The term “global village” was first coined and used by Canadian media theorist Marshall McLuhan in the 1960s when he published The Gutenberg Galaxy in which he analysed the effects of mass media. The book popularised the phrase and it has been become part of common usage ever since. The phrase refers to the global coexistence of mankind—everyone is so well connected as if they are living in the same village. Though McLuhan popularised the phrase, it was used long before his time by Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Promised Messiahas. The idea of a global village—people from distant lands being brought together as if they live next door—was not invented by man, it was a pre-determined reality laid out in the Holy Qur’an and heavily used by the Messiah of the latter days as an argument for the truth of Islam.
For thousands of years humans lived in the same way; they travelled on horseback, sent messages to distant lands through messengers, and conveyed ideas through verbal expression. It’s amazing when we think that the Romans travelled in the same way as Elizabethan England and that the Pharaoh chased Prophet Moses on the back of the same animal that was used by Napoleon to charge into battles, despite being 3000 years apart. Then out of nowhere in the 19th century humans begin to travel in these fast-moving machines, they begin to convey ideas to distant parts of the world whilst sat at home, and begin to print material in colossal quantities, rendering it to the realm of eternity, and that all this occurs at a time when a man claims to have been commissioned by God to bring everyone together under the banner of Islam.
The Promised Messiahas argued that this was not mere co-incidence: the Romans too could have invented the steam-engine, yet this was left to 19th century England. He pointed out that such fast-pace means of communication, which brought the world together, were invented to aid his mission. If his message was to be circulated to the ends of the earth, then it required such means that would make this possible.
We find the Promised Messiahas describing the conditions of 19th century India as fertile ground for the mass propagation of Islam, outlining the idea of a global village. In Chashma-e-Marifat he lists the conditions in which a global propagation can exist with one being “the people of [various] countries be brought closer to each other as if they are part of the same village” [i].
He reiterated that the global village had been prophesied by the Holy Qur’an with grand precision; “when books will be spread abroad, when people will be brought together, etc” and that this would be at a time when mankind would need revival—the world had been brought together (in one village) so that the task of reformation could be made easy for him. Reflecting on the grandeur of what the Promised Messiahas has said leaves one awestruck: all the inventions that made communication and travel easy were so that the message of one man could reach the corners of the earth.
It is for this reason that we find the Promised Messiahas making use of these new inventions in a way that the propagation of Islam had never seen before. He published hundreds of announcements, he sent missionaries to distant lands, he wrote over 80 books, he had his voice recorded on a phonograph, he had his photo taken on a number of occasions for the purpose of Tabligh, and established newspapers as organs of the Community whilst repeatedly pointing out that the means of the modern age had brought mankind together in a manner never seen before, in a global village.
When the Promised Messiahas asked his Community to make donations for building the Minaratul-Masih, he most eloquently described the Minaret as being a symbol of the global village. He wrote:
“What is mentioned in a Hadith of the Prophetsa in relation to the Promised Messiah, that he shall descend near a white minaret, the purpose behind this was that the sign of the era of the Promised Messiah was, that owing to the mutual contact of the world, and the expansion of pathways, and the ease of meeting, propagating the faith and delivering religious light, and making announcements would become so easy as if such individual [who engages in the above] stands upon a minaret. This alluded towards railways, telegrams, steamboats, and the postal system which has turned the entire world into a city. In short, the word Minaret, for the era of the Messiah, symbolises his [divine] light and voice spreading around the world very quickly” [ii].
It could well be the case that the idea of the entire world being so close together by virtue of fast communication was formed before the Promised Messiahas others. However, the manner in which the Promised Messiahas pointed to such instruments of contact in support of his claim is something that we do not see anywhere else—what makes this even more inspiring is the many verses of the Holy Qur’an that were explained by the Promised Messiahas as carrying prophecies related to communication and travel, which were fulfilled in the 19th century. Commenting upon the verse: “He it is Who sent His Messenger with guidance and the Religion of Truth, that He may make it prevail over every other religion, even though the idolaters may dislike it” [9:33], he explains that the only way Islam could prevail over every other religion was when Muslims had the means to carry the message to the ends of the earth, since this was not possible in any era prior to the 19th century, this verse proved that people being brought together was for the propagation of Islam.
It is so inspiring to think that those inventions that changed the course of human history, those means of faster communications, those countless messaging apps, those content-sharing platforms serve are there to aid the mission of the Promised Messiahas and his community.
[i] Chashma-e-Marifat, Ruhani Khazain, Volume 23, Islam International Publications 2008, p. 96. [ii] Khutbah-Ilhamiyyah, Ruhani Khazain, Volume 23, Islamn International Publications, 2008, p. 17-18.