Jesus and the Indian Messiah

Topic Outline

1. I am the Christ

During the 1840s in the United States some who called themselves ‘the students of the Scriptures,’ started earnestly to preach the return of Christ. There were some among them who designated 1844 as the year for his arrival. In the press the story made headlines. Excited reports spread through America, Europe and even parts of Asia. People were seriously warned to prepare for the sudden arrival of Christ.

The time of expectation passed and Christ did not appear. There was some bitter disappointment among these mathematicians. Some thought that they had miscalculated the time factor. Others concluded he would arrive in secret to take away the elect. The following years, many men and women claimed to be prophets and forerunners of Christ. A few went so far as to introduce themselves as the herald of the coming Christ.

The challenge

Jesus said that many would come in his name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and deceive many (Matthew 24:4-5). Indeed, the world has seen many false prophets and false Christs who have led many astray. However strange it may appear, some Muslims have also claimed to be the returning Christ. One such Muslim was Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1908). He addressed the West with these words:

Ye Christians of Europe and America, and ye seekers after truth! Know for certain that the Messiah who was to come has come and it is he who is speaking to you at this moment.[1]

He claimed to be the spirit of Jesus and yet denied the sacrificial love of Christ. Claiming to be the only saviour, he taunted Christians saying: "Had Jesus been crucified, not once but a thousand times, even then he could not have saved you."[2]

Mirza lived several thousand miles away in India. Why did he set himself up to incite the West? Is it because he had heard rumours of Christ’s coming, or that the disappointments of certain people had reached him? These circumstances could have fostered the thought, but the answer is found in his own environment. His challenge can best be understood against the background of Christian evangelism in the sub-continent of India. The truth about Jesus reached India in the first century A.D., but due to social and political problems in the area, Christianity did not bear fruit in all parts of the sub-continent. It managed only to establish itself in the south of India for many centuries.

About 200 years ago, following new missionary initiatives, a new wave of conversions to Christianity took place. Not only did many Hindus turn to Christ, but also a minority of Muslims. Some of these converts were formerly zealous Muslim leaders and scholars (imams and mullahs included). These leaders joined the Christian missionaries in preaching Christ with total dedication.

Seeing this, the Muslim populace - and especially their leaders - became concerned that this new Christian movement might reduce Islam to a minority religion. Some made efforts to renew the zeal of Muslims and remove the British from India. Other conservative mullahs - priests - resolved to boycott Western institutions, especially in the field of secular education. This disastrous policy resulted in generally low standards of educational qualifications among Muslims. Men such as Sir Syed Ahmad Khan realised the danger of this. They came up with the idea of establishing Muslim schools and colleges and alerted Indian Muslims to the mistake of avoiding contact with the Christian West.

Modernising movements gradually emerged. Seeing the missionary presentation of Jesus, a new emphasis was laid on the teaching of Islam. Within these movements some of these ‘divines’ brought new ideas into the fold of Islam that were treated as schism by others. Among these teachers and self-proclaimed leaders was Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who incorporated many Christian ideas into his Islamic framework. He gave the Qur’an, the Hadith (traditions) and the Injil (the Gospel) new interpretations to suit his claim to be the second coming of Christ.

The second coming and Islam

Although Islam denies Jesus' death and resurrection, both Islam and Christianity share the belief that Jesus lived on this earth and was taken into heaven alive. One day that very same Jesus will return to this earth. However popular Muslim traditions assert that when he comes back, he will convert the world to Islam, destroy the Antichrist, marry, and have children. Later he will die and be buried in a grave next to Muhammad in Madina.[2]

To support this doctrine, Muslim commentators refer to only one verse in the Qur’an: "And (Jesus) shall be a Sign (for the coming of) the Hour (of Judgement). Therefore have no doubt about the (Hour) but follow ye Me; this is a Straight way" (Surah 43:61). Most Muslim commentators take this verse to be a prophecy of the second advent of Jesus. This event is known as "Nuzul-i-Isa" in Farsi and Urdu and in Arabic as Nuzul al-Masih (the descent of Jesus).

A Muslim tradition states:

Abu Huraira reported God’s messenger as saying, ‘By Him in Whose hand my soul is, the son of Mary will soon descend among you as a just judge. He will break crosses, kill swine and abolish the jizya (poll tax) and wealth will pour forth to such an extent that no one will accept it... [4]

Jesus and his return as Judge is one of the major themes of the Bible. Nevertheless, there is no mention of him coming as an ordinary being, nor is there the least suggestion that he will marry, die, and be buried. The Scriptures indicate that when he comes, his people both living and the dead will be raised or changed and meet him in the air and the earth will be destroyed (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:15 - 17; 1 Corinthians 15:50-54; 2 Peter 3:10).

On many occasions Jesus said that he came down from heaven and that he would come again (John 3:13; 8:23; 14:2-3,18-19; 16:28; Matthew 25:31-32; 26:64). This coming is to be different from the first time he came as a baby. His coming will be as the Mighty Judge and conquering King (2 Thessalonians 1:6-10).

Mirza Ghulam Ahmad however rejected both the Christian and Muslim doctrines about Jesus’ second coming in person. Instead, he claimed that the mantle of Jesus was to fall on the second Messiah, who would be a Muslim adult.

Notes on Chapter 1:

  1. Ghulam Ahmad, A Review of Christianity, pp.40 - 41.
  2. ibid., p.41.
  3. Wali ad-Din, Mishkat Al-Masabih, Vol.. II, p.1159.
  4. Sahih Muslim, vol.1, p.92.

2. Once upon a time ...

2. Once upon a time ...

The year was 1512. Babar, the king of Kabul, decided to take advantage of the weak monarchies of India. After several decisive expeditions, he seized Delhi and Agra and became the first emperor of a new dynasty of the Moghul empire. The news reached as far as Samarkand and Bukhara. Many in search of prosperity followed Babar to India.

Around 1530, a family settled in the region of Punjab, about 70 miles due east of Lahore. The place was named Islampur, which in the course of time became Qadian. The family experienced power and defeat over the next two hundred years, at one time commanding a force of 7,000 men under the Moghul emperor to by the 19th century, having only a few servants in an estate shrunken to the village of Qadian. It was in this village a child was born. His father named him Ghulam Ahmad - the slave of Ahmad (the other name of the prophet Muhammad). Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was a twin, but his sister died a few days after their birth. No doubt that morning of the 13th February, 1835, his father must have been very happy to have another son, for sons are highly prized in Muslim society. Many are the prayers that are offered for the gift of sons; few prayers are said for daughters.

Unfortunately, the Moghul dynasty was by now at its last gasp. The British Empire had seized almost complete control of India, but was struggling to gain absolute power over the Sikhs in the Punjab. When the ruler, Maharaja Ranjit Singh, died in 1839, Sikh power disintegrated. Within a few years the British Raj took complete control. It was a time when loyalties changed hands from dawn to nightfall. Somehow Mirza’s family realized the strength and power of the British Empire and joined the Raj.

As a result, five villages that were part of the family estate and confiscated by the Sikhs were restored to them and other privileges granted. This led the family to render some excellent service during the mutiny of 1857. While the majority of Muslims had rebelled against the Raj, Mirza’s father encouraged many of his men to enlist, including his other son, and they served in the force of General Nicholson. In appreciation of this, the General awarded them a certificate stating that in 1857 this family had shown greater loyalty than any other in the district.

In such an environment Mirza Ghulam Ahmad received a conventional religious education and was well instructed in the Persian and Arabic languages. As a teenager, while most of the village boys were herding goats and helping in farming, he led a somewhat privileged life. It is claimed by the movement that by the time he was 16 he had also studied both the Bible and the Vedas of the Hindus. When he was 17 he married a cousin called Hurmat Bibi. It was an arranged marriage and faltered from the start. Two children were born in the first four years, but their marriage ended in divorce.

A Christian encounter

One day in 1864 his father asked him to get his pension for him. His cunning cousin found out about it and followed him. After he had collected the money, his cousin persuaded him to spend it in the hope of winning more in a lottery. Not surprisingly, he ended up with no money. He was too ashamed to return home. And so he stayed in Sialkot. His father found out and secured him a job as a clerk in the office of the Deputy Commissioner.[1] It was here that he entered into religious discussions with missionaries and until 1868 had close contacts with many Christians, both nationals and foreigners.[2]

Due to the sudden death of his mother in 1868, Mirza went back to his home village of Qadian. Her death came as a shock to him and he did not return to his office in Sialkot. He continued his study of Christianity but could not convince himself to be a Christian. In one of his books, Haqiqat-ul-Wahi, he wrote: "I did not like the Christian religion because in its every step it defames God, the glorified and exalted one."[3]

His father wanted him to take over the family business, but he had more interest in religious activities. After his father’s death in 1876, Ahmad was free to decide for himself. Initially, he wanted to make a comparative study of the various sects of Islam. Later, however, he felt that this would weaken the strength of Islam. In order to proclaim Islam as the only way for mankind, he conducted debates with Christians and Hindus. At that time new ideas were being put forward in Islamic circles. Several of these were giving Muslim evangelism new directions and to some extent Mirza Ahmad borrowed from them.

The birth of a denomination

In 1879/80, he embarked on a project to set forth the merits of Islam. He completed two volumes of his book, ‘Baraheen Ahmadiyya’. The main theme was the glory of Islam and the Qur’an. He followed the popular Muslim idea of Christ being saved from the crucifixion and ascending to heaven bodily. Similarly, he proclaimed Jesus to be a prophet of God, Muhammad as the leader of all the prophets and the Qur’an as the only authoritative book.

Several of Mirza’s leading Muslim friends praised the book and its author highly. However the third volume of the book printed in 1882 caused concern, especially his claims to be a recipient of revelation, with radical ideas of reformation. A year later, in 1883, their opposition grew when he openly proclaimed himself a reformer and the one chosen by God.

Mirza is said to have had a dream that God was searching for someone who would revive the faith of Islam. He was found to be the only suitable person and was chosen for this cause. The very circle of Muslim divines who had praised him now became disappointed in him. They tried to deter him from making this claim, but failed.

After living for 26 years as a divorcee, he contemplated taking a second wife. Though he suffered from diabetes, migraines and often tuberculosis, he became convinced that God wanted him to marry again. More changes came in rapid succession. In 1888 he announced a separate denomination within Islam, the AHMADIYYA. According to some Ahmadi writers the name, Ahmadiyya, was appropriated in 1900.4 Shortly afterwards he proclaimed himself to be the Mahdi and the returned Jesus in spirit.5

His claims caused the British rulers some concern. The traditional Muslim doctrine of the Mahdi stated that his hands would be red with the blood of his enemies. Mirza was aware of the potential danger of political sedition and futile rebellion against the British Raj. This, together with his family’s loyalty to the British, influenced him to seek peace with the government. Thus, he emphasised that his Jihad - holy war - was only that of the pen. He said that God had named him the champion of the pen.6

Orthodox Muslims were very much offended by his claims. Knowing that they would not spare him, he sought the protection of British rule. He advised his followers to ‘consider the British Government as one of their own and truthfully obey their orders from the bottom of their hearts’.[7] He went so far as to write in one of his pamphlets: "Disobedience to the British Government is disobedience to Islam, God and his messenger."[8]

Mahdi and the Messiah

To Muslims, the Messiah and the Mahdi are two different persons. The concept of the Mahdi has mainly developed among the Shi’a sect of Islam. Within the largest grouping of Shi’ites, there is a fanatical belief in twelve Imams (leaders) who have appeared on earth from time to time to help the faithful. The twelfth Imam was Muhammed Al-Mahdi. They believe that he disappeared from the world in 880 A.H. at the age of six.9 They await his second coming as the Mahdi. Upon his return he will restore justice and righteousness in the world. Various Shi’ite denominations share this common hope, but differ somewhat in the details of their expectations.10

The Sunni, the major sect of Islam, is also expecting a war-like Mahdi, but not the same Mahdi who disappeared. Another major belief is that at the turn of each Islamic century God sends someone as a reformer to renew the zeal of the faithful.

Ibn Khaldun, a notable thinker in Islam, says that the belief in the coming of a Mahdi is of popular origin, but he knows of no trustworthy authority for it.11 It is easy to see how such doctrines as the second coming of Jesus and the Mahdi could have been largely influenced by Jewish, Christian and heretical messianic hopes.12


Like any sect or movement, the Ahmadiyya faced division among its adherents. After Mirza’s death his first disciple Hakim Noor-ud-din led the movement until 1914. Before Hakim’s death, ominous signs of schism were present which came to the fore during the election of a second Khalifa - successor. At this point the movement split in two. The dissident group, known as the Lahori Party, formed an association of their own in Lahore, called Anjuman Isha’ate Islam. While the main group based in Qadian stressed the prophethood of the founder, to the dissident group he was a mere reformer.

Both groups proclaimed the renaissance of Islam and began promoting their distinctive teaching. The dissident group has not made much progress. It is a nominal group with few branches. After the partition of India in 1947 the major group founded a new town about 95 miles to the west of Lahore, Pakistan, called Rabwah. Until recently the town with its 30,000 Ahmadi inhabitants was the international headquarters for the movement. Nowadays much of the work is controlled from the south of England.

The movement has active branches in 120 countries with twelve million followers. Printing and distributing masses of literature is one of the main priorities. Due to disagreement on several key issues with Muslim orthodoxy, Ahmadiyya has its own translation of the Qur’an which is available in many European languages including Welsh. The movement gives away thousands of books and booklets free of charge. Their aim is to use every effort to give an attractive picture of Islam (and to discredit Christianity) through their literature and other Islamic evangelistic efforts.

In the 1950s religious fervour increased dramatically in Pakistan. The orthodox religious leaders were dissatisfied with the political life of their country. Their first aim was to eradicate heresy from within their midst. So they subjected the Ahmadiyya sect to public persecution - an action which was partly motivated by political considerations. However they could not use the constitution of the country to declare them outcasts from Islam. Twenty years later they successfully assaulted the movement and its adherents. Several Ahmadiyya families were killed, others injured and their properties gutted by fire.

Pressurized by the opposition, the ruling party of the country, through the national assembly of Pakistan in 1974 declared the Ahmadiyya to be non-Muslims. This law was enforced in 1979 and amended in 1984 by Zia-ul-Haque’s regime to make it even more difficult for the movement to propagate and proselytise. Their translations of the Qur’an were confiscated. Many of their publications were banned. They were even prevented from using the term Mosque or Masjid for their places of worship. Some local authorities went so far as to remove Qur’anic verses inscribed on the walls of Ahmadiyya Mosques. In a Pakistani passport, among other details, the holder’s religion is also stated. In that space, an Ahmadi is described as ‘Ahmadi’ and not as ‘Muslim’.

Because of such ‘humiliation and persecution’, immigration authorities in the West have relaxed their rules towards them. Though many Ahmadis including the present Khalifa (successor) Mirza Masroor Ahmad have left Pakistan and reside in the West, a large proportion of the Ahmadiyya movement still live in Pakistan. To take advantage of the situation, strangely there are immigration cases where Pakistani Muslims or non-Ahmadis have tried to present themselves as ‘persecuted Ahmadis’ in order to stay in Europe and America.

Notes on Chapter 2:

    1. Sahibzadah Bashir Ahmad, Sira al-Mahdi, I, p.34.
    2. Zafrullah Khan, Ahmadiyyat - The renaissance of Islam, p.10.
    3. Ghulam Ahmad, Haqiqat-ul-Wahi, p.58.
    4. Ahmadiyya movement in Islam, p.10
    5. Fath-i-Islam (Victory of Islam), pp.13-15
    6. Al-Hakam, vol.. v, no.22, [June 17, 1901], p.22.
    7. Zaroorat-ul-Imam, p.23.
    8. Government Ke tawaju ke liye.
    9. Just as Christians designate a year by A.D. or C.E., Muslim years are designated A.H. (Anno Hijrah), in the year of the migration, when Muhammad and his followers migrated to Madina in 622 A.D. The Muslim year is based on the simple lunar calendar, and so it is shorter than the solar year.
    10. Allamah M. Husayn, The Origin of Shi’ite Islam and Its principles, p. 50f.
    11. A Guillaume, Islam, p.120.
    12. Gibb, H.A.R. Islam, p.88.

3. Manifold Visions, and Claims

3. Manifold Visions, and Claims

Behind each of Mirza Ahmad’s claims, there lies a revelation, vision or dream. He believed everything he saw and heard; totally convinced, he built up a list of claims.

The claim to be a reformer

In one dream, he saw the body of a dead person lying outside a door. It was miraculously brought to life by Muhammad, who gave Mirza a fruit to eat. Mirza also met other ‘divines’ (a seer) and saints, but found that he was the only one to whom a fruit was given. From this dream, Mirza concluded that the dead person represented the religion of Islam and that Allah would revive it through his own mission.1 Such dreams led him to declare himself a reformer.

He did not mention this claim in the first two volumes of his book, Baraheen Ahmadiyya. This led many to question the extent he had been influenced by the praise lavished on him by Muslim readers of the first volume of his book. Others however saw nothing new in his claims, since at that time two other self-styled reformers were active: Bahaullah in Iran and Muhammad Ahmad in Sudan.

The claim to be the Imam

Not content with being a simple reformer for Sunni Muslims, he soon announced he was the Imam of the Shi’a sect: "I have no hesitation in confirming that I am the Imam of the Age."2 Shi’a Muslims however believe that all the twelve Imams were descendants of Ali, Muhammad’s son-in law. It was certainly not possible for Mirza to prove such an ancestry. To solve this problem, he said that one of his grandmothers had been a descendant of Muhammad, his only proof being that God had told him this in a dream. "I had confirmation of this by the Holy Prophet who said to me in a dream: ‘Salman, thou art one of us, of excellent descent.’"3 However in another vision he saw Ali, Muhammad’s son-in-law. Fatima, Ali’s wife treated him as her son and Ali gave him his own Tafsir, a commentary on the Qur’an.4 Possibly considering he needed more proof, he claimed to have had yet another vision to become Ali.5

Mirza made every effort to unite every sect of Islam under the one umbrella of the Ahmadiyyat. "He who refuses to follow me," he said, "is an enemy of God and his prophet. He shall be cast into hell."6

The claim to be a prophet

To orthodox Muslims, Muhammad is the last prophet. After him there will be no messenger from Allah sent to mankind. Support for this doctrine is found in the following verse of the Qur’an:

Muhammad is not the father of any men among you, but he is the messenger of Allah, and the Seal of the prophets ... (Surah 33:40).

On the one hand Mirza wrote that the Qur’an did not allow any prophet, old or new, after Muhammad7, and on the other, he claimed to be a prophet himself! He said he was a Muhaddith thus a kind of Nabi (prophet). In his opinion, a Muhaddith is not a full prophet, but is nevertheless a prophet.8

Many rejected this claim and branded him a heretic. As a result, he read a statement at a public meeting denying any sort of prophethood for himself. He stated that all the expressions of prophethood used in his publications were used only for the sake of simplicity.9 Even so, the temptation to claim prophethood was so great that he later claimed that no prophet had come into this world whose name was not given to him and there had been no prophet whose qualities he himself had not been given. This resulted in a lot of confusion, even among his own followers. In 1901, to settle the matter once and for all, he wrote a brochure, Ek Ghalati Ka Izala - A Misunderstanding Removed, in which he pointed out:

Wherever I have denied being a prophet (Nubuwat) I have denied in the sense that I am no independent bearer of a Law or Shariah nor am I an independent prophet, prophet in my own right. ... I am a Rasul (Apostle, messenger) and Nabi (prophet) without a new Shariah.10

To make the whole matter simple, the movement today believes that ‘the attainment of prophethood independently of the Holy Prophet (Muhammad) is not possible’11 In their view prophets are of three types:

  1. a. Law-bearing.
  2. b. Non-law bearing, i.e. fully independent.
  3. c. Non-law bearing, but through allegiance to a law-bearing prophet.

Mirza Ahmad is believed by his followers to be in class "c".12 The dissident group, the Lahore Ahmadiyya Anjuman, believe that he was just a reformer.

