Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East

H E R E S Y ,

a n d

F R E E D O M ,



Imperial Ideologies, Transnational Activism
Questioning the Place of Religious Freedom from British India
Sadia Saeed


uring the nineteenth century, British colonial authorities in India repeatedly maintained that
they had an ideological commitment to norms of religious noninterference, neutrality, and
equality.1 This formed an important background to the proliferation of both Christian evangelical missions and various religious reform movements across India’s many religious traditions, enabling
the emergence of competitive religious fields centered on winning adherents and ascertaining religious
truths.2 These religious fields often became sites of public religious conflicts into which colonial state
authorities were ineluctably drawn for adjudication.3 This essay demonstrates that norms about religious
rights also held a distinct relevance for religious movements that originated in British India, sought to expand globally, and subsequently became entangled in religious conflicts in transnational arenas. Specifically, it throws light on how colonial subjects appropriated, contested, and negotiated these norms with
the end of widening the territorial jurisdiction of religious rights beyond the British Empire.
The empirical focus of this essay is a controversial transnational religious movement that emerged
in British India toward the end of the nineteenth century. The Ahmadiyya movement has been variably characterized as “[one of] the earliest Muslim groups to realize the utility of print media,”4 “the
first worldwide Muslim proselytizing organization,”5 and “the best-­documented religious movement in
modern Islam.”6 Ostracized by mainstream Muslims, Ahmadis used their position as imperial subjects to
demand that the British government protect their right to religious freedom in political spheres beyond
the British Empire and irrespective of territorial jurisdiction. They made claims to this effect by drawing
on the empire’s supposed commitment to the principle of religious freedom. British imperial authorities
responded to this transnational activism by considering anew the practical meanings and ramifications
of this principle.
The Ahmadiyya-­British encounter had the effect of constituting a practical and discursive trans­
national sphere in which the place of religious freedom was contested and negotiated, in terms of both
This essay has greatly benefited from feedback provided by participants at the Comparative Research Workshop at Yale University and the
mini-conference “Capitalism, the Politics of Inequality, and Historical
Change” at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association. Thanks also to Marc Gaborieau, Julian Go, and Matthias Koenig for
their comments on earlier versions of this essay.

2. For example, see Green, Bombay Islam; Jones, Socio-­Religious Reform
Movements; and Powell, Muslims and Missionaries.

1. Van der Veer, Imperial Encounters.

5. Gaborieau, “A Peaceful Jihad?,” 468.

3. Ahmed, “Specters of Macaulay”; Gilmartin, “Democracy, Nationalism,
and the Public”; and Jalal, Self and Sovereignty.
4. Sevea, “The Ahmadiyya Print Jihad,” 134.

6. Friedmann, Prophecy Continuous, 11.

Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East
Vol. 36, No. 2, 2016 • doi 10.1215/1089201x-3603295 • © 2016 by Duke University Press

Published by Duke University Press


11.” and “connections” that both constituted and transcended metropole-­colony relations.” “fields. for example. it is how and with what outcomes this movement produced novel spaces of transnational activism centered on normative ideas about religious freedom that were first encountered in colonial India. 12. some of which formed distinct regional and oceanic hubs organized around flows of capital.9 The conceptual issue at hand is not 7. but that all alike shall enjoy the equal and impartial protection of the law” was upheld as official policy. Finally. which were already in place. Decentering Empire. and access to empire-­w ide information that localized colonial states possessed by virtue of being embedded in a larger imperial structure. this line of inquiry has revealed how. Consider.7 With respect to the British Empire. The movement’s followers engaged in transnational activism through actively drawing on their status as imperial subjects entitled to religious freedom. none molested or disquieted. “Comments. Rather. Bose.11 However. Travellers in Faith. See Devji. Anderson.” 8.” and van der Veer. Second. by reason of their religious faith or observances. Lester. Heresy. diplomatic ties. My analysis brings forth three features of this colonial encounter. Africa and the Middle East 230 Comparative Studies of South Asia.Comparative Studies of South Asia. Gaborieau. by the beginning of the twentieth century. British authorities routinely subverted Ahmadiyya claims through differentiating between “orthodox” Muslims and “heretic” Ahmadis. and Steinmetz. For the purposes of this article. Published by Duke University Press 10. the UK Parliament passed a bill approving the transference of control of British India from the British East India Company to the British Crown. labor. or the Preaching Society. convicts. Bombay Islam. In 1858. and soldiers. The Origins and Development of the Tablighi Jama‘at. missionaries. officials. the British Empire consisted of multiple nodes spread across continents. Metcalf. Imperial Connections. Tensions of Empire. The Ahmadiyya movement’s extensive engagements with the British make them strikingly distinct from other Muslim travelers from British India. A Hundred Horizons. Empire. Cooper and Stoler. see Cooper.” “chains.10 The Ahmadiyya movement took shape in this post-­1858 milieu in which the proclamation’s declaration that “none be in anywise favoured. another transnational proselytizing movement in British India that was even more explicit than the Ahmadiyya movement in its transnational aspirations of reviving the message of Islam among Muslims. Ghosh and Kennedy. Go. See Masud. First. and Porter. Colonialism in Question. the Tablighi Jamaat. On the importance of considering claims making under colonialism. Shortly thereafter followed the famous Queen Victoria’s Proclamation that upheld imperial policies of religious freedom and equality. The Ahmadiyya movement’s transnational religious activism sheds light on how enterprising religious actors from colonial India encountered this structure. Imperial Connections. it shows that in addition to deploying arguments about territorial jurisdiction.8 This scholarship has highlighted the mundane yet distinct resources such as communication networks. Metcalf. This policy created the space for the Ahmadiyya movement to make claims on British imperial authorities by invoking the British Empire’s (supposed) commitment to the ideal of religious freedom. it fashioned itself as an apolitical movement and explicitly eschewed forging contacts with British authorities. and the Politics of Religious Freedom Studies on modern colonial empires have increasingly decentered empire through drawing attention to the imperial “webs. “The Colonial State as a Social Field.” “networks. it demonstrates how enterprising colonial subjects purposefully and strategically deployed the imperial context to facilitate their religious goals. Africa and the Middle East • the actual physical place in which British colonial subjects could enjoy religious freedoms and the place of Ahmadis with respect to entitlement to religious freedoms. Green. Subaltern Lives. it illuminates how the British imperial ideology of religious freedom was crucial in shaping the Ahmadiyya movement’s interactions with the British Empire. “A Peaceful Jihad?” . transnational religious activism refers to claims centered on principles of religious freedom and equality that the Ahmadiyya movement made on British imperial authorities. more forcefully. Imperial Encounters. pilgrims. and Sikand. “Imperial Circuits and Networks”. Religion versus Empire? 36:2 • 2016 just one of how a transnational religious movement drew on openings provided by the British Empire to spread globally.12 Consider also other imperial travel- 9. “Chains of Empire”.

