AḤMADIYAH . The Aḥmadiyah (or Ahmadiyya) movement is a modern Muslim messianic movement, founded in 1889 in the Indian province of the Panjāb by Ghulām Aḥmad (1835–1908). Having been accused of rejecting the Muslim dogma asserting the finality of Muḥammad's prophethood, the movement aroused the fierce opposition of the Sunnī Muslim mainstream. During the period of British rule in India, the controversy was merely a doctrinal dispute between private individuals or voluntary organizations. However, when most Aḥmadīs moved in 1947 to the professedly Islamic state of Pakistan, the issue was transformed into a major constitutional problem. The Sunnī Muslim mainstream demanded the formal exclusion of the Aḥmadīs from the Muslim fold. This objective was attained in 1974, when, against the fierce opposition of the Aḥmadīs, the Pakistani parliament adopted a constitutional amendment declaring them non-Muslims. In 1984, within the framework of the general trend of Islamization in Pakistan, a presidential "Ordinance no. XX of 1984" transformed much of the religious observance of the Aḥmadiyah into a criminal offense, punishable by three years of imprisonment. The ordinance has since become an instrument of choice for the harassment and judicial persecution of the Aḥmadī community. Following its promulgation, the headquarters of the Aḥmadī movement moved from Rabwah (in Pakistan) to London.
The most distinctive—and controversial—aspect of Aḥmadī religious thought was Ghulām Aḥmad's persistent claim to be a divinely inspired religious thinker and reformer. As has often been the case with Muslim revivalist and messianic movements, the starting point of Ghulām Aḥmad's thought was the assertion that Muslim religion and society has deteriorated to a point where divinely inspired reforms were essential in order to arrest the process of decline and restore the pristine purity of Islam. The most acceptable definition of his spiritual claim from the Sunnī point of view was his declaration that Allāh made him the renewer (mujaddid ) of Islam in the fourteenth century ah (November 12, 1882–November 20, 1979). More controversial was his claim to be the mahdī and the promised messiah (masīḥ-i mawʿūd ), expected by the Muslim tradition at the end of days. Ghulām Aḥmad's identification as the mahdī was designed to counter the Christian and Muslim belief concerning the second coming of Jesus. According to Ghulām Aḥmad, this belief is groundless: whenever the Muslim tradition suggests this idea, it should be understood as indicating not the descent of Jesus himself, but rather that of a person similar to him (mathīl-i ʿĪsā ). This person is Ghulām Aḥmad.
Ghulām Aḥmad's repeated assertion that Allāh called him a prophet was the most controversial formulation of his spiritual claim. Since this assertion is contrary to the Muslim belief that all prophecy came to an end with the completion of Muḥammad's mission, it brought upon Ghulām Aḥmad and his followers the most vociferous denunciations of the Sunnī ʿulamāʾ and was always the trump card in the hand of those who wanted to exclude the Aḥmadīs from the fold of Islam. Ghulām Aḥmad explained, however, that Muslim dogma concerning the finality of Muḥammad's prophethood relates only to prophethood of the legislative variety, the one that brings a new book and a new law. After the revelation of the Qurʾān, Allāh will never again reveal a new heavenly book, nor promulgate a new divine law. He maintained that the Qurʾān is the last book to be revealed and Muslim law will remain valid forever. However, a prophet who does not bring a new book and does not promulgate a new law may appear in the Muslim community at any time. Therefore, the appearance of Ghulām Aḥmad, who represents this kind of nonlegislative prophecy and calls for the full implementation of the Muslim sharīʿah and of Muḥammad's instructions, does not infringe upon the dogma of the finality of Muḥammad's prophethood (khatm-i nubuwwat ). The Aḥmadī distinction between the two types of prophethood is probably inspired by the celebrated Muslim mystic Muḥyī al-Dīn ibn al-ʿArabī (d. 1240).
