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Differences in belief of Lahore Ahmadis and Qadianis

Reasons for the Split

(The Light & Islamic Review: Vol. 69; No. 4; July-August 1992; p. 15-18)

Introduction / Confirmation by Mirza Mahmud Ahmad / Funeral Prayers for other Muslims Prohibited / Another Statement by Maulana Muhammad Ali

It is very frequently asked, What are the differences of belief between the Lahore Ahmadis and the Qadianis, and what were the reasons which led to a Split within the Ahmadiyya Movement in the year 1914. The answers are quite clear and simple. Let us first give the observations, made at that very time, by the renowned Muslim religious scholar and journalist, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad (who many years later held high office in the Indian government). The following is what he reported in his newspaper, Al-Hilal, in its issue for 25 March 1914:

"For some time, there were two parties in this Jama`at, on the issue of takfir. One group believed that non-Ahmadi Muslims are Muslims, even though they may not acknowledge Mirza sahib's claims. The other group, however, stated clearly and plainly that those people who do not believe in Mirza sahib are definitely kafir - inna li-llahi wa inna ilai-hi raji`un.

"The head of the latter group is Mirza Bashir-ud-Din Mahmud Ahmad, and they have now declared him to be their khalifa, but the first group does not accept this. The writing published in this connection by Maulana Muhammad Ali, and the wonderful courage with which he has stayed in Qadian to express his belief, is truly an event which shall ever be regarded as a memorable event of this year."

The reason for the split is clearly given here. Shortly afterwards, in 1918, Maulana Muhammad Ali wrote a booklet in English entitled The Split, about the doctrinal differences which caused the breach. It begins as follows:

"This is the fourth tract of the series of tracts on the Ahmadiyya movement, and it deals with the division in the movement which was brought about on the death of Maulvi Nur-ud-Din on the 13th March 1914, though the seed of it was sown, as the following pages will show, about three years earlier. I have been compelled to deal with this internal difference in a separate tract, as a great misconception prevails as to the true reasons of the split which is due, not to a desire to work separately, but to far-reaching differences on the cardinal principles of the religion of Islam. Mirza Mahmud Ahmad, a son of the Founder of the movement, who is the present head of the Qadian section of the community, began to drift away from the basic principles of the Islamic faith about three years after the death of the Promised Messiah, going so far as to declare plainly that the hundreds of millions of Muslims, living in the world, should be no more treated as Muslims. He has laid down the basis of creating a breach with Islam itself, seeking to lay with the Ahmadiyya movement, which was a movement strictly within the circle of Islam, foundations of a new religion altogether."

A few pages further on, the Maulana writes:

"The Promised Messiah died in 1908, and soon after his death opposition to him began to mellow down, his own verbal assurances in 1908 in big respectable gatherings in Lahore immediately before his death going a long way to remove the misconception spread by the Maulvis. Yet only six years had elapsed, when his own son, Mirza Mahmud Ahmad, misled into a wrong belief by some youthful members of the community, began to promulgate the doctrine that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was actually a prophet, that he was in fact the Ahmad spoken of in Jesus' prophecy referred to in the Holy Quran in 61:6, and that all those Muslims who had not entered into his bai`at formally wherever they might be living in the world were kafirs, outside the pale of Islam, even though they may not have heard the name of the Promised Messiah, and that the confession of the Unity of God and of the apostleship of the Prophet Muhammad did no more serve the purpose of bringing non-Muslims into the circle of Islam which it had served for the last thirteen hundred years." (pp. 9,10)

Near the close of the booklet, he sums up:

"The basis of the religion taught by the Holy Prophet Muhammad is the simple formula of faith La ilaha illa-Allah, Muhammad-ur rasul-ullah, i.e. there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the Apostle of Allah. When a non-Muslim accepts Islam, he has to confess his faith in the above formula. This formula is, therefore, the basis of the religion of Islam, the foundation on which the superstructure of Islam is erected, and for the last thirteen hundred years it has served that purpose. But according to Mirza Mahmud Ahmad no one can now enter Islam who simply professes his faith in that formula; a new prophet has arisen and faith in him only can make a man enter into the circle of Islam. Even those old Muslims who professed the formula of faith have been turned, bag and baggage, out of the circle of Islam. . . . We are told by Mirza Mahmud Ahmad that just as after the appearance of the Holy Prophet Muhammad faith in Jesus and the earlier apostles did not avail, so now after the appearance of a prophet, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, faith in Muhammad and the earlier prophets does not avail."(pp. 150, 151)

Confirmation by Mirza Mahmud Ahmad.

Mirza Mahmud Ahmad wrote a book in reply to the Maulana's tract quoted above, in which he confirmed that these indeed were the beliefs he held and preached. This reply was first published in Urdu under the title A'inah-i Sadaqat, and then translated into English and published in 1924 as The Truth about the Split. We quote below from the third edition (published 1965) of the English book. Referring to the Maulana's statement quoted above, about the changes in his (Mirza Mahmud Ahmad's) beliefs, he declares:

"These changes, according to Maulvi Muhammad Ali, relate to three matters: (1) that I propagated the belief that Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was actually a Nabi; (2) the belief that he was `the Ahmad' spoken of in the prophecy of Jesus referred to in the Holy Quran in 61:6; and (3) the belief that all those so-called Muslims who have not entered into his Bai`at formally, wherever they may be, are Kafirs and outside the pale of Islam, even though they may not have heard the name of the Promised Messiah.

