Nicholas H. A. Evans has recently published a book about Qadian and Ahmadis in 2020, this is based on ethnographic research that he conducted in 2011-2012 in and around Qadian (field work). “Far from the Caliph’s Gaze: Being Ahmadi Muslim in the Holy City of Qadian” by Nicholas H. A. Evans. Evan’s is a research professor at London School of Economics and Political Science, he works in the Department of Anthropology.
He writes that Ahmadi’s invited the RSS (a hindu nationalist group, known for killing Muslims) to the Jalsa every years at Qadian, since they shared enemies, i.e., the Muslims of India and the world.
He was kicked out of Qadian about half way through his work and forced to go and meet the caliph in London, he was treated terrible and he was frustrated.
He called Ahmadi’s as “excessively-certain” about their Caliph and their religion.
He was told that there are 80–200,000 Ahmadi’s, in India(which is a huge exaggeration). He didn’t address the fact that the Khalifa had announced 40 million converts to Ahmadiyya from India alone.
He was told that Ahmadi’s love the persecution, and many have converted only because of it.
Ahmadi Women in Qadian are forced to wear full burqa, just like Rabwah.
He makes many mistakes, and obviously, it takes 15 years of reading to learn Ahmadiyya. For example, he claims that the issues of Khilafat happened at the death of the first Khalifa, however, this is not true, the issues started in 1909. He also claims that when Ahmadi’s became non-Muslim, the government of Pakistan criminalized the belief against Khatme-Nubuwwat, however, this is not true, being an Ahmadi in Pakistan is not a crime, apostacy is not a crime either.
- He was not allowed to speak to any of the Ahmadi-women at Qadian.
His previous articles that are related to research for this book: “Beyond cultural intimacy: The tensions that make truth for India’s Ahmadi Muslims” and “Witnessing a potent truth: rethinking responsibility in the anthropology of theisms”.
He discovered the nature of Ahmadiyya Movement (a personality cult) and it’s relationship with belief, truth and theatrics around all this. It seems that after introduction he will be exposing contradictions, hypocrisy, lack of empathy, opportunism, propaganda techniques etc. with examples. It will be a must read book and will prove to be the best explanation so far of the Ahmadiyya Movement using a scientific approach.
Noteworthy passage from the introduction of this book can be read below and everything that will come next will revolve around this:
“A standard approach to studying insular religious sects has thus been to investigate the mechanisms through which these sects manage to erase doubts in the minds of their followers. Scholars of religion have consequently asked how certainty gets produced and what bearing it has on the relative flourishing or failure of new religious movements. Fundamentally, the question becomes: What kinds of coercion and control are necessary for people to act in this way? Therefore, where doubt is not present, its absence is assumed to require explanation and quite possibly condemnation. We assume that doubt must be a central problem for the religious, and when the religious do not appear to be afflicted by it, its absence becomes a major problem for our analysis. The Ahmadiyya Jama‘at is one example of a religious organization that would, in standard sociological theory, be seen to contain numerous “plausibility structures” to maintain certainty and ward off doubt. Their conviction would be seen as ‘unreal’ unless enforced through social mechanisms that effectively curtail people’s natural inclinations toward skepticism.
…I have sought to show that, even though my interlocutors do not problematize their ability to either know or believe in truth (i.e., they entertained neither first- nor second-order doubts), their relationship to truth is far from untroubled. This is because they find themselves in the position of asking what they might owe to truth and whether they can fulfill their obligations to that truth.”
At the very core of the book is the question of how, given that Ahmadis define their Muslimness in large part through a personal relationship with khilafat, Ahmadis in Qadian differ from Ahmadis elsewhere in maintaining this relationship, despite the physical and administrative distance over the past 75 years between khilafat and Qadian.
The author, Nicholas Evans, spent 15 months living in Qadian and meeting with Ahmadis, including murabbis. He also specifically obtained permission from Mirza Masroor Ahmad to write the book. I read the book largely for insight into how the jamaat operates, as well as for an academic account of Ahmadi life in Qadian and the unique qualities of Ahmadiyyat, for better or for worse.
