Who are the Ahmadiyya, and why are these Muslims persecuted the world over by other Muslims? How does their interpretation of Islam differ from mainstream Sunni Islam? We’ll take a brief tour through several topics covering differences of interpretation, progressive Islamic beliefs as well as contemporary issues. Positions are on slave wives, evolution, hadith, loyalty to one’s country, gender segregation, and a host of other issues—it’s all covered here.
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community was founded in 1889 by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. It is a denomination within Islam that claims to fulfill Islamic prophecy regarding the return of the Messiah in Latter Day times. Founded in Qadian2 and now headquartered in London, its mission is to revive Islam into a peaceful community of believers under the guidance of a khalifa3 whose oversight is meant to be spiritual, not political.
- Core Beliefs and Practices
- Muhammad as Khataman Nabiyyeen
- Anti-Ahmadi Rhetoric
- Progressive Islamic Beliefs
- Assorted Positions
- Contemporary Issues
- Concluding Thoughts
Sidebars and Resources
- Terminology and Numbering
- Article Focus: Qadian Branch
- Disclaimer on Progressive Positions
- A Modern Phenomenon with Ahmadiyyat?
- An Initial Rejection of Evolution?
- Conversions are Usually Close to Home Base
- Reddit Comments on Excommunication
- How to Leave the Jama'at
- Get the Book: Recognizing the Messiah
- The Dialogue Continues on Reddit: Join Us
Adherents believe that the khalifa is a divinely guided spiritual leader elected by men. Ahmadis believe that although Community elders cast their votes, it is actually God who directs them to choose each successor. In broad terms, you can think of the Ahmadi Muslim khilafat as being similar to the spiritual leadership of the modern Roman Catholic papacy.
Most estimates of the worldwide Ahmadi Muslim population place it at 10-20 million adherents.4 The official website of the Community defers to a more general claim of a “membership exceeding tens of millions”. If we use the estimate of 20 million adherents to Ahmadiyyat along with a figure of there being 1.6 billion Muslims on Earth, we then arrive at an estimate of approximately 1.25% of the Muslim population being Ahmadi.
I would argue that the persecution of Ahmadis, their peace loving beliefs and their progressive interpretations on many issues make their impact disproportionately higher than 1.25%.
As history has shown us, intra-faith sectarian squabbles and killing over doctrinal differences seems to be an inevitable byproduct of religious diversity. Sectarian division is a phenomenon that took root in Islam’s early history.
As readers of my blog will know, I was previously a devoutly practicing Muslim; born and raised within the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. In my youth, I would study the nuanced doctrinal differences between Ahmadis and Sunnis with fervor.
This article is meant to be an introduction to Ahmadi Muslim beliefs vis-a-vis their place in the wider Muslim ummah.5 There’s a lot of ground to cover, so at times, I will defer to articles and videos that explore this material, serving as your curator.
After a brief enumeration of basic doctrine, I will introduce you to what is arguably the fundamental issue of doctrinal contention between Ahmadi Muslims and orthodox Muslims: the seal of prophethood.
Differences in doctrine create an environment for misrepresentation and distortion. I will touch upon how anti-Ahmadi rhetoric often clouds productive intra-faith dialog.
I will introduce you to many progressive interpretations taken on by the Ahmadis that contrast with the Islamic orthodoxy on issues such as evolution, salvation, permissibility of jihad and freedom of religion.
Finally, Ahmadi positions on contemporary issues like homosexuality and women in leadership roles, will be discussed.
This article does not attempt to be all things to all audiences. There are many topics that will be missed and many touched upon that deserve a more detailed exploration. Positions taken and references cited will at times have some of you nodding in agreement and others shaking their fists in agitated disagreement. Other passages will reverse these roles between subsets of my readership. I do not attempt to serve anyone’s narrative with this article; only the data and claims as I understand them.
Terminology and Numbering.
Throughout this site, where I use the abbreviated adjectives Sunni, Shia or Ahmadi, you should understand the noun Muslim to follow in all cases. This also applies to any other self-identifying Muslim group referred to.
On Qur’anic verse numbering, note that Ahmadis count the initial preamble of every chapter (“In the name of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful”) as verse one. All other Muslims skip this preamble from their numbering scheme. As such, when a verse is cited with both Ahmadi and non-Ahmadi sources, you’ll often see this off-by-one discrepancy. Rest assured, Ahmadis read the same Qur’anic Arabic as Sunnis and Shias.
Core Beliefs and Practices.
Ahmadi Muslims share the foundational tenets of Islam with orthodox Muslims.
- The 5 Pillars (Kalima, Prayer, Fasting, Zakaat, Hajj)
- The 6 Articles of Faith (Unity of God, His Angels, His Books, His Prophets, The Last Day, Divine Decree)
- The declaration of faith, or Kalimah, is the same for Ahmadi Muslims as it is for the orthodox. This declaration is that, “There is none worthy of worship except God; Muhammad is the Messenger of God.”
- Ahmadis pray the five daily prayers as do Sunnis and Shias. In fact, you’ll notice subtle gestural differences between Sunni and Shia during prayer that you won’t find between Sunni and Ahmadi.
- Ahmadis accept the first four successors of Muhammad (Abu Bakr al-Siddiq, Umar ibn al-Khattab, Uthman ibn Affan, and Ali ibn Abi Talib) as the “Rightly Guided” caliphs of Islam, just like the Sunni and unlike the Shia.6
- Ahmadis read the same Qur’an as used by the Sunni and the Shia. The Arabic is the same, word for word and vowel for vowel. Every Muslim group however, has their preferences on which translations more accurately convey the spirit of the Qur’an.
So what sets Ahmadis apart?
- Most Ahmadis believe that their founder Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, was a prophet. Not a prophet in the traditional sense of starting a new religion or bringing a new divine book; but rather in the sense of one who is merely a reviver of the faith, and who is subservient to the religion’s founding prophet (Muhammad, in this case). The smaller Lahori sect of the Ahmadis (see Article Focus, below) believe that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was only a mujaddid7 and not a prophet.
- Ahmadis believe that prophethood is an indication that one may have been given the ability to make prophecy. Further, prophets of God get to commune more frequently with God.
- The Qur’an refers to Muhammad as the Seal of the Prophets. Orthodox Muslims interpret the Arabic word for ‘seal’ as synonymous with ‘last’. On this basis, the orthodox considers the Ahmadiyya belief in the continuation of any prophethood, heretical.
- Ahmadis believe that although no new religious law (scripture) is ever coming to humanity, divine revelation continues. God hasn’t suddenly stopped communicating with his creation.
- Ahmadis, like other Muslims, believe that Jesus did not die on the cross. Orthodox Muslims believe Jesus was taken physically up into Heaven, to return in Latter Days. Ahmadis believe that this return is allegorical, since they believe Jesus to have already died a natural death (which was not on the cross, but naturally, after a migration to India). According to Ahmadis, the return of Jesus is a metaphor for someone coming from God who would reflect the qualities of Jesus, but be born from amongst the Muslims in Latter Days to revive the religion of Islam.
Nabeel Qureshi has written a fairly robust article asking and answering the question, Ahmadiyya and Islam: Are Ahmadis Muslims?The late Nabeel Qureshi was a former Ahmadi Muslim who converted to Christianity.8
In Nabeel Qureshi’s article, you’ll find a companion video which I have also presented below. Please watch that video and read Nabeel Qureshi’s article. It covers a lot of the groundwork I was intending to write for this article about Islamic tradition and self-identification of religious belief.
On the topic of Ahmadi beliefs, consider that Nabeel Qureshi and I have both left Ahmadiyya Islam—and Islam in general. Although we chose different paths from one another out of Islam, I am confident that we have both studied these beliefs far more than your average Ahmadi or Sunni Muslim. And we both believe that Ahmadis are in fact, Muslims. We believe this to be the case because Ahmadiyya Muslim doctrine on these fundamentals, is unambiguous.
Article Focus: The Qadian Branch.
This article is strictly focused on the larger and more dominant branch of Ahmadiyya Islam: the Qadian branch, which is generally referred to as the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. The much smaller group Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha’at-e-Islam Lahore (also known as the Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam) differs in subtle but important ways from the dominant branch. The Lahori Ahmadis do not have a khalifa, nor do they believe that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad claimed to be an actual prophet.
Coverage of this smaller faction within Ahmadiyya Islam and the theological arguments between the two groups is outside the scope of this article. Readers should only assume that the mainstream Qadian branch of Ahmadiyya Islam is being referred to in this article, unless stated otherwise.
Muhammad as Khataman Nabiyyeen.
The doctrinal differences separating Ahmadi from Sunni affect the religious outlook of an Ahmadi Muslim far more than they do that of a Sunni Muslim. As a minority, Ahmadi Muslims are constantly on defense. I believe it a fair generalization to say that the average Ahmadi Muslim would have studied these matters with more personally at stake than would have their average Sunni Muslim counterpart.
As Nabeel Qureshi covered in both his video and his article, orthodox Muslims currently reject the premise that Ahmadis are Muslims for primarily one reason: the founder of Ahmadiyyat, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian, claimed to be a prophet. Ahmadi theology is careful to point out that in their doctrine, this prophethood is that of a subservient, follower-prophet of Muhammad, bringing with it no new law.
Orthodox Muslims read the arabic phrase Khataman Nabiyyeen in simple terms. They generally interpret this phrase to mean the ‘last prophet’.
Here’s the Arabic phrase Khataman Nabiyyeen, as found in the Qur’an:
An Ahmadi Muslim translation of this verse follows.
At Quran.com and in the image below, you can see that the Sahih International translation from 1997 uses the word last, while the website’s interactive translation (triggered by hovering over the Arabic phrases) reveals the word seal. Translations by orthodox Sunni Muslims Pickthall in 1930, and Yusuf Ali in 1934-1938 are regarded as more authentic and less controversial than newer translations. Both of these prominent translations use the word seal, as does the Ahmadi translation.
Intra-faith politics may have caused modern translators to start assigning simpler meanings, such as ‘last’ for khataman nabiyyeen. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.
Many Sunnis (and Shias, for that matter) are raised with translations that use the word ‘last’. Hence, such orthodox Muslims brush off Ahmadi claims of the possibility of non-law-bearing, follower prophethood as “clearly” a belief with no credence in establishment Islam.
Failing to acknowledge that the Ahmadis have some interesting points here, modern day orthodox Muslims will then change tactics. These Muslims will cite how many Muslim countries do not recognize Ahmadis as Muslims. Their argument being, that the governments of Muslim theocracies are somehow equipped to be arbiters of such delicate doctrinal matters. This argument is flawed on several levels.
