CHAPTER 16: DEBUT OF THE MAGAZINE – THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS

Debut of the Magazine

Hazrat Mirza had asked Maulvi Muhammad Ali to take up residence in Qadian for a special purpose and the time for the fulfillment of this pur- pose was now at hand. In January of 1902, the magazine, The Review of Religions, was launched from Qadianunder the editorship of Maulvi Muhammad Ali. An Urdu edition of the magazine was also initiated simulta- neously. There was no financial motivation in the decision to publish this magazine and the sole reason for its publication was to defend and propagate Islam.

The magazine was published on the twentieth day of each month. Initially, the majority of the articles it contained were Englishtranslations by Maulvi Muhammad Ali of Hazrat Mirza’s articles. The magazine additional- ly included some essays written by Maulvi Muhammad Ali. With time, the proportion of articles originally authored by Maulvi Muhammad Ali contin- ued to increase, and eventually, almost the entire magazine came to consist of the compositions of Maulvi Muhammad Ali. Maulvi Muhammad Ali wrote several landmark articles that were highly acclaimed by the public, both Muslims and non-Muslims. Not even a full year had passed since the launch of this magazine when people from all over the world began to voice their praise and appreciation of the magazine. Count Tolstoy, the famous Russian author and religious scholar, who was a Christian by faith, wrote in a letter dated June 5, 1903:

In the specimen number, I approved very much two articles, “How to get rid of the Bondage of Sin” and “The Life to Come,” especially the second. The idea is very profound and very true.1

Hazrat Mirza was the author of both these articles. Similarly, an article on Paraclete2 by Hazrat Mirza published in the The Review of Religions was reproduced by Sheikh Abdullah Quilliam, a British Muslim and the editor of Crescent, in his magazine. He prefaced thereproduction with these comments:

We reproduce below a highly scholarly article on Paraclete taken from the magazine, The Review of Religions… We hope this article will be of great interest to our readers.

Later, in the September 16, 1903, issue of his magazine Crescent, Sheikh Quilliam wrote:

The following exceedingly able article on the “Paraclete” we cull from the columns of a monthly magazine entitled The Review of Religions. The August number of The Review of Religions published at Qadian, India, is full of interesting matter. The articlerefuting charges made by ignorant Christians with reference to our Holy Prophet, is one of the ablest we have ever read on the subject, and we cordially commend it to our reader’s attention.

Many other famous personalities expressed similar views but in the interest of brevity their comments are not reproduced here.

Some selected articles appearing in The Review of Religions

The titles of some of the important articles that appeared in the early years of the magazine’s publication are given below:

  • The Good and Evil Attractions
  • Jihad and the Early Muslim Wars
  • Christianity
  • Atonement
  • The True Nature of Salvation
  • Salvation and Accursedness
  • Unity versus Trinity
  • Comparison of Prophet Muhammad’s Companions with the Disciples of Jesus Christ
  • Jesus and Muhammad (SAWS) compared
  • Jesus’ Use of Wine
  • The Effect of Drunkenness Upon Moral Teachings
  • Islam (this was the text of Hazrat Mirza’s lecture that was read aloud at the convention of Dharam Mahavastu in the year 1896. This lecture was deemed the most superior at that convention.)
  • An Objection to the Honor of Christ
    • Sins Attributed to Jesus
    • Weak Points in Jesus’ Teachings
    • The True Reality of the Gospel’s Teachings on Forgiveness
    • The True Philosophy of the Chastity of Prophets, Salvation, and Intercession
    • Relation Between Sinlessness and Intercession
    • The Holy Quran Upon the Prophet’s Perfection
    • Need for Intercession
    • The Difference between Sin and Crime
    • Transmigration of Souls
    • Some Criteria of a Divine Revelation
    • The Prayers of the Quran and the Gospel Compared
    • Comparison of the Teachings of the Arya Samajists with Islamic Teachings
    • Niyog
    • Mutaa or Temporary Marriage
    • Comparison and Contrast of Mutaa and Divorce
    • Need for the Holy Quran
    • Which of the Three Religions, Christianity, Arya Samaj and Islam Guides Men to the Living God?
    • The Reality of Prayer
    • The Reality and Blessings of Supplication
    • The Holy Spirit (Ruh-al-Quddas)
    • Necessity of Divine Revelations
    • Islam and the Other Faiths of this Land

