Review of Religions

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File:Review Of Religions, February 2015 Cover.jpg
The Review Of Religions - February 2015 Cover (Volume 110, Issue 2)

The Review of Religions is one of the longest running comparative religious magazines in print since 1902. The objective of the magazine is to present the philosophies and teachings of Islam as well as bring together various articles and features which study the perspectives and teachings of various other religions from across the world.

The magazine is devoted to promoting intellectual and lively debate that is based on respect for all prophets and religions. The Review of Religions is an international magazine that is published by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community; a global organisation dedicated to promoting interfaith understanding.[1]

History

Mirzā Ghulām Ahmad - The founder of The Review Of Religions

Early History

The magazine was initiated in 1902 by Mirzā Ghulām Ahmad, the founder of the Ahmadiyya movement, aiming to cover a vast array of topics surrounding religion, philosophy and contemporary issues of the day. It is considered to be one of the longest running Islamic Islamic magazines in English.[2] The first ever edition was published in January 1902, however the origins of the magazine stem back further than this. In 1891 Mirzā Ghulām Ahmad claimed to have seen a vision which was published in his book Azala Awhaam. In this vision he saw himself preaching rational and well reasoned arguments regarding the teachings of Islam in perfect English on a rostrum in London.

“What was disclosed to this humble one through a vision is that the sun rising from West means that the Western countries which had been engulfed by the darkness of infidelity and ignorance, will be illuminated by the sun of truth, and they will have a share of Islam. I saw myself standing on a rostrum in London revealing the truth of Islam through well reasoned arguments in the English language. Afterwards I caught many birds sitting on small trees. Their colour was white and their bodies were like those of partridges. Therefore, I interpreted this to mean that even though not me, yet my writings would spread amongst those people and many righteous Englishmen would become the prey of truth. In fact, the connection of the Western countries with religious honesty had hitherto been very rare. It is as if Allah gave knowledge of religion to the whole of Asia and secular knowledge to Europe and America. The chain of prophethood also remained with Asia, as did the benefits of consummate sainthood. Now God Almighty wants to encompass these people with His divine mercy.”[3]

Mirzā Ghulām Ahmad set about fulfilling this vision by organizing the community’s first annual convention which was held in the town of Qadian located in the Punjab, India. The convention was held on 27 December 1891, its objectives were set out through an advertisement published by Ghulam Ahmad on 7 December 1891 expressing his desire to spread the message of Islam to the West. In the following year’s convention he announced his desire to establish an English magazine that would deliver the true message of Islam in Europe and America:

“On 28 December 1892, respected guests gave their suggestions for the religious benefit of Europe and America and it was decided that a magazine setting out the complete teachings of Islam and reflecting the beautiful features of Islamic beliefs should be compiled and printed. Many copies should be sent to Europe and America…. In future as well, the purpose of these yearly conventions should remain the same, i.e. that proposals should be put forth for the propagation of Islam and as an act of kindness for the new Muslims from America and Europe…”[4]

An initial committee was created to help with the administrative work needed to create the magazine, this included the following people:

  • Hakeem Noor-ud-Din (President)
  • Mirza Khuda Bakhsh (General Secretary)
  • Janab Khan
  • Nawab Muhammad Ali Khan, Raees of Malerkotla
  • Sheikh Rahmatullah, Municipal Commissioner Gujarat
  • Munshi Ghulam Qadir Sahib, Vice President and Municipal Commissioner Sialkot
  • Maulwi Abdul Kareem Sialkoti

Early Editions

On 15 January 1901 an advertisement was published which announced the creation of a magazine entitled The Review of Religions, an English language magazine which would be distributed in the West:

“This fact had always been a cause of grave concern for me that all the truths, pure knowledge and satisfying strong arguments in favour of the religion of Islam and the ways to bring peace to the human soul revealed to me and that are still being revealed to me, have not yet benefited the educated people of this country and the seekers of truth in Europe. This anguish was so great that it became unbearable. But Allah wants to complete my mission before I depart this transitory world. My final journey will not be one of disappointment. Today, some friends have turned my attention towards starting a magazine in the English language by publishing articles I had written in the support of Islam to serve the aforementioned purpose. It would also be possible to publish religious and secular articles written by others subject to our acceptance for publication.”[5]

The Review of Religions started in English from January 1902, under the editorship of Maulana Muhammad Ali. Initially, the magazine was published from the Faiz Aam Office in Lahore. Later editions were published from Anwaar Ahmadiyya Press at Qadian. In the first issue, Maulana Muhammad Ali penned the prospectus of this new magazine as the first religious magazine in the history of Islam setting out its objectives.[6] The content of the magazine was based particularly on the teachings of Mirzā Ghulām Ahmad. It was later published in Urdu as well. As the readership of the magazine grew so did its appreciation and credibility.

