« " Book of the Century " - A Critical Review »

Anti Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam 15th March 2003

"Book of the Century"- A Critical Review

TahiraParwez (1998)

‘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. 

This book is essentially an expanded version of Mirza Tahir's lecture delivered at the University of Zurich in 1987.Mirza Sahib tries to explain the need for this book "Many attempts were made during subsequent years to translate the full Urdu manuscript ... to be exhausted and abandoned ... no single scholar could translate ... no option but to rewrite in my own hand ...".He goes on without ever telling us the real reason behind his decision to write this book.The book has 756 pages, excluding publisher's note, acknowledgements, and preface.It has been published (in 1998) by Islam International Publications, based at "Islamabad", Surrey (UK), on an expensive paper using "Times New Roman" typeface and an unusually large font.Its cover price is set at £25.The book was launched with some vigor at the annual international meeting of Ahmadis in the UK this year.Since then, it has received endless "advertisement" on their Satellite Channel and gatherings around the globe.It is being marketed as the next big thing after "Brahin-e- Ahmadiyyah".The mission claims to have sold thousands of copies to Ahmadis, mostly to give away to non-Ahmadi friends, potential converts, and acquaintances.If you are one of them and have not yet received your copy, just ask or be patient!It will not surprise me to hear in a few years time that this book has reached the "best-seller" status.

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".

Allama 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 Pakistan. Gradual disappearance of Iqbalian philosophy from the Pakistani public life is not without reason. 

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. 

Mirza 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 Mission has shamelessly twisted and changed its meanings to suit their purposes), let us revisit some Quranic concepts on the topic.According to the holy Quran, Wahi (revelation) is an objective knowledge or experience given to Allah's chosen individuals (S.6/l05).This knowledge is direct (S.83/5) and not acquired (S.53/4).No one is aware of the exact nature of this experience, except Allah who "reveals it on the heart of the Nabi (Prophet)" (S.40/15).It is not an illusion, dream, or interpretation of a prophet, but Allah's own Word (S.9/6, S.2/75).Furthermore, there is no classification of Wahi in the holy Quran. Age-old Ahmadi propaganda of lesser Wahi, Ilham, and Kashaf of Mirza Gulam Ahmad are Sufi concepts twisted and misappropriated to justify his claims.It is interesting to note that Mirza Tahir has not even mentioned them in this book. 

Mirza 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 "Islamabad" and prepare topics for Mirza Sahib to look presentable. He might have copied some manuscripts to delude himself or impress others, but to actually claim that he wrote this book is simply pathetic. Those who know him could easily attested to this fact. The effort was still worthwhile because it gave Ahmadi propaganda machinery around the world a well-deserved rest from the routine. Alas! The reality falls far short of Mirza Tahir’s dreams. The ongoing curse ("prophecy") of (religious) intellectual inferiority in "the family" continues. 

Despite 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, LondonUniversity.He was obviously not good enough, couldn’t cope, and soon dropped out.He spent the next few years enjoying western life and the hospitality of poor Ahmadis, while travelling around Europe.In 1982, with crucial support from Sir Zafar Ullah, he was "elected" the Head of Ahmadi(Quadiani) Jamat.

Mirza Tahir's main qualifications are his keen political sense and his contacts in the right places, including the intelligence services.His "Escape from Pakistan" and overthrow of the government in Sierra Leon with the help of MI-6 are two prime examples of his strengths.As a politician, he rightfully boasts that MTA (Muslim Television Ahmadyyiah) is his biggest achievement.Television being an effective tool in propaganda and mass control, he is well aware of what he is talking about.He is described as a keen sportsman (but is an intellectual lightweight).He is advised to refrain from boxing out of his weight.To make sure, I would like to seek a legal injunction against the publishers of this book, stopping them from making intellectually insulting claims.Good luck to those who want to follow suit. 




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