The issuing of fatwa (religious edicts) declaring groups or individuals outside the pale of Islam has become so widespread that there is hardly any Muslim religious organisation in the world today that has not been declared kafir (disbeliever) by one Muslim group or another. The question of who is a Muslim is therefore a relevant one and should be answered comprehensively once and for all. Also worth mentioning is the issue of groups or individuals having the authority to declare one group or individual as Muslim or non-Muslim. Is there any government, organisation or individual vested with the authority to stamp the approval or otherwise of the Islam of a group or individual? If such group, government or individual exists then we are not aware of it. Besides, where does such group or individual draw such authority from?
Recently, Dr Zakir Naik, the Indian Muslim cleric, in his lectures while on a visit to The Gambia from Wednesday the 8th of October to Thursday, 16th of the same month, has again declared the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at to be outside the pale of Islam. In fact, he has further said that people should not send their children to schools run by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at. His reason to declare the Jama’at to be outside the pale of Islam is ‘their alleged lack of belief in the absolute finality of the Prophethood of Muhammad (May peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)’.
We unequivocally reject these statements of Dr Zakir Naik and say that by the Grace of Allah, the Almighty, we are Muslims in our beliefs and actions and no individual, group, government or organisation has the right to declare us kafir. In this rebuttal, we will endeavour to show systematically, why Dr Zakir Naik is wrong in his pronouncements here.
First, it will not be out of place to show that the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at is not the only Islamic community declared to be kafir. The Barelvi Sect has had no less than fifteen edicts of kufr declared against them by contemporary scholars such as Maulana Sanaa Ullah Amritsar in his work, Shama’-e-Tauheed, page 5. The Deobandi Sect has also been declared kafir by Khalid Ahmad and Rasheed Ahmad in page 51 of Braheen-e-Qaate’ah. The Ahle Hadith has also been declared kafir on the edict of at least seventeen different scholars and groups. For instance, Maulana Muhammad Sadiq in his book Taareekh-e-Haqaa’iq page 59-63 has also declared them kafir. The Wahabi Sect has also been declared kafir in many edicts.
The Shia Sect has also been declared kafir in at least twenty three edicts issued by scholars (Tazkralul-A’imma page 91). Dr Zakir Naik himself has had several edicts of kufr issued against him in recent years. For instance, not long ago, he was declared kafir by a fatwa of the Ahle Sunnah scholars of Lucknow in India which he has not informed his audience about. These are just a few examples to show that the issuing of edicts of kufr is rife in today’s Islamic world.
We, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at do not in any way agree with any of the foregoing edicts. We never declare anyone to be outside the pale of Islam because in our view no human being, government or organisation has the right to declare an individual or a group as kafir as long as he or she declares himself a Muslim. Religion or faith is a personal matter between a person and his or her Lord and Creator, Allah, the Almighty.
It is prudent now to give a comprehensive rebuttal of the hatred and misleading statements of Dr Zakir Naik about the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at and the schools run by the Jama’at.
Interestingly, Dr Zakir himself attended a Christian school called St Peter’s High School in Mazagaon, Mumbai in India and a Hindu College called Kishinchand Chellaram College in Mumbai. The Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW) has urged Muslims to seek knowledge even if they have to go up to China. First, it is unfortunate that the cleric proclaimed that people should not send their children to Christian or Ahmadiyya schools. The famous Dr Zakir should have enquired as to what obtains in this country on education before making such statements. The Christian Missions built many schools in this country and enabled many poor people to have access to basic education which otherwise they might not have had. Some of us went to Christian schools and attained a good standard of education, yet we are still Muslims. No one can claim that he or she was ever forced to convert to Christianity in these schools. In this country we are grateful to Allah the Almighty that we are living in religious harmony, tolerance and understanding the like of which can hardly be seen anywhere else in the world which has contributed to the peace and stability of the country we are all cherishing and enjoying. In The Gambia, Muslims and Christians have been living together side by side in harmony and peaceful co-existence and every effort must be made to maintain that. It is a teaching of Islam to show gratefulness to a good done to one. Being grateful to the Christians for their services in providing education for Gambians is a duty of every citizen of this country. The people of the Gambia are grateful to the Christians for the services they provided when we really needed it.
