"Book of the Century"- A Critical Review
‘Book of the Century’ - is the claim made on the cover of Mirza Tahir Ahmad's book "Revelation, Rationality, Knowledge and Truth".The full affirmation reads”...most readers will testify that this will always stand out as a book among books - perhaps the greatest literary achievement of this century".Now this is a serious statement, not only for its shock-value, but also due to a more fundamental reason.Mirza Tahir Ahmad is the head of "Ahmadi" Jamat (Quadiani group), which has been declared non-Muslim by orthodox Muslims.Since the matters discussed in this book are sensitive to Muslims, it is hoped that such a grandiose statement is made with some degree of responsibility.If the purpose is to throw another challenge to the Muslim Ummah, the wisdom of doing so in this manner remains to be seen.Unfortunately, only a minority of Muslims is likely to come across this book; the rest will ignore it as Quadiani propaganda to grab the limelight or as another futile attempt to be taken seriously.
The history of Ahmadyyiah Mission shows that it has mastered the technique of putting forward claims, which no reasonable individual takes seriously.Later on, these claims are declared "facts" as nobody had contested them or did it too late.Consequently, they become a part of the Ahmadi folklore and another prophecy of Mirza Gulam Ahmad Quadiani comes ‘true’.A series of such fantastic claims by Mirza Gulam Ahmad, and a disjointed initial response from the Muslim community, allowed the birth of this religion in the late 19th century.If this book were to meet such a fate, Mirza Tahir's unfortunate followers may come to see him as an "original" thinker.My reason to read this book was quite simple: I found the statements on its cover scandalous.Mirza Tahir also promises ample reward to the readers and claims that engaging in this " … study will assist him by ushering him into the majestic presence of his Lord - the Creator, the Master of the Universe.".Sounds familiar? The vocabulary has been borrowed from American Evangelical scene.I am less certain about its meaning though, since Muslims believe in the presence of Allah everywhere ("nearer than jugular vein").The following review is my reward and I am happy to share it with Mirza Tahir and the readers.
book is essentially an expanded version of Mirza Tahir's lecture delivered
The book has been "translated" into an exquisite English prose.It is divided into seven Parts, out of which, perhaps the first two justify this division.Early chapters deal with the history of the development of Religious Thought, Philosophy, and ideology of selected Religions.However, these topics are extensively covered by Muslim and non-Muslim authors alike and Mirza Tahir is unable to offer any new or evolutionary insight.In subsequent chapters, the author drifts back and forth among varied topics including Revelation, Cosmology, Evolution, Unseen, Holocaust, and Aids.There are inconsistent and, sometimes, no attempts to tie these topics together.This is understandable, considering the variety of topics covered and lack of competence of the author.The reader also comes across some quality writing in chapters like "Belief in the Unseen".It is sad that the book eventually drifts into propaganda, like "The Plague" and "AIDS" were among the prophecies of Mirza Gulam Ahmad (and hence a proof of his Prophethood!).In some chapters, Mirza Tahir manages to squeeze in age-old Ahmadi favorites like "Jesus versus Finality", assuming that Muslims of today hold similar views to their old illiterate adversaries.A detailed discussion on this book is beyond the scope of this review and, probably, common sense.I will sample a few more issues and leave the rest for others.
As the name and contents of this book suggest, it is supposed to deal with complex issues related to various disciplines, including Religion, Philosophy, Entomology, and Medical Science.However, Mirza Tahir neglects to mention the potential readership of this book.Has it been written for scholars, general public, or Ahmadi faithful?As a student of many of the disciplines covered in this book, I can confidently predict that most secondary school students will find it fairly basic.This may be disappointing for Mirza Tahir and Ahmadi faithfuls, but we have no choice except to conclude that the lay public is the likely target of this book.We are, however, still left to contend with the grandiose claim of "literary work of the century".Literature, as we know, covers a great variety of written works valued for its form and style.Here, we will have to give Mirza Tahir benefit of the doubt.Surely, his book is not being compared with the works of legends such as Freud, Russell, Sartre, Hardy (or our home grown talents Iqbal, Ali, Jauhar, or even Akbar Ahmad) or for that matter with his grandfather’s enigma ‘Brahin-e-Ahmadyyiah’ (last volume published in 1908) in this century.
The book starts promisingly.Mirza Tahir sets up his stall with a summery of historical development of religious thought and a brief introduction of the comparative values of reason, logic, and revelation.However, as soon as he begins to elaborate on these basic ideas in the subsequent chapters, he loses direction and eventually the plot.The insertion of a chapter on "Individual versus Society" seems like a bolt out of the blue.In the following chapters, the author tries to cover various Islamic Schools of Thought, as well as European and Greek Philosophies.While covering Islamic thought, Mirza Tahir appears hollow and unnecessarily cautious.He seems to advocate all sides of the argument, hence failing to advance his own.He also fails to mention Imam Shafi's contribution in advancing Islamic Thought, especially when the extremists were sitting in trenches.He is surprisingly unkind to the Sufis.This is pure desertion as Mirza Gulam Ahmad and his successors have repeatedly borrowed Sufi concepts and practices to advance their hidden agenda.Serious readers are recommended to consult works by Sayyid Nasr and Dr. Wadood to pull themselves out of the depths of despair.
Mirza Tahir's attempt at discussing philosophy begins with reviews of the great works of several philosophers (with some patronizing remarks of his own), which appear to be borrowed from primary level Philosophy encyclopaedias.He seems hopelessly out of depth when trying to summarize difficult philosophical concepts, and tie them to the thread of the discussion he has since lost.Armstrong, Asad, Umberto, and Eaton have written on related issues in recent years; Mirza Tahir simply fails to rise to their level.Those who have had the pleasure of reading Ali Shariati's lectures may feel like being in a torture chamber.It is true that there is no substitute for proper education.
