Ghulam Ahmad has often been compared with Baha’u’llah. There is a close affinity between the ideas and preaching of these two men. Baha’u’llah was born twenty-two years before Ghulam Ahmad, and died when the latter was past fifty and had yet eighteen years to live. Baha’u’llah and Ghulam Ahmad never met each other, but that circumstance cannot preclude influence of one upon the other. The Iranian is reflected in the Qadiani, and no protestations to the contrary can dislodge him from the hold he seems to have over Ghulam Ahmad’s mind. There is a marked family resemblance between the Baha’i and the Qadiani movements. The present chapter is an attempt to compare and contrast Qadianism and Baha’ism.
Baha’u’llah was a disciple of Ali Muhammad Bab, who belonged to the dervish order of Shekhis in Iran, distinguished by its expectancy of a divine messenger. Ali Muhammad declared himself to be the Bab or medium of divine grace. He claimed at first to be a harbinger, a John the Baptist, in relation to the impending advent of the Mehdi; later on he stepped into Mehdihood; and, finally, he meant to be regarded as the most privileged among the chosen, the expected of all expectants, and “the primal, pivotal and focal point ” of the universe. His claims naturally jarred upon his countrymen, who called in persecution to stamp out the heresy. But the blood of martyrs served only to cement the Babi church. The Bab was publicly shot in 1850. The central and inalienable part of his claim, notwithstanding its metamorphoses, was that he was essentially a man of the seed-time, and that he was preparing the way for a ‘Manifestation of God.’ He had no clear ideas upon the subject that engrossed him so entirely. He could say nothing as to the time of the new dispensation. But he could say with something like certainty that the advent he gloried in would not be delayed by more than two thousand years.
Hardly had the Bab’s voice ceased to vibrate when Baha’u’llah, who was two years his senior, declared himself to be the redeemer of the Bab’s prophecies. He called himself the ‘Manifestation of God.’ He claimed to be a law-giver with a message for the whole world. He represented his revelations as the latest arrivals from heaven, which rendered allegiance to the older faiths unnecessary. Baha’ism, in the eyes of its founder, is to Islam what Islam is to Christianity, or what Christianity is to Judaism. Baha’u’llah has set up a new religion which has its own canon law, its own scriptures, and its own holy land. He has seceded from Islam and would not have it even for his label.
Mirza Ghulam Ahmad tried to do all that a secessionist would. But he is anxious to be called a Muslim and a founder of a sect. He is conscious of his prophethood being extraneous to Islam. At times he tries to explain it away by calling it metaphorical and a figure of speech. But he does, whenever he can, surreptitiously introduce references to his prophethood being superior to every other and second to none. He discourages the Haj pilgrimage by example rather than precept. The way he consecrates Qadian can leave us in no doubt as to his real intent. The spiritual compass of a Qadiani points to Qadian and not Mecca. It was Ghulam Ahmad’s boast that he had stilled the cry of Jehad for all time. He could not say that without implying that he had amended Quran in a very material respect, and yet he professes implicit faith in the Quran, nay, in every jot and tittle of it.
Baha’u’llah seems to have been Ghulam Ahmad’s ideal. The difference between these two men is only this: The Iranian is plain and direct; he has abandoned the religion of his fore-fathers, and makes no secret of it. Ghulam Ahmad is devious and roundabout; he cannot make up his mind to risk an open breach with Islam; he must, therefore, disrupt it from within. He professes a votary’s love for the Prophet and yet declares his own advent to be attended by more numerous and cogent signs than was the Prophet’s. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad does not draw the conclusion to which he is logically committed. Is it due to fear of consequences or to a sickly vacillation of mind?
Baha’u’llah does not question the Muslim doctrine of Finality of Prophethood. He calls himself ‘a Manifestation of God.’ His idea seems to be that prophethood has fulfilled its mission ; it is no longer necessary ; the future lies not with prophets, but with ‘Manifestations of God.’ The term ‘Manifestation of God’ has not been given an exact definition by Baha’u’llah, but certain it is that he does not apply it to Prophets like Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad. He seems to place a ‘Manifestation of God’ higher than a prophet, and to present himself as the first incumbent of that more exalted office. A ‘Manifestation of God’ is nothing short of God incarnate.