Instructions and Guidance for the Ahmadiyya Jamaat
by Maulana Muhammad Ali
Chapter 2: Our System of Organisation
This is the second aspect to which I wish to draw attention. Without organisation a community cannot even survive, let alone make progress. The better and stronger the organisation of a community, the faster will that community progress and the more successful will it be in attaining its objective. To organise the community, it is essential to keep in view the following principles.
1. Responding to One Will and One Voice:
The characteristic of every living body is that as soon as it wills to do something all its organs set to work towards that end. As soon as you start the engine of a machine, its various parts and components come into action and begin their allotted work. This is also the sign of a living community, that on receiving the call from one source all its workers responsible for that task set about their work. This is known as the organisation of a community. The community in which there is no organisation, whose members do not set about exerting their all for achieving its objective after having heard the one voice, that is not a living community. If the various components of a body do not work subject to one will, it cannot be called a living body but is merely a heap of separate parts.
Therefore, as a community our first and foremost need is that we must come together to respond to one voice, and when that voice calls us to the attainment of the objective of our existence, we all rush immediately, forgetting everything else, and each one sets about his work. At that time our individual will must be subordinated, and all our efforts must be directed towards the fulfilment of another will, in obedience to which the community should come into action.
2. Voice and Call of Consensus:
The one voice to be obeyed can be the voice of an individual or that of the whole community. By the voice of an individual is meant that all the affairs of the community are placed in the hands of one man, and he is given absolute authority to run the movement in whatever way he wishes. By the voice of the community is meant that the call to be obeyed is that of the decision of the movement arrived at by mutual consultation. It is this second method which is taught by Islam:
“Their affairs are by consultation among themselves (The Holy Quran, 42:38).”
The Holy Prophet Muhammad is ordered:
“Consult them in affairs (The Holy Quran, 3:159).”
The reason for the principle of consultation is that every person should be given his human right of expressing his opinion, but in such a way that the diversity of views does not cause harm to the community. When several people give their opinions about a certain matter, each view is bound to differ in some degree, and it is impossible to act on all of them. Therefore it is essential to reach an agreed view. This is decided by the majority of opinion, that is to say, taking the views of those people who have been chosen as persons of sound opinion, whatever decision is favoured by the majority of them, that is decreed to be the consultative decision or the will of the community. It is then binding upon every member of the movement to obey that decision.
This is the only way in which, despite the freedom of opinion, there can be agreement upon one view. Muslims have generally ignored this principle, and instead of mutual consultation or the will of the community prefer to follow the opinion of one man. In fact, sometimes even when consultation does take place, the collective decision is made subject to the will of one man, so that when opinion is divided the imam or amir is free to follow the majority or the minority as he wishes. This is nothing other than imposing the will of an individual over the will of the community. On the other hand, the Companions of the Holy Prophet Muhammad made decisions according to the majority view.
Ahmadiyya Movement to Work by Majority View:
In this present age, the Promised Messiah has again revived this true principle, and has clearly written with his own hand that whatever is the decision of the Anjuman arrived at by a majority, that shall be followed, and no individual shall be able to override such a decision. So this is the principle which our community ought to abide by in its system of organisation. The man who disregards the collective decision, or prefers instead to follow his own view, is violating the clear command of Allah given in the words:
“Their affairs are by consultation among themselves,”
and is adjudged by God as a sinner.
It must also be borne in mind that consultation is only done in case of the important matters. Therefore, the administrative tasks which are entrusted to particular people shall also be started according to collective decisions. The principle is that an individual’s opinion shall be subservient to the will of the community, and cannot prevail over it. However, in matters of religious belief, sometimes when a person’s mind has led him to a certain conclusion he cannot be compelled to reject it. But as regards the work done by the community, if, after agreement having been reached, a uniform view is not followed the result is disunity and ruination of the community.
3. Financial Contributions:
According to our decision, arrived at by consultation, every Ahmadi must take part in the running of the community alike by means of making monetary contributions, whether he is great or small. The standard of greatness in our community is determined by the object of our life. The more a man serves Islam, the greater he is. The man who devotes his whole life for the service of Islam is indeed very great and worthy of the highest honour. But no one can be exempt from doing his duty in the set-up of the community. For example, just as the paying of zakat is incumbent upon a man in employment or in business or engaged in some other worldly work, so it is also obligatory on the man who serves the faith day and night. Payment of zakat is not conditional upon the kind of work someone does; the only condition relates to the minimum limit of wealth. If a person has wealth in excess of a certain minimum amount, zakat is obligatory on him.
