Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Qadiani
(This chapter purporting to lay down the biographical outlines of the founder's life is based chiefly on the statements and writings of the Mirza himself, supplemented by the work of his son Mirza Bashir Ahmed, Sirat al-Mahdi, and other standard works of the Qadianis.)
Genealogically Mirza Ghulam Ahmad belonged to the Barlas branch of the Moghuls. (Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, Kilab al-Bariyah, p. 134 n.) But after some time he came to know by means of 'inspiration' that he was, in fact, of Persian origin. To quote his own words:
"The revelation (ilham) about me is that: Were it that faith was hanging from the Pleiades it would still have been seized by the man from Persia. (This tradition occurs in the Sihah with a little variation of words. In some reports there occurs the phrase 'Rijal Min Faras' (men from Persia) instead of Rajul (a man). The ulama and the mujahiddin interpret this hadith to refer to Salman al-Farisi and other ulama and holy men of Persia famous for their devotion and service to the cause of faith including the Imam Abu Hanifa, who was also of Persian origin. ) And then, there is also a third revelation about me: Verily, those who disbelieved the man from Persia disproved their religions. God is thankful for his endeavour. All these 'revelations' show that our forefathers were Persian. And the truth is what Allah has made manifest." (Kitab at-Bariyah, p. 135 n.)
In one of his works he writes:
"It should be remembered that apparently the family of this humble one is that of the Moghuls. No record has been seen in the history of our family showing that the family was Persian. What has been seen in certain records is that some of our grandmothers were of noble and noted Sayyid families. Now it has come to be known through the word of God that ours is a Persian family. We believe in this with all our conviction since the reality, in respect of genealogies, is known to none the way it is known to Allah, the Exalted. It is His knowledge alone which is true and sure and that of all others, doubtful and conjectural." (Arabain, Vol. 11, p. 17 n.)
Mirza Gul Mohammad, the great grandfather of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad owned considerable property. In Punjab, he had a good-sized estate. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad had mentioned in detail the "aristocratic pomp and splendour of this ancestor of his, his habit to feed a large number of people at his table, and his religious influence." (Kitab al-Bariyah, pp. 136-42 n.)
After his death, his estate declined and the Sikhs confiscated the villages of that estate. This decline continued to such an extent that no other land remained in the ownership of his grandfather; Mirza Ata Mohammad, except Qadian. Later on, the Sikhs occupied even that and drove the Mirza's family out of Qadian. During the last years of Ranjit Singh's rule, Mirza Ghulam Murtaza, the father of the Mirza Ghulam, returned to Qadian and the Mirza later received five villages out of the landed property of his father. (ibid, pp. 142-44 n.)
The Mirza 's family maintained very loyal and cordial relations with the recently established British power in the Punjab. Several members of the family had shown great enthusiasm in consolidating the new government and had come to its rescue on several critical occasions. To cite the words of the Mirza himself:
"I come from a family which is out and out loyal to this government. My father, Murtaza, who was considered its well-wisher, used to be granted a chair in the Governor's Durbar and has been mentioned by Mr. Griffin in his History of the Princes of Punjab. In 1857, he helped the British Government beyond his power, that is, he procured cavaliers and horses right during the time of Mutiny. He was considered by the Government to be its loyal supporter and well-wisher. A number of testimonials of appreciation received by him from the officers have unfortunately been lost. Copies of three of them, however, which had been published a long time ago, are reproduced on the margin. Then, after the death of my grandfather, my elder brother Mirza Ghulam Qadir continually occupied himself with service to the Government and when the evil-doers encountered the forces of the British Government on the highway of Tammun, he participated in the battle on the side of the British Government."' (Web Site Editor Reference: Kitab-ul-Barriah, Roohany Khazaen, Vol. 13, P. 4, 5, 6, 7)
Birth, Education, Upbringing
The Mirza was born during the last phase of the Sikh rule in the year 1839 or 1840 at Qadian in Gurdaspur District. His own writings show that at the time of the struggle of Independence, in 1857, he was "sixteen or seventeen years old." (Kitab al-Bariyah, p. 146, n). Mirza Bashjruddin Mahmood in his Address to the British Crown Prince in 1922, has mentioned the year of his father's birth to be 1837 (p. 35). According to this, in 1857, his age would be 21. This alteration seems to have been made in order to vindicate the Mirza's prophecy which has been mentioned by him as a Divine inspiration in the following words: "We shall cause you to live a good life for eighty years or close to that" (vide Arabain, Vol. 111, p. 39).
