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nations of the day-Champion of Islam, Reformer of Christianity, Avatar of Hinduism, Buddha of East-blessed are they who believe in him, and take shelter under his peaceful banner, now held by his second successor, the promised son, His Hazrat 'Mahmud,' to whom all correspondence should be addressed on the subjects of: Existence and Unity of God, the divine message of the greatest of the Prophets, 'Muhammad' (on whom be peace and blessings), truth of Islam, Jesus' Tomb in Kashmir, Second Advent of the Messiah at Qadian, Ahmadiya Movement, etc."



Ahmad was ever boasting of his uncompromising orthodoxy. If he departed from the beliefs of a majority of his coreligionists on some points, it was only because they had themselves failed rightly to understand the original purport of Islam. He was sent to correct their errors and once more give them the true guidance. Ahmad and his followers may be held to represent the analogue in Islam of that school of Christians who will brook no study of comparative religions, because they hold that there is but one religion, incomparably sublime. In the year 1903 Ahmad received a letter from a religious liberal in America, who wrote that every religion contains some truth and some falsehood-being but the radius of a circle whose centre is God. This creed, which Baha'Ullah1 would doubtless have applauded, Ahmad spurned. He was glad that his correspondent had been led to see the folly and falsehood of Christianity, but regretted that he had not studied Islam and so discovered that it "is the only religion which not only claims to be free from every error and falsehood, but also offers proof of this freedom from error, no other religion on the face of the earth satisfying either of these requisites" (Review of Religions, III, p. 29). Two years later a writer in the Review of Religions commented on some remarks by Rev. E. W. Thompson, M.A., in the London Quarterly Review, to the effect that "in India
    1Baha'Ullah (1817-1892) was the founder of the Persian sect known as the Bahá'ís, an outgrowth of Babism. It claims to be the universal religion of brotherhood and peace.


controversy, and, thankfully recognizing the advantages afforded to Islam in India by the presence of the British Government, to seek in every way to advance the cause of education and social reform within their own ranks. In his residential college, at Aligarh, Western arts and sciences were taught by European scholars along with the religious instruction given by Sunnite and Shi'ite maulvis. To the utter abomination of the orthodox, he mingled freely in English society, even dining with English ladies and gentlemen in their homes, and in his periodical, Tahzib'ul Akhlaq ("Reform of Morals"), he urged upon his community the importance of female education and enfranchisement, and of other advanced reforms. In religious matters he was a liberal and a rationalist, going so far as to place the Christian Bible on a par with the Qur'an, as no less, and no more, inspired, holding that the Bible has not been corrupted by the Christians, and that in the Qur'an, as in the Bible, there is a human as well as a divine element. He also wrote part of a commentary on the book of Genesis. One of his watchwords was, "Reason alone is a sufficient guide," and he quoted with approval the remark of a French writer, that Islam, which lays no claim to miraculous powers on the part of the founder, is the truly rationalistic religion.1 As Goldziher has pointed out2 this represents a return to the old Mu'tazilite position,3 and in its universalistic outlook upon other religions is akin to Babism in Persia, which arose at about the same period.Sir Syed Ahmad Khan and his followers, then, represent the first development of Indian Islam, under the stimulus of its contact with Western ideas, and it would be difficult to exaggerate the profound influence of this movement on the articulate section of the Muhammadan world of India. In the second stage we pass from what Dr. Farquhar calls "movements favouring vigorous reform," to those in which reform is checked by defence of
    1See Weitbrecht, Indian Islam and Modern Thought, Church Congress, 1905.
    2 Vorlesungen uber den Islam, p. 313.
    3 Cf. p. 65, Note 3; and p. 123, Note 1.


the old faiths, from the atmosphere of the theistic Brahma Samaj, of Ram Mohan Roy and Keshub Chandra Sen, to that of the largely reactionary and strongly anti-Christian Arya Samaj of Dayanand Saraswati. Such well-known living Muslims as Syed Amir 'Ali and Maulvi Chiragh 'Ali represent this school of thought, which in its Muhammadanism is as rationalistic as Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, but in its attitude toward other faiths is much more dogmatic and less tolerant. These writers are greatly concerned to prove that the reforms-religious, social, moral and political-which have been forced upon Islam by pressure from without are really in line with the original spirit of Islam, however much Muhammadan tradition, law and present-day practice may actually oppose them. Furthermore, they declare that the real Islam is the universal religion of the future, because it meets sinful man on the lower level of his practical, everyday life, instead of holding up, as does Christianity (sic), ideals impossible of attainment. This probably represents that "side development of Islam" to which Professor Macdonald alludes in Aspects of Islam,1 when he writes: "Or are the wheels of progress to crush out all ideals, and is the future civilization of the world to be woven of philosophic doubt, of common-sense attitudes and of material luxury? There is a curious side development of Islam which looks in that direction, and which sees in the narrowed, utilitarian aims, in the acceptance of the lower facts of life, in the easy ideals which characterize that religion, the promise that its will be the future in the common-sense world to come, and holds that, even as the world is, Islam must be the religion of all sensible men."Syed Amir 'Ah seems to hold that view of Islam, in its essence, only insisting that IVIuhammad's practical rules assist morality more than do general precepts; and yet admitting that in order to the wide acceptance of Isla,m in the West certain modifications of its requirements are essential. In The Spirit of Island he has written: "The Islam of Muhammad, with its stern discipline and its severe morality, has proved itself the only practical religion for low
    1Pp. 256, 257. v2.7 (213613) © 2005 - 2015 Emanuel V. Towfigh & Peter Hoerster | Imprint | Change Interface Language: DE EN