Questions for Sunni Muslims.
Most of the Islamic countries that classify Ahmadis as non-Muslim have abhorrent human rights records. Why would mainstream Sunni Muslims cite Saudi Arabia as an authority when Saudi Arabia has a deplorable record of abuse? A majority of the world’s Muslim terrorists subscribe to the Salafi interpretation of Islam; the same branch of Islam practiced by the ruling class in Saudi Arabia and by ISIS.
Do you really want to use Saudi Arabia as a theological arbiter? This is the government that has classified atheism as a terrorist act. As a mainstream Muslim, do you really want to cite such people as an authority on the interpretation of Islam, the religion that you hold dear?
To those of you Muslims who love humanity: please take a read of this Human Rights Watch report on Saudi Arabia (2015). Watch the Frontline/ITV documentary, Saudi Arabia Uncovered. Are these the guardians of Islam whose fatwas you hold dear? If you believe Islam is peace, love and tolerance, then why would the Saudi ruling class and Saudi clerics have any credibility on who is and who isn’t a Muslim?
To assume that Ahmadis do not have a rebuttal for these theological arguments, is to be naive or to have just begun your journey of investigation. You may disagree with the explanations, but you have to concede that there are good initial arguments on both sides of this issue.
I’ll now weigh in with my take on the strengths of each side.
- The Arabic word used in the Qur’an is seal and not ‘last’. If last was intended, a different, more clear word could have been employed by the author of the Qur’an.
- Generally, Muslims are expecting Jesus, son-of-Mary to return to the Earth in Latter Days. He is not going to be stripped of his prophethood since the Qur’an is deemed timeless and Jesus is referred to as a prophet in the Qur’an.9 And while he came before Muhammad, if the very same person of Jesus comes to Earth again, he will also be coming after Muhammad.
- All Muslims view the second coming of Jesus such that the prophethood of Jesus would be subservient to Muhammad’s prophethood. The second coming would be for the victory of Islam over other ideologies. This is the Ahmadi position, which answers the question of whether the very same Jesus of two millennia ago has died.
A defense of the Ahmadi interpretation of Khatme-Nubuwwat can be found in literature published by Ahmadis in several languages.
As a starting point, I recommend the brief article A Misunderstanding Removed – Ahmadis Do Believe in the Holy Prophet As Khataman Nabiyeen. The section Finality of Prophethood on the site Ahmadi Answers also provides the Ahmadiyya Muslim perspective, drawing on both the Qur’an and Hadith.
- The well documented farewell sermon of Muhammad makes reference to him being the last prophet. Sunni sources will often publish this sermon in full, although Ahmadi sources never seem to.10 Rather, Ahmadi references to this sermon will always cite extracts of the sermon on other topics. Extracts of the sermon where the phrase “no prophet or apostle will come after me” only seem to be cited in addressing criticism from the orthodoxy.
- There are several hadith where Muhammad indicates that no new prophets are coming. Ahmadi rebuttals and counter hadith seem to come from more obscure sources and indirect arguments.
- Ahmadis and Sunnis believe in the Mujaddids (reformers every century since Muhammad) and yet none of these agreed upon reformers have gone on record with undisputed statements supporting the concept of naturally born, follower-prophets.
An ex-Muslim Perspective.
Having read arguments in several Ahmadi books on the subject, I do still feel that Ahmadis have a legitimate case for their interpretation of Khatme-Nubuwwat and most certainly, of being classified as Muslim.
As you read Ahmadi books on the subject, you’ll find sophisticated and nuanced arguments about how rejecting the concept of follower-prophets subservient to Muhammad leads to awkward implications for some verses of the Qur’an.
As an ex-Muslim, my take is simple. There is an argument to be made on both sides of the issue because the source material is itself contradictory. These contradictions are present because in my humble opinion, Islam and the claims of its founder, are false.
In my early exploration of intra-faith differences, I quickly learned that one could not trust characterizations of one denomination by another. The Indian subcontinent especially seemed to be mired in a culture of misinformation when it came to religious polemics.
I vividly recall being a teenager, sitting in the district library with a devout Sunni friend of mine.11 I had religious credibility with other Muslims which I parlayed to open a dialogue with them regarding anti-Ahmadiyya literature found in Sunni mosques.12
One anti-Ahmadi pamphlet I remember quite clearly. It made a total of 10 damning allegations against Ahmadiyya Muslim doctrine. I discussed each allegation in turn with a Sunni Muslim friend using Ahmadiyya literature. Each allegation against Ahmadiyyat was swiftly refuted. My devoutly religious friend was honest with me. He acknowledged how much misinformation existed. He stopped me halfway through the list of ten points and accepted that the anti-Ahmadiyya attack pamphlet could not be trusted.
I pressed further, “What does this say about the mosques which allow such misrepresentation into their bookstores? What does this say about the leadership at such mosques; about their commitment to truth?”
While we cannot generalize and claim that every single attack pamphlet is complete distortion, repeated experiences of this kind with orthodox Muslim literature has created a credibility vacuum. Even now that I have left Islam, I am highly skeptical of anti-Ahmadiyya literature produced by other Muslims. Separating fact from fiction has become difficult.
Anti-Ahmadiyya websites13 are commonly cited in online forums by other Muslims in their attempts to discredit Ahmadiyya Islam and the Community. Even occasional Reddit personalities on ex-Muslim discussion forums sound suspiciously like orthodox Muslims in the way that they regurgitate tired “Ahmadis are not Muslims” rhetoric.
The topic of misrepresentation was touched upon earlier with the discussion of the Seal of Prophethood. Recall, the orthodoxy claims that Ahmadiyya Islam has rejected this lofty title given to Muhammad.
Another common FUD14 tactic used by the orthodoxy is to claim that Ahmadis have a different profession of faith—the Kalima—than orthodox Muslims do. Numerous books published by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community refute these allegations. Examples include 3-in-1 and Ahmadiyyat or Qadianism! Islam or Apostasy?
I myself was a devout Ahmadi and I can tell you with confidence that there is no alternate Kalima. I have no reason to defend a belief system that I have left. The pursuit of truth yields results when we hold honesty sacrosanct; when honesty trumps our preconceived beliefs and agendas, no matter how inconvenient.
I will critique Ahmadiyyat and Islam generally, but I will do so primarily using public source material. I recommend that readers interested in this topic do the same. Have a question about Ahmadiyyat? Read what Ahmadi Muslims themselves have to say about their beliefs. It seems that when dealing with Islam, intra-faith polemics rely on a heavy dose of distortion.
I don’t have a horse in that race. I take a very simple position: If Islam is false, then by extension, so must Ahmadiyyat and every other sect of Islam be. We can focus on the Qur’an, Islamic history and Islamic theology to investigate our hypothesis without misrepresenting a community’s beliefs.
While I do feel that the early history and politics of Ahmadiyyat are worthy of further exploration, it is not my current area of study.15
It would be dangerous of me to generalize and overcompensate for what I have been exposed to, by advising that everyone else dismiss such literature outright. As you search for the facts, investigate for yourself. Ask questions of primary sources where you can. Validate.
I also believe that articles and blogs with personal testimonials can provide valuable insights into the day to day reality of any religious community. Here still, assessing credibility requires the exercise of good judgment.
Like the Muslim ummah, the ex-Muslim community is not a monolith. I cannot control or mandate that other ex-Muslims see anti-Ahmadiyya literature with the same skepticism that I hold. However, I would like to see all of us who discuss religion, use sources that lend themselves to verification.
Let’s raise the calibre of discourse.
The Term ‘Qadiani’.
Orthodox Muslims often refer to Ahmadi Muslims as “Qadianis”. This however, has been a derogatory religious slur for several decades. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community was founded in the town of Qadian, India. People of that town would be considered Qadiani. When the early community of Ahmadis split in two, the smaller Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam based itself out of Lahore, Pakistan.
To differentiate between the two branches, one would often hear references like, “Ahmadi Jama’at, Qadiani branch” or “Ahmadi Jama’at, Lahori branch”. In that context, using ‘Qadiani’ as a qualifier is not a slur. When Qadiani is used on its own; where no differentiation with the Lahori branch is intended; where the phrase Ahmadi Muslim would have worked equally well: that is when you have straight up bigotry at play.
Why do orthodox Muslims do this? Well, because they feel so insulted that they don’t want to refer to Ahmadi Muslims by a name that sounds Islamic. The core word in “Ahmadiyya” is “Ahmad” and “Ahmad” is related to the Arabic word “Muhammad” through their common Arabic root hamd, which means ‘praise’. And of course for the orthodox, “Muslim” is also too close for comfort. Therefore, everything about the term “Ahmadi Muslim” makes the conservative orthodoxy squirm. A pejorative slur assuages their bigoted angst.
Progressive Islamic Beliefs.
In the early 2000s, when some ex-Muslim literature emerged,16 it felt to me like this material made critical and hard-hitting arguments against orthodox Islam, but not against Ahmadiyya Islam.
For example, I read arguments claiming that Islam must be false because killing apostates goes against our most basic intuitions of freedom.
Yet, Ahmadis already took such progressive positions in their interpretation of Islam, including the position that death-for-apostasy is flat out wrong. Many objections against Islam as generally understood could be answered by viewing Islam through the lens of Ahmadiyya Muslim theology.17
Of the critiques leveled against orthodox Islam, I would posit that a good 75%18 of them don’t apply when critiquing Ahmadiyya Islamic doctrine. In recent years, I do believe that critiques of Islam have become more nuanced and do address more of that foundational and problematic 25% which most denominations of Islam have in common; including Ahmadiyyat.
In this section, I touch on some of the relatively more progressive views held by Ahmadiyya Islam. My summaries are not exhaustive treatise on each of these topics, as that would require a separate article for each belief concept.
Disclaimer on Progressive Positions.
Please also note that this enumeration is not an endorsement that these progressive positions can legitimately be derived from primary Islamic sources. I am not considering Islamic epistemology here; I am only summarizing the professed conclusions that guide Ahmadiyya Muslim beliefs. Not all of these beliefs will come across as progressive by modern standards. On balance, they are however, more progressive than orthodox interpretations of Islam.
Ahmadi Muslims believe that effectively, there are no supernatural occurrences since the inception of our universe. Truly supernatural occurrences would violate God’s wisdom in formulating the original laws of the universe. Ahmadis wisely argue: Why would an omnipotent Creator devise a universe whereby the only means of achieving His aims required breaking the very laws of nature that He set in motion?