In the last part of the book, the author repeats the age-old Ahmadi propaganda for the need of ongoing revelation and hints at its continuity (Mirza Tahir regularly claims to be "in touch", during his sermons and speeches).In the process, he attacks Allama Iqbal and Maulana Moududi for having had defective thinking and views on this issue.He accuses Iqbal of borrowing Neitzsche’s thought when asserting that revelation stopped with Muhammad (SAW).His main argument in support of continuation of revelation is the "utter moral destitution of man today".Maulana Maududi has a large following and one would expect them to hit back, because he has been bracketed with Bahaullah of Iranian infamy in this book.Before I defend Iqbal (what an honour!), it is wise to point out the fallacy in Mirza Tahir’s stance.Arguments similar to his were put forward by Mirza Gulam Ahmad and his associates to justify his claim to being a reformer, Mahdi, Messiah, and eventually a Prophet.What improvement did this alleged prophethood bring to the world?It simply divided the Muslims further; has been responsible for terrible sufferings, and the world is morally a worse place than before his claim.Despite what they are being told publicly, unfortunate Ahmadis have also gone from pillar to post in the last 100 years and will soon be labeled "wandering Ahmadis" - hence proving that Mirza Gulam Ahmad was only a "Prophet of destruction and death".
Iqbal, the distinguished Muslim poet and philosopher, was one of the few
who saw through the deception of Mirza Gulam Ahmad and his associates,
and made the Muslim Ummah aware of their threat to Islamic Identity.When
most Muslim scholars considered Ahmadiyyah too trivial for attention, it
was left to Iqbal to defend Muslim integrity.While
Sir Syed said "Gulam Ahmad's claims are useless" and Maulana Azad was too
busy in his politics, Iqbal perceived the dangers posed by Quadiani existence
as a part of Muslim community.When
Nehru spoke in their favor, Iqbal shredded his arguments with the sword
of his wisdom and Islamic knowledge and demanded a separate religious status
for them.Since that time, Ahmadi
leaders have spared no efforts to discredit Iqbal.Where
they failed on the intellectual front, they tried to make up for it in
the corridors of establishment in
Mirza Tahir deliberately shies away from the truth, when discussing Iqbal's views on revelation.Iqbal actually proposed that, by the advent of Prophet Muhammad (SAW), mankind had achieved a high social and cognitive maturity to be the recipient of Eternal Truths.Therefore, Allah, in His wisdom, completed His message in the holy Quran.The Almighty made sure that the holy Quran was detailed (S.6/1l5), contained Eternal Truths (S.5/48), had no deficiency (S.6/38), carried formulae to address every problem (S.10/57), and took responsibility for its protection (S.15/9).With the holy Quran, Allah proclaimed that His religion has been completed (S.6/116) and will remain valid for all mankind (S.81/27) for all times.Iqbal stressed that mankind can tackle all its present and future problems under the guidance of the Quranic revelation, hence, there is no need for future revelation or new prophets.Mirza Tahir must realize that reformers do not have to be Prophets.A comparison of Sir Syed and Jamal-Ud-Din Afghani’s life and works with that of Mirza Gulam Ahmad’s, for instance, could be a study in enlightenment for Mirza Tahir and his associates.
Tahir has devoted several chapters to discussions about the nature of revelation.As
expected, he misses the point while trying to explain it absurdly in the
context of paranormal, illusions, hypnotism, hallucination, and dreams.In
all fairness to him, I will not quote sources that may be disagreeable
(according to Mirza Gulam Ahmad "Ahadis are like a Madari's (juggler)
patari, and you can take out whatever you wish") or obscure (Physiology
of the Brain) to Mirza Tahir.Since
the author would claim that his belief in the holy Quran is similar to
the rest of the Muslims (although his
Tahir Ahmad is neither a scholar nor a philosopher.He
lacks the knowledge, ability, training, or necessary qualifications to
undertake a serious task as writing a book on such complex issues.By his
own admission, over 50 people were involved in researching, printing,
and revisions of this book.This is
in addition to those "scholars" and researchers who were involved in "
…things I could not have handled alone".The
"translators" must take genuine credit for making this work readable, notwithstanding,
Mirza Sahib's statement, "....when I critically examined the translation,
new ideas emerged...".I
know for certain that most of the topics in this book have either been
part of his Friday sermons or discussed in his "Question-Answer" sessions.Thus,
special recognition should be given to those unknown volunteers who work
in special research cells/units in "
what the cover of this book have us believe, the real biography of Mirza
Tahir is as follows.According to
Ian Adamson ("Man of God"), Mirza Tahir's ambition in life was to become
a medical doctor (now content with his "world-renowned" Homeopathy practice
without qualifications), but he failed his FSc examination.This
was no disgrace as his grandfather, Mirza Gu1am Ahmad (a junior cleric),
had failed departmental examinations three times before embarking upon
his career as a "Prophet".Similarly,
Mirza Tahir's father, Mirza Bashir (2nd head of Ahmadi Jamat), failed his
middle school examination and was always taunted by Molvi Muhammad Ali
(Head of Lahori Ahmadi Jamat) to that effect.In
Mirza Tahir's case, his father relied on his contacts and was able to arrange
for his undeserved admission into SOAS,
Tahir's main qualifications are his keen political sense and his contacts
in the right places, including the intelligence services.His