Tahir Nasser, UK
Sunnis and Shias, as well as all other sects in Islam, claim that as Ahmadis (in their view) do not consider the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa to be the Seal of all Prophets, they are non-Muslim and try to present evidence as “proof” of their assertion.
This is notwithstanding the Ahmadiyya Jamaat requiring profession of belief in the Prophet Muhammadsa being the “Seal of the Prophets” in their Bai‘at.
In an attempt to justify that Ahmadis are non-Muslim, non-Ahmadis present quotes from the Jamaat’s literature that claim that all those who deny Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas to be the Promised Messiah are non-Muslims. They utilise a tactic employed by schoolchildren – to throw the criticism back on to the other person, in a childish manner.
In support of their claims, they quote various passages from the writings of Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmadra in particular.
In this article, we are going to review those passages and see if their critique holds up to scrutiny.
In his book, Truth about the Split, Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmadra discusses what the position of his predecessor, Hazrat Maulvi Nuruddin, Khalifatul Masih Ira was on non-Ahmadis, specifically whether they are Muslim or not. He discusses an article he penned during the lifetime of his predecessor titled, A Muslim Is One Who Believes in All the Messengers of God.
He describes the thesis outlined therein and seeks to demonstrate that, since Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Ira read and approved for publication his article, the thoughts therein should be considered to be the views of his predecessor on the matter.
On page 144 of Truth About the Split, he writes that the purpose of the article was to demonstrate that:
“…Those who did not believe in the Promised Messiahas were not Muslims.”
He goes on to state that:
“I wrote that as we believed the Promised Messiahas to be one of the prophets of God, we could not possibly regard his deniers as Muslims. It is true we did not consider them to be kafir billah (deniers of God), but how could we doubt that they were kafir-bil-ma‘mur (deniers of God’s Messenger)?”
This explanation follows on from the elucidation of his position vis-a-vis those who reject Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas as the Promised Messiah and Imam Mahdi. Thus, he writes on page 60:
“The man who rejects a prophet thus necessarily becomes a kafir, not because he denies the truth of any particular Prophet X or Y, but such denial will necessarily lead him to reject a revelation of God. To me, the kufr which arises from the denial of any nabi has its basis in this principle and not in any personal quality of the nabi. And inasmuch as the revelation of which the acceptance is obligatory on mankind comes only through prophets, it is the rejection of such recipients of Divine revelation and not of others that leads to unbelief.
“Now, as we hold that the revelation which came to the Promised Messiahas are such that their acceptance is obligatory on mankind in general, to us, the man who rejects the Promised Messiahas is a kafir agreeably to the teachings of the Holy Quran, although he may well be a believer in all the other truths of religion because the presence even of one of the necessary conditions of kufr is sufficient to make a man kafir.
“I may, however, add that in my opinion, kufr arises from a denial of one or more of the fundamental articles of religion, not because such a denial makes a man the object of unending punishment, but because the denial makes him guilty of rebellion against God and leads to the extinction of his spiritual life.
“Now, as Islam bases its judgments upon what is patent and not upon what is possible, it cannot but class as kafir such as fail to accept any of the prophets, even though such failure may be due to their want of information concerning him. In the latter case, they will not, of course, be the objects of Divine punishment. The denial would be due to causes altogether beyond their control. It is in accordance with the same principle that Muslims have so long with one accord designated as kuffar all those who have not accepted the faith of Islam, without taking into consideration the question whether or not such failure is occasioned by want of adequate information concerning the Holy Prophetsa.”
Thus, he explained that denial of a prophet has two aspects: Those who deny him by virtue of not accepting him, without having heard his claim or appreciated his arguments, and secondly, those who reject him after hearing and appreciating his claim fully. While the latter are accountable before God, the former are not. He argues, however, that both classify as “disbelievers” or “kuffar” in the technical sense of the term, just as rejection of the Prophet Muhammadsa places a person in the category of disbelief, whether one does so actively or simply by not having accepted him, due to a lack of knowledge, for example.
From these quotes, non-Ahmadi Muslims allege that Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmadra declared those who reject the Promised Messiah and Imam Mahdias as outside the pale of Islam and not Muslim in every sense of the word. They accuse him of takfir on the same lines as they commit takfir against Ahmadi Muslims, and seek to justify their takfir of Ahmadi Muslims by reference to his alleged takfir of non-Ahmadi Muslims. Are they right?
The first step necessary is to define our terms. In that vein, let’s take a look at the key important terms relevant to the topic:
Muslim: A “Muslim” literally means “one who submits”. There are two senses in which a person may be a “Muslim”. Firstly, there is when one belongs to and identifies with, the category or community of Islam (categorical sense). The second is that a person actually fulfils the definition of the word “Muslim” and thus “submits” to the beliefs and actions God requires of them (definitional sense).
Momin: A “momin” means a “believer” and refers to the criteria of belief required of a person who claims to have submitted to Islam, i.e. a “Muslim”.