The big bang set the laws of this universe in motion and all of these laws serve God’s means of interacting with His Creation—past, present and future.
As a result, Ahmadis believe that anything that reads as supernatural in scripture is actually metaphor. If a metaphorical reading is impossible for say, a particular hadith, then Ahmadis would flag such hadith as suspect.
You may ask: but what of Muhammad’s alleged night journey to Jerusalem on a flying steed? Ahmadis believe that this was akin to astral projection or a divinely inspired lucid dream state connecting the Prophet to the spiritual dimension. It was not a physical trip.
And you may ask: but what about the miracles of Jesus in the Qur’an? Ahmadis believe that these aren’t literal either. Giving sight to the blind was actually giving spiritual sight to the spiritually blind. You get the idea.
There are a handful of beliefs that flirt with gray areas of the supernatural, such as the incident of the Red Drops.19 Here drops of a red color had suddenly appeared on Mirza Ghulam Ahmad’s ankles and chest. It is reported that this took place when he was with one of his disciples.
Rational explanations for this could not be found it is said, and so it was interpreted as a miracle, where the drops from a vision in another dimension, crossed over into our reality.20
Consider also, the alleged miracle of Muhammad splitting the moon.21
The truth of the matter is that God Almighty does not do anything against the laws of nature. What He does is that He creates the causes, whether we know of them or not, and these are always present. Hence, miracles, such as splitting of the moon and [the fire not burning Abraham([pbuh)] [sic] are also no exceptions. Rather, they too resulted from some very subtle and hidden means, and were based on true and factual science. Shortsighted people and those who are enamoured of dark philosophy cannot comprehend these things.1
I would submit that although such incidents are available to be read in Ahmadi Muslim literature, few Ahmadis are even aware of such events and claims within their own theology.
A Modern Phenomenon with Ahmadiyyat?.
My vantage point is that of a person raised and exposed to Ahmadiyyat in the West. Some learned (former) Ahmadis who were raised in Pakistan dispute my characterizations of Ahmadiyya culture and theological positions as being ‘sophisticated and progressive’; claiming that this presentation is a more modern phenomenon mostly seen with Ahmadiyyat in the West. Such former Ahmadis—including those who are children of Ahmadi Missionaries—have relayed how they had been exposed to the teachings of Ahmadiyya Islam in Rabwah, Pakistan22 with a stronger acceptance of the supernatural than the apparent rejection of the supernatural espoused by Ahmadis in the West today.
Evolution and Adam.
Ahmadis believe that Adam was not literally the first man, but was referred to as such because he was the first prophet of God.23 This allegorical reading allows Ahmadis to accept the theory of evolution, whilst believing that the mutations necessary for both micro and macro-evolution were all guided by the metaphorical hand of God.
Ahmadis also believe that the reference to “Adam” in Islamic scripture can at times refer to different concepts. One concept refers to Adam the first prophet, who is referenced in both the Bible and the Qur’an. The second concept is that of the progenitor of the various stages of our hominoid species. For example, there could conceivably have been an “Adam” of Neanderthal man, an “Adam” of Cro-Magnon man, etc.
None of these earlier Adams need have had any communion with God. In fact, a third concept for “Adam” according to Ahmadiyya theology refers to the earliest forms of our evolution that predate sexual reproduction. Thus, whenever the word “Adam” comes up in theology, Ahmadis have many different theological receptacles in which to house these varied usages.
Although a guided-evolution approach can be layered on top of the evolutionary changes anticipated and validated by modern science, Ahmadiyyat noticeably diverges from the scientific theory of Universal Common Descent (UCD), in taking the position that humans went through a line of evolution distinct from other species.
The Holy Qur’an supports the view that we evolved through various stages of evolution, but it certainly does not support the view that we evolved through apes, etc. Instead, the Holy Qur’an supports the view that the human species evolved from the single cell stage as a separate species. Likewise, the Holy Qur’an informs us that Adam was not the first man, but the first prophet (2:31).
Increasingly, Ahmadis have directed efforts towards engaging with proponents of atheism. Although Ahmadis are proponents of an intelligence-guided evolutionary model, they do see the acceptance of evolutionary theory in general terms, as partially responsible for the popularity of atheism. Among other efforts, Ahmadis have setup a site dedicated to addressing atheism. Here, Ahmadis discuss the limitations of evolutionary theories that deny the need for an intelligent designer.
While mainstream and progressive leaning Muslim Imams may be subject to death threats from within the very communities they serve merely for suggesting a reconciliation with the theory of evolution, you will not find Ahmadis heckling evolutionary biologists in order to promote a creationist agenda. Ahmadis do however, target prominent evolutionary biologists who speak out against religion, by publishing articles to challenge their ideas.
An Initial Rejection of Evolution?.
As a devout Ahmadi, I had heard from different sources—learned elders in the Community—that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad had originally rejected the concept of evolution, but that this was because it was explained to him ‘wrong’. His successors—the caliphs that had followed him—have been progressively more vocal in support of a God-guided evolutionary model for several decades.
In a future article, I would like to explore evolution in greater detail. Do you have the original Urdu with English translation handy of those statements from Mirza Ghulam Ahmad on evolution? Please share your links on Twitter.
The Punishment for Apostasy.
Ahmadi Muslims reject the concept of any earthly punishment for apostasy. Faith is a matter between an individual and their Creator. While orthodox Muslims have commonly believed that the punishment for apostasy from Islam is death, Ahmadis believe that all people must be free to choose and change their religion, including the choice of rejecting religion outright. Punishment in such matters is the exclusive prerogative of God in the Hereafter.
In contrast, orthodox Muslim speakers with large followings in the West can be seen admitting that their conception of Islam’s position on apostasy is death in this life. The orthodoxy argue that the death penalty for apostasy must be carried out under the right conditions of course, such as a properly functioning Islamic state.
Since its inception in 1889, Ahmadiyyat has taken the moral high ground here when compared to the orthodox Islamic establishment who in recent years, can be seen backpedaling on this issue. Generally, such Muslims rarely answer these questions straight on. Instead, you’ll usually find them talking over other people so as to create chaos and run out the clock on a short news clip.
Alternatively, you’ll often find them surreptitiously change the subject to avoid answering such damning questions. It’s generally not a winning strategy for proselytizing in the West to admit that Islam dictates the death penalty for apostates.
Women’s Witness and Testimony.
Verse 2:282 of the Qur’an provides injunctions on procuring witnesses for financial transactions between two parties. Two women witnesses and one man are procured when two men are not available.
O ye who believe! When ye deal with each other, in transactions involving future obligations in a fixed period of time, reduce them to writing Let a scribe write down faithfully as between the parties: let not the scribe refuse to write: as Allah Has taught him, so let him write.
Let him who incurs the liability dictate, but let him fear His Lord Allah, and not diminish aught of what he owes. If they party liable is mentally deficient, or weak, or unable Himself to dictate, Let his guardian dictate faithfully, and get two witnesses, out of your own men, and if there are not two men, then a man and two women, such as ye choose, for witnesses, so that if one of them errs, the other can remind her.
The witnesses should not refuse when they are called on (For evidence). Disdain not to reduce to writing (your contract) for a future period, whether it be small or big: it is juster in the sight of Allah, More suitable as evidence, and more convenient to prevent doubts among yourselves but if it be a transaction which ye carry out on the spot among yourselves, there is no blame on you if ye reduce it not to writing.
But take witness whenever ye make a commercial contract; and let neither scribe nor witness suffer harm. If ye do (such harm), it would be wickedness in you. So fear Allah; For it is God that teaches you. And Allah is well acquainted with all things. If ye are on a journey, and cannot find a scribe, a pledge with possession (may serve the purpose). And if one of you deposits a thing on trust with another, let the trustee (faithfully) discharge his trust, and let him Fear his Lord conceal not evidence; for whoever conceals it, – his heart is tainted with sin. And Allah knoweth all that ye do.
In several countries that claim to use Islamic law as the guiding voice behind civil law, we often run into the situation where two women witnesses are required everywhere one male witness is asked for.
In contrast, Ahmadis believe that:
- This injunction is only for financial matters, and not applicable outside the realm of financial transactions.
- Two female witnesses are required at the time of the transaction, but only one woman’s testimony is required. That is, both women are not required to testify.
The question remains as to how and why this injunction, even in its most progressive reading, is still relevant for modern times. Recall, Muslims claim that the Qur’an is a timeless, comprehensive scripture for all of humankind.
On a related note, Ahmadis don’t do silly things like ask victims of rape to procure four witnesses before authorities concede that a crime has been committed.
Separation of Mosque and State.
Despite a rich history dating back to the time of Muhammad where an Islamic leader was both a religious and political figure, Ahmadis profess a separation of mosque and state. They are emphatic that their system of khilafat is a global spiritual caliphate only. They claim no aspirations for political power. Contrast this with various Islamic groups who are keen to procure and expand physical territory under a caliphate.
I do applaud modern Ahmadiyyat in its advocacy for secular governance.24 Squaring this position with the history of military operations and political power of the rightly-guided khilafat does seem to be a puzzling exercise.25 No doubt, this topic deserves an essay of its own.
Loyalty to Country.
Ahmadis are enjoined to be loyal subjects of the country in which they reside. Yes, this even includes serving in the military, if an individual is so inclined. As a child, I remember taking a religious pledge amongst a group of similarly aged young boys, in Boy Scout fashion. The pledge emphasized my responsibility as an Ahmadi Muslim to serve the country in which I lived.
Ahmadis are commanded to be loyal citizens of their country, regardless of its governing structure. Ahmadis reject the aspirations of orthodox Muslims for an Islamic State, believing secular governance to be superior. As such, Ahmadis have no cognitive dissonance in pledging allegiance to the country in which they reside—be it America, Canada, the United Kingdom, Mozambique or Malaysia.
Interestingly, where a country’s secular laws prohibit something which Islam does allow, Ahmadis are instructed to respect the laws of the land. Take for example Islam’s permission for Muslims to practice polygyny. Ahmadis will not do so in countries where polygamy is outlawed. Ahmadis are prohibited by their theology and by their khalifa from disrespecting local laws. Even a covert attempt to practice polygyny is prohibited when it violates the law of the land. Ahmadis are enjoined to uphold the letter and spirit of the law.
Violating the laws of one’s country is to an Ahmadi Muslim, a violation of one’s own faith.
Ahmadis reject the concept of Qur’anic abrogation, practiced by some Muslims. Ahmadis believe that the entire Qur’an is perfect and relevant for all peoples for all times. Ahmadis believe that the concept of abrogation implies that God did not have foresight. Such an attribution to God is unthinkable for Muslims.
Therefore and by example, any concept of violence in the Medinan verses of the Qur’an or in the Hadith have to be read in a way to contextualize them against the presence of the more peaceful Meccan verses. This includes the oft-cited there is no compulsion in religion verse.26
Ahmadis believe that jihad is primarily an inner struggle to purify oneself. This is the greater jihad. The military jihad is for self-defense only. It can only be termed jihad if the context is religious persecution. Taking over another land just because you can, is forbidden.
Note that Ahmadis do not deny that armed struggles have their place. They do not advocate docile pacifism. Rather, when diplomacy has been exhausted, and a military response is necessary to defend against religious persecution, only then can the taking up of arms be deemed a legitimate jihad of the physical kind. As such, Ahmadis have not ‘cancelled’ jihad; they’ve ascribed a meaning to it that is completely reasonable given our modern notions of ethical behavior.
Are these modern views on jihad a complete about-face from the predominant historical usage of the term jihad? A departure from the examples of jihad waged during Muhammad’s own lifetime? These are interesting questions requiring further exploration—for another time.
In brief, Ahmadis maintain that any reading of Islamic history that suggests Muhammad or his rightly guided caliphs participated in aggressive or expansionary wars is deemed a tampering of history by self-serving rulers of a later time who wished to provide cover for their unholy, offensive military campaigns.
The majority of Muslims around the world (that are not from the Ahmadiyya community) interpret the Qur’an as having allowed Muslim men to engage in sex with slaves captured in war. The majority of such Muslims do accept sex with slaves (“what your right hands possess”) as applicable for all times, except that they do not see the context and conditions of seventh century Arabia likely to ever reappear where this would again come into play. This is why such Muslims dismiss the religious topic of sexual slavery as irrelevant to modern times, although technically sanctioned by the Qur’an in their belief system.
Modern apologists for Islam will advise that the sex must be consensual. That is, rape would not be permitted.
Ahmadiyya Islamic theology asserts that the original intent of sexual relations with “what your right hands possess” (i.e. slaves captured in war) be (1) that the sex is consensual (2) engaged in only after the slave is properly married to her Muslim owner. Further, freeing a slave, taking care of her and then marrying her, carries with it a double reward in the sight of God.27
Ahmadis reject the concept of Muslims being permitted to have sexual relations with their female slaves. This applies to all female slaves, regardless of whether they are domestic or acquired through military conquest. Ahmadis maintain that sexual relations are only permissible with female slaves if the Muslim man marries such slave wives first.
Thus, any slave attributed in historical records or the sunnah to Muhammad as a concubine is considered by Ahmadis as a misreading of history. Ahmadis believe that Muhammad’s high moral character requires that he would have married such women prior to any sexual relations with them.
Ahmadis deem any narrations to the contrary as later interpolations by evil minded men who wanted to present Muhammad as a man who had sexual relations with slaves, so that they could justify their own lustful inclinations.
Qur’anic commentary from the Ahmadiyya Islamic perspective sheds more light on how Ahmadis believe that the verses regarding what your right hands possess have been misunderstood by other Muslims and critics of Islam generally.
Ahmadis are instructed to serve humanity without distinguishing between Muslims and non-Muslims. Ahmadis run a charity organization called Humanity First that organizes volunteers to help communities around the world.
Among simultaneous projects in progress around the globe, by way of example, Humanity First has taken part in distributing bottled water to Flint, Michigan in response to their lead contamination crisis.
Ahmadis are also very practical, embracing organ donation as a good thing. We have no need for our physical bodies in the hereafter, so why not be of service to others when we die? An admirable position.
Hell and Salvation.
Ahmadis believe that Hell is not eternal.
Rather, Hell is for a temporary cleansing, proportional to the sin committed, and no more. While Ahmadis believe that Ahmadiyya Islam is the one true path, their theology rejects any notion of a monopoly on access to Heaven. God judges by intentions alone. So, the sinful Ahmadi Muslim could spend some time in Hell, while the sincere atheist, or the most devout Christian—whomever earnestly followed their conscience—will still go to Heaven.
Role of Hadith.
Ahmadis do believe in following the Hadith, insofar as the messaging does not conflict with the Qur’an. Of course, this translates into believing the Hadith insofar as the messaging does not conflict with the Qur’an as interpreted by Ahmadiyya doctrine.
Your typical Ahmadi Muslim is however, not exposed to the volume of hadith that most Sunni Muslims are. It is common for a devout Sunni household to have a printed copy of Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim on the bookshelf. Whereas only a small fraction of Ahmadi Muslim households would have such in their library. Most Ahmadi households, in addition to the Qur’an, own the full set of books written by Mirza Ghulam Ahmed, the founder of Ahmadiyyat.
In Ahmadi literature for both for children and adults, hadith are almost never presented in top-down fashion by compilation and book number the way you’ll find in printed collections such as the multi-volume Sahih Bukhari.
That is to say, you won’t see Ahmadi literature published for non-clergy that contains all of Sahih al-Bukhari. A typical Ahmadi isn’t able to look up Sahih al-Bukhari, Book 9, Hadith 1 and then freely turn the page to read what Hadith 2 or Hadith 3 said in that same book.
Instead, scholars of Ahmadiyyat have sifted through the massive volume of hadith to present a subset of Muhammad’s sayings in a curated, topical fashion. This web page on hadith from the Community’s official website is representative of that curated presentation, divorced from the source volume.
The most common collection of hadith proffered by the Community, is a thirteenth century compilation called Gardens of Righteous.28
As a child, I vividly recall reading this compilation in hardcover. Many hadith troubled me because they fostered a subtle but unmistakeable us-versus-them mindset. Take for example, hadith number 1512:
Book 17: The Book of the Prohibited Actions
Chapter 254: The Prohibition of Backbiting and the Commandment of Guarding one’s Tongue
Read the above hadith carefully. Notice the phrase, “One from whose tongue and hands the other Muslims are secure”. Even as a child, I instinctively knew that this fell short of the more universal phrasing, “One from whose tongue and hands other people are secure”.
The Ahadith30 are replete with this kind of phrasing. It belies the notion that such Sayings of the Prophet of Islam provide any kind of universal guidance for humanity.
It is perhaps for reasons such as this, that Ahmadis accept but de-emphasize the role of hadith in their theology. Given that hadith were compiled two to three hundred years after the death of Muhammad, it makes practical sense theologically to give considerable weight to the writings, speeches and sermons given by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad at the dawn of the 20th century. There exists no real contention regarding what Mirza Ghulam Ahmad actually wrote.
With the writings of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, Ahmadi Muslims have a more detailed exposition of their theology and needn’t apply guesswork to sketchy narrations recorded a few hundred years after the fact. Of course, this theological clarity makes sense for those who have already bought into the claims of Ahmadiyyat being divinely instituted.
For the 1200+ years prior to Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, Muslims didn’t have the luxury of dismissing31 thousands of hadith.
Ahmadis believe that Satan is both an actual evil spirit with agency (as an analog to Gabriel being the head of all the angels) and an abstract concept describing our own human tendencies toward sin. For Ahmadis, most references to satan in our everyday lives refer to our own human imperfection and our own agency.
Orthodox Muslims read references in the Qur’an to beings called jinn and interpret the word to mean ghost-like spirits. The jinn in mainstream Islam are seen as capable of being moral, immoral and everything in between—just as humans are. They are however, often cast in common conversation as predominantly evil in nature. This reputation of being evil is likely due to the practice in some factions of Sunni Islam to perform exorcisms32 on people thought to be possessed by jinn in some manner.
In stark contrast, Ahmadi Muslims believe that jinn can refer to multiple and different concepts entirely, depending on the context.
In one case, jinn refer to human beings with fiery spirits who generally stay hidden, aloof or at a distance from everyday people. In the other case, jinn are just germs invisible to the naked eye, such as bacteria.
Mirza Tahir Ahmed, the fourth khalifa of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, wrote a detailed chapter on the subject from which the following excerpt is taken.
The word jinn is also applicable to snakes which habitually remain hidden from common view and live a life secluded from other animals in rock crevices and earthen holes. It is also applied to women who observe segregation and to such chieftains as keep their distance from the common people. The inhabitants of remote, inaccessible mountains are likewise referred to as jinn. Hence, anything which lies beyond the reach of common sight or is invisible to the unaided naked eye, could well be described by this word.
This proposition is fully endorsed by a tradition of the Holy Prophetsa in which he strongly admonishes people not to use dried up lumps of dung or bones of dead animals for cleaning themselves after attending to the call of nature because they are food for the jinn. As we use toilet paper now, at that time people used lumps of earth, stones or any dry article close at hand to clean themselves. We can safely infer therefore, that what he referred to as jinn was nothing other than some invisible organisms, which feed on rotting bones, dung etc. Remember that the concept of bacteria and viruses was not till then born. No man had even the vaguest idea about the existence of such invisible tiny creatures.
Revelation, Rationality, Knowledge & Truth
author: Mirza Tahir Ahmad, 4th Khalifa of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community
location: Part 5, Section 3: The Jinn
Ahmadis believe that law-bearing prophethood has ended with Muhammad and the Qur’anic revelation, but that subservient follower-prophets can still arise. This follower-prophet concept is what Mirza Ghulam Ahmad claimed for himself.
Related to the continuation of prophethood, Ahmadis believe that God still talks to regular human beings—not just prophets. Ordinary Ahmadi Muslims and even non-Muslims can be recipients of revelation.
Ahmadi Muslims accept the concept of a virgin birth for Jesus.
Since Ahmadiyyat rejects miracles of the like that contravene natural laws, they see what we describe as miracles, as rare events that are still completely in harmony with natural laws. Laws that perhaps science has yet to fully understand. In this case, with parthenogenesis (fatherless conception) found on occasion in lower animal life, Ahmadiyya Islam argues that it is not outside the realm of possibility that such an event could be possible in humans too.
Ahmadis also believe that Jesus died a natural death, and that he did so after having migrated to India. Since Ahmadis reject the supernatural, they believe that the miracles attributed to Jesus in the Qur’an are all metaphor. The spiritually blind were given spiritual sight, spiritual leprosy33 was cured, and so forth.
Ahmadis believe that Jesus left Jerusalem after the event of the cross, in search of the lost tribes of Israel who had settled in the Kashmir and Tibet region five centuries years earlier.
Ahmadis make a compelling argument directed at orthodox Muslims from the Qur’an itself to support this point. It’s an interesting read for those who believe the Qur’an to be the word of God.
