ADAPTED FROM AN ARTICLE BY SYED TAHIR AHMAD AND HASEEB AHMAD, RABWAH, PAKISTAN
Whether it’s shooting stars, comets with centuries-long orbits, or eclipses that hide the sun or moon from our sight, for thousands of years, the sky above us has been a stage for these celestial events as people have turned their eyes upward, curious about the appearance of these celestial signs.
Another common thread throughout history has been the claim by certain people that they have been sent by God for the moral and spiritual reform of a people. And while these prophets have presented arguments from past scriptures, some of them have also pointed to the skies themselves as witnesses for the truth of their claims. Indeed, whenever such people have appeared, there has been a notable increase in celestial activity. Is this a mere coincidence, or are these sightings significant?
Take the 19th century, for instance. We find an increase in celestial activity– including the appearance of an exceptionally bright comet – and additionally, some of the first photographs capturing meteors and their trajectory on film.1
At the same time, the 19th century was also the time of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas of Qadian, India. His claim was unique in that he claimed to be the Promised Reformer, also known as the Messiah or Mahdi, whose advent was eagerly being awaited by followers of all mainstream religions. And one of the signs he put forth for his truthfulness was the appearance of a spectacular comet known as Dhus-Sineen – the Great Comet of 1882.
So was the Great Comet – along with other comets and celestial events that happened during his lifetime – actually a sign of the truthfulness of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas? Or was it a coincidence that he made his claim at the same time that the comet appeared? And how could we prove anything one way or the other?
Before these questions can be answered we must understand the backdrop to which Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas made his claim. It was in this very century, i.e., the 19th century, that the Muslims lost their mighty rule in India after over three hundred years of Mughal rule in the subcontinent. Muslims were at a low ebb, their faith yielding to doubt and religion only skin deep. Islam was at its worst plight! Christianity on the other hand, was gathering momentum to the extent that hundreds of thousands of Muslims were abandoning Islam for Christianity. Hindus, atheists and followers of other faiths, preying on the weakening state of Islam, left no stone unturned in vilifying its teachings or attacking the founder of Islam, the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa.
Amidst such conditions, finding Islam and its founder, the Holy Prophetsa, the target of slanderous assaults from all sides, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas of Qadian came forward to champion the cause of Islam. He undertook the vindication and exposition of Islam in order to rejuvenate the faith and to unravel its true picture.
The Significance of Celestial Signs
In Surah an-Nahl of the Holy Qur’an, we find:
‘And He has pressed into service for you the night and the day, and the sun and the moon; and the stars too have been pressed into service by His command. Surely, in that are Signs for people who make use of their reason.’2
Similarly, at another instance it is stated in the Holy Qur’an:
‘And He it is Who has made the stars for you that you may follow the right direction with their help amid the deep darkness of the land and the sea.’3
Humans are obviously dependent on celestial objects; after all, life cannot exist without them. Beyond mere survival, however, people have used the sun, moon and stars to keep track of time, to help with navigation on both land and sea, and to decide when to plant their crops. But in the same way that these celestial bodies guide people’s practical affairs, the Qur’an tells us that they are also significant signs for their spiritual affairs as well. In connection to this, the Holy Qur’an has specifically made mention of stars as a source of spiritual guidance for humans. God states in the Holy Qur’an: ‘And, other marks too; by them and by the stars they follow the right direction.’ 4
As is evident from the above verse, God has subjugated these heavenly bodies to be spiritual signs for mankind.
Hence, such heavenly and earthly signs appear which lay proof to the fact that God’s Hand is at work. A cursory glance at the history of divinely ordained claimants to the office of prophethood reveals that apart from the earthly signs that were manifested by God to testify to the truthfulness of these prophets, heavenly signs were also manifested. Hence, in the Ahadith [oral traditions about the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa] we find several signs prophesied by the Holy Prophetsa that would mark the advent of his Promised Messiah and Mahdi nearly 1400 years later. These signs include the solar and lunar eclipses, prophesied by the founder of Islam in which he stated that when the Imam Mahdi would come in the future, there would also be a solar and lunar eclipse in the same month of Ramadan. This was fulfilled in 1894 when both the lunar and solar eclipse took place, both within the month of Ramadan.5 Another sign was the outbreak of the plague that swept across India in the latter part of the 19th Century, killing millions.6 All these signs were fulfilled as proof of the truthfulness of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas of Qadian, and served that his claim to be the Messiah and Mahdi for that time were true.7
What are Comets?
