Apologies for missing most of the conversations this post was inspired by, but I have found MuslimFirst to be sincere in his criticisms, although I don’t agree with all of them. But this is not a rebuttal, more an extrapolation of the main issues which I have come across often, and would like to offer some suggestions to.
In advance, this is a long post – unintentionally – so here is a brief synopsis of the sub-headings:
Firstly, I would like to clarify a tendency I have come across many posters on the blog, to conflate Ahmadi-Muslims and Sunnis as two separate strands. I certainly don’t see it like this. I am a Sunni – I stem from the Ahl al-Sunna wa’l Jamāʿah and consider myself to be firmly a Sunni Muslim, and I am an Ahmadi-Muslim as far as my bayʿa (allegiance) to a divinely appointed Mahdi, Mujāddid and Prophetic representative in my age is concerned.
Some posters have used the terms ‘former Sunni’ and ‘those Sunnis’ – Ḥaḍrat Masīḥ-e-Maʿūd ʿalayhi’s-salām counsels his own Jamāʿa that we believe in those matters of practice as part of Islam that have had consensus made upon them by early muslims and thus roots us firmly within the Ahl-al-Sunna (commonly referred to as ‘Sunnis’):
We counsel our Jamaat to put true and sincere faith in the Holy Kalima, La Illaha Ill-Allah, Muhammad al-Rasul-Allah, to live and die by it, also to believe in all prophets and in all books, the truth of which is sanctioned by the Quran; to observe in letter and in spirit the Fasts, Prayers, Zakat and Pilgrimage and all prescriptions and prohibitions laid down by Almighty Allah and His Prophet. We counsel them in short that their belief should include all beliefs and all rules of conduct agreed upon unanimously by early Muslims, that is, all matters accepted as part of Islam by the consensus of Ahl-i-Sunna. There is no option. And we hold heaven and earth as witness that this is our creed and this is our faith.
(Ayyamal Sulh pg. 86-87)
I do not claim to speak on behalf of everyone, but Allah as my witness, I, for one, am a Sunni and an Ahmadi Muslim – the two for me are complementary to my faith as I conscientiously try to bind myself to the words and actions of the Blessed Master-Prophet ṣallAllāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam and have allied myself at the bayʿa (pledge) of His appointed Mahdi ʿalayhi’s-salām. I personally don’t see how one can be an Ahmadi-Muslim and not be a Sunni (and neither do I accept a person to be a true Sunni) if they do not bind themselves to, and abide by, the Prophetic Sunnah. Allahu a’lam. For an Ahmadi Muslim, the 6th Condition of Bai’at completely solidifies this principle, as they are required to:
‘…refrain from following un-islamic customs and lustful inclinations, and shall completely submit himself/herself to the authority of the Holy Quran; and shall make the Word of God and the Sayings of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) the guiding principle in every walk of his/her life [emphasis added].
II. Can’t Read – Won’t Read…
The poster [MuslimFirst] has highlighted an unfortunate trend across the world – muslim and non-muslim – where less and less people are reading nowadays. I hope this trend reverses, because there is so much in books that is to be cherished. But having said this, we must remember that our tradition, in Islam, started off as an oral tradition: Allāh SPOKE to the Prophet ṣallAllāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam through Gibril ʿalayhi’s-salām; the Prophet ṣallAllāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam taught his Companions (raḍīAllāhu ʿanhum) verbally, by His blessed speech ṣallAllāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam; and the Qurʾān was initially read, recited, studied, memorized and preserved orally, as were the Ahadith.
So audiobooks, audio lectures, mp3s, cassettes, vinyl, cds, are perhaps a method of learning our Islam that is not very modern – the means on which such things are recorded may be modern, but the concept of aural teaching is actually integral to our tradition. When books became the norm, this took over the concept of oral tradition, since the time the Qurʾān was dictated and written, up until the Ahadith collections, and now whereby most written material is read on the computer screens. No-one doubts that reading is a habit most people are not attuned to nowadays, but the problem lies with how we then teach ourselves and our younger brothers and sisters. I would propose lectures where these books that people find so difficult to read are publicly read out in lectures and commented upon line-by-line. This is something that many people find interesting and discussion often ensues ensuring that people are engaging with these important texts.
