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.
Ghulam Ahmad is conscious of an obstacle in the doctrine of Finality of Prophethood. And he tries to overcome it by declaring himself to be the selfsame Muhammad that preached Islam in Arabia thirteen hundred years ago. Ghulam Ahmad is not Ghulam Ahmad, but Muhammad reborn and revisiting the world. Those who take him to be himself are in error. He is plainly invoking metempsychosis to cut the Gordian knot. He tries to break the law without challenging its letter and seeks to pervert rather than discard the doctrine of Finality of Prophethood. At the top of his voice he cries hosanna to a provident Finality that had held him in reserve all these thirteen hundred years.
Whatever their claims, the net result of the teachings of Baha'u'llah and Ghulam Ahmad is much the same. The former declares Islam to have had its day, while the latter predicts for Islam an endless vista of glory under his sole auspices. “Jehad stands abrogated,” says Baha'u'llah. ‘‘Islam needs Jehad no longer,” re-echoes Ghulam Ahmad, “and I am here to deliver the funeral oration over it.” “Acre and not Mecca shall henceforth attract pilgrims,” says Baha'u'llah. “But,” interposes Ghulam Ahmad, “Qadian is decidedly better than Acre and certainly as good as Mecca, for I have been shown in a vision Qadian mentioned in the Quran besides Mecca and Medina.”
Baha'u'llah and Ghulam Ahmad represent themselves as world teachers and not as belonging to this, that, or the other community or country. Baha'u'llah seems to acquit himself of this role with greater credit and better grace than Ghulam Ahmad. The Baha'is are expected to consort with people of every religion, and they would pray with Muslims in a mosque, with Christians in a church, and with Jews in a synagogue. But Ghulam Ahmad forbids his followers all contact with Muslims, not to mention Hindus, Jews or Christians.
There is a fundamental difference between the anti-Jehadism of Baha'u'llah and of Ghulam Ahmad. The former exhorts the world to turn the sword into the plough-share, and the pacifist in him advocates something like universal disarmament. Ghulam Ahmad is unacquainted with these issues. He would be content only if the Muslims forgot that their forbears ever wielded the sword. He does not tender the same advice to the Christian world.
As a political thinker Baha'u'llah shows some talent which is denied to Ghulam Ahmad. He wants a League of Nations to settle international disputes, though he cannot be said to have sponsored the league-idea as the Baha'is believe. Baha'u'llah is anxious to unify the human race and he stresses the need of a universal language to promote better understanding and harmony. The invention of Esperanto was hailed by the Baha'is as the dawn of a new era, and they have made the cause of this language their own.
Baha'u'llah, like Ghulam Ahmad, is an emissary of Western imperialism. He denies to backward peoples the right to govern themselves. The pre-war ‘spheres of influence’ and the post-war ‘mandates’ are in complete harmony with his political ethics. Nobody welcomed and blessed more enthusiastically the unrighteous mandate in Palestine, the adopted home of Baha'u'llah and his successors, than Abdul Baha Abbas, the eldest son of Baha'u'llah, who received a Knighthood of the British Empire in recognition of his benediction.
Baha'u'llah condemns industrial slavery, but lifts the ban imposed by Islam on interest. It is interest that makes possible the accumulation and centralization of capital in a few hands, and makes the rich richer and the poor poorer. Interest is the parent of which industrial slavery is the child. It is doubtful whether Baha'u'llah’s teaching has been exercised to any appreciable extent on behalf of the laborer. But he has certainly earned the gratitude of the capitalist.
Baha'u'llah is anxious to curry favour with the West. His ethics is most accommodating to its foibles. Purdah, Jehad, and Polygamy are tabooed. Interest is permitted, and European land-grabbing provided for. His predecessor, the Bab, had prohibited tobacco. But Baha'u'llah knows the prohibition will militate against the spread of Baha'ism in Europe and America; he, therefore, withdraws it. He is an opportunist beyond doubt.
