& Islamic Review
November December 1998
Vol. 75 No. 6
God elevates man
Islam, not Communism the way to perfection
Khutba by Maulana Muhammad Ali
Muhammad Ali in the eyes of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad - 2
The Maulana selected by Hazrat Mirza to carry forward his mission
Compiled by the Editor
the Quran 11
Translation of Mr. N.A. Faruquis book Mu`arif-ul-Quran
Translated by Dr. Mohammad Ahmad, Ohio
The Death of
Jesus - 4
by Maulana Hafiz Sher Mohammad
Evidence of the Ijma of the Muslim Nation
Review of the
film The Siege
Warm, fuzzy prejudice that makes you feel good inside
By Svend M. Akram White
u Ahmadiyya Anjuman Ishaat Islam Lahore Inc.,
1315 Kingsgate Road, Columbus, Ohio, 43221 1504, U.S.A.
The Light was founded in 1921 as the organ of the Ahmadiyya Anjuman Ishaat Islam (Ahmadiyya Association for the propagation of Islam) of Lahore, Pakistan. The Islamic Review was published in England from 1913 for over 50 years, and in the U.S.A. from 1980 to 1991. The present periodical represents the beliefs of the world-wide branches of the Ahmadiyya Anjuman Ishaat Islam, Lahore.
Editor: Dr. Zahid Aziz. Format and Design: The Editor.
Circulation: Mrs. Samina Sahukhan, Dr. Noman I. Malik.
Islam, not Communism
the way to perfection
Friday sermon by
Maulana Muhammad Ali
translated by Mirza Masum Baig
(Delivered January 1950)
Sura Fatiha, the opening chapter of the Holy Quran, and for that matter the whole of the Islamic prayer from beginning to end, is a solemn supplication before the Most High God. It begins with the memorable words: al-hamdu li-llah-i rabb-il-alamin, which mean: All praise to the Most High God Who is the nourisher and sustainer of all creatures. The significance of this statement is not restricted to the sense that He provides for our physical needs or grows sustenance for us from the earth; nor does it merely mean that He has revealed the Holy Quran for the good and guidance of mankind. But it also indicates that man cannot attain to perfection without coming into touch and tune with the Most High God. There is indeed a great difference between the ways and means taught by Islam and the Holy Prophet for attaining this goal of perfection, and those adopted by other religions. God, according to religion, is the focal point of mans perfection; without Him, mans perfection is simply impossible. But worldly-minded people, and in some cases the followers of some religions also, think wrongly that the existence of God is not necessary for mans attaining to his goal of perfection.
There is, as a matter of fact, a vast difference between Communism and Islam in devising means for carrying man to the cherished goal of perfection. Islam teaches that this perfection can be achieved only by means of God Who is rabb-il-alamin, whereas others think that the different things which God has created for the physical sustenance of man, are the real means for attaining to that perfection. The Creator of the universe, according to the Holy Quran, and not the things created, can take man along the path to the acme of perfection. This is the one great difference between true faith and irreligion. Islam, for this reason, has laid the greatest stress upon prayer.
People have formed a wrong conception of
prayer. They say that God should be implored to give you good
food and other physical comforts. And Muslims too have
unfortunately fallen into this error. This is the main reason
that people denying the efficacy of prayer have cropped up. They
argue that the fact that God has already created all things
necessary for our sustenance and physical comforts, precludes the
necessity of prayer altogether. Prayer, in truth, is the only
means which, establishing a holy and happy communion between God
and man, elevates the latter to the highest point of perfection.
Communism reared its head sixty years ago and kicked up a rude
row in the world. But how many souls has it reformed and
reclaimed to the true path of spiritual edification and
perfection is distinctly before your eyes.
(Editors Note: With the collapse of Communism at the beginning of this decade, this fact is even more distinctly before our eyes.)
Things of physical pleasure and dainty food can be had all over the world, in the lands of capitalism as also in the countries of Communism. But so far as human reformation, the elevation of human character, is concerned, Communism has dragged humanity downwards. Consider, on the other hand, the mighty movement which appeared in the world under the name of Islam. To establish communion with the Most High God was its basic principle. Islam, it cannot be denied, has not only opened a vast vista for human progress, but has also elevated man to the highest pinnacle of spiritual glory and greatness. The Holy Prophet, in fact, created such a mighty revolution in the field of human elevation that if it were permissible to believe in another being as god, besides the one true God, the Holy Prophet Muhammad would certainly have been regarded as such.
People think that prayer and piety cannot go hand in hand with worldly advancement and progress. But the Holy Prophet carried both to perfection, and there was no phase of human life in which he lifted not man to the highest point of perfection. There is no denying the fact that life today seems to be easy and comfortable, but it has an interminable series of troubles and affliction attending upon it. The supreme stage, on the other hand, where the Holy Prophet led his people to, sets at naught and solves all human difficulties with wonderful perfection and felicity. It is a pity that the Muslims have not been able to remove the cover which the opponents of Islam have cast maliciously on the fair and fascinating face of the Holy Prophet. The day this cover is torn asunder, the world will be dazzled and dazed to see that the Holy Prophet of Islam stood matchless and without an equal in excellence and sublimity.
We have thus a tremendous task to perform. We have, no doubt, rendered the Holy Quran into some languages of the world that people may be able to read and understand the Divine word for themselves. But it will be a case of all labour lost if these renderings are not distributed on a large scale among the nations. Human effort is surely meagre and weak to accomplish this great task of bringing the world submissively round the Holy Quran. Let us, therefore, gather together and prostrate in humble submission before the Most High God beseeching His help. But no amount of prayer will be of any avail until your minds believe strongly that Islam shall predominate and prevail in the world. To this effect there are Divine promises, but these promises have been held in abeyance on account of our indifference and apathy. We should implore the Almighty God most solemnly to remove this our weakness and cause the Divine word with regard to the predominance of Islam to be fulfilled.
