In the 125-year old history of the Jamaat-e- Ahmadiyya, Hadhrat Mirza Bashir-ud-Din Mahmud Ahmad (ra) (1889-1965) holds a very special place. If the idea of Khilafat-e-Ahmadiyya was invented after the death and departure of the Promised Massih Hadhrat Ahmad (as) (1835-1908) and took its initial contours during the time of the Khilafat of Maulvi Hakkim Nuruddin Sahib (ra) (1908-1914), it was during the time of Hadhrat Khalifa Sani (ra) that the institution, in many ways, got consolidated, as the period of his Khilafat extended over half a century. If today, for devout Ahmadis, the institution of Khilafat-e-Ahmadiyya holds much significance in their lives and the obedience to the Khalifatul Massih is perceived by the members as a foundational act of religious sincerity, it has occurred through the specific interpretations of the teachings of the Promised Massih (as) and the conscious policy choices adopted especially during the second Khilafat.
2014 marks the one hundred years of the beginning of the second Khilafat in the Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya. As tragic irony goes, the year also marks one hundred years of the Great Split among the Ahmadis. It was with the death of the first Khalifa Hakkim Nuruddin Sahib (ra) in March 1914 that the differences of opinion among the companions on ideological directions of the Jamaat came to the foreground. The refusal of some of the influential companions of the Promised Massih (as) to agree upon the leadership of the eldest son of the Promised Massih (as) led to the Split in the Jamaat and also the formation of the Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement (LAM) and the Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya Qadian (JAQ) as two separate fractions.
Ideological Implications of the Split
The formation of the LAM under the leadership of Maulana Muhammad Ali Sahib witnessed the intellectuals and the opinion makers within the Jamaat moving along with him, out of Qadian, in the aftermath of the Split. On the contrary, the substantial mass of common believers took allegiance to Mirza Bashir-ud-Din Mahmud Ahmad Sahib, who became the second Khalifa of the JAQ at a relatively young age of 25. Both fractions committed themselves to the propagation of Islam as “originally” taught by the Promised Massih (as), even as they bitterly differed among themselves on the ‘true’ conception of those teachings. The great scholars in both the fractions produced volumes of literature in support of their sectarian identity, chosen lexicological interpretations of abstract concepts with nebulous meanings and advanced their respective terminological preferences such as ‘Nabi’,‘Mujaddid’, ‘Ummati Nabi’, ‘Ummati wa Nabi’, ‘Khalifa’, ‘Amir’ etc.
To the uninitiated and the ill-informed, the diverging philosophical positions might appear like highly abstract matters. Yet, the fact is that the fractional war within the Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya has had its consequences, desired as well as unintended fall-outs, both internally and externally. Most crucially, it was the sectarian divisions within that played into and provided the fuel to the fire of hatred and jealousy nurtured by the Mullah and the enemy class (often feeding one another) to undermine and possibly attempt to destroy the Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya altogether by declaring it out of the pale of Islam in the murky politics of Pakistan, in the subsequent decades.
Personal Dimensions of the Split
Internally, the hardening of doctrinal positions and ill- thinking of fellow brothers on both sides of the divide led to intolerance of differences within the Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya. Some Ahmadis suspected fellow Ahmadis of ideological drift and personal ambitions. These tensions in ideological positions and the personal equations produced, in their wake, a number of allegations by people who were once closer to one another than their own families and clans and tribes, based on the affinity of Khilafat-e-Ahmadiyya. Some of the bitter critics and vocal opponents of the second Khalifa alleged about practices of social boycott and criminal intimidation in Qadian. Even allegations of incitement to murder had been made against the Khalifa. The police records and the court documents of the times speak about these controversies. In their refusal to recognize the claim of the second Khalifa as to the fulfilment of the prophecy Musleh Maoud, part of the reason or justification publically given by his critics in the LAM includes the controversies and cases surrounding his administration of the Jamaat in Qadian.
