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The Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement for the Propagation of Islam (A.A.I.I.L. - Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha'at-e-Islam Lahore)

Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian (the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement; the Mujaddid (Reformer) of the 14th Century Hijrah; and, the Promised Messiah and Mahdi) <Please read his biography in the 'Biography' section>

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Books Section > Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and the Ahmadiyya Movement by Maulana Muhammad Ali

Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and the Ahmadiyya Movement:
by Maulana Muhammad Ali

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Maulana Abul Kalam Azad was once drawn by a correspondent of the daily Zamindar [16 June, 1936] of Lahore into the controversy as to the nature of the claims of the Founder of the Ahmadiyyah Movement and the rights of the Ahmadiyya communities to claim a position within Islam. Both these matters were set at rest by the Maulana in the very first passage of his first letter to the said correspondent thus: 

"You enquire which one of the two Ahmadi groups follows the true path, the Qadian group or the Lahore one. In my opinion neither is on the true and right path, but the Qadian section has gone too far in its ghuluww, so far that the very fundamentals of Islam have been shaken; for instance, its belief that for faith and salvation the known and admitted doctrines of Islam are not now sufficient and that it is essential to believe in the Mirza Sahib of Qadian. But the Lahore group denies this ghuluww; it neither confesses a faith in the prophethood of the Mirza Sahib nor does it add any new condition to the conditions of faith; where it has stumbled is in the misplaced belief which it has created for the Mirza Sahib." 

In this passage Maulana Abul Kalam has made clear the three points: 1. The position which the Mirza Sahib claimed for himself, 2. Whether the Qadian group is outside or within the pale of Islam, and 3. The position of the Lahore group.

Let us consider first the position of the Mirza Sahib in the light of what the Maulana has said. In ascribing ghuluww to the Qadianis, the Maulana has in fact made it clear that the Mirza Sahib never claimed prophethood for himself, for a ghali is one who ascribes a position to its leader higher than that which he claims for himself. For example, the Christians are guilty of ghuluww when they ascribe to Jesus Christ a claim to Godhead because he never claimed Godhead for himself. Hence the Qadianis can be said to be guilty of ghuluww only if they ascribe to Mirza Sahib a claim which he never made for himself.

The above conclusion drawn from Maulana Abul Kalam's letter is further corroborated by two of his earlier writings on the subject. The first of these is a passage which occurs in the Maulana's well-known book the Tadhkirah published in 1919. Writing about Sayyid Muhammad of Jaunpur who claimed to be the Mahdi, the Maulana says: 

''The affair of the Sayyid of whom we are speaking is full of wonder, and various sorts of claims and absurd sayings have been attributed to him. What the followers of a person say need not be paid attention to, for whomever a people take for their religious leader they would raise him to no less a dignity than that of God-bead, and if they are very careful they would not keep him below the position of a prophet. But some recent writers have written things which at first sight cause perturbance. Shah Abdul Haq, the Muhaddath of Delhi, writes:
‘According to Sayyid Muhammad of Jaunpur, every perfection possessed by the Holy Prophet Muhammad was also possessed by Sayyid Muhammad, the only difference being that there it was in asalat (possessed originally) and here it was by tab'iyyat (attained by following), and by following the Holy Prophet he attained to such a place that he became like a prophet.'

"Reading these words of Shah Sahib, it occurred to me that in our own days a big section of the followers of the Mirza Sahib of Qadian entertains an exactly similar belief about the Mirza Sahib and lays the foundation of all its ghuluww (exceeding the bounds) and ighraq (exaggeration) on this difference of asalat (possessing originally) and tabe'ijyat (attaining by following)" (pp. 30, 31).

Here the Maulana states that the followers of Sayyid Muhammad and a great section of the followers of the Mirza Sahib have fallen into the same error and have been guilty of exaggerating the claims of their respective leaders. Evidently he is referring here to the Qadianis and considers them to be guilty of ghuluww, i.e., exaggerating the claims of the Mirza Sahib and attributing to him what he never claimed. Thus attributing the claim of prophethood to Mirza Sahib is ghuluww on the part of the Qadianis; in other words, the Mirza Sahib did not claim to

As regards the second writing of the Maulana which exonerates the Mirza Sahib of laying claim to prophethood, it is really a fatwa given by him when extracts dealing with the alleged claim to prophethood taken from his different writings were placed before the Maulana. These extracts were sent to him by me personally, and he returned those papers with the following words: "He is a mu’awwil (one who explains a word as conveying a significance quite different from its ordinary significance) and a mu’awwil is by unanimous decision not a kafir." [I am writing this from memory and the originals in my papers at Lahore. But there is not the least doubt in my mind as to the words quoted being in their essence those of the Maulana.]

This shows that after reading all the writings of the Mirza Sahib on the question of his alleged claim to prophethood, Maulana Abul Kalam came to the conclusion that he never laid claim to prophethood and explained his use of the word prophet as conveying a different significance from the usually received one.

Thus Maulana's letters to the correspondent of the Zamindar settle at least one question, viz. that the Mirza Sahib was not a claimant to prophethood and that he was a Muslim and not a kafir.

We will now take the second question whether the Maulana looks upon the Qadianis as Muslims or kafirs. The Maulana considers them to be guilty of ghuluww (exaggeration and exceeding the proper limits), but at the same time he considers them to be Muslims -- Muslims who have strayed away from the right path. That is all that one Muslim can say about another. Their error is very great, and it shakes the very foundations of Islam, says the Maulana, but he has not been carried away by the senseless agitation to expel this or that group from the pale of Islam. It is the Holy Prophet's verdict that they are Muslims -- yes erring Muslims -- but Muslims all the same. For, does not the Holy Prophet say: "Whoever says prayers as we do, and faces our Qibla and eats our dhabiha, that one is surely a Muslim and for him is the covenant of Allah and the covenant of the Apostle of Allah, so do not violate the covenant of Allah" (Bukhari, 8: 28).

And on a certain occasion when a man abused the Holy Prophet in his face, and the Holy Prophet would not suffer any harm be done to him because, he said, "perhaps he said prayers," Khalid remarked: "How many people there are who say prayers, yet there is on their lips what is not in their hearts." But the Holy Prophet rebuked him, saying: "I am not commanded to pierce the hearts of the people or to break open their secret thoughts" (Bukhari, 65: 63).

The Maulana is thus a noble exception to the 'ulama of the present day who care neither for the Holy Qur'an which says: "And say not to any one who offers you the (Islamic) salutation: Thou art not a believer" (4: 94); nor yet for the Holy Prophet who clearly commanded that the covenant of God shall not be broken by calling a man kafir who said prayers as the Muslims do. The Qadianis are undoubtedly shaking the very foundations of Islam by attributing prophethood to the Mujaddid of this century and by denouncing four hundred million Muslims as kafirs because they do not believe in the prophethood of the Mirza Sahib, but with all those grievous errors they are Muslims, just as the Shias are Muslims though they abuse the companions of the Holy Prophet and denounce them as usurpers and just as so many other extremist sects are Muslims though they raise their leaders to the dignity of Godhead or the dignity of prophethood.

I now come to the third question: the Lahore section of the followers of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian, or the Ahmadis as they are now generally called as distinguished from the Qadianis. Maulana Abul Kalam has, here too, set at rest one question, viz., that the Ahmadis do not believe in the prophethood of the Mirza Sahib, nor do they add any condition to the accepted conditions of the faith of Islam. This clearing of the position of the Ahmadis in Islam is also an important contribution to sane criticism in the Muslim camp, for sanity is a gift which is so rare among the ulama, even among the general Muslim public, when they have to deal with Ahmadis, Once, Mufti Kifayatullah, the head of the Jami'at-ul-Ulama of Delhi, committed the mad act of denouncing the Lahore Ahmadis as kafirs because, he said, "they believed in the prophethood of Mirza Sahib," and this in spite of the fact that we have been carrying on an incessant war against the Qadianis regarding their belief in the prophethood of the Mirza Sahib and their denunciation of the forty crores [400,000,000]of Muslims as kafirs.

