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Shimla (Simla) Debate of 1915 between Qadiani and Lahore Ahmadiyya representatives

Response to comments by anti-Ahmadiyya organization

The victory that dare not be claimed

by Dr Zahid Aziz

Anti-Ahmadiyya organizations are always seeking to prove that the Qadiani Jama‘at is correct in presenting Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad as a claimant to being a prophet, and that the Lahore Ahmadiyya viewpoint is baseless that he did not claim to be a prophet. It helps the anti-Ahmadiyya groups in their campaign against Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad to present the Qadianis as being right and justified in their exaggerations about his claims because the Lahore Ahmadiyya arguments are a formidable obstacle in their path to defame him.

Recently, the anti-Ahmadiyya website QeRN has claimed to make a great discovery proving Qadianis to be right and Lahoris to be wrong and humiliated in public. This is an Urdu book, published by Qadiani Jama‘at members in 1916, relating to a debate in Shimla (Simla) between Qadiani and Lahore Ahmadiyya representatives in 1915, at which each party put forward its arguments before an arbitrator. The book, entitled Qaul Faisal, consists of a 16-page introductory part by its Qadiani publishers and a 52-page verdict by the arbitrator, Muhammad Umar, attorney, Chief Court, Punjab. On this anti-Ahmadiyya website the conclusions of the arbitrator, from the end of his judgment, have been displayed in image form and translated, and a link is provided to the entire book. See:

(Note: Please see at the end of article the QeRN website’s response to this article and my comment on it.)

The conclusions of the arbitrator were that Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad did claim to be a real prophet, although one who did not bring a law (shariah), and he included himself in the category of the prophets who appeared up to the time of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, that are accepted by Muslims as prophets.

This is claimed by this anti-Ahmadiyya group to be a victory for the Qadiani Jama‘at, even though they are supposedly opposed to the Qadiani Jama‘at.

Our response

Our response, in summary, is as follows:

  1. In later years the Qadiani Jama‘at itself retreated from, and indeed abandoned, their key beliefs which are presented in this book. The Lahore Ahmadis still hold the beliefs they put forward in that debate. So who can be said to have won in the end?
  2. In the image of the verdict, which is displayed at the anti-Ahmadiyya link given above, there is a note in the book which reads:
  3. Note — The verdict on the issue of kufr and Islam will be given later.”

    So, where is the verdict of the arbitrator on this issue? The anti-Ahmadiyya website has nothing to say about it. We reproduce and translate it below. This issue is whether, according to Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, a Muslim who does not accept him becomes an unbeliever and outside the fold of Islam or he still remains a Muslim. It is inextricably bound with the question of whether he claimed to be a prophet or not.
  4. The representative arguing on behalf of the Qadiani Jama‘at was Maulvi Umar-ud-Din of Shimla. In 1932 he joined the Lahore Ahmadiyya Jama‘at and worked as its missionary thereafter. In his writings and speeches, he repudiated Qadiani Jama‘at doctrines and argued for the Lahore Ahmadiyya standpoint. So, the arbitrator may not have been convinced by the Lahore Ahmadiyya case, but the person arguing for the Qadianis eventually became convinced of it, which is a victory greater than just convincing the arbitrator!

We now expand upon the first two points noted above.

Qadianis retract their beliefs

The Qadiani belief that Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was a prophet is inextricably and inseparably linked to their belief that any Muslim, whosoever he may be, who does not accept him, is a kafir and excluded from the fold of Islam. This second belief is clearly expressed in this book and linked with the first. The Qadiani writer of the introduction of this book says that before the debate the arbitrator enquired from the Qadiani side what their claim was and noted it down as follows:

“Those who deny the Promised Messiah, who was a prophet of Allah, are kafir.” (p. 2)

Later it is stated in the introduction:

“Now that the arbitrator has given the verdict that Hazrat [Mirza Ghulam Ahmad] is a prophet [according to his writings] … it cannot be denied that the necessary conclusion from this is that those who deny his claims are kafir.” (p. 11; bolding is ours for later reference.)