III. Good Ahmadi-Muslims, Bad Ahmadi-Muslims, Beautiful Ahmadi-Muslims!!
I think that there are good and bad apples in every bunch – be it an Ahmadi-Muslim bunch, a non-Ahamdi-Muslim bunch, or an agnostic bunch. The Qurʾān teaches us to keep company with the righteous. I consider myself – and many would perhaps consider me to be – what you may call an ‘active’ Ahmadi-Muslim.
But I have friends in the Jamāʿa and outwith the Jamāʿa. Some of my best friends are outside the Jamāʿa and are classically trained scholars in what many would term ‘Sunnī Islām’; Similarly, in the Jamāʿa I keep the companionship of select people – scholars and non-scholars – because of their righteousness and piety, and the way they observe Islamic rulings, and their humanity and gentleness.
I do not regard all Ahmadi-Muslims alike, just as I do not regard all non-Ahmadi-Muslims alike: good and bad apples, everywhere. Which is why one should be particular about the company they keep – within and outwith the Jamāʿa. I remember when I first realized that some Ahmadi-Muslims were not as they should be, and a friend of mine wisely said to me – ‘where there are humans, there will be faults and sin’. So I realize that Ahmadi-Muslims will be good and they will be bad – but, alhamduliAllah, I have not encountered many bad Ahmadi-Muslims. Similarly, some non-Ahmadi-Muslim friends of mine are beautiful people – some are people that I try to avoid because I know what they are like. I look at people for what they are – not what they claim to be.
IV. ‘Faith (Madhhab) is not the eloquence of speech…’
Many people have spoken of our beloved Imam’s speeches and Khutbāt – some with ill-intent, others quite sincerely state that they are not enrapt by his speeches or do not find them interesting.
I think that along with the examples of Hadrat Mūsa ʿalayhi’s-salām’s impediment (whether an actual speech impediment or merely just an inability to be a comprehensive and fluent advocate), we should remember that firstly, next to the jawāmi’ al-kalim (the succinct oratory) possessed by the Master of all Prophets ṣallAllāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam, all others are deficient, with no disrespect intended. Some people are given beauty in their actions or appearance, others are given beautiful speech, yet others are given both, and still others are given neither. None of these things are said to be definitive demarcations of anyone’s piety, religiosity, nearness to Allāh, or their spiritual station.
Secondly, Ḥaḍrat Masīḥ-e-Maʿūd ʿalayhi’s-salām has a beautiful phrase in one of his books:
‘Madhhab (faith/religion) is not the eloquence of speech/oratorical skill; rather it is a pure State that is manifested in the hearts of those who come to realize/recognize their Lord’ [emphasis added]
(Forgotten which book it is in)
What a phenomenal statement! Those who claim they cannot understand Ḥaḍrat Masīḥ-e-Maʿūd’s ʿalayhi-salām’s writings or works, should ponder over this for a few minutes and think about someone they know who manifests such a State.
When we concentrate on any speaker, Khatib or lecturer, we should concentrate on the state of their hearts, which often manifests itself in the tone of voice, facial expressions, and through the eyes – which are the windows to the soul – but at other times it is veiled form the uninitiated person who is given to physical signs and indicators.
