From Sufism to Ahmadiyya: A Muslim Minority Movement in South Asia

From Sufism to Ahmadiyya: A Muslim Minority Movement in South Asia

From Sufism to Ahmadiyya: A Muslim Minority Movement in South Asia

From Sufism to Ahmadiyya: A Muslim Minority Movement in South Asia

Synopsis

The Ahmadiyya Muslim community represents the followers of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1908), a charismatic leader whose claims of spiritual authority brought him into conflict with most other Muslim leaders of the time. The controversial movement originated in rural India in the latter part of the 19th century and is best known for challenging current conceptions of Islamic orthodoxy. Despite missionary success and expansion throughout the world, particularly in Western Europe, North America, and parts of Africa, Ahmadis have effectively been banned from Pakistan. Adil Hussain Khan traces the origins of Ahmadi Islam from a small Sufi-style brotherhood to a major transnational organization, which many Muslims believe to be beyond the pale of Islam.

Excerpt

JAMĀ῾AT-I AHMADIYYA, or the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, is one of the most controversial movements in contemporary South Asian Islam, whose members have been legally declared non-Muslim in countries such as Pakistan. This controversy over whether Ahmadis are in fact Muslims stems largely from the spiritual claims of the movement’s founder, who is believed by Ahmadis to have taken on a messianic role which infringes upon mainstream conceptions of prophethood in Islam. in short, Ahmadis claim that their community was founded by the second coming of Jesus Christ, who was sent to the world by God to reform society in advance of the final judgment. This belief has shaped the development of the Ahmadiyya movement and has framed questions of legitimacy surrounding its interpretations of Islam as it continues to spread throughout the world. the transnational scope of the movement today has enabled this controversy to have lasting repercussions for conceptions of Muslim identity worldwide by helping many Muslims delineate what contemporary Islam is not. This is also true in Western European countries, such as Britain, France, and Germany, as well as in Canada and the United States, where the Ahmadiyya movement has increasingly taken root since the 1980s through the establishment of South Asian immigrant communities and converts to Islam. the impact of the Ahmadi controversy has been most evident, however, in the development of South Asian politics after India’s partition in 1947, which was determined largely by religion.

Jama῾at-i Ahmadiyya originated as an Islamic reform movement in nineteenth-century Punjab, when the Indian subcontinent was under British colonial rule. At the time, many Muslim thinkers were preoccupied with internal religious debates ranging from the ritual practices of Sufis to the role of hadith in the broader Islamic tradition. Close encounters with non-Muslims fueled interreligious rivalries with Hindus, Sikhs, and Christians, whose growing influence in the region had been facilitated by increased missionary activity under the British. These dynamics were especially important in the Punjab, where the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community was centered. the response of some Muslim intellectuals was to turn to religious reform as a means of addressing the religious and political turmoil of the colonial experience.

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