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Islamic Studies The Ahmadiyyah Movement
by
Yohanan Friedmann

Introduction

The Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam is a modern Muslim messianic movement. It was founded in 1889 in the Indian province of Punjab by Ghulam Ahmad (b. c. 1835–d. 1908). Having been accused of rejecting the Muslim dogma asserting the finality of Muhammad’s prophethood, the movement aroused the fierce opposition of the Sunni mainstream. During the period of British rule in India, the controversy was merely a doctrinal dispute between private individuals or voluntary organizations, but after most Ahmadis moved in 1947 to the professedly Islamic state of Pakistan, the issue was transformed into a major constitutional problem. The Sunni Muslim mainstream demanded the formal exclusion of the Ahmadis from the Muslim fold. This objective was attained in 1974: against the fierce opposition of the Ahmadis, the Pakistani parliament adopted a constitutional amendment declaring them non-Muslims. In 1984, in the framework of Ziya al-Haqq’s Islamization trend in Pakistan, presidential Ordinance XX of 1984 transformed the religious observance of the Ahmadis into a criminal offense, punishable by three years of imprisonment. The ordinance subsequently became an instrument of choice for the harassment and judicial persecution of the Ahmadi community. Following its promulgation, the headquarters of the Qadiyani branch of the Ahmadi movement moved from Rabwa, Pakistan, to London. In February 2009 the movement was headed by Mirza Masrur Ahmad, the fifth successor to the founder, who assumed office in 2003.

General Overviews

Studies concerning the Ahmadiyya have been done in different ways. Friedmann 1989 is based mainly on Urdu and Arabic writings of Ghulam Ahmad and his successors; it concentrates on the religious thought of the Ahmadiyya, tracing its main ideas—especially prophetology—to the classical Muslim tradition. Gualtieri 2004 is based on the author’s experiences living for some time among the Ahmadis in Rabwa, Pakistan. This book is based on observations and conversations with numerous Ahmadis. The author describes Ahmadi observance, society, institutions, and segregation of women and the nature of Ahmadi leadership. A chapter is devoted to the harassment and persecution of the Ahmadis in Pakistan. At times the author takes a personal stand on controversial issues in which the Ahmadis are involved. Lavan 1974 deals mainly with organizational matters and with the Ahmadi involvement in internal Indian politics. Simon Ross Valentine’s interest in the Ahmadiyya was kindled by living among the Ahmadis in Bradford, England. Part of his book (Valentine 2008) describes the author’s travel to India and Pakistan and his meetings with numerous Ahmadis. Of particular interest is the description of Srinagar, where, according to the Ahmadis, Jesus is buried. The author frequently takes a stand on controversies in which the Ahmadis are involved. Walter 1918 has the distinction of being the first comprehensive work on the Ahmadiyya in a Western language. In some chapters it engages in polemics against the Ahmadiyya and is influenced by missionary concerns.

  • Friedmann, Yohanan. Prophecy Continuous: Aspects of Aḥmadī Religious Thought and Its Medieval Background. Comparative Studies on Muslim Societies 3. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989.

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    A history of the Ahmadiyya and its expansion. The idea of the finality of Muhammad’s prophethood in classical Islam. An analysis of the prophetology of the Qadiyanis and the Lahoris as well as Ahmadi jihad. Extensive bibliography and index. The second printing (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2003) includes a new preface (by Zafrira Friedmann and Yohanan Friedmann) describing the developments after 1984.

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  • Gualtieri, Antonio R. The Ahmadis: Community, Gender, and Politics in a Muslim Society. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2004.

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    A description of the Ahmadi community in Rabwa, Pakistan. Based on personal observation and interviews in the 1980s and 1990s. No use of written sources.

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  • Lavan, Spencer. The Ahmadiyah Movement: A History and Perspective. Delhi: Manohar, 1974.

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    Concentrates on the history of the movement and its activities in inter-Indian politics.

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  • Valentine, Simon Ross. Islam and the Ahmadiyya Jamaʾat: History, Belief, Practice. London: Hurst, 2008.

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    A book by a “participating observer.” Only English written sources are mentioned in the bibliography. The book is at its best when describing the social norms observed by the Ahmadis and the persecution to which they are subjected in Pakistan and elsewhere.

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  • Walter, H. A. The Ahmadīya Movement. New York: Oxford University Press, 1918.

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    The first comprehensive book on the Ahmadiyya in English, with great stress on the movement’s relations to Christianity and Indian religions.

