By Qasim Rashid, who is an attorney and graduate of the Richmond School of Law. He served as Executive Editor of The Richmond Journal of Global Law and Business.
The case of the missing Messiah is a mystery that has intrigued countless minds through the ages. Pope Innocent III predicted Christ’s return and doomsday in 1284. William Miller made his call in October, 1844. Alexander Dowie launched his campaign at the turn of the 20th century. Edgar Whisenant added his pitch for September, 1988. Some throw Nostradamus and Sir Isaac Newton, too, in the ring of doomsday predictors.
And then there is Harold Camping, a quasi-theologian Christian who swears “beyond a doubt” that May 21st, 2011 will hail Christ’s return — and doomsday. Camping was already wrong once before in 1994, but there is a much deeper issue that many are missing.
Orthodox Muslims believe Jesus ascended to heaven, and await his descent to save Muslims and destroy their opponents. Many Christians believe the same, only this time Jesus saves Christians. Jews believe Elijah’s descent from heaven will hail in the Messiah’s coming and victory for the Chosen People. Multiple other religions promulgate similar views but regardless of the religion, each proclaims an absolute monopoly on truth and personal assurance of salvation upon the Messiah’s return.
But of all the people throughout history who have allegedly ascended to heaven, how many actually descended to tell us about it?
This question brings to light a crucial lesson. While adherents of every great religion have followed suit to the exact same claim of ascent, not one can offer even the most basic, let alone substantive, proof of descent.
And herein lay the numerous issues.
First, if the Messiah will descend from heaven to usher in instant peace and salvation, then God should have sent him six thousand years ago to avoid all the bloodshed.
Lest we be accused of questioning God’s will, let us move on.
Second, what makes any one story of alleged ascension (and hopeful descent) more credulous than the other? Such faith is no more or less valid than the ancient Greeks who believed gods descended and walked among them. Actually, historically speaking, the Greeks have more claim than Christians or Muslims (and maybe even Jews) to the awaited descent as the Greeks conceived of the idea before the Abrahamic faiths.
Finally, what is the point of a literal descent and literal destruction of the world? Is God’s message so weak that He can only establish His Truth through a choice of forced conversion or death? How very un-God-like. Whatever happened to, “Come now, let us reason together” (Isaiah 1:18), or “I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict” (Luke 21:15), or “Call unto the way of thy Lord with wisdom and goodly exhortation, and argue with them in a way that is best” (Quran 16:126)?
Here is the point to this mystery.
Why do believers not consider the possibility that perhaps the Messiah’s advent will not be a literal descent from heaven and will not spell Earth’s literal destruction?
Rather, what if the Messiah came to unite all religions under one flag of peace with love — not forced conversion? What if he came to revive faith through rational discourse — not violence? And what if he came to establish truth through logic — not dogma? Perhaps it is because this task sounds so daunting, that it is easier to believe in a literal descent from heaven.
We needn’t feel compelled to await a physical descent. It’s a concept Jesus, too, rejected when he pointed to John the Baptist as the spiritual return of Elijah (Matt 17:11-13). The Quran also clarifies, “And call to mind when Jesus, son of Mary, said: O children of Israel, surely, I am God’s Messenger onto you … and give glad tidings of a Messenger who will come after me, his name will be Ahmad. And when he came with clear proofs, they said this is manifest sorcery” (Quran 61:7).
But the mystery doesn’t stop here. Now, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad enters the stage.
Ahmad categorically rejected the belief that anyone would physically descend from heaven, and laid claim as that long-awaited Second Coming of the Messiah foretold by all great religions. Ahmad’s message does not espouse violent destruction of the world, but the peaceful reformation of mankind through love, rational discourse, and logic. In more than 80 books and thousands of essays are the “words and wisdom” the first Messiah promised to serve as the proof of his truthfulness.
Go forth with this goodly exhortation; you have Ahmad’s words and wisdom available at your fingertips so that we may reason together. And, as you study Ahmad’s claim as the Messiah, you just might speak two words countless minds never could.