Challenge to Alexander Dowie

John Alexander Dowie founded Zion, 100 miles north of chicago, declaring himself as Elijah III and wishing to end Islam. The Founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community invited him to a prayer duel – the rest is history.

3The Review of Religions – April 2004 Message to the Ahmadiyya Community in Islam Inc., USA Assalamo alaikum warahmatullah wabarakatuhu I am pleased that our community in the United States of America is holding a conference near Zion city to commemorate the ful- filment of a grand prophecy made by the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at, the Promised Messiah, Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam of Qadian (1835-1908), peace be upon him. I convey to all those attending this conference my greetings of peace and blessings of God Almighty upon them. The circumstances which gave rise to this grand prophecy, the numerous articles published in the USA at that time and the manner in which this prophecy was fulfiled will unfold before you through the presentations made at this conference and the material collated by the members of our community in USA. Very briefly, John Alexander Dowie, born in Edinburgh in 1847, acquired a degree of reputation for healing. In 1888, he came to the United States of America and started pub-lication of the Leaves of Healing. He founded the Christian Catholic sect and was a Alexander Dowie and His Zion Zion, Illinois is a small town a few miles north of Chicago’s suburbs. At the end of the nineteenth century it was a thriving new town built on the vision of a then great American evangelist, John Alexander Dowie. His success as an evangelist was astounding, far greater than that of Billy Graham of recent times, and within a few years he had built a following numbering about 100,000, with missions all over the world. Presented in this and the next article are detailed accounts of events leading up to a most unusual challenge, extensively reported in the American and British press of the time. In the year 2000 the Ahmadiyya community held a conference in Zion, Illinois celebrating the success of their community in that town. At this occasion the fourth head of the world-wide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, the late Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad(ra) sent a message to the community in the USA. A copy is presented below, followed by an article giving a detailed background to the challenge. 4 The Review of Religions – April 2004 staunch supporter of the concept of trinity. In 1901, he started building a town he called Zion City and claimed to be Elijah III. Mr Dowie was a bitter enemy of Islam and carried on an offensive, scurrilous and abusive campaign against the Holy Prophet( s a ) o f Islam, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, and wanted to destroy Islam. The keenest distress that oppressed the mind of the Promised Messiah was the baseless accusations against his mentor, the Holy P r o p h e t( s a ) of Islam, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him. While the Muslim contemporaries around him did nothing to confront this self-acclaimed Elijah, the Promised Messiah threw down the gauntlet to Mr Dowie and in a powerful message in 1902 proposed to him a prayer that of the two of them, the one who was false might die before the other. ‘It should be remembered that I am not just an average citizen of this c o u n t r y. I am the Promised Messiah who is being awaited by Mr Dowie. The only difference is that Mr Dowie says that the Promised Messiah will appear within 25 years and I proclaim that he has appeared already and I am that person….If instead of the destruction of all Muslims Mr D o w i e ’s purpose can be served by my death alone, he will have established a great sign, in consequence of which millions of people will acknowledge the son of Mary as god and will also believe in Dowie as his apostle.’ [Review of Religions, Urdu, Vol.1 No 9 pp 342-8] This challenge of the Promised M e s s i a h( a s ) was given wide pub- licity in the American press. Mr D o w i e ’s outburst in the Leaves of H e a l i n g of December 1903 led to a progressive decline of all his aff a i r s and his miserable death, as prophesied by the Promised M e s s i a h( a s ). To the casual observer, this may appear to be nothing more than a crazy claim by a person in America almost a century ago and perhaps its ending too much of a coincidence but that would be like shutting one’s eyes to the truth and not judging such matters in a rational manner. Alexander Dowie and His Zion 5The Review of Religions – April 2004 The fact of the matter is that all major religions promise the advent of a Divine personage who would usher in a new era of hope for mankind and unite it under one shared belief. This meeting point of all major religions is sadly an utopia because each religion’s believers await a different person belonging exclusively to their own religious order and carved out of their wild irrational hopes. The question which emerges is whether a single person is promised or m a n y, simultaneously. Now if God has no contradiction in Him, He will either send one person with a single message or none at all because otherwise the attitude of different warring factions of various religions, each holding divergent views and aspi- rations, would be irreconcilable. For thousands of years, the Jews have been yearning for the advent of the Christ but they do not realise that he has come and gone but not in the way they had expected, nor in the manner they had assigned to his advent. They expected him to be a warrior Messiah and to appear with a crown over his head and seated on a royal throne. He was to lead the Israelite armies against the despotic rule of the Roman Empire. Two thousand years have passed since their rejection of Jesus, on whom be peace, as Messiah, yet no Messiah of their expectation has come. Their belief about the bodily descent of Elijah before the advent of the Messiah ( a s ) e ff e c t i v e l y blocked the passage of the Messiah they awaited. So the Jewish position in reality turns out to be a denial of the advent of the M e s s i a h( a s ) a l t o g e t h e r. The case of all others who expect a world reformer is no different from that of the Jews. The actors of course are different but they enact the same scene in different garbs. Imagine, for instance, a Christ paying a second visit to earth in the grand style envisaged by the Christians who still await his literal second coming. A son of God giving up his heavenly throne and descend-ing from heaven after two millenniums is an idea which can only keep a blind faith alive. Yet the Christians see no element of irrationality about it because dogma has blinded them. Alexander Dowie and His Zion 6 The Review of Religions – April 2004 This was the case with Mr Dowie who went so far as to make it easier for the second advent of Christ, an almost outrageous wedlock between spirit and matter, to descend on earth by claiming himself to be Elijah III—another shattered dream. The same anomaly of the Jews and Christians applies to the unreal and supernatural expectations of the followers of all other religions. Rationality should have helped such followers to realise that the literal revisit to earth by any prophet or son of God is illogical. It has never happened in the past nor can it ever take place in the future. Never was the founder of any major religion sighted as descending from on high: he always appeared through the normal course of human birth. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at accepts the claims of all religions who promise the advent of a universal Divine Reformer in the latter days but believes that the promise of the simultaneous advent of so many reformers could only be metaphorical and not corporeal: one reformer wearing so many garbs. That reformer was, according to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at, the Founder, Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian in whose favour God Almighty showed many signs, one of which is the fulfilment of the prophecy about the death of Mr Dowie. I invite you to study this person who wrote more than eighty books and judge for yourself the truth of his claims. Allah bless you and enable you to do that. Yours truly Mirza Tahir Ahmad (Head of the worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim community) Alexander Dowie and His Zion