Maulvi Muhammad Ali wrote several invaluable and unique articles countering the criticism of the opponents. These articleswere unparalleled in their exhaustive discussions, and the sensible and cogent manner of present- ing supporting arguments. Their titlesincluded the following:

  • Heaven and Hell
    • The Pardah System (the seclusion of women)
    • Polygamy
    • Slavery
    • Islamic Battles
    • The Concept of Inheritance in Islam
    • Monetary Interest
    • Divorce
    • Collection of the Holy Quran
  • Preservation of the Hadith.3

Maulvi Muhammad Ali strongly refuted on the pages of The Review of Religions the criticisms of Sale, a Christian clergyman, who was an inveter- ate opponent of Islam. Maulvi Muhammad Ali’s refutation of Sale’s criticism was so powerful, logical andmagnificent that it created a stir in the Christian world.

The scholarship and English eloquence of The Review of Religions acknowledged

In addition to the scholarship and quality of the articles contained in The Review of Religions, the English-speaking world also acknowledged the eloquence and penmanship of the articles in the magazine. In fact, some Englishmen formed the impression that the editor of this magazine was an Englishman who worked secretly for Hazrat Mirza, and wrote under the pen- name of Muhammad Ali. Thus a British editor of the English magazine, The Calcutta Review wrote an antagonistic piece about the The Review of Religions inhis magazine dated April 1902 in which he opined:

From the evidence of English idioms – peculiarly English and never used by strangers – it is clear as daylight to anyone that his deliver- ances in this newly started Review of Religions are written or concocted by a European – an Englishman (herein again, curiously enough reproducing exactly Muhammad and his Syrian Christian “Archangel Gabriel!”). To the European, “behind the scenes” we say, remember the old “Archangel Gabriel’s” fate! His motive may be good, but he is in a false way, and he can onlycome to hurt (though it may not be the sudden and compulsory death of his predecessor): let him take heed in time.

In reply to this, Maulvi Muhammad Ali wrote the following to the editor of Calcutta Review:

We thank the editor of Calcutta Review for his advice. It is unfortunate that the Christians have always shown distrust andslandered righteous people in similar ways, and they do not desist from such vilification even to this day. They tried to vilify our leader and master, Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) by claiming that, God forbid, he was keeping a Syrian Christian in hiding who composes the Quran for him and whom he calls Gabriel. Today, these people are slandering hisservant Hazrat Mirza by claiming that he has concealed an Englishman in Qadian whom he calls Muhammad Ali and who writes the articles for him. What the editor of the Review needs to do is to come here and examine the circumstances to his fullsatisfaction. Upon realizing his mistake, he should issue a disavowal from making any similar slanderous statements directed towards us in the future. He should then take the next logical step and disavow the unjust suspicion and slander aimed by him and his fellow Christians against Prophet Muhammad. Remember that the harboring of suspi- cion and smearing has never beenthe style of the righteous investigators of truth.

Influence of the Magazine

In summary, the Muslim and non-Muslim intelligentsia were amazed at the forceful and eloquent presentation of Islam for the first time in an English magazine, and at the incisive and rational arguments in The Review of Religions that proved the superiority of Islam over other faiths. Hundreds of youths who had fallen under the influence of Christian priests and atheistic philosophies as a result of their Western oriented education were blessed once again with a return to Islam and faith. The Christian clergy was greatly distressed and disheartened because their faith, more than any other, was the special target of the heavenly pen that was wielded on the pages of The Review of Religions.4

The priests instituted several plans to counter this tide of changing public opinion but to no avail. And now the dominance of Islam over all other religions had become a reality that could be clearly visualized ahead.

  • The metaphor of the heavenly pen is taken from a vision that Hazrat Mirza had about Maulvi Muhammad Ali. On November 10, 1906, Hazrat Mirza narrated this spiritual vision:

The influence of the magazine on the British public too was very profound. Two interesting incidents exemplify the impact of themagazine.

