Takfir Is Not A Call For The Headsman’s Ax

In a recent tweet by Qasim Rashid, representative of the Ahmadi heretical community, Rashid claims that by one proclaiming an individual or group as outside of Islam — particularly on creedal grounds — is synonymous with a call for the headsman’s ax. This process — known as takfīr, while being a sensitive one, is also not unknown throughout Muslim history up to the present day.

Mr. Rashid has taken the bait of one of modernity’s most enduring myths: that religion is inherently violent because religion is inherently divisive. According to Rashid’s logic, which is also seconded by virtually every representative from the Ahmadi heretical group, Ahmadis have been persecuted because they are different. In other words, because of difference. But this theory does not hold water if we examine it in light of the Nation of Islam, another heretical group, and orthodox American Muslims. Indeed, many American orthodox Muslims, while holding those in the NOI to be heretics, maintain friendly even familial relationships with them. There has been no call to violence from orthodox American Muslims against Minister Farrakhan or followers of the NOI’s teachings. Clearly Mr. Rashid’s logic is bankrupt and reveals itself bare for what it is: political jockeying.

I have participated in a number of interviews and interfaith events with Ahmadis and in every single instance they use the stage to try and score political points. They employ post-Enlightenment and liberal philosophies, to which they impugn difference as they source of all violence, to force or coerce orthodox Muslims into accepting their heresies as legitimate by employing the state: Ahmadis attempt to position themselves as “the good Muslims” while all other orthodox Muslims as either terrorists or misguided by their “corrupt” clerics who supposedly use religion to stir up hate against them.

Dr. Jonathan Brown, of Georgetown University, makes a claim for us to reconsider Ahmadi beliefs as they are articulated today, versus what was said by its founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. Brown stated,

“…the Ahmadi tradition needs to be taken for what its representatives say TODAY, not what Mirza Ghulam Ahmad wrote or said a century ago. Every tradition has the right to redefine itself, so scriptural gotcha games are not useful. To clarify, what I mean is: for example, if Mirza Ghulam Ahmad said ‘Anyone who denies my prophecy is not a Muslim,’ but Ahmadis today say this is not what we believe, then their words should be definitive.”

I agreed with Dr. Brown to the extent that those beliefs are made definitive, to which they have not been. Akin to the NOI, many of its leaders, such as Minister Farrakhan and Dr. Wesley Muhammad, continue to play a game of cat and mouse, seeming at times to articulate the orthodox creed, and others times the same old kufr (disbelief). So my counter argument to Mr. Rashid and Dr Brown is thus:

Takfir = terrorism? This is political jockeying. They can’t ever grieve with the victims of tragedies without trying to take center stage. As an Imam I can say that as by the words of M. G. Ahmad, I don’t consider Ahmadis Muslim (takfir) and I’m not calling for violence. Drawing theological boundaries is not a call for the headsman. They have to stop playing these stupid little reindeer games. If Ahmadis want to be considered Muslim then Ahmadi clerical leaders need to unconditionally articulate the orthodox creed but refuse to, often being purposely unclear as to where they stand. Want to be considered Muslim? Step one in that direction would be to stop calling yourselves/identifying yourselves with the man (M. G. Ahmad) who was clearly a kafir!

There is no arguing that Ahmadis have faced reprehensible oppression and violence in certain Muslim countries but the sources of that violence lies with those cultures as well as in the modern state itself, which the latter has an incredibly bloody track record of violence based on difference. Mr. Rashid and his community have a lot of work to do if they wish to gain legitimacy in the orthodox Muslim community versus attempting to use the state as a bludgeoning tool to gain admittance.

5 Replies to “Takfir Is Not A Call For The Headsman’s Ax”

  1. I find Qasim Rashid’s statement to be badly wrong, and as you say, it strikes me as being about leverage, not accuracy. BUT to respond by saying that takfeer has nothing to do with non-state-based violence seems pretty strange considering that many scholars do continue to believe in pairing takfeer with threats of enforced worldly punishment, and that it’s a scholar-backed reality in Sudan, Iran, and Saudi Arabia.

    Sure, for American Muslims there is no problem of takfeer being associated with vigilante or legalized violence, but that doesn’t mean that any vigilante or legalized violence that groups like Ahmedis face outside the US is only “cultural” or “state based”. In Pakistan, where Ahmedis are more prominently present, blasphemy can be faced with prosecution and/or capital punishment, with the full support of many religious scholars. If your religion is considered by nature to be blasphemy against Islam or blasphemy as a Muslim, then bingo – legal violence. If the issue is vigilante violence, then religious scholars who continuously push rhetoric of hatred against Ahmedis – not just disassociating them as Muslims (takfeer) but going on and on and on about them as traitors from Western colonialism who must be hated by all true Muslims and whatnot – then they can’t really cleanse their hands of a public that acts out against Ahmedis, anymore than many American right-wingers can wash their hands of violence against Muslims as a result of right wing campaign rhetoric saying “ideally they’d all be dead or gone”.

    Part of the problem here seems that American Muslims want to (rightfully) answer only for their own communities, but American Muslims are a platform of activism for other Muslim communities around the world, as well as the modern world being much more globalized. What happens “here” isn’t disconnected from what happens “there”.

  2. Ahamdi leaders themselves pratcie takfir. If takfir = terrorism, then they are terrorists. He is being a hypocrite.

    alislam.org (not to be confused with the shi’i site, al-islam.org) is the official ahmadiyya website.

    From their own website, the first two ‘Caliphs’ of the ahmadiyya (Hakeem Noor-ud-Din being first and Mirza Basheer-ud-Din Mahmood Ahmad, son of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad being second) have **made takfir on non-ahmadis in general!**

    Second Caliph statement in an english translation of one of his works: https://imgur.com/a/rsS2L

    The above shows **takfir even on people who never heard of the name Mirza Ghulam Ahmad!** Referred to as _kafir_, and _outside the pale of Islam_.

    This book can be seen on their own website: https://www.alislam.org/library/books/Truth-about-the-Split.pdf

    First Calpih of their community (Nooruddin) also has a statement recorded about this in a biography about him written by Zafrullah Khan (the screenshot is apparently his response to a question about status of non ahmadis): https://imgur.com/a/4tjjK

    The source is again their own website, the screenshot was from this document: https://www.alislam.org/library/books/HazratMaulviNooruddeen.pdf

    **Mirza Ghulam Ahmad himself makes takfir here:** https://imgur.com/a/27YGB

    Source is Page 87 (in PDF reader enter 99) of this pdf: https://www.alislam.org/library/books/Essence-4.pdf

    **We get even stronger statements of takfir if we look at untranslated urdu works:** https://imgur.com/a/IxEaH

    The above screenshot is taken from here (if you enter page 21 in the pdf reader you’ll get the same page as the screenshot): https://www.alislam.org/urdu/pdf/Kalma-tul-Fasal.pdf

    The above urdu work was authored by another son of Mirza Ghulam Ahmed: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mirza_Bashir_Ahmad
    From some googling that urdu work was published in 1915 (might be wrong here though).

    The same urdu book also contains gems like this:

    >“This objection shows the lack of knowledge of the objector. We find that the Promised Messiah has permitted us to have only that relationship with non-Ahmadis which the Holy Prophet Muhammad permitted with Christians.” (pg 169)

    Urdu screenshot: https://imgur.com/a/8pZLu

    **It should be noted** your average layman ahmadi may just be totally ignorant/clueless and genuinely does not consider sunnis/shia kuffar at all. However Qasim is no layman!

    Also it seems The second Caliph backtracked on his position in later writings. https://imgur.com/a/39uM5

    (The highlight is most relevant part but everything in the screenshot is relevant, read the whole thing).

    The source is this academic work (not by an ahmadi) on the community: http://www.iupress.indiana.edu/product_info.php?products_id=807413

    Again on the alislam.org website, you can see Mahmud Ahmad’s later writing here were he kinda backtracks: https://www.alislam.org/library/books/Political-Solidarity-of-Islam.pdf

    The backtracked/revised view is the one the current leadership espouses (and is why ahmadis alive today are ignorant of the above).

    The page numbers are visible in the screenshots so you can check the references and confirm with the linked pdfs.

    The prior takfir however is probably more logically coherent though:

    > Indeed, those who disbelieve in Allah and His messengers and wish to discriminate between Allah and His messengers and say, “We believe in some and disbelieve in others,” and wish to adopt a way in between – Those are the disbelievers, truly. And We have prepared for the disbelievers a humiliating punishment. [[Quran 4:150-151]]

    The Qur’an here essentially says one has disbelieved if they do not accept _all_ of God’s messengers. Belief in the messengers is one of the 6 articles of Iman! If the ahmadis believe in the Qur’an and also claim there to be a new messenger, how can they _avoid_ takfir of non ahmadis? That’s the bigger question. So it seems the old position is more logical.

  3. Sarah, what I’m saying in regards to your comment: “BUT to respond by saying that takfeer has nothing to do with non-state-based violence seems pretty strange” is that takfir is not inherently linked to violence. Are there instances of where people have made takfir and then also called for violence? Yes. But there’s no inherent link. That’s my point. And Rashid was saying just that: “takfir = violence”. That’s just plain wrong, intellectually sloppy, and downright deceitful.

  4. Marc, Offcourse Qasim isn’t saying that in the dictionary definition of words, “Takfir=Terrorism”. It’s a manner of speech. It evidently means that takfir inherently leads to terrorist activities right across the Islamic world. It’s not just “instances” of terrorism.

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