Challenge to Alexander Dowie

7The Review of Religions – April 2004 John Alexander Dowie, a Scotsman by birth (born 1847), migrated with his family to Australia in 1860. In 1867 he moved back to Scotland to study theology. In 1872, he returned to Australia and found work at a congregational church in the small city of Newton near Sydney. Later, he became a minister in a Melbourne Church. In 1878, he o rganised the International Healing Association. During his time in Melbourne he was arrested many times because of his extreme protests against the wickedness that, according to him abounded in that area. In July 1888 he arrived in the San Francisco area in the United States, where he began his healing activities. Initially he was given a warm welcome, but later people deserted him. He travelled extensively up and down the west coast. In Evanston, Illinois he began his ministerial work in a small wooden hut near the World Fair facilities. In 1896 he formed his own church, the Christian Catholic Church, with an enrolment of 500 followers. In 1897, he established the Central Zion Tabernacle. In 1895, he was arrested over a hundred times for protesting against alcohol use and for practising medicine without a license. Slowly he began buying larg e parcels of land some forty-two miles north of Chicago while keeping the attention of the media on his controversial pursuits in Chicago. On New Year’s Eve, he gathered all his followers to an all- night service at the Central Zion Tabernacle. As the clock struck twelve, Dowie drew the larg e curtain, twenty-five feet high and twenty-five feet wide, that was hiding the blueprint of his soon to be founded new City of Zion. The blue print was laid out on 6,600 acres site in an area along the bank of Lake Michigan. This was the beginning of the City of Zion. Challenge to Alexander Dowie by Anwer Mahmood Khan – USA 8 The Review of Religions – April 2004 From this point on, he began to progress in leaps and bounds. Claims of John Alexander Dowie: Dr. Dowie, initially referred to as General Overseer or simply Doctor Dowie, assumed authority progressively over a period of eight years. The first title, which he declared for himself on January 22, 1896 was ‘authoritative t e a c h e r.’ We read: ‘I am not claiming any office; no man has heard me claim any office. I am a teacher and have taken no other place. I have not stood here claiming to be recognised as a prophet. I have not stood here claiming to be recognised as an Apostle. I have stood here as an authoritative teacher.’ On June 2, 1901, he claimed to be Elijah III. He wrote: ‘As the teacher of the Christian Catholic Church in Zion. . . I continued to develop practically these principles in my ministry, and God used me to prepare the church for the declaration of June 2, 1901. I there stood forth before an immense audience in the Chicago Auditorium and declared that God had sent me as John the Baptist had been sent, in the Spirit and Power of Elijah.’ He further said, ‘The name is not a title, it is a reality. I firmly believe in common with tens of thousands of my followers that I have been sent by God in the “Spirit and Power of Elijah” as the third and last manifestation of that prophet. The first manifestation was in Elijah (which means Jehovah is my God) 28 centuries ago, when the worship of Baal was triumphant in Israel. This was Elijah the D e s t r o y e r. The second manifes- tation was in the person of John the Baptist. (Matthew 13:14). He was Elijah the Preparer. The third manifestation of Elijah is in my person, of whom Christ spoke, after John the Baptist’s death, when he admitted the correctness of rabbinical contention, “Elijah must first come,” saying “Elijah indeed cometh and shall restore all things.” I am Elijah, the Restorer.’ (PP. 53-57) Finally, he declared his ultimate office to be ‘The First Apostle.’ This declaration was made on September 18, 1904. He said, ‘I stand hereby today as the High Challenge to Alexander Dowie 9The Review of Religions – April 2004 Priest on earth and the First Apostle of the Christian Catholic and Apostolic Church in Zion of that High Priest in Heaven.’ In this capacity, he not only announced his communion with the Divine, but he made several statements, which he claimed had originated from the Almighty God Himself. The organisation of the Christian Catholic Church was formally instituted on February 22, 1896. Ministers were ordained in Chicago, and churches were started in practically every major city in the USA and missionaries were sent abroad to England, France, Germany, Scandinavia, Australia, China, South Africa, Switzerland, Jamaica, Mexico and other places. D o w i e ’s Animosity To w a r d s Islam Having claimed to be Elijah III and, in his eyes, the greater title of ‘The First Apostle’ Dowie often gave evidence of his hostility towards Islam in his speeches and writings. He hurled foul and abusive remarks against Islam, its founder, and Muslims in general. He writes in his publication, Leaves of Healing: Zion will have to destro y Mohammedanism. One of the greatest systems in the Orient is Mohammedanism . . . the Mohammedan is taught to look forward to heaven as one vast brothel and harem, where he can find satisfaction in women that are prepared for him as the creatures of lust. Zion will have to wipe out that shocking blot upon humanity. That accursed flag will have to come down from the high towers of Jerusalem. May God help me to knock at the gate of the Moslem before long! The Moslem will fight. There are hundreds of millions of them. One of the great wars imminent is that between the Cross and the Crescent. But, beloved, there is something stronger than steel. It is the Sword of the Spirit. There is something greater than anger. It is Love. Love subdues the man; it subdues the nation, and will reach the heart… (Leaves of Healing, Vo l u m e XIII, p.474) Challenge to Alexander Dowie 10 The Review of Religions – April 2004 The Te rrible Danger to Christianity fro m M o h a m m e d a n i s m ‘I warn the Christian nations of America and Europe. Islam is not dead. Islam is full of power. Although Islam must go, although Mohammedanism must be destroyed, remember it will not be wiped out by the effete Latin Christianity; the powerless Greek Christianity; the worn-out Christianity of those who nominally acknowl- edge Christ and live as gluttons and drunkards and harlots and whoremongers and oppres- sors.’ (Leaves of Healing, Vol. VII, August 25,1900) The Unspeakable Turk ‘How can any one who knows exactly what Mohammedanism is, for one single moment imagine that God or man can forever stand that abomination? “Where the Moslem hoof comes no grass grows” is the Eastern proverb. Wherever the accursed teaching of Mahomet has come there has been an end of all real progress…. I pray for the day to come when the Crescent shall disappear, and when the flags – I would like to see them united there and everywhere of Great Britain and America – shall float over Zion at Jerusalem, as they often do at the city of Zion near Chicago. May God Grant it! It is the time that the Moslem abomination was gone, “bag and baggage” as Mr. Gladstone used to say. Let it slink away back into the deserts of Arabia whence the filthy thing e m e rged. . . May God destroy i t .’ (Leaves of Healing, Vo l u m e XII, p.526) In 1902 Dowie had prophesied that unless all the Muslims of the world accepted Christianity, they would meet with death and destruction. Hadhrat Ahmad’s(as) Response Hadhrat Ahmad(as), deeply loved the founder of Islam, the Holy Prophet Muhammad ( s a ). He was much aggrieved by Dowie’s abuse and foul allegations. He first responded with polite admon- ishment, but this met with no response. Dowie continued in his Challenge to Alexander Dowie 11The Review of Religions – April 2004 abusive assertions. Hadhrat Ahmad(as), at this stage, issued a leaflet inviting Dowie for a decisive act of Mubahila (prayer duel). He writes: ‘Recently, there has appeared in the United States of America, a man, apostle of Jesus, whose name is Dowie. He claims that Jesus, in his capacity as god, has sent him into this world to invite people to the doctrine that there is no god besides Jesus’. . . .