100 Years Ago… – Questions to Hazrat Khalifatul Masih II from an enquirer


The Review of Religions (English), January 1921

A graduate from Koh-e-Muree [now Muree] posed some questions to Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIra about the Ahmadiyya Jamaat and the role of the Khalifatul Masih in establishing equality and in times of maltreatment by governments. Below are the questions and Huzoor’s insightful answers

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Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih IIra

Question 1: Is the propagation of Islam the proper aim of the Ahmadiyya movement?

Answer: One of the aims of the Ahmadiyya movement is to convert the so-called Mussalmans [Muslims] into real Mussalmans. But as it is the duty of every Muslim to propagate Islam to the world at large to the best of his powers, it follows that it is the duty of every Ahmadi to propagate Islam.

Question 2: Does not the propagation imply the preaching of all the fundamental principles of Islam?

Answer: Propagation does indeed include the preaching of all its fundamental principles, but not the preaching of all principles which go by the name of Islam.

Question 3: Are there any principles of Islam other than the unity of God and the prophethood of Muhammad, peace and the blessings of God be upon him?

Answer: The fundamental principles of Islam are of two kinds. Firstly, those concerning beliefs. Secondly, those concerning actions. The former kind comprises a belief in the unity of God, a belief in all prophets, in the decree and dispensation of God, in the existence of angels and in all the revelations vouchsafed to His prophets. As regards actions, prayers, fasting, pilgrimage and Zakat (legal alms) are the fundamental positive commandments [dos]; and not to kill, not to steal, not to commit adultery and not to be dishonest are the negative commandments [don’ts] of Islam. If idolatry is to be included among actions, it will then form another principle of the latter kind.

Question 4: Are not hurriyyat [liberty] and masawat [equality] the golden principles of Islam? Should they not form part of the preaching of Islam?

Answer: I don’t think they are! These terms are ambiguous. According to certain views that have been taken of them, they cannot be called even good morals. And unless the terms are defined, it is difficult to say whether Islam permits them at all, or not. I do not know how you define them. According to one definition it may possibly be the duty of every Muslim to attend to them both; according to another, they may come under permissible things; and according to a third, they may come only under things prohibited. The word masawat is nowhere to be found in the Shariah of Islam. The word hurr, according to the Quran and hadith, means a man who is free to enter into any kind of contract relating to individuals but not to States, one who is sole master of his property, which cannot be taken away by any of his fellow-subjects without permission or without his voluntary transfer.

Question 5: Is not Islam the champion of hurriyyat and masawat?

Answer: See answer to question number 4.

Question 6: Is it not the mission of the representatives of the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, to establish hurriyyat and masawat in the world?

Answer: If the two principles are so defined that they are included among the Islamic commandments, then, of course, their inculcation is a part of the Caliph’s duty; but they have, of course to see that they pay more attention to the comparatively more important aspects of their duties?

Question 7: Does it not fall within the duties of the Imam of the day to endeavour to protect small communities from the tyranny of the bigger ones and to secure for them liberty and the rights of citizenship?

Answer: It is the duty of the Imam to use all possible means to protect the big as well as the small communities against the tyrants and for this purpose, the best method is to invite them to the true faith. For when the true faith has been accepted, then only will there be no oppressor and no oppressed one.

Question 8: Are not one or two tyrannical nations of Europe nowadays depriving smaller nations of their liberty? Have they not already swallowed us a good many of them in their desire for the extension of territories?

Answer: No doubt some European nations have now taken possession of certain other countries, but do you not remember how our own forefathers came to India? Did the Hindus go to invite them to this country? If their occupation was legal, why not so in the case of the English? It follows then that the mere occupation of a country is not a thing always to be condemned. The morality of the act of occupation depends upon circumstances and unless I know the circumstances, I am unable to go any further into the question.

Question 9: Is not the real aim of these Christian nations to destroy the existing Muhammadan kingdoms and to set up Christian states in their stead?

Answer: As to the secrets of the heart, God knows best, but so much can, of course, be said without fear of contradiction that the Christian nations do not forcibly convert other peoples to Christianity. But if you mean that Christian States are growing up in place of the Muhammadan States then the fact is quite apparent and needs no answer.

Question 10: Do you not claim to be the Imam of the day? If you do, does your conscience allow you to see these wrongs committed before your eyes and still remain inactive?

Answer: No doubt, my claim to be the Caliph does imply a claim to Imamship and as a matter fact, my sense of justice does not bear to see people committing these wrongs, but I dislike not only the cruelties committed by the Christians or the Hindus and Mussalmans, but I equally dislike the Hindus committing excesses against the Mussalmans or the Mussalmans against the Hindus, or both Hindus and Mussalmans against the Christians; or the Mussalmans themselves committing excesses against their own co-religionists.

Question 11: Does the propagation of Islam mean the conversion of a few non-Muslims during a year? Is propagation confined to theoretical Islam or does it include practical Islam as well?

