A question posed to the Jamaat by its opponents is why the founder of the Ahmadiyya Jamaat challenged his opponents to announce in their respective towns that they would be safeguarded from the outbreak of plague. The opponents question why – God forbid – a person should ascribe a false proclamation to God when He had, supposedly, made no such promise to him that his town would remain safe from the plague?
Turning back the pages of time, we find that Hazrat Sheikh Abdul Qadir Gilanirh shed light on the ways Allah the Almighty showers His blessings through awliya-ullah (beloved ones of God), as he states in his book Futuh al-Ghaib regarding God’s beloved ones, when they successively accomplish the stages of attaining nearness to Allah the Almighty:
“Thenceforth, you [the beloved of God] will become the successor of every messenger, siddiq [truthful] and prophet of God. You will achieve the highest status of wilayat [saintliness] and the holy men will gather around you. Through your [prayers], difficulties will perish, the clouds will shower rain and the fields will yield harvest. By your prayers, the calamities and troubles will be removed of all and sundry, even of those living in the frontiers, of the rulers and the subjects, of the leaders and the followers and of all mankind. So you will be the chief police officer for the cities and the people.” (Futuh al-Ghaib, Maqala al-Rabia, Maut al-Ma‘anwi)
Hazrat Sheikh Abdul Qadir Gilanirh further states:
“God says in some of His books, ‘O son of Adam, I am God and there is none worthy of worship besides Me. I say to a thing, ‘Be!’ and it is. [Be obedient towards Me, I will grant you such reward that] if you say to a thing, ‘Be!’ it will start to happen. Verily, it has been His way with many of His Prophets and awliya [beloved ones of God] and the chosen ones from among the sons of Adam.” (Futuh al-Ghaib, Maqala al-Sadisa Ashara, Tawakal wa Maqamatihi)
He then states:
“They [the beloved ones of God] serve to prolong the stability of the heavens and the earth, and they are a source of comfort for the dead and the living, as their Lord has made them like pillars for the earth which He has spread. Hence, each one of them is like a mountain which stands firm.” (Futuh al-Ghaib, Maqala al-Rabia Ashara, Atibba Ahwal al-Qaum)
In the above cited extracts, a highly exalted beloved of God, born in the Ummah of the Holy Prophetsa, Hazrat Sheikh Abdul Qadir Gilanirh, has mentioned the way in which Allah the Almighty acted towards him and other seekers of God’s nearness. It is clearly evident from the excerpts that through the blessings of near and dear ones of Allah the Almighty, their towns are safeguarded from calamities and disasters.
Precisely for this very reason, the founder of the Ahmadiyya Jamaat challenged his opponents that if in their view he was not divinely commissioned and they were the ones near to God, then they should announce regarding their respective towns that Allah the Almighty would safeguard them through their blessings. If nobody had the courage to announce it – and in fact not a single opponent did – then it is a practical indication that neither were they God’s beloved ones, nor did God consider them His near ones because they were not saved from the catastrophe. However, it is impossible that the entire world becomes completely devoid of holy persons at a given point in time, hence it was only the founder of the Ahmadiyya Jamaat who categorically announced that Allah the Almighty had promised him that He would safeguard him and his spiritual family from the plague epidemic.
History bears witness that the Promised Messiahas foretold the great epidemic of plague receiving revelation from Allah the Almighty and in accordance with the prophecy, the plague outbreak engulfed a greater part of the Punjab. It was at a time when there was hardly any plague in the Punjab and there was nothing to indicate that it would spread like wildfire and thousands of people would die on a weekly basis.
During those circumstances, the Promised Messiahas received another revelation from Allah the Almighty and declared in the year 1902:
اِنِّيْ اُحَافِظُ كُلَّ مَنْ فِي الدَّارِ۔۔۔ و احافظک خاصۃ
“I shall safeguard all those who are in this house … and I shall safeguard you in particular” (Nuzul-ul-Masih, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 18, p. 401). Moreover, the Promised Messiahas challenged his opponents to publish an announcement, if they believed that Allah was on their side, saying that their abodes would be saved from the calamity of plague. Furthermore, Hazrat Ahmadas said that if any one of them dared to declare that their town would be saved from the plague, it would surely be engulfed by it.
On the other hand, by the blessings of Allah the Almighty, the Promised Messiahas, his family and nearly 80 members who dwelled in his house were safeguarded from the great catastrophe and the town of Qadian was miraculously protected as compared to the other parts of the subcontinent. Hence, the divine announcement by the Promised Messiahas was fulfilled with great grandeur.
The Ahmadiyya Jamaat was not only safeguarded in abundance from the plague outbreak as compared to others, but in fact its progress took giant strides in those days. The Promised Messiahas states:
“I claim with full confidence and emphasis that if one person of our Jamaat dies of the plague, 100 or even more enter into our Jamaat in his place. This plague continues to increase the number of our Jamaat and continues to decimate our opponents. Each month, at least 500 and, at times, 1,000-2,000 new persons enter the fold of the Jamaat on account of the plague. Thus, the plague is a boon for us, but a bane and a chastisement for our opponents. I am sure that if the plague continues to remain rampant as it is now for another ten to fifteen years, the entire country will be filled with the Ahmadiyya Jamaat. It is an established fact that the plague continues to increase the numbers of our Jamaat and decrease those of our opponents. And if someone can prove otherwise, I solemnly declare under oath to God that I shall pay 1,000 rupees in cash to such a person. Is there anyone to challenge this offer and collect the reward from me?” (The Philosophy of Divine Revelation, p. 713 [English Translation of Haqiqatul Wahi])
Similar to the statement mentioned in the above extract, the Promised Messiahas repeatedly stated that only a handful of people would pass away from the Jamaat, particularly those who do not abide by the conditions of Bai‘at.
