Leaving the Ahmadiyya belief and organisation is difficult for anyone but I believe it is even more difficult for a female. The Ahmadiyya organisation is very much patriarchal, in which the woman’s voice is considered much inferior to its male counterpart. Although the organisation has a separate auxiliary organisation for the ladies, women do not have any decision-making power in the main body of the organisation. This patriarchal ethos is embedded in the attitudes of the Ahmadiyya organisation’s members. Furthermore in homes, the female members of the family are considered less than the males (in most families). And considering that the majority of the members of the Ahmadiyya organisation are from the Indian subcontinent, these patriarchal attitudes are prevalent in the majority of the followers.
During my years as an Ahmadi, I noticed that the women in the community did not show a desire to be heard or to challenge the norm. Instead they conformed to the thoughts that had been indoctrinated into them, and they very much adopted the role of the subservient gender. Most females do not interact with the world outside of Ahmadiyya (except students and those women that are in employment). They either spend their time in the home or at Jama’at meetings/functions. Their social circle consists of other Ahmadi women from similar family backgrounds and attitudes. In this way, social norms are reinforced and adhered to.
Growing up in such an environment makes it difficult for a woman to be independent or to challenge the norms. Any woman who does find the courage to stand up and speak against the status quo is frowned upon and labelled as being ‘rebellious’ or ‘rude’. In some cases, a woman’s education is blamed for her ‘abnormal’ or ‘rebellious’ thoughts and ideas if she speaks her mind or asserts her independence. Taking such a bold step of challenging existing thoughts and ideas could have repercussions for a woman, such as difficulty in getting marriage proposals.
Another negative aspect of the culture is worrying about what people will think or say. This pressure keeps a lot of women suppressed and they are unable to speak their minds or do things which are perfectly within the boundaries of Islam.
I have mentioned the above points just to paint a picture of the environment and thought system in which females are brought up in the Ahmadiyya organisation. This environment and the aforementioned attitudes of the social circle play a vital role in the upbringing of a child and the personality that they will form. A subservient personality will often lack confidence and self esteem and this could potentially be an unhealthy ingredient in developing social relationships later on in life. It can also lead to depression and other mental illnesses.
This kind of environment makes it extremely difficult for a woman to question her belief system. She would have to fight a lot of battles within herself, to gain the strength and courage to question the system even within her own mind. The next obstacle would be an even harder one – expressing her concerns to her family for fear of being shunned/ex-communicated.
As a woman, my journey out of Ahmadiyya was a difficult one, mainly because of the attitudes of others when I told them about my research of Mirza Ghulam’s books. Almost everyone I spoke to accused me of misunderstanding the writings of the ‘Promised Messiah’ and advised me to speak to a Missionary so that they could explain the actual meanings to me. Despite being educated to a high level, I was made to feel like an illiterate person who does not have the ability to understand.
I experienced a lot of condescending attitudes, especially from my male relatives who, when unable to answer the points I was raising, resorted to battles of the loudest voice – as if that was the measure of truth.
The most common response I got was “you’ve been influenced by a Maluvi” even though I do not know of any maulvies. Other responses were that I hadn’t performed Istikhara properly – despite the fact that I had prayed the Istikhara prayer as advised by the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW). I was told that people had had dreams about me and that I was going astray. Family members tried to use emotional coercion by trying to make me feel guilty for questioning the beliefs of my ancestors. All this drama but no answers to the points I had raised about Mirza Ghulam’s un-Islamic and inappropriate writings.
Because a woman is thought of as being sensitive or weak-minded, family members assume that pressurising tactics or emotional blackmail will prevent her from taking the step to leave a false belief. Or they think that by making her feel guilty for hurting them, and making her feel like she is being selfish, she will reconsider her decision.
My advice to other women seeking the truth is to trust Allah (subhanahu wata aala) and have faith in Him to Guide you towards the Truth. I believe that Allah (subhanahu wata aala) Guides those who sincerely ask for His Guidance. Insha’Allah Allah (subhanahu wata aala) will Give you the strength and courage you need, to deal with any hardship that you may face. Admittedly, it is very difficult to face the possibility of losing loved ones, to see parents crying in desperation and worrying about being shunned by the community. It is heart breaking to see loved ones in anguish. But you must ask yourselves – is it worth staying in falsehood just to give false comfort to your parents and loved ones? Ultimately our loyalty should be with our Creator and we must obey His Commands. When you take a step for His Sake then He will give you the peace and comfort that no one else can give you.
Blog posted by: Liberated
by Sadat bin Anwar, MDI Canada
The controversy in Toronto surrounding the organized/proposed debate between Imam Sheharyar Shaikh (Sunni Muslim) of the North American Muslim Foundation (NAMF) and Ansar Raza, a top Qadiani (Ahmadi) missionary in Canada continues to grow. Raza (pictured above), who had been requesting Shaikh for the past four years for such a debate, is now unwilling to attend the event. The debate topic was set up unilaterally by NAMF as “Mirza Ghulam Ahmed: A Prophet or an Imposter?”
