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Contribution to Islamic Thought

by the Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement

by Maulana Muhammad Ali

  1. Liberal attitude towards other religions
  2. True meaning of jihad
  3. Making Quran supreme source of Islam
  4. Refuting the doctrine of abrogation in the Quran
  1. Solidarity among Muslims
  2. Finality of Prophethood and meaning of "return of the Messiah"
  3. Identity of Dajjal, Gog and Magog
  4. Spiritual conquest of the West

The contribution made by the Ahmadiyya Movement Lahore to Islamic thought is as important as its contribution to constructive work; in fact, that work has sprung from these ideas. It will be seen that all those matters in which the Ahmadiyya Movement has given a new direction to Muslim thought are closely connected with Islam’s advance in the world. They have nothing in common with the sectarian differences of the Muslims: they are vital to the existence and advancement of Islam, as they are meant to wipe off certain blemishes which had been ascribed to Islam, and they reveal that beauty of the Muslim religion which made it so attractive at first and which alone can make it attractive again. It should be further remembered that religion was made perfect in Islam and the Holy Prophet Muhammad is the last Prophet. Therefore any contribution to Islamic thought can only be a revival of the great truths taught by Islam, an interpretation of the Holy Quran or what the Holy Prophet said. It is as such that the Ahmadiyya Movement has given prominence to many important religious truths. I refer here to a few of them.

1. Liberal attitude towards other religions


In the first place, the Ahmadiyya Movement clarifies the view of the religion of Islam towards other religions. It emphasises the original broad and liberal outlook of Islam which in the course of time has entirely been lost sight of. Through misunderstanding and misrepresentations Islam has come to be looked upon as if it did not tolerate other religions, while as a matter of fact it is extremely liberal in its outlook towards them. It has laid down as one of its basic principles that prophets appeared among every nation of the world:

"And there is not a people but a warner has gone among them."
(The Quran, 35:24).

It goes a step further and lays down that a true Muslim must believe in all these prophets:

"(Muslims) believe in that which has been revealed to thee (O Prophet Muhammad) and that which was revealed before thee"
(Ibid., 2:3).
This truth is reiterated on numerous occasions and belief in every prophet of the world is made essential. It also enjoins the Muslims to be guardians of the holy places of other religions:
"And if Allah did not repel some people by others, then cloisters and churches and synagogues, and mosques in which Allah’s name is much remembered, would have been pulled down"
(Ibid., 22:40).

The protection of monk’s cloisters and churches and synagogues along with that of mosques was therefore one of the avowed objects of Islamic wars. Such a broad outlook of religion is not met with elsewhere. The Ahmadiyya Movement has done immense service to the cause of Islam and to the cause of religion in general by stressing this point.

2. True meaning of jihad


As a corollary to the great truth stated above, the Ahmadiyya Movement has fought against the false notions of Jihad attributed to Islam. It is generally thought that Islam inculcates the use of sword for converting people to Islam. That is sheer misrepresentation. The basic principle of Islam is that:

"There is no compulsion in religion"
(The Quran, 2:256).

And war was expressly allowed only in self-defence:

"Fight in the way of Allah against those who fight against you, but be not aggressive. Surely Allah loves not the aggressors"
(Ibid., 2:290).
Islam attained to supremacy by the irresistible spiritual force which it possessed. The Ahmadiyya Movement comes as the harbinger of the good news that the spiritual force of Islam which brought about its predominance in the world at its rise is inexhaustible and that even today it can effect by spiritual force what it effected at first. And it is itself a witness of that spiritual force, for wherever it has raised aloft the banner of Islam, people have bowed before it.

3. Making Quran supreme source of Islam


The Ahmadiyya Movement has also set in order the house of Islam. Islam at its origin meant allegiance to the word of God first of all, but at the present day the Holy Book is relegated to the background, and the Muslims seek for guidance first of all from books of law which were compiled more than one hundred years after the Holy Prophet. These books have their own value but things have been set topsyturvy in the house of Islam by placing such books above the Holy Quran in seeking religious guidance.

