Lāhorī, Muḥammad ʿAlī

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LĀHORĪ, MUAMMAD ʿALĪ (18741951), scholar of Islam and founder of the Lāhorī branch of the Amadīyyah movement. Born in Murar (Kapurthala), India, Lāhorī completed advanced degrees in English (1896) and law (1899) in Lahore. His life and works are closely intertwined with the Amadīyyah (also known as Qādiyānī) movement, a minor sect of Islam founded in 1889 by Ghulām Amad (c. 18391908), at whose suggestion Lāhorī undertook his two major works, a translation of the Qurʾān and The Religion of Islam. In 1902, Lāhorī was appointed co-editor of the Amadīyyah periodical, Review of Religions, through which he propagated the movement's news and views to the non-Muslim world. This appointment marked the beginning of Lāhorī's prolific career. He translated Ghulām Amad's writings into English, defended his views in the face of the Sunnī majority's growing opposition, and wrote on various aspects of Islam.

In 1914, with the death of Ghulām Amad's successor, Nūr al-Dīna prominent scholar of Qurʾān considered the mastermind of the Amadīyyah movement by its opponentsthe community split over doctrinal issues such as Ghulām Amad's claim of prophethood. Lāhorī headed the splinter group, the Amadīyyah Anjuman-i Ishaʿat-Islam, Lahore, known as the Lāhorī group, which regarded Ghulām Amad a reformer (mujaddid), not the prophet. This group was more liberal and closer to the mainstream of Sunnī Islam, but also more aggressive in its outreach and more vocal in explaining its doctrinal differences with the parent group. Muammad ʿAlī was the main force behind the literary and missionary activities of this group (directed to the converts to Islam not to the group itself), including the opening of new centers in Western Europe and North America.

Lāhorī wrote profusely in Urdu and English. Equipped with Western research methodology and linguistic tools, he explained and defended various precepts of Islam to counterbalance criticism of Christian missionaries and to help develop a sense of pride among Western-educated Muslims in their heritage. He was the first Muslim to publish an English translation, with explanatory notes, of the entire text of the Qurʾān (1917), followed by Muammad the Prophet (1924), and a sequel, Early Caliphate (1932). He also addressed issues of the time. Responding to the crisis of the Ottoman caliphate, for example, he wrote a short monograph entitled The Khilafāt in Islam (1920). His major work, The Religion of Islam (784+ pages), was written in response to a book of the same title published in 1906 by F. A. Klein. The abridged and third edition of this work was published with two additional chapters, "Muslim State" and "Ethics of Islam" (1971).

The tenor of Lāhorī's writings reflects the mood of the timespolemical, apologetic, and missionaryIslam and the Present War (n.d.); Muammad and Christ (1921); The New World Order (1944); Islam the Religion of Humanity; The Living Thoughts of the Prophet Muammad (1947), to name only a few. Lāhorī clearly ranks with the intellectuals of the period, such as Sayyid Amad Khān (d. 1898), Syed Ameer ʿAlī (d. 1928), Alāf usayn ālī (d. 1914), Chirāgh ʿAlī (d. 1895), and Shiblī Nuʿmānī (d. 1914). Among his followers he is considered the most prominent scholar of the century and, according to Mumtāz Amad Farūqī, the "savior of the Amadīyyah movement." Through the efforts of various centers established in Western Europe, North America and Indonesia, Lāhorī's works have received wide recognition. It is claimed that a copy of his translation of the Qurʾān, presented to Elijah Muhammad, had far-reaching effects on the Black Muslim movement in North America. In the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent, however, the controversial character of the movement and ensuing polemic debates, and his split from the parent movement have adversely affected the popularity of his works among the non-Amadīyyah Muslims as well as his among fellow Amadīyyahs belonging to the parent Qādiyānī group.


For Muammad ʿAlī Lāhorī's life and works, see Mumtāz Amad Farūqī and Muammad Amad, Mujāhid-i Kabīr (Lahore, 1962) in Urdu, translated in an abridged version as Muhammad Ali: The Great Missionary of Islam (Lahore, 1966). Muammad ʿAlī Lāhorī, The Ahmadiyyah Movement, translated by Muammad ufail with a biographical section and bibliography (Lahore, 1973).

For the split of the movement, see Muammad Ali Lāhorī, True Facts about the Split (Lahore, 1966). Yohanan Friedmann, Prophecy Continuous: Aspects of Amadī Religious Thought and its Medieval Background (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1989), pp. 147162.

For the issue of prophethood and renewal (nubuwwat va tajdīd ), see Muammad Ali Lāhorī, The Call for Islam (Lahore, 1926, 2d ed.), pp. 734. For a scholarly discussion, see Friedmann, Prophecy Continuous, pp. 105146.

For an insider appraisal of the movement, see Muammad Ali Lāhorī, True Conception of Ahmadiyyat (Lahore, n.d.), translated by S. M.ufail from Tarik-i Amadiyyat (in Urdu). Muammad ʿAlī Lāhorī, Mirza Ghulām Amad of Qadian: His Life and Mission (Lahore, 1951). For a judicious historical survey of the movement and references to the primary and secondary sources, see Yohanan Friedmann, cited above, pp. 146. For critical views on the movement, see Muammad Iqbal, Islam and Ahmadism (Meerut, n.d.). Abuʾl-Hasan ʿAlī Nadwī, Qādiyānīyat, in Urdu, translated by Zafar Ishaq Ansari as Qadianism: A Critical Study (Lucknow, 1967), and Ehsan Elahi Zaheer, Qadiyaniat, An Analytical Survey (Lahore, 1972).

Sajida S. Alvi (1987 and 2005)