is designed with the utmost refinement, exquisite composition, and lofty wording, and you will not find in it anything without purpose.

“What is the matter with you that you do not reflect? God is my Witness that my writings are a shadow of the eloquence of the Holy Quran, so that it may be a Sign for those who reflect. Do you allege that I am a plagiarist? If you are truthful, then do produce the likes of these ‘plagiarised pages’, which adhere firmly to truth and wisdom.

“Is there a writer amongst you who can compose the calibre of writing I have composed? If you cannot do so – and you certainly will not – then know that it is a Sign like other Signs for a people who see.” (The Philosophy of Divine Revelation, pp. 797-798 [English Translation of Al-Istifta in Haqiqatul Wahi])

Promised Messiah

Referring to the words, “he [the Promised Messiahas] was not well-versed in their [Arabic] language, nor had he thoroughly studied the vast corpus of Arabic literature,” the opponents of the Promised Messiah and Mahdi, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas, submit that he is misleading others by writing these words in the year 1907 in his Arabic book, Al-Istifta, because he was very proficient in Arabic even before he presented the revelation regarding his claim of divine appointment.

In their view, the Promised Messiahas had deep knowledge of Arabic literature since 1879 because in that year, he wrote the preface of Barahin-e-Ahmadiyya in Arabic and then in his book, Shahna-e-Haq (1887), he quoted an Arabic couplet and presented a linguistical analysis of the words hindu and tawaffi in detail.

Before responding to this allegation, it is appropriate to mention a previous objection of the opponents as, ironically, it is the exact opposite of this one. The opponents first objected that the founder of the Ahmadiyya Jamaat did not know good Arabic before 1893, and he suddenly claimed to have divinely mastered Arabic in that year because Hazrat Maulvi Nuruddin Sahib, Khalifatul Masih Ira, who was well-versed in Arabic, decided to stay permanently in Qadian and he used to help him write Arabic books.

We have addressed this allegation in previous articles of Responding to Allegations. On the contrary, the opponents are now saying that from the time when the founder of the Ahmadiyya Jamaat wrote the books, Barahin-e-Ahmadiyya (1880) and Shahna-e-Haq (1887), he was well-acquainted with Arabic literature.

Readers can decide which of the above mentioned two contradictory statements of the opponents is really true and which one is merely an expression of their deep hatred and envy towards the Ahmadiyya Jamaat and the Promised Messiahas.

As far as the objection under discussion is concerned, the opponents have used their traditional approach of cherry picking some words of the Promised Messiahas from his Arabic book Al-Istifta (1907), and presented them out of context to create confusion and spread misinformation. Then, they have presented one and a half pages of the Arabic preface of Barahin-e-Ahmadiyya, and an Arabic couplet quoted in Shahna-e-Haq, as proof that the Promised Messiahas had profound knowledge of Arabic literature before 1907.

In this way, the opponents attempt to deceive people by exaggerating the facts and making false arguments.

If we read the complete excerpt of the Promised Messiahas presented at the outset, its context clearly shows that he is simply referring to the fact that Allah the Almighty granted him eloquence in Arabic language and he did not achieve this through his own effort or studying.

Moreover, the argument that the Promised Messiahas was a master of Arabic literature as he quoted an Arabic couplet or cited linguistical analysis from Arabic dictionaries, is flawed because a person with a little understanding of any language can easily find a few examples to prove something in that language. It is not difficult to look up a book and refer to it, because such books are made for those people who do not know that language and they understand the meaning with their help. It is not necessary to read all the literature of a language to give such examples. Simply quoting or giving some linguistic analysis of a language does not mean expertise.

On the other hand, only mentioning the words, “he [the Promised Messiahas] was not well-versed in their [Arabic] language, nor had he thoroughly studied the vast corpus of Arabic literature”, completely out of context and saying that the Promised Messiahas is stating here that he did not know Arabic at all and had not read a single Arabic book is also extremely false and disingenuous.

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The Promised Messiahas never made a claim that he didn’t read any book of Arabic; rather, he said he never had mastery or a special ability in Arabic and that Allah had taught him this mastery. Using such cherry-picked quotes without context is like saying that Allah the Almighty instructs, “Do not approach Salat,” by using the words, لَا تَقۡرَبُوا الصَّلٰوۃَ in the Holy Quran.

However, when we read the verse with its context:

یٰۤاَیُّہَا الَّذِیۡنَ اٰمَنُوۡا لَا تَقۡرَبُوا الصَّلٰوۃَ وَ اَنۡتُمۡ سُکٰرٰی

“O ye who believe! approach not Salat when you are not in full possession of your senses,” the meanings become clear.

Likewise, if the entire statement of the Promised Messiahas is read, everything becomes clear, that he did not know Arabic as much as a person who is either a born Arab or has learned Arabic.

It is absolutely wrong to conclude from the words quoted by the opponents that the Promised Messiahas had not read a single book of Arabic.