History of Magazine Under the First Caliph, Hakeem Noor-ud-Din

File:Khalifatul MasihI.jpg
Al-Hājj Mawlāna Hāfiz Hakīm Noor-ud-Din, Khalifatul Masih I

The first phase of the magazine spanned only a few years during Mirzā Ghulām Ahmad's life (January 1902- May 1908) but the magazine has gone on to fulfil his vision and has since reached a large global readership. In the second year of the magazine he expressed his vision for it:

“I have come to sow a seed. So my hand has sown this seed and now it will grow and blossom. And there is no one who can stop it.”[7]

Many critics began to question the future of magazine and the community itself following the demise of Mirzā Ghulām Ahmad. His first caliph (successor) was Hakeem Noor-ud-Din. During the community’s Annual Conference in 1908, he commented on the views of the critics:

Curzon Gazette is a newspaper published in Delhi. Commenting on the demise of Hazrat Sahib (i.e. the Promised Messiah(as)) the Curzon Gazette has stated, ‘What is left of Ahmadis? They have lost their head. The person who is now their Imam can do nothing else but recite the Qur’an to them in some mosque.’ So be it, God Almighty; may I recite only the Qur’an to you.[8]

The magazine continued to progress and expand under the leadership of Noor-ud-Din and its content and subject matter grew and many topics began to be covered in great detail including:

• Existence of God • History of the propagation of Islam • A Complete Religion • Islam and the Status of Women • Islam and the Modern Society • Pilgrimage to the House of Allah • England in Britain • Islam and Slavery • Sikhism and Islam • The Lost Tribes of Israel • Contradictions in Christianity • The Messiah and the Cross • Christianity and Slavery • Ahmad, A Prophet of God • Press Review on the Demise • Nature of God as taught by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad.

A number of prominent scholars both from within the community and from various other communities began to contribute to the magazine, including:

  • Mirza Basheer-ud-Din Mahmood Ahmad (son and second successor of Ghulam Ahmad)
  • Mr. Qazi Abdul Haq, BA
  • Mr. Mufti Muhammad Sadiq Editor Badr
  • Professor Ata-ur-Rahman, MA
  • Master Maulwi Mohammed Din Sahib BA
  • Dr. A. George Baker
  • Professor Raj Shahi from Bengal
  • Mr. Khalid Sheldrick Afridi
  • Mr. Maulwi Basharat Ahmad Sahib
  • Mr. Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din, BA, LLB6
  • Mr. Yehya En Nasir Parkinson
  • Mr. Maulwi Sadruddin BABT Headmaster Talimul Islam Qadian[9]

Under Hakeem Noor-ud-Din, people across India also began welcoming the magazine and its message. Mr McBlean of Palampur wrote:

“I have been reading about Islam for more than thirteen years… but so far I have never read a single book like your magazine in which Islam is supported with such power.”[10]

Under the Guidance of the Second Caliph, Mirza Basheer-ud-Din Mahmood Ahmad

Mirza Basheer-ud-Din Mahmood Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih II

Following the demise of Noor-ud-Din and the election of Mirza Basheer-ud-Din Mahmood Ahmad as the second caliph, the magazine was struggling with funds and resources were scarce at this time. But in spite of this He held great optimism for the future of the magazine and indeed the message of Islam in the West.[11] During an address at a community gathering he expressed his joy at the success of the magazine and its influence on readers in the West:

“Likewise, some read the Review of Religions and write to us. We have received letters from Sweden and England. One person read an article about the arrival of Jesus in Kashmir and requested that it be published separately and that 2,000 copies should be sent to him. He would distribute it. This request came from either a German or an English person. There are such rightly minded people willing to hear, what is needed are the ones to address them!”[12]

As the Ahmadiyya Mission began to spread in other countries across the world, the Review of Religions played a significant role in propagating and defending the message of Islam and intellectuals from across Europe and America openly acknowledged the services rendered by the magazine:

“Ahmad died in 1908; but the progress of the movement continued, and it has been recently estimated that its adherents now number perhaps 50,000. It also, has established its missionary outposts in the West, and publishes in English the Review of Religions in India, and the “Islamic Review” in England. An edition of the Koran in sumptuous form, with an English translation, and a commentary embodying the sectarian interpretation, has been begun.”[13]

Spreading the message of the community and Islam became particularly challenging during the first and second World Wars which created great upheaval in many countries. This created greater challenges for the writers and contributors of the Review of Religions who did their utmost to present religion generally and Islam in particular in an insightful and enlightened manner. Translations of the works of Mirzā Ghulām Ahmad and his successors were also published and well received. The content also branched out to cover important historical events, religious conferences, science and religion and so on.

