The eschatological aspect of nearly all religions contains prophecies concerning the advent of a Saviour or Messiah, to relieve the world of social, moral and spiritual ills. The Hindus are awaiting the re-advent of Krishnaas[1],the Zoroastrians believe in the coming of Victorious Saoshyant.[2] The Prophet Buddhaas predicted the coming of Metteyya.[3] The Jews have been waiting for over three thousand years for the descent of Elijahas to be followed by a Jewish Prophet.[4] while Christians await the reappearance of Jesus.[5] The Muslims believe that Imam Mahdi (rightly guided leader) will be born from among the Muslims and later the Messiah will descend from the heavens near the end of times.[6] while the founder of the Sikh religion Baba Guru Nanak also predicted the advent of a great Reformer.[7]

How is it that mankind will recognise the latter days? Many of these religions speak on the appearance of their respective spiritual reformers to come before the end of times. The Holy Quran and Ahadith discuss the end of times in many places, for instances Surah Al-Qiyamah Chapter 75 informs about the sun and the moon eclipse at the time of the Promised Messiah.[8] This is further supported by the prophecy of the Holy Prophet about the eclipses of the sun and the moon as a sign of the Mahdi.[9] Further Surah At-Takwir Chapter 81 speaks about the end of times in detail, the verses describe the abandonment of camels as a means of transport, the gathering of the beasts,[10] the joining of the seas,[11] the coming together of different nations[12] and the spread of books among the signs of the end of times when the Promised Messiah is meant to appear. Among the many signs of the end of times the Holy Prophet further explained that Dajjal[13] will come out with an unusual donkey[14] who would travel very fast on land, on sea and in the air with all needed sustenance. It would possess two enormous ears while moving in the skies.[15] The Prophet also alluded to a   mode of transport which would have windows and people would sit in it as a sign for the coming of the Promised Messiah.[16] We recognise these as metaphors heralding the age of steam and air travel. The invention of the internal combustion engine and the development of advanced air travel and modern-day transport are a clear fulfilment of the prophecy relating to the fire-eating donkey.[17]

Similarly, the Holy Quran and the sayings of the Holy Prophet of Islamsa refer to the advent of the Promised Messiah & Mahdi during the 14th century of the Islamic calendar (19th century in the Christian calendar)[18]. The Holy Prophetsa had also predicted that the Muslims would be divided into seventy-three sects, and one would be rightly guided.[19] The Prophet Jesusas also predicted eclipses, wars between nations and stars falling from the skies[20]

Dharmic religions tend to have more cyclical worldviews, with end-time eschatologies characterized by decay, redemption, and rebirth. They do however speak on the coming of a reformer. Prophet Buddhaas when speaking on apocalyptic times also gave glad tiding about the coming of Buddha Maitreya.[21] In Hindu scriptures we also find a mention of Kalki the tenth or the last avatar who is prophesised to come to end the dark times. Bhagavad Gita mentions that whenever there is a decline in righteousness and an increase in unrighteousness God appears in this world through his divine power.[22] These are but a few of the predictions made by these religions. 

The 19th and 20th century saw the fulfilment of signs mentioned by various religions: natural disasters[23], plague[24], solar and lunar eclipses in the Islamic Holy Month of Ramadan[25] and the two great wars[26].

While all major faiths are unanimous in their belief that a Divine personage will come as the Saviour, there is no consensus about his identity. Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmadrh the Fourth Caliph of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community states:

“Each is expecting a different person, under a different name and title; each is expecting him to belong exclusively to their own religious order. It is here that the gates one finds left open for the advent of the saviour begin to be shut again. They are seen shut from the vantage point of those who consider all other religions to be false except their own. The only gate they see open is their own; while their gate, as seen by others, is also shut. All who had joined in the chorus, singing the songs of the advent of a universal Redeemer, begin to sing their separate songs when it comes to his identity. Either he must somehow materialise out of their dreams, or they will accept none other.”[27]

