“Beware that Allah the Almighty has not given the plague the name of mercy, so that the one who dies from it be considered a martyr. This age is full of threats. It has occurred as a sign. It would leave after distinguishing between a believer and a non-believer. Its name is رجز [punishment] and it has been called a torment in my revelation.” (Malfuzat, Vol. 2, p. 542 [1988 edition])
Highlighting the words of the Promised Messiahas from the above extract, “It [the plague] would leave after distinguishing between a believer and a non-believer”, the opponents of the Jamaat and the Promised Messiahas claim that the distinction between a believer and a non-believer was not established or witnessed during the plague epidemic.
The opponents have not presented any proof or evidence to support their claim; a mere baseless objection. The devastatios caused by the plague in the Indian subcontinent and the way it vehemently destroyed villages and towns is recorded in history. In those circumstances, Ahmadi Muslims were greatly safeguarded by Allah the Almighty as compared to the opponents. If, God forbid, Ahmadi Muslims had been affected by the plague in large numbers at any place, opponents would have raised their voices and published this in countless newspapers of that time. However, we do not find any such incident where the opponents recognised the deaths of Ahmadi Muslims in large numbers which demonstrates that Ahmadis were in fact saved in greater numbers than those who opposed the founder of the Ahmadiyya Jamaat.
Moreover, the Promised Messiahas, along with nearly 80 members residing in his house, was safeguarded as per the promise of Allah the Almighty. Furthermore, the opponents have themselves admitted that there was a rise in the number of Ahmadis from 300,000 to 400,000 by March 1906. Instead of dying from the plague, Ahmadi Muslims increased. Hence, the distinction between a believer and a non-believer becomes evident from the course of events that took place during the outbreak of the plague.
Opponents object to another saying of the Promised Messiahas in which he sheds light on the ranks of the Holy Prophet’ssa companions under the heading The Plague and Ahmadis. Once, a bigot Maulvi [Muslim cleric] asked the Promised Messiahas regarding the [handful of] Ahmadi casualties due to the plague and mockingly enquired about its cure. The Promised Messiahas responded by saying:
“Have you [Maulvi Sahib] formulated a remedy [to refute] the sign of the solar and lunar eclipse as well? At present, there lies a discussion regarding the signs and not the cure. Surely, the one who accepts me with full sincerity will certainly be saved, but I do not know who that person is as I do not see beyond the hearts of anyone. A group of companions also embraced martyrdom due to the plague. However, you must observe that Abu Bakrand Umar, may Allah be pleased with them, did not pass away due to plague. God Almighty has made a distinction between His people, as he states:
فَمِنْهُمْ ظَالِمٌ لِّنَفْسِهِ وَمِنْهُمْ مُّقْتَصِدٌ وَمِنْهُمْ سَابِقٌ بِالْخَيْرَاتِ
‘And of them are some who suppress their desires, severely, and of them are some who excel others in acts of goodness’ (Surah al-Fatir, Ch.35: V.33).” (Malfuzat, Vol. 7, p. 141)
Referring to the above extract, opponents assert that the founder of the Ahmadiyya Jamaat has rebuked the likes of Hazrat Abu Ubaidah ibn al-Jarrahra and those companions who passed away due to plague, and that kufr (infidelity) or faith has nothing to do with the matter of falling victim to the plague.
Allah the Almighty has declared the ranks of true believers in the Holy Quran. As it is stated:
فَمِنْهُمْ ظَالِمٌ لِّنَفْسِهِ وَمِنْهُمْ مُّقْتَصِدٌ وَمِنْهُمْ سَابِقٌ بِالْخَيْرَاتِ بِإِذْنِ اللهِ ذَٰلِكَ هُوَ الْفَضْلُ الْكَبِيرُ
“And of them are some who suppress their desires, severely, and of them are some who excel others in acts of goodness by Allah’s leave. And that indeed is the great distinction” (Surah al-Fatir, Ch.35: V.33).
Likewise, Allah the Almighty has declared the ranks of righteous persons at another place in the Holy Quran:
وَمَنْ يُّطِعِ اللهَ وَالرَّسُوْلَ فَأُولٰٓئِكَ مَعَ الَّذِيْنَ أَنْعَمَ اللهُ عَلَيْهِمْ مِّنَ النَّبِيِّيْنَ وَالصِّدِّيْقِيْنَ وَالشُّهَدَاءِ وَالصَّالِحِيْنَ ۚ وَحَسُنَ أُولٰٓئِكَ رَفِيْقًا
“And whoso obeys Allah and this Messenger of His shall be among those on whom Allah has bestowed His blessings, namely, the Prophets, the Truthful, the Martyrs, and the Righteous. And excellent companions are these” (Surah al-Nisa, Ch.4: V.70).
Hence, these verses highlight that Allah the Almighty has divided his near ones and spiritually adept in various ranks. Moreover, every holy person does not belong to a single group. There are different ranks according to their spiritual status and some may fall in one group while the others may possess an elevated status, becoming part of a spiritually higher ranked group.
In the statement, mentioned by the opponents, the Promised Messiahas has discussed the two groups of the companions. Firstly, the group that comprised of Khulafa-e-Rashideen or the first four rightly guided successors of Islam and secondly, the group of all the other companions of the Holy Prophetsa. The Promised Messiahas has expounded that even though some companions embraced martyrdom through plague, but the Khulafa-e-Rashideenremained unharmed because they had prominence over the others in the eyes of Allah the Almighty.
