In 2021, after Nida Al-Nasser’s leaked audio shook the world of Ahmadiyya, Afzal Upal also confessed to being sexually abused by a mail family member at the Rabwah Jalsa of 1976, see his tweets herein. Rana Tanveer covered the story herein. We love Afzal Upal, and all Ex-Ahmadi’s and all Ex-Muslim’s. We believe that everyone is free to pick their own religion. Enjoy the video. Afzal Upal explains why he wrote his book, “Moderate-Fundamentalist”. He did a video herein explaining why he wrote his book. His book can be downloaded for free herein. His father was a Murrabi in the Ahmadiyya Movement, he worked mostly out of West Africa and got transferred to Pakistan and then Canada in the 1980’s. He died in a car crash in 1995, his name was Maulana Ali Haider Upal (he is mentioned in the 2008 booklet, (“Ahmadiyya Muslim Mosques Around The World – A Pictorical Presentation. Ahmadiyya Muslim Community; Khilafat Centenary Edition. 2008. ISBN 978-1882494514). He is listed as having been stationed in Vancouver. It should also be noted that Afzal Upal claims that his father was stationed in Karachi by the Ahmadiyya Movement and he lived there also, right across the street from the Drigh Rd Ahmadiyya place of worship that recently had its minarets removed.
He wrote “Moderate-Fundamentalist” in 2017 and was given a warning by the Jamaat (basically kicked out of Ahmadiyya), he wrote a letter to the UK Charities Commission, however, because he was not a citizen of the UK, it was dismissed.
In 2022 he created his own youtube channel, “Ideals and Realities”, which seems to also be the name of a book by Dr. Abdus Salam. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org. He also published “The Handbook of Islamic Sects and Movements” (2021).
Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at in the Lens of Cognitive Science of Religion
In the mid 1950s, a British taxi driver named George King claimed that Budha, Jesus, and Lao Tzu had been alien “cosmic masters” who had come to earth to teach mankind the right way to live. Sun Myung Moon claimed that Korean people are descendants of the lost tribes of Israel. Joseph Smith claimed that some lost tribes of Israel had moved to Americas hundreds of years ago. All three people successfully founded new religious movements that have survived to this day. How and why do some people come up with such seemingly strange and bizarre ideas and why do others come to place their faith in these ideas? The first part of this book develops a multidisciplinary theoretical framework drawn from cognitive science of religion and social psychology to answer these critically important questions. The second part of the book illustrates how this theoretical framework can be used to understand the origin and evolution of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at founded by an Indian Muslim in 1889. The book breaks new ground by studying the influence that religious beliefs of 19th century reformist Indian Muslims, in particular, founders of the Ahl-e-Hadith movement, had on the beliefs of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at. Using the theoretical framework developed in part I, the book also explains why many north Indian Sunni Muslims found Ahmad’s ideas to be irresistible and why the movement split into two a few years Ahmad’s death. The book will interest those who want to understand cults as well as those who want to understand reformist Islamic movements.
Snippets from his book
Afzal Upal has written about Ahmadiyya academically. I am interested in his work in terms of Sir Syed and Ahmadiyya. Obviously, Sir Syed was the originator of the theory, “that Esa (As) was dead and never returning” (1870’s). In fact, even Noorudin learned Islam from Sir Syed.
I have attached the entire PDF for the readers to read the entire essay by Dr. Upal. In the below I have reproduced only the portions that directly deal with Ahmadiyya.
The PDF file, “M. A. Upal, Towards a computational science of culture”, in Proceedings of the27th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, page 2568, Lawrence Earlbaum, Mahwah, NJ, 2005
_____________________________________________________________________________________________The relevant part
A Brief Case Study: Mirza Ghulam Ahmed, the Founder of the Worldwide Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam (Ahmadiyyas are the Mormons of Islam (Jones 1986), a nineteenth century missionary
movement regarded as non-believers by the heterodox community because of their
innovative ideas but having firmly established themselves through their aggressive
Mirza Ghulam Ahmed was born during one of the darkest periods in the arguably glorious history of Muslims in India (Although Muslims may have thought of the situation as bleak as the official patronage for their religion disappeared, the event may have reinvigorated Islam by allowing a freer market of ideas resulting in a growing Muslim consciousness and emergence of new dynamic leaders such as Ahmed (Finke & Stark 1988).) into a family that sought its decent among the Turko-Persian Mughal imperial dynasty whose empire fractured in the eighteenth century into a number of petty-kingdoms (Dard 1948). Ahmed’s family fiefdom awarded to them by the Mughal Emperors was taken away by the Sikh who overran Punjab in the eighteenth century. Ahmed was a young boy when his family celebrated the British victory over the Sikhs at the end of the British-Sikh wars of 1846-1849. Later, Ahmed’s father lead 50 of his subjects to protect the British rule during the 1857 rebellion by the locals. However, Ahmed Sr. was disappointed when the British did not award him all the land his family claimed as their rightful jagir. Instead Ahmed Sr. was forced to spend the rest of his life litigating through the courts. However, years of litigation brought little in terms of additional land prompting Ahmed Sr. to often proclaim that his life had been a failure. Ahmed Sr. wished that he had devoted more time to the other family business, namely, seeking spiritual wealth and status that was
also due to an Islamic Mughal noble in Hindustan, the land of the idol worshipping Hindus.