This book differs other books on the topic in that it doesn’t take Ahmadi claims at face value without commenting on how unique or unstable these claims are, as well as how the jamaat consciously created its administrative structure and distinct internal culture during the second caliphate. Evans is quite fond of the Ahmadis he meets and comes to know, who I’m sure were very kind and hospitable, but he is also not writing PR-type material for Ahmadis as ‘the good Muslims’ or ‘the moderate Muslims’, as is so often the case with Westerners who write about Ahmadiyyat.
There are so many themes to discuss in this book and each of them could (and perhaps should) be its own post. I would just like to focus on a few themes that jumped out to me: the jamaat bureaucracy, the aesthetics of Ahmadiyyat, and the inside/outside distinction in what defines Ahmadiyyat.
When Evans first arrived in Qadian, he attended the Qadian jalsa and was interviewed as a guest from the UK. However, since he had traveled to Qadian on his own, the UK jamaat was not aware of his visit and had not sanctioned it, which caused a panic. Later on, when he is about to begin a year-long field study where he will live in Qadian, even though the Indian jamaat is fairly familiar with him and his research, he is required to travel back to the UK to personally meet with Mirza Masroor Ahmad to obtain approval.
Evans describes in detail what must be charitably considered as the cumbersome bureaucracy of the jamaat, where literally every single appointment for every single jamaat around the world must personally be approved by the caliph, as though he has personal knowledge of the person who has been nominated for a role by election. Evans describes this, for Ahmadis, as continuing a personal relationship with the divine, but if we are to adopt the ordinary community model for Ahmadiyyat that its apologists so often use when defending its arbitrary rules, what ordinary organization, whether it’s a lawn bowling club or a multinational corporation, has its chief executive personally approve thousands of appointments every single year?
Finally, Evans touches gently on the absurd number of conversions claimed by the jamaat in the late 90s, providing evidence against the claim that this was overenthusiastic reporting at the local or national level, but as a way of fulfilling a powerful prophecy issued by Mirza Tahir Ahmad:
Badr had printed a sermon from March 26, 1999, in which Tahir Ahmad had expressed absolute certainty that within a year, ten million people would join the Jama‘at. Likewise, an article from January 1999 noted that the caliph had reported the extraordinary progress of the Jama‘at in India such that within the first four months of the year, there had been 253,283 converts, over twice the figure for the first four months of the previous year. Given that even today, there are unlikely to be more than 200,000 Ahmadis in India and that Indian conversion figures for 2008–09 and 2009–10 were 2,417 and 2,761 respectively, the 1999 figure is presumably fanciful.
Evans also examines the aesthetics of the jamaat, which I had never thought about until I read Nuzhat Haneef’s treatment of how the caliphs dress. The achkhan and turban is not how they normally dressed prior to becoming caliph and also not rooted in Islam, leaving Haneef to conclude that the clothes almost always worn by the caliphs must represent what such clothes typically represent, i.e. status in feudal Punjabi society, or chaudhrahat.
Evans talks briefly about how ordinary Ahmadis look and dress, and he also has a chapter called Televising Islam, but what I found most remarkable was his treatment of the international bait every summer. I have seen this and participated in it, but I had never stopped to consider that this was a highly choreographed event designed to have maximum impact on television, not unlike a well-produced TV show. The camera angles, the images, the prominent positioning of Ahmadis visibly not of Pakistani heritage, the long lines of people and the use of microphones to intentionally record the language of the international bait repeated in multiple languages are all designed to create a spiritual experience.
This is not a spontaneous spiritual experience, but a consciously-designed, curated and delivered experience and owes as much to the caliph and his theology as it does to the skilled TV people in the jamaat. It’s also hard to read this and not feel like this is a bidat that has been grafted onto orthodox Islam as a modern institution, not without merits, but without an anchor in the original Islam.
