Heraclius’ nine criteria for the truth of a prophet and validity of the claim of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as)

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Last Updated on 18th March 2022

Jalees Ahmad, Al Hakam
The Holy Prophet’s letter to Heraclius | Wiki Commons

The Promised Messiah, on whom be peace, explaining the meaning of the revelation جری ‬اللّٰه‭ ‬فيی ‬حلل‭ ‬الانبياء writes:

“This revelation of Allah means that my humble self has been bestowed a portion of the particular circumstances or attributes of all the Prophets from Adam onwards—may peace be upon them—who have come into the world from God Almighty, whether they are from among the Israelites or otherwise. There has not been a single Prophet, a share of whose characteristics or circumstances have not been bestowed upon my humble self to some degree. My nature bears the imprint of the nature of every Prophet.” (Barahin-e-Ahmadiyya Part V [English], p. 144)

Similarly, in another place, Hazrat Ahmadas writes:

“God Almighty has made me a manifestation of all Prophets, may peace be upon them, and has ascribed the names of all Prophets to me.” (Haqiqatul Wahi [English], p. 101)

These two quotes undoubtedly indicate that the authenticity and truthfulness of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad’sas claim of prophethood should be tested in the same way and method as the past prophets were; because all signs, circumstances, and events that befell other prophets befell on Hazrat Ahmadas too‭.‬

Imam Bukhari, in his book Sahih al-Bukhari, has mentioned the famous dialogue that transpired between Abu Sufyan and Heraclius, King of Rome.

To further spread the message of Islam, the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa wrote letters to various kings and rulers inviting them to Islam.

Hazrat Ibn Abbasra narrates that the Holy Prophetsa wrote to Heraclius calling him to Islam. He sent this letter through Hazrat Dihya al-Qalbira and ordered him to hand it to the governor of Busra for him to give it to Heraclius. In the letter, the Holy Prophetsa introduced himself as “Muhammad, God’s servant and Messenger”. (Mishkat al-Masabih, hadith 3926)

After having read the letter, Heraclius stated that if anyone knew about the Holy Prophetas then they are presented before him so that he could make some inquiries to conclude whether he was true in his claim.

Abu Sufyan, who at that time had not accepted Islam, and some others were out accompanying a caravan from the Quraish when Heraclius sent a messenger summoning him. As the group came before Heraclius, Heraclius called for his translator and asked:

“Who amongst you is closely related to that man who claims to be a Prophet?” (Sahih Bukhari, Kitab Bad‘a al-Wahi, hadith 7). In response, Abu Sufyan said that he, amongst the group, was the nearest relative to him. Heraclius called him forward and told the others to stand behind him. Heraclius expressed, through his translator, that he wanted to ask some questions regarding the Holy Prophetsa and added that if Abu Sufyan spoke falsely then his companions, standing behind him, should rectify him.

Abu Sufyan is reported to have said, “Had I not been afraid of my companions labelling me a liar, I would not have spoken the truth about the Prophet.” (Ibid)

In this dialogue, Heraclius – being from among the People of the Book – who knew the qualities of prophets and apostles very well, presented nine criteria by which to test the truthfulness of the claim of the Holy Prophetsa. He asked Abu Sufyan whether the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa met the criteria or not. When Abu Sufyan replied that these standards and criteria were found in the Holy Prophetsa, Heraclius said that then he must be right in his claim of prophethood.

As this hadith has been recorded by Imam Bukhari in his book, it is clear these criteria indicate the righteousness and truthfulness of a claimant of prophethood.

The standards and criteria mentioned by Heraclius shall now be presented below and also be used as a standard to prove the truthfulness of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas of Qadian in his claim.

The first criterion set by Heraclius is, as stated in Sahih al-Bukhari:

سَأَلْتُكَ عَنْ نَسَبِهِ، فَذَكَرْتَ أَنَّهُ فِيكُمْ ذُو نَسَبٍ، فَكَذَلِكَ الرُّسُلُ تُبْعَثُ فِي نَسَبِ قَوْمِهَا

“I asked you about his family and you replied that he belonged to a very noble family. In fact, all the Apostles come from noble families amongst their respective peoples.” (Sahih Bukhari, Kitab Bad‘a al-Wahi, hadith 7)

Thus, the first criterion is simple and easy to understand. It is a well-known fact that Hazrat Ahmadas was born in a very respected family in the country he was raised in. Hazrat Ahmadas belonged to the Barlas branch of the respectable Mughal cast. The Mughal cast was among one of the most honourable casts of India. And then, even among the Mughals, the highest cast is of the Barlas.

