Views of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad on Jihad
Recent Statement by U.K. Muslims says the Same
by Dr. Zahid Aziz
The Light (UK), August 2005 Issue (pp. 3–5)
In May 1900 Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad wrote a book in Urdu under the title The British Government and Jihad. In this concise book he has explained the true Islamic teachings about jihad, conditions under which war is allowed, and denunciation of violence against innocent citizens of other faiths. Here I summarise and paraphrase its relevant contents.
Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad begins by explaining the term jihad linguistically and then describes why and under what circumstances the Muslims of the time of the Holy Prophet Muhammad took up arms. He tells us that when people began to join the religion of Islam the vested interests of the Arabs and their leaders, as well as the Jews and Christians living in Arabia, became jealous of this new development and started trying to crush and uproot it. They began torturing and killing the converts to Islam by the most barbaric methods, and continued this for thirteen years. However, the Muslims bore this persecution with patience, as God had commanded them, without resorting to retaliation. When these vicious brutalities exceeded all bounds then God gave Muslims the permission to fight in retaliation by revealing the verse:
اُذِنَ لِلَّذِیۡنَ یُقٰتَلُوۡنَ بِاَنَّہُمۡ ظُلِمُوۡا ؕ وَ اِنَّ اللّٰہَ عَلٰی نَصۡرِہِمۡ لَقَدِیۡرُۨ ﴿ۙ۳۹﴾ الَّذِیۡنَ اُخۡرِجُوۡا مِنۡ دِیَارِہِمۡ بِغَیۡرِ حَقٍّ اِلَّاۤ اَنۡ یَّقُوۡلُوۡا رَبُّنَا اللّٰہُ ؕ
“Permission to fight is given to those upon whom war is made, because they have been wronged … those who have been driven out from their homes without a just cause except that they say: Our Lord is Allah” (The Holy Quran, 22:39–40).
But Muslims of later times, some centuries later, misunderstood this limited permission to fight, and developed the wrong concept that jihad is a war that is arbitrarily launched against unbelievers. The way in which the doctrine of jihad is preached by some Islamic religious leaders to their followers is greatly mistaken and it results only in creating a group of people who behave like brutes and lack all good human qualities. He writes:
“I know it for certain that all the unjustified killing that is done is perpetrated by ignorant men following their lowest base desires, who are completely unaware of the reasons and causes of why Islam at the beginning of its history had to fight wars.” (The British Government and Jihad, p. 7)
Then Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad gives a second reason why jihad is misunderstood as fighting and planning to kill human beings. It is that, apart from what the ignorant among the Muslim religious leaders have taught on this issue, the Christian critics of Islam also spread the false idea through thousands of publications against Islam that Islam is a brutal religion which teaches war and violence, and that Islam is synonymous with wielding the sword. The result of this widespread propaganda will not be, he says, that Muslims will give up Islam as their critics intend. The result is only that the masses become even more convinced that their religion does indeed teach them violence against followers of other religions.
