The British Government and Jihad

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Author: Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1908)
Book-Title The British Government and Jihad (22 May 1900)

The British Government and Jihad (Urdu:Government Angrezi Aur Jihad) is a book written in 1900 by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the founder of the Ahmadiyya movement in Islam. An alternative title is the True Meaning of Jihad. It was published on 22 May 1900[1][2] and was translated into English in 2006, by Islam International Publications.[3]

The Founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat refers to the Qur'an and the Ahadith (sayings) of the Islamic prophet Muhammad in order to explain the true nature of the Islamic concept of jihad. The author points to the peaceful nature of the Islamic faith and explains that Muhammad resorted to defensive war only after suffering thirteen years of brutal oppression. Divine permission to retaliate was granted for the specific purpose of self-defense, to punish aggressors, and to uphold freedom of conscience. He also argues that the command to fight and retaliate was for that specific condition in which the early Muslims found themselves.

Opposition to God’s messengers[edit]

The author explains why a new messenger of God finds such a great opposition from the pre-existing communities and their religious leaders. He believes it is out of anger and jealousy and the fear that their incomes shall go down if the new message and reformation succeeded. He writes, the new reformer unmasks the deficiencies of their leaders. He claims, for similar reasons the pagans, Christian and Jewish communities and their leaders strongly opposed the Islamic Prophet Muhammad and his community. He writes, “members of this faction are in fact deficient; they possess very little of Divine light and their flaws are totally exposed during a Prophet or Messenger’s time. Their egos give rise to hostility towards God’s Prophets and the righteous, and they selfishly devise plans to injure them." (The British Government and Jihad, p. 5)

Ahmad believes, the existing Arab communities, “feared that the firm establishment of this religion would in turn sow the seeds of destruction for their faith and nation.” (p. 6) and it was the main reason behind the Muslim community was so strongly opposed and acts of extreme “cruelty and brutality were committed against them”.

Trials and tribulations[edit]

Ahmad states, "For a lengthy thirteen year period” the Muslim community suffered extreme oppression but they were instructed, not to retaliate. “the streets ran red with their blood, they did not utter a sound. They were slaughtered like animals but did not protest.” (p. 7). He writes, "They were trampled underfoot but did not utter a sound.” Ahmad describes the extreme torture which the Muslim community suffered.

God's permission to retaliate[edit]

Ahmad discusses in reference to the verse 22:39 of the Quran, "Permission [to fight] has been given to those who are being fought, because they were wronged. And indeed, Allah is competent to give them victory".[4] (p. 7). He believed this was the verse that described the real philosophy of Jihad.

Command to fight specific to that time period[edit]

Mirza Ghulam Ahmad believed, this Command (Quran 22:39) to retaliate and fight was specific to the time period of the Prophet and the prevailing circumstances only: He writes:

This commandment was specific to the period and time. It was not forever. It applied during the time when those entering the fold of Islam were being slaughtered like sheep and lambs. After the time of the Holy Prophet (may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and his Successors, people unfortunately made very grave mistakes in understanding the philosophy of jihad, which is rooted in the preceding verse. The unjust slaughter of God’s creatures was deemed to be a mark of religious virtue.(p. 8)

Medieval Muslim Jurists Erred[edit]

The author is of the opinion that failure to comprehend the true import of this verse, the early Muslim jurists and scholars committed profound error, and shed the blood of innocent human beings in the name of Holy War or Jihad. This belief appears unique among the past Muslim jurists.

Today's Muslim scholars[edit]

The author of the treatise believes that present day religious scholars (Maulavis) are entirely misguided in comprehending the true philosophy of Jihad and they keep preaching such dangerous and blood-spattered doctrines among the ignorant Muslims, which have become the cause of extremism and violence in the society. He writes, " Maulavis who persist in propagating these blood-spattered doctrines are in fact responsible for murders committed by ignorant, egotistical people who know nothing of why Islam was forced to fight battles in its early history".(p. 9)

Mualavis and Christian priests[edit]

Commenting upon the then prevalent "Jihadist" movements among the Indian Muslims Mirza Ghulam Ahmad holds responsible, besides the Maulavis, the Christian priests, who incited the ignorant masses of the Muslim society, about the misguided concept of Jihad. He writes:

