1974: Under the government of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the Second Amendment was made to the 1973 Constitution of Pakistan. It stated: “A person who does not believe in the absolute and unqualified finality of the Prophethood of Muhammad (Peace be upon him), the last of the Prophets or claims to be a Prophet, in any sense of the word or of any description whatsoever, after Muhammad (peace be upon him), or recognises such a claimant as a Prophet or religious reformer, is not a Muslim for the purposes of the Constitution or law.”
That sealed the fate of the Ahmadis in Pakistan. The ostracisation of a community of almost four million Pakistanis (as per a 2016 report) who referred to themselves as Ahmadi Muslims, and were slurred as Qadiani or Mirzai, escalated. The snowballing effect of the Second Amendment took in its wake lives of countless Ahmadis: persecution, isolation, ban on prayer, exile, death. The list is long, and a black stain on the social and religious fabric of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, a country that prides itself on its Islamic moorings while existing in direct repudiation to some of Islam’s most important injunctions.
“There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion” (Holy Quran 2:256) is merely one ayat of the Holy Quran that is an elucidation of a fundamental tenet of Islam. Faith is a deeply personal matter; it is something that connects the human to the divine, and only Allah is the judge of a person’s faith, its veracity or depth or lack thereof.
May 28, 2010: In Model Town and Garhi Shahu in Lahore, 86 people were killed in simultaneous attacks, allegedly by the “Punjabi Taliban”, who considered people of a particular faith “wajb-ul-qatl” (deserving of death). 150 children and adults were injured. The Lahore carnage was the deadliest direct attack on one community in Pakistan. The community was Ahmadi Muslim.
November 2013: A doctor, Masood Ahmad, 72, was jailed for “posing as a Muslim”. He, was, reportedly, seen reading the Quran in his clinic. He was an Ahmadi Muslim.
July 28, 2014: A woman was killed for allegedly posting “blasphemous” material on Facebook. Her two granddaughters were also killed in the attack. One girl was seven, the other younger. They were Ahmadi Muslim.
December 12, 2016: In Dulmial village near Chakwal, Punjab, a mob attacked an Ahmadi mosque – a word that legally cannot be used for the place of prayer of Ahmadis in Pakistan – and set things within the place on fire. Malik Khalid Javed, 65, died of a cardiac arrest during the attack. He was an Ahmadi Muslim.
In the attack, ostensibly to save Islam from the “non-Muslim” Ahmadis, copies of the Quran were desecrated to stop Ahmadis from reading the Quran in their mosque. What the attackers did was not merely blasphemy as per the Pakistan Penal Code, it was also a direct repudiation of an injunction of the Quran: “And who is more unjust than he who prohibits the name of Allah being glorified in Allah’s temples and seeks to ruin them? It was not proper for such men to enter therein except in fear. For them is disgrace in this world; and theirs shall be a great punishment in the next.” (2:115)
Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) clearly stated in his last address: “To take any man’s life or his property, or attack his honour, is as unjust and wrong as to violate the sacredness of this day, this month and this territory.”
June 5, 2016: A doctor, Hameed Ahmad, 65, was killed by two unidentified men in Attock. He was an Ahmadi Muslim.
June 20, 2016: Dr Khaliq Bashir, 45, was killed outside his clinic in Karachi. He was an Ahmadi Muslim.
May 2014: Mubasher Ahmad, Ghulam Ahmad and Ehsan Ahmad were arrested in Bohiwal, a village 22 kilometres from Lahore, on the allegation of tearing down posters. “While the accused claimed the posters carried anti-Ahmadi slogans, the prosecution said they carried religious significance and that tearing them down was tantamount to insulting the prophet” reported Al-Jazeera. The fourth accused, Khalil Ahmad, was killed in police custody.
October 2017: A court in Sheikhupura, Punjab, sentenced the three men to death for blasphemy. They were Ahmadi Muslim.
October 10, 2017: Captain (retd) Mohammad Safdar, a member of the National Assembly and the son-in-law of the three-time prime minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif stated during a parliament session: “These people [Ahmadis] are a threat to this country, its Constitution and ideology. This situation is heading towards a dangerous point.”
March 9, 2018: Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui of the Islamabad High Court, announcing his verdict on a case concerning some “controversial amendments” to the Khatm-i-Nabuwwat (finality of the prophethood) oath in the Elections Act 2017 declared that “all citizens be easily identifiable by their faith and that applicants for public offices declare their beliefs before being considered eligible.”
The main points of the verdict are as follows:
1.) Mandatory to declare “true faith”; failure to do so could make one guilty of “betraying the state” and “exploiting the Constitution.”
