The Review of Religions (English), June 1921
Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih IIra, the then Imam of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat, strongly opposed the politically motivated non-cooperation movement (1920-22) as many Muslim maulvis and ulema living in British India were endorsing it in the name of Islam.
He wrote a powerful, in-depth article under the title, “Tark-e-Mawalat aur Ahkam-e-Islam”, which was first published in December 1920. A portion of this article was summarised and translated into English under the heading, “Non-cooperation and Islam”, in the issue of February 1921 of “The Review of Religions”.
In this article, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIra explained the true teachings of Islam regarding non-cooperation with the government and proved that in no way was it permissible to go against the British government because they never forced Muslims to change their faith or expelled them on religious grounds. He emphasised that those Muslim clerics who based their edicts of non-cooperation with disbelievers on the Holy Quran were clearly mistaken as these fatwas were completely against the Islamic injunctions.
Huzoorra also clarified that doctrines of Islam concerning non-cooperation with a specific group of non-Muslims were limited to corrupt, cruel and unjust actions. Otherwise, cooperation with fellow human beings in every sphere of life is a fundamental principle of Islam.
Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIra then offered guidance to Muslims and Hindus of British India to show patience and discipline in every difficult situation. Huzoorra advised the Muslims to follow the teaching of Islam, that is to refrain from unpeaceful activities and promote peace and harmony, which would eventually give rise to mutual affection and put an end to all the sufferings.
Below is an extract from the said article (Editor, Al Hakam):
My dear countrymen, no form of non-cooperation is permissible under the present circumstances and not only is it not obligatory against the British government, it is the height of injustice to declare it to be even lawful according to the precepts of Islam.
If any person should calmly think over the matter, he would be driven to the conclusion both by the force of arguments and the evidence of facts that the present agitation is merely the outcome of selfish motives. For he would see at a glance that all this excitement which is ascribed to a jealous love for Islam has occurred only when material interests are threatened and that when the very spirit and essence of Islam are to be protected against the attacks of the enemy, there is no display of any enthusiasm and no manifestation of indignation. Nay, the majority of those who are participating in the non-cooperation movement are men who are utterly indifferent to the real commandments of Islam and do not have for them even as much regard as they have for the words of a mere acquaintance, although the real thing is Islam and the temporal power or authority is only a subservient thing.
When the Muslims wielded no temporal power, there was nothing lacking in the glory of Islam and when they attained that power, it added nothing to its beauty. Islam is itself beautiful and a Muslim is blessed in his own person. Neither Islam stands in need of worldly power, nor does the Muslim hunger for it. The beauty of Islam lies in its excellences and the power of the Muslim lies in his heart. Hence the kingdom of this world is not essential for Islam or for the Muslim.
The good things of this life are like servants to him which present themselves before him at his call and they keep away from him only until Islam has proved to the world its intrinsic worth and the Muslim the strength of his faith. Hence there need be no anxiety about these things if Islam and the Muslims do exist.
The real thing to feel anxious about is that Islam should [not] disappear, that truth should [not] be obliterated, that faith should [not] be lost, and that the light which showed the face of [God], the Beloved One, should [not] go out.
A Muslim does not sorrow for the world; he sorrows for his religion. The forgetting of one precept of Islam is to him more painful than the cessation of the shouts of victory, and the closing of one door of access to God causes him far greater uneasiness than the turning of all the successes of this life into failures.
If the effacement of faith and the weakening of Islam cause a person no pain, it is a proof of the fact that his heart is full of the love of this world and that he has forsaken his God. And such indeed is the case of the present-day Mussalmans.
The edifice of Islam was completely demolished before their eyes, but the sight caused no pain to their hearts. The so-called Mussalmans abandoned the commandments of Islam one by one but their heart did not ache. The true principles of Islam were forsaken, nay, they were mocked at, but the Mussalmans instead of feeling any pain only enjoyed the fun.
In short, there is no form of disgracing the religion but the Mussalmans have been guilty of it, and that in a joyous spirit, with cheer on their faces and with a smile on their lips, until Islam became like a dead body from which all life had departed, or like a ruined building, the very debris of which was removed by the people and the needy carried away the very bricks which formed its foundation and the wild animals made their abode in its ruins. Nay, it became like the carcass of an animal which its owners had cast out of their homes and when the strangers passed by it, they covered their faces yet not a single Mussalman grew sad at this; they continued their life of enjoyment and luxury. There was no sign of grief on their eyebrows and there was no trace of sorrow in their eyes. They shrugged their shoulders and said with an air of indifference that if Islam was a hindrance to their ambitions and aspirations, it might perish and that there should be no interference with their enjoyment and pleasure.
