And the heaven He has raised high and set up the measure, that you may not exceed the measure. So weigh all things with justice and fall not short of the measure. (Qur’an, 55:8-10)
We are Musalmans. We believe in the One God without a partner and in the Kalima, La Illah Ill-Allah. We believe in the Book of God, the Quran, in His Messenger Muhammad (peace on him and God’s blessings) the Khatam Al-Anbiya. We believe in angels, the resurrection, hell and paradise. We observe the prescribed prayers and the fast. We turn to the Qibla for prayers and forbid ourselves what is forbidden by God and His Prophet and permit ourselves what is permitted. We add not a thing to the Sharia, nor subtract any thing from it. The Sharia is above change. Whatever has come down to us from the Holy Prophet (on whom peace and God’s blessings), all that we accept, whether we understand or not and whether we can unravel its secrets and real meaning or not. We are believers with the Grace of God, and strict monotheist Muslims. (Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, Nur al-Haq I, pp.5)
Addendum in Advance
Despite feeling a strong personal need to do so, it is with great regret that I pen this post. It concerns the widely loved and respected non-Ahmadi scholar Shaykh Hamza Yusuf. For those not familiar with Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, he is a Western Muslim scholar known for his passionate and scholarly discourses on a whole range of subjects. In 1996 he founded the now well established US Zaytuna Institute which is, as stated on its website: ‘…a non-profit Institute committed to restoring broad based and pluralistic scholarship to its proper place as a central priority of Musilms.’ He has always appeared to demonstrate great care in distancing himself from sectarianism; placing a recently released lecture, which mentions Ahmadiyya, at odds with his general pattern of scholarship. In the said lecture, delivered on the subject of ‘aqida (creed), and posted on youtube, Shaykh Hamza discussed the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at, a claim of Hadrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (‘alayhi al-salam) and the role of Hadrat Maulana Muhammad ‘Ali (radi Allahu ‘anhu) in positively influencing Western scholarly discourse on Islam.
Before entering into the body of this response, I feel it necessary to make a simple and sincere point. Islam enjoins upon its adherents that they seek a good opinion of others, particularly regarding one’s Muslim brothers or sisters. This duty is commonly referred to as Husn al-Zann, among other titles.I should begin this response, therefore, by stating that I have no knowledge as to whether the said youtube video was part of a greater context which was edited out, based on bad information / guidance which the respected Shaykh had honestly relied upon or simply down to ordinary human error that all the children of Adam are prone to make from time to time. For example, another scholar at the Zaytuna Institute documented a negative and factually inaccurate opinion about a historic Ahmadi Muslim scholar some time ago, due to information he believed to be honest and accurate, and then very humbly rectified the error once it was brought to his attention. His initial intentions, therefore, were quite obviously sincere.
The below response is, therefore, not a rebuttal or attack on Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, but simply a response to the various inaccuracies he stated regarding the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at; inaccuracies which have since been placed into the public domain and so carry with them, given the public position of Shaykh Hamza, the potential to mislead ordinary Muslims on some important issues. It is certainly the author’s wish that the released soundbite is not at all representative and that Shaykh Hamza would rightly rectify the misunderstandings and misinformation raised in the video. Furthermore, that in realising his misjudgment, he will carry out a more thorough primary source study of the works of Hadrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (‘alayhi al-salam), refer the matter to Almighty Allah through sincere prayer and only then draw his conclusions – whatever they may be. Simple reliance on the writings of the opponents of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at, as appears to be the case, would in no way provide Shaykh Hamza with sufficient knowledge of the claims of Hadrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (‘alayhi al-salam); particularly writings which are South Asian in origin. Just as was the case with Hadrat Ibn ‘Arabi and Imam ‘Abd al-Wahhab al-Sha’rani (rahmat Allahi ‘alayhima), the opponents of Hadrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (‘alayhi al-salam) have extensively attributed both spurious and ”acontextual” statements to him.