"In my opinion, the second cause of this criminal bloodshed, which is carried out in the hopes of becoming a ghazi, is the preaching of Christian priests who have widely publicized the claim that jihad is compulsory in Islam. They claim that killing people of other faiths is a matter of great Islamic virtue. I believe that the people of the Frontier Region were not even aware of this doctrine until the Christian priests embedded it in their minds. My view is supported by the fact that there were no incidents of this type before Christian priests began the distribution of journals, newspapers and books in the Frontier Region.[5][6] (p. 24)

Ahmad writes the Christian missionaries have also spread this misguided belief of Jihad by distributing provocative literature in Urdu, Pashto and other languages, to preach the false views that "Islam was spread by the sword".(p. 11) This in a way served as a combined testimony of the Maulavis and Christian Missionaries, to incite people to violent acts and create unrest.

Why Act XXIII of 1867 failed[edit]

Commenting upon the failure of Act Number XXIII of 1867, in order to check the spread of the militant ideas of the Frontier’s residents, Ahmad believed it was due to the continued provocative and bitter writings of priests like Imad ud-din Lahiz [7] of Amritsar and some other foul-mouthed priests who greatly damaged goodwill and reconciliation within the country.

A dangerous course[edit]

Ahmad saw a great danger in the combined Testimony of the Christian Missionaries and Maulavis who spread a violent view of the Muslim concept of Jihad. At the same time he perceived the dangerous consequences of the naive strategy of the Christian clergy and wrote:

"The Christian priests have embarked on a very dangerous course of action. On the one side, they falsely argue that the Qur’an summons Muslims to jihad at all times and occasions, as if seeking to draw attention towards this tradition. And then they incite the Muslims’ passion with provocative literature. It is unclear why these people naively fail to recognize that these actions can combine to produce dangerous consequences". (p. 40)

What should the government do[edit]

To suggest a remedy to the British Government in India (1900) Ahmad advised a three-step policy, which will greatly control the poisonous growth of envy and spite, among the various strata of the Indian society:

[a] prohibit all parties, including the clerics of the Church, from indulging in negative attacks on other religions for a period of five years.

[b] ask all parties to live together with love and civility, and

[c] encourage all groups to focus on the positive features of their own religions.(p. 41)

Hypocrisy of Maulavis[edit]

Ahmad, has admonished the Muslim scholars (Maulavis) to shun hypocrisy. He believed when, "they meet present day rulers, they bow down as if ready to prostrate; but among their own kind they insist repeatedly that this country is “dar-ul-harb” [the zone of war]. They consider jihad to be obligatory in their hearts, and few of them think otherwise" (p. 11). He advised the Maulavis restore true sincerity. He believed if they pondered over the Quran and Ahadith, they may realize the truth.

This is not the time for Jihad[edit]

The author of the book, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad who claims to be the promised Messiah admonished the Muslims in very strong words, telling this was not the time for Jihad i.e. any kind of armed combat:

O Muslim scholars and maulavis! Listen to me. I tell you truly that this is not the time for jihad. Do not disobey God’s Holy Prophet. The awaited Messiah has arrived and orders you to abstain from religious wars involving armed combat, killing and bloodshed. Not refraining even now from spilling blood and giving such sermons is therefore not the way of Islam. The person who accepts me will not merely stop preaching in this way; rather, he will recognise the evil of this path and come to know that it invites God’s anger. (p.11)

The Messiah admonishes[edit]

He writes, I as the promised Messiah admonish you:

I therefore admonish you: Refrain from evil and be truly compassionate towards mankind. Cleanse your hearts of malice and spite, for you will become like angels through this habit. It is a filthy and unholy religion that is devoid of sympathy for humanity, and polluted is the path riddled with the thorns of a rancour based on selfish desires. O those who are with me, do not become like such people. Think about what it is we seek to attain through religion. Is it to constantly oppress others? No, religion exists so that we may obtain the life that lies in God. (p. 17)

I came to end religious wars[edit]

I have come to you with an order: jihad with the sword has ended from this time forward, but the jihad of purifying your souls must continue. I do not say this of my own accord. This is indeed the will of God. Recall the hadith from Sahih al-Bukhari which honours the Promised Messiah by saying yada-‘ul-harb. That is to say, when the Messiah comes he will put an end to religious wars. (p. 18)

