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The Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam

The Light (UK), February 2000 Issue (pp. 1–2)

It is frequently asked:

“Why do you call yourselves Ahmadi? Is it not sufficient to be a Muslim?”

One can ask a question in return:

“Why are you a Muslim? Did you carry out a comparative study of all religions and then embrace Islam or is it because your parents were Muslims?”

In 99% of the cases, we will find that a person is a Muslim simply because of an accident of birth.

We believe that to be a Muslim simply because one is born to Muslim parents is not enough. A Hindu follows his religion because it was the religion of his parents, the Christian does the same thing, as does the Jew and followers of all other religions. That is fine. But Ahmadis believe that although a person born in a Muslim household is a Muslim, such a person must also try to understand what it is to be a Muslim. Without understanding this, one cannot fully live and reflect the true spirit of Islam.

This is why people interested in joining this organisation are asked to take a pledge. The pledge is meant to draw one’s attention to Allah’s commands about what we should do and what we should not do. It is a promise to abide strictly by the injunctions of the Holy Quran. Once one has taken the pledge, one can no longer have an excuse for saying that if I was not born a Muslim, I may not have followed this religion.

So, on one level every person in this Movement promises to carry out the instructions of the Holy Quran in a physical sense i.e., to perform the salat [prayer] as required by the Holy Quran and the Sunnah of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (may Allah shower His blessings upon him). At a deeper level, an Ahmadi is required to understand why one is required to perform the salat, fast, give zakat [poor rate], etc. An Ahmadi is also required to understand the reasons for every step of each one of our duties to Allah. We do not believe in a mechanical wudu [ablution], salat, fasting or any other devotion. If salat is merely a set of physical movements without any inner or spiritual meaning, you may as well join a gym or an aerobics class.

Once one has understood the reasons for the Commandments sent down by Allah, one is in a position to live those Commandments, not just perform them mechanically. After all, what does it matter to Allah whether we pray or we do not. Does it distract from His Majesty if we do not fast or give zakat? Allah does not stand in need of our salat, zakat or fasting. He does not need our glorification. That is why the Holy Quran, at the very beginning, makes it clear:

“All praise is due to Him.”

This means that regardless of whether we praise Him or not He shall remain worthy of praise. It must, therefore, be that what we do is not for the benefit of Allah but our own benefit. We cannot derive full benefit from what we do unless we understand why we are doing it.

This is fully appreciated in our everyday lives. If one is sick and goes to a hospital, the doctor spends a considerable amount of time explaining what is going to done and why. What reason can there be for the doctor spending time, indeed the government spending its money, on explaining what is going on? If one goes to a solicitor, one is told the possible action one can take, its consequences and the cost. Why? So that before taking any action one understands and appreciates its consequences. Indeed, one should also understand the consequences of not taking an action.

This is why the Holy Quran is full of not only Dos and Don’ts but also the reason why we should or should not do certain things. Further than that, it also explains in graphic detail the consequences of ignoring the Divine Commandments and the results of abiding by them. It further illustrates these things by giving examples from history and also from nature to explain why Allah is Commanding us to behave in a certain way.

Some people say that it is enough that we pray or fast, etc., because Allah has Commanded us to do so. That is fine but if mechanical obedience was enough then Allah had angels. They obey Him mechanically without question. Why did He then create human beings? Humans were created so that they obey Allah of their own free will without being forced, because it is the correct thing to do, not because one has no option.

There is another way to answer the same question. If Allah wanted humans to obey Him without thinking, why would He give them faculties to think? This would be a contradiction. Surely, the purpose of giving humans the power to think is so that they can understand why some actions are wrong and others correct.

This is supported by the fact that in the Holy Quran Allah is asking humans to think, to ponder over things. The Holy Quran gives examples of history and asks humans if they have not learnt anything from what happened to the previous nations which disobeyed Allah. It also gives examples of greatness achieved by those who obeyed Allah. If one is not to think and ponder over these historical examples and draw conclusions from them to apply to one’s own life, why were these examples given. The Holy Quran gives examples from nature and asks humans to ponder over these examples.

If we do things mechanically without understanding the reasons, then we close the door to development of human intellect and advancement of science. Human intellect alone is not enough to guide humans to perfect state of harmony. If it were, then those living in rich countries would be blissfully happy. That is not the case.