The Holy Quran was revealed to answer the needs of people of all times and the door to understanding its import and to deduce laws from it to answer new needs was never shut upon Muslims. But today Muslims speak of Islam not in the terms of the Holy Quran but in terms of Hanafi, Shafi’i, Maliki and Hambali laws. That is practically transferring allegiance from the Word of God to man-made laws or to seat men on the throne of Divinity. In another quarter, Hadith or sayings of the Holy Prophet are given authority above the Holy Quran, whereas it is a well-known fact that Holy Quran has been handed to us intact but not so the Hadith. The true order of things was the Quran first, the Hadith after that, and then Fiqah. "Back to the Quran" is the clarion call of the Ahmadiyya Movement; back to the pure Islam of the Holy Prophet and his companions; back to the free use of reason and to free interpretation of the Holy Book in the light of new conditions which have been brought about in the world; back to the freedom which our learned and great forefathers enjoyed. In going back to these things lies the real advancement of Islam; these are not so many steps backward but steps forward, for they take the Muslims back from darkness and mental slavery into which they have fallen, to the light and freedom which is their birthright as Muslims.

4. Refuting the doctrine of abrogation in the Quran


While thus bringing the Holy Quran into the forefront in the Muslim’s life, the Ahmadiyya Movement has further done away will all ideas derogatory to the dignity of the Holy Quran. Thus it has exposed the error of the doctrine of naskh. On the basis of certain Hadith reports none of which can be traced to the Holy Prophet, and which in fact contradict each other, it was thought that there are certain verses in the Holy Quran which cannot be reconciled with others and which therefore have been abrogated by those others, and there are certain verses which must be accepted as part of the Holy Quran though they are not met with therein. The allegation that certain verses cannot be reconciled with others amounts virtually to the admission that there are discrepancies in the Holy Book, an idea denounced by the Holy Quran in plain words:

"Will they not then mediate on the Quran? And if it were from any other than Allah, they would have found in it many a discrepancy"
(The Quran, 4:82).
Rejecting the doctrine of abrogation, the Ahmadiyya Movement stands for a complete Quran, in which nothing is abrogated and from which nothing has been left out.

5. Solidarity among Muslims


Yet another very important contribution made to Islamic thought by the Ahmadiyya Movement is to the solidarity of Islam. The liberal attitude of Islam is manifested not only in its relations to the non-Muslim religions, but also in the internal relations of Muslim sects towards each other. "The differences of my ummah are a mercy," was declared by the Holy Prophet, but the Mullah has made them a curse by calling the Muslims kafirs (unbelievers).

The Ahmadiyya Movement lays stress on the fact which has entirely been neglected that in Islam there are no sects worth the name; there are only different schools of thought agreeing in the fundamentals and differing in minor points. Islam stands really for a compact nation spread all over the world. Whether a man call himself a Sunni or a Shia, an Ahl Hadith or an Ahmadi, all are agreed on One God regarding Whose attributes they have no differences, on one Prophet whom they all consider to be the Last Prophet, on one Book which they believe to be the final revelation. And, further, there is unity among them even on the practical side of religion. All Muslims acknowledge the same five prayers at exactly the same times and perform in the same manner; they have the same month of fasting, the same zakat and the same pilgrimage. The world cannot show another example of a nation spread so wide, with its component parts separated from each other for over thirteen centuries when there were no means of easy communication, and yet agreeing in so many principles in theory as well as in practice. The narrow-minded Mullah is, however, blind to this unparalleled agreement of the Muslim world and the minor points of differences loom large in his jaundiced eye. The result is that with such a wonderful agreement on so many points of vital importance, the Muslim world is shattered into pieces, and almost every person, every sect, every school of thought is denounced kafir by another.

The Ahmadiyya Movement has done immense service to the cause of Islam by denouncing this tendency. It calls attention to the Divine ordinance laid down in the Holy Quran:

"And say not to anyone who offers you (Islamic) salutation: Thou art not a believer."(The Quran, 4:94).
and to the injunction of the Holy Prophet:
"Whoever says prayer as we say it, and faces our Qiblah...he is a Muslim for whom is the convent of Allah, so do not violate the Divine convenant"
(Al-Sahih al-Bukhari, Ch. al-Salat).
It lays stress on the principle which forms the basis of Islam that everyone is a Muslim who declares his faith in the Kalima, i.e., La ilaha ill-allah Muhammadur rasul-ullah, and who owes allegiance to the Holy Quran to whatever sect or school of thought he may belong. It is the acceptance of this principle only which can again restore the wonderful solidarity of Islam.

6. Finality of Prophethood and meaning of "return of the Messiah"


The Ahmadiyya Movement of Lahore has again done valuable service to the cause of Islam by its interpretation of the doctrine of the finality of prophethood. There is, no doubt, an agreement that prophethood came to a close with the advent of the Prophet Muhammad, as expressly laid down in the Holy Quran, but at the same time it is also a unanimous Muslim belief based on a reliable Hadith narrated by Bukhari and Muslim that Jesus Christ, an Israelite prophet, would come after him. Apparently these are two contradictory statements, as the Final Prophet must be the one who comes after all, and if Jesus Christ comes after the Holy Prophet it is he who must be looked upon as the Last Prophet. The Ahmadiyya Movement reconciles these two statements by interpreting the prophecy of the advent of Jesus Christ in metaphorical sense, in exactly the sense in which the prophecy of the second advent of Elias was interpreted by Jesus Christ himself. There is prophecy in the Old Testament that Elias, who was believed by the Jews to have been taken alive to heaven, would appear before the advent of Jesus Christ, but when the latter, on his claim to Messiahship, was confronted with the question that Elias had not made his appearance as prophesied, his reply was that John the Baptist was the Elias that was to come because he had come in spirit and power of Elias (Luke, 1:17; Matthew, 17:10-13). Thus the Muslim belief relating to the second advent of Jesus Christ has an exact parallel in the Jewish belief relating to the second advent of Elias. Both are supposed to have been taken alive to heaven, and there is a prophecy for the second advent of both. If Jesus Christ was the true Messiah, as evidently every Muslim believes, then it is a proved fact that the prophecy relating to his second advent means the coming of a person in his spirit and power. This is the interpretation of the prophecy relating to the second advent of Jesus as offered by the Ahmadiyya Movement.

The doctrine of the finality of prophethood, according to which no prophet can come after the Holy Prophet Muhamad, is a conclusive proof of the truth of this interpretation, but it is further supported by the very hadith which speaks of the advent of the Messiah. For the hadith related by Bukhari and Muslim, about the prophecy of the Messiah’s appearance among the Muslims, is followed by the words "wa imamukum minkum" (Sahih al-Bukhari, Ch. "Descent of Jesus") or "wa imamukum", i.e. he is your Imam from among yourselves. In other words, the Promised Messiah is an individual belonging to the Muslim community and not an Israelite. This conclusion is further corroborated by the hadith related by Bukhari speaking of two different Messiahs, the Israelite Messiah as ahmar (of white complexion) and ja’d (having curly hair), and the Messiah to come as adam (white tinged with balckness) and sabit (having lank hair). The death of Jesus Christ plainly spoken of in the Holy Quran also shows the Ahmadiyya interpretation of the prophecy to be the right one.

The only other alternative is to reject all hadith speaking of the advent of the Messiah as maudu` or fabricated, but no Muslim having any regard for Hadith would dare to make such an accession. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad made certain statements about two years ago which created the impression that he rejected these hadith, but when certain Ahl Hadith put to him a direct question relating to the truth of the hadith speaking of the coming Messiah, he made it clear that he believed these hadith to be authentic. And in fact to reject such a large number of hadith which speak of the Messiah and which have been accepted as genuine by the two most reliable collections of Hadith, Bukhari and Muslim, would be too bold a step on the part of a Muslim. The highest Muslim authorities have not dared to reject a hadith so long as it can be reconciled with the Holy Quran or the principles of Islam, and that is the course which the Ahmadiyya Movement follows in the matter of those hadith which speak of the advent of the Messiah.

A Messiah is not needed when we have a perfect guidance for us in the Holy Quran, is the irresponsible remark made sometimes by Muslims holding liberal views, but when the Holy Prophet says that a Messiah is needed and must come, it does not befit a Muslim to reject the Holy Prophet’s words lightly. The prejudice against the Messiah is due, in fact, to the superficial view of things which characterises the Muslim masses to-day. A little reflection would show that a Messiah was needed not only to carry the message of Islam to the followers of first Messiah, but also to reveal the spirit of Islam to the Muslims themselves who, as predicted by the Holy Prophet, are following in the footsteps of the Jews. Just as a Messiah was needed for the Jews when they wrangled about words, not caring for the spirit of a religion, a Messiah was needed for the Muslims when they adopted the same Jewish mentality. As the late Sayyid Mumtaz Ali says in one of his articles published after his death:

    "The Jews added the Talmud, Midrash, etc., to the Torah, and God sent the Messiah for their correction. It was probably in obedience to that Divine law that marhum and maghfur [may God have mercy on him and grant him protection] Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian claimed Messiahship in order to break off the Jewish mentality of the Muslims of this age." (Tahzib-i Niswan, November 1938)

7. Identity of Dajjal, Gog and Magog


Along with the light thrown on the doctrine of the finality of prophethood and that of the advent of the Messiah, the Ahmadiyya Movement has cleared the eschatological atmosphere of Islam and changed what appeared to be a blot on the rational and simple religion of Islam into a beauty spot, a prophecy for the triumph of Islam.

The advent of the Promised Messiah did not stand alone in eschatological prophecy; it was essentially combined with the idea of the appearance of Antichrist (Dajjal) and of Gog and Magog (Yajuj and Majuj). The prevalent idea among the Muslims based on certain words of Hadith was that the Dajjal was a one-eyed man who would make his appearance in the latter days with treasures of the world at his command, that he would lay claim to Godhead, carrying even paradise and hell with him and that he would traverse the whole earth in forty days, visiting every habitation of men inviting them to accept his divinity and enriching those who followed him, and that Gog and Magog would be an extraordinary creation of God who would spread over the whole earth. The truth about this prophecy flashed upon the mind of the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement at the very time that he was raised to the dignity of the Messiahship. The Dajjal and Gog and Magog, he said, were no other than the Christian nations of the West. In their religious attitude, in contradicting the teachings of Christ and the teachings of all the prophets of God, they represented the Antichrist, while in their material power and materialistic tendencies they represented Gog and Magog. A close study of the Holy Quran and Hadith shows that all the signs of the Dajjal and Gog and Magog were met with among these people.

8. Spiritual conquest of the West


This gave a definite direction to the work of Ahmadiyya Movement, and it was, in one word, the spiritual conquest of the West. Thus the wonderful work of the Islamisation of the West, of which the foundations have been laid by the Ahmadiyya Movement, is essentially bound up in its belief relating to the advent of the Messiah. That the Muslims in general have lost the zeal and energy of the earlier days of Islam for carrying forward the message of Islam is admitted on all hands. Islam’s triumph is, they seem to believe, to be brought by the Messiah and the Mahdi, and they have nothing to do but to wait and see. That the Messiah who was to come has already appeared is an idea which shifts the responsibility to the Muslim’s own shoulders; it brings back to him the zeal to carry forward the message of Islam. If the Messiah has come, the time has also arrived to destroy the Dajjal and conquer the West for Islam. This is the great mental revolution achieved among those who join the Ahmadiyya Movement, a mere handful of men who are carrying the message of Islam to the farthest ends of the world, while the millions of the orthodox are either idle or occupied with their internal dissensions.