The claim to be Krishna of the Hindus

Whilst Islam has made a great impression on the lives of the people of the Indian sub-continent, the Muslim population as a whole has remained as culturally Indian as the Hindus. Over the years Muslim mysticism in India has provided a way for believers to worship at their own holy shrines. Similarly, many other rituals of devotion from Hindu culture have found their way into popular Islam. There have even been those who have thought of the Hindus as People of the book, a title given only to Jews and Christians in the Qur’an. Shah Abdal-Aziz of Delhi, a noted theologian and Mufti - Muslim jurist (1746 - 1824) was asked his opinion of Krishna. He replied: "It is better to be silent about these matters. However from the ‘Bhagavadgita’ [a Hindu holy book] it appears that Krishna does belong to the awliya - saints.’13

Mirza claimed to have a vision in which a Hindu inquired: "Where is Krishna of the Hindus?" Someone from the crowd pointed to Mirza and those who were present began to bring offerings to him. One of them called out: "O, Krishna, slayer of swine, protector of cows ... thy praise is recorded in Geeta."14

In his book, ‘Haqiqat-ul-Wahi’, Mirza wrote, "I am Krishna whose advent the Aryans are waiting for in these days. I do not make this claim on my own. God Almighty has conveyed to me repeatedly that I am the Krishna, King of the Aryans, who was to appear in the latter days."15

Ahmad did not even spare the Sikhs of the Punjab. He claimed to be their leader too. He wrote a book on the life of their leader Guru Nanak (1469-1538) entitled Sat Bachon. It was essential for him to prove first that Guru Nanak, the founder, was a Muslim. Not many Hindus or Sikhs believed Mirza, but today the movement exalts Krishna, Buddha, Confucius and Zoroaster, as prophets from Allah.

The claim to be God and the Son of God

Mirza saw himself in visions as both God and the Son of God. God is alleged to have told him: "You are to Me in the position of offspring. You have a relation with me which the world does not know. . .16 You are to me like My unity and uniqueness . . .17 To me you are like my Son ..."18 "God addressed me with His words: ‘Listen! O my Son.’"19 In other places, he claimed to have been God. "In a vision I saw that I was God and believed myself to be such ... Divinity coursed through my veins and muscles ... I then created the heaven and the earth ... then I said: ‘We shall now create man! ’"20

Muslim divines were incensed by such ideas and opposed him vigorously. His response was: "No one has the right to say: ‘I am God’; or, ‘I am the Son of God." In his opinion divine revelation sometimes employs such ‘metaphorical expressions’.21

Notes on Chapter 3:

  1. Baraheen Ahmadiyya, vol. III, pp.248-249 (footnote).
  2. Zaroorat-ul-Imam, p.24.
  3. Ek Ghaliti Ka Izala, p.8(footnote); English trans. p.23. [Salman Farsi was an immigrant from Persia who was emancipated by Muhammad personally. Thus it is not surprising that Mirza borrowed his name to identify himself with the land where the Shia sect is dominant.]
  4. Baraheen Ahmadiyya, vol.4, p.503 (footnote).
  5. Ayena Kamalate Islam, pp. 218 - 219,(footnote).
  6. Tabligh-i-Risalat, vol. 9, p.27.
  7. Izala Auham, p.761
  8. Tawzih Maram, p.18; tr. Explanation of objectives, p. 11
  9. Tabligh-i-Risalat, Vol. II, page 95.
  10. A Misunderstanding Removed, (pp.11-12).
  11. Ahmadiyyat, p.37.
  12. ibid., p.58.
  13. Muhammad Ikram, Rud-i-Kawther, Lahore 1979, p.591.
  14. Badr, Vol. II, p.322; Al-Hakam, Vol. 15, p.8.
  15. Haqiqat-ul-Wahi, appendix, p.85.
  16. Fountain of Christianity, p.63.
  17. Baraheen Ahmadiyya, Vol. IV, p.489 (footnote).
  18. Haqiqatul Wahi, p.86.
  19. Al-Bushra, Vol.1, p.49.
  20. Kitab al-Bariyah, pp. 85-87.
  21. Dafeul Bala, pp. 6-7 (footnote).

4. The Muslim Christ

4. The Muslim Christ

Mirza claimed to have seen Jesus and eaten a meal with him. One of Muhammad’s descendants was also present at the meal. When a list of the saints was produced, Mirza’s name was found on it with distinctive praise from God: 'He is to me like my unity and my Uniqueness ...'1 From this Mirza thought that he was the only one who could be appointed ‘Jesus among Muslims’.

For half of his life Mirza believed in an orthodox Islamic doctrine of the second coming of Jesus. At the beginning of his ministry he confirmed this but when he wrote a book, Izala Auham, he asserted that Jesus had died and would not return bodily.2 He declared that God had told him, ‘I created you from the same essence as Jesus was.’3 This led him to reason that as John the Baptist was Elijah in spiritual form, so he was Jesus in spirit (cf. Matthew 11:14; 17:12). He boldly asserted:

Jesus has given the news of my coming in the gospels. Blessed is he who, out of respect for Jesus, ponders with honesty and truth over my coming and thus saves himself from stumbling.4

The second Adam

In the Bible we find Jesus described not only as the Son of God and the Son of Man, but also as the last or second Adam (Romans 5:12-17; 1 Corinthians 15:22,47; Phillippians 2:5). Mirza Ghulam Ahmad did not want to be left behind and so he claimed: 'In this age God has created an Adam which is this humble one. ... God created me as the last Adam and exalted me above the previous mankind.' 5

To answer why and how, he reasoned:

God made Adam on the sixth day, and the sacred Scriptures further bear testimony to the fact that a day is equal to a thousand years with the Lord. The promises of God, therefore, make it necessary that the second Adam must have been born already...6

To substantiate his claim further, Mirza said that as God placed Adam in the garden eastward, his abode as the second Adam is in an Eastern country.

If by "sacred Scriptures" he meant the Bible then he ignored verses where the Bible states: "With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like a day" (2 Peter 3:8). If it is the Qur’an he was referring to as the Scriptures, his theory does not fit there either. A day with God is described as a thousand years (Surah 32:5), whereas in another place such a day is described as fifty thousand years (Surah 70:4).

One can see that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad's many statements are self-contradictory. For example, Allah told him: 'I created you from the same essence as Jesus', thus claiming equal status. Elsewhere, however he exalted himself above Jesus. He often stated: 'God has informed me that the Muslim Messiah is more exalted than was the Mosaic Messiah.'7

Even greater miracles

On the basis of the Qur’an narrative, Muslims believe that Jesus was born of a virgin and that he was both a prophet and the promised Messiah who performed miracles. He healed the sick and raised the dead through the divine power of Allah. But they read in the Qur’an that Muhammad did not have such power (Surah 29:50). One may learn from twenty or more Qur’anic passages that whenever Muhammad was asked by doubters to perform a miracle, he either stayed silent or said he would not do so because he was a ‘plain warner and a prophet’. In Mirza’s opinion, if Muhammad could not perform miracles, neither could Jesus. Mirza obviously felt threatened by the miracles of Jesus. Thus he came to disagree with both Christians and Muslims. He wrote:

A matter which is not possible for the Holy prophet [Muhammad] - the best of prophets ... how can it be so for the Messiah! [Jesus]? It would be so derogatory to the Holy prophet to think that what is impossible for him to attain, is possible for the Messiah.8

Elsewhere he writes: "Jesus restored people to life through mesmerism or hypnotism ... The New Testament, when examined closely, reveals that Jesus Christ practised this art, not with perfect success, however. The people among whom he lived were simple, unsophisticated people and ignorant of this art." He called this method ‘Amal-at-Tirb’ and also asserted that the ‘practitioner need not even be a believer’.9 The text of the New Testament clearly contradicts these assertions.

This kind of criticism is not new. Even when Jesus’ contemporary opponents saw his miracles, they put forward their own explanation, ‘By Beelzebub, the prince of demons, he is driving out demons’ (Luke 11:15). Jesus simply pointed out that it was by means of God’s power that he drove out demons (Luke 11:22). Interestingly the Qur’an also confirms that Jesus did miracles "by God’s leave" (Surah 3:49) and yet Mirza ignored this.

Mirza further stated: 'There is no statement by Jesus which could be taken as proof that miracles had actually been shown.'10 But note what Jesus said to the Jews:

The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep ... I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me? (John 10:25,32. cf. Matthew 11:20-24).

In his zeal, Mirza Ahmad went further and stated: 'I do not consider that Jesus Christ in any way surpasses me. ... I have been given the word of God just as he was given the word of God. As miracles are ascribed to him, so I find myself with certitude the recipient of those miracles - nay, even greater miracles than those.'11

What a surprise! Muhammad, who is traditionally described as the master of this world and the world to come, did not perform miracles and yet Mirza, who regarded himself as the servant of Muhammad, claimed the power to perform them, and "even greater miracles than Christ". Thus, he made himself greater even than Muhammad, an idea which is blasphemous to Muslims.

Contrived interpretations

Mirza often resorted to devious and contrived arguments to explain away traditions about the coming of the Christ in person. Some of his explanations are not only irrational but also ludicrous. For example consider the following:

In the third volume of Baraheen Ahmadiyya He (God) named me as Mariam. Then, as is evident from Baraheen ... I was reared in the image of Mary for two years. ... Then I was filled with the soul of Christ and I became pregnant in a metaphorical sense. At last after a period of many months - lasting not more than ten months - I was delivered from Mary into the form of Christ ... Hence in this way I became the son of Mary.12

In other words he became Mary, got pregnant, and then from his own abdomen he came forth as the Christ, son of Mary. One problem still remained. Muslim tradition states that the son of Mary will descend on the white minaret to the east of Damascus.13 In response, Mirza commented that Damascus was only a synonym for his home town of Qadian and that since he lived on the eastern edge of the town, the tradition could be validated.14 However the tradition expected Christ to descend on a white minaret which was unfortunately not there. So Mirza laid the foundation of a minaret in Qadian in 1903. The minaret was completed only after his death.

Five or fifty volumes?

He promised his reader 50 volumes of his book, Baraheen Ahmadiyya, and the first four volumes appeared in rapid succession. Some of his readers had paid subscriptions for further volumes at his request, but had to wait for two decades to see the fifth and the last volume published in 1903. He wrote in the preface:

Earlier, I had thought of writing 50 volumes. But now I have confined myself to five since the difference between 5 and 50 is just that of one dot. Therefore, the promise has been fulfilled by the publication of five volumes.15

Prophecies against opponents

A good prophet must have the gift of prophecy. Mirza Ahmad thought likewise. Jesus prophesied; so should Mirza, the Masih Maw’ud (the promised Messiah). When several of his predictions did not happen, he and his followers had to resort to evasive explanations.

A Muslim opponent

Mirza Ahmad offered prayer in opposition to a Maulvi called Sana-Ullah, saying that the one who was in the wrong should die of bubonic plague or cholera in the lifetime of the one who was in the right. In 1907 he advertised his prayer as an open letter to Sana-Ullah:

O, my beloved Master! ... If my claim to being the Christ is my own innovation then I am a liar ... I pray to thee to kill me in Maulvi Sana-Ullah’s lifetime and ... if Sana-Ullah is not truthful in his allegations against me then I pray to annihilate him in my lifetime... not through human hands but through bubonic plague and cholera...16

One year and 21 days later Mirza Ghulam Ahmad died. Whether he died of a plague or natural circumstances, that is not our concern. Here one can see that the death of one in the lifetime of the other was the main condition. He died in 1908 while Maulvi Sana-Ullah lived for another 40 years. To reply to such objections, Ahmadis in their discussions argue that since the Maulvi himself had established a new criterion that God grants respite to liars and deceivers and grants them a long lease of life, thus God bestowed a long life on him to prove the Maulvi a liar.

An apostate disciple

Dr. Abdul Hakim, an Ahmadi disciple who served Mirza for about 20 years, rebelled against him and wrote two books, Al-masih Ad’dajjal and Kana Masih. He too made excessive claims of divine revelation. On  July 12th, 1906 he published an advertisement saying that within three years Mirza would die. Mirza was quick to respond and said that those who were accepted by God could not be overcome. He warned Hakim of a calamity approaching him and that the angels were ready to take his life with sharp swords.17

This did not worry the former disciple. Instead of recanting, he made further claims, saying that Mirza would die by August 4th, 1908. In reply Mirza published an advert with a revelation from God stating that God would avenge his enemies and would increase Mirza’s age but would decrease the age of his enemy.18 Unexpectedly Mirza died before his enemy in May 1908. The apostate disciple was still alive and lived for several more years.

The heavenly marriage

Mirza made a prophecy concerning a young Muslim woman named Muhammadi Begum. He wanted to marry her but her father refused the match. To achieve his object, he claimed that God had wed her to him, as Zaynab had been married to Muhammad (Surah 33:37). He claimed to have received revelation to this effect: "God almighty will bring Muhammadi Begum to you as a virgin or a widow ... He will certainly fulfil this and no one can stop Him."19 When he found out that the girl was to be married to someone else, he threatened her parents and claimed to have received another revelation from the Lord, to warn the girl’s father:

Tell him to establish a relationship with you by giving his elder daughter in marriage to you and thus obtain light from your light ... Tell him that if he persists in carrying out any different design, his household will become subject to some serious misfortunes, the last of which would be his death within three years of the marriage of his daughter to someone else ... the husband of his daughter will also die within two years and a half. This is a divine decree.20

In spite of such efforts the girl was married to another person. Despite the divine decree his wedding to Muhammadi Begum never took place. Ahmadis believe that since the family sought forgiveness and began to take the pledge of fidelity at the hands of Mirza Ahmad, God forgave them.

A debate

In 1893 a series of debates on the subject of the Trinity was held between Mirza Ahmad and Abdullah Atham, an elderly Muslim convert to Christianity. The debate continued for more than two weeks, attracting many people to listen to the written and verbal arguments. On the last day, out of the blue, Mirza prophesied that whichever of the two debaters was speaking lies would die within fifteen months unless he turned to the truth.21

Abdullah Atham was already a sixty-five year old man in poor health. However fifteen months passed and he was still safe and sound. Mirza however tongue in cheek, argued that though Atham appeared to be alive, in fact he was spiritually dead. He claimed that Atham was afflicted with inner fear and guilt.22

Mirza’s son Bashir-ud-din wrote that Atham ‘stopped all his work in support of Christianity. He stopped speaking and writing’. Bashir claimed that Atham in fact began to have doubts about Jesus’ divinity. The truth of Islam began to dawn on him. He retreated and thus did not die during that period.23

But how could this be true? In those 15 months Atham had in fact completed his book, Khulasa Mubahisa, which contained many arguments for the integrity of the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus. In a letter that appeared in a local newspaper, Atham wrote that he was still a Christian and was thankful to God for it.24

Jesus of the Qur’an

Mirza Ahmad did not deny the stories of the unique birth of Jesus as mentioned in the Qur’an, but he and his editors always tried to belittle their importance. Adam, too, ‘had neither father nor mother’. According to him, ‘Thousands of worms are brought into existence without any father.’25 He became disrespectful towards Jesus and accused him of being vulgar, a drunkard, cowardly, a blasphemer, a failure and one who had friendship with women of ill-repute.26 He argued that Jesus, who claimed to be God, said previous prophets were thieves and robbers; such a Jesus is nowhere mentioned in the Qur’an.27

This enraged the orthodox Muslims of his time who branded him a heretic. In his reply, he accused Christians of being abusive and making false charges against Muhammad, the prophet of Islam. Thus he justified his abuse of Christ as a tit for tat response. A similar line against Jesus has been adopted by some orthodox Muslims. Ahmad Deedat of the International Islamic Propagation Centre in South Africa is one example. In his booklet on the crucifixion, he attacks the person of Jesus on numerous occasions, and uses phrases like: "the hot and cold blowing of Jesus ... Now, he must pay the price of failure." Elsewhere, he boasts: "Jesus had doubly miscalculated" and says that Jesus was the "most unfortunate of all God’s messengers".28 In another of his booklets, Deedat denounces the biblical account of the conception of Jesus as "gutter language".29


Mirza Ahmad developed a great dislike of Christians and Christian missionaries in India. Anyone who opposed him was declared: "a Christian, a Jew, a heretic and a hellish person".30 Following Christ’s example, Christians had also directed their missionary work towards the very low-caste and outcast people of India. The success of the Christian gospel among them was sneeringly conceded by Mirza.

In the Punjab Census Report for 1901 his name was confused with that of Mirza Imam-ud-Din (his cousin and opponent), who was preaching orthodox Islam among the low-caste and the untouchable community. He was very upset and sent a petition to the authorities stating that it was a disgrace to represent him as being connected with that community and therefore harmful to his reputation.

In contrast to Christian efforts, Mirza said that his mission was only for the intelligent and high-class people. His principles and doctrines were "accepted only by intelligent and noble-minded men". He boasted that his followers were mostly the ‘Raises (chiefs), Jagirdars (landowners), respected government officials, merchants, advocates and highly educated young men’.31

Jesus sat and lived with outcasts and low-caste people to bring them into the Kingdom of God. Mirza, who claimed to be similar to Jesus in all qualities, did not consider the low-caste and the untouchable community in need of salvation. One wonders then on what grounds he could claim to have been so closely like Jesus in every respect.32

Jesus’ attitude towards sinners is clearly expressed in the Christian Scriptures. He said: "I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance" (Luke 5:32). We find him abolishing death and bringing life and immortality through the gospel. He prayed for his enemies: "Father! Forgive them! " (Luke 23:34). In contrast, Mirza Ahmad, the self-styled Muslim Christ, engaged in prayer duels, calling down the punishment of death upon some of his detractors, and predicting the death of his enemies.

When Jesus was cursed and abused on the cross, he did not answer back with a curse or offer insult in return. He made no threats of vengeance, nor was any deceit found in his mouth (John 12:47; 1 Peter 2:22-23). Mirza too, admits that those who are in spiritual leadership should have patience, self-control and forgiveness. According to his own saying, the Imam-e-zaman (the spiritual leader of his Age), should not be of an immature nature, given to fits of rage at the slightest provocation. Such a person can in no way be considered the Imam of his Age.33 Contrary to his own suggestion, the manner in which Mirza dealt with his critics reveals him to be a person lacking in decency and decorum. Two references are enough:

Verily our enemies are swine of the wilderness and their women are worse than bitches.’34 ‘And he who refuses to be convinced of our victory is evidently inclined to be called a bastard.35

In his speeches and writings he would not only curse his opponents but write the word ‘CURSE’ many times as a primitive form of emphasis. In one case there are ten repetitions when writing about the Maulvi Sana-Ullah,36 and one thousand times in a particular reference to Christians.37 Ahmadis today believe that Mirza used the harsh language by way of retort. It was his opponents who first used such language against him and thus Mirza showed contempt for his opponents and adversaries.

Notes on Chapter 3:

  1. Baraheen Ahmadiyya, vol. III, pp. 253-254 (footnote).
  2. ibid., Vol. IV, pp. 361, 499,505 (footnotes); Izala Auham, p.473
  3. Hamama al-Bushra, p.14.
  4. Jesus in India, English tr., p.39.
  5. Taryaq-ul-Qulub, pp.156-157.
  6. How to get rid of the bondage of sin, p.11.
  7. Kishti Noh, p.16.
  8. Tawzih Miram, English tr. pp.6-7
  9. Three Questions Answered, p.46.
  10. ibid., p.62.
  11. Fountain of Christianity, pp.33-34.
  12. Kashti Noh, pp. 46-47.
  13. Mishkat Al-Masabih, Vol.. II, p.1146.
  14. Izala Auham, footnotes on pages 63,64,75.
  15. Baraheen Ahmadiyya, Vol. 5, Preface, p.7.
  16. Advert 15 April, 1907, Majmua Ishtiharat, vol..3, p.579.
  17. Advert 16 August 1906, Majmua Ishtiharat, vol..3, p.559.
  18. Chashma Marifat p.321 ff.
  19. Izala Auham, p.396.
  20. Ayena Kamalat Islam, pp.572-573.
  21. Advert 5 June 1893, Majmua Ishtiharat, vol..1, p.434.
  22. Anjam Atham, pp.10-11.
  23. Invitation to Ahmadiyyat, pp. 249-251.
  24. Berni, Qadiyyani Madhab, Ed.9th, p. 325.
  25. Review of Religions, I, p. 72.
  26. Anjam Atham, Appendix.
  27. ibid., p.13.
  28. Crucifixion or Cruci-Fiction?, p.23.
  29. Christ in Islam, p.24.
  30. Nazul-i-Masih, p.4
  31. Review of Religions, II, p. 83.
  32. Izala Auham, p.124.
  33. Zarurat-ul-Imam, p. 8.
  34. Najmul Huda, p. 10.
  35. Anwar al-Islam, p.30
  36. Ijaz Ahmadi, p.38.
  37. Nur al-Haqq, pp.118-122.