Dhus-Sineen refers in Arabic to a specific comet – the same comet which came to be known as the Great Comet of 1882. This comet is also known by a few other names, listed below with their root meanings8:
Dhus-Sineen: The star of the years
Dhus-Sinnain: A star in the shape of two teeth
Dhul-Lihyain: A star with two beards
Dhu-Zanabin: A star with a tail
Dhu-Qarnin: A star with two horns
But before we look specifically at this comet, a more general discussion of comets is in order. Comets contain small rocks, dust, water, ice, and volatile gases, i.e., carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, methane, and ammonia, among others.9 Objects in space are graded on a magnitude scale in which the lower the number, the brighter the celestial body. So, for example, the sun has an apparent magnitude of -26 and the full moon has an apparent magnitude of almost -13, while Halley’s comet was a +2 when it was seen in 1986.10 The probability of discovering a comet – that is, seeing it with the naked eye – increases to 100 percent for comets brighter than magnitude of 0.4, but drops to 0 per cent for comets fainter than magnitude 3.6.11
Dhus-Sineen refers in Arabic to a specific comet – the same comet which came to be known as the Great Comet of 1882.
Comets orbit the sun, and they are classified into short-period and long-period comets based on how long they take to complete their orbits. Short-period comets take less than 200 years to orbit the sun, and their orbits lie within the solar system.12 They also usually orbit more-or-less in the same ecliptic plane direction as the planets do. Not all short-period comets survive though: the orbital paths of many of the comets can take them out to the region where the outer planets lie, which is so far that they can never re-attain their position in their original orbit, while at the other extreme, some comets perish when passing too close to the sun.13
Long-period comets, on the other hand, have highly eccentric orbits and typically pass through the path of a planet’s orbit, and they are nearest to the sun in only about once every few million years.14 When passing close to the sun, the nucleus of the comet becomes increasingly heated, causing ices to sublimate (turn from solid directly into gas), dragging along solid particles. This mixture of gas and dust is known as a coma, and sometimes also a tail.15 The sun’s radiation forces on dust particles allow them to radially move outward from the sun; likewise, the gases being electrically charged are diverted away from the sun by the electrically charged solar wind.16
Comets Across Time
Comets have been observed and recorded since ancient times by many cultures.17 And while different cultures have had differing explanations and beliefs with regard to natural phenomena, in the case of comets, most cultures had similar views on the significance of comet sightings. From the literate Chinese to the Arab nomads, from the Europeans to those living on remote islands, all believed that comets were harbingers of doom and omens of world-altering change.18
For example, comets were thought to indicate important historical events that occurred at the time they appeared. One European writer describes this belief in these words:
‘Threatening the world with Famine, Plague and War: To Princes, Death! To Kingdoms, many Crosses; To all Estates, inevitable Losses! To Herdsmen, Rot; to Plowmen, hapless Seasons; To Sailors, Storms, To Cities, Civil Treasons!’19
Indeed, the word used in English to describe the appearance of a comet is an ‘apparition’ which itself means the appearance of something ghostly or unlikely. Similarly, the Arabs in pre-Islamic Arabia also believed that the appearance of a comet was a sign of the birth or death of notable personalities.20 Due to this belief, comet appearances were recorded in Arab astronomical chronicles even before the birth of the Holy Prophetsa and at the time of his first revelation, showing that the Arabs regarded comet sightings as good omens before the advent of the Holy Prophetsa. This shows that Arab society, before the time of the advent of the Holy Prophetsa, regarded the sighting of a comet as a good omen.21
In Jami At-Tirmidhi, one of the authentic books on the subject of Ahadith, it is narrated that the Holy Prophetsa was amongst his companions when a comet lit the sky. The Holy Prophetsa enquired from his companionsra about their view with regards to the appearance of a comet in the time before Islam. They replied: ‘We associate it with the birth or death of some notable person.’ At this Holy Prophetsa remarked, ‘The appearance of such comets does not signify the birth or death of some individuals; rather, they appear when our Lord decides to accomplish an important task.’22
Dhus-Sineen: A Sign for the Messiah of the Latter Days
There are several instances where the Holy Prophetsa prophesied the appearance of the comet of Dhus-Sineen as a sign for the Promised Messiah and Mahdi.
