Ahmadi Muslims (Ahmadis) regard His Holiness Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian, India, to be a prophet of Allah. His Holiness is the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at (the Jama’at), which has now been in existence for over 130 years. During this time, it has seen, and continues to see, the ups and downs of joys and sorrows, of triumphs and persecutions. It is a denomination, i.e. firqah , that is uniquely different than the other denominations within Islam, while at the same time subscribing to the same basic foundations. To understand how and where Ahmadiyya fits in Islam, there are a few key aspects that must be analysed which we will layout in this brief overview.
Etymology of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at
The one unique element that sets Ahmadi Muslims apart from other Muslims is a more nuanced understanding of prophethood. However, although he is considered as Prophet Ahmad, the word aḥmadīyyah , is not a derivation of his own name. It is actually derived from one of the Holy Prophet Muhammad’s other names, i.e. Ahmad. In this instance, a ḥmadīyyah refers to the spread of peace and security in the world by means of the teachings of the Holy Prophet. Moreover, Ahmadi Muslims adhere to Islamic beliefs and practices through His Holiness’ natural and inspired lense. As such, historically speaking, those Muslims, both learned and ordinary, who anticipated the fulfillment of Islamic eschatology, or latter day prophecies, saw this in Prophet Ahmad and found him to be true in his claims, and as a result joined his Divine cause. Finally, the word jamā`ah , meaning ‘group’, refers to a prophecy by the Holy Prophet that there will be one firqah in Islam which would be in paradise and it will be called al-jamā`ah . Hence, the name Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at.
The Jama’at was established in 1889, in accordance with Islamic eschatology. The Holy Prophet spoke of times when the general condition of Muslims’ beliefs and practices would deteriorate so much that despite possessing the guidance of the Holy Quran, Muslims would be devoid of īmān , i.e. faith. The pathetic condition of Muslims would at some point necessitate significant Divine intervention. It is precisely here where the Ahmadiyya Musliim Jama’at fits in the picture.
Inception – A Reviver of Islam is Due
His Holiness Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was known to be a devout Muslim. He engaged in dialogues, debates and authored books featuring comparative analysis of religious teachings. He invited world leaders and scholars of all faiths to understand Islam. In the interest of truth, he even began to issue challenges—and at times attached monetary rewards—to other faith leaders over doctrinal concepts, in that they would not be able to show the superiority of their beliefs over that of Islam’s teachings. This continued until his death, even under intense opposition and boycott.
In all his efforts, he demonstrated how Islamic teachings are compatible with the contemporary world and also evidenced that Islam can yield spiritual fruits. All of this was done in a time period when Muslims had begun succumbing to doubts and moving towards materialism. The circumstances were quite pathetic and miserable for Muslims, but not completely unexpected. Nonetheless, it was also a time in which devout Muslims expected God to come to the rescue. The commonly expected remedy of this situation was the coming of a mujaddid , i.e. reviver of faith, who would correct erroneous beliefs and practices the Muslims had stumbled into.
In 1882, Allah revealed to His Holiness that he was the Mujaddid who was due to come in the fourteenth century of the Islamic calendar. With this commission, his role addressed the fundamental need of the time. As a result, he invited all who were inclined towards understanding religious matters and having a relationship with Allah, or who sought proof of God’s existence, to visit him for some time. Or, at the very least, to correspond with him through letters in order to witness clear signs of Islam’s truthfulness.
The Jama’at as a Community
The Jama’at functions as a religious order or community. This function began in 1889 when His Holiness was instructed by Allah to commence taking bai’at. Bai`ah is an Islamic practice where there is a reciprocal agreement between a spiritual master and a disciple. The master lights the way for his disciple’s personal growth through supplications on the condition that the disciple remain faithfully steadfast upon certain set teachings and guidance. His Holiness Mirza Ghulam Ahmad set forth ten conditions for anyone who sought to do bai’at at his hands. A person who faithfully pledged allegiance to these conditions became known as an Ahmadi Muslim.