This explanation clarifies that the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat has not carried out that discourse in order to mock or rebuke any companion of the Holy Prophetsa. In fact the opponents have deliberately mentioned the name of Hazrat Abu Ubaidah ibn al-Jarrahra to arouse the sentiments of Muslims as they are emotionally attached with the Holy Prophetsa and his companions. Otherwise, the statement of the Promised Messiahas speaks for itself; he has not in any way reproached Hazrat Abu Ubaidah ibn al-Jarrahra.
The statement of the Promised Messiahas pointed out by the opponents is dated 21 August 1904. He has addressed the same matter on various other occasions as well. He stated under the heading “Death From Plague”:
“This objection of the opponents is wrong that why do people from our Jamaat pass away due to the plague. We have not prophesied at any time that every person who takes Bai‘at on our hand will be safeguarded from plague. However, we say that the most superior in rank [spiritually] do not die by contracting this type of disease … Plague spread in the era of Hazrat Umarra but was he affected by it? … The number of prophets who have appeared earlier is 124,000. Can anybody claim that even a single one among them died of plague? However, there is no doubt for sure that in the times of this disease, certain believers of [spiritually] lower rank contract plague but they are [considered] martyrs. Allah the Almighty covers their weaknesses and sins in the same way He did in the Jihads [holy wars which were fought to defend Islam] against the kuffar [infidels] by the Holy Prophetsa. Although there was a prophecy that only kuffar would be thrown in hell in those Jihads, but certain Muslims were also killed. However, the most prominent class of companions, i.e. the likes of Hazrat Abu Bakrra and Hazrat Umarra were not martyred and the Holy Prophetsa was not martyred as well. This shows that the most elevated group of people [spiritually] are not martyred in this way during a war. Similarly, if any individual from our Jamaat falls victim to the plague, then it will be a source of martyrdom for him and God Almighty shall reward him for it.” (Malfuzat, Vol. 9, pp. 283-284)
Citing the above mentioned extract of 5 May 1907, opponents suggest that the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaatconsidered Hazrat Hamzara bin Abdul Muttalib, a martyr of Uhud, and Hazrat Hussainra, a martyr of Karbala, to be lower in rank than the other Companions. The opponents emphatically ask how those who were martyred could be lower in rank and those who survived be higher in status. Moreover, they assert that there is no such reference in the history Islam to support the supposed viewpoint of the Ahmadiyya Jamaat’s founder.
Pondering over the saying of the Promised Messiahas, singled out by the opponents, we find that he has elucidated the same matter, as explained earlier, that Allah the Almighty has established a distinction between the spiritual ranks and status of His holy persons. The Promised Messiahas has again pointed out two groups and used the term “superior rank” or “superior status” for the first group and “lower rank” for the second group. Hence, he has by no means criticised or defamed any single companion of the Holy Prophetsa.
We would like to point out for the knowledge of the readers that the statements of the Promised Messiahas under discussion have been taken from the reporting of various newspapers. The reporter published the sayings of the Promised Messiahas in accordance with the level and extent of his comprehension. Hence, there lies a possibility of error and misunderstanding in these reports.
In order to fully understand the perspective of the Promised Messiahas, his actual writings hold significant importance as theywould clarify his stance on the matter under consideration. He states in his book Haqiqatul Wahi (The Philosophy of Divine Revelation) published on 15 May 1907:
“Ever since the creation of this world, no Prophet of God has ever died of the plague. True, such believers who are not totally cleansed of sin, do sometimes contract the plague and die from it. This kind of death serves as an atonement for their sins and it is a kind of martyrdom, but nobody would have ever heard that, being Musa, someone contracted the plague. Only a person who is extremely wicked, filthy, and depraved could dare hold the belief that a Prophet or Vicegerent of God ever died of the plague. Therefore, if this kind of death by the plague had been a laudable type of martyrdom, upon which there could be no kind of criticism, then the Prophets and Messengers of God would have been the first to merit it. But as I have just stated, no one can prove that any Prophet or Messenger or a holy person of the highest order, who held the distinction of converse and discourse with God, ever suffered from this evil disease since the inception of the world and then died of it. On the contrary, the primary targets of this disease have, from the very beginning, been those very people who were guilty of a variety of sins and transgressions or who were disbelievers and faithless. Reason does not at all permit that Allah’s Prophets, Messengers, and recipients of His revelation should similarly suffer from the disease which God has prescribed to punish the disbelievers since the earliest of times.
“The Torah, the Gospel, and the Holy Quran – all three unanimously declare that the plague has always been sent down to punish the disbelievers. Moreover, as is borne out by the revealed Scriptures and history, God has caused hundreds of thousands of disbelievers, transgressors, and wicked people to perish through this very plague from the very beginning. God is far above and beyond allowing His Elect to become victim of this chastisement together with the disbelievers, and allow His exalted Prophets to suffer the same chastisement from which thousands of evildoers have always been dying during the time of the Prophets.” (The Philosophy of Divine Revelation, pp. 682-683)
The Promised Messiahas further states:
“The Holy Quran and the Torah both testify that the plague symbolises the wrath of God. Believers of the highest class and the Elect of God like Prophets and Siddiqin [the Truthful] have never suffered from the plague. No one can prove that people belonging to this class ever contracted the plague, because it is a chastisement of God which comes down to punish the disbelievers and transgressors and those who go on committing sin. The Elect of God are never made to partake of it.”(The Philosophy of Divine Revelation, pp. 705-706)
(Research conducted by a panel of scholars at the Research Cell, Rabwah. Translated by Al Hakam)