The Mirza received his education up to the Middle Class at home. He studied books on Grammar, Logic and Philosophy under the guidance of Maulavi Fazl-i-Ilahi, Maulavi Fazl-i- Ahmad and Maulavi Gul 'Ali Shah. He studied Medicine from his father, who was an experienced physician. During his student life, the Mirza was very studious. To quote his own words:
"During those days I was so thoroughly engrossed in books as if I was not present in the world. My father used to instruct me repeatedly to curtail my reading, for, out of sympathy for me he feared that this might affect my health."
This, however, did not continue for long. Under the insistent pressure of his father, the Mirza had to engage himself in the endeavour to get back his ancestral landed property which subsequently led to litigation in law courts. He writes:
"I feel sorry that a lot of my valuable time was spent in these squabbles and at the same time my respected father made me supervise the affair of landlordship. I was not a man of this nature and temperament."
The Mirza later took employment with the Deputy Commissioner of Sialkot for a small salary. He remained for four years in this service, that is, from 1864 to 1868.1 During this period he also read one or two, books of. English. More over, he also took the examination of Mukhtar but flopped. In 1868, he resigned this job and came to Qadian and began to look after his landed property. But most of his time was spent on reflecting on the Holy Quran and studying works of Tafsir and Traditions.
From his very childhood, the Mirza was very simple. He was unaware of worldly matters and appeared to be a little absent-minded. He did not even know how to wind a watch. "When he had to know time, he took out the watch from his pocket and began to count, starting from one. And even then, while he counted with his finger he also kept on counting the figures aloud lest he should forget." He could not just look at the watch and find out what time it was. Due to absent-mindedness, it was difficult for him to differentiate between the shoes of the left and the right feet. Mirza Bashir Ahmad writes:
"Once some one brought for him gurgabi (a kind of shoes used in Punjab). He put them on, but could not distinguish between the right and the left. Often he used to wear them on the wrong feet, and then feel uncomfortable. Sometimes when he would be hurt by the use of the wrong shoe, he would get irritated and say that nothing of those people was good. Mother said that she had inscribed signs indicating right and left on the shoes for the sake of his convenience and yet, he used to put the shoes on the wrong feet. Hence she later removed the signs." (Web Site Editor References: Seerat-ul-Mahdi, Vol. 1, P. 180 and Seerat-ul-Mahdi, Vol. 1, P. 67)
Due to very frequent micturition the Mirza used to keep earthen-marbles in his pockets. He also carried Jumps Of gur for he was excessively fond of sweets.
Mirza's Physical Health
In his youth, the Mirza was so afflicted with hysteria that sometimes he used to fall down unconscious, as a result of hysteric fits. The Mirza used to interpret these fits variously as hysteric and melancholia. He also suffered from diabetes and copious urination. Mentioning at one place that "I am a permanently sick person," he adds:
"Headache and giddiness and insomnia and palpitation of the heart come by fits and the lingering ailment in the lower part of my body is that of diabetes. Often I urinate up to a hundred times during the day or night. And all the other disorders of debility and exhaustion, which are the natural results of such excessive urination, have also fallen to my lot."