"That these beliefs have my full concurrence, I readily admit. What I deny is the statement that I have been entertaining these views since 1914 or only three or four years before." (pp. 55, 56)

In the same book, Mirza Mahmud Ahmad summarises an earlier article of his, published in April 1911, which had sparked off the doctrinal differences that led to the Split. He explains:

"Regarding the main subject of my article, I wrote that as we believed the Promised Messiah to be one of the prophets of God, we could not possibly regard his deniers as Muslims." (pp. 137, 138)

And he writes that he had drawn the following conclusion in the article:

". . . not only are those deemed to be Kafirs who openly style the Promised Messiah as Kafir, and those who, although they do not style him thus, decline still to accept his claim, but even those who, in their hearts, believe the Promised Messiah to be true, and do not even deny him with their tongues, but hesitate to enter into his Bai`at, have here been adjudged to be Kafirs." (pp. 139, 140)

In his book Anwar-i Khilafat, published in 1916, Mirza Mahmud Ahmad wrote:

"It is our duty that we must not consider non-Ahmadis as Muslims, and we must not pray following them, because we believe that they are denying a prophet of Almighty God." (p. 90)

Funeral prayers for other Muslims prohibited.

As the Islamic funeral prayers can only be held for a Muslim deceased, Mirza Mahmud Ahmad forbade his followers from holding such prayers for anyone who did not belong to their movement. He wrote:

"Now another question remains, that is, as non-Ahmadis are deniers of the Promised Messiah, this is why funeral prayers for them must not be offered, but if a young child of a non-Ahmadi dies, why should not his funeral prayers be offered? He did not call the Promised Messiah as kafir. I ask those who raise this question, that if this argument is correct, then why are not funeral prayers offered for the children of Hindus and Christians, and how many people say their funeral prayers? The fact is that, according to the Shari`ah, the religion of the child is the same as the religion of the parents. So a non-Ahmadi's child is also a non-Ahmadi, and his funeral prayers must not be said. . . .

"This leaves the question that if a man who believes Hazrat Mirza sahib to be true but has not yet taken the bai`at, or is still thinking about Ahmadiyyat, and he dies in this condition, it is possible that God may not punish him. But the decisions of the Shari`ah are based on what is outwardly visible. So we must do the same thing about him, and not offer funeral prayers for him." (Anwar-i Khilafat, pp. 91-93)

According to this statement, all those Muslims who are not Mirza Mahmud Ahmad's followers belong to the same category as Hindus or Christians.

Another statement by M. Muhammad Ali.

Near the end of his life, Maulana Muhammad Ali wrote an Urdu booklet in 1949, addressed to "every Qadiani and every other Muslim". He begins it with a summarised account of the split, as follows:

"In 1914 we separated from Qadian and laid the foundation in Lahore of the Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha`at Islam. The only reason for this was that we did not consider to be correct the belief of the present Qadiani Khalifa that all non-Ahmadi Muslims are kafir and outside the fold of Islam. This belief was opposed to the clear teachings and the practice of the Founder of the Movement himself, as well as against the plain teachings of the Quran and Hadith.

"In the last days of the illness of Maulana Nur-ud-Din, this issue had become such a subject of division in the Jama`at that Mirza Mahmud Ahmad announced to a separate meeting, which he convened during the annual gathering of December 1913, that even if swords were placed on both sides of his neck, he would not desist from calling non-Ahmadis as kafir. When this news reached Maulana Nur-ud-Din . . . he instructed me to write an article on the issue of Kufr and Islam, and he told me its basic principle which was that our classical scholars held that if there are ninety-nine reasons for kufr in a man, and one reason for Islam, he still would not be called a kafir but a Muslim.

"On another occasion, he said in a gathering, in the presence of Mirza Mahmud Ahmad:

'There are many people who do not understand this question of kufr and Islam, even our Mian [i.e. Mirza Mahmud Ahmad] has not understood it.'
"I then wrote the article and read it to Maulana Nur-ud-Din, and later on it was published.

"After Maulana Nur-ud-Din's death, I tried to get the Mian sahib to come to an agreement, so that a split in the Jama`at could be avoided. But Mian sahib did not agree to any of my proposals. One proposal was that a meeting of the learned men of the Jama`at should be convened and each side should present its case before them. Then whichever side was adjudged to be right by the majority, its view should become the belief of the Jama`at, so that it could stay united. But Mian sahib was insistent that, although we could hold our belief in private that all those who profess the Kalima are Muslims, we would not be allowed to express it. This was impossible for us. So we refused to accept him as Khalifa and to take his bai`at. We decided to continue the work of the propagation of Islam, even if it meant leaving Qadian. Even then we did not make a separate Jama`at, and after the split I stayed in Qadian for more than a month in an effort to see if we could work together. But, at last, seeing the situation deteriorate even further, I came to Lahore from Qadian around 20 April 1914."