The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community – A Brief Study in Contemporary Islam – Part 2

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By Al-Hafiz Yunus Omotayo

Ahmadiyya – Meaning and Rationale of the Name

“A thousand and some years after the death of the Chief of all Prophets [on whom and his noble family be peace]….there will come a time, when Haqiqatul Muhammadiyya (Muhammadan reality) will acquire the name of Haqiqatul Ahmadiyya [Ahmadi reality).”  – [Ahmad As-Sirhindi, Imam Rabbani Mujaddid Alfi Thani, Risala Mabda’a Ma’ad: 48]

“….Ahmadiyyat is not a new religion. It is only another name for Islam. Its Kalima is the Kalima of Islam, the Kalima taught by the Holy Prophet Muhammad: There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is His Prophet. Ahmadis hold only to this.”  [Hadrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad, What is Ahmadiyya, 2015: 11]

Ahmadiyya is an Arabic word derived from the root ‘hamd’, meaning praise. It is the adjective of ‘ahmad’ (one who/which is more praised) expressed both as a comparative noun and a personal name. Thus, Ahmadiyya literally denotes ‘somebody or something that is of, or relating to, Ahmad’.

Now, to wit: who is the Ahmad to whom Ahmadiyya serves as adjective? In other words, to whom is Ahmadiyya of or relate (as an Islamic religious Community)? Similarly, why the naming? Put differently, were there immediate circumstantial cause[s] and generic factors behind the naming? What rationale proffers Islamic justification for the nomenclature?

It is interesting to note that though the Community was founded since 1889, it was however not named or referred to as “Ahmadiyya” until 1901, twelve years later. Pir Sirajul Haq Naumani, in his biographical work titled Tadhkiratul Mahdi, chronicled the immediate circumstantial factor that occasioned the official naming of the Community as follows:

“In the national census of 1901, the government had decided that there would be a separate column for every individual sect and it was decided that in all official documents each sect would be referred to by the name it proposed for itself. Members of the Jamaat, therefore, started writing to the Promised Messiah [as] asking him as to what name they should indicate in this column. The Promised Messiah [as], therefore, decided to consult the Jamaat on this point. One day, after Isha prayer, he said: “I am receiving letters from everywhere asking what name should be given to our Jamaat. I request everyone to suggest a name.”

Present on this occasion were Hadrat Maulawi Nuruddin Sahib [ra], Hadrat Maulawi Sayyed Muhammad Ahsan Amrohi [ra], Hadrat Maulawi Abdul Karim Sahib Sialkoti [ra], Hadrat Maulawi Qutbuddin Sahib [ra], Mirza Khuda Bakhsh Sahib [ra] and Hadrat Pir Sirajul Haq Sahib Naumani [ra]. The Promised Messiah [as] asked them to deliberate upon this matter and respond within three days, upon which Hadrat Pir Sirajul Haq Sahib Naumani [ra] said: “If you would kindly permit me, could I offer my suggestion right now?” The Promised Messiah [as] told him to go ahead, and he suggested that the sect should be called Ahmadi. The Promised Messiah [as] did not give any immediate response, but the next day he published an announcement, under Divine guidance, in which he named the Jamaat Musalman Firqah Ahmadi (The Ahmadi Muslim Sect).” [The System of Mushawarat in Jamaat Ahmadiyya, 2007:38-39]

Explaining the generic rationale behind the nomenclature, Hadrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad [as] further wrote in the referred published announcement thus:

“The name which is appropriate for the Movement and which we prefer for ourselves is Muslims of the Ahmadiyya sect. We have chosen this name because the Holy Prophet had two names, Muhammad and Ahmad; Muhammad was his name of glory, and Ahmad was his name of beauty. In the name of Muhammad was implicit a prophecy that the Holy Prophet, would punish with the sword such enemies as would attack Islam with the sword and slaughter hundreds of Muslims. His name Ahmad indicated that he would spread peace and security in the word. God so arranged the life of the Holy Prophet that his Meccan life was a manifestation of his name Ahmad and Muslims were taught patience and endurance. In his life in Medina, his name Muhammad was manifested. But there was a prophecy that name Ahmad would be manifested again in the Latter Days that a person would appear through whom the qualities of beauty, which characterize Ahmad, would be manifested, and all fighting would come to an end. For this reason it has been considered appropriate that the name of this sect should be Ahmadiyya sect, so that everyone hearing this name should realize that this sect has come into being for the spread of peace and security and that it would have nothing to do with war and fighting.” [Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, Tabligh-i-Risalat: 90-91]

Furthermore, Hadrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad [ra], the Second Khalifah and Supreme worldwide Leader of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community [1914-1965], also proffered an apt rationalization of the name when he wrote that:

“The names Ahmadi, Ahmadiyyat, etc., do not point to a new religion. Ahmadis are Muslims and their religion is Islam. The slightest deviation from it, they consider wrong and degrading. True, Ahmadis have adopted the names, Ahmadiyyat, Ahmadiyya Movement, Ahmadiyya Jama‘at and so on. But adoption of a name is not the adoption of a new religion. The name Ahmadiyyat is the name of reinterpretation or a restatement of the religion of the Holy Qur’an. It is a restatement presented under Divine guidance by the founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement. The names Ahmadi, Ahmadiyyat, Ahmadiyya Jama‘at are merely to distinguish Ahmadi Muslims from other Muslims and Ahmadi interpretation from other interpretations of Islam.

The name Islam is the name which God Himself gave to the followers of the Holy Prophet [saw] and which long before him had found an honoured place in the prophecies of earlier prophets. Thus the Holy Quran says: “He [God] gave you the name Muslims before, as well as in this [the Quran].” [Q.22:79] And in the Bible: “Thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord shall name.” [Isaiah, 62:2] No name can be more blessed than the name which God Himself chose for His servants and which He invested with importance by making other prophets prophesy about it. Who will give up this name?

It is dearer to us than our lives. The religion it connotes is for us the only religion, the only source of spiritual life. But as in our time different groups of Muslims, out of regard for their special beliefs and outlook, have adopted different names. It becomes necessary for us to adopt a name to distinguish ourselves from others. The best name we could adopt was the name Ahmadi or Ahmadiyya . This name has significance for our time. Ours is the time appointed for the propagation, all over the world, of the Universal Message of the Holy Prophet. It is the time for the diffusion of the Praises of God and for the spread of knowledge of His bounty and beauty, and the time for the manifestation of the attribute of Ahmadiyyat, the attribute of Muhammadiyyat having had its manifestation already. A better name could not have been adopted.” (Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad, 2009: 3-4)

In sum, it is clearly understandable from the forgoing that the name Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama‘at (Community) was given to the Community by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad [as] to commemorate the name of the Holy Prophet [saw] who has the two names, Muhammad [Quran, 48:30] and Ahmad [Quran, 61:7]. This is based on the belief that the Promised Messiah and Mahdi’s mission was to carry on the work of the Holy Prophet Muhammad under his second name Ahmad. The names, Ahmadi Ahmadiyyat, Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama ‘at (Community) are merely to distinguish Ahmadi Muslims from other Muslims, and Ahmadi interpretation from other interpretations of Islam.

Instructively, Ahmadi Muslims believe that the Promised Messiah and Mahdi’s mission was to cleanse Muslims of the errors and superstitious customs that had crept into Muslims’ beliefs and practices during the past fourteen centuries, and to champion strict adherence to Islam the way it was practiced at the time of the Holy Prophet [saw].

Recalling the tradition of the Holy Prophet [saw] which states that: ‘A time will come when my followers will become divided into seventy-three sects. All of them except one will deserve the fire,’ [Abu Isa at-Tirmidhiy], one can easily understand and appreciate the rationale that justifies why Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad [as] had to distinguish his followers from the other Muslims by conferring on them the title of Ahmadi Muslims.

About the Writer:

Al-Hafiz Yunus Omotayo is a Hafizul Quran, an Islamic Missionary and the National Secretary of the Muslim Writers Guild of Nigeria {Majlis Ansar Sultanil Qalam Nigeria}. Email: yunus.omotayo@gmail.com; Whatsapp: +234 8057437643

Bibliography

  1. Imam Rabbani Mujaddid Alfi Thani, Risala Mabda’a Ma’ad; Monir, Shakil Ahmad, The Seeker Can Find, [1998], Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat Nigeria
  2. Ahmad, Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud, What is Ahmadiyya, [2015], Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat Nigeria
  3. The System of Mushawarat in Jamaat Ahmadiyya, [2007], Islam International Publications Ltd, UK
  4. Ahmad, Hadrat Mirza Ghulam, Tabligh-e-Risalat [1889], Vol. IX, Riyadh Hind, India
  5. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community wikipedia/ahmadiyya
  6. Ahmad, Hadrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud, Invitation to Ahmadiyya, [2009], Islam International Publications Ltd, UK
  7. The King James Version of the Holy Bible http://www.davince.com/bible
  8. Ali, Maulawi Sher, The Holy Quran – Arabic Text and English Translation, [2014], Islam International Publications Limited, UK
  9. Al-Tibrizi, Muhammad Abdullah Al-Khatib, Mishkat al-Masabih – The Niche of Lamps, English-Arabic, [First Edition, 2012], Dar al-Kotob AL-Ilmiyya, Lebanon

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