Pseudo-Messianic Movements In Contemporary South Asia

Book: Pseudo-Messianic Movements In Contemporary South Asia.
Author: Yoginder Sikand
Publisher: Global Media Publications, New Delhi
Price: Rs 399
Pages: 137 pages
Year of Publication: 2008

Mushtaq ul Haq Ahmad Sikandar
islamicmushtaq@yahoo. co. in
The emergence of a supernatural being who would restore the supermacy, hegemony and influence world over of a certain community or chosen ones during the End Times is a hope of a majority of religions.  This messianic character whether the Awaited Imam Mahdi for Muslims, Kalki Avtar for Hindus, Messiah for Christians or Anti-Christ for Jews is a common similiarity among all these faiths.  From time to time scores of people have declared and presented themselves as the Awaited Ones. The case with Islam has been the same and a majority of these claims were made during the colonial period when Muslim nations were reeling under the hegemony and power of non-Muslim ruling elites.  Though these claims had to face a stiff resistence and were sparsely successful in accomplishment of their respective goals but still they were able to drive a good chunk of Muslims to their ranks resulting in the formation of new sects, thus making the dividing wedge draw deep.

The present book under review is a study of three of these pseudo-messanic movements which emerged in the twentieth century in Muslim South Asia. The book is divided in three chapters each focusing on these respective movements.  

The first chapter deals with the Deendar Anjuman whose founder Siddiq Husain claimed to be the Kalki Avatar awaited by Hindus so as to win them over to Islam but in doing so the movement lost its track, hence unable to forment a revolutionary change.  It was also difficult for the Hindus to believe Siddiq Husain as the promised one because according to the Anjuman sources itself, "In early 1926, 33 Indian gurus had put forward the claim of being the Jagat Guru or 'Teacher Of the Whole World” (p.  27).  So it was a Hobson's choice for the common folks.

The second chapter deals with the Atba-i Malak Bohra Jamaat which is a sect among Shia Muslims of India.  As little has been written about the beliefs of this sect of Shia, this chapter is a pioneering effort in this field.  It deals with the origin of this sect, its division in Badri and Vakili sub-sects and its emphasis on esoteric phase of Islam nullifying the exoteric one.

The third chapter deals with the messanic movement of Riyaz Ahmad Goharshahi, i. e The Mehdi Foundation International (MFI).  Though Goharshahi Movement later split into two factions, Pakistan-based Anjuman-e Sarfaroshan-e Islam (ASI) and London-based MFI but the latter is more outspoken though ASI claims that MFI head Yonous al-Gohar concocted and interpolated the teachings of its founder.  This chapter deals with the emergence, evolution, split and present stance of this movement, which as MFI claims is the saviour of the whole humanity as the image of this cult's founder appeared in large number of places, including the moon, the sun and numerous stars as well as churches, mosques, imam-bargahs and temples in addition to the Hajr-i-Aswad, according to their claims.  The last topic discusses MFI's stance and America's War On Terror which the author has vividly depicted as pro-Imperialistic and anti-Muslim which MFI's statements try to camouflage by claiming that this War On Terror is a Divine punishment for Muslims because of their outright rejection of Riyaz Goharshahi as the Messiah whom even Prophet Muhammad (SAW), according to MFI claims, predicted and revered with high respect.

What were the causes which led these people claim Messanic interpretations leading to the creation of different cults? Maulana Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi answers these quries surprisingly: "When I read the histories of Batinite movement, of Ikhwan al Safa, of Bahaism in Iran and Qadianism in India, it seems to me that when the founders of these movements read the history of Islam and the life of the Prophet it struck them that a man, all by himself stood up with a mission in Arabia without any money to back him or any army to support him, he summoned people towards a creed, towards a religion and not after very long there came into existence a new ummah, a new state, and a new culture. They also noticed that single-handedly, the Prophet changed the direction of human history and forced events to flow into a different channel.  The ambitious natures of these men then whispered to themselves: "Why not try?" These people knew that they had intelligence, remarkable mental capabilities and organising ability.  They thought, therefore, that history might repeat itself in their case too, following the natural pattern of cause and effect.  These people had expected the same kind of miraculous success to crown their efforts as had crowned the efforts of the unlettered Prophet of Arabia in the sixth century for, they thought, human nature remained always the same and if it had responded to Muhammad in the past, there was no reason why it should not respond to them now. ”

These persons did have a glimpse of the greatness of Muhammad (pbuh) who carried his movement to a successful end, but could not see the Divine support which was his real strength, nor the Divine will of which he was an instrument.  The result was that for a very short period of time, the efforts of these ambitious people did bear some fruit. There gathered behind them a following, sometimes of several hundred thousand people. Some of them (e.g., Batinites) even succeeded in establishing a state of their own (the Fatimide State) which for sometime covered a fairly wide area from Sudan to Morocco. But all this remained only as long as they were able to maintain their organisational efficiency, their wizardry and their secret administrative network. But when these things were gone, all their power and glory also became a poignant memory of the past. With the loss of worldly power, the religious movement shrank and obscured and lost significance for human life. Against this, is the true Islam preached by the Last Messenger of Allah (pbuh). It constitutes today, as it constituted yesterday, a great spritual force in the world, the guiding star and inspiration of a great ummah. It still possesses a distinctive culture which sprang from the spirit of its teachings. It is still the religion of a number of states and peoples. The Sun of Muhammad's Prophethood is still shining brilliantly in the sky. Never in history has it suffered an eclipse and it never will" (Qadianism: A Critical Study).

The author deserves our appreciation as he had delved on a unique topic which a majority of our researchers and scholars still continue to ignore.