Consequently, Ahmadis believe that the second coming of Jesus means that someone with his qualities and a similar mission of revival, would be born and appear in Latter Days. This precludes the very same Jesus of two millennia ago that other Muslims believe will eventually return to Earth.34
For centuries, Jews have not been looked upon favorably in Muslims societies. They represent God’s once favored people who rejected divine guidance twice over. The Qur’an does speak favorably, however, of Jews and Christians who are sincere in worship (Qur’an 2:62, 3:113-114). It also speaks harshly of those Jews who had disobeyed God by breaking the sabbath (Qur’an 2:65).
It is in the corpus of hadith literature, and in the earliest biographies of Prophet Muhammad, that Jews are cast in a more negative light.
There are passages in the Qur’an, however, which undeniably present Jews as a people who seem to have a predisposition to be among those in error. Consequently, they repeatedly earn God’s smite.
If the Hypocrites and those in whose hearts is a disease and those who cause agitation in the City by spreading false rumours, desist not, We shall, surely, urge thee on against them; then they will not dwell therein as thy neighbours save for a little while.
They are accursed. Wherever they are found they will be seized, and cut into pieces.
The commentary for these verses explains that it was the Jews of Medina who wronged the Prophet and the Muslims. This is followed up with a more general observation of the Jewish people, throughout the ages.
2370. The Hypocrites and Jews of Medina sought to put all sorts of obstacles in the way of Islām, the main weapon in their armoury against it being the spreading of false news. This capacity to create mischief received a severe setback when the defeat and dispersion of the confederated armies added vastly to its political power and prestige. The expression, Lanughriyannaka bi-him, also means ‘We shall surely make thee take action against them, or give thee authority over them.’
2371. Ignominy and humiliation have dogged the footsteps of the ill-fated Jewish people throughout the ages. Their return to Palestine and the establishment of the State of Israel seems to be only a temporary phase.
It is because of verses like Qur’an 33:6237 that any organized nation of Jews is considered by Muslims to be “only a temporary phase”. And this, only if one reads the Qur’anic verse charitably, and not as a hint about what should happen to Jews who spread false rumours (“…Wherever they are found they will be seized, and cut into pieces”).
This rise and fall of nations however, is a regular feature of humanity’s history. The Qur’an under this more charitable interpretation by the Ahmadiyya does not add anything truly measurable and prophetic in this regard.
Israel today has one of the most successful economies in the middle east—if not the most successful. In the last century, the number of Jews in the world compared to the number of Ahmadi Muslims has been roughly comparable. During this time, Ahmadiyya Islam has produced one Nobel laureate in the sciences. The Jews have produced 25% of the world’s Nobel laureates in the sciences.
If we include all Muslim Nobel laureates in the sciences, and not just Ahmadis, we are up to 3 Nobel laureates for the Muslims. That’s 0.5% of the world’s Nobel laureates in the sciences. Compared with the Jews having 25% of the world’s Nobel laureates in the sciences, we’re dealing with a staggering 50-fold difference between the Muslims and the Jews. And we’re not even normalizing for population differences yet. Who are the “ill-fated people” again?
Ahmadi Muslims have staunchly opposed the creation of the state of Israel, as it displaced Palestinians. In modern times, Ahmadi Muslims do strive hard to build bridges with other communities, with a focus on our common humanity. Ahmadi Muslims routinely hold interfaith events. Here, representatives of other faiths, such as Jewish rabbis, are always included. Ahmadi Muslims speak out against bigotry and hatred directed towards Jews. They also participate in rebuilding efforts for Jews who have been targeted because of their Jewish beliefs or identity.
The undercurrent of conspiracy theories about the Jews is difficult for many Muslims to shake, however. Its long history in the Islamic world is inescapable, even for the leadership of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.
In 1992, The Gulf Crisis & the New World Order was published. It’s a collection of sermons from 1990-1991 given by Mirza Tahir Ahmad, 4th Khalifa of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. In his sermon of Friday February 1, 1991, Mirza Tahir Ahmad repeats the long since discredited rumour38 regarding the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
This issue actually was born near the end of the last century. The war of today has very deep roots. In 1897, a council was established to achieve Zionist objective. It consisted of that part of the Jews who believe in the Kingdom of David which, according to their beliefs, will definitely be established one day. They are known as Israelis or the Zionists. So, a Zionist Council was established which proclaimed its declaration, the details of which, we need not go at the moment.
At about the same time another Jewish document or manuscript came before the world for the first time, namely: Protocols of the Elders of Zion. This is the same Zion that I have referred to earlier, which stands for Israel. Zion is the name of the mountain on which, it is related, David was promised the Kingdom. This was a scheme of the top leaders of Israel, who believe in Zionism, as to how they shall dominate the world, what mode of action shall be adopted for this purpose, what will be the work principles and objectives, what means will be adopted, etc., etc.
It is a small booklet, the date of its publication, I do not remember but I can recall with certainty that towards the end of the 19th century, around 1897, this document, was for the first time, discovered by a Russian woman who was in fact working as a secretary for these Elders of Zion in Germany, and one of them was her friend in his house, she casually picked up a manuscript from his table, just to kill time. This happened to be the manuscript known as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. She became so flabbergasted upon reading through an awe-inspiring scheme to conquer the world that she ran away with the manuscript and smuggled it to Russia where it was published for the first time and its first English translation appeared in 1905.
So, it is around the same time when they hatched a secret plan and on the other hand revealed a more apparent programme, the latter being the subject of no controversy or dispute. The Jews assert that it is true that they had a programme of action which was made public, and it consisted of promoting their influence impinging on the relations between various governments with the objective of achieving Israel as their separate and independent homeland.
The second plan envisaged a “United Nations” (although the U.N. did not exist at that time, nor did the League of Nations, for that matter; but this plan contains all these ingredients) and after its description the plan expresses the hope that following these achievements and realizing the goal of establishing the United Nations, the Jews would then acquire control of the United Nations and exercise, through it, their dominion over the whole world. This plan of capturing the United Nations and using it as an instrument to rule the whole world was bound to take a considerable amount of time as it did. However, all the intermediate steps envisaged in their plan did come to pass in the manner mentioned in the plan.
When the Jews absolved themselves of this plan and maintained that it was just attributed to them, the learned observers, politicians and intelligentsia, debated that claim all over the world. It led to litigation in several courts. A protestant from Britain has published a well documented book entitled “Water Flowing Eastward” which discussed all aspects of the plan. I had an opportunity to read the book about 20 years ago. Someone borrowed it from me and then it changed many hands until it no longer remained possible for me to locate it. I have looked for it in the United Kingdom but it is not available. The book also mentioned that the Jews lifted this book off the market immediately. Regardless of whether the Jews do it or someone else does, but it is a fact, and I have witnessed it, that it did disappear from the market. Therefore, I will not be able to quote the precise words but my statement of its subject matter is primarily correct.
The author of this book mentions that when a Western politician was asked if the manuscript attributed to the Jews is in fact authored by Jewish leaders or is just a conspiracy against the Jews and an attempt to malign them. The politician responded that in his opinion there are only two possibilities: either this plan is in fact drawn up by those to whom it is attributed – for all the subsequent events that have transpired are precisely in accord with this plan and could not have occurred in the same order and detail as foretold in the plan – or perhaps this is a revealed book of a prophet of God who gained this prior knowledge from the Divine and thus prophesied!
So the Western statesman could find only two possibilities: either the plan was conceived by those who are flagrantly belying its authorship now or it may have come from a true saint who was informed by God that such events would transpire in the future.
Today, it is more common for Ahmadi Muslim activists on social media to gently distance Mirza Tahir Ahmad from his own statements. They suggest that Mirza Tahir Ahmad was unsure about the actual authenticity of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. This may in fact, be true. However, no such hedging can be seen in Mirza Tahir Ahmad’s sermon of February 1, 1991 or in the various Q&A sessions where the topic arose. Perhaps proponents of this uncertainty claim will provide evidence of this position.
It isn’t hard to find criticisms of The Protocols from people who have read the book. Consider this excerpt from an answer on Quora. The forgery and deception serving the Russian Czarist establishment seems rather obvious in hindsight.
What made a distinct impression on me is that the “Learned Elders” spend a large amount of their time pointing out how the only way their horrid plans might be foiled, is if the goyim woke up, stopped believing in bourgeois-liberal ideas, and returned to blind obedience to their natural lords, the hereditary aristocracy. If the Czarist establishment had wanted a propaganda track, they couldn’t have found a more earnest one than this (though I could have written them a better one, for all the author’s literary subtlety).
And lest the reader miss the Elders’ point, they lapse into long-winded praises of the virtues of autocracy…
answering: Is “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” a legitimate document or is it just propaganda?
Today, both The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and Waters Flowing Eastward are available for sale by book sellers around the globe, including Amazon. You can also find these books free to download across the Internet.
To conclude this overview on Ahmadiyyat and the Jews, it is important to distinguish between the reasonable and the contentious. Just as Jewish people dominate in the sciences, this small community has an indisputably strong influence with both political parties in the United States—the most powerful country in the world. There is nothing wrong with asking why and how this came to be. To analyze such an impressive feat of influence is not bigotry nor is it anti-semitic. Doubling down on long since discredited conspiracy theories, however, is what is actually noteworthy.
Sometimes confused with Ahmadiyya beliefs, homeopathy has no religious grounding. However, because the Ahmadi khilafat in the 20th century had taken an interest in this controversial alternative medicine, it has become popularized within the Community. Many Ahmadi mosques have volunteers who will dispense homeopathic tinctures to members who wish to receive such treatment.
It is not uncommon for medical professionals in the Community who have been trained in the West, to dismiss homeopathy, although they usually do so quietly. Put another way, it is unlikely that you’ll ever hear a planned speech at an Ahmadi Muslim Jalsa Salana convention that questions the efficacy of homeopathic medicine as popularly practiced by Ahmadis.
While not blasphemous, dismissing the efficacy of homeopathic medicine in front of devout Ahmadis would be met with a puzzled gaze.
It is worth noting that when it comes to life saving medicine—or everyday medicine for that matter—Ahmadis embrace all that science has to offer. They do not refuse medicine for themselves, their children or anyone else. Science is embraced to serve humanity.
There are a host of controversial and contemporary issues which intersect religion that are outside the scope of this introductory article. A few topics are however, worthy of mention to appreciate how Ahmadiyyat embodies a mixture of both the orthodox and the modern.
The ‘True Islam’ Campaign.
In December 2015, Ahmadis launched a public relations campaign called True Islam. The campaign does not make overt references to Ahmadiyyat.
