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1. A Sign for America

07 Apr

The Sunday Herald, Boston (June 23, 1907): "Great is Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, The Messiah"

This prophecy relates to the end of Dowie, an American impostor. It is a Sign for Christians in general and for the people of America in particular.

Alexander Dowie was well known in America. Australian by birth, he had acquired American citizenship. In 1892 he started preaching. He claimed powers of healing and people gathered around him. In 1901 he claimed to be a forerunner of the second coming of Christ, just as Elijah was a forerunner of his first coming. The second coming of Christ was then a much discussed subject. The signs laid down for it in the scripture had appeared, and people interested in religion were eagerly waiting.

The publication of his claim brought Dowie a further increase of followers. He bought some land and founded a town called Zion, declaring that Christ would descend in that town. Many rich people, eager to have the first view of Christ on his second coming, paid large sums of money for land on which to build houses in that town. Dowie began to rule in that town as an uncrowned king. Soon his followers numbered more than 100,000.

He sent preachers to different Christian countries. Full of hatred for Islam, he hurled foul abuse against it. In 1902 he published a prophecy that unless Muslims of the world became Christian, they would meet with death and destruction. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian, who had claimed to be the Promised Messiah, heard of this and wrote a leaflet in reply.

In it Ahmad (as) enumerated the beauties of Islam and said that it was quite unnecessary for Dowie to predict and proclaim the destruction of the Muslims of the world. He (Ahmad) had been sent by God as the Promised Messiah, so Dowie could enter into a prayer contest with him. The result of this contest would enable the whole world to determine the truth. This leaflet by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was published in September 1902, the publication having been arranged on a very large scale in both Europe and America. From December 1902 to the end of 1903, newspapers in Europe and America kept commenting on this leaflet, and about forty of them sent to Qadian copies of issues containing their comments. Judging from the extent of the publicity it may be estimated that between two and two and a half million people came to know about the proposed prayer contest.

Dowie did not write in reply to this leaflet, but he went on praying for the defeat and destruction of Islam. He also renewed his attacks. On February 14, 1903, he wrote in his paper:

‘I pray to God that Islam will soon disappear from the world. O God, accept this prayer of mine. O God, destroy Islam.’

On August 5, 1903, he wrote in his paper:

‘The blackspot on the mantle of man [Islam] will meet its end at the hands of Zion.’

Ahmad (as) issued another leaflet sometime in 1903. This leaflet was called ‘Prophecies about Dowie and Piggott.’ Piggott was another claimant in England. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as) wrote in this leaflet that he had been sent by God to re-establish belief in the Oneness of God, to put an end to all attempts to associate others with this One God, and that he had a Sign to show to America. The Sign was that if Dowie entered into a prayer contest with him and he decided, directly or indirectly, to accept his challenge, then in Ahmad’s lifetime Dowie would leave the world in great pain and misery.

Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as) went on to say that Dowie had been invited to enter this prayer contest before, but had made no reply. He was now allowed seven months more. During this time he could publish his reply. The leaflet ended by saying:

‘Be sure, calamity is due to befall Dowie’s Zion.’

Then in the end, without waiting for Dowie’s reply, he prayed:

‘God, ordain that the falsehood of Piggott and Dowie may soon become patent to people.’

This leaflet also was published in the West on a very large scale. Newspapers in Europe and America commented upon it. The Glasgow Herald in Britain and the New York Commercial Advertiser in America published summaries of it.

When this leaflet was published, Dowie’s star was at its zenith. The number of his followers was increasing. They were so rich that every New Year Dowie received presents worth a hundred thousand dollars from them. Dowie owned many industrial establishments. His bank balance amounted to about twenty million dollars. His staff of servants was larger than that of the richest in the land. He was in excellent health: health, he said, was his special miracle, and he claimed the miraculous power of healing by the touch of his hand. Dowie had money, health, followers, influence, everything in abundance.

On the publication of the second leaflet by Ahmad (as), people asked Dowie why he did not reply to the Indian Messiah. Dowie said contemptuously:

There is a Muhammadan Messiah in India who has repeatedly written to me that Jesus Christ lies buried in Kashmir, and people ask me why I do not answer him. Do you imagine that I shall reply to such gnats and flies? If I were to put down my foot on them I would crush out their lives. I give them a chance to fly away and live.

Dr Alexander Dowie

Dowie enters the prayer contest

Dowie, who had so far kept out of any duel with Ahmad, had thus entered the contest, though he continued to say he had not. He forgot that Ahmad had written clearly that even if Dowie entered the contest indirectly he would have to leave the world in great pain and misery while he was still alive. Dowie described Hazrat as a worm and said he could kill him with his foot.

Dowie’s vanity and ostentation increased. Some days later he again described Hazrat Mirza Sahib as the ‘foolish Muhammadan Messiah’, he also wrote:

‘If I am not a messenger of God on this earth, then no one is.’

In December 1903 he entered the contest openly. He declared that an angel had told him that he would be victorious over his enemies. The declaration was a counter-prophecy, a prophecy of the death of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. The spiritual contest which had been developing gradually now became patent and open. After this last declaration, the Promised Messiah wrote nothing and in accordance with the Quranic injunction ‘And wait as they also wait’, he waited for the Judgment of God. God is slow but firm in His grip. The grip of God got hold of the feet with which Dowie wanted to trample down the Messiah of God.

