Majlis-e Ahrar-e Islam (Urdu: مجلس احرارلأسلام), also known in short as Ahrar, is a religious Muslim political party in the Indian subcontinent that was formed during the British Raj (prior to the Partition of India) on 29 December 1929 at Lahore.
The group became composed of Indian Muslims inspired by and supporting the Khilafat Movement, which cleaved closer to the Congress Party. The party is based in Punjab and gathered support from the urban lower-middle class. Chaudhry Afzal Haq, Maulana Habib-ur-Rehman Ludhianvi and Syed Ata Ullah Shah Bukhari were the leaders of the party.
Religious leaders from all sects Sunni Barelvi, Deobandi, Ahle Hadith, Shia Progressive and politically Communists were the members of Majlis-e-Ahrar. Chaudhry Afzal Haq, Syed Ata Ullah Shah Bukhari, Habib-ur-Rehman Ludhianvi, Mazhar Ali Azhar, Maulana Zafar Ali Khan and Dawood Ghaznavi were the founders of the party. The Ahrar was composed of Indian Muslims disillusioned by the Khilafat Movement, which cleaved closer to the Congress Party.
Beef with the Ahmadiyya movement?
As the early 1930’s approached, the governor of the Punjab was Herbert William Emerson (see page 268). He had many issues with the Ahmadiyya movement and their modus operandi. In those days, it was impossible to publically criticize the Ahmadiyya Movement. The Majlis Ahrar, which was a political movement, they had lots of beef with Ahmadis in this same era and had resolved to conduct a conference in Qadian during the winter of 1934. Governor Emerson approved of the Ahrar conference in the vicinity of Qadian in 1934 and stunned the Ahmadi Khalifa. The governor assured the Ahmadi Khalifa that he would take care of the security of Qadian, however, the Ahmadi Khalifa still sent out letters to the various branches of Ahmadiyya in British India and asked for young men to be sent to Qadian to patrol the streets, since there was no police department. This seems to have angered the governor. He ordered that all visitors of Qadian (see the 6th paragraph from the bottom) be recorded and that every Friday Khutbah of the Khalifa to be recorded and sent to him for review (see page 270). This is a very strange reaction by the Governor of the Punjab, his motives are unknown. However, the Ahrar conference took place and Ataullah Shah Bukhari delivered its keynote speech. Ataullah Shah Bukhari was then promptly arrested for anti-government speech. It should be noted that Muhammad Zafrullah Khan was a close friend of Governor Emerson and even had taken his mother to meet with Governor Emerson’s wife in an attempt to secure support for the Ahmadiyya movement. Bukhari was sentenced to 6 months. He did fight his case on appeal, wherein Justice Khosla reviewed the judgement of the high court and commented as such:
“In order to enforce their argument and further their cause they called into play weapons weapons which would ordinarily be termed highly undesirable. They not only intimidated the person who refused to come with their fold with boycott and ex-communication and occasionally threats of something worse, but they frequently fortified the process of proselytizing by actually carrying out these threats. A volunteer corps was established at Qadian with the object, probably of giving sanction to these decrees”
“To propagate their ideas and to expand the number of their community, those people (the Mureeds of Mirza Mahmud Ahmad) started using such weapons and methods which are generally considered objectionable. So that those persons who refused to tow their line, were subjected to (social and economic) boycott and expulsion (from the town or community), and at times, they were threatened by dire and ghastly consequences.” (see PDF 593/623).
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