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Bibliographies

As a result of the Ahmadi propensity to propagate the Ahmadi version of Islam in the Muslim world and beyond, the founder of the movement, his successors, and other leading Ahmadis have produced a prolific literature that transforms the Ahmadi movement into one of the best-documented movements in modern Islam. Most of this material is in Urdu and is not easy to come by. The most accessible collection of relevant material seems to be in the British Library (formerly the British Museum) in London, which now also holds the collections previously owned by the India Office Library. A catalogue of these materials can be found in Blumhardt 1900 and Blumhardt 1909. The Urdu materials from the India Office Library of 1800–1920 can be found in Quraishi 1982, with materials through 1939 included in the India Office Library’s Catalogue of Urdu Books, 1900–1939. The Ahmadi mosque and center in Southfields, London, also houses a rich library, including some Ahmadi periodicals, which cannot be easily found elsewhere. Lavan 1974 provides the best bibliography of English books and pamphlets, while Friedmann 1989 is useful for its inclusion of modern scholarly works as well as works by Ghulam Ahmad. For a listing of Urdu books by Ghulam Ahmad, researchers should consult Qayyum 1977.

Journals

Al Islam is an excellent resource with access to many previously difficult-to-locate Urdu periodicals. The website of Ahmadiyya Anjuman Ishaʿat-e-Islam Lahore also provides a listing of a large number of periodicals. English-language sources are also available—the Review of Religions is the main English language Ahmadi periodical. Muslim Sunrise has been published since 1921.

Reference Resources

The “official website of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community” (Qadiyani branch) is Al Islam. The Lahori branch operates Ahmadiyya Anjuman Ishaʿat-e-Islam Lahore and the Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement. Anti-Ahmadi material can be found at AlHafeez Zakireen Tanzeem and at Idara Dawat-o-Irshad, USA. A website dedicated to recording details of the persecution of the Ahmadis is Religious Persecution of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.

Ghulam Ahmad

Ghulam Ahmad (b. c. 1835–d. 1908) was the founder of the Ahmadi movement. Among the Ahmadis it is customary to refer to him as the “Promised Messiah.” The founding of the movement is usually dated to March 1889, when Ghulam Ahmad developed his first followers. Numerous admiring biographies have been published by members of the movement. The most detailed biography is Dard 1948, but Khan 1978 is also important for its inclusion of this history of the movement following Ghulam Ahmad’s death. Friedmann 1989 provides a factual biography, while Ahmad 1924 and Ali 1906 are written from a perspective of admiration.

  • Ahmad, Mahmud. Aḥmad the Messenger of Latter Days. Madras: Addison, 1924.

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    An admiring biography (or hagiography) by Ghulam Ahmad’s son and second successor stressing the various religious polemics in which Ghulam Ahmad was involved.

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  • Ali, Muhammad. Aḥmad, the Promised Messiah. Lahore, India: Artistic Print, 1906.

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    An admiring biography by an Ahmadi who was to become in 1914 the leader of the Lahori faction.

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  • Dard, A. R. The Life of Ahmad: Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement. Lahore: A. Tabshir, 1948.

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    This is the longest and most detailed (622 pages) biography of Ghulam Ahmad, written by a devoted member of the movement. It includes details on his forefathers, his life before the manifestation of his religious claim, the oath of allegiance by his first followers, his various religious claims and the mainstream Muslim reaction to them, and his polemics with mainstream Muslims, Christians, and Hindus.

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  • Friedmann, Yohanan. Prophecy Continuous: Aspects of Aḥmadī Religious Thought and Its Medieval Background. Comparative Studies on Muslim Societies 3. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989.

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    A factual biography mentioning the main activities of Ghulam Ahmad throughout his career as the leader of the Ahmadi movement. See especially pages 3–13.

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  • Khan, Muhammad Zafrulla. Ahmadiyyat: The Renaissance of Islam. London: Tabshir, 1978.

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    A detailed work written by a prominent and extremely eloquent Ahmadi who served as the foreign minister of Pakistan in the first years of its existence and later as the president of the International Court of Justice. Particularly important for the history of the movement after the death of the founder.

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Thought

Ahmadi thought can best be studied in the writings of Ghulam Ahmad (b. c. 1835–d. 1908), the founder of the movement. These writings, mostly in Urdu and Arabic, have been published in Ahmad 1957–1968. A very popular text on Ahmad’s teachings is Ahmad 1989, which has been published in many languages. Ahmad 1961 is an exposition of Ahmadi views written by Ghulam Ahmad’s son, while Khan 1978 is an exposition by a prominent Ahmadi.