Hazrat Maulvi Abdur Rahim Dardra, in his book Life of Ahmad, writes: “He [Hazrat Ahmadas] was a descendant of Haji Barlas, who was the uncle of Amir Timur. It is a fact that Timur belonged to the famous tribe of Barlas which had lived and ruled in Kish for 200 years. This part of the world was known in ancient times as Sogdiana of which Samarkand was the capital. The Encyclopaedia Britannica says that the Sogdians… were a tribe of Iranians. The word ‹Samarkand› itself is of Iranian origin. The word ‘Barlas’ also is Iranian and means ‘a brave man of noble stock.’ Hence the Promised Messiahas was originally Iranian by race, though he and his family were all known as Mughals in India.” (Life of Ahmad, p. 8)

The second criterion was stated by Heraclius in these words:

وَسَأَلْتُكَ هَلْ قَالَ أَحَدٌ مِنْكُمْ هَذَا الْقَوْلَ فَذَكَرْتَ أَنْ لاَ، فَقُلْتُ لَوْ كَانَ أَحَدٌ قَالَ هَذَا الْقَوْلَ قَبْلَهُ لَقُلْتُ رَجُلٌ يَأْتَمُّ بِقَوْلٍ قِيلَ قَبْلَهُ

“I questioned you whether anybody else amongst you claimed such a thing, your reply was in the negative. If the answer had been in the affirmative, I would have thought that this man was following the previous man’s claim.” (Sahih Bukhari, Kitab Bad‘a al-Wahi, hadith 7)

Readers should now examine the Promised Messiah’sas claim on this criterion. No one in the time before Hazrat Ahmadas ever claimed to be the Messiah and Mahdi; otherwise, if this was the case, objectors would have the chance to say that “he was following suit of so and so person”.

Such a claim of being the Messiah and Mahdi did not even cross a single person’s mind as Muslims believed that the Messiah who was to come was to be Prophet Jesusas, the Prophet who was sent to Bani Israel.

The third criterion presented by Heraclius was:

وَسَأَلْتُكَ هَلْ كَانَ مِنْ آبَائِهِ مِنْ مَلِكٍ فَذَكَرْتَ أَنْ لاَ، قُلْتُ فَلَوْ كَانَ مِنْ آبَائِهِ مِنْ مَلِكٍ قُلْتُ رَجُلٌ يَطْلُبُ مُلْكَ أَبِيهِ

“Then I asked you whether anyone of his ancestors was a king. Your reply was in the negative, and if it had been in the affirmative, I would have thought that this man wanted to take back his ancestral kingdom.” (Ibid)

Again, this criterion can also be applied to Hazrat Ahmadas in its entirety. The Promised Messiah’sas ancestors were not kings; however, from ancient times, were loyal subjects of their rulers. Especially Hazrat Ahmad’sas farther, Mirza Ghulam Murtaza Sahib, who was very sincere towards the government. Mirza Ghulam Murtaza was an exceptional physician. 

The fourth criterion, which is a very interesting, is described by Heraclius in these words:

وَسَأَلْتُكَ هَلْ كُنْتُمْ تَتَّهِمُونَهُ بِالْكَذِبِ قَبْلَ أَنْ يَقُولَ مَا قَالَ فَذَكَرْتَ أَنْ لاَ، فَقَدْ أَعْرِفُ أَنَّهُ لَمْ يَكُنْ لِيَذَرَ الْكَذِبَ عَلَى النَّاسِ وَيَكْذِبَ عَلَى اللَّهِ

“I further asked whether he was ever accused of telling lies before he announced his claim, and your reply was in the negative. So, I wondered how a person who does not tell a lie about others could ever tell a lie about Allah.” (Ibid)

Now consider the claim of the Promised Messiahas with this standard. Before Hazrat Ahmadas claimed to be the Messiah and Mahdi, did anyone consider him to speak or forge lies? Not at all! We find the complete opposite. There are testimonies of Hindus, Aryans, Sikhs and Muslims of Qadian, who agreed that Hazrat Ahmadas never uttered a lie even in the most difficult of times.

