What the Ahmadiyya Movement Stands for
by Maulana Muhammad Ali
This book discusses the ethos of the propagation work for Islam undertaken by the Ahmadiyya Anjuman Ishaat-e-Islam Lahore (The Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement for the Propagation of Islam). It was written in the first-half of the 20th century.
Ahmadiyya Anjuman Ishaat-e-Islam Lahore
Headquarters: Ahmadiyya Buildings, Lahore (India)
Registered: Act XXI of 1860
Budget: Over Rs. 500,000
- Service of Islam
- Unity of Islam
- Defence and Propagation of Islam
- Establishing Islamic Missions
- Preparing Muslim Missionaries
- Translating Holy Quran
- Preparing Islamic Literature
No other community stands in greater need of devoting its attention to constructive work than the Muslims who are wasting their whole energy on internal wranglings. The most important work to which the world conditions are crying aloud is the explaining of the message of Islam to non-Muslims. It cannot be denied that of all the religions of the world Islam is the most misunderstood and the fault lies with the Muslims themselves who have not taken the trouble to explain the teachings of Islam and the Holy Quran to other people. In our own country, the greatest obstacle to a right understanding between the two great communities, the Hindus, and the Muslims, is the gross misrepresentation of Islam, propaganda for which is being carried on, on an extensive scale, by a certain section. This propaganda has resulted in bringing about a change in the Hindu mentality towards Islam and in disturbing the good relations which existed between the two communities. But there is no reason to be disappointed. The Hindu community has, after all, a human heart in its breast, and truth does touch the human heart. Vast spread of Islamic literature is sure to bring about a change in Hindu mentality, and the fault is ours that instead of telling other people what the great principles are for which Islam stands, we are engaged in a hopeless war among ourselves on minor sectarian questions.
In our own country again there are before us “untouchable” communities, numbering well-nigh eighty million, who are now realising that they can rise to a status of equality with other communities, only through Islam, yet they are either going over in lakhs [hundreds of thousands] to Christianity or sticking to a cult which is bound to keep them in a state of degradation and slavery, simply because the Muslims are making no effort to claim them. If the Muslims make only one-tenth of the effort which the Christians are making, they could easily add a million men every year to their numbers.
Europe itself is offering a golden opportunity to Islam. It has its problems which its material civilisation is incapable of solving and whose solution is met with only in Islam. It is calling for the help of Islam as recent European writers have realised:
“We must wait upon the Islamic society to restore the balance of Western civilisation upset by the one-sided nature of that progress” (Whither Islam?, p. 337).
“For the fullest development of its cultural life, Europe cannot do without the forces and capacities which lie within Islamic society” (Whither Islam?, p 378).
“Islam has still the power to reconcile apparently irreconcilable elements of race and tradition. If even the opposition of the great societies of the East and the West is to be replaced by co-operation, the mediation of Islam is an indispensable condition” (Whither Islam?, p. 399).
Muslims are neglecting all these opportunities; only the small community of the Ahmadis, and among these more specially the still smaller body of the Ahmadis of the Lahore section, is devoting itself to this great work of the service of Islam. Our Muslim brethren have no time to devote their attention to this important work while the Christian world is more and more realising its importance. I give here only a few quotations from recent European writers on Islam:
“By far the most striking and the most sustained development of this method has been carried on for over a quarter of a century by the organisers of the Ahmadiyya sect, who have copied the machinery and emulated the vigour of the West in the furtherance of their propaganda. This religious movement, through its own dynamic force, has attracted wide attention” (Whither Islam?, p. 214).
“Thence, perhaps, new powers might be born amongst Oriental peoples, which would check the present decay of Islam or even turn it into new growth, if Europe were to continue along the line which it is following just now. Who would deny the possibility at least of such a new development, after seeing, for instance, how movements like the Ahmadiyya, with its strong ethical powers and its no doubt deep religious feelings, are able to exercise a certain influence far beyond what has so far been considered to be the frontier of Muslim territory?” (Whither Islam?, p. 309).