Prophetology is the mainstay of Aḥmadī religious thought and is the principal reason for the controversy aroused by the Aḥmadī movement. In addition to it, the Aḥmadīs also have a distinctive interpretation of the idea of jihād. In their view, jihād should be waged in a way appropriate to the threat facing Islam. In the early Muslim period, nascent Islam was in danger of physical extinction and therefore military jihād was called for. In Ghulām Aḥmad's lifetime, Muslims faced the onslaught of Christian missionaries who engaged, according to Ghulām Aḥmad, in a campaign of slander and defamation against Islam and the prophet Muḥammad. In such a situation, the Muslims should respond in kind and defend Islam by preaching and refuting the slander of the Christian missionaries rather than by military jihād. Though this interpretation is specific to Ghulām Aḥmad's lifetime and to the situation of Indian Muslims under British rule, it came to be considered as an unchanging principle in the Aḥmadī worldview.
The Aḥmadī movement split in 1914 into two branches: the Qādiyānī and the Lāhōrī. The Qādiyānī branch stressed Ghulām Aḥmad's claim to prophethood, while the Lāhōrī one maintained that the movement's founder should be considered merely as a renewer (mujaddid) of Islam at the beginning of the fourteenth century ah.
The Aḥmadī movement has been unrivaled in its dedication to the propagation of its version of Islam. Aḥmadī mosques and missionary centers have been established not only on the Indian subcontinent, but also in numerous cities of the Western world, Africa, and Asia. The Aḥmadīs established an organizational framework and were able to sustain the activities of the movement against considerable odds for more than a century. The elected successors of the founder (in the Qādiyānī branch) bear the title "Successor of the Messiah" (khalīfat al-masīḥ ). Masrūr Aḥmad, the fifth successor, assumed office on April 22, 2003, and directs the movement from London.
In its relationship with the non-Muslim world, the Aḥmadiyah has been engaged in depicting Islam as a liberal, humane, and progressive religion, systematically calumniated by non-Muslims. This aspect of Aḥmadī teaching is well in line with that of modernist Muslim thinkers, though in other matters, such as the seclusion of women and polygamy, the Aḥmadīs follow the traditional point of view. One of the most distinctive features of the movement is that the Aḥmadīs consider the peaceful propagation of their version of Islam among Muslims and non-Muslims alike as essential. In this they are persistent and unrelenting.
Bashīr al-Dīn Maḥmūd Aḥmad. Invitation to Ahmadiyyat. Rabwah, Pakistan, 1961; reprint, London and Boston, 1980. The most comprehensive description of Aḥmadī beliefs in English, translated from the Urdu original of Ghulām Aḥmad's son and second successor.
Binder, Leonard. Religion and Politics in Pakistan. Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1961. See pages 259–296. The Aḥmadī controversy during the first years of Pakistan's existence.
Brush, S. E. "Ahmadiyyat in Pakistan: Rabwa and the Ahmadis." Muslim World 45 (1955): 145–171.
Fisher, Humphrey J. Ahmadiyyah: A Study of Contemporary Islam on the West African Coast. London, 1963. An excellent study of the Aḥmadiyah in an African setting.
Friedmann, Yohanan. Prophecy Continuous: Aspects of Aḥmadī Religious Thought and Its Medieval Background. Berkeley, 1989. A history of the Aḥmadiyah and its expansion, and an analysis of the prophetology of the Qādiyānīs and the Lāhōrīs and of Aḥmadī jihād. The second printing (Delhi and New York, 2003) includes a new preface by Zafrira and Yohanan Friedmann on developments since 1984.
Ghulām Aḥmad. Jesus in India: Jesus' Escape from Death on the Cross and Journey to India. London, 1978.
Muhammad Zafrullah Khan. Aḥmadiyyat: The Renaissance of Islam. London, 1978. A history of the movement from the Aḥmadī point of view.
Muhammad Zafrullah Khan, trans. Tadhkira: English Translation of the Dreams, Visions, and Verbal Revelations Vouchsafed to the Promised Messiah on Whom Be Peace. London, 1976.
Pakistan National Assembly's Verdict on Finality of Prophethood of Hazrat Muhammad (Peace be upon him). Islamabad, 1974.
Yohanan Friedmann (2005)