by Dr. Allama Muhammad Iqbal
The issue created by the controversy between the Qadianis and the orthodox Muslims is extremely important. The Muslims have only recently begun to realise its importance. I intended to address an open letter to the British people explaining the social and political implications of the issue. But unfortunately my health prevented me from doing so. I am, however, glad to say a few words for the present on the matter, which, to my mind, affects the entire collective life of the Indian Muslims. It must, however, be pointed out at the outset that I have no intention to enter into any theological argument. Nor do I mean to undertake a psychological analysis of the mind of the founder of the Qadiani movement; the former will not interest those for whom this statement is meant and the time for the latter has not yet arrived in India. My point of view is that of a student of general history and comparative religion.
India is a land of many religious communities, and Islam is a religious community in a much deeper sense than those communities whose structure is determined partly by the religious and partly by the race idea. Islam repudiates the race idea altogether and founds itself on the religious idea alone, a basis which is wholly spiritual and consequently for more ethereal than blood relationship, Muslim society is naturally much more sensitive to forces which it considers harmful to its integrity. Any religious society historically arising from the bosom of Islam, which claims a new prophethood for its basis, and declares all Muslims who do not recognise the truth of its alleged revelation as Kafirs, must, therefore, be regarded by every Muslims as a serious danger to the solidarity of Islam. This must necessarily be so; since the integrity of Muslim society is secured by the Idea of the Finality of Prophethood alone.
This idea of Finality is perhaps the most original idea in the cultural history of mankind: its true significance can be understood only by those who carefully study the history of pre-Islamic Magian culture in Western and Middle Asia. The concept of Magian culture, according to modern research, includes cultures associated with Zoroastruanism, Judaism, Jewish Christianity, Chaldean and Sabean religion. To these creed-communities the idea of the continuity of prophethood was essential, and consequently they lived in a state of constant expectation. It is probable that the Magian man psychologically enjoyed this state of expectation. The modern man is spiritually far more emancipated than the Magian man. The result of the Magian attitude was the disintegration of old communities and the constant formation of new ones by all sorts of religious adventurers. In the modern world of Islam, ambitious and ignorant Mullaism, taking advantage of the modern Press, has shamelessly attempted to hurl the old pre-Islamic Magian outlook in the face of the twentieth century. It is obvious that Islam which claims to weld all the various communities of the world into one single community cannot reconcile itself to a movement which threatens its present solidarity and holds the promise of further rifts in human society.
Of the of the two forms which the modern revival of Pre-Islamic Magianism has assumed, Bahaism appears to me to be far more honest than Qadianism; for the former openly departs from Islam, whereas the latter apparently retains some of the more important externals of Islam with an inwardness wholly inimical of the spirit and aspirations of Islam. Its idea of a jealous God with an inexhaustible store of earthquakes and plagues for its opponents; its conception of the prophet as a soothsayer; its idea of the continuity of the spirit of messiah, are so absolutely Jewish that the movement can easily be regarded as a return to early Judaism. Professor Buber who has given an account of the movement initiated by the Polish Messiah Baalshem tells us that “it was thought that the spirit of the Messiah descended upon the earth through the prophets and even though a long line of holy men stretching into the present time – the Zaddiks” (Sadiq). Heretical movements in Muslim Iran under the pressure of Pre-Islamic Magian ideas invented the words buruz, hulul, zill, to cover this idea of a perpetual reincarnation. It was necessary to invent new expressions for a Magian idea in order to make it less shocking to Muslim conscience. Even the phrase “Promised Messiah” is not a product of Muslim religious consciousness. It is a bastard expression and has its origin in the Pre-Islamic Magian outlook.
We do not find it in early Islamic religious and historical literature. This remarkable fact is revealed by Professor Wensinck’s Concordance of the Traditions of the Holy Prophet, which covers no less than eleven collections of the traditions and three of the earliest historical documents of Islam. One can very well understand the reasons why early Muslims never used this expression. The expression did not appeal to them probably because they thought that it implied a false conception of the historical process. The Magian mind regarded time as a circular movement, the glory of elucidation, the true nature of the historical process as a perpetually creative movement was reserved for the great Muslim thinker and historian, Ibn Khaldun.
