100 Years Ago… – Madras High Court rules in favour of Ahmadis: Hazrat Maulvi Sher Ali explains

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Last Updated on 2nd December 2022

The Review of Religions [English], December 1922

Hazrat Maulvi Sher Ali Sahibra (1875-1947)
UK Ahmadis
Ahmadi Muslims of UK; Hazrat Maulvi Sher Alira is seated above, wearing a light-coloured turban.

To

The Editor, The Review of Religions, Qadian.

Dear Sir,

The Hindu of Madras, in its issue of 7 September 1922, publishes a letter under the heading “The Ahmadiyya Community” from one who signs himself [as] SAB. In this letter, Mr SAB protests against a judgement recently delivered by the Honourable Judges of the Madras High Court in a criminal revision petition against a decision of the Sessions Judge of North Malabar.

The origin of the case lies in the fact that the Ahmadiyya Community, owing to their belief that the prophecy of the Holy Prophet, may peace and the blessings of God be upon him, regarding the advent of a Messiah and Mahdi has been fulfilled in the person of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad[as] of Qadian, is persecuted all over India. The persecution began as soon as Hazrat Mirza Sahib[as] started his [preaching] and has been taking various forms in India. 

It took on a novel form recently in Malabar, where the persecution of the Ahmadis had already existed for many years. Certain maulvis [clerics], it appears, declared that a person professing the Islamic faith who joined the Ahmadiyya Movement turned an apostate and his marital tie was therefore automatically dissolved. The result was that the persecutors of Ahmadis gave a new turn to their persecution of the Ahmadiyya Community. The wife of a certain member of the Community was abducted and married to a non-Ahmadi without a divorce being obtained from the Ahmadi husband. The aggrieved husband instituted prosecution under Section 494 IPC against the woman, her new husband and three others. But the Sessions Judge who was a Hindu gentleman, being not well-informed about the true character of the Ahmadiyya Movement held that the complainant had by becoming an Ahmadi become an apostate from Islam and his marriage had therefore been dissolved. On this view of the case, he acquitted all the accused. A revision petition was therefore preferred to the Madras High Court and God be thanked that the learned judges of the High Court have set aside the Sessions Judge’s decision, and have held that Ahmadis are a reformed sect of [Muslims] in that they subscribe to the Holy Quran and that it is unjustifiable to hold that they are apostates.

If God had not directed the learned judges to this equitable decision and if they had upheld the decision of the Sessions Judge, the lot of the Ahmadiyya Community would have become intolerable. In this new move of theirs, the persecutors had only made a beginning and if they had succeeded in it, the Ahmadis would have been put through indescribable troubles.

Mr SAB, I am sorry to note, seems to be a sympathiser of the persecutors of the Ahmadis. He evidently wished that the decision of Sessions Judge Malabar had been maintained so that the non-Ahmadi persecutors of the Ahmadiyya Community might have been free to marry the wives of Ahmadis.

Whether such a course would be fair, I leave it to his conscience to decide.

His letter contains many misleading statements that are calculated to give a wrong impression about the nature of the Movement and I crave the hospitality of your pages for a refutation of the same.

The most serious imputation which he brings against the Ahmadis is that they are more the followers of Ahmad[as] than of Muhammad, may peace and blessings of God be upon him, whom they admit as prophet just as an ordinary [Muslim] would with regard to Moses[as] and Jesus[as], that they give precedence to the sayings and doings of Ahmad[as] over those of Muhammad[sa], and that they have established a new creed with Ahmad[as] as their head.

Nothing is further from the truth. It has been alleged that our attitude toward the Holy Prophet, may peace and blessings of God be upon him, is similar to the attitude of ordinary [Muslims] towards previous prophets such as Moses[as] and Jesus[as], whom the Muslims look upon as prophets but whose books they are not bound to follow, the Holy Quran having dispensed with such need. To say that we also hold a similar attitude towards the Holy Prophet, may peace and blessings of God be upon him, is a libel. Our Book, which we follow, is the Holy Quran and the religion that we profess is Islam. We believe in Ahmad[as] as the Promised Messiah and Mahdi because the predictions of the Holy Prophet[sa] concerning the Promised Messiah and Mahdi have been fulfilled in him and all the criteria laid down in the Holy Quran testify to his truth. In other words, we have believed in him because we believed in the Holy Prophet[sa] and in the Quran. He has brought no new book and has taught no new religion. He was raised in fulfilment of the prophecies to establish the truth of Islam and of the Holy Prophet[sa], by heavenly signs and by means of cogent arguments. He was a servant of Islam and a devoted servant and ardent lover of the Holy Prophet[sa]. To establish the truth of Islam was the one aim of his life. God showed signs through him not only to establish the truth of his claims but also to demonstrate the truth of Islam and to show that Islam was now the only living religion in the world – a religion that could produce men like Ahmad[as]. In order to show what our creed consists of, I can do nothing better than quote the words of Ahmad[as] himself.

In the [book, The Age of PeaceAyyamus Sulh (pp. 86-87), he wrote: 

“The five things on which Islam is based is our creed. Beware that the curse of God falls on those who lie and who are guilty of imposture.”

With regard to divine revelation (wahy and ilham) we believe that they have not been discontinued after the Holy Prophet, may peace and blessings of God be on him. God still speaks as He used to speak to His religious servants among former peoples. God is not deprived of any of His attributes. He sees now as He saw in the past; He hears now as He heard in the past and He speaks as He spoke in the past. But as Islam is now the only true religion, all other religions being dead, therefore this favour of God is now confined to the holy and righteous followers of Islam. Ahmad[as] always referred to this fact as a proof of the fact that Islam was now the only living religion, by following which one could attain to all those blessings which were showered on holy men among former peoples and he continually emphasised the fact that this favour was now confined to Islam to the exclusion of all other religions, as a token of the fact that now the only true religion with God was Islam. He referred to his personality as a living proof of the fact that Islam was now the only religion by following which one could attain to all those blessings that had been bestowed on the holy men of the past ages.

These revelations, however, bring no new commandments, and abrogate no law of Islam. The Holy Quran is the final law, and the completest law; it is now the only book for all times and for all nations. Islam is the final and the universal religion, a religion that will last to the end of time. But the door of revelation is not closed to the true followers of Islam. God still speaks to His righteous servants from among the true followers of Islam and reveals to them hidden things of the future. That has always been one of his choicest blessings, which he has been conferring on His righteous servants among former peoples and He has not withheld this favour of His from the true followers of Islam. If He had done so, that would have been disfavour; but there is no favour which He has withheld from the holy followers of His beloved Prophet Muhammad, may peace and the blessings of God be upon him. The righteous servants of the Holy Prophet[sa] have ever been enjoying divine communion and one who was destined to appear as the Promised Messiah enjoyed this communion in an exceptionally high measure.

It was for this reason that the Holy Prophet, may peace and the blessings of God be upon him, called him Nabiyullah (a Prophet of God). There is a great misunderstanding about the word Prophet which the Promised Messiah[as] applied to himself in conformity with the prophecy of the Holy Prophet[sa]. In order to give the reader a true idea of the nature of the prophethood which Ahmad[as] claimed for himself, I will again quote his own words. In a letter to the Akhbar-e-Aam of Lahore, dated 6 May 1908, he thus explained his claims:

“I have been always telling the people through my writings and now again declare that the charge which is brought against me that I, as it were, lay claim to a prophethood which cuts off my connection with Islam and which means that I look upon myself as an independent prophet so that I have no need to follow the Holy Quran and institute a separate creed and a separate qibla and hold the shariah of Islam as abrogated and exclude myself from the followers of the Holy Prophet, may peace and the blessings of God be upon him, is untrue. Nay, I look upon such a claim as kufr [disbelief]. Not only now but ever in my writings I have been declaring that I lay no claim to such prophethood and the charge against me is a calumny. The basis on which I call myself a prophet is only this that I am honoured by the communion of God, that He frequently speaks to me many hidden things and discloses to me such secrets of the future as He never discloses to anyone unless he enjoys special nearness to Him. […] But I am not a prophet in the sense that I, as it were, separate myself from Islam or abrogate any commandment of Islam. My neck is under the yoke that Islam lays on us and no one has the power to abrogate even a jot or tittle of the Holy Quran. So, I call myself Nabi (prophet) only because in Arabic and Hebrew nabi means one who, being inspired by God, announces prophecies in a very large number. […] Seeing that generally men have visions and some receive inspiration also, but that inspiration is meagre in quantity and contains very few secrets of the future and besides being meagre, it is also doubtful and confused, therefore reason demands that he whose revelation and whose prophecies are free from such defects should not be classed with other ordinary men, but should be called by a special name, so that he may be distinguished from others. Hence, only in order to give me a distinguished position, God has called me Nabi and this is a title of honour that has been conferred on me so that there may be a distinction between me and others. In this sense, I am both a Nabi and an Ummati (a follower of the Holy Prophet, may peace and blessings of God be upon him.)”