Whether we like it or not, in the entire debates surrounding the existential identity of the LAM, the figure of Khalifa Sani appears as the intimate enemy. In our own times, the Lahori-fellow travellers like Mr. Rashid Jahangiri and Mr. Mushtaq Ahmad Malik, go out of their way to keep all kinds of allegations against Hadhrat Khalifa Sani in circulation in the internet sites, long after the earth had consumed all those who had been directly involved in the shady episode of allegations. While the ‘official’ LAM policy has been not to lend ears to the scandal- mongering against the second Khalifa, its members and fellow travellers trample upon their own professed policy, without any sense of shame or inhibition. There is little doubt that the LAM stands exposed for its duplicity and deception in matters pertaining to allegations against Hadhrat Khalifa Sani (ra). One might wonder how come decency and propriety take leave of their “attack dogs” while the leadership apparently remains sober and responsible?
The Indian political context of the 1930’s
The personal allegations against Hadhrat Khalifa Sani (ra) had been initially fanned in the 1930’s in a context of the Ahrari political mobilization against the Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya in Qadian. This was a time when the Indian subcontinent was still under the British suzerainty and the anti-colonial struggle in the larger polity was spearheaded by the Indian National Congress and the All India Muslim League (AIML) represented the substantial Muslim interests in the national freedom movement.
As the spiritual head of the Ahmadiyya community, Hadhrat Khalifa Sani (ra) took an active interest in the Muslim question in India and the raging political ideas of the day, including the liberation of the mainly Muslim Kashmir from the clutches of a despotic Hindu Raja in power. The Muslim political leaders of the day such as the distinguished poet-philosopher Sir Muhammad Iqbal, the great Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah of Kashmir and the Qaid-e-A’zam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, in their own ways, listened to his ideas with the shared objective of protecting the Muslim political interests in a society in transition from a British-colonial administration to a Hindu-majoritarian polity. During this period, Sir Zafrullah Khan Sahib even went on to become the President of the AIML in one of its sessions.
The Ahrari machinations in Qadian (1932-1936)
It may be instructive to note that from the time of the Promised Massih (as), the Muslim orthodoxy had taken offence at his Divine claims and often resented the very presence of the Ahmadis in the public sphere, leading to constant friction evidenced by published writings, often of an abusive, polemical character, on both sides. According to certain reports of the times, in 1923 a conference of the anti-Ahmadiyya forces at Qadian was brought to an end by “rowdyism”. In the 1930’s, the Ahmadis in Qadian was in the range of 8,000 out of a total population of 9,000. The other Muslims numbered 400 or 500 and the rest the Hindus and Sikhs. As a corollary of this numerical advantage, the Khilafat-e-Ahmadiyya was able to defend the community interests in the town and to bring strong social pressure to bear upon individual residents of the town who joined the machinations from outside.
Against the backdrop of the social influence of the Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya, the Ahraris sought to bite a dent for themselves in the political scenario by raking up controversial themes. To them, it became apparent that the political opposition to, and religious mobilization against the Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya is the weapon of choice to attack and divide the Muslim emotional psyche. For the political scoundrels, divisions and troubles in society are opportunities for political fish-hunting by sailing to the then prevailing winds and they cannot be accused of adhering to any scruples except that of expediency.
Ataullah Shah Bukhari Case (1935)
Thus, in 1934 the Ahraris decided to hold a Thabligh conference in Qadian at a time when the hostile relations between the two had reached an acute stage. The Ahraris obtained permission from one Ishar Singh, a resident of Qadian, to hold the meeting on land in his possession, but the Ahmadis were able to prevent this by building a wall on the village land round the site. Unable to find another site in Qadian, the Ahraris arranged for the conference to be held on the playground of the Dayanand Anglo-Vedic High School premises in Rajada, a village a mile from Qadian.
The conference began at the aforesaid site on 21st October 1934, on the evening of which day Sayyed Atta Ullah Shah Bukhari, the president, addressed an audience of many thousands for five hours. For making this speech, which was a bitter attack in scurrilous-language upon the Ahmadis, their leaders and beliefs, Sayyed Atta Ullah Shah was prosecuted under Section 153-A, I.P.C, which pertains to the penal offence of inciting hatred or ill-will and violence against a section of people in society. At his trial he pleaded that his speech had been wrongly reported and that his intention had been to spread the true religion of Islam. The court however, found him guilty of the offence charged with and punished him eventually, with a term of rigorous imprisonment for the gravity of crime he perpetrated - inciting the Muslim crowds against the Ahmadis.