Whether it be in Sialkot, where the Promised Messiahas spent a good part of life working, or during a law case against him, Hazrat Ahmadas was known for his pure nature and the fact that he always spoke the truth, even if it harmed him.

Even Maulvi Muhammad Hussain Batalvi, who was one of the fiercest opponents of the Promised Messiahas, had stated in detail the pious nature of Hazrat Ahmadas while reviewing Huzoor’sas book, Barahin-e-Ahmadiyya. Maulvi Muhammad Hussain Batalvi testified that he had known the author of Barahin-e-Ahmadiyya from the earliest times. He said that Hazrat Ahmadas was a strong believer of the religion of Islam brought by the Holy Prophetsa and was a truthful person.

He further said, “The author has also been so persistent in the service of Islam, with his money, life, writings, speeches and personal actions, that very few parallels can be drawn among Muslims.” (Ishaat-us-Sunnah, Vol. 7, pp. 169-170)

Thus, before Hazrat Ahmad’sas claim, no Hindu, Arya, Sikh, Christian, or Muslim had ever attributed any lie to Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas. On the contrary, all admired his high morals and good manners and the Muslims used to believe him to be a great saint at the time of the publication of his book Barahin-e-Ahmadiyya. Therefore, from this fourth criterion, the truth of Hazrat Ahmadas and his righteousness in his claim has become manifest.

The fifth criterion presented by Heraclius was:

وَسَأَلْتُكَ أَشْرَافُ النَّاسِ اتَّبَعُوهُ أَمْ ضُعَفَاؤُهُمْ فَذَكَرْتَ أَنَّ ضُعَفَاءَهُمُ اتَّبَعُوهُ، وَهُمْ أَتْبَاعُ الرُّسُلِ

“I then asked you whether the rich people followed him or the poor. You replied that it was the poor who followed him. And in fact, all the Apostle have been followed by this very class of people.” (Sahih Bukhari, Kitab Bad‘a al-Wahi, hadith 7)

Again, this criterion proves the authenticity of Hazrat Ahmad’sas claim as it was not the wealthy who adhered to his message; rather it was the weak and lower class who accepted him at first.

In the Indian subcontinent, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan undertook a task and began to serve his nation. Immediately, well known and influential people joined his group. He began to receive help from chiefs and wealthy individuals. A good number of learned people gathered in Aligarh to assist. However, when Hazrat Ahmadas announced his claim, only the poor accepted and became Ahmadis. The well-known, rich and famous did not pay heed to his call, nor did the great emperors of the country pay attention to Qadian.

During the initial years of the Jamaat, the majority were of humble status. And the donations and chandas that were collected in the Jamaat to spread the message of Islam were also collected from the money of the members of the Jamaat who did not earn a lot. No aid was received from any chief and no state had issued any stipend or fund for the Jamaat.

The sixth criterion mentioned by Heraclius was:

وَسَأَلْتُكَ أَيَزِيدُونَ أَمْ يَنْقُصُونَ فَذَكَرْتَ أَنَّهُمْ يَزِيدُونَ، وَكَذَلِكَ أَمْرُ الإِيمَانِ حَتَّى يَتِمَّ

“Then I asked you whether his followers were increasing or decreasing. You replied that they were increasing, and in fact, this is the way of true faith, till it is complete in all respects.” (Ibid)

This criterion is also proof of the authenticity of the Promised Messiahas. When Hazrat Ahmadas announced his claim, everyone opposed him; so-called scholars of that time issued fatwas of takfir (disbelief) against Hazrat Ahmadas, newspaper editors wrote columns in opposition against him. Ahmadis were severely persecuted. Thus, waves of opposition surged from one end of the country to the other. However, with the help of Allah, first one person accepted the call of the time, then two, then three – in a short time – the number reached hundreds and thousands. No one could halt this divine mission. No opposition or enemy was successful in their efforts of blowing out the light of Allah.

