Sunday, April 2, 2017

Book Review - pro-Islam #1: The Ahmadiyya angle

General: This is not an anti-Islam book although it is a critical book on Islam. And this review is not intended to trash a pro-Islam book. Anyway, I am not 100% against Islam (just 99.99%). I am sure even Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot did some honourable things that benefitted the people. And I like to occasionally read a book that holds the potential to 'rescue me' from my own conclusions. Have I misunderstood everyone I have read, heard and observed? I try to locate a genuinely compelling book by an astute and likeable author who holds the power to change my mind about the fundamentals of Islam. Really.

Title, full: The British Government and Jihad
Author: Hadra Mirza Ghulam Ahmad 
Publisher: Islam International Publications Ltd (UK)
Year: 1900
Format: online ebook
Original language: No, translated from Urdu

Bias: Islamic, but divergent from standard Islam
Lead: browsing Scribd
Source: Scribd
Why?: A quick read. I am curious to know why most Muslims reject Ahmadiyyas
What I expected to find: An ahistorical peaceful interpretation of Islamic jihad explaining away 1400 years of violent supremacism
First impressions: The Ahmadiyyas consider the author to have been the prophesized Mahdi; the book will be South Asia-centric; Ahmad sounds like a lawyer

  • Ahmad uses a Hindu word 'avatara', so perhaps this will be a Sanskritized version of Islam. This wouldn't be surprising for syncretic South Asia.
  • Ahmad rejects the standard Islamic division of the world into the House of Submission and the House of War as being unIslamic (it is not, according to Ahmad, in the Koran or Hadith)
  • Ahmad recognized Sahih Al-Bukhari as authentic Hadith (this will be hard to explain away its standard Islamic content)
  • Regarding treatment of Muslims, the author favours the British to Sikh rule, claiming that the practice of Islam was forbidden under rule of the Sikhs (presumably Maharajah Ranjit Singh). Did the Sikh Kingdom forbid the practice the adhan (call to prayer), why, and in the context or the time and place was there a legitimate reason? Wikipedia entry mentions a 1842 book by Charles Masson wherein Muslims felt suppressed because they were subject to non-Muslims, and like everyone else were forbidden from slaughtering cows
  • The author doesn't argue that Muslims didn't and don't commit jihad. He just says that it is unIslamic, that it permits Muslims to behave like thieves and bandits, indulging their basest desires
  • The Amir of Kabul at the time was in the pocket of the British and the author hoped to work with him—he is very critical of the murderous habits of 'Frontier Afghans';

Disappointments: Strange formatting, so difficult to copy and paste

Strengths: A glossary to begin (I like this a lot); the author is clearly an ethical person with universal standards of ethical behaviour; he explains some Arabic words, e.g. Ghazi means a survivor of committing jihad

  • By page 15 he is critiquing Christianity's misinterpreting of the Divine and comparing it to Islam's followers same of illegitimate warfare and murder (why do Muslim author's spend so much time critiquing other religions? Seems to me like biologists critiquing mathematician's theories—beyond their scope of expertise)
  • On page 18 the author says Hadith Sahih Bukhari is against jihad, but he does not translate the Arabic verse and does not provide the reference to look it up oneself
  • On multiple pages the author criticizes Christian preachers in Punjab (in present day Pakistan and India) for claiming Islam is violent, thereby increasing the violence (he does not explain how pointing out a violent history inspires it)
  • The author is repetitive
Conclusion: Ahmadiyyas are on my exemption list for banned Muslim groups in Canadian immigration

Sample new info (to me):
  • Mohammed resorted to defensive warfare only after "13 years of brutal oppression"; Ahmad is embarrassed by the misinterpretation of jihad in the middle history of Islamic history
  • He claims that the root word for jihad comes from 'juyd' which morphed in the Sanskrit word for war 'yudh'. My guess based on history of languages is that the opposite is more likely.
  • Islam's early opponents were angry and jealous rival religions that felt their prestige and income was at risk
  • After withstanding murder, torture and persecution God gave temporary permission for Muslims to defend themselves (Koran al-Juzw.17, Surah al-Hajj)
  • Muslim scholars misunderstand the true meaning of jihad [so this preaching of jihad is not a new problem, this book was written in 1900]
  • Indian Islamic scholars (maulavis) issued a fatwa against Ahmad and ordered him murdered
  • Muslim preachers are incorrect in advocating jihad because—1) then jihad was defensive and divinely permitted; 2) Ahmad is the Mahdi, and there is therefore no current need
  • Companions of Mohammed never attacked anyone out of aggression [this should be easy to verify from Islamic sources]
  • According to the author, when technology has advanced (trains, postal systems etc, i.e. his time) the Mahdi would appear as per a prophecy from the Koran ('when camels are rendered useless')
  • Moses and Joshua also committed jihad
  • The author recommends censorship as in Ottoman government's forbidding criticism of others' religions
Quotes, writing style: formal and poetic, as would be expected from the turn of two centuries ago in India
Quotes, content:
Many of God’s faithful—the very honour of humanity—were cruelly cut to pieces by the swords of these barbarians. Orphans and weak, helpless women were slaughtered in the streets and alleys. Even so, God commanded that there be no retaliation against evil. These righteous, chosen people adhered to this instruction precisely. While the streets ran red with their blood, they did not utter a sound. They were slaughtered like animals but did not protest. God’s holy and exalted Prophet... was stoned on many occasions, so much so that he was stained with blood. Nevertheless, that upright mountain of truth tolerated all this mistreatment with an open heart and love.” p. 14

(T)hese misguided activities [of jihad] that have spread amongst the Muslims are instigated by nafs-e-‘ammarah [self that incites to evil] or by a crude desire for Paradise.” p.19

Can a religion be from God if it teaches that you can enter Paradise by killing His blameless and innocent creatures—to whom you have not even delivered the message? Is it not shameful that a complete stranger should be unjustly killed while occupied in his daily affairs, thus widowing his wife, making his children orphans, and turning his house into a funeral parlour? Which hadith or verse of the Holy Qur’an authorizes such behaviour? ” p. 22

First, those maulavis for whom it is an article of faith that killing people of other religions—especially Christians—is an act of great virtue and that such murder opens doors of heavenly reward that cannot be achieved through obligatory salat [Prayers], hajj [Pilgrimage], zakat [obligatory charity], or any other good deed. I am well aware of the fact that these maulavis secretly preach this to the people.... Although Afghanistan and the Frontier Region are full of many maulavis who regularly preach in this way, it is my opinion that Punjab and India are not entirely free of such maulavis either. Our noble government should reconsider if it has come to believe that this country’s maulavis are innocent and do not think along these lines. I am of the opinion that the majority of the ignorant and short-tempered mullahs of the mosques are not free of these evil thoughts.“ p. 31

Footnotes: Some, by the translator only
Sources: Koran, Hadith and a lot of the author's opinions

Leads, new books:
1. Mizan-ul-Haq (1849) by the Reverend Karl Gottlieb Pfander, an 'attack' on the Koran and Mohammed. I am going to guess that this Urdu book is banned in Pakistan. Perhaps an English translation is available at a Canadian university
2. Writings of Amritsar's former Muslim Reverend Imad-ud-Din

Notes: Regarding current practices, it is not clear to me whether it is the government of Pakistan or that of Pakistan *and* Saudi Arabia that make it very difficult for Ahmadiyyas to do Hajj.

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