In an article published in the Wall Street Journal entitled Why Islam needs a reformation, Ayaan Hirsi listed five areas of Islam that “require amendment.”
Hirsi is pointing out the violent behavior of certain people or groups who call themselves Muslims, attributing it to Islam, and suggesting a man-made reform to solve it. Her five point reformation plan is not the solution to the problem, however it does raise concerns commonly expressed against Islam. Hirsi may be surprised to know that the majority of the Muslims already believe in an Islamic reformation and are waiting for it. It is my argument that this reformation has already come.
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is the only community in Islam that claims to be the Divine reformation in Islam- a reformation sent by God. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad the founder of the Ahmadiyya community claimed to be the foretold Messiah more than a century ago. In order to understand the current confusion about Islam we need to analyze it from the lens of the Ahmadiyya reformation. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad wrote:
“He [God] laid the foundation for continuing the benefits of his [Muhammad’s] Shariah and his spiritual blessings to the day of resurrection. And at long last, from the flow of His spiritual benefits for mankind, God sent the Promised Messiah to this world whose advent was indispensable for the completion of the structure of Islam.”(Noah’ Arc)
I will now take Hirsi’s points one by one and respond to them from the perspective of the Ahmadiyya reformation.
First, Hiris writes, “Muhammad should not be seen as infallible, let alone as a source of divine writ.” Hirsi’s statement is flawed. Muhammad’s status in Islam is the Prophet of Islam. As a Prophet of God, Muhammad’s practices are the role model for the Muslims to follow. To suggest that Muhammad himself misunderstood the message from God is absurd and baseless. The right question, however is, weather the traditions of Muhammad, as captured in the Hadith (book of traditions) later on or written in the exegesis by some scholars, are the right representation of Muhammad’s actual practice or not. If not, how do we know which tradition is accurate and which one is not? Mirza Ghulam Ahmad laid out a convincing principal to deal with this dilemma. He says, “If a Hadith (tradition) falls counter to the Quran or Sunnah (practice) of the Prophet, then it should be rejected.” There are so many examples in the history of Islam where such fabricated traditions have caused confusion and misunderstanding both among the Muslims and the non-Muslims.
The second part to her first point regarding the “literal reading of the Quran” stems from her lack of complete understanding of the Quran. The Quran itself responded to this point in this verse: He it is Who has sent down to thee the Book; in it there are verses that are decisive in meaning — they are the basis of the Book — and there are others that are susceptible to different interpretations. But those in whose hearts is perversity pursue such thereof as are susceptible of different interpretations, seeking discord and seeking wrong interpretation of it. (3:8). The Quran itself cautioned its readers not to take all the verses literally and misconstrue their meaning.
The second point Hirsi makes is about the supremacy of the life after death and suggests that this life should be given preference over the life after death. Her misunderstanding can be attributed to the misconstrued notion of martyrdom, which some have presented as finding “virgins” and other rewards in paradise. There is no evidence from the Quran or the traditions of the Prophet that promises a reward for taking innocent lives. In fact martyrdom is a spiritual status in Islam that is given to those who “obey the commandments of God and His Prophet, Muhammad” (4:70). One clear-cut commandment of God is that “there is no compulsion in religion” let alone killing in the name of religion (2:256). Those who take innocent lives cannot be called martyrs in Islam.
Hirsi’s third and forth point is about Sharia and its implementation by the individuals. Hirsi suggests that Muslims should learn to put man-made dynamic and evolving laws above the violent aspects of Sharia and individuals should not have the right to enforce the Sharia law. First, the Quran is a book of spiritual guidance for Muslims and should be treated as such. As stated above the Quranic text is open to interpretation and needs be understood in its complete context. Violent groups have taken some portions of the Quran out of context to justify their worldly objectives. Islam does not condone any kind of extremism as mentioned in the above stated verse. Secondly, Islam does not allow individuals to enforce the Sharia. The Quran states, “O ye who believe! obey God, and obey His Prophet and those who are in authority among you. And if you differ in anything among yourselves, refer it to God and His Prophet (4:60) Only a divinely guided spiritual leader can provide the right interpretation for the contemporary issues faced by Muslims, based on the overall teachings of Islam. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is the only community in Islam that has this divine leadership in succession to Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. Mirza Masroor Ahmad is the current spiritual Khalifa of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community who is providing the correct interpretation of Islam for the Muslims today.
Finally, Hirsi says that Islam should reject the Jihad of the sword. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the divinely appointed reformer of Islam writes, “The doctrine of Jihad as understood and propagated by the Muslim divines of this age who are called maulvis is utterly incorrect.” He further states, “I have brought you a commandment, which is that Jihad with the sword has been ended but the Jihad of the purification of your spirits must continue to be waged. I say this not on my own but in order to proclaim the design of God”Accordingly I command those who have joined my ranks that they should discard all such notions. They should purify their hearts and foster their mercy and should have sympathy for the afflicted. They should spread peace on the earth, for this would cause their faith to spread.” This is the true understanding of Jihad that Muslims need to pay attention to.
Mirza Ghulam Ahmad is the very reformer that Muslims have been waiting for. He is the solution to the problems of the contemporary Muslims that critics like Hirsi are pointing out. It is a grave dishonesty to neglect Mirza Ghulam Ahmad’s voice while searching for a solution about Islam. It will only be a speculative effort without any real fruits.