After witnessing this progress, opponents thought that after the demise of Hazrat Ahmadas, this Jamaat would also perish; however, when Allah established the system of Khilafat-e-Ahmadiyya, the Jamaat continued to grow, flourish, and the Jamaat spread from the small hamlet of Qadian to the corners of the earth; this fact only further strengthens this sixth criterion of Heraclius.

The seventh criterion is:

وَسَأَلْتُكَ أَيَرْتَدُّ أَحَدٌ سَخْطَةً لِدِينِهِ بَعْدَ أَنْ يَدْخُلَ فِيهِ فَذَكَرْتَ أَنْ لاَ، وَكَذَلِكَ الإِيمَانُ حِينَ تُخَالِطُ بَشَاشَتُهُ الْقُلُوبَ

“I further asked you whether there was anybody, who, after embracing his religion, became displeased and discarded his religion. Your reply was in the negative, and in fact, this is the sign of true faith, when its delight enters the hearts and mixes with them completely.” (Ibid.)

The teachings of Islam revived by Hazrat Ahmadas had such a profound impact on all those who heard and accepted him. They gave their lives for Hazrat Ahmadas and in the severest persecution did not renounce their faith. They flocked to Qadian to remain in the company of Hazrat Ahmadas and remained loyal Ahmadis until their last breath. 

The impact was such that those few who turned away from the Jamaat would still hold on to those teachings revived by Hazrat Ahmadas and would not discard it as they knew within their hearts of hearts that it was indeed the truth. For example, we have before us the case of Mian Abdul Hakim Sahib Patialvi. He accepted Hazrat Ahmadas and joined the Jamaat. He remained a follower of the Promised Messiahas for 20 years; however, through his misfortune, turned away from the Jamaat. If we look at his beliefs later, it is clear that he did not discard or even abandon his religion and faith. Though he shunned and closed the divine light with his own hands for himself, he did not discard his belief. Mian Abdul Hakim Sahib Patialvi himself writes, which has also been quoted in Haqiqatul Wahi by Hazrat Ahmadas:

“‘I have no equivocation about you, I still believe that you are the like of the Messiah, that you are the Messiah, and that you are the like of Prophets.’” (Haqiqatul Wahi [English], p. 229)

The Promised Messiahas presented the doctrine of the death of the Messiah of Nazareth to the world and stated such conclusive arguments that Mian Abdul Hakim Sahib Patialvi did not deny the death of Jesusas despite turning away from the Jamaat and Hazrat Ahmadas.

Then another matter that the Promised Messiahas clarified was that Allah Almighty still conversed as He did before, and that divine revelation was not a thing of the past. Mian Abdul Hakim Sahib Patialvi, despite having turned away from the Jamaat, did not abandon this notion. Rather, he continued to publish his own revelations he claimed to have received.

Another matter Hazrat Ahmadas clarified was the divine attributes that were attributed to Prophet Jesusas, such as raising the dead physically and creating things out of clay. Hazrat Ahmadas denied these notions and stated that Prophet Jesusas was a noble prophet of God. Mian Abdul Hakim Sahib Patialvi, despite discarding Ahmadiyyat, did not abandon this belief presented by Hazrat Ahmadas. He held on to the beliefs of Hazrat Ahmadas in these matters.

Even if four or five individuals turned away from the Jamaat and Hazrat Ahmadas, it was not because they became displeased and discarded the teachings of Islam he revived. Otherwise, being an absolute apostate in no way denotes that the claimant is wrong in his claim. Even a scribe of the Holy Prophetsa himself became an apostate. And one of the 12 disciples of Jesusas of Nazareth apostatised.

The eighth criterion presented by Heraclius was:

وَسَأَلْتُكَ هَلْ يَغْدِرُ فَذَكَرْتَ أَنْ لاَ، وَكَذَلِكَ الرُّسُلُ لاَ تَغْدِرُ

“And I asked you whether he had ever betrayed someone. You replied in the negative and likewise the Apostles never betray.” (Sahih Bukhari, Kitab Bad’a al-Wahi, Hadith. 7)

Even with a deep look at the biography of the Promised Messiahas, keeping the eighth criterion in mind, one would not find a single iota or instance where Hazrat Ahmadas had been found guilty of even any minor offence. He always kept the promises he made with his companions with his sincere friends and even the promises he made with his enemies, and never let any opportunity come whereby one could criticise any of his actions.

