The Promised Messiah’s Ilm al-Kalam and method of argumentation – Part III


Click here for Part 2

Aizaz Khan, Missionary, Canada
Promised Messiah
The Promised Messiahas

The Promised Messiah’sas ‘rules of engagement’ and guidance regarding religious dialogue

Thus far, we have merely seen a small glimpse of the Promised Messiah’sas masterful art of dialogue in light of his writings. As mentioned in the earlier parts, whatever we can derive from the Promised Messiah’sas conclusive arguments is limited to our own understanding and analysis. Furthermore, we are also limited by the fact that numerous unidentifiable elements of dialogue are not explicitly stated while one is engaged in dialogue. Through experience in dialogue, one understands how to avoid certain things that bar the dialogue from proceeding to a conclusion or how to skillfully formulate one’s arguments to conclude the dialogue more efficiently. This is something that is learned over time and does not necessarily manifest itself during the dialogue.

This is where the Malfuzat and Maktubat of the Promised Messiahas, along with other source material, give us an insight into some of the otherwise unidentifiable elements of the Promised Messiah’sas method of argumentation. In these, we find the Promised Messiah’sas ‘rules of engagement’ and specific guidelines that should be adhered to in religious dialogue. Some guidelines are listed below, in no particular order:

1. Time is required to show someone the truth

“Those people who wish to take part in a religious dialogue but whose true purpose is not to search for the truth, wish to cover everything and settle the deal in one sitting. I call this ‘mazhabi qimaar baazi’ (religious gambling). Like a gambler who wants to cleverly manipulate the situation to receive everything at once, this is what these people do, and we have experienced this and have seen that they try to conceal their true purpose and present numerous hypothetical situations. Thus, I deem it very bad that someone should partake in this religious gambling.” (Malfuzat [1984], Vol. 3, p. 114)

2. Stick to one topic when propagating

“I do not deem interference or intrusion in dialogue on a single matter to be appropriate. When interference occurs during dialogue (with other topics and questions), the entire purpose of what you are saying is lost, and no one gains any benefit.” (Ibid., p.113)

3. Enough time should be set between rounds of a written debate

Hazrat Syed Sarwar Shahra and Hazrat Abdullah Kashmirira went to a town called Mudd to do tabligh and had a debate there. Upon returning, they told the Promised Messiahas about the details of the debate. The Promised Messiahas said that he did not like the fact that such little time was allotted to writing arguments. He stated, “In such a situation, one should never accept the challenge of a debate, for this is like killing (tantamount to killing the message that you wish to convey). When we are the ones who have a claim, then we need extra time to expound upon our claims and evidences.” (Malfuzat [1984], Vol. 4, pp. 155-156)

4. How to reply to multiple lies and allegations

“Nowadays, it is the custom of maulvis to tell 40 or 50 lies at one single time. How is it possible to reply to these in a matter of 3 to 4 minutes? Christian priests also do this; they continue to make many allegations all at the same time. If this ever happens, what should be done is that one allegation should be chosen, and after the matter has been settled on that, you should move on to the next one. Also, rules should be set for the dialogue (to control the opposition).” (Malfuzat [1984], Vol. 4, p.156)

5. How to speak to the general public

“The general public should be told things that are not too subtle or difficult to understand. Allah has made miracles a part of prophethood for the benefit of the general public. The more learned people do not require miracles because they have a greater understanding; for them, truths and verities are enough.” (Malfuzat [1984], Vol. 4, pp. 158-159)

6. Be cautious of what message the opposing party is giving to an audience

“In debates, it should always be remembered that the opposing party should not sneakily deceive the audience. Many times, it happens that these people tell the audience something about us that is in accordance with the public’s false beliefs and upon hearing those things, they become disorderly and in that situation, no matter what is said to them, they do not listen to a thing.” (Malfuzat [1984], Vol. 4, p.160)

7. The truth of eloquence

“The beauty of eloquence is also that something is transmitted in such a way that it reaches the other person’s heart. Otherwise, if something is even written with powerful words but the person to whom it is addressed cannot understand them, then it cannot be deemed ‘eloquent’. So every speaker should take this into consideration.” (Ibid.)

