Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was born at Qadian, India, on February 13, 1835. He was born immediately after a twin sister named Jannat Bibi, who died a few days later. Mohyuddin ibne al Arabi, a great Muslim mystic of Spain, had prophesied that the Promised Messiah would be born a twin. The name of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad’s father was Mirza Ghulam Murtaza and his mother’s, Chiragh Bibi. He had an older brother by the name of Mirza Ghulam Qadir and a sister named Murad Bibi.
A distant ancestor of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, by the name of Mirza Hadi Baig, came to India from Samarqand in the latter part of the sixteenth century. This occurred soon after Babar, also from the Samarqand region, had established himself as the first Moghul Emperor in India. Mirza Hadi Baig settled with his companions near River Beas, about seventy miles east of Lahore, and founded a village by the name of Islampur. Later on this place came to be known as Islampur Qadi which, in the course of time, got shortened to Qadian. At the time of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad’s birth, Qadian was merely a small village without electricity, paved roads or railway line. The nearest connection with the outside world was through a place called Batala, eleven miles away.
Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was the thirteenth descendent of Mirza Hadi Baig. During the Moghul rule in India, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad’s ancestors held responsible posts at the royal court and had control over a large area around Qadian. At the rise of the Sikh rule in Punjab, his family started to lose control of this territory, which was eventually confiscated in the nineteenth century by the British Government in India. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad’s father spent his entire life in litigation trying to regain possession of his ancestral estate. He spent a great deal of money and effort towards this end but did not gain much.
The three Khalifas of the Promised Messiah, after Hazrat Maulvi Nuruddin, are shown below by numbers.
Mirza Ghulam Ahmad received all his education at home. His religious education started at an early age of six when a tutor, by the name of Fazl Ilahi, was retained to teach him the Holy Quran and the Persian language.
When he was ten years old, another teacher by the name of Fazl Ahmad taught him Arabic grammar. At age seventeen, he received instruction in more of Arabic grammar and something of logic, by another tutor named Gul Ali Shah. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad’s father, being an experienced physician, instructed him in the field of natural medicine.
Although Mirza Ghulam Ahmad could swim and tide, he was not really fond of games or sports. Right from very early age, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was given to studying the Holy Quran, the Hadith of the Holy Prophet, and other religious literature. Even at this young age his favourite pastime was praying and studying.
According to the custom of the time, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was married at an early age of sixteen, to his cousin named Hurmat Bibi. From this first marriage, two sons were born: Mirza Sultan Ahmad (1853-1931) and Mirza Fazl Ahmad (1855-1904). Neither of these sons performed the Bai’at during the lifetime of the Promised Messiah. Mirza Fazl Ahmad passed away four years before his father’s death while Mirza Sultan Ahmad eventually performed the Bai’at at the hand of Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmood Ahmad, the Second Successor of the Promised Messiah.
Even after the marriage, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad continued to spend most of his time in seclusion, prayer and meditation. The first marriage of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was not a happy one and eventually resulted in permanent separation.
Mirza Ghulam Ahmad’s father wanted him to learn some worldly knowledge and obtain some lucrative post in line with ancestral tradition, but he had no such desire. His father eventually secured him a government post as a Reader in a court in Sialkot. In deference to his father’s wishes, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad took up this position in 1864, at the age of 29. He worked at Sialkot for about four years but his heart was never in his job. He spent all his spare time in worship, in the study of religious books and in carrying out discussions and debates with the Christian missionaries in the area.
In 1868 he learned of his mother’s serious illness back in Qadian. He immediately resigned from his job and returned to Qadian. His mother, however, passed away before his arrival.
The spiritual experiences of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad began in his early youth when he started having true dreams and visions. In these dreams he met various saints and prophets including the Holy Prophet Muhammad. It was, however, in 1865 at the age of thirty, that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad received his first revelation which concerned his age:
“Eighty years or thereabouts, or a little more. And
you will see your distant progeny.”
The above revelation was in the Arabic language. A few years later, in 1869, he received another important revelation in Urdu:
“I shall bestow blessing upon blessing on thee, so much so that kings will seek blessings from thy garments.”
In the beginning, his revelations were short and infrequent, followed by long silent intervals. Gradually, the frequency as well as the length of his revelations increased. The written contents of some of his individual revelations run for many pages. In his lifetime, he received revelations mostly in Urdu and Arabic languages with some in Persian and a few even in English.
After the death of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, a collection of all his dreams, visions and revelations was compiled from various publications into one volume called Tadhkirah. Many of his revelations were repetition of the Quranic verses. The purpose was to emphasize certain meanings and implications of these verses which applied to a particular set of circumstances. A great number of his revelations and visions contain prophecies regarding future events. Many of these prophecies were fulfilled during the lifetime of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad or soon afterwards. But some of his prophecies concern the future and still await fulfillment. A great many of his revelations contain statements of extreme love and endearment which God displayed for Mirza Ghulam Ahmad.