During those days, the Jamaat’s weekly newspapers Al Hakam and Al Badr continued to publish lists of names and addresses of all new Ahmadi converts belonging to different areas of the subcontinent. If the opponents had any kind of doubt regarding this matter, they would surely have pointed out and contended that the names mentioned in those newspapers were not inhabitants of their towns and localities, or that the persons by those names did exist but were not Ahmadis.
There is not a single reference which shows that any opponent claimed that the founder of the Ahmadiyya Jamaat was publishing false lists of new Ahmadi converts in the Jamaat’s newspapers and it elucidates the fact that the above statement of the Promised Messiahas is entirely true and valid. It can also be comprehended by the statement of Allah the Almighty in the Holy Quran:
أَفَلَا يَرَوْنَ أَنَّا نَأْتِي الْأَرْضَ نَنْقُصُهَا مِنْ أَطْرَافِهَا ۚ أَفَهُمُ الْغَالِبُونَ
“Do they not see that we are visiting the land, reducing it from its outlying borders? Can they even then be victors?” (Surah al-Anbiya, Ch.21: V.45). Centuries have passed over this declaration, but Muslims are still less in number than the non-believers.
Instead of indicating that the founder of the Ahmadiyya Jamaat was false in his claims, the opponents admit on other occasions that the increase in the number of Ahmadis stopped in the year 1906 and their number did not exceed the figure of 400,000, acknowledging that there was an increase in the number of Ahmadis during the years of the plague.
The opponents had every opportunity to raise objections that the causalities of Ahmadis were greater in number and their loss was very little. However, even those newspapers that were run by outright enemies of the Promised Messiahas did not publish any such statement. For instance, an opponent of the Ahmadiyya Jamaat, Maulvi Sanaullah of Amritsar mentioned the details of the devastations and destructions caused by the plague on page 11 of his newspaper Ahl-e-Hadith, published on 26 April 1907:
“Apart from last year’s devastations [of the plague], during the month of February and March in the current year, there were 35 casualties in the small town of Qadian … The list of deaths caused by the plague [is as follows]:
1896: 1704 deaths
1897: 56,055 deaths
1898: 101,853 deaths
1899: 134,789 deaths
1900: 93,150 deaths
1901: 273,679 deaths
1902: 577,427 deaths
1903: 8,510,263 deaths
1904: 1,022,299 deaths
1905: 950,863 deaths
January to April 1906: 170,000 deaths”. (Ahl-e-Hadith Amritsar, 26 April 1907, p. 11)
Recording weekly deaths caused by the plague, Maulvi Sahib states:
“Below are the details of deaths that happened in Punjab Districts (subcontinent) due to the plague in the week that ended on 6 April (1907):
“Hisar, 100 deaths; Rohtak, 1979 deaths; Gurgaon, 137 deaths; Dehli, 577 deaths; Karnal, 733 deaths; Ambala, 1678 deaths; Hoshiarpur, 815 deaths; Jalandhar, 2415 deaths; Ludhiana, 2411 deaths; Ferozpur, 1790 deaths; Montgomery, 296 deaths; Lahore, 2170 deaths; Amritsar, 1132 deaths; Gurdaspur, 2275 deaths; Sialkot, 3781 deaths; Gujranwala, 5254 deaths; Gujrat, 2659; Shahpur, 1184 deaths; Jehlum, 527 deaths; Rawalpindi, 436 deaths; Attock, 231 deaths; Multan, 1 death; Patiala State, 527 deaths; Kapurthala, 764 deaths; Malerkotla, 106 deaths; Junaid, 200 deaths; Kalisiya, 119 deaths; Fridkot, 117 deaths and Nabha, 527 deaths, making a total 34,436 deaths.
“Last week’s death toll is 29,154 and the deaths in the same week last year amount to 4,275 … Schools in Lahore remained closed due to the increase in the spread of the plague. (We seek refuge in Allah.)” (Ahl-e-Hadith, Amritsar, 26 April 1907, p. 11)
One should ponder over this fact that in the above-mentioned newspaper of the arch-enemy of the Jamaat, it was stated that 35 deaths occurred in Qadian, without any mention as to how many of them were Ahmadis or non-Ahmadis. Had there been a single Ahmadi death in those 35, there would have been an uproar and a tempest of mockery accompanying it.
This was the time when another opponent’s newspaper, Paisa Akhbar used to publish false news to prove that the Promised Messiahas was a false claimant. Even then Ahl-e-Hadith never alleged names or numbers of Ahmadis who might have passed away due to the plague.
However, the Promised Messiahas in his book Nuzul-ul-Masih exposed the untruthful and deceitful claims of Paisa Akhbar during the years of its publication and stated that there were three types of false news being published by it. Firstly, names of those people were mentioned to have died from plague who were in fact alive; secondly, those names were mentioned who were not inhabitants of Qadian and thirdly, those deaths were mentioned that had occurred due to some other reasons and not because of the plague.
Despite the fact that the Promised Messiahas announced many times over that if someone considered themselves to be a near one of God, they should declare that their town would be saved from the plague, yet nobody accepted the challenge. On the other hand, the Promised Messiahas declared that his town would be saved, and his claim was proven correct and truthful in every respect, Alhamdolillah.
(Research conducted by a panel of scholars at the Research Cell, Rabwah. Translated by Al Hakam)