We Are All Ahmadis IV: A History

Four young men ran through the streets of Gujranwala, Pakistan, trying to escape the mob rioters chasing them and reach the house of their friends. Their friends, two brothers, had already arranged to move all the women of their house and others to a nearby neighbor’s home for safety. The four men reached the house of the two brothers with a trail of stone-throwing rioters behind them. The six of them climbed to the roof of the house. The stone throwers, however, had already reached the roofs of adjoining houses and began pelting the men. They were forced to come back down. The men found themselves surrounded and trapped. The rioters proceeded to beat the men with sticks and clubs and continued to stone them. While beating the men, the rioters shouted and demanded the men denounce their Ahmadi faith and “Mirza Sahib”. The six men refused. The rioters then stoned the six men to death. The women of the household fought their tears and mourned quietly afterwards for fear of being heard by outsiders. The six men lay buried beneath the pile of stones for a day. No one dared approach the site of the killing out of fear of the militant perpetrators. The next day, members of the six men’s religious community uncovered the bodies and discreetly buried them. Reports were filed but no charges were made by police.
– M. Nadeem Ahmad Siddiq, “Enforced Apostasy: Zaheeruddin v. State and the Official Persecution of the Ahmadiyya Community in Pakistan”, Law and Inequality, December, 1995.

Sangha quoted residents as saying that the assailant threatened to not leave any Ahmadi alive.
Dawn, Monday, May 31, 2010

Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was born in Qadiyan a small village in Punjab in the late 1830s.1 He belonged to a prosperous household which had a long history of land grants and pensions from both the Mughal and Sikh courts, and from the British. He worked briefly as a law clerk but mostly his early life remains out of historical sight. In 1880 he self-published Barāhin-i Ahmadiyya – an exegesis on prophetology, on revelation, on the conditions of Muslim society as well as an engagement with the Hindu and Christian polemical and missionary materials. It is in these pages that he first articulates his role as a mujadid (a millennial renewer), muhaddath (one in direct conversation with God), a mahdi (the one who will lead the apocalyptical battle) and masih (Jesus). There is a lot here, theologically speaking, that would rile up the orthodoxy though much is also indebted to many strains of Sufic practices as well as theoretical explications of man’s relationship to God in various philosophical schools. Ahmad continued to write in local papers, issuing pamphlets, debating everyone. Starting in 1886, he began to hold public debates with Arya Samajist – a Hindu revivalist organization, founded in 1875 by Dayanand Saraswati to defend Hindu thought and practice from Christian missionaries; with Christian missionaries, and with other Muslim scholars. In 1891, he created an organization built around himself and began the efforts to actively proselytize in the community.

His public engagement was not confined to these debates (one of them lasted for 15 days) alone. He was a prolific author, having written nearly 88 books in Urdu, Arabic and Persian over the course of his life. In 1897, he established an Urdu weekly al-Hakam, and in 1902, al-Badr, as well as an English monthly The Review of Religions. Of his many concerns traceable in his writings and the journals, two need pointing out – Ahmadi engagement with the British regime (profoundly positive and engaged) and Ahmadi proselytizing around the world (deeply committed). Ghulam Ahmad died in 1908, leaving a Will but no clarity on succession. The Ahmadiyya split into two factions – the Lahori branch and the Qadiyani branch in 1914 along a number of issues (Ghulam Ahmad’s prophethood, how Ahmadis should proselytize to non-Muslims, leadership etc.).

Ahmadi missions began to appear in Britain and Europe (early 1910s), USA (1920 to Michigan and Ohio), Central Asia (1921), Iraq (1922), Syria (1925), Egypt (1924), Indonesia (1926), , Nigeria and Ghana (post 1918) – alongside came persecution. The first deaths came in 1901 and 1903 when two Ahmadis were stoned to death in Kabul. The next wave of anti-Ahmadi violence came in 1924-5, again starting in Afghanistan during the reign of Amir Amanullah Khan (1919-1929) when he ordered the arrest and execution of Ahmadis specifically on the grounds of apostasy. He also made being an Ahmadi a capital offense under the penal code.