[He] deifies Jesus and calls himself his apostle and also states that the prophecy mentioned in Deuteronomy 18:15 is fulfiled in his advent and he himself, is the Elijah and the apostle of this age. . . As regards Muslims, we wish to point out respectfully to Mr Dowie that there is no need for the fulfilment of his purpose to subject millions of Muslims to destruction. There is a very easy way of determining whether D o w i e ’s god is true or our God. That way is that Dowie need not repeatedly announce his prophecy of the destruction of all Muslims. He should keep me alone in his mind and should pray that of the two of us, the one who is false may die before the other. Dowie believes in Jesus as god and I consider him a humble creature and a prophet. The matter at issue, is which of us two is in the right. Mr Dowie should publish this prayer which should bear the testimony of at least one thousand persons. When the issue of the paper that contains this announcement reaches me, I too will pray accordingly and shall append to this prayer the testimony of a thousand persons, if God so w i l l s . I have not been the first to propose such a prayer. It is Mr Dowie who through his announcements, has put himself in this position. Observing this, God who is jealous, has urg e d me towards this confrontation. It should be remembered that I am not just an average citizen of this country. I am the Promised Messiah, who is being awaited by Mr Dowie. Challenge to Alexander Dowie 12 The Review of Religions – April 2004 If Mr Dowie is true in his claim and Jesus is indeed god, this matter can be determined by the death of only one person; there is no need of destroying the Muslims of all countries. But if Mr Dowie does not respond to this notice and offer a prayer according to his boasts and is removed from the world before my death, this would be a Sign for the people of America. The only condition is that the death of either of us should not be caused by human hands but should be brought about by illness or by lightening or snakebite or by an attack of a wild beast. I grant Dowie a period of three months to make up his mind to comply with my request and I pray that God be with those who are true. The method I propose is that Mr Dowie should come into the arena against me with the permission of his false god. I am an old man of more than sixty-six years of age. I suffer from diabetes, dysentery, migraine and deficiency of blood. I realise, however, that my life depends not upon the condition of my health but upon the command of my God. If the false god of Mr Dowie possesses any power, he will certainly permit him to come forth against me. If, instead of the destruction of all Muslims, Mr Dowie’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 believe in Dowie as an apostle’ Although Mr. Dowie did not publicly acknowledge this challenge, the world press took special notice and over forty newspapers around the world publicised this ‘duel challenge’ in their daily, weekly, and monthly publications. (See Appendix I) The Argonaut of San Francisco gave an account of the challenge under the caption, ‘English versus Arabic Prayer Contest’, and concluded with the remark: ‘In brief, the Mirza has written to Dowie: You are the leader of Challenge to Alexander Dowie 13The Review of Religions – April 2004 a community. I too have several followers. The decision as to who is from God can be easily sought. Each of us should pray that whoever is false, God should take him away in the lifetime of the other. The one whose prayer is heard shall be considered from the true God. This indeed is a most reasonable and just option’. (1st December 1902) Alexander Dowie did not reply to Hadhrat Ahmad’s(as) challenge as requested. However, in February 1903, he announced: ‘I pray to God that Islam should soon disappear from the world. O’ God, accept this prayer of mine. O’ God, destroy Islam’. Hadhrat Ahmad(as) reiterates his Challenge On 23rd of August 1903, Hadhrat A h m a d( a s ) published another statement addressed to Dowie where he stated: ‘It should be borne in mind that Dr. Dowie has not given any reply to my challenge made in September 1902 nor has he even so much as mentioned it in his paper [i.e. Leaves of Healing]. For an answer to my challenge, I will wait for a further period of seven months from this day. If he accepts the challenge within this period and fulfils its conditions as published by me, and makes an announcement to the effect in this paper, the world will soon see the end of this contest. I am about 66 years of age, while Dr. Dowie is about 55 years. Therefore compared to me he is still young. Since the matter is not to be settled by age, I do not care for this great disparity in years. The whole matter rests in the Hands of Him who is the Lord of the heaven and earth, and Judge over all judges and He will decide it in favour of the true claimant. But if Dr. Dowie cannot even now gather courage to appear in the contest against me, let both the continents bear witness that I shall be entitled to claim the same victory as in the case of Challenge to Alexander Dowie 14 The Review of Religions – April 2004 his death in my life-time. If he accepts the challenge, the pretensions of Dr. Dowie will be settled though he may try hard as he can to fly away from the death, which awaits him. Yet his flight from such a contest will be nothing less than a type of death and a calamity will most certainly overtake his Zion for he must face the consequences of either acceptance of the challenge or of its refusal.’ Here Hadhrat Ahmad(as) claimed that if Dowie ran away from this challenge, then he would call upon the people of America and Europe as witness and Dowie’s flight from the proposed contest would be deemed to be his defeat and a type of death. Hadhrat Ahmad ( a s ) concluded this statement with the declaration, as reported in American Newspapers: ‘a calamity will most certainly befall his Zion very soon’. Under pressure from the press a n d his own followers, Alexander Dowie of Zion was at last forced to respond to Hadhrat Ahmad’s( a s ) challenge. In December 1903, Dowie announced: ‘In India, there is a Mohammedan Messiah who keeps on writing to me that Jesus Christ lies buried in K a s h m i r. People ask me why do I not send him the necessary reply? Do you think that I should answer such gnats and flies? If I were to put my foot on them I would crush them to death. The fact is that I merely give them a chance to fly away and survive.’ (Leaves of Healing, December 27, 1903) Hence, Alexander Dowie had, with this statement, accepted Hadhrat A h m a d ’s( a s ) challenge, if not e x p r e s s l y, at least in an implied m a n n e r. When Hadhrat Ahmad’s( a s ) statement was published Dowie was at the height of his power, in terms of his health, his following and his financial resources. No sooner had Dowie issued this statement his affairs began to decline. His health showed signs of deterioration; his followers began to question his claims and he encountered financial diff i c u l t i e s . Challenge to Alexander Dowie 15The Review of Religions – April 2004 Challenge to Alexander Dowie Above: Photo of Alexander Dowie’s House. Right: Photo of Alexander Dowie in his full uniform. Below: Dowie seated with his wife Jane (right) and Daughter (left) and behind, his son, daughter and father. 16 The Review of Religions – April 2004 Dr. Dowie’s High Profile At the time of the challenge Dowie’s ownership extended over 6600 acres of land; the Bank of Zion; the lace factory of Zion; Zion schools; factories and manufacturing plants; railway lines; grocery stores; produce markets; the Central Zion Tabernacle; Zion Publishing House. His followers controlled four publications. The Leaves of H e a l i n g was printed in four languages and distributed all over the world. His church had branches in Australia, Germany, France and Switzerland. His personal guards numbered over 3000 and he had thousands of employees. His personal Christmas gifts were no less than one million dollars. His net-worth was estimated to be in excess of 20 million dollars, a huge sum in those days. Evangelising New York in 1903. Dowie had planned an evangelical trip to New York on October 18, 1903. Arrangements for this event took ten months of planning and $300,000. Three-thousand of his soldiers travelled from Zion to New York. Eight trains carried thou- sands of his followers for the meetings planned for Madison Square Garden, which was rented for a month. The New York Ti m es published an article under the headline: ‘Invasion of New York by Dowie’s army’. The Chicago Tr i b u n e expressed an expectation of 100,000 converts. A crowd of 30,000 people packed Madison Square Garden to hear Dr. Dowie. But the expected success did not materialise. Rather it was here, in New York that Dr. Dowie’s influence and power began to decline, just two months after Hadhrat Ahmad’s( a s ) d e f i n i t i v e challenge addressed to him. All the New York publications covered this event and the New York Ti m e s ran the following headlines: ‘Hostile Audience Howls at Dowie’; ‘Elijah Overawed by Angry Multitude’; ‘Throngs turn from Enraged Elijah III’; ‘New York – The Waterloo of the Elijah’; ‘Massive Gathering deserts Elijah’; ‘Elijah III’s Hosts in Tents of Ungodly Many Complaints Made’; ‘Dowie and his Host Mass in the Garden’; Challenge to Alexander Dowie 17The Review of Religions – April 2004 ‘Dowie leaves the City and may