Book Review

BOOK REVIEW PROPHECY CONTINUOUS by Yohanan Friedmann. Published by the University of California Press. Berkeley and Los Angeles (1989 First Edition). ISBN 0-520-05772-4, Hard Cover 230 pages. Consistent with previous reviews of this book, Yohanan Friedm- ann’s (hereafter YF) text is reproduced Verbatim before the formal response by the Review Of Religions (RR hereafter). YF: The idea of the Perfect Man (al-Insan ul-kamil) developed by Ibn-ul-Arabi and extensively treated in the famous work of Abdul Karim al-Jili (or Jilani) is frequently reflected in Ghulam Ahmad’s works. The Taryaq-ul Qulub starts with a lengthy poem in which Ghulam Ahmad describes the virtues of the Perfect Man and claims that all of these are found in his own personality. Furthermore, the idea that the Perfect Man (Who is identical with the prophet Muhammad) is capable of manifesting himself in the form of other persons and, more specifically, in the most perfect personality of each age seems to be the source of Ghulam Ahmad’s idea of buruz and of his conviction that he is the perfect manifestation of Muhammad and is essentially identical with all other prophets. It is also noteworthy that in al-Jili’s view the Prophet manifests himself in the various periods in order to exalt the status of the people and to straighten their crooked ways (li-yulia shanahum wa yuqima mayalanahum). This formulation is very similar to the task of Ghulam Ahmad as perceived by himself. There is, however, a significant difference between Ghulam Ahmad and his Sufi predecessor: Whereas al-Jili stresses Muhammad’s ability to appear in different forms and pays little attention to the personalities in whom he appears, Ghulam Ahmad’s starting point is his own ability to absorb and reflect all the perfections of the Prophet. The difference is subtle, but it has some importance for our understanding of Ghulam Ahmad’s consistently self-centered attitudes, (pp.142-143). RR: Al-Jili’s Al-Insan ul-Kamil makes it clear that this manifestation occurs in the most perfect personality of each age. By no stretch of imagination does it imply that it can manifest itself in any Tom, Dick or Harry but only in those who are recipients of God’s revelation. Since YF has already rejected Muhammad, may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, as the most perfect man, he, naturally, has to deny that such 28 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS perfection, to a somewhat lesser extent, can manifest itself in a faith which gets perpetuated by followers who emulate the example of their Master to the best of their ability. YF quotes from p. 72 of Haqiqatul Wahy by the Promised Messiah but had he cared to read the next revelation to which this footnote is appended, he would have understood its true import. It states: All praise belongs to Allah, Who has made you Messiah, son of Mary. Allah is not called to account for that which He does and they are called to account (footnote appended here). They said: Will you place one who will commit disorder therein? He said: I know that which you do not know. YF has repeatedly quoted various writings to show that Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad had ameliorated his love for the Holy Prophet, may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, to such an extent that he had lost his own identity. He likens the Prophet to the radiant sun and himself as the moon reflecting that light, it is most unfair of YF to accuse someone of showing consistently self-centered attitudes on the basis of a false assumpt- ion from Al-Jili’s works especially when that someone neither gained any political power nor obtained any material benefit from his claims but merely the abuse of his opponents and persecution of his followers at their hands. YF: Ghulam Ahmad’s works are so steeped in Sufi terminology that such points of resemblance (i.e; the idea of Sufi love [ishq] which may bring a believer to the brink of infidelity – after the love of God, I am so leavened with the love of Muhammad, if this is unbelief. I am, indeed, an infidel) could easily be multiplied Ibn-uI-Arabi’s idea concerning the uninterrupted existence of non-legislative prophetology was fully integrated into Ghulam Ahmad’s prophetology. In contradistinction to Ibn-ul-Arabi, Ghulam Ahmad stresses time and again that after the completion of Muhammad’s mission, prophecy exists only among the Muslims and is a sign of the special favours that Allah bestowed upon them Ibn-ul-Arabi may have thought along similar lines, but he does not seem to have been greatly interested in this aspect of the question. Another difference between the two thinkers lies in the fact that Ibn-ul-Arabi did not name the persons who were granted the gift of non-legislative prophetology after the emergence of Islam. His reticence to do so .