Partition of the Indian Subcontinent in 1947

During the partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947 many Muslims migrated to the newly created Pakistan. To avoid the bloodshed and disorder that tore the country, most Indian Ahmadis also migrated to Pakistan with their leader. The community was uprooted but it soon established its new headquarters in Rabwah, Pakistan in 1948. During this period, the Review of Religions had to temporarily halt publishing until December 1951 under the editorship of Mr Sufi Mati-ur-Rahman.

From July 1962 onwards, Sahibzadah Mirza Ghulam Ahmad MA worked alongside the Late Mir Sahib and also served as the editor and this arrangement continued with great zeal until the third Khilafat.[14]

Under the Guidance of the Third Caliph, Mirza Nasir Ahmad

Mirza Nasir Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih III

During the successorship of Mirza Nasir Ahmad, the magazine continued to progress and as in the past, it continued its tradition of publishing the sermons, messages, and instructions of the Khalifa (successor) and the founder of the community (Mirzā Ghulām Ahmad). However, it still continued to branch out and discuss various other topics including:

  • Mary (Mother of Jesus) in the Bible and the Qur’an
  • Jesus' Life after Crucifixion
  • Progress of Science in Arab and Islamic countries
  • The Lost Tribes of Israel
  • The Attributes of God
  • Buddha and his True Teachings
  • Islam’s Response to Contemporary Issues

Under the Guidance of the Fourth Caliph Mirza Tahir Ahmad

Mirza Tahir Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih IV

Under the leadership of Mirza Tahir Ahmad, the fourth caliph, the Review of Religions entered its 80th year. By this time the magazine had become well established in various countries across the world and had cemented a strong readership:

“It was a long time ago, when I was a subscriber of Review of Religions and lost its contact due to my continuous assignments out of the country. I keenly awaited this magazine which was a great source of knowledge about the great religion of Islam and its erudite comments on other faiths. The interpretation of Qur’anic verses and the explanation of certain intricate question and problems were of so great interest to me that I never wanted to miss even a single issue. I appreciate the research of Ahmadiyya about the natural death of Jesus and his travel towards the east, but the way it was explained in your magazine is really commendable.” MILWAUKEE, Review of Religions, December 1983, p. 56[15]

“Although I am not an Ahmadi, may I respectfully congratulate you on publishing the Review of Religions in London. Its message, from you of a True Islam—rejuvenated and confident, is compelling and very necessary. It is also uplifting and informative—and (dare I say it to those lapsed multitudes of Christians) it is comforting—a ray of light in the dark, a refuge for those who seek shelter, and a guide for those uncertain of their way.” John E. Pitcairn, Chichester, U.K[16]

In 1983, Bashir Rafiq (former Imam of the London Mosque) and Bashir Ahmad Orchard (first European Ahmadiyya Muslim missionary) were the editors of the Review of Religions. Mirza Tahir Ahmad took a keen personal interest in the Review of Religions and marked improvements in the range of topics. To make sure these plans were seen through, an editorial board was appointed which included the following:

  • Mr. Bashir Rafiq (Chairman)
  • Mr. Bashir Ahmad Orchard (Editor)
  • Mr. Mubarak Ahmad Saqi
  • Mr. Ataul Mujeeb Rashed (Imam of The London Mosque), Mrs Amtul Majeeda Chaudhry (Assistant Editor).

After some time, the Board was re-organised in January 1994.

