February 11, 2022
By Missionary Rawah-ud-din Arif Khan
Theological differences between denominations are prevalent in all major religions. However this issue we are discussing is not an ordinary one. It is not about a particular Muslim sect declaring another as non-Muslim, but rather is about 72 sects of Islam unanimously declaring one other sect, Ahmadiyya Islam, outside the sphere of Islam, and forbidding Ahmadis from referring to themselves or claiming for themselves that they are Muslim. This is a key difference.
This is done on the claim that Ahmadis do not believe in the ‘Khatme Nabuwwah’ or finality of prophethood of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa) and have thus forfeited their right to identify as Muslims. But what does it actually mean to believe in ‘Khatm-e-Nabuwwat’? Do Ahmadis deny the fact that the greatest of all prophets, Muhammad (sa) is ‘Khatam-an-Nabiyeen’ or ‘Seal of the Prophets’? And is it even a necessary requirement to call oneself a Muslim? In order to find out the answer to this, we have to start at the beginning and find out what defines a Muslim.
Islam is an Arabic word which stands for surrendering oneself (to God). Therefore, a Muslim is a person who submits himself completely to the will of Allah. To get the true definition of a ‘Muslim’ one of course has to look into the first and highest source of knowledge in Islam, which is what Muslims to be the Word of Allah, the Holy Quran. Who would better explain the definition of a Muslim than Allah Almighty Himself?
“The Arabs of the desert say, ‘We believe.’ Say, “You have not believed yet; but rather say, ‘We have accepted Islam,’ for the true belief has not yet entered into your hearts.” But if you obey Allah and His Messenger, He will not detract anything from your deeds. Surely, Allah is Most Forgiving, Merciful.”Holy Quran 49:15
Allah Almighty teaches us a very beautiful lesson through this verse of the Holy Quran. The Arabs of the desert may think that they believe, however ‘true faith’ has not entered their hearts yet. But Allah Almighty doesn’t command the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa) to simply declare them non-Muslim as a result. Rather, they should say, “We have accepted Islam”, or “We are Muslims”. In other words, they can call themselves Muslim even though God, Who knows best the condition of every heart, has Himself declared that they lack true faith.
This verse shows that Allah Almighty Himself has given the right to everyone to call themselves a Muslim and be recognised as a Muslim, through a simple declaration, regardless of whether true faith has entered their hearts and regardless as to what other beliefs they might hold.
We find the practical example of this Quranic injunction during the lifetime of the greatest of all Prophets, Muhammad (sa). He was a living embodiment of the Holy Quran and thus, he practically showed us how to act upon its teachings. Who has the right to refer to themselves and be recognised as Muslim, according to him?
Once a census was taken by the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa) in Medina, where he gave following instructions:
“List the names of those people who have announced that they are Muslims.’ So, we listed one thousand and five hundred men”Sahih al-Bukhari 3060
A simple declaration of being Muslim was enough for the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa) in order to count them as such. In another narration it is reported that the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa) said:
“Whoever prays as we pray, turns to face the same Qiblah as us and eats our slaughtered animals, that is a Muslim.”Sunan an-Nasa’i 4997
None of the above mentioned criteria from the Holy Quran or the sayings of the Holy Prophet (sa) mention the belief in the ‘Finality of Prophethood’ to be a requirement to possess the right to call oneself of being a Muslim. Rather, a simple declaration or, in the latter case, the observance of prayer, the facing of the Qiblah and eating slaughtered animals the way the Holy Prophet (sa) used to do, is sufficient cause for an individual to be identified as a Muslim. Even after a close study of the 6,348 verses of the Holy Quran, and the countless narrations of his, one will not find a single instance to the contrary.
In fact, according to the Prophet Muhammad (sa), even someone who seems to be posing as a Muslim, must be accepted as one, as per the following incident that occurred:
“The Messenger of Allah (sa) sent us to Huraqat, a tribe of Juhainah. We attacked that tribe early in the morning and defeated them, (then) a man from the Ansar and I caught hold of a man (of the defeated tribe). When we overcame him, he said: ‘La ilaha illallah (There is no true god except Allah).’ At that moment, the Ansari spared him, but I attacked him with my spear and killed him.