5. A New Discovery?

5. A New Discovery?

The Bible tells us about the life and the teaching of Jesus. It contains the main record of how he was crucified and died on the cross. It states the story of his burial and resurrection on the third day. It also tells us about his appearances to his followers and his ascension and says that one day he is going to return to this earth as the mighty judge.

The Qur’an, however refers to the crucifixion only once and can be interpreted as denying both the crucifixion of Jesus and his death on the cross by the hands of the Jews. Muhammad is said to have received this revelation in response to a boast of the Jews that they had killed Jesus Christ. It states:

And because of their saying: We slew the Messiah Jesus son of Mary, Allah’s messenger - they slew him not nor crucified, but it appeared so unto them; and lo! those who disagree concerning it are in doubt thereof; they have no knowledge thereof save pursuit of a conjecture; they slew him not for certain. But Allah took him up unto Himself. Allah was ever Mighty, Wise (Surah 4:157-158).

The theory of substitution

The majority of Muslim friends follow the substitution theory. In the light of this one verse, they believe that Jesus was never put on the cross. God made someone else look like Jesus and it appeared to the Jews that they had crucified him. The words, ‘Allah took him up unto Himself’ are often taken to mean that Jesus was raised alive to heaven without dying.1 They have different names on their list. Some say Judas Iscariot was slain in his place; others say Simon of Cyrene.

Whoever it was, if God made his face to look like that of Jesus at that moment so people were ‘taken in’, would this not be an intolerable deception? How could Jesus, the prophet of God, allow such a terrible deception? If God wanted to raise Jesus to heaven, why was it necessary to victimize a bystander? Many Muslims answer: "God knows."

Although the Qur’an speaks in enigmas when dealing with the events of the last days of Christ on earth, it certainly does not repudiate his death before his resurrection and ascension. For example Jesus is reported as saying: "Peace on me the day I was born, and the day I die, and the day I shall be raised alive!" (Surah 19:33). Here Jesus puts his death before his resurrection but most Muslims interpret such verses in their own way. They suppose that Jesus’ death will happen in the future when he returns.

In another passage we read:

When Allah said: O Jesus! Lo! I am gathering thee and causing thee to ascend up unto Me, and am cleansing thee of those who disbelieve until the Day of Resurrection. Then unto Me ye will all return, and I shall judge between you as to that wherein ye used to differ (Surah 3:55).

Though the translator has used words "gathering thee" but in the original Arabic it certainly means "to die" and thus again we see Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension mentioned in that order. However there are Muslims who suggest that the above verses should be interpreted figuratively. They suppose that Jesus was lifted up while he was asleep and that God caused him to die a spiritual death to all worldly desires. Yet others say that Jesus died in some sense for a few hours, 3 or 7 in the different traditions. He was then resurrected and taken into heaven.2

The swoon theory

Mirza Ahmad, the founder of the Ahmadiyya, always strove to discredit the truth about Jesus. In the first volume of his book, ‘Baraheen’, he followed the traditional Islamic belief about Christ. However in 1891 he put forward a new doctrine that Jesus was crucified but did not die on the cross. Instead he swooned, was removed from the cross and later died in Galilee.3 According to his teaching the Qur’an (Surah 4:157-158) ‘does not deny the fact of Jesus’s being nailed to the cross, but denies his having died on it’.4 This was indeed a deviation from orthodox Islamic belief that Jesus was taken up to heaven by divine intervention at the cross, without having suffered crucifixion at all.

In 1899, Mirza modified this idea in his book, Masih Hindustan Main, Jesus in India. After escaping from the cross, Jesus received divine healing by the application of some special ointment. He then left Palestine and travelled to Syria, Persia and later came to India, where he stayed in Kashmir to preach the gospel to the lost tribes of Israel. According to Mirza Ahmad, Jesus died in Kashmir at the age of 120.

Something old, Something new

This theory was still new to Muslims but not to Christians in the West. Mirza’s explanation may convince the twelve million Ahmadis, but this theory has generally been discredited in the West. In fact, Mirza merely borrowed the ‘swoon theory’ from Sayyid Ahmad Khan in India and from K.H. Venturini, a western theologian, who in turn had taken it from a German writer, K.F. Bahrdt (1741-1792).

Mirza’s first suggestion that the death of Jesus took place in Galilee was a slight variation of the swoon theory. The later suggestion that Jesus died in India was different again, but it was perhaps influenced by the ideas of the Russian writer, Notovitch. Mirza read Jesus’ words: "I have other sheep, that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also" (John 10:16) and concluded that Jesus, after escaping death on the cross, travelled in search of these lost sheep. Mirza believed that they were the ‘lost tribes of Israel’ which were taken into exile in 721 B.C. This idea came from the British-Israel movement, who believed that the lost tribes had travelled westward, whereas Mirza claimed they had gone eastward.

In 1894, a Russian, Nicholas Notovich, published the book ‘Vie inconnue de Jesus-Christ’. Later that year the book was translated into English under the title ‘The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ’. Notovitch claimed that during his tour of Ladakh in India in 1887, he had found an ancient manuscript in a Buddhist temple in Leh which stated that Jesus had travelled to India in his youth. Though his claim was proved to be an outright lie, it influenced Mirza Ahmad and led him to write his book, Masih Hindustan Main, Jesus in India.

The question of the tomb

The Qur’an says: "And we (God) made the Son of Mary, and his mother a portent and we gave them refuge on a height, a place of flocks and water springs" (Surah 23:50). According to orthodox Muslims, this verse refers to life in Paradise or God’s help to Mary at the birth of Jesus. Mirza Ahmad interpreted it as a reference to an actual place on earth. He thought it was Kashmir and searched there for a tomb which could be regarded as that of Jesus. There are many anonymous tombs in the Indian sub-continent and Mirza Ahmad pointed to one of these as being that of Jesus. However the local inhabitants do not believe that it is the tomb of Jesus. The grave is known locally as that of a saint, Yus Asaf.

This tomb is like hundreds of other tombs of saints. The Muslims in the area believe the tomb had been in the possession of the Hindus. Then in about 1400 AD a Muslim called Syed Abdur Rahman, nicknamed Bulbul Shah, came from Turkistan with about a thousand fugitives. He is said to be the one who introduced Islam into Kashmir and declared this grave to be that of a Muslim saint.

Strange reasoning

Mirza Ahmad then tried to rewrite Christian history. His reasoning is, however, very suspect. Referring to this anonymous tomb, he says: "Hundreds of thousands of people have, with their physical eyes, seen that the tomb of Jesus exists in Sirinagar, Kashmir."5

There is no truth in such a statement. Mirza wants us to believe that people have seen the actual tomb of Jesus. What they have seen ‘with their physical eyes’ is the shape of a grave, the grave of an unknown person. They may be right in saying that the grave probably contains a body, but to claim it to be of Jesus is wishful thinking.

Mirza continues to adjust the facts to his theory, saying that as Jesus ‘was crucified at Golgotha, i.e. at the place of siri, so has his tomb been found at the place of siri i.e. Sirinagar’. He adjusts his theory further and claims: "The place where Jesus was crucified was called Gilgit or Siri, and the place where, in the latter part of the nineteenth century, the tomb of Jesus has been discovered, is also called Gilgit, or siri."6

The Gospel narratives say that the place where Jesus was crucified was called Golgotha, which means, ‘place of a skull’ (Matthew 27:33; Mark 15:22; Luke 23:33; John 19:17). The name may have been derived from its shape, or it was a place of execution where skulls accumulated. Mirza claimed that the town of Sirinagar was also called Gilgit and thus linked it with the name Golgotha. Although these two names sound vaguely alike, there is no reason to suggest a link between them. In any case, Sirinagar has never been called Gilgit. There is a town called Gilgit, but it is about 300 miles from Sirinagar.

Since Mirza originally wrote his book in Urdu, he tried to play on the word siri. Interestingly in the Urdu translation of the Bible the word ‘siri’ is not found. Instead, ‘the place of the skull’ is rightly translated as ‘Kopri ki jegha’. Mirza, however, used the word ‘siri’ instead of ‘Kopri’.

To suit his purpose, Mirza mistranslated Siri-nagar as the ‘place of siri’. Had he opened an Urdu or Hindi dictionary, he could easily have found out that the word ‘siri’ originally comes from Sanskrit. It is the name of Lakshmi, the wife of Vishnu and the goddess of plenty and prosperity. It is in this context that the place is called Sirinagar - the place of Lakshmi. Thus, to draw a comparison between the biblical Golgotha and Sirinagar clearly requires distorted reasoning.

The divine ointment

To give his doctrine more publicity, Mirza Ahmad invented an ointment. He said that the ingredients had been prepared solely by him under the influence of divine inspiration. He called it ‘Marham-e-Isa’ - the Ointment of Jesus. He believed this to be the ointment which had been used to heal Jesus’ wounds. He even suggested that the ointment was a remedy for a plague that was spreading in India at the time. This ointment disappeared from the market when government officials started raiding the bogus medicine shops. These raids followed an order from the deputy commissioner of Lahore, dated 19th October 1899, which was later upheld by a decision of the Chief Court of the Punjab, in an appeal case dated 8th June 1900.

Why all the fuss? Mirza Ahmad used to say that if Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, is dead, Christ must also be dead. In one of his books ‘Invitation to Ahmadiyyat’, Mirza’s son, Bashir-ud-din, wrote:

It is impossible for us to think that Jesus the Messiah, is alive in Heaven while Muhammad, our Holy Prophet, lies buried in the earth. We cannot think so. ... If it is true that Jesus is alive in Heaven, we cannot feel more dead. We cannot tolerate the thought that our Master is dead and buried, while Jesus is alive and in Heaven. We feel humiliated before Christians.7

Mirza Ahmad saw Christianity as a threat to Islam. His instruction to his followers was:

Prove to Christians that Christ in reality is forever dead. Through the victory to be gained by this argument you will be able to wipe the Christian religion off the face of the earth ... Do not entangle with other ideas to talk about with Christians. Just concentrate upon the arguments regarding the death of Jesus Christ, and by the use of powerful arguments put the Christians to silence. The day you will imprint this fact on the minds of Christians, you will know that the Christian religion has made its exit from the world.8

History tells of many who have predicted the disappearance of the Christian truth. Yet it has been they who have made their exit. Jesus said to his believers: "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me ... I will be with you always, to the very end of the age" (Matthew 28:18,20).The Qur’an reveres Jesus in such a way that our orthodox Muslim friends consider it impossible that God could allow Jesus to die on the cross. Their strange idea of reverence reminds us of Peter’s reaction when Jesus predicted his crucifixion. "Never, Lord!" he said, "This shall never happen to you!" (Matthew 16:22). Jesus’ reply satisfied Peter, but Muslims and Ahmadi Muslims still try to resolve the matter in their own differing ways.

Notes on Chapter 3:

  1. Maududi, The Meaning of the Qur’an, p. 390.
  2. Iskander Jadeed, The Cross in the Gospel and the Qur’an, p.7.
  3. Ghulam Ahmad, Izala Auham, pp.473-474.
  4. Farid, The Holy Qur’an, p. 232.
  5. Ghulam Ahmad, Jesus in India, Eng. tr. p. 53.
  6. ibid., p. 53.
  7. Bashir-ud-din, Invitation to Ahmadiyyat, p. 15.
  8. Ghulam Ahmad, Izala Auham, pp.560 - 561.

6. The Crucifixion Factor

6. The Crucifixion Factor

The plain teaching of the Bible is that Jesus came to give up his life and that he died on the cross. Yet to prove his survival on the cross, both Ahmadiyya and orthodox Muslims try to interpret some passages of the Bible in their own way. There are Muslims who do not believe that Jesus was ever crucified, but in their criticism they follow the Ahmadiyya position: "He was crucified but did not die." When reminded that this is not the orthodox belief, they try to get around this difficulty by suggesting that to crucify means to kill on a cross. If a man is put on the cross but does not die on it, he cannot be said to have been crucified.

For Mirza Ahmad the death of Jesus on the cross was a defeat. He wrote: "We do not like such a god at all - a god who was overpowered by a debased people like the Jews..."1 He did not want to know that the Bible interpreted the death of Jesus, together with his subsequent resurrection, as a victory (2 Timothy 1:10).

In his writings Mirza alleged that the Bible had been corrupted and was full of interpolation. Yet on the other hand, he used it to support his arguments. His followers employ similar methods. Their boast is that in a discussion or a debate: "A Christian missionary cannot stand before an Ahmadi."2 A Christian may not be able to stand in the face of the belligerent spirit of Ahmadis and those who follow their tactics but the truth of Jesus, in spite of attacks and acrimony, has stood firm for centuries. This chapter examines some of the arguments that are put forward, based on Bible verses.

The sign of Jonah

Jesus said: "For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth" (Matthew 12:40). In interpreting this text, the Ahmadiyya claim that Jonah "entered the belly of the whale alive, and remained therein alive and came out thereof alive. Thus, Jesus prophesied that he would enter the heart of the earth alive, would remain there alive and would come out thereof alive."3

According to their theory, Jesus "was to be placed in the earth like one dead, but his case was to be like that of Jonah in the belly of the whale. The latter, while in the belly of the whale was not dead but alive. Similarly, Jesus was to be alive not dead in the bosom of the earth."4 Therefore, in Mirza Ahmad’s words, "As Jonah remained alive for three days in the belly of the whale, so Jesus remained alive for three days in the tomb."5

This is probably the best piece of biblical evidence that they can provide to support their theory. However even this evidence is fundamentally flawed. The Ahmadiyya pick out one aspect of the story of Jonah, that as he was alive in the stomach of the fish, so Jesus would be.

We cannot ignore several other statements made by Jesus. We must come to the conclusion that the similarity Jesus pointed out was that, as Jonah was swallowed by the fish, he would be swallowed by the tomb. The comparison is not between being alive or dead.

On another occasion Jesus said: "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up" (John 3:14). We can see that Jesus is drawing an analogy. We have a pattern: "As Jonah was ... so shall the Son of Man be" and "As the serpent was... so must the Son of Man be." By this comparison we can see that when Jesus gave Jonah’s example he meant he would be swallowed by the earth. When he gave the example of Moses lifting up a brass serpent on a pole, Jesus referred to his crucifixion.

If the main point of the first comparison was the state of Jonah being alive, then in this case the comparison will be with the brass serpent, a lifeless object. If one were to follow the Ahmadiyya method of argument, then one would be forced to conclude that Jesus was dead, even before he was crucified.

The Jews asked Jesus, "Teacher, we want to see a miraculous sign from you." (Matthew 12:38 cf.; Luke 11:29; John 2:18, 6:30). Elsewhere they asked him to show them a sign from heaven (Matthew 16:1). Not only did he tell them about the sign of Jonah, but also that he was greater than Jonah: "Behold, one greater than Jonah is here" (Luke 11:32). Now, if Jesus had come down alive from the cross, having been in a swoon, from which he recovered, this would not be a sign of anything greater. It would not be obvious that Jesus was the Messiah, greater than Jonah, and even greater than Solomon (Luke 11:31). Jesus’ outstanding sign was to overcome death after dying on the cross. If this had not been the case, the sign of Jonah and claiming that he was greater than Jonah would have had no significance.

Although Jesus did not explicitly predict on this occasion that he would be put to death, he did so on many other occasions. For example, in Matthew 17:22-23, Jesus said to his disciples: "The Son of Man is to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day" (cf. Matthew 16:21 and Mark 10:33-34).

John’s Gospel recounts the story of Jesus in the temple. He became very angry when he saw tradesmen doing business there and overthrew their tables. The Jews were upset and asked him: "What sign have you to show us, to prove your authority to do this?" Jesus answered: "Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it" (John 2:18-22). The temple he referred to was his body.

The Jews remembered such predictions about his death and resurrection and therefore, on the day after his death, they went to Pilate and said: "Sir, we remember that , while he was still alive, that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead" (Matthew 27:62-64).

It is obvious that the Jews did not doubt that Jesus had died. There was no reason for them to believe that he had escaped death. Their words "while he was still alive" could only mean that Jesus was no longer living. They wanted to seal his tomb, not because Jesus might recover from his wounds, but because they feared that his disciples might steal his body and spread the rumour that Jesus had risen from the dead.

Not only before, but also after his resurrection, Jesus reminded his disciples: "This is what I told you while I was still with you; everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms. ... This is what is written: ‘The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day,’ and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem" (Luke 24:44-47).

In conclusion, there is a wealth of evidence in the Gospels to support the argument that Jesus knew that he was going to die on the cross. To argue and draw some other conclusion from his words therefore is a serious misrepresentation of the Scriptures.

The lost sheep of Israel

Once, when Jesus sent his disciples out, he advised them not to go among the Gentiles, or enter any town of the Samaritans. "Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel" (Matthew 10:5-6). This was not something unusual. The good news of the Kingdom of God was first to be preached to the Israelites and later to others.

Ahmadis acknowledge Jesus to be a prophet of God, but claim he was sent only to the Israelites. When they want to prove the universality of Mirza Ahmad’s prophethood, their general proposition is that "a prophet or messenger does not belong to one community,"6 i.e. he is for all. Yet in the case of Jesus’ prophethood they claim that his ministry "did not extend beyond the Children of Israel".7

Once Jesus said to a woman of Canaan: "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matthew 15:24). Mirza Ahmad’s son, Bashir-ud-Din, builds up his argument on this verse in isolation, saying: "From the Bible we learn that the message of Jesus Christ was meant for Israel, not for others."8

If Jesus’ ministry were only for the Israelites, then what of other passages in the Bible which speak about his universal ministry (John 8:12; Matthew 12:15-21; Isaiah 42:1)? If Jesus’ mission was only for the Jews, he could not have given the great commission before his ascension: "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 28:19). The apostles understood this command to preach the truth to all nations. They did not hesitate because they knew that the gospel "is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jews, then for the Gentiles" (Romans 1:16).

Both orthodox and Ahmadi Muslims agree that one of the best principles of interpreting the Qur’an is to check all references on the subject and then draw a conclusion. However in interpreting the Bible, they often fail to apply this principle. Rather, they often ignore both the specific context of a passage and the general teaching of Scripture.

If one wishes to be selective about biblical references to show the limitation of Jesus’ ministry, then a similar selective standard could also be used to prove the limitation of Muhammad and the message of the Qur’an. One could easily select a few passages from the Qur’an, leaving all others out and declare that the Qur’an was in Arabic ONLY for the Arabs (Surah 43:3) and Muhammad was a prophet ONLY for the Arabs. Surely such an approach is not worthy of consideration. Yet many Muslims approach the Bible with such an attitude.

The lost tribes

Jesus said: "I have other sheep which are not of this fold; I must bring them also" (John 10:16). The Ahmadiyya claim that Jesus was referring to the ten lost tribes of Israel. Mirza Ahmad relates the following story:

Jesus, coming out of the tomb, went to his tribes who lived in the eastern countries, Kashmir, Tibet, etc. viz. the ten tribes of Israelites who 721 years before Jesus, had been taken prisoner from Samaria by Shalmaneser, King of Assur, and had been taken away by him. Ultimately, these tribes came to India and settled in various parts of the country. Jesus at all events must have made this journey; for the divine object underlying his advent was that he should meet the lost Jews who had settled in different parts of India; the reason being that these, in fact, were the lost sheep of Israel who had given up even their ancestral faith in these countries, and most of whom had adopted Buddhism, relapsing gradually into idolatry.9

His theory is based on 2 Kings 17:6 and 18:11 which describe how the King of Assyria captured Samaria and carried the Israelites away to Assyria. The idea that these Israelite tribes were "lost", does not originate in the Bible, but in England in the 18th century. At that time, people who later became known as "British-Israelites" reasoned that the descendants of these ten tribes migrated westward through Europe and became the ancestors of the Saxons, who invaded England. From here they colonised America. This doctrine is currently being taught by Herbert W. Armstrong’s Worldwide Church of God. However Mirza claimed that they travelled eastward instead and settled in present Afghanistan and India.

Mirza Ahmad may claim to have received this revelation, but Muhammad, whom Mirza calls his "Master" and the source of "all knowledge", thought that those Israelites were turned into rats. Abu Huraira alleges that Muhammad said: "A group of Bani Israel was lost. I do not know what happened to it, but I think it underwent a process of metamorphosis and assumed the shape of rats."10

These theories have no basis in Scripture. Biblical evidence does not suggest that these tribes were "lost" in the sense Mirza, Muslim traditions and some western counterparts allege. For example, when Ezra made a sin offering to the Lord, for those who returned from captivity, he sacrificed twelve goats, one for each of the tribes of Israel (Ezra 6:17, 8:35). Before the exile, the nation of Israel was divided into two separate kingdoms, but the prophets of God were told that one day these kingdoms would come together and live as one nation (Jeremiah 3:18; Hosea 1:11). We see the prophecy fulfilled in the Old Testament. The ten tribes were consolidated (2 Chronicles 11:14,16; 15:9).