I admonish particularly the members of our Jamaat who have, on the holy hand of the Imam of this age, taken the solemn pledge of keeping the service of Islam above all worldly considerations. Even they are not acting in the way of this Divine promise. Gods word must come to pass. He can wring water from a stone. Did not the steel hearts of those stones who lived in the time of the Holy Prophet burst open, and waters of godliness and piety issue forth from them! Even now it shall come to pass; and it will be our good luck or misfortune, according as whether we render our mite of service to its fulfillment or remain indifferent to it. Human reformation, I repeat emphatically once again, cannot be accomplished until we bow our heads before the great God, begging His help and guidance. He will certainly send His aid and triumph which have been held up, when we adjust our actions to deserve them.
in the eyes of Hazrat
Mirza Ghulam Ahmad 2
The Maulana selected by Hazrat Mirza to carry forward his mission
Compiled by the Editor
The bulk of the material on this topic appeared in our JulyAugust issue, two issues ago. There now remain one or two further important aspects to be covered, which we do below.
11. Sign of the plague
Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad had prophesied the appearance of the terrible epidemic of the plague in his time and country. He also announced that, as a sign of his truth, he had been informed through Divine revelation of the protection that would be granted to his true followers from this deadly disease. One such revelation was as follows: I will safeguard everyone who is in this house except those who are rebellious and arrogant. So Hazrat Mirza declared that, while there may be plague all around in the Punjab, and some cases even in his home village of Qadian, yet those living inside his house would be safe from it. In those days of March and April 1902, an incident took place which is recounted as follows by Hazrat Mirza himself:
"Sign number 103. Once, during the days when the plague was raging and it was even in Qadian, Maulvi Muhammad Ali, m.a., got a high temperature and he thought that it was the plague. So he made his last will like a dying man and he was living within my house, with regard to which there is the revelation of God: I will safeguard everyone who is in this house. Then I went to see him and finding him worried and anxious I said to him: If you have got the plague then I am a liar and my claim to receive Divine revelation is wrong. Having said this, I felt his pulse and saw this wonder of Divine power that his body became so cold that there was no sign or trace of high temperature."
(Haqiqat-ul-Wahy, page 253)
This shows not only the perfect faith that Hazrat Mirza had in his revelation being from God, but also his complete conviction that Maulana Muhammad Ali was a true follower of his, without any rebelliousness or arrogance in him. The revelation contained an exception which excluded, from the promise of protection, those who may be rebellious or arrogant. But Hazrat Mirza did not say: If you have got the plague then you must be rebellious and arrogant, for such people are excluded from the promise of being safeguarded! No, Hazrat Mirza was absolutely certain that Maulana Muhammad Ali was a true and sincere follower of his, and therefore if he did have the plague then the revelation itself was false and Hazrat Mirza was not from God.
Hazrat Mirzas brother-in-law catches plague
The conclusion above is further reinforced by another incident recorded only a little later in the same book by Hazrat Mirza. The two people referred to in this incident, i.e. Mir Nasir Nawab who was father-in-law of Hazrat Mirza, and Mir Muhammad Ishaq, the son of Mir Nasir Nawab, later on played a prominent role in creating the heretical Qadiani sect, based on entirely un-Islamic beliefs, thereby splitting the Ahmadiyya Movement into two. These two men are among the leading founders of the Qadianis. Hazrat Mirza writes:
"Sign number 143: It so happened that I saw frightening dreams many times clearly telling of some tribulation to befall regarding the family of my father-in-law Mir Nasir Nawab."
Then Hazrat Mirza describes one such dream in which he saw that one of his most bitter enemies, by the name of Dr. Abdul Hakim Khan, had been invited into his house by Mir Nasir Nawabs wife. Interpreting this dream, Hazrat Mirza writes:
"If an enemy enters into your house, it means that some disaster or death is to come to that house. As Abdul Hakim Khan is these days my bitter, mortal enemy and is expecting my destruction day and night, this is why God showed him in the dream as wanting to enter my house, and Ishaqs mother, that is Mir Nasir Nawabs wife, is inviting him. The interpretation of inviting is that the inviter, due only to certain weaknesses of faith which are known to God, invites disaster into his house. To sum up, when I received so many revelations which made it absolutely clear to me that some disaster was to befall the family of Mir Nasir Nawab I engaged myself in prayer "
He then describes the disaster which struck and how it was averted by his special prayers:
"The following morning Mir sahibs son Ishaq got a high temperature and severe agitation, and tumours appeared at the top of both thighs. It was certain that it was plague because in some parts of this district this disease was spreading. Then I realized that this was the fulfillment of the dreams mentioned above, and I became desperately worried. I told the family of Mir Nasir Nawab that although I was praying, they must repent greatly and seek forgiveness of God because I had seen in a dream that they had invited an enemy into the house and this pointed to some failing on their part.
"Although I know that death is, from eternity, a law of nature, but it occurred to me that if someone died of plague in my house then the biggest storm would arise in my falsification. Then if I were to put forward even a thousand signs of my truth, it would have no effect against that criticism because I have written scores of times, and published it and told it to thousands of people, that all the residents of my house will be safe from death by plague. I cannot describe the state of my heart at that time. So I immediately had recourse to prayer, and after the prayer I saw the wonder of the power of God that in two or three hours his temperature came down in an extraordinary manner, no sign of the tumours remained, and he sat up, and not only that, but the boy started moving about, playing and running, as if he had never been ill."
(Haqiqat-ul-Wahy, pages 327329)
Hazrat Mirza has plainly written here that his father-in-laws family suffered from weakness of faith, and as a result they let a calamity enter into the house. He told them to repent because his dream indicated some failing on their part, which had led to the striking of the plague, and he himself engaged in special prayers so that he may not be falsified in the world because of someone dying of plague in his house.
