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.

2000.

2010.

———
  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) []

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14 thoughts on “We Are All Ahmadis IV: A History”

  1. The finality of the prophet hood of our prophet Muhammad is the fundamental and core belief of all Muslims. Any one who does not accept this is not a Muslim.
    Let me quote from the book “His Holiness”
    ‘prophets have certain characteristics, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad does not posses those ;
    therefore he is not a prophet’

  2. Pingback: An Abandoned Man
  3. Sikand’s is sitting on my table. I used it recently to get a history of the Deendar Anjuman. The Anjuman is one of the inspiring groups for Zaid Hamid. His booklet on the so-called prophecies of Shah Niamatulla Wali is based on the DA’s fabrications that originally appeared in 1971 or perhaps earlier.

  4. Extracted from Francis Robinson’s essay – ‘Ulama of South Asia from 1800 to the mid-Twentieth Century. (Islam, South Asia, and the West, Oxford India, 2008, pp 69-70)

    “Context was also crucial to the formation of a particular piece of creativity in the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Punjab, which came to from the Ahmadiyya. The province was a cauldron of change. Here Christian missionaries flourished as nowhere else in northern India. Here, too, there was powerful revivalist activity directed first against Christians and then against Muslims. All, moreover, took place against the backdrop of rapid economic and social change stimulated by the development of the canal colonies. The founder was Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1859-1908) from an old Mughal service family of Qadiyan in East Punjab, who developed a passionate vocation as champion of Islamic orthodoxy against Christian missionary polemic and Arya Samaj Hinduism. As he strove to better rival missionaries he came to see himself as ‘at least’ a symbolic representative of Krishna and Jesus, as well as an Islamic Mahdi. In 1889 he proclaimed himself a minor prophet, with a messianic vision to rejuvenate Islam –‘the expected messenger of the latter days’. Of course, bitter opposition followed Ghulam Ahmad’s denial of the finality of Muhammad’s prophecy and eventually he and his followers seceded from Sunni Islam and prayed in their own mosques.

    In fact, Ghulam Ahmad and his followers differed from Sunni Muslims on only three major points: in his inheritance as the spiritual prophet of the age that the only appropriate Jihad was not war but missionary work; in his claim to be the resurrected Jesus, in defiance of the New Testament and the Quran; and in his denial of the finality of Muhammad’s prophethood, which he explained by making a distinction between primary and secondary, or Mahdistian, prophethood. He was in a similar relationship to Muhammad, so he put it, as Jesus was to Moses.

    Ghulam Ahmad certainly had some creative inspiration in coping with the challenges of the Punjab under British rule. He stole the clothes of rival religions and arrogated to himself a prophetic authority, which brought him and his successors great respect from their followers, whilst making them amongst the most hated and persecuted of those claiming to be Muslims. The Ahmadiyya, who are amongst the most highly educated of Muslims and vigorous proselytizers of Islam in over one hundred and thirty countries, are an extraordinary witness to what passionate believers will do to defend under dire threat their deepest convictions.”

    Does anyone have Robinson’s essay “Ahmad and the Ahmadiyya” http://www.historytoday.com/MainArticle.aspx?m=9247&amid=9247 in pdf. It’s behiind a paywall :(

    PS. Typos are my fault.

  5. I always find Sikand’s writings useful, because they focus on “liminal” communities that often don’t get much play in either the secular discourse (except when they are needed to serve an ideological function, e.g. communal harmony, syncretism, etc. — i.e. so they can play their part in the pageant “we” wish to watch; Sikand himself can sometimes lapse into this, although he is more careful than most), or the orthodox discourses. I think they are most profitably read for that reason, rather than for being theoretically path-breaking etc. That being said, I haven’t read this book, although I have read a pamphlet he wrote on the Deendar Anjuman.

  6. “The first section of the book discusses the Hyderabad-based Deendar Anjuman, which was banned around a decade ago by the Government of India on grounds of being allegedly involved in a series of bomb blasts that targeted churches, mosques and temples across south India. Sikand traces the roots of the movement to the 1920s, a time of fierce competition between Hindu and Muslim revivalist groups for numbers, when Siddiq Husain, the founder of the Deendar Anjuman, appeared on the scene. A follower of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the pseudo-prophet of Qadian, the founder of the heretical Ahmadiyya movement, Siddiq Husain went even beyond his master’s messianic claims by insisting that he was God’s messenger to the whole humanity, specially charged with the task of converting the Hindus of India to (his brand of) Islam. For this purpose, as Sikand discusses in great detail, he evolved his own characteristic mode of preaching to the Hindus of the Deccan, where he lived and worked, by claiming to be the incarnation of Channabasaveswara, a saint revered by the Lingayat sect, an anti-Brahminical movement that had a large following particularly among the ‘lower’ castes. He drew parallels between Hinduism and Islam in order to stress his claim that by accepting (his version of) Islam, the Hindus, in particular the Lingayats, would not be converting to a radically new and different religion, but, rather, would supposedly be fulfilling the prophecies of the Hindus themselves. This was no generous ecumenism, though. As Sikand illustrates with copious quotes from the writings of Siddiq Husain himself, these seeming overtures to the Hindus were accompanied by hate-driven anti-Hindu rhetoric, and Siddiq Husain even devised plans to gather an army of Pathan tribesmen from the northwest of India, descend on the Indian plains and forcibly destroy all the temples of the Hindus in the name of jihad.

    In post-1947 India, Sikand shows, the Deendar Anjuman could no longer afford to exhibit its violent proclivities openly. Instead, it sought to project itself as a movement committed to inter-faith harmony. However, a section of the movement, led by one of the sons of Siddiq Husain who had migrated to Pakistan, sought to drive the group to take to the path of terror in the name of jihad. This resulted in the series of bomb attacks, found to have been the handiwork of Pakistan-trained Deendar Anjuman activists, which finally resulted in the movement being proscribed by the Government of India in 2001.”
    Book Review: Pseudo-Messianic Movements in Contemporary Muslim South Asia (Yoginder Sikand) by Nasir Khan

    http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/book_review_pseudo_messianic_movements_in_contemporary_muslim_south_asia_yo/

    Has anyone (Qalandar) read this book? Is it worth the time?

  7. Conservative commentators are quick to point out that the attacks against minorities are the work of RAW, CIA and Mossad. This is done to tarnish the image of Pakistan and destabilise the country. This analysis would lead to the conclusion that these minorities should be allowed to carry arms to protect themselves. Therefore, when RAW agents contemplate burning a village in Gojra they will have to factor in armed villagers. Six armed militants would have to think twice before opening fire on 3,000 worshipers knowing that if only 2.5 per cent of them carried arms there would be at least 75 firearms randomly placed in the crowd to fight back.

    A precedent was set when local militias were employed to fight the Taliban in the northwest. Regulated firearm allowances to targeted communities will show that we are a truly tolerant nation and minorities are as much a part of Pakistan as anyone else.

    Adnan Cyprian

    Riyadh
    http://www.thenews.com.pk/daily_detail.asp?id=242363

  8. Thank you for the history lesson. Even as a Pakistani I am not that familiar with the history of Ahmadis, though I know that the “Qadiyani Problem” by Maududi is probably the one document responsible for most of this. It astounds me that such minor differences could lead people to commit severe discrimination and acts of murder.

    I am glad there are people like you speaking out against such heinous acts…I only wish you (and others like you) had a much stronger voice in public. Though I live abroad I feel hopeless and fearful of my country, wishing not to come back to it under such circumstances.

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