Corrected at 4:30pm, 30 Sept 2009
“FROM what we see, Islam [in Malaysia] appears like a one-way religion. But in the Quran, it’s not like this. Even if someone apostates, it’s not another human being’s right to persecute them,” Ainul Yakin Muhd Zin, 41, tells The Nut Graph. Perhaps this is why the sect that Ainul leads, the Jemaat Ahmadiyah Muslim of Malaysia, was branded a “threat to national security” in a 3 Aug 2009 Kosmo! report.
In fact, Ainul says that in 1975, a fatwa by the Selangor Islamic authorities declared Ahmadiyah to be outside Islam’s fold. The fatwa also asked for Ahmadiyah followers to be killed by the sultan. Why indeed are Muslims and the Islamic authorities so afraid of Ahmadiyah?
After all, according to Ainul, there are only around 2,000 Ahmadiyah in all of Malaysia. In the Klang Valley, there are maybe 600 Ahmadiyah followers only, and most of them are Malay Malaysians. This, then, was what The Nut Graph aimed to find out on 4 Sept 2009 at the Ahmadiyah headquarters in Batu Caves, Selangor.
Difference in beliefs
Perhaps before answering the question of why there is so much hostility towards Ahmadiyah, we must look briefly at how Ahmadiyah differ from Sunni Muslims who make up the dominant group of Muslims in Malaysia.
Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (pic courtesy of Jemaat
Ahmadiyah Muslim Malaysia)
(Corrected) Ahmadiyah believe that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, their founder from late 19th-century Qadian in present-day India was a prophet in his own right. However, they acknowledge Muhammad as the last of the law-giving prophets sent by Allah. Sunni Muslims, however, see this as an unforgivable deviation — there can be no prophets after Muhammad in Islam, full-stop.
Ahmadiyah also have their own caliphate. Their current caliph is the fifth succeeding Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, whom they count as their first caliph. In terms of doctrine, they also differ by arguing that the prophet Isa, or Jesus, died a mortal death and was not raised to heaven by God.
Ahmadiyah also believe in Darwinist evolution to a certain extent — to them, Adam was not literally the first human being, but rather the first evolved human being.
So in this sense, it is easy to see why Sunni Muslims have problems with Ahmadiyah doctrine. But the allegations against Ahmadiyah practices and beliefs do not stop here. “They say our prayers are mixed-gender. They say our kiblat (direction of prayer) does not point towards Mecca. This is all untrue,” explains Ainul. In fact, none other than Selangor religious exco Datuk Dr Hassan Ali claimed that Ahmadiyah “do not need to pray, do not fast during Ramadan and do not perform the haj”.
Ainul, however, says, “First of all, there are Muslim governments that prevent us from performing the haj in Mecca when they find out we are Ahmadiyah.” During the asar (late afternoon) congregational prayer, The Nut Graph also observed the Ahmadiyah’s kiblat was no different from the conventional kiblat. When asked if any journalist from the traditional media came to verify this fact, Ainul said they hadn’t.
“And do you see any women praying beside us? We observe purdah (gender segregation) very strictly,” says Ainul. That was indeed clear. In fact, The Nut Graph had to request repeatedly to interview some women Ahmadiyah because they were nowhere to be seen.
“All just a misunderstanding”
But Ainul is good-natured enough to entertain this request. On 9 Sept, The Nut Graph met with two women Ahmadiyah leaders in Malaysia — Afiatunnur, 34, the Kuala Lumpur women’s chief, and Najmul Laila, 38, the moral outreach secretary. Najmul is also Ainul’s wife. Both women are Indonesians married to Ahmadiyah Malaysians.
Afiatunnur and Najmul attest that things were once peaceful for them in Indonesia — Ahmadiyah even had protection from the state. But all this changed in 2005, when the Indonesian Ulama Council issued a fatwa calling for a government ban on Ahmadiyah. Violence then ensued. In July 2005, the Ahmadiyah headquarters in Bogor was attacked, causing it to be shut down. Attacks then spread all across Java, until today.
In 2008, even former President Abdurrahman Wahid appealed for calm and for protection of Ahmadiyah, but his plea was ignored. In June 2008, Religious Affairs Minister Maftuh Basyuni, Home Minister Mardiyanto, and Attorney-General Hendarman Supanji signed a decree outlawing Ahmadiyah from spreading their faith.
But Najmul and Afiatunnur are nothing if not forgiving of such persecution. “It’s all just because they misunderstand Ahmadiyah teachings,” says Najmul.
“Even here in Malaysia, my family was renting from a house owner who was not happy that we are Ahmadiyah,” says Afiatunnur. “But once they saw that we are just like anybody else, they became okay with us.”
Najmul elaborates, “But then the others in their community think these people are suddenly nice to us because we have bewitched them!”
But is this forbearance and humour from these two women too good to be true? When asked, for example, if women are obliged to cover their hair, both women agree fully. But are there Ahmadiyah women who do not cover their hair?
“Yes, a few,” Najmul admits. Are these women then encouraged to cover their hair? “Yes, we advise them.” What if they still do not cover their hair after this advice? Are they forced to cover their hair? Najmul is scandalised. “Of course not,” she says. “But we just keep advising them, that’s all.”