We notice the complete and utter contrast between what happened in this case and the incident of Maulana Muhammad Ali described by Hazrat Mirza a few pages earlier. In the Maulanas case, Hazrat Mirza did not say to the Maulana: if you have got plague, it means that there must be some weakness of faith in you, and so you must repent of your sins while I will say special prayers to prevent disgrace befalling my name! Entirely the contrary, Hazrat Mirza was absolutely certain with no doubt whatsoever that it could not be plague because the Maulana was a true and sincere follower of his.
Further significance of letting enemy into the house
The dream in which Hazrat Mirza saw his father-in-laws family letting a bitter enemy like Dr. Abdul Hakim Khan into the house has another significance as well. Dr. Abdul Hakim Khan had made various false allegations about certain teachings and beliefs of Hazrat Mirza, one of which is referred to elsewhere by Hazrat Mirza in the same book from which we have been quoting above, as follows:
"In his booklet, Al-Masih al-Dajjal, Dr. Abdul Hakim Khan levels the allegation against me of having written in a book that a man who does not believe in me, even though he may not have heard of my name, and even though he may live in a country to which my call has not reached, he shall nonetheless be a kafir and enter hell. This is a complete fabrication of the aforementioned doctor. I have not written this in any book or announcement. He ought to produce any book of mine in which this is written."
(Haqiqat-ul-Wahy, page 178)
Exactly the same claim was made by the Qadiani leadership in regard to Hazrat Mirzas beliefs, as their head Mirza Mahmud Ahmad wrote:
"all those so-called Muslims who have not entered into his baiat formally, wherever they may be, are Kafirs and outside the pale of Islam, even though they may not have heard the name of the Promised Messiah."
(The Truth about the Split, by Mirza Mahmud Ahmad, page 55)
By introducing this doctrine into the Ahmadiyya Movement, the Qadiani leadership, which included Mir Nasir Nawab and his son Ishaq among its prominent men at the time of the Split, let the mortal enemy Abdul Hakim Khan enter into the Movement. This was how the Promised Messiahs dream was fulfilled: due to their weakness of faith these people fell prey to the temptation of setting up a family dynasty, and for this purpose they did not hesitate to bring in un-Islamic beliefs into the Movement.
12. The Maulana to be with Hazrat Mirza in after-life
In the life to come, also, the position of Maulana Muhammad Ali is alongside Hazrat Mirza, as he has described in a vision related by him as follows:
"Saw Maulvi Muhammad Ali in a dream. You also were righteous and sincere. Come and sit by me."
(Tazkira, page 518; June 1904)
This vision refers to what is promised in verse 4:69 of the Holy Quran to those who obey Allah and the Messenger: that they shall be in the company of the righteous of the highest grade (i.e. the saints and the prophets) in the next life.
Lessons in the Quran 11
Translation of Mr. N.A. Faruquis book Muarif-ul-Quran
Translated by Dr. Mohammad Ahmad, Ohio
Al-Baqarah (The Cow)
"Who believe in the Unseen and keep up prayer and spend out of what We have given them." The Holy Quran, 2:3.
In the previous lesson the subject of belief in the Unseen was discussed. Some of the wisdom behind Allahs attribute of being Unseen visually, and being Omnipresent at the same time, was elaborated. This is, however, such an important matter that additional comments are needed. I will cover some of these important points before discussing the rest of the verse.
Proof of Divine Existence
Gods creation has always been a proof of His existence. In this age when science made further analysis of matter and split the atom, a whole new and remarkable universe was discovered. This and the ongoing new discoveries leave no doubt that the universe has a wonderful Creator Whose power, grandeur and goodness is a source of great amazement for the human intellect. In addition to the evidence provided by scientific discovery and human intelligence, there is another type of evidence which is ingrained into the human soul and cannot be separated from it.
The mind is the center of mans natural disposition. Imprinted upon human nature is a bond between man and his Creator which cannot be eliminated. The Holy Quran refers to this in these words:
"And when thy Lord brought forth from the children of Adam, from their loins, their descendants, and made them bear witness about themselves: Am I not your Lord? They said: Yes, we bear witness. Lest you should say on the Day of Resurrection: We were unaware of this, or (lest) you should say: Only our fathers ascribed partners (to Allah) before (us), and we were (their) descendants after them. Wilt Thou destroy us for what liars did?" (7:172, 173).
In these verses the Holy Quran reminds us of the natural bond which exists between every human soul and the Divine Being.
As a result of this natural inclination even the most diehard atheist, or the one who makes others equal with God, sometimes calls out spontaneously to the One God. This crying out occurs particularly during times of distress. Even otherwise, however, the bond seems unbreakable. I would like to illustrate this with a few anecdotes.
During the SALT-2 talks in Vienna, Leonid Brezhnev, the leader of the communist world, said to the American President Jimmy Carter, "Mr. President, if we do not sign such a treaty, God will never forgive us." Hearing the name of God from the lips of the leader of the communist world was so surprising for Mr. Carter that he immediately pulled out his note book and asked Mr. Brezhnev to repeat his words so that he could note them down correctly. Realizing what he had said, Mr. Brezhnev just smiled and remained silent.
After the Soviet Union the greatest communist power was China. Chairman Mao was responsible for introducing Communism to his country. Henry Kissinger, the American Secretary of State at the time, has written that in his last days Mr. Mao Tse Tung remarked several times that "I will be meeting my Creator soon" or "God is calling me."
