It was in the late 1950s that the original work in Urdu on which the present book is based was first undertaken. This rendering of it into English is now being offered for the benefit of English-speaking readers. The original book was published under the title Mazhab ke Nam per Khoon, literally translated as ‘bloodshed in the name of religion’. Since then numerous editions have been printed, and it has also been translated into Bengali and Indonesian.
The main source of Mazhab ke Nam per Khoon was the wide-scale and most violent anti-Ahmadiyyah riots of 1953 in Pakistan. The riots were long over by the time the book was written; the wounds were almost healed, leaving some slowly fading scars behind.
But the issues those riots raised continued to live undiminished and undiluted. Is Islam a religion of war or of peace? Does Islam advocate violence, bloodshed, destruction and disorder? Does it condone persecution in any form? Does it give license for loot, arson and murder on the pretext of doctrinal differences within Islam or vis-à-vis other faiths?
The book was written, therefore, not with the purpose of highlighting or resurrecting the dead and buried events of 1953, but in order to address the issues raised thereby, some of which have been mentioned above. The suffering, misery and turbulence of 1953 can be relegated to the past, of course, but the issues raised at that time continue to be of relevance and significance today. They are not confined to Pakistan either, or even to Islam. They give rise to timeless universal questions relating to every religion: matters of peace and war, order and chaos, and the defense and suppression of fundamental human rights.
In view of the importance of this subject, there has been a growing demand to make Mazhab ke Nam per Khoon available to a much wider readership than those using the Urdu, Bengali and Indonesian languages.
For some years, Syed Barakat Ahmad was pressing me for permission to translate my book. Syed Barakat Ahmad had a doctorate in Arab history (from the American University of Beirut) and literature (from the University of Tehran). He served in the Indian diplomatic service and retired as India’s High Commissioner to the West Indies. He was also an adviser to the Indian delegation to the United Nations, a fellow of the Indian Council of Historical Research and a student of Arabic teaching at the Al Azhar and Aligarh Universities.
Syed Barakat Ahmad suggested that as the original work in Urdu was addressed to readers who were familiar with Islamic terminology and the important events of early Islamic history, having been brought up in the Muslim cultural background, some changes would be necessary to make the translation of it into English fully comprehensible to readers less familiar with Islam. In view of this some portions were appropriately amended and, at his suggestion, explanations were provided wherever necessary.
Four years or so ago, when Syed Barakat Ahmad undertook this work, he was already suffering from an advanced stage of cancer of the bladder. Doctors had given him six months to live at the longest. He repeatedly wrote to me asking for prayers and expressing his desire that Allah might grant him the opportunity to finish not only the present work but many other projects he was undertaking at the same time.
It is sad indeed that the translator is no longer with us today, having died in early 1988. But, at the same time, one cannot but feel a deep sense of satisfaction at the thought that he was given an extended lease of life and did not die before he had completed most of the important works he had undertaken. During his few final years, one of his important works—which has drawn wide acclaim—is his book Introduction to Quaranic Script.
Just a few months before his demise, he was also able to write a very scholarly article, ‘Muhammad and the Jews’, which was acknowledged as a model of historical research. He was in extreme pain and discomfort during his last days, but he was an outstandingly brave man and continued to work almost till his last breath. May Allah rest his soul in eternal peace.
When the translation was sent to the publishers, they conveyed to me the opinion of one of the reviewers that the manuscript should be expanded to include an appraisal of the use of capital punishment for apostacy. They said that the text needed to be updated with reference to growing terrorist tendencies and militancy in some Muslim countries. In particular, what is understood of Khomeinism and Qaddafism by the West gives people a very negative impression of the peaceful intent and teachings of Islam. In view of this, it was felt that it would be highly appropriate if one or two chapters were added in order to discuss the subject in relation to the more widely known current events. Accordingly, two new chapters have been added; these were written in English and do not, of course, appear in the original Urdu text.
Finally, I would like to acknowledge my thanks to a number of people who have assisted in preparing the present version: Mansoor Ahmed Shah for transcribing from my notes and dictation; Malik Saifur Rehman, Abdul Momin Tahir and Munir Ahmed Javed, who collectively helped in finding references to the hadith; B. A. Rafiq for co-coordinating with the publishers; and the publishers’ copy editor for rectifying typographical errors.
Mirza Tahir Ahmad
Khalifatul Masih IV,
London 20 February 1989