As far as the schools run by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at are concerned, it is clear that Gambians will not let someone deprive them of the benefit they will reap from attending them. It is worth mentioning that among the Ahmadiyya Schools, Nusrat Senior Secondary School was the first high school built outside the capital city of Banjul besides Armitage School in Janjangbureh which was built in 1927 by the British for the education of their own children and the children of the chiefs. At that time, any child who reached high school level will have to come to Banjul or drop out of school if the parents could not find a host in the city. It was at such dire times in the education system in The Gambia that the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at built Nusrat Senior Secondary School outside the city of Banjul.
Worthy of mention here is the fact that it was Nusrat High School that first introduced the teaching of Islamic Studies as a subject in this country and now all schools offer it whether they are schools run by Christians or Muslim. The uniform of Nusrat Senior Secondary School was the first of its kind in keeping with Islamic injunctions of modesty and decency. We all know that now there are many schools whose uniform conform to these lofty ideals. Nusrat Senior Secondary School produces some of the best results in the external examinations in this country. A large percentage of students at the University of The Gambia are products of Nusrat Senior Secondary School. There is hardly a government office today where one will not find products of Nusrat Senior Secondary School or the other Ahmadiyya Muslim Senior Secondary Schools. Later, Nasir Ahmadiyya Muslim Senior Secondary School was built in Basse Upper River Region in 1983 being the first senior school in the provinces and later still came Tahir Ahmadiyya Muslim Senior Secondary School in Mansakonko, Lower River Region in 1988, the second high school in the provinces. Today, there is no doubt that these schools have become household names in this country. It was in recognition of these contributions of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at in the education system of this country that the government of The Gambia provided a large piece of land for the establishment of Masroor Senior Secondary School in the year 2005.
Now coming to the issue of whether Ahmadis are Muslims or not, common sense dictates that to know about an issue, one needs to go to the source to get clear and firsthand information. For that reason, we will turn to the Holy Qur’an, the word of Allah, the Almighty, the words and sunnah of the Holy Prophet Muhammad Mustapha (SAW) and the interpretation provided on these by the earlier scholars so as to ascertain whether Ahmadis are Muslims or not.
There is an explicit injunction of the Holy Qur’an and of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW) that no one has the right to coercively rename someone else’s religion. As Allah, the Almighty says: There is no compulsion in religion. (2:257) In another verse Allah, the Almighty says: (O ye who believe!) … Say not to anyone who greets you with the greeting of peace (i.e. says Assalaamu Alaikum, like other Muslims) that, “you are not a believer.” (4:95)
It is an explicit injunction of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW) that if a person affirms the oneness of Allah, the Almighty then to accuse such a person of merely verbally affirming it and alleging that he negates it in his/her heart, would make such an accuser to be guilty of transgression. The following Hadith of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW) throws ample light on this subject: Hadhrat Usama bin Zaid (RA) relates that the Prophet (SAW) sent us to the Oasis of Juhaina tribe. We caught them early in the morning at their water-fountains. An Ansari and I chased one of them and apprehended him. When we overpowered him, he exclaimed Laa Ilaaha Illallah (there is none worthy of worship except Allah) which caused my Ansari companion to restrain his hand from him, but I pierced him with a spear and killed him. When we returned to Madina and the Holy Prophet (SAW) came to know of the incident, he asked: “O, Usama! Did you kill him in spite of the fact that he had recited Laa Ilaaha Illallah?” I replied: “O, Prophet of Allah! He was saying (these words) merely to ensure his safety.” The Holy Prophet (SAW) kept on repeating his question to a point when I wished I had not become a Muslim before that day. (Another tradition relates) The Holy Prophet (SAW) said, “You still killed him, even though he had affirmed Laa Ilaaha Illallah? “I clarified, “O, Prophet of Allah! He had said that because he was afraid of the weapon.” The Holy Prophet (SAW) exclaimed: “Why didn’t you cut his heart open to make sure if he had said it from the core of his heart?” The Prophet of Allah repeated this remark so many times that I wished I had not become a Muslim before that day.”