He further states: 

“To whom will he actually belong, whose aspirations will he fulfil while all will be chanting by the fountain of hope: make them mine, make them mine, make them mine! The question which finally emerges is whether a single person is promised or many, simultaneously. God has no contradiction in Him, hence He will either send one person with a single message, or none at all.”[28]  

The Promised Messiahas explained that the reason for the confusion regarding the second coming is due to an overly literal interpretation of scriptures. With regards to the Jews, the Promised Messiahas writes:

The calamity which befell the Jews was that they went on rejecting the Messiah, on whom be peace, on account of their strict literal understanding of words. Not only this, they even continued to reject our Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him. The Jews believed that when the Messiah was to appear, he would come as a king and that he would sit on the throne of Davidas with great majesty and glory. They also held that Elijahas would descend from the sky before the advent of the Messiah, but when the Messiah did appear, he said that John was the Elijah that they were expecting. Moreover, instead of appearing as a King, Jesusas demonstrated such humility that he could barely find a place to rest his head. But how could those Jews who held an extremely literal view accept this? And so, they rejected the Messiah fiercely and to this day they continue to do so. Today, the Muslim clergy are prey to the same affliction. They expect that the Messiah and Mahdi will come to fight wars, but this was never the will of God Almighty anyway, and the words یَضَعُ الْحَرَبَ (He will suspend war) in Bukhari have put an end to this dispute. However, despite all this, they do not wish to accept this ambassador of peace and security[29]

Christians also envision the literal second coming of Christ to be in full glory. In 1831 the Baptist preacher William Miller, who founded Millerism (also referred to as Adventism)[30], predicted that Jesus would return to the earth by 1844. Thousands believed him and sold their possessions preparing for the re-advent of Christ. But when the physical advent of Christ did not occur and the world did not come to an end, his followers were left bitterly disappointed. 

Ellen G. White, founder of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, writes in her book, “The Great Controversy,” about the experience of her Christian brethren in the following words:

“When the time passed at which the Lord’s coming was first expected,- in the spring of 1844,- those who had looked in faith for his appearing were for a season involved in doubt and uncertainty. While the world regarded them as having been utterly defeated and proved to have been cherishing a delusion… Many continued to search the Scriptures, examining anew the evidences of their faith and carefully studying the prophecies to obtain further light. The Bible testimony in support of the position seemed clear and conclusive. Signs which could not be mistaken pointed to the coming of Christ as near. The special blessing of the Lord, both in the conversion of sinners and revival of spiritual life among Christians, had testified that the message was from Heaven. And the believers could not explain their disappointment…”[31]

The other faiths also have unrealistic and supernatural expectations of the Promised One. Like the Jews, non-Ahmadi Muslims, believe in the physical re-advent of Jesusas and due to their literal interpretation of the prophecies, assigned such works to him, that are a mockery to the status of a prophet. Interestingly the Prophet of Islamsa had foretold the resemblance of his community with the Jews in goodness and in mischief, as indicated in the opening chapter of the Holy Quran:

“Guide us in the right path, the path of those on whom Thou hast bestowed Thy blessings, those who have not incurred Thy displeasure, and those who have not gone astray”[32]

The blessings referred to in the first part of this verse are further elaborated in Chapter 4 Verse 70 of the Holy Quran where four ranks of persons have been mentioned namely the Prophets, the Truthful, the Martyrs and the Righteous as a reward for following Allah and his messenger.  Similarly, the Holy Prophet of Islamsa is reported to have said: 

“The divine scholars of my Ummah shall be like the prophets of the Children of Israel” [33]

This is to say that the scholars of his community will resemble the Israelite prophets, and that the same blessings and favours of God will be bestowed upon the scholars of his community. The greatest of those blessings is communion with the Almighty, as was bestowed upon the earlier Israelite Prophets.

