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Monday, March 12, 2012

A response to "The Apostates of Pakistan" by Aakar Patel

Aakar Patel's recently published article "The apostates of Pakistan" was penned a couple years ago, but did not see the light of day until now. He states the reason for this delay as reluctance of seemingly liberal Pakistani English language papers to publish some material. Reading through the piece, I could easy spot a number of problems that an editor may see with the article. It mentions the persecution of the Ahmadis in Pakistan, it also tries to explain Ahmadiyya beliefs, history and the bigotry of Pakistani society. The editors may have imagined a backlash from many of their conservative readers. An influential section of Pakistani society has always managed to keep this topic out of public eye for decades. But, as an Ahmadi, I would have sent the article back to Mr. Patel with red lines all over the text. For factual inaccuracies, incomplete research and almost slanderous accusations. 

Let me say that I admire Mr. Patel's attempt to look into the Ahmadiyya history to give a fresh perspective to his readers. I wish more people could go to the source materials and inform and educate their readers. I also hope that they make a better job of it.

Mr. Patel narrates a vision received by Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the founder of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, which is recorded in in his own writings as follows;

 "I presented the document containing divine decrees for attestation and He, Who was manifesting Himself in the form of a Ruler, dipped His pen in red ink and first flicked it in my direction and with the rest of the red ink which remained at the point of the pen He put His signature to the document. Thereupon, the state of vision came to an end and when I opened my eyes to look at the material world around me, I witnessed several red drops falling on my clothes. 2 or 3 of the drops also fell on the cap of one ‘Abdullah of Sanaur (Patiala State) who was at the time sitting close to me. Thus, the red ink which was part of the vision materialized externally and became visible. Many other such manifestations have been witnessed which it would take too long to 
relate. "

According to the Mr. Patel 

" This message from God qualified Ahmad as a prophet."

The claim of Hadhrat Ahmad as being a prophet did not originate from this experience. In fact such spiritual experiences had started in 1870s when he was still an unknown man, immersed in worship and religious studies. He received many revelations confirming his status as a prophet from 1882. But he did not claim to be the "Promised Messiah" until 1891, when he also revealed that Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him) had passed away and he was appointed as the Promised Messiah by God. The status of Promised Messiah according to Quran and Hadith is that of a subordinate (Ummati) prophet. 

Continuing in the very next paragraph Mr. Patel contradicts himself by stating "Despite his visions, Mirza Ahmad personally did not claim prophethood." 

Hadhrat Ahmad, the Promised Messiah and Mahdi (pbuh) wrote a book to remove any misconceptions about his claim to be an Ummati Prophet called "Aik Ghalti ka Izala". He writes 

"Wherever I have denied being a Prophet or Messenger, it has only been in the sense that I have not brought an independent law nor am I an independent Prophet. I am a Messenger and Prophet only in the sense that I have received spiritual grace from the Messenger (pbuh) whom I follow, and, having received his name for myself, and through him, I have received knowledge of the unseen from God. But I have not come with a new law. I have never denied being called a Nabi (Prophet) in this sense. Indeed it is in this very sense that God has addressed me as  Nabi and Rasul; and it is in this sense that I do not deny being a Nabi or Rasul" (A misconception removed, page 10)

The above is just one example of how Aakar Patel has not done justice to his article by including opinions which could have benefited from some proper research. He also states that Hadhrat Ahmad (pbuh) denouced Judaism and Christianity as error. Islam considers both Judaism and Christianity as true faiths corrupted by their followers. Hadhrat Ahmad (as) made his claims at the time when Christian missionary effort in India was at its peak. He held debates with prominent Christian missionaries of his time and showed to the world that Islam was a perfect religion. He also challenged various Hindu revivalists of his time as they also attacked Islam. 

But this is only a minot problem with this piece, easily corrected by a letter to editor. My problem lies with what follows in the last part of the article. According to Mr. Patel, Ahmadis should share some blame for being persecuted in Pakistan. He states that Ahmadis supported the two-nation theory and Sir Zafrullah Khan Islamized Pakistan by supporting the Objectives resolution. 

Do Ahmadis do deserve to be punished for their support of Muslim league? There are many so-called revisionist liberals who may think that the creation of Pakistan was an accident brought about by a mixture of British and feudal Muslim interests. 

