Asif M Basit, London
As the Ahmadiyya Muslim community continues to flourish and to serve Islam in a day and age that can justifiably be called the most challenging in Islam’s history, intrigue about the community has seen an uptick in the recent past.
However, this intrigue and enquiry into this reform sect of Islam are not always encouraged, especially among their own coreligionist Muslims – the latter not recognising the former’s Muslim identity. What once used to be disguised in gimmicks, Muslim scholars in the West have now taken the straightforward and direct approach in warning their youth about the “dangers” posed by the Ahmadiyya to Islam. These scholars, in their desperation, are now failing to hide their jealousy and openly telling the Muslim youth that since the Ahmadiyya are now seen as the face of Islam – through preaching Islam more actively than ever before – they need to be condemned publicly, declaring that Ahmadis are anything but Muslims.
One recent example is a so-called Muslim scholar who is seen giving a stand-up presentation to Muslim youth in attendance, as well as to those watching him on YouTube.
Not worthy of any particular importance, such so-called scholars try to recycle the same old allegations about the Ahmadiyya community and its founder, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas. But knowing that these allegations have already lost steam, they try various tactics to resuscitate the soulless body of these low-level allegations.
Clutching at straws, when old allegations burn out
One new tactic is holding an iPhone or the latest Samsung mobile in their hand, looking at it from time to time, and claiming that they are not speaking from hearsay but actual references from original sources of the Ahmadiyya literature. Unfortunately, gone are the days when merely flashing a mobile phone and reading off of it made things sound credible.
If they claim that Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas said that “his book, Tadhkirah, is the revealed book of God”, they fail to provide any reference to this shocking statement. They try to plaster it with an even more shocking lie: “I obtained it from the Ahmadiyya website”. Again, without any reference.
How could there be a reference to a blatantly false statement? The book Tadhkirah – an anthology of the revelations received by Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas – was not even published in his lifetime. It was published in book form and with this name many decades afterwards. This aside, did he ever claim his revelations formed any form of scripture to replace the Quran? We would leave the answer to such scholars who can only rob people of their true faith and never accept the truth.
However, such self-styled scholars seem to have realised that all old allegations have burnt out. To blow some air in the sails of their anti-Ahmadiyya campaign, they have tried something novel: coining new stories; which isn’t really novel but quite customary of the opponents.
The Nation of Islam and Ahmadiyya
One such false story that has recently come to the surface is that the Nation of Islam (NOI) was founded by the Ahmadiyya missionaries in America. We all know that what emerged as the Nation of “Islam” couldn’t have been farther from Islam as far as its beliefs and tenets are concerned.
To start with, nothing could be far from the Ahmadiyya Muslim belief, as expounded by the founder Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas, that God has bodily form. Allah, the Islamic name for the One God, has no bodily form. If anything, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas spent thousands of pages refuting the Christian attribution of divinity to the person of Jesus Christ. And for that matter, any other human form of divinity, as seen in his English language tract “Warning to a pretender to divinity” – addressed to John Hugh Smyth-Pigott who had made the claim in 1902. Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas called such a claim “irreverent and extravagant assertions”.
How then could the Ahmadiyya community accept the divinity of Fard Muhammad (WD Fard Muhammad) – the founding father of the Nation of Islam? NOI literature – all the way from Elijah Muhammad to Malcolm X, and from Farrakhan to present-day sources – base their belief on Fard Muhammad being God in human-body form.
This alone is enough to invalidate any claims that the Ahmadiyya community could back – or sponsor, as some opponents have taken to suggesting – such a claim that has absolutely nothing to do with Islamic faith; a claim most vehemently detested by Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas.
The Moslem Sunrise, the first Islamic magazine in the English language to be published in America, carried in it clearly what the Ahmadiyya mission stood for. The first edition had it clearly mentioned that Allah is the One God, Hazrat Muhammadsa is His messenger, and Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas is the Messiah, whose advent was foretold by Hazrat Muhammadsa.
The second edition had an open letter to American Muslims, titled “My Advice to the Muhammadans in America”, advising them to abide by the teachings of Islam as set out by the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa of Islam. The advice, numbered from one to ten, had instructions like “read the Quran”, “promulgate Islam”, “God is the best Protector of Islam in all ages”, and much worthy of mention, “build a mosque in every town to worship One God”. What makes the last one stand out is that NOI never called their places of worship mosques, but instead chose to call them temples.
Every issue of The Moslem Sunrise opened with the English translation of Quranic verses, the traditions of the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa and then the sayings and writings of the Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas, the Promised Messiah. This clarity left no room for anyone claiming divinity under the umbrella of Ahmadiyya Islamic teachings.