There are examples in the New Testament which confirm that the Jews never considered the ten tribes of Israel to be lost, even though their numbers were depleted:

  1. Anna, the prophetess, was said to be of the tribe of Aser or Asher. (Luke 2:36).
  2. Jesus told his disciples that they would sit on twelve thrones to judge the tribes of Israel. How could they do this if they did not preach the gospel to the other ten tribes? (Matthew 19:28).
  3. In his testimony before King Agrippa, Paul said: "And now I am standing trial for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers; the promise to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly serve God night and day" (Acts 26:6-7).
  4. The letter of James is addressed to Jewish Christians from the twelve tribes of Israel. This shows that the church in Jerusalem knew about the existence of members of each of the tribes.

The word ‘lost’ in the Gospel

What did Jesus mean, then, in using the word "lost" and when he referred to "the lost sheep of Israel"? In Matthew 9:36 Jesus describes the crowds following him as "harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd". That is, lost, not knowing which way to go. In Luke 19:10 Jesus said to the tax collector, Zacchaeus: "The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost." In the Gospels, the "lost" included sinners, tax collectors, adulterers, outcasts, lepers and all those who were spiritually blind or deaf.

When Jesus said to the Canaanite woman that he had been sent to "the lost sheep of Israel", he was referring to the Jewish people who were living round about and not to some lost tribes in the east. In addition when Jesus advised his disciples to go only to the "lost sheep" (Matthew 10:6), on this preliminary mission they did not journey to Syria, Persia or India to preach to the supposedly lost tribes. Instead, they went to the villages and towns around them and later returned to tell Jesus of the difficulties and success of their ministry.

It was not simply Jews but also many Gentiles who were blessed through Jesus. God had promised Abraham that he would bless all nations through him (Genesis 18:18), and not just the twelve tribes of Israel. This was the promise to which Jesus referred in John 10:16 when he said: "I have other sheep which are not of this fold; I must bring them also ... and there shall be one flock and one shepherd." Indeed the words "which are not of this fold" refer to non-Jews.

When Jesus told his disciples: "Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans," he knew that this was the first occasion where they would preach. So he wanted them to concentrate initially on preaching to the house of Israel. Later, however, Jesus did send them to a village of the Samaritans (Luke 9:52). He preached to a woman of Samaria and subsequently to the whole town, staying with them for two days (John 4:1-42). We can see that Jesus did not consider his ministry to be restricted to the Jews. When the right time came, he commanded the disciples to preach to all the world (Matthew 28:18-20).

Some Muslims, following the teachings of the Muslim commentators, think that Jesus was a messenger sent only to the Children of Israel, but in the Qur’an, Jesus is not described in this way. Rather, he is described as "a sign to all the worlds", ayatan lil-alamin and "a sign to mankind", ayatan lin-nas (Surah 21:91, 19:21).

Jesus’ prayer before the crucifixion

During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud crying and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission (Hebrews 5:7).

This is an obvious reference to Jesus’ experience in Gethsemane (John 12:27; Matthew 26:39-44). Ahmadi followers suggest that because of Jesus’ supplications "to be delivered from death upon the cross", he was assured that "God would deliver him from such a death".11 Orthodox Muslims say that Jesus was taken up bodily into heaven and someone else was crucified. The Ahmadiyya, however, say that his prayers were heard; he suffered on the cross, but did not die.

An escape after such pain and suffering was unnecessary if God was going to deliver him anyway. It could have been no comfort to Jesus to be delivered after facing the horrors of the crucifixion. Anyway, it was God’s will that Jesus be crucified, in fulfilment of prophecy. In Gethsemane Jesus ended his prayer with the words: "Not my will, but yours be done" (Luke 22:42). This showed that he did not oppose his Father’s will, but he did shrink from the agony of taking the sin of the world on his shoulders and being separated from God. His cry from the cross, using words of the prophecy in Psalm 22: "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?" confirms this.

When the Bible says Jesus was heard, it does not mean that God would prevent his death on the cross. God answered Jesus’ prayer by giving him the strength to go through an agonising death, to fulfil the promise of atonement - Kaffâra for the whole of the world. To endure separation from his Father and then being raised from death to life was God’s will for Jesus, thereby making salvation and forgiveness available to all believers, with assurance and a sure hope. Mirza’s own judgement regarding prayer is that God sometimes accepts supplication and at other times he wants to fulfil his will through the supplicant.12

In the same letter to the Hebrews, Jesus’ crucifixion, his sacrificial death and resurrection are all mentioned (Hebrews 9:11-28; 10:8-15; 13:9-12,20). There it becomes quite clear that the writer of Hebrews never intended to imply that Jesus escaped death, as the Ahmadiyya have inferred from Hebrews 5:7 quoted above.

Some people claim that when Jesus realised that there was no other way of escaping the cross, he turned to God to save him. This idea is completely wrong. Jesus never tried to run away from death on the cross. Rather we see him deliberately going to Jerusalem to face death (Luke 9:51; Matthew 16:21; Mark 10:33).

Jesus’ death and resurrection was the climax of his mission on earth. At the start of his ministry, Jesus said: "My time has not yet come" (John 2:4). Later he repeated this saying: "My time is not yet at hand" (John 7:6). Just before his crucifixion, he prayed: "Father! The time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you ... I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world" (John 17:1,6). Finally, on the cross, Jesus’ last words were: "It is finished." His mission on earth had been accomplished. The promise God had made to Abraham centuries before was fulfilled in the work of Jesus on the cross.

Notes on Chapter 6:

  1. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, Fountain of Christianity, p.18.
  2. Bashir-ud-din, Invitation to Ahmadiyyat, p.132.
  3. Zafrullah, Deliverance from the Cross, p.25.
  4. Shams, Where did Jesus die?, p.26.
  5. Ahmad, Jesus in India, p.26.
  6. Bashir-ud-Din, Invitation to Ahmadiyyat, p.137.
  7. Zafrullah Khan, Deliverance from the Cross, p.48.
  8. Bashir-ud-Din, Invitation to Ahmadiyyat, p.142.
  9. Ahmad, Jesus in India, pp. 22-23.
  10. Sahih Muslim, Vol. 4, p.1541.
  11. Zafrullah, Deliverance from the Cross, pp. 27-28.
  12. Ghulam Ahmad, Haqiqat-ul-Wahi, p.19.

7. Death & Resurrection

7. Death & Resurrection

After going through several trials, Jesus was sentenced to be crucified along with two thieves. The prophecy of Isaiah: "He was numbered with the transgressors" was fulfilled (Isaiah 53:9,12). The soldiers broke the legs of the thieves, an action employed to hasten death. But when they came to Jesus, they found him already dead. They did not break his legs. Another prophecy was fulfilled: "Not a bone of him shall be broken" (Exodus 12:46; Numbers 9:12; Psalm 34:20). So according to the purpose of God, Jesus died and was buried.

As it was promised, on the third day, he was raised from the dead. To some people today, the idea of Jesus being raised from the dead is preposterous. Orthodox and Ahmadiyya Muslims are no exception. They both try to find evidence to support their denial of Jesus’ death on the cross. While Ahmadiyya doctrine takes him to Kashmir to die in his old age the majority of Muslims believe he was raised to heaven to come back later and then die a natural death. However the Qur’an makes it clear that his ascension would not transpire until after his death (Surah 3:55). If, as the orthodox Muslims believe, Jesus has ascended to heaven, he must have already suffered death and then been raised to life and ascended into heaven. This was the argument raised by Christians of the day which prompted Mirza to think about the orthodox belief regarding Jesus’ bodily ascension and thus he introduced the swoon theory and a delayed natural death for Jesus.

Blood and water: A sure sign of conspiracy?

To claim Jesus’ natural death Mirza Ahmad says: "To put an end to the life of a crucified person, it was the practice in those days to keep him on the cross for several days and then to break his legs. But the legs of Jesus were purposely not broken and he was taken down alive from the cross, like the two thieves. That was the reason why blood and water came out when his side was pierced. The blood, however, congeals after death. And here also, it appears that all this was a result of a conspiracy."1

Zafrullah Khan agrees with Mirza but declares that this "conspiracy" was a plan of God. He argues that apparently Jesus had died: "But in truth, despite the semblance of death, he was alive. If he had continued in that state for some time, the circulation of blood could also have stopped, but it was God’s plan that the process of his resuscitation should now come into operation."2

When Jesus’ side was pierced, had he been alive and his blood circulating, spouts of blood would have emerged with every heart beat. Instead John says "blood and water" came out. Dr Stuart Bergsma, a physician and surgeon states: "A small amount of pericardial fluid, up to 20 or 30ccs, is normally present in good health. It is possible that with a wound piercing the pericardium and heart, enough pericardial fluid might escape to be described as water."3

Rendle Short, late professor of surgery at Bristol University states:

As a result of the spiritual and physical agony endured, the deep distress in Gethsemane, the insults in the high priest’s house and the appalling brutality of a Roman scourging, a condition of acute dilation of the stomach may have developed and the spear wound drew watery fluid from the stomach and blood from the heart and the great vessels of the thorax. Needless to say, such a wound would be instantly fatal if the victim was not already dead, as indeed he was.4

Pilate’s favour

According to Mirza Ahmad, Pilate was a God-fearing ruler. He wanted to release Jesus, but "could not openly show favour to Jesus for fear of Caesar; for the Jews had declared Jesus a rebel". Pilate thought of a way to rescue Jesus. Friday was fixed for the crucifixion, only a few hours before sunset. Jesus’ legs were not broken and Joseph, a friend of Pilate, took the body. Pilate had planned that Jesus should be kept in Joseph’s tomb, an airy chamber so that Jesus would escape.5

Nowadays even some orthodox Muslims who do not believe in the swoon theory, still follow the Ahmadiyya line of reasoning. They ask: "If it was not a plan, then why did they not break Jesus’ legs?"

The only reason for breaking the legs of a criminal on the cross was to stop him from moving his body upward to ease the pain and help in breathing. This caused the victim to die sooner because of lack of breath and extreme exhaustion resulting in suffocation. Since Jesus was already dead, there was no need to break his legs.

If sparing his legs were a plan to save him, a soldier would not have pierced his side. This spear wound was so big that a man could put his hand into it (John 20:27). If Pilate had planned to rescue Jesus and if it were all a conspiracy and Joseph and his colleague knew, as Ahmadiyya claim, then Pilate would have not gone to such lengths to ask for his centurion to make sure Jesus was dead.

Jesus died of what?

In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph an Ahmadi Muslim doctor and Medical practitioner Hameed Khan posed a question in support of his swoon theory: "Jesus was a young, healthy man of 33. He was only on the cross for a few hours. They didn’t break his legs. So of what then did he die?" (p.37; March 31, 1990).

Such a statement from a doctor who practices in medicine is not a sensible one. Even young men in good health can die of shock or a heart attack. No two people are alike in terms of physical stamina and endurance. This we know from our daily experience. Mirza and his followers ignore the fact that the Gospel narrative does not say that the thieves went through the same punishment, before being crucified, as Jesus did. It does not say that the thieves were flogged and beaten like Jesus was.

Just for a moment, one should think of the situation the night before Jesus’ trial. Think of the strain and pressure that Jesus was under. The Gospel tells us that during his prayer his sweat was like drops of blood.

Although this is a very rare phenomenon, bloody sweat (hematidrosis or hemohidrosis) may occur in highly emotional states or in persons with bleeding disorders. As a result of haemorrhage into the sweat glands, the skin become fragile and tender.6

Some critics like the Ahmadiyya think that perhaps it was a kind of stigmatisation (blood oozing from the palms or elsewhere) and thus was not that dangerous. However the description in the Gospel according to Luke supports the diagnosis of hematidrosis rather than eccrine chromidrosis (brown or yellow green sweat) or stigmatisation. Such a condition may have produced hypovolemia. Even if Jesus’ blood loss probably was minimal, the cold night air may have produced chills.

Soon after midnight, Jesus was arrested and went through trials, not in one place, but in three different places. He was dragged around. There were three Jewish and three Roman trials, followed by flogging, mocking and beating by the soldiers and this was not a symbolic ritual. They used a whip for flogging, known as a flagrum. It had a sturdy handle to which were attached long thongs of leather. Jagged pieces of metal and bone were woven into it. The Jews used to limit their lashes to 39 but the Romans had no limitation and could continue as long as they pleased.

The effects of such a flogging were horrible. At first the heavy thongs cut through the skin of the victim’s shoulder, back and legs. Then as the blows continued, they cut deeper and deeper into the muscle tissues, resulting in a stripping away of flesh. In a very short time the skin would hang in long ribbons. Very often the back of the victim was reduced to a pulp.7 The soldiers handled him roughly. They brought a crown of thorns and put it on his head. Would they have put it on his head with care so that it might not hurt him? They kept beating him, spitting at him, saying: "Tell us who has beaten you". When the soldiers tore the robe from Jesus’ back, it must have reopened the scourging wounds. As hematidrosis had rendered his skin tender, the severe scourging and loss of blood made his condition more critical before the actual crucifixion. Such a behaviour indeed is not part of a plan to escape from the punishment.

Crucifixion for two hours?

Mirza Ahmad ignored all the facts and asserted, "It is improbable that thieves who were crucified at the same time as Jesus should have remained alive, but that Jesus should be dead within two hours."8 Mirza tries to give the impression that he was dealing with the gospel account. However after taking the whole procedure in the gospel record into consideration, the estimate of time must exceed six hours.

The gospel narrative shows that: "It was the third hour when they crucified him" (Mark 15:25). That would be about 9 o’clock in the morning. We are further told that at the ninth hour Jesus died (Mark 15:33-37). That makes a total of six hours. Even then, the body had not been removed. According to Roman law the body of a condemned man belonged to the state. That is why Joseph of Arimathea had to go to Pilate to ask permission to bury the body of Jesus. Receiving permission, he came back and "took down the body" (Mark 15:46). This would mean that much more time elapsed, so Jesus remained on the cross for more than six hours.

It is usually argued that people with no strength left do not die with a shout as Jesus died. This would mean, the argument runs, that Jesus merely fainted. The biblical answer is very simple and straightforward. Jesus claimed to have perfect control over his life and the manner in which he was going to give up his life (John 10:18). Throughout his life, attempts to kill him always failed (Matthew 2:13-21; Luke 4:16-30; John 7:32, 45-46; etc.). The recorded sayings connected with his crucifixion reveal that Jesus died of his own accord. He himself knew the time when it arrived; he accepted it, put himself in God’s hands and died.

If Jesus had remained alive on the cross for the length of time it ordinarily took to die by crucifixion, there would have been no evidence that Jesus had the power to lay down his life by his own will. He chose the very moment of his death (John 19:30). He gave up his life while yet physically able to live. If he had faded away into unconsciousness, or gone into a coma, he would not have been able to claim that he had the power, whenever he wanted, to give up his life.

The ointment

Mirza Ahmad said the body of Christ was kept in a big cave. It was like a big chamber, in which several people could remain without being suffocated. According to him, Nicodemus and Joseph lavished great care on Jesus, finally restoring him to consciousness. Referring to John 19:39-40, Ahmad alleged that they brought a mixture of medicine, or herbs to apply to Jesus’ wounds. It was because of the application of such ointment that "within three days he recovered sufficiently to be able to march seventy miles on foot from Jerusalem to Galilee".9

Zafrullah Khan, however says: "It was the action of the aloes and the spices that operated to restore the breathing which had stopped and that in turn helped to maintain and strengthen the action of the heart, though no doubt it would have taken some time for Jesus to recover complete consciousness."10

It is certainly true that Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes and that Jesus’ body was wrapped with these spices in strips of linen (John 19:39-40). Having adopted a "pick and choose" approach, the Ahmadiyya ignore what the next verse says: "This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs" (John 19:41).

The Jewish historian, Josephus, records that when King Herod died, it required five hundred servants to carry the spices.11 When Gamaliel, a teacher of Paul, died, eighty-six pounds of spices were wrapped around his body. Therefore, it was not some peculiar ointment made specially to heal Jesus, it was part of the normal burial custom. The aromatic spices mixed with myrrh were placed between the wrappings of the grave vestments made out of white linen. It served as a cement to glue the cloth wrapping into a solid covering. It adhered so closely to the body that the wrapping could not easily be removed.

On the morning of the first day of the week this body vanished. The vestments were there. All the wrappings were intact and in position. The shape of the body was still apparent but the corpse had been extricated from it. Getting out of grave clothes and rolling back the stone at the entrance of a tomb are not possible for a newly revived person. Indeed to walk out, stepping over the soldiers and then be able, as the Ahmadiyya claims, "to march seventy miles on foot from Jerusalem to Galilee", would have been impossible.

Resurrection or Resuscitation

After his resurrection Jesus’ body was of such a nature that he could transcend all earthly limitations. He could suddenly appear and then conceal himself, or his identity. The Ahmadiyya claim that these appearances were not supernatural; Jesus was in disguise. When Mary Magdalene went to the grave, she found Jesus in gardener’s clothes.12 Jesus did not want to be recognised by the Jews, re-arrested and placed upon the cross again. Therefore, he disguised himself and when the disciples saw him, they were mistaken and thought that he had been raised from the dead instead of having been revived. Jesus tried to prove to them that he was the same. He showed them his wounds, he ate, and lived with them, to prove that "his body retained its mortal character".13

If Jesus had been raised, Mirza Ahmad questioned, why was it that Jesus, who had a duty to proclaim the miracle of his resurrection among the Jews, kept it secret? nay, he forbade others to disclose it and "made a journey of seventy miles to Galilee in order to save his life".14 Certainly Jesus asked his disciples to meet him in Galilee but there is no statement found in the Scriptures where Jesus told his people not to proclaim his resurrection. Instead we see Jesus commanding them to go to all nations, preach, teach and baptise (Matthew 28:16-20). Following Mirza’s argument, the Ahmadiyya argue that Jesus did not appear to the Jews, but only to his followers. How easily they ignore the fact that all the disciples were Jews. The account shows that Jesus did appear to some unbelievers who then became faithful disciples. James, his own brother, did not become a follower until after his resurrection and Paul long after his ascension.

Mirza’s argument is not a new thing. People challenged Jesus even while he was actually on the cross saying: "Let him come down now from the cross and we will believe in Him" (Matthew 27:42). But he would not be manipulated. People have to believe in Jesus on God’s terms not on their own terms. "If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead" (Luke 16:31).

Jesus told his disciples: "After I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee" (Matthew 26:32). Mirza Ahmad strangely finds support in this reference for his swoon theory. In his opinion the "verse clearly shows that Jesus, after he had come out of the tomb, went to Galilee and not to heaven. Jesus’ words "After I am risen" do not mean his rising up alive after he was dead."15 We marvel at such an interpretation! Jesus predicting his death or resurrection is recorded 17 times in the New Testament. On some 30 occasions, the phrase "from the dead" is found along with such words as, "God raised Jesus" or "Jesus rose".

The disciples’ courage

Shams, another follower of Mirza, alleged that the disciples knew that Jesus had not been raised from the dead, but they did not tell about it because they were afraid of "cruel persecution". He adds: "So it is more than possible that they concealed the matter and replied that Jesus had risen from the dead."16

It is indeed difficult to believe that these disciples were oblivious of Jesus’ predictions of his resurrection and would fix on the desperate plan of vowing never to divulge the truth and keep on proclaiming his resurrection. Is there a persecution that exceeds the taking of a person’s life? Who would have persecuted them if they had proclaimed that he was not raised? History tells us that the disciples did not care about their lives, but cared only for the truth. They proclaimed that Jesus was crucified, died, was raised and will come again to judge the nations. Whenever the opposition wanted to stop them, their answer was: "We must obey God rather than men!" (Acts 5:29).

It stretches credulity beyond the limit to believe that these people were willing to die for what they knew to be a lie. Why would they sacrifice their lives for a lie? Many of these disciples died martyrs’ deaths because of their belief in the resurrection of Jesus and their belief in him as the Son of God.