By the time we went back to Al-Madinah, news had already reached the Messenger of Allah (sa). He said to me, “O Usamah, did you kill him after he professed La ilaha illallah (There is no true god except Allah)?” I said, “O Messenger of Allah! He professed it only to save his life.” The Messenger of Allah (sa) repeated, “Did you kill him after he had professed La ilaha illallah?”
He went on repeating this to me until I wished I had not embraced Islam before that day (so that I would have not committed this sin).
Another narration is: Messenger of Allah (sa) said, “Did you kill him in spite of his professing La ilaha illallah?” I said, “O Messenger of Allah! He said out of fear of our arms.” He (sa) said, “Why did you not cut his heart open to find out whether he had done so sincerely or not?” He continued repeating it until I wished that I had embraced Islam only that day.”Riyad as-Salihin 393
The Holy Prophet (sa) taught the entire Muslim Ummah a lesson by asking Usama (ra) why he didn’t cut the man’s heart open to find out whether he was a Muslim or not. The Holy Prophet’s (sa) statement in this instance is crystal clear. No human being has the ability, let alone the authority to determine the authenticity of someone else’s faith. And yet the so called Muslim Ulama are very swift in declaring Ahmadi Muslims as ‘non-Muslims’ and saying that their profession of faith is insincere.
A person has every right to call himself a Muslim but is he also a Muslim in Allah’s eyes? A Muslim is he who submits himself to the Will of Allah. Only Allah knows if a Muslim has truly fulfilled his obligation or not. We know from the famous narration when the angel Gabriel came to the Holy Prophet (sa) to tell him about such definitions:
“One day the Messenger of Allah (sa) appeared before the public so a man came to him and then said: Prophet of Allah, what is Iman? Upon this he (the Holy Prophet) replied: That you affirm your faith in Allah, His angels, His Books, His meeting, His Messengers and that you affirm your faith in the Resurrection hereafter. He said: Messenger of Allah, what is al-Islam? He replied: Al-Islam is that you worship Allah and do not associate anything with Him and you establish obligatory prayer and you pay the obligatory alms (Zakat) and you observe the fast of Ramadan.”Sahih Muslim 8e
These are the criteria of faith and the required acts by which a person is adjudged a true Muslim in Allah’s eyes. A true Muslim is also called a “Mum’in” (believer) in Islam. Whether or not a person is a true Muslim (or a “Mum’in”) can only be assessed by Allah Almighty, because many of the above criteria relate to the condition of a person’s belief, known only to God. Thus, a person might call himself a Muslim but may not be fulfilling his obligations and might therefore not be one a Mum’in or true Muslim in the sight of Allah Almighty.
A simple yet powerful example of this can be found in the following Hadith:
Messenger of Allah (sa) said, “That which differentiates us from the disbelievers and hypocrites is our performance of Salat. He who abandons it, becomes a disbeliever.”Riyad as-Salihin 1079
The rejection of prayer is enough to be a Kafir, however it does not put one outside the Muslim Ummah and one still has the right to call himself a Muslim. Indeed, there are many Muslims who fall under the shadow of this narration, but they are not forbidden from calling themselves Muslim!
Despite the Holy Prophet’s (sa) simple yet clear definition of who has the right to call themselves a Muslim, non-Ahmadi Muslims have made an additional criteria. This relates to the title of the Holy Prophet (sa) that has been given in the Holy Quran:
“Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but he is the Apostle of Allah and (Khataman Nabiyyeen) The Seal of the Prophets.”Holy Quran 33:41
That is, they require others to agree with them in their interpretation of the term ‘Khatme Nabuwwat’. They claim that Ahmadis do not agree with their interpretation, therefore Ahmadis do not believe the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa) to be ‘Khataman Nabiyyeen’ or ‘Seal of the Prophets’.
This erroneous conclusion can be refuted directly from the Promised Messiah and founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as) of Qadian. The Promised Messiah (as) made it clear through his sayings and writings that he firmly believes in the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa) to be the ‘Khataman Nabiyyeen’.
