John Alexander Dowie, a Scotsman by birth (born 1847), migrated with his family to Australia in 1860. In 1867 he moved back to Scotland to study theology. In 1872, he returned to Australia and found work at a congregational church in the small city of Newton near Sydney. Later, he became a minister in a Melbourne Church. In 1878, he organised the International Healing Association. After forming his own church in 1896 he began to purchase large tracts of land some forty-two miles north of Chicago. Dr Dowie initially referred to himself as an ‘authoritative teacher’ up until 1901.  In January 1901 he claimed to be the prophet Elijah’s third arrival to prepare the people before the coming of Christ.[2]  Then on September 18, 1904.  he declared his ultimate office to be that of ‘The First Apostle.’ Hazrat Mufti Muhammad Sadiqra came across a newspaper from Calcutta stating that there was a new claimant of Prophethood from America named Dowie. Hazrat Mufti Muhammad Sadiqra wrote a letter to Dowie and inquired about his claims. Dowie replied with his literature which was presented to the Promised Messiahas. The Promised Messiahas instructed Hazrat Mufti Muhammad Sadiqra to subscribe to his weekly newspaper ‘Leaves of Healing’ and to read out the translation of the newspaper to him. Hadhrat Mufti Sadiq would translate parts of his newspaper and would read them out to the Promised Messiah. The Promised Messiah would listen to the translation of his newspaper in between Maghrib and Isha prayers and this continued for a few months. As with other priests, Dowie would proclaim the innocence of Jesus and declare all other prophets of God as sinners but what differentiated him from the others was his claim of Prophethood. Like the other priests, he also had a deep hatred for Islam, and he would often vilify Islam in his writings once he wrote about the destruction of all Muslims in his publication, Leaves of Healing.[3] He wrote:

One of the greatest systems in the Orient is Mohammedanism . . . the Mohammedan is taught to look forward to heaven as one vast brothel and harem, where he can find satisfaction in women that are prepared for him as the creatures of lust. Zion will have to wipe out that shocking blot upon humanity.”[4]

The Promised Messiahas was aware of his vilifying attacks on Islam and his beloved the Holy Prophet saw. The Promised Messiahas wrote to him in September 1902, which was translated and published in the September issue of the Review of Religions under the title ‘An Answer to Dr Dowies Prediction of a General Destruction of All Muhammadans’.

Since Dowie had claimed to be the Prophet Elijah’s third manifestation and the first apostle, in order to prepare before the second advent of Jesus, The Promised Messiah explained to him that the true claimant of Prophethood is bestowed with the support and power of God he wrote:

 “If an adversary chooses to vie with him in religious truths and knowledge, the messenger of God comes off victorious; if the competition is as to the supernatural signs, his adversary is a certain failure; and if anyone tries conclusions with him in Mubahila and prays to God, alone or in opposition to him, that the liar should perish before the other, the enemy of God’s messenger must perish in his lifetime”[5]

The Promised Messiah put forward his claim of being the very person that Dowie had predicted would appear in the next 25 years He challenged him, that instead of a prayer, which if fulfilled, would mean that millions of Muslims would lose their lives, Dowie should instead pray for the destruction of the liar from among the two claimants as Dowie claimed to be sent by Jesus his Lord. He wrote:

“Dr Dowie should further bear in mind that this challenge does not proceed from an ordinary Muhammadan. I am the very Messiah, the promised one, for whom he is so anxiously waiting. Between Dr Dowie’s position and mine the difference is this that Dowie fixes the appearance of the Messiah within the next twenty-five years, while I give him the glad tidings that the Messiah has already appeared”[6]

“As regards the Muhammadans, we hope Dr. Dowie will renounce his claim upon all if the decision can be come to by an easier method.  God of Dowie is the true God may be settled without the loss of millions of lives which Dr. Dowie’s prediction would involve. That method is that without threatening the Muhammadan public in general with destruction, he should choose me as his opponent and pray to God that of us two whoever is the liar perish first…If Dr. Dowie has the courage to accept his challenge, he will thereby open a way for all other Christians to the acceptance of truth.”[7]

The challenge of the Promised Messiahas was published widely by newspapers in America and Europe.  

