Unpacking allegations: Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Qadiani and the British Empire

Jazeb Hafeez, Student Jamia Ahmadiyya UK
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Recently, Adnan Rashid, a well-known Sunni academic, released a video on his YouTube channel raising the allegation that Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas was a “colonial prophet” or a “spy for the British”.

The life and legacy of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas, the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat, remain subjects of intense debate and interest within the Muslim world. While accepted by his followers as the Promised Messiah and reformer of Islam of this age, his association with the British colonial authorities has been a topic of never-ending controversy.

Are Ahmadis trying to divide the ummah?

An allegation is commonly raised against the Jamaat stating that Ahmadis are secret spies of the British, traitors to the Muslim ummah, and have been sent out to establish division within the ummah.

Ironically, this is not the case, as it appears that many Muslim sects united to label Ahmadis non-Muslims. Under the Bhutto Regime In 1974, persecution and opposition against the Ahmadiyya community spouted. However, later, the Pakistani government, under General Zia Ul Haq in 1984, passed Ordinance XX, which declared Ahmadi Muslims as non-Muslims and stopped them from practising basic Muslim duties. Its aim was to, God forbid, eradicate Ahmadiyyat in Pakistan. This ordinance received great support from a majority of Muslim sects at the time and, to this day, is something so deeply engraved in Pakistan’s establishment. Nevertheless, this shows that Ahmadis have actually helped unite the ummah by allowing them to unite against them.

Persecution of Muslims in India prior to the advent of the Messiah

Prior to the advent of the Promised Messiahas, India, as a country, was in a very precarious state. Hindus, Muslims, Christians, and Sikhs were at each other’s  necks. Many oppressive regimes, including those of the Hindu Maratha empire, were the key to reducing the Mughal reign. “After the death of Aurangzeb in 1707, the Marathas rapidly conquered Mughal territory across India and often retaliated against local Muslim populations in the process.” (“Hindu-Muslim conflict in India: A ‘pre-colonial’ view”, https://theasiadialogue.com)

“Using a new historical dataset of religious violence, we argue that the construction of religious identities and the origins of religious conflict in India are not colonial but precolonial processes.” (Ibid.)

We can see that many years of bloodshed followed with many atrocities being committed against Muslims, especially in this era. Muslim places of worship were quickly converted into stables for the horses and cows of the regime, as well as many Muslim buildings and homes set alight. Muslims were not even allowed to announce the call to prayer, being stripped of their basic religious rights. (Aaina-e-Kamalat-e-Islam, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 5, p. 507)

Mr Syad Muhammad Latif, a renowned Indian historian, states in his book, The History of the Punjab, regarding the levels of persecution faced by Muslims at the time, “Numerous mosques were razed to the ground, and the Afghan prisoners who were in chains, were compelled to smear the debris with the blood of hogs.” (History of the Panjab from the Remotest Antiquity to the Present Time, Syad Muhammad Lateef, [1891], p. 287)

He further states, “They (Muslims) were persecuted in every conceivable manner, their mosques being desecrated and turned into pigsties, and their men into swineherds. The grandest of their shrines were utilized as magazines and arsenals. In the meanest of the mosques (which were in a dilapidated condition previous to the Sikh ascendency), the Muslims used to assemble secretly to offer up prayers ; but even in these they dared not pray aloud, for fear of their enemies falling upon and annihilating them” (History of the Panjab from the Remotest Antiquity to the Present Time, Syad Muhammad Lateef, [1891], p. 291)

“The majority of the well-to-do Mahomedans emigrated into British territory and claimed the protection of its rules. Here they were allowed to follow their religion unmolested. The muezzin could now fearlessly summon the faithful to the performance of their devotion, and his stentorian voice gladdened the hearts of those who had so long been in bondage, and who had been prevented by their idolatrous and infidel masters from performing their religious duties according to their divine law. Politics and religion could here be discussed freely; subjects of which they could only dream while under the control of the Khalsa”. (Ibid.)

Why did the Promised Messiahas praise the Empire?

After the British Empire took control over India, as stated above by historian Muhammad Latif, all of these draconian restrictions were lifted, and people were allowed to freely practise their religions. Therefore, when Hazrat Ahmadas praises the British government in his books, it’s not because he was a spy; rather, he was thankful for the protection the Empire provided for all Muslims.