But when God in order to open their eyes snatched from their hands the thing which was not worth even a straw compared with Islam and with which they had played as one plays with a toy and broke it into pieces and threw it away, they all with one voice began to cry and lament and they cried so much that the very heavens resounded with the wailing.
Is not this sufficient to open their eyes? Do they require some other evidence to show that they are not the servants of God but the slaves of their own desires? Where was their love for Islam when thousands of professed Mussalmans, who were born in Muslim homes, went over in troops to the forces of the enemy which were engaged in bombarding the fortress of Islam, and added to their strength? Why did not their tongues and their hands move at that time and why did not their blood boil? Have not the names of God and the Holy Prophet, may peace and the blessings of God be upon him, even as much value as Mesopotamia or Syria?
Their hearts were wounded when Europe inflicted wrongs on the Turks, but when outrageous attacks were made on the Holy Prophet, may peace and the blessings of God be upon him, their hearts were not moved in the least.
They forget the saying of the Holy Prophet[sa] – the Prophet whom they profess to love so much and to whose regard and honour they ascribe their present perturbance – which is to the effect that if one succeeds in guiding even a single person to truth, it is more blessed than the possession of herds of animals. But in the case of the present-day Mussalmans, to say nothing of guiding any person to truth, they made no attempt even to save their own co-religionists from being led astray.
They are now so much troubled at the loss of one or two territories but they lost hundreds of thousands of spiritual lands without feeling any pain. Would that their eyes had opened even now and they had realised that it is not the love of God and His Holy Prophet[sa] but the love of this world which had filled their hearts!
Today, college students are being persuaded to leave their colleges and apparently great sympathy is being shown towards them, but why were they neglected before? Now when advocates of non-cooperation wished to boycott the colleges, they first of all thought of the students and their “love” for them drew them to college halls. But when they openly denied the existence of God, had abandoned prayers and thought fasting to be a penalty and the pilgrimage to be a waste of time and money, why did not their love for them burst forth into activity and why did it not occur to them to argue with them and lead them to the right path? Was it not so because at that time they were of no service to them and now they can be of great help to them in their propaganda?
I know that this writing of mine will be resented by the advocates of non-cooperation and their duped ones will also express their anger thereat, but my sympathy for them compels me to tell them the truth.
Truth is an extremely bitter thing and it is not un-often that a man is afraid to speak the truth even to himself. But we have devoted our lives to this purpose and we have taken upon ourselves the burden of guiding men to truth. We do not care for the opposition or enmity of any man. The doctor never gives up the treatment of a patient because of the crossness of the latter, so we also cannot cease our work and have not despaired of the reformation of our brethren.
My dear fellow countrymen! I do not ask you to give up your efforts to get the error which the allies have committed rectified. What I mean to tell you is simply this that you should look into your own selves and see that you are labouring under a delusion. What you think to be the love of God is only the spirit of emulation which is raging in your minds in imitation of European peoples. If there was the love of Islam in your hearts, why did it not display itself at the time when Islam itself was being attacked and why did you not even now try to bring the Mussalmans nearer to Islam and to infuse into them faith in, and love for, God or make them adopt Islamic manners and morals?
What I say to you is simply this, your exertions for every object must be proportionate to its importance. If you get the kingdom of this world, but you have not Islam with you, then what is the use of that kingdom? Your exertions for Islam which is your real goal must be greater than your exertions for the attainment of earthly government, and whatever effort you may make for the latter object must be in conformity, and not at variance with the principle of Islam.
It is true that unless a cause is given a religious colour, it is difficult to secure for it the active sympathy of the people of India, but is it right to employ unlawful means to attain a good object? The end justifies [that] the means may be the precept of Europe, but this is not the teaching of Islam.
My dear brethren, a thoughtful person never forgets a lesson and a wise man never loses sight of a precedent that serves as a warning. At this crisis, think over the fact that 675 years before this, the Islamic power received a blow which was far severer than the present one. Now there does exist at least a semblance of a Muslim empire, but at that time not a trace of it remained.
