Ahmad and the Ahmadiyya

'After the love of God, I am intoxicated with the love of Prophet Mohammad. If you call it infidelity, by God I am the greatest Infidel'. Francis Robinson looks at the nineteenth-century Punjabi whose proclamation of a role as 'promised Messiah' still brings hostility from orthodox Muslims to the movement he spawned.

In 1891 Ghulam Ahmad, from a leading family of the small town of Qadian in India's Punjab province, declared that he was the Promised Messiah. God had revealed to him, he announced, that contrary to Muslim and Christian belief, Jesus Christ was not alive in heaven. In the precise words of the revelation he had been told: 'The Messiah, son of Mary, Prophet of God is dead. It is thou who has appeared in his spirit, according to the promise, And the promise of God is ever fulfilled.'

In books written at the same time, Ghulam Ahrnad described the decay of Islamic life and urged the need for a Messiah. He pointed, moreover, to the similarities 'between India of the nineteenth century and Palestine at the birth of Christ. Indeed, he argued that as Jesus had appeared 1,300 years after the time of Moses so now, 1,300 years after the formation of the Muslim community, the Promised Messiah must appear 'invested with the spirit and power of Jesus son of Mary'. Drawing on beliefs deep in the Islamic tradition that a Messiah and a Mahdi would come to lead Muslims against the unbelievers, he asserted that both roles were realised in him.

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