The intensity of feeling which the Indian Muslims have manifested in opposition to the Quadiani movement is, therefore, perfectly intelligible to the student of modern sociology. The average Muslim who was the other day describes as “Mulla-ridden” by a writer in The Civil and Military Gazette is inspired in his opposition to the movement more by his instinct of self-preservation than by a fuller grasp called “enlightened”‘ Muslin has seldom made an attempt to understand the real cultural significance of the idea of Finality in Islam, and a process of slow and imperceptible westernisation has further deprived him even of the instinct of self-preservation. Some so-called enlightened Muslims have gone to the extent of preaching “tolerance’ to their brethren-in-faith. I can easily excuse Sir Herbert Emerson for preaching toleration to Muslims; for a modern European who is born and brought up in an entirely different culture does not, and perhaps cannot, develop the insight which makes it possible for one to understand an issue vital to the very structure of a community with an entirely different cultural outlook.
In India circumstances are much more peculiar. This country of religious communities, where the future of each community rests entirely upon its solidarity, is ruled by a Western people who cannot but adopt a policy of non-interference in religion. This liberal and indispensable policy in a country like India has led to most unfortunate results. In so far as Islam is concerned, it is no exaggeration to say that the solidarity of the Muslim community in India under the British is far less safe than the solidarity of the Jewish community was in the days of Jesus under the Romans. Any religious adventurer in India can set up any claim and carve out a new community for his own exploration. This liberal State of ours does not care a fig for integrity of a parent community, provided the adventurer assures it of his loyalty and his followers are regular in the payment of taxes due to the State. The meaning of this policy for Islam was quite accurately seen by our great poet Akbar who in his usual humorous strain says:
O friend! pray for the glory of the Briton’s name:
Say, “I am God” sans chain, sans cross, sans shame.
I very much appreciate the orthodox Hindus’ demand for protection against religious reformers in the new constitution. Indeed, the demand ought to have been first made by the Muslims who. unlike Hindus, entirely eliminate the race idea from their social structure. The Government must seriously consider the present situation and try, if possible, to understand the mentality of the absolutely vital to the integrity of his community. After all, if the integrity of a community is threatened, the only course open to that community is to defend itself against the forces of disintegration.
And what are the ways of self-defense?
Controversial writings and refutation of the claims of the man who is regarded by the parent community as a religious adventurer. Is it then fair to preach toleration to the parent community whose integrity is threatened and to allow the rebellious group to carry on its propaganda with impunity, even when the propaganda is highly abusive?
If a group, rebellious from the point of view of the parent community, happens to be of some special service to Government, the latter are at liberty to reward their services as best as they can. Other communities will not grudge it. But the forces which tend seriously to affect its collective life. collective life is as sensitive to the danger of dissolution as individual life. It is hardly necessary to add in this connection that the mutual theological bickerings of Muslim sects do not affect vital principles on which all these sects agree with all their differences in spite of their mutual accusation of heresy.
There is one further point which demands Government’s special consideration. The encouragement in India of religious adventurers, on the ground of modern liberalism, tends to make people more and more indifferent to religion and will eventually completely eliminate the important factor of religion from the life of Indian communities. The Indian mind is likely to be nothing less than the form of atheistic materialism which has appeared in Russia.
But the religious issue is not the only issue which is at present agitating the minds of the Punjab Muslims. There are other quarrels of a political nature which, according to my reading, Sir Herbert Emerson hinted in his speech at the Anjuman’s anniversary. These are, no doubt, of a purely political nature, but they affect the unity of Punjab Muslims as seriously as the religious issue. While thanking the Government for their anxiety to see the Punjab Muslims united, I venture to suggest a little self-examination to the Government themselves. Who is responsible, I ask, for the distinction of rural and urban Muslims – a distinction which has cut up the Muslim community into two groups and the rural group into several sub-groups constantly at war with one another?
Sir Herbert Emerson deplores the lack of proper leadership among the Punjab Muslims. But I wish Sir Herbert Emerson realised that the rural-urban distinction created by the Government and maintained by them through ambitious political adventurers, whose eyes are fixed on their own personal interests and not on the unity of Islam in the Punjab, had already made the community incapable of producing a real leader. It appears to me that this device probably originated in a desire rather to make it impossible for real leadership to grow. Sir Herbert Emerson deplores the lack of leadership in Muslims; I deplore the continuation by the Government of a system which has crushed out all hope of a real leader appearing in the province.