This is the single annual moment of combined ritual in which all Ahmadis around the world are expected to synchronously participate. Unlike its formal counterpart, it retains elements of the original Sufi ritual of initiation, which was performed to create a link between devotee and master.56
The International Bai‘at was first staged in 1993, and it has since developed a very particular aesthetic form that is repeated, year after year, during its MTA broadcast.57
In what follows, I describe it as a global ritual because it cannot be understood if viewed as simply a broadcast to which Ahmadis in Qadian responded. Rather, technical aspects of the live television broadcast needed to be performed correctly, and their improper implementation could lead to ritual failure. Camera angles, video editing, and even the placement of microphones and the sound mixing are parts of the ritual performance of this International Bai‘at, as much as the responses of people sitting in the mosque in Qadian.
3. Differences in Private/Public Discourse
Finally, Evans describes the inside/outside distinction in Ahmadi discourse, which is something all of us intuitively know as the difference between a sermon at an Ahmadi mosque on a Friday or a speech in Urdu at a local general body meeting and English-language material or presentation for interfaith events or at the jalsa salanas when dignitaries are present. It is undeniable that the original works of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad were aggressive and bombastic, but he was aggressively out to prove that Islam, particularly his own interpretation, was superior to every other interpretation of every other religion. His work was chiefly devoted to this end and these are the vicious, bruising polemics you hear at internal events. At external events, however, the story is different:
For Ahmadis living in Qadian and speaking Urdu, Ghulam Ahmad’s ferocious polemics are celebrated and emulated (see chapter 3). It is only as discourse is shifted to English—when the Jama‘at hopes to speak to India’s cosmopolitan urban centers or foreign audiences—that polemics cease to be celebrated and Ahmadis focus solely on the simple message that Islam is a religion of peace. I am not the first to note this discrepancy. The theologian Yohanan Friedmann, writes, “In its relationship with the non-Muslim world, however, the Aḥmadiyya is primarily engaged in defending Islam and depicting it as a liberal, humane, and progressive religion, wrongfully calumnied by non-Muslims.
One other subtle but noticeably noxious, disingenuous phenomenon is the Ahmadi coverage of Mirza Masroor Ahmad meeting with foreign leaders as one-way opportunities to learn from the caliph, not conversations between two equals:
The caliph is simultaneously aloof from and yet deeply involved in worldly politics. In Britain, where the caliph resides, but also during his tours of other countries, the Jama‘at work hard to arrange meetings and audiences between the caliph and secular authorities. These meetings are nonetheless never constructed as two-way exchanges. Rather, as in the case of the saint described by Werbner, the caliph alone is seen to give. He addresses politicians, and in doing so he gifts them his message of justice and peace. As I will show in chapter 5, Jama‘at reportage of these events—both in print and on their satellite television channel—is above all concerned to present these politicians as witnesses, not interlocutors. The emphasis is always on their reactions to the caliph’s message and his personage.
“When (Indian) partition first began to seem inevitable, the caliph lobbied for QADIAN to become an INDEPENDENT PRINCELY STATE, but this soon became obviously impractical”.
..They build an empire for themselves, name their residence “Kasray Khilafat” that literally means the “Palace of Khilafat.” Qadian, Rabwah, Tilford aka Islamabad UK.
“”The historian Ayesha Jalal, described how Mahmood Ahmad’s efforts to unify, ‘temporal and spiritual authority’, overstepped what was acceptable to many Muslims, for Mahmud Ahmad was increasingly, ‘running the local administration on the lines of an Ahmadi mafia’.””
Even Nicholas Evans writes that in the #AMJ, chanda is mandatory, even non-working Ahmadi women of Qadian are forced to pay. Non-payment will result in getting kicked out of Ahmadiyya. See Chapter-1
Nicholas H. A. Evans from the London School of Economics has released a Book titled “Far from the Caliph’s Gaze: Being Ahmadi Muslim in the Holy City of Qadian”.