2.) Citizens’ faith should be mentioned on birth certificates, ID cards, voters’ lists and passports.
3.) Compulsory to take oath regarding faith when joining civil service, armed forces or judiciary.
4.) Islamiyat and religious studies teachers should be Muslim.
The honourable judge further stated that he found “alarming" that “one of the minorities” was “often mistaken for being Muslims” due to their names and general attire, that has the possibility to lead them “to gain access to dignified and sensitive posts, along with benefits.” And that “citizens’ failure to declare their ‘true faith’ was ‘against the spirit and requirements of the Constitution’.”
Judge Siddiqui further added: “The Khatm-i-Nabuwwat oath is the foundation of our religion and it is the duty of every Muslim to protect this core belief.” He has ordered the parliament of Pakistan to “take steps” for the “protection of the belief in the finality of the Prophethood.”
In a country where Ahmadis now mostly live in self-defensive, survivalist anonymity, they are doomed either way. Hide what defines them. Or reveal their faith to qualify for governmental jobs, thus ensuring their exclusion from most areas. This court injunction to clearly state your faith you on different forms is, to my utter sadness, a reminder of the Nazi-issued “Jewish badge”. You don’t need to be a student of world history to know the fate of the Jewish people who wore that badge: persecution, stigmatisation, humiliation, segregation, monitoring and controlling of movement.
Here, I won’t quote the Quranic verses that are a testimonial to only Allah being the judge of faith and who is the “right” Muslim. I won’t state, in redundancy, that only Allah has the power to measure the presence or absence of faith in a person who declares himself Muslim. I won’t cite countless examples of devotion to Islam, reverence for Prophet Mohammad (pbuh), adherence to the Quranic injunctions, and following of the Sunnah by Ahmadis who call themselves Muslim and are Muslim to me. What Ahmadis are, what they profess to be, believe and practise is simply and essentially between them and their Allah.
It would have been an issue for the self-professed “real”, the self-avowed “right” kind of Muslims if “their” Islam was in jeopardy. That is what baffles me. As a human being, and as a practising Muslim. How is anyone jeopardising Islam in Pakistan?
Pakistan, a country of almost 200 million people, out of which almost 97 percent are Muslim, what is the fear that it has of its “minorities”, a word that to me is anathematic of Pakistan’s oneness, its unity, its strength? What harm is carried out by its three per cent Christian, Hindu, Parsee, Sikh, Jewish, atheist, agnostic, and the “wrong” kind of Muslim?
How is Islam’s sanctity being harmed in a Muslim Pakistan where there are no audible sounds of a Sunday mass, bells of a temple, chants of Sikh mantras of Gurbani, or recitation of the Quran from an Ahmadi mosque? How is upholding the stature of Prophet Jesus-Issa and Moses-Musa (peace be upon them) – two of the most-mentioned prophets in the Quran – is in any way an attempt to question the importance of the stature of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh)? Why is a Christian Aasia bibi on the death row for almost a decade when all she did was defend her own faith in an argument with a group of Muslim women?
Why is there a constant exodus of Ahmadis from Pakistan, their homeland, in which their ostracisation, their pariah status, their “otherness” is almost complete, irrevocable? It perplexes any sane mind, it bothers any rational person, and it saddens anyone who follows the path of acceptance and compassion laid down by Islam when the following points enter the realm of discourse, debate, or even a fight: Is there a blatant effort from Ahmadis to make their faith mainstream, a concerted effort to convert people, a methodical plan to popularise their version of Islam? The answer is a categorical NO.
Ahmadis are peaceful, non-violent, and in Pakistan, a silent, helpless spectator of their systematic elimination. How can Islam be imperilled by the “effects” of the existence of the proponents of a faith who hide their identity, are not allowed to have mosques, who pray in the isolation of their homes, do not have Quranic verses on the tombstones of their dead, and are afraid to even be? How do they threaten Islam?
The latest court verdict and its principal points are a mere legal whitewashing and authentication of the already existing persecution, ostracisation, and what I look at as a mostly corpse-less but an organised genocide of Ahmadis in Pakistan. Now it is an open season on Ahmadis in Pakistan. And now more than ever, Pakistan is no country for anyone who looks at himself and lives his life as an Ahmadi Muslim.
And to me, as a human being, as a Muslim and as a Pakistani, this is not the Pakistan of Mohammad Ali Jinnah. And this is not in any way the true representation of Islam of Allah as delivered to and preached by my beloved prophet, Muhammad, peace be upon him.