CHAPTER 6: THE POPULATION CENSUS OF 1901 AND THE NAMING OF THE ORGANIZATION AS THE MUSLIM AHMADIYYA SECT

Vital for an organization to have a name

Whenever an individual is born or an organization is created, a name is given to that individual or organization. Has there everbeen a person with- out a name? If an organization does not choose a name for itself, then others will go ahead and give it a name.

In fact, the name brings to mind the full description of a thing in a way that a verbal narration of its features does not. For example, a verbal description of a horse does not convey the same men- tal image as the word “horse” does. Similarly, no amount of verbal characterization of that great companion of the Holy Prophet, Abu Bakr, can convey the full sense of his personality to the listener as does his name. 

Conservative and Liberal are two political parties of England. One can try to provide an elaborate description of the parties without taking their names, but a listener will have difficulty in comprehending their real nature; take their name and it will savea lengthy explanation, and the listener will under- stand the import fully. 

The same applies to Congress and Muslim League (the twopredominant political parties that led the freedom struggle in India). The mere mention of their name will conjure up their real nature in the listener’s mind. Yet if one provides extensive descriptions of the said political parties without naming them, the listener may very well have problems in compre- hending the intended meaning.

Similarly, Allah gave the name Muhajirin to those companions of Prophet Muhammad who, having embraced Islam at Makkah, had to flee their homes and emigrate to Madinah. Allah gave the name Ansar to the Muslims who were prior residents of Madinah and who provided succor to those who had fled from Makkah. This distinguishing aspect of these two groups of Muslims becomes immediately apparent as soon as you mention the names Muhajirin and Ansar. These titles do not imply that they were not Muslims. It merely implies that a group of Muslims sharing certain charac- teristics were given a name so that if reference was made tothem verbally or in writing there would be no need to restate their entire characteristics every time. The mere mention of Muhajirin and Ansar, would be sufficient.

As mentioned earlier, the two major political parties in India were Muslim League and Congress. Each party had its ownobjectives and agenda which differed from that of the other. Consequently, it was necessary to have separate names for these two parties so that if reference had to be made to them in a speech or in writing, it would not be necessary to state the objec- tives and agenda ofeach party repeatedly. Reference to a person as a Muslim Leaguer or Congressite conveys the person’s political philosophy; it does not by any stretch of imagination imply that the person is not Indian.

Only an imbecile would suggest that the two parties should be rendered nameless in the interest of the country’s unity and solidarity. The fact is that as long as these parties continue to exist, along with their distinctive agendas, people shall continue to feel the need to refer to them via some unique names. If the names Muslim League and Congress are eliminated, people shall simply begin referring to these political parties by some other names.

In summary, it is an inescapable reality that an individual’s traits shall cause that individual to be referred to by a particular name, and an organiza- tion’s trait shall cause that organization to be referred to by a specific name. If the individual or organization does not choose a name by which to be called, then others will choose a name for them.

Those who recognized Hazrat Abu Bakr, Hazrat Umar, Hazrat Usman, and Hazrat Ali as righteous caliphs (may Allah be pleased with them), came to be known as Ahl-e-Sunnat- Wal-Jamaat. Those who recognized only Hazrat Abu Bakr and Hazrat Umar as the righteous caliphs, to the exclusion of the other two caliphs, cameto be known as the Khwarij. Those who deemed Hazrat Ali as the only righteous caliph came to be known as the Shiite — this does notimply that these various groups do not consider themselves to be Muslims. It simply means that among the Muslims there were variousgroups that came to be known by their respec- tive titles on the basis of their chief characteristics.

Similarly, HanafiShafiiMaliki, and Hanbali are the various branches of the Ahl-e-Sunnat-Wal-Jamaat. These branches werenamed after the great jurisprudents of Islamic law each of whom provided their own interpretation of the law. The group of Muslims that adhered to the interpretation of a par- ticular jurist came to be known by the name of that jurist. Likewise, religious groups came to beknown by names such as the ChishtiQadiriNaqshbandiSoharwardi, and so on, because of professing devotion to certain saintlySufis. But this does not mean that they ceased to be Muslims.

So it is mere indulgence in fanciful thinking when some people pro- pound the notion that there should not be any names otherthan the name Muslim. Perhaps such people do not have experience in the practical affairs of this world.