-must have considerably lessened the irritation his prophetology ^Gaused-Jfhe”orthodox establishment. Conversely, Ghulam Ahmad’s expli- cit claim of prophetic status for himself infused his prophetology with great pungency and was certainly the cardinal reason for the implacable REVIEW OK RELIGIONS 29 hostility of the orthodox establishment, (p.144) RR: It is extremely naive on YF’s part to ignore that the concept of love was not a copyright of the Sufis. YF disregards the past history and sources of Islamic teachings in his vain attempt to alienate Ahmadis from the orthodox establishment. This orthodox establishment was awaiting anxiously the advent of a prophet when Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad made his claims; so there was nothing alien in his claim. The source of prophethood continuing in the umma is the Holy Quran. It is absurd to assume that Ibn-ul-Arabi thought along these lines but was not interested in it. It is an idea held by all Muslims. But YF elects to ignore it. We have repeated time and again in this book review that Prophets are chosen and sent by God. One cannot make oneself a prophet (i.e; if such a person claims to be a Prophet, God would seize him by the jugular vein and cause him to die an accursed death). So, if Ibn-ul-Arabi did not receive a revelation commanding him to claim to the world that he was a prophet, it is not a reflection of his humility or a desire on his part to lessen the irritation caused to the orthodoxy. If a man is addressed by God as a Prophet, his mission would demand that he has the courage to declare to the world that he had been commissioned by God to be a Prophet. Such persons are not weaklings who fear from the discharge of their responsibility. When the Holy Prophet, may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, was raised as a Prophet, it was not because of any ambition on his part or that his claim might infuriate the’idolatrous inhabitants of Mecca, the Jews and Christians of Medina, etc. He claimed to be a Prophet despite his long-established humility and without fear of what might happen to him. He was the most trustworthy person (amin). He was left with no option but to claim to the world that he was a Prophet of God. Ibn-ul-Arabi did not name the person after the emergence of Islam because by his time no such person had been appointed by God. YF, therefore, apparently makes a difference between Ahmadis and others only to infuriate Muslims further against the claims of the Promised Messiah. He thus falsely creates the impression that he is in sympathy with the general body of Muslims regarding the truth of the Holy Prophet but that he is at a difference with the claims of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. YF: Other Sufi masters, such as al-Junaya, Abdul-Qadir al-Jilani, and others, are mentioned by Ghulam Ahmad and later Ahmadi writers as thinkers whose ideas deserve to be emulated. In the context of Indian Islam, however, the most significant reference is to Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi. Ghulam Ahmad mentions Sirhindi’s prediction that the ulcnua 30 REVIEW OH RELIGIONS will oppose the Messiah at the time of his appearance and will consider his views to be contradictory to the Quran and the Sunna. It is, indeed, an irony of the intellectual history of Indian Islam that Ahmad Sirhindi, who has come to enjoy in the twentieth century the image of a paragon of orthodoxy, should have provided only a few years earlier, inspiration for the arch-heretic of modern Indian Islam. It goes without saying that the conditions that existed in British India on the eve of the twentieth century enabled Ghulam Ahmad to express his beliefs freely and explicitly without exposing himself to the dangers that threatened a prophetic claimant in medieval Muslim society, (pp 145-146) RR: Turning first to the last remarks, we have responded to the British association in our earlier review. As far as a prophetic claimant in medieval Muslim society is concerned, no one made such a claim and then withstood the acid test of his prophetic claim. Now we turn to the rest of YF’s conclusions. A Jewish professor sitting on the seat of judgement and determining who is an arch-heretic in his claims of prophethood and who is not, appears to us to be extremely bizarre, hollow and unrealistic. According to YF’s beliefs, the whole basis of Islam is false; the Founder of Islam was false and subject to satanic influence in the revelation received by him; and, hence, the Holy Quran was not the revealed word of God but a book concocted by the Holy Prophet of Islam, may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him. Then to pick Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad for his venomous attacks and not sparing all other Muslim Sufis who were recipient of God’s words is something that defies comprehension. It of course seems to be a conscious and wilful attempt to create further mistrust and contempt between the so-called orthodox establishment and the already persecuted Community of Muslim followers who believe in the claims of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. How can he be accused of being an arch heretic of the kind of Islam believed by Sheikh Ahmad Sirhindi when Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad speaks so highly of him? But, for YF, such words are further evidence only of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad’s deriving inspiration from past Sufi thinkers. The Jews and Christians also considered that the Holy Prophet of Islam, may peace “and blessings of Allah be upon him, was somehow inspired by his contemporary Jews and Christians while he was at Medina irrespective of the significant difference between the Holy Bible and the Holy Quran. Truth is not the exclusive monopoly of any religion. But Jews and Christians allege that he copied garbled versions of Biblical stories where these match with the Holy Quran and that the Prophet erred wherever the two accounts differ. Nonetheless the Holy Quran rectified the exaggeration and interpolation suffered by inspired authors of the