The Review of Religions has begun a monthly series called the “The Hundred Year Rewind”. We will highlight a particular issue of the Review of Religions from a 100 years ago and offer summaries to some of the articles published in that edition along with a link to the original magazine in PDF form here to read in full.
The August-September 1920 issue of the Review of Religions was printed in Qadian, District Gurdaspur, Punjab, India. The annual subscription at the time was Rs. 5. The Review of Religions was founded by the Promised Messiah (as). The introduction page states that the Review of Religions is a monthly magazine dealing with important religious questions, offering a fair and impartial review of the prominent religions of the world, and removing all misconceptions about Islam.
Religion and its Need
In volume XIX of the magazine, no. 8 and 9, an English translation of a lecture delivered by His Holiness Hazrat Khalifatul Masih II (ra) to the students and professors of the local colleges was published. After acknowledging that on superficial observation, religion may appear a most terrible thing leading to war and bloodshed, and brings out beastly qualities in man, His Holiness said:
“To determine the value of the religion, we ought to know what religion is intended to give…Religion tells us that there is a Creator, Who created us for a certain purpose.”
His Holiness (ra) argued that reasons and logic can only take us to a probability that there is a God, explaining:
“Reason cannot take us further. For “certainty” we depend on the other process — the process of God revealing Himself to His creatures. He speaks to them and makes them sure of His existence”.
His Holiness (ra) summed up by explaining the profound concepts that,
“…matter develops into spirit and spirit into eternal life. Heaven for those who develop Divine love. Hell is a painful process of cleaning the spirit of the dross of matter. Ultimate salvation for all – that is the purpose of human life.”
Islam is a Revealed Religion and Not Evolutionistic
An English translation of the article titled Islam is a Revealed Religion and Not Evolutionistic written by His Holiness Hazrat Mirza Bashir-ud-Din Mahmud Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih II (ra), is the next article in the edition. In this, His Holiness explained that Arabia at the time of the advent of the Holy Prophet (sa) was steeped in darkness and ignorance, lacking any civic life or civilisation.
Surrounded by the might and progress of Roman and Persian empires, Arabs had no aptitude to seek knowledge, or undertake scientific or medical research. At the time, the knowledge of medical remedies was limited to old wives tales, handed down from generation to generation. An illness was regarded as the wrath of gods or a bad astrological omen that could not be defied. Arabs regarded illness as a calling for death and content with their fate, they did not try to seek a cure. While such dark and ignorant concepts were prevalent in Arabia, the Holy Prophet (sa) proclaimed,
“There is a remedy of every malady except death.”
The Holy Prophet (sa) explained to those ignorant Arabs that God has created a cure for every disease and man can save himself from diseases by proper treatment; but nevertheless, he cannot escape death.
Using this Hadith as a basis for his reasoning, His Holiness (ra) argued that such knowledge about health and disease at that time of ignorance could have only been attained by Divine revelation. The veracity of this statement is a commanding evidence that Islam is a revealed religion; such an unfamiliar concept could only be introduced to an ignorant and backward nation if it was divinely revealed. In due course, this message proved to be true.
Giving the examples of the medical and surgical treatment – as well as vaccinations to treat and prevent many ailments such as tetanus, diphtheria, rabies, syphilis, renal stone disease, goitre, cholera, diabetes, typhoid, leprosy, heart disease – His Holiness (ra) expounded that cure for many diseases has been found and for others, a cure will be found in due course.
His Holiness (ra) said,
“It was indeed a case of revelation from the Creator of this universe, Who possesses a complete knowledge of the hidden secrets of nature.”
There is no way that living in Arabia at such an ignorant time, the Holy Prophet (sa) would have the knowledge about a potential cure for every disease. This was not progression of evolved knowledge that made the basis of the Hadith of the Holy Prophet (sa).
Giving the examples of conventional medicine, homeopathy, hydrotherapy, advanced imaging techniques, use of microscopes for diagnosis and techniques like psychoanalysis to diagnose and cure many human ailments, His Holiness asked:
“Do these not prove that Islam was a revelation from the Almighty? Otherwise, how could such truths find place in it – truth differing so much from the ideas of the people of those times and so advanced that it was hardly possible for those people to believe them at the time? Is it not clear, therefore, that Islam is not only useful for the Arabs and their kindred people, but that it is also useful for the people of every other country more or less civilised and that it can improve their social condition and lead them onto the highest pinnacle of progress and civilisation?”
The Islamic Situation and a Timely Advice to Muhammadans
In his article titled The Islamic Situation and a Timely Advice to Muhammadans, Mr Ali Muhammad stated, “The Great War has brought about striking changes in this world. Nothing, however, has undergone such a radical change as the Muslim world. The Turkish Empire, which was the strongest of all the Muslim states, whether independent or dependent, has had a most unfortunate ending and has practically been obliterated from the map after a brilliant and glorious history of about 467 years…As a matter of fact, a shadow of death has swept over all the Muslim countries and for all practical purposes, they have been reduced to mere nothing.
….The Muslim power has been rapidly waning during the past 150 years and Muslim countries have been dropping out one by one from the list…But Does Islam consists in politics and political ascendancy?…Political power has not been denied to Muslims in the Holy Qur’an, but with this it must be admitted that Islam is not a wholly political creed and can exist without political power. Worldly power is only an additional gift granted to Musalmans and not a component factor of faith…The greatest blessings God bestows upon a nation is, first, prophethood and then, dominion. And blessed is the nation that enjoys them both…Islam is a religion of the conscience and establishes the relationship between the Creator and his creatures. This was true as well in the beginning, when it had no political power as it is true now, when little worldly power is left of it.”
In this article, the author referred to the advent of the Promised Messiah (as) of Qadian and reassures Muslims that Islam has received a fresh impetus from Qadian. He says:
“So there is little cause for anxiety. If the Mohammedans have lost their wealth and power through the misdeeds, let them not break his heart over the loss but gather under the leadership of Ahmad of Qadian, who has come for the regeneration of Islam in these days of its trial. Their only hope of salvation lies in that acceptance of him — the messenger of God.
The Promised Messiah (as), Imam Mahdi (Guided One), Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as)
Reformed and reformers, they can well aspire to regain the same lofty positions held by the companions of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him)…The Almighty says, it is decreed that I shall be victorious and my prophets. A prophet has appeared on the earth and the cause he upholds cannot but prove victorious over its rivals. So true wisdom lies in casting our lot with him and his mission. Harkins, therefore, ye Muslims of the world! God has come down upon the earth with mighty signs in support of his servant. The heaven and the earth have borne witness to the truth of his messenger, and the sun and moon were darkened for his sake. Will you believe in except him…?”
The Lost Sheep of the House of Israel
Abdul Hashim Khan Choudhury, in his article titled The Lost Sheep of the House of Israel referred to the migration of Israelites, who were exiled from Syria after the destruction of Samaria by the Assyrians in 772 BC. The author quotes the personal experiences of Sir Thomas Holdwich from early spring 1895, when he was attached to a boundary commission. Sir Thomas quoted the discoveries of the meanings of the words Kabul and Afghan by a keen philologist Mr B W Stainton. About Kabul, he says, “The only place of this name is curiously enough in Western Palestine and mentioned as ‘Cabul’ in the Joshua XIX, 27 and I Kings IX 13…Cabul being stated on the margin to mean “displeasing or dirty.”…Afghan ‘or Feghan’ was a Persian word meaning “loud lamentation.”
Mr Muhammad Dilawar Khan in his article titled Hijrat explained the historical migration of Muslims from Mecca to Abyssinia and then Medina to flee persecution by the Meccans. He explained that there are two main reasons why Muslims are permitted to emigrate from their homeland. These are, firstly, if Muslims are oppressed for religious reasons and cannot practice their religion freely. The other reason for migration is when Muslims are physically persecuted for the cause of their faith.
The author argued that the exodus of Muslims from British India in those times, could not be justified based on these two reasons. Appealing to their naïve brethren, falling to the incitement of their fanatic leaders, the author urged Muslims to reconsider their decision to abandoning their homes and livelihoods to migrate out British India. He encouraged them to follow the teachings of the Holy Qur’an and unite under the leadership of the Promised Messiah (as), Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian, to restore the true glory of Islam. He concludes by saying,
“Blessed are they who believe in him for in his following lies the only solution of the present anxieties of the Muslims.”
Mr Mutiur Rahman Bangali sahib translated from the writings of the Promised Messiah (as) entitled The Inwardness of Prayer. Expressing the importance of Salat, the Promised Messiah (as) explained that a heartfelt, dedicated and committed offering of Salat is required to attain purity of soul and salvation. Islam wishes everyone to take responsibility of their own actions; to attain spiritual progress and purity, individual effort is needed for one’s own progress.
An Anecdote of Mufti
In An Anecdote of Mufti, an eminent Ahmadiyya missionary and scholar Mufti Muhammad Sadiq sahib narrated the tale of a visitor who went to Allahabad Book Exhibition. The visitor went to see ancient Shastras and was shown venerable Vedas, the books of the Hindu, left by the Rishis for the guidance of men. It is fascinating to read this conversation between Brahmin and the visitor in the words of Mufti sahib. The visitor (referred here as “I”) was told by the Brahmin, “Rishis were the elected ones of God, who flourished in the first beginning of the Race, to whom God spoke and delivered His will for the guidance of mankind. ‘Oh luck, a find!’ I thought. To be spoken to by God, to be delivered from all uncertainty and doubt, to feel His tangible presence, that will solve the whole problem of my life! Well my friend! I eagerly asked, will the book help me to become the one like those happy Rishis, and have there been many Rishis, actually produced by following the guidance of the Vedas? ‘Stranger!’ said my interlocutor, ‘Know you not that Rishis are born only once in one cycle of the world?’ ‘What was the book good for then,’ I cried…and I turned away disappointed.”
Then the visitor to the exhibition moves onto another exhibit that looked beautiful and well presented. The visitor met a distinguished and affable gentleman and was introduced to the concept of about the son of God from the great book, the Bible. The son of God, who lived the life of a man and yet was God. The visitor, thinking that being the son of God was even better than being a Rishi, asked the affable gentleman to give him the version of Bible that has produced the largest numbers of sons of God. The visitor says, “The question produced a surprising effect. The gentleman fell back and seemed to be wanting an answer. At last one said, “You have misunderstood us, I am afraid. There is no more to be a son of God”…What! Have you too run short of stock?…I withdrew in dejection.”
Then the visitor progressed to the next stall, which exhibited a beautifully emblazoned book, called the Qur’an. The visitor was informed that the book was the word of God that was revealed by God to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him). The visitor thought, “What? A prophet? That is not as much as the son of God. But yet it is not the least to be spoken to by God and to be the bearer of his message. But my experience has made me incredulous and as a caution I enquired, well gentleman! Will the book enable me to become a prophet? Begone, you mad chap,” snapped the shopkeeper.
“The succession of prophets is closed with our Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa), who was the last of the line.” The same reply, I inwardly whispered and was leaving stall in disgust, when an eager voice called to me stop, stop. Sir, are the divine book will tell you to a way to become a prophet”. The word captured my attention, but I was still doubtful. What! Will the book enable me to become a prophet, and be spoken to by God like the ones regarding whom to book relates?” “What else may I mean? Why should be love and revere a book which otherwise is, but, a dead record. The boldness and frankness of the answers served partially to allay my suspicion and I enquired, “But, tell me brother has the book ever actually produced a prophet in the long course of his existence?” “Yes, Sir! even a short while back that was one amongst us in the little town of Qadian”. “Heretic of an Ahmadi” growled the shopkeeper. But I had already tasted of the new hope and muttered, “Heretic of or orthodox, I love a book that speaks to some purpose. Friend give me a copy”. It was the Holy Qur’an.
The editions end with a “notes” section. We conclude the review of the archived issue with these powerful words that we copy for the reflection of our readers without any comments. We would wish readers to draw their own conclusions about the success of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Mission.
“The Ahmadiyya community has recently acquired a plot of land in London for the construction of a mosque and quarters is for Islamic missionaries. This will be the first mosque in England resulting from purely Mohammedan enterprise and as such it will be a fitting reply of Islam to Christian’s new ascendancy over the Muslim world. In comparison to the bar schemes of Christian mission work, to which the result of war has given birth, the new enterprise is seemingly most puny And insignificant, but we have every confidence that like all God’s works this humble beginnings will prove the forerunner of important and far reaching consequences beyond the calculations of the most ardent optimists. We praise God and congratulate the Ahmadiyya Community on this privilege of undertaking the work of vindicating the honour of Islam.”