Similar to other noble boys of his age, Ahmed was home schooled in Arabic, Persian, Quran, Hadith, Sufism, and Fiqah (Islamic jurisprudence). While his older brother excelled as a manager of the family estate becoming their father’s right hand man, Ahmed developed more spiritual and scholarly interests. He quit the clerical job that his father had procured for him in a Sialkot court after a brief stunt. It was clear to him that he had not found his true calling in life yet. However, the experience of living in a city with its multi-ethnic, multi-religious character left quite an impression on Ahmed. North Indian cities in the nineteenth century had a number of fault lines along ethnic (British versus Indian versus Persian) and religious (Christian versus Hindu versus Muslim versus Sikh) dimensions. Similar to other thinking Muslims of his time, Ahmed grew up to view the struggle as an onslaught of foreign (Christian) and domestic
(Hindu) adversaries against Islam. He also became convinced that Muslim response to date was far inadequate to rebut the challenges it faced both on the organizational and on the doctrinal front. He set himself the objective of proving dialectically the superiority of Islam over Christianity and Hinduism. He came to believe that traditional Islamic beliefs regarding
Jesus were not defensible against the evangelist argument that Islamic tradition implicitly endorsed a higher status for Jesus by admitting that while Muhammad was buried six feet under ground, Jesus sat alive on the right hand of God having been raised from the cross awaiting his second coming. It was in Sialkot that Ahmed saw firsthand the effectiveness of the
missionary effort that left a lasting impression on him and would in time prompt him to envision a well organized Islamic missionary movement to counter that threat.
Christian missionaries were not the only ones to bring up the topic of Jesus’ second coming. Many Muslim scholars, especially the Ahle- Hadith (Metcalf 1982), believed that the cataclysmic events of the nineteenth century, starting from the disintegration of the Mughal empire and culminating in the victory of the British, were a sign of the end times when Islam would be saved by the first coming of the Mahdi and the second coming of the Messiah (or Jesus reincarnated as an Islamic prophet). Towards the end of the eighteenth century, many had gathered around the scholar-turned-warrior Syed Ahmad believing him to be the Mahdi who would defeat the Sikhs and the British and re-establish an Islamic Kingdom in India. However, they were sorely disappointed when he died in a battle against the Sikhs in 1799. As Metcalf (1982) argues, after suffering military losses, Ahl-e-hadith had mellowed down but they still believed that Islam in India was in danger and that the Muslims needed to actively organize and resist the onslaught of the resurgent Hindu Aryas and invading Christians through a battle of ideas, Jihad-bil-qalm.