The ‘ulama in Delhi and Deoband agreed by publishing their own fatwas/exegesis on the apostasy of the Ahmadi – chief among them was Shabbir Ahmad Uthmani of Deoband who founded the Jamaat Ulama-i Islam (JUI). His fatwa was crucial in the anti-Ahmadi riots of 1953. But the ‘ulama were not the only ones rallying after the Ahmadi. Muslim political groups such as the Majlis Ahrar-ul Islam tried to have them declared non-Muslim in the 1930s. Even the stalwart opponent of the bearded mullah, Muhammad Iqbal, took exception to the Ahmadi claim of a resurgent prophethood.

The Ahmadi question exposed the faith-based dysfunction in the ideology of Pakistan in 1949 (just as Bengali and Bengal were to expose the linguistic and racial dysfunctions, and Baluchistan the territorial dysfunction). The Ahrar and various other ‘ulema began agitating for the declaration of non-Muslim status to the Ahmadi in the constitution being drafted as well as attack the first foreign minister of Pakistan, Muhammad Zafrullah Khan (an Ahmadi). Everything from public rallies to violence shook the cities of Pakistan (a must-read document is the Munir Report). The fledgling government successfully resisted this pressure.

In 1951-3, the Ahrar kept tremendous pressure on the government – esp. the Punjab govt. by holding rallies (which often turned into riots) across the country. On March 5, 1953, Maulana Maududi and his Jamaat-i Islami, which had largely kept out of the anti-Ahmadi fervor, joined the fray. Maududi published Qadiyani Masalah (The Ahmadi Problem) – using his theological know-how to structure himself at the center of the debate. This greatly intensified the public outcry, as well the response of the state – which cracked down hard on the religious parties and their organs. The inquiry report issued – the Munir Report – is perhaps the best and only official indictment of religious parties produced in Pakistan.

The Bengal question cleaved Pakistan into two. This second Partition gave rise to the first outright embrace of the process of Islamization under the leadership of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. From 1972 onwards, anti-Ahmadi riots spread across Punjab with state legislatures introducing anti-Ahmadi legislations. On September 7, 1973, the State decided to amend the Constitution and add a clause requiring faith in the finality of the Prophet as a central tenant, and failure of doing so, be punishable by law. The Ahmadi were finally non-Muslims and denied basic rights of citizenship. After Pakistan, similar measures were passed across the Muslim world – often linked to pressure from the Saudi Arabian regime.

1984 began another long nightmare when Zia ul Haq passed the Ordinance on April 26, 1984. It forbid them from declaring themselves as Muslims, or calling their mosques, mosques or using the call to prayer. Pakistan’s task, to quote Zia ul Haq, was to “persevere in our effort to ensure that the cancer of Qadianism is exterminated”.

1993 was another round of riots across Pakistan.



  1. See Spencer Lavan’s The Ahmadiyah Movement: A History and Perspective (New Delhi: Manohar Books, 1974) and Yohanan Friedmann’s Prophecy Continuous: Aspects of Ahmadi Religious Thought and Its Medieval Background (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989) []

Oscar, Wow!

Díaz, Junot. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. New York: Riverhead Books, 2007.

I. Comix

For the record, that summer our girl caught a cuerpazo so berserk that only a pornographer or a comic-book artist could have designed it with a clear conscience. Every neighborhood has its tetúa, but Beli could have put them all to shame, she was la Tetúa Suprema: her tetas were globes so implausibly titanic they made generous souls pity their bearer and drove every straight male in their vicinity to reevealuate his sorry life. (pp. 91-92)

[cf: lapata’s los bros review]

II. Sci Fi

Oscar had always been a young nerd–the kind of kid who read Tom Swift, who loved comic books and watched Ultraman–but by high school his commitment to the Genres had become absolute. Back when the rest of us were learning to play wallball and pitch quarters and drive our older brothers’ cars and sneak dead soldiers from under our parents’ eyes, he was gorging himself on a steady stream of Lovecraft, Wells, Burroughs, Howard, Alexander, Herbert, Asimov, Bova, and Heinlein, and even the Old Ones who were already beginning to fade–E.E. “Doc” Smith, Stapledon, and the guy who wrote all the Doc Savage books–moving hungrily from book to book, author to author, age to age. (pp. 20-21)
You really want to know what being an X-Man feels like? Just be a smart bookish boy of color in a contemporary U.S. ghetto. Mamma mia! like having bat wings or a pair of tentacles growing out of your chest. (footnote 6, p. 22)