In the beginning of the recording, Shaykh Hamza refers to Ahmadiyya as a heresy and makes two important and rather clumsy statements. Firstly, and by far the most uncharacteristic, that: ”There’s two types of Ahmadiyya. There’s Qadiani and Lahori.Lahore Ahmadis are not outside of Islam” The inference here is clear: members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at (referred to by the Shaykh as Qadiani Ahmadis – a derogatory term and indication, perhaps, of the historically biased South Asian secondary sources on Ahmadiyya he might have relied upon) are outside the fold of Islam and thus non-Muslims. This is, no doubt, due to his strong disagreement with a belief he simplistically attributes to Ahmadi Muslims, namely: ”The Qadiani Ahmadis believe that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was a Prophet”
I chose the word clumsy as it best describes, to my mind at least, Shaykh Hamza’s non-technical and non-specialist usage of language; something far removed from the Shaykh’s trademark attention to detail. This is particularly disappointing given that the statement was made during a lecture and so in an environment of learning. It would have been much fairer and consistent had the Shaykh adopted the same modus operandi he applies when looking at other historical figures; the same scholarly standard, for example, that he might well apply in his assessment of the controversial theological statements of Abu’l Husayn al-Nuri, Mansur al-Hallaj, Ibn ‘Arabi, Ibn Taymiyya (rahmat Allah ‘alayhim) in light of his fatwa of kufr, or even in the case of the late Perennialist Martin Lings. His use of language here is a clear simplification, and thus gross misrepresentation, of the claim of Hadrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (‘alayhi al-salam) in which the members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at believe.
A reading of the actual writings of Hadrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (‘alayhi al-salam), many of which Shaykh Hamza is able to engage with in their original Arabic, would have clearly revealed the highly nuance, esoteric and technical claim of Hadrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (‘alayhi al-salam) in reference to Zilli / buruzi Nabuwwat; a subject so insightful and fine in its comprehension that Al-Hakim al-Tirmidhy (rahmat Allahi ‘alayhi), the great friend of Almighty Allah, issued a number of questions about it in his book Khatam al-awliya which were later answered by another great friend of Almighty Allah, Hadrat Ibn ‘Arabi (rahmat Allahi ‘alayhi), in the book ‘Anqa maghrib fi khatam al-awliya’ wa shams al-maghrib. The below extract, taken from the writings of Hadrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (‘alayhi al-salam) is a hint towards what Shaykh Hamza failed to grasp, or perhaps even investigate (Note: The extract is simply one extract; a Shaykh, given his position of trust and scholarly training, should carry out a holistic reading):
”Some members of my Jama‘at, who are less familiar with my claim and its supporting arguments, and who have neither had the chance to study my books in depth, nor have they spent enough time in my company to be fully informed, sometimes counter an objection raised by an opponent with an answer which is entirely contrary to the facts. Thus, notwithstanding their adherence to the truth, they have to suffer embarrassment.
…God Almighty says that, after the Holy Prophet (sa), the door of prophecies has been closed till the Day of Judgement, and that it is no longer possible for a Hindu, a Jew, a Christian or a nominal Muslim to assume the title of ‘Prophet’; and that all the doors leading to Prophethood have been closed except the door of Sirat-e-Siddiqi (Complete devotion to the Holy Prophet sa , such as was shown by Hadrat Abu Bakr al-Siddiq ra. [Publishers]), i.e., losing oneself in the Holy Prophet sa.
