[qadianism] A Critical Review: "Book of the Century"
By Irshad @irshad.org
4:58am
Mon
22
Feb

            A Critical Review: "Book of the Century"
                    by Tahira Parvez


This 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"!

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 unbeliever
by Muslim Scholars the world-over. Since the matters discussed in 
this book are sensitive to the believers, it is hoped that such a
grandiose statement is made with some degree of responsibility.

If the purpose has been to merely throw another challenge to the 
Muslim ummah, the wisdom of doing so in this manner remains to be
seen. Indeed, only a very small group of Muslims are likely to come
across this book; the great majority will just ignore it as more 
Quadiani propaganda to grab the limelight or another futile attempt
to be taken seriously.

Nevertheless, the history of the Mission shows that it has mastered
the technique of putting forward claims, which no reasonable 
individual can possibly take seriously. Consequently, since no one
had seen it fit to contest their claims, the Mirzai leaders 
proclaim such statements to have been "facts", move to incorporate
them into Ahmadi folklore, and announce the fulfillment of yet 
another obscure prophecy of their founder, Mirza Gulam Ahmad 
Quadiani! Indeed, reliance on a series of similarly unfounded and
fantastic claims by Mirza Gulam, 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 above 
statement scandalous. Mirza Tahir Ahmad 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 Sahib and the readers.

This book is essentially an expanded version of Mirza Sahib'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 by "Islam
International Publications", based at "Islamabad", Surrey (U.K.),
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 U.K. this year. Since then, it has 
received endless "advertisement" on their Satellite Channel and
their gatherings around the globe. It is being marketed as the
next big accomplishment 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 among these groups 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 
among the Ahmadis.

The book has been "translated" into an exquisite English, which 
repeatedly makes one forget the topic at hand. It is divided into
seven Parts. Yet, out of them, perhaps the first two justify any
division. These early chapters deal with the history of the 
development of Religious Thought, Philosophy, and ideology of a few
selected Religions. However, these are topics extensively covered 
by Muslim and non-Muslim authors in the past and Mirza Tahir is 
unable to offer any new or evolutionary insights into these well-
covered fields.

In subsequence chapters, the author drifts among such varied topics
as Revelation, Cosmology, Evolution, Unseen, Holocaust, and Aids. 
Unfortunately, these topics are inconsistently covered and often no
attempt has been made to tie them together in a coherent manner. 
However, this shortcoming is quite understandable, considering the
variety of topics involved and lack of competence of the author in
those subject areas.

To be sure, the reader comes across a few glimpses of quality 
writing in chapters like "Belief in the Unseen". It is unfortunate,
but well expected, that the book eventually drifts into a baseless
propaganda that "The Plague" and "AIDS" have been among the 
prophecies of Mirza Gulam Ahmad and hence a proof of his 
Prophethood! In some chapters, Mirza Sahib even manages to squeeze
in such 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 instead try to 
concentrate on a few issues raised by the author and will leave the
rest for other interested individuals.

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 and the publisher neglect to mention the audience 
targeted by this book. Has it been written for scholars, general
public, or Ahmadi faithful?

As a student of many of the disciplines allegedly covered by this
book, I can confidently state that every above average student of
these disciplines will find the coverage of topics by the author
fairly elementary. This may be disappointing for Ahmadi faithful,
but we have no choice but to conclude that the general public is
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. We will have to give Mirza Sahib the
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 Ali Jauhar, Akbar Ahmad, and others) in this 
century, since it falls well short of such literary works. Let us
then try to compare like for like, or even narrow it down to the
comparable works published in the English language in recent years.

The book starts promisingly. Mirza Tahir sets up his stall with an
easy introduction to the historical development of religious 
thought and a brief comparative value 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" at this point is a bolt out of the blue and 
unexplainable.

In the following chapters, the author tries to cover various
Islamic Schools of Thought, as well as European and Greek 
Philosophies. While covering the Islamic thought, Mirza Tahir
appears hollow and unnecessarily cautious. He appears 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, when the extremists were sitting in trenches.
Unexplainably, he is rather unkind to the Sufies, especially 
since Mirza Gulam Ahmad and his successors have repeatedly 
borrowed Sufi concepts and practices to advance their hidden
agenda. Serious readers are recommended to review works by 
Sayyid Nasr and Dr. Wadood to pull themselves out of the depths
of despair.

Mirza Tahir's attempt at considering philosophy begins with summary
reviews of the great works of several philosophers (with some 
patronizing remarks of his own), which appear to be simply borrowed
from primary level Philosophy encyclopaedias. However, he fails in
his attempt to manage difficult concepts and tie them to the thread
of the discussion he has since lost.

Among others, Armstrong, Umberto, and Eaton, have written on 
related issues in recent years; Mirza sahib 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 to proper education, and, the only
conclusion one can arrive to is that, in discussing Philosophy, 
Mirza Tahir is hopelessly out of his depth.