(Bukhari, book of Al Maghaazi, chapter Ba’ah al-Nabi, Usamah bin Zaid ilal Harquat Min al Juhaina, p 612)
It is clear from the foregoing verses and ahadith of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW) that one should not presume to know what is in the heart of another person. It is also categorically said that one should not accuse a person who claims to be a Muslim of being a kafir. In light of the importance of the matter under discussion, it is worthy to state the true definition of a Muslim as enunciated by Syeddinaa Khataman Nabiyyeen, Muhammad Mustapha (SAW). We provide hereunder three sayings of the Holy Prophet as definition of a Muslim.
1. Hadhrat Abu Hurairah relates that the Holy Prophet Muhammad Mustapha (SAW) said: “Ask me questions,” (but his companions) were diffident to ask. Meanwhile, a man came in and sat in front of the Holy Prophet (SAW) and asked: “What is Islam?:” The Holy Prophet (SAW) replied, “Do not associate partners with Allah, offer prayer, pay Zaka’at and fast in Ramadan.” The man replied, “You have spoken the truth.” (Muslim, Kitab-ul-Imaan).
2. A man from among the people of Najd, with disheveled hair, came to see the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW). We could hear the hum of his conversation but could not capture what he said until he drew closer and we could hear him asking the Holy Prophet (SAW) about Islam. The Holy Prophet (SAW) replied, “Five daily prayers are appointed which span a day and night.” At which he enquired, “Are there other (prayers) in addition to these (five)?” The Holy Prophet (SAW) replied, “No, unless of course you wish to offer some more as supererogatory,” and further added, “you should observe fasting in the month of Ramadan.” At this, he enquired, “Is there any other obligatory fasting besides that in Ramadan?” The Holy Prophet (SAW) replied, “No, unless you wish to observe it in supererogatory.” Then the Holy Prophet (SAW) mentioned Zaka’at to him, at which he asked, “Is there anything apart from it?” The Holy Prophet (SAW) replied, “No, unless you wish to offer more in supererogation.” Then this man got up to leave, saying, “By God! I will neither add to these injunctions, nor would I subtract anything from these.”
The Holy Prophet (SAW) commented, “If he proves himself to be true in what he just said, he will prosper.” (Sahih Bukhari Kitab-ul-Imaan Bab al-Zaka’at Min al Islam)
Once the Holy Prophet Muhammad Mustapha (SAW) ordered a census to be made of the Muslims and someone asked whose names they shall write. The Holy Prophet (SAW) replied in the following words:
3. Write down for me the name of everyone who calls himself a Muslim. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Bab Kitabat al-Imam al-Nas.)
4. One who observes the same prayer as we do, faces the same direction (in prayer) as we do, and partakes from the animal slaughtered by us, then such a one is a Muslim concerning whom there is a covenant of Allah and His Messenger; so you must not seek to hoodwink Allah in the matter of this Covenant. (Bukhari, Kitabus-Salat, Baab Fazl Istiqbal i-Qibla).
We do not need the attestation of any individual, like Dr Zakir Naik, group or organisation. Allah and His Prophet always suffice us. It is their attestation we need. The Noble Word of Allah, the Almighty and the inspiring statements of His Prophet Muhammad Mustapha (SAW) have attested our Islam. Alhamdulillah!
