A Proposal for the Utter Extinction of Jihad
by Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian (The Promised Messiah)
The Review of Religions (English), January 1903 Issue (Vol. 2, No. 1, pp. 20–29)
The Coronation of the King-Emperor [Edward VII] in India is an occasion of great rejoicing, and it behoves all faithful and loyal subjects who live under the peaceful and benign rule of the British Government to partake in the joy, and give expression to their sincerity and good wishes for this Government in a manner befitting this auspicious occasion. To me, who lead a retired life and witness even in this life the unseen world which to most other people shall be revealed after death, and who am endowed with a clear knowledge and insight generative of the love of justice and truth, it seems meet to express with sincerity and earnest zeal and in clear and unequivocal words, ideas which reign supreme in my mind and whose expression I deem as my first and bounden duty. With a heartfelt gratitude, I and my followers, whose number is now estimated at more than a hundred and fifty thousand scattered throughout this vast empire, pray for the welfare of His Most Gracious Majesty, King Edward VII. May the all-powerful God whose unbounded power controls every atom of the universe protect His Majesty from every evil and distress and make him victorious over his enemies! May He so guide us that we may ever stand loyally and faithfully by His Majesty’s side and be his sincere well-wishers on all occasions!
Twenty-two years ago, I published a proposal in my work entitled the Barahin-i-Ahmadiyya for the consideration of the Muslim theologians but no attention was paid to it. Since then, I have written more than thirty times upon the same theme in different publications of mine but no response has come forth to my call. The approach of the auspicious occasion of the Coronation inspires me with new hope and brings with it new expectations of the fulfilment of an object which I have so dearly cherished since the very commencement of my career as an author. The proposal is in connection with the relations between the Government and its subjects.
Over half a century has passed since the advent of the British in the Punjab and from this long experience we can say that the British Government is an invaluable blessing to the people of this country in general, and to the Muhammadans [Muslims] in particular. Under its peaceful rule the Muhammadans have made a great advance in learning. Their honour, property and lives are safe under its protection, and peace has been established in the country in such a manner that we can hardly conceive any improvement upon it. But what have our theologians done in return for the deep debt of gratitude which they owe to this beneficent rule? In spite of its innumerable blessings and favours upon the Muhammadans, the Government is so often involved in difficulties on account of the savage frontier tribes who profess the religion of Islam, and the duty lies upon the Muhammadan theologians of this country to take active measures for uprooting this evil as soon as possible. The cause of these difficulties is plain enough and known to all. The mischief is caused by the frontier Mullahs [clerics] who are constantly representing Jihad with the unbelievers as the first duty of all true Muhammadans and as the key of paradise. Nothing but the united efforts of the Maulvis [clerics] and the Muftis [Islamic theologians] can bring to naught the evil which has thus been produced by the Mullahs for as the originators of the evil are the Muhammadan theologians, they must also be its destroyers. Our theologians cannot assert with any show of reason that they are unable to counteract the evil which has been brought into existence by some of their own body. Even if their efforts are not immediately successful, they are sure at least to lessen the evil by degrees and make it extinct at last. The Government has, no doubt, power to punish the evildoers and subjugate them by force, but such a measure would involve a heavy loss of life while the desired object can be attained by more peaceful means.
These means consist in the publication of a book attested with the seals and signatures of the leading Muhammadan theologians of the whole of India and containing a clear, full and detailed exposition of the doctrine of Jihad. In this volume it should be clearly set forth that the Holy Quran and the authentic traditions declare it to be strictly illegal to carry on Jihad with such a Government as this, which really supports the cause of Islam by the admirable principles of the love of justice and truth which it holds, and the numerous measures which it has adopted for the welfare of its subjects. It may also be shown therein that in comparison with the rule of the Muhammadan monarchs of India, the Muhammadans are far more advanced in learning and enjoy a far greater security and liberty under the peaceful laws of the British Government which are, as it appears on a deeper consideration, clearing the way of the obstacles that have hitherto hindered the spread and progress of Islam. With these clear and forcible arguments it would not be difficult to convince any sensible person of the reasonableness of the views contained in the proposed volume and of the illegality of opposition or disobedience to this Government. The book when prepared should be translated into the Pushto, Persian and Arabic languages and circulated vastly in this country as well as among the frontier tribes. For the defrayal of the expenses of its publication, I am willing to contribute a sum to the amount of Rs. 10,000. It should, however, be borne in mind that brief and ambiguous statements on the doctrine of Jihad are of no value. What I lay stress upon is the publication of a book containing a forcible and unequivocal refutation of the principles of Jihad. Statements proceeding from the heart are attended with a force and vigour not to be found in the lame and impotent words uttered by hypocritical lips. It cannot be expected that a book which is the outcome of hypocrisy should be given a cordial reception by the public or should effect in a considerable degree the object with which it is written. But the word of sincerity is never wasted, it proceeds from the heart and makes an impression upon the heart. The statements contained in the book should moreover not be brief and obscure. Evidence should be produced from three sources, the Quran, the Traditions [Hadith] and reason.