The Murder of Fakhruddin Multani (1937)
Even after the legal trial and punishment of the Ahrari leader Ataullah Shah Bukhari, the situation in Qadian continued to remain volatile for many years. The adverse social, political and religious environment in the pre-partitioned Punjab/India and in a context of active opposition and hostile propaganda, physical intimidation and threat of bodily harm and general insecurity and other coercive tactics deployed by the anti-Ahmadiyya forces in Qadian, the Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya took special measures of internal security for the community in general and its leadership in particular.
The establishment of civil tribunals and the volunteer corps in Qadian for the settlement of disputes within the community and for the protection of persons was not per se illegal under the prevailing law of the land. As a court judgement of the period noted, “persons who had become obnoxious to the community were excommunicated or forced by social pressure to leave Qadian, though there is very little to indicate that this pressure was brought to bear illegally”. These measures were applied only on persons belonging to the community who had left it or had quarrelled with the administration. And there had never been any complaint of intimidation by any person who refuse/choose not to come within its fold.
According to the accusations by the likes of Rashid Jahangiri and Mushtaq Malik, it was Hadhrat Khalifa Sani (ra) who “ordered” the murder of Fakhruddin Multani in 1937 because of personal vendetta. And they claim that “complete proof” exists in the form of public records of court judgements.
There is little doubt that along with Misri Abdul Rahman, Fakhruddin Multani was a virulent opponent of Khalifa Sani. He was not just a former Ahmadi who drifted away from the mainstream Jamaat and turned into a vocal critic. He became the secretary of a dissident group by the name Majlis Ahmadiyya Qadian which was established at that time with the sole purpose of opposing and ridiculing the Jamaat and its leaders through a series of insulting postings and wall posters inside the Qadian Mohalla.
The Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya applied boycott on his group and applied social pressure to a great extent so as to make their lives a virtual hell in the very town. Khalifa Sani gave several speeches during the period in question, in which he made extraordinary attacks on the persons and morals of his opponents and divined that spiritual punishment awaits them for their despicable crimes. And there is little doubt that the murder took place in a context of denunciation against the person because of his activities, including attacking the honour and morals of the first family of Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya.
Criminal cases are decided solely on the basis of verifiable, corroborative evidence by the courts of law. No evidence was produced by anyone to argue that Khalifa Sani incited the murder and the court did not inquire into any perceived offence of murder conspiracy against the Khalifa. However, for purpose of quantum of punishment, the court did consider the potential mitigating factors that might give some relief to the accused Aziz Ahmad Jan Muhammad in his appeal against the conviction on charges of the murder of Fakharuddin Multani.
From the judgement of the Lahore High Court, delivered on January 3rd 1938 by the Chief Justice Young, what is apparent is that the crime was committed by the accused alone after careful premeditation. In his statement, Aziz Ahmad admitted that he stabbed the diseased Multani and that he was provoked by the language of the provocative poster put up by Multani, questioning the honour and morals of the family of the Khalifa, whom he respected he said more than his own life and honour.
Regarding the potential role of Khalifa Sani and his speeches, the Judgement states: “With regard to the sentence of death imposed upon the appellant, we have in fairness to him, considered a point which was not taken for him by his counsel, who is himself an orthodox Ahmadi: that is that the speeches of the Khalifa might have influenced the appellant in committing the murder; that he might be said to be acting, as a result of these speeches, under the influence of the head of his community whom, the appellant says in his grounds of appeal, he loves more than his life, property, honour and every other worldly relation, and that therefore he ought not to be condemned to death, but that the alternative sentence of transportation for life would be appropriate…. we do not think after giving the matter most anxious consideration, that this is any ground for us to reduce the sentence. While it is difficult entirely to dissociate the death of Fakhar-ud-Din from the denunciations in the mosque, the appellant clearly had determined on the murder.”
- (Aziz Ahmad Jan Mohammad Vs. Emperor; AIR 1938 Lah 355)
In short, after a careful weighing of all evidence available, the Lahore High Court did not find enough material to consider that Hadhrat Khalifa Sani (ra) incited or ordered the murder of Fakharuddin Multani. The insinuation that “complete proof” exists to corroborate his alleged or perceived complicity in this murder case, as is being alleged by the Lahori-fellow travellers, is an outright falsehood and a patent lie, especially when the Court had pronounced that the public denunciations made by the second Khalifa could be taken as being alluded to “spiritual punishment” and that the speeches can be delinked from the actions of his apparent follower. By spreading rumours and unfounded allegations without carefully checking the records, they are being unfair to themselves, besides doing a great injustice to Khalifa Sani and his illustrious legacy.
Allegations of Sexual Misconduct
It is intriguing that those who accused Hadhrat Khalifa Sani (ra) with charges of sodomy and other sexual exploitation of children and molesting and raping of women never dared to confront him in a court of law, with all the evidences they said they have had with them, in terms of testimonial of witnesses. What prevented them from going to the courts? What motivated them to unleash a campaign of slander and defamation against the Khalifa in the streets of Qadian, right in front of his own house and among his own people?
The simple fact is that all people directly concerned with the episodes/allegations are all gone and dead. And yet, the Lahori fellow-travellers and the other maverick elements are hell-bent on continuing with their calumny against Hadhrat Khalifa Sani (ra), half a century after his death and departure from this world. For the “super-brats”, the spreading of grave and serious allegations of sexual misconduct even today might be a simple way of having some ‘fun and laughter’ at the expense of the common members of the Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya who are mostly ignorant of even the existence of the alleged episode in the history of the Jamaat.
The truth is that such allegations are not a light matter. Islam does not like the spreading of immorality and chaos in society. The Qur’an condemns scandal mongering of all types and hues. It prescribes that all cases of sexual misconduct should be reported to the State, rather than given credence through word of mouth in society. The stringent norms of criminal evidence in Islam seek to preclude false allegations and to ensure punishment for those who indulge in scurrilous attack on the fair reputation of people.
The Indian Penal Code of 1860, which is the penal law of the country, was legislated during the British suzerainty over India. It continues to be valid all over the Indian subcontinent, with modifications and adaptations, even after partition of the country into India and Pakistan and later the formation of Bangladesh as well. The Penal Code defines all or most offences punishable in the country and these include offences such as unnatural sex, outraging the modesty of a woman, rape, adultery, murder, incitement to murder, etc -which had been and is being alleged, on Hadhrat Khalifa Sani (ra) .
It is a big irony of history that those who accused Khalifa Sani of running his own Kangaroo courts in Qadian wanted him to establish a commission to sit over the allegations against him, rather than taking recourse to the public law of the land, which is admittedly the way to go, in criminal offences. In the cold light of the law of Islam, those who fail(ed) to establish a criminal allegation of sexual misconduct were/are guilty of a grave and serious offence. According to some of the learned Divines among the Ahmadi Ulema, those who indulge in the insinuations and unproven charges are punishable with not less than eighty lashes.
It may, however, be instructive to note that in the times of the revelation of the Qur’an, there had been people who spread calumnies against righteous people. And some of the early believers like Hadhrat Abu Baker Siddiq (ra) even vowed to punish these culprits. But, then, the Qur’an revealed to state a profound teaching of forgiveness and a reminder of the fallible human condition. According to the Holy Qur’an, “but for the grace of Allah and His mercy upon you, not one of you would ever be pure; but, Allah purifies whom He pleases. And Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing”. In the very next verse, the Holy Book advices believers to “forgive and pass over the offence” of others and it goes further and pertinently asks: “Do you not desire that Allah should forgive you? And Allah is Most Forgiving, Merciful”. (Surah An-Nur: 22-23). It is incumbent upon all of us-regardless of which side of the divide we are/were on- to ponder over the profound implications of the Divine admonition and to seek to profit by acting upon it in our lives.