He writes: Any person who has eyes and reads the Quran and the history of early Islam will realize it quite well that the name of jihad, under which many vicious people are fighting, is not at all the jihad taught by Islam. These are criminal acts which are done through the arousal of base passions or in the vain hope of attaining paradise. Our Holy Prophet [Muhammad (pbuh)] was not the first to raise the sword, but bore intense persecution from his enemies for a long time. His followers also acted on the same principle. They showed such patience and perseverance and restraint that there is no other example of it in the world. However, this was not because they were weak or cowardly or unable to retaliate. They were courageous, brave and strong people. This was proved after they were permitted to fight, when they fought against enormous odds and won. So they displayed patience and restraint while possessing the capability and skill of fighting in battle. (The British Government and Jihad, pp. 9–10)
During this period of persecution, the Holy Prophet never tried to think of some means of fighting back but told his followers that Allah had commanded him to show patience. Hazrat Mirza then asks:
“As Muslims have this most excellent example of forbearance and restraint, of which they can be proud over the whole world, then to discard this example is the height of foolishness and a great misfortune by your own hands.” (The British Government and Jihad, p. 11)
Then he goes on to depict the kind of atrocities that are perpetrated in the name of Islam and religion. The ignorant religious leaders have greatly deceived the masses and declared acts of brutality, cruelty and inhumanity to be the key to attaining paradise. He poses the question:
“Is it a virtuous deed that there is a man going about in the market place, we have no connection with him so much so that we don’t know his name and he doesn’t know our name, but despite this we take a shot at him intending to kill him? Is this religious behaviour?” (The British Government and Jihad, p. 11–12)
Contrast this with those holy early Muslims whom Allah instructed in Makka not to respond with violence even if you were cut to pieces. Alas, today these religious leaders have forgotten all those events, and think that to fire a gun at an innocent man constitutes Islam. He writes:
“They now believe that the whole world is their prey, and they behave like a hunter who, after locating an animal, stealthily and sneakily approaches him, and finally getting the chance fires the gun.” (The British Government and Jihad, p. 12)
Again he asks:
“It is a matter of regret and of shame that a man whom we do not know at all, with whom we have no enmity, and he is going about his lawful business, we shoot him dead at random and in an instant make his wife a widow, his children fatherless and his house a place of mourning. Is such killing taught in the Quran or Hadith? Can any Muslim religious leader answer? The ignorant ones have merely heard the word jihad and are using it as a pretext and cover for satisfying their own selfish ends, or purely out of fanaticism and lunacy are perpetrating bloodshed.” (The British Government and Jihad, pp. 12–13)
It is the jihad of self-purification that is a fundamental, permanent and unconditional part of Islam. He writes about the Movement that he was founding:
“Those who join my army, I order them to give up these misconceived ideas of jihad with the sword, and to purify their hearts, develop and nurture their feelings of mercy towards all humankind and be helpers of those in distress and suffering. They should spread peace on the earth, as this is how their religion will spread. Be not surprised as to how this can happen. For just as God has created the modern inventions of the present times for the physical needs of man, similarly He will meet the spiritual needs of mankind … by causing the light and the message of truth to spread widely and far by means of these very ways of communication and transport.” (The British Government and Jihad, pp. 15, 16)
In those days the wrong view of jihad was being propagated particularly in the North-Western Provinces of India adjacent to Afghanistan and within Afghanistan itself. Referring to it in this book, Hazrat Mirza advises the king of Afghanistan to gather a forum of learned, distinguished Islamic scholars to discuss the doctrine of jihad, and then through these scholars to educate the general public of the country on the error of the misconceived view of jihad. Some books should also be published on this subject and widely distributed. In this way, the fervour for indulging in acts of violence in the name of jihad will be reduced. It would be a great service by a Muslim ruler, he says, to get the general Muslim public freed from the clutches of the ignorant religious leaders who are inciting them to commit violence under the name of jihad. (The British Government and Jihad, p. 18)
Hazrat Mirza also warns that these believers in a violent jihad are also a danger to Muslim governments and rulers:
“Today the practice of these mullas [clerics] and religious leaders is that first they declare a man or a sect as ‘unbelievers’ on account of some small doctrinal difference, and then they issue the same rulings of jihad to be conducted against them as they issue about unbelievers. … Undoubtedly the people who possess the power to declare others as being believers or unbelievers and, on top of that, to issue rulings of jihad based on that, are a dangerous group.” (The British Government and Jihad, p. 18)
Hazrat Mirza also points out to the British Government of India that the second reason why these atrocities are being committed, in the name of becoming a hero or martyr for the religion of Islam, is that the Christian and Western critics of Islam have reinforced the false idea that Islam teaches this kind of jihad through their books and magazines spread throughout the country. This, he says, has led to many ignorant fanatics who know nothing of their own religion Islam to actually believe that it is an act of great reward to kill the unbelievers. These writings have damaged harmony and reconciliation in the country, and sown the seeds of enmity between the communities.
