One of the issues which makes the Islamic religion unpopular in some quarters is its treatment of a certain sect which originated in the Indian Subcontinent under the tutelage of the British colonial regime. The group, which calls itself the “Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam”, is called the Qadiani group by Muslims. Muslims who understand their religion, whatever their differences in other issues, all agree on this point: this group is not an Islamic sect and its members are not Muslims. Yet there seems to be some misunderstanding of this issue among some converts who possibly are influenced by their liberal upbringing and background. I decided to write this article after a discussion on an email forum for New Muslims, and this article is partly based on posts I made to that forum.
Attitude to religious freedom among non-Muslims is dominated by UN charters which were written after the Second World War, and by documents such as the US Bill of Rights, which flow from European and American experience. The First Amendment states categorically, “Congress shall not make a law concerning religion”, and the US has a great deal of religious diversity. While the founders of the original colonies were Protestants, Puritans and other refugees from an England dominated by the Anglican (Episcopalian) church, the biggest single denomination in the US today is the Roman Catholic church. Europe, and particularly western Europe, saw centuries of war between different, but doctrinally very similar, religious denominations. There was the persecution of Huguenots in France, the crusades against the Hussites in Bohemia and Moravia, and the no-Popery riots in England, and anti-Catholic agitation and violence went on in England until well into the 19th century. This is to say nothing of state persecution of a number of sects, like the Albigensians, or the liquidation of religious orders like the Béguines in Belgium. It was not only Christians who have benefited from the settlement in Europe and America; Jews, Muslims, and numerous other religious groups, as well as Qadianis, have been able to live relatively peacefully in the west in the 20th century. These measures had nothing to do with the preservation of the integrity of any religion; the truth is that these conflicts were between sects with very minor differences where the sect which had political power claimed “Orthodoxy”. It was because of the dominance of these countries after the Second World War that such ideas found their way into the various UN charters and conventions.
Europeans and Americans who witness the treatment of certain religious groups in Muslim countries like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are often horrified. It reminds them of the persecution of heretics in the Europe of the middle ages. As Muslims we have a different experience of heresy. It has been, on numerous occasions throughout Islamic history, the heretics which have been doing the torturing, persecuting and murdering. It was a Kharijite heretic, Abdul-Rahman bin Muljam, who murdered Sayyiduna ‘Ali, may Allah be pleased with him, and his fellow Kharijites murdered thousands of other Muslims whose only ‘crime’ was to disagree with them. It was Mu’tazilite heretics, who had gained the upper hand in the Abbasid court, who tortured the Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal (and others) for refusing to accept their beliefs. The extreme Shi’a groups known as “Assassins” (derived from the Arabic for hashish-takers, allegedly because they were so brutal that people thought they were on drugs) also waged campaigns of war and murder against Muslims. The infamous mad caliph of Egypt who called himself Al-Hakim bi Amr Illah (the one who rules by God’s command), also a mass murderer, was a Shi’ite heretic. More recently, it was members of the Nusayri sect, commonly called Alawites or Alevis, who bombed the city of Hama, Syria, in 1982 and whose security forces also killed innocent Sunni Muslims in response to the Muslim Brotherhood’s uprising. When they are not actually torturing and killing Muslims, they collaborate with our enemies, as the Shi’a did with the Mongol invaders under Ghengis Khan, who caused devastation in Musilm and non-Muslim lands from China to central Europe. When they cannot find a home in the Muslim world, they seek refuge with the non-Muslims: in the case of the Qadianis, that means the UK, other European countries, and (of all places) Israel.
If anyone wants to know why Muslims react so strongly to false prophets, they should look at our religion, and our experience, which begins from the time of the Sahaba. Islam is truth, and although “Truth stands apart from error”, its defenders are also given the authority to defend it. This includes fighting false prophets and their followers, by the sword if necessary. The most notorious false prophet from that period was Musaylima, who was notorious for his brutality; he tortured the Muslims’ messenger (Habib b. Zaid, may Allah be pleased with him) to death by hacking off his limbs in front of a group of people. Another, Al-Aswad al-Ansi, demonstrated the falsity of his claims to anyone who was in doubt through his diabolical behaviour in Yemen. He was killed by a Sahabi named Fayruz al-Daylami (radhi’ Allahu ‘anhu), and the Prophet (sall’ Allahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) called him a “righteous servant”. As for Musaylima himself, two Sahabis are credited with killing him (Abdullah b. Zaid, the brother of the aforementioned Habib, and Wahshi, may Allah be pleased with them all). They are praised for this, because it was good. Musaylima was an enemy of Islam and a cruel tyrant.
