I read with interest Salam Al-Maryati’s recent piece for OnFaith titled “Takfirism: The Key to Understanding ISIL.” While well intentioned, Marayati inaccurately relegates the practice of “takfir” to a problem of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), while ignoring the pervasive grip the practice has on the majority of the Muslim world.
First, contrary to Marayati’s assertion, takfir is not some ancient practice revived by Gulf States today. Unfortunately, Muslims have engaged in takfir throughout Islam’s 1400-year history. In fact, ISIL is late to the takfir party and is simply joining virtually every other Islamic organization and sect worldwide that has been engaged in the practice.
Marayati omits some critical history from his piece. In 1974, the Muslim world was comprised of 73 different sects. Among the newest sects then was the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, established in 1889 by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian, a man who claimed he was the awaited Messiah and Mahdi. Muslim leaders from each of Islam’s 72 other sects convened in Pakistan, and in a collective act of takfir, unanimously declared all Ahmadi Muslims to be “non-Muslim.” This unprecedented pronouncement led Pakistan’s Parliament to pass the Second Amendment, formally declaring Ahmadis to be non-Muslim. To date, Muslim leaders the world over rely on the 1974 amendment to practice takfir against all Ahmadi Muslims.
The head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community at the time, His Holiness Mirza Nasir Ahmad, warned the Muslim world that its decision to excommunicate an entire community from the pale of Islam had sowed the seeds of extremism, which would rapidly spread if left unrestrained. September 7, 2014 marks the 40-year anniversary of Pakistan’s Second Amendment, and the rapid rise and growing power of Boko Haram and ISIL — arguably more violent manifestations of the already extreme Taliban and Al Qaeda — prove that His Holiness was correct in warning of the perils of takfirism.
Marayati correctly notes that “we need independent rational thinking now to navigate us away from danger, empowering humanity to prevail over inhumanity.” However, he declines to name any specific Muslim thinker. In reality, the only available independent-thinking Muslim leader capable of fulfilling this requirement is none other than the current worldwide head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, His Holiness the Khalifa of Islam, Mirza Masroor Ahmad. And lest I be accused of judging the faith or sincerity of other Muslim leaders, my argument below is purely secular — not religious.
First, His Holiness’s voice is demonstrably independent. Indeed the worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community — established in over 200 nations with membership exceeding 160 million — is the world’s largest entirely self-funded Muslim community. It has remained so for its entire 125-year existence. Accordingly, His Holiness credibly advocates for peace through absolute justice by giving powerful lectures before U.S. and European lawmakers and writing open letters to global leaders, including President Obama and Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu.
Next, while Marayati correctly calls the mixing of religion and state an unholy alliance, he curiously does not mention that His Holiness stands as the Muslim world’s leading voice to vociferously advocate for a strict separation of mosque and state. Arguably, Marayati’s dogmatic disagreements with His Holiness should not impact his endorsement of His Holinesses’ advocacy for secular governance based on absolute justice and service to humanity. Accordingly, His Holiness has repeatedly condemned the barbaric persecution of Christians in Iraq, Gazans in Palestine, all religious minorities in Pakistan, and women and children in Nigeria.
Third, while Marayati correctly calls takfirism a cancer, he ignores that His Holiness leads the world’s only Muslim sect that has categorically rejected the poison of takfirism since its inception. Over a century ago, the Messiah Ahmad declared even about those who did not accept him, “ . . . my belief from the beginning has been that no person becomes a kafir or antichrist by denying my claim. I do not apply the term kafir to any person who professes the Kalima . . . ” Therefore, when looking for a Muslim leader to demonstrate how to conquer Takfirism, who better than the Khalifa of Islam who has already done so by upholding the Messiah Ahmad’s anti-takfir platform?
Muslims — many of whom Marayati correctly notes are disillusioned with hypocritical ulema — are taking notice of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community’s anti-takfir platform. Despite facing intense persecution from takfirists, it is no accident that the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is the world’s fastest growing Islamic sect.
Finally, Marayati ignores the fact that takfirism is a cancer that has infected not just ISIL, but also the entire Muslim world — with the sole exception of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. The lack of accountability from some Muslim leaders who ignore their united takfir against Ahmadi Muslims — when convenient to present themselves as more pluralistic — perpetuates intolerance. Sadly, since 1974, we can list on one hand how many Muslim organizations and leaders have openly recognized Ahmadi Muslims as Muslims and have rejected Pakistan’s takfir-inspired Second Amendment. Ironically, Marayati and the Muslim Public Affairs Council he presides over are not yet on that list.
So, I invite Marayati, MPAC, and all Muslim leaders and organizations to demonstrate their opposition to takfirism by categorically condemning Pakistan’s Second Amendment and publicly recognizing Ahmadi Muslims as Muslims.
Where Muslims once united to practice takfir, they must now unite to eradicate it.
The opinions expressed in this article belong to the author.
Image courtesy of Portable Soul.