List of newspapers from the USA that published the challenge

‘The Inter Ocean’ a Chicago-based newspaper published the challenge of the Promised Messiah (as) on Sunday, June 28, 1903. It published the picture of both claimants side by side under the heading ‘Will Dowie Fight the Duel?’

The Inter Ocean June 28 1903

The ‘The Inter Ocean’ newspaper after publishing the challenge noted:

“But Mirza will not find a warm welcome if he comes. Dowie isn’t inviting any rival prophets or Messiahs. He doesn’t want any side shows, and, what is more, he never would listen to the easterner’s preposition, for Mirza insists upon writing the prayer. The Zionites far there is some sort of a hidden trick in this very proposition, and they declare they know the doctor won’t have anything to do with the plan. At any rate, over in Punjab Dowie will be discredited if he does not enter the duel. But there are not many Hindoos in the Dowie flock, so, in the long run, it doesn’t make much difference. But the question is not one of what the followers think about it. It is. Who is a liar? Will Dowie light it out?”[8]

More than forty newspapers published the challenge of the Promised Messiah. The Literary Digest, a magazine on June 20, 1903, published the challenge with the picture of the Promised Messiahas.

The Literary Digest

The Promised Messiahas has given a list of 32 newspapers which had reached him at the time. He stated:

“These are the newspapers that have reached me. It seems from this multitude [of reports] that it must have been reported in hundreds of newspapers.”[9]

The reports of the challenge were also published in the UK press across the country. A few of those reports are given below: Dowie remained silent and did not respond for some time. There is no doubt that the message of the Promised Messiah had reached Dowie because of the mass publication of the duel.

British Newspapers

After pressure from the press and from his followers he wrote the following which was also published in his weekly newspaper ’Leaves of Healing:

There is one foolish man in India, a Mohammedan Messiah, who persists in writing to me saying that the body of Christ is buried at Cashmir, in India and can be found there. He never says that he has seen it, But the poor, fanatical and ignorant creature keeps on with the raving that the Christ died in India. The Christ reascended into the heavens at Bethany, and He is there in His Celestial Body. [10] At another occasion when asked to respond. He replied: Do you think that I shall reply to these gnats and flies?…If I put my foot on them I would crush out their lives.[11]

The replies of Dowie were full of arrogance and derision. He went on to publish his prayer for the destruction of Islam: Dowie prayed:

“How can anyone who knows exactly what Mohammedanism is, for one single moment imagine that God or man can forever stand that abomination? “Where the Moslem hoof comes no grass grows” is the Eastern proverb. Wherever the accursed teaching of Mahomet has come there has been an end of all real progress…. I pray for the day to come when the Crescent shall disappear, and when the flags – I would like to see them united there and everywhere of Great Britain and America – shall float over Zion at Jerusalem, as they often do at the city of Zion near Chicago. May God Grant it! It is the time that the Moslem abomination was gone, “bag and baggage” as Mr. Gladstone used to say. Let it slink away back into the deserts of Arabia whence the filthy thing emerged. . . May God destroy it?[12]

Despite the abusive language of Dowie, the Promised Messiah published another announcement in English on 23 August 1903, reiterating the challenge to establish the falsehood of a liar:

“I am about seventy years in age and Mr. Dowie, as he states, is a young man of fifty but I do not care for my age because this Mubahalah will not be decided by our ages but God who is the Most Supreme Authority will decide it. If Mr. Dowie flees from this confrontation—even then, the calamity will certainly befall his Zion soon. Now I finish this discourse with this prayer: ‘O All-Powerful and Perfect God, who always reveals Himself to the Prophets and shall continue to do so, settle this matter soon and reveal the falsehood of Mr. Dowie to the people. I am certain that whatever You have promised me through Your revelation, shall be fulfilled definitely. O Almighty God, hear my prayer, You have all the powers.”[13]

Dowie Struck with Paralysis

The times for verbal exchanges having ended, the decree of Dowie had been signed by the God Almighty. The challenge of The Promised Messiahas was not his own, rather God Almighty had inspired him to do so. He wrote:

“In making this proposal, I have not taken the initiative, but the jealous God has inspired me upon Dr. Dowie’s presumptuous prediction that all Muhammadans shall perish”[14] 

Thus, the challenge was a result of a Divine Decree and was put forward with conviction. Within two months of the publication of the final announcement, a great heavenly sign was witnessed all over the United States. The following were the events leading up to it. 