I believe it safe to assume that Ahmadis do want other Muslims to embrace their 11-point declaration without making other Muslims feel like they have to actually embrace Ahmadiyya theology. The campaign’s declaration contains a short explanatory note for each point. The campaign claims that true Islam rejects all forms of terrorism, believes in the equality education and empowerment of women, advocates for freedom of conscience, religion and speech as well as several other progressive ideals.
Other points speak to intra-faith concerns that lead to problems for the Muslim world, such as abrogation or the belief in a bloody messiah.
The campaign doesn’t touch on contemporary issues like homosexuality, female leadership in religious affairs or making men and women’s witness requirements equal in all cases, as does the Muslim Reform Movement’s Declaration. I have previously written a brief post on my microblog39 comparing the two campaigns. That post was originally prompted by a discussion on Twitter.
The True Islam campaign seeks to get everyday people to support the points of the declaration. However, the title and the goal of the campaign conflate several ideas.
One can support the ideas of any and all religions which reject terrorism, but why are we being asked to sign a declaration professing what the historically accurate reading of Islam is? Are we all theological historians?
The True Islam campaign’s declaration certainly makes for a nice Islam; for a warm and fuzzy Islam. In my estimation, this campaign would have been more congruent if it was entitled ‘True Ahmadiyya Islam’, or ‘A Progressive Islam’, or even ‘The Islam we should aspire to adopt’.
In my opinion, use of the definitive adjective ‘true’ in this context, lacks humility. The campaign asks supporters to assert as a statement of historical fact, a particular view of past events and their theological intent. Instead, the campaign should be asking for a pledge of support for principles independent of whether these ideas have any historical or epistemological grounding to be deemed the true and original teachings of the historical Muhammad and Islam.
Ahmadi Muslims are in a peculiar position, in that whilst being persecuted to varying degrees by most of the Muslim world, they are staunch defenders of the general term ‘Islam’. This creates an incredible amount of confusion.
Ahmadis want to be seen as the torchbearers of Islam. They want to be seen as those Muslims who “defend the good name of Islam”. Historically, most converts to Ahmadiyyat have come from other Muslim sects.
Conversions are usually close to home base.
When we examine patterns in religious conversion, we notice that the majority of religious movement is closer to one’s starting position than not. For example, it is far more likely for a Sunni Muslim to become a Shia Muslim than it is for them to become a Christian. Similarly, it is more likely for a Catholic to become a Protestant than it is for them to become a Muslim. This is not to say that larger moves don’t happen. Of course they do. The point here is that it is more common for religious conversions to be small moves.3
With this backdrop, we can see how the defense of Islam in broad terms, can assist the proselytizing objectives of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.
The confusion arises however, when critiques of Islam implicitly directed at beliefs that Ahmadis themselves reject, are categorically dismissed by Ahmadi Muslims. Non-Muslims who voice concerns with Islam often cite the actions and professed theological beliefs of those Muslims who are not Ahmadi. Most critiques of Islam are directed at beliefs held by the majority of the Muslim world and not towards Ahmadiyyat specifically.
After incidents of terrorist violence committed somewhere in the world by those who profess to be Muslims, you’ll often see appearances on American news media by Ahmadi Muslim spokesmen. These spokesmen will profess beliefs espousing pluralism and non-violence, and attribute them to the religion of Islam. These spokesmen will wrap up their news segments indicating that they belong to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community—“a community of Muslims who believe in the Messiah—Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian”. I appreciate that they identify themselves in this way. They have to strike a fine line between sounding like an advert for Ahmadiyyat on the one hand, and sounding like a blanket apologist for everything Islam on the other.
However, when the value of such news appearances are for the public to be honestly informed about the beliefs of Muslims in America broadly—and these beliefs are informed by the theology of mainstream Muslims—Ahmadi spokesmen do their fellow citizens a disservice by not acknowledging that a non-trivial segment of the Muslim world holds dangerous beliefs grounded in their interpretations of Islamic scripture and sources.
The Ahmadi spokesmen are putting the optics for proselytization of the general Muslim population above the candid clarity they owe their fellow non-Muslim citizenry.
Ahmadi leadership have written books about how other Muslims hold dangerous theological views on issues like apostasy. Ahmadi Muslims argue for freedom of religion, while many Muslims believe that Islam prescribes the death penalty for those who leave the faith. Ahmadi Muslims are well aware that the majority of Muslims worldwide do not hold the tolerant and peaceful interpretation of the faith as they do.
Ahmadi Muslims make up a very small fraction of the population of Muslims in the USA, the UK and Canada. You’ll hear Ahmadi Muslim spokesmen passionately defend Islam the theology as they—the 1.25%—interpret it.
What would a press statement or a news clip sound like if Ahmadis didn’t need to worry about alienating the mainstream Muslim population from which they have historically drawn most of their converts?
We as members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community reject violent jihad, terrorism, suicide bombing and the killing of innocents. Our interpretation of Islam rejects such intolerance and inhumanity.
However, many Muslims do not hold our same beliefs on many important issues relating to pluralism, loyalty to country, non-violence and freedom of religion. While we reject intolerant readings of Islamic scripture, they do exist.
To suggest to our fellow citizens that they are safe because 1.25% of the Muslims in the country believe as we do, would be misleading of us. We are but a small, vocal and growing minority of the Muslim world.
The hypothetical statement of candor you've not heard from an Ahmadi Muslim spokesman
Ahmadiyyat, like orthodox versions of Islam, rejects homosexuality as a phenomenon which is deemed to be against God’s design. It is also seen as a demon that an individual is meant to overcome. Ahmadis would argue that there is no contradiction here with their slogan Love for All, Hatred for None. One can love the sinner and hate the sin, so to speak.
Official Ahmadi literature on the alislam.org website summarizes the position.
Homosexuality is a delicate and controversial subject prevalent in today’s society. You may be wondering about the Islamic position on homosexuality in the face of radical gay activism versus fundamentalist Christian teachings. Islam considers same-sex marriages to be invalid, thus all homosexual activity is extra-marital. As you have already read in Chapter 3, Islam forbids all sexual activity outside of marriage. Therefore, homosexual acts are considered to be sin. More specifically, Islam forbids “lewdness” between men and men, women and women, and men and women who are not married to each other. (See Holy Qur’an, 4:16-17). In addition, numerous hadith of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) condemn sodomy as hateful in the sight of God. This position against homosexuality supports the Islamic teaching of chastity and of the sanctity of sex within marriage. In general, it is consistent with a Muslim’s goal of always seeking his or herself and spiritual development and leaving aside those things which attract the lower, baser side of human beings’ nature.
As a new convert to Islam, you may have questions about gay rights and the fight for equality, and you may wonder whether discrimination against gays because of their sexual preference is right or wrong. It is important to point out that gay activists are seeking rights on the same grounds as African-Americans, women and other minorities; namely that their sexual preference is as innate as a person’s skin color or gender. As this is not so, African-Americans, women and others should be wary of joining with gay activists in their political fight because their rights are not due on the same grounds.
Increasingly, secularists sympathetic to the oppressed Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, find themselves at odds; grappling with its theological homophobia. Do keep in mind however, that religious support for homosexuality is a relatively new phenomenon. Ahmadiyyat is rooted in accepting every verse of the Qur’an and the positions of its founder and his successors. The Community has encoded this rejection of homosexuality into its theology.
In my estimation, this is the more honest reconciliation of beliefs with authentic Islamic scripture and history.40
The fourth khalifa of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community wrote a book in 1990 entitled Islam’s Response to Contemporary Issues. Here too, the topic of homosexuality is conveyed as unnatural and proliferating because society has an increasing tolerance for crime.
A comparative study of legislation in this area over the last few centuries would effectively prove the case in point. Gone are the days of Oscar Wilde when homosexuality was considered a crime by society, which would most mercilessly punish it. Gone are the days of chastity not being just a virtue but a social trust which, if violated, would be brought to account. This softening on crime is no longer seen as alarming. That is the problem.
The Ahmadi position on homosexuality is in contrast to progressive and reformist Muslim movements, which do accept LGBT persons. Take for example, the resources available for LGBTQI persons who are welcomed41 by the organization Muslims for Progressive Values (MPV).
Female Leadership and Participation.
Ahmadiyya theology is progressive in so many ways. When it comes to women in positions of leadership however, you will find significant gaps. Certainly, women can head up the women’s auxiliary group of the Community. However, in western countries and at the international level, women almost never participate in leadership roles that would place them on par with men.
In the days of my active participation in the Ahmadiyya Jama’at,42 I would hear many Ahmadis privately grumbling about how it was wrong to not include women as full participants in the national and international shura43 events.
I heard this discussed amongst two senior members of the Community over 20 years ago. Many young moderates feel that these changes will happen when the ‘old guard’ die off. These younger, devout members feel that the elders of the Community have imported regressive cultural ideas from their native Pakistan and passed it off as religion.
In my opinion, a Community that claims a divine founding and the presence of divine leadership should not be swayed by dated cultural stereotypes.
— Reason on Faith (@ReasonOnFaith)
While I occasionally put vocal defenders of Ahmadiyyat on the spot like this, I know their hands are tied. I would not be surprised if privately, they agreed with me, that the international and national shuras of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community should include women as full participants.
When the Ahmadiyya leadership fails to empower and include women in this way, what signal does this send to women in the Community coming of age and evaluating the veracity of the religion’s claims?
If women are limited from participation in administrative governance of the Community, what should be our takeaway in regards to whether Ahmadiyya Islam encourages or discourages women holding public office? How does one reconcile any difference in guidance for these two these spheres of participation?
Ahmadis practice gender segregation at all of their events, and are quite serious about it. If you have a private conversation with an Ahmadi selected at random, most will relay (off the record) that they believe the degree of segregation is excessive. However, since the leadership (khilafat) of the Community is seen as divine, there is no ground-up ijtehad on such important matters.
Events at the mosque, weddings and related social festivities, religious camps, local and national conventions and even social functions in private homes, are segregated by gender.
In fact, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community as an organization is very conservative when it comes to matters related to gender and modesty. The Community mandates and enforces strict rules about how functions such as a mehndi party, can be run.44
Most Sunni and Shia sub-groups don’t practice gender segregation to this same degree in western countries, although they too, do exist.
I personally recall several years ago, when Ahmadis were setting up their student association at York University in Canada. With instruction from the national headquarters, Ahmadi students had applied for two student organizations: one for the men and one for the women. This request was shot down by the York student union who advised that each faith group could register only one student organization.