Thus he who comes to God through this door is clad, by way of Zill (Zill or Zilliyyat signifies such complete devotion to the Holy Prophet sa, and such self-effacement that a person begins to reflect the image of his Master sa. [Publishers]), in the same mantle of Prophethood which is the mantle of the Prophethood of Muhammad sa. As such, his being a Prophet is not a matter for jealously, for he does not derive this status from himself but from the fountain of the Holy Prophet sa; and, that too, not for his own glory but for the glory and majesty of the Holy Prophet sa. For this reason, in heaven he is named Muhammad sa and Ahmad sa. Thus the Prophethood of Muhammad sa, in the final analysis, returns to Muhammad sa, albeit by way of Buruz (Buruz: Spiritual manifestation; or the person who is the spiritual manifestation of a Prophet as or Saint. [Publishers]),11 and to no one else.” (Hadrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, A Misconception Removed)
Quite ironic was the fact that following on from Shaykh Hamza’s inference that Ahmadi Muslims are not Muslims, surely an oxymoron in and of itself, he should then quoted the statement of Imam Ahmad b. Hanbal (rahmat Allah ‘alayhi): ”La ukaffiru illa man kaffarani (I do not pronounce disbelief upon one who has not held me to be a disbeliever).” Given that no Ahmadi, to my knowledge, has stated that Shaykh Hamza Yusuf is a disbeliever, God forbid, then he should perhaps adhere to the noble example of Imam Ahmad b. Hanbal (rahmat Allah ‘alayhi) that he teaches to his students and not pronounce Ahmadi Muslims as being outside the fold of Islam. This would be in keeping with another statement made in the same lecture: ”…it just bothers me that Muslims don’t make those subtle distinctions because they are important distinctions in dealing with people and in being fair with people too; the Qur’an says be fair with people.”
Imam al-Nawawi (Rahmat Allahu ‘alayhi), charged with the fear and love of Almighty Allah, very cautiously wrote: ‘It is obligatory for a student to give a positive interpretation to every utterance of his brothers that seems to be wrong until he has exhausted seventy excuses. No one is incapable of this except a failure’ (Majmu’, 1.24). This is arguably a much better teaching for Shaykh Hamza to extend to his students rather than to hold a group of people to be outside the pale of Islam; despite the fact that he quite obviously had neither studied the original works of Hadrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (‘alayhi al-salam), nor the writings of his Companions and Successors (Khulafa’). For a person blessed with the responsibility of teaching God’s religion, who is intimately aware of the Holy Prophet’s (sall Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) example (sunna), it is beyond comprehension how he could deem tens of millions of people, who each proclaim the same Shahada that he does, to be outside the fold of Islam. Surely he must know the anger exhibited by the Holy Prophet (sall Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) when Hadrat ‘Usama b. Zayd (radi Allahu ‘anhu) issued a judgement of takfir over just a single man reciting the Shahada. One shudders with fear when recalling the narration of this event which ends with the Holy Prophet (sall Alahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) stating: “Did you split his heart open [to see]?” and he did not cease to reprove him until Usama wished that he had not entered Islam until after he had killed that man so that he might have been forgiven all his past sins through belief.” Another hadith is of particular interest here in which Al-Miqdad stated: ”O Messenger of Allah, suppose I and one of the idolaters battled and he cut off my hand, then I was positioned to strike him and he said: La ilaha illallah! Do I kill him or spare him?” He said: “Spare him.” I said: “Even if he cut off my hand?” He said: “Even so.” I asked him again two or three times whereupon he said: “If you kill him after he says La ilaha illallah then you are like him before he said it, and he is like you before you killed him.”
Shaykh Hamza goes on to state:
”Unfortunately, Ghulam Ahmad only studied hafs, cus had he studied naf’i he would have never come up with that ridiculous theory that Khatam here did not mean the final Prophet, but it meant the Seal, or the Prophet that gives certification to other Prophets, because the Qira’at of Naf’i is… KhatIm al-nabiyyina, he is the final messenger.
