The Ahmadiyya Jama'at: a persecuted sect
by Dr. Simon Ross Valentine
November 23, 2008
The Ahmadiyya JamaŽat, an Islamic reform movement founded in
What is the Ahmadiyya JamaŽat?1
Described as "one of the most active and controversial
movements in modern Islam",2 the Ahmadiyya Jama"at adamantly declares
itself to be "Islam in its pristine purity", "the true
Islam",3 created by Allah to bring about "the revival and
establishment of the glory of Islam".4 The Ahmadiyya JamaŽat was
officially formed on 23 March 1889 at Ludhiana, India, when forty-one followers
took baiŽat, a pledge of allegiance, to Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. According to the
Ahmadi, Ahmad was "a champion of Islam", the "Promised
Messiah", and the Mujaddid, the "expected reformer of the age"
who brought about "the renaissance of Islam in the latter days".5
Ahmad claimed to be, not only Masih-i-mawud, "the promised messiah",
but also the Mahdi for Muslims, the Messiah for Christians, and a manifestation
of Krishna for Hindus.6 The ulema, the Islamic scholars in India at the time,
seeing Ahmad as "a liar" who undertook "the manipulation of the
Quran and the hadith for his own ends",7 pronounced a fatwa of kuffar
[declaration of heresy] against him. This fatwa has not been revoked. Ahmad in
Al-wasiyyah [his official will], appointed the Anjuman to be his successor, a
committee which established Khalifat, a succession of spiritual leaders to
govern the movement after his death. However, a section of the Ahmadiyya
movement, led by Maulvi Muhammad Ali and Khawaja Kamal ul-Din, broke away,
forming the Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha"at-i-Islam
Believing in prophecy after the Prophet the Ahmadi have been
rejected as kuffar, unbelievers, by mainstream Muslims. For reasons explained
below the majority of Muslims refer to the Ahmadi derogatively as Qadianis
[Qadian being the birthplace of Ahmad] and Mirzai [a reference to the first
name of the founder of the Ahmadi movement]. Perceived as being teachers of
heresy, and having moved away from orthodox doctrine, they are condemned as
"apostates and Zindique [heretics]". The Ahmadi are seen as a
"cult based on innumerable absurdities and profanities".8
Consequently they are regarded as being a "grave threat" to the
"very existence of the Ummah [Muslim community] as a united
community",9 a group deliberately making Muslims "ever more confused
and demoralised".10 Since the death of Ahmad in 1908 the Ahmadiyya
JamaŽat, a missionary movement, has established centres in numerous countries
around the world but is particularly strong in America, Britain, Europe,
Indonesia and Nigeria. The current head of the movement, Mirza Masroor Ahmad,
Why are the Ahmadi persecuted?
The Ahmadi, like Muslims generally, believe in "the five fundamental acts of worship in Islam", acts usually designated as the five pillars of Islam.11 Similarly, the Ahmadi notion of "iman or belief, and "Amal, deeds and practice", is to a great extent identical to the belief and practice of most main-stream Muslims. Although the main bone of contention giving rise to the hostility of mainstream Muslims against Ahmadi relates to the Ahmadi teaching on prophet-hood, there are four main beliefs that main-stream Muslims find offensive and un-Islamic: teaching relating to prophet-hood, Jihad, the Khalifat and Jesus.12
Ahmadi teaching on Prophet-hood
For mainstream Muslims belief in the unique status of Muhammad as the last of the prophets is sacrosanct to the faith. The majority of Muslims believe that the idea of the finality of prophet-hood "has been unequivocally announced in the Holy Quran".13 Reference is made to Surah 33:41, which declares how "Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but he is the Messenger of Allah, and the Seal of the Prophets". As such, with Muhammad, it is suggested, "the door to formal prophet-hood was closed forever".14 The Ahmadi "believe firmly, fervently, without any ambiguity or reservation, and with all their heart and soul" that Muhammad "was and will ever remain the greatest Prophet of all times past, present and future and his ShariaŽh [Law] will remain unaltered and the guiding code and law for mankind till Doomsday".15 They believe Muhammad to have been "the last law bearing prophet who brought the perfect and final Divine law and guidance to mankind and that he was the best of all the prophets and the perfect exemplar who came to mankind with all the Divine blessings".16