In the last part of the book, the author repeats the age-old Ahmadi
propaganda on the need for ongoing revelations, the "Prophethood" 
of Mirza Gulam Ahmad, and hints at its continuation (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. The main
argument offered in support of his view 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 Baha' Ullah of Iranian
infamy in this book. Before I say a few words in defense of Iqbal,
it is wise to point out the fallacy in Mirza sahib's stance. In 
fact, 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 in his own right. But, 
what improvement did this alleged prophethood bring to the world?
It simply divided the Muslims further and has been responsible for
terrible suffering: the world is generally a worse place to live 
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".

In attacking Allama Iqbal, Mirza Tahir accuses him of having 
borrowed Neitzsche's views in thinking that revelation had ended
with Prophet Muhammad(SAW) and that the holy Quran is the last 
word of Allah. In fact, Allama Iqbal, the distinguished Muslim
poet and scholar, 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.

At the time when many Muslim personalities considered Ahmadiyyat
as too trivial for their attention, it was left to Iqbal to 
realize its hidden danger to Muslim identity. While Sir Syed only
wrote that "Gulam Ahmad's claims are useless" and Maulana Azad saw
it only fit to release a few condemning articles, Iqbal realized 
the danger of this Mission and the hidden purpose of its 
leadership. When the Indian 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 miserably on the intellectual front, they
tried to make up for in the corridors of establishment in Pakistan.
The gradual disappearance of Iqbalian philosophy from the Pakistani
public life is not without reason.

In this latest attempt, Mirza Tahir purposely 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 the high social and cognitive maturity to be the recipient
of Eternal Truths. Therefore, Allah, in His wisdom, has completed 
His message in the holy Quran for eternity. The Almighty has 
decreed that the holy Quran be detailed (S.6/1l5), contain Eternal
Truths (S.5/48), have no deficiency (S.6/38), carry the formulae 
to address every problem (S.10/57), and be preserved (S.15/9). 
With the holy Quran, and the authentic explanation of Prophet 
Muhammad(SAW), Al1ah proclaimed that His religion has been 
completed (S.6/116) and will be valid for the mankind (S.81/27)
for all times.

Iqbal stressed that humankind can tackle all its present and future
problems under the guidance of the Islamic revelation; hence, there
is no need for future revelations or new prophets. Every Ahmadi 
should realize that reformers do not have to be Prophets. A 
comparison of Jamal-Ud-Din Afghani with Mirza Gulam Ahmad, for
instance, could be a study in enlightenment for Mirza Tahir and his
associates.

In several chapters, Mirza Tahir has taken up the nature of 
revelation. As expected, he has missed the point and tried to
explain it absurdly in the context of paranormal, illusions,
hypnotism, hallucination, and dreams. In all fairness, we will not
consider sources that are disagreeable (according to Mirza Gulam 
Ahmad "Ahadees are like a Madari's (juggler) patari, and you can
take out whatever you wish") or obscure (Physiology of the Brain)
to Mirza Sahib. Since the author would like us to accept his 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 purpose), 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 the 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 qualification 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 the 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 at least 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 has to 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 borrowed from some manuscripts to delude
himself or impress others, but to actually claim that he wrote this
book is simply pitiable. Those who know him could easily attested 
to this fact. The effort was still worth while because it gave 
Ahmadi propaganda machinery around the world a well-deserved rest
from the routine. Alas! The reality falls far short of the hype and
the failure has to be seen as a collective shortcoming of the 
entire Quadiani think-thank and leadership. The ongoing curse
("prophecy") of (religious) intellectual inferiority in "the 
family" continues.

Despite what the cover of this book would have the reader to 
believe, the real biography of Mirza Tahir is as follows. 
According to Ian Adamson ("Man of God"), Mirza Sahib's ambition in
life was to become a physician (he is now content with his "wor1d-
renowned" Homeopathy practice without qualifications), but failed
in his FSc examination. This was no disgrace, as his grandfather,
Mirza Gu1am Ahmad, also 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), had
failed his middle school examination and was always taunted by 
Molvi Muhammad Ali (Head of Lahori Ahmadi Jamat) for his 
unscholarly ways.

In Mirza Tahir's case, his father relied on his contacts and was
able to arrange for his undeserved admission into SOAS, London 
University. Obviously, he lacked proper knowledge and soon had to
drop out of university. 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 Jamat. Since that time, Mirza
sahib and his close associates have been permanent guests of their
naive followers.

To his credit, Mirza Tahir's primary qualifications are his keen
political sense and his contacts in the right places, including
the intelligence services abroad. His "Escape from Pakistan" and
overthrow of the government in Sierra Leon with the help of MI6
are two prime examples of his strengths. As a politician, he
rightfully boasts that MTA (Muslim Television Ahmadyyiah) is his
biggest achievement. TV being an effective tool in propaganda and
mass control, he is well aware of what he is talking about.

Mirza Tahir is a keen sportsman, but an intellectual lightweight,
who would not be able to stand against any Muslim scholar. This is
the reason why 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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