not Return’ Dowie’s Downfall Certain revelations regarding D o w i e ’s mishandling of financial a ffairs began to emerge in the press. From here his popularity took a sudden and steep decline. Tw o years later in October and December 1905 he suffered a series of severe strokes leading to paralysis of his lower body and he was taken to Mexico and Jamaica in search of a cure which was never found. The feet that Dowie of Zion had proudly stated could trample the Muhammedan Messiah, like a gnat or fly, could not now even support his own body. Dowie’s followers discovered that he indulged in heavy drinking, while preaching against it and also the misappropriation of the organisation’s funds as a result of which he was deposed from his position. He was accused of having embezzled $2,529,766 from Zion City of which $35,000 was found to have been given as gifts to pretty women of Zion. His wife and son also deserted him and were not present with him at his death. He spent the rest of his life in physical misery and mental anguish. On the 7th of March, 1907, Alexander Dowie died, abandoned and disgraced. ‘He built a creed; He was excommunicated. He built a city; He was expelled from it. He amassed a fortune of millions; He was reduced to virtual poverty. He elevated Volivia to a great power; Volivia1 ruined him. He drew about him thousands who worshipped him; He died deserted by all save a handful of the faithful.’ (Chicago Evening News, 9 March 1907) At the time of Alexander Dowie’s death, The Sunday Herald o f Boston, that had followed progress of the controversy between Hadhrat Ahmad(as) and Alexander Dowie, observed: ‘Dowie died a miserable death with Zion city torn and frayed by internal dissensions’. Challenge to Alexander Dowie 18 The Review of Religions – April 2004 The Truth Seeker, which had also followed the argument, stated (on Sunday, June 15,1907): ‘The Qadian man predicted that if Dowie accepted the challenge, he shall leave the world before his eyes with great sorrow and torment. If Dowie declined, the Mirza said, the end would only be deferred; death awaited him just the same, and calamity will soon overtake Zion. This was a grand prophecy: Zion would fall and Dowie would die before Ahmad. It appeared to be a risky step for the promised Messiah to defy the restored Elijah to an endurance Challenge to Alexander Dowie Above: Photo of Dowie’s catholic church which is now renamed Christ Community Church. Above inserts Dowie’s Zion community’s old and new logos.. Left: Dowie grave. 19The Review of Religions – April 2004 test for the challenger was 15 years the older man of the two and probabilities in the land of plagues and famines were against the survivor, but he won out’. Another American journal, T h e Dunnville Gazette, Friday, June 7, 1907, which reported Alexander Dowie’s miserable death in strict accordance with Hadhrat Ahmad’s(as) prophecy observed: ‘Ahmad and his adherents may be pardoned for taking some credit for the accuracy with which the prophecy was fulfiled a few months ago’. Little of the original Zion City of Dowie remains. Dowie had built a great hall seating 8000 wor- shippers for special services. In 1937 this building together with the radio station were ravaged by fire. In early 1954 Zion was hit once more when an entire city block of the down-town district was destroyed by fire. Today a few of the buildings of the original Zion still remain – Dowie’s house, a small chapel across the street, a now renovated hotel and the dilapidated buildings of his lace factory. Today a small town with suburbs of 35,000 population has been built up and is still named Zion. Almost one hundred years after the great controversy, there are very few, if any followers of Dowie remaining in the world. However, the followers of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad(as) number in tens of millions and are spread out all over the globe. There is even a small yet dynamic community of his followers residing in and around Zion, Illinois. In fact this community makes a contribution towards the maintenance of Dowie’s house as a museum and it would come as no surprise if the majority of visitors to Dowie’s house today are followers of Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as). In the year 2000, the followers of Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad(as) held a convention in Zion City to commemorate the fulfilment of his prophecy regarding Dowie and his Zion. It is his followers who are active today in Zion, conveying the message of Islam through his teachings. Challenge to Alexander Dowie 20 The Review of Religions – April 2004 References 1. Wilbur Glenn Volivia, appointed by Dowie to be his successor, led the rebellion leading to the overthrow of Dowie. APPENDIX I Some captions in Newspapers on Hadhrat Ahmad’s(as) Prayer Contest 1 The Argonaut, San Francisco, Dec. 1,1902 ‘An Anglo-Arabic Praying Match’. 