When the daughter of the Russian dictator Stalin escaped to the U.S., responding to a reporters question as to her reasons for leaving the Soviet Union, she said, "Without a place for God in ones heart, it is difficult for mankind to survive." This bond between man and his Creator cannot be kept a secret for long. This lady was born and raised in the lap of atheism, in the heart of the Kremlin, where it was against national policy to even mention the name of God. Faith in God being so deeply ingrained in her nature, could certainly not have been due to the effect of her social upbringing. In fact, all this is evidence of that inherently inculcated belief in God and His Unity which has been mentioned in the Holy Quran.
In addition to the evidence provided by intellectual, scientific development, and human nature, the most overwhelming proof of Divine existence is His speaking to mankind when He replies to the quest of the seeker. He listens to his supplications and removes his distress. We see a most clear manifestation of this in the lives of prophets (anbiya), reformers (mujaddids) and the saints (auliya). The judicial systems in this world can give a decision in a legal matter on the basis of the testimony of one truthful witness, and on these very grounds send even their most prominent citizens to the gallows. There were, in total, one hundred and twenty four thousand prophets, and if we consider the number of righteous servants this figure becomes even far greater. All these individuals were well known for their truthfulness. Their testimony provides overwhelming evidence for the existence of the Divine Being. A living proof of this communion were the scriptures revealed to these prophets, and other forms of Divine revelation (wahy and ilham) they received. These contained true knowledge of the unseen, which is further proof of their being from God. The greatest proof of the existence of the Divine Being is provided by the very lives of these righteous servants and the sacrifices they made. In spite of overwhelming odds they succeeded over the opponents of truth, and through Divine revelation prophesied such events at a time and under conditions when success seemed very unlikely. All this is undeniable proof of the existence of the Divine Being. It is also through Divine revelation that we have obtained knowledge of the attributes of Allah, and the Holy Quran is the perfect example of excellence in this respect. From its first to the last letter, the Holy Quran gives us powerfully effective and exceptional knowledge of the attributes of Allah. I have explained this in my previous lesson, that even in case of matter, which we can see and touch, truth can only be learned by becoming aware of its properties. The frail human eye cannot bear the sight of Divine manifestation, nor can vision comprehend Him. True knowledge of His Being by man in this life can thus only be obtained through recognition of His attributes. If one could have visualized God, His Being is so attractive that it would have been impossible for human beings to focus their attention in another direction, and they would not have been able to perform any other activity. It is, however, essential for God to be Omnipresent so that He can nurture us unto perfection, protect us, keep an eye on our actions and thoughts, and help us in extraordinary ways after hearing our cry for help. It is not in the human interest that God should be in front of human eyes; in this lies the secret of human freedom and concealment of their shortcomings.
Basis of all human development
It must also be remembered that human spiritual faculties would have failed to develop if God was visible to the human eye. Take into consideration human development in the physical world. Both intellectually and otherwise, such development was only possible because everything was hidden from mankind since the very beginning. He struggled to make discoveries, and gradually progressed during this process. For example, when Newton saw the apple falling down, he started wondering why it did not go in the opposite direction due to the resistance of air and the rotation of the earth. Then, with belief in the unseen, he postulated that there was a force which he could not visualize, but which affected every form of matter. After this belief in the unseen, Newton investigated further and discovered the force of gravitation, which forms the basis of modern scientific development. In addition, he discovered many unknown facts which are relied upon by scientists even today. Similarly, the atom, which is the basis of a new science, cannot be visualized by the naked eye, or the microscope. It conveys to us the knowledge of its existence through its properties. Scientists after following the principle of belief in the unseen in this case, were able to achieve an amazing degree of progress. Consequently what we observe in the physical world is also applicable to our spiritual development. Only by belief in Allah, Who is the Unseen, by searching for Him, and striving in His way can we achieve development of our spiritual faculties.
Although the Western oriented atheists do not profess belief in the Unseen, they undertake and carry out all their daily tasks on the basis of the same. For example, if they consume food, or drink water, they do so on the basis of belief in the unseen that it is beneficial for their health. If they had prior knowledge that by doing so they could contract a dangerous illness, would they have taken this matter lightly? When they accept a job or get involved in a business, it is only on basis of belief in the unseen that such an undertaking would be beneficial for them. If they knew that taking up a job would land them in prison, or a business proposition could cause monetary loss, would they willingly accept such an offer? They arrange the marriage of their son or daughter with the belief in the unseen that the arrangement would be successful. If they knew that their loved one would be hurt by such an undertaking, would they have gone through with it? A person who does not believe in God travels in a car, bus or airplane with the belief in the unseen that he will be able to complete his journey. If he had known in advance that the vehicle he is traveling in would be involved in an accident, and he would die or get disabled, would he embark on such a journey? Thus it is quite apparent that these persons with atheistic beliefs conduct their daily mundane affairs with belief in the unseen. Why then are they reluctant to believe in Allah, the Unseen?
Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Mujaddid (Reformer) of the 14th Century Hijra, wrote very well when he said: "Allah has manifested His Being clearly through luminescent arguments and circumstances. He then kept Himself in the Unseen so that mankind could believe and be rewarded for it." Every Muslim knows that the Holy Quran has mentioned a separate reward each for belief and goodly action. If God was visible to the human eye, then mankind would not deserve any credit for believing in Him, or for performing a righteous deed. We commonly observe that everyone tries to follow the law in front of a policeman. This, however, does not make him a law-abiding, righteous person.
The spiritual eye
The physical eye of a man disintegrates into the soil after his death. The spiritual eye, which is a part of his soul, will accompany him into the life Hereafter. In the next lesson I will show that through prayer the spiritual eye of man begins to visualize God in this very life. That is why the Holy Quran states:
"And whoever is blind in this (world) he will be blind in the Hereafter, and further away from the path."(17:72)
It is quite evident that it is not the physically blind, but the spiritually blind that are spoken of in this verse. Therefore, mans spiritual eye, which can visualize Allah through prayer in this life, will truly be able to see this complete manifestation of excellence and goodness in the life Hereafter. The Holy Quran tells us:
"(Some) faces that day will be bright, looking to their Lord." (75:22, 23)
Thus on that day the countenance of the believers shall be radiant with joy because they will be able to see the One Who is their Lord. The sight of the Divine Being will be the greatest blessing of paradise.
