Pakistan may be too far along on the Ahmadi issue for there to be any meaningful change in our lifetimes. However it is our duty to keep repeating the truth.
Quaid-e-Azam Mahomed Ali Jinnah was the only Muslim politician in the history of the subcontinent to have taken a clear stance in favour of Ahmadis by stating that Ahmadis were Muslims because they said so. He said:
“I have been asked a disturbing question, as to who among the Muslims can be a member of the Muslim Conference. It has been asked with particular reference to the Qadianis. My reply is that, as far as the constitution of the All-India Muslim League is concerned, it stipulates that any Muslim, without distinction of creed or sect, can become a member, provided he accepts the views, policy and programme of the Muslim League, signs the form of membership and pays the subscription. I appeal to the Muslims of Jammu and Kashmir not to raise sectarian questions, but instead to unite on one platform under one banner. In this lies the welfare of the Muslims. In this way, not only can Muslims make political and social progress effectively, but so can other communities, and so also can the state of Kashmir as a whole.”
“Mr. M. A. Sabir tried as hard as he could to persuade the Quaid-i-Azam to declare Qadianis as being out of the fold of Islam. But the Quaid-i-Azam stuck resolutely to his principle and kept on replying: `What right have I to declare a person non-Muslim, when he claims to be a Muslim’.
(23rd May, 1944, Srinagar)
The Quaid refused to declare Ahmadis Non-Muslim and resisted tooth and nail the pressure that brought upon him to turn them out of the Muslim League. For this he was called “Kafir-e-Azam” and abused publicly by the Ahraris who were backed by Congress leader Maulana Azad. The following pictures are from Dr. Ayesha Jalal’s “Self and Sovereignty” which show just how courageous a stand it was for Jinnah to have taken. It is a searing irony that the nation he founded has pretty much made a mockery of Quaid-e-Azam by doing the exact opposite.
Pakistan today is not the country Jinnah wanted it to be. Its persecution of minorities – especially Ahmadis – goes against the grain of Jinnah’s ideas and principles that he set before the new state. Ironically Pakistan has adopted the thinking of Maulana Azad, who opposed tooth and nail the creation of Pakistan, on the issue. Maulana Azad, though not anti-Ahmadi in the sense that Maulanas are today (he had even written a balanced obituary of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the founder of Ahmadi Muslim Sect), wrote the following lines in Zamindar:
“You enquire which one of the two Ahmadi groups follows the true path, the Qadian group or the Lahore one. In my opinion neither is on the true and right path, but the Qadian section has gone too far in its ghuluww, so far that the very fundamentals of Islam have been shaken; for instance, its belief that for faith and salvation the known and admitted doctrines of Islam are not now sufficient and that it is essential to believe in the Mirza Sahib of Qadian. But the Lahore group denies this ghuluww; it neither confesses a faith in the prophethood of the Mirza Sahib nor does it add any new condition to the conditions of faith; where it has stumbled is in the misplaced belief which it has created for the Mirza Sahib.” (Maulana Azad in Zamindar 16 June 1936)
According to Azad the Qadiani section of the Ahmadis had shaken the very fundamentals of Islam. He thus contributed in large part to the debate that was continuing around the status of Ahmadis. It may be stated however that Maulana Azad’s dispute was a doctrinal dispute- at least he did not engage in direct vitriol against the community but it was the party he helped found – the Majlis-e-Ahrar-ul-Islam that upped the ante. Another contributor to this debate was none other than Allama Iqbal. Allama Iqbal interestingly had been even more closely linked to Ahmadis than Maulana Azad had been. His elder brother’s family was Ahmadi and so was his eldest son Aftab. In 1930s, Allama Iqbal nominated the leader of the Ahmadi community Mian Bashiruddin Mahmud as the president of the Kashmir Committee. Yet in 1935 or so something changed and Iqbal turned against the Ahmadis with a zealot’s passion. He recommended the excommunication of Ahmadis from the body of Muslims, a demand that was enthusiastically supported by Majlis-e-Ahrar. It may be remembered that Congress used Majlis-e-Ahrar-e-Islam against the Muslim League by using the former to attempt to split the latter along sectarian lines. This they attempted by playing the anti-Ahmadi and anti-Shia card. Jinnah was presented as a godless westernized leader, a Rafizi Shia who patronized Ahmadis and communists. The crucial link between Majlis-e-Ahrar-e-Islam, Jamiat-e-ulema-Hind and the Congress Party’s leaders – Gandhi and Nehru- was Maulana Azad. Thus these two great Islamic intellectuals, Allama Iqbal and Maulana Azad, mainly for political reasons unleashed the anti-Ahmadi movement that culminated in 1974 in form of the 2nd Amendment to the Pakistani Constitution. The anti-Ahmadi sentiment had been largely a Punjabi undertaking. With the separation of East Pakistan in 1971, Punjabi Muslims became the majority in Pakistan. Bhutto thus was literally driven into declaring Ahmadis Non-Muslim.
Coming back to Majlis-e-Ahrar though, it was very much the creature of Maulana Azad. Of late certain sections of liberals in Pakistan have begun presenting Maulana Azad as some sort of secular liberal icon only because he opposed the creation of Pakistan, forgetting that his net contribution to Indian Muslim thought was of an extremely conservative brand. He was with the Congress because all the conservative and religious orthodoxy coming out of seminaries were opposed to the salariat and western educated class leading the Muslims. Samina Awan in her seminal study “Political Islam in Colonial Punjab Majlis-e-Ahrar 1929-1949 writes on page 11 of the book that it was at Maulana Azad’s great insistence that Majlis-e-Ahrar was founded in 1929. Initially their activities were benign, like picketing liquor shops and attack foreign cloth traders during Gandhi’s Salt March which they most willingly joined. Ataullah Shah Bukhari the leading light and close friend of Maulana Azad was arrested as was Habibur Rahman Ludhianvi during the movement. Rooted in the Khilafat Movement, Ahrar’s pretensions were that it was a progressive anti-imperialist party.
The particularly acerbic anti-Ahmadi phase of the Majlis-e-Ahrar started when All India Kashmir Committee was formed in 1931. It was headed by the leader of the Ahmadis, Mian Bashir Uddin Mahmud. In August 1931, the Majlis-e-Ahrar-ul-Islam consulted Maulana Azad who advised them to start a civil disobedience movement in Kashmir (see page 42 of Samina Awan’s aforementioned book). The reason behind this was to create a counter movement to All India Kashmir Committee. In building the momentum to the civil disobedience, Majlis-e-Ahrar began expounding its anti-Ahmadi narrative warning of a grand Qadiani conspiracy to take over Kashmir. Iqbal was the first casualty. He left the All India Kashmir Committee under pressure from the Ahrar. Ahrar was duly supported by the Urdu Press, especially Zamindar and Inquilab. Throughout this period the top leadership of the Ahrar party maintained a direct link with Jawaharlal Nehru through Maulana Azad (See page 73 of aforesaid book by Samina Awan). Apparently Ahrar’s President Maulana Habib-ur-Rahman Ludhianvi was deeply impressed by Nehruvian Socialism.
Ayesha Jalal writes:
“There was something peculiar about a ‘secular’ nationalist party counting on the vocal support of anti-imperial cultural relativists of Ahrar and Madani to claim a Muslim following. A spate of pamphlets published by Jamiat-e-Ulema Hind and Ahrar delighted in exposing League’s lack of Islamic credentials, pointing to Jinnah’s emphatic assertions about Pakistan being a democracy in which Hindus and Sikhs would have an almost equal population. Substantiation that pro-Congress Muslims did much to weaken the Muslim League’s case on equal citizenship rights is the rejection by Jamiat-e-Ulema Hind and Ahrar laity of any possible equation between a democratic and an Islamic government….Throughout the run-up to the 1945-1946 elections and beyond, Punjabi leaders like Shaukat Hayat and Mumtaz Daultana not to mention Iftikharuddin and Communists tried reassuring Hindus and Sikhs that their citizenship rights would be protected in Pakistan. They had considerable backing from the Punjab League and the Press.”
And then on bottom of page 457 and then on Page 458 Ayesha Jalal writes:
“Yet it (Ahrar) felt no pangs of conscience spreading sectarian hatred amongst Muslims. While Bashiruddin Mahmud was excoriated for being a ‘drunkard’ and a ‘womaniser’, Ahmadis were ‘warned’ that they would cease to exist once the British quit India. Mazhar Ali Azhar’s threat to restart the Madha-i-Sahaba against the Shias of Lucknow aimed ‘at retarding Muslim League by creating internal religious differences.’… Hailing Dr Khan sahib’s Congress ministry as a step in the direction of Hukumat-e-Illahaya, Ahrar demanded more emphatic evidence of Shariat rule in the province. The Frontier Jamiat-e-Ulema-Hind also claimed to be the only representative Muslim party. It believed that ‘Hindus and Muslims belonged to the same race” but it still wanted the Congress to sanction a department of Qazis to prove its Islamic credentials”.
Congress’s biggest Islamist supporter Madani did not attack Jinnah personally but attacked him for having supported the right to civil marriage between Hindus and Muslims and for watering down Shariat bills. On Pages 459-460 ibid Jalal says:
“He (Madani) recalled how the lawyer turned leader of India’s Muslims had consistently watered down Shariat bills in the Central Assembly. During the debate on Child Marriage Act, Jinnah had supported the right of educated Hindu and Muslim youth to contract a civil marriage. He had dismissed the contention that this was contrary to the principles of Islam, noting that laws were constantly being passed which ran counter to the Quran… Intrepid in the face of his religious opponents,,Jinnah’s attittude is a reflection of the crisis of moral authority in the Muslim community. Hoping to lead it in some unison on the negotiating table, he was not ready to give quarter to men who could live the contradictions in the Congress but not with those of a political party trying to extract maximum benefits for Indian Muslims.
Congress’ unholy alliance with the Islamists and religious fascists with which its political ideas could not be reconciled is a fact of history. This had started with the Khilafat Movement where Gandhiji had chosen to reach out to the Mullahs instead of the modernists. Ahrar – as I have shown above- was a spin off of the Khilafat Movement. In the heat of battle Congress therefore was ready to use every Muslim organization that attacked Jinnah. Unfortunately those who criticize the Muslim League for resorting to the use of Pirs and Mashaikh in the elections forget that they were up against vilest of religious propaganda which sought to divide Muslims along sectarian lines. Ahmadis and Shias were thus acceptable collateral damage to the Congress.
The point of the aforesaid discussion is to show how the approaches of Azad and Iqbal were at complete variance to Jinnah who repeatedly refused to allow the Ahmadi issue become anything more than a doctrinal dispute. Iqbal wanted to declare Ahmadis a group outside Islam. Azad used Majlis-e-Ahrar in a move against the Muslim League but in the process encouraged bigotry against Ahmadis. It is therefore a tragedy that Pakistan has abandoned the path of Jinnah and has accepted Iqbal’s ideas and the politics of Azad’s minions. India thanks to secularism of Nehru and Ambedkar has so far not allowed the discourse of Maulana Azad and his supporters become a part of the state and it was no doubt helped by the fact that Muslim Punjab does not for the most part form of a part of that country.