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AhmadiAnswers | The Great War of 1914-1918
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The Great War of 1914-1918

The Great War of 1914-1918

Another prophecy of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas was in regards to the great war of 1914-1918. Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmood Ahmadrabeautifully explains this. He states:

 

” The ninth prophecy of the Promised Messiah, which I now proceed to narrate, is one out of many which proved to the whole world that the dominion of God extends over the hearts and minds of rulers and leaders, as it extends over common men and women, and that man, proud and powerful though he be, is as much constrained to obey God as any of His other creatures. This prophecy was published in 1905. The prophecy foretold the Great War of 1914-18, which shook Europe and perplexed the peoples of the world. It swept common men and women off their bearings and its ill-effects survive to this day. Its flames have yet not died out. The prophecy apparently speaks of an earthquake, but the description of this earthquake indicates that it was to be a worldwide calamity resembling an earthquake. Other revelations on the subject also indicated a calamity other than an earthquake.

 

I first quote the revelations containing the prophecy.

 

‘A fresh sign. Shock of a fresh sign.’

 

‘An earthquake resembling Doomsday. Save your lives. I descended for your sake. We will show many Signs for your sake. We will destroy whatever the world is building. Say, “I have God as my witness – will ye believe?” I have saved Israel from detriment. The Pharaoh and Haman, the armies of both, are in the wrong.’

 

‘Victory resplendent. Our victory.’

 

‘I will come to thee with the armies and will come suddenly.’ (This revelation has been repeated again and again.)

 

‘A mountain fell; and came an earthquake! A Volcano!’

 

‘Avenues useful for Arabs. Arabs set out from their home.’

 

‘Houses will disappear even as all thought of Me has disappeared. You will see the earthquake of the appointed day. Allah will show you the earthquake of the appointed day. Dominion on that day will be for the One, Relentless God.’

 

The ‘earthquake’ of the prophecy was also described by the Promised Messiah in some detail in an Urdu poem. According to this poem:

 

The earthquake was to bring destruction to human beings, villages and fields. A man caught naked will not have time to dress. The earthquake will entail special hardship for travelers. Many will stray far from their appointed routes to escape the terrors of the earthquake. Depressions will be produced in the earth. Streams of blood will flow. Streams of water running downhill will become red with blood. The calamity will involve the whole world. All men, great and small, all governments, will break under its impact. Especially will the Czar be reduced to a state of misery. Even birds will suffer. They will lose their sense and forget their sweet songs.

 

The Promised Messiah had other revelations on the subject. One was ‘Boats sail that there may be duels’; another ‘Raise the anchor.’ Hazrat also wrote that all this was to happen in about sixteen years’ time. An earlier revelation said the calamity was to take place in his lifetime. Then he was taught a prayer, ‘O God, do not let me see this earthquake.

 

So the Great War took place within sixteen years of the publication of the prophecy, but not in his lifetime.

 

The prophecy speaks of an ‘earthquake’, but this should not be taken in its literal sense but as a world calamity of some kind, i.e. a world war. For those who do not see this at once, I state my reasons:

 

Firstly, the word ‘earthquake’ is often used for war, for a great calamity. We have examples of this in the Holy Quran. Thus:

 

‘When they came upon you from above you, and from below you, and when your eyes became distracted and your hearts leaped into your throats and you thought diverse thoughts about Allah, there and then. But the believers were sorely tried and they were shaken with a violent shaking.'(Chapter 33 Verses 11-12)

 

The ‘shaking’ in these verses, the English for the Arabic Zilzal, should ordinarily mean an earthquake. But here it means war. The word is capable of such a meaning and the Holy Quran has used it in this sense. Therefore, where a context permits we can take ‘earthquake’ to mean some other calamity. ‘Earthquake’ can be a metaphor.

 

Secondly, when the Promised Messiah published this prophecy, he appended to it a note which said:

 

It is possible that the description relates not to a literal earthquake but to some other calamity, grave enough to remind us of the Day of Judgment and unusual enough not to have been known before. This calamity may bring destruction to both life and property. (Barahin-i-Ahmadiyya, vol. V, p. 120)

 

This clearly shows that the Promised Messiah’s prophetic description is not necessarily the description of an earthquake. It could be a calamity different from the conventional earthquake. When he published the prophecy, his critics insisted on taking the earthquake of the prophecy for a common earthquake. They asked Hazrat Mirza Sahib not to let ‘earthquake’ mean anything else. But Hazrat Mirza Sahib said again and again that in the revelations several different metaphors had been used. He could not, therefore, take the descriptions to mean any one thing. The grandeur of the prophecy lay in the many Signs which it foretold, the foretelling of which does not lie in the power of man. The prophecy laid down a time limit. It also said that the events it foretold had not been seen before in the history of man.

 

Thirdly, the words used in the prophecy make it clear that a literal earthquake could not be meant, but instead probably a calamity of some other kind:

 

  1. The prophecy says that the earthquake will involve the whole world. But everybody knows that earthquakes never do that; they only involve parts of the world.
  2. The prophecy says the calamity will prove very hard on travellers, who will lose their way and stray far from their routes. But earthquakes do not trouble travellers. They trouble those staying in houses, in big cities. A calamity which can trouble travellers can only be war. When war starts, travellers cannot follow their normal routes. They have to give them up and adopt devious and difficult routes instead.
  3. The prophecy points to the ill-effects of the calamity on farms, fields, etc.; but earthquakes have no ill-effects on farms and fields, which are destroyed only by war. Shelling from both sides destroys them. Sometimes ‘scorched-earth’ policy destroys them.
  4. The prophecy points to the ill-effects of the calamity on birds; they were to lose their ‘senses’ and their ‘songs’. An ordinary earthquake can have no such effects. The vibrations only last for a time. If birds sitting on a tree or a building fly into the air, they experience no ill-effects whatever. A modern war, however, is very hard on birds. Day and night bombing and the destruction of trees is highly detrimental to bird-life. The birds either die or suffer greatly.
  5. The prophecy contains the revelation ‘I have saved Israel from detriment.’ This indicates that the calamity was to result in some advantage for the Jews. Such a thing can have no connection with an ordinary earthquake. (I will explain below the meaning of this part of the prophecy; and I will show that this prophecy is also contained in the Holy Quran.)
  6. The prophecy points to war because, apparently speaking of an earthquake, it goes on to say that the Pharaoh and Haman and their hosts are in the wrong. This is an obvious reference to the German Kaiser, who thought himself God or at least God’s Deputy, just as the Pharaoh of Moses thought he was ‘God of his people and Mighty’. Haman in the revelation means the Kaiser’s ally, the Emperor of Austria, who had little will or personality and was totally obedient to the German warlord. If the prophecy meant a literal earthquake, the words ‘Verily Pharaoh and Haman and their hosts are in the wrong’ would have little or no meaning.
  7. The revelations mention the repeated promise ‘I will come suddenly with my armies.’ This also points to war rather than earthquake. The revelations speak of a volcano, the eruption of which will entail advantages for the Arab peoples, who will also venture out of their homes. The description cannot apply to an ordinary earthquake. A volcano can only mean the violent expression of political discontent which may be precipitated by some passing event. Some such event was to stimulate the Arabs into some large action by which they were to turn events in their favour.

8.  The revelations assert that on that day, God Almighty will be the Universal King. This description also indicates a war in which powerful                    states were to be involved against one another. The great powers, according to the prophecy, would become weak. The Dominion of God was            to be re-asserted by powerful Signs.

  1. One revelation says, ‘A mountain fell and came an earthquake.’ Even schoolchildren know that earthquakes are not the result of falling mountains. In fact, it is the other way about. Mountains may fall as the result of earthquakes. This also shows that the prophecy does not apply to an ordinary earthquake, but is a metaphorical description of some other large calamity involving the nations of the world in mutual warfare.

 

The fourth reason why the earthquake of the prophecy did not necessarily mean an earthquake but indicated some other calamity is that other revelations of the Promised Messiah received at about the same time point to a great war. One revelation says, ‘Raise the anchor.’ This points to the entry of different nations into naval encounters against one another. The command ‘Raise the anchor’ indicates the beginning of naval hostilities. Another revelation says, ‘Boats sail that there be duels.’ This is a picture of the vessels going in one direction and another in search of naval encounters. After showing that the earthquake of the prophecy really meant the Great War of 1914.-18, I wish to describe in greater detail how the several parts of the prophecy found fulfilment in the events of the Great War.

 

The first thing we must remember in this connection is that, according to the prophecy, war was to follow upon a certain incident. According to the prophecy, an unfortunate event was to be followed by a world-wide ‘earthquake’. The Great War started exactly in this way. The heir-apparent of Austria-Hungry and his wife were assassinated. The assassination resulted in war. This was different from the way wars normally start. Wars are precipitated by differences and disagreements between great powers, but this war was precipitated by the assassination of an archduke and his wife.

 

A second feature foretold of the calamity was its universality. This feature too was fulfilled in a remarkable manner. Before the Great War, calamities universal in scope were not known. This war was the first world calamity. The countries of Europe entered the war first. Soon Asia became involved and then China, Japan and India were in it. A German battleship attacked Indian shores from the Indian Ocean. Iran was the scene of fighting between British and Turkish forces. Iranians had trouble with the German Consulate. Fighting, and grim fighting, took place in Iraq, Syria, Palestine and Siberia. Fighting took place in the four important parts of Africa. South Africa attacked German West Africa. There were disorders in South Africa itself. German colonies were attacked in East Africa. On the West coast fighting took place in the Cameroon. Fighting occurred on the border between Egypt and Tripoli. A German battleship attacked parts of Australia before being cornered at last. There was fighting in New Guinea. The British and German navies encountered each other near the American coast. Canada and the United States had to enter. South American states declared war on Germany. In short, no part of the world remained outside or escaped the effects of the war.

 

A description of the war contained in the prophecy is the breaking of hills and the destruction of cities and cornfields, and this is what happened. Many hills disappeared because of bombing or because of mines which had to be cut through them. Many cities were ruined. Germany had to pay large sums of money for the rehabilitation. She still has to pay a large figure in reparations. The damage done to farms and fields cannot be estimated. Wherever the forces of one country advanced into another, the destruction of farms followed. Towns were destroyed and nothing remained of the green fields and pastures. Artillery lines were spread over thousands of miles. The resulting destruction was beyond calculation.

 

Another feature of the war was that birds lost their senses. This is what happened. In battle areas bird-life came to an end.

 

Another sign of the war was depressions and general destruction of the land surface. In France, Serbia and Russia, excessive bombardment produced deep depressions. In places water came out of such depressions. Fighting involved the digging of trenches. Countries which saw the fighting became full of these dug-outs. Nobody who saw them could say that these were countries with settled populations. For what were these lines and lines of dug-outs? Brick-kilns like those in our country? Or caves?

 

Another sign of the war was that streams of water red with human blood were like streams of blood. This is what happened. So much blood was shed at times that for miles waterways in the locality would turn red. There was so much fighting on the different fronts that streams of blood flowed literally.

 

Another sign of the war was the difficulties travellers and wayfarers were going to have. Many of them were to lose their way. This is what happened. On the land, because of fighting armies and their movements, normal routes became blocked. On the sea, owing to submarine warfare, boats carrying passengers were constantly in danger. When the war started, several hundred thousand persons were stranded in enemy countries. Many of them had to reach their own countries by circuitous routes. Troops of different countries also had to travel by longer routes, shorter routes having gone into enemy possession. British soldiers serving in France often lost their way. Many unhappy incidents occurred and to prevent this British soldiers were ordered to wear the names of their regiments and their stations round their necks.

