Saying Prayers behind an Imam who does not belong to this Movement [Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement]

Answer to a Question

by Dr. Basharat Ahmad

The Light & Islamic Review (US), March/April 1997 Issue (Vol. 74, No. 2, p. 6)

We translate below a question sent to our Urdu journal Paigham Sulh and the answer given by the late Dr. Basharat Ahmad, one of the greatest scholars and authors of the Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement. This is taken from the issue dated 11th February 1936, page 7. It may be pointed out that at that time there was a tremendous upsurge in the opposition to the Ahmadiyya Movement by much of the Muslim religious and political leadership in India, which had been going on for the previous four years.

Question:

The standpoint of our Movement is that we must not pray behind those imams who call Ahmadis as kafir [non-Muslim], as a protest on our part. If we happen to find ourselves in a situation where we can pray behind an imam who does not belong to this Movement [Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement], should we pray behind him without enquiring of him if he calls us kafir, or must we ascertain his views first? If congregational prayer is already in progress, should we join it or wait till it is finished in order to find out the imam’s views?

Answer:

It is true that members of our Movement, as a protest, do not pray behind those who call Muslims as kafir. Therefore, if we happen to find ourselves in a situation where we can pray behind an imam who does not belong to this Movement, we must first enquire of him if he calls us kafir. As we must boycott every such imam who calls Muslims as kafir, and by the grace of God we have undertaken to remove this disease of calling Muslims as kafir from the world, it is essential that the boycott is total.

Under these circumstances, if congregational prayer is in progress, we should wait till the prayer finishes and find out the views of the imam. If he does not call Muslims as kafir, then we can say the next prayer under his leadership.

But the question which arises here is this, that by not joining the prayer we have presumed that the imam calls Muslims as kafir. Why should we not presume that he is not such a man and join the prayer behind him?

The answer is that if there had been divergence of opinion among the ulama [clerics] about the Promised Messiah [Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian] and his Movement, such that some ulama and imams called them kafir while others looked upon them as Muslim, then the better method was to give the imam the benefit of the doubt and presume in his favour that he was one of those who looked upon the Promised Messiah as a Muslim. But these are not the prevailing circumstances. On the contrary, in our time the storm of calling us kafir is raging so furiously among the ulama, and particularly among the imams of mosques, that no Muslim religious leader in India is free of this disease, except as Allah please. If, as an exception, there is some maulvi [cleric] who regards Hazrat Mirza as a Muslim, he is so rare as to be almost non-existent, and he dare not speak out his view. In fact, at the present time a maulvi or leader cannot become the imam of a mosque or attain a position on any council until he openly calls the Promised Messiah as kafir. In such circumstances, there is no scope for giving the benefit of the doubt.

Consequently, in this country, India, we have no choice but to consider every such imam who does not belong to this Movement as being one of those who call us kafir, unless we hear him say that he regards the Promised Messiah as a Muslim. In this age, if anyone publicly calls the Promised Messiah a Muslim, I would not only be prepared to say prayers behind him but would also kiss his hands because of his sense of justice.

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