Dowie suffers a stroke

Dowie soon suffered a stroke. His feet were left paralyzed. Far from being able to trample over the Messiah with them, he could not even rest them on the ground. From this, however, he recovered after a few days. But two months later, on December 19, he had a second stroke which prostrated him. Completely disabled, he left his work to his secretary and himself went in search of health to an island supposed to possess a climate that cured paralytics.

But the Wrath of God followed him. Dowie had described the true Messiah as a worm. Now Dowie himself was to be reduced to the status of a worm. The miraculous powers of which he used to boast began to desert him.

Dowie’s house searched

After he left home, his followers began to wonder why he who had the power to heal others could not heal himself. Why did he fall ill at all? They began a search of his rooms, which had been inaccessible until now. They found bottles of wine. His wife and son declared that Dowie drank heavily in secret though he had prohibited his followers from drinking or using any intoxicants.

He had prohibited even tobacco. His wife declared that she had been loyal and faithful to him even during the days of his poverty, but she had been sorely disappointed to know that in order to marry a rich old woman, Dowie had started saying it was lawful to take more than one wife. In promulgating this law he was finding an excuse for bigamy. Dowie’s wife produced letters which this woman had written in reply to Dowie’s.

Dowie’s financial frauds disclosed

His followers became infuriated. They decided to check the accounts of Dowie’s organizations. It was found that Dowie had misappropriated about five million rupees (a million and a half dollars). It also appeared that he had given presents worth thousand of dollars to young girls in the town.

Upon these disclosures Dowie’s leading followers decided to depose him. They sent him a telegram which said:

‘Unanimously the organization seriously objects to your expensive habits, hypocrisy, mis-statements, exaggerations and ill-temper. Therefore, you are hereby deposed from your office.’

Dowie suffers lunacy

Dowie could not refute these charges, and eventually all his followers turned against him. As a last effort he wanted to address them and convert them again to his side. But when he alighted from the train, only a few persons had come to receive him. Hardly anyone paid any attention. He turned to the law courts, but the law courts gave no help in obtaining possession of public funds. He was awarded a miserable maintenance. On the other hand, his paralysis had reduced him to complete helplessness. His servants had to carry him from room to room. He lived in unrelieved misery and pain.  He could not endure his mounting troubles. His mind became unbalanced and he was practically insane. In this condition he appeared before some of his followers, who saw the once robust, pompous forerunner of Christ swathed all over. Dowie said his name was Jerry! He had been battling with Satan the night before! In the battle his general had been killed! He himself had received injuries! Those who heard this disjointed speech knew what had happened. Dowie had gone mad. The last followers left Dowie.

The words of Ahmad (as) were fulfilled. Ahmad (as) had said that before his eyes Dowie would leave this mortal world ‘in great pain and misery’. On March 8, 1907, Dowie died, abandoned and disgraced. When he died, he had only four men with him and his assets amounted to a few dollars only!

A worse picture of pain and misery cannot be imagined. Dowie’s death was an object-lesson, a Sign for the people of the West. Many newspapers declared that the prophecy of Ahmad had been fulfilled. I quote some of the newspapers of those days:

Ahmad and his adherents may be pardoned for taking some credit for the accuracy with which the prophecy was fulfilled a few months ago. (The Dunnville Gazette, June 7, 1904)

The Qadian man predicted that if Dowie accepted the challenge ‘he shall leave the world before my eyes with great sorrow and torment. ‘ If Dowie declined, the Mirza said, ‘the end would only be deferred; death awaited him just the same, and calamity will soon overtake Zion.’ That was the grand prophecy: Zion should fall and Dowie die before Ahmad. It appeared to be a risky step for the Promised Messiah to defy the restored Elijah to an endurance test, for the challenger was by 15 years the older man of the two and probabilities in a land of plagues and famines were against him as a survivor, but he won out. (Truth Seeker, June l5, 1904)

Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as) was much older than Dowie.

Dowie died with his friends fallen away from him and his fortune dwindled. He suffered from paralysis and insanity. He died a miserable death, with Zion city torn and frayed by internal dissensions. Mirza comes forward frankly and states that he has won his challenge. (Boston Herald, June 23, 1904)

These quotations from American newspapers show that the prophecy made a very strong impression at the time.

Newspapers that covered the prayer duel:

  • The Chicago Inter Ocean, June 28, 1903
  • The Telegraph, July 5, 1903
  • The Literary Digest, June 20, 1903
  • The New York Mail & Express, June 25, 1903
  • The Herald Rochester, June 25, 1903
  • The Record Boston, June 27, 1903
  • The Advertiser Boston, June 25, 1903
  • The Pilot Boston, June 27, 1903
  • The Pathfinder Washington, June 27, 1903
  • The Detroit English News, June 27, 1903
  • The Democratic Chronicle Rochester, June 25, 1903
  • The Burlington Free Press, June 27, 1903
  • The Albany Press, June 25, 1903
  • The Baltimore American, June 28, 1903
  • The Buffalo Times, June 25, 1903
  • The Groomshire Gazette, July 17, 1903
  • The Houston Chronicle, July 3, 1903
  • The Trichmond News, July 1, 1903
  • The Argunaut San Francisco, Dec. 1, 1903

How did Ahmad (as) know of the miserable end of Dowie? Why did he challenge Dowie when he knew he was much older than the perfectly healthy and succesful Dowie? Indeed, this is a grand sign for all peoples, especially the West. It is as grand today as it was over a hundred years ago.

“And He [Allah] reveals not His secrets to any except the one whom He chooses, namely, His Messenger.”

_________________________________________________________________________________________
*(as) = alaih-e-ssalam = on whom be peace

 

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