However, although agreeing that after Muhammad "there can be no independent Prophet with a new law or code", to the chagrin of mainstream Muslims, the Ahmadi claim there can be lesser prophets.17 The Ahmadi teach that the age in which prophets brought new law has ended but there have been, and will be, non-legislative, zilli [shadowy] prophets. According to the Ahmadi Khataman nabiyeen (the Arabic phrase found in Surah 33:41 translated as "seal of the prophets") is to be understood, not as meaning "the last of all prophets", but as "father of Prophets", the greatest and best of all prophets, and the last law-bearing prophet. As such it is claimed that there can be spiritual sons of Muhammad [Ahmad himself claiming to be such a son] who will be prophets bearing the "seal of his allegiance and obedience". Ahmad is accepted as Ummati Nabi [a subordinate prophet] and is believed to be "Imam Mahdi and Promised Messiah who was prophesied by the prophet Muhammad". He is regarded as "a law-bearer", "subservient to every word of Sharia"h of the Holy Prophet Muhammad", and one "who teaches and implements the same".18 Ahmad professed himself to be one of the muhaddathun, inspired persons, "people who are spoken to" by God. He claimed he was a prophet, sirat-i-siddiqui, one who is totally annihilated in the love of the prophet Muhammad. He claimed to "wear the mantle of prophet-hood which is nothing but a part of the Holy Prophet"s own prophet-hood". Consequently, declared Ahmad, I am "therefore, a prophet not for self-exaltation but for the glorification of the Holy Prophet". He declared himself to be Muhammad"s "shadow reflecting all his qualities in his person and acknowledging his debt to him".19 Consequently the Ahmadi teaching on prophet-hood is regarded by the majority of Muslims, not only as wrong, but as being "the most dangerous of all the conspiracies hatched against Islam in modern times" giving rise to "wide-spread mental chaos amongst the Ummah".20
The Ahmadi teaching on jihad
Qadiani and Lahori Ahmadi, although deeply divided over the issues of Khalifat and the prophetic claims of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, are agreed on the interpretation of Jihad given by the founder of their movement. Vehemently advocating the Quranic principle: "there is no compulsion in religion",21 the Ahmadi "strongly reject violence and terrorism in any form and for any reason".22 In particular they reject the belief held by some Muslims "that it is virtuous to kill all the non-Muslims in the world", for "by holding this crooked belief" argues one Ahmadi, "instead of bringing people closer to Islam, they become the very cause of pushing people away from it".23 Aggressive Jihad according to the Ahmadi is nothing less than "murder in the name of Allah".24 Ahmad, in his book Government-i-angrezi awr Jihad, [The British Government and Jihad], presented Jihad mainly as a defensive doctrine. Ahmadi recognize three legitimate types of war in Islam: war "undertaken in self defence"; as "chastisement for aggression" and "those undertaken for the establishment of freedom of conscience, that is to say for breaking up the strength of those who inflicted death upon such as accepted Islam".25 The Ahmadi argue that the promised Messiah, [believed to be Mirza Ghulam Ahmad himself] would put an end to fighting for the faith. "Look!", declared Ahmad, "I have come to you with the message that from now on all armed Jihad has come to an end, and only the Jihad to purify your souls remains".26 Elsewhere he wrote: "the present day onslaught against Islam is an intellectual challenge, which must, of sheer necessity, be answered in the same coin. Hence", he argued, ""Jihad-bil-qalam" [Jihad of the pen] must take the place of "Jihad bi-saif" [Jihad of the sword], in the present age".27 As the fourth Khalifa put it: "swords can win territories but not hearts, force can bend heads, but not minds".28 Jihad is therefore defined as "to struggle to establish the will of Allah".29 Emphasis is placed on Jihadi Akbar, "the greatest Jihad which relates to the discipline of the self and spiritual inner purification",30 and Jihad al-shaifan, the "struggle against the lower self". There is also great emphasis on Jihad al-tarbiyyat, "educational Jihad", a Jihad characterized by learning, argument and demonstration.
