The Ahmadiyya Movement was founded in British India by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1836-1906), an Islamic reformist and mystic who in 1891 claimed that he was a prophet, revivalist (mujaddid), and the messiah (mahdi) anticipated by Muslims. The movement split in two following the death of Ahmad’s successor, Maulana Nur ad-Din in 1914, with one group affirming Ahmad’s messianic status (The Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam) and a second group regarding him as a reformer, but otherwise adhering to mainstream Islamic beliefs that understand Muhammad to have been the final prophet (the Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement).
The Ahmadiyya movement is regarded as heterodox by the majority of Sunni and Shi’a Pakistanis, and Ahmadiyya Muslims have been marginalized, discriminated against in various ways, and sometimes violently oppressed. After decades of agitation on the part of the Jamaat-e-Islami and other Islamist groups, Ahmadis were categorized as a non-Muslim minority in national law in 1974—a view held by the majority of Pakistanis today—and constitutional reforms in 1973 barred an Ahmadi from holding the presidency. As a result of these laws, Pakistani police have destroyed Ahmadi copies of and commentaries on the Qur’an, banned the profession of faith (kalima) on Ahmadi gravestones, prohibited the construction of Ahmadi mosques, and even forbade the use of the term masjid (“mosque”) by an Ahmadi, among other prohibitions. Ahmadi Muslims have also been targeted with violence by groups such as the Pakistani Taliban. Nonetheless, individual Ahmadis and Ahmadi organizations are active in educational, missionary, and community efforts worldwide.
The sentiments behind discrimination emerge from a number of doctrinal issues, especially Mirza Ghulam Ahmad’s claim to prophecy which challenged the orthodox Islamic tenet that Muhammad was the final Abrahamic prophet, but other factors have made the Ahmadis more vulnerable. Historically, the Indian Muslim community took umbrage with Ahmad’s unswaying loyalty to the colonial British at a time of rising nationalist sentiment. The Ahmadi community in colonial India also tended to be better educated and more prosperous compared to other Muslims. These religious, cultural, and political factors contributed to their early targeting by Muslim political groups upon independence. They are referred to as Qadianis in Pakistan, a derogatory term.
“Breach of Faith,” Human Rights Watch, Vol. 17, No. 6 (2005).
Antonio R. Gualtieri, Conscience and Coercion: Ahmadi Muslims and Orthodoxy in Pakistan, (Montreal: Guernica Editions Inc, 1989).
Neha Sahgal, “In Pakistan, most say Ahmadis are not Muslim,” Pew Research Center, September 10, 2013, accessed March 6, 2014.
James Minahan, Ethnic Groups of South Asia and the Pacific: An Encyclopedia (Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2012).