Estimation of total Muslim population

Another objection raised by the opponents is that the total number of the world’s Muslim population was 200 million in the time of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas, but the figures he has mentioned in his writings were inaccurate and exceed the actual population of Muslims. The total number of Muslims that were present at the time of the Promised Messiahas is not mentioned in any verse of the Holy Quran or any hadith of the Holy Prophetsa.

On the other hand, the Promised Messiahas neither counted the Muslim population of every country in the world, nor did he mention that God revealed this number to him by revelation. Rather, the figures he has written in his books are based on what was reported in the newspapers according to the estimates presented by the people of his age.

Moreover, there is no question of objection even if the Promised Messiahas had estimated the population of the Muslims of his time and it had turned out to be wrong.

Islam does not support the idea that a prophet’s estimation cannot go wrong or that he is master of all the sciences and knowledges of the world. He can make mistakes and miscalculations. A prophet can say something from his own reasoning and there is nothing to object if it turns out to be inaccurate or wrong altogether. As we find in the following hadith:

اَتَی النَّبِیُّ بَنِیْ حَارِثَۃَ فَقَالَ اَرَاکُمْ یَا بَنِیْ حَارِثَةَ قَدْ خَرَجْتُمْ مِنَ الْحَرَمِ ثُمَّ الْتَفَتَ فَقَالَ بَلْ اَنْتُمْ فِیْہِ

“The Holy Prophetsa went to the tribe of Bani Haritha and said to them by his own inference, ‘I see that you have gone out of the haram [inviolate zone]’, but after looking around and examining, he withdrew his previous statement and said, ‘No, you are inside the haram.’” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab Fazail al-Medina)

It should be borne in mind that prophets are sent to promulgate spiritual matters that are taught to them by Allah the Almighty. It is not necessary for a prophet to be acquainted with every worldly knowledge or matters that have nothing to do with spirituality. If every knowledge is given to a prophet through revelation, then he does not need to consult anyone.

It is for this reason that the Holy Prophetsa used to consult his companions about matters that were not revealed to him by God. During the Battle of Badr, for example, Muslims encamped in the area of Badr on the instruction of the Holy Prophetsa. One of the companions asked, “O Messenger of Allah, did you choose this place by divine revelation or is this your own opinion?” The Holy Prophetsa replied that he did not receive any revelation from God about it. Upon hearing this, the companion replied, “Then I submit that the encampment at this place is not strategically suitable with respect to war.” Thus, taking his companion’s opinion into consideration, the Holy Prophetsa left that field and camped at another place. (Sirat ibn Hisham, Ghuzwa al-Badr, Juz‘ 1, p. 336)

Hence, it is clear from the incident that a prophet is not sent to tell the people which place is suitable for war and which is not. Most of the Holy Prophet’ssa life was spent in Mecca, where most of the inhabitants were merchants or traders. After the migration, he came to Medina where the majority were engaged in agriculture.

The Holy Prophetsa was certainly sent to teach religious matters and guide people to advance in spiritually. Allah the Almighty did not send him to teach the principles of agriculture and we can easily understand this fact from an incident mentioned in a hadith.

Hazrat Musa ibn Talhara narrates, “The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, and I passed by some people who were on top of date palms. The Holy Prophetsa said, ‘What are these people doing?’ They replied that they were pollinating them and putting the male with the female so that it would bear fruit. The Holy Prophetsa said, ‘I do not think that it is of any use.’ [The narrator states that] as the people were told about it, they stopped doing it. As a result, the trees did not bear any fruit. When the Holy Prophetsa was told about this, he said, ‘If it had benefited them, they should have continued their practice. I only expressed a thought. Do not blame me for what I say based on my own thoughts [i.e. do not follow an assumption]. But if I express something to you from Allah, then follow it, for I never tell lies about Allah, the Glorified and the Exalted.’” (Sahih Muslim, Kitab-ul-Fazail)

At the Battle of Ahzab, when it was learned that all the tribes of Arabia were coming together to attack Medina, the Holy Prophetsa became concerned as Muslims were fewer in number. Hazrat Salman Farsira, a non-Arab, Persian companion, said, “O Prophet of Allah, we follow a war technique in our country when the number of the enemy is high; people dig a trench around their town and thus save themselves from the enemy’s attack.”

Hence, accepting his idea, the Holy Prophetsa dug a trench around Medina. When the armies of the Arab tribes invaded Medina, they were surprised to see the trench because the Arabs had no prior experience of ditches and thus, the people of Medina stayed safe. Owing to this, the Battle of the Ditch also became famous by the name of Ghazwa al-Khandaq (Battle of the Ditch). (Sirat ibn Hisham, Ghazwa al-Khandaq, Juz‘ 2, p. 141)

It is evident from the above examples that prophets are primarily taught religious and spiritual knowledge by God Almighty for which they are divinely commissioned. As far as other matters are concerned, they find out by their own observations or hearing the opinions of other people.

Hence, the Promised Messiahas has mentioned those figures in his books that the researchers of his time described in newspapers about the population of Muslims in the world. Neither did he present those figures considering divine revelation, nor did he count every single Muslim of his age.

(Research conducted by the Research Cell)

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