Mahometanism, Ahmadi Islam and the Third Way

by Richard Butrick (June 2016)


Mirza Ghulam Ahmad

Jefferson, Adams and many commentators of their time referred to the Sunni/Shia version of Islam as Mahometanism and their followers as Mahometans. In today’s parlance that would be Muhammadanism and Muhammadans or Mohammedanism and Mohammedans, respectively.

The label Mahometans was also used by Europeans. For example here is Montesquieu:

It is a misfortune to human nature, when religion is given by a conqueror. The Mahometan religion, which speaks only by the sword, acts still upon men with that destructive spirit with which it was founded.

More recently, Churchill used the variation Mohammedanism:

How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries, improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live.

A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement, the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property, either as a child, a wife, or a concubine, must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men.

There is an important point here. There are (were) different versions of Islam and the Sunni/Shia absolute veneration of Muhammad is not the only one. Strongest among these today, with ~20 million followers, is Ahmadi Islam which recently came into MM reporting in the stabbing death of Asad Shaw in Glasgow:

Flowers and messages of thanks have been left on a street corner in Glasgow where a much-loved shopkeeper was stabbed to death in an attack that police are treating as “religiously prejudiced”.

The man, who has been named locally as Asad Shah, was described as a gentle man who cared deeply for his community and every year would print out his own Christmas cards with personal messages for customers.

There is no mention of the fact that Shaw was an Ahmadi Muslim in the above article but other articles in The Guardian do bring up the Ahamadi factor. However, it is done somewhat tangentially and the full significance of the divide between Ahmadi and Sunni/Shia Islam is not developed. In particular, the fact that Ahmadi Muslims are regarded as apostates by Sunni/Shia Islam and that Shaw was killed by a Sunni Muslim for that reason is not developed.

The cardinal sin committed by the Ahmadi is that they do not regard Muhammad as the last word/prophet of Allah. That is the worst form of apostasy/blasphemy that challenges the very keystone of Sunni/Shia Islam. This is aptly put by 6th President of the US, John Quincy Adams:

The precept of the Koran is, perpetual war against all who deny, that Mahomet is the prophet of God. The vanquished may purchase their lives, by the payment of tribute; the victorious may be appeased by a false and delusive promise of peace; and the faithful follower of the prophet, may submit to the imperious necessities of defeat: but the command to propagate the Moslem creed by the sword is always obligatory, when it can be made effective. The commands of the prophet may be performed alike, by fraud, or by force.

Here is an account of the basic beliefs of Ahmadi Islam from an Ahmadi website:

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is the only Islamic organization to believe that the long-awaited messiah has come in the person of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1908) of Qadian. Ahmad claimed to be the metaphorical second coming of Jesus of Nazareth and the divine guide, whose advent was foretold by the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community believes that God sent Ahmad, like Jesus, to end religious wars, condemn bloodshed and reinstitute morality, justice and peace. Ahmad’s advent has brought about an unprecedented era of Islamic revival. He divested Islam of fanatical beliefs and practices by vigorously championing Islam’s true and essential teachings. He also recognized the noble teachings of the great religious founders and saints, including Zoroaster, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Krishna, Buddha, Confucius, Lao Tzu and Guru Nanak, and explained how such teachings converged into the one true Islam.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is the leading Islamic organization to categorically reject terrorism in any form. Over a century ago, Ahmad emphatically declared that an aggressive “jihad by the sword” has no place in Islam. In its place, he taught his followers to wage a bloodless, intellectual “jihad of the pen” to defend Islam. To this end, Ahmad penned over 80 books and tens of thousands of letters, delivered hundreds of lectures, and engaged in scores of public debates. His rigorous and rational defenses of Islam unsettled conventional Muslim thinking. As part of its effort to revive Islam, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community continues to spread Ahmad’s teachings of moderation and restraint in the face of bitter opposition from the Muslim world.

There is serious argumentation as regards whether Sunni/Shia Islam is reformable or not. In the reformable camp are such admirable critics of “fundamentalist” Islam as Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Dr. Zuhdi Jasser. But how?

The hurdle to reforming Islam is aptly put forward by Amil Amani:

About the only universal agreement that exists among Islamic scholars is that every word of the Qur'an is the word of Allah and is not subject to human modification, ever. The Hadith enjoys a similar sacrosanct standing. And of course, the faithful Muhammad's conduct as recorded in the Sunna is the model to be emulated. Hence, one can pick and choose, but one cannot discard or revise any part of the Islamic scripture. For this reason, a Martin Luther-type reformation has not happened and will not likely ever happen within Islam.

In other words Islam cannot be reformed as long as Muhammad is regarded as the final prophet. And that is exactly the unforgivable breach that is committed by the Ahmadi. Yet, MINOs (Muslims in name only) notwithstanding, the Ahmadi breach is the only way out of the violent supremacism of Muhammadanism - the Sunni/Shia version of Islam.

That is why it is imperative that the Suni/Shia version of Islam be called Muhammadanism - for that is what it is. The label itself implies there is another version of Islam in which Muhammad is not regarded as the last/best/etched in stone and only authentic version of Islam and even that there are versions of Islam.

Time for Western leadership and even MM to back the Ahmadi. Trying to reform Muhammadanism, however well meaning. is a futile, feckless, fools errand. Kowtowing to the Saudis? Deference and mea culpa towards Iran? Praising the Golden Age of Islam? That has certainly worked. Forget it.

Yes, the Ahmadi only amount to some one percent of the Muslim world and that is not likely to change anytime soon. But that is not the point.

The Ahmadi face oppression throughout the Muslim world and one of the largest concentration  of Ahmadi is in Pakistan and is increasingly under attack. As a result the Ahmadi have been forced to seek refuge in the Western world from Australia to the UK. The UK has a population of some 30k. By contrast the UK has a total population of Muslims of ~3 million.

The point is the Ahmadi version of Islam should be legitimized, encouraged and protected by Western leaders and MM alike in that it offers the only significant theological break with the Muhammadanism of Sunni/Shia Islam. Awareness of such dampens the uniqueness perception the Sunni/Shia Muhammadanism has been able to project. Knowledge of the Ahmadi means knowledge of an alternative - a third alternative to Muhammadanism or rejection of Islam altogether. Once known and endorsed by MM, it should find appeal among the younger population of those of Muslim background. It should be encouraged by organizations which genuinely support, as do the Ahmadi, freedom of religion, tolerance and human rights, A stark contrast to Muhammadanism.

 

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Dr. Richard Butrick is an American writer who has published in Mind, Philosophy of Science, Notre Dame Journal of Formal Logic, International Journal of Computer Mathematics among others.

 

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