To Jamia Ahmadiyya Students: Independent Authority

بسم الله الحمد لله و صلاة و سلام على رسول الله و على آله و سلم تسليما

The following is written specifically to the students of Jamia Ahmadiyya. Pass this to any students you know amongst them.

During the life of Imam Abu Hanifah رحمه الله, he was recognized as the eminent authority of Islamic law in ‘Iraq and throughout much of the Muslim lands. Given his sea of knowledge and profound wisdom, the Muslims of his contemporary accepted his legal opinions and considered them valid law. Sometimes the legal opinions of the Imam went against the wishes of the Ummayyad khulafa. Realizing the authority this personage held, the Khalifah of the time, ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan, wanted to control the Imam. He attempted to do so by sending him “gifts”, offering him positions as a judge and to pay him a salary, all courtesy of the Khalifah.

But, the wise Imam rejected the “gifts”, positions and salary- all of it. When asked why he did so, Abu Hanifah responded that if he was given a salary by ‘Abd al-Malik he would have a vested interest in maintaining good relations with the Khalifah. This would create a conflict of interest, where Abu Hanifah’s motivations would be tainted and he might intentionally take an incorrect position just to appease the Khalifah and maintain his salary. The Imam chose instead to finance his scholarship through his own personal business endeavorers.
If you have trouble understanding the conflict of interest that Abu Hanifah avoided, consider this corollary: In western democracies, there is an established separation between the executive and judicial branches of government. The de-centralization of power is what Imam Abu Hanifah sought to preserve.

If you are a student of Jamia Ahmadiyya, when you graduate you can expect to be a missionary, qadhi or murabbi. You will likely hold a position of religious authority within your respective community. Great. But, what happens if the leadership makes a statement or decision of consequence that you find yourself at odds with? What if you genuinely believe that an order he holds is not only incorrect, that it would be sinful to obey?

Assuming the option to talk out the dispute has been exhausted with no avail, in this situation do you think you would be able to do the right thing? Would you be able to oppose the official position of the religious authorities? Most importantly, would you be free to exercise your own independent judgement for the sake of Allah and tell others that the leadership has made a mistake? If you were to do so, you face ex-communication, your seven years of Ahmadiyya education would be rendered useless, your stipend would be cut, and your family would be publicly humiliated.

I am in light communication with three former Jamia Ahmadiyya students who faced a similar dilemma and came to different conclusions. One was demoted to a cursory role within the organization with no hope of growth, another shed his Ahmadi-specific beliefs and converted to traditional Islam, and the third became an atheist. (The last one saddened me.)

What is the point of this? Why is this being discussed? Because you are the future leadership of the Ahmadiyya religion. I do not doubt your sincerity or your passion. But channel that fervor in the way of our spiritual forefather Imam Abu Hanifah. In practice, this means:

  • Intellectually: to recognize that having a position of authority does not mean one is infallible.
  • Strategically: Position yourself in such a way that you are free to make your own decisions.
  • Action: Critically analyze injunctions passed upon you and be willing to say “I do not agree”. But be ready to support your conclusions with reasons and evidence.

Its worth mentioning that Imam Abu Hanifah suffered greatly for the positions he took. He was accused of being a Mu’tazili heretic. There were numerous assassination attempts against him, and the Khalifah imprisoned, tortured and starved him. He eventually died in prison. But, his sacrifice did not go unnoticed. His legal positions are followed by ~70% of the Muslims to this day, his theological interpretations are considered authoritative, and hardly can his name be mentioned without the honorific title Imam al-‘Adham (the great Imam) or an invocation of Allah’s mercy upon him.

Look, I am not asking you to leave Jamia Ahmadiyya and rebel against the murabbis tomorrow, I’m asking you to just think about it….

May Allah honor you the way He honored Imam Abu Hanifah رحمه الله.

For anyone a bit more scholastic, here is Fiqh al-Akbar, the simple ‘aqidah of Imam Abu Hanifah. (translation and commentary by Imam Muhammad ibn Yahya al-Ninowy)