The fisherman Peter, a man who denied three times that he even knew Jesus, later wept and repented. At Pentecost, the same weary Peter comes forward with great courage and joy to announce the resurrection. The Bible tells us that after his message, about three thousand came to believe in Jesus (Acts 2:14-47). If Peter were afraid, he would not have had the courage to accuse and charge the Jews of killing the Christ. Was there fear of persecution when before the Sanhedrin he accused them of killing Jesus? Boldly he claimed: "The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead - whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Saviour that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel. We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him" (Acts 5:30-32). This same Peter was eventually also crucified for his faith. Who would die for a lie?

Tradition tells us that of all the apostles only John died a natural death. Others apparently were crucified, beheaded, stoned and killed by spear thrusts. If the apostles knew that the resurrection of Jesus did not occur, it would have been humanly impossible for them all to keep it a secret and even die for such a lie.

Charles Colson, an associate of former US president Richard Nixon and one of the conspirators of the Watergate scandal, relates: "With the most powerful office in the world at stake, a small band of hand-picked loyalists, no more than ten of us, could not hold a conspiracy together for more than two weeks."17 So it would also have been impossible for the disciples to keep it secret. "If the resurrection wasn’t true," Colson says, "those disciples could never have held out." Someone would have split and told the truth.

The wounded body

Mirza questions: "If he [Jesus] had been resurrected after death, how was it that this body or spirit could still have borne the wounds inflicted upon him on the Cross? What need had he to eat? If he required food, then he must be in need of food even now."18

The Bible teaches plainly that at the final resurrection, the bodies of believers will be changed. They will be raised as spiritual bodies (1 Corinthians 15:51-53). Jesus had risen in the same body, but with spiritual effects. He could appear and disappear at will and was no longer bound by physical limitations (Luke 24:31, John 20:26). But because Jesus called on the disciples to handle him and because he ate a piece of fish before them (Luke 24:39-43), Mirza suggests that he had not risen from the dead. He turns a blind eye to the fact that Jesus did this to let the disciples know that the risen Jesus was not a vision, or a figment of someone’s excited imagination, but that he had conquered death and come back.

Mirza Ahmad should not have been very surprised about the body of Jesus bearing the marks of crucifixion. Muslim tradition also suggests that those who are wounded in the cause of God will be raised with their wounded body and the blood will be dripping from it.19 Muslims and Christians know that on the day of judgement the resurrection of the dead will take place. No wonder the Bible calls Jesus the first fruit of the resurrected ones and the Qur’an calls him the sign of that HOUR (I Corinthians 15:20; Surah 43:61).

Food and drink

It is indeed true that Jesus ate a piece of fish before the disciples after his resurrection (Luke 24:41-42), but in the gospels nowhere is it written, as Mirza suggests, that Jesus had "the pangs of hunger and thirst" and needed rest and sleep.20

The Qur’an talks about a paradise for righteous Muslims after their resurrection. They will dwell in paradise and will be wedded to women with wide and lovely eyes. They will be provided with meat, fruit and wine (Surah 52:17-23). Now, if it is possible for a resurrected body to consume meat and fruit, then Mirza should not have been surprised at Jesus eating a piece of fish to show his love and affection for his disciples and to show that it was HE who had risen.

The Shroud of Jesus

Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs (John 19:40).

The Shroud of Turin is an ancient linen cloth fourteen feet long by four feet wide with the image of a dead man somehow imprinted on it. Since the 14th century it has been claimed by some to be the actual shroud in which the body of Jesus was wrapped after he was brought down from the cross.

The shroud image portrays a man 5 feet ten and a half inches tall and weighing about 175 lbs. It is of a man, bearded with long hair like the popular artistic portrayal of Christ. The image shows scourge wounds, numerous puncture wounds in the scalp, a wound in the side, nail marks through the wrists as well as through the feet, all of which fit the sufferings of Christ as narrated in the gospels.

The shroud is a typical mediaeval relic. While there are some who are impressed by the shroud, thinking it gives support for the resurrection of Jesus, there are others who have used it to support their own view that Jesus survived the cross. Mirza did not have a chance to speak about the shroud before his death. However the Ahmadiyya movement did not want to be left behind and they have included the "evidence" of the shroud in their books and conversations to uphold the Swoon Theory. In 1978 the movement held a conference in London. The theme of their symposium on "The deliverance of Jesus from the Cross", was the Shroud of Turin.

The evidence for the shroud

The Shroud of Turin has been subjected to exhaustive investigation. There are major points in its favour but just as many against it.21 In the light of some favourable evidence, the late Zafrullah Khan of the Ahmadiyya considered the shroud to be quite authentic and suggested that the Ahmadiyya movement was "in a position to add - a statement borne out by scientific proof ... that God, ... never intended to let Jesus die on the cross."22

Ten years later in 1988 the so-called "scientific" proof went against them, with the dating of the shroud. The test of carbon dating showed that the cloth of the shroud did not come from the first century.23 As for us, it is strange that Christians of the first century did not make mention of such a burial cloth that had an image of the crucified and resurrected Christ on it. John 20: 5-7 indicates that there was a separate piece of cloth wrapped around Christ’s head. It is still the custom in some traditional Jewish circles to wrap the face with a napkin around the neck with the face exposed. The Turin cloth however shows the image of a face. Furthermore, experts on 1st century Jewish burial practices point out that putting coins over the eyes, as the shroud suggests, was not a Jewish practice.

Firsthand evidence for the resurrection

The disciples’ evidence of the resurrection of Christ was firsthand. "We are eye-witnesses of these things," was their constant pronouncement. Within a few weeks of the resurrection of Jesus, they started their mission from the very city of Jerusalem where he was condemned. They boldly proclaimed: "God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact" (Acts 2:32). Such an impact was made that thousands of Jews became believers. Indeed, if the resurrection were a lie, they would have failed.

The institution of worship on Sunday or the first day of the week can be traced back in history to the early church in Jerusalem. It was nothing less than the resurrection of Jesus on this day of the week that changed the converted Jews from their strict observance of the seventh day Sabbath.

The institution of baptism is additional evidence. It symbolises the fact that as Jesus died and was buried, the candidate going into the water dies with Christ and is raised (coming out of the water) to new life as Jesus was raised to life (Romans 6:4).

The breaking of bread, or communion, is another practice which dates back to the early church and is a reminder that Jesus not only died on the cross for our sins and was buried, but on the third day he also rose from the dead as the victor over death and is reigning today.

Just as after the resurrection of Jesus the apostles were changed into a company whom no opposition could deter, the lives of people all down the ages from different nationalities, cultures and backgrounds have changed. They have found their salvation in the risen Christ. The resurrection of Christ is not dependent on a relic, or some ancient tale. Jesus has risen and is alive. He is still in action, changing people’s lives. The experience of many Christians throughout the centuries witnesses to this. So why then do the Ahmadiyya movement and orthodox Muslims not believe in Jesus’ resurrection? It is simply that for some people no evidence could ever be enough.

Notes on Chapter 7:

  1. Ahmad, Jesus in India, p.31.
  2. Zafrullah, Deliverance from the Cross, pp. 32-33.
  3. The Calvin forum, March 1948, p.165.
  4. The Bible and Modern Medicine, p.96
  5. Ahmad, Jesus in India, pp.31-32.
  6. Edwards et al, On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ, Journal of the American Medical Association, March 1986, p. 1456.
  7. C. Truman Davis, The Crucifixion of Jesus, Arizona Medicine, March 1965, p.185.
  8. Ahmad, Jesus in India, p.32.
  9. ibid., p.55.
  10. Zafrullah, Deliverance from the Cross, p. 59.
  11. Antiquities of the Jews, tr. William Whiston, p.471.
  12. Shams, Where did Jesus die? p.25.
  13. Ahmad, Jesus in India, p.46.
  14. ibid., p.48.
  15. ibid., p.25.
  16. Shams, Where did Jesus die? p.24.
  17. Colson, Loving God, p.67.
  18. Ahmad, Jesus in India, p.27.
  19. Sahih Bukhari, Vol.. 4, p. 46.
  20. Ahmad, Jesus in India, p. 30.
  21. David Sox, The Shroud unmasked, p.126
  22. Zafrullah, Deliverance from the Cross, pp.44-45.
  23. David Sox, The Shroud unmasked, p.151ff.

8. The Ascension of Jesus

8. The Ascension of Jesus

Jesus often spoke about his ascension, as he did about his death on the cross and his resurrection. He claimed that he had descended from heaven and that he would ascend back to heaven (John 3:13; 6:62; 20:7). The Bible teaches, that after his resurrection from the dead, Jesus ascended far above all the heavens, to the very throne of God himself (Ephesians 4:10; Revelation 3:21).

The Islamic idea

The majority of Muslims believe in Jesus’ ascension. The basis of this belief is found in two passages in the Qur’an (Surah 3:55; Surah 4:158) but a lot of support is taken from the traditions. A general belief is that Jesus was raised to the second or third heaven, but the Qur’anic statement means that he was raised to the very presence of God: ‘bal rafa’ahu ‘llahu ‘ilayh’, Nay, God raised him up unto Himself (Surah 4:158). Why would God choose to raise Jesus above the heavens into his presence? The only answer the Qur’an gives is that God wanted to save him from the Jews.

The Biblical answer

Jesus said: "I am from above ... I am not of this world" (John 8:23). He told the disciples: "I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father" (John 16:28). Before his crucifixion he prayed these words: "And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began" (John 17:5). This is a clear testimony that Jesus existed and shared the glory of God before even the world was created. Now, after the completion of his earthly task, he was returning to his previous realm.

A Muslim’s dilemma

For a long time, Muslims have seen that such an understanding about the destiny of Jesus undermines the Muslim’s claim about the uniqueness of Muhammad as the PROPHET. A comparison between Muhammad, whose body lay buried in the grave and the living Jesus in heaven, could be unfavourable to the spread of Islam. Thus no wonder some people like Mirza Ghulam Ahmad have come forward to suggest that Jesus did not ascend to heaven: "Nowhere in the Qur’an is there any warrant for the popular belief of many Muslims that God has ‘taken up’ Jesus bodily into heaven."1 The majority have vociferously rejected this idea, but a minority including Ahmadis still continue to believe that Jesus never ascended to heaven. In their belief the expression ‘raf ’ or ‘rafa’ employed in the verses of the Qur’an refer to Jesus’ spiritual exaltation and not his physical ascension.

The argument against Ascension

In Mirza’s opinion, the ascension is contrary to modern science. He writes that one may be able to spread such a belief among the people of Africa and the unlettered Bedouin of Arabia, but not amongst educated people, especially the people of America and Europe, who are already trying to get rid of the absurdities in their religion. He argues that in this philosophical age it is a big mistake to think that one would be able to achieve religious success while holding on to such beliefs.2

If such is the case, why then did Mirza believe that Jonah was alive in the belly of the fish for three days? How could he accommodate other similar matters relating to the metaphysical domain, like revelation, angels, resurrection and to some extent, reincarnation and the transmigration of souls?3

Following the same route, Zafrullah Khan says: "It is contrary to God’s law for a human being to ascend to heaven in his physical body and the Holy Prophet, being human, though a divine Messenger, could not ascend to heaven."4

First, unlike Ahmadis, Muslims do believe that Muhammad visited the heavenly realms. The occasion is known as Mi’raj - ascent to heaven. Second, yes it is impossible to ascend with a normal physical body, but it was possible for Jesus because of his glorified body and above all because of his divine status. It was recognisable as the same body, but with aspects and abilities attributable to the glorified, spiritual state.

Referring to Mark 16:19 and Luke 24:51, Zafrullah Khan alleges that they are merely statements of belief and not ‘a physical observable event’.5 Ahmad Deedat, although a Sunni Muslim who believes in the doctrine that Jesus was taken up into heaven without crucifixion and death, exalted the swoon theory very much in his debates with Christians. In one of his writings, he claims that the story of the ascension only depends on the two references, Mark 16:19 and Luke 24:51:

There have been only two references in the canonical Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and of John to the most stupendous event in Christianity - OF JESUS BEING TAKEN UP INTO HEAVEN.6 [capitals his]

Deedat then rejects the authenticity of these two passages just because the Revised Standard Version of the Bible identifies them as being among the ‘variant’ readings and concludes: "The inspired authors of the Canonical Gospels did not record a single word about the ASCENSION of Jesus."7

It is interesting to note that long before Deedat Mirza Ahmad also stumbled on these references and thus argued that those passages could not be trusted, because Mark and Luke were not eyewitnesses or apostles during Jesus' ministry.

A response

If the whole doctrine of Jesus’ ascension were based only on those two references, indeed this would be a serious problem. However we find that all the inspired writers of the Gospels knew about the ascension of Jesus. Luke also wrote the Acts of the Apostles. Right at the beginning, he tells about the ascension of Jesus (Acts 1:9). In John’s Gospel, after his resurrection, we find Jesus saying: "I am ascending to my Father and to your Father, to my God and to your God" (John 20:17 RSV). There are several other references in John’s Gospel where Jesus’ ascension is mentioned (John 6:62; 7:33; 8:21,22; 14:2,5,28; 16:5,17 etc.). Matthew and Mark wrote about the second coming of Jesus (Matthew 10:23; 16:27; 24:27; 26:64; Mark 8:38; 13:26; 14:62). They would hardly mention his second coming from heaven if they believed that Jesus had not first ascended.

In the Qur’an, there are only two references to the ascension of Jesus, yet most Muslims believe that Jesus ascended bodily into heaven. Similarly there is only one verse in the Qur’an about the second coming of Jesus and yet Muslims believe in it whole-heartedly. In the Bible we find passage after passage where the crucifixion of Jesus, his death and burial are mentioned. There are many references available too about his resurrection and ascension, just as there are verses that talk about his second coming.

Many Muslims and Ahmadi followers in particular try to read between the lines in a way they would never dare to do in the case of the Qur’an. For example, in Acts 1:9 we read that Jesus was "taken up" before the eyes of the disciples and "a cloud hid him from their sight". Shams, a respected Ahmadiyya missionary asserts his own interpretation with these words:

To be hidden from sight does not mean that he went up into the sky. It is very possible that he went to the top of the mountain, and the peak being obscured by clouds or mist, he was hidden from them; then from the top of the mountain, he proceeded on his way down the other side, leaving the country for some other land where he would be safe from the enmity and machinations of the Jews.9

What an attempt at explaining away the whole incident! He totally ignored what followed in the next two verses, where two men dressed in white stood beside them and said: "Men of Galilee, ... why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven" (Acts 1:11).

In this passage words "into the sky", "taken from you into heaven" and "you have seen him go into heaven" are used. Shams did not even mention them. Jesus could easily have told his disciples that he was not going to the Father, but to a far country. But then he would never have said that he was ascending to the Father (John 20:17). Long before his crucifixion some of his disciples and other Jews became concerned about his attitude and claims. In response, Jesus said: "Does this offend you? What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before!" (John 6:61-62). If Jesus were not ascending to heaven he would not have used words like this again and again. He would never have kept his disciples in the dark.

Kashmir instead of heaven

Certainly it would have been disgraceful for Jesus, who is given the title "the prophet of Islam" in Muslim circles, to advise his disciples to stay in Jerusalem (Acts 1:4), to bear persecution when he himself runs away to another country, ‘to be safe from the enmity and machinations of the Jews’, as Shams claimed. What kind of prophet would he be, who after sneaking away, sends two men to say he had ascended into heaven? (Acts 1:11). This makes Jesus the instigator of a plan of deceit. The way Jesus taught, lived, and gave his life, one cannot accept that he was a ‘deserter’ or a liar.

To make room in their narrative for Jesus’ visit to Kashmir in India, the Ahmadiyya would go to any length to suppress the Gospel truth and ignore clear references in the Bible. For example, consider Jesus’ words when he prayed for his disciples just before his crucifixion: "I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world and I am coming to you ... I am coming to you now" (John 17:11,13). He was praying in this way to God. Was God living only in Kashmir that Jesus said, "I am coming now"? If Jesus knew there remained a task for him to reach the ten lost tribes of Israel in person, he would never have said these words in his prayer, "I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began" (John 17:4-5). This is not all. If the mission of reaching the lost sheep as the Ahmadiyya claim was about to take place, then Jesus would never have said: "It is finished" (John 19:30).

Did Jesus die at the age of 33, 60, 120, or 125?

To convince his readership, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad claimed that Muhammad said: "Jesus was 125 years of age when he died." He went so far as to claim that all the sects of Islam believed Jesus was a travelling prophet and lived for 125 years.10 However Shams, Mirza’s follower, claimed that Muhammad said, "Jesus died at the age of one hundred and twenty years"11

If Muhammad said Jesus died at the age of 125 and all the sects of Islam believe this then why do the Qur’anic classical commentaries state his age as being around thirty three? That is not all. In his earlier book, Izala Auham, Mirza claimed that Jesus died in Galilee after his escape from the cross.12 In the same book he tried to prove from the traditions of the Mishkat and Muslim that Jesus must have died before reaching sixty or seventy.13 To confirm this, in another book, Atmam-ul-Hujjat, he quoted Imam Malik (the founder of one of the four schools of Islamic jurisprudence) as believing that Jesus died when he was 33 years old. Mirza even alleged, on the authority of one friend, that the tomb of Jesus was in Syria.14

But now, to prove that Jesus did not die in Galilee, or somewhere in Syria but in Kashmir, India, Mirza again wanted to show from the Muslim traditions that Jesus in fact survived longer and travelled to India. He quoted from a book, Kanzul Ummal which he called "a comprehensive book of Hadith". For example the following:

  1. "God directed Jesus (on whom be peace): O Jesus! Move from one place to another; go from one country to another lest thou shouldst be recognised and persecuted."15
  2. "Jesus always used to travel; he went from one country to another, and at nightfall wherever he was he used to eat the vegetation of the jungle and to drink pure water."16

Interestingly enough, he quoted the above traditions in his Urdu version along with the Arabic original. In the first Hadith, in his translation he inserted the words: "Go from one country to another." In the second he added: "He went from one country to another." Even if one is bound to accept his editing, it does not prove that Jesus travelled to India. The fact that Jesus was a traveller during his ministry can be seen in the Gospels, but he did not cross the boundaries of Israel. From village to village and town to city, he preached the good news of the Kingdom of God. When a man said to him: "I will follow you wherever you go," Jesus replied: "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head" (Luke 9:57-58).

In the Old Testament we are told that ‘Moses the servant of the LORD died there in Moab, ... but to this day no-one knows where his grave is’ (Deut 34:5-6). Muhammad, however claimed to have known where Moses’ grave was. Abu Huraira is said to have heard Muhammad saying: "If I were there, I would show you his grave below the red sand hill on the side of the road."17 Those Muslims who oppose Mirza argue that to find Jesus’ grave was much more important. If his body had been laid to rest somewhere, Muhammad would have known it and told his disciples. It would have made Mirza’s task much easier. For it is certain that Muhammad did believe in the bodily ascension of Jesus into heaven.

Notes on Chapter 8:

  1. Asad, The Message of the Qur’an, p.135.
  2. Ahmad, Izala Auham, p.268.
  3. Ahmad, Taryaq-al- Qulub, p.155n.
  4. Zafrullah Khan, Deliverance from the Cross, p.68.
  5. ibid., p. 69.
  6. Deedat, Is the Bible God’s word?, p.17.
  7. ibid., p.19.
  8. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, Izala Auham, p.420.
  9. Shams, Where did Jesus die?, p. 61
  10. Ahmad, Jesus in India, p.53.
  11. Shams, Where did Jesus die?, p. 153.
  12. Ahmad, Izala Auham, pp. 473-474.
  13. ibid., pp. 623-625.
  14. Ahmad, Atmam-ul-Hujjat, pp.17-19.
  15. Ahmad, Jesus in India, p.53.
  16. ibid., p.54.
  17. Sahih Bukhari, vol. 4, p.409.

9. The Great Sacrifice

9. The Great Sacrifice

Christ has died, Christ is risen. Christ will come again. When the discussions are exhausted then usually friends who oppose the crucifixion of Christ turn around and ask: "But why do Christians insist that Jesus died?" Such a question is often asked by people who claim to have read the Bible and the Qur’an. The straightforward answer is that Jesus gave his life for the remission of our sins. Christians are puzzled that Muslims do not understand the need for Jesus to be the redeemer. The simple reason is that the Qur’an has not included much information on this subject.

Islam does know the concept of Kaffâra, expiation, but it knows nothing of the atonement capable of overcoming all evil in fulfilling all righteousness. In several places in the Qur’an, the idea of ransom, atonement and redemption is mentioned (Surah 5:45,89,91). The usual word that is used is Kaffâra or Kaffâratun - to pay the price for sin. Muslim translators have always translated it more vaguely than the Arabic demands.

