150 years ago: The King of the Pen publishes his first article in defence of Islam

Al-Hafiz Yunus Omotayo, Missionary, Nigeria 

25 August 2022 marked 150 years since, precisely, on 25 August 1872, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas had his first ever article in defence of Islam published in an Indian newspaper, Manshur-e-Muhammadi.  

Impressively, in the decades that followed, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas would assume the Messianic spirit and power that would go on with the Jihad of the Pen (intellectual striving in the cause of Allah) through the vast corpus of writings and religious debates and discourses to earn him the honorific title of The King of the Pen (Sultan al-Qalam) through a Divine revelation (Tadhkirah, p. 91) in recognition of his unprecedented intellectual contributions to the renaissance of Islam and the demonstration of its supremacy over all religions. 

The Promised Messiah

To relive the beginning of his phenomenal intellectual and spiritual revival of Islam, the following excerpt from pages 16-19 of Ahmadiyyat – The Renaissance of Islam, written by Hazrat Sir Muhammad Zafrulla Khanra (President of the Seventeenth Session of the UN General Assembly and ex-President of the International Court of Justice) takes us on a memory lane to the earliest years when Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas began his Jihad of the Pen to revivify Islam and defend it against the staunch intellectual attacks from other religions, particularly by the Hindu Pandits and the Christian missionaries in colonial India. He wrote:

“From about 1872 onwards, [Hazrat] Mirza Ghulam Ahmad began to emerge as a champion of Islam, defending it against the attacks of Christians, Arya Samajists and Bramho Samajists and setting forth the excellence of its teachings in every sphere. He did this by writing articles for publication in newspapers and journals. His earliest article was published in Manshur-e-Muhammadi which used to be published every ten days in Bangalore, Mysore, South India.

“In addition to Manshur-e-Muhammadi, he subscribed regularly to Vakil, Safeer-e-HindVidya Prakash and Riaz-e-Hind all of which were published from Amritsar, and Brother Hind (Lahore), Aftab Punjab (Lahore), Wazir-e-Hind (Sialkot), Noor Afshan (Ludhiana) and Ishaat-us-Sunnah edited by his friend Maulvi Muhammad Husain of Batala. Occasionally he contributed his own articles to some of them. At a later period, he also subscribed to Akhbar-i-Aam of Lahore.

“In his first article published in Manshur-e-Muhammadi on 25 August 1872, he announced that his experience and observation extending over more than a score of years had convinced him that the basis of all goodness in human affairs and relationships was truth and that an easy way of determining the truth of a religion was to discover to what degree it had put forth effective and emphatic teachings designed to establish its followers firmly on the truth. He challenged the followers of all religions to set forth from their recognized religious books their respective teachings in this regard. He promised to award a prize of Rs 500 to any non-Muslim who would set forth from his own religious books one-half or even one-third of the teachings in support of truth that he himself would set forth from the recognized and authoritative books on Islam. No one came forward to take up the challenge.

“Thereafter [Hazrat] Mirza Ghulam Ahmad[as] challenged every statement that was published in an article or book which was in conflict with the fundamental teachings of Islam and refuted every such statement so effectively that every intelligent person was convinced of the correctness and rightness of his views. One out of many instances might be mentioned by way of illustration. In the issue of Vakil, Amritsar, of 7 December 1877, a statement was published on behalf of the Arya Samaj, on the authority of Swami Dayanand, founder of the Arya Samaj, to the effect that the number of human souls was infinite and was not known even to God, so that however many of them might attain salvation their number would not be exhausted.

“[Hazrat] Mirza Ghulam Ahmad[as] wrote a series of articles refuting this position which were published in the Safeer-e-Hind of Amritsar from 9 February to 9 March 1878. Swami Dayanand was touring in the Punjab at the time. In his article, [Hazrat] Mirza Ghulam Ahmad[as] challenged the Arya Samaj to vindicate, its position and offered a prize of Rs 500 to anyone who would establish the correctness of the statement mentioned above. The arguments put forward by him were so conclusive and convincing that Lala Jiwan Das, Secretary of the Central Samaj of the Punjab, issued a statement that the doctrine refuted by [Hazrat] Mirza Ghulam Ahmad[as] did not form part of the basic principles of the Arya Samaj. He added that the members of the Arya Samaj were not blind followers of Swami Dayanand. They did not accept all that the Swami said unless it was found reasonable.

