Ahmadiyya Movement was an Islamic revival or messianic movement that originated in Punjab, British India, in the late 19th century. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad founded this movement in 1889. It was based on liberal principles and described itself as the standard-bearer of the Mohammedan Renaissance. The Ahmadiyya Movement established itself, like the Brahmo Samaj, on the principles of the universal religion of humanity and opposed ‘Jihad’ (sacred war against non-Muslims).
Born in Qadian (Gurdaspur, Punjab), Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1908) emerged as a writer and debater for Islam. When he was just over 40 years of age, his father died, and around that time, he believed that God began to communicate with him.
Ghulam Ahmad was a prolific author and wrote over 90 books on various religious, theological and moral subjects. In 1880, he began writing ‘Barahin-e-Ahmadiyya‘, which defended Islam and was well-received by the Muslim community. His major work, the first volume of Barahan-i-Ahmadiyya (The Proofs of Ahmadiyya), was published in 1880.
Mirza Ghulam Ahmad travelled extensively across Punjab, preaching his religious ideas and rallied support by combining a reformist programme with his personal revelations, which he claimed to receive from God. He advocated a peaceful propagation of Islam and decisively argued against the permissibility of military Jihad. In 1882, he claimed to be the Mujaddid (centennial reformer of Islam) of the 14th Islamic century.
The history of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community began when Ghulam Ahmad took the oath of allegiance from a number of his supporters at Ludhiana (Punjab, India) on 23 March 1889 and formed a community of followers. This event marked the establishment of the Ahmadiyya Movement.
In 1890, Ghulam Ahmad claimed to be the “Promised Messiah” and “Mahdi” (a messianic figure anticipated by Muslims to appear at the end of times to rid the world of evil & injustice and bring about the final triumph of Islam by peaceful means). He also claimed himself to be an incarnation of the Hindu god ‘Krishna’ and the metaphorical second coming of ‘Jesus’. He was deeply influenced by western liberalism, theosophy, and the religious reform movements of Hindus.
Mirza Ghulam Ahmad obtained a considerable number of followers, especially within the Punjab, Sindh, and the United Provinces. He and his supporters claimed that his advent was foretold by Muhammad (the Prophet of Islam) and also by many other religious scriptures of the world.
Ahmadiyya emerged in India as a movement within Islam, also in response to the Christan and Arya Samaj missionary activities that were widespread in the 19th century.
Ahmadiyya Muslim Community
The Ahmadiyya form a sect of Islam which originated from India. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad established the Ahmadiyya Community on 23 March 1899 by formally accepting allegiance from his supporters.
The adherents of the Ahmadiyya were known as ‘Ahmadi Muslims‘ or ‘Ahmadis‘. Ahmadis considered Ghulam Ahmad to have appeared as the “Mahdi”, bearing the qualities of Jesus. In accordance with their reading of scriptural prophecies, they believed ‘Mahdi’ appeared to revitalise Islam and set in motion its moral system that would bring about lasting peace. Ahmadis view themselves as leading the propagation and renaissance of Islam.
Ahmadiyya Movement was almost entirely a single, highly organised group. It was reformatory in character. It tried to introduce liberalism into Islam. According to Ghulam Ahmad, the mission of the movement was the reinstalment of the absolute oneness of God, the revival of Islam through the moral reformation of society along Islamic ideals, and the global propagation of Islam in its pristine form.
Ghulam Ahmad founded this movement as a defender of Islam against the polemics of the Arya Samaj and Christan missionaries. Ahmadiyya Movement opposed Jihad and emphasised the humanitarian and universal character of Islam. It spread western education among Indian Muslims.
The Ahmadiya Community was the only Islamic sect to believe that the Messiah, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, had come in the person to end religious wars and bloodshed and reinstate morality, peace and justice. They believed in separating the mosque from the State and in human rights & tolerance.
Mirza Ghulam Ahmad died in Lahore in 1908. By the time of his death, he had gathered around 4 lakh followers, especially within the United Provinces, Punjab and Sindh. He had built a dynamic religious organisation with an executive body and its own printing press.
After Ghulam Ahmad’s death, Hakim Noor-ud-Din succeeded him, was elected as First Caliph (Khalifa) and assumed the title of ‘Khilafatul Masih‘ (successor of Messiah). The successors of Ghulam Ahmad directed the Ahmadiyya Community from Qadian (Punjab, India), which remained the headquarters of the Community until 1947 with the creation of Pakistan.
Ahmadiyya – Beliefs
Ahmadis accept the ‘Quran‘ as their holy text, follow the ‘Sunnah‘ (the normative practice of Muhammad), and take the authority of the ‘hadith‘ (reported sayings and narrations about Muhammad).
In the derivation of Ahmadi doctrine and practice, the ‘Quran’ has supreme authority, followed by the Sunnah and hadith. Any other secondary or explanatory source cannot overrule the Quranic rulings.
Ahmadis’ acceptance of the authority of rightly guided Caliphs (successors) as legitimate leaders of the Muslim Community following Muhammad’s death, and their belief that a caliph (khalifa) need not be a descendant of Muhammad, fundamentally aligns Ahmadis with the Sunni tradition of Islam rather than the Shia tradition.
What distinguishes the Amadi Muslims from other Muslims was their belief in Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (the founder of the movement) as the ‘Promised Messiah’ and ‘Mahdi’ foretold by Muhammad to appear in the end times.
In keeping with this, Ghulam Ahmad believed his objective was to revive the forgotten Islamic value of peace, forgiveness and sympathy for all humanity, to defend and propagate Islam worldwide through peaceful means, and establish peace in the world through the teachings of Islam.
Ahmadi Muslims believed that Ghulam Ahmad was divinely commissioned as a true reflection of Muhammad’s prophethood to establish the unity of God and remind humanity of their duties towards God and His creation.
Although Ahmadis agreed that Muhammad was the final and only law-bearing prophet, they also believed that other subordinate prophets, who would renew Muhammad’s teachings, could exist.
Claims and Rejections
When Mirza Ghulam Ahmad claimed to be the “Promised Messiah” for whom the Muslims were waiting, his colleague Maulvi Muhammad Hussein of Batala was the first one to reject him. After his claim, he and his supporters were the subjects of the Muslim majority in India.
Ghulam Ahmad’s claim to be a ‘subordinate prophet’ within Islam has remained a central point of controversy between his supporters and mainstream Muslims (who believed Muhammad to be the last prophet).
Split in the Ahmadiyya Movement (1914)
After the death of the first Khalifa Hakim Noor-ud-Din in 1914, the Ahmadiyya Movement split into two branches: the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and the Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement.
The primary reason leading to the split was the differences over the suitability of elected Khalifa Mirza Basheer-ud Din Mahmood Ahmad (son of Ghulam Ahmad) and ideological differences on theological issues. The ideological differences related to the status of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad being a ‘Prophet’ or simply a ‘Mujaddid’.
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community hold that Muhammad was the last law-bearing prophet, and new non-law-bearing prophets can come after him. They believed Mirza Ghulam Ahmad to be a Prophet (with all the qualities of a Prophet like Jesus) but subordinate and deputy to Muhammad.
In contrast, the Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement believes Muhammad to be the last of the prophets, and no prophet can appear after him. The Lahori Ahmadis sought to reorient the movement toward traditional Islam, primarily by recognising Mirza Ghulam Ahmad as a Mujaddid (reformer) rather than a prophet.