Some Muslims, believing that Ahmad fashioned his beliefs so as to gain British support, have branded him "a stooge of the late British government, who banned Jihad and inculcated loyalty to the British government".31 The Ahmadiyya JamaŽat has accordingly been seen as "a handmaid of Imperialism", its missionaries acting as spies serving "British and Zionist political interests", particularly in Russia and Afghanistan.32
Although the Ahmadi renounce violence in the present age it
must be remembered that the movement is not totally pacifist. The Ahmadiyya
Jama"at, accepting the "the principle of self defence",33
teaches that the application of Jihadi Asghar, or Holy war, "will depend
on the situation". During the 1930s Muhammad Ahmed, the second Ahmadi
Khalifa, verbally supported the Kashmiri Muslims against the Hindu Maharaja.34
In 1948, after the creation of Pakistan, when the Dogra Regime and the Indian
forces were invading Kashmir, the Ahmadi community raised a volunteer force,
the Furqan Force which actively fought against Indian troops. During the
violence that accompanied the partition of
The Ahmadi, vigorously opposing the claims made by militant Islamic groups justifying terrorist activity, argue that those "who claim to be participating in a Holy War are misusing and abusing this institution", and are merely using violence "to further their own political aspirations and objectives".35 Agreeing with the Just War idea the Ahmadi maintain that any war must be fought according to certain rules of engagement. For example it is argued that "a response against the aggressor must be targeted and proportionate, no civilians are to be targeted, no acts of mutilation or torture undertaken, places of worship not attacked or destroyed" and "even trees may not be damaged".36 The Ahmadi also stress that true Jihad "can only be declared by a prophet of God or by the Khalifa of the Islamic State" and not by a "self proclaimed leader of the Islamic world", such as Osama bin Ladin.37
The Khalifat and the uniting of Muslims
Ahmadi believe in the continuation of divine revelation. This applies primarily to the Khalifas, those appointed to lead the JamaŽat, whose authority, it is believed, derives from God Himself. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, aware of the need to ensure the continuance of the movement in the future, directed that "the institution of Khalifat should be established after his death", and that "the members should elect a successor who will carry on his work and be the spiritual and worldly head of the community".38 As such the Ahmadi Khalifat was established on May 27th 1908. As well as being seen as "the worldly and spiritual head of the [Ahmadi] community",39 who provides "unity, security and progress for the JamaŽat-i-Ahmadiyya",40 the Khalifa is considered to be "the patron and guardian of the true Khilafat [sic]"41 originating from the "rightly guided Caliphs" of the seventh century. The Khalifa, who presides over the movement for life, is regarded by the Ahmadi as nothing less than the successor of the Prophet, "the true Khalifa for the Muslim world". Therefore, all Muslims are called upon to "accept him and become united". Although many Muslims believe in the re-establishment of the Khalifat before judgment day, the claim of the Ahmadi that their Khalifa is the divinely appointed leader of a united Islam, is rejected as being false and blasphemous.
Ahmadi teaching on Jesus
Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the founder of the Ahmadi sect, agreed with mainstream Muslims that "Jesus had not died on the Cross". However, in contrast to Muslims generally, Ahmad declared that Jesus passed "through a state of swoon", was later revived, taken down from the cross and resuscitated by Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus.42 Ahmad argued that Jesus, having been resuscitated, instead of being taken up to Heaven as mainstream Muslims claim, became "the travelling prophet", going first to Nasibus and Iran, then to the Punjab from where "he had no difficulty in wandering through the important places of Hindustan before going to Kashmir or Tibet".43 According to Ahmad Jesus must "have gone to Kashmir through Jammu or Rawalpindi after possibly visiting Nepal, Benares and other places" and died in Kashmir at the age of one hundred and twenty.44 This belief is seen by the majority of Muslims as a direct contradiction of Quranic teaching.