In one Hadith it is narrated: ‘Ten signs would accompany the advent of the Promised Messiah and Mahdi, with the first being a tailed comet, namely Dhus-Sineen.’23
Hence it is narrated in one of the Hadith that: ‘One of the signs of the latter days is the appearance of the comet of Dhus-Sineen. Hazrat Abbasra narrates that addressing Hazrat Salmanra, Holy Prophetsa said: “When kings and the affluent people of my community will go to Hajj for the sole purpose of recreation and the middle class will go for business and the poor to show off, then the comet will appear.”’24
Apart from the Hadith, Muslim scholars at the time of the Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas have also mentioned this sign in their writings. The foremost book is Hijaj-ul-Kirama by Nawab Siddique Hassan Khan, in which he mentions the above sign and then gives an in-depth discourse on the appearance of comets in relation to important Islamic historical events.25
His son, Noor-ul-Hassan Khan, another well-known Islamic scholar of his time, has also mentioned the above sign in his book, Iqteraab-us-Sa’ah in the following words:
For many hours on either side of its perihelion (the point in the orbit of a planet or comet at which it is nearest to the sun34), the comet was easily visible in the daytime sky next to the sun. It reached an estimated magnitude of -17 and hence brighter than the full moon, which has a magnitude of almost-13.
‘The comet Qarn Zi Sinneen [another name for the Dhus-Sineen comet] would appear.’26
Another renowned scholar who mentioned this sign was Hazrat Mujaddid Alif Sani Sheikh Ahmad Sir Hindirh. In his book, Maktoobat-e-Imam Rabbani he recounts a letter by Maulana Abul Hasan to one of his students about the signs of the Imam Mahdi, stating:
‘It should be manifest that an Abbasid King who would be a predecessor to the Imam Mahdi [Promised Reformer] would reach Khorasan [a region that lies at the intersection of modern-day Afghanistan and Iran]. At that moment a two-faced branch would appear from the east in the sky. Further, in the explanation, this branch is described as a glowing rock, which will have two faces. Moreover, it is described as to have appeared for the first time when destruction was brought upon the people of Noah. Then it appeared during the time of Abraham when he was cast in fire by the unbelievers. And for the third time it appeared when the Pharaoh along with his people drowned in the sea. Yet it also appeared when John the Baptistas was martyred.’27
It is evident from the aforementioned references that this sign had been well- known and accepted with regards to the advent of the Promised Messiah and Mahdi. Scholars of the ages have constantly referred to it as a sign prophesied by the Holy Prophetsa.
The Great Comet of 1882
In 1882, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas made an extraordinary claim: that God Almighty had divinely commissioned him as the reformer of the age, the same year in which the Great Comet appeared. He stated that God Almighty revealed to him the following:
یَآ اَحْمَدُ بَارَکَ اللّٰہُ فِیْکَ ۔ مَا رَمَیْتَ اِذْ رَمَیْتَ وَلٰکِن اللّٰہَ رَمٰی۔ اَلرَّحْمٰنُ عَلَّمَ الْقُرْاٰنَ۔ لِتُنْذِرَ قَوْمًا مَّآ اُنْذِرَ اٰبَآ ؤُ ھُمْ۔ وَلِتَسْتَبِیْنَ سَبِیْلُ الْمُجْرِمِیْنَ
‘Allah has placed blessing in you, O Ahmad. Whatever you did let loose, it was not you but it was Allah Who let it loose. Allah has taught you the Qur’an so that you should warn the people whose ancestors have not been warned, and that the way of the guilty ones might become manifest.’28
As the words, ‘Whatever you did let loose, it was not you but it was Allah Who let it loose’29 show, God clearly states that it is He who has manifested this sign. The Arabic word ramaa, used in this revelation, means ‘he threw’. Hence God Almighty stated to the Promised Messiahas that the comet he had witnessed was a testimony to the truthfulness of his claim in accordance with divine promises.