“If the arbitrator had been prejudiced he would have given the verdict against us because he knew that we regard the deniers of the Promised Messiah to be kafir while, on the other hand, the rejectors of khilafat [i.e., the Lahore Ahmadis] regard non-Ahmadis as Muslims…” (p. 13).

The arbitrator begins his verdict in the following words:

“There are two groups in the Ahmadiyya community. One is those who agree with Mirza Mahmud Ahmad and are his followers, whose belief is that Mirza sahib was a real prophet and his denier is excluded from the fold of Islam. The other group agrees with Maulana Muhammad Ali and believes that Mirza sahib was not a real prophet, but a saint (muhaddas) and non-prophet, and his denier is not excluded from the fold of Islam.” ( p. 1)

The Qadiani leaders have now spent more than the past sixty years turning their backs on their earlier doctrine that all other Muslims are kafir and outside the fold of Islam. Many references from them can be given, but it will be sufficient to quote one extract from the Qadiani Jama‘at publication Tahqiqati ‘adalat main Hazrat Imam Jama‘at Ahmadiyya ka Bayan (‘Testimony of the Head of the Ahmadiyya Community at the Court of Inquiry’), which lists the questions that were put to Mirza Mahmud Ahmad, their second khalifa, at the Munir Court of Inquiry in Pakistan in 1954, and his answers to them:

“Question: Do you include Mirza Ghulam Ahmad sahib in the category of those sent by God whose acceptance is essential for a person to be called a Muslim?

Answer: I have earlier answered this question. A person who does not believe in Mirza Ghulam Ahmad sahib cannot be declared as outside the pale of Islam.” (p. 28)

Consequently, what the Qadiani writer of the introduction in the Shimla debate book called as “the necessary conclusion” of believing Hazrat Mirza to be a prophet, namely, that other Muslims are kafir, no longer stands. If the anti-Ahmadiyya propagandists study logical reasoning, they will find that if the necessary conclusion of something fails to arise, then that thing cannot exist either. If other Muslims are not kafir and excluded from the fold of Islam, then Hazrat Mirza was not a prophet.

Qadiani retraction of their “change of claim in 1901” theory

In addition to the Qadiani Jama‘at retraction on the above belief, there is another retraction which constitutes a withdrawal by them of their case presented in this debate. The case is based entirely on the theory that Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad changed his claim to that of being a prophet only after 1900/1901. At the outset the arbitrator writes:

“Both parties accept that before the year 1901 Mirza sahib declared his prophethood to be that of a saint (muhaddasiyyat) and considered himself to be a non-prophet. The Qadiani Jama‘at holds the belief that after the year 1900 the prophethood which Mirza sahib earlier used to consider as muhaddasiyyat, not being prophethood, he declared it as being prophethood explicitly, and began to consider himself as being in the category of prophets as were the Israelite prophets, and totally gave up the use of the word muhaddas about himself. The Lahori Jama‘at holds the belief that Mirza sahib made no change in the interpretation of his claim of muhaddasiyyat, and that just as it was his earlier belief that he was not a prophet but a muhaddas, this remained his belief till the end of his life.” (p. 2–3; underlining ours for clarity)

Today there is hardly any Qadiani Jama‘at member who is aware of this change of claim in 1901 theory. It has been like this perhaps for the past forty years.

In the Qadiani Jama‘at submission to the National Assembly of Pakistan in 1974, which was published under the title Mahzarnama, several of the quotations from the writings and talks of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad about his definitive beliefs on the finality of prophethood are from before the year 1901. In fact, in the Shimla debate book, they quote from some of the same books but present them as examples of his earlier beliefs which he ceased to hold from 1901 onwards!

In the 1974 Mahzarnama, in the section entitled “The exalted station of Khaatamul Anbiyaa in the eyes of the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama‘at”, among the writings quoted are extracts from his books Siraj Munir and Anjam Atham and from a letter of his published in August 1899 (see English version of Mahzarnama, p. 75, p. 81-82, and p. 70 respectively; link here). These are presented by the Qadianis as his real beliefs. In the Shimla debate book, Qadianis give quotations from the same books (see pages 4 and 5), to show that these represent his earlier beliefs which were later overturned in 1901!

In case of the book Anjam Atham, the quotation presented in Mahzarnama and the quotation presented in the Shimla debate book are from the same pages of Anjam Atham. We display below the part of the quotation from the English version of Mahzarnama which also appears in the Shimla debate book (in Urdu):

“my humble self has never — never — claimed to be a Prophet or Messenger in the real and literal sense of the term. And employing a word in its figurative sense and using it as part of everyday parlance consistent with lexical usage does not mean disbelief (kufr). … the word Mursal (one who is sent), or Rasool (Messenger) or Nabi (Prophet) which has been used in those revelations in reference to me, is not meant in its literal and real meaning. … a person who has a claim to Prophethood in its real sense, and alienates himself from the source of the grace of the Holy Prophet and, after disassociating himself from this holy fountainhead, tries on his own, directly, to become a Prophet of Allah is an infidel and a faithless one.” (Mahzarnama, English version, p. 81–82; Shimla debate book Qaul Faisal, p. 5)

Exactly the same words were presented by the Qadianis to the arbitrator of the 1915 debate as an example of the earlier beliefs of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad which no longer remained valid from 1901 onwards, and the same words were officially presented by the Qadianis to the Pakistan National Assembly of 1974 as being his final and definitive beliefs!

Thus the Qadiani Jama‘at case which was presented in the Shimla debate book has been entirely and utterly demolished by that Jama‘at itself.

Verdict of the arbitrator on issue of kufr and Islam

The arbitrator Muhammad Umar’s brief verdict on this issue was published in the Lahore Ahmadiyya Urdu organ Paigham Sulh in his own handwriting along with its text in printed Urdu (issue dated 24th – 28th – 31st December 1916, p. 6). See this link for an image.

It begins: “My verdict about denial and takfir is as follows”, i.e., whether a Muslim who denies Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad’s claims becomes a kafir. We translate this below.

“1. That Muslim to whom the message of Mirza sahib has reached, and who has fully received his arguments, and he does not believe in him, he is a second degree kafir, that is to say, he is a sinner (fasiq) but is not excluded from the fold of Islam. However, he will be held to account for this [by Allah].

2. That Muslim who, in the determination of God, has not fully received the arguments relating to Mirza sahib being the Promised Messiah, and he belies and denies him, he is on the face of it also a second degree kafir, i.e., one who is a sinner, except that in the determination of God, under the verse “Allah does not impose on any soul a duty but to the extent of its ability”, he will not be held to account for this [by Allah].

3. The man who calls Mirza sahib a kafir, he, according to the hadith “Call not as kafir those who follow your Qiblah”, becomes a kafir himself, either a kafir of the first degree, i.e., excluded from the fold of Islam, or a kafir of the second degree, i.e., a sinner, corresponding to the kind of kafir that he has declared him [Mirza sahib] to be.

4. The man who does not believe in Mirza sahib for the reason that he declares him to be a fabricator of a lie against Allah, as he is declaring a believer to be a fabricator against Allah and a kafir, then according to the injunction of the Quran “And who is more unjust than he who forges a lie against Allah or gives the lie to His messages?” because he is declaring him a full-fledged (pukka) kafir, and not because he is denying him, he himself becomes a full-fledged (pukka) kafir and excluded from the fold of Islam.

5. Those people who, due to paying little attention to religious matters or mere ignorance or lack of knowledge, do not recognize the status of Mirza sahib and do not believe in him, but do not call him a fabricator of a lie against Allah, they are not excluded from the fold of Islam.

Signed: Muhammad Umar, President of the Meeting of the Ahmadiyya Parties. Date: 17/12/16.”

(Note by translator: The terms second degree kafir, and fasiq (sinner), refer to a Muslim infringing some teaching of Islam, and are used in Hadith by the Holy Prophet Muhammad in this sense. Such a person is treated as a Muslim in Islamic law and society. An Ahmadi, who of course believes in the claims of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, can also be guilty of breaching some teaching of Islam and be a fasiq.)