So he couldn’t fall into the Ahmadiyya heresy because he would know how ridiculous it was. And that is a problem of limited knowledge and why you should never follow individuals after the Prophet (sall Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam)”
The initial statement seems hardly worth a response and, to be honest, it was the most disappointing part of the six minute video for me. Rejection or acceptance of Hadrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (‘alayhi al-salam) is a personal matter between the Shaykh and his creator; that much is not my concern. The obvious lack of research and depth of intellect displayed here, however, was quite hurtful and is of clear concern to us all. Shaykh Hamza, a Muslim known for his insight and depth of research, has here mockingly brushed aside a fellow Muslim with complete disregard for his usual meritorious attention to detail. It is beneath a scholar of Islam, regardless of his affiliations, that his judgements and opinions should be based on anything except for sound research, prayer and wisdom.
Returning to Shaykh Hamza’s issue with what he terms a ”problem of limited knowledge” on the part of Hadrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (‘alayhi al-salam), there are various examples, above and beyond what has already been written, which indicate that limitations of knowledge on this point rest firmly with Shaykh Hamza. For example, Hadrat ‘Ali (radi Allahu ‘anhu) is reported to have stated to the teacher of Hadrat Hasan and Hadrat Husayn (radi Allahu ‘anhuma): ‘’Teach them Khātam al-Nabīyyīn with the vowel a (fatḥa) on ta (khātam al-nabīyyīn bi-fatḥ al-tā‘)’’ (Durr al-manthur, 5:386). Would Shaykh Hamza deem it appropriate to here also state: ”Unfortunately, [Imam] ‘Ali only studied hafs, cus had he studied naf’i he would have never come up with that ridiculous [statement]” – of course not; would Shaykh Hamza also level claims of heresy and lack of knowledge upon the great friend of Almighty Allah Al-Hakim al-Tirmidhi (rahmat Allah ‘alayhi), who stated:
”Indeed the one who is blind to this information, he thinks that the interpretation of “the seal of prophets” is that he is the last of them in being sent. But what virtue is there in this? And what [perfection in] knowledge is there in this? This is the interpretation of ignorant people.
Most recite khatam with a fath on the ta’; as for those from the Salaf who recited with a kasr on the ta’, its interpretation is that he a khatim (sealer) in the meaning of a doer; i.e. that he sealed prophethood by that seal which he was given.
From that which affirms this is what was narrated in the hadith of the Ascension (mi‘raj) from the hadith of Abu Ja‘far al-Razi from al-Rabi‘ ibn Abi al-‘Aliyah from what he mentioned regarding the meeting of the prophets in the Aqsa mosque: “So every prophet mentioned the favour of Allah upon him, and it was from the speech of Allah’s Messenger (sall Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) that he said: ‘He made me the sealer and the opener.’ So Ibrahim (‘alayhi al-salam) said: ‘By this, Muhammad is superior to [all of] you.’” (Kitab khatam al-awliya, pp.341-2)
I did not include the above two extracts as some sort of self-righteous, vitriolic attempt to defeat the argument of Shaykh Hamza. As already stated, Shaykh Hamza is intelligent enough to study the works of Hadrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (‘alayhi al-salam) himself and draw his own conclusions. I include them only to make the point that Shaykh Hamza exercised poor judgement when he so hastily inferred that Hadrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (‘alayhi al-salam) was somehow a man of poor knowledge who made ”ridiculous” conclusions as a result of that knowledge. If that be the case, then what of Imam ‘Ali (radi Allahu ‘anhu) and Al-Hakim al-tirmidhi (rahmat Allah ‘alayhi), to name but a few? Shaykh Hamza’s responsibility to Almighty Allah is such that he owes each Muslim, be he Hadrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (‘alayhi al-salam), who Ahmadis believe to have been the Imam Mahdi, Messiah and to have reached the status of Zilli Nabuwwat, or anybody else; for once that standard of scrutiny and intellectual objectivity is lost, then so are our scholars.
Maulana Muhammad ‘Ali (radi Allahu ‘anhu)
Shaykh Hamza goes on to state:
”…and what I have noticed is that allot of them (i.e., modern translators of the Qur’an) borrowed heavily from his (i.e., Hadrat Muhammad ‘Ali’) original work, which is interesting, never attributing it to him either – even though it is very clear where they took it from. Marmaduke Pickthall’s translation was highly influenced by Maulana Muhammad ‘Ali, and Muhammad Pickthall influences all the translations after that. So, Maulana Muhammad Ali has definitely made his impact on the English speaking Muslim community, whether they realise it or not… I wish the best for him, he seemed like a devout Muslim and it just bothers me that Muslims don’t make those subtle distinctions in dealing with people, and in being fair with people too. The Qur’an says be fair with people.”
The argument posited here is all too uncertain and in desperate need of expansion. It seems unfair, and against Shaykh Hamza’s concluding statement, ”The Qur’an says be fair with people,” for the Shaykh to infer that Mohammed Marmaduke Pickthall and a body of unnamed translators would have plagiarised the work of Maulana Muhammad ‘Ali (radi Allahu ‘anhu).
Furthermore, an important point seems to have gone amiss here; the elephant in the room, as it were. Shaykh Hamza appears to have taken the work of Maulana Muhammad ‘Ali (radi Allahu ‘anhu) as a starting point. Putting aside the theological differences between the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at (referred to by the Shaykh as Qadianis) and the Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha’at-e-Islam Lahore (referred to by the Shaykh as Lahoris), the Shaykh has failed to acknowledge that Hadrat Maulana Muhammad ‘Ali (radi Allahu ‘anhu) offered his bay’ah to Hadrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (‘alayhi al-salam) and accepted him as the Imam Mahdi, Messiah and Mujaddid of his age. Much of the knowledge demonstrated in his translation of the Holy Qur’an, as well as his other works, owes much to the knowledge and training he gained from Hadrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (‘alayhi al-salam) during the years he spent as one of his Companions. Therefore, one can quite easily and justifiably expand Shaykh Hamza’s contention to argue that the body of twentieth century translators of the Holy Qur’an, from whom the Shaykh has no doubt taken personal benefit from, have been heavily influenced by the thought of Hadrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (‘alayhi al-salam). To attribute a good opinion to Hadrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (‘alayhi al-salam), however, might be a step too far.
Furthermore, and in the spirit of justice, it is well worth acknowledging that Pickthall did in fact recognise Hadrat Maulana Muhammad ‘Ali (radi Allahu ‘anhu) in the following review of his book ”Religion of Islam” (Also see note the by Professor Samuel Zwemer on this published in the Muslim World):
“Probably no man living has done longer or more valuable service for the cause of Islamic revival than Maulana Muhammad Ali of Lahore. His literary works, with those of the late Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din, have given fame and distinction to the Ahmadiyya Movement. In our opinion the present volume is his finest work…
It is a description of Al-Islam by one well-versed in the Quran and the Sunnah who has on his mind the shame of the Muslim decadence of the past five centuries and in his heart the hope of the revival of which signs can now be seen on every side. Without moving a hair’s breadth from the traditional position with regard to worship and religious duties, the author shows a wide field in which changes are lawful and may be desirable because here the rules and practices are not based on an ordinance of the Quran or on an edict of the Prophet, and should be altered when they cease to meet the needs of the community. Such a book is greatly needed at the present day when in many Muslim countries we see persons eager for the reformation and revival of Islam making mistakes through lack of just this knowledge…
We do not always agree with Maulana Muhammad Ali’s conclusions upon minor points — sometimes they appear to us eccentric — but his premises are always sound, we are always conscious of his deep sincerity; and his reverence for the holy Quran is sufficient in itself to guarantee his work in all essentials. There are some, no doubt, who will disagree with his general findings, but they will not be those from whom Al-Islam has anything to hope in the future.” (Pickthall, M. Islamic Culture. India, October 1936, pp. 659 – 660)
It seems obvious that Mohammed Marmaduke Pickthall was very appreciative of the work of Hadrat Maulana Muhammad ‘Ali (radi Allahu ‘anhu).