What Age did Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as) Die? Age–Prophecy Examined in Light of New Evidence

June 6, 2024

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What Age did Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as) Die? Age–Prophecy Examined in Light of New Evidence

By Tahir Nasser & Raziullah Noman

Key Criteria of Prophethood

The Holy Quran is clear that the major sign of the truth of a prophet is the divine support that accompanies him, despite facing a storm of opposition. As against this, Allah states in Surah Al–Haqqah of the Quran that he will slay even the best of prophets – the Prophet Muhammad (sa) – in such a case that he lied against God and attributed to Him a false statement.

Thus, it is God Himself who is the guarantor of the truth of a claimant to prophethood. It is He who destroys the false one, and He who grants victory to the truthful. It is for this reason that nowhere in the Quran does Allah give a warning to humanity to beware of accepting false prophets, for Allah it is who would see to their destruction. Mankind is only charged with accepting true prophets, and are put on notice to be mindful of rejecting them.

Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as) claimed established the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in 1889, and claimed to be the Imam Mahdi and Promised Messiah (as) by 1891. He lived, despite multiple attempts on his life, until 1908, when he died a natural death as the head of a community numbering hundreds of thousands. After him, Khilafat e Ahmadiyya was re-established, and the community now flourishes in 200 countries of the world. His community was not destroyed by God, but rather, was supported, despite multiple examples of state sponsored opposition and persecution.

Just as a false prophet is destroyed, and a true prophet is supported by God, Allah Almighty revealed to Hazrat Ahmad (as) that he would reach a ripe old age. In this regard, he received the following revelation:

“Eighty years or near that.”

Izala-e-Auham, 1891, Vol. 3

Hazrat Ahmad (as) understood this revelation to be a promise from God Almighty as to how long he would live. It was, in effect, a promise that as he was a true prophet, Allah would grant him a full and successful life, and that the warning for false prophets detailed in Surah Al–Haqqah would not apply to him. Subsequent written records of this revelation, give it in the context of a larger revelation:

“Your age will be eighty years—a few years less or some years more; and you will live long enough to witness your distant progeny.”

Arba‘in, no. 3, first edition, pp. 29–30, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 17, pp. 418–419

In his books Arba’in and Tuhfah-e-Golarhviyyah, he gives an estimate of when this revelation was received by him. He writes that this revelation was received approximately thirty–five years prior to 1891.

The term “a few years less or a few years more” was initially interpreted by him to mean “two or three” years more or less. Thus, in his work Dhamimah Tohf-a-e-Golarhviyya on both pages 44 and 66, he gives this interpretation to the words of the revelation “a few years less or some years more”, literally to be translated as “or near that (eighty years)”. However, this was only his understanding at the time. In a subsequent revelation, Allah corrected this interpretation, and gave a specific time frame. In his book Haqiqatul Wahi, which was published in 1907, he documented the following revelation:


Haqiqatul-Wahi, pp. 70–108, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 22, pp. 73–111

Allegation and Summary of Refutation

The opponents of Hazrat Ahmad (as) allege that, according to his writings, Hazrat Ahmad (as) was born in 1839 or 1840, and according to some of his own estimates, in 1844. On that basis, they allege that his death in 1908 would mean he was only 65 to 69 years of age, which would invalidate this prophecy, since it would not fall within a reasonable interpretation of the term “eighty years or near that”, nor would it fall within the stipulated time period of “four or five (years) less” than eighty.

In this article we shall review this allegation and show why it is baseless. This allegation is depends upon certain writings of the Promised Messiah (as) where he gives his year of birth as 1839/40 or even 1844. Firstly, we will demonstrate that these statements of his contradict other of his statements, which would give his year of birth in 1835 or earlier. We further show that he made clear that any statement of his age during his life was only his personal estimate, not based on knowledge. We subsequently demonstrate what is known about his date and year of birth. On that basis, we demonstrate using third-party historical, contemporaneous sources, that the latest he must have been born was 1835. We demonstrate therefore that, as per the Islamic calendar, his age at death in 1908 was 75 years of age, falling within the stipulated prophecies, as mentioned above.