Also, Allah revealed His guidance because on its own human intellect tends to err or to come to different conclusions. In one country there may be cannibalism, while others abhor it. Human intellect has reflected and come to different conclusions in different places. Who is correct? In one country rule by one political party is called democratic; whereas in others it is called dictatorship. Each can give perfectly understandable reasons to justify its conclusions. Which is correct? This is the purpose of sending down guidance from on High; to help human intellect falling into error. This will not happen if we reflect upon the guidance sent to us by Allah.

Having reflected upon the reasons for being given the guidance in the Holy Quran, an Ahmadi should then try to reflect the whole of the Holy Quran in his private life. It is unfortunate that many people are selective in the application of the Holy Quran to their private lives. They perform the salat. Why? Because the Holy Quran says so. But, when it comes to giving evidence against their relations or friends, they lie although the Holy Quran also says that one must bear true witness. They fast. Why? Because, the Holy Quran says that Muslims must fast. But, the Holy Quran also prohibits giving of bribes to people. This injunction escapes them.

Surely, if the argument is that one should perform one’s salat or fast, etc.,

simply because that is what the Holy Quran tells to do and one should not ask the reason why; the same applies to other commands of the Holy Quran. One should always bear true witness, hand down just decisions, etc., without asking why one should do so. Why unquestioned obedience to Allah is not put in to practice where these Commands are concerned? The pledge one takes to join the Ahmadiyya Movement puts is so simply and beautifully:

“I shall give precedence to my religion over my temporal affairs.”

There is another reason why an Ahmadi, in particular, should understand the reasons for Allah’s Commandments. Each Ahmadi must act as a missionary of Islam and the Ahmadiyya Jamaat. If he is to be a missionary, then he could only explain to others the beauties of Islam, if he himself understands them. How will one explain to others why one performs the wudu, for example, if one does not know the reasons and the wudu has just been performed mechanically. The same applies to all other Commands and Injunctions. Islam is criticised because frequently Muslims cannot explain the beauty of their own religion. They cannot explain it because they do not know it themselves.

It is especially important for an organisation whose every member is a missionary that all its members understand the beauty of Islam and that they are able to explain it others. An Ahmadi should not have to say just a minute, I will go and ask the imam or the maulana [cleric] or someone else the answer to your question. This was the Jamaat created by Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. A Jamaat in which every single Muslim was able to stand up in argument and debate to followers of all other faiths. Examples abound of unlettered members of the Jamaat who through listening to lectures, khutbas [sermons] and discourses learnt so much of religion that they would confound Christian missionaries by their arguments! Whatever profession an Ahmadi followed, he was spreading the Word. There is the well-known example of a horse and cart driver who, every time he picked up a fare, would start preaching. The comment made by Prof. Akhtar, a Lenin Prize winner and the Head of Department of Economics in the University of Punjab in Pakistan, is worth remembering. He said:

“I do not say that every intelligent person is an Ahmadi but I have found every Ahmadi to be a highly intelligent person.”

This shows that personal contact and behaviour is even more important that mere preaching. It was through personal contact and observing the behaviour of Ahmadis that this highly acclaimed academic came to this conclusion. Similarly, if Ahmadis set an example of Islamic behaviour that will prove a far more effective means of propagation than propagation by other means. There are other comments that come to mind. Another well-known Pakistani said:

“I have seen everything in life but I have not seen an Ahmadi miss even a single prayer.”

What a great accolade from a non-Ahmadi! And another one from a Pakistani police officer:

“I have only one regret in life and that is that there were only two honest heads of forensics in Pakistan and they were both Lahori Ahmadis.”

These people were able to set forth these examples because they understood the reasons for Allah’s Commands. Islamic teaching were reflected in their very beings and personalities. One looked and saw

“religion being given precedence over their temporal affairs.”

We are Ahmadis because our conception of Islam treats humans as intelligent beings, capable of understanding the reasons for Allah’s Commands. An understanding of Islam and its devotions leads us to the knowledge that Allah loves us. This, in turn, causes us to love Allah. Ahmadis do not fear Allah, as some Muslims do, as a dictatorial Being bent on punishing humans. We fear losing the love of Allah because there is no other Being as affectionate as He is. Every Muslim, especially members of this Jamaat, should reflect His qualities in their own dealings with others. That is why we are Muslims belonging to the Ahmadiyya School of thought whose very name shows devotion to Allah and to the Holy Prophet Muhammad [pbuh] as well.