The Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement

A Short Study of the Life of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian

by Maulana Muhammad Ali

Chapter 9: Jihad

Doctrine of Jihad not Abrogated:

Another charge against the founder of the Ahmadiyya movement is that he denied the doctrine of jihad. It is easy to see that anyone who accepts the Holy Quran and the Holy Prophet Muhammad cannot deny jihad, injunctions relating to which occupy a considerable portion of the Holy Quran. The orthodox Muslims believe that some verses of the Holy Quran have been abrogated by others. The Ahmadiyya movement has long been fighting against this doctrine, and many enlightened Muslims now accept the Ahmadi view that no verse, not even one word or one jot of the Holy Quran was abrogated. Under the heading, A statement of some of our beliefs, the founder of the Ahmadiyya movement wrote:

“God speaks to His saints (auliya) in this umma, and they are given the semblance of prophets, and they are not really prophets, for the Quran has made perfect the needs of Law, and they are given only an understanding of the Quran, and they cannot add to, or detract from it anything; and whoever adds to, or detracts from it, he is of the devils who are wicked.”1

It is therefore impossible that, holding such a belief, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad could say that he abrogated jihad, which was made obligatory by the Holy Quran and which was one of the basic teachings of Islam. I quote a passage from his pamphlet entitled The Jihad to show that he differed from the ulama only in his interpretation of jihad as inculcated by the Holy Quran:

“It should be remembered that the doctrine of jihad as understood by the Muslim ulama of our day, who call themselves Maulvis, is not true … These people are so persistent in their belief, which is entirely wrong and against the Quran and Hadith, that the man who does not believe in it and is against it is called a Dajjal.”2

Misconceptions about Jihad:

It would appear from this that, according to the founder of the Ahmadiyya movement, the doctrine of jihad as understood by the ulama was opposed to the true teachings of the Holy Quran and Hadith. What Ahmad rejected was not the doctrine of jihad but the orthodox interpretation of it, which had given rise in the West to grave misconceptions regarding the doctrine of jihad, so that even unprejudiced Western writers thought the word jihad to be synonymous with war undertaken for forcing the religion of Islam upon non-Muslims. Thus, in the Encyclopaedia of Islam, the article on Jihad opens with the following words:

“The spread of Islam by arms is a religious duty upon Muslims in general”.3

Klein, in his Religion of Islam, makes an even more sweeping statement:

“Jihad … The fighting against unbelievers with the object of either winning them over to Islam, or subduing and exterminating them in case they refuse to become Muslims.”4

In the Muslim popular mind there was an even greater misconception, that the killing of an unbeliever was jihad and that such an act entitled the perpetrator to be called a ghazi. This conception, coupled with the prevailing belief in the advent of a Mahdi who would put all non-Muslims to the sword if they refused to accept Islam, opposed as it was to the plain teachings of the Holy Quran, was doing immense harm to the cause of the spread of Islam among non-Muslims. With very few exceptions, even educated Muslims were victims of the wrong impression that Islam enjoined aggressive war against non-believers, and the founder of the Ahmadiyya movement had to carry on incessant war, not against jihad as inculcated by the Holy Quran, but against the false conceptions of it prevalent among both Muslims and non-Muslims.

War to spread Religion never Allowed:

The way was cleared for removing these misconceptions by establishing two principles:

That jihad means exerting oneself to the extent of one’s ability and power, whether it is by word or deed, and that the word is used in this broad sense in the Holy Quran;

That when it is used in the narrower sense of fighting, it means fighting only in self-defence.

If, therefore, all exertions to carry the message of Islam to non-Muslims by simple preaching, or what may be called spiritual warfare, fell within the purview of jihad, a war carried on for the propagation of Islam, if such a one was ever undertaken by a Muslim ruler, was quite outside the scope of its true significance, as it was against the basic principle laid down in the Holy Quran that

لَاۤ اِکۡرَاہَ فِی الدِّیۡنِ

“there is no compulsion in religion” (The Holy Quran, 2:256).

If Ahmad ever spoke of the abrogation of jihad, it was of this misconception of the word jihad, not of the jihad as inculcated by the Holy Quran, every word of which he believed to be a Divine revelation which could not be abrogated till the day of judgment. Here is another passage from the pamphlet quoted above:

“Their contention that, since jihad was permitted in the early days [of Islam], there is no reason why it should be prohibited now is entirely misconceived. It may be refuted in two ways; firstly, that this inference is drawn from wrong premises and our Holy Prophet never used the sword against any people, except those who first took up the sword [against the Muslims] … secondly, that, even if we suppose for the sake of argument that there was such a jihad in Islam as these Maulvis think, even so that order does not stand now, for it is written that, when the Promised Messiah appears, there will be an end of jihad with the sword and of religious wars.”5

It will be seen that the prevalent idea that Islam allowed a jihad for the spread of religion is refuted in two ways. In the first place, it is stated that this conception of jihad is against the Holy Quran and Hadith, as the Holy Prophet raised the sword only in self-defence, not for the propagation of religion. Further, it is added that, even if for the sake of argument it is supposed that a jihad for the propagation of religion was ever undertaken — that such was never undertaken by the Holy Prophet has been definitely stated in the first part — such jihad cannot be undertaken now, for it is said of the Promised Messiah that he will put down (religious) wars, “yaz al-harb”, as plainly stated in Bukhari. What is aimed at is really this, that a jihad contrary to the teachings of the Holy Quran and to the practice of the Holy Prophet, if ever there was one, was undoubtedly the result of some misconception, and, according to the hadith quoted above, the Promised Messiah will remove that misconception and thus put an end to such wars.