While I am sincerely thankful to Maulana Abul Kalam for definitely and clearly upholding the truth in these three matters, that the Mirza Sahib never claimed to be a prophet, that the Qadianis in spite of their grievous errors are Muslims, and that the Ahmadis deny the prophethood of the Mirza Sahib and accept him only as a Mujaddid, adding nothing to the accepted doctrines of the faith of Islam, I must say that the Maulana has not done justice to us. He has every right to say that we are not on the true path, for to differ with others is the Muslim's birthright; the Maulana has a right to differ with us and we have a right to differ with the Maulana. But when he says that we have ''stumbled" in a "misplaced belief which we have created for the Mirza Sahib," he is unjust to us. We have created no belief for the Mirza Sahib except only what the Qur'an and the Hadith say. For what is our belief regarding Mirza Sahib? We accept him as a Mujaddid and we accept him as fulfilling the prophecies relating to the advent of the Messiah among the Muslims. And the coming of Mujaddids and the advent of a Messiah are both based on Hadith.

As regards the first point, the Maulana was undoubtedly misunderstood as denying the coming of Mujaddids when his two letters to the correspondent of the Zamindar appeared in the press. But the writer of Tadhkirah who describes the Mujaddid is the centre of all hope in the triumph of Islam could not deny the coming of Mujaddids. His words were surely strong, but he has tried to explain them away in a later statement, and whether we accept or reject his explanation, we have no tight to ascribe to him denial of the coming of Mujaddids now that be has reaffirmed his faith in their advent in very clear words. His real views on this point are met with in his famous writing, the Tadhkirah:

"These perfect ones are given the name of muhaddath in the hadith of Bukhari, and in them, too, is fulfilled the hadith relating to the appearance of Mujaddid, which has been narrated through various channels, and about its genuineness, therefore no doubt can be entertained" (p. 94).

"And these are the clear and manifest characteristics of the place of tajdid (the position of the Mujaddid), the vicegerency of prophethood, about which I have again and again said that the highest of heads must bow there" (p. 140).

Now when it is accepted that Mujaddids must come, and the Hadith says that the commencement of every century of Hijrah shall see the appearance of a Mujaddid, I fail to see how our belief about the Mirza Sahib being a Mujaddid of the fourteenth century is "misplaced" when there is no one to claim that office, nor has any one else been unanimously accepted as the Mujaddid. In accepting Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad as the Mujaddid of the fourteenth century we have bowed only before the Hadith of the Holy Prophet. One of the two positions must be accepted; cither the hadith relating to the appearance of the Mujaddid is not genuine, which view is however strongly rejected by Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, or Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad is the Mujaddid of the 14th century, for there is neither another claimant nor has the Muslim world unanimously declared another man to be the Mujaddid of this century.

Now there remains only one point. Have we created any new belief in accepting the Founder of the Ahmadiyyah Movement as the Messiah that was to come among the Muslims? Happily Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, whose letters in the Zamindar raised apprehensions in some minds that he was denying the hadith referring to the advent of Messiah, has cleared his position in a later statement, and we are glad that he accepts the hadith, I am further certain that, like us, the Maulana also believes in the death of Jesus Christ. Now the position is this: The Messiah must come as the Hadith says, but Jesus Christ cannot be that Messiah because he died long ago. There is then no escaping the conclusion that the Messiah that is to come among the Muslims must be a Mujaddid of this ummah. We accept Mirza Ghulam Ahmad to be that Mujaddid. We have created no new belief. Here again we bow our head before the Hadith of the Holy Prophet. What are our arguments for accepting him as such is a different question which cannot be discussed here. The Maulana has a right to say that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad is not the Mujaddid and the Messiah, and that we have made a mistake in fixing our choice, just as we have the right to say that the Maulana is making a mistake in rejecting him, but two conclusions are inevitable: There must be a Mujaddid of this century, and only a Mujaddid can be the Promised Messiah.


Books Section > Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and the Ahmadiyya Movement by Maulana Muhammad Ali