“Swami Dayanand himself put forward no refutation of the articles of [Hazrat] Mirza Ghulam Ahmad[as] and declared that the number of souls was not in fact infinite, but through perpetual transmigration, their number was not exhausted. He invited [Hazrat] Mirza Ghulam Ahmad[as] to a debate on the point in a letter addressed to him. The invitation was accepted by him in an open letter dated 10 June 1878 published in Brother Hind of Lahore, edited by Pandit Shiv Narain Agni Hotri, who commented on the letter as follows:  

“‘So far the Arya Samaj had staunchly held, according to the teachings of Dayanand, based on the authority of the Vedas, that the number of souls is infinite, but it now appears that when [Hazrat] Mirza Ghulam Ahmad[as] refuted this doctrine, Dayanand was compelled to declare that the number of souls is not infinite but that the transmigration of souls is established. What we wish to observe is that Dayanand had instructed his followers, on the authority of the Vedas, that the number of souls was infinite and that they were self-existing. Now that his belief has been refuted, his confession that the number of souls is not infinite clearly shows that Dayanand is going against the Vedas. If the Vedas really teach that which Dayanand has now declared, this is a serious reflection upon his position as a Leader, as he has set forth two contradictory teachings from the Vedas. If the Vedas are silent on the point, it is a reflection on the Vedas.’ 

“There is no evidence of any response from Swami Dayanand, but Pandit Kharak Singh, a member of the Arya Samaj of Amritsar, came to Qadian and offered to hold a debate with [Hazrat] Mirza Ghulam Ahmad[as]. It was agreed that the subject of the debate should be the transmigration of souls, and a comparison of the teachings of the Vedas and the Quran on the subject. Accordingly, [Hazrat] Mirza Ghulam Ahmad[as] wrote a paper which was read out in a public meeting held for the purpose. The Pandit tried to make an answer but felt unequal to the task, lost his temper and returned to his home, whence he wrote to [Hazrat] Mirza Ghulam Ahmad[as] that he would like to continue the debate through the columns of a newspaper. 

“[Hazrat] Mirza Ghulam Ahmad[as] promptly notified his willingness and suggested that the columns of the Safeer-e-Hind (Amritsar) or Brother Hind (Lahore) or Arya Darpan (Shahjahanpur) might be used for the purpose. He also promised to award Pandit Kharak Singh Rs 500 if, in the opinion of judges to be appointed for the purpose, he should be declared to have established his thesis, and proposed that the Rev. Mr Rajab Ali, a Christian missionary, and Pandit Shiv Narain, a Brahmo Samajist, be appointed as judges.”

“[Hazrat] Mirza Ghulam Ahmad[as] wrote a paper in support of the thesis that God is the Creator of the universe, that human souls are not co-existent with God, and that they are all created by God. Pandit Kharak Singh made no response to the proposal of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad[as]. Sometime later he became a Christian and wrote several pamphlets condemning the teachings of the Arya Samaj.” 

“In 1879 [Hazrat] Mirza Ghulam Ahmad[as] had an exchange of views with Pandit Shiv Narain Agni Hotri on the subject of revelation, through correspondence which was later published. Pandit Shiv Narain Agni Hotri was a teacher in the Lahore Government High School. He was also editor and proprietor of the Hindu Bandu and was looked upon as a leader of the Brahmo Samaj which denied the possibility of verbal revelation. The exchange of views continued from 21 May to 17 June I879. 

“Kharak Singh’s experience was repeated in the case of Agni Hotri. In later life, he ceased to be a member of the Brahmo Samaj and claimed that he himself was a recipient of divine revelation and founded a new sect called Dev Samaj.” (Ahmadiyyat – The Renaissance of Islam, pp. 16-19, www.alislam.org/book/ahmadiyyat-renaissance-islam/)

It is interesting to note that Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas would go on to claim, under Divine revelation, to be the divinely appointed Mujaddid (Divine Reformer) of 14th Century Islam. More so, in 1889, he founded the worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and a couple of years later claimed to be the Messiah and Mahdi promised by the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa to champion the cause of Islam in the Latter Days of the world through the revival of its pristine and peaceful teachings as enshrined in the Holy Quran and demonstrated by the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa through his Sunnah (the Prophetic Practice). 

Summarily, and interestingly, too, up to the day of his demise on 26 May 1908, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas wrote and published around 90 books (in the Urdu, Arabic and Persian languages). However, apart from these books which have been later compiled and published in 23 volumes (known as the Ruhani Khazain), he also wrote thousands of epistles or religious letters that have been compiled and published under the title of Maktubat-e-Ahmad

More so, his spoken speeches (written speeches not inclusive) which were instantly transcribed have been compiled and published under the title of Malfuzat. Furthermore, his hundreds of leaflets and handbills have been compiled and published in three volumes under the title of Majmua-e-Ishtiharat

All these treasures of Islam are available on the internet via www.alislam.org

Today, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has continued to advance the Jihad of the Pen initiated by Hazrat Ahmadas through the publication of hundreds of thousands of Islamic literature through the print media; the Internet and the broadcast media etc.

More so, the community has continued to thrive as an international Islamic revivalist movement and missionary organisation under the leadership guidance and direction of its global leader, the Khalifa (Caliph), Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmadaa

Today, it has established its presence across the globe with tens of millions of memberships.   

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