As discussed earlier, whenever an organization that possesses unique characteristics comes into existence, people shall give that organiza- tion a name if the organizationdoes not do so itself. For example, the late Sir Syed Ahmad Khan did not formally make an organization. But when his like- mindedpeople came together to form an informal group, and they themselves did not choose a name for their group, people began referring totheir group by the name naturi1 or naturalists. It may also be noted that the party of Ghair-muqallids did not give themselves a name at first. Then people began referring to their group as the Wahabi. Finally, they decided to name themselves as the Ahl-e-Hadith.

When Maulvi Abdullah Chakralvi’s group came into existence, people began referring to its adherents as the ChakralvisMaulvi Chakralvi then named his group variously as the Ahl-e-Quran, then the Ahl-al-Zikr, and final- ly as the Ummat-e-Muslima. However, since the name Ummat-e-Muslima literally refers to the entire community of Muslims in general, this name did not stick because usage of this name was not helpful in evoking this group’s special characteristics in a person’s mind. Thus Maulvi Abdullah Chakralvi’s group was generally referred to as either Ahl-e-Quran or Chakralvi.

Reason for giving the organization a name

For many years, Hazrat Mirza did not name his Organization. People began calling its adherents as Mirzais and Qadianis because without a name it was difficult to bring to mind the salient characteristics of this group.

A population census was to take place in India in February 1901. Hazrat Mirza’s disciples drew his attention to the fact that in the forthcoming census, the information to be provided in the census register included a column on the sect of the respondent in addition to his religion. They added that the benefitof filling out this section was that the information regarding the num- ber of adherents of a sect or organization would thereby become known, and if Hazrat Mirza was to choose a name for his Organization on this occasion, then it would be possible to ascertain and disseminate information regarding the number of people who are members of his Organization.

Hazrat Mirza responded by stating that he did not consider it allowable for any name to be used for the organization except a namethat was associated with the name of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). Doing otherwise would be a heresy. Hazrat Mirzaadded that he deemed the various names such as HanafiShafiiChishtiMalikiMirzaiQadiani, and so on, as improper; the name for his Organization would be associated with Prophet Muhammad alone, and with nobody else. In view of these con- siderations, HazratMirza published an announcement on November 4, 1900. In that announcement, he mentioned the characteristics of his Organizationand requested the Government that his name and that of the members of his Organization should be entered in the Census register as Muslims of the Ahmadiyya sect. The relevant portion from that announcement is as follows:

The name that is appropriate for this Movement, and that I have select- ed for myself and for my Organization, is Muslims of the Ahmadiyya sect. It is also permissible to call them as Muslims of the Ahmadi faith.

Muslims first, Ahmadis thereafter

It is worth noting that Hazrat Mirza wanted that he and members of his organization should be called as Muslims of the Ahmadi sect and not just as Ahmadis. That is to say, he first called himself and the members of his Organization as Muslims, and only then as Ahmadis, to make evident to peo- ple certain characteristics associated with this Movement in Islam. It is a grave injustice and egregious misrepresentation to state that Hazrat Mirza relinquished the name Muslim for himself and his Organization, and insteadchose to be known as Ahmadi only. Hazrat Mirza, as long as he lived, and the members of his Organization since then have been reaffirming that they are Muslims; they recite the kalimah (the declaration of the unity of God, and the prophethood of Muhammad) and therefore no one has the right to call them unbelievers. Why would they be so forcefully arguing this point for years if they had themselves relinquished the name Muslim in favor of another? Hazrat Mirza even composed a poem in which he declared his Muslim faith and his adherence to this faith till his last breath. Some verses from this poem are as follows:

We are Muslims by the grace of God; Prophet Muhammad is our leader and guide

We came into this world with this religion;

We shall depart from this world while professing the same.

Hazrat Mirza also expressed similar sentiments on another occasion via the following poetic verses:

We surely profess the faith of Muslims;

With our hearts, we are servants of the Seal of Messengers;

We are disgusted by polytheism and heresy;

We are but the dust upon the path the Prophet treaded;

We do believe in all the Divine commandments; May our lives be sacrificed on this path;

We have given our heart and what remains is this body of dust; Our wish now is that this too may be sacrificed.