Kaffâra, the promise of God

The promises of God that he would make Kaffâra - atonement - for his people are found in the Bible, and also mentioned several times in the Qur’an, but without any explicit mechanism. The Qur’an says that Allah will atone for evil deeds (Surah 65:5; 29:7; 5:45,65,89 etc.), and implies that the believers’ good deeds have a part to play. But there is no way of knowing if atonement has been made or not.

The popular Islamic interpretation of atonement

The Muslim theologian’s interpretation of atonement is sometimes similar to the thoughts of Judaism. For both personal good deeds play an important part in the matter of atonement. According to one of the Hadith, a disciple of Muhammad said: "A man came to the prophet and said, ‘O prophet of Allah, I have handled a woman from the outskirts of the town and gratified my desire but without intercourse. Here I am. Judge me as you wish."1 At first Muhammad said nothing, and the man rose and went away. Then the prophet called him back and recited to him this verse: ‘Lo! Good deeds annul evil deeds’ (Surah 11:114).

Muslims believe that on the day of judgement, God will set up a balance with an indicator and two weighing pans, on which will be weighed all the deeds of mankind - their good deeds and their evil deeds. He who has more good deeds goes to paradise and he with less goes to Hell. However the traditions of Islam are quite contradictory. On one hand the confession of the Shahada - the creed: "There is no god but Allâh, and I testify that Muhammad is the prophet of Allah," is a passport to salvation. Yet on the other hand even total obedience does not necessarily ensure salvation.

It is said in the Qur’an: "He forgiveth whom He will and punisheth whom He will" (Surah 3:129; 11:118; 14:4; 16:93; 19:71,72). Muslim traditions say that God has already created some for hell and others for paradise. Muhammad is alleged to have said: "God created Adam, then passed His right hand over his back and brought forth from it his offspring, saying, ‘I have created these for paradise and they will do the deeds of those who go to paradise.’ He then passed his hand over his back and brought forth from it his offspring, saying, ‘I have created these for hell and they will do the deeds of those who go to hell.’"2

The biblical view of atonement

In the light of the Bible we see God as generous not capricious. He surely can do whatever he will but he does not. If he is to forgive the sinner there must be a reason for forgiveness, which will also satisfy his justice. Through Moses God instituted the offering of animal sacrifices. He accepted these because they symbolised the sacrifice he was going to provide for the whole of mankind. The Bible insists that God is just and his justice demands the punishment of the sinner. The only way out is either to die eternally, or be reconciled through his atonement.

The practice of sacrifices to cover sin began with the first humans, when Adam and Eve disobeyed God and it was God who covered their nakedness - an enacted parable of atonement (Genesis 4:4). Later, God only accepted the sacrifice of Abel and not of Cain. When we look at this story in the Bible and in the Qur’an, we see that Adam’s family must have been taught a particular way to approach God (Genesis 4:4; Surah 5:27-32). People had to realise that they deserved to die for sin. But a ransom (fidyah) or sacrifice made in faith can redeem the sinner. The sacrifice may be seen as a substitute for the sinner.

This pattern is illustrated by Abraham and his son (Genesis 22:1-14). Another example is the Passover lamb. After sending many plagues to Egypt, God said he would kill all the first-born children in that land. However God told Moses to command his people to slaughter a lamb and sprinkle its blood on their door-posts. The angel of God would then pass over every door which had the blood on it and the first-born in that house would be spared. God fulfilled his promise and the first-born of Israel were saved (Exodus 12:1-42).

Atonement and the Law of Moses

In the law of Moses, recorded in the book of Leviticus, God revealed that the way for mankind to approach him is through sacrifice. He said: "Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness" (Hebrew 9:22; Leviticus 17:11). Moses explained the method of sacrifice to the Israelites: the sinner was to take a perfect animal to the door of the temple of God. There he was to put his hands on it, symbolically transferring his sins onto the animal. Next he had to kill it. The priest would sprinkle its blood at the foot of the altar and offer the rest to God on the altar. God would accept the animal’s death in place of the death of the sinner.

Jesus: Zabih-ullah, the sacrifice of God

How can an animal die for a human, when we are of much greater value than any animal? The animal did not take away sin, it was merely a symbol pointing to what was to come. God permitted such a situation until the perfect sacrifice would be offered for all sin. This offering would be for the sin of all the people who had ever lived, or would live. After Moses, many prophets of God came to prophesy about this great sacrifice. One such prophet was Isaiah. He made a very astonishing prophecy which was fulfilled centuries later, in the life and death of Jesus who accomplished God’s purpose (Isaiah 52:12-15, 53:1-12).

John the Baptist, whom Muslims know as Yahya, testified: "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29). Muslims however reject Jesus as the vicarious atonement. Yusaf Ali, a Muslim translator and commentator of the Qur’an says:

We are fully responsible for our acts ourselves: We cannot transfer the consequences to someone else. Nor can anyone vicariously atone for our sins.3

In one way this statement contradicts a passage of the Qur’an, where we see one life being substituted for another. The context is about Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son and though the name of the son is not mentioned, the narrative is similar to the biblical account and it ends with God providing the sacrifice in the place of the boy. Then God is reported to have said regarding Abraham: "We ransomed him with a momentous sacrifice" (Surah 37:99-111).

Usually Muslim commentators tell us that the "momentous sacrifice" was the ram provided by God to be sacrificed in place of Abraham’s son. But would a ram be a ‘momentous sacrifice’ compared to Abraham’s son? Note that it was the son, not Abraham, who was ransomed by the provision of that ram, so the "momentous sacrifice" by which Abraham was to be ransomed must refer to some other utterly essential sacrifice offered by God himself. This raises the question: Was it pointing forward to a great sacrifice in the future?

In the Qur’an these incidents have not been described in detail, but they are comprehensively recorded in the Bible. Here we learn what that sacrifice was, by which God has ransomed not only Abraham, but also all who believe and are faithful like Abraham. Jesus Christ is the one who has been made the sacrifice and ransom for the whole world. Jesus once said, "Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad" (John 8:56). Again speaking of himself he said that he ‘did not come to be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many’ (Matthew 20:28).

Jesus is presented as a sacrifice and a ransom in the Torah, the Psalms and also in the books of the Prophets. There we learn that people through the ages were expecting God to redeem them from sin and eternal death through his mighty power. Thus in God’s own time, Jesus arrived to fulfil this mission. He gave himself as a ransom, to die on the cross according to God’s will and then to rise on the third day. Before his ascension he told his disciples:

This is what I told you while I was still with you. Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms (Luke 24:46).

The story of redemption from sin does not finish there. It does not mean merely deliverance from punishment of sin. Jesus has become the mediator. Through him we encounter true recognition of God and are able to establish a true and strong relationship with him.

Notes on Chapter 9:

  1. Mishkat Al-Masabih, Vol. I, p.116.
  2. ibid., Vol. I, p.27.
  3. Yusuf Ali, The Holy Qur’an, Text, Translation and Commentary, p.339

10. The Bible & the Qur’an: a question of integrity

10. The Bible & the Qur’an: a question of integrity

Muslims are very familiar with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and Moses under their Arabic names. They also know about Job, Jonah, David, John the Baptist and Jesus. The Qur’an acknowledges all these prophets. Muslims believe that 124,000 prophets have come to this world, of whom the last was Muhammad. In their view, he was the greatest prophet, superior to all the others. They also believe that, by revelation, God sent down specific books to several of the prophets, the Torah was given to Moses; the Zabur (Psalms) to David: the Injil (Gospel), given to Jesus and at last the Qur’an was given to Muhammad.

The distinction

The Qur’an asks Muslims to confirm their faith in the following words:

Say (O Muslims): We believe in Allah and that which is revealed unto us and that which was revealed unto Abraham, and Ishmael, and Isaac, and Jacob, and the tribes, and that which Moses and Jesus received, and that which the Prophets received from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and unto Him we have surrendered (Surah 2:137).

Despite such instructions, Muslims do differentiate; not only between Muhammad and other prophets, but also between the Qur’an and the Bible. Most maintain that the Bible has been corrupted, while the Qur’an is ‘perfectly preserved and protected from human tampering’.1

On the question of the integrity of the Qur’an, the Ahmadiyya movement in Islam holds the same belief as orthodox Muslims:

Among all the religious books of the world, the Holy Qur’an is the only Book which enjoys the distinction of having pure text. Every word and letter of the Holy Book, as we have it to-day, is as it left the lips of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, to whom the Book was revealed.2

Mirza Ahmad argued that the Bible was a "dead book" and that the Gospel of Jesus was full of countless absurdities.3 He claimed that the Torah and the Gospel had been corrupted to such an extent that they could not be counted as the words of God.4 On the other hand, he used these very books extensively to back up his own theories.

Integrity of the Bible

It is hard to accept that God was capable of protecting the Qur’an from alteration and yet powerless to preserve his earlier books, the Torah, the Zabur, the Injil and the books of the prophets. Muslims, in believing that the Bible once was Allah’s word, but is no longer, in fact contradict the Qur’an which says: "There is none who can change His words" (Surah 6:116; 6:34; 10:64). Several centuries before Muhammad, the Bible stated: "All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever" (1 Peter 1:24-25).

In the Qur’an we do not find any suggestion whatsoever that the text of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures had been altered at the time of Muhammad. Indeed Muhammad himself trusted these Scriptures so much that we find verses in the Qur’an which instruct Christians and Jews to follow their own Scriptures. How could the Qur’an say such things if the Bible were corrupted?

Let the people of the Gospel judge according to what has been revealed in it ... (Sura 5:47).

Say O People of the Scriptures, Ye have naught of guidance till ye observe the Torah and the Gospel and that which was revealed unto you from your Lord (Surah 5:68).

The immediate followers of Muhammad were so busy in establishing a Muslim community, that they did not have much time to read and compare the earlier Scriptures. When the next generation of Muslims after Muhammad came into regular contact with Jews and Christians, they found certain difficulties in reconciling the Qur’an with the Bible. First, Jesus did not prophesy about Muhammad and secondly, the Gospel narrative that Jesus died on the cross, was buried and rose again. If, in the light of what the Qur’an said, they accepted that the Bible was a guide and light from God, then they would have had to accept the supremacy of Jesus. This would not only have led to the absorption of Islam into Christianity, but would also have diminished their political power. Since, in their opinion, the Qur’an could not be wrong, they were forced to discredit the text of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures by claiming that they had been changed.

Missing verses

Both orthodox and Ahmadi Muslims refer to certain variations they find in different translations of the Bible. To prove the Bible fallible, in their discussion with Christians, they compare certain passages from the Authorised Version with the Revised Standard Version and then argue that a certain verse is found in one copy and is missing in others, proving that the original text has been tampered with.5

Typical examples are John 5:2-4 and 1 John 5:7. Some translations have added brackets to such verses while other recent translations in English have included them in the margins or footnotes, stating that this portion of the text is not found in some of the earlier manuscripts discovered recently. However Bashir-ud-din, Mirza’s son has this to say:

When the Christians entered into conflict with the Muslims and the latter began to hurl attacks at such passages, the former altered the text of their sacred Scriptures and the words within brackets were expunged .6

In recent translations, only the first sentence of 1 John 5:7 is found compared with a long verse in the Authorised Version. Thus Bashir claims that it was simply done, ‘out of fear of Muslim criticism’.7 In endeavouring to discredit the Bible, other Muslim writers claim that by taking out most of 1 John 5:7 from the present day translations, the doctrine of the Trinity has been removed. This was the main passage that represented the ‘nearest thing to the Christian Trinity in the whole of the Bible’.8

If this were all the evidence, the doctrine of the Trinity would be in serious doubt. However there are other passages which provide evidence about the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19, Ephesians 2:18 and 2 Corinthians 13:14).

The standard in question

The irony is that the Qur’an has also suffered from variant readings, and thus the above argument can be used against the Qur’an, or any other book claiming to be inspired or revealed. Variant readings are not found in the present Qur’an simply because the Caliph Uthman (the third successor after Muhammad) ordered that the version codified by his commission should be treated as the official text. All other copies, even those of the most prominent Qurra, Qur’an reciters and the nearest companions of Muhammad, were ordered to be burnt.9 If the Bible had been rectified in such a way, we also would have had the one and only text available to us.

If our leading men had burnt all the ancient MSS. of the Bible and compelled all copies to be made from one which they had caused to be written, we too should have but few varied readings in our Bible, but all men of learning would feel that no reliance whatever was to be placed upon the text thus produced.10

The drastic action on the part of Uthman is itself evidence that major textual differences existed between various copies of the Qur’an. These differences were not only affecting the qira, recitation of the Qur’an, but also its form and content. Both orthodox and Ahmadi Muslims claim that the differences between these Qur’ans were only to be found in the pronunciation and in the recitation of the text:

The variations which have become the subject-matter of discussion were not variations either of the text or verse or even variations of a word. They were all cases of enunciation of vowel points which did not in any way alter the meaning or significance of a word.11

One wonders how anyone can accept the idea that the differences could appear only in the verbal recital of the text, without appearing in the written text and would not alter the meaning of a word. The unifying fact was the destruction of the written text that Uthman ordered. Furthermore, there were no vowel points in the early written text of the Qur’an. Therefore the difference in recital would never have appeared in the written manuscript. Thus Uthman was standardising one text of the Qur’an at the expense of all other Qur’ans with variant texts.

Although these major early Qur’anic manuscripts were destroyed, we have come to know about them and their variants from Muslim traditions, classical commentaries such as those of At-Tabari and Az-Zamakhsheri, and Islamic books written by respected and eminent Muslim divines. Such works as Jalaldin Sayyuti’s ‘Itaqan’ and Ibn-Abi Dawood’s ‘Kitab al-Masahif’ still survive. The latter contains the most information about differences that existed between the pre-Uthmanic codices. In the records of these early Muslim writers, we find many indications, from first hand sources, that the present Qur’an is incomplete. Abdullah ibn Umar, for example, is quoted as saying:

Let no man say, ‘I have learned the whole of the Qur’an!’ How can he have learned the whole of it when much of it has been lost? Let him say, ‘I have learned what is extant of it.’12

Like other Muslims, Ahmadiyya authors, in spite of strong proof, boldly allege that the Qur’an text "has been preserved absolutely pure and entire, down to the last vowel point".13 This is just exaggeration, because the history of the Qur’an text shows that diacritical marks and vowel points were only fully introduced at least two hundred years after Muhammad’s death.

Alleged Contradictions

To prove that the Bible has been corrupted, many Muslims and Ahmadis refer to parallel passages in the Old Testament and Synoptic Gospels where the same event is recounted with differing details. In their writings and conversations with Christians they use such arguments, but they can be levelled against the Qur’an too.

For example, in Matthew we find Jesus saying: "You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’" (Matthew 5:43). Mirza Ahmad thought Jesus was quoting word for word from the ten commandments, so he accused the narrator Matthew of being a liar, just because Mirza could not find the words ‘hate your enemy’ which are not found in the Old Testament passage.14

In another place Mirza refers to Jesus’ command to love each other (John 13:34). He comments that this command can be found in Leviticus 19:18, so how can Jesus claim it as ‘a new commandment’?15 Mirza gives a list of such cases.16 However he misses the crucial difference - to love others as you love yourself. Here Jesus asks us to love as he loved, i.e. be prepared to die for friends.

Following similar methods, an orthodox Muslim, Bashir Ahmad Ansari of the UK Islamic centre, in his booklet, Kitab-e- Muqaddes main Tahrif ke matni Saboot, (The textual evidence of alteration in the Holy Scriptures) accuses the Gospel narrators of their lack of knowledge. He refers to the texts of the four Gospels, where the story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on a donkey is found (Matthew 21:7; Luke 19:35; Mark 11:7; John 12:14). Bashir questions how it comes about that these inspired narrators did not know if Jesus sat on a donkey himself to enter Jerusalem, or other people helped him to sit on it.17

Another Muslim critic Ihsan-ul-Haq gives no less than 20 examples of such minor difference in the accounts.18 In one such case, Mark 10:46-52 and Matthew 20:29-34, one narrator mentions one blind man, the other makes it two. The argument is that if these passages were inspired, it would have the exact number. Muslims say that such contradictions cannot be tolerated. They insist that this type of error means that the Bible is not the word of God.

Many of the orthodox Muslims in their accusations against the Christian faith have followed the Ahmadiyya route so much that they use Ahmadi propaganda material as their own. Some writers have gone to the length of being dishonest and plagiarist. For example the book, ‘Myth of the Cross’, written by a Sunni Muslim and published by an Islamic organisation, has literally copied page after page from an Ahmadi publication, with no reference or credit to the actual author.19

Muslim and Ahmadiyya Muslims both ignore the fact that the Qur’an also contains many passages that are repeated several times and yet their details differ. Now if we were to use this type of pedantic criticism it would provide similar problems for the Qur’an. For example, the Qur’an states that God created man from dust (Surah 35:11). At another place it says that he created him of potter’s clay and at yet other place it says from sticky clay (Surah 15:26; 55:13; 37;11).

Another example of such "contradiction" in the Qur’an is the story of Lot. At one place the text says that Allah saved Lot and every member of his family (Surah 54:34). Yet in another place there is an exception; it says: "except his wife" (Surah 11:81; 15:60).

Let one other example be sufficient. In one narrative the angels visit Abraham and say: "Salamen " - peace. Abraham receives them with the same salutation, saying, "salamun- peace" (Surah 11:69). Yet in another narrative his reply, ‘Salamun’ is not mentioned. Instead he is quoted as saying, "We feel afraid of you" (Surah 15:52). In one statement it is reported as a dialogue but in the other case it is reported as unspoken feelings, "He mistrusted them and conceived a fear of them" (Surah 11:70).

The dialogue between Adam and God (Surah 20:123 versus Surah 2:38); the discourse between Noah and God (Surah 26:117:-118 versus Surah 71:21-22) and the debate between Satan and God (Surah 7:12-13 versus Surah 38:75-78) are a few more examples among many one could look at. We believe that such variations do not invalidate the account, but rather they compliment and enhance each other. The only reason for mentioning the above references is to show that the criterion Muslims use for the Bible could equally be used to bring the Qur’anic text into question.

Interestingly the Qur’an does admit that it has such changes in it and makes no excuse for it, only that: "God knows best what He reveals" (Surah 16:101-102). One wonders if a Christian replied in a similar way to the Muslim objections, "God knows best," would a Muslim accept such a reply?

The fact is that both the Qur’an and the Bible are well preserved but neither book has been preserved totally without textual defect. Both books have suffered from variant readings. While Christians preserved also the variant readings, Muslims at the time of Uthman considered it wise to destroy all evidences of different readings of the Qur’an to standardise into one universal text.

AL-NASIKH WA AL-MANSUKH: The doctrine of abrogation

Following the early Islamic commentators and schools of thought, conservative Muslims believe that some verses in the present Qur’an have been abrogated (mansukh). The simple version of this is that earlier verses have been superseded by verses revealed later and found in the received text. This doctrine is based on the teaching of the Qur’an itself, in particular the following verse:

None of Our revelations do We abrogate or cause to be forgotten, but We substitute something better or similar: Knowest thou not that God hath power over all things? (Surah 2:106).

Other versions of abrogation suggest that certain verses have been abrogated but no replacement verse has been revealed or recorded. The extent of this is the subject of much controversy, varying from five verses to several hundred!

The Ahmadiyya view, however is that no part of the Qur’an has been abrogated. Instead they maintain that it is the Bible, the earlier Scripture, that is abrogated.20 A similar line is adopted by other Muslim scholars, who claim that the above verse and similar ones (Surah 13:39;16:101) refer to the abrogation of the Tawrat of Moses and the Injil of Jesus.21

This interpretation cannot be accepted, as the Qur’an does not suggest that the previous Scriptures were ever abrogated. Instead, we see that it claims to be, ‘musadiqallima bayna yadayhi - confirming what was before it’ (Surah 3:3), namely the Tawrat and Injil. In another place, Jews and Christians are instructed to obey the Tawrat and Injil respectively and judge by what is written in them, rather than come to Muhammad for judgement (Surah 5:47, 71).

Therefore, the abrogation of which the Qur’an speaks cannot refer to the previous Scriptures but only to the text of the Qur’an itself. Other passages in the Qur’an support this idea, such as the following verse:

When we substitute one revelation for another - and God knows best what He reveals (in stages), - they say, Thou art but a forger: but most of them understand not (Surah 16:101).

