The blessed countenance that calls to the true Islam: How the photo of the Promised Messiah has changed the lives of many

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Jalees Ahmad, Al Hakam

View from the Window at Le Gras, the first-ever photograph – or at least first ever surviving photo – was taken by French scientist and inventor, Nicéphore Niépce. Since then, the art of photography and capturing moments came into existence. 

In this day and age, many are awestruck after seeing a spectacular, striking and stunning photo; a moment, as some would describe, “too good to be true.” 

In the 10 August 1899 issue of Al Hakam, an announcement was published with regard to a group photo and a portrait photo of the Promised Messiahas. This was, quite rightly, the first time in history where a photo of a prophet of God was taken. This moment in history proves to be so powerful that its effects are still being manifested to this day. 

The first photograph taken of the Hazrat Ahmadas after his claim

Hazrat Mufti Muhammad Sadiqra, in his book, Zikr-e-Habib, writes:

“The Promised Messiah, on whom be peace, intended to write a book for publication in Europe, which was to be translated into English by Maulvi Muhammad Ali Sahib. It was suggested that since there are physiognomists and sketch artists in Europe, who can judge a person’s moral condition just by looking at their picture, it would be necessary to attach pictures of the author and translator to the book. A photographer was called from Lahore for this purpose, who took the required pictures separately. But later, at the request of others, a group photo was also taken.” (Zikr-e-Habib, p. 299)

This moment in history has played a huge role in changing one’s fate for the better. 

When a portrait of the Promised Messiahas was published in The Review of Religions and sent to Western countries, letters came pouring in from many people addressed to Hazrat Ahmadas. Huzoor’sas photo had had a great impact on people who saw it. In the letters, many people said, “The person in this photo is not a liar.” (Tarikh-e-Ahmadiyyat, Vol. 2, p. 58)

Hazrat Mufti Muhammad Sadiqra writes, “Sheikh Rahmatullah Sahib used to say that when we showed the picture of the Promised Messiah, on whom be peace, to some great men of Europe, they said, ‘He is a great thinker.’” (Zikr-e-Habib, p. 300)

He further writes, “Dr Qazi Karam Ilahi Sahib […] used to say that during the days when he was a doctor in a psychiatric hospital, in Lahore, an Englishman came who claimed to have physiognomic skills by merely looking at pictures. Many people would show him some pictures just for amusement. [Looking at the photos] he would state what kind of a person was in the photo. 

Promised Messiah Group Photo
The historical group photo of the Promised Messiahas along with his companions | 1899

“[Dr Qazi Karam Ilahi Sahib states] ‘I also put a picture of the Promised Messiahas in front of him and asked, “What is your view about this person?” He looked at the photo for a considerable amount of time. Finally, he said, “This is a picture of an Israeli prophet.”

“‘I think the word “Israeli” was said because Jews and Christians, in general, do not believe that anyone had received prophethood after the Israelite prophets.”’” (Zikr-e-Habib, p. 300)

It is recorded in the history of Ahmadiyyat that once, an American lady, after seeing Huzoor’sas photo, expressed her desire to continue to observe Huzoor’sas countenance. She said, “[The person in this photo] looks exactly like Jesus Christ.” (Tarikh-e-Ahmadiyyat, Vol. 2, p. 58)

There is no way of finding how and why this lady said this; however, what is certain is the impact the photo of the Promised Messiahas can have on a person. 

It is also recorded that a lady who was a physiognomist, after seeing Hazrat Ahmad’sas photo, said, “His face resembles that of prophets.” (Tarikh-e-Ahmadiyyat, Vol. 2, p. 58)

Whilst serving as a missionary in America, Hazrat Mufti Muhammad Sadiqra recalls:

“When I was in the United States, I received a letter from a lady who resided in another city, wherein she stated, ‘I was met by a pious Indian gentleman in a vision who guided me through my difficulties. Can you tell me who he is?’ I sent her a few photos [for her to identify the person in her dream], one of which was of the Promised Messiahas. Marking the photo [of Hazrat Ahmadas], the lady sent me a letter saying, ‘This is the pious man [I saw in a vision].’” (Zikr-e-Habib, p. 300)

Prior to the spread of the coronavirus, each year, after completing the Shahid exams, newly qualified missionaries of Jamia Ahmadiyya UK were sent to various parts of Africa. 

I was sent to Ghana for a month. I had heard much about Ghana from the previous missionaries who were also sent there. Personally, I was very excited to see the country where Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmadaa had served for over eight years. Among the things I took with me, I made sure to include a few photographs of the Promised Messiahas so that I could show to the people of Ghana, a photo of the Messiah who was promised by the Holy Founder of Islam, Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him.