Bible and set the records right. Unlike his REVIEW OK RELIGIONS 31 Sufi predecessors, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad challenged the teachings of the Jews, Christians, Arya Samajists, Buddhists, Sikhs and the agnostics and proved beyond any reasonable doubt that their teachings led man away from God. He also claimed that he was the Promised Messiah and Mahdi chosen by God. Perhaps YF could provide us with the appropriate evidence proving that in all such writings Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was inspired by past Sufi writers and that this self-centered arch-heretic was incapable of logical conclusion or being inspired by God. YF: Mahmud Ahmad also took issue with the Lahori view that Ghulam Ahmad was, at most, a partial (Juzi) and deficient (naqis) prophet whose prophethood was not different from that of muhaddathun Mahmud Ahmad does agree that Ghulam Ahamd had expressed such a view of himself, and in some passages had even denied his prophethood altogether. He argues, however, that these views were abrogated (mausukh) by Ghulam Ahmad’s later pronouncements on the subject. Mahmud Ahmad goes to considerable lengths to establish for Ghulam Ahmad’s works a chronology suitable for such an understanding. It is intersting to note that Mahmud Ahmad was willing to argue along these lines, though the Movement rejected the naskh theory with regard to the Quran itself, (pp.153) RR: It is even more interesting to note YF’s misunderstanding of Haqiqatul Nabuwwat (ppl 6-18, 121-123) by Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih II, who clearly means that the earlier writings of the Promised Messiah were superseded by his later writings. Had YF been serious in his assertion, he should have set out his own research and disputed the chronology of the Promised Messiah’s writings. Mansukh in this context cannot be understood to be naskh of God in the verbal revelation revealed to the Holy Prophet, may peace and blessings of God be upon him, and as set out in the Holy Quran. To call the earlier case to be naskh is illogical. YF: Jihad is undoubtedly one of the most important elements in the Islamic .world-view. In contradistinction to some other religions, Islam has always ascribed decisive importance to its worldly success. Its military triumphs were considered proofs of divine support as well as indications of the justice of the Muslim cause. The many reasons for the extraordinary success of the early Muslim wars of conquest – political, economic, social and military – are beyond the scope of our discussions. What matters here is that jihad not only has been part of Muslim history, but also became one 32 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS of the important commandments of Islam, frequently presented as a means to exalt Allah’s word, to honour His religion, and to humiliate its rivals E. Tyan …. classified the relevant (Quranic) verses into four categories: those which encourage the invitation to Islam by means of peaceful persuasion; those which enjoin fighting to repel aggression; those which enjoin military initiative except in the four sacred months; and, finally, those which enjoin military initiative absolutely, whatever the time and place One may say, in general, that this was the way in which classical Islam explained the divergencies between the various Quranic verses dealing with Jihad and arrived at the conclusion that the final – and eternally valid – form of the commandment envisages an unrestricted war against the infidels, a war that will last until the whole world is incorporated into the dar-ul-Islam. (pp.165-166) RR: It seems strange that YF firstly dismisses the reasons for the early Muslim conquests as being beyond the scope of his discussion and arbitrarily concludes that the Quranic commandment envisages an unrestri- cted war against the infidels for no rhyme or reason. (For a better appraisal of the freedom of conscience enshrined in Islam – let us say, in contradistinction to other religions – the reader is referred to Murder in the name of Allah by Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad – Lutterworth Press, Cambridge 1989). YF must have read the debate with Abdullah Athim wherein the Christians made allegations about the early Muslim battles. YF ignores the arguments of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad and lands the allegation that Islam has always ascribed decisive importance to its worldly success in the lap of another bitter writer, W. C. Smith. Where was this always when the Holy Prophet was being persecuted during his Meccan life or for a number of years when the Meccans engaged in the battles of Badr, Uhud and the Ditch? Where does it state that the military triumphs were indications of the justice of the Muslim cause? By the way, it was not merely in the military field that early Muslims excelled others. Architecture, mathematics, alchemy, medicine etc. owe much to Islam. Why should one exclude the political causes which led to the wars of conquest as the Muslim civilization began to expand just as so many other civilizations expanded before HP Which verse of the Holy Quran enjoins military action irrespective of the reason, time and place? Whereas it is true that tlie concept of Jihad had been misconstrued out of all reasonable context by people who used religion as a means to exploit the Muslims to serve their own political ends, the Promissed Messiah declared the concept of a belligerent