Answer: The propagation does not mean the conversion of a few non-Muslims but it means to convey to others one’s own beliefs as a matter of fact, though not a single man may accept them. It is the business of God to make a man believe or disbelieve. It is a matter which concerns entirely the person to whom we offer our message. Our duty, like that of our Holy Master, the Prophet of Arabia, peace and blessings of God be upon him, is to convey the truth to the people in the best possible manner. When we have conveyed the truth to the people in the best possible manner, it is nether any credit, nor any blame to us whether the truth is accepted by thousands or is it not accepted by one out of a thousand. If, by using the terms “theoretical” and “practical”, you mean to enquire whether Islam is the name of a set of beliefs or it implies certain actions as well, then certainly Islam is a practical religion and it is practical in the sense that not only are its precepts such as can be acted upon but that we can never follow Islam perfectly without actually performing a certain course of actions.

Question 12: Do you think equality exists between Indians and Englishmen in India?

Answer: I don’t think there exists. Moreover, I believe that equality is non-existent even among Englishmen, nay, even among Indians themselves. There is a difference between you and your cook, your washerman and your sweeper. Was there any nation in the world which extended equality to the subject peoples? You cannot cite an example of one or two statesmen or generals of the days of Akbar or Jahangir to show that equality existed among the rulers and the ruled. Can you tell us the proportion of Hindu and Muhammadan population of India at that time? Out of a few lacs of Mussalmans and many crores of Hindus of that time, in what proportion were higher posts held by the two classes respectively? Certainly, the ratio which exists in councils today between the English and the Indians was not to be found in those days between the Hindus and the Muhammadans. We, Ahmadis, too, demand rights for Indians but altogether on different grounds.

Question 13: Are you aware of the harsh and cruel treatment of the Indians by the English, and the fact that there is none to protect these poor victims? It is our everyday experience that an ordinary Englishman may maltreat any respectable Indian on the railway trains, in bazars and at railway stations.

Answer: Some of the Englishmen who live in India, no doubt, maltreat the Indians just as some Indians maltreat other Indians. Just as efforts are made to check the highhandedness of cruel Indians, in a similar way, efforts should be made to put down the high-handedness of the cruel Englishmen. But I do not quite understand your remark that “ordinary Englishmen” maltreat “respectable Indians.” You were just now speaking of equality; what then, do you mean by calling one “ordinary” and the other “respectable”?

Question 14: Are the Indians heard against the English in courts?

Answer: Well, I do not possess the files of all the cases but generally the Indians fail to get their rights in criminal cases and no reasonable excuse has been offered for this state of things. And I think the Indian magistrates are mainly responsible for this. But the question is, whether when the English have left India, we shall be able to make our rights secure against the ruling majority? If this can be guaranteed, then only can your argument hold good.

Question 15: Do you think the bloody Jallianwala affair and many such others are proofs of equality?

Answer: The Jallianwala affair is really a very cruel incident. I think the action of General Dyer is as far from humanity as that of the murderers of Kartarpur and Behar. If we can forgive the men who burnt alive women and children in Kartarpur, why can we not forgive General Dyer? Why should we overlook the principle of equality?

Question 16: Are you not duty bound as a citizen as well as the Imam in authority, to warn the Government of the grave consequences which follow from unpleasant events like these? And if the Government does not heed them, then, are you not bound to give expression to your sorrow and indignation by all legal means?

Answer: As a citizen as well as the Imam of the time, it is my duty to warn the people of the consequences of their wrongdoing; but it is not my business, but God’s, to determine whether every event which occurs in the world is just or unjust. No human being can do that. We do not conceal the mistakes of the English but point out the same to them. We oppose every wrong act in our own way. And as every cruelty is the result of moral perversity, we always busy ourselves with rectifying morals of the people.

Question 17: Do you know it is your duty to warn a tyrannical and cruel Government of its repressive policy?

Answer: See answer to question number 16.

Question 18: If this is your duty, can you explain why you have failed to do it? Does it not follow that you people are afraid of the Government and have forgotten your real mission? You can say that you have warned the Government by means of letters, of the coming events, but the question is whether the Government realises its mistakes? Remember, sir, that propagation of Islam does not mean the conversion of one or two persons during a year but it consists in fighting constitutionally for right and truth. Merely to please the Government, to show your own loyalty and to prove the disloyalty of others, to be unmindful of the Home Rule, to try to secure a seat in the council, all these things do not become the followers of the Promised Messiah.

Answer: I am conscious of my duties and do my best to discharge them. I fear God only or those whom God has ordained that they should be feared. To make the Government realise her mistake, I do exactly what prophets and their representatives have been doing from times immemorial. As to a seat in the council, I never desired it, nor have I leisure for it. You speak of a seat in the council; I say the Government of the whole British Empire, nay, of the whole world does seem to me nothing in comparison with what God has granted me. As to your losing temper, I am not displeased at it, for I know you could not but be excused. I shall be glad to receive and answer any further question on the subject.

(Originally transcribed in Urdu by Muhammad Ismael Maulvi Fazil. English translation published in The Review of Religions in 1921)

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