Read any account of the Qadianis’ behaviour in Pakistan, and you will discover that they are a vile, diabolical sect whose “civilised” front is just that - a front. Given the way the Sahaba reacted to the early false Prophets in the Arabian peninsula, one can only conclude that the Qadianis have got off lightly in Pakistan. They still exist, and the Pakistani government does not allow them to call themselves Muslims because they are not Muslims. You cannot sell an empty box and call it a computer if it has no CPU inside. With that borne in mind, how can someone be allowed to call something Islam, when it rejects (whatever weasel words it uses) a central tenet of Islamic doctrine (aqida)?
Some people who spend time with Qadianis are impressed by the superficial unity and friendliness of this group, in comparison with what one may find in some of the mosques set up by Sunnis from the subcontinent. I have to add here that I have never encountered hostility in any of the Sunni mosques I have attended (except in one, and that was not from Sunnis), but there is a very simple reason why the Qadianis are united, which is that in comparison with Sunni Islam they are a tiny sect. The Muslim Council of Britain estimates that the sect (which, by the way, is notorious for exaggerating its membership) has no more than a million members worldwide (mostly Punjabis); Sunnism, on the other hand, has hundreds millions of adherents in a swathe of land which stretches all the way from Morocco to the Phillipines and Indonesia; it is a major religion in Russia and China, and in Africa; its members speak all of the world’s major languages. Yet despite all this diversity, they all follow four schools of law and two (very similar and mutually accepting) schools of doctrine. A Sunni Muslim from Morocco would find the customs of Indonesia, Kenya or Pakistan not dissimilar from his own. This is a miraculous proof of the Truth of Islam, and this situation remained through centuries when there were no telephones or computer networks.
Like the Jews, until quite recently, the Qadianis are able to keep their membership united by rattling off tales of their past persecutions and trials. (Unlike the Jews, their ‘persecution’ has not included massacres, pogroms and death camps.) It is also easy for the Qadianis to play up their “friendliness” and “unity” to score empty points off other Pakistanis, and to liberalise aspects of their religious law. In truth, they have no ethnic division because almost all of their Pakistani flock come from one ethnic group: the Punjabis. They do not have sectarian divisions, because they are a small sect themselves. They do not have a Breilawi/Deobandi division problem, because the Breilawis and Deobandis are two separate groupings while the Qadianis are a third, who unlike the other two, are not Muslim. So let no-one be deceived by these tactics of theirs.
Another issue raised by some Muslims has to do with the Lahore Ahmadiyya group, which supposedly rejects the notion of Ghulam Ahmad being a prophet. They instead regard him as a mujaddid, a “reviver” of Islam, and insist he never claimed prophethood. However, the ulama of Islam, including those of the Punjab who witnessed the unfolding of these events, unanimously insist that he did claim prohethood. So their position is at best self-deluding and at best downright dishonest. This group is far smaller than the Qadiani group and, despite some of their written works that some scholars have deemed to be of benefit, the majority of scholars (including those of al-Azhar) have said they are not Muslims either (see a recent article by Shaikh Hamza Yusuf on their status).
It is important that new converts realise the threat posed by the Qadianis, and exactly how far from Islam they are. They cannot spread honestly, because if individual Qadianis were upfront with Muslims about their affiliation, the said Muslims would turn around and walk away from them. In fact, the leadership of the sect has kept facts about their sect (such as their absurd scriptures like “Roohani Khaza’in”) secret from even their own local officials (See here). The group has a presence in Croydon in south London, and used to run a da’wah stall in the North End shopping area. I have had three separate encounters with Qadianis in Croydon and each time the people concerned (two of them were converts and dressed like Muslims) did not reveal who they were with until we had been talking for quite some time. One of them referred to his “Ahmadiyya jama’at” and the other to an “imam” named Tahir Ahmad. One of them came up with a few of their favourite gambits, such as their satellite TV station which, they claim, makes their group the only religious group with a satellite TV station. This is absolute nonsense; there are several Sunni satellite TV stations (Iqra is one of the best known) and well-known shaikhs regularly appear on Arabic TV.