What does that tell you about the gender segregation Ahmadiyyat would like to see pervade more and more of everyday society?
Men and women in the Community are strongly encouraged to marry within the Community—or else be ex-communicated. At the same time, there is no single venue or event—not even weddings45 of one’s family or friends—where single men and women have religious sanction to interact.
Mainstream Sunni Muslims, while they implement varying degrees of segregation, are often far less rigid about this practice. In fact, the Islamic Society of North America hosts an annual matrimonial banquet where men and women get to interact in person.
In recent years, the Ahmadiyya Community in America has held a matrimonial event at its annual convention, the Jalsa Salana. However, marriageable men do not get to meet marriageable women at that event. Instead, they meet the fathers of marriageable women.
If this degree of gender segregation is practiced now, what does society look like when an Ahmadiyya utopia is spread throughout America and the rest of the western world?
It is my belief that most moderate Ahmadis don’t ponder this dichotomy between their religious and secular lives. When they leave the mosque or a Community wedding, they reintegrate into a non-gender segregated society. In short, they take the everyday normal that we all enjoy in the West, for granted.
My own interactions over several years and several cities across several age groups indicates to me that even amongst the devout, there is a dissatisfaction with the level of conservatism enforced. A dissatisfaction with the level of gender segregation and modesty imposed from the top down. The cost of speaking up in such matters is high.46 I believe that a majority of the Ahmadi membership in the West is frustrated with the social conservatism but do not realize that they are actually in the majority.
Related to the strict gender segregation discussed above, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has strict rules on marriage over and above the basic Qur’anic prohibitions. In Islam generally, a Muslim woman is only permitted to marry a Muslim man, but a Muslim man is permitted to marry Christian and Jewish women, in addition to Muslim women—up to four women at any given time.
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community further prohibits Ahmadi Muslim women from marrying Muslim men who are not Ahmadi. The specifics have varied over the years. Modification and enforcement of these rules are also at the discretion of the Ahmadiyya Khalifa of the time.
These prohibitions are not a religious edict, but described by the late Mirza Tahir Ahmad (the 4th Khalifa of the Community) as an administrative edict. As there is currently no coherent, unified treatise on this topic published by the Community itself,47 the policy can be pieced together anecdotally and through the writings of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, as well as the Friday sermons of the past and present Khulifa,48 whenever they have touched upon the subject.
Members excommunicated for having married outside the administrative rules set out by the Community can and do generally get accepted back into the fold after making gestures of repentance. Typically, these gestures involve writing letters to the Khalifa of the time, where the affected person(s) seek forgiveness and express genuine repentance for acting against the directives of the Khalifa.
In my own family, such a campaign for readmission into the Community coincided with a sizable donation to the local mosque project by the bride’s father.
Reddit Comments on Excommunication.
This Reddit post discusses excommunication, couching it in terms of sins according to Islam.49 It rightfully points out that every group is entitled to have rules of conduct for membership. Of particular interest though, is that the most common reason for excommunication—marriage—is not discussed here by the defenders of this policy.
From that same post, a practicing Ahmadi Muslim relays several statements from the 4th and 5th caliphs of the the Community.
When complaints are lodged it distresses my heart to take disciplinary action. If we have a true connection with the Promised Messiah we should be trying our best to restore old relations and associations. (Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Firday Sermon 31 Aug 2007)
Disciplinary procedures exist in our community also and these are for reformation purposes and not as a mark of cruelty. All restrictions are for the sake of reforming individuals, otherwise undue cruelty is also tantamount to killing. (Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Friday Sermon 2 Aug 2013)
A few persons who brazenly violated the principles of the Jamaat were excommunicated. Now we don’t declare them non-Ahmadis, this should be remembered very clearly, we call them excommunicated from the administration, that is they are no longer any part of our organisation under Khalifatul Masih, but we have no right to declare them non-Ahmadis. (Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad, question and answer session)
Disciplinary action is taken to prevent some matters entering our Community because a true believer should only practice what is good. Without this, neither can he or she enjoin what is good nor can he or she forbid evil. (Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Friday Sermon 4 Feb 2011)
Reddit comment excerpts
In the early history of Ahmadiyyat (and to this day), the Community has experienced discrimination from other sects of Islam. In reaction, the founder of the Movement deemed it inadvisable for female members of the Community to marry Muslim men from other denominations of Islam. Historically, this restriction has been much more lax for Ahmadi Muslim men in their pursuit of marrying Muslim women who are not—and have no intention of ever becoming—Ahmadis.
In recent years, the Community has allowed Ahmadi Muslim women to marry non-Ahmadi men, provided that these men:
- Convert to Islam, and specifically, to the Ahmadiyya sect.
- Wait two (2) years before the actual wedding, marriage and cohabitation are sanctioned.
The waiting period serves as a demonstration of the man’s commitment to the Community and to the faith—assuming that he shows up regularly at the mosque for prayers, learns the Islamic prayer, learns how to read the Qur’an, and eventually, pays his obligatory donations.
This measure helps the Community ensure that the conversion was not simply for the purposes of marriage. It also serves as a deterrent. Ahmadi women are encouraged to marry within the Community so as to avoid all of the overhead and delays in settling down with their betrothed.51
Marriage is the most common reason for excommunication. This is easy to deduce from the prohibition on dating and the strict gender segregation in the Community. This results in Ahmadi Muslim youth almost never meeting anyone that they are conceivably allowed to marry whom they might also find compatible (save, through the contrived and very limited marriage introductions through enterprising friends and family).
For those without serendipitous introductions, the somewhat more relaxed gender segregation among first cousins can make that a necessary option, provided that they are still attracted to such cousins. Needless to say, this option is not very popular with Ahmadis (or any other Muslims) in the West. This option does have full sanction religiously, however.
In the event of an unsanctioned marriage, members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community are prohibited from attending the wedding ceremony and festivities—even the parents of the bride are prohibited from attending, lest they be seen as approving of their child’s marital autonomy. Parents who share that special day with their children themselves risk excommunication for their defiance.
I have been to the wedding of an Ahmadi Muslim who went ahead with a marriage that the Community did not approve of. The parents longed to share this special day with their child, but sadly, they did not dare court the repercussions from the Community. It was heartbreaking to witness.
These sanctions are enforced to deter Ahmadi Muslim women from marrying outside of the Community in the first place.52 Breaking these sanctions by attending the marriage ceremony is also seen as grounds for excommunication.
Most of the Ahmadi Muslim membership will privately relay their frustration with the marriage restrictions, the strict gender segregation, and the prohibitions to having music and dancing at weddings. However, the threat of excommunication ultimately keeps the Community’s functions extremely conservative.
Every so often, there are exceptions. Families break the rules.
In 2010 for example, a large number of attendees at an Ahmadi Muslim wedding were publicly excommunicated from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community for participating in festivities that included music and dancing. This was not Saudi Arabia. This all took place in the USA—Virginia to be precise.
Anecdotally, it is my experience that most of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is not devoutly religious. They are however, caught up in the insular loop of a tight knit Community where dissent and individuality means isolation from loved ones—friends and family—as well as social embarrassment heaped upon themselves and by extension, their families.
Ahmadi Muslim children grow up making lasting (same-sex) friendships in the Community and participating in numerous community gatherings and events. They become young adults who if they’re lucky, are one day also happily married. They then raise children in this Community as they were once raised. They have doubts along the way, but the cost of speaking up is too high, and so they conform. Some even become the enforcers. And so the cycle continues.
Most members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community are socially connected with one another, including the non-religious. As a result, the fear of isolation from excommunication is real. This fear can hinder many from living authentic lives. Those who do manage to live life on their terms often do so quietly. For some, this can be achieved by moving to a new city for a fresh start.53
How to Leave the Jama’at.
A proactive resignation enables one to marry whomever they please without formal restrictions being placed on one’s family. A former member is by definition no longer breaking the rules of membership.
A formal resignation does not exempt one however, from paying a social price for this decision. It can be a source of embarrassment for your loved ones who are still deeply involved in the religious and social fabric of the Community. For this reason, many do not formally resign. Instead, they simply drift away quietly.
No doubt, some of those who resign from the Community never truly internalized Ahmadiyyat in a religious sense. It is likely that the majority of those who have resigned did so for marital reasons.55 A formal resignation enabled such people to side-step Community restrictions that would have otherwise been placed on their families.56
Who else formally resigns? Those who have studied the religion and who have consequently rejected the truth claims of Islam/Ahmadiyyat. Most of these people are not vocal; they’d rather not risk the social backlash and drama either.
A select few however, do feel a moral obligation to speak up and share what they have learned.
In 2004, one such former member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community wrote a book explaining her rationale for rejecting the claims of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. Nuzhat J. Haneef wrote a treatise entitled Recognizing the Messiah. The book is subtitled, Assessing Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qaadiyaan: His Claims, His Views, His Character, and His Movement.
Given that this book was made publicly available in 2004—before the ubiquity of social media—most Ahmadi Muslims have not even heard of it.
What is worth noting here is that Nuzhat J. Haneef writes in a non-combative style. She is truly making an appeal to the sincere Ahmadi Muslim who values truth above indoctrination and dogma. The book makes painstaking efforts at both clarity and academic rigor. The author provides detailed references from the writings of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. The book presents a rational critique of Ahmadiyyat.
Any serious student of the claims of the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community would benefit from a reading of Nuzhat J. Haneef’s book.
Get the Book: Recognizing the Messiah.
Read Nuzhat J. Haneef’s Recognizing the Messiah—a compelling and rigorous analysis of the claims of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad.
Examining the core tenets of faith for a Muslim, I believe that Ahmadis are clearly Muslim. In everyday observance, you’d be hard pressed to notice outward differences between Sunnis and Ahmadis. Orthodox Muslims will take issue with Ahmadis for very different reasons than secular humanists might.
I would argue that where differences in Islamic theology arise, Ahmadis on the whole, have a more peaceful and charitable interpretation of Islam than the orthodox alternatives. In fact, the third khalifa of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community instituted their marquee slogan of Love for All, Hatred for None.
Considering that no terrorist or suicide bomber has ever come from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, I believe it is a fair proposition to say that the legitimate security concerns and fears that most citizens of the world have with regards to Islam, would be neutralized if all Muslims where Ahmadi Muslims.57
Increasingly, I see many Muslim scholars espousing views and interpretations consistent with Ahmadi beliefs, without formally embracing Ahmadiyyat. These scholars see the writing on the wall, and are skating to where the puck is going.