V. Hearts Ablaze with Divine Nūr (Light)
The heart is a receptor of all things spiritual – whereas the eyes only perceive that which light reflects. If you cannot ‘see’ spirituality with your heart, then the heart is clouded and requires purification and cleansing. If spirituality is something which is visible only to the eyes, then it is often not spirituality – the ‘nūr’ that many people talk about on peoples faces, is just one small aspect of the transcendental concept of The Full Nūr as detailed beautifully in the Holy Qurʾān – which is, essentially in the heart of Man, which reached its fullest example in the blessed illumined and illumining Heart of the Holy Prophet ṣallAllāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam. Hadrat Khalifatul Masih al-Thani’s (raḍīAllāhu ʿanhu) explanationis worth mentioning here, in brief:
Allāh is the Nūr of the heavens and the Earth: The example of His Nūr is like that of a lustrous niche, in which is a lamp. The lamp is in a glass (globe). The glass is as if it were a glittering star. It is lit from a blessed tree – an olive – neither of the East nor of the West, whose oil would almost be ablaze, even though fire has not touched it: Light upon Light.
Allāh Guides to His Light whomsoever He will.
And Allāh sets forth parables to men, and Allāh knows all things full well.
(Qurʾān, al_Nūr, 24:36)
Ḥadrat Khalifatul Masih al-Thani (raḍīAllāhu ʿanhu) explains this verse amazingly – no exaggeration – but the verse itself is so amazing that it would only beget awesome commentaries. He says that the metaphor in this verse speaks of three things: (i) a lamp; (ii) a glass-globe; (iii) a niche. The Divine Nūr is composed of these three things which, when together in this chronology, give its full luminescence. The lamp (al-miṣbāḥ) is the essence and source of the Light. The glass-globe (al-zujāja) capsules the flame of the lamp and protects it from being blown out, and provides it the necessary surrounding to magnify its brightness. The niche (al-mishkāt) preserves the light. In an amazing twist from the imagery evoked in this metaphor Hadrat Khalifatul Masih al-Thani (raḍīAllāhu ʿanhu) applies these three to the spiritual realm and the phenomenon of the Divine project: he says that these three objects mentioned in the verse may ‘respectively stand for’ (i) Divine Light; (ii) God’s Prophets who protect that light from being extinguished, adding to its luminescence and brightness, and; (iii) the Khalifas and successors of the Prophets (earthly as well as spiritual) who diffuse and disseminate the divine Light and give it a direction for the guidance of the World.
Then, turning his attention to the other part of the verse, which mentions that the oil used as fuel to light the lamp is of the ‘highest possible purity, and is inflammable to a degree which makes it (the oil) burst out into a flame without being ignited’, Hadrat Khalifatul Masih al-Thani (raḍīAllāhu ʿanhu) offers the interpretation that due to the intensity of the oil that is described, in the context of the three other objects, the light could be interpreted as referring to the Holy Prophet ṣallAllāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam, supported by the fact that ‘the Holy Prophet ṣallAllāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam has been referred to as Nūr in the Qurʾān (5:16)’. In this case, such an interpretation would mean that the Niche (al-mishkāt) represented the blessed heart of the Holy Prophet ṣallAllāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam and the Lamp (al-miṣbāh) would be his purity in disposition and nature ‘endowed with the best and noblest attributes and qualities’. The glass (globe) (al-zujāja) would therefore signify the divine light that He ṣallAllāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam was encircled in and nourished with. Thus, he states, that when the light of Allāh (divine revelation) shone on the light of the Holy Prophet ṣallAllāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam, this resulted in the construct: nūrun ʿalā nūr – Light upon Light.
For completion’s sake, it must also be mentioned that the interpretation of ‘whose oil would almost be ablaze even though fire has not touched it’ by Hadrat Khalifatul Masih al-Thani (raḍīAllāhu ʿanhu) is that the Holy Prophet’s ṣallAllāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam nature was so pure and divinely nourished even prior to the revelation descending on it, that he was fit for having discharged the duties of Allāh’s divine mission even thought he light of revelation had not touched him ṣallAllāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam.
