Health Prophecies

The Indian Plague

58 The Review of Religions – May 2003 Introduction: The organism causing plague was discovered by Yersin and Kitasato simultaneously in 1894. A preventive vaccine was prepared by Hoffkine in 1896. Plague was prevalent in different part of the world in those days but a catastro p h i c plague epidemic struck British India at the turn of the twentieth c e n t u r y. It particularly caused havoc in the province of Punjab. From 1898 to 1918, 10.25 million people were offically recorded to have died of plague in India. The province of the Punjab bore the b runt of the epidemic with 28.7% of total deaths in India (published by the Indian Council of Medical Researc h ) . Physical illnesses are caused by physical agents and are governed by physical laws. This is the modern concept about any ailments that may afflict the human race. These are the times of evidence-based medicine, which in turn is based on scientifically controlled trials. All that we call knowledge must be gauged through this measure to be acceptable. However at the turn of the last century, Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad(as), the Promised Messiah published another view based e n t i rely on the teachings of Qur’an, the divine scripture of the Muslim faith. He said that: ‘Our God is Almighty, Powerful and Most Merciful and can save human beings from all afflictions by means other than the physical means.’ Physical states of man affect his moral and spiritual states . Good moral and spiritual qualities have lasting benefits for human race. Plague as a sign of God: In many of his publications he claimed that God commu- nicates with him and reveals to him events that are to follow. His first publication was Braheen-e- The Indian Plague By Dr. Latif A. Qureshi B.Sc., M.B., B.S., F.R.C.P. 59The Review of Religions –May 2003 Ahmadiyya and its first volume was published in 1880. Many further publications followed until he passed away in 1908. In many of his publications he claimed that Plague appeared as a sign of God to prove that he was a truthful prophet. Most of his books are in Urdu and I quote the English translation of some of the passages from his book Kishti Nuh or ‘Ark of Noah’. ‘There is no doubt that in the material world at this time the best method the government could find to help the people is inoculation. This cannot be denied that this method has been found to be effective and it is therefore the duty of the subjects to follow their plans and relieve the government of the worry about their welfare. But we very re s p e c t f u l l y submit to our gracious government that if we did not have a Divine prohibition we would be the first of their subjects to volunteer for inoculation. And the divine p rohibition is that God desire d to show a Divine Sign of merc y for the people of this age. So He addressed me and said “Thou and those who dwell in thy home and who completely follow thee with obedience, t ruth, righte-ousness and devotion will all be saved from plague. And it will be a sign of God to distinguish between nations in these final days. But he who does not submit completely, do not worry about him because he is not of you.”’ This is the Divine command because of which there is no need of inoculation for us and those living within the wall of our house.” He writes further in the same book: ‘Some fools will be taken aback to hear this and some will laugh at me and call me mad. And some will be amazed that if indeed there is such a God who can shower His blessings without any physical means. So the answer is that indeed without doubt there is such an Almighty God.’ The Indian Plague 60 The Review of Religions – May 2003 ‘Here keep this in mind that it is not a sin to have treatment for diseases like the plague. In fact a saying of the Holy P rophet Muhammad( s a ) i s known that God has created treatment for every ailment. But I consider it to be a great sin to confound this great sign of God by having inoc- ulations. A sign which He wants to clearly manifest for us on earth. I will not disgrace His true sign and true promise by having the inoculations. If I do this I will be answerable for this sin that I did not believe in the promise of God which He has done with me. And if I get the inoculation I should be grateful to the physician who invented the vaccine rather than be grateful to God who p romised to save me and those within these walls.’ ‘I truthfully proclaim that if the events do not happen as p rophesied and widely publicised twenty or twenty two years earlier, then I am not sent by God. This will be a sign that I am appointed by Allah that those dedicated people living within the boundaries of my house will be saved from death from this disease. Moreover my com- munity will comparatively be immune to attacks of plague. The immunity that they will exhibit will not be apparent in any other group of people. Qadian will not be afflicted by totally destructive type of calamitous epidemic of plague. However, there will be few and occasional cases.’ ‘Our government will no doubt value this pro p h e c y when they will realise the amazing occurrence that this community remained safe and sound compared to those who are inoculated.’ Plague in the Punjab: During the early part of the twentieth century the province of Punjab in British India was severely stricken by the Plague epidemic. The severity of the epidemic can be visualised by the following quotation fro m British Medical Journal published in 1905. ‘We have received three lengthy reports drawn up by Major E. The Indian Plague 61The Review of Religions –May 2003 Wilkinson IMS in which elaborate details are given re g a rding the prevalence of plague from October 1st 1901 to September 30th 1903 and m e a s u res, including inocu- lations adopted for its suppression. The invasion of the province has been extensive and severe. By the end of September 1903 the number of deaths reported amounted to 377,576 and there is reason to believe that the large total does not represent the full measure of the c a l a m i t y. Few districts have escaped visitation, and the mortality in some cases was very serious. The disease reaches a climax in March and April, declines during the hot season and regains force during the hot weather. Human intercourse and infected clothes are held to be the main agencies of extension, and rats are thought to cause infection of adjacent houses or villages. It is considere d doubtful whether grain and articles of food or merchandise a re carriers of infection. Evacuation has been found to be the most efficient preventive and disinfection and desiccation have been resorted to as secondary aids. Compulsory measures have been abandoned in consequence of the attitude of the people and the gre a t magnitude of the crisis. Inoculation was practised extensively during the years 1900 and 1901 and the results were so favourable that it was resolved early in 1902 to resort to this measure on a large scale, especially as the people did not object to it or were actually inclined or eager to adopt it. Accordingly arrangements were made to conduct operations throughout the province, and a l a rge staff of medical off i c e r s and men was engaged for the purpose. Difficulties aro s e which somewhat delayed the commencement of work, and the supply of vaccine by the Plague Research Laboratory at Bombay was inadequate and unsatis- factory. Still a good start was made, and matters looked p romising until on the 30th O c t o b e r, 19 persons were inoculated at Mulkowal, in the Gurat district, with the contents of one bottle of the fluid, and all of them contracted tetanus and died. This disaster led to a The Indian Plague 62 The Review of Religions – May 2003 discontinuance of systematic work; nevertheless a larg e number of inoculations were performed during the season, and figures are given to show that both the incidence of plague, and the case mortality were considerably lower among the inoculated than among the uninoculated.’ BMJ 1905: I, 51. The followers of Hadhrat Ahmad(as): Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad(as) lived in Qadian in the districts of Gurdaspur in the Province of Punjab in India and although his followers were p resent throughout the length and breadth of the country and abroad, majority of them lived in the same Province of Punjab. He, his wife and children and all his followers living in Qadian and elsewhere in the country did not have any inoculation against plague. In the later days of the Plague epidemic hundreds of thou-sands joined, as his followers. Yet despite all this t h e re were no fatalities fro m plague among his family and very few among his followers. This fact has been re c o rd e d clearly in the history and is a point to ponder for all those who care to think about it. Bibliography: • Plague: conquest and e r a d i c a t i o n. By SEAL S.C., 1987, Published by Indian Council of Medical Research. • Roohani Khazain, Vo l . 1 . B r a h e e n – e – A h m a d i y y a . (Urdu). • Roohani Khazain, Vo l . 1 9 , Kishtie Noah (Urdu). • British Medical Journal, various volumes 1900 to 1905. • Tareekhe Ahmadiyyat (History of Ahmadiyyat) Urdu. 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