JUST FORTY-FIVE MILES NORTH Of CHICAGO, the city of Zion is home to 25,000 residents who practice a mul- titude of faiths. But in 1901, it was founded as a Christian utopia for the followers of Dr. John Alexander Dowie (1847- 1907), a world-renowned and wealthy Christian preacher who grew a popular ministry based on faith healing.
But Dowie’s vision was built on religious bigotry and exclusion. Claiming to be Elijah the Restorer, he sought “to smash every other church In existence.” He especially despised Islam, which he condemned as a “force of the Devil” calling Prophet Muhammad a “forger” and “false prophet.” He announced that “Mohammedanism must be destroyed.”
In 1902, Dowie’s animus against Islam caught the attention of His Holiness Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1908) of Qadian, India — founder of the Ahmadi- yya Muslim Community, who claimed to be the awaited Messiah for all religions. Ahmad responded to Dowie’s prayers for Islam’s destruction with a prayer duel: “Mr. Dowie need not repeatedly announce his proph- ecy of the destruction of all Muslims, but should keep me alone In his mind and should pray that of the two of us, the one who is false may die before the other… If Mr. Dowie is true in his claim and Jesus is indeed God, this matter can be determined by the death of only one person; there is no need of destroying the Muslims of all countries.
But if Mr. Dowie does not respond and offers a prayer according to his boasts and then is removed from this world before my death, this would be a sign for all the people of America.”
Ahmad’s unique challenge to Dowie received coverage in more than 160 U.S. newspapers.
“Creed against creed,” headlined the Alaska Nome Nugget (August 1, 1903). “The Rival Prophets”, proclaimed the New York Times (March 29, 1903). “Will Dowie fight this duel?” asked the Chicago inter-Ocean (June 28, 1903).
Dowie rebuffed the challenge, announcing in 1903: I pray to God that the day may come near when Islam will be an- nihilated from the world. O God, make it happen – O God, make Islam perish!” He taunted Ahmad, saying:
“There is a Muhammadan Messiah in India who has re- peatedly written to me… and people ask me why I do not answer him.
Do you imagine that I shall reply to suchgnats and flies? If I were to put dawn my foot on them I would crush out their lives.”
But from 1903 onward, Dowie saw a rapid decline of all his affairs. In October 1903, Dowie stood before thou- sands in Madison Square Garden to convert residents of New York City but suddenly lost his voice. When able to speak, he descended into vulgarity. “Hostile audience howls at Dowie” read the New York Times headline.
Dowie’s estimated net worth was equivalent to $800 mil- lion in today’s value. Soon, despite ordering his followers to liquidate their assets and deposit money in the Zion City Bank to avoid expulsion, his personal account be- came overdrawn $20 million in today’s value.
Dowie’s claimed ill health only visits the sinful, but in September 1905 the faith healer suffered a stroke, rendering him paralyzed on one side and unable to walk. In April 1906, Dowie’s handpicked suc- cessor, Wilbur Voliva, suspended Dowie from office and church membership after investigating Dowie’s “extravagance, hy- pocrisy, misrepresentations, exaggera- tions, misuse of investment. tyranny, and Injustice?
On February 20, 1907, Ahmad published an announcement that “God promised to show a great sign of His truthfulness in the coming days.” On March 9, Dowie died in Zion penniless, abandoned by his wife and family, ousted by his church and the city he founded.
“Great is Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, Foretold Pathetic End of Dowie.” read the Sunday headline of the Boston Herald on June 23, 1907, among other news- papers.
On October 1, 2022, the same city Dowie built to exter- minate Islam welcomes the Messiah’s fifth Successor and World Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad, to inaugurate Zion’s first mosque. Zion now embodies the true spirit of religious freedom and pluralism. This marked a great victory for all Amercans: PRAYER OVER PREJUDICE, LOVE OVER HATRED, AND TRUTH OVER FALSEHOOD.
HIS HOLINESS ADDRESSES HISTORIC INAUGURAL RECEPTION OF FATH-E-AZEEM MOSQUE, ZION USA
On 1st October 2022, the World Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, the Fifth Khalifa (Caliph), His Holiness, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad delivered the keynote address at a special reception held to commemorate the opening of the Fath-e-Azeem Mosque (the Great Victory) in Zion, Illinois. His Holiness had officially inaugurated the Mosque a day earlier with his weekly Friday Sermon.
Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad said: “The Promised Messiah reiterated his challenge and it received wide- spread publicity in the United States and elsewhere. Journalists reported on Mr Dowie’s towering status in his community, his wealth and power and compared it unfavourably with the Promised Messiah (peace be upon him), who they noted was from a distant and remote village in India and whose wealth and world- ly power were no match for Mr Dowie. Furthermore, in purely physical terms, Mr Dowie was younger and in better health than the Promised Messiah (peace be upon him). Yet, despite the discrepancy in material terms, the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Commu- nity never hesitated, never took a backward step or considered withdrawing his challenge.”
Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad said: “Against all worldly odds, the result soon became apparent in his favour. In quick succession, Dowie lost his supporters, wealth and physical and mental faculties. He ultimate- ly suffered what the US media described as a ‘pathetic end’ A famous Boston Herald headline declared that: ‘Great is Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, The Messiah’. In short, the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community nev- er sought to assert his views or values upon anyone forcefully. Nor did he ever
The reception was attended by more than 140 guests, including politicians, faith leaders, and local residents. The highlight of the event was the keynote address delivered by Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad during which he spoke of the grand prophecy of the Promised Messiah (peace be upon him) regarding John Alexander Dowie, founder of the city of Zion, and how it was fulfilled.
His Holiness mentioned how the response and reaction of the Pro- mised Messiah (peace be upon him) to Dowie’s hatred for Islam, more than a century before, was a “magnificent example of restraint
in the face of immense provocation and hostility,”. Throughout his address, His Holiness spoke of the vital im- portance of religious freedom wit- hin society.
Speaking of Islam’s emphasis on establishing world peace and re- ligious freedom, His Holiness said chapter 22 verses 40 and 41 of the Holy Quran contain a “momentous and ground-breaking principle, ensuring universal religious freedom.”
Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad explained the verses and said:
“The Quran explicitly states that if a forceful response to the injustices perpetrated against the Muslims was not forthcoming, no church, syna- gogue, temple, mosque or any other place of worship would remain safe. Thus, the Holy Quran is the one divine scripture that not only grants abso- lute religious freedom to the people of all religions and beliefs but goes further, by instructing Muslims and those who enter Mosques to protect the religious rights of non-Muslims. It is that heavenly scripture which is the protector and defender of all religions, faiths and beliefs.”
His Holiness went on to speak about the City of Zion and how its founder, John Alexander Dowie expressed se- vere prejudice against Islam. Upon his vile abuse of Islam and its Holy Foun- der, the Promised Messiah (peace be upon him) directly responded to him.
His Holiness quoted Mr Dowie, who said:“I pray to God that Islam should soon disappear from the face of the earth. O God, accept my prayer. O God, destroy Islam!”
Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad said: “He [Dowie] wrote that if Muslims did not embrace Christianity, they would meet with death and destruction. In response to such extreme rhetoric and vitriol, the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community (peace be upon him) sought to ensure that thousands or even millions of innocent people were not harmed, which would have been the case if Mr Dowie’s desire for a religious war between Christians and Muslims was realised. According- ly, he challenged Mr Dowie to a prayer duel. He said that rather than call for death or destruc- tion, he and Mr Dowie should both engage in solemn prayer and pray to God that which- ever of them was a liar should die during the life of the other party.”
Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad continued:
“This was actually an act of compassion and a means to defuse the situation. Rather than risk an all-out confron- tation between Muslims and Christians, the Promised Mes- siah (peace be upon him) as- serted that he and Mr Dowie should resort to prayer and leave the matter in the Hands of God Almighty. It was a fair and peaceful means to determine the truth.
It is no exaggeration to state that it was a magnificent ex- ample of restraint in the face of immense provocation and hostility.”
When Dowie received the challenge, he did not desist from his previous ways. In fact, as per his hateful ways, he went on to compare the Prom- ised Messiah (peace be upon him) to ‘gnats and flies’ whom he would ‘crush to death’ were he to put his foot on them.
countenance responding to the hatred of Mr Dowie or other opponents of Islam with physical force or might. For Ahmadi Muslims, this incident serves as a sign of the truth of our Founder, and so, in this respect, the city of Zion holds a significant place in our history.”
Concluding his address, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ah- mad said: “Today, the followers of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Promised Messiah and Mahdi (the Guided One) offer thanks to Allah the Almighty that we are in- augurating the Fath-e-Azeem Mosque (The Mosque of the Grand Victory) in Zion as a symbol of true religious freedom. Its doors open with an enlightened message pronouncing that the religious rights and peaceful be- liefs of all peoples and communities are to be forever protected and cherished. It is the paramount objective of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community to direct man- kind to the path of spiritual salvation and to ensure that all peoples, irrespective of their caste, creed or colour, live together with a spirit of goodwill and harmony and in true peace and security.”
Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad further stated:
“From the depths of my heart, I pray that this Mosque will, God Willing, always serve as a beacon of peace, tolerance and love for all mankind. I pray it proves to be a place where people congregate, in all humility, to rec- ognise their Creator, to bow before Him and to fulfil the rights of mankind. For, we earnestly believe that we can only be successful and prosperous if we fulfil the rights of worship of God Almighty and the rights of humanity.”