100 Years Ago… – Moplah uprising and the loyalty of the Ahmadiyya Community


The Review of Religions (English), September 1921

Moplah or Mappila Muslims, mostly found in Kerala (former Malabar District) and Lakshadweep Islands, are part of the Indian population. During the British Rule, the Moplah revolt happened in Northern Kerala, which was under the Madras Presidency of British India, in 1921, and was eventually put to an end in 1922. 

According to historical records, this uprising started against the Hindu landlords who were supported by the British in densely populated Moplah Muslim regions. This rebellion was chiefly led by Variamkunnath Kunhamed Haji and Ali Musaliar. 

The Moplah uprising, along with the ongoing non-cooperation movement organised by Mr Gandhi, shook the British Indian government to its core. 

In those uncertain times, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community stood by the British government and supported it in every possible way. The then head of the Ahmadiyya Jamaat, Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmadra instructed Ahmadis to assist authorities to suppress the wild agitation. The Jamaat members in general and Ahmadi students in particular were advised not to take part in non-cooperation movements. This loyalty and support to the British government was shown solely in accordance with the teachings of Islam and the guidance laid down by the Holy Prophetsa and his servant, the Promised Messiahas.

Below are some details of the situation then and the services rendered by the Ahmadiyya Jamaat to the then government. (Editor, Al Hakam)

Hazrat Malik Ghulam Farid MAra (1896-1977)

More than once or twice during the brief space of the last three or four years the steadfast fidelity and unflinching loyalty of the Ahmadiyya Community to the British crown has been put to a severe test and every time the ordeal has been triumphantly met. Loyal we are and loyal we shall be to the government under whose aegis we live, but not because we are numerically insignificant, as our traducers pose to think, nor because we are sycophants and cajolers but because we are commanded by God and strictly enjoined by the Holy Prophet, peace be upon his soul, to be loyal and faithful to our rulers. 

Night and day, early and late, in his speeches and in his writings, the Promised Messiah[as] exhorted his followers to remain loyal to the British government, to render it any possible help it stands in need of and even included loyalty to the government among the ten conditions of initiation into the Ahmadiyya movement. Therefore, no amount of force brought to bear upon us, no persuasion however alluring, and no persecution however deterrent, can persuade us to range ourselves against the government on the side of disorder and sedition. 

This profession of loyalty on our part is not an empty vaunt and a mere lip profession, but our actions correspond to our words. We always stood by the government when occasion called, even at great risk to our lives, honours and properties. 

The first occasion for the practical manifestation of our hitherto only professed loyalty arose in the spring of the year 1919 when Passive Resistance movement was started by Mr Gandhi as a strong protest against the Rowlatt Bill and the whole of India observed a complete hartal on 6 April [1919]. 

Under the directions of their revered head, the Ahmadiyya public in general and the Ahmadi shopkeepers and students reading in the different colleges of Lahore in particular, made themselves conspicuous by dissociating themselves from the agitators. Despite the threats (which in many cases took practical shape) of social boycott held out to our shopkeepers, they continued their shops open. Our students also came up to the expectations of their Imam. They were scoffed at and hooted and in many cases vituperatively denounced and reviled but they went on attending their classes to the entire satisfaction of their respective principals and other members of the staff and showed to the world that their leader was at Qadian and not Mr Gandhi.

A few days later came the so-called arrest of Mr Gandhi which flung the whole of the Punjab from one end to the other into the vortex of a mighty cataclysm. Strict orders from the headquarters were issued to all the Ahmadis to stand by the government and to render the officials any sort of help they required and all missionaries working in different parts of the country were ordered to suspend their usual work and assist the authorities in suppressing the wild agitation. 

