Ahmadis: The persecuted community of Pakistan

Strange that no one cared to look up the meaning of the Arabic word ‘Masjid’. Had they done so, they would have found that it is derived from the word ‘sajada’ and literally means ‘place for prostration’. A little further study and they would have found that the word ‘Masjid’ was used by the early Muslims for all places of worship, of all religions and not exclusively for a place of worship for Muslims.

By Morafi :

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet;

(Romeo & Juliet)

Four hundred years ago when the great William Shakespeare penned these words, one wonders whether he could have imagined how wrong he would be. Listen carefully and one can hear the echoes of chants from the shores of Pakistan.

“It’s all in the name – stupid!”

Recently a new debate has arisen on the twitterverse – when is a ‘mosque’ not a mosque?

Five times a day worshipers attend congregational prayers, facing the Ka’aba in Mecca. The leader of the congregation stands in front and recites the prayers that were recited by the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) over 1400 years ago. The worshipers claim to be Muslims, praying in their ‘mosque’. However, according to the law of the land, these worshipers cannot be called ‘Muslims’ and their place of worship cannot be called a ‘Mosque’.

This is nothing new; the sad story actually starts as far back as 1974, when the state took it upon itself to provide a considered and well reflected pronouncement on the actual definition of who exactly is a Muslim and who is not. One would have thought that the National Assembly, which had been given this auspicious task, would have consulted the Holy Scriptures and sayings of the founder of the faith. After all, who would know better? Sadly that was not the case. Neither did the National Assembly have the foresight to study the findings of a commission, that had been set up twenty years earlier, to understand the issues surrounding exactly – what’s in a name.

The Munir Commission Report concluded that no two sects could agree on the definition of a Muslim, each one considering the other Kafir. However, the distinguished members of the National Assembly disagreed and defined who was to be considered Muslim and who non-Muslim. September 7th 1974 saw an entire community of 4 million Ahmadis being excommunicated.

Fast forward a further 20 years and in 1984 the infamous dictator General Zia ul Haq promulgated Ordinance XX. Not content on providing the definition of who is a Muslim, General Zia wanted to stop Ahmadis ‘posing’ as Muslims.

According to 298-B “Any person of the Quadiani group or the Lahori group (who call themselves ‘Ahmadis’ or by any other name) who by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation; refers to, or names, or calls, his place of worship as ‘Masjid’; shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.”

According to 298-C, “Any person of the Quadiani group or the Lahori group (who call themselves ‘Ahmadis’ or by any other name), who, directly or indirectly, poses himself as Muslim, or calls, or refers to, his faith as Islam, or preaches or propagates his faith, or invites others to accept his faith, by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representations, or in any manner whatsoever outrages the religious feelings of Muslims, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.”

That infamous Ordinance XX was promulgated nearly 30 years ago, in the time of the dictator Gen Zia, but even today, with a democratically elected government, the discriminatory laws remain and the minorities are not faring any better.

After receiving a complaint about the ‘place of worship’ in Sultanpura, Kachhupura, a large contingent of Misri Shah police visited it and told the Ahmadi community they had a day to make their worship place look less like a ‘mosque’. Sadly this was not an isolated incident. Advocate Badar Alam last month moved an application against members of the Ahmadi community in the Garhi Shahu police station, Lahore, under section 298B and 298C of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC). The Ahmadi’s were ‘posing’ as Muslims and their worship place resembled a ‘mosque’. This was unacceptable – even though the Ahmadi ‘place of worship’ had been there since the 1960’s – two decades before the promulgation of the Ordinance XX by Gen Zia.

In the last few days, another Ahmadi ‘place of worship’ in Kharian was attacked and six minarets of Baitul Hamd were demolished in order for it not to be confused by the general public, who unwittingly, may enter it thinking it was a ‘mosque’. Just to make doubly sure the Kalma was also erased as were quotes praising the Holy Prophet (pbuh). This noble task was not performed by a frenzied mob but directly under the auspices and supervision of the Kharian city police. The objective – make sure it doesn’t look like a ‘mosque’.

It appears as if the people of Kharian are unaware of the history of the mosque. Minarets did not form part of the design of mosques until 80 years after the demise of the Holy Prophet (pbuh). It is generally believed that the Great Mosque of Damascus with its minaret, built-in 705, was inspired by the design and architecture of churches of the city.  History shows us that Domes formed part of the architectural structure of buildings as far back as the Mesopotamian civilisation over 6000 years ago.

The use of the dome began growing rapidly in the early Christian period. The dome as an architectural landmark began to emerge during the Roman Empire, circa 100 CE.

The Hagia Sophia in Istanbul is a beautiful example of pre-Islamic architecture incorporating the dome and minarets which was constructed even before the birth of the Holy Prophet of Islam (pbuh).

Who can forget the fateful day on 28th May 2010 as terrorists attacked two Ahmadi ‘mosques’ in Lahore, killing 86 worshippers who had congregated to offer their Friday prayers. The killing spree unfolded on our TV screens, with the journalists stumbling on the worlds to use and more importantly those words they were not allowed to use. No it’s not a masjid – but an ibaadatgaah. No they were not performing nimaaz – but ibaadat. It wasn’t Jumma nimaaz but they were congregating for some celebration. The terrorists did not climb up the minaret you see on your TV screen (after all that’s just on Mosques isn’t it?) they had climbed the watch tower of the building. Clear instructions were given to reporters to make sure viewers were not ‘duped’ into thinking that the attacks were on mosques. Do not refer to them as ‘masjids’ they were told.

Strange that no one cared to look up the meaning of the Arabic word ‘Masjid’. Had they done so, they would have found that it is derived from the word ‘sajada’ and literally means ‘place for prostration’. A little further study and they would have found that the word ‘Masjid’ was used by the early Muslims for all places of worship, of all religions and not exclusively for a place of worship for Muslims.

On the anniversary of General Zia’s coming to power many excellent articles were written arguing how he had done more damage to Pakistan than any other person in its history. Isn’t it time we tried to undo some of this damage. A good starting point would be to repeal this despicable Ordinance XX that goes against fundamental human rights.

 

cross-posted from Pak Tea House
The author can be reached on Twitter @morafi
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3 thoughts on “Ahmadis: The persecuted community of Pakistan

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