One day, after the Fajr prayer, a young man, in his early 20s, came to the mosque where I was based. As is customary in Ghana – at least where I was – after each prayer, members of the Jamaat remain seated and recite the centenary prayers prescribed by Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Vaa. Seeing this, the young man was perplexed. 

After the prayer, when all members had left, this young man began asking me questions rather aggressively and said, “When did the Holy Prophetsa ever say to recite these prayers after Salat.” 

I could understand this young man’s reaction; however, what I couldn’t understand was why he was so aggressive. I explained to him the purpose of the prayers and why we recited them. I even explained that the Holy Prophetsa had prescribed some prayers for certain stages and periods in life. 

We remained seated in the mosque and talked for over an hour. I had provided him a reasonable answer to which he felt some satisfaction. However, his behaviour remained the same. 

As we walked outside, the sun had already risen quite high. I had my diary in one hand. Inside my diary were some photos of the Promised Messiahas. As we made our way towards the mosque’s gate, I started flicking through my diary. From the corner of his eye, he noticed the photo of Hazrat Ahmadas. Seeing the photo, his entire body language, voice and character changed. 

The historical group photo of the Promised Messiahas along with his companions | 1899

He asked, “Who is this?” 

I explained to him that the person in the photo was the Messiah and Imam Mahdi who was foretold to come in the Latter Days. I handed the photo to him and he observed it for quite some time. 

This was my first experience of seeing someone view the photo of the Promised Messiahas for the first time. Since then, he regularly started attending the Fajr prayer in the Jamaat’s mosque.

A recent example of how people are accepting and entering Islam Ahmadiyyat after seeing the photo of the blessed countenance of Hazrat Ahmadas was mentioned by Hazrat Khalifatul Masihaa whilst delivering the faith-inspiring second-day address at Jalsa Salana UK 2021. Huzooraa said:

“Our missionary in Argentina, Marwan Sarwar Gill Sahib, writes that [a young man named] Juan Sahib has done bai‘at this year. He is from Buenos Aires. He had dedicated his life to become a Christian priest, but during his studies, he started having doubts and suspicions regarding the Christian teachings to such a degree that after four years, he had to leave the seminary course. He could not find satisfactory answers in the Christian doctrine, so he started studying different religions. 

“He became interested more and more in Islam and Holy Quran. […] He first came into contact with the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat. He was invited to come to the mission house.

“When he reached the mission house and saw the picture of the Promised Messiahas for the first time, he immediately started asking questions. [The missionary, Marwan Sarwar Gill Sahib, thought] ‘First of all, I should inform him of the basic teachings of Islam’, but he [Juan] insisted, ‘First, introduce me to the Promised Messiahas.’ 

“‘So, I [Marwan Sarwar Gill Sahib] explained to him in detail that he is the same Messiah and Mahdi who has been prophesied to come by all major religions. Upon this, the young man expressed nothing else and left. 

“‘Then, a few weeks later, he contacted me again and said that he was now a Muslim for the last two weeks and now he wanted to do bai‘at. I suggested to him to study [Islam Ahmadiyyat] a bit more but he responded, “I became satisfied on the day I saw the picture of the Promised Messiahas because I already had a connection with that photograph before and when I saw this photograph, I came to realise that I have found a way to reach Allah through the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.”’ 

“He then said that two years ago, when he was in deep search for the truth, he saw in a dream that there was an individual who was explaining to him the ways to find peace and security and he was explaining to him repeatedly, ‘If you want peace, follow my advice.’ 

“[Juan said] ‘At this time, I did not have any familiarity with Islam, nor could I find anything more about the individual I saw in my dream because he was a stranger to me, but when I came to your mission house and saw the picture of the Promised Messiahas, I was immediately reminded of the dream that I saw two years ago.’” 

Hundreds and thousands of people have experienced God and have entered Islam Ahmadiyyat through dreams and visions. Many people have accepted Ahmadiyyat after seeing the photo of the Promised Messiahas on MTA. Several people, after seeing MTA, remembered that they had seen Huzooras in a dream, inviting them to accept the true Islam; others had been visited by the Holy Prophetsa in a dream in which he testified to the truthfulness of Hazrat Ahmadas.

Such occurrences and incidents further increase one’s faith and reaffirm one’s belief in Allah the Almighty. 

Readers of Al Hakam are invited to share their own experience of tabligh and how others, or maybe even yourselves, entered the fold of Islam Ahmadiyyat after observing the blessed photo of the Imam Mahdi, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas of Qadian.

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