Zafar Bhatti, UK
What is “Muslimness”?
The Second Khalifara sacrificed the homeland and birthplace of Ahmadiyyat in solidarity with his fellow Muslims so that they could establish the fledgling state of Pakistan together. The efforts of the Second Khalifara and the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community were instrumental in the formation of Pakistan; in fact, it would be no exaggeration to say that without the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community’s help, there would be no Pakistan.
As such, it was unthinkable to entertain that the Second Khalifara would abandon Pakistan. In just a few years after the partition, in 1953, the very Muslim clerics who had opposed the formation of Pakistan, in the form of the Majlis-e-Ahrar group, led a vehement wave of opposition against the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community which swept Pakistan; “Dozens of Ahmadi Muslims were killed, hundreds more injured, and countless Ahmadi shops, houses, and mosques were set ablaze” (The Wrong Kind of Muslim, p. 55).
The ideology for the Majlie-e-Ahrar group was fuelled by Maulana Maududi. Maulana Maududdi was a journalist turned Muslim cleric who came to great prominence in pre-partition India and founded the pseudo religious-political group Jamaat-e-Islami, which he took with him to Pakistan. However, his in-depth grasp of religion was weak (Maktub-i-Hidayat) and being a journalist, he had the knack of presenting and sensationalising a point of view, thereby inflaming the masses.
In fact, the modern day violent Jihad – practiced by extremist groups, which aims to establish a global Islamic system through the use of force – is underpinned by Maududian theology; “Islam wishes to destroy all states and governments anywhere on the face of the earth which are opposed to the ideology and programme of Islam regardless of the country or the Nation which rules it … the objective of the Islamic ‘Jihad’ is to eliminate the rule of an un-Islamic system and establish in its stead an Islamic system of state rule.” (Jihad in Islam, pp. 6-7, p. 22)
Maududi was one of the most vehement opponents of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in the newly formed Pakistan. Eventually, Maududi’s Jamaat-e-Islami group would be instrumental in the radicalisation of Pakistan and its enslavement to an extremist religious clergy, resulting in the enactment of laws declaring Ahmadi Muslims outside the pale of Islam.
Maududi’s justification for the persecution of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community centred on a number of false premises, three of which relate to the current discussion:
1. The redefinition of what a Muslim is and thereby the classification of Ahmadis as non-Muslim
2. That Ahmadis only “pose as members of the Muslim fraternity” (The Qadiani Problem, p. 44)
3. That Ahmadis have “political ambitions” (Ibid, p. 23) in Pakistan
Those familiar with Evans’ work will now begin to see similarities with how Evans’ own line of argument seems to parallel Maududi’s; although Evans wisely stays away from the question of “Who is a Muslim, and what is Islam?” (Far From the Caliph’s Gaze, p. 241), he mirrors some of Maududi’s other accusations.
Firstly, just as Maududi accuses Ahmadis as posing as Muslims, Evans transforms this to read that Ahmadis present a “counterfeit-proof” of their “Muslimness.” Secondly, whereas Maududi accuses the Jamaat of having “political aspirations” in Pakistan, Evans takes that one step further, transforming it to read that the Khalifa has global “political aspirations.”
Evans’ contention is ironic, as it was Maududi himself who laid the modernday foundation for the global political aspirations of Islam and it is only the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community that has consistently and vociferously presented the counter-narrative to this framework.
In fact this is one of the reasons for which members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community are considered traitors to Islam and persecuted as from its inception, the founder of the community, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas has argued against a violent jihad, stating that “jihad with the sword has ended … but the jihad of purifying your souls must continue” (The British Government and Jihad, p. 17).
In fact, one of the first martyrs of the community, Hazrat Sahibzada Abdul Latifra was said to have been stoned to death on the orders of the king because “he preached against Jihad”. (Friday Sermon of Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmadra, 6 August 1935)
As such, it is no exaggeration to state that because of the opposition to Maududi’s global political aspirations, members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community have lost their very lives. Yet the irony is that Evans accuses the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of having the said global “political aspirations” that Ahmadis themselves have single-handedly striven against.
We will now examine Evans’ next argument which parallel’s Maududis accusation of Ahmadis posing as Muslims: that Ahmadis are in a constant state of anguish to come up with new ways “to produce a counterfeit proof of Muslimness” (Far From the Caliph’s Gaze, p.43).
However, it is important that we lay the groundwork defining what a Muslim is. For indeed, although Evans does not address this question directly, Evans’ accusations that the Ahmadis are constantly engaged in a pretence to demonstrate their “Muslimness” is based on this very question.
Redefinition of who a Muslim is
In 1953, Pakistan was able to successfully fight off the attempted hijacking of the country by extremist clerics. Following the riots instigated by the Majlis-e-Ahrar, the Pakistani Government commissioned a judicial review of the riots, which is now famously known as the Munir Inquiry Report.
One of the central themes that the Munir Inquiry Report discusses or tries to find an answer to is the definition of a Muslim – or what Evans deems to describe as Muslimness. Muslimness is not a term I particularly endorse or like; either an individual is a Muslim or not – there is no such thing as Muslimness.
In fact, it is terms like Muslimness which lead to divisions in society – as they seek to provide a yardstick whereby the extent to which someone is a Muslim can be measured.
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community believes that it is not the responsibility of men to judge the extent to which belief has truly penetrated the heart and that this is the domain of God.
