Did the Promised Messiah a.s. agree with the killing of renegades?
An allegation often levelled against the Promised Messiah, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas of Qadian is that he believed in the concept of killing apostates (qatl-e-murtad). To prove this, they present the following extract:
جو شخص مسلمان ہو كر یہ اعتقاد ركھے كہ كبھى آنحضرت صلعم نے اپنى عمر میں ضلالت كا عمل كیا تھا تو وہ كافر بے دین اور حد شرعى كے لائق ہے۔
“The person who, despite being Muslim, believes that the Holy Prophetsa ever performed a disgraceful act, is a disloyal kafir and liable to the Shariah’s penalty.” (Aina Kamalat-e-Islam, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 5, p. 170)
In reference to this, opponents say: If someone says that Muhammadsa was not a prophet, would they be subjected to the Shariah penalty? Therefore, it is clear that he is referring to killing of apostates.
There is, however, no connection between both remarks whatsoever.
The fact is that here, capital punishment for apostates cannot be the subject under discussion as the Promised Messiahas has just discussed the verse, “And He found thee wandering in search [for Him] and guided thee [unto Himself].” (Surah al-Duha, Ch.93: V.8)
In reference to the verse, Hazrat Ahmadas said that some people believe that prior to the revelation of the Quran, the Prophetsa was – God forbid – misguided and Allah bestowed guidance upon him thereafter, but this belief of people is an injustice and an affront to his noble status.
Thus, Hazrat Ahmadas is, in essence, addressing those who undermine the status of the Prophetsa as opposed to renegades.
An apostate or renegade (murtad) is a person who, having accepted Islam, rejects it completely and shuns the religion of Islam, but such commentators and scholars who interpret verse 8 of Surah al-Duha in the manner cited above are already Muslims.
The scholars at the time believed that those who insulted the Prophetsa in any form or way should be subjected to the Shariah penalty. This is something that is still believed by some non-Ahmadi Muslim scholars today.
On the contrary, the Promised Messiahas always taught forbearance towards those who slandered and hurled abuse at the Prophetsa of Islam throughout his writings and talks.
In light of Surah Al-e-Imran, verse 187, the Promised Messiahas repeatedly advised that abuse was inevitable on the part of the opponents and under no circumstances was it allowed to punish such a one, but rather patience should be practiced.
The Promised Messiahas said:
“There is a prophecy pertaining to the Latter Days in the Holy Quran and it is supported with a divine instruction that should not be ignored by true Muslims. That is,
لَتُبْلَوُنَّ فِىْ اَمْوَالِكُمْ وَاَنْفُسِكُمْ وَ لَتَسْمَعُنَّ مِنَ الَّذِىْنَ اُوْتُواالْكِتَابَ مِنْ قَبْلِكُمْ وَمِنَ الَّذِىْنَ اَشْرَكُوْا اَذًى كَثِىْرًا وَاِنْ تَصْبِرُوْا وَ تَتَّقُوْا فَاِنَّ ذَالِكَ مِنْ عَزْمِ الْاُمُوْرِ
“The translation is, ‘You shall surely be tried in your possessions and in your persons and you shall surely hear many hurtful things from those who were given the Book before you and from those who set up equals [to God]. But if you show fortitude and act righteously, then you shall be counted among those that show strong determination [Surah Al-e-Imran, Ch.3: V.187].’ The words, Adhan Kathira [hurtful things] suggests extreme pain … In the aforementioned verse, we have been instructed that upon hearing such foul language that causes pain to our hearts, we should show patience.” (Kitab-ul-Bariyyah, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 13, pp. 318-319)
Hazrat Ahmadas says:
“God has clearly instructed us, at the end of Surah Al-e-Imran, regarding the times when our religion is insulted and when hurtful and abusive language is used about our Noble Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, [Arabic verse] ‘You shall surely hear many hurtful things from those who were given the Book before you and from those who set up equals [to God]. Then, if you show fortitude and act righteously, then you shall be counted among those that show strong determination [Surah Al-e-Imran, Ch.3: V.187].’” (Al-Balagh, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 13, pp. 390-391)
Concerning the usage of language on the part of the Aryas, Hazrat Ahmadas said:
“If they hurt us by using harsh language then we should show patience until God Almighty makes a decisive distinction between us and them. It is about that patience that God Almighty states in the Holy Quran, [Arabic verse] ‘You shall surely be tried in your possessions and in your persons and you shall surely hear many hurtful things from those who were given the Book before you and from those who set up equals (to God). But if you show fortitude and act righteously, then you shall be counted among those that show strong determination.’” (Chashma-e-Ma‘rifat, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 23, p. 15)
To merely prove that the Promised Messiahas considered those people who left Islam worthy of the death penalty, the opponents of the Jamaat say that the founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement was of the belief that whoever left Islam, whether they opposed Islam openly or not, should be killed due to their apostacy.
To prove this, opponents argue that the Promised Messiahas, in his book Sirrul-Khilafa, cited a letter of Hazrat Abu Bakrra that he wrote to renegade tribes. The translation of the Arabic words is:
“I have sent to you (so and so) from the Ansar and Muhajirin and those who follow them with benevolence, and I commanded not to fight anyone nor kill him until he invites him to the caller unto Allah. Whosoever answers him, acknowledges him and desists [from fighting] and does good deeds, he will accept it from him, and he (the messenger) will help him to do so. Whosoever rejects, then I have commanded him to fight him (due to his rejection) until none of them have the capacity to fight him; I have commanded him to burn them with fire and kill them in every way and take their women and children as slaves and not accept anything from them except Islam.” (Sirrul-Khilafa, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 6, p. 396)
After presenting these words, opponents say that here, only murtads – those who left Islam – are being addressed and not exclusively those murtads who rebelled against Islam. In presenting this letter, according to them, the founder of the Ahmadiyya Jamaat accepted that it was permissible for murtads to be killed and burnt merely as a result of their apostacy.
Yet, those who have studied Sirrul-Khilafa know that in the same book Hazrat Ahmadas said in Arabic:
“And Aishara states, ‘When my father was appointed as Khalifa and Allah gave him leadership, he had to witness storms of discord from every side due to this, as well as the scores of false prophets and liars, and the rebellion of the hypocrites and renegades. He then had to face such difficulties as would have rendered asunder and crushed mountains instantly had it fallen upon them, but he was granted patience like that of the prophets until the help of Allah came, the false claimants were killed, the renegades perished, the discord vanished, the distressing ordeals were over, the matter was settled and Khilafat was established.” (Sirrul-Khilafa, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 8, p. 335)
(Research conducted by a panel of scholars at the Research Cell, Rabwah. Arabic passages translated by Zeeshan Khalid, UK and Kashif Virk, Sweden)