Does the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Speak for Islam?
Originally published in Patheos
Dr. Stephen M. Kirby is a noted bigot whose mission is only to spread hatred of Muslims. He makes no bones about his hatred for Islam or Muslims. His stated goal is to prove that the violence committed by the likes of ISIS is inspired by the “true” Islam. The problem for him, and others like him, is that when groups like the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community (AMC) show, by their example, the beauty of Islam, he has no choice but to demonize them. Hence his question, “Do Ahmadi Muslims Really Speak for Islam?”
He doesn’t give any reference from actual Islamic literature (Quran, Sunnah, or Hadith) to discredit the AMC, but instead relies on the treatment of this group by other Muslims because, according to him, people have never erred in their opinions. I wonder if he’s ever considered that Jesus was also considered a heretic by his contemporaries. And what about all the Muslim organizations that have denounced violence committed in the name of Islam? According to Dr. Kirby’s criteria, certainly ISIS could not be considered Islamic.
Nevertheless, the question itself is important because Ahmadi Muslims do appear on national media and are able to promote a very different image of Islam than what ISIS and other like-minded groups offer. Can the world trust a group that is despised by many Muslim leaders across the world? If these leaders hate this group so much that they are willing to stake their personal and professional integrity, then there must be something wrong, right?
The truth is that Ahmadi Muslims are Muslims by any definition that the Quran or the Prophet Muhammad provides. The Quran highlights many attributes of a believer and the Ahmadi Muslims practice all of them. They believe in the five pillars of Islam. They believe in the six articles of faith, and they believe in all that was described by the Prophet regarding the attributes of a believer. Likewise, the Prophet said, “Whoever prays like us and faces our Qibla and eats our slaughtered animals is a Muslim.”
Are there some doctrinal differences between Ahmadi Muslims and “orthodox” Muslims? Sure, but not as much as people like Dr. Kirby or others would like to believe, and certainly not more than within other sects with Islam. It’s true Ahmadi Muslims fundamentally differ in three ways: the finality of Prophethood, the death of Jesus, and physical Jihad. However, these are not entirely foreign among the Muslim Ummah. For example, many Muslim reformers throughout Islamic history have believed in prophethood after the Prophet Muhammad. Likewise, many Muslims scholars in the past and today believe in the death of Jesus. And while abolishing Jihad in a British Colony like India didn’t earn the founder of Ahmadiyya any favors with the political elites of Indian Muslims, his wisdom cannot be denied as today Muslims can see the bitter end of their struggles. Today most major Muslim organizations denounce physical Jihad and adopts the definition that has been promoted by the AMC since it’s foundation.
If the mere pontification of critics was enough to discredit an organization, then what should we make of the abusive language Muslims have hurled against each other? Ask a Sunni what he thinks of Shia, or ask a Shia what he thinks of Sufism, or ask Ahle-Sunnah what he thinks of Ahle-Hadith—the abuse hurled against each other can sometimes be unfathomable. Imam Shafi, Abu Hanifa, Imam Malik, and Imam Hanbal are considered the four most scholarly individuals within Islamic jurisprudence, but even they have had differences in opinion. Then there is the statement of Ibn Khaldun, one of the greatest historians, who accused the Shia-Muslims of being the source of all deviant groups in Islamic history.
Furthermore, many Muslim critics have offered praise for the works of the founder of the AMC, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian, India. At the death of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, obituaries were full of praise for him written by Muslim scholars who were not among his followers:
“The shattering replies he gave to the opponents of Islam, we have not seen any rational refutation of these.”
“Undoubtedly, the deceased was a great fighter for Islam.”
“Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Qadiani is also right, and he is right and truthful in his affair. Day and night he is engrossed in the service of God Almighty. He has given his life for the progress of Islam and raising aloft the cause of the faith. I can see nothing wrong or bad in him at all. If he has claimed to be the Mahdi and Messiah, that too is among the things which are permissible.”
In his blind hatred for Islam, Dr. Kirby makes the same mistake that extremists groups like ISIS have made: he’s passed judgment and condemnation on an entire group without any shred of cogent arguments. The fact is that when the Quran speaks of Muslims being raised for the good of mankind, it is the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community that fulfills that role. Their schools, hospitals, charities, and mosques are open to all of mankind. Their message of Love for All, Hatred for None is the embodiment of the Quranic verse that gives glad tidings to the believers that Allah will bring about love between you and those of them with whom you are now at enmity (Chapter 60: Verse 8). And when the Quran speaks of honoring previous prophets and their message, no Muslim community has done more to bring various religious communities together. in fact, the founder of the AMC first introduced the concept of a religious founders’ day to honor the great founders of all religions. The community carries that tradition even today across the world.
So, do Ahmadis really speak for Islam? Yes, they do. And they speak loudly and proudly because the faith that they proclaim honors those that believe in God over those who reject Him, no matter how small a group. In relating the story of David and Goliath, the Quran reminds believers that a small party can triumph over a large party by Allah’s command. The AMC may not have the resources to match their opponents, but they march forth with the confidence of David’s small party.