The tradition prevalent among Muslims of attacking the people of other religions, which they call jihad, is not the jihad of Divine religious Law [Shari‘ah]. Rather, it is a grievous sin and a violation of the clear instructions of God and His Prophet. It may not be easy for certain Muslims to abandon this custom since it is well established among some tribes. p. 21)

Advice to Amir of Kabul[edit]

Ahmad also addressed the Amir of Kabal [8] to "convene a discussion on the true nature of jihad. These religious scholars can then educate the public about its errors." (p. 22) Thus spreading a more peaceful and better understanding of Jihad among the people of Afghanistan. For Ahmad believed "it is mostly Afghans who commit these acts and wield the sword with the intent of becoming ghazis, and a sizable majority of them live in his country. These barbaric practices defame Islam and he should do his best to cleanse the Afghan nation of them." (p. 23)

Afghanistan will suffer[edit]

Probably Ahmad knew, the Amir of Kabal was not going to pay heed to any of his councils, so he warned the Afghans of bitter consequences of their extremism:

The Amir’s citizens will surely suffer if he fails to pay heed to this essential reform. The government that ignores such fatawa from these mullahs ultimately creates problems for itself because these days the maulavis readily label people as disbelievers over minor religious differences, applying to them all other fatawa that they apply to disbelievers.(p. 22)

Claims to be the Messiah and Mahdi[edit]

At the end of the booklet, Ahmad has put forth his claim to Divine Relation, and that he was the promised Messiah and Mahdi:

I also have been given the help of the Holy Spirit. The same Mighty and Holy God Who

has descended upon me appeared to all Prophets. He appeared to Moses at Sinai, to Jesus at Mount Seir, and He shined forth on the Holy Prophet (may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) at Mount Paran. He has communicated with me and said to me:

“I am the Highest Being for the worship of Whom all Prophets were sent. I alone am the Creator and Possessor and there is none like Me. I am not subject to birth or death. I have been informed that prevailing Christian beliefs such as Trinity and Atonement are all human errors in contravention of God’s real teachings. God has directly informed me with His own living word. If you confront difficulties, and people ask how they might know that you are from God, tell them that heavenly signs are my witness, my prayers are answered, and I am informed of what is yet to come. Hidden mysteries, known only to God, are revealed to me before they are manifest publicly.(p. 37)

"Did this age not need the avatar [second coming] of Jesus the Messiah? Of course it did. Currently, millions of Muslims are ready to kill other people under the pretense of jihad. Indeed, some are unable to truly love a benevolent government even while living under its protection. They are unable to reach the highest levels of sympathy, and cannot cleanse themselves of affectation and pretence. There was therefore a dire need for the avatar of the Messiah. So I am that very promised avatar, who has been sent in the spiritual likeness, personality and temperament of Jesus the Messiah". (p. 33)

My message will spread[edit]

God has Himself provided the means for fulfilling His prophecy that the message of the Messiah will spread in the world like lightening and will encompass all four corners of the earth like the light from a tower. The railways, telegraph, steamships, excellent postal services, easy modes of travel and tourism and other such means have been established to fulfill the prophecy that the message of the Messiah will illuminate every corner like lightening. (p. 19)


  1. ^ "The British Government and Jihad". Alsilam. 
  2. ^ "The Ahmadiyya Jama'at: a persecuted sect". American Chronicle. Retrieved 15 October 2010. 
  3. ^ The British Government and Jihad, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1900)
  4. ^ The Quran, 22: 39
  5. ^ In 1849, Reverend Pfander published his book Mizan-ul-Haq in India, the Punjab and the Frontier Region. In it, he used offensive language to attack Islam and its Prophet (may peace be upon him) This was his first book on Islam and Christianity. The book is a defense of the integrity of the Bible, as well as an attack on the Holy Qur’an and the truthfulness of the Holy Prophet Muhammad.[The British Govt and Jihad, p. 24, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad.
  6. ^ For extensive Missionary activities of C G Pfander, See 'Muslims and Missionaries Pre-Mutiny India by Avrill Ann Powell (2013)[1]
  7. ^ Reverend ‘Imad-ud-Din, a former Muslim, was one of the many priests who published extensively against Islam during this period.
  8. ^ The Amir of the Afghan at that time was ‘Abdur Rahman (1881–1901). He ascended to the throne after the second Afghan war (1878–80) and was recognised as the Amir of Kabul on the condition that he would not have political relations with any foreign power other than the British.

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