 

Another sign was that ‘things’ which the world was trying to build would be wiped away. This is what happened, both in the physical and in the metaphorical sense. Many well-known buildings in Europe were destroyed. Destruction was also wrought to the foundations of European life. The old security, the old confidence in continued peace and progress were gone. European nations are trying to rebuild these foundations, but all efforts seem to fail. It seems inevitable that European – and Western – life will have to seek new foundations on which to rebuild. The old foundations have been destroyed, and destroyed for good. The new foundations will have to be more rational and nearer to the teaching of Islam. Something like it seems ordained by God and nothing can stop it.

 

A very important feature of the war was relief to the people of Israel. This feature of the prophecy received a clear fulfilment. The war was not yet over when, as a consequence of the war itself, Mr. (later Lord) Balfour declared that the people of Israel who had been without a ‘homeland’ would be settled in their ancient ‘homeland’, Palestine. The Allied nations promised to compensate the people of Israel for injustices done to them in the past. In accordance with these declarations, Palestine was taken from Turkey and declared the national home of the Jews. The administration of Palestine is being shaped so as to make it easy for Jews to make it their homeland. Jews from different countries are being encouraged to settle in Palestine. A very old demand of the Jews, that conditions promoting their national cohesion should be created for them, has been met.

 

The strangest thing about this part of the prophecy is that references to it exist also in the Holy Quran. Thus in the chapter Bani-Israil, we read:

 

‘And after him We said to the children of Israel, “Dwell ye in the land; and when the time of the promise of the latter days comes, We shall bring you together out of various people.’5

 

Commentators of the Holy Quran take the land to be Egypt and the promise of the latter days to be the Day of Judgment. But such interpretations are wrong because the Israelites were never ordered to live in Egypt. They were ordered to live in the Holy Land, namely, Palestine, and there they lived. Similarly, ‘promise of the latter days’ cannot mean the Day of Judgment, because the Day of Judgment has little connection with Israel’s having to live in the Holy Land. All that this promise of the latter days means, therefore, is that a time was to come when the Jews would leave the Holy Land, to be gathered into it again at the time of the ‘promise of the latter days’. The promise of the latter days relates to the time of the Promised Messiah. The re-gathering of Israel, therefore, was to take place in the time of the Promised Messiah.

 

In the commentary Futuh al-Bayan we are told that ‘the time of the promise of the latter days marks the descent of Jesus from heaven’. Also the chapter of the Holy Quran just quoted divides the history of the Jewish people into two great periods (17:5). Of the second period the same chapter goes on to say:

 

So when the time for the latter warning came, We raised a people against you to cover your faces with grief, and to enter the Mosque as they entered it the first time and to destroy all that they conquered with utter destruction.’7

 

From this it appears that the warning of the latter days relates to the time in Jewish history subsequent to the first coming of Jesus. However, after this warning we know from history that Jews were not gathered; they were dispersed. Therefore in verse 17:105 the warning of the latter days relates to the period after the second coming of Jesus. The words ‘shall bring you together’ refer to the present influx of Jews into Palestine. Jews from different countries are offered facilities of travel and rehabilitation. The revelation of the Promised Messiah said, ‘I will relieve the children of Israel.’ This indicated a great change in the position of the Jews. It indicated the end of the opposition which nations of the world had made for so long to an independent home for the Jews.

 

An important sign of the war was the time limit of sixteen years, It happened exactly as had been foretold. The revelations about the war were received in 1905; the war started in 1914, i.e. within sixteen years from the date of the prophecy.

 

Another sign of the war was that naval forces of different nations were to be kept ready. Accordingly, we find that not only combatant nations, but other nations too had to keep their naval forces in readiness. Every nation had to see that no other nation violated her waters. War could be forced upon them at any time. So naval forces had to be ready, even for the protection of neutrality.

 

One important sign of the war was the movement of ships for sea warfare. The prophecy pointed not merely to preparations and readiness for combat on the sea but also to the movements of vessels. Accordingly, in this war many more sea vessels were used than had been used ever before. Vessels of small size, destroyers, and submarines were used on a scale completely unknown before. The expression used in the revelation is ‘boats’ which points to a bias for fighting seacraft of small size, and this is true of the Great War of 1914-18.

 

One sign told of the war was its suddenness. The suddenness with which this war broke out is well known. Statesmen later admitted that though they expected a war sometime, they had no idea that it would come suddenly. The murder of the Austrian archduke proved to be a fuse which touched off a world-wide conflagration.

 

A sign of the war was the advantages which it was to bring to the Arab nations and the way Arabs were to exploit the opportunities it offered. For a long time Arabs had entertained the idea of Arab independence. When they heard that the Turks had entered the war, they thought the time for their freedom had come. They at once declared themselves against Turkey and entered the war against them. Arabs achieved the goal of their freedom.

 

Another sign was the destruction of cities and places noted for their godlessness. ‘I will obliterate habitations much as they have obliterated My name.’ It is generally agreed that Eastern France was the worst part of Europe from the point of view of sensual indulgence. From this part was sent the wine consumed in different countries of Europe. It was also the rendezvous of pleasure-seekers from Western countries. In accordance with the prophecy this part suffered the most. Pleasure resorts crashed and crumbled, and were wiped out as God’s name had been wiped out from them.

 

One sign mentioned in the revelations was ‘Our victory’. This clearly indicated that victory was to come to the side which possessed the sympathy of the followers of the Promised Messiah. This is what happened. The Promised Messiah prayed for Britain, and God helped Britain out of this terrible calamity. British statesmen may attribute their victory to their plans, but a careful observation of the crucial phases of the war shows that British forces received miraculous help repeatedly. Again and again accidents went in their favour. This shows that British victory was due to special divine help. It was not due to human planning only.

 

One sign in the prophecy was of outstanding importance, because this one sign consisted of a number of other signs. This sign was that the war was to reduce the Czar of Russia to a most pitiful condition. Circumstances at the time of the publication of the prophecy gave no such indication; in fact there were indications to the contrary. But the prophecy was fulfilled, and the fulfillment surprised everybody.

 

The prophetic description of what was to happen to the Czar implies a number of separate prophecies. One was that until the ‘calamity’ appeared, no harm would come to the Czar. Harm to the Czar was to come as a result of the ‘calamity’, namely the war.

 

Secondly, the prophecy implied that the harm destined for the Czar was not death or a sudden end. Death or a sudden end does not connote a pitiful condition. The prophetic description, therefore, does not connote the death of the Czar. It connotes instead a condition lasting over some time and full of pain and privations of various kinds. The description also implies the end of the Czars as a dynasty. The prophetic description speaks of the Czar. It points to the Russian royalty, not to any individual Russian ruler. But see how literally the prophecy was fulfilled! Before the Great War, efforts were made to depose the Czar and to get rid of the Russian royalty, but nothing happened. Then came the war and the time appointed for the end of the Czar. The end came with a suddenness which astonished everybody. It appears that when the revolution of 1917 started, the Czar was not in the capital but at the front inspecting battle lines and positions. When he left for a tour of the battle area there were no signs of a revolution. Then, because of some indiscretion on the part of a governor, people became angry. Such anger is common in organized states; it seldom or never leads to their fall. On this occasion, however, the Hand of God was at work. The Czar, on hearing of this unrest, sent instructions to the Government to put it down with a strong hand. But a strong hand this time produced a contrary effect. It resulted in more unrest. The Czar replaced the governor and himself started back for the capital. On the way, he heard further accounts of the situation. He was advised that unrest was on the increase and that he should not enter the capital. But the Czar did not care. Believing that his presence on the scene would calm down the people, he continued the return journey. He had not gone very far when he learnt that a general revolution had taken place; that the revolutionaries had taken possession of the State Secretariat; and that a popular government had been set up. On March 12, 1917, in the course of a single day, the greatest and most powerful monarch in the world, designated the Czar (literally ‘one who rules over all and is ruled by none’) was deposed from his mighty throne and reduced to the status of his own people’s subject.

