By Al-Hafiz Yunus Omotayo
Recently, one of the followers of my Facebook Page sent a question to me, via Messenger App, seeking clarification on an issue of faith and jurisprudence. Her question and the answer given by my humble self are published below for the benefit of the wider readership.
Questioner: I was told that an Ahmadi can’t pray at the back of a non-Ahmadi. Why please?
Al-Hafiz Yunus Omotayo: Respected sister, the fact of the matter is that, such kind of people would only tell you Ahmadi Muslims can’t pray behind non-Ahmadi Muslims, but they would not tell you that they themselves can’t pray behind Ahmadi Muslims! Perhaps you may need to ask them that can they pray behind Ahmadi Muslims whom they had declared Kafirs (disbelievers)?
Anyhow, let me answer your question and be as straightforward and unambiguous as possible. To approach your enquiry, I feel it would be helpful to first interrogate the historical background of the matter and, then, move on to the underpinning theological and jurisprudential factors and issues.
It would interest you to note that the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamā’at was founded in 1889 by Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as) as a revivalist movement within Islam; with a mission to revive the faith and reform and unite the Muslim faithful. More relevantly, you may equally find it impressing to note that, as members of a Jamā’at that seeks to end the challenge of religious separatism within the Muslim-body polity, Ahmadi Muslims of the earliest period, as available evidences suggest, used to enter the mosques of the non-Ahmadi Muslims in their various towns, and even prayed behind them. In fact, in his book, Victory of Islam, which he wrote in 1890 and published in 1891, Hazrat Ahmad (as) himself recollected how, while in the city of Aligarh, India, he offered his Friday Prayer behind a non-Ahmadi Muslim scholar, Maulvi Muhammad Ismail. This was because they consider non-Ahmadis as their fellow Muslims behind whom Salat can be offered congregationally. This historical fact should prove Ahmadi Muslims’ commitment to fostering Islamic brotherhood and unity and their aversion to separatism.
However, as copious evidences show, during that early period (and later, too) many among Muslim scholars and leaders who were opposed to the revivalist teachings of Hazrat Ahmad (as) began to declare that Ahmadis are disbelievers (kuffar) and therefore, not Muslims. In fact, as history tells us, nearly 200 scholars converged on Ludhiana, India, where they appended their signatures to one of such takfiri edicts. Many other prominent scholars later followed suit. For brevity, let me quote just one of such obnoxious fatawa (edicts).
In 1892, Maulvi Abdus-Samī’ Bedayuni issued this fatwa: “Observance of daily-prayer behind any Mirza’i (sic. Pejorative term they used for an Ahmadi Muslim) is definitely illegitimate. Praying behind Mirza’is is no different from praying behind the Hindus, the Jews or the Christians. The members of Ahlu Sunnah wa al-Jamā’ah denomination and other persons of Islamic faith must never let Mirza’is to enter our mosques for either offering daily prayers or for any other religious observances.” (Sā’iqa-e- Rabbāni ber Gitna-e- Qadiani, published in 1892 A.D., p. 9)
Many a times, they would persecute Ahmadi Muslims whenever the latter entered their mosques. During those days, those Ahmadis would run to Hazrat Ahmad (as) and complained of their bitter experiences and requested him to permit them to build their own mosques in their various towns and pray there, so as to be safe from such persecution. Initially, he would reply them that they should be patient and that he would reach out to those Muslim scholars and leaders to strike mutual understanding, reconciliation and peace.
In fact, during this period, he wrote a conciliatory note which he titled, Sulh Khair (Reconciliation is the Best), where he made appeal to his religious fellows to desist from their Takfiri edicts and the ensuing hostility and persecution. But, instead of compromising, those scholars would even increase in their opposition and persecution, inciting the Muslim public against Ahmadi Muslims. The evidence below, written by an opponent of Ahmadiyya, Maulvi AbdulWahid Janpuri, should attest to this historical fact:
“Let it not be concealed that the reason for this conciliatory note is that after the Mirza’i group in Amritsar was subjected to disgrace; expelled from Friday and congregational prayers; humiliatingly thrown out of the mosques in which they used to pray and barred from the parks where they held their Friday prayers, they asked Mirza Qadiani to build a new mosque. Mirza told them that they should wait while he tried to make peace with the people, for in that case there would be no need to build a mosque. They had to bear much humiliation. Their social relations with the Muslims were stopped, their wives were taken away from them, their dead were thrown into pits without garments or funeral rites etc. It was then that the Qadiani liar issued this conciliatory note.” (Wahid, Maulvi Abdul, Ishtihar Mukadat Musailimah Qaadiani, p. 2)
It was at such a juncture that, Hazrat Ahmad (as), based on divine inspiration, instructed the Ahmadi Muslims to build their own mosques and appoint their Imams among themselves and stop praying behind the other Muslims who see them as non-Muslims and who would not desist in their enmity and persecution. He further issued the instruction thus:
“Remember that God has informed me that it is forbidden to you and forbidden altogether that you pray behind any Mukaffir (one who attributes Kufr [disbelief] to another), Mukazzib (a denier) or Mutaraddid (a doubter). Your Imam should be one who is one of yourselves.” (Appendix,Tuhfa’-e-Golarhwiyyah, page18)
Please note the word used by Hazrat Ahmad (as) in this instruction. He has interestingly used the one “Mukaffir”. While the other Muslim scholars have referred to Ahmadis as Kafirs and ordered Muslims not to pray behind them, Hazrat Ahmad (as) has rather referred to them as Mukaffir (one who declares other Muslims as Kafir) and forbids Ahmadi Muslims from praying behind them. This shows that Hazrat Ahmad (as) was never the one who declared other Muslims as Kafirs!
