Jalees Ahmad, Al Hakam
Among the many prophecies relating to the advent of the Promised Messiah, as found in the traditions of the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa, it is recorded:
إِذْ بَعَثَ اللّٰهُ الْمَسِيحَ ابْنَ مَرْيَمَ فَيَنْزِلُ عِنْدَ الْمَنَارَةِ الْبَيْضَاءِ شَرْقِيَّ دِمَشْقَ
‘‘Allah will send Jesus, son of Mary, and he will descend near the white minaret, east of Damascus.” (Sahih Muslim, Kitab al-Fitan wa Ashrat al-Sa‘ah, Hadith 2837)
It is unfortunate most Muslims claim Prophet Jesusas will physically descend to guide the Muslim Ummah – they have grossly misunderstood the ahadith about the Messiah’s arrival. A plethora of articles has already been penned on this matter.
A brief study of the above hadith is necessary to understand the profound wisdom the Holy Prophetsa conveyed.
We must understand three essential aspects of this hadith. Firstly, why the latter-day Messiah was named ’Isa Ibn Maryam (this has been answered in issues 149 and 150 of Al Hakam)? Secondly, why did the Holy Prophetsa mention “Damascus”? And thirdly, what is meant by “the white minaret”?
The meaning of ‘Nuzul’
One matter, must be resolved from the outset. Many Muslims imply this hadith strengthens the belief Prophet Jesusas would physically descend from heaven as the Holy Prophetsa has sued the Arabic yanzilu – “He will descend”.
As the meaning of nuzul has already been answered and clarified in an earlier article (Al Hakam, Issue 173), in light of this particular hadith, a brief answer shall suffice. The context of this hadith, in no way, denotes a physical descent from heaven. Heaven has not even been mentioned in this hadith. Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas, the Promised Messiah has answered this on multiple occasions throughout his literature. He explained:
“The Arabic word nuzul [descent] is commonly used to connote arrival. A person who arrives at one place from another is described as having descended to that place. For instance, it is said that an army or a camp has descended on such and such a place. This does not mean that the army or the camp has descended from heaven. The Holy Quran has also employed the expression nuzul [descent] for the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him.” (Izala-e-Auham, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 3, pp. 132-133)
With the meaning of nuzul clear, let us move on to the essential points of this hadith.
Why did the Holy Prophetsa refer to ‘East of Damascus’
Before highlighting the wisdom behind why the Holy Prophetsa mentioned Damascus, I must first state the prophecy was revealed to the letter as Qadian is located to the East of Damascus. However, anyone who studies hadith and the words of the Holy Prophetsa would understand that no word of his is bereft of wisdom.
It is well known that the unholy doctrine of the trinity was first conceived in Damascus where Paul began to preach Prophet Jesusas as “God”. And so, the advent of the Promised Messiahas to the East of Damascus – the birthplace of the trinity – indicated he would illumine the world and rid it of this unholy doctrine and purify the world from it. This further alludes to the saying of the Holy Prophetsa that the Messiah would “break the cross”. The Promised Messiahas, in his book, Fountain of Christianity, writes:
“It is also worth noting that as long as Jesusas lived, Paul was his sworn enemy, and, according to Jewish chronicles, he only turned to Christianity after Jesus’ death because he had some selfish desires which the Jews did not fulfil. Therefore, to avenge himself, he became a Christian and pretended that Jesusas had appeared to him in a vision. He first sowed this unholy plant in Damascus, and this is the place where ‘Pauline Trinity’ was born. The Hadith in which it is said that the Messiah who is to come will descend towards the East of Damascus alludes to the same thing. It means that the doctrine of the Trinity will come to an end with his coming, and people’s hearts will be inclined towards the Oneness of God. The appearance of the Messiah in the East signifies that he will become victorious, for when the light dawns it overcomes darkness.” (Fountain of Christianity, pp. 54-55)
What is meant by “the white minaret”
In the Arabic language, manarah signifies the time and the place of light. It is clear minarets are generally used to announce the Muslim call to prayer; a basic method and tool to make announcements.
There are some Muslims who, on taking the above-mentioned hadith literally, believe the Messiah would descend upon a physical minaret. However, as discussed above, the words and wisdom of the Holy Prophetsa are to be understood in full before making such assumptions.
The Promised Messiahas writes:
“The traditions prevalent among the Muslims which speak, for instance, of his descent near a minaret, are only meant to signify that his advent will be a glorious one and that he will be accompanied by Divine power.” (How To Be Free From Sin, p. 7)
In another place, the Promised Messiahas, writes:
“The word ‘minaret’ was chosen to indicate that the land of Damascus will be illuminated and brightened as a consequence of the supplications of the Promised Messiah after having been darkened by all sorts of innovations. You are also aware that the land of Damascus has been the source of the mischief of the Christians. (Hamamatul-Bushra, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 7, p. 225)
About the white minaret, the Promised Messiahas, explaining its significance, said it was a sign of the advent of the Promised Messiah, “his light [teachings] and call would soon reach the corners of the earth.” (Khutba Ilhamiyah, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 16, p. 18)
Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IVrh, whilst commenting on this topic, said:
“The whiteness [of the minaret] is a symbol of powerful arguments and truth. So, he’ll come stationed on truth, and powerful, luminous arguments, and his message would reach far and wide. This would happen in the East of Dimashq [Damascus]. If you study, geographically, Qadian happens to be exactly to the East of Dimashq.” (Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmadrh, English Mulaqat, 11 May 1995)
And so, it is only after focusing on the essential points of the hadith and the words of the Holy Prophetsa that we can comprehend his wisdom and understand how this prophecy would be fulfilled. In a single sentence, the Holy Prophetsa conveyed to the Muslim Ummah, the future of Islam and how the Messiah would safeguard and revive its teachings.
Another point that must be addressed, albeit briefly, is if this hadith was not to be taken literally, then why was the Minaratul Masih in Qadian constructed on the appeal of the Promised Messiahas? The simple answer is, sometimes a material shape is given to matters of the metaphoric realm.
The Promised Messiahas has explained:
“It is also a Divine practise that He [Allah] uses physical illustrations to explain some spiritual matters. The Temple in Baitul Muqaddas [Jerusalem], and the Ka‘bah in Mecca, for example, serve as symbols of Divine manifestation. It is in this context that the Islamic Shariah speaks of the Promised Messiah’s descent on, or near a minaret, in a country which lies to the East of Damascus—just as Adam was given a dwelling in the East.” (How To Be Free From Sin, p. 7)
Alluding to this, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IVrh, in relation to the People of the Cave, once said:
“In the case of Ashab-ul-Kahf, the People of the Cave […] it was discussed, ‘what would be the symbol for their great sacrifices?’. Now, that symbol was, although metaphoric, it was given a material shape of a minaret or a mosque. So, after the discussion, they said, ‘let’s build a mosque’. Now, there was no mosque before to indicate that that would be built on the mouth of the cave of the righteous people. But [a] mosque was built later on to indicate that it was here that God-fearing, believers in the unity of God, people who were persecuted and prosecuted on the surface of the Earth, who had to seek shelter in the caves – under the caves – when they came out, they came out here. […] A mosque became the symbol.” (Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmadrh, English Mulaqat, 11 May 1995)