These and other sayings of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW) show clearly that if one declares his or her belief in the oneness of Allah the Almighty and the Prophethood of Muhammad (SAW) and his being the Khatamun Nabiyyeen (the Seal of the Prophets) observes prayers, fast Ramadan, performs the hajj and pays zaka’at and does all those things which a Muslim is obligated to do, then no government, organisation or individual has the right to call him a kafir or that he or she is a disbeliever. In light of this, we will examine in detail the belief or the lack thereof – as Dr Zakir and those in his ilk say – of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at in the Khatamiyyat of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW).
We will show that according to the Holy Qur’an, ahadith of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and the early Muslim scholars that the verse which mentions Khatamun Nabiyyeen does not close the door of prophethood in Islam and that the beliefs of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at are not contrary to Islamic beliefs.
It is clearly mentioned in the Holy Qur’an and ahadith of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW) that though the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW) is the Khatam-an-Nabiyeen and the last of the law-bearing prophets, a prophet who will be his servant can appear for the reformation of the Muslims when the need arises. Allah, the Almighty says in the Holy Qur’an while addressing the Muslims: O Children of Adam! If Messengers come to you from among yourselves, rehearsing My Signs unto you, then whoso shall fear God and do good deeds, on them shall come no fear nor shall they grieve. (7:36)
It is obvious here that the Children of Adam referred to here are the followers of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW).
In another verse Allah says: And when the Messengers are made to appear at the appointed time. (77:12)
This signifies that, in the latter days, Allah will cause, in a figurative sense, the advent of all prophets. This signifies that the verse Khatamun Nabiyeen does not bar the coming of a follower prophet whose mission will be to revive the religion of Islam.
Now, in the ahadith of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW) we can find an interpretation which is in agreement with the foregoing verses of the Holy Qur’an. For instance, it is a historical fact that, five years after the verse mentioning Khatamun-Nabiyeen was revealed, the son of the Holy Prophet (SAW), Ibrahim, passed away. Burying him, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said, ‘law Aasha lakaana siddiqan Nabiyaa.’
(Had he lived he would have been a truthful prophet). This statement of the Holy Prophet was made long after the revelation of the verse Khatamun Nabiyyeen and it provides an exposition of, and commentary on, the expression Khatamun Nabiyyeen. The intent of the Prophet’s statement is that the title Khatamun Nabiyyeen is not an impediment to anyone becoming a true prophet.
Commenting on the foregoing Hadith, Imam Shahaab wrote: As for the authenticity of this Hadith, there is no doubt in it, because it has been included by Ibn Maajah and others, for instance it is mentioned by Ibn Hajr. (Al-Shahaab Ali Al- Baidhaawi, vol. 7 p.175)
The renowned Imam of the Ahli Sunnah wal Jamaah denomination – who was of the Hanaafi School of jurisprudence – Mullah Ali al-Qari, God’s mercy be on him, determined this Hadith to be robust and tripartite in its sources of tradition. He wrote:
Had Ibrahim lived and became a prophet, and similarly if Hadhrat Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) had become a prophet, they both would certainly have been the obedient followers (or ummati) of the Holy Prophet (SAW), just like Hadhrat Isa, Hadhrat Khizr, and Hadhrat Ilyas, on all of whom may be peace. This scenario does not contradict the verse Khaatamun Nabiyyeen because this phrase only means that now, after the Holy Prophet (SAW) there can be no such Prophet who may abrogate the Holy Prophet’s Law (Shariah) and who is not one of the Holy Prophet’s ummati (obedient follower). (Maudhu’at-e-Kabeer, p 69)
In a Hadith recorded by Muslim, the Promised Messiah, who was to appear, has been given the appellation, ‘Nabi Ullah’ (Prophet of Allah) four times! (Shaheeh Muslim, vol. 2, Chapter: Zikr-ud-Dajjaal)
In a well-known hadith of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, it is said: (Hadhrat) Abu Bakr is the superior in this ummah unless a Prophet is born (in this ummah). (Kunooz-ul-Haqaa’iq)
In another famous saying, the wife of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW) from whom he said we should learn half of our religion said: Hadhrat Ayesha, may Allah be pleased with her is reported to have said: