A sindonologist in a Muslim convention talking… about the Shroud. The
sindonologist is Emanuela Marinelli; the Muslims are the faithful of the Ahmadiyya
community. She had anticipated this during the interview in July: “I will go to
London to talk about the Cloth,” she had told us. And of course we answered with an
invitation to tell us about it when she would return. “I must say that this invitation
surprised me a lot. I did not expect a community of Muslims to be interested in the
In the first weekend of August, Hampshire, a county on England’s southern coast,
hosted 30,000 Muslims from 100 different countries for the largest Islamic
conference in the UK. Among them, this year, a group of experts for a conference
that, on Friday, August 3, explained the reasons for supporting the thesis that the
Shroud is actually the sheet that wrapped the dead body of Jesus.
“Knowing them”, Emanuela Marinelli continues, “then I understood why the
venerated Linen kept in Turin interests them so much”.
So, speaking of this, why are they interested in it?
They are Ahmadiyya Muslims, a religious movement born in 1889 in Punjab, a
region of northern India close to Pakistan. Today there are around ten million in more
than 200 countries. Most Muslims believe that Jesus was not crucified, but another
was killed in his place. The Ahmadiyya, on the other hand, think that Jesus survived
the crucifixion and moved to Kashmir, where his tomb still exists today. This was the
conviction of their founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who, because of a series of
statements he made, was considered a heretic by the other Muslim scholars of his
time. The Shroud, for the Ahmadiyya, is a precious testimony of the crucifixion of
Jesus, who is revered as a prophet by the Muslims. In the traces of blood on the
Shroud they see the proof that Jesus was still alive when he was deposed there.
Why do the Ahmadiyya gather in England?
After the creation of Pakistan in 1947, the Ahmadiyya moved there, but they were
persecuted. In 1974 they were called non-Muslims by the Parliament, and in 1984
they received the prohibition to publicly profess their faith. At this point their fourth
Caliph, Mirza Tahir Ahmad, decided to transfer the seat of the Caliphate to London.
Here the community has expanded greatly and every year all those who can gather
for the Jalsa Salana (Annual Meeting) in a large field, Oakland Farm, near Alton, in
Hampshire. This year there were more than 30,000 people, coming from around 100
countries. The current Caliph, Mirza Masroor Ahmad was present as well. I had the
privilege of meeting him and talking to him. His preaching is absolutely oriented
towards peace, tolerance and dialogue with other religions. All the Ahmadiyya
believe in these fundamental values.
Was this the first time that the Shroud was discussed during their annual
No, for some years they have invited the American scientific photographer Barrie
Schwortz, a Jew, who was part of the group of scientists called Shroud of Turin
Research Project, who studied the Shroud by examining it in 1978. Schwortz has the
largest Shroud website in the world: www.sindone.com
Last year an exhibition on the Shroud was also organized by the English
sindonologist Pam Moon. The exhibition was successful and so this year it has been
replicated. A scientist from the University of Turin, Professor Bruno Barberis, who
has been the scientific director of the Turin International Center of Sindonology for
many years, has returned for the second time. The new guests, however, were me and
Professor Jorge Manuel Rodriguez Almenar, professor at the University of Valencia
and President of the Spanish Center of Sindonology.
Let’s talk about your speech.
The planned speech was about the role of women in the study of the Shroud. The
Ahmadiyya care about enhancing the value of women and in the exhibition on the
Shroud there is also a section dedicated to Mary, the mother of Jesus, who is greatly
revered by them. But the days of this year’s gathering, August 3-5, were incandescent
for the Shroud, after the release of the article that declared it false because the
bloodstains would not be consistent with the outcome of a crucifixion. We talked about that article in a previous interview. But just while I was at the gathering came
the news of the publication of a new study in the prestigious scientific journal
‘Applied Optics’ titled ‘Investigating the color of the blood stains on archaeological
cloths: the case of the Shroud of Turin’. This research explains the bright red color of
blood stains on the Shroud with the presence of a considerable amount of bilirubin,
the result of the torture suffered by the Man of the Shroud. Under these conditions,
the blood is kept redder if it is irradiated by ultraviolet light. Furthermore, in the
Shroud blood there is methemoglobin, a strongly oxidized form of hemoglobin,
typical of ancient blood. Obviously the Ahmadiyya were interested in understanding
the value and the scope of these last articles, and therefore they bombarded us with
Have they even talked about their theory concerning the supposed survival of
Jesus after the crucifixion?
Yes, they asked my opinion. I said, very sincerely, that in my opinion even with the
hundreds of wounds of the scourging no one could survive in the following days. But
then the crucifixion and the wound to the side leave no escape. All the doctors who
studied the Shroud agree on this. There is only one Spanish doctor who claims
otherwise, but he is an isolated voice, widely denied. However, I greatly appreciated
the courage and openness of the Ahmadiyya, who invited people of different religious
faith and different opinions on some aspects of the Shroud. We have been treated as
guests of great respect, with a truly loving friendship. They are extraordinarily mild
and peaceful people who conquer with their smile.
What have you brought home from this experience?
A feeling of joy and enthusiasm. After meeting them, I became a bit Ahmadiyya
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