You can read the full text here: https://muse.jhu.edu/book/74158/
The merit of this Book is:
We have a Non-Pakistani, uncontroversial and white academic dealing with Ahmadis, so his work can not be attacked as being prejudiced. On the contrary despite having actually seen the real face of the Qadiani sect at their roots first hand, he remains painfully neutral. Even when it would be good to highlight the explosiveness of his research, re remains neutral as if he was dissecting a dead lab rat. That is maybe only possible when you have no personal history with the Qadianis and juts have to deal with them as a research object like a dead rat. Lucky you Mr. Evans.
For his purposes this appears probably to be the correct way, as his research is mainly interested in how Qadianis have been able to cultivate a following that is incapable of doubt or better said does not dare to doubt. Thus his language remains civilized and he uses very euphemistic words to describe the sneaky methods the Qadianis have employed and you have to read between the lines to understand what he is saying. So unfortunately you will not find the colorful language of a Mad Mullah, that would have been fitting to describe the Qadiani methods in this book. But nevertheless, this Book has some interesting points to consider.
The main points of this book are:
Qadianis are incapable or do not dare to doubting like normal humans would. Qadianis share a common secret, that they are living a lie, but despite that knowledge, they continue to live it and keep convincing themselves by keeping a façade alive.
Qadiani Mirzas meets with politicians in a way Pakistani Pirs and holy men do. He is only ever shown to lecture people and never shown to be lectured. Like North Koreas Kim. The Interfaith Symposiums and Qadiani Meetings are organized, recorded and transmitted in a way that the Mirza appears to be the lecturer.
Despite claiming to be non-political, the Qadiani Mirza’s outlined a New World Order in his book “Nizam-e-Nau” during World War 2. In it the Mirza wanted to replace Capitalism and Communism with Wasiyyat. According to his plans, he wanted the whole world to be subscribed to Wasiyyat, and he be the benefeciarry.
Mahmood Ahmad envisioned that if everybody were to give one-third of their assets in this way, in a few generations, most property would have accumulated in the hands of the Jama‘at for the benefit of all humanity.
“Wasiyyat is going to replace capitalism.”
In 1943 Zafrullah Khan, made a English translation of this Ahmadiyya “New World Order”—a mere year after the original Urdu lecture—and yet it contained substantial differences, the most obvious of which was its distinctive new subtitle, New World Order of Islam. It was translated by Muhammad Zafrullah Khan, the highest-profile Ahmadi of his day, who after partition became the first foreign minister of Pakistan.
This shows that Zafrullah Khan was never fit to be a high ranking politician in the first place and was working with his leader the Mirza to advance a Qadiani agenda. The appointment of Zafrulla as Pakistans foreign mister was done under English pressure.
In Nizam-e- Nau the Ahmadiyya caliphate is not presented as a direct successor to worldly political systems: rather, the caliphate is seen to give rise to a private relationship of devotion that has the power to render secular politics defunct.
In other Words, the Qadiani Leaders do not bother with the secular political system, because they want to control people the way they control their own followers through an unconditional oath in which their followers swear to be obedient until death and give property, offspring and life to the command of the Ahmadiyya Caliph.
For many Ahmadis, the fact that the role of Caliph has remained within a single family is felt to be evidence of the efficacy and incorruptibility of their electoral process: it is evidence of the fact that God is indeed responsible for the election of the caliph.
For Qadianis in Qadian, the political problems of the world were overwhelmingly understood to have arisen due to governments and people ignoring the message of the caliphate.
In Qadian, the future of the world and the dawning of a new global order are said to rest on the willingness of individuals and nations to embrace the caliph as their one true global leader.
Yet in spite of the extensive nature of the Jama‘at system in Qadian, the history of the town since 1947 has left it in a uniquely isolated position from the global caliphate. The Point: The Ahmadiyya sect envisions a New World Order for the whole world, but their Main centers Qadian and Rabwah, where they have established their rules are cesspools of rape and sodomy.