Besides this, the community published tracts by thousands at their own expenses in which false rumours maliciously spread by the implacable agitators were contradicted and actual facts were placed before the credulous but easily excited ignorant masses. Sundry other measures were adopted to help the government in their time of sore need and all this at the hazard of our own lives, honours and properties. For the first time the prophecy of the Promised Messiah[as] made some 14 years ago, (a time will come on the British government when only my community as a community will stand by the government and be loyal to it), met with a remarkable fulfilment. 

The Punjab government frankly and candidly recognised the redoubtable services that the most loyal subjects of the British crown rendered to the cause of peace and order. We give below for the perusal of our readers the tenor of the press communique published by the Punjab government:

“The Punjab Government have received a report of the activities of the Ahmadiyya community of Qadian in repressing disturbances and in keeping apart from all participation in any of the unlawful agitations which have disfigured the Punjab. The community have been exhorting all their followers to have nothing to do with this movement and their efforts are reported to have been entirely successful.” 

The officer commanding the Lahore civil area under martial law acknowledged the efforts of the Ahmadiyya community to restore order in the following letter which was sent on his behalf to one of the secretaries to Hazrat Khalifatul Masih:

“I am directed by the Officer Commanding the Lahore Civil Area to acknowledge receipt of your letter, dated the 20th instant and to inform you that the Officer Commanding has read with much interest and appreciation the account of the action your community is taking to combat the present agitation against the government. He considers that the measures adopted are exactly what are required to prevent the agitation from having more serious consequences, and that the assistance you are thereby rendering to government is most valuable.

“Your community may rest confident that it will continue to receive full protection by government and it has nothing to fear, while under that protection, from your religious and political opponents.” 

“The Officer Commanding will be glad to avail himself of the assistance of the Ahmadis who reside within the Lahore civil area, and will be pleased to receive the Secretary or Head of Anjuman Ahmadiyya in Lahore whenever it may be convenient for either of those gentlemen to call upon him.”

Once again, the truth of the Promised Messiah’s prophecy referred to above is manifested. The Moplahs have openly defied and even have challenged the government authority and nearly the whole of Malabar is convulsing in the throes of a mighty rebellion. The Moplahs, as the newspapers state, are forcibly converting the Hindus to Islam and are harassing and persecuting the loyal Moplahs and other loyal subjects of the crown. We have a very insignificant minority in Malabar. They have not, however, ignored their duty. They have proved true to the Ahmadiyya tradition of loyalty to the government. A telegram to The Pioneer dated 18 September [1921] says, “As soon as the rising began, the small Ahmadiyya community of Muhammadans in Cannanore, Koodali and Calicut sent letters to the District and Division authorities reaffirming the inviolable loyalty of the Ahmadiyas and offering to render any service which might be demanded of them with a view to the restoration of order.”

Now I wish to address a few words to those who are apt to ascribe our sincere attitude to the British government to sycophancy and cajolery and consider that all this is done from a consideration of expediency in view of the weakness of our numerical strength, and the paucity of our resources. Nothing can be farther from truth than this assertion. We are not sycophants and flatterers much less time-servers but on the contrary sincere lovers of peace and order. The government did not bestow big titles on the members of our community, nor gave us large jagirs, nor are we entitled to an exceptional treatment on that score. We do not want these things and pray that the hour when such wicked ideas should find place in our heads may never come. 

We did all that we did in obedience to the commandment of God, the sacred injunctions of the Holy Prophet[sa] and the express behests of the Promised Messiah[as] and all this at a great loss to ourselves. Our political interests demand that we should side with the non-cooperators as the trend of political affairs speak of a change in their favour but as long as the government resents their methods, we cannot join hands with them as this is flying directly in the face of the teachings of Islam and that of the Messenger[sa] of God. 

The political cauldron of India is seething with discontent and agitation, and the time is not far off when again a call shall be made on our loyalty and again the world shall see that we stand by the government caring not for the dangers we shall expose ourselves to on that account, declaring at the same time that we fear not and hence flatter not any earthly government. 

(Transcribed by Al Hakam from the original in The Review of Religions, September 1921)

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