I asked one of them about Ghulam Ahmad’s claim to be the Mahdi, and if he was the Mahdi, where was the Dajjal (Antichrist)? He replied that the Dajjal is “the civilisation”, meaning western civilisation, a strange response given the support their movement has received from that civilisation, which allowed three of their temples to be built in south London alone (including the so-called London Mosque which is actually several miles from the city centre!). Again, this goes against consensus, which says that the Dajjal is a man, of Jewish background. Imam Mahdi (‘alaihi as-salaam) is named Muhammad bin Abdillah (not Ghulam Ahmad!), is from the descendents of the Prophet (sall’ Allahu ‘alaihi wa sallam), unlike Ghulam Ahmad, will be recognised in the Hijaz, which Ghulam Ahmad never visited, and will not appear until after the occupation of part of the Arabian peninsula by Christians and the appearance of the Sufiani tyrant in Syria - all of which has yet to happen, decades after Ghulam Ahmad met his end in a toilet.
Another objection is that the Pakistani government, which supposedly persecutes the sect, is not exactly Islamically-based. It is true that the Pakistani government has a number of un-Islamic laws, some of them loosely based on the Shari’ah and which give a distorted image of the Shari’ah; it is not, however, the Pakstani government alone which declares them unbelievers, nor extremist imams, though such people exist, but the unanimous consensus of Muslim authorities, and I mean religious as well as political. Fatawa have been issued against the group as far west as the Gambia, in the strongest possible terms. Here is what one well-known imam, Habib Ahmad Mashhur al-Haddad of Hadramaut, has written about them:
This grouping is more of an affliction to Islam than many of the other sects which are in transgression and error. Its members follow the accursed impostor Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who was created (sic) by the British as a fifth column. He claimed divinity and prophethood, asserted that he was the Messiah, the Mahdi, and the Renovator of Religion and Islam, all in one. What fraud and sedition is this? The Muslims are unanimously agreed that anyone who claims prophethood after our master Muhammad (sall’ Allahu ‘alaihi wa aalihi wa sallam) is an obstinate disbeliever. Musaylima the Liar claimed it, may God curse him! … In fact, [Ghulam Ahmad] was more accursed and vile than Musaylima the Liar and others who have claimed prophethood, for he pretended outwardly to be a Muslim. … To confute them it is sufficient to show that they have gone against what is clearly stated in the Book and the Sunna, and what the whole Umma has agreed on. That they have done this is proved by the letters of their accursed impostor and their printed literature. The Muslims of today are of the unanimous view that the Qadiani sectaries are kafirs and apostates who have no connection of any kind with Islam. Verdicts to this effect have been issued against them which are clearer than the sun in the noonday sky. … May God Himself fight against them! What falsehood they utter! [9:30]. (Miftaah al-Jannah, translated as Key to the Garden by Mostafa Badawi, Quilliam Press, London, 1990).
It is important to add here that the Finality of Prophethood was mentioned in the Final Sermon, and is something which is known of the religion by necessity, meaning that anyone with any degree of Islamic knowledge knows this (I have heard a shaikh say that such knowledge is what any nine-year-old madrassa student would know). Ignorance is a defence, but only for those in a position to be ignorant, such as those from very remote regions. The actions of the Pakistani government have been motivated by this knowledge, not by political motives, sectarianism, caste or anything else. In addition, the Qadianis are not entitled to be called “People of the Book”, because their false scriptures cannot possibly be remnants of any revealed Book (Al-Misri & Keller, Reliance of the Traveller, Beltsville, Maryland, 1994).
Unanimous consensus means just that - unanimous. They are not Muslims.