In his youth, the Mirza engaged himself in vigorous spiritual exercises and courses of rigid self-discipline. He also fasted continuously for long periods of time. In one of his long spells of spiritual exertion, he fasted continuously for six months. In 1886, he passed another period of exclusive worship and prayer at Hoshiarpur. Later on, due to ill health and debility, he had to give these up. On March 31, 1891, he wrote to Nuruddin: "Now my health can no longer bear the rigours of supererogatory devotion and even a little bit of severe devotion and meditation or contemplation causes illness." (Web Site Editor Reference: Maktoobat-e-Ahmadiya, Vol. 5, No. 2, P. 103, dated March 31, 1891)
The Mirza began his life in ordinary circumstances: a life of hardship and poverty. But as his mission spread and he became the spiritual head of a prosperous sect, he grew prosperous and began to lead a comfortable life. He, too, was conscious of this change in his state: the ostensible difference between his earlier and later periods of life. In 1907 he wrote:
"Our living and our well-being had depended solely on the meager income of out father. Among outsiders, none knew me. I was an unknown person, living in the desolate village of Qadian, lying in a corner of anonymity. Then, God, according to His prophecy, turned a whole world towards me and helped us by such continuous victories that I have no words to express my thanks. Considering my own position, I did not hope to receive even ten rupees a month. But the Exalted Allah, who raises the poor from dust and brings the arrogant down to the earth, helped me to such an extent that up till now I have received about three hundred thousand rupees or, may be, even more." (Web Site Editor Reference: Haqiqat-ul-Wahy, Roohany Khazaen, Vol. 22, P. 220-221; Haqiqat-ul-Wahy, P. 211-212)
In the footnote, he adds:
"Although thousands of rupees have come by means of money orders, yet more have been passed on to me directly by sincere friends as gifts, or in the shape of currency notes enclosed with letters. Some sincere people have sent currency notes or gold anonymously and I do not even know what their names are."
Marriage and Children
The Mirza's first marriage took place in 1852 or 1853 with one of his own relatives. This wife gave birth to two sons: Mirza Sultan Ahmad and Mirza Fazal Ahmad. In 1891, he divorced the lady. In 1884, he took another wife, the daughter of Nawab Nasir of Delhi. The rest of the offsprings of the Mirza were all from this wife. Three sons were born from her Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmood, Mirza Bashir Ahmad (author of Sirat al-Mahdi) and Mirza Sharif Ahmad.
When in 1891 the Mirza declared that be was the Promised Messiah and, later on in 1910, that he was a prophet of God, the Muslim ulama began to refute and oppose him. Among those prominent in opposing him was Maulana Sana ullah Amritsari, the editor of Ahl-i-Hadith. On April 5, 1907, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad issued an announcement in which, while addressing the Maulana, he wrote:
"If I am such a big liar and impostor as you portray me in each issue of your magazine, then I will die in your life-time, for I know that the lifespan of a mischief maker and liar is not very long and ultimately he dies an unsuccessful man, during the life of his greatest enemies and in a state of humiliation and grief. And if I am not a liar and impostor and have been honoured by God's communication and address to me, and if I am the Promised Messiah, then I hope that, with the grace of God and in accordance with God's practice, you will not escape the punishment of the rejecters (of Truth). Thus, if that punishment which is not in man's but in God's hand, that is, fatal diseases like plague and cholera, do not afflict you during My life-time3 then I am not from God." (Web Site Editor Reference: Badr, April 15, 1907)
One year after the publication of this announcement, on May 25,1908, the Mirza fell ill, being afflicted with diarrhea at Lahore. Along with loose motions, he also had vomiting. He was put under treatment at once, but weakness increased and his condition became critical. The next day, on May 26, he breathed his last in the forenoon. About his death his father-in-law Mir Nisar Nawab has stated:
"The night on which Hazrat Mirza Sahib fell ill, I was asleep at my place. When he felt very uncomfortable, I was awakened. When I went to Hazrat Sahib he addressed me and said, 'Mir Sahib I am ill with cholera'. After this, in my opinion, he did not speak a clear word till he died the next day after ten o'clock." ( Hayat-i-.Nasir, P. 14, ed. Shaykh Yaqnb Ali Irfani.)
The dead. body was carried to Qadian. On May 27, 1908 the burial took place and Hakim Nuruddin became his successor, the first Khalifah of the Qadiani movement.