Chaudhry Hakim Ali, an Ahmadi landowner of Sargodha district in Punjab, took out a gift subscription to The Review of Religions for Mr. Malcolm Haley, Settlement Officer in Sargodha district. Mr. Haley was later knighted and went on to become the Governor of Punjab, and subsequently of United Provinces (UP) as well. After some time had lapsed from the start of the gift subscription, Chaudhry Hakim Ali met Mr. Haley who comment- ed: “You have put me in a quandary by having this magazine sent to me.” Chaudhry Hakim Ali enquired: “How so?” Mr. Haley answered: “When I read this magazine, I am convinced that Islam is theonly true faith and I can- not fall asleep worrying about this.”

A similar incident was narrated to me by Faqir Iftikhar-ud-Din, Deputy Settlement Officer of Rawalpindi. A senior British officer used to receive a free copy of The Review of Religions. One day he asked Faqir Iftikhar-ud- Din: “Can you possibly get the delivery of this magazine stopped to me?” Faqir Iftikhar-ud-Din asked him for the reason and the British officer replied: “When I receive thismagazine, I cannot stop myself from reading it. When I read it, I lose my night’s sleep from worrying that I am guilty before God fornot accepting the true faith.”

Another noteworthy opinion about The Review of Religions was expressed by the Englishman H.A. Walter, who was an ardent critic of Islam:

A highly competent disciple of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, Maulvi Muhammad Ali M.A, is the editor of The Review of Religions. Forsome time, he was assisted by Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din… This magazine, The Review of Religions, is true to its name because discussions on all the religions of the world like Sanatan DharamArya SamajBrahmo Samaj, Theosophy, Sikhism,Buddhism, Jainism, Zoroastrianism,

Then I saw the late Maulvi Abdul Karim coming towards me. I shook his hand and greeted him. Maulvi Sahib took out something and gave it to me as a gift and said: “The Bishop who is an officer of the Christians also uses it for his work.” That thing had the similarity of a rabbit and an almond color; there was a large hose attached to its front and at the end of the hose was a pen. The hose got inflated with air as a result of which that pen began to move easily and effortlessly. I said: “I did not ask for this pen.” Maulvi Sahib said: “Maulvi Muhammad Ali must have asked for it.” I said: “Alright, Iwill give it to Maulvi Muhammad Ali.” Then I woke up.

This vision reveals that the pen given to Maulvi Muhammad Ali by God as a result of the spiritual influence of Hazrat Mirza is a heavenly gift which, because of his righteousness, works effortlessly in the support of Islam and against Western Christianity and material- ism. Because the title, Sultan ul Qalam has been given in the Books of Hadith to the Mahdi, there can be no remaining doubt that Hazrat Mirza gave the inheritance of knowl- edge andpenmanship of the Mahdi to Maulvi Muhammad Ali. “And this is a blessing from Allah. He grants to whom He pleases and Allah is the Lord of mightygrace.”

Bahaism, Christian Science, and Christianity can be found within its pages. Also to be found within its pages are discussions and critiques on Islam and its various sects, both old and new, such as Shiite Islam, Ahl-e-HadithKhwarij, and Sufism. Included also are reviews on the thoughts of contemporary philosophers such as Sir Syed Ahmad Khan and Syed Amir Ali.

A proposal by Maulvi Inshallah Khan, Editor of the newspaper Watan

Although The Review of Religions consisted primarily of Islamic arti- cles of general interest, it sometimes contained articles that delved into Hazrat Mirza’s claim of being the Promised Messiah. Some non-Ahmadies were irritated by such articles. In the early part of 1906, when only three years had passed since the inception of the magazine, Maulvi Inshallah Khan, editor of the newspaper Watan, published in his newspaper a review that commended The Review of Religions. Acknowledging the religious and scholarly servicesrendered by this magazine, Maulvi Inshallah Khan wrote:

This magazine is of a very high caliber, and its research on Islamic issues is philosophical and profound. This is exactly what is needed in this era.