In what way are the Ahmadi persecuted?
As a consequence of alleged doctrinal deviancy, the Ahmadi
have become a persecuted people, the persecution being perpetrated by other
Mainly due to the fierce opposition of the majority of
ulema, particularly the Khatme Nabuwwat [Committee to secure the Finality of
Prophet-hood], persecution of the Ahmadiyya JamaŽat, has continued in
On 26 April 1984 Zia, influenced by those who wanted to
destroy the Ahmadi sect, introduced Ordinance XX which added sections 298(b)
and 298(c) to the Pakistani Penal Code. The aim of these sections, as the
Ordinance states, is to prevent the "anti-Islamic activities of the
Qadiani Group, Lahori Group and Ahmadis".46 Under this legislation it was
an offence, punishable by a prison sentence of up to three years, the
imposition of a fine, or both, for an Ahmadi who: "directly, or
indirectly, poses himself as a Muslim, or calls, or refers to, his faith as
Islam, or preaches or propagates his faith, or invites others to accept his
faith, by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representations, or in
any manner whatsoever outrages the religious feelings of Muslims".47 This
legislation also prohibited the Ahmadi using the Azan [the call to prayer];
calling "his place of worship as Masjid [mosque]"; to pray according
to Islamic custom; the use of the kalima [declaration of faith] and the
inscribing of Quranic verses on their mosques. Under section 298(b) Ahmadi are
forbidden to refer to, or address, "any other person, other than a caliph
[sic] or companion of the Holy Prophet Muhammad as Ameerul Mumineen
"[commander of the faithful]; Khalifa-tul-Mumineen [Khalifa or leader of
the faithful]; Khalifa-tul-Musilmeen" [Khalifa of Muslim believers);
sahaabi" [companion of the Prophet] or Razi Allah Anho [may God be pleased
with them]". Likewise they could not "refer to, or address, any
person, other than a wife of the Holy Prophet Muhammad as Ummul-Mumineen
[mother of the faithful]". In May 1984, due to continued fears for his
life, the Khalifa was removed from Rabwah, the Ahmadi headquarters in
Further repressive legislation was passed in 1986 when the Pakistani government inserted 295 (c) into the Penal code. This stated that the penalties for blaspheming the prophet Muhammad were death or life imprisonment and fines, later amended in 1991 to make the death penalty the only punishment for blasphemy.48 It is recorded that nobody has been executed by the state under these provisions although religious extremists have killed some people accused under them. Under the Conduct of General Elections Order, 2002, the "status of Ahmadis etc.," was "to remain unchanged". Under this regulation "the status of the Qadiani Group or the Lahori group or a person who does not believe in the absolute and unqualified finality of the Prophet-hood of Muhammad, the last of the prophets, or claimed or claims to be a prophet, in any sense of the word or of any description whatsoever, after Muhammad or recognizes such a claimant as a Prophet or a religious reformer shall remain the same as provided in the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan 1973". Under Article 7(c) a person is denied the right to vote as a Muslim unless they subscribe to the article described above. Ahmadi are effectively barred from Higher Education, as Muslim students must declare in writing that they believe in the unqualified finality of the prophet-hood of Muhammad. Their right to citizenship, and the right to travel outside the country, is also restricted by virtue of the fact that the pro forma for obtaining a Pakistani passport asks applicants to sign a declaration that they "consider Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Qadiani to be an imposter nabi [prophet] and also consider his followers, whether belonging to the Lahori or Qadiani group, to be Non-Muslim".