“The faith of Islam is the only right path, and now, under the heavens, there is only one Prophet and only one Book; meaning that Hazrat Muhammad Mustafa [the Chosen One], peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, who is higher and more exalted than all Prophets, is the most perfect and complete of Messengers, is Khatamul-Anbiya [the Seal of the Prophets] and Khairul-Wara [the Best of Men], by following whom God Almighty is found, the veils of darkness are lifted and the signs of true salvation are witnessed in this very life.”Barahin-e-Ahmadiyya Part IV, pp. 355-356
Elsewhere, he states:
“I swear by the glory of God and His Majesty that I am of the faithful, a Muslim and I believe in Allah, the High, in His Books, and in His Messengers and in His Angels and in Life after death. And I believe that our Prophet Muhammad the Elect of God (peace of Allah be on him and His blessings) is the most eminent of the prophets and the Seal of Apostles.”Hamamatul Bushra, p. 6
In another instance he writes:
“The charge made against me and my Community that we do not believe the Messenger of Allah (peace be on him and His blessings) to be the Seal of Prophets is a great falsehood. The faith, conviction, certitude and the firmness that characterise our belief in the Holy Prophet as the Seal of Prophets, are markedly absent in the belief of these people (those who level this charge at us).”Al-Hakam, March 19, 1905
This adamant and unfaltering belief in ‘Khataman Nabiyeen’ is also the belief of every single person who enters the fold of Ahmadiyyat by pledging the following:
“I have firm faith that Hadhrat Muhammad Rasoolullah peace and blessings of Allah be upon him is Khataman Nabiyyeen, the Seal of all the Prophets.”Bai’at – Declaration of Initiation
Certainly, Ahmadi Muslims do have a different understanding of the term ‘Khatam-an Nabiyyeen’ but a different interpretation does not warrant an accusation of disbelief. Indeed, there are hundreds of verses on which different sects in Islam differ in their understanding, without one claiming that the other is rejecting the verse in itself. To take a difference in interpretation and accuse the other party of rejecting the verse altogether, despite their profession to accept and believe wholeheartedly in their understanding of the verse, is unfair and a calumny.
As regards those who clearly reject the Prophet Muhammad (sa) as the Khatam-an Nabiyeen, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as) wrote:
“I believe in the Khatam-i-Nabuwat of the Khatamul Anbjya, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, and consider one who denies the Khatam-i-Nabuwat as faithless and outside the pale of Islam.“Taqreer Wajabul Ilan 1891
In this quote he is not referring to such a person who merely disagrees with him on the interpretation of the title “Khatam-an Nabiyeen” but is referring to such a person who openly denies the Prophet Muhammad (sa) being the Khatam. His judgement of such a person’s faith is correct, since such a denial would necessarily entail rejection of the Quran and of Islam itself.
Despite the fact that Ahmadi Muslims worldwide are firm in the belief that the Holy Prophet (sa) is ‘Khataman Nabiyeen’, non-Ahmadi Muslims have unanimously given the Fatwa (edict) that Ahmadis are non-Muslim. It seems as if they have forgotten the Sahih Hadith of the Holy Prophet (sa) in which he warns those who label others as Kafir (disbeliever):
The Prophet (sa) said, “If somebody accuses another of Fusuq (by calling him ‘Fasiq’ i.e. a wicked person) or accuses him of Kufr, such an accusation will revert to him (i.e. the accuser) if his companion (the accused) is innocent.”Sahih al-Bukhari 6045
Allah’s Messenger (sa) said, “If a man says to his brother, O Kafir (disbeliever)!’ Then surely one of them is such (i.e., a Kafir).”Sahih al-Bukhari 6103
The Messenger of Allah (sa) said, “When a person calls his brother (in Islam) a disbeliever, one of them will certainly deserve the title. If the addressee is so as he has asserted, the disbelief of the man is confirmed, but if it is untrue, then it will revert to him.”Riyad as-Salihin 1732
It is not anyone’s responsibility to provide evidence of one’s own belief nor does anyone have the right to decide upon someone else’s belief or disbelief. If someone declares that he or she is a Muslim, then that is between that person and Allah Almighty.
We should also understand that that the right to call oneself a Muslim and being a Muslim in Allah’s eyes can not be considered the same. The right to call oneself a Muslim is dependent only on the criteria outlined in the Hadith, for instance regarding the census of Medina and the actions of praying facing the Qiblah, in the manner of Muslims and eating their meat, while to be accounted a true Muslim in Allah’s eyes is a much harder task. Having truly ‘submitted to the will of Allah’ can only be determined by Allah Almighty.