MAGAZINE: EDITION MARCH 2021
Christianity

‘Sowing the Seed’ – Jesus in India

©Indrajit Das | CC BY-SA 4.0

Arif Khan, London, UK

I have come only to sow the seed. So I have sown the seed. It will now grow and prosper. No one can stop it.

— Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as), The Narrative of Two Martyrs

Traditions and legends relating to Jesus Christ (as) being present in India have existed for centuries. Scholarly works upon this subject reference sources claiming to date back to the 1st century itself. [1] Histories of Kashmir mentioning the Rozabal Tomb in Srinagar, Kashmir, in northern India, as the final resting place of Jesus (as) have existed since the 15th century. [2]

The idea is, however, puzzling; why would Jesus Christ (as) journey to the East? How could the commonly known events about his life, such as his ministry in Jerusalem and crucifixion around 33 CE, be reconciled with sources that claim he was buried in Kashmir?

It was not until the monumental text, Masih Hindustan Mein (Jesus in India), written in 1899 and published in 1908 in Qadian, India, that the world was presented with a compelling and comprehensive narrative around the full life of Jesus Christ (as). This ground-breaking work was written and compiled by Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad(as), the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and Promised Messiah. 

Although this book was published over a century ago, its influence is long-ranging and can be seen today. Indeed, modern researchers are indebted to the pioneering research of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as) in this area and cite his work even today. 

The Review of Religions

There exists a special link between The Review of Religions magazine and Jesus in India, as it was in The Review of Religions magazine that this text was partially serialised from 1902 to 1903. The key revelation of Jesus in India was that Jesus Christ (as) escaped death on the cross, and continued on his mission, travelling east and preaching to the Lost Tribes of Israel, before finally being buried in the Rozabal Tomb in Srinagar, Kashmir. 

The details of this tomb were presented at length in The Review of Religions magazine under the title ‘An Important Discovery Regarding Jesus’ in October, 1902. This research was compiled and then published in a complete book in 1908, shortly after the passing away of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as). 

An Invention of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community?

Several articles in The Review of Religions have covered the Tomb of Jesus (as) in India, including ‘Rozabal – The Tomb of Jesus Christ (as)’ from December 2010, which outlined evidence linking the Tomb to the person of Jesus Christ(as), refuting the recent claims of locals that it has no connection to Jesus (as).

There are several key arguments in favour of the Rozabal tomb being the final resting place of Jesus Christ (as):

Local traditions, both written and oral, talk about the grave being that of a ‘Prince Prophet’ who sought refuge in Kashmir, coming from a foreign land.

There are marked similarities between the parables and preaching methods of the inhabitant of the tomb (Yuz Asaph) and those employed by Jesus Christ (as). 

The fact that the direction of the tomb faces east-west suggests that it was the tomb of a Jew, rather than a Muslim.

Carved footprints next to the tomb showing unusual marks on each foot appear consistent with scars we would expect on the feet from crucifixion.

An inscription at a local temple, called the Temple of Solomon, outlined that Yuz Asaph proclaimed that he was Jesus (as), the Prophet from Israel.

Critics of the Jesus in India thesis often claim the story was a necessary invention by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as) to allow him to make the claim of being the Second Coming of Jesus Christ (as). The main book aiming to refute this belief is Jesus’ Tomb in India by Dr. Paul C. Pappas, a professor of history from the West Virginia Institute of Technology.  In the conclusion of his text Dr. Pappas states:

‘Although Ahmadis claim to have the tomb of Jesus in Srinagar, India, no historical evidence has been offered to confirm its authenticity except for questionable works based on oral legends. In addition, the Ahmadis have failed to produce any archaeological or anthropological evidence that the grave of Yus Asf might be that of Jesus. Therefore, the Ahmadi thesis is based only on the revelation of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement.” [3]

But there is a simple refutation to this argument, which is the fact that scholars and researchers, without any adherence or belief in the religious claims of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as), have come to the same conclusion. It is also worth highlighting that since the year 2000 there have been at least five separate documentary films that all focus on this tomb as the final resting place of Jesus Christ (as). [4] This fact effectively demolishes the arguments of those who dismiss this theory as an invention of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. 