I may point out here that our views about the continuation of revelation after the Holy Prophet, may peace and the blessings of God be upon him, and about prophethood are corroborated by many eminent authorities in Islam.

Mr SAB lays great emphasis on the opinion of the ulema and takes the judges of the Madras High Court to task for disposing of such an important case “without so much as consulting a [Muslim] maulvi or a jurist on the point” and accuses them of “trampling underfoot the weighty opinion held by Muslims throughout ever since the Ahmadiyya Movement was started.”

Mr SAB does not explain the maulvi of which sect the High Court Judges ought to have consulted on this point. There is no sect of Muslims in India that is not held to be a kafir [disbeliever] by one sect or the other and consequently there is no such maulvi whose views may be admitted as authoritative by all sects of [Muslims]. The [Muslims] of India comprise four principal sects, viz, the Shias and three divisions of the Ahl-e-Sunnat, the Hanafites, the Ahl-e-Hadith, and the Muslims of the Aligarh School who are influenced by the views of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan. But there is not one sect among them whose Islam the followers of other sects agree on. Not only this, but even the sub-divisions of these sects declare one another to be kafirs.

Is Mr SAB, who seems to be such a great admirer of the learned maulvis and who attached too much weight to their learned opinion, aware of the fatwa which the maulvis pronounced against Sir Syed Ahmad Khan? If he is not aware of this fact, let him study the Hayat-e-Javed, the well-known biography of Sir Syed written by Hali. From it, he will learn that not only the learned maulvis of Deoband, Ambala, Saharanpur, Delhi, Lucknow and the Punjab declared him and his followers to be apostates and kafir but even the learned ulema of Arabia participated in this “holy work” and the jurists of all the four schools (the Hanafites, the Hanbalites, the Shafites and the Malikites) at Mecca and Medina joined in pronouncing the same verdict. The following sentence from the Hayat-e-Javed may interest Mr SAB: 

“These fatwas bear the seals and signatures of both the well-known and little-known maulvis of all the [Muslim] sects in India, whether Sunnis or Shias, Muqallid or Ghair-Muqallid, Wahabis or Bid‘atis.”

This is enough to show that the fatwas of the maulvis are not proof of one’s being a kafir or an apostate.

There are numerous instances in which the learned ulema of one generation declared a person to be a kafir or murtad [apostate], but subsequent generations adored that very man as a saint. Again, Mr SAB is not right when he says that the learned judges of the High Court disposed of the case without so much as consulting even a single Maulvi; for they had before them the verdicts of all the leading non-Ahmadi maulvis and jurists of Malabar and the “weighty” opinion of the Qazi of Madras, but the learned judges of the High Court accorded them the treatment they deserved and set them aside as misguided and erroneous.

One point more and I bring my reply to Mr SAB’s letter to an end. He finds fault with the Ahmadis for not saying their prayers behind a non-Ahmadi Imam and for not giving their daughters in marriage to non-Ahmadis. This criticism is not justifiable. He must remember that we believe Ahmad[as] to be the Promised Messiah whose advent is accepted by the whole Muslim world and before finding fault with us for this or that action of ours, he should enquire of his own maulvis, whether, when the Promised Messiah[as] comes, it will be lawful for the believers of the Promised Messiah[as] to maintain such relations with those who will deny him. If the maulvis and the jurists declare that it will be lawful to say prayers behind such imams as will deny the Promised Messiah[as] and to give daughters in marriage to those who will reject him, then, of course, Mr SAB may be regarded as justified in calling us to account for not maintaining such relations with the deniers of him whom we believe to be the Promised Messiah[as]. But if they declare that it will not be lawful to maintain such relations with the deniers of the Promised Messiah[as], then he has no ground for finding fault with us for our present attitude. If in spite of our belief that Ahmad[as] is the Promised Messiah, we maintain such relations with the deniers of Ahmad[as], we shall not be true to our professions. Under the present circumstances, we should have been open to objection if we had continued such relations with the non-Ahmadis. As matters stand, we are only doing what we ought to have done consistently with our beliefs.

Hence, instead of levelling such criticisms against us, the proper course for Mr SAB was to inquire whether Ahmad[as] of Qadian is the Promised Messiah or not. If he is, as we firmly believe him to be, then all these questions are solved of themselves when we take into consideration the important character of his claims.

Yours sincerely,

Sher Ali.

(Transcribed by Al Hakam from the original, published in The Review of Religions, December 1922)

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