Maulvi Inshallah Khan then wrote to Maulvi Muhammad Ali and made the following proposal:

If you abstain from referring to the Ahmadiyya Movement in The Review of Religions, I shall personally assist your efforts and also enlist the help of others through the newspaper. We shall collect con- tributions for sending this magazine to other countriesin large numbers.

Maulvi Muhammad Ali’s sense of honor did not allow him to acquiesce to this proposal by Maulvi Inshallah Khan, and he replied unequivocally that mentioning the Ahmadiyya Movement was in fact to support Islam itself. Maulvi Muhammad Ali also added that he was not willing to accept a single penny from anyone who harbored malice towards the Ahmadiyya Movement. In response, MaulviInshallah Khan urged that they should try to reach a mutually acceptable compromise. This correspondence was in progress when Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din arrived in Qadian. He had a special knack for devising creative ways to propagate Islam. He proposed that TheReview of Religions be divided into two sections. One section would contain essays pertaining exclusively to general Islamic topics, and would not have any reference to Hazrat Mirza’s claims. Financial contributions from non-Ahmadis would be used for this sectionalone. The other would contain references to Hazrat Mirza’s claims, and would be published as a supple- ment to the first section.

Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din was of the opinion that an increased circulation would benefit a larger section of humanity by boosting their consciousness about the truth of Islam. He presented his proposal before Hazrat Mirza and explained that the circulation of themagazine would increase considerably if this proposal was adopted, and the circle of people benefitting from it would expand greatly.Non-Ahmadi readers would be drawn inexorably towards the Movement; their prejudices would dissipate with time, and it is to be hoped that in view of the great services to Islam rendered by the Movement, they would gradually become its members. Hazrat Mirza accorded his approval to the proposal, and it became the basis of an agreement with Maulvi Inshallah Khan.

After this mutual agreement, Maulvi Inshallah Khan greatly praised this magazine in his newspaper Watan and exhorted theMuslims to subscribe to the magazine and to send it in large numbers for free distribution in Europe, America and Japan. The exhortations of Maulvi Inshallah Khan resulted in just one or two new subscribers, but had the unintended conse- quence of starting a virulent campaign by the non-Ahmadi clerics. The clerics clamored that Maulvi Inshallah Khan, editor of Watan, had joined theAhmadiyya Movement and in collusion with the Movement had cooked up a scheme to fraudulently collect money from the masses and to have a good time with it. Some of the clerics went to the extent of writing to Maulvi Inshallah Khan that although Hazrat Mirza’s name may not be receiving mention in the pages of the magazine, his message would nevertheless spread abroad as well as at home in India, and the Ahmadiyya Movement would benefit immensely from this project.

Maulvi Inshallah Khan was unable to endure this opposition. Gravely perturbed, he began thinking about a way to extricate himself from his predicament. He wrote a letter to Maulvi Muhammad Ali in which he detailed the opposition of the clerics and requested Maulvi Muhammad Ali not to publish the supplement for the time being. In his own newspaper Watan, he published anappeal asking for only two hundred subscriptions for the magazine. Seeing the vehement opposition of the clerics, and sensing thecowardice of Maulvi Inshallah Khan, Maulvi Muhammad Ali surmised that the opponents would continue their bickering and find fault with every little thing he published. He, therefore, thought it best to clarify the agenda at the very outset of this proposed joint venture. Maulvi Muhammad Ali wrote a detailed letter to Maulvi Inshallah Khan in which he stated:

Although there will be no mention of Hazrat Mirza and his Movement in the magazine, but the discussion in the articles will be inaccordance with our beliefs and faith and the scholastic philosophy of Hazrat Mirza. The articles will eschew any hypocrisy. For example in our contention with the Christians of Europe, our position is that Jesus has died and this is what we will project and not the notionthat he is alive. With regards to the miracles of Jesus, we will present the matter as established by our research. We believe Islam is a living faith, and we would present a Living God Whose blessings and communications to man continue to this day — we would not be willing to put forth any sort of vision that portrays faith as a lifeless entity. Furthermore, in order to implement your proposal, you should arrange for at least one thousand subscribers. Only then would we be willing to put up with the cost ofrestructuring the magazine according to your proposal. Additionally, the supplement to the magazine will definitely be pub-lished.