Fard Muhammad and the influence of Ahmadiyya teachings
Another question remains important and needs to be addressed: Was Fard Muhammad under the influence of the Ahmadiyya teachings? Well, interesting it is that not only Fard Muhammad but thousands of Americans were influenced by the Ahmadiyya beliefs; for the simple reason that they made complete sense to Christians and Muslims, alike. While thousands stayed, many must have been led astray by their imaginations, for which the Ahmadiyya Muslim community cannot take any responsibility.
One thing is clear. Fard Muhammad, or any of his accomplices for that matter, never were Ahmadi missionaries, nor were they assigned any duties by the Ahmadiyya mission. However, we do not speak on behalf of any other faction that claims to be Ahmadi. Anyone who claims otherwise bears the onus of proof. Until they produce it, we tell our readers to beware of deceitful scholars who rob you of truth and feed false information.
The Moslem Sunrise of July 1922, one of the earliest issues of the publication, carried an article titled: “Jesus was crucified but did not die on the cross”. It carried a review of literature, by Western Christians mostly, on how Jesus’sas death was perceived by them and how it fell quite in line with the Ahmadiyya belief – the belief suggested in the title of the article.
This belief of the Ahmadiyya gained a lot of attention in the American religious climate – where clouds of Messianic hope hovered over the imagination of the Christian and Muslim populace. Jesus’sas return to earth – from the imaginary heavens where he had been living for two millennia – was overdue and any explanation, or justification, for that matter, caught public attention.
Fard Muhammad was a Millenialist and had, thus, explored any avenue that could lead to his understanding of the end times and his own place therein. He remained influenced by the Jehovah’s Witnesses, among many other Christian denominations. He would encourage to listen to Judge Rutherford’s speeches and his own “claim that the end of the world was supposed to commence in 1914” was altered and extended under influence of “Watch Tower literature”. (Finding WD Fard: Unveiling the identity of the founder of the Nation of Islam, by John A Morrow, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2019)
Through his misty biographical accounts, he is seen as influenced by the Mormons from where he borrowed the Mormon belief in the Law of Eternal Progression: As man is God, God once was, and as God is, man may become. (Ibid) This human possibility of human transformation into a god – which he clearly believed and later claimed to have attained – is to be attributed to Mormon influence and not any other religious denomination.
Researchers on the Nation of Islam trace the roots of Fard’s teachings in Islam, just as well as in Christianity. One such researcher, Stephen J Stein, noted that “the Bible seems to have functioned more importantly than the Quran for Black Muslims”. (Alternative Religious Movements in American History, p 126) However, Morrow sees a trend of gradualism, where he started “with the Bible, which was familiar, and moving his students towards Quran, which was unfamiliar”. This statement is important and we will return to it later.
Biographers of Fard Muhammad have traced various influences on the theology preached by Muhammad Fard and later by Elijah Muhammad, who worked to cement the beliefs. One important influence noted is the Moorish Temple, which has been seen as the precursor to the foundation of the Nation of Islam. Aminah Beverly McCloud notes the teachings of Noble Drew Ali, founder of the Moorish Science Temple, as being inspired by Shiite and Ismaili literature, especially the Ghulat Ismailis’ belief in human manifestations of Allah. (African American Islam, by Aminah B McCloud)
Ghulat Islamilis, a collective name for a number of Shiite and Ismaili sects, believed in a number of persons to have been human manifestations of Allah – Jafar al-Sadiq for the Bazighiyya, Hazrat Ali for the Dhammiyya etc.
Fard’s claim to be godman shows a direct influence of the Ghulat Shiites especially that of the Dhammiyya, who also believed that Hazrat Ali was God and the Holy Prophet was his messenger; more evident in Elijah’s claim to be Fard’s prophet.
That Drew Ali, in founding the Moorish Science Temple of America, was influenced by Ghulat Ismaili beliefs, and Fard by both, in founding the Nation of Islam is quite clear. Testifying more to this fact is offering three prayers daily and more so, the similarity of the wordings of the prayers, almost the same for both the MSTA and NOI.
Morrow is justified in concluding that “if the Ahmadiyya influence has been discussed in detail by previous scholars, and the Ismaili and Druze elements have been examined by others, the Twelver, Shaykhi, Babi, Gulat, and Yezidi aspects have been generally neglected.”
It is interesting to note that the prayers offered by the MSTA and NOI conclude with the words:
“Allah bind our hearts and minds back to our Ancient Forefathers Divine Creed and Principles, We ask this in Thy Holy name and the Seven Elohim. Amen.” (MSTA website: www.msta1928.org)
Pointing too directly to the Sevener Shiite denomination, this prayer leads the quest for the roots of Fard’s teachings towards other Muslim denominations and not, whatsoever, to the Ahmadiyya.
