The Promised Messiah(as) and the Blessed Reign of Queen Victoria

No Comments | July 2012

This year, Queen Elizabeth II will become only the second British monarch to celebrate 60 years on the throne at her Diamond Jubilee. She rules at a time when her subjects come from a diverse set of faiths, when at the same time religious differences are increasingly becoming a source of strife. The only other monarch of England to reach such a milestone was Queen Victoria, who also celebrated her Diamond Jubilee. Yet the two have more in common than just their lengthy reigns. They have also had special connections to the Promised Messiah(as) and his Khalifas (Successors). While Queen Elizabeth II has had the special blessing of having two of the Promised Messiah’s(as) Successors actually reside in the same country during her reign, Queen Victoria had the honour of reigning during the actual advent of the Promised Messiah(as) himself. Further, Queen Victoria also had the honour of receiving two gifts from the Promised Messiah(as) in the form of two books he penned directly to her. For her Diamond Jubilee, he published Tohfa-e-Qaisariyyah (A Gift for the Queen) on May 25, 1897. This was followed Sitara Qaisariyyah (The Star of the Empress), in 1899. Both books not only extolled the virtues of the British Government, but also outlined the appropriate Islamic perspective on Jihad and good government, while also inviting the Queen to accept Islam and deny Jesus’(as) death on the cross. In this respect, these two books are instructive to Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

Justice in Ruling

The Promised Messiah(as) sent two gifts to Queen Victoria, in the shape of two books he penned directly to her.

Absolute justice is the fundamental requirement of peace, as admonished in the Holy Qur’an and all true Holy Scriptures. Yet, through the centuries, rulers and states have not always upheld the inherent right of an individual to freedom to worship. Even today, the free expression of religion is banned in some European countries while it is prohibited or discouraged in others, such as Pakistan and Indonesia, to name but a few. Yet justice must be the cornerstone of any government. It demands courage, conviction and resolve to be fair and to meet the differing demands of subjects from varied faiths and creeds. A state leader who is mindful of the requirements of justice is therefore to be praised, and all the more when the head of a state exercises that justice over subjects whose beliefs are different from or at odds with his or her own. A shining example of such noble behaviour was that of the Najesh, the Emperor of Ethiopia. During the time of the Holy Prophet of Islam(saw) the Najesh was approached by the Makkan Quraish to expel Muslim refugees who had fled to his country and return them to the Makkans. The Quraish claimed that the followers of the Prophet were adherents of a new creed, which did not honour Jesus(as).  The Najesh asked the Muslims to explain their religion in his court. After listening to the stance of Muslims about Jesus(as) and Mary(ra), as explained in the Holy Qur’an,[1] the Emperor dismissed the Quraish and offered Muslims peace and security in his country. The Holy Prophet(saw) praised the Najesh for being fair and allowing Muslims to practice their religion in peace.

Not all rulers have been as just to Muslims as the Najesh was. In India in the early 19th century, Muslims were being persecuted mercilessly and denied their religious freedoms.   Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad(as) explains:

‘They were condemned to a blazing oven and not only was their world in ruins but their religion was even in [a] worse case. It was difficult for them to carry [out] their religious obligations, so much so that on one occasion a Muslim was killed for calling out the Azan [call to Prayers].’[2]

Before British rule, the Badshahi Mosque in Lahore, then largest mosque in the world, was converted into a military garrison and stables for military horses. Photo: Badshahi Mosque in 1880s, after the British took control of India and restored it to a religious place of worship.

Indeed, under Sikh rule, the then largest mosque in the world—the Badshahi Mosque in Lahore—was converted into a military garrison and the courtyards, which had formerly held worshippers, were instead used as stables for the military’s horses. They were also responsible for other violations of religious freedom—for example, they forbade the Adhan to be recited loudly, and would forcibly occupy mosques and start recitals of Garanth in them—calling this practice ‘maut kara.’[3]

So when British rule was instated, Muslims indeed had reason to be grateful, since it ended persecution and religious freedom was established. At a durbar (royal court) held in Allahabad in November 1858, it was announced on behalf of Queen Victoria:

‘Firmly relying ourselves on the truth of Christianity, and acknowledging with gratitude the solace of religion, we disclaim alike the right and desire to impose our convictions on any of our subjects. We declare it to be our royal will and pleasure that none be in anywise favoured, none molested or disquieted, by reason of their religious faith or observances, but that all alike shall enjoy the equal and impartial protection of the law; and we do strictly charge and enjoin all those who may be in authority under us that they abstain from all interference with the religious belief or worship of any of our subjects on pain of our highest displeasure.’[4]

This great favour was highly appreciated by the Messiah and Mahdi of the time. The Promised Messiah(as) wrote:

‘A great portion of the beneficence of the Empress of India is that during her reign…every person has gained a large opportunity for spiritual advancement.’[5]

Although in British India Christian missionaries were actively proselytising their faith throughout the country, and were encouraged to do so by the British Government, conversion to Christianity by force was not practised. Indians of all faiths were free to practice their faiths unhindered.  Acknowledging this great blessing, the Promised Messiah(as) wrote:

‘Muslims of British India live comfortably under this government as they have the power to propagate their religion freely and carry out their religious obligations without hindrance.’[6]

The fairness of Queen Victoria and the British government was important, because the purpose of the advent of the Promised Messiah(as) was to promote the true teachings of Islam. Had the British not established religious freedom, this task would have been extremely difficult to carry out in India. But with the religious freedom granted during this time, the Promised Messiah(as) was able to give lectures and write numerous books extolling the beauties of Islam. He was even able to openly speak and write about the survival of Jesus(as) on the cross and his journey after crucifixion (e.g., Jesus in India; Victory of Islam; Lecture Ludhiana; Four Questions by Mr. Sirajuddin, a Christian, and their Answers).  In response, the Promised Messiah(as) carried out his Islamic duty to gratefully acknowledge the religious freedom and peace secured by the British monarch.

‘The time of the Promised Messiah has arrived…now God the Exalted will produce such heavenly means, where the world…will now be filled with justice, peace, and reconciliation. Blessed are the sovereigns and kings who play a part in achieving this objective.’[7]

Fair Rule and the Impermissibility of Jihad

But along with honouring Queen Victoria for her fair rule, the Promised Messiah(as) also argued that with this granting of religious freedom, “Jihad by the sword” was no longer applicable. In doing so he enlightened other Muslims as to the true nature of Jihad:

‘So, be advised, O you who are uninformed! I do not indulge in any flattery of this government. Rather, in the light of the Holy Qur’an, it is prohibited to wage a religious war against a government which does not itself interfere in the religion of Islam or religious practices—nor does it draw its sword against us in an attempt to promote its own religious beliefs.’[8]

Again, it is important to note that in accordance with the requirements of justice, he not only openly extolled the beautiful teachings of Islam and fearlessly invited Her Majesty to the faith, but also the Promised Messiah(as) clearly stated that that a violent struggle against the British Government, which had allowed freedom of religion for its subjects, was not permitted. For example, in A Gift to the Queen, he explains that:

‘But it is not Jihad to plan to revolt while living under the equitable rule of a just government, such as the empire of our honoured Queen, Her Majesty, the Empress of India; rather, it is a thinking replete with incivility and ignorance. To act maliciously towards a government which allows civic freedom, and firmly establishes peace, and un­der which religious rites can be fully carried out, is a criminal act rather than Jihad.’[9]

It might be instructive to contrast the attitude of the British government of that time with that of Pakistan today which officially supports, through legislation, the persecution of religious minorities such as Ahmadi Muslims, who face the death penalty in some cases for simply preaching or practising their faith.

Invitation to Islam

Using the religious freedom granted to him under British rule, and following the example of his master, the Holy Prophet Muhammad(saw), who thirteen hundred years earlier, had written to the notable kings of his time, the Promised Messiah(as) invited Queen Victoria to accept the truth of Islam. In A’ina-e-Kamalat-e-Islam (Mirror of Islam’s Excellences) he described to her Majesty the beauty of Islam’s teachings:

‘O Honourable Queen, I am surprised that you deny the religion of Islam, despite your grace, knowledge, and insight.’[10]

The Promised Messiah(as) courageously invited Queen Victoria towards Islam. Photo: Queen Victoria photographed in 1882 by Alexander Bassano.

