Five objections against the Promised Messiah a.s. regarding the plague

old minara photo
Old image of Minarat-ul-Masih, Qadian

Opponents of the Promised Messiahas, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian suggest five reasons as to why, in their view, the Promised Messiahas stopped his community from taking the inoculation for plague. They include the following:

  1. The founder of Ahmadiyya Jamaat was not satisfied that the inoculation possessed any benefit.
  2. According to him, the disadvantages of plague vaccine were far greater than its benefits and that the effect of the inoculation did not last more than two months.
  3. He believed that taking the inoculation and being cured from it was mere assumption and speculation.
  4. He considered repeating the vaccine after two months as unreasonable and that refraining from it was the real remedy.
  5. He believed that the vaccine had not been tried and tested to the extent of making it suitable for use.

Referring to the first reason, the opponents assert that the Promised Messiahas was not satisfied with the inoculation for plague because he was unaware of how a vaccine works. They refer to an extract of the Promised Messiahas in which he disagreed with injecting oneself with the inoculation, as the inoculation contained traces of the plague vaccine.

 The opponents should bear in mind that the Promised Messiahas claimed to be a messenger of Allah Almighty. He was sent in this world for spiritual and moral reformation of mankind. He was not sent as a scientist or someone with mere worldly knowledge. We can easily understand this fact from an incident mentioned in and hadith.

Hazrat Musa ibn Talhara narrates that, “The Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, and I passed by some people who were at the 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] the people were told about it, so 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)

Hence, the Holy Prophetsa expressed his own opinion about the pollination which proved unproductive because he was not an agriculturist. The hadith explains that only divine commandments are free from imperfection. Likewise, the Promised Messiahas commented on the plague vaccine with his own knowledge and view, it was not revelation from God. Thereore raising such an allegation is very shallow.

Referring to the second reason, the opponents suggest that according to the founder of the Ahmadiyya Jamaat the plague vaccine did more harm than good, and its effect lasted for only one or two months.

The above allegations are baseless because there is not a single statement of the Promised Messiahas which supports these assertions. In fact, we find the exact opposite to what the opponents indicate. The Promised Messiahas states in his book Dafi‘-ul-Bala, published in April 1902:

“People hold diverse opinions about the dreadful disease, which continues to spread throughout the country. Medical doctors, whose opinions are limited merely to physical remedies, stress that it is due merely to natural causes in the land that such bacteria have been born. They believe that these bacteria first lay their adverse effect on rats, resulting in a chain of death among humans; and that this disease has no relation whatsoever to religion. Instead, it is advisable for people to keep their dwellings and drains clean, free from all sorts of filth and rotten matter, and regularly clean them with phenol and the like. They ought to keep their homes warm with fire, and allow for the cross-ventilation of fresh air, and exposure to sunlight. Further, no dwelling should be overly congested lest excessive amounts of bacteria be born from the breath and waste of those who live there. People should not eat unwholesome food. And the best treatment is inoculation. Additionally, if dead rats are found in their homes, such dwellings ought to be abandoned. It is also preferable to reside outside in open areas. Soiled and dirty clothing is to be avoided. Should any person from an affected or contaminated place come to their town or village, he should not be allowed to enter, and if anyone from such a village or town is infected by the disease, he should be expelled, and should not be permitted to mix with society. So, in their view, these are the only measures that may be employed to counter the plague.

Such is the view of the learned doctors and physicians. I do not consider it to be a sufficient and permanent solution, nor do I regard it as completely devoid of benefit. I do not consider it a sufficient and permanent solution because experience tells us that some people died even though they moved out into the open, while others departed this world despite paying particular attention to their hygiene. Others yet, who had themselves inoculated with great hope, still ended up in the grave. So, who can suggest or assure us that all of these measures are a sufficient treatment. Rather, one is forced to concede that although these measures are beneficial to a certain extent, they cannot be deemed a completely successful remedy to rid the country of the plague.

These measures are not completely useless either, because wherever God’s will has decreed it, their benefits are being felt; however, this benefit does not excite a great amount of joy. To illustrate, it is true that if, for example, 100 people get inoculated, and another number of as many people do not, the number of deaths among those who did not get inoculated will be observed to be higher— and among those inoculated, fewer.

However, because the effects of the inoculation last at the most for two to three months, even an inoculated person will become vulnerable again and again, until he departs this world. The only difference is that those who are not inoculated are as if riding upon a horse that can deliver them to the world of death within, say, twenty-four hours, whereas those who receive the inoculation are conceivably riding a slow mule that will carry its riders to the same destination in twenty-four days. In any event, all of the measures taken from a medical perspective are neither sufficient and comforting nor are they utterly useless and without benefit. So, since the plague is rapidly devouring the country, human compassion calls for the consideration of an alternative remedy that can guard against this destruction.”(Defence Against the Plague and a Criterion for the Elect of God, pp. 5-7 [English Translation of Dafi-ul-Bala])

These extracts of the Promised Messiahas speak for themselves and elucidate the fact that he found the inoculation of plague to be a good remedy, but he did not find it to be the only or actual cure. Moreover, he never stated that there was no benefit in taking the inoculation for plague because it only lasts for one or two months. Rather, he pointed out that it is not a complete cure as a person has to repeat the vaccine after one or two months and still, he remains in danger of contacting the plague.