Qadianis thus desire to live under the benign authoritarianism of their leader, which they see as a benevolent and sacred form of sovereignty. From him, material and spiritual gifts flow (via the administrative system of the global Jama‘at), and in return Ahmadis offer their obedience. This is a model of sovereignty that draws extensively on older South Asian models of kingship, premised on a personal relationship of unequal reciprocity in which the justice of the sovereign is made available to his people through the act of petitioning.
The relationship and immediacy between caliph and follower be recognized as no more than a pious fiction. Because Qadianis believe that the Caliph responds to every letter they write or controls everything. In truth it is the bureaucracy that controls it. But Qadianis believe that their Caliph in superhuman and capable of reading thousands of letters and faxes a day.
Regarding Qadiani claim that Jesuas was in Kashmir: the journalist spoke of Ahmadi arguments regarding Jesus as if they were court-admissible evidence, not just in their status as the doctrine of one particular community but as proofs that might be counted as evidence within the court.
About how Qadianis tend to erase failed mubahalas: The response I got was again the same; they neither knew about the mubahala, nor did they seem to think it was important to find out anything more about the result. This was puzzling. I knew that my interlocutors cared deeply about demonstrating the truth of Ahmadiyya. Once a prophecy fails, Qadianis get collective amnesic and do as if there never was any such prophecy.
Qadianis yearn and pray for confrontation as it allows them to play the victim card and gives them cheap publicity they would otherwise have to pay themselves. They hope that Confrontation with Ahmadis will increase also in places like Europe.
The murder of Asad Shah in Glasgow had an interesting angle that the Qadini sect exploited to play the victim. Asad Shah was insane and was claiming to be a prophet himself for decades. He had written letters to the Ahamdiyya Khalifas to accept them and had posted youtube videos and that was the reason he was killed and not because he was Ahmadi or not. Regardless of that, the Ahmaidyya sect exploited this situation to play the victim and get cheap publicity. I’ll write about it in a separate post.
So this books has some interesting points to make and is worth a read.
But I have some criticism.
The author remains very superficial and the subjects that the touches like Ahmadis using TV and Press to defraud or convince themselves and their own members and the public are maybe some minor points compared to other subjects in regards to Ahmadiyya.
The author shies away from the really interesting parts of the Ahmadiyya ideology and history. For example he writes in lengths about the trickeries the Ahmaidys employed in continuously amending the conditions of mubahala until no one was able to fulfill them so that they would always have a way to talk them out about any outcome of any such death prophecy.
Interesting subjects such as Muhammdi Begum or the Sun and Moon Eclipse are completely missing in his book.
Also the matter about the fake conversion numbers are mainly ignored. He only mentiones it in one paragraph that in one year the India Jamaat claimed to have a few hundred thousand converts, but that appeared to be impossible as even nowadays he can only count 2000 converts a year. The fact that at the peak the Ahmadiyya sect had claimed to have 40 Million converts in a single year alone is completely ignored by Mr. Evans. it would have been interetsing to research how these insane figures were derived and how the Ahmadiyya sect and its members dealt with tuning down the conversions figures from millions to a few thousand and forgetting it all together?!
And finally he claims that he also interviewed the current Qadiani Caliph, but there is nothing in his book about any such interview. It would have been interesting to read about his interview. Unfortunately after this book, I doubt that Mr. Evans will get the opportunity to interview the Mirza.
Probably it is too much to aks for from an outsider to touch on all those subjects and we shall be happy with what Mr. Evans managed to research.
Also this Books shows that once you deal a little bit with the Ahmadiyya sect, you will eventually be able see the real face of the ahmadiyya sect. Maybe Mr. Trudeau would do his homework before next time he compares Canada with the Ahmadiya sect.
So Mr. Evans please keep digging the dirty Ahmadiyya hole and you will pull out more dirt than you can imagine.
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