If there is no truth in these traditions, then we would have to conclude that scholars and filmmakers from around the world and from a range of faiths are all mistaken. While this is possible, the fact that people have arrived at this conclusion from such different viewpoints surely increases the credibility of this belief.

Modern-day articles on the topic will often reference current authors and researchers, and not always give credit to Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as) for his pioneering work in this space. This article will highlight, however, that in coming to this conclusion each scholar, without fail, references Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as) and highlights the role his research played in opening their eyes to this possibility. These researchers come from a range of different faith traditions, encompassing Buddhism, Christianity and Islam. [5]

Holger Kersten – Jesus Lived in India

Holger Kersten is a German writer who has published several controversial books around the topics of Jesus Christ(as), his life and teaching. The first book he published, Jesus Lebte in Indien, (Jesus Lived in India), in 1983, built upon the sources highlighted by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as) in his text Jesus in India. [6] Kersten concluded that Jesus Christ (as) had travelled to India and that the Rozabal tomb, as highlighted in Jesus in India, was indeed his final resting place. 

Kersten’s book, initially published in Germany in 1983, was also later published in the UK in 1994 and in India in 2001. His text became a popular book on the subject, cementing his significant contribution to this area of study. 

In the book Jesus Lived in India, Kersten included the following passage explaining how the Qur’anic verses that talk about the crucifixion of Jesus Christ (as) can be interpreted as him having survived the ordeal of crucifixion: [7]

‘And their saying, “We did kill the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah;” whereas they slew him not, nor crucified him, but he was made to appear to them like one crucified; and those who differ therein are certainly in a state of doubt about it; they have no definite knowledge thereof, but only follow a conjecture; and they did not convert this conjecture into a certainty. On the contrary, Allah exalted him to Himself. And Allah is Mighty, Wise.’ [8]

He cites Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad(as) as his sole source for this interpretation. The revolutionary interpretation of the Qur’anic verses opens the question: what ultimately became of Jesus Christ (as)  if he survived the crucifixion as a mortal human being?

Professor Fida Hassnain

Another key scholar and researcher in this area is Professor Fida Hassnain. Professor Hassnain has appeared in multiple documentaries, wrote multiple books on the topic, and supported numerous researchers examining the evidence of Jesus’ (as) travels in India. [9] He served as the Director of the Kashmir State Archives for nearly 30 years, before retiring in 1983. 

Professor Hassnain, who passed away in 2016, was widely regarded as the modern-day authority on the subject. [10] His passing was cited in the Kashmiri press, and he was recognised for his contribution as a noted historian, publisher, and visiting professor to several universities around the world. [11]

Professor Hassnain cited the work of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as) in all the books he wrote about Jesus (as) in India. 

In The Fifth Gospel, a book he co-authored with researcher Dahan Levi in 1988, Professor Hassnain partially dedicated the text to Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad(as). Further, he bore testament to the powerful impact Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad’s (as) book, Jesus in India, had on the religious worlds of Christianity and Islam, given his claim to be the second coming of Jesus Christ (as):

‘As the founder of a new sect in Islam, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad writes with religious zeal, which is mingled with his beliefs, aspirations and teachings. This is the reason why the arguments produced in this work [Jesus in India by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as)] have tremendously affected Muslim thought and disturbed Christian thinking.’

This comment from Prof. Hassnain highlights the respect modern day scholars paid to the original text by Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as).

Andreas Faber-Kaiser

Andreas Faber Kaiser is a well-known Spanish scholar of comparative religions who personally travelled to Kashmir to investigate the life of Jesus Christ (as) in Kashmir. After much diligent and persistent research, he wrote his book Jesus Died in Kashmir.  In this text, published in English in Great Britain in 1977, Mr Kaiser states clearly in the introduction:

‘I feel I must stress at the outset that this book is not an Ahmadiyya tract, and that it owes its origins to no sect, group or movement. It is merely the result of my personal efforts to investigate various facts that may shed new light on the mysterious aspects of Jesus’ life.’ [12]

He has a chapter dedicated to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, explaining the pivotal role of the Community, and its founder, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as), in relation to Jesus’ (as) tomb in Srinagar, Kashmir. 

He writes:

‘The Ahmadiyyas, knowing of the existence of Jesus’ reputed tomb in Srinagar, have published numerous studies of the matter and have broadcast to the Western world the things that they have discovered linking Jesus with Kashmir.’ [13]

1978 International Conference on the Deliverance of Jesus Christ from the Cross in London

Perhaps the best illustration of Mr Kaiser’s above claim was the first (and to this date, only) International Conference on the Deliverance of Jesus Christ from the Cross. This event was organised by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and took place from 2nd June through 4th June, 1978, at the Commonwealth Institute in London. 

The event was organised by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and Hazrat Mirza Nasir Ahmad (rh), the Caliph of the Community at the time, was present and gave the welcome address at the start of the event. It is important to note that despite being organised by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, many of those experts and researchers who spoke were not in any way affiliated with the Community. Indeed, many of the speeches at the event were delivered by speakers not linked to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. 

Most notably, both Professor Fida Hassnain and Mr Andreas Faber Kaiser contributed papers to this conference. Mr Kaiser was even present at the conference himself and read his paper, while Professor Hassnain submitted it to the organisers for it to be read out. 

This conference seemed to energise and motivate researchers. Mr Kaiser stated boldly at the end of his talk:

‘The final proof may perhaps lie in the underground crypt of Srinagar. I for my part will not cease until I succeed in entering it.’ [14]

Obtaining access to the Tomb in Kashmir for scientific testing, however, has proved impossible to this day.

Suzanne Olsson – The Tomb and DNA Testing

The most recent attempt at obtaining a DNA sample from the tomb was initiated by Suzanne Olsson, an American researcher who has written about the Tomb in several books since 2002. She is currently working on her latest book, Prophets of the Punjab, which includes analysis of the Rozabal Tomb as the tomb of Jesus Christ (as) in Kashmir.

The attempts to obtain the DNA were blocked at a late stage in the process by caretakers of the tomb. The outcome of this attempt by Ms. Olsson is recorded in the 2007 documentary film Jesus in India by American filmmaker Paul Davids. This film provides a full picture of the controversy, interviewing the current caretakers of the tomb and explaining what Ms. Olsson had hoped to do. 

One figure who has appeared in several documentaries about the Kashmir tomb is Mohammad Amin Ringshawl. He is presented as a caretaker of the Tomb, [15] yet the details of how he obtained this position as a spokesman for the tomb are unclear. Historically the Tomb was cared for by the Basharat family, a family who claim to be able to trace back their lineage directly to Yuz Asaph. In recent years, however, Mr Ringshawl has been presented as an authority on the tomb and its current custodian. 

In Paul Davids’ film, Mr Ringshawl is shown stating:

‘If any group or sect claims this is the tomb of Jesus, this is an insult to the Qur’an. The Muslims would not tolerate this, this insult…This is why the government agreed to lock this up. A Western lady came here to extract a sample from here, for a DNA test. This is why it was locked up, because Muslims here would not accept this insult.’

Ms Olsson’s attempts at obtaining DNA from the tomb are recounted in a 2016 news article by independent journalist Rayan Naqash, who is based in Srinagar. He shares a conversation he had with a local visitor to the tomb, who explained it was locked up to any visitors following a ‘tourist’ attempting to obtain ‘samples for testing’ from the tomb.

Despite this setback, Ms Olsson has been instrumental in furthering research in this area, publishing several books on the topic. In one such book, co-authored with Professor Fida Hassnain, the authors clearly acknowledge Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as) as the pioneer of this research:

‘The religious controversy about the Rozabal began with the publication of an Urdu book entitled Masih Hindustan Mein or Jesus in India by Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the founder of the Ahmadiyya sect.’ [16]

The authors go on to recount the research undertaken by a disciple of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as), who we know to be Khalifa Nuruddin, and mention the obtaining of hundreds of signatures of locals attesting to the Tomb being that of a prophet called Hazrat Yuz Asaph. [17]

Ashwin Sanghi 

Ashwin Sanghi, also known by his pen name Shawn Haigns, is a contemporary Indian writer of fictional thrillers. The plot of the first thriller he wrote, centred around the Rozabal tomb in Kashmir, was named The Rozabal Line after the famous tomb. Although a work of fiction, Sanghi’s work was put together to the backdrop of factual historical research, and he studied many texts and sought direct guidance from Professor Fida Hassnain as part of his research. His book went on to be a bestseller, with some in the media describing it as the Indian equivalent of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. [18]