Conditions of Jihad:

This position is made still more clear in an Arabic letter, addressed to the Muslims of the world, and forming a supplement to his book, Tuhfa Golarwiyya. In this letter he says:

“There is not the least doubt that the conditions laid down for jihad [in the Holy Quran] are not to be met with at the present time and in this country; so it is illegal for the Muslims to fight for [the propagation of] religion and to kill anyone who rejects the Sacred Law, for God has made clear the illegality of jihad when there is peace and security.”6

It is here made clear that jihad with the sword is allowed by Islam only under certain conditions, and, as those conditions are not met with at the present time in the country in which the writer lives, therefore jihad with the sword is illegal here at the present time. This argument leads to the definite conclusion that jihad may be legal in another country in which exist the necessary conditions laid down in the Holy Quran, or even here when the conditions have changed. These conditions are expressly stated in the Holy Book:

وَ قَاتِلُوۡا فِیۡ سَبِیۡلِ اللّٰہِ الَّذِیۡنَ یُقَاتِلُوۡنَکُمۡ وَ لَا تَعۡتَدُوۡا ؕ اِنَّ اللّٰہَ لَا یُحِبُّ الۡمُعۡتَدِیۡنَ

“And fight in the way of God against those who fight against you, and be not aggressive, for God does not love the aggressors” (The Holy Quran, 2:190).

Muslims expressed Loyalty to British Rule:

In this connection may be mentioned another charge relative to his attitude towards the British Government in India. As stated at the beginning of this book, the Sikhs, who ruled the Punjab before the advent of the British rule, had not only ousted Ahmad’s family from their estate, but, in their later days, there was such lawlessness in the country as made life impossible for the Muslims, who were not allowed the free exercise of their religion and whose very culture was on the verge of being swept away. It was at such a time that the British Government stepped in and saved the Muslims from annihilation. Thus, people who with their own eyes had seen the woes of the Muslims, or even their descendants, considered the British Government as a blessing, for through it they were saved.

For allowing full liberty of religion and conscience and for establishing peace where before there were anarchy and lawlessness, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was not alone in praising the English rule. All writers of that time considered it their duty to give vent to similar expressions of loyalty and thankfulness. Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, who occupied a position among the Muslims which has not been vouchsafed to any other leader since his time, wrote exactly in the same strain as did Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. Even the Wahabis, who remained for a long time in the bad books of the Government, declared from the housetops their loyalty to the Government. Thus wrote Maulvi Muhammad Jabbar, the famous Wahabi leader:

“Before all, I thank the Government under which we can publicly and with the beat of drums teach the religious doctrines of our pure faith without any interference whatsoever, and we can pay back our opponents, whether they are Christians or others, in their own coin. Such religious liberty we cannot have even under the Sultan of Turkey.”7

Another famous Ahl Hadith leader, Maulvi Muhammad Husain of Batala, wrote:

“Considering the Divine Law and the present condition of the Muslims, we have said that this is not the time of the sword.”8

Nawab Siddiq Hasan Khan, another great leader and writer, went even further:

“A perusal of historical books shows that the peace, security and liberty which all people have received under this rule have never been obtained under any other rule.”9

“Whoever goes against it [i.e., loyalty and faithfulness to the British rule], not only is a mischief-maker in the eyes of the rulers, but he shall also be farthest from what Islam requires and from the way of the faithful, and he shall be regarded as a violator of the covenant, unfaithful in his religion and a perpetrator of the greatest sin, and what his condition will be on the day of judgment will become evident there.”10

There was another reason why Mirza Ghulam Ahmad had to lay special stress on loyalty to the British rule. He claimed to be the Promised Mahdi, and, as the name of Mahdi was associated with the sword, the Government for many years regarded the Ahmadiyya movement with distrust, thinking that the founder might at any time rise in revolt against it. It was to remove this wrong impression that Ahmad laid much stress on his faithfulness to the British rule. Moreover, he was laying the foundations of a missionary society with the grand aim of spreading Islam throughout the world, and such a society could do its work only by remaining loyal to the Government established by law in any country and by remaining aloof from all political agitation.



  1. Mawahib-ur-Rahman, pp. 66–67.
  2. The Jihad, pp. 5–6.
  3. Encyclopaedia of Islam, E.J. Brill, Leiden, 1913–38.
  4. Frederick Augustus Klein, The Religion of Islam, London, 1906.
  5. The Jihad, p. 6.
  6. Tuhfa Golarwiyya, Supplement, p. 30.
  7. Barakat-i-Islam, Title page, 2.
  8. Ishaat-us-Sunna, Safar, 1301 A.H., p. 366.
  9. Tarjuman Wahabia, p. 8.
  10. Tarjuman Wahabia, pp. 23–24.