This question about declaring someone “non-Muslim” has troubled me for some time and I would like to give my understanding on this issue to which I would welcome your comments. The first thing, which should be clarified, is: What is the definition of a believer and what is the definition of a Muslim. My understanding is that believers are those people who submit to God (swt), associate no partners with Him, practice prayers, practice charity, believe in the Last Day and Angels etc, believe in the Messengers and do good deeds. I believe then that by definition, a believer is a Muslim, since all the prophets before prophet Muhammad (pbuh) were both believers and Muslims.
Now I am not a Qadiani and do not profess to totally understand their beliefs, but if Qadianis believe in everything a believer should believe in including belief in Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) then how could they be declared “non-Muslims”?
If they follow the Qur’an, obey God’s commandments then because they believe in another so called messenger, should this be sufficient for them to be called “kafirs“? Once again I would like to state that I do not know what Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian propagated but my understanding is that we were put on this Earth to worship God (swt), the Supreme Being. If the Qur’an states that Jews, Christians, Sabians and all those who believe and do good deeds will be saved then just because the Ummah collectively decides that someone is a kafir does not mean that they really are. Only God (swt) knows what is in someone’s heart.
The argument is that because Qadianis do not accept that prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is the last messenger and hence they are outside the fold of Islam is puzzling. According to this argument Christians and Jews would never get to Heaven because they never accepted our prophet. We know from the Qur’an that this is not the case. Belief in the one God and total submission to Him should be the overriding criteria.
I welcome your comments.
I would like to clarify at the outset that declaring someone a “non-Muslim” is not synonymous with declaring someone a “Kafir” (infidel). A “non-Muslim”, obviously, is a person who is not included in the group that we label as “Muslims”. While a “Kafir” is a “rejecter of the truth”. Thus, “Kafir” actually is one who, knowingly, rejects the truth. Rejecting the truth due to lack of knowledge, correct understanding or because of a mistake, does not make a person a “Kafir“. On the contrary, “Kafir” is a person who knowingly turns his back on the truth.
Thus, declaring someone a “non-Muslim” is quite different from declaring someone a “Kafir“. Moreover, declaring someone a “non-Muslim” does not, in anyway, decide the position of that individual or that group in the hereafter. The All-knowing and the Almighty Himself would decide that position. Declaring someone a non-Muslim is actually a legal matter, which sometimes has to be undertaken for the benefit of the Muslims. Although there can be a difference of opinion as to whether any real benefit would result by such an action or not, yet the thing that needs to be understood is that this action can only be taken by the collectivity of the Muslims.
As far as the criteria of taking this action is concerned, in one of my previous responses to a similar question, I had mentioned that at a particular point when the Qur’an directed the Muslims to take action against the rejecters of faith (opening passage of Surah Al-Taubah), it actually defined that from the perspective of an Islamic state, who should be considered a Muslim. According to that definition, a person who forsakes and repents for his previously adhered to un-Islamic beliefs, who joins the Muslims in regular prayers and who pays Zaka’h to the treasury of the Islamic state, in which he resides shall be considered a Muslim. Now, because the Qur’an has given this explanation regarding who a Muslim is, no further qualification can be imposed on this definition and no qualification mentioned by the Qur’an can be ignored.
The issue of the Ahmadis relates primarily to the first qualification. The Muslims believe that one of the basic beliefs that a Muslim must hold is that Mohammed (pbuh) was the last prophet and messenger of God. If any individual or a group does not ascribe to this belief, then according to the collectivity of the Muslims, he does not qualify to be called a “Muslim”. Thus, the Ahmadis were declared “non-Muslims”. Although there can be a difference of opinion regarding whether holding Mohammed (pbuh) to be the last prophet of God is a basic element of Islamic faith or not. Yet, the fact is that the collectivity of the Muslims decided that it was one of the basic beliefs, without which a person cannot qualify to be called a Muslim.
I would like to stress once again that such decisions of the Muslim collectivity are not decisions for the hereafter but are, in fact, for the purpose of the life of this world only. In this world, matters are to be decided on the basis solely of their appearance. Thus, we may, on the basis of the apparent factors decide that a person is not a “Muslim”, yet that person due to a number of factors that remained hidden from us may be among the successful ones in the hereafter. On the other hand, we may hold a person to be a pious Muslim, yet that person due to a number of factors that remained hidden from us may be condemned to hellfire in the hereafter.
25th June 1999