Why the alleged Ahmadiyya connection?
Fard Muhammad was arrested on many occasions for the unrest that he caused among the African-American community. He was extensively questioned by the FBI during their investigations, the details of which have now been declassified.
He refers to the Ahmadiyya community in America and also to have been in contact with them. The Ahmadiyya was an outreaching, proselytising missionary movement, as it is today, even in its early days of presence in America. Mufti Muhammad Sadiq, and the missionaries that succeeded him, Ahmadiyya missionaries in the US, would approach all classes of people and vice versa. Fard Muhammad seems to be one of such persons who must have gotten in touch; so is evident from the FBI reports.
Before delving into the FBI reports, one must bear in mind that Fard Muhammad’s and Elijah Muhammad’s statements comprise the bulk of this material. And yes, there is mention of coming in touch with the Ahmadiyya mission, Sufi Muti-ur-Rahman Bengali Sahib to be precise.
Elijah Muhammad stated his teachings about Jesusas Christ thus:
“Allah [referring here to Fard] taught me that he [Jesus] did not die on the cross, but he was killed on the streets of Jerusalem by a deputy sheriff at that time. The deputy sheriff brought death to Jesus by stabbing him through the heart, and the sword pierced all the way through into the timber or board that he was against, when he gave up his life to the deputy sheriff, to take it away instantly because the Jews wanted to torture him.” (The true history of Elijah Muhammad, by Elijah Muhammad)
This clearly is not the belief of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, nor has it ever been.
Going closer to the man himself, we find Fard telling the FBI, in his recorded statement:
“Why did we take Jerusalem from the devil? How long ago? Because one of our righteous brothers, who was a prophet by the name of Jesus was buried there […]” (FBI file 39-40, vault.fbi.gov, accessed 27 March 2023)
This, again, is contrary to Ahmadiyya’s belief, which states that Jesusas survived the crucifixion, travelled to Kashmir and died there of a natural death.
The curiosity of some researchers (Dennis Walker in his foreword to Morrow’s book cited above) has led them to believe that the photograph of Fard shows him holding a copy of the Quran that appears to be the English translation by Muhammad Ali. (Maulvi Muhammad Ali Sahib, founder of the Ahmadiyya Anjuman-e-Ishaat-e-Islam, or the Lahori faction as it is more commonly known.)
Morrow dismisses such assumptions that link to the Ahmadiyya community and asserts that “even mainstream Sunnis and Shiites used to read the translation by Muhammad Ali.”
Elijah Muhammad is reported to have said that Fard once gave him a copy of the Quran “in Arabic and English translated by Maulana Muhammad Ali of Pakistan.” (The Messenger: The rise and fall of Elijah Muhammad, by Karl Evanzz)
MM Knight states that this copy of the Holy Quran bore an inscription by Fard, declaring that Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas of Qadian was “the greatest religious leader of the present time.” (Blue-eyed Devil, by MM Knight) If this suffices to prove that Fard Muhammad was an Ahmadi, then the same must be said about Allama Muhammad Iqbal, who quite clearly declared Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas to be:
“The profoundest theologian among modern Indian Muhammadans”. (“Testimonies – Sir Muhammad Iqbal”, Al Hakam, 23 March 2018, Issue 1, p. 11)
Why is it that our opponents move the goalposts around when it comes to Sir Muhammad Iqbal, but insist on Fard Muhammad and his un-Islamic movement being inspired by the Ahmadiyya Muslim community? Both statements are quite literally the same and should amount to the same conclusion.
Informants of the FBI, through reports recorded in the NOI files, had informed the FBI on two occasions that Elijah Muhammad “had formerly been a member of the Moslem organization headed by Sufi MR Bengali MA, the headquarters of which organization were located at 4448 South Wabash Avenue, Chicago. He advised that he was no longer active in this organization.” (FBI reports)
Another report has it Elijah Muhammad was “once a member of this [Ahmadiyya] movement but had been expelled for organizing a hate group in Chicago”. (Ibid)
Had Fard Muhammad or his successor Elijah Muhammad been in contact with the Ahmadiyya mission in America? We cannot say for sure, but their statements seem to suggest so.
Does that mean their inspiration came from Ahmadiyya Muslim beliefs? Absolutely not, as we have discussed above.
We have seen where the inspiration actually resided: in the Shiite/Ismaili denominations of Islam.
Some researchers seem to leave Sunni Islam out of the equation; however, I strongly disagree with this statement.
As long as Sunni Islam believes in Jesusas Christ being alive in the heavens, and that he will return with his physical body, they will remain a major bloodline of not only the Nation of Islam but any such heresies that might erupt through this frustrated Messianic hope in future.