According to the official statistics put forward by the Ahmadiyya JamaŽat showing a "summary of the cases instituted against Ahmadis in Pakistan from April 1984 to April 2004" the number of Ahmadis charged for displaying the Kalima was 756; 37 for calling Azan; 404 "for posing as Muslims"; 131 for using Islamic epitaphs; 590 for preaching; 213 charged under the Blasphemy Laws and 845 "for various other cases against Ahmadis under anti-Ahmadi Ordinance 298 B/C".49 A charge sheet was made by the authorities against the entire Ahmadi population of Rabwah in December 1989 accusing them of inscribing "kalmia Tayyaba and other Quranic verses on their graves, buildings, offices of Ahmadiyya community, places of worship and business centres in spite of" the legal prohibitions of 1984.50 "Moreover", declared the charge sheet, "they persistently preach their religion to Muslims in different ways" such as "deliberately saying Assalam-Alaikum [peace be on you] to Muslims, reciting Kalima Tayyaba in loud voice in groups in the town at the time of call to morning prayers and by repeatedly indulging in similar Islamic activities". The list goes on.51
The Commission on Human Rights, in August 1985, expressed "its grave concern at the promulgation by Pakistan of Ordinance XX of 26th April, 1984, which, prima facie, violates the right to liberty and security of the persons, the right to freedom from arbitrary arrest or detention, the right to freedom of thought, expression, conscience and religion, the right of religious minorities to profess and practice their own religion, and the right to an effective legal remedy".52 Concern was also expressed at the way "persons charged with and arrested" under the 1984 Laws "have been reportedly subjected to various punishments and confiscation of personal property, and that the affected groups as a whole have been subjected to discrimination in employment and education and to the defacement of their religious property".53 Both the 2006 and 2007 Human Rights Watch reports indicate that the number of blasphemy cases registered has been increasing and that the Ahmadi community is particularly targeted for arrests under blasphemy laws. The 2007 report adds that "scores were arrested in 2006". In 2006, at least 25 Ahmadis were charged under the blasphemy law, and many of them are still imprisoned. Approximately 350 Ahmadis have been indicted in criminal cases, including blasphemy, since 2000 with several having received convictions. In May 2008 the Pakistani government prohibited the Ahmadiyya community of Rabwah, from celebrating the centenary of its khalifat (the system of succession of Islamic prophets), as it is considered heretical by Sunni and ShiŽite Muslims. Federal police agents interrupted the celebrations, and put the promoters of the initiative under house arrest.
