by Amer Aziz
I do not know what may have compelled you to join ISIS. Perhaps your family and community suffered in geopolitical wars and you protested against traditional authority. Or, maybe you were disheartened by being marginalized and insulted as a Muslim in a western country. Or perhaps you are driven by something deeply ideological, such as hedonism eating away at the moral fabric of the world, and seek the urgency of the sword. Maybe you yearn for the promised messiah who was to come to fix a broken world.
What I do know is that the so-called ISIS Caliphate you have pledged your allegiance to stands bloodied with the most abominable acts of violence and depravity known to man. It insults the founder of our religion, beloved prophet Muhammad (peace be on him), who was invited to serve as chief arbitrator to the conflicting communities of Medina based on his sense of fairness, justice and freedom-of-conscience.
Yet you and I have something in common– we both have pledged allegiance to who we believe to be the true Caliph of Islam. In my case, it is to Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the fifth Caliph (successor) of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who established the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. In sharp contrast to the so-called ISIS Caliphate, the Ahmadiyya Caliphate was established over a hundred years ago, has tens of millions of followers in over 200 countries, advocates separation of mosque and state, and has used only peaceful means of intellectual reasoning and charity to conduct its jihad (struggle).
Let us examine the concept of a Caliphate according to the Holy Quran, historical events, and the prophecies of Muhammad (peace be on him) regarding events in the latter-days.
1) The Quranic Affirmation of an Islamic Caliphate
I hope you read and reflect deeply on the Holy Quran, but I sadly fear you do not. You insist that any Islamic Caliphate must hold government and temporal power strictly modeling the Caliphate that followed Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), and that the Ahmadiyya Caliphate with its principle of separation of mosque and state disqualifies it. Well, let’s take a look at what the Quran says.
The Quranic verse on the Caliphate (24:55), reads, “Allah has promised to those among you who believe and do good works that He will surely make them Successors (Caliphs) in the earth, as He made Successors those who were before them…”.
So, there were caliphs who existed before the time of, historically speaking, the first Islamic caliph: Abu Bakar. The Quran says that Prophets Adam (2:30) and David (38:28) were Caliphs (representatives) of God. Prophet David is known to have held power and government, whereas Prophet Adam is not.
Verse 24:55 continues— “…and that He will surely establish for them their religion which He has chosen for them; and that He will surely give them in exchange security after their fear: They will worship Me, they will not associate anything with Me”. As you can see, the entire verse mentions nothing of a requirement of temporal power and government.
Hence, by virtue of the sole greatest authority and law in Islam—the Holy Quran—a caliph is not required to keep government. The core essence of a caliphate is a system of divine guidance.
2) Historical Context of The Early Islamic Caliphate
You and I both know that when Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) launched the Islamic movement, its monotheistic teachings were seen as a threat to the social and economic system in Mecca based on a plethora of idol-gods. The movement was severely opposed up to the point that Muslims migrated to Medina for survival.
This was a time when power-systems and empires validated themselves on the basis of religion. The two super-powers of the world at the time, Rome and Persia, were at war and vying for victory on the basis of being the true religion. Historians’ History of the World and Britannica Encyclopedia state: “Chosroes (the Persian king) wanted to see Heraclius (ruler of Rome) brought in chains to the foot of his throne and was not willing to given him peace until he had abjured his crucified god and embraced the worship of the sun”.
After the Muslims overcame their early foes, the Islamic Caliphate (which included government) had the full attention of Rome and Persia, and would have to defend itself against these empires. This is a context that is specific to that period of history. It is foolish and illogical to take a view of the caliphate devoid of historical context. In fact, the Holy Quran (47:4) states that a time will come that war will lay down its burden, meaning that Islam will be established at a level that it will no longer be required to defend it in the battlefield for survival. Later, Islam spread to many corners of the world without a drop of blood being shed. The most populous Muslim country today, Indonesia with 200 million Muslims, was won over entirely by proselytizing!
3) The Messianic Context of the Latter-Days
Our Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) has provided us with the context for the caliphate in the latter-days. The term the Holy Prophet used for the messiah to come is Jesus, Son of Mary– you take this literally and according to you the Messiah has not come, and thus you still have no claim to a heavenly authority for any of your actions.
We Ahmadi-Muslims claim that this prophecy is symbolic and provides the correct context for the latter-days. We believe it was fulfilled in the holy personage of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian, India (1835-1908). I know that your movement, ISIS, greatly focuses on prophecies pertaining to the latter-days. You believe that you are destined for an ordained victory against the forces of an infidel world. Well, I hope you are familiar with the famous prophecy of Prophet Muhammad that a time will come when his followers (Muslims) will come to resemble the Jews like the shoe on one foot resembles the shoe on the other.
So, what happened when Jesus came as Messiah to the Jews? There were Jewish movements that had launched a war with Rome, and they exacted violence even against Jews who dared submit to Rome. They, just like you, thought that the Messiah would consolidate a worldly kingdom for them. Just like Jesus explained to them that Rome does not persecute Jews (Matthew 22:21), Mirza Ghulam Ahmad also explained to the Muslim clerics that there is no violent jihad against the west since western powers do not stop Muslims from practicing their religion. The conflicts that occurred in early Jewish and Islamic history were in a valid defensive context per mortal enemies.
I deeply and humbly implore you from the bottom of my heart, and by the great regard and endearment that both of us hold for Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), that you reflect deeply upon the arguments in this letter. I pray you will heed to the voice of reason and conscience, and shun what runs counter to morals and religion.
I pray that you obey the Messiah of Allah, lay down the sword, and instead undertake the greater jihad of self-reformation, spreading peace, exhorting justice, exemplifying equality among peoples and serving humanity. These are the true messianic credentials of the Islamic Caliphate of the latter-days: The Ahmadiyya Caliphate originated by the Messiah Ahmad of Qadian, India.