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aaiil.org > Articles & Magazines > A Collection of Various Articles > The Ahmadiyya Movement by Nasir Ahmad

The Ahmadiyya Movement:

by Nasir Ahmad

Speech delivered at the Gasparillo Masjid, March 1999

Why Ahmadis: Offer 8 rakahs in the Tarawih prayer, and not 20; Refuse to stand up during the Tazim; Believe in the natural birth and death of Jesus Christ; and, Believe that the Miraaj (the ascension of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, pbuh) was spiritual and not bodily

In view of the massive literature produced and the propaganda carried out against the Ahmadiyya Movement and its Founder [Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Sahib of Qadian], the general impression that people get is that this is not a movement within Islam but a religion outside of Islam. This impression received more weight when the National Assembly of Pakistan, through a constitutional amendment under the Bhutto regime (1974), declared Ahmadis a non-Muslim minority.

Here I will relate an incident narrated by Ibni Inshaa, a renowned poet and writer of Indo-Pakistan fame. He was passing through the famous Mall Road in the Murree Hills, a beautiful hill station in the north of Pakistan. There he saw a burnt down building of a mosque and some people were collecting donations for rebuilding it. He asked one the persons: "How did this mosque catch fire?" The person replied, "No, Sir, it did not catch fire. It was burnt down as it was built by kafirs." Ibni Inshaa, in a sarcastic voice said: "Do non-Muslims, too, build mosques?" Unfortunately that mosque was owned by Lahore Ahmadis.

So Brothers and Sisters, this intolerance among Muslims is the greatest hurdle in the way of the progress of Islam. A religion which derives its integrity and strength from its rational and tolerant teachings has become a tool of intolerance and irrationality in the hands of its own adherents. The Ahmadiyya Movement was Divinely-ordained to eradicate these and other blemishes from the fair name of Islam and to present it to the world in its pristine purity. The Movement bases its views and interpretations of the teachings of Islam only on the Quran and Sunnah of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and nothing besides them. Its slogan is Back to the Quran.

The question arises whether the teachings and interpretations of the Ahmadiyya Movement have damaged the integrity of Islam and disrupted the unity of Muslims or whether it has presented a unified Islam and strengthened the cause of Islam. This is the subject of Maulana Muhammad Ali’s book The Promised Messiah. It was translated into English by the late Maulana Sheikh Muhammad Tufail and he revised it on his sick bed. This is the last work left with me of the photocopies of his unpublished works which I took to Pakistan in 1985.

It is heartening to know that the Ahmadiyya views presented through the writings of the late Hazrat Maulana Muhammad Ali and the late Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din have not only been acknowledged as quite in accord with the teachings of the Quran, but have to a large extent been adopted by enlightened Muslim scholars and even accepted by open-minded Christian religious thinkers in the West.

The other day somebody gave me a copy of Qadianism — A Critical Study by S. Abul Hasan Nadvi, published in 1965 by the Academy of Islamic Research and Publications, Nadwatul Ulama, Lucknow, India. When I opened the book, I found in it some newspaper clippings from the daily Express. In a clipping dated 19 June, 1975, under the column Your Opinion, was an interesting letter by Brother Haroun Mohammed of Sellier Street, Curepe with the heading TML and Ahmadiyyat - they are all the same. Leaving out the other details, I will quote just the following:

"The Trinidad Muslim League since its inception carried out the following Ahmadi practices which are contrary to those of other Muslim bodies in the country:

1. Eight rak‘ats Tarawih salah;

2. The refusal to stand up when the Tazim is sung; and

3. Like the Ahmadis, the League believes in the natural birth and death of Jesus Christ, and the spiritual ascension of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)."

Before coming to the belief of Jesus being alive in Heaven as is generally believed by Muslims and its implications regarding what Allah has revealed in the Quran and how the Ahmadiyya interpretation establishes the veracity of the Quran as the final Divine guidance for mankind, let me briefly deal with the first question raised in the letter, that of reading eight rak‘ats of Tarawih instead of twenty.

It is recorded in a hadith that in the month of Ramadan, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was extremely generous and at night he engaged in extra devotional prayers especially in the last ten nights when his worship reached the topmost peak of perfection. In the latter part of the night, he used to read ten rak‘ats of prayer in twos and then added one rak‘at called the Witr, thus making the whole prayer an odd number — eleven rak‘ats in all.

The Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) used to read eleven rak‘ats of prayer called the Tahajjud prayer. This name was given to it because tahajjud means getting up from sleep. So the prayer that people read after rising from sleep is called Tahajjud. But if a person should stay awake all night and keep on performing prayer throughout the night, that prayer, according to the definition of the Shar‘iah (Law) cannot be called Tahajjud.

The eleven rak‘ats of prayer that the Holy Prophet (pbuh) used to read in the latter part of the night was called Tahajjud. This is the prayer that is called Tarawih in the month of Ramadan because after every two rak‘ats of prayer, a short rest is permitted and it is because of this rest that this prayer is called Tarawih. Thus the Tarawih prayer in the month of Ramadan is regarded as an alternative to the Tahajjud prayer and not an additional or separate one, and for ease and convenience it is read in the earlier part of the night rather than in the later part, as it should be.

Twenty rak‘ats of Tarawih no way come in line with the eight rak‘ats of Tahajjud of the Holy Prophet. The Tarawih came into practice during the time of Caliph Umar (rta). People were sitting one night in the mosque and engaging in idle talk. The Caliph passed by them and asked them what they were doing. On receiving the reply that they were just enjoying some small talk, he asked a person who knew that Holy Quran by heart to gather the people into a congregation and lead them in twenty rak‘ats of supererogatory prayer. This then became the accepted practice in Ramadan. The Holy Prophet (pbuh) did indeed lead Tahajjud prayer in congregation for three nights during the last ten nights of Ramadan when he was in a state of I’tikaf in the mosque, but after that he stopped it. The fact remains that Tarawih was never the practice of the Holy Prophet nor that of his Companions (rta). In this connection, it will be worthwhile to go through pages 178 to 183 of Maulana Muhammad Ali’s A Manual of Hadith.

Technically speaking, Tarawih cannot be called an exact alternative to Tahajjud, yet it is a fact that when Hazrat Umar started it, the idea was that people who cannot, for some reason or other, get up for Tahajjud prayer in the month of Ramadan, should at least take part in these supererogatory prayers in congregation and listen to the recitation of the Holy Quran throughout this month.

Brothers and Sisters, in adopting eight rak‘ats in Tarawih prayer, the intention of Ahmadis is to keep as close as possible to the practice of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as he usually read eight rak‘ats in his Tahajjud prayer.

Now, about standing for Ta’zim. People say that there is nothing wrong with standing for the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as a mark of respect. We all stand for the National Anthem so why not for our beloved Holy Prophet Muhammad? Of course, we would have done so willingly and joyously if the Holy Prophet himself did not prohibit it when he said: "Do not stand for me." But worse, to stand with the idea that the Holy Prophet (pbuh) has appeared in the gathering, is to make him omnipotent like Allah, which is absolutely wrong and against the concept of the Unity of Allah. We should bear in mind that during Salah (Prayer) we recite the complete darud and this is what Allah has taught us to do. This means that the darud can also be recited while in a sitting position and it is no disrespect to the Holy Prophet as this is what he and all his Companions (rta) did and what the whole ummah (Muslim nation) has been doing.

In the matter of Ta’zim, Ahmadis are strictly adhering to the concept of the Unity of Allah and are also abiding by the practice which has been taught by Allah Himself and the Holy Prophet (pbuh), too.

Similar is the case of offering du‘a after the ritual prayers. Ritual prayer itself is a method taught by Allah to offer to Him praise and supplication. Starting from iy-ya-ka na’-bu-du in surah Fatihah to reciting rab-bij-‘al-ni in qa‘-dah, we engage in glorification and supplication to Allah for our own self, our parents, our children and the whole Muslim ummah and this is what Allah Himself has taught us to do. After this formal prayer, there remains no need for praying in an informal way after the salah is finished. Of course, there is nothing wrong with making a special du‘a for someone or for some important matter after the formal prayer.

Now, let us consider the question of the birth of Jesus in the natural way, that is, through the agency of a father. Let me quote just one verse of the Holy Quran where Allah, while rejecting the belief that He has a son, puts forward an argument regarding Himself. Allah says in the Holy Quran: Wonderful Originator of the heavens and the earth! How could He have a son when He has no consort? And He created everything and He is the Knower of all things (6:102). This means that as Allah has no consort He cannot have a son. Now if Allah needs a consort to have a son, how is it possible for Mary to have a son without the agency of a consort? If we believe this, then in view of this verse of the Quran, Mary, may Allah forbid, is superior to Allah in this respect. In order to strengthen the argument, Allah points out that He is the Originator of the heavens and the earth, yet if He needs a son, then He will have to follow His Own law, that is, He should have a consort. So those who believe that Jesus was born in the natural way are strictly following the law ordained by Allah for all human beings, and which has been explained at various places in the Quran.

Let me now take up the issue of the death of Jesus which is considered the major factor in declaring the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement a kafir and his followers as non-Muslims.

Ahmadis believe that Jesus survived death on the Cross and died a natural death. The Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement expounded this idea not because he wanted to put forward his own claim of being the Promised Messiah, but because it was against the clear teachings of the Holy Quran and negates the concept of the finality of prophethood of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

For instance, the Quran says: Everyone on this earth passes away (55:26), but some Muslims believe that Jesus is still alive in the heavens. The Quran says in 3:48: Rasulan ila Bani Israil (He was a prophet to the Children of Israel). Muslims believe that in his second advent he will be the Imam of the Muslim ummah. Now, what will be the interpretation of this verse if Prophet Jesus should die as the Imam of the Muslim ummah? The Quran says: La-kir ra-sulal lahi wa khataman nabiyyin (Prophet Muhammad is the Seal of the Prophets) which means that there will be no prophet after him. Some Muslims believe that a former prophet, Jesus, is still to come.

The Quran quotes the prophecy of Prophet Jesus in these words: I give good news of a messenger who will come after me, his name being Ahmad (61:6). Now, if Prophet Jesus (pbuh) is still alive then either the prophecy about the coming of Prophet Ahmad after Jesus has not yet been fulfilled as Prophet Jesus is still alive, or if Prophet Muhammad has come, then Jesus must have died.

Regarding verse 4:157, Ma qa-ta-lu-hu wa maa salabuhu, let me quote Abdullah Yusuf Ali who is a well-known orthodox translator of the Quran and whose English translation has been distributed freely by the thousands by the Government of Saudi Arabia. He says:

"There is a difference of opinion as to the exact meaning of this verse. One school holds that Jesus did not die the usual human death, but still lives in the body in heaven; another holds that he did die but not when he was supposed to be crucified, and that his being ‘raised up’ unto God means that instead of being disgraced as a malefactor, as the Jews intended, he was on the contrary, honoured by God as His apostle."

Abdullah Yusuf Ali has given both views about the verse. But the so-called ulama of the Muslim ummah are so obsessed with the idea of keeping Jesus alive in heaven that they could not tolerate even the mentioning of the other view and on this score vehemently criticised him. A booklet of 97 pages was published by the Council of Ulama of South Africa in 1994 criticising his English translation of the Quran and its 20,000 copies which were distributed.

Let us see what treatment was meted out to another English translation of the Holy Quran done by an equally world-renowned Austrian Muslim scholar, Muhammad Asad, when he made the following comments about the crucifixion of Jesus.

"The Quran categorically denies the story of the crucifixion of Jesus. There exist, among Muslims, many fanciful legends telling us that at the last moment God substituted for Jesus a person closely resembling him (according to some accounts, that person was Judas), who was subsequently crucified in his place. However, none of these legends finds the slightest support in the Quran or in authentic Traditions, and the stories produced in this connection by the classical commentators must be summarily rejected…. Whenever the act of raf’ (elevating) of a human is attributed to God, the verb raf‘ahu, meaning he raised him or elevated him, always means, honouring or exalting. Nowhere in the Quran is there any warrant for the popular belief that God has "taken up" Jesus bodily, in his life, into heaven. The expression God exalted him unto Himself in the above verse denotes the elevation of Jesus to the realm of God’s special grace — a blessing in which all prophets partake, as is evident from 19:57: And We raised him to an elevated state (p. 135).

When the first nine parts of this translation were first published by Rabita Islami, Makkah in 1964, its copies were later burnt because of such comments made by Muhammad Asad. The complete translation was published only in 1980, 16 years after the incident of the burning, by a firm in Gibraltar.

And now a quick word about the Ascension of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). A few years ago, an Urdu book called The Quran and Human Beings was published by Ferozesons, a well-known publisher of Lahore, Pakistan. Its author, a socialist thinker, Safdar Hassan Siddique, has beautifully addressed this widely misunderstood phenomenon. This is what he says:

"The Ascension of the Holy Prophet was not with his body but with his soul. The Ascension took place while his heart was awake. Man’s material body is finite but his soul is infinite."

The Quran has used the words: Ma kazabal fu-a-da ma ra-a. Fu‘ad simply means heart. Abdullah Yusuf Ali translates it as: "The Prophet’s (mind and) heart in no way falsified that which he saw." Muhammad Asad translates it as: "The (servant’s) heart did not give the lie to what he saw: will you then contend with him as to what he saw?" And lastly, Maulana Muhammad Ali’s rendering is: "The heart was not untrue in seeing what he saw." This translation of the Maulana is nearest to the text and also nearest to the facts of the incident. But the orthodox ulama, in spite of the clear words of the Quran, still continue to believe in fanciful stories.

Brothers and Sisters, the Ahmadiyya Movement is a movement dedicated to uphold, believe, practice and propagate the teachings of Islam in its true perspective. This is a path strewn with opposition and tribulations. It has always been the fate of seekers-after-truth, and Prophet Jesus’ crucifixion has epitomised this hard struggle in the way of spreading the truth. Therefore we must never become despondent and give up the noble cause. Instead we must take heart from the words of the Founder himself, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Sahib, as he encourages us:

"As you observe the fruit to appear in season, so also the light descends at its appointed time. None can cause it to descend before. It comes of its own accord and none can impede its coming when it begins to descend. There will be disputes and controversies, but in the end Truth is bound to prevail. It is so because this is not the work of man nor is it within the power of the children of Adam. It is the work of the Almighty God Who rotates the seasons, changes times and brings forth the day from the night and the night from the day."

May Allah bless you all.

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