After the announcement of the Promised Messiahas was sent to him, Dowie planned an evangelical trip to New York on October 18, 1903. He had been dreaming about marching his army of three thousand soldiers to New York on a mission to convert the New Yorkers.  Madison Square Garden in New York, a venue known for big international gatherings, was booked from October 18th to November. Dowie would be accompanied by Zion’s white-robed choir of hundreds of voices and Zion’s city brass band.

Arrangements for this large event took ten months of planning and only a few hundred thousand pounds. It was planned that three thousand of his soldiers would march from Zion to New York. Eight trains carried thousands of his followers for the meetings planned for Madison Square Garden, which was rented for a month.[15] The New York Times published an article under the headline: ‘Invasion of New York by Dowie’s army’. The Chicago Tribune expressed an expectation of 100,000 converts. A crowd of 30,000 people packed Madison Square Garden to hear Dr Dowie. The event was widely publicised. This is apparent when reading the frequent advertisements of the event in the issues of the Leaves of Healing 1903. Dr Dowie knew well that if he captured the hearts of the New Yorkers, he had literally captured the entire United States. Prospects were simply unlimited. Preliminaries began weeks in advance. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent on publicity.

Madison Square Gardens started filling up soon after dawn on  October  18th 1903. Soon it was packed to capacity, with thousands of others unable to gain access,  having to stand outside. Fifty bands playing Zion tunes and religious hymns welcomed Dowie. It was the moment that he had been waiting for, he knew that his magic lies in his remarkable oratory which had left people spellbound in the past. But as Dowie approached the rostrum it was as if angels had snatched his voice from him, he stood there speechless. People who had eagerly been waiting to listen to Alexander Dowie now had begun to stir and then slowly started moving to leave the arena. Dowie asked the Zion Guards to close the door, but it had a reverse effect. More people left and eventually it developed into a stampede. Overall a total failure and soon after he returned, he was faced with many lawsuits. he had taken over $300,000 out of the banks and left the city in a bad financial state.

This was only the beginning. He had decided to undertake a world tour to win converts but was denied accommodation in Melbourne Australia; and wherever he went, he faced disgrace. His last destination was England People refused to listen to him, and in disgust, he left in disguise. Upon his return to the United States, he was faced with a hostile press wanting to know about his relationship with his constant female companion.

The irony of it all was that Alexander Dowie was facing charges on the very count he attacked Islam. In an issue of the Leaves of Healing (September 12, 1903) Dowie had attacked the teachings of Islam which permitted polygamy and described it as lustful teaching. He wrote, “Islam drew Quraish tribes in the name of carnal lust so that they could live a life of self-gratification.” 

Logic and reason fail to give a satisfactory answer to this sudden change in Dowie’s fortunes with the exception of the public challenge made by the Promised Messiahas on August 23, 1903. In September 1905, only two years after the challenge of the Promised Messiahas Dowie was struck down with paralysis. The tongue that vilified the Holy Prophet of Islam and his spiritual son was seized by God Almighty.

In December of the same year, another attack of paralysis left him completely crippled. The feet that Dowie of Zion had proudly stated could trample the Muhammadan Messiah, like a gnat or fly, could now not even support his own body. Great was his fortune, but still greater was his adversity. Great was his rise, but still greater was his fall. He asserted that disease was a sin and claimed the power of healing and yet he was laid low by the worst of diseases. Denounced and cast out, John Alexander Dowie was leading a miserable life.

But along with the physical torture, mental torture followed. Dowie’s followers discovered that he indulged in heavy drinking, while preaching against it,  and also, the misappropriation of the organisation’s funds as a result of which he was deposed from his position. He was accused of embezzling $2,529,766 from Zion City of which $35,000 was found to have been given as gifts to women of Zion.

The Promised Messiahas received many revelations referring to the demise of Dowie and the great victory that would be bestowed on him

On the 9th of February 1907, he received two revelations which read:

 1: انک انت الاعلی: ‘You shall indeed be victorious.’

2:  العید الآخر تنال منہ فتحا عظیما: ‘You shall be bestowed another Sign that shall cause happiness and by which you shall be granted a great victory.’