Please also note here that the most conservative amongst the Muslims supported Indian National Congress. Same Muslim leaders saw opportunity in Pakistan and started agitations against Ahmadis in 1953. Ahmadis supported Pakistan because the ground realities of British India demanded Muslims to defend their rights. Qaid-e-Azam was right, but unfortunately, Pakistan also inherited the Ahrar, the spiritual forefathers of present day militant outfits. To add to our misery, Maulana Maudoodi also chose Pakistan despite his aversion to its very idea before 1947. The purpose of Ahmadiyya Movement has always been to cleanse Islam of the oppressive and suffocating ideology of such Mullahs. This "war" has been waged since the inception of the community and will carry on until the true Islam is made manifest to the world.

It is obvious that majority of the people who helped create Pakistan including the leadership, were tolerant, democratic and liberal. The very same people accepted Ahmadis in their ranks as their equals and even sought guidance from the Khalifatul Masih on important matters. Kashmir Committee (of 1930s) is one shining example of Ahmadiyya contributions to the Muslim cause in India.

Objectives resolution has also been blamed for Islamization of Pakistan. I can understand that in some circles it causes concerns because of its religious tone. I disagree with the critics. To me, objectives resolution was a document written by idealists who had high hopes for Pakistan. Their Islam was not the totalitarian oppressive Islam that Ahrar and Maudoodi had unleashed in the streets in 1950s. For an Ahmadi scholar and a secular Jurist of Sir Zafrullah's calibre, Islam can only "impose" a secular government which affords full freedom to its subjects. Please also note the emphasis of fundamental rights, freedom and democracy in the text of objectives resolution. 

That brings us finally to the matter of "Furqan Force". A battalion of Ahmadi volunteers which supported the Pakistan Army in 1948 Kashmir conflict. Mr. Patel thinks that this was a religiously motivated move and a betrayal of "Gandhian" non-violence that the Ahmadiyya community followed. First of all, our non-violence is Quranic non-violence. Mr. Gandhi was a respected politician and I admire his achievements and philosophy. But Ahmadi Muslims follow the teachings of Quran, as explained to us by Promised Messiah (pbuh). He also taught us that loyalty to our state is a religious duty. So if Pakistan was at war with India, Pakistani Ahmadis were duty bound to protect their country. Besides, Hindu rule of Kashmir was no Gandhian rule. It was probably the most oppressive and cruel rule in the history of subcontinent. 

I can also clarify here that Jihad as taught by Promised Messiah (pbuh) includes fulfilment of our duties to protect our faith. And loyalty to our homeland is part of our faith. 

Mr. Patel ends his article on a very harsh note. He started the piece with sympathetic statements, included examples of persecutions and his own dismay at the hatred he saw in Pakistan. He then moves to blame the Ahmadis for their own bad karma; for supporting Pakistan movement. Sir Zafrullah, a prominent defender of human rights and freedom of religion on the global stage, becomes the reason for Islamization of the country.  And the article then ends with a statement I can only call a fallacy. Aakar Patel writes;

 "Such bigotry against other faiths usually invites punishment against your own". 

i.e., Ahmadis opposed an oppressive cruel Hindu ruler; they supported equal rights for Indian Muslims etc etc; so they deserved to be punished in their own country for this. What twisted reasoning brought you to this conclusion?

I would request Mr. Patel to review his whole article, but in particular this last statement. He should go and read about the message of universal brotherhood that the founder of Ahmadiyya Muslim community sent out to the whole subcontinent just days before his death. Ahmadis stand by every word our Mahdi and Messiah (pbuh) has said and this is apparent through our actions. In fact, it is our belief that all major religions are based on truth and we give great respect to their founders like Raam, Krishna, Buddha, Zoroaster and Baba Nanak (may peace be upon them all). You will see evidence of this respect throughout Ahmadiyya history. 

To Mr. Patel, I can also suggest humbly that having an influence on your readership is a big responsibility. I am sure he will correct the factual errors he has made. I hope his opinions are also altered after these corrections.

As an Ahmadi, I believe that the revival of true Islamic ideals has been ongoing for the past century and Indian subcontinent is its epicentre. It is also my belief that Islam as presented by Promised Messiah (pbuh) will be victorious in this struggle. 

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