This verse clearly speaks of the replacement of one part of the Qur’anic text by another. Muhammad was accused by his opponents of giving contradictory statements in the Qur’an. As a result, he is said to have received a revelation that Allah replaced some of the text with a later text. However this verse does not state that Allah replaced one ‘Kitab’ (book) with another but rather that he substituted one ‘aya’ for another. The word ‘aya’ principally means ‘sign’. However in the context of Muhammad’s revelation, this refers only to the verses of the Qur’an and not the book of the Christians or the Jews.

Notes on Chapter 10:

  1. Deedat, Is the Bible God’s Word, p.7.
  2. Muhammad Ali, The Holy Qur’an, p. XXXV
  3. Ahmad, Fountain of Christianity, pp. 13,26.
  4. Ahmad, Tazkira-tus-shahadatain, p.2.
  5. Bashir-ud-din, Introduction to the Study of the Holy Qur’an, p. 35.
  6. ibid., p.55.
  7. ibid., p.54.
  8. Shafaat, The question of authenticity and authority of the Bible, p.16.
  9. Sahih Bukhari, Vol..6, p.479.
  10. Tisdall, Muhammadan Objections to Christianity, p.62.
  11. Bashir-ud-din, Introduction to the Study of the Holy Qur’an, p.359.
  12. as-Suyuti, Al-Itqan, p.524.
  13. Zafrullah, Islam: Its meaning for modern man, p.89.
  14. Ahmad, Kitabul Bariah, p.68.
  15. ibid., p.72.
  16. ibid., pp. 57-72.
  17. Bashir Ansari, Kitab-e- Muqaddes main Tahrif ke matni Saboot, p.19
  18. Ihsan-ul-Haq, Yahudiat wa Masihiat, pp.327-332. Muslim Academy, Lahore. 1981.
  19. Ajijola, The Myth of the Cross, pp.85-88; 114-126; 133-138 & 140. Compare with, Bashir-ud-din, Introduction to the Study of the Holy Qur’an, pp.47-51; 59-68; 17-19,7; 30-31,37,40,44; 46-47. Page numbers of Ajijola’s book are of the first edition, 1975. Pages numbers of Bashir-ud-din’s book are of the 1985 edition. First edition of his work appeared around 1948 and subsequently in 1961.]
  20. Muhammad Ali, The Holy Qur’an, p.48.
  21. Asad, The Message of the Qur’an, p.23.

11. Pagan Origins

11. Pagan Origins

The case against Christianity

Muslims and Ahmadis both try to link the teachings of the Bible with polytheistic pagan sources. They accuse early followers of incorporating foreign beliefs derived from paganism ‘in the religion of Jesus’.1 To prove the point, they draw an outward comparison between the pagan myths and the events of the life of Jesus, being born of a virgin mother, his mission, death and resurrection. Paul also comes under heavy attack. They accuse him of bringing pagan rites and creeds into Christianity.2

If such a claim were true, those who persecuted Christians could easily have condemned their faith as being of pagan origin. In fact the early Church refused to make room for pagan rites and ceremonies. For example, the Church at Colossae was surrounded by a pagan philosophy that involved a religious life of observing the movements of the stars, which were associated with the powers of the angels and were therefore worshipped. Paul boldly and harshly warned the Church of this dangerous situation:

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than Christ (Colossians 2:8).

In other places Paul declares all pagan gods to be demons. He calls upon Christians not to participate in any pagan rites or idol feasts:

The sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons (1 Corinthians 10:20-21).

The balance of truth

Like any other family in England, we receive a lot of ‘junk mail’ before Christmas and Easter. Once I came home and found, as usual, a lot of mail blocking my way. Among the advertisements for Easter eggs and Easter holidays, I found a four page leaflet that an Ahmadi friend had pushed through the letter box. "Interesting," I thought and started reading it. ‘Easter and other festivals: Their pagan Origin’ was the title. Waiting for the water to boil for a cup of tea, I read the outcry about the similarity between Christianity and pagan religions and ‘proofs’ from the Bible for the swoon theory.

The fact that every year the Christian world has to fix Good Friday and Easter Sunday after the movements of the moon clearly shows that the festival has more to do with the worship of some luminary [heavenly body] than with any event in the life of Jesus (pp. 1-2).

If such reasoning is used to prove the pagan origins of Christianity, I can easily use the same criterion for Muslim festivals and reverse the accusation by just putting some Islamic terms in the above passage, thus:

The fact that every year the Muslim world has to fix the date for Ramadhan and Eid festivals after the movements of the moon clearly shows that these festivals have more to do with the worship of some luminary [heavenly body] than with any event in the life of Muhammad.

See how easy it is to reverse the objection? Not only this but, by following the method used by Muslim and Ahmadi followers, one can provide a list of beliefs and practices of Islam, to suggest their Zoroastrian, Sabaean or pagan Arab origin.

For instance we are told by Abul Fidah, who quotes from Abu Isa al-Maghrabi, that the Sabaeans performed prayers seven times a day. Five of these prayers were at the same hours as adopted by Muhammad. These people fasted for thirty days and observed, like the Muslims, Eid festivals and venerated the Ka’ba, the cube like building in the centre of the sacred mosque at Mecca.3

Again, if we adopt the Muslim attitude towards the Bible and use it to criticise Islam, we can easily say, like our Muslim critics, that much of Islam came from hearsay. For example Miraj - the ascent of Muhammad to heaven and the passing visit to hell, may be found in ancient Zoroastrian tales dating some four hundred years before the time of Muhammad. The Magi of Persia sought to revive the faith in people’s hearts and they sent a Zoroastrian up to heaven to bring some news. An angel took him to the heavenly realms, where he met the heavenly leaders. He was shown Paradise and Hell. At last he was taken into the presence of Ormazd, the god of Zoroastrianism and his company of angels. Ormazd was like a brilliant light, but with no appearance of a body.4 In another work such as the Zardusht Namah, the person who ascended up to heaven and then came back was Zoroaster himself.5 If such similarity does not mean Islam has its origin in pre-Islamic sources, then one should not use the same yardstick when looking at the Bible.

The strange legacy

One Ahmadi author attempted to trace Jesus’ teachings to pagan origins. A second endeavoured to find similarities and likeness between Muhammad and pagan gods to prove the universality of Muhammad. The first was Kamal-ud-Din, in his book, The Sources of Christianity, who tries to prove that the story of Jesus in the Bible is an exact copy of the story of Horus, the ‘sun-god’.6 Then Abdul Haque, in his book, Muhammad in World Scriptures, does not see even one point of similarity between them. Instead, he presents a series of similarities between Horus and Muhammad to prove that the former foretold the latter.7

In another chapter, Kamal-ud-Din attempted to prove that the life and teachings of Jesus as recorded in the Bible, were borrowed from the life of Buddha and his teachings. He argued that even ‘some of the parables and precepts that we find in the Gospels had been given word for word by Buddha, some five hundred years before Jesus’.8

Surprisingly Kamal-ud-Din did not know, or ignored, what the founder of his movement, Mirza Ahmad, had said:

The events of Buddha’s life had not been recorded till the time of Jesus. Buddhist priests, therefore, had a great opportunity to ascribe to the Buddha anything they wished to ascribe. So it is likely that when they came to know the facts of Jesus’ life and his moral teaching, they mixed these with many other things introduced by themselves and ascribed them to the Buddha.9

The Logos connection

To discredit the validity of the Gospels, some would lay their hands on anything they can find. Kamal-ud-Din is no different in his reasoning. He further claims that the disciples did not write through inspiration but were influenced by Plato and Philo. He refers to the first few verses of John’s Gospel and comments that ‘the term WORD, used in John, which stands for the Greek word LOGOS’ is also used by Philo.10

In the race to accuse, Ahmad Deedat, an orthodox Muslim, does not want to be left behind. Without any evidence, he states that every Christian scholar acknowledges John 1:1 as the words of Philo. Ahmad Deedat accuses John of being a plagiarist.11

John used the word LOGOS because it was a word in common use by well-educated men of that time, just as, today, we expect educated people to understand terms like evolution, life-force, relativity, ecology, zoology, and psychology etc. The truth about Jesus had to be interpreted to a changing Greco-Roman world. God wanted them to know what he meant. Therefore the gospel was presented in terms which were familiar at that time.

It is indeed true that Philo and John both used the word ‘Logos’, but while Philo used it to explain some of his philosophical principles, John used this term or word to explain about an historical figure: Jesus.

The fact is that Philo never said that the Logos became flesh and lived among us. In his opinion, ‘God is without qualities because that which possesses qualities cannot be regarded as sui generis12 - of the same kind. In contrast, John introduces God the Son as the Logos, the Word, (Kalimah) as the one whom the disciples heard, saw and touched (1 John 1:1-4). Since both writings were in Greek, it was natural to use a familiar word but with a wholly different connotation. A similar example is of the Qur’an where in Arabic ‘Amr’ and ‘Kalimah’ are the two words used.

Notes on Chapter 11:

  1. Kamal-ud-Din, The Sources of Christianity, p.15.
  2. Aziz-us-Samad, A comparative study of Christianity and Islam, p.71.
  3. Tisdall, The Sources of Islam, p.11.
  4. ibid., pp.79-81.
  5. Tisdall, The Original Sources of the Qur‘an, p. 230.
  6. Kamal-ud-Din, The Sources of Christianity, p.35
  7. Abdul Haque, Muhammad in World Scriptures, Vol.1, p.395.
  8. Kamal-ud-Din, The Sources of Christianity, p.61.
  9. Ahmad, Jesus in India, p.70.
  10. Kamal-ud-Din, The Sources of Christianity, p.76.
  11. Deedat, Christ in Islam, p.40.
  12. Akbar Abdul-Haqq, Christ in the New Testament and the Qur’an, p.5.

12. The Christian idea of God

12. The Christian idea of God

Ahmadiyya and Muslim reaction

Mirza Ghulam Ahmad regarded Christianity as an arch enemy and therefore something which had to be crushed. To incite Muslims and stir up their fury, he said that Christians were defaming and lampooning Muhammad. To convince others that he was the only possible saviour of Islam, he added:

This campaign against Islam and Islam’s holy influence cannot be defeated by ordinary methods and means. ... Only miraculous power can and will smash this campaign and not without it can we save our simple souls from this vicious Western magic. To think of anything else would be sheer folly. No wonder, therefore, God Almighty has chosen from amongst the true Muslims of our time this humble one and blessed him with His revealed word and with other divine favours that this vicious magic may be undone.1

In his vociferous campaign against Christianity, such doctrines as the Christian concept of God, the Trinity, the divinity of Christ, his incarnation and redemptive plan all came under attack. To convince people he claimed to have talked to Jesus about these aspects:

I have met Jesus in a state of wakefulness which is called a vision and have talked to him and have ascertained from him his teaching. It is worth attention that Jesus is so horrified at the doctrines like Atonement, Trinity, and Sonship, as if a great imposture had been fastened upon him.2

Mirza based his controversial ideas on the Qur’an and the Bible, but he and his followers stuck also to the traditional Muslim, anti-Christian arguments to support their fight against the Christian faith. His sarcastic way of debate is copied not only by many Ahmadis but also by other Muslims in their discussion with Christians. For example, he asks how it was possible that five children were born to Mary, but only one became the Son of God and the other four did not get any share in the divinity of God?3 In another place he touches the pinnacle of such sarcasm, by expressing his surprise that the God of Christians begot a Son but no daughter: "as though he did not want any to become his Son-in-law".4

In his debate with a Muslim convert to Christianity, he made a mockery of the incident in the Bible where the Holy Spirit is described as descending on Jesus like a dove (Matthew 3:16; John 1:32). Mirza, in his satirical mood, said that if the Holy Spirit had descended in the shape of a huge corporeal figure, like an elephant, or a camel, it would had been something more to wonder at.5 Mirza perhaps forgot that it was because of the ‘small things’, like a dove’s nest and a spider’s web, that Muhammad’s life was spared.6

To express his contempt towards Christians, Mirza preferred to eat the flesh of doves and pigeons. One day seeing a pigeon that had been slaughtered for him, he felt that he was eating the God of the Christians.7 However the same Mirza went to the extreme of killing a cat, though in his dream, to save a pigeon’s life:

I saw in a dream that a cat sought to attack our pigeon. It would not desist despite repeated efforts to turn it away. Then I cut off its nose and though it was bleeding it still persisted in its effort. Then I caught hold of it by its neck and started rubbing its face on the ground but it continued to raise its head, till in the end I said: Let us hang it.8

Mirza claimed to be near to Jesus in his spirituality, but he missed the whole point about the Holy Spirit descending as a dove. He chose not to see that in the Bible it was a sign of peace. It was a dove that brought news to Noah in the ark that the flood waters were receding, by plucking and bringing a leaf from a newly-grown tree. Certainly a picture of deliverance! It was a dove that was offered as a sin-offering in certain Jewish ceremonies. In many countries the white dove is still a symbol of peace and deliverance.

Mirza used biblical quotations totally out of context. For example, referring to the discourse between Jesus and Satan, he alleged that probably Jesus was visited by Satan the second time and that he might have taught Jesus the doctrine of the Trinity.9 However in his debate with the above mentioned Christian, his argument was that according to the Gospel narration, Satan was more powerful than Jesus because he carried him away to the top of a mountain. Jesus, whom Christians claim to be divine, should not have allowed such a thing to be done to him.10

Again, one can see that he missed the whole point and reason for Jesus being there. Taking the whole event in context, we see that Jesus was not driven against his own will, but voluntarily yielded to the powerful influence of the Holy Spirit. It was the Spirit that led him to do the will of God. And what Mirza missed was that, in order to be the Saviour of tempted mankind, it was necessary that he himself should be tempted, "in every way, just as we are - yet was without sin" (Hebrews 4:15).

The Qur’anic standard

The Qur’an acknowledges Jesus as a prophet and the promised Messiah. It affirms that Jesus is God’s Word and ‘the spirit from Him’ (Surah 4:171). Even so, Christians are accused of believing that Allah is ‘the third of three’ and warned: ‘Say not three ... Allah is only one God’ (Surah 4:172). It is claimed that Allah will ask Jesus: "Didst thou say unto mankind: ‘Take me and my mother for two gods beside Allah?’ Jesus will reply, ‘I spake unto them only that which Thou commandest me: Worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord’" (Surah 5:116,117).

These quotations from the Qur’an clearly reveal that in Muhammad’s view, Christians worshipped three gods - God the Father, Jesus the Son and Mary his mother. In the 6th century some heretic groups aroused to such a belief but were condemned by other Christians. However this mistaken view led Muhammad to reason: "How can God have a son when He has no consort, no wife? He hath taken neither wife nor son" (Surah 6:102, 72:3). This is what the Ahmadiyya commentary on the Qur’an has to say:

One can only have a son when one has a wife. God has no spouse, so He cannot have a son. Moreover, as God is the creator of everything and possesses perfect knowledge, He does not need a son to help Him, or succeed Him.11

According to Mirza Ahmad, Christians believe that when Jesus comes back, he will haul up all those who do not believe in him, or his mother as God, and will throw them into hell.12 It is not until Christian start discussing with Muslims the question of the Trinity and the Sonship of Christ that they realize what the ancient doctrinal controversies with the Arians, the Nestorians, the Apollinarians, the Monophisites, the Jacobites etc. were all about.

The Bible does not say that God had a wife and then he had a son, to be called Jesus. Nor does the Bible present the idea of a Trinity which is made up of the Father, the Mother, and the Son. Jesus never said that his mother is to be taken as God. Many Muslims think that if the Qur’an has said it, then the accusation is appropriate In fact the Qur’an only says that the Trinity is not Father, Son and mother and Jesus was not the result of intercourse between God and Mary. Surely Christians would agree with this, as does the Bible.

New trends

Nowadays, Ahmadiyya missionaries in the West are trying to reinterpret the concept of Sonship rather than deny it. They have found references in the Bible where other people were addressed as son, or sons. They use these examples to show that the expression Son of God when spoken by Jesus about himself, or by others, meant no more in his case, than it means in its application to others in Scripture.13

A similar line has been adopted by more recent Muslim writers. Deedat, for example, quotes several texts from the Bible in his booklet, Christ in Islam, to show that the expression, Son of God "was a metaphorical descriptive term, commonly used among the Jews". To conclude his argument, he adds that in the Bible, "God has sons by the tons."14

In answer to this, our response is that the phrase Son of God is never used in the Bible in a carnal sense, as is taught by the Qur’an. In no sense and at no time does the Bible claim that Almighty God had intercourse with Mary, in order for Jesus to be born.

Secondly, Jesus never claimed to be the Son of God in the same sense in which all true believers are sons of God. One should not overlook many occasions when Jesus’ Sonship is stated as being unique. For example:

All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is, except the Father, or who the Father is, except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him (Luke 10:22).

Jesus said that everyone should honour him as the Son of God, even as they honour the Father. Why? Because ...

The Father judges no one but has given all judgement to the Son that all may honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He who does not honour the Son does not honour the Father who sent him (John 5: 22 - 23).

No other person has claimed such authority. It is clearly an exclusive statement. In another place Jesus said: "No one comes to the Father but by me" (John 14:6). Furthermore, it is not only Jesus who refers to himself as the unique Son of God. God the Father himself bore witness to him: "This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17. 17:5).

Like many Muslims, Ahmadis use some verses from the Bible out of context, in their attempt to prove that Jesus is not the SON of God. However they ignore the overwhelming witness of Scripture to Jesus’ unique Sonship. God spoke through Jesus, not only as a prophet but as ‘the Son’, through whom he made all things (Hebrews 1:3).

The Divinity of Jesus

When Christians say: "Jesus is God," they mean that Jesus shares the divine nature with the Father and the Holy Spirit. He took human form and voluntarily chose to subject himself to the limitations and weakness of human nature. This is why the Bible declares about him:

Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:5-8).

The usual trump card in the Muslim argument is to say that ‘Jesus did not claim divinity’. They maintain that ‘nowhere in the Gospels or the Epistles is it said that Jesus referred to himself as God, or implied that he was God’.15

Ahmadiyya and orthodox alike want to see a categorical statement from Jesus saying: "I am God." Unless it can be shown that he said, "I am God," Muslims and Ahmadis will not believe that Jesus is God. Thus, they discount extensive scriptural evidence of his nature and essence, regarding it as insufficient proof of his Divine Sonship.

Muslims and the Ahmadiyya are inconsistent in that they also have several doctrines that are neither mentioned categorically, nor stated specifically and yet they believe in them. For example, nowhere in the Qur’an is there a categorical statement of the doctrine known as the Shahada or ‘Kalima Tayyebah’, "There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his apostle." It is derived from two different places and combined to form a doctrine.

The Qur’an says, ‘Establish Prayer,’ but it does not prescribe all the ritual prayers practised by Muslims. Many of these were passed on through the traditions of the earlier disciples of Muhammad. Yet Muslims do not doubt their validity. Why then should they apply double standards when considering a Christian doctrine?

Perhaps through the years a truce between Sufism and Muslim Orthodoxy has worked out, but back in 922 a Sufi saint called Al-Hallaj was executed for his idea because he said of himself: ‘Ana al haqq,’ which means ‘I am the truth,’ a statement which in orthodox ears was equivalent to identifying himself with God. Jesus had long before said, "Ana huwa Sirat wal-haqq, wal-hayat," I am the way and the truth and the life (John 14:6) and many Muslims are still asking: "Show us where did Jesus say, ‘I am God.’".

In any case, had Jesus made the blunt statement: "I am God," then he would have been excluding the Father and the Holy Spirit. For this reason he simply said, "I am", which is a clear reference to God in the Old Testament (Ex 3:14; John 8:58). Other places we see that he allowed to be called "The Son of the Living God" (Matthew 16:16).

Notes on Chapter 12:

  1. Ahmad, Victory of Islam, p.4.
  2. Ahmad, Tohfa Qaisariyah, p.21; Zafrullah, Tazkirah, tr. p. 154).
  3. Ahmad, Baraheen Ahmadiyya, Vol. 4, p. 370.
  4. Ahmad, Noor-ul-Haqq, Vol. I, p.79.
  5. Ahmad, Jang Muqaddas, p. 169.
  6. When those of the Quraysh tribe planned to kill Muhammad, he fled with his friend Abu Bakr to a cave on mount Thaur (Sor) south of Mecca and remained there for two days. A legend widely reported in the biography of Muhammad explains how Allah sent a spider to spin a cobweb around the mouth of the cave and a pair of doves made a nest in front of it. When the enemy made a frantic search for him, they came to the entrance. Seeing the cobweb and the doves, they thought that no one could have entered the cave without disturbing the entrance and so they searched elsewhere. Interestingly enough such a story is also told among the Jewish traditions about David when he fled from Saul into a cave. When David prayed to God (See psalm 57:2), he called a spider to weave a web in the mouth of the cave.
  7. Al-Hakm, 17th August, 1902.
  8. Albadr, 11th September, 1903.
  9. Ahmad, Noor-ul-Haqq, Vol. I, p.106.
  10. Ahmad, ibid., p.106; Jang Muqaddas, p. 169.
  11. Malik G.Farid, The Holy Qur’an, p.304.
  12. Ahmad, Jesus in India, p.13.
  13. Zafrullah Khan, Deliverance from the Cross, p.11.
  14. Deedat, Christ in Islam, p.28.
  15. Zafrullah Khan, Deliverance from the Cross, p.8.

