AHMADIYAH MOVEMENT, started in the late nineteenth century as a reforming and rejuvenating current in Islam, originated in Qadian in Gurdaspur district of the Punjab. In the 1880`s, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, son of the chief landowning family of Qadian, after he had received revelations and preached a renewal of Islamic faith, began to draw followers. Although he had been educated traditionally by tutors in Qur`an and hadith, Ahmad had been sent to Sialkot by his father to serve his apprenticeship as a law clerk and to train for the legal profession. Unsuccessful in his work and while becoming increasingly religious, Ahmad came in contact with Christian missionaries and became convinced that they posed a threat to Islam.
Following the advent of the Arya Samaj in the Punjab in 1877, Ghulam Ahmad also realized the threat posed by renascent militant Hinduism. Spurred by a commitment to Islam reinforced by revelatory experiences, and aware of the growing threat posed by Christianity and Hinduism, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, in 1880, at the age of 40, began to publish a four volume work, Barahini Ahmadiyah, in which he attempted to refute the claims of several Hindu reform movements that they were superior to Islam. In 1889, he permitted his followers to make bay`at or confirm their allegiance to him. This bay`at was not the kind made by Sufis in joining a tariqah or order but rather more of the traditional Islamic commitment made to a khalifah.
In 1891, Ghulam Ahmad claimed to be the masih maw`ud (Promised Messiah) and mahdi of the Muslims. While the former claim was sufficient to bring the wrath of Muslim `ulama or religious scholars down on him, the latter claim was explicitly offensive to most Muslims. The mahdi, usually understood by Muslims to be Jesus Christ, is the figure who will come at the end of time to establish the kingdom of God on earth. Ahmad`s claim to be the mahdi stemmed from his theory that he was the successor to Jesus. This involved an elaborate explanation proving that Jesus was not in heaven, as taught by Islam, but that on being taken off the cross, Jesus had been treated with a miraculous ointment and cured of his wounds.
He had then escaped, wandering eastward, coming finally to Kashmir. There he ministered to the lost tribes of Israel, until his death at the age of 120. Ghulam Ahmad demonstrated in his book, Masfh Hindustan Men, that he had located Jesus` grave on Khan Yar Street in Srinagar. By proving that Jesus had died a natural death, Ghulam Ahmad believed he had proved his claims to be mahdi and promised Messiah of the Muslims. Through his writings in Urdu and Arabic as well as through his preaching in the Punjabi language, Ahmad won some thousands of followers during his lifetime. In 1891, the first Ahmadiyah Ja Jsah or annual community gathering was held at Qadiari.
This meeting has been held annually during the last week of December ever since, though since partition it is also held in the new international headquarters at Rabwah near Chiniot, West Punjab, Pakistan. While Ahmad`s forthright stand against Hindus and Christians at first won him the admiration of certain Islamic sects, his claims to a kind of prophethood and his call for jihad by missionary effort rather than by militant activity brought on him the wrath of both Shiah and Sunni religious leaders. His right to prophecy was also challenged in court. He had also prophesied that the wrath of God would fall upon his enemies.
When Pandit Lekh Ram, the militant Arya Samajist, was murdered by a Lahore Muslim in 1897, two years before the awful death predicted for him by Ghulam Ahmad, communal controversy in Lahore reached an unprecedented level for those times. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad`s first interaction with the Sikh community occurred in 1895 at the height of his controversy with the Arya Samaj. After studying Swami Dayanand`s 5atyarth Prakash (The Light of Truth), in which the Swami had attacked every other religion including the Sikh, Ahmad, though he had not heard of any Sikh responses to these attacks, decided to take up “the cudgels against Dayanand to protect the honour of Nanak,” according to Ahmad`s biographer, Abdur Rahman Dard.
It was thus that Ahmad began a work in Urdu on the life of Guru Nanak, which not only sought to answer Dayanand`s charges against Sikhism but also attempted to separate legend from known facts about Guru Nanak. Ahmad`s ultimate aim in this study was to win over the Sikhs to Islam and to convince the Sikhs that he was the promised Messiah by proving that Guru Nanak had been a Muslim. Sikh scholars answered the claims of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad and refuted his arguments about Guru Nanak. Bharat Sudhar, an Arya Samaj journal published at Lahore, sought a rapprochement with the Sikhs by attacking Ahmad.
Since the partition of the Punjab, the principal seat of the Ahmadiyah movement has moved to Rabwah, Pakistan, with only a token staff remaining to care for the original shrines and buildings of Qadian, now situated a few miles on the Indian side of the border. In Pakistan the Ahmadiyahs have since been declared a heretic, non-Muslim sect.
1. Lavan, Spencer, Ahmadiyah Movement. Amritsar. 1976
2. Abbott, Freeland, Islam and Pakistan. New York, 1968 S.L.