What weapon was it which proved serviceable at that time and how was the problem solved? A remedy that has already been tried with success, has a prior right to be resorted to when the same kind of disease breaks out again. Remember when the Turks completely demolished the edifice of the Abbasid Caliphate and when there was none among the Mussalmans to oppose the numberless hordes of the enemy, and when the holy places of Islam were without protection and at the tender mercy of the barbarians, what was the remedy which our forefathers employed on that occasion and whether it was employed with success or failure?
If you do not remember what was the course which our forefathers followed at that time and if you have forgotten that lesson, I may tell you that it was with the weapon of mutual friendship and love and not with that of non-cooperation that they attacked the enemy. At last they succeeded in destroying infidelity and out of its flesh and blood they prepared a new body for Islam and the spirit of Islam when breathed into that body again began to enchant the whole world by its charm.
The course adopted by the ulema of that age (who were far more learned than the maulvis of the present day and the correctness of whose view was testified to by the success which crowned their efforts) was that they made their way into the courts and assemblies of the Turks, with the determination to conquer the hearts of their conquerors. The result was that the grandson of that very king who had destroyed the Muslim power at Baghdad and who had dyed the earth with the blood of 1,800,000 Mussalmans, himself became a slave of Islam and having entered the fold of the worshippers of the One True God, became the founder of a new Muslim power, the traces of which have been obliterated partially by the present war.
Why is it that the old remedy is not used on the present occasion, but quite the opposite way is being followed? When the Mussalmans of that age saved Islam by means of co-operation and mutual friendship, why is it that non-cooperation is being preached in these days? Does anybody ever abandon a well-tried remedy? Is it Islam that has now lost the power of conquering the hearts of the conquerors and making slaves of them, or is it you who have lost the light of faith which your forefathers possessed? Their words touched the hearts of men, while yours are utterly ineffective. Why is it that they converted a foe into a friend by means of love, while you are seeking to turn a friend into a foe by means of your hostility or at least (to take your point of view) you are trying to turn an enemy into a greater enemy?
Don’t you see how you are groping in the darkness, having abandoned the right path? In the first place, you have taken a non-Muslim as your leader, in preference to your own religious guides and theologians. Has Islam fallen so low that there cannot be found among its followers a single soul able to steer the boat safely out of this whirlpool to the haven of success? Is not there in the God of Islam even so much jealousy for His religion that in these critical days He should raise a man who should be a disciple and a follower of the Holy Prophet, may peace and the blessings of God be upon him, and who should guide the Mussalmans to the way which leads to success?
You have been led astray by your own impertinence. At first, you held the Holy Prophet[sa] to be under a debt to Jesus of Nazareth and now you lay him under an obligation to Mr Gandhi. If it is true that you will attain your object in a year or two through non-cooperation, then it follows that Islam will get its new life through Mr Gandhi and thus (God forbid) the sacred head of the Holy Prophet, may peace and the blessings of God be upon him, shall ever remain bent before Mr Gandhi for the latter’s favour to him; for Mr Gandhi has received nothing from the Holy Prophet[sa], while the Holy Prophet[sa] will get everything from Mr Gandhi.
Would that you had destroyed yourselves before the thought occurred to you. Mr Gandhi may be an earnest political leader, but one cannot help expressing astonishment and regret at your taking him for a guide in a matter on which according to you depends the life and death of Islam and which you regard as a religious duty of paramount importance.
Have you not already experienced God’s jealousy as the result of your assigning to Jesus of Nazareth the position of a benefactor of the Holy Prophet, may peace and the blessings of God be upon him?
God’s Messiah told you times without number not to be so unjust as to believe that an outside prophet would come to reform Islam and thus occupy the position of a benefactor to the Holy Prophet, may peace and the blessings of God be upon him – a belief which involved an insult to the Holy Prophet[sa] and an undue exaltation of an outsider.
You have already tasted the fruit of your conduct and will yet taste more of it. When you exalted Christ over the Holy Prophet, may peace and blessings of God be upon him, why should not God have exalted the Christians over you? You did not listen to the voice of the Promised Messiah[as], and you have seen at last how painful is the chastisement of God. You made the Holy Prophet, may peace and the blessings of God be upon him, bend his neck before Jesus, by according to the latter the position of a benefactor to the former and the result is that God has made you bend your necks before the Christians everywhere.
So whatever is happening is the result of your own misdeeds; it is the fruit of insulting the Holy Prophet, may peace and the blessings of God be upon him. Now you are going to commit another mistake; you are going to lay the Holy Prophet, may peace and the blessings of God be upon him, under an obligation to Mr Gandhi.