8. Where talks should be held

“Talks and dialogues should take place at such locations and instances where leaders are also part of the gathering, and everyone should speak in a behaved and kind manner. This is because when the enemy knows he has become besieged and overwhelmed, he desires to stop using curse words. Everyone should speak in a manner that shows that they are in search of the truth.” (Malfuzat [1984], Vol. 4, p.167)

9. Give examples

“In order to explain your case, you should always give hypothetical examples using Zaid and Bakr.” (Malfuzat [1984], Vol. 4, p.205)

10. Debate the fundamentals

“Debaters have written that to debate on matters that are branches (sub-divisions) of a topic is useless and foolish. An example of these branches of a topic is like an army, whose officer is ‘the fundamentals’. When fundamentals are established, then the matter with the branches automatically becomes settled too; like when the officer is killed, the soldiers themselves agree upon compromise.” (Malfuzat [1984], Vol. 5, pp. 153-154)

11. Do not debate small and petty issues, like eating of animals

“In these types of debates, one should always try to expound upon the beauties of Islam and its truth. Try to show the good acts that Islam teaches and the harm it saves one from. What benefit does it serve if we begin debating the eating of beef (with Hindus)? He who will favour Islam as a religion would also like to eat beef. There is no need to speak about those things that have a more harmful outcome than good one.” (Malfuzat [1984], Vol. 5, p. 241)

12. Munazirah (dialogue and preaching) must precede Mubahila (prayer duel)

“It is necessary to have some dialogue before a prayer duel so that (the responsibility of conveying) the argument can be completed. It has never been heard that any prophet began a prayer duel without having first conveyed the message. (Maktubat-e-Ahmad, Vol. 5, p. 15)

13. Who speaks first in a debate?

The one on whom the burden of proof rests must speak (or write) first. In a letter to Maulvi Muhammad Hussain Batalvi (as is mentioned in point 2 in the previous section), the Promised Messiahas wrote that the onus was on him to prove that Jesusas was still alive in the heavens. At the end of the letter is a note that reads: “He on whom is the burden of proof is required to present his proofs first.” (Maktubat-e-Ahmad [old edition], Vol. 4, pp. 18-19)

Similarly, whoever makes an objection should speak or write first. In a letter to Swami Dayanand, in which Swami Sahib challenged the Promised Messiahas to a debate on the topic of souls, the Promised Messiahas writes that he has a right to speak first because he was the mu‘taridh (objector) in this case, i.e., the Promised Messiahas was the one who made the objection (on the Hindu belief of transmigration of souls). The Promised Messiahas writes that Swami Dayanand can then make a rebuttal, and the Promised Messiahas will make a final rebuttal, and the dialogue will come to an end. (Maktubat-e-Ahmad [old edition], Vol. 2, p. 70)

14. Written debate, rather than verbal debate, depending on circumstances

Regarding a debate request by Maulvi Hameedullah Sahib in 1891, the Promised Messiahas stated that due to his schedule and multitude of tasks, the debate should be written rather than a verbal debate so that time is not wasted. He also stated that only one round consisting of two papers would be sufficient (i.e., Maulvi Hameedullah Sahib would provide proofs that Jesusas is alive in the heavens and the Promised Messiahas would make a singular rebuttal and conclude the debate.) (Maktubat-e-Ahmad [new edition], Vol. 3, p. 70)

15. The opponent should understand the ways and precepts of Prophethood (منہاج نبوت)

The Promised Messiahas states: “Examine this Movement (Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya) according to minhaj-e-nubuwwat and then see whose side the truth is on. Nothing will come of imaginary and self-concocted principles and estimations; nor do I assert my claims based upon imaginary things. If I  present my claim to be assessed according to minhaj-e-nubuwwat, then why should it not be examined according to this very principle?” (Malfuzat [1984], Vol. 4, p. 34) During religious dialogue, the Promised Messiahas advises: “You should also ascertain whether or not the opponent is cognizant of the ways and subtleties of prophethood. Maulvi Thanaullah kept repeating the prophecy of Abdullah Atham saying that it had not been fulfilled. If the ways and subtleties of prophethood had been decided upon beforehand, how would he have been able to mislead (the people)?” (Malfuzat [1988], Vol.2, p. 476) In another instance, the Promised Messiahas stated that in a debate, one should first make the opponent accept and agree upon the ways and subtleties of Prophethood [minhaj-e-nubuwwat] and sign on it and thereafter proceed with the debate. (Ibid., p. 477)

