Is it too much to ask in the 21st century to self-identify based on the beliefs you hold so dearly? After all, who has the right to tell me who I am and who I'm not? Apparently the Pakistani government does, who have declared the Ahmadiyya community "infidel" and non-Muslim since the infamous ruling in 1974.
The repercussions of this excommunication continues to gravely damage a nation and put the lives of millions of Ahmadis in Pakistan in danger as they live in fear under the constant threat of violence at any time in the only country in the world, where state sanctioned persecution exists.
Just this past week, extremists murdered an Ahmadi Muslim, Dr. Chaudhry Khaliq Ahmad, while he was attending to patients. The attack was carried out solely on the basis of Dr. Khalid's faith - the Mullahs have made Ahmadi Muslims enemy number one in Pakistan and continue to incite violence against them. The attack was completely unprovoked and resulted in multiple bullets striking Dr. Chaudhry as he passed away on his way to the hospital.
Prior to this heinous murder, a few weeks ago, Hamza Ali Abbasi, a renowned Pakistani actor who was conducting a TV series called "Ramazan Transmission" raised the topic of Ahmadis. What he said has triggered a storm of controversy throughout Pakistan, which many are calling crazy, insane, and downright blasphemous. He questioned, "Does a state have the right to judge an individual or community's status as a Muslim?" And, "Should Ahmadi Muslims be subject to blasphemy laws?"
If you are an Ahmadi Muslim and profess the Islamic creed in Pakistan you can go to jail for up to three years. One of the most frustrating aspect of this is that there is nothing in the religion of Islam which allows any Muslim to declare any Muslim a non-Muslim. In fact, both the Qur'an and the Prophet have taught that if someone holds themselves to be a Muslim, they are a Muslim.
In other words: I think I am Muslim, therefore I am.
The Prophet answered the controversial question of whether or not anyone has the right to infringe on one's beliefs and dismiss them as "Kaafir" (infidel), or non-Muslim, over 1400 years ago.
Throughout the history of Islam, we find that when people asked to convert to Islam, they were required to pledge allegiance to two beliefs -the Oneness of God, and that Prophet Muhammad is His messenger. According to the Prophet, the only requirement of being a Muslim was simply calling yourself as such.
In one of his many recorded narrations, Prophet Muhammad said:
"Whoever says, 'None has the right to be worshipped but Allah', faces our Qibla (Mecca), the direction of prayer, during the prayers, prays like us and eats meat slaughtered in our manner, then he is a Muslim, and has got the same rights and obligations as other Muslims have." (Bukhari)
Furthermore, there is an incident of a Muslim who had killed a non-Muslim that professed the Islamic creed during battle prior to getting killed, after which Prophet Muhammad was extremely angry. The companion said, "O Prophet, that man recited the Islamic creed merely to protect himself from death!"
The Prophet then famously replied, "Did you open his heart and look inside?"
This shows how dearly Prophet Muhammad protected the right for anyone to call themselves Muslim, leaving the right to judge their true intentions and beliefs only to God.
On another occasion, a companion asked the Prophet:
"If I confront an enemy in the battlefield and he cuts off my hand, and then seeks shelter behind a tree and professes the Islamic creed to save himself, would I be entitled to kill him?" Prophet Muhammad responded by saying, "No you must not kill him."
Again the companion emphasized, "He only professes to be a Muslim after he has cut off my hand!" Prophet Muhammad again stated, "You must not kill him. If you do so, he will be counted as a Muslim and you as an infidel." (Bukhari Kitabul Maghazi)
There is not a single incident in Islamic history during the life of the Prophet in which he denounced anyone that claimed to be a Muslim, regardless of what anyone may think of their intentions or their differences in particular.
Highlighting the fact that no one can excommunicate anyone else from Islam, the Prophet stated,
"Whoever calls a reciter of `There is no god but Allah' as a Kaafir [Non-Muslim], is nearer to being a Kaafir [Non-Muslim] himself.'' (Tabarani, reported from Ibn Umar)
And if all of this is not enough, the Prophet was so much against excommunication that he stated,
"Whoever attributes Kufr [disbelief] to a believer, he is like his murderer.'' (Tirmizi, ch. Iman)
As an Ahmadi Muslim, no one has the right to tell me that I am not a Muslim.
I believe in the oneness of God, the truth of Prophet Muhammad, five pillars of Islam, the six articles of faith, and follow the teachings of Islam to my utmost ability.
So what does all of this mean? Well, according to the Prophet Muhammad: I think I am Muslim, therefore I am.
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