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Ahmadi

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The Islamic World: Past and Present What is This? Accessible coverage of Islam from the seventh century to the twenty-first century

    Ahmadi

    Ahmadi refers to a messianic movement in modern Islam. The Ahmadis have been controversial since their beginnings in British-controlled India in 1889 . Nevertheless, they have remained active for more than a century and are known for their zealous dedication to the spreading of their faith. The Ahmadis have established mosques and missionary centers in the Indian subcontinent, the Western world, Africa, and Asia.

    The movement was founded by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad , who was born in the late 1830s in India. Ghulam Ahmad's followers claimed he was the Messiah and a prophet. As a result, the Ahmadi movement aroused the fierce opposition of mainstream Sunni Muslims. In particular, the movement was accused of rejecting the belief that Muhammad was the last prophet. While India was under British rule, this controversy remained an issue among private individuals and religious organizations. When the Ahmadi headquarters moved to the Islamic state of Pakistan in 1947 , however, the dispute assumed much greater importance. Religious scholars belonging to the Sunni mainstream demanded the formal exclusion of the Ahmadi movement from the Islamic fold and achieved that goal in Pakistan in 1974 .

    The original religious thought of the Ahmadi movement revolved around Ghulam Ahmad's claim to be a divinely inspired thinker and reformer. The various ways in which he expressed his beliefs, however, enabled both his supporters and his rivals to interpret his claims in contradictory ways.

    Ghulam Ahmad based his convictions on the belief that Muslim religion and society had deteriorated to the point where divinely inspired reforms were needed. He claimed to have been chosen by Allah for the task of revitalizing Islam. He maintained that his position was compatible with the Muslim belief that Muhammad was the last prophet by dividing prophets into two categories. He claimed there were legislative prophets, who bring new books of divine law, and nonlegislative prophets, who are sent simply to urge a community to implement laws brought by earlier, legislative prophets. According to Ghulam Ahmad, the belief in the finality of Muhammad's prophethood applied only to legislative prophets.

    After Ghulam Ahmad's death in 1908 , the movement divided over questions of leadership. The Qadiani faction, the largest of the resulting groups, emphasized Ghulam Ahmad's claim to prophethood. It claimed that the religious authority of Ghulam Ahmad's son Mahmud was no less than his father's had been. The Qadiani faction also considered non-Ahmadi Muslims infidels. The Lahori faction, on the other hand, held that Ghulam Ahmad never claimed to be more than a renewer of the Islamic faith.

    While conflict among Ahmadi factions played a prominent role in the movement's history, one aspect has always remained constant: all Ahmadis consider the peaceful spread of their version of Islam among Muslims and non-Muslims to be of the utmost importance.

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