In the year 1875, at the age of forty, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad kept fasts over a period of eight or nine months. He gradually reduced his daily food to just half a piece of bread and intensified his prayers and devotions. As a result, God blessed him with great insight into the spiritual secrets and he met many prophets and saints in his visions.
In the year 1876, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was in Lahore when he had a dream. From this dream he concluded that his father was about to pass away. He hastened back to Qadian and found that although his father was ill, it did not appear that his illness was very serious. The next day, at noon, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad received the following Quranic verse in a revelation:
“We call to witness the heaven and that which appears by night.”(86:2)
With this revelation he was also given the understanding that it referred to the death of his father which was to occur that day after sunset. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was greatly troubled by this revelation and naturally wondered about the cessation of certain sources of income which were available only during his father’s lifetime. Immediately, he received another revelation of the following Quranic verse:
“Is not God sufficient for His servant?” (39:37)
This revelation gave him great comfort and satisfaction. That day, after sunset, his father passed away in accordance with his revelation.
An incident took place in 1878 which demonstrates how truthful and honest Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was in his everyday life. It so happened that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad once sent a manuscript to a printer by mail, at the rate prescribed for parcels. In it he also enclosed a letter, addressed to the printer, giving certain instructions for the printing of the manuscript. He was not aware that postal regulations forbade the inclusion of letters in any material sent at the parcel rate. The owner of the printing press was an opponent of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad and made a complaint against him to the postal authorities.
A case was filed against Mirza Ghulam Ahmad and he was summoned to the court to answer the charges. The lawyer who was representing his case, advised him to deny that he had placed any letter in the parcel. But Mirza Ghulam Ahmad immediately rejected this advice telling his lawyer that he could not deviate from the truth and make a false statement for fear of punishment. His lawyer told him that in that case there would not be any hope for acquittal since he would be admitting to the breaking of the postal regulations.
Later in the court, when he was questioned by the magistrate, he admitted that he had placed the letter in the parcel but explained that he did not know that he was breaking a postal regulation and had no intention of defrauding the Post Office. The court was so impressed by his forthrightness and honesty that the case against him was dropped and Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was acquitted.
Around the latter half of the nineteenth century, Islam in India was being ruthlessly attacked by the Christians and the Arya Samaj, a militant sect of the Hindus. Under the favourable climate of the British rule, the Christian missionaries were spreading their religion with great force and speed. The Muslims in India were completely heedless to this deteriorating situation and Islam in that country was indeed in a sorry state.
It was in such circumstances that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad took up his pen in defense of Islam and to prove its excellences. For this reason he started writing a great book called Braheen e-Ahmadiyya, meaning Proofs of Ahmadiyyat. The four volumes of this book were published between 1880 and 1884 while the fifth volume was published in 1905.
Aside from some articles he had been contributing to the local journals, Braheen e-Ahmadiyya was Mirza Ghulam Ahmad’s first major writing. In this book he presented proofs of the truth of the Holy Quran and of the Prophethood of Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him. He also threw a challenge, accompanied by a prize of 10,000 rupees, to any non Muslim who could refute these arguments and could produce even one fifth as many proofs in favour of his own religion.
Overnight, the publication of Braheen e-Ahmadiyya brought great fame and respect to Mirza Ghulam Ahmad and people began to look at him as a great champion of Islam. He went on to write more than eighty books over the next 28 years. All this voluminous literature was intended for the revival of Islam and presenting its excellence and superiority over all other religions. Most of his books were written in the Urdu language while some twenty books were written in Arabic.
Although Mirza Ghulam Ahmad had been seeing visions and receiving revelations for some time, his real mission and status had not yet been made apparent to him. It was in March 1882, when he was 37 years old, that his true station began to be revealed to him.
“God bless thee, O Ahmad… The Gracious God has taught thee the Quran so that you should warn the people whose ancestors have not been warned… Proclaim: I have been commissioned and I am the first of the believers…
“He it is Who has sent His Messenger with guidance and the true faith so that He should make it prevail over all faiths… We shall suffice thee against those who mock at thee… This is a mercy from thy Lord. He will perfect His bounty upon thee so that it should be a sign for the believers. You have appeared with clear vision from your Lord so give glad tidings to people … Tell them: “If you love God, then follow me, God will then love you…`
“God praises thee from His Throne. We praise thee and call down blessings on thee… I am with thee and be thou with Me wherever thou may be… God will exalt thy name and perfect His bounty upon thee in this world and the hereafter… Give glad tidings to those who have believed that they have the station of righteousness before thy Lord. Recite to them whatever has been revealed to thee from thy Lord”.