1. Belief that there is none worthy of worship save Allah
2. Belief in the angels
3. Belief in God’s revealed books
4. Belief in all the messengers of God
5. Belief in the Last Day
6. Belief in the decree of God
Kafir: A “kafir” is he who rejects any of the terms of “belief” that make a person a “momin”. It is related to the conditions of belief but is used colloquially to refer to those who reject Islam and are therefore non-Muslim. However, it should be clear that being a “kafir” and a “non-Muslim” are different things from the lexical perspective, as we shall see.
What does it mean to “be a Muslim”?
We have identified above two senses in which a person may be a “Muslim”: the categorical and definitional sense. Is there any evidence in the Quran however that such definitions exist?
Belonging to the Ummah
The criteria of entering into the fold of those who call themselves “Muslim” as a community has been defined by the Quran and the Prophetsa of Islam and is straightforward and simple. The criteria given is to recite the Kalima:
لا اله الا اللہ محمد رسول اللہ
“There is none worthy of worship save Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah”.
No mention of Khatm al-Nubuwwah! No mention of belief in other Messengers! To recognise another as belonging to this category, the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa gave the following criteria:
“Whoever prays as we pray, turns to face the same Qiblah as us and eats our slaughtered animals, that is a Muslim.’” (Sunan al-Nasai, Kitab al-Iman wa Shara‘i‘ah, Hadith 4997)
This is the straightforward definition by which a person may be recognised as a “Muslim” in the sense of belonging to the community of Islam generally. This does not mean that he is a “Muslim” in the sense that he truly follows the teachings of Islam and has actually submitted to God.
Many within this category may be adjudged by Allah as disobedient to Him and rebellious, despite being included in this category. Indeed, in the Quran, God explains this point well. Addressing the Bedouin Arabs, God in the Holy Quran forbids them from calling themselves “believers” but permits them to call themselves “Muslim”:
“The Arabs of the desert say, ‘We believe.’ Say, ‘You have not believed [yet]; but rather say, ‘We have accepted Islam [submitted, i.e. are Muslim]’ for the [true] belief has not yet entered into your hearts. But if you obey Allah and His Messenger, He will not detract anything from your deeds. Surely, Allah is Most Forgiving, Merciful. (Surah al-Hujurat, Ch.49: V.15)
In this verse, God draws a clear distinction between calling oneself a “Muslim” and possessing true belief. It is possible, says God, to call oneself a “Muslim”, but not have any belief at all in one’s heart. This is also proven by looking at the hadith. The Prophet Muhammadsa stated:
“Some men from my followers will be brought and taken towards the left side, whereupon I will say, ‘O Lord, [these are] my companions!’ It will be said, ‘You do not know what new things they introduced [into the religion] after you.’ I will then say as the righteous pious servant [Jesus] said, ‘I was a witness over them while I dwelt among them … (to His Statement) … and You are the Witness to all things.’ (Ch.5: V.118) Then it will be said, ‘(O Muhammad) These people never stopped to apostatize since you left them.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab al-Tafsir, Hadith 4740)
Those who call themselves Muslim but do not fulfil the criteria of true belief and are thus Muslim but not momin are described as being at the level of “dun-aliman” or “without (true) faith” by Imam Al-Raghib. They are Muslim by category only.
“Muslim” or “momin”?
When we look at narrations of the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa describing the condition and status of those who fail in their basic religious obligations, we get a deeper understanding of these terms. He described as “kafir” (rejectors) those who deliberately neglect their daily prayers, despite the fact that such would still be categorised formally as “Muslim”:
“Between a person and kufr is abandoning the prayer.” (Sunan Ibn Majah, Kitab Iqamatus-Salah wa al-Sunnah fiha, Hadith 1078)
“The covenant that distinguishes between us and them is prayer; so whoever leaves it, he has committed Kufr.” (Sunan Ibn Majah, Kitab Iqamatus-Salah wa al-Sunnah fiha, Hadith 1079)
Thus, by deliberately abandoning one’s prayers – as many who call themselves “Muslim” do – they have committed an act of “kufr”. This is despite having the right to call themselves “Muslim” and being recognised as “Muslim”. After all, a person may privately abandon their prayers, yet publicly fulfil the criteria set out in the hadith above of Sunan al-Nasai in the manner of Muslims, facing the Qiblah in prayer and eating meat slaughtered by Muslims.
One may still therefore call oneself a “Muslim” and also hold the right to be called a “Muslim” while yet committing kufr as regards the conditions of iman, by which one becomes a “momin”.