In observance of this command of the Quran, our decision, arrived at by consultation, is that all our members shall pay two-thirds of their due zakat into the funds of our community, and the remaining one-third they shall give as they wish. A somewhat similar practice under certain circumstances can be seen in the time of the Holy Prophet Muhammad.
Contributions by Way of Jihad:
Moreover, to carry out religious works the expenditure of money is required, and the Holy Quran too has, in addition to the zakat, also prescribed jihad as obligatory. Whether jihad is by the sword or by the pen, in both cases the spending of money is required. In the light of this injunction of the Quran, our decision taken by mutual consultation has decreed it as compulsory that all members must make monthly donations of at least one-twentieth of their income, and may pay more if they so wish. To fail to follow this call of the community is to cut oneself adrift from the collective system of the Jamaat. This is a responsibility which devolves upon the great and the small, the rich and the poor. If the leaders are in the forefront of this activity, they shall become an example for the ordinary members to follow. If the ordinary members take the lead in this good work, they will be envied by the leaders.
It must also be remembered that the prominent and great men of the Movement also bear a greater responsibility. It is not only that the man who has been blessed with more wealth by God must give more for the pleasure of his Lord. But the greater sense and understanding someone possesses, or the stronger is the zeal for the faith in someone’s heart, the more is their responsibility. So if the ordinary members of the Jamaat give one-twentieth of their income, the trustees and office-bearers of the Anjuman ought to give even more as their regular contribution. Besides this, they should also take on the responsibility for supporting particular works which are being carried out.
As regards the special needs which arise from time to time, everyone must contribute towards those. The Holy Prophet Muhammad too used to face such needs, and he would urge his Companions to give their wealth. Various Companions even used to bring their all, or one-half, or one-quarter or less, of their wealth when such needs arose. Similar needs arise in the work of the propagation of Islam.
4. Respect for, and Trust in, one Another:
For the running of the organisation of the community, another essential requirement is that the workers must respect, trust, and think well of one another. When those who are working mistrust one another, the work suffers badly. If the workers are godly and selfless, there is as a result less occurrence of mutual mistrust. However, there could still be misunderstandings. Sometimes, a doubt or suspicion keeps on building up in a person’s heart, till it reaches a dangerous level. Then that suspicion is propagated, in the form of criticism, from one person to another till it damages the unity and the organisation of the community.
Therefore, first of all what is needed is that you should think well of your fellow-worker, as far as possible. When he does something which can be represented both in a good and in an adverse light, you must refrain from taking it in the bad sense. If you have a complaint against a worker, then instead of harbouring it in your heart, so that it takes root there, or spreading it to all and sundry, you must take it to those people who can rectify it and who can hold the worker concerned to account.
Workers will always make mistakes. The best way of rectifying these mistakes is to bring them to the notice of responsible officers. Along with this, I will also emphasise that anyone appointed in this Movement to some office, no matter how high or great, is responsible before Allah and before the people for properly discharging the trust placed in his hands by the community. Nonetheless, mistakes are mistakes, and if he turns from the right way it is the duty of the community to set him straight. This is just as Hazrat Abu Bakr, when accepting his Khilafat, said: if I deviate, you must set me right.
This is also needed today, so that while on the one hand we honour those who work in the way of Allah, on the other hand we must be prepared to call them to account for their mistakes. And this cannot be done unless all the members of the community take so much interest in each and every work of the Movement as if it were their personal work.
5. Collective Community Work:
The fifth requirement of our system of organisation is what has just been mentioned, that all the members of the community must take so much interest in the works of the Movement that they give them priority over their personal business. Practical inaction among the Muslims has reached the extent that when associations and committees are being formed everyone wants to gain some position or office. However, as to taking interest in the work, people do not even attend the meetings. A Muslim’s behaviour should be the opposite of this. There must be no desire in his heart to be appointed to some position or office, but when he is assigned a work or responsibility by collective agreement he must do it with such fervour and care that it becomes more important to him than his own business.
I wish that our Jamaat does not let this weakness creep into it which is prevalent among Muslims generally. The attitude of our members must be that the work is the work of God; whether I am chosen to do it or my brother, it is the same to me. If I am chosen to do some work, I must not shirk the responsibility but rather accept it cheerfully and exert myself fully to complete the task. The Holy Quran contains the command to honour collective, national works. Such a work is described as amr jami’, indicating that it is so important that all those who are called for it must come together for it (jam’, meaning gathering together). In fact, it is ordered that, having gathered together, they should not leave without the permission of the imam or the head. Similarly, when the members of the Movement are consulted on some matter, everyone must play his part in the consultation as far as his understanding allows.