With this revelation of March 1882, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad realized that he was being appointed by God as the Mujaddid or Reformer of the fourteenth century of Islam. At this stage he did not make any specific public claim; his status as the Promised Messiah was yet to be revealed to him in another eight years. He, however, intensified his prayers and worship and devoted all his time towards his writings and preaching the truth and the excellence of Islam.
The rust marriage of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, which had taken place when he was sixteen years old, had ended in a permanent separation. Around the year 1881, when he was 46 years old, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad started to receive revelations regarding his second marriage:
“We give thee glad tidings of a noble son”
“Be grateful for My bounty that you have found My Khadijah”
“I have determined to arrange another wedding for you. I shall make all the arrangements and you will not be put to any trouble”
Under the Divine Will, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad married a second time on November 17, 1884. He was 49 years old at the time. His second wife, Nusrat Jehan Begum, came from a noble Sayyed family of Delhi. From this second wife ten children were born whose names are given below:
Five of the above ten children died in infancy or early childhood; the surviving five, three males and two females, lived to ripe old ages.
Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmood Ahmad, the oldest of the five surviving children, became the Second Khalifah of the Promised Messiah alaihisslam and served in this capacity for over fifty years.
Nusrat Jehan Begum, the second wife of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, died on April 20, 1952, in Rabwah, Pakistan. She was 86 years old at the time.
In January 1886, at the age of 51, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad traveled to Hoshiarpur with the intention of spending some time in a solitary retreat. In a house on the outskirts of Hoshiarpur, he isolated himself for a period of forty days. During this time his food was placed outside his door and no visitors were allowed to see him. He spent all this time in intense meditation and worship and was in constant communion with God and received many revelations. He supplicated to his Lord to give him a sign for the truth of Islam. It was during this solitary retreat that he was given the glad tidings of a great son to be born to him who is known, in the history of Ahmadiyyat, as the “Promised Son” or the “Promised Reformer”.
“I confer upon thee a sign of My mercy according to thy supplications. I have heard thy entreaties and have accepted thy prayers with My mercy and have blessed this thy journey.
“A sign of power, mercy, nearness to Me is bestowed on thee; a sign of grace and beneficence is awarded to thee and thou art granted the key of success and victory…
“Rejoice therefore that a handsome and pure boy will be bestowed upon thee; you will receive a bright youth who will be of thy seed and will be of thy progeny.
“A handsome and pure boy will come as your guest. His name is Emmanuel and Bashir. He has been invested with a holy spirit, and he will be free from all impurity. He is the light of God. Blessed is he who comes from heaven.
“He will be accompanied by grace which shall arrive with him. He will be characterized with grandeur, greatness and wealth. He will come into the world and will heal many of their disorders through his Messianic qualities and through the blessings of the Holy Spirit. He is the Word of God for God’s mercy and honour have equipped him with the Word of Majesty. He will be extremely intelligent and understanding and will be meek of heart and will be endowed with secular and spiritual knowledge…
“Son, delight of the heart, high ranking, noble; a manifestation of the First and the Last, a manifestation of the True and the High; as if God has descended from heaven. His advent will be greatly blessed and will be a source of manifestation of Divine Majesty. Behold, a light comes; a light anointed by God with the perfume of His pleasure. We shall pour Our Spirit into him and he will be sheltered under the shadow of God. He will grow rapidly and will be the means of procuring the release of those held in bondage. His fame will spread to the ends of the earth and nations will be blessed through him. Then he shall be raised to his spiritual station in heaven. This is a matter decreed”
In a second announcement, two days later, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad declared that this promised son will be born within a period of nine years.
Two months after the announcement regarding the birth of the promised son, a daughter named Ismat Bibi was born to Ghulam Ahmad. His enemies rejoiced at her birth and took this opportunity to ridicule and defame him. Many of his opponents started saying that the prophecy was falsified by the birth of the daughter.
Then, one and a half year after the famous announcement, a son was born to Mirza Ghulam Ahmad and was named Bashir Ahmad. This son, too, died little over a year later and the enemies of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad again raised a commotion in order to discredit him. They all started saying that the boy who had died was the one who should have lived to become the Promised Reformer. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad responded to these accusations by saying that he had never claimed that this Bashir Ahmad was indeed the Promised Son and that all he had prophesied was that such a son will be born within a period of nine years.
In due course of time, the Promised Son was born to Mirza Ghulam Ahmad on January 12, 1889, within the specified period of nine years and was named Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmood Ahmad. He eventually became the Second Successor of the Promised Messiah and served in this capacity for a period of over fifty years. On receiving a revelation in 1944, Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmood Ahmad declared in a public address that he indeed was the Promised Son whose birth was prophesied by the Promised Messiah in 1886. We will read more about the Promised Son in the section on Promised Messiah’s Successors.