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Calling Muslims as kafir

Refutation of a repugnant belief

by Maulana Muhammad Ali

(The Light & Islamic Review: Vol. 70; No. 6; November-December 1993; p. 6)

Introduction / Promised Messiah never called Muslims as kafir / Opponents called Promised Messiah as kafir / Expressed same belief days before his death / Promised Messiah's declaration in court / His practice towards friendly Muslims / Grave consequences of Qadiani beliefs.

(In 1918 Maulana Muhammad Ali wrote an English book entitled The Ahmadiyya Movement - IV: The Split, fully discussing how Mirza Bashir-ud-Din Mahmud Ahmad had coined entirely wrong and dangerous beliefs, which were totally repugnant to the teachings of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement. Mirza Mahmud's followers are now led by Mirza Tahir Ahmad, based at present in England. We give below extracts from near the close of this excellent work by the Maulana. — Editor.)

The full force of the new doctrines taught by M. Mahmud would be felt by a Muslim in the strange announcement according to which all Muslims except the Ahmadis are really non-Muslims. So strange and paradoxical does the announcement - the Muslims being non-Muslims - appear that hardly any body would believe that a sane person could make this statement, but this is the actual consequence of the new doctrine taught by M. Mahmud relating to the prophethood of the Promised Messiah. Nor are we left to draw that inference on our own account, for the doctrine that all those who have not entered into the bai'at of the Promised Messiah are outside the circle of Islam, i.e., non-Muslims, has been openly and incessantly preached by M. Mahmud for a number of years, and so persistent is he that he openly declared in a meeting of his friends convened in December 1913 that he would rather die than forsake the preaching of the doctrine which taught that all those who were not Ahmadis were kafirs pure and simple, absolute unbelievers outside the circle of Islam, with whom all relations such as saying their funeral prayers, intermarriages, etc., were to be shunned in the same manner as in the case of non-Muslims. In other words, the duties which a Muslim owes to a Muslim according to the plain teachings of the Holy Quran and the reports of the Holy Prophet, an Ahmadi Muslim does not owe to his Muslim brother.

Here then a dissension has been created in Islam, the like of which has not been experienced by this religion of unity - of the unity of God and the unity of humanity - during the thirteen hundred years since its birth. And were it not for this grave consequence of the doctrine of the prophethood of the Promised Messiah, that doctrine would have passed off as an innocent heresy which might have been left alone to die a natural death. But the serious dissension to which it gives rise requires every true Muslim - and every Ahmadi must be a true Muslim - to raise his voice against this mighty insult to the holy religion of Islam. It not only divides the camp of Islam into two, which in principles has remained completely united for the last thirteen hundred years, but lays the basis of further divisions, which, if they should find their way into Islam, must result in the shattering of its unity to pieces.

It is necessary to explain first, in a few words, what has been said above. M. Mahmud's argument for declaring the Muslims to be infidels is that as a new prophet has appeared in the world, therefore those who do not believe in that prophet are unbelievers, for it is only belief in the latest prophet that can bring a man within the category of Islam. Therefore, while the appearance of the Promised Messiah as a prophet divides the camp of Islam into two parties, each thinking the other to be outside the pale of Islam, the appearance of the thousands of prophets which M. Mahmud believes must yet appear would hopelessly divide Islam into thousands of camps, each thinking the other to be non-Muslim. And just as the millions of Muslims who are even ignorant of the name of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the new prophet of the age according to the doctrine of M. Mahmud, have become kafirs simply because a prophet has appeared in India, even the Ahmadi followers of M. Mahmud are not safe from being turned into kafirs because a prophet might appear in Africa of whom they know nothing, just as their African brethren know nothing of the Promised Messiah. Indeed so hideous is this doctrine that it is an insult to the sane reader to offer a rejection of it, but as M. Mahmud tries to attribute it to the Promised Messiah, I deem it my duty to show that that great reformer of the age never thought of preaching this hideous untruth for a moment. He is absolutely clear of the charge.

Promised Messiah never called Muslims as kafir.

Because the Promised Messiah is a prophet, we are told, therefore all those who have not entered into his bai'at are kafirs. M. Mahmud may be right or wrong, but the question I ask is, did the Promised Messiah even once say or write those words? Do the thousands of the pages of his diaries and writings but once contain the statement that he being a prophet those who did not enter into his bai'at were kafirs? If he never made that claim even once, is it not a hateful guilt to attribute that doctrine to him? Hundreds of times did he speak and write on questions of Kufr and Islam, but not once did those words escape his tongue or pen. How cruel, then, to declare to the world that he was responsible for teaching a doctrine which he never dreamt of.

Opponents called Promised Messiah as kafir.

How did then the question of kufr arise in connection with the Promised Messiah at all? When he first claimed to be the Promised Messiah, the Maulvis exerted themselves to their utmost in pronouncing him a kafir because his claim clashed with their cherished doctrines which were really opposed to the Holy Quran and the sayings of the Holy Prophet. In their fatwas, however, they were not content with declaring him a kafir but advised the Muslims to cut off all their connections with him, just as M. Mahmud is doing today with respect to those who do not follow the Promised Messiah. The Promised Messiah gave no answer to these fatwas except that he went on assuring the public that the charges on which he was declared a kafir were absolutely false, that he did not claim to be a prophet, nor did he deny the existence of angels or miracles and so on.

But these assurances had no effect, and it became clear that the Maulvis intentionally persisted in declaring a Muslim to be kafir, notwithstanding that he repeatedly explained that he did not swerve a hair's breadth from the principles of Islam. Now there is a saying of the Holy Prophet according to which if any one calls his Muslim brother a kafir, the kufr reverts to himself. It was about four years after his claim to Promised Messiahship that an opponent asked him to have a mubahala with him (i.e., praying for the destruction of the party in error). The Promised Messiah's reply was that though his opponent might call him a kafir, yet as he looked upon his opponent as a Muslim, he could not pray for his destruction.

But when at last it became manifest that the opponents quite unjustly persisted in calling him a kafir, the Promised Messiah wrote that after that he was entitled to treat those opponents as kafir who declared him to be a kafir or imposter, in accordance with the saying of the Holy Prophet. This is all that the Promised Messiah has ever said, viz., that kufr reverted to those who declared him to be a kafir or imposter and to this he stuck to the last, never going against this principle.

It is not necessary for me to explain why the saying of the Holy Prophet makes kufr revert to him who declares a Muslim to be a kafir. The Holy Prophet had laid the basis of a great brotherhood and he did not like that such dissensions should exist in this brotherhood as should destroy the unity of Islam. Hence it was necessary to have a safeguard against the creation of such dissensions. But the only safeguard could be the infliction of some punishment on the person who should dare to violate the unity of the Muslim brotherhood. Thus a person who called a Muslim brother a kafir did not deserve to be called a member of the brotherhood and hence the words of the Holy Prophet that kufr reverted to him who called his brother Muslim a kafir.

Expressed same belief days before his death.

That the Promised Messiah went no further than this is evident from his latest pronouncement. He was at Lahore in May 1908 when about two weeks before his death Mian Fazl-i-Husain, Bar-at-Law, put to him the question whether he called the Muslims kafir. The conversation is thus recorded in the Badr newspaper dated 24th May 1908:

"Mr. Fazl-i-Husain said that if all non-Ahmadis were called kafir, there remained nothing in Islam.

"(The Promised Messiah) said: 'We do not declare anyone to be outside Islam unless he himself becomes a kafir by calling us kafirs. It is not perhaps known to you that when I first claimed to have been appointed by God, Maulvi Abu Said Muhammad Husain of Batala prepared a fatwa with great effort in which it was written that I was a kafir, etc. . . . Now it is accepted on all hands that anyone who calls a believer a kafir himself becomes a kafir."

Further on, it is again affirmed in clear words:

"He who does not call us a kafir, we do not call him a kafir at all."

It would be seen from this that the Promised Messiah never declared a single Muslim to be a kafir. Further proof of this is met with in Haqiqat-ul-Wahy where we find him thus accusing his opponents for bringing false charges against him, one of which is that they charged him with declaring the Muslims kafirs:

"Again consider this falsehood that they bring this charge against us that we have declared two hundred million Muslims to be kafirs. . . . Can any Maulvi or any opponent or any sajjada nashin give proof that we first declared these people to be kafirs. If any leaflet or manifesto or pamphlet was published by us before their fatwa of kufr in which we declared our Muslim opponents to be kafir, they should bring it forward; otherwise they should think how dishonest it is that they themselves call us kafir and then charge us with having declared all the Muslims to be kafirs. How offending is this great dishonesty and lie and false charge." (p. 120)

Promised Messiah's declaration in court.

The plainest statement regarding this is, however, contained in Tiryaq-ul-Qulub which was published in 1902. The incident arose out of a case in which both Maulvi Muhammad Husain of Batala and the Promised Messiah signed an agreement, the former undertaking not to call the Promised Messiah a kafir or liar in future, and the latter giving the same undertaking with regard to Maulvi Muhammad Husain. Reference to this is contained in Tiryaq-ul-Qulub on p. 130 in the following words:

"The third aspect of the fulfilment of the prophecy of 21st November 1898 is this that Mr. J. M. Douie, late Deputy Commissioner and District Magistrate, Gurdaspur district, in his order dated 24th February 1899 made Maulvi Muhammad Husain sign the agreement that he would not call me anti-Christ and kafir and liar in future. . . . And he promised standing in the court that he would not call me a kafir in any assembly, nor give me the name of anti-Christ, nor would he proclaim me a liar among the people. Now consider after this agreement the fate of his fatwa (of kufr) which he had prepared by (travelling all over the country) going so far as Benares. If he had been in the right in giving that fatwa, he ought to have given this answer before the Magistrate that as he (the Mirza Sahib) was a kafir in his opinion, therefore he called him a kafir, and as he was a dajjal (anti-Christ), therefore he called him a dajjal, and as he was certainly a liar, therefore he called him a liar, particularly when I, by the grace of God, still adhere to those very beliefs, and shall do so to the end of my days, which Muhammad Husain gave out to be words of kufr. What honesty is this then that from fear of the Magistrate he destroyed his own fatwas. . . . It is true that I have also signed that notice, but by signing it I am under no blame in the sight of God and the just, nor is this signature a cause of my disgrace, for it is my belief from the beginning that no one can become a kafir or dajjal on account of denying my claims; aye, he would be going astray and erring from the right path."

This is plain enough. Not only he never said that as he was a prophet therefore those who denied him were kafirs, but he held from the beginning that no one could be a kafir on account of denying his claims. A footnote is added which lays further stress upon this point:

"It is a point worth remembering that to call a denier of one's claims a kafir is the right of those prophets who bring a law and new commandments from God, but as for the inspired ones and Muhaddasin other than the givers of law, however great their dignity in the sight of God, and however much they may have been honoured by being spoken to by God, no one becomes a kafir by their denial."

Such a clear statement from the pen of the Promised Messiah should have set all doubts at rest; for to hold that the Promised Messiah, when he published these views, did not really entertain them is to hold him in meaner estimation than even Maulvi Muhammad Husain. If it was disgraceful on the part of the latter to sign an agreement contrary to his belief for fear of punishment, it was much more disgraceful on the part of the Promised Messiah to assure people that he did not look upon his deniers as kafirs while he actually did so. Would this not be declared as the meanest attempt to deceive the public? I do not think any one who calls himself an Ahmadi would take that view of the character of the Promised Messiah.

His practice towards friendly Muslims.

Even if the Promised Messiah had not left these plain statements in his writings, his practical life was a sufficient guarantee that he did not look upon a mere denial of his claims as kufr, nor did he regard those who had not entered into his bai'at as kafirs. Khwaja Ghulam Farid of Chachran, the spiritual leader of the Nawab of Bahawalpur, held the Promised Messiah in great honour, though he never entered into his bai'at.

Now according to the verdict of M. Mahmud, published in his monthly, the Tashhiz-ul-Azhan for April 1911:

" . . . even he who from his heart believes him (i.e., the Promised Messiah) to be true, and does not deny him even with the tongue, but he postpones bai'at, is looked upon as a kafir." (p. 141)

Khwaja Ghulam Farid should be ranked as a kafir, but the Promised Messiah speaks of him in terms of great respect in his book Siraj Munir, as "a man of truth", as "one who receives light from God", as "one helped by the Holy Spirit" (page e, supplement) and he addresses him as "one matchless in truth and purity" (page g).

Grave consequences of Qadiani beliefs.

But the gravest of all the consequences of the teaching of M. Mahmud is that in recognising the truth of these doctrines, the Promised Messiah is to be accepted as the teacher of a new religion altogether, not of Islam as it was taught by the Holy Prophet Muhammad. The basis of the religion taught by the Holy Prophet Muhammad is the simple formula of faith: la ilaha illa-Allah-u-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 M. Mahmud 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. Therefore, according to M. Mahmud, the very basis of the faith of Islam which he preaches has been changed. And if the foundation is gone, the superstructure cannot remain. Therefore the Islam he preaches is altogether a different faith from the Islam which has been preached for the last thirteen hundred years. To give an illustration, we are told by M. Mahmud that just as after the appearance of the Holy Prophet Muhammad faith in Jesus Christ 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. Is it not clear from this that just as Islam supplanted Christianity, the new Islam of M. Mahmud supplants the old Islam of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, though it might contain the old law? Could heresy go beyond that?

It is time our brethren should ponder on these matters, and rally round the true doctrines of the Promised Messiah before the false doctrines gain a prevalence, as the false doctrines attributed to the first Messiah gained ground and a great part of the world was involved in an error which is almost the gravest of religious errors. In the same manner, these novel doctrines of M. Mahmud will be the cause of the gravest dissension in Islam if they are not checked in time. I hope the good sense of the community will come to the rescue of the movement.