It was very common in most societies throughout human history for individuals to not know the specific year of their birth, nor their age. It is a feature of modern life, with accurate documentation of birth records, that individuals know factually which year and date they were born on. In the past, years of birth were generally associated with events in the world, or in the family. In this regard, it was a common matter for people to give estimates of their age. This is precisely what the Promised Messiah (as) states about his own age. Thus, he wrote:

True estimation of the age is known, of course, to God, but as far as I know at this time, which is 1323 of the Hijrah, my age is close to seventy (70) years [And Allah knows best]

Barahin-e-Ahmadiyya, Volume 5, 1st Edition, English (2018); p. 489

Nevertheless, there are multiple examples of him giving an estimate of his age, throughout his writings. In the interests of fairness, we have presented them below. The aim is to demonstrate that he did not know his real age, and therefore, refutation of this prophecy on the basis of individually selected statements is invalid. Why select a statement that indicates his year of birth in 1844, and ignore estimates of his age that give his birth year before 1835? We have categorised the estimates of his age by the birth year they would give.


Prophecy against Dowie

In his book, Haqiqatul Wahi, the Promised Messiah (as) specifies that on the 23rd August, 1903, he published an announcement in which he challenged the pretender to prophethood, John Alexander Dowie. In this announcement he specified his age to be 70 years old, and Dowie to be 50 years old. This was mentioned in a footnote of Haqiqatul Wahi:

“I published an announcement in English on 23 August 1903, opposing Mr. Dowie. It says; ‘I am about seventy years in age and Mr. Dowie, as he states, is a young man of fifty but I do not care for my age because this mubahalah will not be decided by our ages but God who is the Most Supreme Authority will decide it. If Mr. Dowie flees from this confrontation—even then, the calamity will certainly befall his Zion soon. Now I finish this discourse with this prayer: ‘O All-Powerful and Perfect God, who always reveals Himself to the Prophets and shall continue to do so, settle this matter soon and reveal the falsehood of Mr. Dowie to the people. I am certain that whatever You have promised me through Your revelation, shall be fulfilled definitely. O Almighty God, hear my prayer, You have all the powers.’ See English Announcement of 23 Aug. 1903.” (Author) (Haqiqatul Wahi, 1st English Edition, p. 639)

If Hazrat Ahmad (as) was 70 years old in 1903, then according to the Gregorian calendar, he would have been born in 1833, and according to the Hijri calendar, he would have been born in 1836.

Abdullah Atham Prophecy

In relation to the prophecy against Abdullah Atham, the Promised Messiah (as) stated in Ijaz-e Ahmadi that at the time of Atham’s death, the Promised Messiah (as) and Atham were the same age – close to sixty four.

“So, show me where Atham is today if the prophecy has not been fulfilled. He was as old as I was, i.e. close to sixty-four years.” (Ijaz-e-Ahmadi, p. 109)

Since Atham died in 1896, the above quote would indicate that he was about 76 years old at the time of his death, requiring him to be born before the year 1835, in both Gregorian and Hijri calendars.


In his work Tiryaqul Quloob, he writes that the door of revelation opened for him when he was forty years old:

“Then, when I reached the age of forty, God honoured me with His revelation and Word.” p. 283, Tiryaqul Quloob

This is also confirmed in a poem in Barahin-e Ahmadiyya, where he reiterates this point that it was in his fortieth year of life that he began to receive revelation:

“Forty years old in this traveller’s world was I, when I received honour through divine revelation.” Braheen e Ahmadiyya Volume 5, p. 135

In Haqiqatul Wahi, the Promised Messiah (as) explains that he started receiving revelation in the year 1290 AH.

“It is amazing—and I consider this to be a Sign of God—that I was blessed with converse and discourse with God Almighty exactly in the year 1290 Hijrah”

Haqiqatul Wahi, Ruhani Khazain, vol. 22, p. 208

Putting the two together, we can extrapolate back forty lunar years from 1290AH, giving his birth year as 1250 AH. 1250 AH corresponds to 1835 CE. His age at the time of death would be over 75 years in Hijri terms.


Kitabul Bariyyah: Twilight of Sikh Rule

Many opponents make the basis of their allegation that the Promised Messiah (as) himself mentioned the year of his birth as 1839-40. Thus, he wrote:

“I was born in 1839 or 1840 in the twilight of the Sikh rule and I was in my 16th or 17th year in 1857…” (Kitabul Bariyyah, 1898, p. 177)

There are a few points to note here. Firstly, he mentions that he was born in the “twilight” of the Sikh rule. The Sikh Maharaja Ranjit Singh died in June 1839, so he would not have been born in the “twilight” of Sikh rule if born in 1839/40, but would have been born after its collapse. Secondly, If he was born in 1839/40, he would have been seventeen to eighteen years old, rather than sixteen to seventeen years old. This also demonstrates that his mentioning of 1839/40 is only an estimate of his approximate year of birth, and should not be taken as a strict calculation on his part.


In Tohfa-e-Golarhviyyah, Hazrat Ahmad (as) states that he was informed by God through a kashf [vision] that the values of the letters of Surah al-Asr, coming to 4,739 are the number of lunar years between the time of the Prophet Adam (as), to the death of the Prophet Muhammad (sa). On that basis, as part of his interpretation in a footnote (not part of the revelation), he says that he was born 11 years before the 6000th year since the Prophet Adam (as), i.e.: in the year 5,989:

“By this calculation, my birth took place when out of the six thousand years, 11 years remained.” Footnote Tohfa-e-Golarhviyyah p. 135

Taking this calculation would mean that he was born in the Hijri year of 1260 AH, or 1844 CE.

It is clear that the range of ages provided by the Promised Messiah (as) show the truth of the initial statement we presented, where he emphasises that only Allah knows his true age, and that wherever he has given his own age, it has only been as an estimate.

The conclusion one must reach, if approaching this logically, is that the statements of the Promised Messiah (as) on his own age cannot be used to refute the prophecy, because it is clear that he does not know his own age. This was common in his day and age, since there was no accurate recording of birth years. People did not often know the year of their birth, or their accurate age, but usually would know of circumstantial evidence relating to events in their year of birth.

However, Hazrat Ahmad (as) gave us clear criteria to determine his birth year, through facts that he knew for certain about it. He provided us with four important criteria about his birth: 

  1. Born a Friday
  2. Born on 14th of a lunar month
  3. Born in the Hindu calendar month of Phagun

The first two criteria are mentioned by Hazrat Ahmad (as) himself in his book Tohfa-e-Golarhviyyah:

“This humble one was born on a Friday, on the 14th night of the moon.” Tohfa-e-Golarhviyyah p. 281

The third is mentioned as a narration by Hazrat Mufti Muhammad Sadiq sahib (ra), one of his companions, in his work, Zikre Habib (“Recollections of the Beloved”), where he writes:

“His holiness the Promised Messiah (as) at one time mentioned that the month in which he was born was the month of Phagun”. (Zikre Habib, p. 189)

Using these criteria, we can review which of the years in the estimated time period meet these three criteria. Through use of standard online calculators, we can see that two prominent dates that meet this criteria are, 1835 and 1839:

The interesting point to note is that the year 1839 occurs on the day after Eid. Had he been born in 1839, it would have been unlikely to have omitted mentioning this, and to have mentioned instead the month of the Hindu calendar. Interestingly, 1832 is also given in the calculations as meeting the three criteria mentioned above.

Thus, we now have three years in which he may have been born: 1832, 1835 and 1839. How do we tease apart which of these is the best candidate?

There is a fourth criteria which Hazrat Ahmad (as) gave for the year of his birth. He stated that with his birth, his family was relieved of its financial difficulties and entered a time of prosperity. In fact, he mentioned in his writings that his mother repeatedly told him this:

“And I heard my mother repeatedly say to me: ‘Our days have been changed since the day you were born, and we were before in hardships and misfortunes and in all kinds of anguish and tribulations, so all good things have come to us with your coming and you are among the blessed ones. My father was ascending from one rank to another, and from one high to the next, until he ascended to the ascents of progress and God bestowed on him a garment of honour and reverence and nothing befell him and he became of the wealthy”. (Aine Kamalate Islam, 1893 p. 544)

This proves to be the key to selecting correctly which of the three years of 1832, 1835 and 1839, the Promised Messiah (as) was born in.

The point made by Hazrat Ahmad (as) above is that his mother repeatedly said to him that before his birth, the family was in “hardships and misfortunes and in all kinds of anguish and tribulations” but since the day he was born, “all good things have come to us”. Hazrat Ahmad (as) went on to specify that this involved his father ascending from “one rank to another, and from one high to the next…and he became of the wealthy”.

What was the ease and comfort being referred to? The authoritative and independent work of Lepel Griffin, a British administrator and diplomat, having received the order of Knight Commander (KCSI) from Queen Victoria. He was appointed Chief Secretary of the Punjab from 1880 and penned a famous work called “The Punjab Chiefs” as Assistant Commissioner, which detailed the biographies and historical details of 132 chiefs of small principalities of the Punjab.

The Punjab Chiefs, by Lepel Griffin KCSI

In Volume II of this book, which can be read here, is detailed the historical details of Mirza Ghulam Murtaza, the father of Hazrat Ahmad (as). In the pages of this book is found conclusive evidence that of the three possible years in which the Hazrat Ahmad (as) could have been born, as per the criteria laid out earlier, 1839 must be discarded and only 1832 or 1835 can be accepted. We refer the reader to page 49 of this book, presented below.

In this section, Lepel Griffin details that Hazrat Ahmad’s (as) grandfather, Mirza Atta Muhammad was living in “poverty and insignificance”. Specifically is detailed how the Ramgarhia and Kanhya Misals (sovereign states as part of the Sikh confederacy) had taken controls of Qadian, resulting in the loss of all of the family’s ancestral estates. Consequently, the grandfather and great-grandfather of Hazrat Ahmad (as) were living “quietly for twelve years” in Begowal, in a different part of the Punjab. However, when Maharaja Ranjit Singh came to power, he invited Mirza Ghulam Murtaza, who was by then head of the family, to return to Qadian to receive back a “large portion of his ancestral estates”. This is the event referred to by Hazrat Ahmad’s (as) mother when she says that “all good things have come to us” with his birth.

But which year did this good fortune occur? Griffin’s book contains the answer. He goes on to write that: “He (Mirza Ghulam Murtaza) then entered the army of the Maharaja and performed efficient service on the Kashmir frontier and at other places”. This indicates that after the return of his ancestral lands, and the time of fortune coming up him, he subsequently found for Maharaja Ranjit Singh in Kashmir. Crucially, we know the years and dates of the battles the Maharaja Ranjit Singh, in Kashmir:

Table 1: List of battles engaged in by the Sikh Empire of Punjab 1834 – 1840. Please see following page for full list of Sikh empire battles.

As can be seen from the above table, there were no battles after 1837 in the Kashmir region. Maharaja Ranjit Singh died in 1839. Since Lepel Griffin specifies that Mirza Ghulam Murtaza fought for the Sikh ruler after the return of his lands, and we know from Hazrat Ahmad (as) that his birth occurred at the same time as the return of his lands, we can say with a high degree of certainty that his birth could not have taken place after 1837, since after this date, there were no more battles fought by the Sikh empire on the Kashmir frontier.

To summarise, the sequence of this argument is as follows:

  1. Hazrat Ahmad’s (as) father received his ancestral lands before fighting for the Maharaja on the Kashmir frontier, as per Lepel Griffin’s independent work from 1890.
  2. Hazrat Ahmad (as) was born at the same time of the receipt by his family of their ancestral lands, as per Hazrat Ahmad’s (as) own statements.
  3. The last battles of the Sikh empire on the Kashmir front were in 1837. Thus, Hazrat Ahmad (as) must have been born before 1837.

Thus, of the three potential years, 1832, 1835 and 1839, only 1832 and 1835 are possibilities for the years of Hazrat Ahmad’s (as) birth. This means that Hazrat Ahmad (as) was at least 75 years of age in Hijri confirming his statement that he began to receive revelation at the age of forty years old, in 1290 A.H. This would fulfil the prophecy of Hazrat Ahmad (as) that he would live to “eighty years or near that” in addition to further revelations, which specified the term “near that”:

“[Arabic] Allah will lengthen your days. [Urdu] Eighty years – four or five more or four or five less.

Haqiqatul-Wahi, pp. 70–108, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 22, pp. 73–111

Of note, 1835 was marked in the heavens also, by a celestial event – Halley’s Comet. This comet appears every seventy five years, and burns in the sky for approximately six months. Just as the Star of Bethlehem appeared at the time of Jesus’ (as) birth (Matthew 2:1–12), at the birth of his second advent, again, the same star made its appearance in the night sky.

A watercolour of Halley’s Comet of 1835 by John James Chalon (1778–1854), a Swiss painter, active in England

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