However, the verse also alludes to another likeness, in that they were also the cause of God’s displeasure through their denial of His prophets.[34] The Holy Prophetsa described such scholars of his community as ‘worst creatures under the firmament of the heavens’ and a cause of conflict and discordance.[35] He also warned his people: “You will follow the ways of those nations who were before you, span by span and cubit by cubit (i.e., inch by inch) so much so that even if they entered a hole of a mastigure, you would follow them.” We said, “O Allah’s Messengersa! (Do you mean) the Jews and the Christians?” He said, “Whom else?”[36]

The Promised Messiahas explaining the prayer mentioned in the Surah Fatiha (The opening chapter) of the Holy Quran writes:

“Hence, this prayer contains an underlying prophecy that there would be some from among the Muslims who will become heirs of the past Prophets on account of their truth and sincerity and will be bestowed with the blessings of prophethood and messengership. And also, that others would become like the Jews and punishment would descend upon them in the present life; while others still would cloak themselves in the garb of the Christians. The unchangeable custom discernible in God’s Word is that when a certain people are forbidden from committing a certain act, as per the knowledge of God, some from among them will commit it, whereas others will choose righteousness and virtue. Since the remotest ages, it has been the eternal practice of God that whenever He reveals a book in which He forbids a nation against an evil act or urges towards a good act, He knows for certain that some people will obey while others will not.”[37]

Thus, the awaited reformer is a universal necessity, but will his personage be in the form of a single being or would there be multiple reformers? Will Jesus descend among Christians proclaiming his sonship and trinity?  Or will God incarnate Himself to become Krishna for the Indians teaching polytheism and worship of various animals and objects?[38] Or will the Buddha appear and reject the idea of God altogether and instruct people to follow his way to attain Nirvana? Perhaps Zoroastrian’s saviour, ‘Saoshyant’ will appear to reform the world and remove evil[39]? Will the Muslims’ Mahdi come brandishing his sword, waging a holy war against all the un-Islamic governments of the world?

The question is, how is it possible that such diverse and misaligned ideas will bring about the ultimate unification of man that is required? The above scenarios explain the self-contradictory position of each religion regarding the role it claims to play in the ultimate redemption of mankind. They open the doors of hope for themselves and shut them for others. Hence this is the primary reason that religion itself is under attack and it is considered fabricated and out-dated idea. The recognition of the truth of all such diverse and seemingly contradictory claims can only be acceptable if they are taken metaphorically and not literally, and this dilemma will only be resolved if a single reformer is accepted by all for the unification of mankind. This is the most rational outcome. The unity of the Creator demands that all be guided in the same direction to a common destination.

The Founder of the Community explains that all religions at their origin were true and from God. The proof of their truthfulness is in the acceptance of their message and reverence of their founders in people’s hearts which exists even today. This is not the case with a false claimant.[40]

The Promised Messiahas writes:

“As for us, we never use indecent language with regard to the Prophets of other peoples. In fact, we believe that for all the Prophets who have come to different peoples of the world. and have been accepted by millions of people in all parts of the world, and love for them and their greatness has been firmly established in any one part of the world, and further that this state of devotion and love for them has endured the test of time, is evidence enough of their truthfulness. Had they not been from God, they could not have been accepted on such a wide scale by millions upon millions of hearts. God does not bestow such honour upon those whom He favours not. If an imposter aspires to occupy their position, he is soon brought to ruin.”[41]

The question may arise about the differences between religions. This can be resolved through understanding and accepting the evolution of religion. None of these religions claimed to be for all of mankind or that they presented an eternal message for all times. Rather their scope was limited to a specific people and a specific time. God desired to reveal His final law having perfected the evolution of human intellect and comprehension, in order to unite the entirety of mankind. [42]Thus, it is only Islam which accepts all previous messengers of God. There are those who have been introduced with their names in the Holy Quran and others who have not been introduced with their names.[43] Yet what is conclusive is the fact that reformers were sent to all nations.