“The Ahmadiyya Movement … has become essentially a Muslim propagandist society, though still looked upon with suspicion by the orthodox ulama [clerics]. To it belongs also the credit for the development of a modern Muslim apologetic which though not yet fully able to handle the Western technique of argumentation, is far from negligible….” (Whither Islam?, p. 353).
“The Ahmadiyya split into two camps. … The Lahore branch, being the more active, resolved to see what might be achieved in the direction of commending Islam to the Western world. The English edition of the translation of the Holy Quran published in 1918, is the work of a modernist who is yet more than half a bigot” (The Influence of Islam, p. 109).
“A quite different history stands behind the sect known as Ahmadiyya which arose in the Punjab, partly, perhaps, as a reaction against Christian missionary activity there.… As the one section of Islam which has made efforts to gain converts in England, it is particularly interesting. In its general tendencies, the Ahmadiyya takes a middle path between orthodoxy and the rationalism of the Necharis” (Islam at the Crossroads, pp. 99, 100).
“Taken out of this environment the movement resolves itself mainly into liberal Islam with peculiarity that it has a definitely propagandist spirit and feels confident that it can make an appeal to Western nations, an appeal which has already been made with some measure of success. If it be thought that this success be insignificant it must be remembered that missionary progress in India, where the Muslim community is now the largest in the world, was slow” (Islam at the Crossroads, p. 106).
“The Ahmadiyya are an interesting exception to the generally prevailing communal spirit of Islam. They concentrate on religious propaganda and abstain from all politics. In this respect they are a very remarkable group in modern Islam, the only group that has purely missionary aims. They are marked by a devotion, zeal and self-sacrifice that call for genuine admiration, notwithstanding their harassing and bitterly aggressive tactics. Their founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, must have been a powerful personality.
“The Lahore group, who have seceded from the original community on the ground that they venerate the founder as a Mujaddid (Renewer) of religion and not as a Nabi, are therefore more acceptable to public opinion in Islam. They have the same spirit of opposition against Christianity as the Qadianis but their activity is more exclusively concentrated on the proclamation of Islam as the only religion that is in conformity with reason and nature. … Their influence is far wider than the number of their adherents would suggest. Their vindication and defence of Islam is accepted by many educated Moslems [Muslims] as the form in which they can remain intellectually loyal to Islam” (Rev. H. Kraemer in The Moslem World, Vol. XXI, pp. 170, 171).
“The movement represents a reaction to the naturalistic interpretations of Islam as set forth by the Aligarh reformers, while at the same time repudiating the authority of the orthodox mulla [cleric] … the Ahmadis are at present the most active propagandists of Islam in the world” (Indian Islam, p. 217).
“On the other hand, here we find the newest and most aggressive forms of propaganda against Christianity which have ever originated, and from here a worldwide programme of Muslim Foreign Missions is being maintained. This, after all, is the logical issue of the spirit and teaching of Islam under the influence of modern conditions” (Indian Islam, p. 229).
These few quotations from European writers of fame are simply an acknowledgement of the facts as they exist, facts of which Europe takes cognisance but to which the Muslims have shut their eyes. The heart of Europe feels that it can be saved by Islam; it feels that the Ahmadiyya, representing the mean between the narrowness of the mulla and extreme rationalism of Aligarh, has got both the equipment and the energy which is needed for the advancement of Islam, but the narrow prejudices of our Muslim brethren are delaying the day of the Islamisation of Europe. I would invite the attention of every lover of Islam to the great work which the Ahmadiyya Anjuman Ishaat-e-Islam Lahore has accomplished within less than a quarter of a century:
- There are already three Muslim missions working in Europe: in England, Germany and Holland, and preparations are in progress for opening ten more.
- The work of the propagation of Islam is also carried on in India among the Hindus and Sikhs more especially among the untouchables, nearly four thousand of the latter having already been brought into the fold of Islam.
- Missions have been established not only to carry the message of Islam to non-Muslims but also to bring about religious awakening among Muslims whom Christianity was trying to win over such as the Muslims of Java, Sumatra, Siam, etc.
- The Holy Quran has already been translated into three European languages: English, Dutch and German.
- Islamic literature has been produced on a very vast scale covering all branches of religious lore, the Holy Quran, the Hadith, the lives of the Prophet and his Companions, religious teachings, etc. The study of comparative religion has also been encouraged, a translation of the Vedas being one of the works taken in hand.
- This literature has been translated into thirty different languages and has thus been made accessible in all parts of the world among Muslims as well as non-Muslims. Hardly a year passes in which the translation of this literature into one or two new languages is not added.
- Over fifty thousand tracts on the teachings of Islam, over ten thousand copies of the English Translation of the Holy Quran and over 15,000 copies of the Life of the Holy Prophet have been distributed free, quite a large number of them having been placed in libraries, while the number of pamphlets circulated is very large.
- Religious periodicals are being issued in different languages, some of which are distributed free in large numbers.
- Muslim missionaries are being prepared not only for work in India but also in other parts of the world. Students have come from Trinidad, Java, Sumatra, Siam, Albania (in Europe) and other places to get religious training to work among their own people, and some of them are now actually working as Muslim missionaries in their own countries.
- Missionary work is carried on, on a very extensive scale, in almost all countries through correspondence and the free distribution of literature.
- Besides purely missionary work, the Anjuman is carrying on other work of the uplift of Muslims on a sufficiently large scale. It is maintaining two High Schools, one of which is situated in Lahore itself; it is also maintaining a number of orphans and widows and doing other work to advance the Muslim cause.
This is only a bird’s-eye view of the great constructive work of the propagation of Islam which the Ahmadiyya Anjuman Ishaat-e-Islam Lahore, is carrying on, a work which both in its scope and importance is unparalleled and which is looked upon by recent European writers on Islam as the work of the Islamisation of Europe. And yet the attitude of the Muslims themselves to this great work is simply deplorable. There is the mulla who has sworn to put an end not only to the society that is carrying on this work but also to the work itself; there are newspapers which have no other aim but to exterminate the Ahmadiyya Movement; there are preachers who openly preach that the Ahmadiyya Movement is the greatest enemy of Islam and that the Muslims’ first duty is not to bring the non-Muslim into the fold of Islam but to turn Muslims into kafirs [non-Muslims]. To these people I have nothing to say. They see that we are building mosques; they know that we preach Islam and bring non-Muslims into the fold of Islam; they are aware that we are carrying the Holy Quran to those corners of the world which it has not hitherto reached; they cannot deny that we defend the honour of Islam and its Holy Prophet [Muhammad (pbuh)]; yet they shut their eyes to all this good work and would neither apply themselves to this work nor allow us to do it. They call us kafirs and enemies of Islam and never pause to think whether the work we are doing is the work of lovers of Islam or its enemies, and whether their own indifference to the work of propagation of Islam is not a crime against Islam. Their case is almost hopeless.
But there is a vast Muslim educated public, people with broad minds, people who realise that the great need of Islam is constructive work, people who feel that a man or a society must be judged, not by certain words or formulas, but by the good or bad work that it is doing. It is to these that I appeal, for even they are mostly indifferent to the noble work of the spread of Islam and Islamic literature that this Anjuman is carrying on in the face of bitterest opposition from the mullas and the majority of the Muslim press. The propaganda that is being carried on against us in the press and on the pulpit seems to have had its effect even on thinking people. We repeatedly broadcast our beliefs and every Muslim can see that they are the same as held by the Ahl-e-Sunnah, yet there are misgivings and doubts which know no end. We repeat our beliefs again:
- We believe in the Unity of God and the prophethood of Muhammad [pbuh].
- We believe in the finality of prophethood in Muhammad [pbuh]. In the words of the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement:
- “No prophet, old or new, will come after our Holy Prophet.”
- “The man who denies the finality of prophethood must be considered as having no faith in, and outside the pale of Islam.”
- We believe the Holy Quran to be the final and perfect Book of God, no portion of which has ever been or shall ever be abrogated.
- We believe that Mujaddids (Reformers) shall be raised after the Holy Prophet and that God speaks to His chosen ones (Auliya Allah), as the Holy Prophet said that there shall be among his followers “those to whom God shall speak though they shall not be prophets.”
- We do revere all the Companions of the Prophet and all the great Imams, whether they are accepted by the Sunnis or the Shias.
- We look upon everyone who professes the Kalima, believing in the Unity of God and the prophethood of Muhammad [pbuh], as a Muslim, and consider it to be the greatest sin to call a Muslim kafir.
I appeal to every well-wisher of Islam to pause and ponder whether there is any other Muslim organisation in the world at the present day which is founded on better principles or which can claim better work. Not only that; can an organisation be formed with nobler principles and higher aims? Every religious community is trying to make its religion more popular and to strengthen its ranks, and the Muslims stand in greater need of it than other communities. Strange as it is, the Muslims are not only entirely neglecting this work, but they are also opposing it to the utmost of their power, never thinking that if the great and unparalleled work which this Anjuman is doing suffers, it will be Islam’s loss; and perhaps for a long time to come, our community would not be able to make amends for it and take in hand work of a similar nature. There are some people who are madly denouncing us, and they never take the trouble to think what our fault is. Are we doing wrong in establishing Muslim missions in Christian lands, in spreading translations of the Holy Quran and other Islamic literature among non-Muslims, in building mosques in places where a mosque has never been built before, and in bringing over non-Muslims to Islam? Or, are we wrong in holding that our Holy Prophet is the last Prophet of the world and no old or new prophet will come after him, that all those who declare faith in la ilaha ill-Allah Muhammad ur Rasul-Allah are Muslims, and no Muslim can be called a kafir so long as he has faith in the Kalima? They say we are kafirs and never tell us what the particular doctrine is for which we are being condemned. They call us hypocrites, and never pause to think that the hypocrites were people who made a profession of Islam but did not take any part in the life-and-death struggle which Islam had to carry on. Islam is faced today with a similar life-and-death struggle and yet the very community that is engaged in holding aloft its flag is denounced as a community of hypocrites.
It is true that we accept Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian to be the Mujaddid of the present century of Hijrah, but we fail to understand how the acceptance of a person as a Mujaddid or Reformer among the Muslims becomes a ground of heresy or apostasy. If the Holy Prophet has promised that a Mujaddid would appear among the Muslims every hundred years, and if admittedly righteous and great men have claimed to be Mujaddids, not the acceptance but rejection of the Mujaddid should be a sin. Ibn Maja reports that the Holy Prophet said:
إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَبْعَثُ لِهَذِهِ الأُمَّةِ عَلَى رَأْسِ كُلِّ مِائَةِ سَنَةٍ مَنْ يُجَدِّدُ لَهَا دِينَهَا
“Most surely Allah will raise for this ummah (i.e., the Muslims) with the opening of every new century one who will bring about the revival of their religion.”