2 New York Times, March 29, 1903 Editorial: ‘The Rival Prophets’. 3 Baltimore America, June 25, 1903 ‘Dowie versus Ghulam’. 4 Boston Daily Advertiser, June 25, 1903 Dr. Dowie, Elijah, has received a Challenge to a Prayer Duel by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian, Punjab, India. 5 Democrat and Chronicle, June 25, 1903 ‘Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian, India, threatens to pray Prophet Elijah Dowie to Death. All right, such long range assassination as that is permissible. Sail right in, Mirza. 6 The Inter Ocean, Chicago, June 27, 1903 Editorial: ‘Ghulam Ahmad’s Challenge’. 7 Burlington Daily Free Pre s s, Burlington, Vermont, June 27, 1903 ‘A Praying Duel Proposition’. 8 The Inter Ocean, Chicago, June 28, 1903, ‘Will Dowie Fight this Duel?’ Who is a liar? 9 The Sunday Ti m e s – U n i o n, Jacksonville, June 28, 1903 (Small News item) One Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who dwells in Northern Hindustan, Challenges Alexander Dowie to praying match, and threatens to pray him to death…. 10 Wo rchester Sunday Spy, June 28, 1903 (Established 1770, by Isaiah Thomas, Wo r c h e s t e r, Massachusetts) ‘Alexander Dowie has a rival in I n d i a ’ . 11 The New York Times, October 17, 1903, ‘Dowie and his Host Mass in the Garden’. 12 The New York Times, October 18, 1903, ‘Elijah III’s – Hosts in Tents of Ungodly’ Many Complaints Made. 13 The New York Times, October 19, 1903 – Throngs Turn From Enraged ‘Elijah-III’ – Half Of Vast Audience Leaves Garden Despite Guards – Prophet Denounces City. 14 The New York Times, October 20, 1903, ‘Hostile Audience Howls at Dowie’. 15 The New York Times, October 21, 1903, ‘Came Nation Halts Abuse from Elijah’. 16 The New York Times, October 22, 1903 – ‘Elijah Overawed by Angry Multitude – Convert for Dowie – Trust Funds Disappear – Audience was Hostile – Strange Revelations. Challenge to Alexander Dowie 21The Review of Religions – April 2004 17 The New York Times, October 24, 1903 ‘Dowie Leaves City – and May Not Return’ (16 pages with Review of Books & Art). 18 The New York Times, October 25, 1903 (26 page magazine Supplement and Financial Section) Advertisement: ‘Dowie – His Creed and his Personality’ – Letter to the Editor: ‘The Ways of Dowie’ by Mark Marion, N.Y., Oct. 20, 1903 – Dowie Repeating Himself . 19 The Commercial Advert i s e r, NY, October 26, 1903, ‘Dowie Challenged’ Indian Messiah Dares him to Prove his Claims. 20 The Times, London, November 9, 1903 – ‘The Dowie Mission’ – ‘Dr. Dowie’s Crusade’. 21 The Literary Digest, Vol. XXVI, Number 25, ‘Rival Messiah in a Proposed Prayer Duel’. 22 New York Daily Tribune, April 3, 1906 ‘Dowie Down and Out’ – New Leader for Zion. 23 New York Daily Tribune, April 5, 1906, ‘Receiver for Zion’ – Act to forestall Dowie’s Threatened Flight Against Ouster. 24 The Outlook – The Week, April 14, 1906. ‘Zion in a Ferment’. 25 The Chicago Tribune, March 10, 1907 – Founder of Dowieite Cult and of Zion City – Who Died Yesterday – Dowie, Dying, Says He’ll Live Again – I’ll Return to Earth in 1,000 years – almost his Last Words – Dowie an extraordinary Man – In Robes of First Apostle. 26 The New York Times, March 10, 1907 – ‘Dowie Dies in the City he Founded’ – Neither wife nor son, whom he had repulsed, was at his bedside. 27 The Times, London, March 11, 1907 ‘Dr. Dowie’. 28 Chicago Daily Tribune, March 12, 1907 – ‘Dowie faithful Hold Last Rites’ – Ten Score followers of ‘First Apostle’ – Refuse to Participate in other Services – Not to Attend Funeral – Gladstone Continues with Arrangements for Final Ceremonies on Thursday. 29 The Dunnville Gazette, June 7, 1907 ‘A Messiah in India’. 30 The Truth Seeker, New York, NY, June 15, 1907, ‘The War of the Prophets’. 31 The Sunday Herald, Boston, June 23, 1907, ‘Great is Mirza Ghulam Ahmad The Messiah’ Foretold Pathetic End of Dowie, and now He Predicts Plague, Floods and Earthquakes. Challenge to Alexander Dowie