Raza has pointed out that the debate topic should have been set by mutual agreement by both parties. What is left out in his complaint, however, is the larger backdrop to the story. Raza is basically unwilling to debate anything about the person of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (whom Qadianis believe in as a prophet) in a formal setting. In other words, mutual agreement could never have been reached on this particular topic, even though Raza discusses this topic (ie. the allegations against Mirza Ghulam Ahmad’s personality) and other related-issues on his radio program all the time. The only topic that Raza is willing to engage in on an even-leveled formal debate is whether Prophethood is still open or not, ie. are there more Prophets to come after the Prophet Muhammad? While this topic of discussion is itself closed for the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims who believe that the Prophet Muhammad is the final Seal of the Prophets (Qur’an 33:40) , the 10 million or so mostly Pakistani Qadianis (Ahmadis) assert that Prophethood is still open and that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was in fact a Prophet. (If you have never heard of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, you should not feel bad. I assure you, most of the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims outside of Pakistan have never heard of his name either, nor have the world’s 2 billion or so Christians, which sort of doubly undermines the Mirza’s claim to be the saviour of Islam and a Punjabi spiritual reincarnation of Jesus Christ)
Raza’s logical angle on the whole situation does make some sense. He gives the analogy of a business corporation that is not hiring any new employees; what would be the purpose of such a corporation holding an employment interview? Similarly, Raza argues, there is no purpose in debating the prophetic credentials or lack thereof of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad with Muslims, since Muslims are not searching or expecting any other Prophet in the first place. What should be done, Raza would say, is a debate about Prophethood itself; is Prophethood open? (are there more Prophets on the way?)
One can see the logic from Raza’s point of view. On the other hand, one can understand the logic as well as the resulting frustration on the part of Muslims as well. Let us just suppose for a moment, we Muslims would say, that Prophethood is indeed open and there can be more Prophets after Prophet Muhammad. With that as our theoretical and working premise, does Mirza Ghulam Ahmad fulfil the credentials of a bona fide Prophet? For the sake of argument,if we were to agree that more Prophets may come after Prophet Muhammad, can we consider Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Qadiani’s character, his teachings, his demeanour, and his overall life example to be congruent and in harmony with what we would expect of a genuine reformer or saint, let alone a Prophet? This is what Muslims are very eager to discuss, and they are confident that this would be a no-contest debate and that this is why no Qadiani is willing to formally engage on this topic. Furthermore, the Muslim side also realizes that what the Qadianis are effectively saying is this: “We will not debate anything about the person and character of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad until you have first altered your aqeedah (theology) to believe in more Prophets.” In other words, a Qadiani will not debate about the person of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad until the opposite side has at least done a half-conversion to Qadianism and accepted and believed that there are future Prophets to come after Prophet Muhammad. This appears illogical and unreasonable from the Muslim point of view.
So the Muslim side has an equally if not more powerful logical angle on this situation. Let us put aside the specifics of the Imam Sheharyar-Ansar Raza debate scenario for just a moment. The question is not just whether Ansar Raza should accept the debate challenge from NAMF and participate in this specific event with Imam Sheharyar, but rather there is a larger looming question of whether Qadianis will ever engage in a full-fledged formal debate about Mirza Ghulam Ahmad’s character or not. The answer appears to be no. This is akin to Muslims refusing to debate Christians, unless the Christian side first accepts monotheism, accepts Jesus as a Prophet of God, and accepts that there is a Prophet to come after Jesus. No Muslim, to date, has laid down such conditions for a debate with a Christian. There are atheists and agnostics (people who are neither expecting a Prophet from God, nor are they expecting God or gods to speak to mankind) who have changed their world view and belief system based on their study of the life of the Prophet Muhammad. I’m sure that there have also been many agnostics and atheists who have had to do no more than to read about the life of Jesus in the Bible to become converted to the Christian faith. By Raza’s logic, a Christian missionary should pass over the opportunity to discuss Jesus or to try to prove that Jesus is God if he is presented with an audience of agnostics; the agnostics should at least “half convert” by accepting theism and assert their belief in God before anything about the person of Jesus is discussed.
Keep in mind that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad himself engaged in debates with Hindus and Christians in early 20th century British India without laying down such strict pre-conditions. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad often addressed allegations against the Prophet Muhammad and the Qur’an in his writings, without insisting that the opposite side first accept the Oneness of God and the possibility of a coming Prophet and Book.
In my opinion, Raza’s complaint about the debate topic being set unilaterally by NAMF has some merit on the surface, but the surrounding controversy and back-and-forths have revealed a much larger problem and weak spot for Qadianis; they are simply not willing to debate and defend the personality and character of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad in a formal, full-fledged debate setting, whether this time, or any other time. End of story. Rightly or wrongly, this only adds to the Muslim perception that such a debate would turn out to be a complete failure for the Qadiani side. It also begs the question: If Qadianis themselves appear to lack confidence in the prophetic credentials, personal character, and accomplishments of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, why should Muslims bother to give him the time of day? Can we be blamed for never having heard of his name or of his supposedly revolutionary writings?
