FROM a theological viewpoint, the Ahmadis have some parallels of interest to Seventh-day Adventists. The only one I can touch on here is their belief in a continuing revelation from God. This provides a source of contact that immediately catches their interest and attention.
Orthoprax Moslems—that is, those who hold conservatively to the practices of the Moslem faith, as orthodoxy signifies conservative theology—believe that Mohammed was the last of the prophets, and that all that previous prophets had given is succinctly wrapped up in the Koran. For them, therefore, there is no further need for any of the earlier revelations today. The apostate interpretations of the Bible, together with the purported physical corruptions of the Biblical text, make those earlier messages from God invalid today.
While Ahmadis believe likewise about the Bible, and use many of the skeptical arguments of the nineteenth century in support of their position, as well as finding anything in current literature, they do not believe that Mohammed was the last of the prophets in the same way that others do. (It would be well to add here that there occurred a schism in the movement not long after the death of the founder, and there is another Ahmadi group which does have a slightly variant view to that given here, but for all practical purposes, the theology of the two groups is close enough alike that most Moslems class them pretty much together.) Because of this, most Moslems put the Ahmadis outside the pale of Islam, even though the group claims it is the only true advocate of a genuine Islam.
Gift of Prophecy
For the Ahmadis Mohammed is the criterion of truth, and all future prophets must acknowledge his message as truth in the way that he taught it, and not in the way it has come to be corrupted by the Moslems. In order to restore it to its rightful place, God has been pleased, they say, to speak in modern times to and through Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. Reason is inadequate to arrive at truth. Therefore it has been necessary for a renewal of revelation to be given in this century.
Shocked Into Silence
Because of Adventist understanding of the continuing gift of prophecy, a Seventh-day Adventist worker is in the unique position of being able to understand these people. It almost takes them off their feet when one tells them that Seventh-day Adventist Christians also believe in special revelation in these days. They are so unprepared for this that they are almost shocked into silence.
They need not be. In Mirza Ghulam Ahmad's own library at Qadian, I have seen a copy of The Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan. Had they read its introduction carefully, they would have been aware of this gift among Christians. They took issue in Mirza Ghulam Ahmad's lifetime with other claimants of the gift from the Christian world. But this one they have overlooked. This gives the Adventist evangelist an advantage in winning their respect.
It is his advantage, first, because they find someone who can talk their language theologically and sympathetically. It also is his advantage because they do not know its message and are not prepared to argue with it. The nature of a contemporary special revelation has it own certitudes, and one must disprove the character of the gift before he can argue with the message given. This they know from decades of experience.
If the Ahmadis are approached in a gentle manner, in the modern spirit of dialog rather than in the harsher forms of debate, they will listen, at least for a time. I do not mean they will be converted. I do not know of any Ahmadi in India or Pakistan that has become a Seventh-day Adventist. But I am sure that God has a message for these earnest people, as well as for others. They have some very high and noble ideals. And their dedication to their beliefs being as intense as it is, if they ever understood the message we preach, and accepted it, they would make wonderful Seventh-day Adventists.
In closing my interview with Mirza Nasir Ahmad, I asked the khalifa of the community a question which is closely linked with special revelation, and more particularly with that of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. It had to do with spiritistic phenomena.
The Ahmadis are strong believers in the doctrine of natural immortality—a doctrine that should concern every Seventh-day Adventist. I knew that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad claimed to have talked with various departed dead, including Guru Nanak Sahib (the fifteenth-century founder of the Sikh religion of Northern India) and Jesus Christ!
Jesus Buried in Kashmir!
According to all Ahmadis, Jesus Christ is dead—buried in Kashmir. They will show you "his" tomb there to prove it. I have seen it. Unlike all other Moslems, they hold that Jesus was put on the cross, but did not die then. Taken down alive, he made his escape from Palestine, and lived to die a natural death at a ripe old age of 120 years in Kashmir. This is one of the great heresies for which other Moslems would excommunicate them. For other Moslems believe that Jesus is alive in heaven. But not the Ahmadis.
Accordingly, the promises in both the Bible and the Koran regarding the return of the Messiah would be impossible of literal fulfillment. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad claimed, on the ground of his special revelations, to be the Messiah of Islam, and the fulfillment of those prophecies. He never claimed, as some of his enemies have tried to make out, that he was the reincarnation of Jesus. But he did claim to be the Messiah in unequivocal language. It was here that he first parted serious company with his Moslem peers. To me, the tragedy of Ahmadiyat is that their faith rests upon the death of two Messiahs, the second one having been the fulfillment of previous prophecies, leaving no more Messiahs to come!
But my question was not about the coming of another Messiah. I was interested rather in the matter of communication with the dead, and its possible bearing upon special revelation.
I asked Mirza Nasir Ahmad whether he had ever held communication with the dead as his grandfather had. He replied in the negative. I asked then about what knowledge he had as to whether his father during his long khalifat had talked with the dead or listened to them. He replied that there was none to his knowledge. As for his grandfather, he suggested that the experiences to which his grandfather had alluded were only about one per cent of the total revelations he had received.
Asked if he himself had had any other revelations, he replied affirmatively. Questioned briefly about the nature of these experiences, he stated that they contained their own certitudes, based upon the fulfillment of the messages given and interpreted along the lines laid down by men long experienced in the interpretation of such mysteries.
Extrasensory and Parapsychical
Out of my study of the work of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, and of the revelations which he claimed to have received, I am inclined to view them as extrasensory and parapsychical in character rather than merely the hallucinations of a diseased mind. Recognizing the nature of spiritistic phenomena, I can readily appreciate that, whether he actually held communion with the dead or heard what he believed to be the voice of God or an angel, what he heard was in every sense very real, and not imaginary.
As such, there are many genuine elements of truth to be found in Ahmadiyat. These will appeal to the human heart in search after God. It is odd, in a sense, that the expositors of a "true" Islam are at this point at odds with both Biblical and Koranic injunctions. But as with all spiritistic phenomena from Eden to the present, the good is not unmixed with error.
Because of these factors, it seems to me that the Seventh-day Adventist who attempts to debate with the Ahmadis is in danger of repeating for himself the experience of Moses Hull in the early days of the Advent Movement. Adventists must, therefore, approach them with caution, and in humble dependence upon God for power personally to persuade them of the verities of the message God has vouchsafed to the church for the world at this time.