Now, the question is: why is it forbidden to pray behind any Muslim who declares his fellow Muslims as Kafirs? The answer is because the Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) has said that: “If a Muslim calls another a Kafir, then if he is a Kafir, let it be so, otherwise, he is himself a Kafir.” (Sunan Abi Dawud, vol. 3, p. 484) Now as such a Mukaffir has turned a Kafir through his own declaration, can a Muslim pray behind such? That’s the jurisprudence along with its reason.
However, here, it is necessary to emphasize the stance of Hazrat Ahmad (as) who declared that: “Brothers! You know that the pronouncement of disbelief against me are not based on proper investigation and do not contain an inkling of truth. Rather, all these declarations are sheer fabrication based upon deceit, injustice and falsehood, out of personal jealousy. These people know very well that I am a believer and they have seen with their own eyes that I am a Muslim and that I believe in One God with Whom there is no associate; that I profess the Kalimah: There is none worthy of worship except Allah; that I accept the Book of Allah, the Quran and His Messenger Muhammad (saw) as Khatam Anbiyā (Seal of the Prophets); that I believe in angels, the Day of Resurrection, heaven and hell; that I offer prayers and keep the fast; that I belong to the Ahl-ul- Qiblah (people who face the direction of the Ka’bah in Salat); that I have neither added, nor taken away anything from the Shari’ah, not even to the extent of an atom and that I accept all that has reached us from the Messenger of Allah (as) whether I understand its secrets or not and that by Allāh’s grace, I am a believer and a unitarian.” (Ahmad, Mirza Ghulam, Nurul Haq, vol. 1, p. 5; Ruhani Khazain, vol. 8, p. 7)
In fact, just about two months before his demise in May, 1908, he issued the following pronouncement on this issue:
“As the Maulvis (scholars) of this country, due to their bigotry, have generally declared us Kafirs and have issued fatwas against us and the rest of the people are their followers, so if there are any persons who, to clear their own position, make an announcement that they do not follow these Maulvis who make other Kafirs, then it would be allowable to say prayers with them. Otherwise, the man who calls a Muslims a Kafir becomes a Kafir himself. So how can we pray behind him? The Shari’ah does not permit it.” (Ahmad, Mirza Ghulam. Vide. Badr, 24/31 December, 1908)
Perhaps you may want to know why the Shari’ah does not permit it. The reason is, when you talk of Jamā’ah or congregational prayer, it is important for you to note that, the word ‘Jamā’ah’, in its linguistic and juristic implications, means that those who gather in the congregation, both the Imam and the Muslims behind him, must be united in their belief system and objectives; their hearts must be one. They must have unity of belief and objective. From this perspective, it becomes imperative that there is no true or ideal Jamā’at in Salāt when the hearts of the congregants are disunited in faith and objective. This is why a verse of Suratul Hashr of the Holy Qur’an declares that:
تحسبهم جميعا و قلوبهم شتى ذلك بأنهم قوم لا يعقلون.
Meaning, “You think them to be united (as a Jamā’ah), but their hearts are divided.” That is because they are a people who have no sense.” (Qur’ān, 59:15)
So, consider this point: as Ahmadi Muslims and non-Ahmadi Muslims are not united in some issues of belief (aqeedah) and objectives (maqasid), can there be true congregation in such a scenario? If they do, then according to this verse, you would only perceive them to be in congregation, but their hearts are divided. Such a congregation can only be superficial, not spiritual. Can any sensible person see any spiritual value and status in such a congregational prayer? The Shari’ah does not permit it!
However, if the non-Ahmadi Muslims make announcement that they accept that Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad is truthful, not a dajjal and a kafir; and that Ahmadis are Muslims, not Kafirs, then there will be no issue, nothing at all!