Islam as being null and void for cause ascribed by such exploiters in this day and age. YP accuses Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad who set out to undermine messianic expectations when he transformed the Mahdi into a totally peaceful figure, (pp.1 72). There is no REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 3 3 logical basis for ascribing literal meaning to the prophecies about the Mahdi because this renders the task of the Mahdi beyond the capabilities of any human being. At the time of Jesus, peace be upon him, the Jews held some very strange views about the Messiah but Jesus dismissed them. Therefore, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad did not undermine any expectat- ions; in fact the expectation had grown out of reasonable proportion. Then on pp.173 and 174, YF raises the ugly head of there being a different qirat of yaiqatilunu in Ch 22:40 as yuqatiluna as if the version preferred by Ahmadis (the former) is not accepted by other Muslims. We have already commented on a similar difference in qirat from the textus receptus in an earlier part of this review. On pages 174-1 75, YF repeats his new obsession with naskh that it resulted in the development of the abrogation theory in the first place: the existence in the Quran of divergent views on matters that had to be unequivacally determined during the formative period of Islamic law. Regretably, YF is wrong in this. The divergent views are complementary to each other and a subsidiary of the previously revealed verse. If there is any contradiction, perhaps YF could draw our attention to these. In the absence of any contradiction, nascent Islam gathered momentum during the revolatory process. For instance, the prohibition of wine did not abrogate any previously revealed commandment nor did it lead to any confusion when the relevant verses were revealed in Medina. It thus superseded the Biblical teachings and it is in this sense that naskh should be viewed. YF: The basic idea of Muslim political thought is that Muslims ought to be ruled by Muslims. Islamic law deals only rarely with a situation in which Muslims are subject to an infidel government, and such a situation is clearly considered transitory. Islamic literature contains a maxim that a government may survive with unbelief but not with injustice It has been recently shown, however, that Muslim writers quoting this maxim are generally far from concluding that an infidel can be preferable to a Muslim, and they only intend to stress the importance of justice by referring to a hypothetical situation (footnote: J. Sadan, Community and extra-community as a legal and literary problem, Israel Oriental Studies 10 (1980) 102-115. It may be noted, however, that the non-Muslim Mongol conqueror Hulagu used the maxim to extract legitimization of his rule from contemporary Ulama ibid pp.114) (pp.178-179) RR: This is a hollow claim. It is inconceivable that Islam should claim for itself a universal status and require the one billion Muslims who follow this faith today to be ruled only by Muslims. Where does it say that? For a Muslim, ultimate authority rests with God Almighty. Whether the reins of 34 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS government are controlled by a monarchy or a democracy or by Muslims or non-Muslims, Muslims are required to live as law-abiding citizens of that government. To quote an Israeli study of this subject produced during the period of the injustice of Zionist expansion or to cite Hulagu’s decision as being binding on all Muslims is totally irrelevant illogical and a pointless attack on Islamic law. Calling its value of justice and equity as being no more than a hypothetical situation is opposed to the history of Islam. YF: We have seen above that on the question of prophecy Ghulam Ahmad was deeply influenced by an important stream in medieval Sufi thought. On the question of jihad the situation is different. Ghulam Ahmad’s theory of Jihad seems to be substantially his own. He was able to develop his ideas on this issue by ascribing absolute validity to the Quranic verses that support defensive jihad while considering those which enjoin an all-out assault on the infidels as relating only to specific occasions during the Prophet’s lifetime. This runs contrary to a long- standing tradition of Muslim exegesis, and we have seen above that Ghulam Ahmad was able to argue along these lines only after he abolished the theory of abrogation (naskh) in the Quranic Ghulam Ahmad’s theory of jihad is open to serious objections from the historical point of view: the idea that Allah commanded the Prophet to fight the infidels only when Islam was in danger of destruction does not tally with the fact that the verses enjoining jihad were revealed in Medina, where the Muslim community was progressively growing in influence and strength. The last verses on this issue, such as those included in Surat-ul-Tawba, state from a period when Islam had already begun its victorious march Islamic law retained the notion of jihad even after Islam had become an empire and was in no danger whatsoever. Strictly speaking, it is therefore not possible to accept Ghulam Ahmad’s analysis of the idea of jihad as historically valid; this analysis must be considered (as) bearing a conspicuous apologetic tinge, (pp.180) RR: Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad did not package Islam for his contemporary Muslims nor did he render any apologies to any