One of the key reasons why Muslim societies are in ferment concerns a theological tradition practiced by Islamic clerics to declare other Muslims as munafiqeen (hypocrites), kafir (infidels), or simply insufficient Muslims.
On 5 August, the Mumbai-based Urdu daily Roznama Inquilab published a report on its frontpage raising alarm that Qadianis have been included in the 2011 census report as Muslims. Ahmadi Muslims are pejoratively dismissed as Qadianis because their spiritual leader Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1908) was born in Qadian, in present-day Indian Punjab.
The Urdu daily, popular among the Muslims of Maharashtra, wrote: "With regard to the 2011 census, this sensational revelation has emerged that in this report Qadianis have been registered as Muslims." It noted that "only Sunnis, Shias, Bohras and Agha Khanis were considered different sects of Muslims" previously.
The 2011 census was held when Narendra Modi was not the prime minister. However, another Urdu daily, Roznama Urdu Times on 5 August, published a front-page report insinuating conspiracy by Modi in favour of Ahmadi Muslims. Its report was titled: "Qadianis accepted as a sect of Islam by the Modi government."
The report observed: "Let it be clear that Qadianis are considered expelled from Islam by all the schools of thought of Islam. The Modi government had been hesitating till last year from accepting Qadianis as a sect of Islam… Recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had praised the moderation and peacefulness of Qadianis."
Ahmadi Muslims are incorrectly accused by the dominant Islamic sects of not believing that Muhammad was the last prophet. Such accusations are part of a continuous theological search for pure Islam.
This search for pure Muslims meant that the so-called secular Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto enacted a law in 1974 under which Ahmadi Muslims were declared non-Muslims. This was the first time in history that lawmakers were given power to decide who was a Muslim. Ahmadi Muslims are forbidden in Pakistan from calling themselves Muslims and their places of worship as mosques, or from greeting others by the words Assalam-o-Alaikum (peace be upon you) and so on. They are persecuted in everyday life in many countries, including Saudi Arabia and Indonesia.
It is correct to say that Ahmadi Muslims are the most persecuted sect of Islam in present times. The Indian state too is part of this persecution. For example, the Ahmadi Muslims organised an exhibition on the Quran's translations in 53 languages in New Delhi in September 2011. Imam Bukhari of Delhi's Jama Masjid led a violent protest against the exhibition, which was shut down because the Indian state, instead of offering security to the organisers, surrendered before the Bukhari-led goons. Such surrenders by the Indian state encourage Islamist forces, threatening our democratic values of free speech, right to peaceful assembly and pluralism.
In its report, the Roznama Urdu Times quoted Islamic cleric Maulana Moeen Ashraf as saying that it is "excess by the government" to consider Ahmadis as Muslims. The report also quoted Maulana Mehmood Daryabadi, general secretary of the Ulema Council, as saying that description of Ahmadis as Muslims in the 2011 census report was "an interference in the matters of Muslims" and "the Indian government does not have the right to decide how many sects are among Muslims". This position is in contrast with this reality: every Islamic cleric thinks he has the absolute right to interfere in every Muslim's religious matters.
The crux of the problem is this: in their search for pure Islam, most Muslim sects consider others as non-Muslims or insufficient Muslims. For example, Ahmed Raza Khan (1856-1921), founder of the so-called peaceful Barelvi school of Sunni Islam, declared Shias as non-Muslims. Even now, Barelvi organisations in many countries, notably South Africa, openly declare Shias as infidels. Pakistani-Canadian cleric Tahirul Qadri, who famously wrote a fatwa (Islamic decree) against jihadist organisations, has described Shias as infidels. Much like them, the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS) do not consider Shias as Muslims, thereby killing them systematically.
Much before the Islamic State was born, an IS-like force of pious Muslims known as Kharijites emerged during the rule of Islam's fourth caliph Hazrat Ali. Like the IS, the Kharijites massacred Muslims in thousands by declaring them apostates, expelled from Islam. This search for pure Islam is rooted in the era of Prophet Muhammad, who demolished Masjid-e-Zarrar, a mosque, because it was built by Muslims, who were deemed as munafiqeen. "He is not a Muslim", is a sentence commonly used against some Muslims by others who consider themselves as more pious — a line of thinking that is the foundation of jihadism in everyday life and must be curbed for the sake of co-existence between all sects of Islam and with non-Muslims.
The author is the director of South Asia Studies Project at the Middle East Media Research Institute, Washington DC. He tweets @tufailelif
Updated Date: Aug 09, 2016 08:02:22 IST