From this, one may draw the erroneous conclusion that the term “Muslim” only refers to the “categorical” sense of belonging to the community or Ummah of Islam. This is incorrect. This is only the most basic meaning of the term “Muslim”. The Quran also speaks of a higher meaning of being a “Muslim”. This second, higher meaning, described as the “definitional” sense, in reality, is no different than the term “momin”, since it refers to an individual who “submits” to the requirements of God, known as iman (beliefs) and a‘maal (actions), and one who fulfils the requirements of iman, in Islam, is none other than a momin (believer). Thus the Quran states:
“Say ye: ‘We believe in Allah and what has been revealed to us, and what was revealed to Abraham and Ishmael, and Isaac, and Jacob and [his] children, and what was given to Moses and Jesus, and what was given to [all other] Prophets from their Lord. We make no difference between any of them; and to Him we submit ourselves [are Muslim].’” (Surah al-Baqarah, Ch.2: V.137)
The verse ends with the term “to Him we submit ourselves” signifying that the “Muslims” (submitters) are truly those who believe in all those sent by Allah. Yet, later in the very same chapter, Allah repeats the same point, this time, ascribing belief in all the messengers to the “believers” – the “momineen”:
“This Messenger [of Ours] believes in that which has been revealed to him from his Lord, and [so do] the believers [momineen]: all [of them] believe in Allah, and in His angels, and in His Books, and in His Messengers, [saying,] ‘We make no distinction between any of His Messengers;’ and they say, ‘We hear, and we obey. [We implore] Thy forgiveness, O our Lord, and to Thee is the returning.’” (Surah al-Baqarah, Ch.2: V.286)
Thus, the Quran itself establishes the point that there is a higher stage of being a “Muslim” and that is, to be a “momin”.
What did Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIra mean?
Thus, the question arises as to which of the two definitions of “Muslim” was Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmadra describing when he wrote and defended his article, titled, A Muslim Is One Who Believes in All the Messengers of God?
Before getting to what he himself said about this passage, it is clear even from the title of the article, that he is using the word “Muslim” here in the sense of a “true” Muslim, also known as a “momin”, since he is relating the issue to belief in all the Messengers of God. This is related to the higher sense of the term “Muslim”; the definitional sense.
In his own words, Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmadra, when directly asked in court what he meant in the passages quoted from Truth About the Split, stated:
“When I use the word ‘disbeliever’, what I have in mind is the other kind of disbeliever, about whom I have already provided an explanation, in that I do not exclude them from the Muslim community. When I say that they are outside the pale of Islam, the view in my mind is what is expressed on page 240 of Mufradat Imam Al-Raghib, where two categories of ‘Islam’ have been expounded: Firstly, substandard faith [dun-al-iman] and superior faith [fawq-al-iman]. A ‘substandard faith’ does include those Muslims who possess a lower level of faith, and a ‘superior faith’ refers to those Muslims who are so distinguished in their level of faith that they are far above a lower level of faith. Therefore, when I said that certain people are outside the pale of Islam, I had in mind those Muslims who fall under the category of superior faith. There is also a narration in Mishkat in which the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, states, ‘A person who helps an oppressor and supports him is outside the pale of Islam.’” (Mubahathah-e Rawalpindi, pp. 238-239 [Court transcript following 1953 Punjab disturbances])
Thus, the point that was being made by Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmadra was entirely in line with the Quran, hadith and the true scholars of the history of Islam.
As Ahmadis, we have never declared anyone who recites the kalima as outside the categorical definition of Islam. They are still part of the Ummah of Muhammadsa.
As such, Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmadra continued in the same book, Truth About the Split, to refer to those who had rejected the Promised Messiahas, as Muslims, in the categorical sense of the term.
On page 289, for example, we read the sentence:
“But in the meantime, the conversion of a few Englishmen to Islam brought to Khawaja Sahib the support of the general body of non-Ahmadi Muslims …” (Truth about the Split, p. 289)
“But these people did not abandon their plans. Khawaja Kamaluddin now asked for permission to offer prayers behind non-Ahmadi Muslims, pleading as his ground the special circumstances of England.” (Truth about the Split, p. 317)
If he meant, on page 60 and then on pages 144-145, that those who reject Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas are non-Muslim in every sense of the word, then why would he refer to them as “Muslim” on pages 289 and 317 of the very same book!
One can see what a lie it is that Ahmadis pronounce those who reject Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas as kafir in the same way that Sunni and Shia Muslims commit takfir against Ahmadis, for while Ahmadis are justified, theologically, in their position, while yet including Sunnis and Shias in the category of “Muslim” broadly, Sunni and Shia Muslims have unilaterally and summarily cast Ahmadis out of the body of Islam in totality, rejecting even their claim to belong to the Ummah of Muhammadsa.
Another objection someone might raise is that his words, though technically correct, were unnecessary, and inflammatory, and that he should not have stated this position. But how could it possibly be that one who accepts the Imam Mahdi and Promised Messiahas should have the same status in Allah’s eyes as one who rejects him?
If failure to observe one’s prayers is kufr in the eyes of the Prophet Muhammadsa, then how much greater is the kufr of one who rejects a Messenger of God, who was sent to establish the prayers of the whole world?
He told the truth. He did so fearlessly. And in doing so, he established, early in the history of Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya, the importance of recognising the Promised Messiah and Imam Mahdias in an act reminiscent of the firm stance taken by Hazrat Abu Bakrra on the question of Zakat, in his early Khilafat. And for that and a million other graces from his pen, from his lips and from his prayers, Ahmadis in particular, and the world in general, are indebted to him, forevermore.