III. Realismo Mágico

And now we arrive at the strangest part of our tale. Whether what follows was a figment of Beli’s wracked imagination or something else altogether I cannot say….as Beli was flitting in and out of life, there appeared at her side a creature that would have been an amiable mongoose if not for its golden lion eyes and the absolute black of its pelt. This one was quite large for its species and placed its intelligent little paws on her chest and stared down at her. (p. 149)

IV. El Jefe

For those of you who missed your mandatory two seconds* of Dominican history: Trujillo, one of the twentieth century’s most infamous dictators, ruled the Dominican Republic between 1930 and 1961 with an implacable ruthless brutality…. At first glance, he was just your prototypical Latin American caudillo, but his power was terminal in ways that few historians or writers have ever truly captured or, I would argue, imagined. He was our Sauron, our Arawn, our Darkseid, our Once and Future Dictator, a personaje so outlandish, so perverse, so dreadful that not even a sci-fi writer could have made his ass up.
(footnote 1, p. 2)

*I think that’s being a bit generous.

We Are All Ahmadi III: Laws

Pakistan Penal Code 298, 298-A, 298-B, 298-C [pdf], updated by Anti-lslamic Activities of Quadiani Group, Lahori Group and Ahmadis (Prohibition and Punishment) Ordinance XX 1984.

Paragraph 298-A:
Use of derogatory remarks, etc., in respect of holy personages: Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation, or by any imputation, innuendo or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of any wife (Ummul Mumineen), or members of the family (Ahle-bait), of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him), or any of the righteous Caliphs (Khulafa-e-Rashideen) or companions (Sahaaba) of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.

Paragraph 298-B:
Misuse of epithets, descriptions and titles, etc., reserved for certain holy personages or places:

(1) Any person of the Quadiani group or the Lahori group (who call themselves ‘Ahmadis’ or by any other name who by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation-
(a) refers to or addresses, any person, other than a Caliph or companion of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), as ‘Ameer-ul-Mumineen’, ‘Khalifatul- Mumineen’, ‘Khalifa- tul-Muslimeen’, ‘Sahaabi’ or ‘Razi Allah Anho’;
(b) refers to, or addresses, any person, other than a wife of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace bi upon him), as ‘Ummul-Mumineen’;
(c) refers to, or addresses, any person, other than a member of the family ‘Ahle-bait’ of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), as ‘Ahle-baft’; or
(d) refers to, or names, or calls, his place of worship a ‘Masjid’; shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, and shall also be liable to fine.

(2) Any person of the Qaudiani group or Lahori group (who call themselves “Ahmadis” or by any other name) who by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation refers to the mode or form of call to prayers followed by his faith as ‘Azan’, or recites Azan as used by the Muslims, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, and shall also be liable to fine.

Paragraph 298-C:
Person of Quadiani group, etc., calling himself a Muslim or preaching or propagating his faith : Any person of the Quadiani group or the Lahori group (who call themselves ‘Ahmadis’ or by any other name), who directly or indirectly, poses himself as a Muslim, or calls, or refers to, his faith as Islam, or preaches or propagates his faith, or invites others to accept his faith, by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representations, or in any manner whatsoever outrages the religious feelings of Muslims shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.

We Are All Ahmadi II: One Day Later

Below are further thoughts from Prof. CM Naim. A recent NYT story commented on conspiracy theories in PK and a number of people got really upset. Yeah.

Here are the front-page “explanations” in Pakistan’s two foremost Urdu newspapers: Nawa-i-Waqt and Jang. Both are published in several cities, and also have web editions.

According to one staff writer in Nawa-i-Waqt, government agencies are perplexed at the targeting of the “Qadianis.” According to them, the war on terror started in 2001, and for nine years the terrorists never attacked the “Qadianis.” So why, out of the blue, were there two simultaneous attacks on “Qadiani worship places?” “What could be the purpose behind the attacks,” the agencies ask.

“According to responsible sources,” the staff writer continues, “the purpose of targeting the Qadianis was to scar Pakistan’s dignity abroad, and create instability and confusion within. The terrorists, by targeting the Qadianis, tried to kill two birds with one stone. It was an extremely organized action. They knew what reactions would come from abroad. In particular from Canada, the United States, Germany and other Western countries, where Qadianis live in large numbers and have much influence in official circles.

“On the other hand, investigating groups say that the arrested terrorist was not a Punjabi. As for the matter of the Punjabi Taliban’s or Baitullah Mahsud’s reported acceptance of responsibility for the attacks, government agencies are nevertheless extending their enquiries to certain neighboring countries. They want to see if Bharat was involved in the two incidents with the purpose of damaging Pakistan’s image abroad. Bharat could have used some local group to further its condemnable aim.

“The agencies are also trying to find out if there was any involvement of those foreign agencies that have been putting pressure on Pakistan to take action in Punjab, particularly in south Punjab. Was this an attempt on their part to create an excuse for such action?”

A different staff writer separately contributes an analysis, suggesting that the attacks could have been a joint action by India, the United States, and Israel, “as a reaction to the recent American failure in its scheme of funding various religious groups in Pakistan under the guise of Culture, Heritage, and Sufism and then pitting them against certain other religious groups.”

The same paper, Nawa-i-Waqt, also reports on its front page that “Hizba-al-Tahrir” has concluded it was an act by the Americans and their local agents. “This is how they obtain popular support just before every military operation.” The group also warns the public that soon there will be a deliberate power crisis “so that people could be kept in the dark about the forthcoming massacre in North Waziristan.”

Some of the above are repeated in various reports on the front-page in Jang. There is also a special report by a staff writer. It begins by claiming that certain secret agencies of the country had discovered the ugly conspiracy before the attacks, and informed the relevant officials; the latter, however, paid the report no attention. “A senior officer of a secret agency,” the report continues, “told us that the Afghan intelligence, together with India’s RAW, and the intelligence organizations of U.K., America, and Israel, was involved in the incident, and that the senior most officer of the Afghan intelligence had contacted by satellite phone an extremely influential Qadiani in Bharat, to tell him that something against his community was about to happen. According to this senior official of a secret agency, such attacks on the Qadianis bring into question the security Pakistan provides to its minorities. The above-mentioned four countries, enemies of Islamic jihad, have gained strength by getting this operation done. India now gains an excuse for its planned action against madrassas and Muslim scholars in India, in particular against the scholars of the Deobandi school.”

A separate report on the front page carries quotations from the statement issued by the maulanas of “Almi Majlis-i-Tahaffuz-i-Khatm-i-Nabuwat,” including: “[The attacks] are a huge international conspiracy to use the issue of minority rights in Pakistan in order to advance a deliberate scheme seeking to destroy the Anti-Qadianat ordinance and the laws that protect the Prophet’s honor.”
– C.M. Naim

We Are All Ahmadi

There is a mosque near my house in Berlin. I bike past it every time. I often stop at the light, and enjoy the minarets against the grey skies.

There is a mosque in Lahore, too.

Every attack, every atrocity, every massacre diminishes us all. This, I choose to lay at the feet of Mawdudi and his ilk, at the feet of Bhutto and his ilk, at the feet of our bearded muftis and their ilk. I blame those who deny citizenship to their brethren. I blame everyone who denies the freedom to practice their faith in peace.

I am afraid I have little else but rage and white hate for the perpetrators of this crime.

I am an Ahmadi.

Leave My Thirteenth Century Alone!

Religion gone global: an interview with Reza Aslan

NS: How do you think scholars can learn to take part in broader conversations?

RA: It’s often a total waste of time. You can’t be trained to speak to the media in a weekend seminar before going on Anderson Cooper. You have to be immersed in the kind of world in which there is no division between the academic and the popular. I honestly think that the best hope that we have is to foster a new kind of student, one who doesn’t spend eight years in the basement of Widener Library at Harvard poring over a thirteenth-century manuscript and writing a dissertation on the changes in the vowel markings of a sentence. That kind of scholarship has a very small role in the world we live in now. We need scholars who understand that there is no division between the world of academia and the popular world. Trying to take staid academics and teach them to use words with fewer syllables is not the way to break that wall down.

NS: Doesn’t something stand to be lost in terms of pursuing knowledge for its own sake, or rigorous scholarship on topics that don’t happen to be in the headlines at a given moment? Isn’t academia’s ability to think in the long term, to focus on things that no one else is focusing on, something valuable?

RA: It’s certainly valuable, but its value has greatly diminished. The ascent of new communications technologies has forced thinkers to take seriously the consequences of their ideas and to engage in the open market of ideas in a much more robust way than in previous centuries.

NS: What about translator figures—a Malcolm Gladwell, for instance—who dive into scholarly texts and turn them into books that nonspecialists can read and be inspired by? Do you think that their contribution is inadequate?

RA: I don’t think that it’s inadequate. But if the hope is to get academe to do that work itself instead of relying on third parties, then the only way is to start at the graduate level. I know Malcolm quite well, and I can tell you that any academic would gladly take his $40,000 speaking fees and six- or seven-figure book deals if they could. My point is that they could.

Liam Fox, Crack in the Cabinet:

Hours before meeting the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, yesterday, Liam Fox, the Tory defence secretary, risked insulting his host by referring to Afghanistan as “a broken 13th-century country”.

“We have to reset expectations and timelines,” Fox said. “National security is the focus now. We are not a global policeman. We are not in Afghanistan for the sake of the education policy in a broken 13th-century country. We are there so the people of Britain and our global interests are not threatened.”

It’s THE GREATEST CENTURYEver. Seriously. Also, VEILS.

ps. Reza, no.

Who is an Orientalist

A.J. Arberry. British Orientalist. (London: William Collins Sons & Co, 1943): 7-11

What is Orientalism, and what constitutes an Orientalist? … The original connotation of the term orientalist was, in 1683, “a member of the Easter or Greek Church”: in 1691 Anthony Wood described Samuel Clark as “an eminent orientalian,” meaning that he knew some oriental languages. Byron in his notes to Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage speaks of “Mr. Thornton’s frequent hints of profound Orientalism.” During the educational controversy in India which was settled by Macaulay’s celebrated Minute of 1834, the Orientalists were those who advocated Indian learning and literature, while their adversaries, who desired English to be the basis of education in India, were called Anglicists. It is to be eared that out of the passions generated by this famous quarrel, a certain discredit attached itself to the name orientalist, and it is no doubt with this in mind that Charles Doughty wrote, “The sun made me an Arab, but never warped me to Orientalism.”

Finally, in order to complete this brief survey of the land that lies ahead, let us consider the motives and opportunities which explain the profound interest and prodigious achievements of British scholars in all these branches of oriental learning. No doubt, considering the matter dispassionately, it is possible to draw an analogy between the spirit of adventure and enquiry which took men from these shores to the distant corners of the earth, and a corresponding element of the British mind that seeks satisfaction in the abstruse and recondite territories of knowledge. Maybe there is something in our mongrel ancestry which urges us, confined against further westward wanderings by seas that surround our island home, to go East again in mind, if not in body, and burst the bondage which might otherwise overwhelm us. The university don, immured in his well-stocked library, though he may never have travelled further East than Vienna, can through inherited instinct and native intuition arrive at a profoundly accurate interpretation of the mind and soul of dwellers of Samarkand or far Tartary. Yet, for every one such scholar, dozens have pursued the same ends because they have dwelt in those distant lands among those alien peoples. The quest for trade, and later the responsibility of government, have, side by side with the pure joy of exploration, brought many acute and penetrating minds to bear on the living cultures of the orient; and not a few our greatest orientalists have been men who found in orientalism a refreshment after the arduous and mentally exhausting conduct of affairs and business. There is besides another group of dauntless workers who have gone out East to convert, and have ended by themselves being partially converted: those missionary scholars to whose meticulous labours we owe an immense debt of gratitude. Of all these men it is characteristic that, turning aside from the beaten track and known way of learning, they have ventured into regions where, oftener than not, no traveller had preceded them. They have known the thrill of rich discovery, but they have also experienced the loneliness of the pioneer.