The need for adopting the name Ahmadi

It is important to understand the rationale for adopting the name Ahmadi; particularly in light of the false allegation by some people that the name Ahmadi was chosen after Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad’s last name. Hazrat Mirza’s explanation for choosing thisname is sufficient to refute this allegation. In a public announcement dated November 4, 1900, Hazrat Mirza stated:

This sect has been named Muslims of the Ahmadiyya sect because our Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) had two names. One name was Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), and the other name was Ahmad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). The name Muhammad signifies glory and majesty, and the prophecy latent in this name was that those enemies who had attacked the Muslims with swords and murdered hundreds of them, would be punished by the Holy Prophet with the sword. But the name Ahmad signifies beneficence, and this name signified that the Holy Prophet would spread peace and accord in the world. So God manifested the significance of these two names as follows:

First, the Holy Prophet’s life in Makkah was a manifestation of the name Ahmad, and the teaching of patience and tolerance wasfront and center. Following this came the lifetime of the Holy Prophet in Madinah, and the manifestation of the name Muhammad,wherein God in His wisdom and prudence deemed it necessary for the opponents to be punished.

But it was prophesied that in the last era the name Ahmad will be man- ifested again and a person would appear through whom the Ahmadi characteristics, that is, the characteristics of beneficence will be mani- fested again, and all warring would come to an end. In light of these facts, it seemed appropriate to name this sect as the Ahmadiyya sect.

The above excerpt clearly reveals that the reason why Hazrat Mirza chose the name Muslim of the Ahmadi sect was that heassociated himself and his Organization with the beneficent name Ahmad of Prophet Muhammad. The style of Hazrat Mirza’s preaching and that of hisOrganization was characterized by great peace and gentleness, which was the manifestation of the name Ahmad of the Holy Prophet. It is possible that a time may come in the life of Hazrat Mirza’s organization when the majesty and grandeur of the name Muhammad maymanifest itself. The name Muhammadi for this Organization would then presumably be appropriate. 

However, since the prevailing mode of preaching is based upon peace and gentleness, therefore the name Ahmadiyya for this Organization perfectly befits these times.2 Some people have expressed their displeasure at this and stated that instead of using the name Ahmadi, the name Muhammadi should be used. It can be inferred from such expressions that perhaps such objectors resent the name Ahmad.

So I humbly state that both names of the Holy Prophet, Muhammad and Ahmad, are very dear to us. It is perfectly fine for Muslims to associate their organizations with either of these names of the Holy Prophet. But they should not themselves name their organizations after anyone other than the Holy Prophet — as has been done by those who have used the names HanafiShafiiChishtiQadiri, and so on. But the names Ahmadi and Muhammadi may be adopted freely, in accordance with the sit- uation in which the organization finds itself. That is to say, one may adopt the name Ahmadi in an era that manifests the peace and concord associated with the Holy Prophet’s name Ahmad, and adopt thename Muhammadi in an era that manifests the glory and majesty associated with the Holy Prophet’s name Muhammad. There is nodispute in this matter. But whichever of these two names is adopted, it should be in accordance with the organization’s pre- vailingsituation.

Hazrat Mirza was himself a Muslim of the Ahmadiyya sect

After the perusal of Hazrat Mirza’s preceding announcement, it is a gross misrepresentation for anyone to allege that the name ofthe Ahmadiyya organization is associated with the name of its founder, Hazrat Mirza. Hazrat Mirza not only named his organization asMuslims of the Ahmadiyya sect, but also included himself in the Muslim Ahmadiyya sect. If the organization had been named Ahmadi after him, then what was the sense of including himself as a member of the Muslim Ahmadiyya sect?