A young Ahmed felt an increasing attraction to the goals of the Ahle- Hadith movement. His early newspaper articles and posters were full ofthe traditional Ahl-e-Hadith rhetoric and exhortations to the Muslims to band together to fight the Christians and the Aryas in a Jihad of ideas. Ahmed quickly acquired the reputation of being a provocateur because of the use of his firebrand rhetoric and his habit of betting his share in the family fortune on being proved wrong in his arguments. Ahmed’s Ahl-e-Hadith friends were also excited by his seamless integration of the activist Ahl-e-Hadith outlook with the traditional Islamic philosophy and history. He envisaged a hierarchy of status going from animals, to evil doing humans, to neutral humans, to good humans, to Godly humans, to God’s beloved humans. Ahmed believed that even though one’s birth certainly bestowed certain advantages one could improve one’s status by one’s actions. Curiously enough, this is where he delves most deeply into the sufi terminology but still his message is different from traditional Sufi teachings which were heavily under attack by the Ahl-e-hadith (Metcalf 1982). Ahmed’s recipe for improving one’s status is by giving up one’s
worldly desires and needs and absorbing oneself completely into the love of God. He says,
“””The divine pillar and the source of wisdom, Syed Abdul Qadir Jilani, may Allah be pleased with him, . . . has written that if you want Allah to like you then you should believe that your hands, your feet, your tongue, your eye, your whole body and its parts, your feelings for other humans beings including your children and your wife, your worldly desires including those
of wealth, honor, achievement, fear, and the belief in the capacity of others to help you are all false idols. If you give them up and only follow Allah i.e., follow his shariah and the way of his beloved . . . then you will be given from the inheritance of the prophets and apostles of God i.e., you’ll be given from the knowledge and insight that has been lost and hidden. You’ll become the last of the God’s beloved i.e., there will none greater after you. . . God’s power
will be with you. . . Whatever you say will be from God and will be blessed. You’ll be appointed to take the place of those truth seekers who were given knowledge before you. . . if you wanted the non-existent to become existent or the existent to become non-existent then that is what will happen. God’s power will be shown through you. You will be awarded secrets and knowledge of the world and insight into the foreign because you will be considered a keeper worthy of such knowledge. (Ahmed 1893, pages 15-16)”””
Repeatedly in his articles Ahmed presented himself as a model of what one can achieve by following this recipe. He had given up all his worldly desires and completely devoted himself to God by following the shariah to the letter and through meditational practices such as spending all his time alone in the family mosque reading the Quran, Hadith, and mystical toms, and giving up his food to distribute among the village’s hungry, and fasting for months at a time. His efforts paid off just as he believed that they would. He began to dream about future events and he was offered insight that no-one else had been offered. “Through His blessings, His kindness, and His forgiveness He has proved to me that Jesus, may peace be on him, neither died on the cross nor was raised to the heaven but instead was saved and came to Kashmir and died there. These are not just stories, they have been fully proved through a number of arguments
as I have written in my book, ‘Jesus in India’ so I say to you with full force that I have been given the knowledge to break the cross as promised in Hadith.” (Ahmed 1900, page 168)
How Ahmed came to believe that God had told him of Jesus’ death in Kashmir illustrates the process of how I believe many charismatic leaders receive divine revelations. Ahmed’s early articles and books show that Ahmed held traditional Ahl-e-Hadith beliefs regarding Jesus’ ascension to the heavens. In fact, he defended those beliefs against the rationalist Sir
Syed Ahmad Khan who in his commentary on the Quran had argued that Jesus escaped death on the cross and died of natural causes later. (Khan 1880) However, sometime during the early 1880s, Ahmed came to believe that such beliefs were indefensible in arguments with Christians. He read the traditional Islamic literature looking for an alternative explanation that
would blunt the arguments of the Christian missionaries. Broadly speaking there could only have been two ways of countering the Christian argument (1) elevating Muhammad’s stature from that of a human-prophet who had died a normal death to a divine individual, and/or (2) demoting Jesus from being a super-prophet who did not die like other normal human-prophets
and sat on the right hand of God awaiting his second coming to an average (or below average) human-prophet who had died a natural death. It was through careful re-reading of the Islamic traditions (Quran, Hadith, and medieval scholars) lasting a number of years that Ahmed came to prefer the second option. He convinced himself that that is what God had said in the Quran and that is how the prophet Muhammad and his companions had understood it to be. He believed that the truth had become distorted during the dark ages of Islam but there had been a few scholars here and there who were given rays of light. Note that this is precisely the same
process through which Muslims believe that Jesus and Moses’ teachings had been corrupted by the Christians and Jews over time. Ahmed merely extended the same process to the Islamic belief regarding Jesus.
To really blunt the evangelical argument who pointed to Muhammad’s tomb as a proof of his lower status, Ahmed wanted a physical symbol of Jesus’ death, preferably a tomb. It appears that he turned to Christian sources regarding Jesus which mention a grave in the holy land where Jesus laid for three days before he was raised. Even though the exact location of the tomb was unclear to him, Ahmed used the existence of Jesus’ grave in the holy land as evidence supporting his conviction that Jesus had died a natural death in his arguments with Christians. Writing to respond to Siraj-ud-Din, the Christian, he wrote, “Off course it is true
that Jesus died in Galilee but it is not true that his body was resurrected” (Ahmed 1891). He later wrote to a Syrian acquaintance inquiring about the exact co-ordinates of the tomb. When told that it was nearby, he assumed that it was in Syria. He wrote, “the funny thing is that there is a tomb of Jesus in the country of Syria. For further clarity regarding this matter I quote the witness of brother Syed Muhammad Al-saeedi Tarablassi who lives in Tarablas, Syria. . . If you were to argue that the tomb is fake then you would have to prove your argument. You would also have to show when the fakery were invented? If Jesus’ tomb is proved fake we would also become suspicious about the tombs of other prophets and lose our belief in their authenticity. We would have to admit that perhaps those tombs are also fake (Does this suggest that Ahmed actively considered the possibility of denying that Muhammad had died and was buried in his Medina tomb?).” (Ahmed 1894).
