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Comparing the Ahmadiyah and the Hizbut Tahrir
Bramantyo Prijosusilo, Ngawi, East Java
Followers of Ahmadiyah believe their leaders are rightly guided Caliphs and their congregations of faithfuls constitute a Caliphate. The Hizb ut Tahrir al Islami (the Islamic Party of Liberation, HT for short) is also preoccupied with the idea of a Caliphate, a State with its own constitution, armed forces and geographical boundaries.
Where as the Ahmadiyah seek to convert people into believing in the Ahmadi version of Islam, which maintains Mirza Gulam Ahmad was the promised Messiah, the HT also attempts to convert people into believing their own version of Islam, which prescribes the struggle to establish a physical Caliphate as a wajib, or fundamental obligation, for Muslims.
Both peculiarities are unique to their groups and represent a ‘deviation’ from the traditional mainstream Islamic thought. HT was founded in 1953 in Jerusalem by Taqiuddin al-Nabhani, and is banned in many Islamic countries but has supporters in high places in Jakarta. Ahmadiyah is also banned in many countries and has no open supporters among the elite in Indonesia.
Although Islamic traditions state the Messiah will descend sometime before the end of the world, not many Muslims believe he has already arrived and departed in the form of Mirza Gulam Ahmad in India before its partition.
Similarly, although Islamic tradition does note early Muslims after the death of the Prophet were organized under the banner of a Caliphate, most Muslims also believe the establishing of a Caliphate is not a religious duty, and that any form of State is fine as long as it promotes justice and allows the practices of Islam and doesn’t prosecute Muslims because of their faith.
Most modern Muslims believe secular democracy is better than any form of government yet invented and refer to the process of electing Abu Bakar as the first Caliph after the Prophet’s death as the precedence for democracy in Islam.
Of course, there are some fundamental differences between the Ahmadiyah and the HT. The main difference is the HT aims to establish a political Caliphate.
Everywhere the HT is active, it denounces democracy as a Western vice. A glance through HT websites impresses upon the reader a hatred for Jews and the West, who are portrayed as evil controllers of the world that can only be dealt with through the establishment of a Caliphate. In contrast, the Ahmadiyah websites proclaim their motto “Love for all, hatred for none” and do not aim to overthrow any government or form any State whatsoever.
Both the Ahmadiyah and the HT are prosecuted and banned in many countries, but for different reasons. The HT is banned in many Middle Eastern countries because it is hostile toward the governments and aims to overthrow the State. In some European Union countries, the HT is banned because it breeds anti-Semitic and extremist views, and several European terrorists were found to have links to the HT and to possess substantial amounts of HT literature. The Ahmadiyah are banned in some Islamic countries because they are judged as deviating from ‘true’ Islam, especially in their faith in Mirza Gulam Ahmad being the promised Messiah.
In Indonesia, the MUI organization of clerics has called for the Ahmadiyah to be banned, and several Islamic organizations have viciously attacked and closed down Ahmadiyah mosques. The Indonesian chapter of the HT, in contrast, enjoys tacit support from some ministers and overt support from hard organizations.
One might be tempted to ask, if Ahmadiyah preaches love for all and hatred for no one, and HT preaches hatred for democracy and calls for the overthrow of existing States, why is it that in Indonesia, the establishment is more worried about Ahmadiyah than it is concerned about the anti-democracy ideology of the HT? Why are there cabinet ministers who overtly and tacitly support the anti-democracy, theocratic, ideology that aims to overthrow the State to replace it with their version of a Caliphate? Does that not sound like hypocrisy?
Further more, one might want to examine whether HT’s version of establishing a Caliphate is truly as Islamic as they claim. Though HT activists are taught their strategy is to follow the example of the Prophet, many ex-activists, such as the British writer Ed Husain have pointed out that HT has a lot to thank Lenin and Trotsky for. While Muhammad taught a religion, HT seeks political power using Leninist methods. The HT goes on and adopts a Trotskyist, internationalist vision.
Maybe because Lenin’s thoughts have for decades been banned here, no one has actually pointed out the Leninism in HT’s methods, because no one is sure what Leninism is. The HT seeks, just like the Bolsheviks, to firstly develop a core of firm believers that communicate clear and simple slogans to the masses, and when the time ripens, one day seize power and establish their Caliphate (Soviet).
Then from that Caliphate, like falling dominoes, their ideology will spread throughout Islamdom. Eventually the Caliphate will convert the whole world through jihad and da’wah. Just because they wrap their Leninist ideas in Islamic jargon it doesn’t mean that Leninism isn’t there. The rank and file of the HT is unlikely to be aware of their debt to Lenin but a debt there certainly is.
Both the Ahmadiyah and HT seek to convert people to believing their version of Islam, but while the first is concerned with the spiritual aspect of life, the second is concerned with the political aspect. One would be happy to see the Republic of Indonesia prosper and flourish, while the other would succeed only once it had overthrown the Republic and established a Caliphate in its place. Which is more dangerous for the nation?
The writer is an artist and former journalist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.