The necessity for writing such a detailed book in refutation of the doctrine of Jihad is the greater at the present moment in order to counteract the poisonous effect of a book said to have been written only recently by the ruler of a neighbouring frontier state upholding this doctrine and exciting people to undertake Jihad. And I beg to add that the Government need not have any hesitation in issuing directions to the learned theologians for writing such a book, on the ground that such a step on its part will savour of compulsion. There is no compulsion in a matter which is tacitly admitted by all the Muhammadan theologians, though no active step has been hitherto taken. The measure is, moreover, calculated to be beneficial to the public and productive of greater peace and security in the country, and any action that the Government takes on this point will be far from being considered a compulsion. So long as the doctrine of Jihad is not uprooted, the Muhammadans cannot prosper. So long as they stick to it, they are being dragged down into the depths of degradation and contracting habits of bestiality. Moreover, the theologians have no reason to shrink from carrying the proposal into effect. They are not to bear any part of the expenditure. They have only to write out a refutation of the doctrine and to attest it with their seals and signatures. The refutation must, however, be characterised by clearness and lucidity, and sincerity of purpose should be the sole motive leading to it. In drawing attention to this particular point and laying stress upon it, I should not be suspected of doubting the honesty of those who shall be engaged in the task. It is my strong conviction that no good can come out of ambiguous statements. Unless the writers deal with the subject in a lucid and clear manner and take it up with a heart full of zeal, the required object cannot be attained. The root must first be struck off from which grows the doctrine of Jihad, and the bloody expectations of its enforcement at any future time must be wholly swept off to ensure success in the undertaking. To abolish Jihad, the doctrine must first be disowned which is the central idea in it and whose poison corrupts the whole system.
After giving a deep consideration to this subject, I have come to the conclusion that the doctrine of Jihad is rooted in the following two beliefs to which the Muhammadans generally adhere. Firstly, it is held that the time is at hand when the world shall witness the appearance of a Mahdi who shall resort to Jihad and religious wars and fill the earth with the blood of unbelievers. Secondly, it is believed that a Messiah shall descend from heaven to assist the Mahdi in his bloody undertaking and spread Islam with his sword like a stern warrior. These two beliefs are the chief support of the doctrine of Jihad. One who believes in the advent of a bloody Mahdi and a warlike Messiah must necessarily believe in Jihad. Such has been the stern belief of Muhammadans for some time past, but I witness a great change coming over these two religious ideas of late. Even those who fondly held to those doctrines somewhile ago are now realising the error of their position and many hearts are being expurgated of these dangerous principles. There were blind zealots among Muhammadans who fondly cherished such beliefs and even now we see ignorant people who stick to these false ideas, but in doing so they forsake the Holy Quran, for the sacred book lends no support to their extravagances. The Holy Quran no doubt refers to the appearance of a Messiah from among the Muhammadans in the Fatihah [Chapter 1 of the Holy Quran] and the Light [Chapter 24 of the Holy Quran] and elsewhere too, but there it plainly states by drawing an analogy between the systems of Moses and Muhammad, may peace and the blessings of God be upon them, that as the Mosaic line of prophets came to an end with a prophet who did not resort to Jihad or the sword but attracted people to the truth by the force of his moral teachings, so shall it happen in the Muhammadan system, viz., that after the lapse of a period from the founder of the system similar to the distance of time between Moses and his last successor, in other words, in the fourteenth century after the flight of the Holy Prophet [Muhammad (pbuh)], there shall appear among the Muhammadans one who, like Jesus Christ, shall not resort to Jihad or the sword but shall draw the hearts of people to God with peace and good-will. It further appears from the Holy Quran that the last Messiah who shall preach the Word of God after the manner of the first Messiah, shall be born at the end of the sixth thousand from Adam. These are the prophecies in the Holy Quran with regard to the advent of a Messiah, and they lay down in clear words that in the fourteenth century of Hijra [Islamic Era], Islam shall rely for its progress solely upon moral force, reason and heavenly signs, as did the religion of Moses at the appearance of Jesus Christ. The appearance of a Messiah from among the Muhammadans is sometimes described as the second advent of Jesus Christ on account of the very close resemblance between the two and their spiritual identity. This is the real prophecy and all besides is legend and fiction. The traditions which relate the advent of a bloody Mahdi are the fabrications of later ages. The Holy Quran speaks only of the two Messiahs, the Israelite Messiah and the Muhammadan Messiah, and of the latter it is said that, he too, like his great predecessor, the Israelite Messiah, shall spread religion by the moral teachings which he shall inculcate and by heavenly signs. Moses and Joshua and other prophets in the Mosaic system were obliged to undertake wars and their religion was, therefore, considered as a militant faith. But Almighty God cleared the religion of Moses of this false charge by terminating the Mosaic system with Jesus Christ who preached peace and good-will to men. Exactly the same circumstances existed in the case of the system of religion founded by the Holy Prophet Muhammad, may peace and the blessings of God be upon him. In the beginning, self-defence had rendered it necessary to take up arms against opponents who exerted themselves to their utmost to blot out the new religion by force, but afterwards when the circumstances were lost sight of under which Islam had to make a struggle for its existence, the objection was levelled at it of having spread itself by compulsion, though the Holy Quran contained the plain injunction:
لَاۤ اِکۡرَاہَ فِی الدِّیۡنِ
“There should be no compulsion in religion [The Holy Quran, 2:255].”
But as the objection became firmly rooted against Islam, and ignorant and savage Muhammadans gave additional weight to it by their murderous, conduct representing Ghaziism [religious militancy] as the true sign of piety and the sword as a safe guide to heaven, Almighty God removed the error imputed to Islam, in the fourteenth century of Hijra, in the same manner as He removed a similar error from the religion of the Jews by sending Jesus Christ fourteen centuries after the founder of the system. This is the only reality under the extravagant ideas that are now held by the Muhammadans with regard to the advent of a Mahdi, and a Messiah.
The time has come when Islam shall be purged of this error and all thinking and intelligent minds shall realise the truth. I say it from experience and the hundred and fifty thousand men who have accepted my teachings are living witnesses to the truth of my statements. I see the false ideas gradually disappearing and pure truths finding acceptance in their place. Although, there are among my followers many men of high education and others holding respectable government posts, yet there are not a few Ulama (theologians) who have accepted my views. In convincing them of the falsity of their former views, I had not to toil much, and I found them quite ready to bid goodbye to their long-cherished views. From their ready acceptance of my views, I conclude that all intelligent Muhammadans are beginning to conceive hatred for the doctrine of Jihad. They are gradually realising that Almighty God is very kind to His creatures, and brings home the truth to weak human beings with mildness and compassion. No one can doubt that the sword conquers the body only but moral teachings which are not theoretical maxims but practical ordinances, conquer the heart. The ignorant men who have hidden the beautiful and sublime teachings of the Holy Quran which teach the golden mean and are free from every error, beneath the dark cloud of savage war and cruel bloodshed, are guilty of the most heinous crime. As in doing it they acted against the will of God, their efforts to make Islam successful by force of arms have all proved a failure and only brought disgrace on their own head. I have not the least hesitation in declaring that in now resorting to Jihad they go against the will of God and their attempts must surely fail. If they fight with God, God shall fight with them for He is now determined to bring about in the world a transformation to purity of life by heavenly signs and the excellency of moral teachings. It is His will now to manifest this grand miracle of bringing about a transformation by peaceful means, and whoever sets himself against His will and resorts to the sword for the propagation of Islam, shall never prosper, for he undertakes to falsify the miracle of God and therefore makes Him his enemy. Whoever shall take up the sword now under the pretence of religion and the cloak of piety, whether he styles himself the Mahdi or a Mulla, shall meet with sure disgrace for he opposes the eternal decree of God. I think there are hundreds of thousands of Muhammadans who have grasped the reality and millions who are ready to receive it.