It is narrated in a hadith of Tirmidhi that the Holy Prophetsa stated:

 ‏ مَنْ لاَ يَشْكُرِ النَّاسَ لاَ يَشْكُرِ اللَّهَ ‏

“Whoever is not grateful to the people, he is not grateful to Allah.” (Jami‘ at-Tirmidhi, Kitab al-birri wa s-sillati ‘an rasulillahsa, Hadith 1954)

Furthermore, if we delve into the life of the Holy Prophetsa, we see that he would encourage his Companionsra in the early days to migrate to Abyssinia under the gracious rule of the Christian king Negus, or Najashi, and we see that the Holy Prophetsa showed him great respect and would only speak positively of him.

This doesn’t therefore mean that the Holy Prophetsa, God forbid, was his spy or his agent. He was grateful to him due to his method of just rule and the help he provided the Muslims in their hour of need.

Did the Promised Messiahas support the British?

Now, to counter the main allegation that Hazrat Ahmadas worked for the British and was their spy, we should take a look at the quote from St. Paul, who stated:

“But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.” (1 Corinthians 15:13-17)

For the majority of his life, one of the matters the Promised Messiahas dealt with was proving the demise of Jesusas. Furthermore, Hazrat Ahmadas, over large periods of his life, debated key and influential followers of the Christian faith and strongly rejected the ideas of the Trinity as well as Jesus physically returning from the heavens.

The British Empire was a Christian empire; it intertwined its political pursuits with a primarily Christian ideology. Anglicanism, alongside other Christian denominations, was employed as a tool for “spiritual guidance” and cultural assimilation within its extensive territories, although the manifestation of this relationship varied across regions and time periods.

Would this Empire really employ such a person to represent them who was so outspoken about their very own religion? Why would the Christian Empire allow such a person to work for them? Would they not rather punish such a person? Hazrat Ahmadas even invited Her Majesty Queen Victoria to accept Islam and, on multiple occasions, has offered to educate the people of the Empire regarding their religion.

Did the Promised Messiahas write books to fund his medication?

Regarding the ludicrous allegation that Hazrat Ahmadas would write his books solely to generate income for his medication expenses, again, this is just an absurd allegation made by whimsical people. How one can even concoct such a statement only displays their own inner self. We see that even in the life of the Holy Prophetsa, he would ask his followers to contribute to the cause of Jihad and people from all walks of life would sacrifice their wealth, or their horses, or their swords, and would even donate dirhams or dates.

Regarding Hazrat Abu Bakrra, we read:

Zaid bin Aslam narrates from his father, “I heard Umar bin al-Khattabra saying, ‘The Holy Prophetsa told us to give alms, and at that time, I had some wealth. I thought to myself that today I would surpass Abu Bakr. If there is a day that I shall surpass him, then it is today.’ Hazrat Umarra continued, ‘I offered half of all my wealth. The Holy Prophetsa asked, “What have you left behind for your family?” I humbly submitted, “I have left for my family as much as I have brought with me.” Then, Hazrat Abu Bakrra brought all the wealth that he had (when Hazrat Abu Bakrra arrived, Hazrat Umarra explained that Hazrat Abu Bakrra had brought all the wealth he owned). The Holy Prophetsa asked, “O Abu Bakr, what have you left behind for your family?” He submitted, “I have left [the name of] Allah and His Messengersa for them.”’ Hazrat Umarra said, ‘By Allah, I can never surpass him in anything.’” (Sunan at-Tirmidhi, Kitab al-manaqib, Bab raja‘ih an yakuna abu bakr…, Hadith 3675)

Is it fair to say that even these beloved Companionsra of the Holy Prophetsa, who sacrificed anything and everything in a split second for their beloved Mastersa, were also part of a so-called cult? Absolutely not! Hence, this shows that the Companionsra were ready to strive for the cause of Islam. Now, in this era, as the time of jihad of the pen has come, the Companions of the Promised Messiahas also sacrificed everything they had for the propagation of Islam by explaining its truth through books and literary works to spread and defend the honour of Islam.

When the Promised Messiahas penned Barahin-e-Ahmadiyya to defend Islam from the attacks of Christians and Hindus, the Muslim ulema were left astounded and awe-inspired by his works, and Muhammad Hussien Batalvi, who would later become an opponent of Hazrat Ahmadas, also praised this book. Another reason that proves that the Promised Messiahas had no desire for financial gain from his books is that he freely distributed many of his works, aiming for people to read and benefit from them.

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