  • Mr Rafiq Ahmad Hayat (who has served as Chairman of Muslim Television Ahmadiyya International and currently Amir UK, i.e. National President) became Chairman,
  • Mr Naseer Ahmad Qamar (now Additional Wakilul Isha’at and Editor of Al Fazl International) was made the President of the Management Board.[17]

In January 2002, Syed Mansoor Ahmed Shah (formerly the Editor of the Muslim Herald) was the Chief Editor and Manager with Mr Naseer Qamar as the Chairman of the Board. Under the guidance of Mirza Tahir Ahmad, the magazine branched out to touch various religious and scientific topics and gave them a contemporary interpretation which was well received. By 1994, 10,000 copies of the journal were being printed each month. The Review of Religions marked its centenary in 2002 making it a key element of Ahmadiyya literature and in the propagation of its teachings.[18]

Under the Guidance of the Fifth Caliph Mirza Masroor Ahmad

Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih V

Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the current leader of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and fifth successor of Mirzā Ghulām Ahmad, has been responsible for bringing the Review of Religions on to the world wide web; His historical visits to various parliaments and senates across the world has given the magazine a new platform. The Magazine continues to dispel the misconceptions held against Islam and seeks to combat various important and controversial Issues including:

Opinions of Notable Personalities of Europe and America

Leo Tolstoy 1897, black and white, 37767u

Russian Philosopher Count Leo Tolstoy's views regarding the magazine:

"To Mufti Muhammad Sadiq Sahib, Dear friend! Your letter along with Mirza Ghulam Ahmad’s picture and a sample of the magazine Review of Religions has been received. To engage in the proof of the death of Christ or in the investigation of his tomb, is a futile effort because an intelligent man can never believe that Jesus is still alive…. We need reasoned religious teaching and if Mr Mirza presents a new reasonable proposition then I am ready to benefit from it. In the specimen number, I approved very much two articles, ‘How to get rid of the Bondage of Sin’ and ‘The Life to Come’, especially the second. The idea is very profound and very true. I am most thankful to you for sending me this and am also grateful for your letter. Yours Sincerely, Tolstoy, from Russia. 5th June 1903."[19]

File:Alexweb1.gif
Alexander Russell Webb, one of the earliest Ango-American converts to Islam

Mr Muhammad Alex R Webb, originally established his own Muslims religious newspaper in America but was unable to continue it due to lack of funds, in his letter to the magazine he appreciated the work of the Review:

"I would like to have the Review of Religions in the hands of thousands of Christians in this country for it is doing a glorious work and is carrying the light of truth to the world. I read it with the deepest interest as it represents the true Islam and not the erroneous conceptions of our holy faith that many so-called Moslems are following. I feel that it will ultimately bring forth magnificent results in this country and, therefore I am doing all I can to place it in the hands of those who have open minds and are sincerely seeking the truth."[20]

Professor M.H Houts, (MA), Professor of the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands and Editor in Chief of the Encyclopaedia of Islam:

"Further I beg to express my most sincere thanks for the fourth volume of the Review of Religions which you had the kindness to forward to me. The contents appear to me to be extremely interesting."

Mrs. Addison, Warrenford, Northumberland

"Allow me to thank you very much for sending me the Review of Religions. It is a very able magazine and I enjoy reading it – the articles are so fresh and from a totally unusual standpoint. I was a journalist myself for many years and I can appreciate ‘the best’ I hope in any religion. I have a great admiration for the writings and precepts of your inspired Prophet. Your article on Usury has my entire sympathy, and the remark that Christianity too much fosters ‘bending low to the world’ is only too true. I wish your very able magazine could expose the sporting cruelties to poor birds and beasts practised in England."

A.H. Macbean Esq, Kangra, India

"I have read your magazine entitled the Review of Religions which is very ably written. I have been studying Islam for more than thirteen years and I have done my best to procure every book written on Islam in the English language whether by a Muslim or a non-Muslim author, so that I have now a library of Islamic literature. But I have not come across a single book in which Islam has been defended by a powerful hand as in your valuable journal."

Newspaper Reviews

The Crescent:

‘The following exceedingly able article on the ‘Paraclete’ we cull from the columns of a monthly magazine entitled the Review of Religions.T h e August number of the Review of Religions published at Qadian, India, is full of interesting matter. The article refuting charges made by ignorant Christians with reference to our Holy Prophet, is one of the ablest we have ever read on the subject, and we cordially commend it to our reader’s attention.’

Al-Bayan, Lucknow:

‘The Review of Religions is the only paper which may be rightly called a truly Islamic paper. We have seen many numbers of it and we have not the least hesitation in saying that better papers than Almanar in Arabic and the Review of Religions in Urdu are not published in any language. The Muslims should be glad that in India is published a magazine of whose masterly articles learning is proud. So far as we understand it, the majority of Muslims have no knowledge of this paper, which may be due to the fact that it is issued from Qadian under the patronage of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad.’

The Watan:

‘Though we disagree with the Ahmadis in their particular beliefs, yet we consider it our duty to write that this magazine is a paper of great worth. Its researches regarding Islam are as philosophic and deep as are needed in this age.’