Aside from the issue of the contentious topic, the other reasons that Raza has cited in a recently released Urdu-language video on YouTube are petty and lame, if not disingenuous. He mentions that Pastor Neil Bulloch, who was appointed the moderator for the Sheharyar Shaikh-Tarek Fatah debate in 2011, complained about the security arrangements for the debate and this is in part why Tarek Fatah did not show up. Raza must have gotten his facts mixed up. Out of the various, often conflicting reasons that Fatah gave for not showing up, Neil Bulloch complaining about security arrangements was not one of them, to my knowledge. Bulloch, like everyone else, was present in the NAMF hall that evening on January 21, 2011, waiting for and expecting Tarek Fatah to show up. To cite Fatah and his allegations against NAMF as a reason for not attending this debate is to rely on a discredited, weak crutch. Raza should mention, or perhaps he has mentioned elsewhere, that Qadiani missionaries have even entered the NAMF mosque on at least two occasions and actually engaged in (informal) dialogue with Imam Sheharyar.
Raza also questions the personal credibility and integrity of Imam Sheharyar by alleging that he hacked his (Raza’s) email account. Unless Raza is himself a master counter-hacker, we are not sure how he arrived at the conclusion that it was Imam Sheharyar or NAMF who did this. This one allegation against Imam Sheharyar/NAMF by Raza, in our opinion, undermines all of Raza’s attempts at gentlemanly one upmanship, and it is hardly to be expected of someone who purports to be a believer in the Qur’an and a mazhabi (religious) person.
O you who believe! Avoid most of suspicion, for surely suspicion in some cases is a sin. (Qur’an 49:12)
Another rather hollow complaint is that the flyer for the event promotes “hate speech”, because it uses the word “imposter” on it. A person of Raza’s calibre should have noted that the advertisement uses the word “Prophet” as well. That is the proposed debate, afterall: “Mirza Ghulam Ahmad: Prophet or Imposter?”
As mentioned near the beginning of this article, the majority of the world’s Muslims (and Christians) have not even heard of the name of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. The names of Joseph Smith (Mormon prophet), Ellen White (7th-Day Adventist prophet), Baha-ullah, and Sai Baba are far more well-known. If I was a Qadiani missionary myself, I would want to jump at this rare opportunity to be able to enter a Muslim mosque and to give my sales pitch for Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. A good salesperson is able to sell a product, against the odds. My home is full of products that I don’t want or need. If the product is presented right or its attractive qualities are highlighted in the right way, it will at least beg attention and some consideration. At the moment, most Arabs, Iranians, Somalis, Chinese Muslims, etc., have never even heard of the name of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. Qadianis really have a long way to go in this regard, and beggars should not be choosers. If the Imam Mahdi and Nabi `Isa (Jesus) of the Muslims really has come back in the person of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad and is now buried in Punjab, India, don’t the Somali, Turkish, and Russian Muslims deserve to know of this? Or is it that, on some subconscious level, the Qadianis themselves realize the unsaleability of their views outside of 20th century Indian Punjab and some isolated villages in West Africa?
We hope that the situation in Toronto will be something of a wake-up call for the western-educated Qadiani youth, both in North America as well as the U.K., where the movement is (rather appropriately) headquartered. Will they really find it convincing as to why Raza is not willing to debate Imam Sheharyar? Or will they see the larger backdrop and recognize that Raza’s turnabout is part of a larger effort and strategy on their organization’s part to avoid any and all debates about the personal character of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad? Admittedly, the Qadiani youth are not given much air to breathe or think about such issues, especially those views that might be critical to their Jamaat (organization/movement) and its workings. It is a fact that most of their youth are discouraged from even informal exchanges with Muslims unless one of their murabbis(missionary tutors) is present for the occasion. They should not, for example, ever be in a Muslim mosque by themselves, lest they be swayed by normative Islam and its teachings. What’s worse, now one of their top missionaries and trainers, Ansar Raza, is himself unwilling to sit in the hot seat and discuss and debate the very issue that has divided Muslims and Qadianis for the past 100 years.
Old Urdu-language debates and mubaahilas (prayer duels), the details of which are buried in pre-Partition Urdu newspapers, are of no benefit to either the Muslim or the Qadiani youth in the West today. The debate proposed by NAMF, in the English language and easily accessible to the English-speaking audience worldwide, is much needed at this time. In the absence of Mr. Ansar Raza attending, we can probably expect an informative lecture by Imam Sheharyar Shaikh on the topic. In any event, we hope that the Qadiani youth will have an open mind and turn up anyway, even if their elders and murabbis work hard to convince them that they should not. We hope and pray that none of us will be from among the people who are described in the Qur’anic verse below:
“And when it is said to them, ‘Follow that which Allah has sent down,’ they say, ‘No, we will follow that which we found our fathers believing and doing.’ What! Even if their fathers had no sense at all and no guidance?!” (Qur’an 2:170)
Pictures from the event: