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Eighty Years Ago

33 EIGHTY YEARS AGO (Towards the end of the last century bubonic plague broke out in India and was particularly severe in the Province of Punjab where Hazrat Ghulam Ahmad, the Promised Messiah and Holy Founder of the Ahmadiyya Community, lived in the village of Qadian. It was revealed to him that all who dwelt within the walls of his house would be protected from the plague. This prophecy was literally fulfilled and was a sign of the truth of his claim. It had been wrongly asserted that he was opposed to the measure of plague inoculation which was quite incorrect. Although He and those who dwelt in his house did not take inoculations in view of the Divine promise of immunity from plague, he advised and encouraged the Muslim public to avail themselves of its ‘advantage. Regarding this matter we reproduce an extract written by the editor of the Review of Religions published in the May issue, 1908. Editor) We do not think there is any strong religious prejudice against plague inoculation. Among the Hindus the small-pox was considered as the visitation of a goddess and accordingly ordinary methods of treatment were not resorted to, as these were considered to give offence to the goddess. These ideas found currency to a greater or less extent among the ignorant Muhammadans also. But at present vaccination against small-pox has no barrier of religious prejudice against it. Hence plague-inoculation cannot be rejected on the ground of religious objections. The Muhammadans in particular should have no religious objection against inoculation, because their Holy Prophet laid it down as a general rule that “there is no malady but God has created a remedy for it.” If then a remedy is found for the plague which at any rate diminishes chances of infection and lessens the virulence of the plague, and experience has shown the efficacy of that remedy, it is the duty of the Muhammadans to have themselves benefitted by it. There is some misconception as to the attitude of the Ahmadiyya Movement towards plague inoculation, and it is thought that this Movement is opposed to this measure on religious grounds. Such is not the case. Certain remarks on plague-inoculation by the founder of the movement have given rise to this misapprehension, but these words have been misunderstood as I will show by quoting them below. 34 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS I have personally asked the founder of the movement and he denied ever having opposed the measure. On the other hand, he was in favour of the Government measure, he said, the Government bore all the expenses of inoculation for the welfare of its subjects. I may here reproduce his words written in 1902 in a pamphlet called the Noah’s Ark, and the reader will easily see that there is not only no opposition to inoculation in these words but also the measure is strongly supported. Out of sympathy for its suffering subjects, the Government has kindly undertaken at the expense of about a million rupees to place the benefit of plague inoculation within the reach of the general public as a safeguard against the anticipated outbreak of the plague. To tell the truth, it .is one of those benevolent measures of the Government which it is the duty of all sensible subjects to welcome with expressions of gratefulness and upon which none but the fools and the enemies of their own souls would look with distrust or suspicion, for it has often been proved that this cautious .Government never asks its subjects to try any dangerous remedy, and does not offer one to be taken recourse to by the people unless it has assured itself of its usefulness and harmlessness after repeated trials. To impute a selfish motive to the undertakers of a benevolent measure which requires an enormous outlay of money is most uncharitable. There is not the least doubt that inoculation is the best and most efficacious preventive against plague that the Government has yet discovered. Nor can it be denied that it has actually proved useful when resorted to. It is, therefore, the duty of all loyal subjects to relieve the Government of the great anxiety it has for their lives by acting in accordance with its desires and getting themselves inoculated so long as there is no obstacle. As for me, I mostrespectfullybeg to inform the Government that I would have been the first man~to avail myself of its generous offer, had not an ordinance of heaven kept me back.” The facts relating to this ordinance are then stated. He had received a revelation from on High that he as well as all those who lived within the four walls of his house would be especially protected from the plague. Hence it was that he did not undergo inoculation, because the truth of the revelation would have in that case been obscured. With this one exception, relating to himself and a few of his companions who lived in the precincts of his house, the founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement strongly and unreservedly supported inoculation then as he does even now, and he advises his followers to benefit by the remedy, the efficacy of which is now, in the light of the facts and the figures quoted above, beyond all question.