Newspaper Millat from Lahore:

‘So far, all the excellent and incomparable essays of the magazine Review of Religions—which captured the attention of the European people because of Mirza Sahib’s style of reasoning—have created a commotion in European religious world and the priests seem to be in a state of mourning. These essays have saturated the hearts of a large number of Europeans with the spiritual spring of Islam. And its abundance is still continuing.’[21]

The English editor of Calcutta Review, review in April 1902 commented:

"One word more and that to my friend Mirza. He will see from the above how he may be a true reformer among his own body and also have the sympathy and good will of Christians: by standing in, and occupying, the same position of Muhammad, as in his Quran. From the evidence of English idioms – peculiarly English and, never used by strangers, it is clear as daylight to anyone that his deliverance in this newly started Review of Religions are written or concocted by a European—an Englishman (herein again, curiously enough, reproducing exactly Muhammad and his Syrian Christian ‘Archangel Gabrael!’). To the European ‘behind the scenes’ we say, remember the old ‘Archangel Gabriel’s’ fate! His motive may be good but he is in a false way, and he can only come to hurt (though it may not be the sudden and compulsory death of his predecessor): let him take heed in time."

Editors

List of editors and contributing editors to the magazine:

  • Mirzā Ghulām Ahmad (founder)
  • Hakeem Noor-ud-Din
  • Maulana Muhammad Ali (MA)
  • Maulvi Sher Ali (under first caliph)
  • Mirza Bashir Ahmad MA
  • Maulana Sher Ali
  • Maulwi Muhammad Din BA
  • Abdul Rahim Dard MA
  • Khan Sahib Maulwi Farzand Ali
  • Malik Ghulam Farid MA.
  • Sufi Abdul Qadeer Sahib Niaz
  • Chaudhry Muhammad Ali BA, BT
  • Sufi Mati-ur-Rahman
  • Mr. Chaudhry Muzaffaruddin
  • Mr. Syed Mir Daud Ahmad BSc.
  • Mr. Bashir Rafiq
  • Mr. Bashir Ahmad Orchard
  • Mr Rafiq Ahmad Hayat
  • Mr. Syed Mansoor Ahmad Shah
  • Mr. Syed Amer Safir (current editor)

Distribution

The magazine was initially set to be distributed in America and the UK but has since branched out to the following countries and continents:[22]

  • Canada
  • USA
  • South America
  • UK
  • Europe
  • Africa
  • Asia
  • Australia

References

  1. http://www.reviewofreligions.org/about/
  2. http://www.reviewofreligions.org/the-promised-messiah-and-mahdi/
  3. Azala-e-Auhaam pp 515-516 Second Edition published DhulHijjah 1308AH corresponding to July 1891.
  4. A’yeena Kamalaat Islam, p.14, appendix
  5. (Advertised by: Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian 15 January 1901 published by Ziausalam Press Qadian Majmua Ishtiharaat Vol 2 pp 393-395 Shirkatul Islamiya Rabwah
  6. http://www.reviewofreligions.org/download/RR200211.pdf#page=7
  7. Tadhkarat-ush-Shahadatain, First Edition Vol.1, p.63, published November 1903]
  8. Report Annual Conference, Sadr Anjuman-e-Ahmadiyya Qadian, 1907- 1908, p.44)
  9. http://www.reviewofreligions.org/download/RR200211.pdf#page=7 (page 30)
  10. Review of Religions, Urdu, December 1905, Titlepage]
  11. http://www.reviewofreligions.org/download/RR200211.pdf#page=7 (page 32)
  12. Mansab Khilafat, pp.20-22 first edition published Allahbux Steam Press, Qadian
  13. History of Religion, Professor George Footmoor DD, LLD, LITT.D, p.520, New York Charles Scribner’s Son 1919
  14. http://www.reviewofreligions.org/download/RR200211.pdf#page=7 (page 47)
  15. MILWAUKEE, Review of Religions, December 1983, p.56)
  16. Review of Religions, January 1984, pp. 46-47
  17. http://www.reviewofreligions.org/download/RR200211.pdf#page=7 (page 53)
  18. http://www.reviewofreligions.org/download/RR200211.pdf#page=7 (page 57)
  19. Zikre Habib pp 399-401 published Qadian, First Edition, December 1936
  20. http://www.reviewofreligions.org/download/RR200211.pdf#page=7
  21. AlHakm 6 January 1911 p.14]
  22. http://www.reviewofreligions.org/subscription/

External links