One of the most phenomenal non-Ahmadi Muslim scholars that I enjoy listening to is perhaps the most ‘unentertaining’ in terms of intonation or oratorical skill, but it is the fact that my heart recognizes the spiritual State of the Shaykh’s heart which is the organ with which he speaks that keeps me riveted when he speaks – edge of the seat stuff – really!!! Similarly I often like to observe the state of my beloved Imam when he is not speaking, when he is listening to the recitation of the Qurʾān or a poem in praise of Allāh or His Final Messenger ṣallAllāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam, and observe him deftly moving his lips, surely in salutations to the beloved Messenger ṣallAllāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam. It is this deep deference to, and love for, the Holy Prophet ṣallAllāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam, which draws me to listen to him – regardless of whether he is jovially being humorous or speaking of something which I am not particularly interested in!
Finally, on this point, it is personal experience of mine, and others have also mentioned this: Allāh has the heart of a believer between His fingers – and He can change the Heart towards Himself in an instant. As the Cause of all Causes (sababu’l-asbāb), Allāh can make any minor thing the cause of such a revolution in a person’s heart, and so we should earnestly repeat the prayer: ‘Yā Muqallibu’l-Qulūb thabbit qalbī ʿalā dīnika’, ‘O’ Turner of Hearts! Make my Heart solid on your religion’. It could be in through the most apparently unrelated Khutba of our Imam (may Allāh keep and preserve Him), that Allāh causes our Hearts to turn to Divine Unity and Obedience to Allāh. The Baraka (blessings) of guidance can come in a fleeting instant – lest we miss it.
(For the full commentary in English, see here)
VI. Tafsīr-e-Kabīr of Ḥaḍrat Khalifatu’l-Masīḥ al-Thānī (raḍīAllāhu ʿanhu)
Regarding the issue related to the Tafāsīr with which you are particularly interested, the first point is that if you are referring to the 5-volume extended commentary on the Qurʾān, then this is not the one written by Hadrat Khalifatu’l-Masih al-Thani (raḍīAllāhu ʿanhu), rather it is a very constricted translation of the 10-volume Tafsīr-e-Kabīr, although it was translated within the lifetime of the Second Khalifa (raḍīAllāhu ʿanhu).
As this page shows
The 5-volume commentary is not a strict translation of the Tafsir-e-Kabir (10vols). Rather, as the editors clearly state:
The preparation of the Commentary was originally entrusted to a Board of Editors consisting of the late Maulawi Sher ‘Ali, Mirza Bashir Ahmad M.A., and Malik Ghulam Farid M.A, the present editor of the commentary. The commentary is based mainly on the material culled and collected from the writings and speeches of Hadrat Mirza Bashir-ud-Din Mahmud Ahmad, present Head of the Ahmadiyya Community…
This page and the following few pages show the classical works of Hadith, Hadith commentary, Tafsīr, etc. that were referred as sources for the commentary. Those who know about this will realise the standard of scholarship being referred to.
The 10-volume Tafsīr-e-Kabīr written in Urdu, was the original tafsīr he wrote, largely written or dictated by Hadrat Khalifatu’l-Masih al-Thani (raḍīAllāhu ʿanhu) through his Durūs on the Qurʾān (specific Qurʾānic sermons expounding its meanings) and through his writings with specific intent of writing a tafsīr. Generally, tafāsīr are of various types – there are grammatical, legal, metaphorical, philosophical and historical tafāsīr. Each type has its intended audiences and each caters for a specific need (the special aspects of this commentary are stated here. In the Tafsīr-e-Kabīr, Hadrat Khalifatu’l-Masih al-Thani (raḍīAllāhu ʿanhu) makes his intention absolutely clear and this is stated in the English preface too, he says:
The second part consists of explanatory notes or commentary. Every note first derives its authority from the tenor and spirit of the Qurʾān as expressed in various other places [known as the method of tafsīr al-Qurʾān bi’l-Qurʾān, in tafsīr studies]. Next to the Qurʾān, precedence is given to the Hadith and then come the standard dictionaries of the Arabic language…
…Special care is taken in this commentary to refute the principle objections raised against Islam by Christian writers…based either on ignorance or on deliberate misrepresentation of the true teachings of Islam on the part of these writers. Refutation of such objections helps to remove much bias and prejudice against Islam and to create an atmosphere for a better appreciation of its teachings.