Maulvi Inshallah Khan was in search of just such an excuse to renege on the agreement. He immediately changed his stance in the newspaper and moved from a position of profusely praising The Review of Religions and its editor to one of unprovoked attacks on theeditor of The Review of Religions. In this way, Maulvi Inshallah Khan extricated himself from his predicament and redeemed himself inthe eyes of his fellow clerics.

But The Review of Religions actually benefited from these develop- ments. The episode with Maulvi Inshallah Khan invigorated a strong sense of communal pride among the members of the Ahmadiyya Movement and they enlisted many new subscribers themselves. Meanwhile, Maulvi Inshallah Khan was relentlessly waging a propaganda war in his newspaper that the Ahmadiyya organization had fraudulently amassed a large sum of money from his campaign to enlist new subscribers and then turned him out. Khan Muhammad Ajab Khan, a member of the Ahmadiyya Movement, was so incensed that he wrote to the office of the Movement with anoffer to per- sonally pay all the money that had been collected as a result of the campaign in the newspaper Watan. Accordingly, Maulvi Inshallah Khan, editor of Watan, was informed that all moneys collected from his campaign would be returned to him. When thisamount was tallied, it turned out to be only seven and a half rupees, and this sum was sent to him.

Muhammad Zulfiqar Ali Khan, resident of Meerut, suggested in a let- ter that an agent should be appointed to travel all over India and campaign for new subscribers for The Review of Religions. He also pledged one hun- dred rupees to defray the travelexpenses of the agent. In short, the Organization demonstrated remarkable enthusiasm, and sense of honor in this affair, and the resultwas a greatly increased subscriber base.

Hazrat Mirza’s address to the Ahmadiyya Organization regarding The Review of Religions

Hazrat Mirza published a proclamation in September of 1903 regard- ing the publication of The Review of Religions. Since theproclamation sheds light on the real objectives of the Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam, it is con- ducive to reproduce an extract from it here:

As all members of our party would be aware, the real objective for which God Almighty has appointed me is to eradicate the misconcep- tions and deceptions spread by Christianity and to invite the people of the world to Islam. The aforementioned objective has been referred to in the terminology of the authentic Hadith as “the breaking of the Cross.” To fulfill this objective, an English language magazine has been started. This magazine has proven effective in most regions of America and Europe, and the hearts of many are being rightly influ- enced by it. In fact, the fame that it has acquired has exceeded our expectations — and people look forward to the magazine with eager enthusiasm.

However, to date, we have not been able to procure sufficient perma- nent funds for its publication. If, God forbid, this magazinegoes out of print because of the inattention of the members, then this will be an event of great sorrow for the party. I draw the attention of all sincere adults of my organization to this, and strongly urge them to extend their assistance and financial support tothe extent possible. This world is a temporary abode that one must leave. When man does not exert himself to the fullest to accomplish a righteous deed in a time of need, then that opportunity is lost forever. And I see that a large part of my life has passed, and Divine revelation, as well as rational supposition, indicates that only a small part is left. So any person who assists my objectives according to my wishes during my presence and during my lifetime, I am hopeful that he will be in my company inthe next life as well. As for the person who spends his wealth for such important goals, I do not expect that his wealth shall be diminished. In fact, his wealth will multiply.

This is the time to serve, and the need of the hour is to trust in God, the Most High, and to strive with full sincerity, enthusiasm and courage. After this a time comes when even if a mountain of gold is spent for this purpose it will not be the equivalent of onepenny spent now…It is obvious that you cannot love two things, and it is not possible for you to love both God and wealth. You can love only one; fortunate is the person who loves God… Do not think that you are doing any favor to God or to the one He has sent by giving a part of your wealth, or by rendering some other service. On the contrary, He is doingyou a favor by calling you to serve in this cause. I say this unequivocally that even if all of you abandon me and withhold your service and support, He will raise a nation that will serve Him. You should truly believe that this affair is from the heavens, and that your service is in fact for your own good. Let it not be that arrogance enters your hearts or that you start thinking that you render monetary assistance or some other serv- ice. I say to you, again and again, that God does not stand in need of yourservices. Instead, He bestows a favor on you that He gives you the opportunity to serve.

