A few months ago, I had a brief exchange with Irish Cleric Shaykh Dr. Umar Al-Qadri, in which I asked him to engage in dialogue with the Ahmadi Muslims (persecuted Muslim sect across parts of the Muslim world), instead of continuously bashing them as non-Muslim infidels and heretics, and ascribing false beliefs to them. I argued that such divisiveness and sectarianism against Islam’s minority sects promotes an atmosphere of oppression and violence, as Ireland is well aware of. In response to my call for dialogue and better understanding, he blocked me from his social media pages, saying I was a “deviant kid.”
Just two days ago, I penned an oped in the Huffington Post, calling on Muslim clerics to shun sectarianism and promote pluralism and inclusivity within Islam, as the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) did. I specifically mentioned the good Shaykh in my piece. The Shaykh has still not accepted my offer for dialogue on the issue. Ironically however, he responded to my oped with anger, and even more sectarianism and divisiveness.
I will discuss his response here.
1. Uses slurs for Ahmadi Muslims: Dr. Qadri starts by addressing me as “a Mirzai blogger based in the US,” and as a “qadiani.” Orthodox Sunni (and even some Shia) clerics prejudiced against the Ahmadi Muslims not only refrain from identifying the Ahmadis as Muslim, but also make it a point to use pejoratives for them. “Mirzais” and “Qadianis” are two such slurs used for the Ahmadi Muslims.
2. Ahmadis are spreading false information about me: He wrote:
“In the past few days some members of the Ahmadiyya community are lobbying in different ways to pressurise me to declare and accept them as Muslims. Particularly now when I am engaged in inter-faith work and promoting Peace and understanding, these members of the Ahmadiyya community are trying to undermine my efforts in spreading false information about me.”
(Interestingly, in his public statement, he did not use the slurs he uses in front of a Muslim audience).
First of all, I am an independent blogger and a physician based in Boston, USA. I am not a lobby. I do not represent the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. I represent myself. Period. And I have debated other Muslim clerics. I have also debated anti-theists and have called out people like Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Richard Dawkins for a debate on Islam. I encourage dialogue and believe in pluralism and civility as powerful tools of social cohesion, peace and understanding. I called the Shaykh out in this very context – to convince him to embrace dialogue rather than promote sectarianism and divisiveness within Muslim communities.
What false information did I spread about him? That he consider the Ahmadis as a non-Muslim group and Ahmadis as infidels? That he refuses to engage in dialogue with the Ahmadi Muslims? That he is hurting the cause of pluralism and social cohesion, while pretending to be its champion? He answers these questions in the very next part of his response. Read on.
3. Doubles Downs. Says Ahmadis are not Muslims: He writes:
“I reflect the clear theological position expressed across Islamic traditions: namely that the cornerstone of Islam is to believe in One God and in the finality of the prophethood of the Messenger Muhammad, peace be upon him. I understand that this is not a tenet subscribed to by the Ahmadiyya community. Given this fundamental theological difference with the Ahmadi community, to accept Ahmadis as Muslims, would be to coerce all orthodox Muslims to accept Mirza Ghulam Ahmad as a Prophet. Just as we do not want to be coerced into accepting Mirza Ghulam Ahmad as a Prophet, we also do not want to coerce the Ahmadis into accepting (believing) our theological beliefs.
My position is a normative theological position on which there is consensus among all Sunni, Salafi and Shia Muslims.
The religious status of Ahmadis in all Muslim-majority countries is non-Muslim. I follow the consensus of the Muslim world. Members of the Ahmadiyya community should understand that this is quite definitely not hate speech. “
He makes it clear that he identifies the Ahmadis as a non-Muslim community. He hides behind two things when he passes these edicts of heresy/exclusion. Interestingly, I pointed these two in my Huffington Post oped:
“There are two ways groups like the Muslim Council of Britain or extremist Sunni groups in Pakistan try to dismiss other Muslims as infidel. The first is by discarding Prophet Muhammad’s definitions and inventing others of their own. The second is by misrepresenting the beliefs of other Muslims and forcing them out of the Prophet’s definition.” (Except from my recent article)
a) The Shaykh says all orthodox Sunni and Shia clerics identify Ahmadis as non-Muslims, so they must be. But what do these orthodox clerics base their sectarianism on? Certainly not Islam, (as I refer to the Quran and sayings of Prophet Muhammad in my latest article) because if so, Dr. Qadri would happily discuss and debate this issue with me on a public forum. Yet, he is hesitant. He blocks anyone who questions him on this issue. He changes the definition of a Muslim put forth by Prophet Muhammad, and suggests that a Muslim is one who “believes in One God and in the finality of the prophethood of the Messenger Muhammad (pbuh),” referring to his own interpretation of “finality of prophethood.” I would love to know why he considers the Prophet Muhammad’s definitions wrong or lacking. God forbid.
b) The Quran calls Prophet Muhammad the Seal of the Prophets or ‘Khatamlan Nabiyeen.’ Dr. Qadri repeats the oft-repeated lie that the Ahmadi Muslims do not consider Prophet Muhammad the Seal of the prophets. His words: “I understand that this is not a tenet subscribed to by the Ahmadiyya community.”