The authenticity of this hadith is borne evidence to by the huffaz (those learned in hadith) and the promise given has seen its fulfilment century after century. Among those who were called to this high office, the name of Syed Ahmad of Sirhind, better known by his title of Mujaddid Alf-e-Thani (lit. the Reformer of the second thousand or the eleventh century of Hijrah), is of household fame in India. He advanced this very hadith of the Holy Prophet in support of his claim, and though the ulama of the time, as usual, declared him a kafir in his day, he is now admitted by the whole of Muslim India, even Muslim Afghanistan, to be the Mujaddid. If then we have accepted the only man who said he had been called to the high office of a Mujaddid for the fourteenth century of Hijrah, and who was the only man who stood up as the champion of Islam against all its adversaries, we have done what the Muslims have been doing before this, and what every Muslim ought to do even now: we have obeyed the Holy Prophet who promised us a Mujaddid; and with all their zeal for declaring Muslims to be kafirs, the ulama are unable to point out another Mujaddid of the present century. Must the saying of the Prophet be thrown away simply because some misguided ulama cannot see aright? Or has the promise of the Holy Prophet failed after thirteen centuries? Which party is in the wrong: the one that accepts the Mujaddid and thus also the Holy Prophet’s promise or the one that rejects him and along with him the saying of the Holy Prophet?
It is true that the Qadian section of the Ahmadiyya Movement holds the belief that the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement was a prophet and that all those Muslims who do not accept him, even though they may not have heard his name, are kafirs, but members of the Ahmadiyya Anjuman Ishaat-e-Islam, Lahore, have repeatedly challenged the Qadianis to prove their allegations in a controversy which may be held in some central place by the heads of the two sections, and the challenge has never been accepted. This is due to the fact that the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement has cleared his position of those false charges in plain words. For instance, he says in the earliest of his writings on the subject:
“I do not claim to be a prophet but I claim to be a muhaddath, and this claim has been put forward by Divine commandment” (Izala Auham, p. 421).
Again, in his last book he says:
“Prophethood has been cut off after our Holy Prophet Muhammad, and I have been called a prophet by God in a metaphorical sense, not in a real sense” (Haqiqat-ul-Wahy, Supplement, pp. 64, 65).
And he has written very often:
“Those people fabricate a lie who say that I claim to be a prophet” (Hamamat-ul-Bushra, p. 8).
“We too invoke the curse of God on the claimant to prophethood” (Ishtihar, dated April 1897).
And still again:
“Prophethood came to a close in the person of the Holy Prophet Muhammad.”
“I believe the claimant to prophethood to be a liar and a kafir.”
Similarly, he has written:
“It is my belief from the beginning that no one can be a kafir or dajjal [Antichrist] simply because he does not accept me” (Tiryaq-al-Qulub, p. 130).
As a matter of fact, the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement was accepted as a Mujaddid by the Muslims generally when he first made this announcement in 1882. It was eight years after this that he was declared to be a kafir when he announced that Jesus Christ was not alive as generally supposed by the Muslims but that he died a natural death like all other prophets, and that the prophecy relating to the appearance of the Messiah among the Muslims was fulfilled in his person. I do not wish to argue this point here, but it may be remarked in passing that if it is true that Jesus Christ is dead and not living then the only reasonable position which a Muslim can accept, remaining faithful to hadith, is that advanced by the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement, that is, that the Messiah that is to appear among the Muslims must be a Mujaddid who comes in the spirit and power of Jesus Christ. If Jesus Christ is dead, he cannot come back. Nay! Even if he is living he cannot come back unless the doctrine of the finality of prophethood is denied. If the Holy Prophet is to be accepted as the last Prophet, it means that no prophet is needed after him, whether old or new. Hence, either all those hadith must be rejected which speak of the coming of the Messiah, or they must be interpreted in the manner in which the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement has interpreted them. We have made our choice and accepted a particular interpretation of hadith which are met with in all reliable collections of hadith instead of rejecting them. And we appeal to other Muslims to make their choice in the matter.
We do indeed cherish feelings of deepest love and highest respect for the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement, for it is he who set us on the path of constructive work for the spread of Islam in which we are engaged. It is he who inspired us with a new faith that Islam is bound to conquer spiritually though it may have lost temporally, and it is with this faith that the small band of the workers of the Ahmadiyya Movement is heroically unfurling the flag of Islam in Christian lands in spite of being opposed to the utmost by the Muslims themselves. Our hearts feel the change which contact with this great spiritual leader has worked within us and we cannot but feel grateful to him for setting us on the right path, not caring in the least for what others say. Every Ahmadi has the strongest conviction that Islam will be triumphant in the world and that it will be the future religion of the world. It is this faith and this conviction that gives Ahmadis the strength to make any sacrifice that is required of them in the furtherance of the cause of Islam.