one. There is nothing in the Quran which has been abrogated. This is a fundamental principle accepted by all Muslim schools of jurisprudence and prevails in exegesis. It is true that some commentators have digressed into this unnecessary discusssion in an effort to justify some traditions instead of testing the traditions on the anvil of the Holy Quran and rejecting them if they contradicted any teachings of the Holy Quran. The teachings on jihad were revealed when the Muslims were surrounded by adversaries. REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 35 The verses in Sura Al-Tawba teach Muslims to be vigilant, not to lower their guard, the principles to be observed in drawing up treaties, etc. and this chapter was revealed when the community was nonetheless threatened by the incident in Tabuk and whilst hypocrites conspired their plots. Unfortunately, the use of the concept of jihad in much later years was used for political exploitation and has to be viewed in that context. YF: Yet the main reason for the virtually universal condemnation of the Ahmadiyya lies in the fact that Ghulam Ahmad’s religious claim was considered disrespectful to Muhammad. In Islam there can hardly be a transgression more serious than that, and the Persian verse saying be ecstatic with God but sober and cautious with Muhammad is an excellent reflection of this attitude, (footnote: it is noteworthy that similar accusations were directed also against Ahmad Sirhindi). Despite the infinite praise, respect and glorification which Ghulam Ahmad lavished on the Prophet, his claim was seen as incompatible with Muhammad’s honour The non-Ahmadi prophetology the perfection of Muhamm- ads prophethood depended upon the according of prophetic status .to Ghulam Ahmad. This interpretation of Ahmadi thought resulted in the emergence of an unbridgeable gap between the Ahmadiyya and the mainstream of Sunni Islam, (pp.186) RR: This is an unfair conclusion. The Persian saying is a slur on Islam and forms no part of Islamic teaching. YF has demonstrated in numerous sections of his book the sincere respect held by the Promised Messiah for the Prince of Peace, Muhammad, the Khatmun Nabiyyeen, may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him. His contemporaries could find no fault with his noble character nor could they find any statement made by the Promised Messiah which was incompatible with the Holy Prophet’s honour. The unbridgeable gap resulted from the blindness of the so-called ulemas and their poor comprehension of the fundamental teachings of Islam rather than anything said or done by the Promised Messiah against the honour of the Holy Prophet of Islam, may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him. We have commented very briefly on only some of the allegations made by Yohanan Friedmann in his book: it should not be misunderstood that in respect of other allegations, the absence of a comment by the Review of Religions should not be construed in any way as an indication of our agreement with this author. Indeed, the Ahmadiyya Movement is mature 36 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS enough to take all criticism on the chin but we reserve the right to respond to criticism which is based on unfair allegations, concoctions of the truth or which is used to make attacks on Islam itself. But in keeping with the nature of a review, our response has of necessity been brief. We acknowledge that at the time of writing, YF did not have access to a series of booklets wherein the Head of Jama’at Ahmadiyya, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IV has made a detailed reply to the ill-founded allegations contained in the Government of Pakistan’s White Paper and repeated by YF in his book. We trust that having studied these booklets and re-read the voluminous books of the Promised Messiah, YF will be in a better position to understand the Ahmadiyya view point. We sincerely hope that as a result he will be able to revise his views in any subsequent edition of his book before authors who do not have the time to conduct their own independent research begin to quote YF as if he is an authority on a status bestowed by God Almighty and most certainly beyond the scope of authors who before launching into such a research have already made up their mind to reject a claimant. Editor’s note: A reader has commented on the incident of Satanic Verses in relation to naskh as set out in an earlier part of this review. Whereas we had hoped that the summary dismissed such a notion, we shall be devoting a separate article on this specific subject in a subsequent edition. (from page 26) Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Promised Messiah and Holy Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam: Our Holy Prophet, peace be on him, was a great reformer for the proclamation of truth and restored to the world the truth that had been lost. No Prophet shares with him the pride that he found the whole world in darkness and by his appearance that darkness was converted into light. He did not die until the people among whom he had appeared had cast aside the garment of paganism and had adopted the role of the Unity of God. Such perfect reform was particular to him that he taught a people who were at the level of animals the ways of humanity. In other words he converted wild beasts into men and made them men of God and breathed spirituality into them, and created a relationship between them and the True God.