A testimony of a Hindu, with regards to the noble character of Hazrat Ahmadas, has been recorded in The Review of Religions (issue January & February 1922). He states:

“His whole life from the very dawn of boyhood up to his youth and manhood was one continuous chain of virtuous and pious acts.”

The ninth criterion, which is the last criterion, Heraclius said:

وَسَأَلْتُكَ بِمَا يَأْمُرُكُمْ، فَذَكَرْتَ أَنَّهُ يَأْمُرُكُمْ أَنْ تَعْبُدُوا اللَّهَ، وَلاَ تُشْرِكُوا بِهِ شَيْئًا، وَيَنْهَاكُمْ عَنْ عِبَادَةِ الأَوْثَانِ، وَيَأْمُرُكُمْ بِالصَّلاَةِ وَالصِّدْقِ وَالْعَفَافِ

“Then I asked you what he ordered you to do. You replied that he ordered you to worship Allah and Allah alone and not to worship anything along with Him and forbade you to worship idols and ordered you to pray, to speak the truth and to be chaste.” (Sahih Bukhari, Kitab Bad’a al-Wahi, Hadith. 7)

When Hazrat Ahmadas was sent as a messenger, such misleading notions, issues, and ideas were deeply seated within the minds of Muslims that it seemed as if those false ideas were the teachings of Islam. Hazrat Ahmadas refuted these notions such as the belief in Prophet Jesusas being alive in the heavens.

This concept helped Christians spread their teachings and conquer Muslims, especially in British India. Hazrat Ahmadas, with strong and convincing arguments, defeated and disproved this view that even bishops hesitated to compete with ordinary Ahmadis in debates.

The Promised Messiahas refuted those false notions which seemed to lead to the belief that the Messiah of Nazareth, son of Mary, was given attributes that were purely for Allah Almighty. Due to popular Muslim beliefs, Muslims started to believe that the Messiah of Nazareth was capable of creating and raising the dead. Muslims believed – and do so today – that Jesusas is alive in heaven. Thus, supernatural and godlike attributes were attributed to Prophet Jesusas. In this dark era, it seemed polytheism was introduced among the Muslims, but the Promised Messiahas saved Muslims from being engulfed by this darkness.

The Promised Messiahas enlightened the Muslims about the true nature of Jihad. He disproved the false notion that the Mahdi would force others to accept Islam by the sword. The Promised Messiahas forbade the Muslim ummah from all these superstitions and false deeds and established a Jamaat which was free from polytheistic beliefs and evil deeds.

The very first condition of bai’at, as stated by the Promised Messiahas, is: “That till the last day of his life, he shall abstain from shirk (associating any partners with Allah).” The rest of the conditions of bai‘at clearly show that the criterion of ordering to worship Allah alone, to speak the truth, and to be chaste is fulfilled in the teachings of Islam revived by the Promised Messiahas; proving that Hazrat Ahmadas was true in his claim.  

It will not be out of place to mention here that Heraclius was deeply convinced of these criteria and well aware of what scriptures mentioned about the coming a prophet, the Holy Prophetsa, that he announced and declared before the court that day, “If what you have said is true, he will very soon occupy this place underneath my feet and I knew it [from the scriptures] that he was going to appear but I did not know that he would be from you, and if I could reach him I would definitely immediately go to meet him and if I were with him, I would certainly wash his feet.” (Sahih Bukhari, Kitab Bad‘a al-Wahi, hadith. 7)

If Heraclius, the king and ruler of such a great empire was convinced of the authenticity of the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa based on these principles and criteria, then the truthfulness of the Promised Messiahas, who revived Islam, can also be established through these nine criteria mentioned by Heraclius.

(In preparation of the above material, 23 March 1915 issue of Al FazlHaqiqatul-Wahi: The Philosophy of Divine Revelation, Tiryaq-ul-Qulub, Life of Ahmad and Sahih al-Bukhari were utilised)

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