Indeed, when the Munir Inquiry Report asked the very question of who a Muslim is, scholar after scholar provided differing answers.
The Munir Inquiry Report found that there was no definition that each Muslim sect shared unanimously. But in addition to this, what the Munir Inquiry Report shows is that the simplest definition was that which was provided by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community:
“The definition by the Sadr Anjuman Ahmadiya, Rabwah, in its written statement is that a Muslim is a person who belongs to the ummah of the Holy Prophet and professes belief in kalima-i-tayyaba.” (Report of the Court of Inquiry Constituted Under Punjab Act II of 1954 to Enquire Into the Punjab Disturbances of 1953, p. 218)
According to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, anyone who says they are Muslim and recites the Kalima, has the right to call themselves a Muslim. This teaching of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is also reflected in the life of the Holy Prophetsa, as there is not one single instance that can be found in his life, where he declared someone who claimed to be a Muslim as non-Muslim.
For example, if we look at Abdullah ibn Ubayy ibn Salul, also known as the Chief of the Hypocrites, who declared the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa as the lowest of the low (God forbid) and continually opposed and plotted against him, even then the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa did not declare him as a non-Muslim. In fact the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa would even go on to lead his funeral prayer and provide his own shirt as his burial shroud.
Furthermore there is another incident at the time of the Holy Prophet, where in a certain battle, a Muslim solider had overcome his assailant and was about to dispatch him, at which point the assailant recited the Kalima and declared himself to be a Muslim.
However, the Muslim, believing this to be a ruse of the assailant, still killed him. When this news reached the Holy Prophetsa, he became so distressed that he kept repeatedly questioning the Muslim soldier, named Usamara, asking, “Who will absolve you, Usama, from ignoring the confession of faith?” Then, the Prophetsa questioned whether Usamara had ripped open the heart of the assailant to confirm his belief. Usamara was so upset that he narrates that he wished he himself “had never been a Muslim before that day and that I had never killed the man”. (Murder in the Name of Allah, p. 61).
Beyond this straightforward definition of who a Muslim is, leaves the reality of what a Muslim should be, which I present below in the words of the Promised Messiahas:
“… the essence of Islam is really magnificent, and no one can genuinely be given this noble title of being a Muslim until he hands over all his being: with all its faculties, desires, and intentions, to God, and unless he withdraws his hands from his egoism with all its antecedents, and takes exclusively to His path. So, therefore, one shall be called a Muslim in the real sense only when his life of careless abandon is transformed by a drastic revolution such that the entity of his ego that incites to evil (nafs-e-amara), along with all the emotions attendant upon it die readily, and after espousing this ‘death’, on account of being ‘righteous, purely for the sake of Allah’, a new life will kindle within him. It would be such a blessed life which would be shorn of everything except complete obedience to the Creator and selfless sympathy for His creatures.
“The obedience to God will take the form of one’s being ever-ready to endure insults and humiliation for the purpose of establishing His Glory and Majesty and His Uniqueness. And one’s readiness to court death a thousand times in one’s endeavours to ensure eternal life for the attribute of His Oneness. And one hand may gladly sever one’s other hand if obedience to Him so dictates. And one’s love for the magnificence of His Commandments and one’s thirst for seeking His approbation may create such disgust toward sin as if it were a consuming inferno, or a lethal poison, or a devastating thunderbolt from which one must flee with all the powers at one’s disposal. In other words, one must abandon all the desires of one’s ego in order to obey His Wishes, and endure life-threatening injuries if only to ensure becoming grafted to Him, and sever all bondage of flesh in order to demonstrate one’s bond with Him. The service to Allah’s creatures takes the form of providing benefit to all other creatures in their numerous needs through a variety of ways and means in which (Allah) the Eternal Allocator has made various creatures dependent on various others by exercising all faculties of one’s being, in all such matters purely for the sake of Allah. One must use one’s God-given faculties to help everyone who is in need of help, and must strive to improve not only the needy person’s position in the worldly life but also his life in the Hereafter. … So this tremendous obedience to God and practical service which is mingled with affection and love, and filled with sincerity and perfect genuineness, this indeed is what constitutes Islam, and its essence and its crux, which one attains after one attains ‘death’ over one’s egoism, (apprehension of) other creatures, greed and self-will.” (Aina-e-Kamalat-e-Islam, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 5, pp. 58-62)
This is the definition of Islam and being Muslim that Ahmadis strive for; it is linked directly to and can only be judged by God. There is no concept of any pretence, any complex of what people may or may not think of us or any anxiety to display our “Muslimness”.
An Ahmadi Muslim’s Islam is linked directly and firmly with the love of the Creator and His creation, it is only His pleasure we seek and only His pleasure we are interested in.
Ahmadis pose as Muslims
“If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.” (Mother Teresa)
Despite Evans’ understanding that Ahmadis believe a Muslim to be defined by their “own private relationship to God” (Far From the Caliph’s Gaze, p. 167) he argues that “most members of the Jama‘at are faced by a more pressing problem of how to make their Muslimness legible at the level of the surface and in the realm of the public.” (Ibid)
As stated earlier, Evans falls into a similar line of argumentation as Maududi, whereas Maududi used the words “posing” as Muslims, Evans uses the words “counterfeit-proof ”.
The result of Evans’ argumentation is the same as Maududi: Ahmadis are engaged in an outer display to prove their own “Muslimness”.