Beliefs and Practices
His Holiness’ understanding of Islamic beliefs and practices was founded solely on the teachings and practice of the Holy Prophet. In terms of fiqh , i.e. jurisprudence, His Holiness taught the preferability of the approach of the ḥ anafiyyah madhhab , i.e. the Hanafi School of Thought. His Holiness considered true Islamic teachings universal for all peoples and sufficient for human spiritual progress. At a time when the beliefs and practices of Muslims had begun to decline, he taught strict adherence to the prescriptive teachings of the Holy Quran. To this end, through detailed analysis, he demonstrated the favourability and superiority of Islamic teachings and ideals over all other ideologies. He also emphasized the requisite station of the Holy Prophet Muhammad for any person desirous of salvation in this life and the Hereafter. This meant that all Ahmadi Muslims must have belief in and practice the Five Pillars of Islam and Six Articles of Faith.
Advent of the Promised Messiah & Imam Mahdi
Alongside the coming of a mujaddid, Islamic eschatology also indicated the need for other figures with distinct roles, namely a mahdī (one who is guided by Allah) and a messiah (one purifies a group). In 1891, Allah revealed to His Holiness that he was the Messiah and Mahdi as foretold by the Holy Prophet. He was told by Allah that Jesus of Nazareth had died a physical death and would thus not return to this world. Therefore, it was he who was to initiate the grand task of worldwide human reformation and religious unification. His Holiness passed away in 1908, but not before laying down in great detail the ideological and spiritual foundation for the mission at hand and how it was to continue after his death.
Signs of Truthfulness
Early Ahmadi Muslims recognised the need for a divine reformer in their time. They accepted Prophet Ahmad due to a few fundamental reasons. Prophet Ahmad demonstrated his truthfulness through scriptural evidence, reasoning, and, most importantly, through Divine signs shown by Allah. These signs served as a testimony to his person, and lending a helping hand towards his mission. Today, Ahmadi Muslims continue to see such signs which reinvigorate their beliefs and encourage them to remain steadfast on the practices that have been enjoined upon them.
The Mission Continues with Khilafat
The beliefs, practices and mission of His Holiness Mirza Ghulam Ahmad are upheld, implemented and carried forward for the community through the institution of Khilafat. According to the Holy Qur’an, Khīlāfah is a divinely appointed spiritual successorship guided by God for the daily and future needs of believers.
Currently, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at is led by His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad who serves as the fifth successor of His Holiness Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. The role of a khalīfah , i.e. leader, is to continue the work as laid out in strict compliance with the original teachings. The Khalifa serves all Ahmadi Muslims throughout the world as a loving father figure, and continuously encourages and guides them as they engage in their religious pursuits.
Everlasting Guidance and Blessings
Through his claims, Prophet Ahmad proclaimed himself to be a foretold khalīfa , vicegerent, of the Holy Prophet. His tasks included reviving true Islamic beliefs and practices, demonstrating the living effect of Prophet Muhammad’s prophethood, uniting Muslims and continuing the propagation of Islam. Through Prophet Ahmad, Ahmadi Muslims regain access to the spiritual transformative powers of the Holy Prophet. Similarly, Ahmadi Muslims believe Khalifat to be a vessel through which they continue to receive the spiritual nourishment Prophet Ahmad vouchsafed to them from the Prophet Muhammad.
Ahmadi Muslims hold that their religious beliefs and practices are not in any way different from those taught by the Holy Prophet Muhammad to his companions. They view his prophethood as extremely blessed and life-giving. The teachings of the Holy Prophet take into consideration the complete needs of humanity, and do not lack in any aspect. As such, Prophet Muhammad is their paramount prophet, the Holy Quran is their constitution, i.e. sharī`ah , and Prophet Ahmad serves as a governor general. It is for this reason that Ahmadi Muslims believe Islam to inherently contain solutions for all human problems. Ahmadis view Prophet Ahmad, the Jama’at and Khilafat as fulfillment of Islamic eschatology. These three elements of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at are foretold solutions to the predicaments Muslims would have to surmount in the latter days.
Chart of 5 Pillars
Chart of 6 Articles of faith
10 Conditions of Ba’ait