Preface to the book
The Ahmadiyya Case
by the compiler and translator
Dr. Zahid Aziz
A characteristic of Islam, which has been much admired by non-Muslim
students of comparative religion, is that its basic doctrines and
practices can be stated very simply. The average person, without
being a theologian, can easily understand what beliefs one must
hold, and the practices one must perform, in order to be a Muslim.
We would add, incidentally, that at the other end the philosopher
and the intellectual can go on applying his mind to reach the ever
deeper and finer points underlying these basic principles of the
A related feature of Islam, which has also aroused admiration,
is that there is no priesthood in this religious system. No theological
body has been established with the authority to formulate the official
dogma, to determine heretical beliefs, or to admit people into or
expel them from the faith. This stems from the Islamic view that
institutions of priesthood stand between man and God. Their role
of intermediary easily leads them to claim, in effect,
Divine authority, and they begin to equate their own pronouncements
with the word of God.
It may be thought that the lack of an authoritative priesthood
in a religion must lead to a great divergence among its followers
in matters of belief and practice. But this has not happened in
Islam for precisely the reason that all its basic tenets and practices
can be simply described, and have been known clearly since the beginning
of its history. In fact, there is remarkably little divergence among
the various Muslim sects as regards the fundamentals of the faith,
and it is tragic that unscrupulous sectarian leaders should emphasise
differences which common sense shows to be very minor.
Though there is no priesthood in Islam, there have always been
individuals who devoted their lives to the study and practice of
the faith, and who expounded its teachings by their words as well
as actions, without seeking gain, honour or popularity for themselves.
They did not interpose themselves between man and God, or claim
to be the sole, infallible interpreters of the religion; rather,
they showed others how to approach God directly and encouraged them
to apply their own understanding to the faith. These saintly, learned
men gained recognition due to their integrity, knowledge, high spiritual
qualities, and selfless service of the faith, but this recognition
usually came long after their death. Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (d.
1908), the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement and the central figure
in this court case, was a man of this honourable class.
Such eminent persons have, however, been few. More numerous throughout
Islamic history has been a class of professional, petty
theologians and preachers who assumed the role of priests, despite
the absence of such a concept in Islam. They fulfil the worst fears
that Islam has about a system of priesthood. Religion for them is
a business and the means of their livelihood. In order to monopolise
this field, they present religion as a complicated mystery which,
they claim, only they are in a position to comprehend and convey
to people. The much-admired simplicity of Islam, and its clear definition
of a Muslim, is turned by them into a mass of confusion. They exploit
the ignorance of the masses in religious matters for their own gain,
and strive to perpetuate this ignorance by disallowing independent
thought or study. Anyone not belonging to the narrow circle or sect
of a particular cleric, or disagreeing with him on some point, is
condemned by the said priest as being outside the faith of Islam.
In modern times the professional clerics have become completely
politicised, and openly hanker after political power and influence
in Muslim countries. For this purpose, they have started the so-called
fundamentalist Islamic movements, which are so often
in the international news.
Throughout Islamic history, the saintly scholars of the faith spoken
of earlier, have had to face bitter opposition from the established
clerics the so-called ulama of their times.
The reason is easy to see. The domination of the priestly class,
and its hold over the masses, was threatened by the reform work
of these great men the work of trying to restore the original,
simple teachings of Islam. The clerics, therefore, used the full
weight of their authority to condemn the noble reformers as self-seeking
imposters and preachers of novel, un-Islamic ideas. They misrepresented
and distorted their teachings beyond recognition, in order to provide
grounds for branding them as kafir (unbelievers) and renegades.
And on the basis of these faked charges, they tried to incite the
governments of the day as well as the Muslim public to oppose the
saintly reformers and their followers.
Precisely this has been the case with Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad.
The established theologians, finding no basis in Islamic sources
upon which to refute his teachings and arguments, resorted to a
campaign of discrediting him by false allegations. The hostility
he has faced is far more intense than anything a previous Muslim
reformer had to endure, and this is simply a measure of the greatness
of his rank and reformation work. Every conceivable allegation which
could arouse the Muslim public against him, or make him an object
of mockery, however untrue or improbable it may be, has been levelled
at him by his opponents. From his time to the present day, they
have tried to turn every government of his land against him, from
the British rulers of colonial India to the Muslim governments of
modern Pakistan. Some ulama have even made an occupation
of abusing Hazrat Mirza and blackening his good name. And for what
offence? That he pointed out to them that some of their notions
which were doing immense harm to Islam could not be justified from
the teachings of the faith, and from those very teachings he reiterated
certain truths essential to the survival of Islam in this age! This
book is an account of a court case between some followers of Hazrat
Mirza and powerful organisations of ulama bitterly opposed
Lahore Ahmadiyya Anjuman
The Ahmadiyya Anjuman Ishaat Islam (Ahmadiyya Association
for the Propagation of Islam) of Lahore, whose South African branch
initiated this court case, was founded in 1914 by some prominent
followers of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, with the object of preserving
his true teachings and continuing his mission of the propagation
of Islam. Today the clique of professional priests, as referred
to above, is busily spreading the allegation in all Muslim countries
and all Muslim communities in the world that members of this body
are kafir and outside the fold of Islam. This is a great
irony and tragedy because the Lahore Ahmadiyya Anjuman has a most
distinguished record of service to Islam and to the interests of
the Muslim people.
We note the following facts about this movement:
- It set up Muslim missions in many countries. These missions
presented Islam as such, without reference to a particular sect
or movement. These missions were supported by large numbers of
Muslims outside the movement.
- It produced literature on all aspects of Islam, which was commended
by numerous Sunni Muslim leaders as being unique, high quality,
and perfectly authentic. Muslims outside the movement used this
literature extensively to study Islam, and still do so.
- In public religious debates with other faiths, especially in
India before partition, Lahore Ahmadiyya missionaries were often
called upon by other Muslim organisations to represent Islam.
- This revivalist work of the Lahore Ahmadiyya Anjuman played
a major part in restoring the self-confidence, pride and faith
of the Muslims which had been shattered by the onslaught of other
religions and philosophies.
- This restoration of Muslim national morale and identity led
the Indian Muslims to claim that they constituted a distinctive,
ideological nation which should have a homeland, i.e. the concept
of a Pakistan. A key fundamental in this concept was the stand,
championed by the Lahore Ahmadiyya movement, that all persons
who profess the creed of Islam as expressed in the Kalima
are Muslims and constitute one religious nation. This was the
definition of a Muslim for the purposes of the demand for Pakistan.
- The founders and early leaders of Pakistan, such as Mr Jinnah,
approved of the work of the Lahore Ahmadiyya movement, were on
friendly terms with its leading figures, and often consulted its
literature on matters of Islamic law.
This fine record was recognised till a few years ago, when the
priestly element was not so dominant. From the early 1970s however,
the professional, politically motivated religious leaders started
gaining influence and power in Muslim national affairs. This took
place notably in Pakistan, the home country of the Ahmadiyya movement
as well as of the opposition to it. The clerics there have been
using their political strength to direct a campaign of hate and
oppression against the Ahmadiyya movement and its Founder. By acting
through allied Muslim organisations in other countries, they have
made their campaign world-wide.
The position in Pakistan since September 1974 is that members of
the Ahmadiyya Anjuman Ishaat Islam Lahore, a body with the
impressive record listed above, are forcibly classified by the Pakistan
constitution and law as being non-Muslims and belonging to a new
religion separate from Islam! Since April 1984, it has been a criminal
offence, punishable by imprisonment, for a member of this body (or
any follower of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad) to call himself a Muslim,
or even to follow religious observances by which he would be represented
as a Muslim. This is a colossal tragedy, not so much for the Divinely-supported
Ahmadiyya movement, but for that country whose birth owes so much
to this movement.
The legal action instituted by our Lahore Ahmadiyya members in
Cape Town against some local Muslim organisations was undertaken
to stop the malicious campaign of gross misrepresentation against
us conducted by these bodies. By taking this action, our members
were not, as it may appear superficially, indulging in an
undignified sectarian squabble. This movement never involves itself
in any form of internal wrangling between Muslim factions that weakens
the cause of Islam and gets the religion into disrepute. We were,
in fact, presenting an aspect of Islam which shows the beauty of
its teachings, and which can establish peace and harmony between
all the various Muslim sects. The basis of our case was that,
according to Islamic teachings, anyone who simply professes faith
in Islam using the words of the well-known Kalima, and claims
to be a Muslim, must be regarded as a Muslim; and no one has the
right to label him a kafir, expel him from the faith of Islam,
or conduct an inquisition into his beliefs. Such a teaching not
only raises the dignity of Islam in the eyes of all thinking human
beings, but, if acted upon, can at once put an end to all sectarian
bickering and strife among Muslims.
The fundamental issue raised by this court case for Muslims is
whether we should regard the Holy Quran and the teachings of the
Holy Prophet Muhammad as the ultimate authority for determining
the faith of Islam, or else give this position to the clerics and
priests of the religion, and blindly accept their verdicts even
when these conflict with the prime sources of Islam. The choice
and the challenge is clear.
About this book
This book records the essential details of the litigation in Cape
Town. It is primarily concerned with the religious issues involved
in the case, and has therefore been compiled from that point of
view. The book consists of three main parts as follows:
I. A sketch of the History of the three year long litigation,
including some reactions to the final judgment of the case.
II. The text of the final Judgment.
III. The written Evidence submitted to the court by the
Lahore Ahmadiyya side over a period of six days during the final
An Appendix has been compiled, consisting of further notes
on some aspects of the Evidence. Three indexes have been
provided: a general index of subjects, an index of the authorities
cited, and an index of the works of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad referred
The Evidence has been placed after the Judgment for two reasons.
Firstly, the Judgment sums up the very lengthy and detailed Evidence,
and may be read first as a convenient summary. Secondly, with this
arrangement, all purely legal aspects of the Case are dispensed
with first, leaving the Evidence and the Appendix which deal only
with the religious issues involved, this being the primary concern
of most readers.
Maulana Hafiz Sher Mohammad prepared and composed the written
Evidence reproduced in Part III, which constitutes the overwhelming
bulk of this book. Much of the Appendix is also based on his writings.
He is, therefore, the chief contributor to this book. As our advocate
commented before the court, at the outset of his final summary of
argument, this case is a story of three remarkable men: Mirza Ghulam
Ahmad, Maulana Muhammad Ali, and Hafiz Sher Mohammad. The original
work of the learned Hafiz sahib is in the Urdu language.
Its English translation has been done by the writer of these lines,
Zahid Aziz. It has also been my privilege to compile and write the
rest of the book (i.e. excluding Parts II and III), and to design
and typeset the entire volume using a computer.
Due to printing problems with the First edition of this book, which
were beyond our control, the Second edition has had to be re-typeset.
Advantage has been taken of this to improve the typography, to correct
errors and misprints, and to revise and improve those portions of
the book which I had compiled or written. In a few quotations given
in the Evidence, references to sources works were wanting in some
way (e.g. name of source missing or location within source not specified).
In as many of these cases as information could be gathered about,
fuller details have now been given.
We record our thanks to all those branches and individual members
of the Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement around the world who provided invaluable
support and assistance during this protracted and difficult litigation.
Special mention must be made of the Ahmadiyya Anjuman Ishaat
Islam Lahore Inc. U.S.A. which has, in addition, also financed the
production of this book.
Maulana Hafiz Sher Mohammad died on 9th October 1990, having served
the Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement for fifty years, and attained a distinguished
and illustrious place in the history of Islam and this Movement.
May his soul rest in peace and receive the mercy of God!
In the end, we humbly submit our Ahmadiyya case before our Lord
and God Almighty Allah and await His true and perfect
judgment. In the words of the Holy Quran: In Allah do we
trust. Our Lord, judge between us and our people with truth; and
Thou art the best of judges (ch. 7, v. 89).
Shortly after the case which is the subject of
this book there was another court case in Cape Town in which Maulana
Hafiz Sher Mohammad appeared as expert witness on behalf of the
plaintiff. This consisted jointly of a defamation action brought
by one Sheikh Jassiem against Sheikh Nazim Mohamed (case 1434/86),
and incitement to wrongful dismissal by the same plaintiff against
the MJC (case 1438/86). The plaintiff, a Sunni imam, had been maltreated
by the defendants because he regarded Ahmadis as Muslims and refused
to condemn them as kafir. The Maulana was again required
to testify regarding the beliefs of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, even
though Ahmadis were not a direct party to that case. He gave extensive
evidence, from July to September 1987, and faced very hostile cross-examination.
The judgment in that case too vindicated the Ahmadiyya stand-point.
In this book there is no scope for going into the details of that
lengthy litigation, though one or two passing comments have been
made. The second case may be the subject of a later publication.