Jesus was after all a prophet but the man whom you have now taken as your religious guide is not even a believer. So the fruit of this latter insult to the Holy Prophet, may peace and the blessings of God be upon him, will even be more bitter. If you do not desist from this course you would have to live, as a punishment of this crime, in even humbler servitude to Mr Gandhi’s community, than that in which you allege you are held by the Christians.
You have time to repent and mend your course even now. The deliverer of the people of the Holy Prophet, may peace and the blessings of God be upon him, can rise only from among his followers, one, that is, who will ever be proud to call himself the slave of the Holy Prophet[sa].
Let not the thought cross your mind that you had already practised cooperation and had even rubbed foreheads of humility on the threshold of the British government and that there was no prospect of your gaining anything from that door, that you had served them like slaves, that you had even flattered them, had entreated and prayed to them and that, to tell the truth, you had even worshipped them, but the result was that they made you cut the throats of your brethren with your own hands and that afterwards thy forsook you also and pushed you into that very pit which they had made you dig.
I admit the correctness of your statement. You indeed acted in the way you describe and they have given you the reward which you say they have given you. But you know that deeds are judged by the motive of the doer.
Did you do all this for the glory of Islam and for the advancement of its cause? You did flatter them but you did so in order to fill your own pockets, to secure titles, to get employments, and to win false honours. You did pay visits to them and did express your love for them, but did you do so in order to win their hearts for Islam? You visited them to get from them certificates and testimonials of their pleasure. You did express your love for them, but it was because you were thirsty for their kind looks. You regarded their smile as the key to all barred doors and you thought their looks to be more blessed than the looks of God. You did rub your foreheads for hours and hours – nay, you rubbed your nose to an extent that the nose itself was rubbed out of existence, but by so doing you only proved that your profession to be the worshippers of the One God was only a lip-profession and that really you were worshippers of lucre and you do not refrain from doing even the meanest things for the sake of worldly gain and that you are even ready to forsake God for the sake of money. You received education in their colleges and learnt their language, but did you learn it with a view to deliver to them the message of truth in their own language, to try to remove the doubts that lurked in their minds, to apprise them of the beauties of Islam and to convey to them the message of the Holy Prophet[sa]?
No, you learned the language so that you might be able to beg their favours in more eloquent form and might sing their praises in their own tongue. Why did you learn their language? Did you do so to serve the Holy Quran? No, on the contrary, after learning the language, you forgot the Word of God and you turned your back on God’s Book.
Berkeley, Kant and Spencer became your favourites. Instead of employing the language for the propagation of the sayings of the Holy Prophet, may peace and the blessings of God be upon him, you forgot the very names of Bukhari and Muslim (names of the two most authentic collections of the sayings of the Holy Prophet[sa]). The names of Darwin, Huxley and James were every moment on your lips.
You may say that this was due to the English education being defective. But I say this was rather due to the unworthiness of your own motives. If you had cherished love for God and for His Holy Messenger[sa], if you had yourselves understood Islam, would you not have done something to prevent the light of faith in the minds of your children from being extinguished? If you had turned even a little attention to this matter, could darkness have stood before light?
Come, I may show you Ahmadi children who attend the same colleges as your children do, read with the same professors, study the same books and appear in the same examinations, but their hearts are full of the light of faith. They believe in the Holy Quran not because their fathers believed in it, but because they have themselves read it and have found it to be true. They do not look upon it as something to swear by, but as the door through which one may find access to God. They do not keep it shut, they read it intelligently. They are in the habit of saying prayers, and observing fasts. They do not deny the efficacy of prayers, but look upon it as the prop of life.
In short, Islam is the rule of their lives, love of God is the soul of their bodies, His remembrance their food, and every word of the Prophet[sa] is dear to their hearts. So the condition of your children is not really due to any defect in the colleges, or the courses of study or the universities; this is the outcome of your own negligence and carelessness.
To revert to the subject proper. I admit that you rendered active military service, fought bravely, killed the Turks and dyed the battlefield with their blood. But did you do so for God’s sake? Did you do this because it was God’s command to obey the authorities? Did you not say when you were being enlisted that you were turning kafirs [disbelievers] and were selling your souls to the devil for a paltry sum of money?