Postscript. I understands that this statement has caused some misunderstanding in some quarters. It is thought that I have made a subtle suggestion to the Government to suppress the Qadiani movement by force. Nothing of the kind. I have made it clear that the policy of non-interference in religion is the only policy which can be adopted by the rulers of India. No other is possible policy is possible. I confess, however, that to my mind this policy is harmful to the interests of religious communities; but there is no escape from it and those who suffer will have to safeguard their interests by suitable means. The best course for the rulers of India is, in my opinion, to declare the Qadianis a separate community. This will be perfectly consistent with the policy of the Qadianis themselves, and the Indian Muslim will tolerate them just as he tolerates other religions.
The cultural value of the idea of finality in Islam I have fully explained elsewhere, its meaning is simple: No spiritual surrender to any human being after Muhammad (pbuh) who emancipated his followers by giving them a law which is realisable as arising from the very core of human conscience. Theologically, the doctrine is that: the socio-political organisation called “Islam” is perfect and eternal. No revelation the denial of which entails heresy is possible after Muhammad (pbuh). He who claims such a revelation is a traitor to Islam. Since the Qadianis believe the founder of the Ahmadiyyah movement to be the bearer of such a revelation, they declare that the entire world of Islam is Infidel. The founder’s own argument, quite worthy of a medieval theologian, is that the spirituality of the Holy Prophet of Islam must be regarded as imperfect if it is not creative of another prophet. He claims his own prophethood to be an evidence of the prophet-rearing power of the spirituality of the Holy Prophet of Islam. But if you further ask him whether the spirituality of Muhammad (pbuh) is capable of rearing more prophets than one, his answer is “No”. This virtually amounts to saying: “Muhammad (pbuh) is not the last Prophet: I am the last.” Far from understanding the cultural value of the Islamic idea of finality in the history of mankind generally and of Asia especially, he thinks that finality in the sense that no follower of Muhammad (pbuh) can ever reach the status of prophethood is a mark of imperfection in Muhammad’s (pbuh)prophethood. As I read the psychology of his mind he, in the interest of his own claim to prophethood avails himself of what he describes as the creative spirituality of the Holy Prophet of Islam and, at the same time, deprives the Holy Prophet of his “finality” by limiting the creative capacity of his spirituality of the rearing of only one prophet, i.e. the founder of the Ahmadiyyah movement. In this way does the new prophet quietly steal away the “finality” of one whom he claims to be his spiritual progenitor. He claims to be a buruz of the Holy Prophet of Islam insinuating thereby that, being a buruz of him, his “finality” is virtually the “finality” of Muhammad (pbuh); and that this view of the matter, therefore, does not violate the “finality” of the Holy Prophet. In identifying the two finalities, his own and that of the Holy Prophet, he conveniently loses sight of the temporal meaning of the idea of Finality. It is, however, obvious that the word buruz, in the sense even complete likeness, cannot help him at all; for the buruz must always remain the other side of its original. Only in the sense of reincarnation a buruz becomes identical with original. Thus if we take the word buruz to mean “like in spiritual qualities” the argument remains ineffective; if, on the other hand, we take it to mean reincarnation of the original in the Aryan sense of the word, the argument becomes plausible; but its author turns out to be only a magian in disguise. It is further claimed on the authority of the great Muslim mystic, Muhyuddin ibn Arabi of Spain, that it is possible for a Muslim saint to attain, in his spiritual evolution, to the kind of experience characteristic of the prophetic consciousness. I personally believe this view of Shaikh Muhyuddin ibn Arabi to be psychologically unsound: but assuming it to be correct the Qadiani argument is based on a complete misunderstanding of his exact position. The Shaikh regards it as a purely private achievement which does not, and in the nature of things cannot, entitle such a saint to declare that all those who do not believe in him are outside the pale of Islam. Indeed, from the Shaikh’s point of view, there may be more than one saint, living in the same age or country, who may attain to prophet consciousness. The point to be seized is that, while it is psychologically possible for a saint to attain to prophetic experience, his experience will have no socio-political significance making him the centre of a new organisation and entitling him to declare this organisation to be the criterion of the faith or disbelief of the followers of Muhammad (pbuh). Leaving his mystical psychology aside I am convinced from a careful study of the relevant passages of the “Futuhat” that the great Spanish mystic is as a firm a believer in the Finality of Muhammad (pbuh) as any orthodox Muslim. And if he had seen in his mystical vision that one day in the East some Indian amateurs in Sufism would seek to destroy the Holy Prophet’s Finality under cover of his mystical psychology, he would have certainly anticipated the Indian Ulama in warning the Muslims of the world against such traitors to Islam.