Religious Claim

Ghulam Ahmad’s pursuit of spiritual eminence included claims to be a renewer (mujaddid) of the 14th century AH/19th century CE, a “person spoken to by God or angel” (muhaddath), and a messiah (mahdi or masih). The last term is related to his claim to be “similar to Jesus” (mathil-i ʿIsa). This claim became of extraordinary importance in Ahmadi thought, designed to counter the claims of the Christian missionaries about the Second Coming of Jesus. The missionaries used the Muslim traditions asserting the Second Coming of Jesus as an instrument to prove that Christianity, whose founder is alive in heaven and is expected to return in glory before Judgment Day, is superior to Islam, whose founder died and is buried in Medina. Ahmad’s explanation of the role of Jesus can be found in Ahmad 1989 and is further explored in Friedmann 1989. Khan 1978 reflects on the Ahmadi view of Jesus.

  • Ahmad, Ghulam. Jesus in India. Tilford, UK: Islam International, 1989.

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    Original title: Masih Hindustan men. Important for the Ahmadi view, according to which Jesus did not die on the cross but only fainted there and later recuperated from his wounds, traveled to India, died a natural death there, and is buried in Srinagar, Kashmir.

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  • Friedmann, Yohanan. Prophecy Continuous: Aspects of Aḥmadī Religious Thought and Its Medieval Background. Comparative Studies on Muslim Societies 3. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989.

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    A description of the development of Ghulam Ahmad’s thought and an explanation of the role of Jesus. See especially pages 105–118.

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  • Khan, Muhammad Zafrulla. Deliverance from the Cross. London: London Mosque, 1978.

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    Reflects the Ahmadi view of Jesus, maintaining that he did not die on the cross but only fainted there, was taken down, recuperated from his wounds, and traveled to India, where he died a natural death at the age of 120 and was buried in Srinagar, Kashmir.

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Prophetology

Prophetology constitutes the core of Ahmadi thought. It has also been the main reason for the stormy relationship between the Ahmadis and mainstream Islam: mainstream Muslims have accused the Ahmadis of contradicting the dogma according to which Muhammad was the last prophet. Ghulam Ahmad rejected this criticism by saying that the finality of prophethood idea relates only to law-bearing prophets; the appearance in the Muslim community of prophets such as himself, who brought no new book of law but rather called upon the Muslims to implement the laws of the Qurʾan, does not contradict the dogma. His views are summarized in Ahmad 1925. The appearance of such prophets among the Muslims is an indication that Islam is, in contradistinction to other religions, a living faith. Friedmann 1989 expands on this claim to prophethood, and Ahmad 1976 provides a collection of revelations that Ahmad claimed to have received from God.

  • Ahmad, Ghulam. Zinda nabī awr zinda madhhab. Amritsar, India: N.p., 1925.

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    A living prophet and a living religion. A summary of Ahmadi beliefs, including the idea that Islam is a living religion that will last forever.

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  • Ahmad, Ghulam. Tadhkira: English Translation of the Dreams, Visions, and Verbal Revelations Vouchsafed to the Promised Messiah on Whom Be Peace. Translated by Muhammad Zafrullah Khan. London: Saffron, 1976.

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    A collection of revelations that Ghulam Ahmad claimed to have received from God. Originally published as Tadhkira: Majmuʿa-yi ilhamat o kushuf o ruʾa hazrat-i masih mawʿud ʿalayhi al-salam.

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  • Friedmann, Yohanan. Prophecy Continuous: Aspects of Aḥmadī Religious Thought and Its Medieval Background. Comparative Studies on Muslim Societies 3. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989.

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    An explanation of Ghulam Ahmad’s claim to prophethood (pp. 119–146).

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The Split of 1914

The Ahmadi movement split in 1914 into two branches: the Qadiyani and the Lahori. The Qadiyani branch stressed Ghulam Ahmad’s claim to prophethood (Ahmad 1965), while the Lahori one maintained that the movement’s founder should be considered merely as a renewer (mujaddid) of Islam at the beginning of the 14th century AH/19th century CE (Ali 1966). The author belonging to each faction tries to show that his respective faction truly reflects the legacy of the founder, while the opponents deviate from it. The reasons for the split are explored in Kamal al-Din 1914.