To deal with this problem, he advises the government to follow the example of the Turkish government (the leading, independent Muslim government of that time) which adopted a trial measure to the effect that for a few years it would be prohibited for any religious faction, in their writings or speeches, to make any mention of other religions, but only to teach the good points of its own religion. In this way, new discords will not develop, old grudges will gradually be forgotten, and people will turn towards mutual harmony and concord. (The British Government and Jihad, pp. 20–22)
In an earlier publication in December 1894, addressing the British government of his time, he has summarised the teachings of Islam on this point as follows:
“The Quran teaches that Muslims, bearing the persecution and pain inflicted upon them, must invite others to the truth with gentleness. In particular with regard to relations with Christians, the Holy Quran instructs us:
اُدۡعُ اِلٰی سَبِیۡلِ رَبِّکَ بِالۡحِکۡمَۃِ وَ الۡمَوۡعِظَۃِ الۡحَسَنَۃِ وَ جَادِلۡہُمۡ بِالَّتِیۡ ہِیَ اَحۡسَنُ ؕ
‘Call to the way of your Lord with wisdom and goodly exhortation and argue with them in the best manner’ (The Holy Quran, 16:125),
best manner meaning politely and in a civilized way. The truth does not stand in need of force to spread it. Use of force actually proves that your arguments are weak. God also revealed to His Holy Prophet:
فَاصۡبِرۡ کَمَا صَبَرَ اُولُوا الۡعَزۡمِ مِنَ الرُّسُلِ
‘Be patient as men of resolution, the messengers, were patient’ (The Holy Quran, 46:35),
meaning that the Holy Prophet should show such an amount of patience that it exceeds even the sum total of the patience shown by all the previous prophets put together. Then God also revealed:
لَاۤ اِکۡرَاہَ فِی الدِّیۡنِ ۟ۙ
‘There is no compulsion in religion’ (The Holy Quran, 2:256).”
And again He said that the true believers are those who
وَ الۡکٰظِمِیۡنَ الۡغَیۡظَ وَ الۡعَافِیۡنَ عَنِ النَّاسِ ؕ
‘restrain their anger and forgive people’ (The Holy Quran, 3:134).”
He then asks:
“Can the God Who gives this teaching also say that you should kill those who deny your religion, rob them of their property and make their homes desolate? … This is only the misconception of the ignorant among the common Muslim religious leaders and the unwise Christian critics of Islam, which is groundless and without foundation. … This age of the light of reason is the time when Islam will be shown to be clear of this allegation.” (See Majmua Ishtiharat, v. 2, footnote, pp. 125–127).
Statement issued by Imams and Ulama of U.K.
On 15 July a special meeting of Imams and Ulama at the Islamic Cultural Centre, Regents Park, issued a declaration about the London bombing, in which it is stated:
“We regard these acts as utterly criminal, totally reprehensible, and absolutely un-Islamic. … We are firmly of the view that these killings had absolutely no sanction in Islam, nor is there any justification whatsoever in our noble religion for such evil actions. It is our understanding that those who carried out the bombings in London should in no sense be regarded as martyrs. …
“Islam is the middle path and the Quran designates Muslims as the ummatan wasata — the middle community. Any form of extremism is to be utterly and completely rejected. What we need, therefore, in our troubled world, more than ever before is to stick to the middle and balanced way of Islam.
“We need also to remind ourselves, young as well as old, that the solution to our problems and concerns lies in following and adhering to the noble discipline of Islam and to the way of the Prophet, peace be upon him, and not falling prey to a culture of conflict and discord. The social culture of Islam is based on the principle of inviting people towards good, courteously and wisely — with Hikmah and mawizah Hasana. (The Quran, Al-Nahal, 16:125) The Prophet Muhammad, peace be on him, was sent as a mercy to mankind and that is the ideal and norm that we ought to be following all the time.” (See the website of the Muslim Council of Britain: www.mcb.org.uk)
It is pleasing and heartening to see that there is little difference between this statement and the views expressed above by Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. This makes it all the more puzzling and disappointing that the Ulama in general allege that Hazrat Mirza “denied” the Islamic teaching on Jihad and bitterly denounce him as a heretic on this score.