For every little service you pestered your officers with petitions for lands and titles. Indeed you did succeed, to some extent, in attaining the object for which you rendered services. You won titles, secured employments and got jagirs [lands] and medals. In short, you reached your goal.
What other right have you on the strength of which you ask the British to grant amnesty to the Turks? Did they not know that from the religious point of view you hated the war and that you had enlisted merely to get posts or rewards or out of a desire to please the government or to win titles and estates?
There might be honourable exceptions but such was the case with the majority of the people. And when they know that you were sacrificing your religious beliefs (erroneous as they were) for the sake of worldly advantages, how could they be favourably impressed by the teachings of Islam and how could your cooperation with them bring them nearer to it?
So it is wrong to say that you have tried cooperation and have found it to be injurious. You have seen the evil result not of cooperation but of your evil motives. If you had visited the authorities in order to bring home to them the beauties of Islam, if you had testified to the wholesome influence of the teachings of Islam by your honest and sincere dealings, had spoken to them about the excellences of Islam whenever such an opportunity offered itself and if instead of worshipping them you had drawn their attention to the one true God, they were not so stonehearted as not be moved. They are men after all and have the capacity to appreciate beauty. When their eyes were dazzled by seeing a prophet, will not their eyes be filled with light when they will see the face of God Himself.
When Jesus Christ fascinated them, will not the Holy Prophet[sa] win their hearts? Certainly, he will. But what is needed is this that every one of you should first purge his heart of all impure motives, should become a servant of God, and a devoted follower of Islam and a propagator thereof and at the same time have friendly relations with the rulers, to the fullest extent.
The day may come when the word of God may be fulfilled and he who is your enemy today may be your friend and a devoted follower of Islam tomorrow in the same way in which the Turks who laid waste the city of Baghdad and completely destroyed the Abbasside Caliphate, became devoted followers of Islam as a result of the friendly relations of your forefathers.
You are angry that these people, having availed themselves of your negligence have entered your house. But a Muslim is a lion. Is a lion sorry when his prey enters his dint? Does he try to turn it out of his den or does he wish to make a prey of it? When the Turks, having availed themselves of the negligence of your forefathers entered Mesopotamia, the latter did not turn them out by resorting to non-cooperation, but captivated them by friendship and love.
Why do you not do the same? If you are sincere in your faith, then every man that comes in your way is a prey to you. Indeed, it is regrettable that the game has dared to cross your path, but now that he has come, you must benefit from this circumstance and should give up your negligence for the future.
You are angry because the Holy Land has gone out of our hand. But you do not open the Holy Quran from which it appears that the Holy Land cannot come into your hands by means of non-cooperation, and that in order to get it you must become worshippers of God. And you do not read the Psalms to which reference has been made in the Holy Quran and where it is said in clear words that when the Holy Land goes into the hands of other people, you should not fret and be angry on that account and should not give way to excitement, lest in the heat of the moment you may do some evil, but you should wait patiently until God Himself should come to your assistance.
Remember, therefore, these prophecies and try to become God’s true servants by prostrating yourselves before Him, so that He may remove your troubles and do not at this critical time, provoke His anger by distorting the teachings of the Holy Quran. Him who was sent as an angel of mercy to spread peace on earth, represent not to the enemy as a fiery giant. Restrain rebellious spirits from mischief and trusting in the purifying power of the Holy Quran, force your way into the people who are now denying the truth of Islam, so that they may take light from it.
Don’t think that these people will be reformed by your keeping away from them. Hostility shuts the eyes of man and enmity blinds him. Sow not the seed of enmity and discord, but work in the spirit of love and friendship. Let not despair approach you, for a trumpet has been sounded by God, a trumpet, of glad tidings and happy news, a trumpet of victory for Islam, the same trumpet which has been sounded from time to time in ages gone by – the trumpet, which whenever it was blown stirred up commotions on earth. The soul of the Holy Prophet, may peace and the blessings of God be upon him, having seen the degraded condition of Islam, has drawn the favour of God which has appeared on the earth in the form of the Promised Messiah[as]. So despair not of the victory of Islam. Islam is bound to be victorious. Only take care of yourselves lest by engaging yourselves in other things, you may deprive yourselves of that blessing of God for which the world waited for thirteen centuries and to the bearer of which the Holy Prophet, may peace and blessings of God be upon him, sent his greetings.
And our last cry is that all praise is due to Allah, the Lord of the worlds.
(Transcribed by Al Hakam from the English translation presented in The Review of Religions [English], June 1921)