With its message of "Love for all, hatred for
none", and its presentation of Jihad "through dialogue based on
logical and rational arguments" [because, as one Ahmadi remarked
"swords can bend heads but not minds" ]54 the Ahmadi present a
peaceful Islam, an Islam in sharp contrast to the stereotypes of war and
militancy often generated by the western media. In the light of the persecution
of Ahmadi, (Christians and other minority groups living in
The Ahmadi issue also raises the question: is it justified
to judge the sincerity of a MuslimŽs faith merely by reference to one
particular doctrinal belief? Various judicial bodies have made legal decisions
concerning the nature of belief in Islam. The Munir Court of Enquiry in 1953-4
investigated the anti-Ahmadiyya disturbances that occurred in the
1. Dr S. R. Valentine is a free-lance writer and lecturer on
Islam and Religious Studies. He has recently published (2008) Islam and the
Ahmadiyya Jama"at, Hurst & Co.,
2 Yohanan Friedmann, (1989) Prophecy Continuous: Aspects of
Ahmadi religious thoughts and its Medieval background,
3. Aziz A. Chaudhry, (1996) The Promised Messiah and Mahdi,
4. Karimullah Zirvi, (2002) Welcome to Ahmadiyyat: The true
Islam, Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam,
5. North East: Annual Report 2001-2002:
6. K. S. Mian Rahim Bakhsh, (1993) The debt forgotten,
7. M. Fadil Khan, (1989) Hadrat Pir Meher Ali Shah of Golra Sharif, 3rd edition, np., p.102.
8. M. Fadil Khan, (1989) Hadrat Pir Meher Ali Shah of Golra Sharif, op.cit., p. 15.
9. Muhammad Iqbal, (July 1984), Qaumi Digest, Urdu Journal,
special edition on Qadianism,
10. Fadil Khan, Hadrat Pir Meher Ali Shah of Golra Sharif, ibid., p. 82.
11. Waheed Ahmad, (1988) A Book of Religious Knowledge for
12. For a discussion of the other differences between Ahmadi
and main-stream Muslims see S. R. Valentine, (2008) Islam and the Ahmadiyya
Jama"at, Hurst & co Publishers,
13. M. Fadil Khan, (1989) Hadrat Pir Meher Ali Shah of Golra
14. Khan, Hadrat Pir Meher Ali Shah of Golra Sharif, op.cit., p. 5.
15. Zirvi, Welcome to Ahmadiyyat, op.cit. p. 285.
16. M. Dabbous, Al-Baseerat, (December 1992), p. 6.
17. Memorandum, ibid., p. 108.
18. Friedman, op.cit., pp. 88f.
19. Ibid., p. 4, 5.
20. Sayyid A. Mawdudi, Finality of Prophethood,
21. Quran 2:257.
22. M. Ali, The Ahmadiyyah Movement, op.cit., p. 13. For a full appraisal of the Ahmadi teaching of jihad see S. R. Valentine, Islam & the Ahmadiyya Jama"at, op.cit., chapter nine.
23. Hadrat Ch. Zafrulla Khan, Ahmadiyya Bulletin, (September/October 2001), p. 35.
24. Title of a book on Jihad by Mirza Tahir Ahmad,
25. M. G. Ahmad, Sitărah Qaisariyyah, Ruhani Khaza"in, vol. 15, pp. 120-1, cited by A. A. Chaudhry, The Promised Messiah and Mahdi, op.cit., p. 7.
26. M. G. Ahmad, (1900) The British Government and Jihad, Qadian: Diaul Islam Press, p. 43.
27. K. S. Bakhsh, (1993) The debt forgotten,
28. The words of the fourth Khalifa cited by Waseem Ahmad, article entitled "Problems faced by young Muslims growing up in a western Society", Al-Baseerat, (March 1993), p. 4.
29. Jihad . . . from the writings of the Promised messiah, extracts from Essence of Islam by Hadrat Ch. Zafrulla Khan, Ahmadiyya Bulletin, (September/October 2001), op.cit., pp. 33-5.
30. "10 things you wanted to know about JIHAD .. but were too afraid to ask", Promotional leaflet published by the Ahmadiyya JamaŽat, nd.
31. Criticisms raised against Ahmad, summarized by K. S. Bakhsh, The debt forgotten, op.cit., p. 9.
32. B. Ahmad, Ahmadiyya Movement: British Jewish Connection Internet, Anti-Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam, pp. 1, 4.
33. "10 things you wanted to know about JIHĂD .. but were too afraid to ask", op.cit.
34. See S. Lavan, (1974) The Ahmadiyya Movement: A History
35 Leaflet, "10 things . . .", op.cit.
36. Leaflet, ibid.
38. Tahir Selby, Al-Baseerat, (October 1993), p. 4.
39. Tahir Selby, Al-Baseerat, op.cit., p. 8.
40. Zirvi, Welcome to Ahmadiyyat, op.cit., p. 302.
41. Chaudhry Hadi Ali, "Establisment of Khilafat", Review of Religions, Vol. 96, no. 5, (May 2001), p. 38.
42. See Muhammad Zafrulla Khan, (1978) Deliverance from the Cross, Southfields: The London mosque, p. 33.
43. M. G. Ahmad, Jesus in
44. Ahmad, Jesus in
45. (2003) The Memorandum, Tilford,
46. Ordinance XX, and a full report of the persecution of
47. Persecution of Ahmadi Muslims in
48. J. Ensor (ed.) Rabwah: a place for Martyrs,
49. Human Rights Commission of
50. HRCP, ibid.
54. The words of Mohsin Rizvi, the President of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association in Sheffield, England, The Sheffield Star, (24 July 2004), p. 1.
55. Z. Aziz, trans.(1987) The Ahmadiyya Case: Case history,
judgement and evidence,
56. Aziz, The Ahmadiyya Case, op.cit.
57. Saeed Ahmad Khan, Foreword, in Aziz, op.cit., i.
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