Ahmadis in Specific Regions

The Ahmadi movement made sustained efforts to propagate the Ahmadi version of Islam in many countries of the world. This aspect of Ahmadi activity still awaits a comprehensive treatment, but some studies about the main concentrations of Ahmadis outside the Indian subcontinent are mentioned here. Fisher 1963 studies the Ahmadiyya in West Africa and pays particular attention to the educational institutions that the movement established. Fisher 1961 describes the emergence of the movement in Nigeria, and Fisher 1960 studies the movement in Sierra Leone. The only Ahmadi center in the Midde East is in Haifa, Israel, which is studied in ʿAwdah 1980. A more recent study, Turner 1997, describes the Ahmadiyya mission in America.

  • ʿAwdah, ʿAbd Allah Asʿad. Al-Kabābīr-baladī: Lamḥah ʿan tārīkh al-qaryah mundhu taʾsīsihā wa-ḥattá nihāyat al-intidāb al-Barīṭānī. Shefa-ʾAmr, Israel: Dar al-Mashriq, 1980.

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    A description of the Ahmadi community in Haifa, Israel, the only Ahmadi center in the Middle East.

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  • Fisher, Humphrey. “Ahmadiyya in Sierra Leone.” Sierra Leone Bulletin of Religion 2 (1960): 1–10.

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    A description of Ahmadi missionary activity in Sierra Leone after 1929 and the establishment of several Ahmadi schools in the country.

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  • Fisher, Humphrey J. “The Ahmadiyya Movement in Nigeria.” African Affairs 1 (1961): 60–88.

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    Describes the emergence of the Ahmadi movement in Nigeria in the first half of the 20th century.

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  • Fisher, Humphrey J. Aḥmadiyya: A Study in Contemporary Islām on the West African Coast. London: Oxford University Press, 1963.

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    The only comprehensive study of the Aḣmadiyya in a local setting, with considerable attention to the educational institutions established by the movement.

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  • Turner, Richard Brent. Islam in the African-American Experience. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997.

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    Chapter 4 (pp. 109–146) is titled “The Aḥmadiyya Mission to America: A Multi-Racial Model for American Islam.” The notes on pages 262–267 include a substantial number of articles relevant to the Ahmadis in the United States.

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Pakistan

With the establishment of Pakistan in 1947, a controversy about the status of the Ahmadis erupted during the process of creating the constitution. Mainstream Muslim organizations demanded the exclusion of the Ahmadis from the Muslim fold. Anti-Ahmadi riots in Punjab in 1953 brought the Ahmadi question to the fore. The Report of the Court of Inquiry Constituted under Punjab Act II to Enquire into the Punjab Disturbances of 1953 (Punjab Court of Inquiry 1954) is very useful for its account of the contentious dispute between the Ahmadiyya and mainstream Islam. Binder 1961 provides a discussion of the constitution-making process. For a summary of the contemporary issues and leaders’ views, see Brush 1955.

  • Binder, Leonard. Religion and Politics in Pakistan. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1961.

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    An extensive discussion of the constitution-making process by a political scientist (pp. 259–296).

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  • Brush, S. E. “Ahmadiyyat in Pakistan: Rabwah and the Ahmadis.” Muslim World 45 (1955): 145–171.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1478-1913.1955.tb02219.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A description of the Ahmadi institutions in Rabwa (which served as the headquarters of the movement between 1948 and 1984) and a summary of the views of Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad, the second successor to the founder, on various contemporary issues.

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  • Punjab Court of Inquiry. Report of the Court of Inquiry Constituted under Punjab Act II to Enquire into the Punjab Disturbances of 1953. Lahore, India: Superintendent of Government Printing, Punjab, 1954.

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    Known as the Munir report. A government inquiry into the anti-Ahmadi riots of 1953. A veritable treasure trove of views expressed in Pakistan on the boundaries of the Muslim community, the finality of Muhammad’s prophethood (khatm al-nubuwwa), and jihad; these are the most contentious topics in the dispute between the Ahmadiyya and mainstream Islam. There is also a description of the disturbances that led to the appointment of the committee of inquiry.

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The Constitutional Amendment of 1974

In 1974 the Pakistani parliament passed a constitutional amendment excluding the Ahmadis from the Muslim fold. In April 1984 a presidential decree (Ordinance XX of 1984) transformed much of the observance and daily life of the Ahmadis into a criminal offense. The items in this section discuss the constitutional developments that resulted in the transformation of the Ahmadis, against their fierce opposition, into a non-Muslim minority in Pakistan. Rahman 1974 and Ahmed 1975 provide some key background information about the developments leading up to the adoption of the amendment. Razi 1977 provides a summary of the arguments against Ahmadis at the time. The Pakistani constitution, including the amended articles, is in the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, and the amendments can be viewed along with the text of a speech by Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in the National Assembly’s Verdict on the Finality of Prophethood of Hazrat Muhammad. The Ahmadi response to the assertion that Ahmadis are non-Muslims is in Ahmad 1973, and the press response is in Rafiq 1975. Gualtieri 1989 describes the Ahmadi tribulations in Pakistan following the amendment.