This comet is known as ‘The Great Comet of 1882’.30 As is evident from its name, it was an extraordinary comet, unparalleled in the 19th century with regards to its illumination. The term ‘Great Comet’ is a well-known term and is used for such comets which are so bright that they are visible to the naked eye.31 Astronomers consider the 19th century to be one of enormously bright comets.32
The Great Comet of 1882 appeared in the morning skies of September 1882. Reports suggest that it was first seen as early as 1 September 1882 from the Cape of Good Hope as well as the Gulf of Guinea and over the next few days many observers in the southern hemisphere reported the new comet. On the 3rd of September 1882, it was also observed in New Zealand.33
On September 9, W. L. Elkin from the Royal Observatory, Cape of Good Hope, South Africa said that the comet could be seen with the unassisted eye and was as bright as a star of the third or fourth magnitude with a straight tail of 2.5º in length.34 B.A. Gould from Cordoba, Argentina reported on 18th September that the brilliancy of the comet attracted popular attention and the ‘blazing star near the sun’ was the topic of discussion throughout the country.35
Soon astronomers all over the world had witnessed the comet as it became exceptionally bright over the next few days.36 Subsequent orbital studies have determined that it was a sun-grazing comet, meaning one that passes extremely close to the surface of the sun. For many hours on either side of its perihelion (the point in the orbit of a planet or comet at which it is nearest to the sun37), the comet was easily visible in the daytime sky next to the sun. It reached an estimated magnitude of -17 and hence brighter than the full moon, which has a magnitude of almost -13.38
On 3rd October L.A. Eddie (South Africa) and F. Terby (Belgium) independently reported observations of two nuclei. Eddie also noted having seen six nuclei on 2nd October. Again on 5th October, three nuclei were reported independently by E.E. Barnard (Nashville, Tennessee, USA) and H. C. Wilson (Cincinnati Observatory, Ohio, USA). On 6th October, C.W. Pritchett (Missouri, USA) said the nucleus presented three centers of light. Another interesting observation was reported by Eddie on 15th October; he noted that with a 24-cm reflector, one nucleus resembled electric light in color and two more nuclei appeared to be within a bar of light and when observed with a 100x magnification the whole nucleus looked like five luminous beads.39
After its perihelion, the comet moved into dark skies, and although it faded as it receded from the sun, it remained one of the most prominent objects in the sky. Despite its fragmentation, it remained visible to the naked eye until February 1883.40
Figures 1, 2 and 3, which were published in the magazine Science, show the nucleus of the comet on the evenings of February 1st, 23rd, and 27th 1883.41
Figure 1 shows the nucleus of the comet apparition on 1st February 1883, that has stretched out into a fine straight line of light, with three bright stellar-like points.
Figure 2 still shows the three bright points on February 23, 1883, however, the middle one is brightest and resembles the star of the twelfth magnitude.
Figure 3 shows the nucleus examined with magnifying powers of 200 and 383 diameters. This showed four bright points with a fifth suspected.
Regarding the uniqueness of the comet of 1882, David Seargent says: ‘This was not another instance of a short-period comet being seen at different returns, but of truly individual comets all moving in very similar orbits, albeit differing significantly in the dates of their perihelia. It was, in fact, the first recognized example of a rare phenomenon, a comet group.’45 According to astronomers no such phenomenon has ever been reported.46 Having outlined the extraordinary uniqueness and brilliance of this comet, let us go back to the prophecy of the Holy Prophetsa with regards to the comet that would come as a sign for the Promised Messiahas. In describing it, the Holy Prophetsa said: ‘This comet will be brighter than the full moon.’
