Islam Today: Is it a taboo to ask questions about the system of the Jamaat or challenge its decisions?


This question has two parts, each of which requires a slightly different answer.

Asking questions, about the Jamaat system or otherwise, is not in and of itself reprehensible. On the contrary, the supreme heads of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat, in their respective times, have encouraged questioning when one is not clear about certain things and they are on one’s mind. 

Our readers would know about the tradition of question and answer sessions where Khulafa have addressed questions asked by the members of the Jamaat.

Hazrat Shaikh Yaqub Ali Irfanira said about the Promised Messiahas:

“It was the custom of Huzooras to make an immediate attempt to dispel the doubts of objectors. In fact, he used to say that if any objection arose in anyone’s mind, they should immediately present it and obtain an answer and that the objection should be understood in the same way as if there was a vomiting impulse in someone and harmful matter was thereby discharged.” (Hayat-e-Ahmad, Vol. 2, p. 391)

The Promised Messiahas also said:

“If someone is a seeker of truth, then there is a delight even in their harshness. They have the right to be satisfied about what they have not understood, and until they are satisfied and have not received all the arguments, they shall indeed ask. We do not mind that. On the contrary, such a person is worthy of honour.” (Malfuzat, Vol. 5, p. 144 [1984 edition])

Then again, a distinction must be made between innocent questions and questioning for the sake of fault-finding and rebellion. Whereas the former is about better understanding of an issue or raising constructive questions in order to achieve improvement, the latter is about destructive defiance, obstruction and hostility. So, while the former is allowed, the latter is not. 

Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra writes in Tafsir-e-Kabir about the following verse:

اَمۡ تُرِیۡدُوۡنَ اَنۡ تَسۡـَٔلُوۡا رَسُوۡلَکُمۡ کَمَا سُئِلَ مُوۡسٰی مِنۡ قَبۡلُ ؕ وَمَنۡ یَّتَبَدَّلِ الۡکُفۡرَ بِالۡاِیۡمَانِ فَقَدۡ ضَلَّ سَوَآءَ السَّبِیۡلِ

“‘Would you question the Messenger sent to you as Moses was questioned before this? And whoever takes disbelief in exchange for belief has undoubtedly gone astray from the right path.’ [Surah al-Baqarah, Ch.2: V.109]

“Ignorant Christian writers tend to object that the Holy Prophetsa, God forbid, used to prohibit the Companionsra from asking questions in order to conceal his own ignorance. However, this verse of the Holy Quran states that the Companionsra were not prohibited from asking questions, but from asking questions like the people in the time of Prophet Mosesas [who questioned orders for the sake of disobeying them].

“The fact is that some questions are for increasing knowledge and some are for sophistry. Some are to disrespect and others to humiliate. So, every question has a different colour. A sensible person can never allow another to ask any irrational question. If a boy stands before a professor in college and continuously asks question upon question, he will definitely reprimand him and say that he is unnecessarily wasting time. However, that does not mean that the professor stops him from asking questions because he himself knows too little. In the same way, the Holy Quran has disapproved of absurd and nonsensical questions, not questions per se.” (Tafsir-e-Kabir, Vol. 2, pp. 108-109)

If one has questions about the system of the Jamaat, these should be put to relevant office-bearers who are in a position to answer. If one does not receive a satisfactory answer, one can, of course, move up the administrative hierarchy of the Jamaat until one finally has the opportunity to put the question to the Khalifatul Masih himself.

As regards the second part of the question, i.e. challenging the decisions of the Jamaat system, it should be borne in mind that this is not categorically disallowed either, but is permissible under strict conditions, namely in a private and confidential conversation with the authority within the system of the Jamaat that made the decision, or else with a higher authority, but not with a lesser authority and certainly not in public. (Please see “The Ahmadiyya system of justice in conflict resolution”, in Al Hakam, 14 January 2022, Issue CC, p. 8)

For example, if a national amir has issued a directive, one has the option of voicing one’s legitimate grievance against that directive either before the national amir or a higher authority, such as Hazrat Khalifatul Masih.

If the directive is not then amended, one is obliged under one’s oath of allegiance (bai‘at), as long as one does not renounce this oath, to refrain from challenging this directive in any form, either privately or publicly, and to abide by and fulfil it to the best of one’s ability.

(Prepared by the Ahmadiyya Archive and Research Centre)

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