Mirza Tahir Ahmad (Urdu: مرزا طاہراحمد) (18 December 1928 – 19 April 2003) was Khalifatul Masih IV (Arabic: ‘khalīfatul masīh al-rābi ,خليفة المسيح الرابع) and the head of the worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. He was elected as Caliph on 10 June 1982, the day after the death of his predecessor, Mirza Nasir Ahmad.
In 1974 he was nominated as a member of the Ahmadiyya delegation which appeared before the Parliament of Pakistan to defend the beliefs of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. Following the Ordinance XX that was promulgated by the government of Pakistan in 1984, which rendered the Khalifatul Masih unable to perform his duties and put the very institution in jeopardy, Tahir Ahmad left Pakistan and migrated to London, England, provisionally moving the headquarters of the community to the Fazl Mosque in London.As Khalifatul Masih IV, Tahir Ahmad attended the 100th Annual Jalsa Salana (annual gathering) being held in Qadian, India in 1991. It was the first time an Ahmadiyya Caliph had returned to Qadian since the partition of India in 1947, when the community relocated from India to Pakistan.
Mirza Tahir Ahmad is noted particularly for his Question & Answer sessions which he held regularly with people from around the world and for his Qur’anic discourses. During his Caliphate, the community experienced structural and financial growth on an international level, including the launch of the first Muslim satellite television network, Muslim Television Ahmadiyya, in 1994.
Mirza Tahir Ahmad was born in Qadian, India on 18 December 1928 to Mirza Basheer-ud-Din Mahmood Ahmad and Sayyida Maryam Begum. He obtained his early schooling in Qadian and joined the Government College, Lahore in 1944, a few months after the death of his mother, Syeda Maryam Begum. After graduating with distinction from Jamia Ahmadiyya (Theological Academy) in Rabwah, he continued his education and obtained his honours degree in Arabic from the University of Punjab, Lahore.
In 1955 he visited England for the first time with his father, who advised him to remain there to improve his knowledge of the English language and become familiar with European social habits. He studied for two and a half years at the School of Oriental and African Studies at London University, but returned to Pakistan in December 1957 without having graduated. During his stay in London Tahir Ahmad visited different parts of the United Kingdom including Ireland, Scotland, Wales and also some parts of Western Europe.
Upon his return in 1957, Tahir Ahmad married Asifa Begum and was appointed the vice president of the newly established Waqf-e-Jadid Foundation, whose main task was to educate community members who lived in rural areas of Pakistan. He also started treating poor people with homeopathy.
During the Pakistani parliamentary investigations regarding the status of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, a delegation of five members, including Tahir Ahmad, was sent to plead the community’s case. Shortly after, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community was declared non-Muslim by the Pakistani National Assembly, which remains the constitutional and legal position of Pakistan as of 2014.
The Majlis Intikhab Khilafat (Electoral College), convened at Mubarik Mosque in Rabwah, Pakistanelected Hadrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad as the fourth successor to Mirza Ghulam Ahmad and head of the community on 10 June 1982
Ordinance XX, the anti-Ahmadiyya legislation passed by General Zia ul Haq’s government on 26 April 1984, compelled Tahir Ahmad to leave Pakistan immediately. On 26 April the he summoned an emergency conference of the Majlis e Shura (Consultative Body) at 10pm. This session included key members of the Caliph’s advisory council and high office bearers of the Community. After the emergency session of the Consultative Body it was suggested that the Community members should not deliver the Adhan. The following day it was suggested that the Tahir Ahmad should not deliver the Friday Sermon as that would entail a violation of the Ordinance in some form or another and that perhaps this was the plan in having passed the ordinance on the Thursday before the Jumu’ah. However the he did not initially accept this until he found it to be the unanimous advise of the local presidents of the Community who had made their way to the centre the following day. The Jum’uah service was led by Muhammad Bashir Shad in the presence of the Caliph. By then he had decided to migrate from Pakistan temporarily. He privately made efforts for this purpose by setting up a private committee for the operation consisting of Mirza Mubarik Ahmad, Bridagier Wakihul Zaman , Masood Ahmad of Jhelum (responsible for facilitating the booking of flights), Chaudhrey Hamid Nasrullah Khan (Ameer of Lahore) was instructed to arrange for cars and drivers, Chaudhrey Ahmad Mukhtar (Ameer of Karachi) was instructed to arrange for the Caliph’s short stay in Karachi and departure from the airport. The Caliph departed along with his wife, 2 daughters and 17 others on the morning of 29 April on a KLM flight to London via Amsterdam. He reached London on 30 April, eventually moving the headquarters of the community to London during his years of exile.
In 1991 Mirza Tahir Ahmad returned to India to attend the 100th Annual Jalsa Salana (gathering) of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Qadian. This was the first time a Caliph of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community had visited India since the partition of India in 1947 and the relocation of the Community to the new headquarters in Pakistan by Mirza Basheer-ud-Din Mahmood Ahmad.
As Khalifatul Masih Mirza Tahir Ahmad established the Muslim Television Ahmadiyya (commonly referred to as MTA). This satellite-based channel broadcast its first show on 21 August 1992 from London. It started with a weekly one-hour program, transmitting Ahmad’s Friday sermon.
Today, MTA broadcasts 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, is watched by millions of people on five continents, and consists of three channels. Every Friday, broadcasts still include Khalifatul Masih’s Friday sermon, simultaneously televised into six languages. Important events of the Community are also televised in most major languages around the world.
In 1993 Mirza Tahir Ahmad started an international initiation ceremony to be held every year at the annual gatherings of Ahmadis in which new converts join the community by pledging their allegiance to the Khalifa. The International Bai’at ceremony was broadcast live across the world. He often claimed that this was the historical fulfillment of the Pentecost that was destined to occur at the time of the Second Coming.
Mirza Tahir Ahmad was a leading homeopath. After trying a couple of remedies for his own migraine and his wife’s long-standing ailment, he came to believe in the efficacy of homeopathic remedies, and treated thousands of patients. He instructed branches to establish free homeopathic dispensaries. He embarked upon a program of homeopathy training through classes televised on MTA International. These lectures were later compiled in a book (below).
Mirza Tahir Ahmad married Asifa Begum in 1957. They had 4 daughters, Shaukat Jehan, Faiza, Yasmin Rehman Mona, Atiatul Mujib Tooba and one daughter who died in infancy. He had no sons but later he took on the upbringing and educational training of a boy, Bashir. Asifa Begum died from pancreatic cancer on 3 April 1992.
Mirza Tahir Ahmad was the grandson the founder of the Ahmadiyya, he was the son of Mirza Bashir-ud-Din Mahmood Ahmad, the second Caliph from his wife Syeda Maryam Begum, and was also the half-brother of Mirza Nasir Ahmad, the third Caliph.
Mirza Tahir Ahmad died in London on 19 April 2003 from heart failure. The newly elected Caliph Mirza Masroor Ahmad, as the Khalifatul Masih V, led the funeral prayer on 23 April 2003, attended by over 40,000 people from around the world
Mirza Tahir Ahmad answered questions from people of various faiths, professional backgrounds, cultures and mindsets around the world in various meetings and forums. He would answer any and all questions, whether related to Islam or not, without preparation or assistance.
Tahir Ahmad delivered regular in-depth commentaries on The Holy Quran during the months of Ramadan. The hallmark of these commentaries was his ability to incorporate lengthy discussions of the commentaries made by previous commentators as well as the founder of the Ahmadiyya and the Ahmadiyya Caliphs that came before him. In addition he discussed the lexicography of the Quran and refuted many of the arguments of the Orientalists. His commentaries differed significantly from those offered by many of the classical Quranic commentators, placing emphasis on the logical and rational approach of the Quran. For example, he did not believe it was essential to rely heavily on Asbab al-nuzul (Circumstances of the Revelation) in order to understand the implications of the Quranic verses, presenting strong arguments instead that the Quran offered its own context. Breaking away from the norm, for this purpose, he delivered 7 discourses on Asbab al-nuzul. Through these much anticipated annual discourses, Tahir Ahmad also presented landmark interpretations of the Quranic narrative, based upon contemporary scientific, archaeological and historical research to support the Quranic narratives of the Prophets’ against the Biblical stories such as those of Adam and Eve, the flood of Noah and the story of Moses and the Pharaoh and the nature of miracles in the light of natural and supernatural phenomena. He also argued that the Divine attributes of Allah are inter-related and not presented randomly but with specific relevance to the subject under discussion. The discourses were delivered in English, however in 1993 Tahir Ahmad decided that he should switch to Urdu as the translators in several languages in which the discourses were being simultaneously translated would find ease in translating from . The last of these discourses was delivered in 2001. These discourses of the last decade of his life (from when he switched to Urdu) have also now been summarised into English through the Tahir Archive and published online.
One of the monumental achievements of his life was the translation of Holy Quran in Urdu. He used simple language in his translation so that people can understand the real meaning of the Holy Quran. Also supplemented are introductions to different chapters and brief explanations of difficult and important passages of Quran. The publication was based on the ‘Translation of the Quran’ classes delivered between 1994 and 1999 on MTA.
Mirza Tahir Ahmad wrote among many others, a book named Revelation, Rationality, Knowledge & Truth which was a further development on a talk he gave in Zurich, Switzerland in 1987. It covered many topics relating to the present day world. In this book he argued a rebuttal to the theories of biologist Richard Dawkins.He also argued that Socrates was a prophet of the ancient Greeks,and that several other prominent figures from history were at the level of prophethood due to their accomplishments and their influence over other figures far into history, both on a moral and materialistic progressive compass. The book covers a vast array of subjects, from religion, to science to secular traits in the present age. It seeks to substantiate, through various arguments, how God has been ever present in the world of Man.