So, was this prophecy fulfilled? A thesis by John E Bortle records the appearance of the Comet of 1882 as the brightest, most extraordinary comet in over 1,000 years.47 And a planetary scientist at Arizona State University described the Great Comet of 1882 to be the brightest comet in at least 1,000 years, far outshining the brightest full moon. This comet visibly broke up over the period of its visit, appearing to have several attendant small comets at times.48 According to Edward Barnard, an American astronomer, no description can do justice to the wonderful appearance of the comet’s head and its appendages.49
Kenneth R. Lang, a famous professor in astronomy and astrophysics, has drawn a comparison of comets and great comets of the nineteenth century (See Table 1), and elucidates that the comet of 17 September 1882 had the brightest apparition magnitude of -2, which is as close to the apparition magnitude -2.7 of Jupiter.50
- a. ‘Adapted from Donald K. Yeomans, Great Comets in History.
b. Days visible to the naked eye unaided by binoculars or a telescope.
c. The perihelion distance is the distance from the sun at the closest approach to the star, given in astronomical units, or AU, roughly the mean distance between the Earth and the Sun and about 150 billion, or 1.5×1011 meters.
d. The apparent magnitude is a measure of the apparent brightness of a celestial object, in which brighter objects have smaller magnitudes. Sirius A, the brightest star other than the sun, has an apparent visual magnitude of -1.5. The nearest star other than the sun is about 0 on the magnitude scale, while Venus has an apparent magnitude of -4 when brightest and at its brightest Jupiter appears at magnitude -2.7.’
So, to sum up the argument: the Great Comet of 1882 appeared in the same year that the Promised Messiahas received the following revelation: ‘Allah has placed blessing in you, O Ahmad. Whatever you did let loose, it was not you but it was Allah Who let it loose.’
However, this is not enough evidence for the skeptic. But what does show the grandeur of this sign and leaves no room for doubt is the fact that the Hadith recorded hundreds of years before 1882 show that the Holy Prophetsa said that the Promised Messiah would in fact come, and that there would be a sign to show his coming, and that this sign would appear in the form of a comet ‘that would be brighter than the moon.’ And, in fact, the September comet of 1882 was seen during the day when it was passing close to the sun, at an absolute magnitude of -17, while the full moon has a magnitude of -12.751. The apparent magnitude is the brightness of an object as seen from earth. Absolute magnitude is the true brightness of an object, taking into account its distance from earth.51
Thus, what the Holy Prophetsa predicted, and what he could have had no possible control over, actually did come to pass, and in exactly the way he predicted, over 1400 years later, and this does constitute a grand sign.
The Promised Messiahas on the Great Comet of 1882
The Promised Messiahas has mentioned this sign in several of his writings. In one of his books he writes: ‘Nawab Saddique Hassan Khan Sahib in Hijaj jul Kirama and Hazrat Mujaddid Alif Sani in his book write that a comet Dhus-Sineen will appear during the time of the Promised Messiah. Hence, that star appeared in 1882.’53
In his book Ayyamus Sulah, the Promised Messiahas writes:
‘It was also prophesied that in those days, the same star Dhus-Sineen would appear which appeared during the time of Jesusas and before that during the time of Noahas . Now, everyone has witnessed its appearance, which was also published in Urdu and English newspapers.’54
In his book The Philosophy of Divine Revelation, he writes:
‘Third Sign—Is the appearance of a comet which was destined to appear in the time of the Promised Messiah. It has long since appeared. Its sighting prompted some English newspapers of the Christians to comment that the time of the Messiah’s advent had arrived.’55
Hazrat Sayyedah Khairun Nisara, daughter of Hazrat Doctor Sayyed Abdus Sattar Shahra – who was a companion of the Promised Messiahas-, narrates: ‘One day, after the Fajr [pre-dawn] prayer, the Promised Messiahas was taking a stroll…My sister Zainab, my mother and I were going to offer the Fajr prayer. The Promised Messiahas called us and said: “Come! Let me show you a comet which has appeared as a sign for me.” The Promised Messiahas then showed us the comet and said: “This will be followed by the outbreak of several diseases.”’ This prophecy, too, was fulfilled by the outbreak of the plague in India towards the end of the 19th century.56
In his Malfuzat, a dialogue has been recorded between the Promised Messiahas and one of his companionsra. The Promised Messiahas said:
‘These days we can witness the comet.’ Then he inquired from an individual sitting beside him: ‘Have you also seen the comet?’ The companion replied in the negative. The Promised Messiahas then said, ‘Do observe it today. It is not just a single comet – in fact, there are two. I have also seen it; one is smaller and the other is larger. They will become visible from 3 o’clock. Commentators [of the Holy Qur’an] have recorded that a short while after an intense meteor shower, the Holy Prophetsa made his claim to be divinely appointed. Indeed, the stars and other celestial bodies influence the earth. This is true in my case; shortly before I claimed to be appointed by God Almighty, a spectacular meteor shower was witnessed, the like of which has never occurred before. I watched the phenomenon of the stars as if they were engaged in a battle with one another; one hundred on each side. They served as a prelude to my advent. They were all over the skies shooting from one direction to the other.