Both Ghulam Ahmad and Baha'u'llah want their followers to be total abstainers from politics. It is a faulty conception of religion that divorces it from politics. The politics of a country mould the lives and destinies of its people and have a way of victimizing those who have no voice or share in determining them. Divine messengers are known to have actively shaped the politics of their times. Moses knew well enough that it was the tyranny of the Pharoahs that had reduced the Israelites to serfdom and blighted their genius. He did not say to them : “Let politics take care of themselves and let the Pharoah have his way : we can carry on reform without touching one or the other.” The emancipator in Moses precedes the reformer and the lawgiver. Alien rule is the worst that can happen to a community; it uproots initiative and deforms character. A prophet cannot shut his eyes to iniquity governing human relations. Far be it from him to acquiesce in, or countenance, dehumanization of man. Ghulam Ahmad and Baha'u'llah amply deserve the censure contained in Sa’adi’s words: “Tell that unfeeling and disobliging wasp that since it will not yield honey, it should spare us its sting.”
The methods of Baha'i propaganda have greatly influenced Ghulam Ahmad and his successors. Baha'u'llah styles himself a ‘Manifestation of God a term that has occasioned a good deal of equivocation and sophistry. Christian converts to Baha'ism have transferred to Baha'u'llah the divinity with which as Christians they had invested Jesus. They look upon Baha'u'llah’s advent as the coming of the Father Himself. The pill of Baha'u'llah’s Godhead is difficult for a Muslim to swallow and he can be fed on the more palatable diet of prophet- hood. To the mystically-minded Baha'u'llah’s divinity is respresented as the mystic’s license. The Baha'i preachers have tried to adapt Baha'u'llah to the beliefs, prejudices, and idiosyncracies of his prospective votaries. They do not mind what Baha'u'llah is made of so long as he is accepted.
Mirza Ghulam Ahmad resembles Baha'u'llah in this respect much as a child favours its father. Ilis prophet- hood is chameleonic and opportunist. When challenged it resolves itself into Mehdihood. The Mehdi, again, has a way of rendering himself less obtrusive in the guise of an inspired reformer whose mission is limited to a century. The mystic’s pose is not unknown to Ghulam Ahmad. It can serve to hide his inconsistencies and make room for his extreme self-exaltation. Ghulam Ahmad is anxious to be accepted rather than understood. He would not like to be committed irrevocably to one proposition or other, as the Qadianis and the Lahoris are trying to identify him with their respective points of view. Ghulam Ahmad is at once a Lahori and a Qadiani, and, at times, he transcends and eludes both. The Lahoris do not, and the Qadianis will not, understand him when he asserts that his advent outshines the Holy Prophet’s.
Baha'ism is a secret cult. The Baha'is cannot be pardoned for having done away with the ‘Bayan’ of the Bab, a book on which Baha'u'llah originally based his claim and which, nevertheless, is believed to contain matter not very complementary to it. The very fact that the Baha'is have suppressed this work does show that the Bab’s teaching must have discountenanced Baha'u'llah, whose claim could not prosper so long as the Bab stood in the way. Whatever little we know of the Bab, we know through the Baha'is, who are an interested party, and utilize the Bab as a forerunner and a mouth-piece of Baha'u'llah. The Baha'is emulate the Ismailis in being secretive about their creed. They do not present Baha'u'llah’s Book of Aqdas as unreservedly as Muslims present the Quran. That shows that Baha'ism, as preached in the common Baha'i literature, omits something vital to that religion. The neophyte is initiated into the mysteries of the faith by degrees. He must believe before he is permitted to understand. Might we not think that a religion, the propagation of which is accompanied by a systematic concealment of its original, official, and authoritative records surely suffers from some grave disability which, if made public, would react unfavourably on the cause ?
Qadianism is not as mysterious as Baha'ism. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad prefers to insert his meaning between the lines rather than entrust it to the unsafe custody of secret circulation. He is covert rather than uncommunicative. His dynastic ambition is clothed in metaphor, and while it is persistent, it is seldom allowed to grow so articulate as to arouse suspicion. He has his asides, and it is to these rather than to his lengthy speeches that we must refer to be the better acquainted with his mind. In one of his asides he predicts the downfall of the British Empire and yet he has all his life been fawning upon the British Government. In another aside he arrogates to himself the station of a prophet and a law-giver. For once he has acquiesced in what has always sounded in his ears as a slanderous imputation. He disclaims his asides when they are overheard. They are his private thoughts not meant for the rag-tag and bobtail. Thus we can say of Qadianism, as we said of Baha'ism, that its common literature does not tell the whole truth.