Before concluding this statement of our beliefs, I would add here that the spirit to declare Muslims kafir is doing immense harm to the cause of Islam, and the world of Islam can never have the strength which unity alone can give until it recognises that the acceptance of the unity of God and of the prophethood of Muhammad is the real basis of the community and brotherhood of Islam. Anyone who accepts the Kalima: La ilaha ilallah Muhammadur Rasul Allah, that is, There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is His Apostle, is a Muslim though he may have a thousand differences with his brethren. It is for this great truth, for this liberal interpretation of Islam, that the Ahmadiyya Movement stands, and the sooner this truth is recognised by Muslims generally, the better it would be for their welfare.
Another great truth for which the Ahmadiyya Movement stands is, that without rejecting the hadith of the Holy Prophet or the ijtihad [exercise of judgment] of the great Imams, it gives the foremost place to the Holy Quran in the life of a Muslim. The Quran is the original source of light and life for Muslims, but a wrong sense of proportion has thrown it into the background, both in the individual and communal life of Muslims. We place the Quran in the forefront of all things, and seek light from it before resorting to hadith or ijtihad. We accept hadith but not when it goes against the Quran; we accept ijtihad but not when it is against the Quran or the hadith.
In a nutshell, the Ahmadiyya Movement stands for:
1. A united Islam, in which no one is a kafir who declares his faith in the holy Kalima.
2. A liberal Islam which accepts the Divine origin of all the religions of the world.
3. A perfect Islam before which every imperfect form of religion must give way.
4. An easy Quran which every Muslim can understand and interpret for himself.
5. A complete Quran, no verse of which has ever been, or shall ever be, abrogated.
6. A mighty Quran, whose spiritual force is sure to conquer the world and which in its conquest has never needed, and shall never need, the sword.
7. The finality of prophethood with Muhammad, peace be on him, rejecting the coming of any prophet after him, old or new.
8. The perfection of prophethood with Muhammad, so that his followers receive greater Divine favours than those bestowed upon others before them.
9. The defence of Islam against all attacks meeting all objections, removing all misconceptions.
10. Carrying the great message of Islam to all peoples, especially to Christendom, and spreading true knowledge about the Holy Quran and circulating the Holy Book among Muslims as well as non-Muslims. With these principles as the guiding rules of life, I ask every Muslim to ponder if it is not his duty to join it and strengthen the cause of Islam by bringing nearer the day of the Islamisation of Europe. We profess the best of beliefs that a Muslim can have and we are doing the best work that a Muslim can do, because the propagation of Islam was the work of the Holy Prophet and his noble Companions and all the great Imams of Islam. Will you not join us in this noble work?
How to Help:
Should our aims and objects appeal to you as worthy of your moral and material support, I would suggest some ways to help forward this cause of Islam which is common to us all and, I am sure, dear to us all:
- Earmark a percentage of your income as monthly subscription.
- Specify a fixed portion of your zakah for this cause.
- Transfer the amount of interest on your bank deposits, not permissible for personal use, to the propagation of Islam.
- Send a donation for any of the objects which you approve.
- Send an order for our literature for your own use or for presentation to non-Muslims.
- Help us in the free distribution of the translation of Holy Quran and other Islamic literature.
- Subscribe to our periodicals. The Light is particularly recommended.
- Commend the cause we stand for, in your sphere of influence.
Remittances may please be addressed to the Financial Secretary, Ahmadiyya Anjuman Ishaat-e-Islam, Ahmadiyya Buildings, Lahore and correspondence to the Secretary or the President.