The Promised Messiahas writes: “The gist of it is that on 23 August 1903, I had published an announcement in English, opposing Mr. Dowie. On receiving revelation from God Almighty, I had written therein that whether or not Mr. Dowie does a mubahalah with me, he will not escape God’s punishment and God will distinguish the true from the false…. I kept praying to God asking for the death of the liar. Hence, God Almighty informed me a number of times that I would be victorious the enemy would be destroyed. Then, just fifteen days before Dowie’s death, God Almighty informed me once again of my victory through His revelation which was published by me on the second page after the title page of the book, Qadian kay Aryah aur Hamm [‘We and the Aryas of Qadian’] about a fortnight prior to Dowie’s death, which is as follows:

‘I shall manifest a fresh Sign in which there shall be a great victory. It shall be a Sign for the whole world. (That is, its manifestation will not be confined to India alone.) This will be caused by the hands of God and will be from the heavens.’[16]

The Promised Messiah writes further: “Let each eye eagerly await its manifestation, for God will soon manifest it. This will happen as a divine testimony that this humble one upon whom all nations are heaping abuse is from Him. Fortunate indeed is the one who benefits from it.”[17]

Thus, it happened as it was prophesied in the words of God, on the 7th of March 1907; Alexander Dowie died at the age of 59, abandoned and deserted by his wife and his son. His death was a sign of the truthfulness of Islam and the Promised Messiahas.

Chicago Evening News on March 9, 1907, wrote:

 ‘He built a creed; He was excommunicated. He built a city; He was expelled from it. He amassed a fortune of millions; He was reduced to virtual poverty. He elevated Volivia to a great power; Volivia[18] ruined him. He drew about him thousands who worshipped him; He died deserted by all save a handful of the faithful.’

Similarly, Nebraska State Journal 4th June 1907 wrote: “This was a bold thing for Mirza Ghulam Ahmad to say unless he had authority for doing it. Since he was then seventy years of age while Dowie was a mere boy of fifty-six. But he said it boldly, and as one speaking with authority. The outcome seems to have justified every word of it. Mr Dowie did leave the world with great sorrow and torment.”

The Sunday Herald of Boston on June 23, 1907, published a sketch of the Promised Messiahas with the title ‘Great is Mirza Ghulam Ahmad the Messiah’

The sign of Allah in truthfulness of the Promised Messiahas was not limited to the past, recently his Fifth Khalifa, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad(May Allah be his Helper) has inaugurated the first Mosque in the city of Zion where this grand sign of the truth of Islam and of the Promised Messiah (peace be upon him) came to pass over a century ago.

Worldwide Head Of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Inaugurates First Mosque In Historic City Of Zion

[1]  Sahih al-Bukhari Kitab-u-Altauhid Chapter: 1 Hadith: 3

[2] Leaves of Healing 8 January 1901 P.215

[3] Zikr-e-Habib 324-325

[4] Leaves of Healing, Volume XIII, p.474

[5] The Review of Religions September 1902

[6] The Review of Religions September 1902 P.345

[7] The Review of Religions September 1902 P.344

[8] The Inter Ocean Sunday Morning June 28, 1903

[9] Haqiqatul Wahi (The Philosophy of Divine Revelation P.636-638)

[10] Leaves of Healing, December 27, 1902, Haqiqatul Wahi (The Philosophy of Divine Revelation P.640)

[11] Leaves of Healing, September 24, 1903

[12] Leaves of Healing, Volume XII, p.526 Saturday, Feb 14, 1903

[13] ‘Haqiqatul Wahi’ (The Philosophy of Divine Revelation P. 639),  The Promised Messiahas has discussed the sign of Dowie in his book ‘Haqiqatul Wahi’ (The Philosophy of Divine Revelation) under the heading ‘A Great Victory’.

[14] The Review of Religion September 1902 P. 345

[15] Chicago Tribune 02/Dec/1903

[16] Haqiqatul Wahi (The Philosophy of Divine Revelation p.640-641)

[17] Haqiqatul Wahi (The Philosophy of Divine Revelation p.)

[18] Wilbur Glenn Volivia, appointed by Dowie to be his successor, led the rebellion leading to the overthrow of Dowie.

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