The inference deduced by the Promised Messiahas was not against the ground realities. As it is stated in Encyclopedia Britannica:

“The results in India obtained by British and various foreign observers were uniformly unfavourable, and the verdict of the Research Committee (1900) was that the serum had ‘failed to influence favourably the mortality among those attacked.’ Success was somewhat noisily claimed for an improved method tried in Oporto, but the evidence is of little or no value. Of 142 cases treated, 21 died; while of 72 cases not treated, 46 died; but the former were all hospital patients, and included several convalescents and many cases of extreme mildness, whereas the non-serum cases were treated at home or not at all, some being only discovered when death had made further concealment impossible. Later observations have, however, established that the Yersin-Roux serum is of undoubted benefit when used early in the case, in fact during the First twenty-four hours. Very large doses, so much as 150 cc. may be injected subcutaneously or preferably intravenously, and it is stated to modify the whole course of the disease.” (Encyclopedia Britannica, Vol. 21, pp. 702-703, under word ‘plague’)

The third reason pointed out by opponents is that the founder of the Ahmadiyya Jamaat considered taking the inoculation and being cured from it to be mere assumptions and speculations.

It is absolutely clear from the extracts of the book Dafi-ul-Bala that the Promised Messiahas did not hold such views about the plague vaccine. However, the Promised Messiahas did not consider the inoculation of plague to be a complete remedy. Highlighting the real cause of the plague and its perfect remedy, the Promised Messiahas states in his book, Dafi-ul-Bala:

“This plague, which is spreading throughout the country, has no other cause except that the people have refused to accept this Promised One of God, who, in accordance with the prophecies of all the Prophets, has appeared in the seventh millennium of the world. Not only did the people deny this Messiah but they used abusive language towards him. They called him a disbeliever, and conspired to kill him—and they treated him as they pleased. Thus God, out of His jealousy, desired to issue a warning on account of this insolence and disrespect. God had given news in previous holy scriptures that He would send a severe plague at the time of the advent of the Messiah because of the denial of the people. Therefore, it was necessary that the plague should break out.

The plague has been named ta‘un because it is a response to those who engage in ta‘n [taunting]. Among the Bani Israel [Children of Israel] it would always break out when they engaged in ta‘n. In the Arabic language, the word ta‘un means ‘one who indulges in excessive mockery’. This is an indication towards the fact that the plague is not sent in response to minor acts of taunt and ridicule; rather, it breaks out only when abuse of the one commissioned and sent by God exceeds all bounds, and efforts are made to humiliate him.

O dear ones! Your only recourse is to accept this Messiah with a true heart and sincerity. This is a definite cure. However, a lesser remedy is to refrain from openly denying him, and to desist from using abusive language, and to foster a sense of respect for him in your hearts.” (Defence Against the Plague and a Criterion for the Elect of God, pp. 20-21 [English Translation of Dafi-ul-Bala])

The fourth factor highlighted by the opponents is that the Promised Messiahaa considered that repeating the vaccine after two months was unreasonable and that refraining from it is the real remedy.

The opponents point out a statement of the Promised Messiahas that once when he heard Nawab Muhammad Ali Khan Sahib saying, “How long can this vaccination last for?”, the founder of Ahmadiyya Jamaat quoted an example from Masnavi [a Persian poem written by Jalal al-Din Muhammad Balkhi also known as Rumi] in which a person killed his mother because she was an adulteress. People criticised him and said that he should have killed the adulterers and not his mother. He replied that it was not possible to kill countless individuals, therefore he found killing her to be the most suitable thing. The opponents suggest that the founder of Ahmadiyya Jamaat compared the plague vaccine with the adulteress.

The opponents have failed to understand the analogy. The Promised Messiahas gave this example to highlight that killing bad deeds and refraining from evil practices could only save them from the catastrophe of plague.

According to the opponents, the fifth reason behind the prohibition of plague inoculation by the founder of Ahmadiyya Jamaat was that he believed that the vaccine of plague had not been tried and tested to the extent of making it suitable for use.

As it has already been mentioned that the Promised Messiahas never denied the efficacy of the plague vaccine to a certain extent. The fact of the matter is that the Promised Messiahas was granted a divine remedy and a heavenly cure from Allah Almighty. Therefore, it was impossible for him to depend or rely on a worldly vaccine.

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