16. A battle of dialogue

“There is an art to making a statement reach the heart. The battle now is not of the sword; rather, it is of the tongues. So, when one strikes the sword of the tongue, it should not be graceless and in vain. You should strike it so resolutely and precisely that it should sever (whatever it strikes) into two pieces.” (Ibid., p. 481)

17. When the prey does not come near, hunt it from afar

“I have many a time intended that the opponents should sit shoulder-to-shoulder with me and write Arabic [a challenge made by the Promised Messiahas] but my heart gives me the edict that they will not compete because their hearts are engulfed in fear. So, now that the prey does not come near to us, we should target it from afar.” (Ibid.)

18. First, settle the issue of ‘Life or Death of Jesusas

Hazrat Maulvi Syed Ahsan Sahib Amrohira argues that the Promised Messiahas has undeniably proven the death of Jesusas. Opponents must respond to the evidence presented, otherwise, they must accept the death of Jesusas. After accepting that Jesusas has died, then one can debate whether he was the Promised Messiahas. (Al Haqq Mubahisa Delhi, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 4, p. 290)

A debate not only consists of defending Islam but also has an offensive aspect, which is the making of true allegations against the opposing party. The Promised Messiahas has also given us guidance regarding this. He states:

19. Ilzami jawab is justified in dialogue

To present such allegations as are accompanied with proper references that manifest the mistaken beliefs of a party is every researcher’s right; they should be conveyed in a kind and respectful manner, and it should be sought to convey them in a purely informational manner so that people should benefit from them and so that a situation of uprising and revolt should not ensue. (Kitab-ul-Bariyyah, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 13, p. 16)

20. Ilzami jawab is necessary for those who waste time

If one is contending with a person who is a contentious quarreler and is only wasting your time, the Promised Messiahas writes that such an opponent should be warned using an ilzami jawab (remonstrative rejoinder) and that to do so to save time is a necessary practice in debate. The Promised Messiahas states that people have different dispositions; some abandon their obstinacy when confronted with a well-researched reply, but others need to be silenced with a remonstrative rejoinder. However, the true foundation of a rebuttal is indeed investigation and research. (Surma Chashm Arya, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 2, p. 131)

Conclusion – Times will change; our argumentation will not

The God-granted Ilm al-Kalam of the Promised Messiahas is such that it stands as proof for his being the Hakam and ‘Adl (the Just Arbiter) as per the prophecy of the Holy Prophetsa. Through employing the unique principles of Ilm al-Kalam, it became evident that the duty of the Promised Messiahas as Hakam and ‘Adl was fulfilled in this manner. Upon the demise of the Promised Messiahas, Maulana Abul-Kalaam Azaad, a non-Ahmadi journalist, admitted in the newspaper Wakeel that:

“The number of small and big religions in India at the moment that are all vying to announce their presence is truly unique, and you will not have seen this in the world at any other time or place. The claim of Mirza Sahib was that he was the Hakam and ‘Adl of all of these religions. But there is no denying the fact that he had the unique ability to raise Islam above all these other religions. It is difficult to say whether or not, in the religious history of India, there will ever be a man like him.” (Badr, 18 June 1908;  Jadeed Ilm-e-Kalam Ke Aalmi Asrat, pp. 63-64)

As followers of the Hakam and Adl of the age, we have a responsibility to study his writings and continue his mission to the best of our God-granted abilities. In the history of Jamaat Ahmadiyya, opponents have always been subdued in the arena of religious dialogue due to the blessings and purity of the Ilm al-Kalam and the method of argumentation taught to us through the Pure Messiahas. Our mission now is to strive to adopt and learn from the pure principles of argumentation taught to us, to employ the weapons of proof and reason, and to never tire in our pursuit of bringing humanity under the flag of the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa. As Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra states:

“The ‘weapon’ of proof and reason is slow in its effect but produces enduring results.” (Invitation to Ahmadiyyat, p. 153)

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