It is perfectly clear from this verdict that the arbitrator determined that, according to Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, a person who merely denies his claims is not a kafir and excluded from the fold of Islam. The conclusion of the arbitrator is the opposite of the Qadiani beliefs expressed in the Shimla debate book. He wrote at the very beginning of his verdict in that book, as already quoted above:

“There are two groups in the Ahmadiyya community. One is those who agree with Mirza Mahmud Ahmad and are his followers, whose belief is that Mirza sahib was a real prophet and his denier is excluded from the fold of Islam. The other group agrees with Maulana Muhammad Ali and believes that Mirza sahib was not a real prophet, but a saint (muhaddas) and non-prophet, and his denier is not excluded from the fold of Islam.”

So his verdict is close to the Lahore Ahmadiyya position, and opposed to the Qadiani position.

Now contrast the arbitrator’s 5-point verdict above with the following writing by Mirza Mahmud Ahmad, in which he presents Hazrat Mirza sahib’s beliefs as follows:

“…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.…

And lastly, it was argued from a verse of the Holy Quran that such people as had failed to recognise the Promised Messiah as a Rasul even if they called him a righteous person with their tongues, were yet veritable Kafirs.” (The Truth about the Split by Mirza Mahmud Ahmad, p. 148 of the 2007 edition.)

The contrast between the arbitrator’s verdict and this statement of Mirza Mahmud Ahmad could not be more stark. Note in this connection that in his Urdu book Ai’nah-i Sadaqat, of which The Truth about the Split is the English translation, the words translated here as “veritable Kafirs” are pukkay kafir. But the arbitrator has written in his point number 4 that only those are pukkay kafir who call Hazrat Mirza sahib a pukka kafir, and that this is because they are calling him by this epithet, and not because they are denying his claims.

In the same book, The Truth about the Split, Mirza Mahmud Ahmad also explained why he believed that even those Muslims are kafir who have not heard of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. He wrote:

“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.” (ibid., p. 60; bolding is ours)

As the arbitrator has determined that a Muslim does not become a kafir by merely denying the claims of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, it follows that Hazrat Mirza sahib did not claim to be a prophet.

The so-called “victory” of the Qadiani Jama‘at in the 1915 Shimla debate thus becomes a victory which they dare not now claim!

Appendix: QeRN website’s response and my comment on it

The QeRN website administrator, Akber Choudhry, had informed me and some others in an e-mail dated 3rd October 2015 that the Shimla debate booklet had been placed on his website. Thereupon I compiled the above article and requested him to give a link to it. Eventually he agreed to do so. While giving the link to my article, QeRN also added their response to it, which can be read on their webpage at the end under the heading Lahori Defense.

In their response it is said about my article:

“None of the three points he raises -- deferred matter of takfeer, Qadiani debater becoming Lahori, and Qadianis retracting their beliefs -- is a rebuttal.  As we wrote above about the Lahori position, the article is indeed a deflection.”

For clarification, I publish below an e-mail, dated 30th October 2015, which I sent to Mr Akber Choudhry (including the other recipients of his original message), after I had published my article and while he was still considering whether to give a link to it.

Dear Mr Akber Choudhry,
assalamu alaikum

I am only writing to ask for clarification in view of your statement:

"Second, I would be most happy to include a link to your article if it addressed the issue head on. It does not. ... Just putting ink to paper does not answer the question; the question has to be addressed from all angles in its totality as it has been discussed in totality in the Shimla discourse."

But what is the issue you want me to address? There are two separate points: (1) are the Qadiani arguments used in the debate acceptable and valid, and (2) does the arbitrator's verdict constitute a victory for the Qadiani Jamaat.

I understood that you wanted me to discuss point number (2). So primarily I dealt with that in my article. "The victory that dare not be claimed" is in my heading. I said in my introduction: "This is claimed by this anti-Ahmadiyya group to be a victory for the Qadiani Jama‘at."

If you, by saying "all angles in its totality", mean that I should be refuting the Qadiani arguments they used in the debate, then firstly I point out that there is a vast amount of our literature, most of it available on our websites, which refutes those arguments.

Secondly, if in my response I were to refute those arguments I would be trying to re-stage the same debate using largely the same points we made at that time. And you well know that the reply you would give me would be: Zahid sahib, the arbitrator has already rejected your case!

I have said before that if my reply is weak, evasive, etc., it is all the more to your advantage to give a link to it.

Zahid Aziz