This is evidently the case throughout the tafsīr, and is not something to be apologetic about. The Qurʾān has been maligned and attacked, as has the Prophet ṣallAllāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam, and the tafsīr written by Hadrat Khalifatu’l-Masih al-Thani (raḍīAllāhu ʿanhu) seeks to exonerate them of these accusations. It may not be an interesting read for some, but the tafsīr of the Qurʾān written by him serves a serious, scholarly and important purpose. To tell you the truth, I skip most passages in the tafsīr dealing with Jews and Christians, because I am personally more interested in Islam’s message to polytheists and idol-worship, and its socio-ethical teachings. So a tafsīr is not really meant to be strictly interesting, perhaps, it is supposed to serve and aid the understanding and purpose of the Qurʾān. One thing strikes me as highly prominent in the tafsīr and is something that Hadrat Khalifatu’l-Masih al-Thani (raḍīAllāhu ʿanhu) is to be commended for – may Allāh bless him abundantly – and that is that the primary importance he gives to exonerating the Holy Prophet ṣallAllāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam of the charges levied against him is immense – I have read many tafāsīr, and few are comparable to the time or ink spent in justifying and freeing the Prophet ṣallAllāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam of the false derogatory accusations leveled against the Beloved Messenger ṣallAllāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam, and dishonorable legends that have crept into Islam.
In similar vein, he sets out his own spiritual lineage and states:
I also desire to state that since I was a pupil of the late Maulawī Nūr’ud-Dīn, Khalifatul Masih I, a good deal of what I acquired from him is reflected in the Explanatory Notes. Thus these notes are, in fact, based upon the interpretation of the Qurʾān by the Promised Messiah, the First Khalifa and myself…
Just as the poster spoke of tafāsīr being beneficial as they relate to the people, similarly, Hadrat Khalifatu’l-Masih al-Thani (raḍīAllāhu ʿanhu) has sought to do the same. His specific concentrations in his tafsīr may not interest you, but that is a different issue – it was of interest to many, and still is.
VII. Assistance regarding the issue in ‘Invitation to Ahmadiyyat’ regarding ʿĪsa and the Holy Prophet ṣallAllāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam – as not understood by ‘MuslimFirst’
The point raised about the Prophet ṣallAllāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam and ʿIsa ʿalayhi’s-salām and whether he will ascend to this temporal abode from the Heavens is a rhetorical argument posed by Hadrat Khalifatu’l-Masih al-Thani (raḍīAllāhu ʿanhu). It goes like this:
- Muslims believe that the Holy Prophet ṣallAllāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam’s physical life in this world was terminated;
- Many muslims believe that compared to the above example, Hadrat ʿIsa ʿalayhi’s-salām lives on, as he never died, and is thus somewhere in heaven. And he will return for mankind’s final salvation to the Truth.
- Hadrat Khalifatu’l-Masih al-Thani (raḍīAllāhu ʿanhu)’s theological argument is that this belief, stated above, is something that denigrates the station of the Prophet ṣallAllāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam for the following reasons:
- The Prophet ṣallAllāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam is the greatest and final law-bearing Prophet and so the there is something not quite fitting about a Prophet from another Ummah coming back to save the Prophet’s ṣallAllāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam Ummah.
- Hadrat ʿIsa ʿalayhi’s-salām’s life was prolonged, whereas The Holy Prophet’s ṣallAllāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam life was cut short. The argument is that if anyone’s life should have been prolonged for the benefit and salvation of mankind then it should have been our Beloved Prophet ṣallAllāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam.
- The problems that stem from this argument are:
- The Qurʾān fundamentally declares that Hadrat ʿIsa ʿalayhi’s-salām died.
- The Qurʾān does not support his being in Heaven (which is something that Ḥaḍrat Masīḥ-e-Maʿūd ʿalayhi’s-salām used to believe in before Allāh revealed to him the correct understanding of the Qurʾānic verses in this regard.