The milieu in which Ahmed made his claims served as fodder for his creative process both by providing him with unique problems to ponder over and by limiting the creative space he had to explore to find solutions (Simon 1996; Schank & Abelson 1975). The period in which Ahmed
lived was unique in a number of ways. Opening of reliable contacts with India and Americas unleashed an exciting period of discovery for Europeans. Contacts with India allowed them to explore the common origins of the European and Indian languages (Latin, Greek, and Sanskrit)
and European and Indian religions (Christianity and Budhism). Some were reminded of the holy land as described in the Bible when they visited India. Some saw the lighter skinned Afghans and Kashmiris as being similar to European Aryans while others saw them as being similar to Jews in appearance as well as customs. The presumed similarities between Budhism and Hinduism also led scholars to a number of controversial hypotheses. Perhaps, none was as controversial as the hypothesis put forward by the Russian journalist Nicolas Notovitch who speculated that Jesus had come to India during his “missing years” (i.e., between the ages of 12 and 30). He claimed to have personally seen the evidence in a Buddhist book shown
to him by monks when he visited Tibet. (Notovitch 1887).
It was in this milieu that Ahmed first articulated his claim that Jesus had come to India after having miraculously survived the cross to save the ethnically Israelite Afghans and Kashmiris. After preaching to these ‘lost tribes’ Jesus had died at the age of 120 as Muhammad had said and was buried in Srinagar where one of Ahmed’s followers had located a Christian tomb. Given the time period during which it was proposed nothing about Ahmed’s theory sounds remarkable (for example when compared with Notovitch’s theory) other than the fact that after narrating all the scholarly arguments in favor of his claim, Ahmed concluded that it was God who had revealed the truth to him. Ahmed describes the intense joy that he received when he understood “the true meaning” of the Quranic verses and Ahadith concerning Jesus. He talks about that joy as, “more delicious than a king gets from his throne” (Ahmed 1900).
Why didn’t Ahmed believe that it was he himself who had discovered these ideas? After all atheists also have fresh thoughts. Ahmed’s answer was that being the source of all knowledge it is indeed God who gives the knowledge to the atheists as well. It’s just that an atheist is too ungrateful to acknowledge God as the source of his insight whereas a true believer is too
humble to claim that he has discovered something. He says for instance when a doctor thinks up a way of healing us that is beneficial to us the doctor’s search for an answer is akin to prayer asking the Higher power for His blessing. “Even the people who have no connection to Allah or a belief in his existence also seek the unknown. . . but they do not know the source of their knowledge” (Ahmed 1900).
Ahmed had reasons to self-deceive himself into believing that God was talking to him as he so desperately wanted God to talk to him to help him save Indian Muslims from certain disaster. He preferred to live in a world in which he believed that God talked to him than living in a world in which he did not believe that God talked to him. Ahmed frequently asks such rhetorical question as “why was I chosen by Allah to have these unique insights? Why has he continued to shower his blessings on me if I am a liar?” The only answer to these questions according to Ahmed was that it was indeed God who had chosen him and given him such brilliant insights.
Many among Ahmed’s Ahl-e-Hadith friends who were desperately waiting for a Mahdi and a Messiah saw the signs that indicated to them that Ahmed was the promised one. Similar beliefs were held by the followers of many of his contemporaries including Ahmed Riza Khan
of Ahl-e-Sunnat wa Jam’at (Sanyal 1996). Ahmed was almost certainly considered to be a Messiah by his closest confidante and fellow scholar Nur-ud-din long before he ever publicly claimed to be one. One of Ahmed’s followers is reported to have written a couplet pleading him to, “become the Messiah for God’s sake” (Dard 1948). (“Masseha bano tum khuda kay liyay.”)