The Holy Quran states:

اِنَّاۤ اَرۡسَلۡنٰکَ بِالۡحَقِّ بَشِیۡرًا وَّ نَذِیۡرًا ؕ وَ اِنۡ مِّنۡ اُمَّۃٍ اِلَّا خَلَا فِیۡہَا نَذِیۡرٌ

“Verily, we have sent thee with the truth, as a bearer of glad tidings and as a Warner; and there is no people to whom a Warner has not been sent[44]

Islam is the only religion which claims to include the teachings of all previous messengers of God: the most fundamental of them all is the oneness of God which then gives birth to the oneness of mankind. Once Islam is accepted as the final law, then the Promised Reformer has to appear at the end of times from among the Muslims. The Promised Messiahas wrote:

“Now we turn our attention to the study of Islamic teachings and its true nature. It should be clearly borne in mind that the predominant purpose of Islamic teachings is to establish the Unity and Majesty of God on earth, to completely eradicate idolatry and to gather all scattered religious denominations around a single article of faith and turn them into one people. The religions which appeared before Islam and the Prophets and Messengers that came were confined to the reformation of their own respective nation and country; whatever they did for their moral uplift was all aimed for the benefit of their own people.”[45]

This is the understanding put forward to the world by the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Community with irrefutable logic. The promise of the simultaneous advent of so many reformers could only be metaphorical and not corporeal. And it is in this sense that he claimed to have fulfilled the advent of Messiah, Mahdi, Krishna and all others who were to come in the latter days. Thus, the Promised Messiahas never claimed to be the reincarnation of different persons, but the Muslim clergy ignorantly, like those before them, ridiculed and mocked saying how could a Krishna, a Jesus, a Mahdi and a Buddha all become a single person? However, this is the only outcome that upholds rationality and common sense and guarantees the unification of mankind which it desires.

The time for the arrival of the awaited reformer also holds great significance. As mentioned earlier, a section from among the Protestant Christians believed that Jesus would return by the year 1844. Similarly, Muslims also eagerly waited for the Mahdi’s descent at the turn of the fourteenth century of the Islamic calendar, which according to the Gregorian calendar was the year 1882. Interestingly, this was also the same year that the Promised Messiah first received revelation about Mujaddidiyah (Reformation) – that he had been commissioned for the reformation of Islam. Nawab Siddiq Hasan Khan, a famous Ahl-e-Hadith Scholar from India, predicted the coming of the Mahdi at the end of the 13th or the beginning of the 14th century of Islam.[46]

From the early 18th century to the late 19th century, a number of religious revival movements emerged in the East and the West. The Evangelical Movements of America and Europe served to increase the religious enthusiasm and were referred to as ‘The Great Awakening’. Efforts were madeto make Christianity compatible with modern issues, while other apocalyptic such as The Seventh Day Adventist Church openly preached Jesus’s return and the end of the world. In the East it was no different. Movements such as the Arya Samajsts and Brahmo Samajsts of India, emerged to reform Hindu society of social and religious evils, and eradicate practices like the ‘Sati’[47] and caste system. All sought to reform their beliefs so as to make their doctrines compatible with the challenges of modern life. Islam was no exception, and a vast array of reform movements arose in various parts of the Muslim world.

These included the anti-innovation movement of Muhammad bin Abdul Wahab in Arabia in the 18th century and the South Asian Anglophilic movement of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan in the 19th century. He advocated for the spread of modern western style education and social reform among Muslims, while the Deobandi Movement began as a reaction to the British Colonialism which they considered was corrupting Islam.

A voice also appeared from the small village of Qadian in the district of Gurdaspur Punjab, calling the entirety of mankind under one banner. This was Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas of Qadian, the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community. Through divine guidance he set out to rectify the most fundamental misconceptions concerning all religions. He proved that the Islamic understanding of God and His attributes due to the universality of its teachings encompasses all other faiths and thus it outshines all other religions in the world.