13. Every Wind of Doctrine

13. Every Wind of Doctrine

The Ahmadiyya movement claims to believe in the Qur’an and in the sayings and practices of Muhammad, but it often interprets them differently from traditional Muslims. Consequently Ahmadi adherents have compiled their own translations and commentaries of the Qur’an. The main point of controversy with orthodox Islam is obviously their belief about Jesus and the claim of Mirza being the second coming of Christ. There are other issues, that so far we have not considered. Some of these differences are outlined here.

Revelation from God

It is not for any mortal that Allah should speak to him except by revelation, or from behind a veil, or by sending an apostle (Surah 42:50).

In line with other Muslims, the founder and his movement believe that revelation from God descends in words. "The recipient provides neither the meaning nor the words of revelation. Both come from Him."1 They hold the view that the door to divine revelation is still open, whilst orthodox Muslims believe that it is now closed forever, the Qur’an being Allah’s final revelation - wahi.

Mirza claimed to be the recipient of direct revelation. He said, "I believe in the truth of the Divine Message, revealed to me, in the same measure as I believe in the Torah, the Bible and the Holy Qur’an."2 Some orthodox Muslim propaganda against the Ahmadiyya is that the movement has a so-called inspired book, "Kitabul Mobin". Though, such a claim is not true, Ahmadis are reluctant to give a clear answer whether or not Ahmad’s "revelations" are as the founder claimed them to be of the same standard as the Qur’an.

Many of Mirza’s revelations are either true or distorted copies of passages from the Qur’an and the Bible. The following are just a few examples of the revelations he took from the Bible and claimed to have received from God.

1. "Heaven and earth can move away but it is not possible that his promise may not be fulfilled."3 Compare with Matthew 5:17, 18.

2. "I am the water that has descended from heaven at its due time. I am the Divine Light that has illuminated the day."4 Compare with Matthew 5:14; John 1:4; 3:19; 4:10-15; 7:38; 8:12.

3. "He who does not accept me, does not disobey me, but disobeys Him who has prophesied my coming."5 Compare with John 12:48-50.

4. "I created a new heaven and a new earth and I said, 'Let us now create man'." 6 Compare with Revelation 21:1,5; Genesis 1:26.

5. "Is this the one who was to come or shall we wait for another?"7 Compare with Matthew 11:3.

6. "We gave thee glad tiding of a gentle son, a manifestation of the True and High as if Allah had descended from heaven. His name is Emmanuel. A son will be born to thee and grace will come close to thee."8 Compare with Matthew 1:23; Luke 1:35.

7. "A warner [some places a prophet] came into the world and the world did not accept him ..."9 Compare with John 1:10.

Following this route, other Ahmadiyya writers do the same. They include biblical materials in their essays, without any reference to the source, as if they were Islamic.

The Genesis story

The Ahmadiyya, like all other Muslims, believe God is the ultimate cause of all creation, but as they go deeper into their explanation, they break away from mainstream Islamic theology and ethics. They bring in the idea of evolution to make room for "modern minds".

The Qur’an says that God created the heavens and the earth in six days (Surah 7:55). According to the Ahmadiyya interpretation, God created the heavens and the earth not in six days but in six "periods". Since it is impossible to define the length of these periods, they argue, "All that we can say is that creation of the heavens and the earth took six long cycles, to become perfect and complete."10

The Ahmadiyya have embraced the Big Bang theory. In support they quote surah 21:31 as a proof text from their translation of the Qur’an:

Do not the disbelievers see that the heavens and the earth were a closed-up mass, then We opened them out? And we made of water every living thing. Will they not then believe?11

Bashir-ud-din states: "God, in accordance with the laws which He had set in motion, split the mass of matter, and its scattered bits became the units of the solar system."12

The first man

The Bible reminds us that it is God who created us all and that all humanity sprang forth from the first man and his wife (I Corinthians 15:45). Regardless of race or nationality, we all have a common blood line (Acts 17:26).

Muslims also believe that Adam was the first human being created by God. They claim that Adam was the first prophet sent by him. The Ahmadiyya movement accepts Adam as the first prophet, but denies that he was the first man on earth.

The World has passed through different cycles of creation and civilization, and Adam the progenitor of the present race is only the first link in the present cycle, and not the very first man in God’s creation. ... Other Adams may have gone before our Adam; other races may have lived and perished and other cycles of civilization may have appeared and disappeared.13

The movement very much supports evolutionist theories. God did not create the first man at once, but through a gradual process, "stage after stage and condition after condition".14 According to Bashiruddin there was a civilisation on this earth before the arrival of Adam. They were human but called "Jinn" and their leader was "Iblis".15

Angels and demons

According to the Qur’an the angels - mala’ikah were created from light - nur and the demons - Jinn from fire - nar. The Qur’an acknowledges the existence of Satan (often called Shaitan or Iblis) who is from the Jinn. Like the Jinns, he was created from fire (Surah 18:50; 7:12). God ordered him to worship Adam, but he refused and so he was rejected and cast down (Surah 7:11).

The Bible however teaches that Satan because of his pride and covetousness fell. It reveals that Satan is the god of this age (2 Corinthians 4:4), "The prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience" (Ephesians 2:2). The Bible tells us that Satan’s powerful influence can be overcome. "Resist the devil and he will flee from you" (James 4:7). Additionally, Jesus taught his disciples to pray, "Deliver us from the evil one" (Matthew 6:13).

Muslim writers disagree with each other that Iblis ever was an angel. Yet it is strange to find that it was the angels who were asked to worship Adam and Iblis is mentioned as the one who refused and was cast down. Muslims do agree with Christians that Satan masquerades as the benefactor, friend and servant of mankind, but they add that because God has allowed him to do this, they believe that all good or bad things come from God. The last part of the creed, ‘Iman Muffasel’ says, "Wal qadri khairihee wa sharrihee minallahi ta’ala" - and any thing good or bad that occurs is caused by Allah.

According to the Ahmadiyya belief, Shaitan (Satan) does not mean a devil. Satan and Iblis are two different persons. Iblis is the one who refused to submit to Adam and it was Satan who tempted Adam and caused him to slip. Iblis belonged to the Jinn and therefore became the leader and representative of the forces of evil in the universe. Satan was not "an invisible evil spirit but a wicked man of flesh and blood".16

The life hereafter

The fifth article of faith in Islam is the belief in the Hereafter, heaven and hell. Following the Qur’an, Muslims believe in life beyond. Like the Bible, the Qur’an teaches about the judgement day, also called "Yawmal-Qiyamah", the day of resurrection, and "Yawmal-Akhir", the last day. There will be everlasting life for the righteous and everlasting destruction for the wicked.

Those who will have everlasting life will live in a place called Paradise, a big garden watered by rivers. The sensuous joys of Paradise are described in great detail in many popular Islamic books. However hell is a place of fire, which has seven gates and is divided from Paradise by a wall. Those who are in hell suffer everlasting punishment.

The Ahmadiyya reject the idea of Paradise being a place of physical delights. However neither is it regarded as a mere metaphor. In their view life after death takes two forms, a life in Paradise and a life in hell. The body in the after life is different from the physical. "Paradise and Hell are not two distinct and separate places but two conditions or states of mind."17

Ahmadiyya does not believe in the eternity of hell but regard it as a sort of hospital where sinners will live for a limited time for their spiritual treatment and cure.18

In his teaching about eternal life and eternal punishment, Jesus taught that there was no movement from hell to heaven. He did not leave any room for purgatory. The Qur’an also leaves no room for the possibility of hell being a temporary place. The righteous and the wicked will remain in their places of destiny forever (Surah 2:81-82).

The Ahmadiyya are trying their best to introduce their doctrines in ways which will be accepted by modern people. They have brought the idea of evolution into Islam. Their message is of eventual salvation for all, in direct contradiction of the teaching of all the prophets.

Notes on Chapter 13:

  1. Bashir-ud-din, Invitation to Ahmadiyyat, p.7.
  2. Ahmad, Arb’ain, No.4, p.25.
  3. Zafrullah, Ahmadiyyat, p.38.
  4. Ahmad, Baraheen Ahmadiyya, Vol. 5, p.115.
  5. Ahmad, Haqeeqatul-Wahi, p.178.
  6. Ahmad, Fountain of Christianity, p.63 (footnote).
  7. Majmua Ishtiharat, Vol.. I, p.117.
  8. Ahmad, Anjam Athem, p. 62.
  9. Ahmad, Baraheen Ahmadiyya, Vol.. IV, p.557 (footnote).
  10. Farid, The Holy Qur’an, p.336.
  11. ibid., p.695.
  12. Bashir-ud-din, Introduction to the Study of the Qur’an, p.422.
  13. Farid, The Holy Qur’an, p. 23.
  14. Bashir-ud-din, Introduction to the Studyof the Qur’an, p.423.
  15. ibid., p.424.
  16. Farid, The Holy Qur’an, p.328.
  17. ibid., p.1180.
  18. Zafrullah, Islam: Its meaning for modern man, p.193.

14. The Second Coming of Christ

14. The Second Coming of Christ

Although the majority of Muslims believe in Jesus’ actual coming, Ahmadis insist that Islam does not support the belief that the dead are ever raised and returned to this world. They believe that the prospects of Jesus returning to this world in person are unreal. The hub of their problem is that in the Qur’an there is no definite teaching on the second coming of Christ. It is only the traditions that develop one Qur’anic reference into the story of his second coming (Surah 43:61). Sahih Bukhari, treated as the most authentic collection of traditions, reports Jesus’ descent but does not record his descent from heaven or sky. Thus the Ahmadiyya argue that his coming was to be like that of any other human being.

Such a situation has aroused some discomfort and while some orthodox Muslims insist that the doctrine of Jesus’ coming back has its foundation in the Qur’an,1 others insist that the traditions are the only basis of his second coming.2 In contrast, Christians are fortunate to find a major part of the New Testament directly concerned with Christ’s second coming. In fact, every New Testament writer refers to the return of Christ.

Jesus made a firm promise: "I will come again" (John 14:23). He said that his second coming would bring eternal life to those who believed in him and eternal destruction to those who rejected him (Matthew 24:30-31; 25:31-34). He spoke many times about his return; even after his ascension, he reminded his disciples about it through the angels and through revelation. The reassuring news and the final reminder is found in the last chapter of Revelation, the last book of the Bible: "Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done" (Revelation 22:12).

His identity on his return

How are we going to know about his coming? Ahmadiyya believe that the second coming of Christ is a spiritual one. Both Ahmadiyya and the Bahai adherents believe that their founders were the second coming of Christ. However there are other groups in the world like the Jehovah’s Witnesses who believe Jesus came back at the turn of this century and took the elect with him. Whatever people may believe, the truth remains that his second coming will not be a secret one. Neither will it be like his first coming. The Scriptures reject such ideas. When the apostles saw Jesus ascending into heaven, the angels told them: "This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven" (Acts 1:11).

Most Muslims believe in his physical descent. Some believe he will land on the Ka’ba, others claim he will land on the minaret of the Umayyad mosque in Damascus, yet others think he will descend in Jerusalem. Most prominent traditions state that in the event of Jesus’ descent from heaven, two angels will deposit Jesus on top of the Eastern Minaret of the Mosque in Damascus. Then people will put up a ladder for him to climb down. It is somehow strange to think that angels bring him down but leave him on the minaret and let people bring him down to the ground via a ladder.

Whether coming to Jerusalem, Damascus or Mecca, one has to think carefully where he is coming from. If he is coming from heaven, then this coming will not be an ordinary one, with an ordinary body like you or I have. The Bible declares that he is coming in heavenly splendour. He will come in all his glory and power (2 Thessalonians 1:7). Jesus said: "as lightning that comes from the East is visible even in the West", so will be his coming. In simple words his coming will be visible to everyone (Matthew 24:27). His first coming took place in obscurity, but his second coming will be universally visible. He will come "with the clouds of heaven" (Matthew 24:30; Acts 1:9,11). His coming will be so dramatic, no-one will fail to recognise him.

The Purpose of his coming: The Islamic view

Muslims believe in a Jesus who is to descend as an ordinary man but with the power of God and his permission to spread Islam through battles; he will then marry, have children, die and be buried next to Muhammad.

Maududi, the founder leader of Jamat-e-Islami draws a scenario of what will happen when Jesus arrives. In his opinion before the coming of Jesus, Anti-Christ Dajjal will arise among the nation of Jews and will impose himself as the Christ. He will gather Jews from all over the world and assemble them in Palestine. He will create a mighty Jewish empire. Muslims will suffer colossal hardship. His army will move towards neighbouring Muslim countries and will expand their borders. He will penetrate into Syria with 70,000 Jewish troops and will take position before Damascus. At this moment of crisis Jesus will descend in the eastern quarter of Damascus near a white minaret. After the morning prayer he will advance with the Muslims to fight against Dajjal. Jesus with the Muslim army will pursue and "A great slaughter of the Jews will ensue and every one of them will be annihilated. The nation of Jews will be exterminated." 3

Another Muslim writer, Kassim, thinks the 70,000 will be Jews and Christians, and Jesus, before going on the offensive, will give the world a chance to convert to Islam or be ready for extermination. Then his army will engage at a battlefield called Armageddon in the Bible. He will capture Dajjal at Lydda, the airport to Tel Aviv. All the followers of Dajjal will be exterminated.4

Both writers follow the same popular route stating that no other religion will be in a position to challenge Islam because the followers of them including Christianity will renounce their former allegiance to form the only brotherhood of Islam.5

On the one hand Jesus is expected to convert everybody by force or they would be exterminated, and yet on the other hand, according to the popular Hadith, Muslims think of Jesus coming back as a "just leader and a benevolent sovereign" ruler who will establish universal peace and brotherhood under a Muslim state head.6 He will rid this world of hatred and malice and establish peace. After all the efforts even that peace will last for only a few years and then will be the judgment day.

The biblical view

The Bible however tells us that at his first coming Jesus became like us in every respect, to deliver us from the power of Satan (John 1:18; Hebrews 2:14-17). He came to conquer sin and rise from the dead to gain victory and triumph. At his second coming, we in fact are going to see him as he really is (1 John 3:2). We should not assume the second coming will be a repeat of the first. However this coming is linked with the mission he left to the Church to perform and proclaim to the world his Gospel. At his coming the mission that began with Pentecost will terminate.

His coming will be a decisive one (1Corinthians 15:24). The destruction of the heavens and the earth, the resurrection of the dead and the judgment will take place (1 Thessalonians 4:16,17; 2 Peter 3:10,12; Matthew 7:1-27; 5:21-30; John 5:28-29). Not only those who have not accepted him but Christians too will stand before Christ, to receive what is due to them (2 Corinthians 5:10; 1 Corinthians 10:11).

Jesus gave many striking illustrations of the suddenness of his coming and the result. He said:

Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left (Matthew 24:40-41).

Elsewhere we are told:

We will all be changed - in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed (1Corinthians 15:51-52).

He is not coming to establish peace for a time but to establish eternal peace. Although it is right to campaign for social justice and peace to improve society, the Bible makes it clear that we will never be able to perfect it. Only Christ at his second coming will uproot evil and enthrone righteousness forever.

The time of his coming

The Bible speaks clearly about the unexpectedness of his return. When Jesus was asked by his disciples about the day of his return, he advised them not to speculate because no one knows the date but God (Mark 13:32). Therefore any speculation about the date is futile. Peter points out that God’s time-scale is different from ours (2 Peter 3:8). All that Christians have to do is to be ready and prepared for his return - at any time. Jesus said that he would come when people did not expect him. So often critics consider the idea of Jesus’ second coming as naïve and gullible:

"Where is this ’coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation" (2 Peter 3:4).

Jesus has answers to such ridicule. He will come unexpectedly as a thief in the night. He said his coming would be as unexpected as the flood in the time of Noah (Matthew 24:37-41). People were told about it but they did not believe it until it arrived and then it was too late. Today everyone has the opportunity to believe in Christ now and act as he has commanded (2 Peter 3:9; Acts 2:37-38). At his arrival this chance will have been withdrawn; it will be too late.

Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts. (Hebrews 4:7)

Notes on Chapter 14:

  1. Nadwi, A.H; Qadianism: A Critical Study, p.39
  2. Maududi, A.A; Finality of Prophethood, p.61
  3. ibid., p.69
  4. Kassim, H.M; Time for the appearance of Imam Mahdi and the second coming of Jesus to earth draws close, The Muslim Digest, May/June 87. pp.201-202.
  5. Maududi, p.69
  6. ibid., p.58.



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Ahadith: plural of Hadith; traditions attributed to Muhammad.

Al-Masih: the Messiah; the Christ

Allah: the Arabic name for God; His personal name in Islam.

Allama: a learned person

Awliya: Plural of wali; Saints

Ayah: verses of the Qur’an; also means signs and miracles.

Bahagavad Gita: an important and popular religious book of the Hindus

Brahmo Samajist: monotheistic Vedic Movement

Dajjal: the anti-Christ

Fidyah: ransom

Hazrat: title of respect used for religious leaders.

Hijrah: migration; date of Muhammad’s flight from Mecca in 622 A.D. to Madina. The Islamic calendar commences from this year.

Hindu: a term used to identify the Vedantic religion of India and its followers.

Iblis: Satan

Ibn: son

Ibn-e-Maryam: the son of Mary

Imam: leader of a Muslim community or of a congregation of worshipers; spiritual guide of Shia Muslims.

Imam-e-Zaman: the spiritual leader of his age.

Iman: faith; in the sense of a formal declaration of belief in the six articles.

Injil: Gospel

Isa: The name of Jesus in the Qur’an.

Jagirdar: Landowners

Jehad: Striving; Holy War.

Jin: demons but not necessarily evils.

Jizyah: tax enjoined on non-Muslims, a kind of community charge.

Ka’aba: the sacred shrine of Islam where Muslim converge.

Kaffâra: atonement

Kalimah: the creed

Khalifa: successor, vice-regent

Kitab: book

Kitab-e-Muqaddas: the holy book, the Bible.

Krishna: the most popular avatar of Vishnu and hero of the Mahabharta.

Lakshmi: the goddess of fortune, wife of Vishnu

Mahabharta: the great Hindu epic.

Maharaja: great king

Mahdi: the directed one; a ruler to appear on earth in the last days.

Malika: angels

Mansukh: abrogated

Marhame Isa: ointment of Jesus

Masih Maw’ud: the promised Messiah.

Masjid: mosque

Minaret: tower of a mosque

Mir’ag: Muhammad’s ascension to heaven.

Muffasel: detailed

Mufti: Muslim Jurist; expounder or doctor of Islamic

Mujaddid: revivalist; Renewer; Reformer,

Mullah: priest

Nabi: Prophet

Nar: fire

Naskh: abrogation

Nubawat: prophethood

Nur: light

Nuzul: the descent

Nuzul-i-Isa: the descent of Jesus

Qadi: Muslim Jurist

Qira: recitation

Qurra: Qur’an reciters

Rafa: to ascend

Raise: chief

Rasul: apostle

Sahih Bukhari: name of the most respected collection of traditions.

Sharia: Islamic law

Shia: Shi’ite. sect regarding Ali, the son-in-law of Muhammad as direct lawful successor to Muhammad.

Sikh: a follower of Sikhism.

Sunni: those who accept the sunna, the custom and practice of Muhammad.

Surah: chapter of the Qur’an

Tafsir: commentary

Tahrif: alteration

Tawhid: unity; the oneness of God.

Vishnu: one of the two great gods of Hinduism

Wahy: revelation, inspiration

Yahya: John the Baptist

Yawamal-Akhira: the Last Day; the day of judgment.

Yawmal-Qiyamah: the Day of resurrection, Judgment.

Zabih-ullah: the sacrifice offered by Allah

Zabur: psalms

Zakat: Charity enjoined upon Muslims