This is a white lie. We do have a difference of interpretation with the Orthodox Sunni clerics on this issue, but that we deny the prophet Muhammad (pbuh) this title is outrageous to suggest. Ahmadi Muslims believe in every word of the Holy Quran. Whereas Sunni clerics believe Jesus will be the last prophet to walk the earth, Ahmadi Muslims believe the prophethood of Muhammad (pbuh) is the last and his wider community (Umma), the final one. The reformer/Imam of the latter days that he foretold would usher in reform would be a subordinate of prophet Muhammad (pbuh) born from this last Umma, thus his prophethood would be the continuation of Prophet Muhammad’s mission, and he would bring no new law. This nuanced difference does not call for sectarianism and divisiveness, certainly not calls of exclusion and excommunication from the Muslim community. It calls for dialogue.
I propose that Mr. Qadri accept an offer to debate this issue out with an Ahmadi Muslim in a public setting. Why make claims in an isolated echo-chamber and not defend them openly? More on Ahmadiyya Muslim belief on Seal of prophethood here.
4. Says Ahmadis are forcing him to accept Mirza Ghulam Ahmad as a prophet: He continues:
“Given this fundamental theological difference with the Ahmadi community, to accept Ahmadis as Muslims, would be to coerce all orthodox Muslims to accept Mirza Ghulam Ahmad as a Prophet. Just as we do not want to be coerced into accepting Mirza Ghulam Ahmad as a Prophet, we also do not want to coerce the Ahmadis into accepting (believing) our theological beliefs.”
Do I believe apostates must be put to death? Do I believe blasphemers should be killed? Do I believe in the concept of Jihad that the orthodoxy has long put forth? No, No and No. Yet I identify the orthodox Sunni clerics as Muslims.
Mr. Qadri does not have to agree with me to identify me as Muslim. He only needs to have a sense of pluralism and appreciate the dangers of sectarianism. Disagreement is not a reason to pass edicts of heresy. There is no place better than Ireland to understand this basic concept.
Dr. Qadri, no one is forcing you to accept Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, as a prophet, let alone a reformer or guide to mankind. You can disagree with his claims in peace and yet refrain from sectarianism. Ahmadi Muslims believe Islam promotes complete freedom of conscience. Why do you fear that by identifying me the way I self-identity, you will be somehow forced to accept my beliefs? Clarify.
5. Ahmadis also consider me a non-Muslim. Tit for Tat. He writes:
The irony is that his theology through Mirza and his “caliphs” is clear; if you reject Mirza you’re a Kafir. It is evidenced in writing and can be found on their official website:
Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, Prophet of the Mirzais/Ahmadis says: “God Almighty has disclosed to me that whoever has been apprised of my advent and does not accept me is not a Muslim and is accountable to God.” (The Essence of Islam, vol. 4, p.87 and Letters to Dr. ‘Abdul Hakim quoted in Al-Fadl, vol 22, no. 85, 15 March 1935, p.8)
He quotes an excerpt that was attributed to Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as) by one of his opponents, Dr. Abdul Hakim. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as) had responded to this misattribution in his very lifetime in these words:
6. Thankfully, Accepts Ahmadi Muslims are persecuted: He says:
“Despite my clear theological beliefs, I reiterate and accept that Ahmadis have been persecuted. I strongly condemn the persecution of all religious communities including Ahmadis. Theological differences aside, I nevertheless extend my hand of friendship and cooperation for the common good of all to all religious communities.”
Thank you Dr. Qadri for at least acknowledging the oppression Ahmadi Muslims face in Sunni-majority countries. Just a while back, you said you considered Ahmadis non-Muslim “because of orthodox clergy in the Muslim world.” Your condemnation of the persecution shows that you are able to disagree with the orthodoxy and that they are not always right. All orthodox Sunni and Shia clerics in Pakistan without exception endorse the country’s anti-Ahmadi laws.
You are aware of these laws that jail Ahmadi Muslims for reading the Quran, identifying as Muslim, identifying their place of worship as Mosque etc. My own uncles have suffered in jail for their religious profession of Islam. It has been many months, I had asked you if you would specifically name these laws and call them out? Let us know where you stand on these specific laws. I am yet to hear any orthodox Sunni cleric denounce them by name.
And thanks, I have been extending my hand of friendship for many months now. Would you be willing to have dialogue on the issue of the Ahmadi Muslims? If so, I can connect you with the leadership of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Ireland. We would be glad to finally see you accept the offer of dialogue and come together to address the dangers in promoting sectarianism. Join us in promoting pluralism and inclusivity within Islam.
Summary: Mr. Qadri said he should not be forced to identify the Ahmadis as Muslims. He considers them non-Muslim heretics (but would not defend his sectarianism in a dialogue or debate). He also ascribed false beliefs to the Ahmadiyya Community, which I have clarified and also urged him to understand better through more dialogue. He did condemn the persecution of the Ahmadis (whom he continues to use slurs for in front of a Muslim audience), but despite repeated requests, refuses to specifically call out Pakistan’s anti-Ahmadi laws.
We hope he accepts our offer for dialogue. Amen.