  • Ahmad, Nasir. Are Ahmadis Muslims? Pronouncement of the Head of the Ahmadiyya Movement. Qadian, India: Nazir Dawat-o-Tabligh, 1973.

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    The Ahmadi response to the recommendation of the Azad Kashmir Assembly to declare the Ahmadis non-Muslims. A passionate assertion that Ahmadis are Muslims in the full sense of the word.

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  • Ahmed, Munir D. “Ausschluss der Ahmadiyya aus dem Islam: Eine umstrittene Entscheidung des pakistanischen Parlaments.” Orient 16 (1975): 112–143.

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    The most detailed discussion of the developments that led to the adoption of the 1974 amendment. A discussion of the question of whether a parliament has the right to pronounce on the religious affiliation of individual citizens or citizens’ groups.

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  • Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan (as Modified up to the 18th February, 1975). Karachi, 1975.

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    A full text of the Pakistani constitution, including the amended articles 106 (p. 33) and 260 (p. 86).

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  • Gualtieri, Antonio R. Conscience and Coercion: Ahmadi Muslims and Orthodoxy in Pakistan. Montreal: Guernica, 1989.

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    An eloquent description of the Ahmadi tribulations in Pakistan and a passionate advocacy of their cause. It is based on interviews and observations of the situation in Pakistan in the late 1980s. The appendix (pp. 109–124) includes the transcript of a radio interview with the author, broadcast by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation on 20 March 1988.

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  • National Assembly’s Verdict on the Finality of Prophethood of Hazrat Muhammad (Peace Be upon Him). Islamabad, Pakistan, 1974.

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    This includes the text of the constitutional amendment of 1974 and the text of the speech delivered in the National Assembly by Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto on 7 September 1974.

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  • Rafiq, B. A., comp. From the World Press: Persecutions of and Atrocities against the Ahmadiyya Movement in Pakistan as Seen through the World Press. London: London Mosque, 1975.

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    Quotations from the press about the 1974 constitutional amendment and the persecution of the Ahmadis in its aftermath.

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  • Rahman, Fazlur. “Islam and the New Constitution of Pakistan.” In Contemporary Problems of Pakistan. Edited by J. Henry Korson, 30–44. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1974.

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    This article was written before the amendment of 1974 but is essential as a background for its promulgation.

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  • Razi, Muhammad Wali, trans. Qadianism on Trial: The Case of the Muslim Ummah against the Qadianis, Presented before the National Assembly of Pakistan. Karachi: Maktaba Darul Uloom, 1977.

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    A summary of the arguments against the Ahmadis by the mainstream religious establishment of Pakistan.

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Aḥmadi Jihad

The Ahmadis have a distinctive interpretation of jihad. In their view, jihad should be waged in a way appropriate to the threat facing Islam. Friedmann 1989 provides an explanation of this based on primary texts. In the early Muslim period, nascent Islam was in danger of physical extinction, and therefore military jihad was called for. In Ghulam Ahmad’s lifetime, Muslims faced an onslaught of Christian missionaries who engaged in slander against Islam and its Prophet. In such a situation, Ahmad held, Muslims should respond in kind and defend Islam by preaching and refuting the slander rather than by military means. Though this interpretation is specific to the situation of Indian Muslims under British rule, it came to be considered as an unchanging principle of the Ahmadi worldview. Ahmad’s views are translated into English in Ahmad 1911.

  • Ahmad, Ghulam. “Jehad and the British Government.” Review of Religions 10 (1911): 448–470.

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    Although Ghulam Ahmad explained his view of jihad in many of his works, this is the most convenient book to start an investigation of this topic. Originally published in 1900 as Government-i Angrezi awr jihad.

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  • Friedmann, Yohanan. Prophecy Continuous: Aspects of Aḥmadī Religious Thought and Its Medieval Background. Comparative Studies on Muslim Societies 3. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989.

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    An explanation of the Ahmadi view of jihad based on primary sources (pp. 165–180).

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LAST MODIFIED: 05/25/2011

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780195390155-0004

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