In addition, he clarified misunderstandings surrounding Islamic eschatology and key misunderstandings relating to the physical ascension of Jesus to God and his awaited physical return in the future, Naskh (the abrogation of certain verses of the Holy Quran), the concept of the finality of the Holy Prophetsa, and the erroneous concept of the bloody Mahdi and Jihad which was commonly understood as a Holy war.

Ron Geaves comparing the various Muslim efforts in British India writes:

Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835–1908), born in a small backwater of the empire, would reject the isolationism of Deoband, the modernism of Sayyid Ahmad Khan and the jihadism of Sayyid Ahmad. He would agree that the Sirhindi vision of an Islam that returned to the purity of the Prophetic period was paramount, but would reject the fiqh-based reforms of the Deobandi educators. His relationship with the British rulers of India not only was opposed to those who would declare India as dar-al Harb, but went as far as recommending loyalty from the Muslims of India to the British Raj. However, this would be accompanied by an attack on Christianity, a ‘destruction of the Cross’ that could only succeed with Muslims understanding and living by the tenets of the final revelation given to Muhammad. This latter voice would declare a new prophetic impulse, one that would not only restore the final revelation to the Muslims of the world but establish Islam in the capital city of the British and, from there, to the world.”[48]

[1] Gita 4:7-8

[2] Iran Und Turfan by Christiane Reck & Peter Zieme P.72

[3] Buddha; his life, his doctrine, his order by Oldenberg, Hermann, 1854-1920 P.142, 327

[4] Daniel 9:24–27

[5] Matthew 24:1-31

[6] Sahih Bukhari, Prophets, Book 60 Hadith 119 (In-book Reference)

[7] Pargana Batala Gurmukhi Published by Nazir Ishat & Wakil-u-Tasneef London.

[8] These verses are often interpreted by the Muslims to mean signs that will occur just before the coming of the judgment day. The Promised Messiahas however explained these verses with the prophecy of the Holy Prophet about the eclipse at the time of the Mahdi as signs for his truthfulness.

[9] Sunan Darul-Qutni Volume 2 P.429/ Ibn Hajar al-Haithami’s book Al-Qawl al-Mukhtasar fi `Alamat al-Mahdi al-Muntazar, p. 57)

[10] The idea of first public zoo appeared in the 18th century and the first modern zoo was built in 1752 in Vienna, Austria.

[11] The Suez Canal was inaugurated on the 17th of November 1869.

[12] The first passenger railway was operated in England on 27 September 1825, similarly the world’s first scheduled passenger airline service took off, operating between St. Petersburg and Tampa, Fla on the January the first 1914.

[13] The word dajjal is derived from dajala. It means: (to smear, to deceive, to delude). If anyone mixes a true saying with a false saying and defrauds other people, then it is said of him: دجل الحق با بالباطل (he smeared the truth with falsehood). Further (دجل) also means ’to lie. Hence, both these attributes are found in the dajjal. The Qamus are other dictionaries give more reasons for the name of the dajjal. (Mishkatul Masaabih Vol 5 P.60)

[14] Mishkaat Al-Masaabih Mazahir-i-Haq English Vol 5 P.95

[15] Mishkatul Masaabih Vol 5 P.73/ Kanzul Ummal Vol 7 Urdu Translation P.562 Hadith 39699

[16] Bihar-ul-Anwar Vol 52 Chapter Alamat Zahoor Alaihisalam Min Alsufyani wa Dajjal/ Musnad Imam Baqir Kitabul Gaibah P.499/ Al-Ishat Fi Ashrat Alsaat by Imam Barzanji P.76

[17] For more on Dajjal read ’The Essense of Islam Vol III’

[18] Sunah Ibn Majah, Tribulations (Kitab-ul Fitn) Hadith 4057, Mishkatul Masaabih- Mazahiri Haq Vol 5 P.58 (English)/ The Holy Quran 74:16 speaks about the resemblance between the dispensation of Moses and the Holy Prophet, and among this resemblance is the coming of the Messiah in the fourteenth century.