But in addition to inviting her to Islam, he also asked her in Sitara Qaisariyah (The Star of the Empress) courageously to reconsider her belief in the accursed death of a pious and righteous man, Jesus(as). He wrote:

‘I present this humble submission, not from a religious basis, but to protect the honour of a perfect human…Someone is called accursed when he abandons God and becomes faithless—when he becomes the enemy of God and God becomes his enemy…How out of place is it that, to create a fictional basis for own salvation, we put a mark of disobedience on such a beloved of God and believe that at a certain time he rebelled against and digressed from God.’[11]

Given that the Christian belief in the death of Jesus(as) on the cross would mark him as accursed, he was eager to point out that his high status precluded any such death. Indeed, he explained Jesus’(as) status as a beloved servant of God:

‘…Jesus, the Messiah, is truly one of the very beloved and pious servants of God…He is not God as has been conjectured, but has close relations with God and is among the perfect ones of which there are only a few.’[12]

Again, after inviting her to Islam and to reconsider her belief in Jesus’(as) death on the cross, he bravely admonished the Queen, reminding her of the day of recompense:

‘O Honourable Queen, God has graced you handsomely with worldly blessings. So take interest in the kingdom of the Hereafter, seek repentance, and obey that One and Unique God Who has neither son nor partner in His Kingdom. So praise His Greatness. Would you like to see the manifestation of my signs and truth for fear of the Day of recompense? O Queen, repent! Repent and hear so that God may bless your possessions and whatever you own, and that you be amongst those upon whom God casts His eye of grace.’[13]

In the context of the time, this insistent claim of the Promised Messiah(as)’s that Jesus(as) was not theson of God might have been perceived as a direct attack on the Queen’s faith. She was, after all, Head of the Church of England and “Defender of the faith.” However, this did not dissuade the Promised Messiah(as) from also spelling out a challenge to prove his truthfulness:

‘If Your Majesty should desire to witness a sign as proof of my claim, I am certain that such a sign will be shown within one year and I will also pray that she should pass all of this period in health and security. If no sign is manifested and I prove to be false, then I am willing to be hanged in Your Majesty’s capital. All this entreaty is out of my desire that our benign Queen should turn to the God of heaven, of Whom the Christian faith is unaware in this age.’[14]

Although Queen Victoria did not ask for a sign, this challenge shows the Promised Messiah’s(as) courage and conviction in inviting her to Islam.

Queen Victoria’s Rule as Blessing

It is of note that the Promised Messiah(as) regarded it as a divine blessing that his advent had occurred during the reign of Queen Victoria. In Sitara Qaisariyyah (The Star of the Empress) he explains why:

‘The coming of the Promised Messiah in thy reign which is full of the light of sincerity is a sure sign and testimony from God that thou hast far excelled the monarchs of the world in thy love for peace and security. Good management, sympathy for thy subjects and the spreading of justice and equity.’[15]

In fact, he put the importance of the Queen’s reign even more strongly, writing:

‘Hence it is that no other than thy reign is fit for the appearance of the Promised Messiah. God Almighty has willed to bring down a light from heaven in thy brilliant reign, for light attracts light and darkness draws more darkness. Blessed and glorious Queen! The writings which foretell the appearance of the Messiah clearly point to thy peaceful reign.’[16]

Queen Victoria was therefore a very blessed monarch that God Almighty chose to send His Messiah during her reign. This could be seen as a divine vote of confidence in the fairness of her rule, which was based on freedom of speech, expression, and religion. It is significant that the United Kingdom has since had the divine honour and blessing of hosting two Khalifas of the Promised Messiah(as) on her shores.

Open Debate and Fair Rule

Referring to the great religious debate held by the third Roman Caesar, the Promised Messiah(as) made a submission of the earnest desire of his heart that the Empress of India may preside over a conference of religions in order to promote understanding and raise awareness about the teachings of Islam.