Both Ghulam Ahmad and Baha- ullah are authors. Their writings are voluminous and vague. The Qadiani calls himself the “Sovereign Writer ” and the Iranian entitles himself the “Supreme Pen”. Both are notorious for their bad grammar. Baha'u'llah’s mother tongue is Iranian, of which he is an undisputed master. But his Arabic takes leave of grammar as well as idiom. And his divine mission seems labouring under an inferiority complex when it chooses Arabic, a foreign tongue, as the language of by far the most important of his works, Kitab-ul-Aqdas (the Holy Book), which is to the Baha'is what the Quran is to the Muslims. He seems to think the Iranian language to be lacking in, and incapable of acquiring, notwithstanding his advent, the ascendency that belongs to Arabic. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad spoke the language of the Central Punjab, which is not a language of literary expression. He generally wrote in Urdu and occasionally in Arabic and Persian, but of none of these can he be said to be even a tolerable master. He has pretensions to being the most gifted author in the world. His is a cheap scholarship that fails to see its own limitations. He has the habit of offering cash prizes, far beyond his means, to those who might successfully rebut his arguments and he exults like a victor over his repeated challenge remaining unanswered. His writings are wanting in moral tone, a disadvantage that Bahaullah does not share with him. The latter has nowhere in his works bastardized his opponents, or characterized them as filth-eaters, which the former has done in prose as well as in rhyme. The “Sovereign Writer ” has much to learn from the “Supreme Pen.”
The Baha'is and the Qadianis have many an oddity in common. The sophistries characteristic of the Qadianis belong to the Baha'is as well. The Baha'is have ransacked the Scriptures of Christianity and Islam in their attempts to find Baha'u'llah mentioned in the prophecies. The Qadianis have undertaken as much on behalf of Ghulam Ahmad. These researches have not been very fruitful, but the followers of these newfangled faiths believe that their masters are deducible from the Bible and the Quran. They would do any violence to the text in order to make it yield the meaning they have decided to extract from it.
The Baha'is as well as the Qadianis are regular traders on the prophecies emanating from their respective teachers. It is for them to decide whether it was Ghulam Ahmad’s ill-will or Bahullah’s curse that overthrew Ottomon Turkey, that had ignored the former and interned the latter. It should be equally debatable whether the German defeat in the Great European War was the Messiah’s doing or Baha'u'llah’s; the former had visualized torrents of blood, and the latter had actually pronounced his malediction on the German victor of Napoleon III. Let the Baha'i and the- Qadiani also decide whether the British ‘sphere of influence’ in Iran was the Messiah’s parting gift to the British nation or Baha'u'llah’s visitation upon the people that had persecuted the Babis and the Baha'is. Be that as it may, the Ahmadi will insist, and the Baha'i should gladly allow, that pestilence and earthquakes are the Messiah’s monopoly. It is not for us to say whether it is the Baha'i or the Qadiani that has the upper hand. Each finds his match in the other. They are as twins, and have certainly gone to school together.
Ghulam Ahmad and Baha'u'llah have a passive attitude towards life. They can expatiate for hours and hours on the sublimity they claim for their preaching; they can dilate upon the wrongs, fancied or real, that they have suffered, and seem masochistically to delight in doing so; they are the loudest in condemning the world, but far too afraid of its might to risk hostilities. They represent their weakness as strength, their necessity as virtue, and their inferiority as superiority. They borrow its values from the world and create none of their own ; they are pupil-teachers at their best. Propagandists, parodists and mountebanks, they sought to impose upon the world. Bui the world is not to be taken in by sheei legerdemain. It knows its Titans frorr its pigmies; it bows before the former and jostles away the latter.