- The ‘sa-yanzilu (he will descend)’ verb or ‘idha nazala…(when he descends)’ used in the Ahadith are believed to mean the same as what we understand when we say the Qurʾān descended on the Prophet ṣallAllāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam – it was ‘manifested’ or ‘made known’. The Qurʾān did not fall out of the sky in book form – neither will the Masih – otherwise when Hadrat Musa ʿalayhi’s-salām was asked to bring down a book from the sky, Allāh should have had no problem in doing so, but we know this clearly did not happen.
- The Prophet ṣallAllāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam foretelling ʿIsa ʿalayhi’s-salām’s coming was not from the heavens, and neither did he say that the same ʿIsa ʿalayhi’s-salām who lived 2 millennia ago would return. Rather, the two Ahadith in Sahih Bukhari in which the Prophet ṣallAllāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam describes the appearance of ʿIsa in two different physical characterizations amply proves that he spoke of two different people called ʿIsa at two different occasions – one referring to the ʿIsa Masih who came for the reform of the Jews, and the second, separate, different ʿIsa Masih who was to come for the Muslims.
(On a separate point, I will soon be writing a full article, insha’Allāh, relating to the cult website’s stream of endless mistranslations, which ironically claim to correct our ‘mistranslations’!)
VIII. Hadith Science amongst Ahmadi-Muslims: Dirāya wa’l-Riwāya (understanding and narrator-critique)
Relating to the point about Ahamdis not having a Hadith science as such, concentrating on the matn (main body of the tradition) rather than an analysis of the transmitters (the science of asmā’ al-rijāl, or ʿilm al-riwāya), well, this in itself is a science – the science of dirāya, to us, is more important, and so any Hadith which apparently or otherwise contradicts the Qurʾān, or denigrates the status of the Prophet ṣallAllāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam, will either (a) be interpreted in a way so as not to contradict a Qurʾānic precedent, or (b) be interpreted in a way denigrate the status of the Holy Prophet ṣallAllāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam as He ṣallAllāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam was perfect and the exemplar, or (c) if it cannot be interpreted so as not to contradict or denigrate, we will take other istidlāl (evidentiary elements) from it.
Failing this, we will render it as possibly tainted, without too much insistence on its chain of authority. Otherwise, we take the chain of authority fairly seriously, but will not bend just because a chain is strong – over the other evidential sources – the sanad is not the binding or most authoritative element of a Hadith. But we have a Hadith science which I believe is to be closer to obedience to the Prophet ṣallAllāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam, and one which goes further in our following of the words of the Prophet ṣallAllāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam than the isnād provides. Ḥaḍrat Masīḥ-e-Maʿūd ʿalayhi’s-salām states:
It should be the duty of the members of our Community that a Hadith which is not opposed to the Qur’an and Sunnah, should be accepted and followed, however weak might be its authority, and it should be preferred to the rules framed by jurists.
[Review bar Mubahatha Batalwi wa Chakralwi,
Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 19, pp. 209-212]
…And this is not a new concept – in fact Imam al-Ghazālī’s (raḍīAllāhu ʿanhu) Ihyā al-ʿUlūm al-Dīn (The Revivification of Islamic Sciences) was criticized and even burnt in some places because it contained Ahadith which had weak chains of transmission, or weak narrators within these chains, but Imam Ghazālī (raḍīAllāhu ʿanhu) was insistent that they be obeyed and acted upon. So some of the classical scholars, in a similar way to Ḥaḍrat Masīḥ-e-Maʿūd ʿalayhi’s-salām, went further in their devotion to the Word of the Prophet ṣallAllāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam to the extent that even a Hadith deemed to be weak was something that they preferred to act upon, as long as it was in conformity with the Qurʾān and the Prophet Sunna of the Beloved Messenger ṣallAllāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam.
It is true that the sciences around the attributes of the narrator are fairly academic, but un-ignorable nonetheless. We should pay heed to them, but should keep it within its proper place; unfortunately, more books are written about this than the dirāyah (understanding/extrapolation) of the Ahadith and that, I think, is unfortunate.
Also, it must be remembered that one person stating that another person is a weak narrator or authority (as is the case with the ʿilm al-riwāya), is highly subjective. We know that often, certain narrators are classified as reliable by some hadith scholars and unreliable by others. Clearly in such cases, these analyses must be subjected to strict and solid benchmarks – and sometimes this in itself may be subjective, which is why the matn (main body of the text) and what is actually being narrated is perhaps of more importance and should be looked at more closely than the narrators, and it is this that should be subjected to the Divinely revealed sources. These narrators, the excellent amongst them and the not so good amongst them – were all human and subject to Human weaknesses – thus they should be revered but not standardised to a degree where they are beyond any subjection to the revelatory benchmarks of the Qur’an and the Sunna, and particularly regarding the latter, I am referring to the Sunna al-mutawatira (the practice of the Prophet ṣallAllāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam as practiced throughout the ages by the masses so that chances of forgery and innovation are minimised).
IX. Reading ‘Sunni’ Books and where to draw the line: Ḥaḍrat Masīḥ-e-Maʿūd and Imam al-Mahdī’s ʿalayhi’s-salām status vis-à-vis Scholars of the Past
There’s nothing wrong with reading ‘Sunni’ books either – I read many of them, and benefit from many of them – especially reprints of older books – older scholars seem to have been much more honest and non-polemical in their writings. Truth is truth – even if it be spoken by a known liar! And the Prophetic teaching is that truth should be the proverbial red camel that everyone rushes towards. But you will often find divergent viewpoints amongst classical and modern scholars – and the essential points of faith and belief is where one cannot stand on the fence and must take a stance. Regarding such issues, one cannot ignore that there is an Imam today that claims to be appointed by Allāh for the reform of the age. If one believes that Imam to be true in his claim then they must defer to him and his opinion in all such matters that he states he has come to set aright. For example, in short, a few of the essential things that Ḥaḍrat Masīḥ-e-Maʿūd ʿalayhi’s-salām has clarified for us regarding matters of faith are:
- Tawhid and the removal of forms of shirk (associating partners with Allāh), such as believing that a certain saint or person can be prayed to or asked for something that is otherwise only sought from Allah;
- The status and grandeur of the Prophet ṣallAllāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam – from the accusations leveled against the Prophet ṣallAllāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam by Christians and Hindus, particularly, and by doing so he saved the lives of many muslims who would have otherwise left Islam – as was a known trend in India at the time, and is still something that many ‘ex-muslims’ succumb to because of the inherent misrepresentation of Islamic Concepts regarding the Attributes of Allāh and the biographical accounts of the life of the Prophet ṣallAllāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam in which many Muslims even believe some spurious and shameful things;
- The purity and untainted and protected and complete and perfect nature of the Holy Qur’an – that it is free from interpolation, reduction, excess, abrogation-proper, and that it is the revealed Word of Allāh that is manifestly pure and supreme in comparison to the other revealed scriptures, none of which claim to be free of change or modification;
- Allāhu al-ān kamā kāna… Allāh is now as He always Was – He speaks to His chosen servants now as He spoke to them before, throughout all periods of History – and so Islam is a religion with a Living God, not one who is dumb or mute, and only spoke in the Past;
- Establishing that the Glory and Victory of Islam will not be reliant upon someone from another prophetic period – rather, the teaching and example of the Holy Prophet ṣallAllāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam is so supreme and complete, that it takes the worshipful servant to the apex of religious evolution and that Man thus becomes conversant with Allāh, to the extent that he is given a portion from the portents of Prophethood (such as true dreams, visions and non-legislative-revelation, as is specified in the Ahadith). Thus the final victory of Islam will come through the followers of the Prophetic legacy of the Holy Prophet ṣallAllāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam, amongst whom one will be chosen as the ‘Masih’ for the Muslims and the guided Imam Mahdi, who will fulfill the following functions as recorded in the Ahadith:
- Al-Masīḥ al-Maʿūd:
- Yaksuru’l-salīb (break the cross)
- Yaqtulu’l-khinzīr (kill the swine)
- Yaḍaʿu’l-ḥarb / Yaḍaʿu’l-jizya (end war / end [the necessity for taking] Jizya)
- Imam Mahdī al-Maʿhūd
- Imāmukum minkum – He will be your Imam from amongst yourselves
- Ḥakam – He will be the Arbiter
- ʿĀdil – He will deal justly amongst the people
There are other aspects, such as the clarification of Qur’anic concepts, interpretation of verses and correction of islamic notions regarding revelation, angels, heaven and hell, resurrection, sin, repentance, etc. The ‘Essence of Islam’ set of translated excerpts is a good resource to understanding some of these topics – may Allah raise the station of Ḥaḍrat Muhammad Zafrulla Khan radiAllahu ‘anhu for translating most of these excerpts, and thereby for his services to English-speaking peoples in this way.