The Death of Jesus 4
by Maulana Hafiz Sher Mohammad
Evidence of the Ijma of the Muslim Nation
According to Muslim belief, after the Holy Quran and then the Hadith, the Consensus of the Muslim Community (Ijma) is a binding argument which every Muslim must accept. So, having proved from the Quran and the Hadith that Jesus died a natural death in his own time, it is necessary to see what decision, explicitly or implicitly, the Ijma has given in this respect.
After the Holy Prophet Muhammads death, the first Ijma of the Muslims, in which all the Companions of the Holy Prophet participated, decided this very issue of Jesus death. All authorities collectors of Hadith, commentators of the Quran, and historians record that when the Holy Prophet died, Umar (God be pleased with him) started saying:
"The Holy Prophet has not died, and shall not die until God kills the hypocrites."
(Dur Mansur, vol. IV, p. 318)
"The hypocrites say that the Holy Prophet (may peace and the blessings of Allah be upon him) has died. But he has not died. He has gone to see the Lord, as did Moses when he stayed away from his people for forty days and returned after it was thought that he had died. By God! the Holy Prophet too will certainly return as Moses returned, and cut off the hands and feet of those who say that he is dead."
(Sirat Ibn Hisham, Egypt, vol. III, p. 464)
Abu Bakrs arrival and speech
We find in Hadith that Abu Bakr (God be pleased with him) arrived, saw the Holy Prophet, and:
"He uncovered his face, bent down, kissed him, wept, and said: I would give my father for you, O Prophet of God; God would never give you two deaths, and you have died of the death that God had ordained for you. Abu Salmah says: Ibn Abbas told me that Abu Bakr came out, and Umar was talking to the people. He told him to sit down, but he refused. He told him again, and he still refused. Abu Bakr then recited the Kalima, and the people turned their attention to him, leaving Umar." (Bukhari, Kitab al-Janaiz)
Hazrat Abu Bakr then announced:
"Whoever among you worships Muhammad, Muhammad has indeed died; but whoever worships Allah, Allah lives on for ever, never dies. Allah says: Muhammad is only a messenger; messengers before him have indeed passed away... (the Quran, 3:144)."
(Bukhari, Kitab al-Mughazi)
The Companions reaction
"By God, it was as if the people did not know that God had revealed this verse until Abu Bakr recited it. Then (it was as if) the people had learnt it from him; and whomever one heard, he was reciting this verse (i.e. Muhammad is only a messenger; messengers before him have indeed passed away...)"
(Bukhari, Kitab al-Janaiz)
Hazrat Umar related:
"I was so shocked that my feet could not support me and I fell to the ground when I heard him recite it (i.e. the verse) that the Holy Prophet had indeed died." (ibid., Kitab al-Mughazi)
Companions agreed on death of all prophets
Umars contention that the Holy Prophet had only gone to visit the Lord, and would be returning, was refuted by Abu Bakr, proving that all previous prophets had died and consequently also the Holy Prophet. Had Umar or any other companion believed that Jesus was alive in heaven, he would certainly have spoken out against Abu Bakrs deduction from the verse that all previous prophets were dead. This shows that none of the companions even imagined that Jesus, or any other prophet, was still alive and had not died.
This incident establishes the companions consensus the first Ijma after the Holy Prophet that all prophets are dead. It also disproves any isolated reports ascribed to certain companions that Jesus is alive in heaven, for such odd reports contradict the Quran, the Hadith, and the Ijma of the companions, and must therefore be rejected.
The Imam of the Age, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, has written exactly the same:
"No companion is recorded as denying this argument put forward by Hazrat Abu Bakr which proves the death of all previous prophets. And this despite the fact that all the companions were present there. They were all silent upon hearing the argument. This proves that all the companions agreed on this point; such agreement constitutes conclusive evidence, and cannot be in error." (Tiryaq al-Qulub, p. 285, Sign no. 72)
Review of The Siege
Warm, fuzzy prejudice
that makes you feel good inside
By Svend M. Akram White
To use words like insidious propaganda or hidden agenda in a movie review is to invite ridicule in most circles, regardless of the charges merit, but in the case of Edward Zwicks The Siege one must call a spade and spade. Unlike Hollywoods typical hatchet jobs on Arab and Muslim Americans in popular culture, Zwicks The Siege is totally free of demagogic rhetoric, heavy-handed xenophobia, or blatant stereotyping. This is precisely the problem. However much its producers may piously deny any ill will toward the Arab and Muslim communities in America, this is not the inspiring morality play about modern society that they claim it to be. In reality, it is only superficially about the fragility of democracy or the inherent tension between civil rights and law and order. To the contrary, a careful examination reveals it to be a wolf in sheeps clothing, a study in postmodern propaganda for a politically correct age. This article will explore how this hateful film masks its agenda through a cunning combination of mixed signals, half-hearted disclaimers, and a never-ending barrage of subliminal messages.
As new and revolutionary as it may seem to deconstruct or interrogate a text for, say, orientalist assumptions, or class bias, reading between the lines in order to discern the societal impact of ostensibly apolitical popular culture is nothing new. Long before the advent of the mass media, William Blake succinctly summed up the subtle but enormous influence enjoyed by artists (meant broadly here to include all producers of culture) within any community by observing that "Poets are the legislators of mankind." Similarly, more than two millennia ago, Plato banned certain non-Athenian musical rhythms in The Republic, considering their effects inimical to the values his ideal republic would instill.
Like any viewer of cspan, the makers of The Siege understand intuitively that the spin applied to a message sometimes has a more decisive effect on public opinion than its actual content, and Madison Avenue would soon go bankrupt if the average consumer gave much thought to the form (and implicit message) of the advertisements that engulf them today. The Iran Contra hearings are a classic example: after watching the hearings on television, how many people remembered that Oliver North had intentionally destroyed classified government documents and circumvented constitutionally mandated Congressional oversight? Quickly lost in this epic clash between the handsome, clean-cut, articulate, and patriotic Colonel and the untelegenic assembly of congressmen with their pin-striped suits and hordes of anonymous aides were the actual facts of the case. In the public eye, the hearings soon became a parable of Everyman against the Establishment, and a media fiasco for Congress.
I mention this historical episode because it illustrates how in the postmodern era image will trump the facts every time. There is little in this films plot that is egregiously offensive to Muslims, so its real message must be transmitted subliminally, through what is called horizontal propaganda in Communication Studies (i.e., propaganda that does not establish new claims against its target, but instead reinforces pre-existing prejudices or sets the stage for future ones).
The best propaganda is propaganda that is never recognized for what it is. A case in point is how, though its tone is almost always light-hearted and apolitical, the American sitcom The Cosby Show has played a very important role in challenging commonly held stereotypes about African Americans as being poor, uneducated, violent, dysfunctional, and so on. The influence of this sitcom illustrates why the American philosopher Richard Rorty argues that the most effective form of political activism is novel writing or similar creative work. Zwick seems to agree, as his film might well be called an anti-Cosby Show because of how it reinforces fears and stereotypes about Arabs and Muslims through storytelling while pretending to take the high road and discuss weighty issues of civil rights and democracy.
The plot of the film is relatively simple. It is almost a cross between Gillo Pontecorvos The Battle of Algiers and Spike Lees Do the Right Thing, albeit minus the formers genuine sympathy for the movies underdogs: after the bombing of the American embassy in Saudi Arabia, FBI Agents Anthony Hubbard (Denzel Washington) and Frank Haddad (Tony Shalhoub) locate the perpetrators in the Arab community of New York City. They are soon joined by a shadowy intelligence operative named of Elise Kraft (Annette Bening), who informs them that the men they are tracking are part of a bloodthirsty terrorist group, led by one Ahmed Bin Talal (whose name is a transparent allusion to current events involving Usama Bin Laden), that is bent on killing large numbers of innocent Americans. As the FBI closes in, retaliatory bombings are carried out in New York, with a bus full of bystanders and even FBI headquarters getting destroyed. With the onslaught seeming to have only begun, the terrorists seeming unstoppable, and a public baying for blood, a shaken White House takes the extreme measure of declaring martial law in Brooklyn and sending in the Army under the iron-fisted command of a General Devereaux (Bruce Willis), who promptly proceeds to round up all the young Arab American men he can find and detain them in an internment camp at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge.
Horrified by the ensuing harassment and humiliation which includes not only imprisoning the teenage son of FBI agent and 20-year American citizen Haddad, but also the torture to death of an Arab American suspected of being in cahoots with the terrorists of a whole community of loyal Americans for the actions of a miniscule minority, Hubbard soon locks horns with the ruthless General and makes an impassioned defense of these people as normal Americans with civil rights. But to no avail. The General only turns up the heat further, sending troops house to house in their search for the remaining terrorist cell.
After various twists and turns, the remaining terrorist is located and liquidated, but the danger remains in the form of the increasingly dictatorial General Devereaux. The nightmare for America ends when Hubbard and a swarm of FBI agents confront the General in his bivouac with a warrant for his arrest. After a tense moment reminiscent of Quentin Tarantinos Reservoir Dogs, the General orders his troops to stand down and turns himself in.
Based on this description, many would deem the movie harmless or, at worst, merely politically incorrect, seeing it as an edgy study of the fragility of democracy, the dangers of an unfettered military, and the dark side of human nature. The problem with this reading is that these progressive themes are ultimately drowned out by a constant, insidious message of prejudice and xenophobia. As Roger Ebert wrote in his review in the November 6, 1998, edition of the Chicago Sun-Times:
"But most audiences wont give it that much thought. Theyll leave the theater thinking of Arabs (who are handled as an anonymous group), not of dangers to the Constitution " (emphasis added).
The same public that is oblivious to sexism and anti-intellectualism in, for example, beer commercials, is unlikely to discern this movies hidden agenda and, thus, likely to uncritically accept its subtext that Arabs and Muslims are a threatening Other.
It is very ironic that a movie that preaches so much about the rights of Arabs and Muslims should so systematically misrepresent them as people. It is emblematic of the movies underlying message that, even when a character defends Arab Americans as patriotic citizens, he unconsciously draws a line between them and the rest of America, saying "They love this society as much as we do." Watching this film, you would never imagine that, in Roger Eberts words "the vast majority of Arab-Americans are patriotic citizens who are happy to plunge into the melting pot with the rest of us"; you would never imagine that the Arab community in America includes familiar, normal faces like John Sunnunu, Edward Said, Donna Shallalla, Omar Sharif, or Casey Casem, much less that there are non-Arab Muslims, that the Muslim American community is a diverse collection of races, cultures, and lifestyles. Indeed, the film appears to transpire in a parallel universe where all Arab Americans have thick cabbie accents; where all Arab Americans, even American-born ones, wear kaffiyyas and other funny (read: foreign) clothes; where only Arab Americans are ethnic (other than Hubbard and a few black extras, the only non-wasp character is an Asian American FBI Agent who speaks flawless, unaccented American English) and stick out like a sore thumb wherever they go; where Arabs and the Arab neighborhoods have an exotic, menacing, and fundamentally alien air to them; where Arabs Americans lack the values of the rest of America; and where, finally, Arab Americans seem less like friendly neighbors than creepy aliens living in our midst.
Effective propaganda against a whole community requires enormous generalizations, and the best way for a propagandist to cover his tracks when painting with such a wide brush is to include a token good guy, an exception who makes the rule. Much has been made by this movies defenders of the supposedly redeeming features of Muslim Arab and FBI Agent Frank Haddad, but a closer examination reveals that Haddad is less a credit to his people than an indictment. Haddad, the Good Arab, is anything but a sympathetic character, given the way he is presented, as there are too many ways in which he happens to reinforce deeply held negative stereotypes about Arabs and Muslims.
The first obvious trait is his accent. In a nation of immigrants like the United States, there is no shame in having an accent, but in this movie the accent is transformed into a weapon, a shibboleth to alert the viewer that the speaker is a foreigner, citizen or not. The fact that even Haddad, whom the movie implies to be among the most integrated of his community he is, after all, an FBI agent! was cast with an accent speaks eloquently about the movies real message about Arabs and their place in the American melting pot.
Haddad is also at bottom an incompetent, impotent figure. Though an FBI agent, he seems to do little more than serve as an interpreter when Hubbard communicates with the faceless terrorists. Also, though he hails from the Shufa Mountains of Lebanon, it appears that Hubbard and CIA spook Kraft understand terrorism and the Middle East better than he does, as they correct his wooly thinking on several occasions. Given that these are his salient professional features and that Kraft is fluent in Arabic, it is hard to see why Hubbard even keeps him around.
Perhaps most disturbing is how his character not only reinforces negative images of Arabs and Muslims, but serves as a foil to the thoroughly wholesome and admirable character of Hubbard. One of the few things Haddad does (other than interpret for Hubbard) is to assault a handcuffed Arab suspect in the back of a car. With this cowardly act, Haddad not only reaffirms the image of Arabs as violent and dishonorable, but he reveals himself to have little respect for the rule of law, though he is an FBI agent charged with its implementation. The obvious implication is that even an Arab American FBI agent lacks respect for the rule of law, not unlike the terrorists (keep in mind that his character is the most normal Arab character in the movie). This facet of his character is brought home when Hubbard, who is his superior, takes him aside and warns him that another such assault would result in his suspension.
In a similar vein, though he is presented as a happily married family man, Haddad appears eager to cheat on his wife: after oogling Kraft in a few scenes and no other characters are shown to be eyeing her (one wonders why the director went out of his way to dwell on Haddads attraction to this woman) he tries to hit on her in a bar at happy hour after work, only to be stopped by Hubbard, who again displays integrity conspicuously lacking in our Good Arab by teasing him loudly in front of the group, "Call your wife, Frank!" Thwarted, Haddad moves on with a disappointed shrug.
Finally, I do not think it is insignificant that Frank Haddad, the alleged Good Arab/Muslim of the film, does not appear to be a practising Muslim. With the exception of his declaration early in the movie that he is a Shia Muslim, there isnt the slightest hint of this man being a Muslim in terms of outlook, identity or behavior. This is doubly unfortunate, given how this movie repeatedly associates Islam with violence (more below).
Which brings us to how Islam fares in general in this movie. While this film, characteristically, makes no overt statements about Islam, popular associations of Islam with violence are subtly and continuously reinforced, and the only commentary on Islam in this film is negative (in other words, this isnt a matter of there being mixed signals). In addition to the industry standard images of terrorists invoking Islam as they cause mayhem and the suspicious fact that the so-called good Muslim seems Muslim only in name, the most fundamental act of a Muslims daily routine, prayer, is sullied through the association of washing (and, by implication, wudu) imminent bloodshed. Another way that Islam is subtly maligned in The Siege is the fact that the only people who appear conscious enough of Islam to use Islamic language are terrorists note how terrorist kingpin Ahmad Bin Talal exclaims Subhan Allah! spontaneously while sitting alone in the back of a car at the mere sight of his destination, while Frank Haddad never uses even the mildest benediction or prayer, even during a tearful reunion with his imprisoned son! In a film permeated by allusions to Islam, it is hard to see how this conspicuous absence could be unintentional.
The last aspect of this films insidious message of prejudice to be discussed here is what I like to call its jujitsu propaganda, meaning that the films plot is so carefully spun that it manages to transform the victims only strengths (i.e., their suffering and the manifest injustice of their treatment, which should make them more sympathetic) into weaknesses. The first example is how it manages to implicitly trivialize the suffering of Palestinians and call into question the legitimacy of their cause with statements like "Palestinians will seduce you with their suffering," or "Being Palestinian is a profession". The second, more disturbing, example is how when Muslims, Arabs, and their sympathizers (who would be invisible were it not for their signs) protest peacefully against the interments, the resulting gathering is painted as unruly and menacing, which reinforces negative stereotypes. In any other movie, one would expect this scene of multi-cultural and ecumenical solidarity among Americans to be a repudiation of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim prejudice, but that is not the case, as instead of a sympathetic picture of citizens united in the defense of civil rights, the viewer sees crowds of stereotypically dressed Muslims and Arabs chanting menacingly. It should be borne in mind that popular representations of the hippies of the 1960s tend to feature slogans such as "Give peace a chance", and that the marchers of the Civil Rights era are usually shown singing spirituals like "We shall overcome!" hand in hand. What do the cartoon Arabs and Muslims of The Siege do? They chant and brandish placards that read "No fear!" It is hard to imagine the Mahatma Gandhi being caught dead with these zealots. Thus, preconceptions about Muslim/Arab militancy and fanaticism are reinforced at the one moment in the film where they should be challenged.
In conclusion, it is hard to fathom how The Siege could have been made today. It goes without saying that a dramatization of the Civil Rights era where every African American looked and acted like they were on a minstrel show or a documentary on pogroms against 19th century stetls where every Jewish character was a hook-nosed clone of Shylock would be harshly condemned in all quarters (assuming that it could even get made), so it is obvious that Hollywoods rules of tolerance and responsibility have yet to be extended to Arabs and Muslims. Whether it was Edward Zwicks intention or not, this film is permeated by a subliminal legerdemain that transforms the movies victims into its villains, all the while preaching self-righteously about tolerance. While this movie pats itself on the back for defending the rights of Arab Americans and Muslims in spite of their unworthiness, it fans the fires of xenophobia and prejudice. This is as un-American as it is dangerous.
1. A non-Muslim comment on our Web pages
We received the following e-mail message at our Web site from one Marco Zirino:
"I am an American and a Christian who recently became very angry with Islam after reading an article about Algeria in the Atlantic Monthly. I have always avoided judging Islam because I dont have the understanding or authority to do so, but after reading this, I felt dangerously close. Wanting to find out more about Islam, I went to the internet and found your website. I was very relieved by your peaceful approach, and was happy to see that you really believe that Islam is a good thing. I think that I would be happy to have people such as yourselves to preach Islam here in the U.S., where it can compete in the marketplace of ideas. God bless you."
2. Muslim loses his prejudice against Hazrat Mirza
It was with the greatest pleasure that we read the following letter, sent to us by a Pakistani young man from Leeds, England, in July:
"Having read a book entitled Teachings of Islam by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, translated by Muhammad Ali (1937 edition), I expected a great deal of blasphemy, lies and misinterpretations. This was due to the conditioning process I have gone through which hates and rejects anything associated with Mirza sahib. Unfortunately, many ordinary Muslims generally go through this process being ignorant of the truth with reference to the Ahmadiyya movement. I am sure that you are fully aware of the views that are usually circulated to defame Hazrat Mirzas personality.
"As I read the above book, I was absolutely shocked and amazed at the level of Islamic knowledge this great scholar possessed. I could not put the book down once I had started reading it. After finishing this book, I passed it onto my close friends for their opinion. They were equally surprised and fully appreciated the contents.
"I further enquired into this matter and asked my brother to find some information on the Internet. I have now gone through a great deal of information, which has given me a clearer understanding of the historical developments that had taken place within this movement.
"I feel remorseful for having held a very bad impression of Hazrat Mirza and believing in the evil propaganda that had been, and is currently being, circulated against this great man, who has contributed so much but has received little recognition. I am of the firm opinion that the days are not so far when people like myself will be exposed to the truth of this matter and will change accordingly.
"My purpose in writing to you is the hope that you will be able to send me a detailed book list which explains/reviews the contents of the books written by Mirza Sahib and other authors of the Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement. This will enable me to purchase the books that interest me. I am particularly interested in the Holy Quran and The Religion of Islam, both of which have been written by Muhammad Ali. The literature that I require needs to be in the English language.
"If you cannot fulfill my request, I would be grateful if you could refer me to somebody who will be able to assist me in this matter.
"If you have a contact in Britain please feel free to give them my details, they are welcome to contact me. I would like to speak to somebody about the movement in further detail."
Following this letter, a meeting was arranged in August between myself and the letter-writer and some of his young friends. The history and aims of our Movement were explained to them, their many questions answered, and a considerable amount of our literature presented to them free. We pray that Allah may further open their hearts and minds to our cause.
3. Convert uses our literature
A convert to Islam in the United States Air Force, who writes to us occasionally (by e-mail), says:
"I decided several weeks ago to announce to the rest of the community my serious interest into the Ahmadiyya Jamaat and the Lahori Movement in particular. I will be honest in saying that they did not take it well. Not only because I hold key positions in the community but also because of a genuine concern that I am being led astray. I tried to explain to them that the Ahmadiyya Movement was split into two factions, the Qadianis and the Lahoris, and also the differences regarding the person of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad and the establishment of the Qadiani Caliphate.
"There are two brothers in the community that are from Pakistan, one of which I did not know was from Lahore. He explained to me that the Lahori group did not claim that they held separate beliefs from the Qadianis until the government of Pakistan declared all Ahmadiyyas as non-Muslims. He said that the Lahoris believed and claimed the belief in the Prophethood of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad up until that time. And the reason why they changed their views was to be accepted by the rest of the Muslim Ummah. If you could please explain what is the real truth regarding this matter, because I do not wish to be led astray.
"The community realizes the influence that the Lahori Movement is having upon me because the khutbahs that I present on Fridays are starting to lean a lot more towards the Ahmadiyya view than the orthodox Sunni view. Instead of the Yusaf Ali or Pickthall translation, I now read and carry the Maulana Muhammad Ali translation."
I replied in detail to our friend regarding the bizarre allegation against us which was put to him, and I summarize that reply below.
It is an absolutely baseless and groundless allegation that before 1974, when the government of Pakistan declared Ahmadis as non-Muslims, our beliefs were the same as the Qadiani beliefs. All our important books, for example the books of Maulana Muhammad Ali, were published long before 1974, many even before Pakistan came into existence. You can readily consult them and see that we have always believed that the Holy Prophet Muhammad was the Last Prophet, after whom no prophet whatsoever can come. The translation of the Quran, which you have, was published in 1951 (originally in 1917), The Religion of Islam was published in 1936, and they express exactly the same beliefs as we now hold. Even the original editions are available in many American public libraries and can be easily consulted. The Split in the Ahmadiyya Movement was published in 1918, and you can read in there the most detailed discussion on the differences between our beliefs and the Qadiani beliefs, proving that Hazrat Mirza did not claim to be a prophet. The writings of other Muslims and of non-Muslims from 1914 onwards can also be consulted (for example, the Encyclopaedia of Islam published in the 1930s). All of these will tell you that the Lahore Ahmadiyya Anjuman differs from the Qadianis in that the Lahore Movement does not believe Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad to be a prophet.