Just another day
This chill-out attitude pervades other aspects of Ahmadiyah life as well. Yes, they fast. And when they broke their fast, the meal was simple, and they did not dilly-dally before performing maghrib (dusk), and then isya (night) and terawih prayers in congregation. And yes, they have a 10-point pledge of allegiance, or baiat, that followers have to accept, calling for strict observance of morality, piety and worship.
But Ahmadiyah are not fussed if there are those who do not accept the creed, or who want to leave the community. As Jariullah Ahmad, another Ahmadiyah spokesperson in Malaysia, explains, “If I leave the Ahmadiyah community, then I leave. The Ahmadiyah community will survive and go on. God will find a replacement for me among Ahmadiyah.”
In fact, Ahmadiyah claim they have nearly 200 million followers worldwide. Their communities flourish especially in secular Canada and the UK, where they are recognised and visited by ministers and Members of Parliament.
Ahmadiyah Quran translation
How do they deal with negative attitudes towards them, though? Ainul gives an example. In December 2008, he says the Selayang Municipal Council (MPS) ordered them to remove the kalimah syahadat, or Islamic creed — “There is no God but God, and Muhammad is the messenger of God” — from their headquarters.
“I said we cannot bring ourselves to do this, because this is truly what we believe. But if you believe we are wrong, then you need to be the ones to remove the kalimah yourselves,” he says. According to him, MPS then left the kalimah alone.
There are, of course, even more sinister threats, and Ainul says that he has made several reports to the police and other authorities about these threats. He says, though, that until now no action has been taken based on these reports. “Why is this so? And if we are considered non-Muslims from the 1975 fatwa, why do the authorities continue to harass us? Why do they not leave us alone like the Buddhists, Hindus, Christians, and other non-Muslims in Malaysia?” asks Ainul.
Jariullah takes this questioning a step further. “Can the authorities just declare openly if they are able to protect our basic rights? If they admit they truly can’t, then at least we can plan our lives accordingly.”
Living with the Ahmadiyah
The non-Muslim Muslims
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Anonymous Coward says
There are Muslims here that see the theory of evolution as incompatible to Islam? This is news to me. I don’t see why this is so.
Steven Ong says
Yes, whether they are Muslims or not , why can’t they practice their religion? Why persecute them? Where is the freedom of religion that Malaysia professed? Why do the authorities not persecute the Buddhists or Hindus? Are they afraid that more would leave Sunni Islam and join them? This would be the main reason. Just as they would guard against any Malay [Malaysians] or bumiputras from apostazising and joining other faiths.
There must be a reason for controlling all Muslims from leaving Islam. Maybe it’s a command to subject everyone under Islam for whatever purpose only the end will reveal. A force in the air that wants to control the world. Who can this be? I don’t think it’s God. For God gives us a free will to live. You alone are responsible for your life and answerable to Him.
Dr Syed Alwi says
First of all – the anger towards the Qadianis stem from their insistence to be accepted as Muslims. But that cannot be – since in Islam, a Muslim must accept that there are no other prophets after Prophet Muhammad.
If they do not claim to be Muslims – then I think people will just let them be.
Dr Syed Alwi
Any sect or person that believes in Darwinist evolution theory is not ISLAM, period.
Anonymous Coward says
“Any sect or person that believes in Darwinist evolution theory is not ISLAM, period.”
And why not? You tell me why evolution theory is incompatible with Islam, instead of just slinging accusations like this. I simply don’t see how it is incompatible.
Dr Syed Alwi, what’s your take on the Shiite, then? The status of their Imams are practically prophets so are they not Muslims to you? If so, why is Iran part of the OIC?
The Ahmadiyah would have been left alone in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, though not sure now that the US-imperialists have gone in and upset the order.
sri hartamas says
There is no prophet after Muhammad. If you don’t believe in that, then you cannot claim that you are a follower of Islam. Just call yourself Qaddiyans or something. As long as you do that, then I’m fine with it.
Steven, you ask why they can’t practise their religion. If we allow everyone to practise and say what they like, how do we control them? The next thing we know, they may even start questioning our hypocrisy, and even demand changes in the real world. No, that would never do.
Are we not all God’s children? Why can’t one worship one’s Creator in one’s own way?
TNG Reader says
Muslims were once popularly called Mohamedans because they are the followers of Muhammad.
TNG Reader says
Why does Mirza Ghulam Ahmad wear a turban? I remember the comic portrait by the Danish (which caused turmoil in Muslim-majority nations world wide) is similiar to this photo.
sunil rendawa says
Is their belief not their God-given right? Who gives anybody the right to decide what they are and if their beliefs are right or wrong? All holy books are subject to interpretation; just because the majority interprets it one one way it does not mean any other way is wrong. Let them live and pray and worship in peace with whatever way they feel brings them closer to the Almighty. After all, according to your faith, God is [whom] they answer to. Where does everyone else get off telling them what they can and can’t believe?
It became a problem when they claimed that they are a part of ISLAM. Which they are not obviously. Darwinism theory differs broadly from Islam’s perspective; believing so denouncec the existence of God. If they do not claim to be Muslim, I think they should be left alone.