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.