During an interview I conducted with the author in 2007, he explained the influence of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad’s (as) work on his research. After describing Jesus in India as ‘the definitive work on the subject of Jesus having survived the crucifixion and having travelled to India’ he went on to explain:

‘It was Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad’s work that finally made the light bulb flash inside my head. If Jesus did indeed survive the crucifixion and settle down in Kashmir, would it not be logical for his present-day descendants to be Muslim? It was that flash of inspiration that eventually created The Rozabal Line.’ [19]

Sowing of a Seed

The book, Jesus in India, brought about a revolutionary new way of understanding the life of Jesus Christ (as). Since its publication in 1908, many researchers and scholars have come to the same conclusions: that Jesus Christ (as) is buried in the Rozabal Tomb in Srinagar, Kashmir. 

Researchers have used some additional sources and references to support this thesis, yet in truth much of the evidence presented for this view can be traced back to Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad’s (as) work. 

As we have seen, upon looking deeper into writings of these scholars, they clearly each reference the work of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as) and the pioneering role he played in piecing together this mystery, and ‘sowing the seed’ for research proving Jesus Christ (as) is buried in Kashmir.

In the last 20 years, scholars such as Suzanne Olsson, Holger Kersten and Professor Fida Hassnain have written books and appeared in documentaries, presenting theory, narrative and commentary on this thesis. Their research and books have helped inspire future generations of researchers, such as Ashwin Sanghi, who spent time with Professor Hassnain when compiling his book. 

The seed that Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as) has sown has led to shoots and branches that are now reaching out and  opening up across the world. These branches are traversing the religious and cultural spectrum of the modern world and furthering this fascinating area of research. 

About the Author: Arif Khan is a Biblical researcher, editor of the Tomb of Jesus website and appears in Paul Davids’ film Jesus in India, which first aired on the Sundance Channel. Arif is currently serving as the Deputy Editor of the Christianity Section of The Review of Religions. 


Endnotes

1. The Bhavishya Mahapurana by Suta – this book is said to date to 115AD and is one of 18 books that make up the Puranas, held sacred by Hindus. 

2. Mullah Nadri, Tarikh-i-Kashmir (420AD).

3. Paul C. Pappas,  Jesus’ Tomb in India – Debate on his Death and Resurrection, (1991), 154.

4. Jesus in the Himalayas, Discovery Channel – 2001, Did Jesus Die?, BBC, 2003, Hidden Story of Jesus, Channel 4, 2007, Jesus in India, Paul Davids, 2008, The Rozabal Shrine of Shrinagar, Government of India, 2011.

5. Holger Kersten is a Buddhist, Suzanne Olsson comes from a Christian background, and the late Prof. Fida Hassnain identified as a Sufi Muslim.

6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holger_Kersten 

7. Holger Kersten, Jesus Lived in India (2001), 218.

8. The Holy Qur’an, 4:158-159.

9. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2007/nov/19/india.religion – The Guardian – ‘Hollywood takes action hero Jesus to India’

10. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fida_Muhammad_Hassnain

11. https://www.greaterkashmir.com/news/kashmir/historian-fida-hassnain-passes-away/.

12. Andreas Faber Kaiser,  Jesus Died in Kashmir (1977), 4-5.

13. Ibid, page 144.

14. London Mosque, The Truth About the Crucifixion (1978), 78.

15. https://www.reviewofreligions.org/2727/rozabal-%E2%80%93-the-tomb-of-jesus-christas/ – Rozabal – The Tomb of Jesus Christ (peace be upon him)?

16. Suzanne Olsson & Prof. Fida Hassnain, The Rozabal – Beyond the Da Vinci Code (2004), 347.

17. Ibid, page 348.

18. https://m.rediff.com/getahead/slide-show/slide-show-1-specials-interview-with-ashwin-sanghi/20121204.htm – Ashwin Sanghi: The birth of India’s Dan Brown.

19. Personal interview conducted with Ashwin Sanghi, 2007.