Why Muslims are confused about the Messiah

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Saeed ur Rehman, Missionary of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat

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Anti-Ahmadiyya rhetoric on the web is nothing new. Social media forums have their fair share of torch-wielding mobs calling for everything, from outright genocide of all Ahmadis to their sequestering in camps.

Recently, the coronavirus outbreak forced large parts of the Islamic world to go into lockdown and Twitter lit up with anti-Ahmadiyya rhetoric as keyboard warriors had a field day.

Apart from the usual abusive tweets and the ones replete with logical fallacies were the ones that made the claim that as the Promised Messiah, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas had not predicted, or given a cure for the coronavirus, he could not possibly be the true reformer of our age.

Although this is something that has been used by the antagonists of each and every prophet, including the Holy Prophetsa; this brings to light one of the major misconceptions that the non-Ahmadi Muslims have about the personage of the Messiah.

If we study Islamic eschatology, especially the books written during the dark ages of Islam, which the present day zealots are prone to quote and follow, we can see that there are four types of misconceptions that the Muslim world had about the Promised Messiah.

All of them arise from misinterpretation of the various ahadith about the end of times and from giving precedence to various legends that seeped into Islamic religious literature from Jewish and Christian sources over time.

The first type of misconception was that instead of interpreting the various traditions of the Holy Prophetsa as being descriptions of the same person, they thought that two people would arrive. One would be the Mahdi, a legendary figure, who would have as many differing forms as are Islamic sects.

From the Shiite notion of an immortal figure to the Sunni misconception that he would be a ruler during the second coming of Christ.

The second person to appear, according to their misinterpretation of sources, was Jesusas, the Messiah of Jews. Due to various misinterpretations of the text and the Holy Quran, Muslims of the Islamic Dark Ages made the grave error of believing in parts of the Christian myth of the death and resurrection of Jesusas. So they came to the wrongful conclusion that the saviour of mankind would not be a prophet of Islam born at the end of time, rather he would be the Israelite Prophet, Jesusas.

Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih IVrh sums this up, stating:

“It is a tribute to their relentless obstinacy that they would much rather have a convert prophet from space than a prophet born here on earth, within Islam. They do so because there are many more advantages from this fairy tale visit of Jesus to be gained. He, as a visitor from space, would not be the same ordinary human prophet as he was, but would have amassed prodigal superhuman powers unheard of in the history of prophethood before his return to earth.” (Revelation, Rationality, Knowledge and Truth, p. 702)

These misconceptions, that actually two people will come, when instead only one had been prophesied, led non-Ahmadi Muslims down the path of denial and so, many of them are still awaiting the arrival of the Messiah and then the descent of Jesusas. The second misconception that many non-Ahmadi Muslims hold, in one form or another, is the notion that the arrival of the Messiah will be preceded by the arrival of a legendary herald.

This character took on many forms as well, ranging from martyrs to mythological beings that had various supernatural powers. The misinterpretation of traditions in this regard does have an exact precedent from the time of Jesus Christ, who, when spoke to the Jews to reform them, was antagonised with the question as to where was his herald, Elijah, whose coming had been foretold in the Bible. He replied:

“To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognise him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands. Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist.” (Matthew 17:11-13)

This misconception, stemming from misinterpretation of various traditions, and the failure to understand the subtleties of diction in the traditions that foretell the arrival of the Promised Messiah, has been instrumental in causing non-Ahmadi Muslims to be mired in denial of the Promised Reformer of this age.

The third type of misconceptions are the ones centered on the person of the Messiah. As the Holy Prophetsa conveyed the happenings of end of times, he used various metaphors and similes, especially when describing the anti-Christ, the Masih al-Dajjal, an evil power that was to torment humankind at the time of the Promised Messiah. It was not uncommon in Arabic literature and culture to use such terms, and it was the only way to make everyone understand. Saying that the forces of Dajjal would travel in an aeroplane would not have made sense as the aeroplane was not something the Arabs were familiar with, rather it was easier to say that they would travel inside a donkey, that would have one leg in one country and the other in the next. Coincidentally, we still use the term “leg” for parts of our journey.

So, when Muslims had interpreted these traditions literally, they held the misconception that the anti-Christ was a mythological being, who had more in common with the villains of legends and myths than anything from the real world. Therefore, when they next read the traditions wherein the Holy Prophetsa gave the glad tidings of a promised reformer, a Messiah, they once again misinterpreted those traditions as well, for the saviour who was to defeat such a mythological being must possess superhuman powers as well, so in the end, their version of the Promised Messiah is drenched in fantasy; it would be better suited to grace the pages of a fantasy novel or comic books rather than being the cornerstone of Islamic eschatological literature.

Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmadrh explains their misinterpretations in the following words:

“This mythical image of Jesus is evidently created by their same tendency to over-literalise prophecies. Evidently they do not care what price they have to pay for the folly of rejecting reason and rationality. To Jesus Christ they assign the task of salvaging whatever remains of the dignity and honour of Islam in the latter days. It will be he, they believe, who will launch a single handed powerful offensive against the Anti-Christ on a global scale. Having roundly defeated and destroyed the Anti-Christ – the one-eyed monster – Jesus will hand over the keys of his world dominion to the people of Islam, and will also distribute the immense treasure and riches which he will have amassed. Thus all spoils of his war against the anti-Christ will he lay at the feet of the Muslim ummah.

“Having resolved their political and economic problems, he will turn his full attention to such prophecies as relate to religion. He will start by launching his campaign against Christianity. His strategy will be to break every cross in the world, whatever material it is made of. He will visit every cathedral, every monastery, every church, every temple, every Christian hermitage. He will walk every street of every township and stare at every passer-by in search of any cross. Ladies perhaps will become the prime object of his scrutiny because he will be aware of their despicable habit of having crosses engraved upon their jewellery and ornaments. He will take care of the fact that they also wear crosses hanging around their necks. Thus he will snatch away every bangle, every bracelet, every pendant and earring with the sign of the cross upon it. Woe to the ladies who dare to cross the path of that Jesus, but where can they escape and hide, the poor defenceless wretches? He will enter every house and search every cabinet and jewellery box. Every wall and every corner will be scanned. Crosses must be literally broken and wiped out from the face of earth. Until he has accomplished this task to the full, he will not rest in peace. This is the vision of the Muslim orthodoxy of the mission of Jesus Christ if ever he returns to earth, but that is not all.

“Having completely disposed of the symbol of Trinity, he would then turn to another task which prophecies assign to him, if they are taken literally. He will lose no time in beginning to kill every non-Muslim inhabiting the world. Either they must convert to Islam or they must die – these will be their only options. He will go about this slaughtering business in a rather unusual way. He will breathe fire like a mythical dragon, while no myth has ever presented such a dragon before, even in the wildest tales of fantasy. His blazing breath will scorch to death innumerable infidels even when they are miles away from him. Those within the reach of his sword, will have their heads stricken off and made to roll.

“He will identify them unmistakably because on the forehead of each nonbeliever would appear the imprint in bold: Al-Kafir, the non-believer. Thus he will leave none alive except the Muslims, and the de-Christianised Christians of course, who will be left without a single cross to worship. Hence the curtain will fall upon this unique carnage by the imaginary Jesus, filling the entire earth with fetid odour, an obnoxious stench of rotting bodies, some slaughtered, some scorched to death. Hatred will generate more hatred, bloodshed will lead to more bloodshed.” (Revelation, Rationality, Knowledge and Truth, pp. 702-704)

The fourth type of misconceptions are the ones that have no bases in either the Holy Quran or the hadith. There is not even any mention of them in the various obscure books of traditions and Islamic eschatological literature that were written during the Islamic Dark Ages by the various holy men and sufi mystics who held onto a strong connection with the Almighty God despite the chaos and darkness that reigned around them.

The only source of such misconceptions is word of mouth from various antagonists of Ahmadi Muslims. With easy access to the web and various public forums and social media platforms, these misconceptions, that are better referred to as tall tales, have started to become the mainstay of any debate on the internet.

If asked for a source, there are none provided and if a logical rebuttal is provided, it is rebuked with a simple rejection. The latest version of this type of misconception seems to be the argument that anyone who claims or has claimed to be the Promised Messiah and the promised spiritual reformer of this age is to be judged by his ability to predict and cure coronavirus.

So according to this argument, anyone who cannot predict and cure coronavirus is not fit to be the spiritual reformer of the age. This is only the latest in the imaginative misconceptions, and no matter what kind of arguments are provided, the only rebuttal from those who forward these misconceptions is that they “read it on the web” so their information must be true.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Ahmadi Muslims at least are not confused by the grace of Allah. Also, the Promised Messiah (as) spoke of Syed Ahmad Barelwi (rh), who was martyred a few years before his birth, as his herald, similar to John (as) the Baptist heralding the advent of Jesus (as). There is also a Shi’a narration about a “Pure Soul” from the descendants of the Holy Prophet (sa) being martyred before the arrival of the Mahdi, although there are differences on the details as there are with many of the prophecies.

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