Making the claims that Ahmed did was also not completely unheard of. Shaikh Abdul Qadir Jilanee claimed to be “al-ghwth al-azam – the manifestation of Allah’s attribute ‘the All-Powerfull’, who hears the cry for help and saves the ones in need, and al-qutb al-azam – the pole, the centre, the summit of spiritual evolution, the spiritual ruler of the world, the source of wisdom, container of all knowledge, the example of faith and Islam; a true inheritor of the perfection of Prophet Muhammad; a perfect man” (al-Halveti 1994). The highly regarded Sheikh Ahmed Sirhindi had proclaimed himself to be the mujaddid/reformer for the next one thousand
years (“mujaddid alif thani”) (Friedmann 2000). Mujaddid was also the first title that Ahmed claimed for himself in 1889. While this caused some opposition, he was enthusiastically accepted by those closest to him and they insisted that he accept their formal oath of allegiance (the ‘baiya’) to which he agreed on March 23rd 1889. Support from his followers in itself became both a proof for his previous claims ((Would God not have killed me by now had I lied about him?)) He asked repeatedly of his opponents and an indication of his rising status propelling him to make his most outlandish claim of being a nabi (an Islamic prophet) in 1904. His reasoning was similar to that he offered in support of his claims regarding Jesus’ death. First, he presented the traditional Islamic sources of authority including ahadith and medieval scholars who believed that the mujaddid of the fourteenth Islamic century would have the special status of Mahdi and nabi and then he claimed that God had revealed to him that he was indeed the promised Mahdi and a nabi.
Explaining the reasons for the emergence of the Ahmadiyya Movement has been a perplexing problem for the scholars who have studied nineteenth century North India. “A curious religious phenomenon in Indian Islam has been the advent of Ahmadiyya movement,” wrote the eminent Islamic scholar Fazl-ur-Rahman (Rahman 1958, p. 95). Reviewing Friedman’s Prophecy Continuous, Fusfeld (1992) wrote:
“””The relationship between the Ahmadiyya movement and the political, economic, and social environment (as distinct from its intellectual origins) is . . . largely unexplored. There is never any satisfactory explanation offered to show why the founder of the Ahmadiyya movement chose to take positions that were so outlandish when viewed from the perspective of mainstream Islam. . . how he benefited from taking a position on the finality of prophethood that many other Islamic leaders viewed as beyond the acceptable boundaries of Islam. . . why the Ahmadiyya came to be in such an unorthodox and (from the point of view of other Muslims) unacceptable positions. (Fusfeld 1992, pages 347-348).”””
Fusfeld faults the traditional sociological approach to religion for its shortcomings to explain religious movements founded by a single person. “The Ahmadiyya movement was to a large extent the result of one person’s view of the world he found and his efforts to come to grips with the problems he perceived. If the solution was a peculiar one, it may owe its peculiarity to the person who made it work.” Fusfeld argues (Fusfeld 1992, page 348). Off course Ahmadiyya are not the only religious movement to have been influenced so profoundly by the creative thoughts of a single person. Joseph Smith, Sun Myung Moon, Mary Baker Edy, and Shabatsai Tzvi appear to have had a similar role in the development of their group’s religious doctrine. It is clear that no explanation of such NRM founder’s behavior can be complete without looking inside the heads of these individuals. It must answer questions such as how and why do such individuals invent new religious ideas, how and why do they communicate these ideas to others, and how and why do others come to accept these ideas, by appealing to both collective sociological as well as individual cognitive factors. I believe that this can only be accomplished
by complementing the sociology of new religious movement by a cognitive science of new religious movements.
Links and Related Essay’s
Muhammad Afzal Upal محمد افضل اپل on Twitter: “The demolition of the minarets at the Drigh Rd Ahmadiyya mosque is making me incredibly sad because when my father served as a missionary there, we lived across the street & offered all five prayers there. Pakistani law enforcement authorities need to prosecute those responsible” / Twitter
1/4 I was six years old when an older male relative sexually abused me. He was visiting our house in Rabwah, Pakistan, the then worldwide headquarter of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community. #AhmadiMetoo https://t.co/BGvo5b1qbO
— Muhammad Afzal Upal محمد افضل اپل (@AfzalUpal) January 12, 2022
#JusticeforNida #ahmadiyya #ahmadiyyatrueislam #ahmadiapartheid #Ahmadiyyat #rabwah #qadian #meetthekhalifa #ahmadiyyat #muslimsforpeace #ahmadiyyafactcheckblog #nolifewithoutkhalifa #drsalam