The fact is, as stated by theFounder of the Ahmadiyya Movement, that the name Ahmadiyya was kept after the Holy Prophet’s beauteous name Ahmad. I also reproduce below an entry from the diary of Hazrat Mirza in which he declares that it is not per- missible to name an organization after the name of anyperson other than the names of the Holy Prophet – Muhammad and Ahmad. This excerpt is from a diary entry dated January 22, 1901,which was published on January 31, 1901, in the newspaper Al-Hakam. The article in Al-Hakam reads as follows:

(In a gathering with Hazrat Mirza,) it was pointed out that someone had objected to keeping the name of the Organization as Ahmadiyya on the grounds that this is a new name. A general discussion took place; Hazrat Mirza stated:

It is heresy for people to refer to themselves by names such as HanafiShafii, etc. The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) had only two names, Muhammad and Ahmad. The primary name of the Holy Prophet is Muhammad, in the same way that the primary name of God is Allah; there are other names of God as well such as QayyumRahmanRahim, etc., but these names are merely adjectives that qualify the proper noun Allah. The Holy Prophet’s other name Ahmad is the one whichwas referred to by Jesus in: “…who will come after me, his name being Ahmad” (61:6). The words “after me” indi- cate that thatProphet will come without a separation of the intervening period by another prophet i.e., there will be no prophet between the time that Jesus appeared and the time that the prophesied prophet was to appear.

But Prophet Moses did not use these words. Instead, he indicated the Holy Prophet’s life in Madinah as found in the verse: “Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, and those with him are firm of heart against the disbelievers,” (48:29) because theMadinah period was a time when many people took the pledge of Islam and also fought against the unbe- lievers. Moses referred to the Holy Prophet as Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) because Moses himself was character- ized by glory,and Jesus referred to the Holy Prophet as Ahmad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) because Jesus himself had abeneficent nature. Since the style of our Organization is characterized by peace and beneficence, the natural name for it isAhmadiyya.

Friday was the day of birth of Prophet Adam and it was a blessed day. But earlier nations erred. Some chose Saturday and some Sunday, but the Holy Prophet adopted the right day. Similarly, Islamic sects erred when they employed names for themselves such as HanafiMalikiShiiteSunni. The Holy Prophet had only two names, Muhammad and Ahmad. So there can be only twosects among the Muslims — Muhammadi or Ahmadi; the name Muhammadi for the era when there

should be a manifestation of glory, and the name Ahmadi when there should be a manifestation of beneficence.

On a separate occasion, Hazrat Mirza addressed this issue when he considered the fact that in the kalimah: There is no deity except Allah, Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, the name used for the Holy Prophet is Muhammad rather than Ahmad. In referring to the name Muhammad of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) as his primary name that signifies glory — just as Allah is the primary name of Allah signi- fying His glory — Hazrat Mirza commented:

The name Muhammad should have occurred along with Allah’s name because Allah is God’s primary name and signifies His glory… Hence, the manifestation of the primary name (of Allah) should have been associated with the name Muhammad, peaceand blessings of Allah be upon him, (which is the primary name of the Holy Prophet signifying his glory.) Anyone who is obstinate about this even now is stepping beyond the limits of faith (Newspaper Al-Hakam, dated February 10, 1901).

On another occasion, elaborating upon why Muhammad is the name signifying glory and why Ahmad is the name signifying beneficence, Hazrat Mirza stated:

Because the meaning of Muhammad is One Who is Praised, the name Muhammad evidences the quality of the one loved, which requires the presence of grandeur and glory. This (Muhammad) is the attribute of the beloved, and glory is its necessary corollary. Ahmad means One Who Praises Greatly and the name Ahmad evidences the quality of the lover. This (Ahmad) is the attribute of the lover which requires humility, submission, patience and forgiveness, and these are attributes of beneficence. In short, Muhammad has in its meaning the quality of glory because grandeur and freedom from want are the necessary con- ditions forbeing the one who is praised. And the name Ahmad, because of the presence of the quality of the lover in it, is the manifestation of beneficence. (Newspaper Al-Hakam, dated August 23, 1901).

Footnotes

naturi from the word nature, refers to the views of the rationalist Muslims in the nine- teenth century who held that God could not act in contradiction tothe laws of nature. They thus considered that spiritual phenomena, such as revelation from God, Divine interven- tion, and acceptance of prayers, could not take place outside the then-known laws of nature. Such experiences were interpreted by them as being not so much objective realities, but as perceptions of man’s own mind.

Recently a British analyst published a commentary on the state of the Muslims in the well known Christian magazine, Muslim World. Commenting on theattitude of the Muslims, he wrote: “The early Meccan attitude has now become general in Islam.” Given this situation, the name Ahmadiyya is perfectlysuited to the prevailing conditions of the Muslims.

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