The plan suggested here needs the assistance of the Government for its completion. If it is acceptable to the Government, it may publish this request of mine and direct the Maulvis and the Muftis who reject the doctrine of Jihad and are willing to set their signatures and seals to the proposed volume on its prohibition, to send in information of their intention up to a fixed date, say the end of June 1903, to an officer appointed in this behalf by the Government. After ascertaining the number of theologians who are willing to co-operate, the Government may issue orders that they should write out their views in the form of a book and send it to the proper officer within a limited time, which should not be less than a year so that the writers may be able to express their views at full length. The Government may then select the book which contains the most powerful exposition and the most forcible refutation of the doctrine of Jihad, and getting it translated into Pushto, Persian and Arabic, and signed and sealed by the Maulvis and the Muftis, circulate it in all Muhammadan countries. If the Government is willing to take this trouble and issue a notification for the preparation of such a work, it is expected that the result would be highly beneficial. I think there is no better plan to bring the savage tribes to a clear understanding of the right doctrine, and the mischief caused by the Mullahs can only be properly remedied through men of the same profession, i.e., the learned Muhammadan theologians. Experience has shown that the plan suggested shall prove an effective remedy and the Government will do well to avail itself of it.
I need not here dwell upon the numerous blessings and benefits of this Government upon the Muhammadans which call for an immediate active measure on their part to put a stop to the trouble caused to this benign Government by their ignorant co-religionists. If the Government were to withdraw its shelter from this country, there would be anarchy in the land, and nation rising against nation there would be war and bloodshed instead of peace and prosperity.
It is one of the greatest blessings of God upon the people that they should have a just ruler under whose shelter they may lead their lives in peace and security. That a monarch professes the Muhammadan religion is no consolation to a people whose property and lives are not safe under his rule. It is to our good fortune that we have rulers who sit on the judgment seat with their minds quite free from religious prejudice and who are guided in their public capacity only by considerations of justice and equity. This love of justice and freedom from prejudice of the English officials is well illustrated in a case in which I was personally concerned some years ago. I was falsely charged with the abetment of murder. The complainant was Dr. Henry Martyn Clarke of Amritsar [India]. He was deceived by his subordinate Missionaries who considered it no sin to use foul means to involve a religious opponent in trouble. The complaint was lodged in the court of Captain William Douglas, the District Magistrate, now Deputy Commissioner of Delhi, who patiently tried the case. After a careful consideration of the evidence for prosecution, the Magistrate saw with a clear sight that the evidence was concocted and the charge altogether false, and I was accordingly discharged. People flocked in large numbers to witness the trial, and the ignorant men were under the impression that the complainant being a respectable Christian Missionary and a co-religionist of the Magistrate, the ends of justice would be miscarried. But upon my discharge all men admired the strict adherence of the English to principles of justice. And since I knew the case against me to be a disgraceful falsehood and trusted in God alone for my clearance, my faith in the British Government’s love of justice became tenfold on the result of this case. This case does not only illustrate the love of justice of the English officials but also the keen insight with which they grasp the reality. It is in fact the hardest trial through which a Judge must pass that he should be required to decide between two parties, one of whom is a respectable leader of his own religion and holds a respectable position, while the other has not only an alien religion but being the founder of a now sect is under the displeasure of his own people on the one hand and specially watched on the other for the novelty of his doctrines. But an English Magistrate passed safely through this trial and has thus proved himself a standing witness of the love of justice which characterises the English Government. To turn against such rulers or to entertain the idea of Jihad against them, whether at this, or any future moment, must be condemned as the greatest villainy. The instance in which Captain Douglas showed an unequalled fairness and impartiality has been made by me the subject matter of a volume. There it shall remain as a permanent record of the love of justice of an English official and shall be remembered for hundreds of years afterwards by my followers.
Mirza Ghulam Ahmad,
Chief of Qadian [Punjab, India]
The Promised Messiah