An area of study that I find fascinating, is exploring history, science and apologetics to examine how Ahmadis arrive at interpretations more consistent with modern notions of morality than their mainstream co-religionists. These are topics I intend to cover in future articles.
The Dialogue Continues on Reddit: Join Us.
If you’re a questioning Ahmadi Muslim, or if you’ve already left, you’ll find our growing community on Reddit a resource to ask questions and share experiences.
While there are plenty of forums on the Internet to cater to former Ahmadi Muslims who have since embraced mainstream Islam, our forum is unique in that it caters to those who have left Islam and religion entirely. That said, we do still have some religious members in the forum who make wonderful contributions, and the forum is open to all who are interested in dignified dialogue.
You can find us at /r/islam_ahmadiyya. Join us!
- Masjid Aqsa Qadian attribution: By Mastermaak (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad portrait attribution: See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
- A small town in the Punjab province of India.
- You may be more familiar with the anglicized term ‘Caliph’ and ‘Caliphate’. Ahmadis reject any political component to modern day khilafat, in contrast to the dual spiritual and political roles held by the first four caliphs of Sunni Islam (whom Ahmadi Muslims also fully revere) that succeeded Muhammad. The Ahmadi Khalifa does however, effectively have full control over how the religious Community itself is run, including the power to ex-communicate members.
- The word ummah is Arabic for community, and is often used by Muslims to refer to the wider Muslim population.
- Shia Muslims believe that Ali was meant to be the first successor.
- An Islamic reviver foretold in prophecy to be raised every century. After the first four caliphs of Sunni Islam, these revivers would arguably be the next highest authority, with the benefit of appearing every century or so. See wikipedia entry.
- Nabeel Qureshi later became a speaker with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. You can find many of his lectures and debates on YouTube.
- Some Sunnis who’ve not thought this through very well, would say that Jesus would be stripped of his prophethood and that he would follow the lead of the Mahdi. Ahmadis would refute by pointing out that stripping a prophet of his prophethood seems to be an unwarranted stripping of honor. And that further, there are hadith that indicate that the Mahdi and Messiah are two titles for one and the same person. The stream of argument and counter-argument form a near inexhaustible web of positions. My purpose here is to merely point out that since it can be well argued both ways, denying Ahmadis the right to identification as Muslims is quite bigoted of the mainstream body of Muslims.
- I am happy to be corrected. Send me a tweet if you have a link, and I’ll include it here.
- He admired me as a Muslim, even though we were from different denominations. This was likely due to my willingness to discuss religion openly with Christians at school.
- This was in the suburbs of Toronto.
- The prolific sites are The Anti-Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam and Anti Ahmadiyya Qadianyya. They may contain nuggets of truthful anecdotes, but validating most of these requires descending into unsubstantiated rumor. I prefer to focus the bulk of my efforts on scripture and apologetics, where we can all reason about publicly available information. Personal experience has its place—and I will also write from that place; but only insofar as my experiences may resonate with other Ahmadis. I won’t rest theological arguments on my or anyone else’s personal narratives.
- A campaign of maligning an opponent by planting Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. See wikipedia definition.
- The only history that I have read on the religious atmosphere of the Indian subcontinent prior to the formation of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, has been from Ahmadi sources. I have no doubt that non-Muslims and other ex-Muslims (former Ahmadis) who are versed with these subjects will be able to shed more light on the history and politics of the early Ahmadiyya community itself.
- Mostly articles and the odd book.
- Note that I am not saying that all Ahmadi positions can be justified from primary Islamic sources; just that many of their theological positions are welcome ones.
- This is of course, not a scientific estimate. It is just my gut feel based on issues most commonly raised as critiques of mainstream Islam. Perhaps it is 82.6%; perhaps it is on 61.7%. The point is, a good number of contentious issues are addressed by Ahmadiyya Islam.
- See the article The Red Drops in the Ahmadi Muslim publication The Review of Religions – September 1988 (Issue 9). These gray areas of the supernatural may be covered in a future article on this site.
- The Review of Religions – September 1988 (Issue 9) article relays that it was a pen of God that shook and released red ink that crossed from a metaphysical dimension into our dimension. Thus, the red drops are not interpreted as being drops of blood.
- You can hear Mirza Tahir Ahmad (the Community’s 4th Khalifa) address the splitting of the moon and the concept of miracles, in general, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FrHbC63E4R0. At the ~17-18 minute mark, Mirza Tahir Ahmad concedes that it could have been a local optical illusion of some kind. This seems to be a classic walking back of the strong statement made by the Community’s founder, a century earlier.
- This city served as the global headquarters of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community until persecution of Ahmadis in Pakistan forced the movement to transplant its headquarters to London, England.
- In the Qur’an, Adam is technically referred to as a khalifa, or successor. This lends support to the view that the Adam of the Qur’an was not the first human being, but perhaps and rather, the first human anointed by God with a mission.
- I have been advised by those more versed with the early history and pre-history of Ahmadiyyat, that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad also originally rejected secularism. If true, no doubt modern Ahmadis would claim because the concept wasn’t explained well to him, or that it was defined differently in his time. Regardless, I will explore this avenue in another article should anyone be able to produce a reference from the writings of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad to this effect.
- Abu Bakr al-Siddiq was the first khalifa of Sunni Islam, also revered by Ahmadi Muslims. Why did he not hand over the reigns to politicians and step out of civil and military governance if Islam truly advocated a separation of mosque and state? Why did he not emphatically reject political power and explain that a khalifa is only a spiritual leader? I have never heard Ahmadis square this circle.
- For an exploration of abrogation and the chronological sequence of revelations regarding warfare, see the thought provoking debate between Shabir Ally (Muslim) and David Wood (Christian) entitled Is the Qur’an a Book of Peace?
- From a hadith in Bukhari, Kitab al-Ilm, cited in this Ahmadiyya commentary page.
- This compilation is held in high regard by Muslims of many denominations. Originally compiled in Arabic by Imam Abu Zakariya Yahya Bin Sharaf An-Nawawi, the title in Arabic is Riyadh-us-Saleheen. See the wikipedia entry for more details.
- From Book 17: The Book of the Prohibited Actions. Chapter 254: The Prohibition of Backbiting and the Commandment of Guarding one’s Tongue. This translation is easier to navigate than the subset published online at alislam.org. However you can also find this particular hadith and many more like it in the printed hardcover version of this book published by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.
- Ahadith is the plural of hadith. Recall, a single hadith is a narrated saying of Muhammad. Often times however, hadith is cited in English to refer to both singular and plural, the context usually providing sufficient clarification.
- In Ahmadiyya theology, I have not seen many hadith explicitly dropped or blacklisted. Rather, the dismissal occurs more through omission.
- You can search YouTube for videos on “Islamic Exorcisms” to find videos of the practice, such as this and this.
- The Qur’an contains several versus regarding the miracles of Jesus. Most Muslims take these literally. Reading the text of the Qur’an, that’s a very reasonable position. However, Ahmadi Muslims take all of these miracles to be metaphor. Claiming all of this is really metaphor does strain credulity when miracles for healing the blind, the lepers and raising the dead are all presented in one verse of the Qur’an. How many ways does one need to denote spiritual healing?
- According to orthodox Muslims, the historical Jesus of Nazareth ascended to Heaven (outer space?) and has been suspended there for 2000 years, without a respirator, food or water.
- Hands down, this is still one of my favorite religious books. I first read it as a teenager, and it was a fascinating page turner. Highly recommended.
- This is the Ahmadi Muslim numbering. In standard numbering, this would be Qur’an 33:60-61.
- This is the Ahmadi Muslim numbering. In standard numbering, this would be Qur’an 33:61.
- You can also find formal refutations in book form, such as A Lie and a Libel: The History of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. In addition to reading the commentaries in support of the authenticity of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a fair analysis would include a perusal of the strongest material in refutation.
- See the microblog for my shorter, more informal posts tied into Twitter conversations.
- For this and many other reasons, I don’t try to sugar coat Islam. In my humble estimation, it is more honest to reject it outright.
- Welcomed in the sense that they are not asked to deny their sexual orientation as a demonic challenge they must overcome.
- The word “Jama’at” just means “community”.
- The consultative community council.
- For example, in this girls-only party, dancing which used to be common, has been prohibited by the Ahmadi Khalifa. Similarly, playing a traditional Indian drum called the dhol, has also been frowned upon. I recall an incident in the ~2002 time frame where an [all girls] mehndi party that included a dhol caused notices to go out to members of the Community, and an announcement was made admonishing members to follow the directives of the Jama’at regarding such practices. Ex-communication for such violations is a real fear, which is why compliance is high.
- An Ahmadi Muslim wedding must have a partition to segregate guests. Failure to comply results in swift ex-communication and the ostracizing of the hosting family.
- Being socially ostracized, having diminished marital opportunities for one’s self or family, and finally, excommunication.
- If you do find a formal policy guide from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community’s alislam.org website, please do let me know.
- Khulifa is the plural of Khalifa, of which there is only ever one leading the Community at any given time.
- As a precaution to the Reddit post being removed, I have included a screenshot here.
- As a precaution to the Reddit post being removed, I have included a screenshot here.
- Again, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community doesn’t volunteer these controversial policy details on their website, so it is sourced anecdotally through the lived experience of Ahmadi Muslims themselves. In 2016, it came to my attention that some Jama’ats (local communities) in the USA are quietly waving the 2-year waiting period, as there is now a marked increase in youth finding marriage partners outside the Community in defiance, and ignoring the restrictions.
- The solution for people wanting marital autonomy is to formally resign from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community before getting married. Few realize this. In doing so, one is no longer breaking the rules, because you don’t belong to the club anymore. And so parents cannot be expected to boycott your wedding.
- I personally know of multiple cases of people marrying outside of the Community where nuptials were preceded by a move to another country, quietly disappearing. It’s an effective strategy for avoiding the social backlash.
- The linked letter is a real example. In this case, from Nuzhat J. Haneef, discussed later in this section. You would send the resignation letter to the national headquarters for your specific country of residence.
- Ahmadis generally speaking, are not allowed to marry non-Ahmadis. The non-Ahmadi may be a non-Muslim or they may actually be a Muslim from another denomination of Islam.
- When a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community marries someone outside of the Community without obtaining permission to do so, their family (including parents) are prohibited from attending or taking part in any of the wedding festivities. If the parents disobey, they too will face disciplinary action—up to and including excommunication.
- To be fair, I believe elimination of violent acts of terrorism would also be the outcome if the Muslim world embraced several other notable, peace-loving Muslim movements, such as the Muslim Reform Movement and the Muslims for Progressive Values.