‘If such a conference takes place, it will be a legendary spiritual event from our Honoured Queen, and England, which has been fed with Islamic matters incorrectly, will be introduced to the true face of Islam. In this way, the people of England will be apprised of the true philosophy of every religion.’[17]

Today, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in the United Kingdom, under the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, has a long tradition of holding interfaith dialogues and peace conferences. These gatherings of people from diverse religious backgrounds serve to promote just that understanding and meeting of minds that the Promised Messiah(as)  wished for. Then as now, many Europeans still need to be educated about the true meaning of Islam, as some politicians continue to cross all bounds in exercising their right of freedom of speech. We continue to witness slanderous accusations against Islam and calls for a curb on Islamic practices. However, by the Grace of God, just and fair rulers still speak out against such atrocities. Now it is the Successors of the Promised Messiah(as)  who take up the clarion call of their  beloved master, the Holy Prophet of Islam(saw), in spreading the true meaning teachings of Islam. In others words, it is his Khalifas who continue to admonish rulers towards justice as well as giving thanks to those who have the courage to be just. Only recently, an example of such justice was displayed by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, when she advocated for full rights for Muslims. Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad(aba), the Fifth and current Successor to the Promised Messiah(as), praised her Majesty for her effort to promote inclusiveness and equality. His Holiness said:

‘All Ahmadi Muslims should pray for Queen Beatrix because certain sections of the local society have turned against her, due to the fact that she has openly condemned the anti-Islam movement in this country. They are also angry because she advocates the right of Muslims to be treated as full and equal citizens, whose rights and feelings should be respected. Thus, we must pray that all plans and schemes against the Queen completely fail.’[18]

Similarly, through her tolerance and regard for justice, Queen Victoria helped to establish an environment in which the true message of Islam could spread from India to the rest of the world. The prayer below was composed by the Promised Messiah(as) for Queen Victoria, but it also serves as a guidance for all world leaders.  In the book A’ina-i-Kamalat-i-Islam (Mirror of Islam’s Excellences), the Promised Messiah(as) concludes with the following prayer:

‘O Gracious God! Guide the tender hearts of all the nations, so that they may have faith in Thy chosen Prophet (Muhammad) and in Thy Holy Qur’an, and that they may follow the commandments contained therein, so that they may thus benefit from peace and true happiness which are especially enjoyed by true Muslims in both the worlds, and may obtain absolution and eternal life which is not only procurable in the next world, but is also enjoyed by the truthful and honest people even in this world. Especially the English nation who have not yet availed themselves of the sunshine of truth, and whose civilized, prudent and merciful empire has, by obliging us through kindness and friendly treatment, exceedingly encouraged us to try our utmost for their numerous acts of welfare, so that their fair faces may shine with heavenly effulgence in the next life. We beseech God for their well being in this world and the next. O God! Guide them and help them with Thy power, so that they may have faith in Thy Book and Prophet, and embrace Thy religion in multitudes! Amen! Amen!’[19]

We end by echoing the prayer of the Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad(aba), for God the Exalted to shower His infinite Blessings and Bounties upon Her Majesty, and we offer our heartfelt congratulations to our noble Queen on the magnificent occasion of her Diamond Jubilee. May God the Almighty grant our Queen a long and healthy life, Amin.

Professor Amtul Razzaq Carmichael is Special Contributor to The Review of Religions. She is a consultant specialist breast surgeon. Sarah Waseem has a Doctorate in Psychology and has been on the Editorial Board of The Review of Religions for over 15 years.

Endnotes

  1. Holy Quran, Ch.19:Vs.17-41.
  2. KK Khullar, Maharaja Ranjit Singh (Hem Publishers, 1980). (Announcement of 10 July 1900)
  3. Tulsi, Sher-e-Punjab, 1872.
  4. Queen Victoria’s Proclamation to the Princes, Chiefs and the People of India (1858).
  5. Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, A Gift for the Queen, Islam Intl. Publications Ltd., Second Revised Edition, UK (2012), p. 16.
  6. Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, A Gift for the Queen, p. 11.
  7. Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, British Government and Jihad, n.d.
  8. Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, Kashti-e-Nuh, footnote 68, n.d.
  9. Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, A Gift for the Queen, p. 10.
  10. Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad , A’ina-e-Kamalat-e-Islam, p. 530.
  11. Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, A Gift for the Queen, p. 21.
  12. Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, A Gift for the Queen, p. 19.
  13. Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, A’ina-e-Kamalat-e-Islam, p. 530–533.
  14. Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, A Gift for the Queen, footnote, p. 23.
  15. Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, Sitara Qaisariyyah,  p. 3.
  16. Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, Sitara Qaisariyyah, p. 4.
  17. Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, A Gift for the Queen, p. 26.
  18. http://www.alislam.org/egazette/press-release/world-muslim-leader-sends-warning-to-dutch-politician-geert-wilders/
  19. Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, A’ina-e-Kamalat-e-Islam, p. 659.
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