With regards to the comet Dhus-Sineen, when it appeared, Western newspapers wrote that this was the same star that also appeared before the advent of Jesus.as
In my view, the solar and lunar eclipses also have an influence on the earth. The appearance of a comet is a unique spectacle. Its manifestation in the heavens signifies that an extraordinary event is also going to take place on the earth. These are signs shown to the world. Such astronomical activity is a prelude to the occurrence of some unique phenomenon on earth. Thus, I have received revelations which indicate that phenomenal events are going to occur in the near future. Moreover, in a dream last night I saw a falling star that rose above my head. I think that this is certainly significant. With regards to the comet Dhus-Sineen, when it appeared, Western newspapers wrote that this was the same star that also appeared before the advent of Jesusas’.’57 In Ayyamus Sulah, heas writes: ‘The star Dhus-Sineen about which it was prophesied that it will appear in the time of the Promised Messiah and Mahdi has been witnessed by thousands.’58
In Surah Al-Najm a prophecy has been made with regards to the advent of the Promised Messiah. It says that a star will fall and faith will be rejuvenated. God Almighty states in the Holy Qur’an: ‘By the star when it falls’.59
The Arab word hawaa means to fall and to be destroyed. Pertaining to this meaning, the Great Comet of 1882 orbited so close to the sun that it resulted in complete fragmentation. The late. Doctor Saleh Muhammad Ala Din, a well-known scholar of the Ahmadiyya Community, once asked the fourth head of the Ahmadiyya Community, His Holiness Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmadrh, if the prophecy mentioned in this verse had been fulfilled by the appearance of the comet of 1882. He replied:
‘The inference that you have made with regards to the sign of the comet of 1882 from the Qur’anic verse is valid indeed. I hold the same point of view.’60
Other Celestial Signs
Having explained in detail the sign relating to the comet of 1882, it is important to ask whether there were other celestial signs during his lifetime. Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas was born in 1835, and passed away in 1908. Analyzing these dates we find incredible evidence of extra celestial activity at significant points in his lifetime. Apart from the Great Comet of 1882, the following comets are worthy of note:
Halley’s Comet of 183561
This well-known comet is recorded to have been observed in 1835, the very same year in which the Promised Messiah was born. Its appearance and brightness is also similar to a comet that was witnessed during the birth of Jesusas.62
The Comet of 187463
An important phase in the life of the Promised Messiahas was when, in 1874, he received his first indication that he would lead a great community of believers: ‘In a dream I saw an angel seated on an elevated platform in the guise of a boy. In his hand he was holding a pure loaf of bread, which was very bright. He gave it to me and said: “This is for you and for the dervishes who are with you.” I saw this dream at a time when I was not at all known nor had I put forth any claim nor was there any group of dervishes with me. But now I have a large community of people who have voluntarily chosen to put their faith above the world and have thus reduced themselves to the position of dervishes.’64
In 1874 a great comet was also witnessed and was mentioned by The New York Times in 19 July 1874.65
The Comet of 1885
In November 1885, another unique event took place. In his own words, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas states:
‘After receiving these revelations, many signs began to be manifested. Among these signs was that on the night of 28th November 1885, that is, the night preceding the 28th November 1885, there was an incredible display of meteors across the sky. It was a phenomenon the like of which I had never witnessed before in my entire life. Thousands of stars were shooting in all directions in the sky and this was such a unique occurrence that I cannot find an example in the world which can be cited to draw any kind of parallel. I recall that at the time, I profusely received the following revelation: ‘And thou threwest not when thou didst throw, but it was Allah Who threw’ Thus, the throwing of stones [in the era of the Holy Prophetsa] is greatly linked with these shooting stars. The spectacle of meteor showers on the night of 28 November 1885 was so widespread that even the newspapers across Europe, America, and Asia recorded this marvel with great astonishment.