Farther in that same proclamation, Hazrat Mirza stated:

If ten thousand people from this Organization decide to support the English and Urdu editions of the magazine by pledging to become its subscribers, the magazine will begin to thrive. If those who have taken the pledge adhere to its spirit and strive for this objective, in my opin- ion, this number of subscribers is eminently attainable.

The members of the Organization responded very positively to Hazrat Mirza’s appeal. While many entered their own names as new subscribers, many others paid for ten or fifteen subscriptions out of their own pockets for friends and acquaintances. So the publication of The Review of Religions continued with great splendor. Invaluable essays on Islam continued to appear within its pages and this magazine continued to provide excellent service to Islam.

The Review of Religions was the first magazine that was instrumental in changing the views of the people of Europe, as well as the views of the entire English-speaking world regarding Islam. During the period that Maulvi Muhammad Ali served as its editor, The Review of Religions main- tained its tradition of excellence and continued to be published with great splendor. But after the demise ofHazrat Mirza, and during the era of Maulana Nur-ud-Din’s leadership of the Movement, Maulvi Muhammad Ali was assigned to work exclusively on the translation of the Holy Quran into English. The magazine passed into the hands of others, and it was at this time thatthe quality of the magazine’s essays began to decline. The magazine lost its premier status during the period of Mirza Mahmud Ahmad’s leadership when a precipitous decline took place in its quality. It became the mouth- piece and propaganda tool of Mirza Mahmud Ahmad’s caliphate and of his personal views. Not much remained in the magazine that was relevant to Islam, and this was a trulyregrettable turn of events.

APPENDIX

Count Tolstoy’s Letter to Mufti Muhammad Sadiq:

Dear friend! Your letter along with Mirza Ghulam Ahmad’s picture and a sample of the magazine Review of Religions has beenreceived. To engage in the proof of the death of Christ or in the investigation of his tomb, is a futile effort because an intelligent man can never believe that Jesus is still alive…. We need reasoned religious teaching and if Mr. Mirza presents anew reasonable proposition then I am ready to benefit from it. In the specimen num- ber, I approved very much two articles, “How to get rid of the Bondage of Sin” and “The Life to Come,” especially the second. The idea is very profound and very true. I am most thankful to you for sending me this and am also grateful for your letter.Yours Sincerely, Tolstoy, from Russia. 5th June 1903.

Footnotes

  1. Full text of the letter in the Appendix at the end of this chapter.
  2. When I read Maulvi Muhammad Ali’s article in The Review of Religions on the Preservation of the Hadith, I thought that Maulvi Muhammad Ali must have sought help in its writing from either Maulana Nur-ud-Din or Maulvi Muhammad Ahsan Amrohi because of the detailed and exhaustive research it contained. These two venerable gentle- men were scholars of Hadith par excellence. It so happened that I was sitting with Maulana Ahsan Amrohi on the roof of the Mubarak mosque just before Maghrib prayers when we were joined by Maulana Nur-ud-Din who was carrying a copy of The Review ofReligions. After the customary greetings, he asked Maulana Ahsan Amrohi: “Have you read this article on the Preservation of Hadith?” Maulana Ahsan Amrohi replied in the affirmative. Maulana Nur-ud-Din then continued: “I was under the impression that only you and I, being of the Maulvi genre, had a monopoly on Hadith scholarship, but Maulvi Muhammad Ali has researched even this field of knowledge so well that I am truly amazed.” Maulana AhsanAmrohi agreed with him fully. It then dawned on me that Maulvi Muhammad Ali’s research owed nothing to these venerable scholars, and that it was hisown effort, hard work and knowledge that produced the article which had amazed these two great scholars of Hadith.
  3. Greek word, which is translated into English as Comforter.

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