In reading any classical or modern text, I take benefit where I can – if there is anything which contends with something that Ḥaḍrat Masīḥ-e-Maʿūd ʿalayhi’s-salām has given his decision on (in his role as the Ḥakam and ʿĀdil, both of which are his functions as the Imam Mahdi), then I will take his opinion over anyone else’s, as I know that the Holy Prophet ṣallAllāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam said that he will be the Imam and thus will be guided by The Holy Prophet’s ṣallAllāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam Prophetic legacy and wisdom, and will be Guided ultimately by Allāh for the reform and victory of Islam and the Muslims.
And our Sunni brothers and sisters agree that this will be the case – obviously when the Imam Mahdi ʿalayhi’s-salām and Masih that they await will, as they believe, be manifest sometime in the future, he obviously won’t be bound by the rules framed by the Jurists of Fiqh (fuqahāʾ), or the Imams of Hadith (muḥaddithīn) or the Exegetes (mufassirīn) – old or new – obviously he will judge amongst them as to whose opinion and ijtihād (intellectual effort) was most correct in line with Divine Providence and Prophetic Precedent, and they too will defer to his opinion on the essential aspects of faith and belief, and doctrine, upon which the old and new scholars differ.
At that time, I cannot see who would stand up and criticise the Imam Mahdi for going against the tafsīr of Albani, or Suhaib Webb, or say that ‘well, you haven’t gone through the sanad of this chain, and thus you cannot be right in certifying a Hadith as sound or not, and so we will stick to what Imam so-and-so has said’. Rather, I am sure, that the majority would say that in this situation, the correct stance will be to side with the Mahdi. And this is what we do. The only real issue that Ahmadi Muslims seem to have with the non-Ahmadi Muslims is the question as to whether Mirza Ghulam Ahmad ʿalayhi’s-salām is the Mahdi or not?
What the Mahdi’s position will be amongst the modern and earlier scholars is not debated – I think all are agreed that the Imam Mahdi overrules all others, unless he himself specifically defers to someone else – an example of this would be where Ḥaḍrat Masīḥ-e-Maʿūd (as) has stated that in matters of Fiqh, the Ahmadi Muslims should follow the opinions of the fuqahāʾ (jurisprudents) of the Hanafi Madhhab, and that if they do not find a suitable (in all respects) solution to a matter there, then they should use their God-given abilities of ijtihad and reach a suitable solution. In many issues, such as the issues pertaining to the Ṣalāt, Zakāt and personal matters such as the length of the beard or the application of Henna, matters relating to Wuḍūʿ, he has expressly given opinions in-line with and in deference to the opinion of the Ḥanafī Madhhab. The reason he stated for this was that in his opinion, Imam Abū Ḥanīfa (rh) and his school’s extrapolation of issues from the textual source of the Holy Qur’an was a central characteristic of their legal and jurisprudential methodology, whereas others give more credence to Ahadith, comparatively.