Some might perhaps wonder that this event served no real purpose. However God Almighty knows that no one observed this more carefully than myself, nor did anyone derive as much pleasure from witnessing this than I. This meteor shower began from the evening onward and my eyes remained focused on this spectacle for quite some time. Owing to the glad tidings I received in the form of revelation, I took great pleasure in beholding this sight because I had been informed through revelation that this was a sign for me. Moreover, the people of Europe were shown the same star which emerged at the time of the advent of Jesusas. It was thus revealed to me that this star was another sign to establish my truthfulness.’66
This meteor shower was also witnessed in Agra on the night of 27th November 1885 by Major G.Strahan, who said it was the most superb display of meteors with an estimated frequency of fifty per minute or more.67 Again, on the same date, according to Major A. C. Bigg, a grand display of meteors was seen from Quetta, Baluchistan, with an estimate of six or eight meteors falling every second.68 And from the Redcliff Observatory, on the evening of 27th November, 1885 W. Wickham reported seeing thousands of meteors comprising a luminous track and a bright burst.69
The Comet of 1896
Hazrat Maulana Muhammad Ahsan Amrohira has mentioned a comet which appeared in 1896 in his book Miskul A’arif 70. This was the same year in which the Promised Messiahas penned two of his works, namely, Jesus in India and The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam.
The Demise of the Promised Messiahas
As celestial signs marked the life of the Promised Messiahas, so they marked his demise. Soon after he passed away, the Tunguska Event, the largest impact event recorded on earth, happened.71 The Tunguska Event was a large explosion that occurred near the Stony Tunguska River in Krasnoyarsk, Russia on the morning of 30 June 1908. The explosion is generally attributed to the airburst of a meteoroid or a comet that was approximately 100 meters long. This meteor exploded in the sky 5 to 10 kilometers before hitting the earth’s surface. Its importance can be judged from the fact that almost a thousand research papers have been written about it.
It has been noted that when it exploded in the air, the explosion caused people to fall on the ground and shattered the mirrors of windows located hundreds of kilometers away from the epicenter of the explosion. The severity of this airburst can be judged from the fact that it had an energy range that was 1000 times greater than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Indeed, an explosion of this magnitude would be capable of destroying a large metropolitan area but due to the remote location of its impact, no human fatalities were officially reported.72
While one can argue that because of the periodic nature of some comets, especially comets with short orbital periods, they can appear many times throughout the lifetime of any individual, this fails to explain the prediction of such an extraordinary comet 1400 years before it appeared as a sign for a Messiah.
These events are far beyond the control of any human being and a mere mortal is powerless to make them appear at one’s own discretion. Hence, one can only deduce that these events the manifestations of God’s Hand at work. Referring to these heavenly and earthly signs, the Promised Messiahas states in one of his Persian couplets:
‘Hearken unto the call of Heaven: “The Messiah has come! The Messiah has come!”
And hearken unto the earth: “The victorious Imam has arrived!”
Heaven is showering Signs and the earth proclaims: “This is the time!”
These two witnesses are restlessly crying out in my favour.’73
At another instance, while addressing one of his opponents, he states:
‘O fool! Will you resist God? Is it in your power to fight Him? Had this been the work of man, there was no need for you to oppose it. God was enough to destroy it. This Movement has continued for nearly twenty-five years and is progressing by the day, and God has granted it extraordinary success in keeping with His holy promises. It is inevitable that before this world would come to an end, God would grant progress to this Movement to the point of perfection. God has shown thousands of Signs to affirm my truth, to which hundreds of thousands of people stand witness. Signs appeared from the earth as well as from heaven. And they appeared amidst friends as well as foes. Hardly does a month pass without the manifestation of a sign.74
In short, the Great Comet of 1882 was just one of the countless heavenly signs vouchsafed to the truthfulness of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas. Great comets like this one may have existed in the past and may appear in the future. But it is extraordinary that anyone could predict both the coming of a Messiah and the celestial sign for that Messiah. That both happened exactly as predicted shows that this is not mere coincidence, but truly a celestial sign.
- Stefan Hughes, Catchers Of The Light (Paphos: ArtDeCiel, 2013), 447.
- The Holy Qur’an, 16:13.
- The Holy Qur’an, 6:98.
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