 

On March 15, under duress, he signed a declaration that he and his family would never again claim the Russian throne. This was literally in accordance with the prophecy. The family of the Czar fell as a ruling family. But there were other parts to the prophecy. The Czar, Nicholas II, imagined that by surrendering the throne he would save his own life and the lives of the Czarina and their children, and that they would be able to live as private citizens. But this was not to be. He surrendered the throne on March 15. On March 21, he was taken prisoner and sent to Skosilo. On March 22, America declared her recognition of the new revolutionary government. This killed the last hope. The throne had gone. Even physical survival was in doubt. He could see now that the powers on whose help he had relied and who were his allies in the war against Germany did not take much more than a week to recognize a government set up by disloyal subjects. On March 24, England, France, and Italy declared their recognition of the new government. Then the Czar gave up all hope. He could see that friendly powers for whose sake he had been fighting against Germany did not wait much more than a week before recognizing the disloyal revolutionaries. These erstwhile friendly powers did not raise even a feeble voice in his support. But there were other pains for him to endure. To fulfil the prophecy, his condition was to become really pitiful. The Czar was a prisoner, but the reins of government were still in the hands of a member of the royal family, Prince Dilvao. The good offices of this prince assured the Czar’s kind treatment in prison. In fact, the Czar and his family had more or less settled into gardening and other occupations appropriate to an ex-king and his family. But in July this prince also had to surrender. The reins of government passed into the hands of Kerensky. The life of the royal prisoners now became harder, but it was still bearable.

 

On November 7, Bolshevik revolutionaries dismissed the Kerensky government, and the condition of the Czar became so pitiful as to make the stoutest heart flinch. The Czar was removed from internment in the Royal Palace and taken from place to place, ultimately to Ekaterinburg. Here he was to have a taste of the tortures he used to inflict on prisoners serving sentences in Siberia. This small town is to the east of the Urals, fourteen hundred miles from Moscow. Here machinery for use in Siberian mines was manufactured. Russian political prisoners had to work in these mines. The scenes around his new prison reminded the Czar of the atrocities perpetrated by him on others. However, the pitiful condition of the Czar was not to be measured by these tortures only. The Bolshevik government reduced his rations and ordinary comforts. His sick child was beaten by ill-mannered guards. The parents had to watch. His daughters were maltreated. Even these tortures did not satiate the revolutionaries. They invented new penalties and new pains. One day, when the Czarina was present under compulsion, the virgin daughters of the Czar were raped by the soldiers. If the Czarina, unable to bear the sight, turned her face away, the soldiers would compel her to observe the inhuman scene. Witnessing these brutalities and enduring more pains and poignancies than can have been endured by any mortal, the Czar at last met his end. He was shot dead on July 16, 1918, and with him the entire royal family. The prophecy ‘Even the Czar at that moment will be in a pitiful condition’ was fulfilled literally.

 

The war was over. The Czar died a pitiful death. The rulers of Germany and Austria had surrendered their crowns. Cities had been laid waste. Hills had disappeared. Millions of men had died. Rivers of blood had flowed and destruction had stalked the land. But alas! the world still asked for signs and arguments to prove the authenticity of the Divine Messenger. God’s resources are limitless. His punishment is as ready to come as His forgiveness. But blessed are they who are willing to understand, who will hasten to make peace with their Lord rather than continue at war with Him. They heed His Signs and do not pass by them as though they did not see them. They draw the Compassion of God, receive His blessings and prove a blessing for the world.” (Invitation to Ahmadiyyat, Prophecy No.9)