[19] Mishkat al-Masabih, Faith, Chapter: Reliance on the Book and the Sunnah Hadith 171-172

[20] Math. 24:29  (This metaphorically refers to the appalling spiritual condition of the religious scholars of the time.)

[21] Kamma, social collapse or geophysics? Interpretations of suffering among Sri Lankan Buddhists in the immediate aftermath of the 2004 Asian tsunami P.66/ Digha Nikaya, 26

[22] Bhagavad Gita 4.6-8

[23] One example is the earthquake of Kangra Valley on 4 April 1905. The Promised Messiah (as) had prophesized about the earthquakes on many occasions before their occurrence. For instance, on 19 December 1903 and 1 June 1904 the revelation stated: ’A Shock of Earthquake’ (Tadhkirah P.681 & 702)

Then an Arabic revelation on the 1 June 1904 stated: “Temporary residences and permanent ones will be
wiped out. I shall safeguard all those who are in this house. I have bestowed upon you all bounties.” ((Tadhkirah P.703) For more read (Tarikh Ahmadiyyat Vol 2 P.376)

[24] The third plague pandemic was a major bubonic plague pandemic that began in Yunnan, China, in 1855. This episode of bubonic plague spread to all inhabited continents, and ultimately led to more than 12 million deaths in India and China.

[25] The lunar eclipse occurred on the 13th of Ramadan (March 21st, 1894) and the solar eclipse occurred on Friday, the 28th of Ramadan (April 6th, 1894).

[26] The First World War (WWI) was fought from 1914 to 1918 and the Second World War (or WWII) was fought from 1939 to 1945.

[27] Revelation, Rationality, Knowledge & Truth Part VII 

[28] Ibid

[29] Malfuzat – Volume I P.245

[30] A Part of a Protestant Christianity that believes in the second coming of Jesus.

[31] The Great Controversy Chapter 22 Prophecy Fulfilled, p. 391

[32] Quran Al-Fatiha 1:6-

[33] Tafsir Mafatihul Gaib, Tafsir Kabir Surah Yunus 10:57 by Imam Razira

[34] Aal-e-Imran 3:114 “They have incurred the wrath of Allah, and smitten are they with wretchedness. That is because they would reject the Signs of Allah and kill the Prophets unjustly. That is because they rebelled and used to transgress.”

[35] (Shaib-ul-Iman by Imam Bahiqi (d. 484 A.H.), part 2, p. 311, pub. Darul Kutub Al-Ilmia, Beirut. Mishkat Kitab-ul-Ilm Al Furu min Al-Jame Al-Kafi, vol. 3, p. 144 by Allama Abu Jaffar Muhammad bin Kalbi, pub. Nau Lakthur.)

[36] Sahih al-Bukhari 7320, Book 96, Hadith 50

[37] NOAH’S ARK p.74

[38] Bhagavad Gita, 4:7-8

[39] Avesta, Farvardin Yasht, 13.129

[40] A Gift for the Queen P. 4 (English)
Similar quotations are mentioned in Ruhani Khazaen, Vol 23 P.378-379 Chashma-e-Marifat and Malfuzat, Vol 3 P.115.

[41] A Message Of Peace P. 22-23

[42] Ruhani Khazaen Vol 10 P.272-274 Satt Bachan / Ruhani Khazaen Vol 21 P.4 (Deebacha Braheen-e-Ahmadiyya Vol 5)

[43] “And We did send Messengers before thee; of them are some whom We have mentioned to thee, and of them are some whom We have not mentioned to thee“ (Surah Al-Mumin 40:79)

[44] The Quran Fatir 35:25

[45] A Message of Peace P. 42

[46] Hijajul Kiramah P.394-395

Sati or suttee is a historical Hindu practice in which a widow sacrificed herself by sitting atop her deceased husband’s funeral pyre.

[48] Islam and Britain by Ron Geaves P.30

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