and practices of an empire wedded to promoting religious freedom even outside the formal jurisdiction of the empire. however.”17 Diouf argues that this cosmopolitanism was forged “through both the geography of globalization (the world as a space in which people are able to trade) and the discourses and practices of globalization (the actual operations to make ends meet — that is. 680. “Fugitive Mullahs and Outlawed Fanatics. This resulted in a hierarchical ordering of different religious groups. British authorities readily lent their resources to Ahmadis. Ahmadis were typically able to draw on imperial networks and communication channels for informational gains. with British officials privileging religious sentiments. “The Pilgrimage Remembered. British authorities subverted Ahmadiyya claims to religious freedom through normalizing sectarian conflicts. migrations. of orthodox Muslims over “heretic” Ahmadis. which allowed them to bypass colonial authorities and depend on fellow Muslims. in short. Eickelman and Piscatori. to accumulate wealth). 16. chap. However. Mamadou Diouf has shown how the Senegalese Murid brotherhood drew on a capitalist modernity organized around peanut production to move and disperse across Senegal. Ahmadis drew on the discourse of religious freedom to conceptualize the world as a space in which people 13. imperial networks and a regulatory colonial bureaucracy formed an important but passive background on the way to the realization of a religious duty of utmost importance. Prophecy Continuous. British officials’ informal assumptions and perceptions about Islam starkly came to the fore. Through refusing to adjudicate among Ahmadis and non-­A hmadis on grounds of religious non­interference. A Hundred Horizons. Published by Duke University Press 231 . While British responses to Ahmadiyya claims were historically contingent and often preceded by extensive debates. The occasional civic-­minded haji was certainly keen to point to how the British government could improve the hajj journey.” 18. when claims were mundane and nonconflictual in nature.13 For the bulk of these soon-­to-­be-­hajis. “The Senegalese Murid Trade Diaspora.”18 In a similar vein. a number of patterns are discernible. orienting itself toward. Alavi. The Ahmadiyah Movement. defining Ahmadis as religiously not typical and certainly did not constitute an episode of transnational religious activism. In such instances. 14. 17.” 190. British imperial subjects are facilitated in their endeavors through the geography.15 The reason for Ahmadiyya difference in this regard is clear: Tablighis and other Muslim travelers were adherents of mainstream Islam. Africa and the Middle East Sadia Saeed | Imperial Ideologies. However. for example. See Friedmann.14 The Ahmadiyya missionaries are also distinct from cosmopolitan Muslim travelers who sought to forge novel pan-­Islamic solidarity and intellectual networks through traversing imperial and transimperial networks but away from the regulatory gaze of imperial authorities. See Metcalf. Ibid. in the process constituting a “vernacular cosmopolitanism.. British authorities tended to support the latter through drawing on specific notions of the Islamic tradition that effectively situate Ahmadis as religious heretics. this was are able to proselytize freely. and dispersal. when Ahmadiyya demands were made in the wake of their conflicts with mainstream “orthodox” Muslims. In this imaginary.16 Consequently. Specifically. European colonial powers was especially desirable for the movement. Diouf. The empire.” 15. Ahmadis are conceptually closer to colonial subjects who actively appropriated imperial networks and ideologies to facilitate their transnational movements. In these geopolitical contexts in which the jurisdiction of colonial law did not extend and bureaucratic discretion held sway. The controversial religious views of the Ahmadiyya movement (more below). discourses. and Lavan. See. and consequently religious truths. routinely aroused the ire of Muslims outside British India where the central movement leadership sent its missionaries. and forging alliances with. See Bose.Comparative Studies of South Asia. was encountered differently by different Muslim travelers. As I show below. For example. However. British authorities upheld symbolic boundaries between Ahmadis and non-­A hmadis on the basis of doctrinaire representations of Islam and Islamic history. Muslim Travellers. Transnational Activism ers such as Indian Muslim pilgrims headed toward Mecca. 6. These British authorities were thus deeply engaged in ascertaining and consolidating specific notions of religious orthodoxy and heterodoxy.

Through examining episodes of the Ahma­ diyya movement’s transnational activism. In other words. We know with hindsight that the British Empire’s global interventions with respect to the issue of religious freedom were deeply contingent on geopolitical and strategic interests. apostasy on the part of any spouse completely annuls the marriage. The authoritative case in this regard is Narantakath v. although indexed as one of bigamy. no direct interventions were made on behalf of the Ahmadiyya community since these did not dovetail. Parakkal. colonial courts firmly deemed Ahmadis Muslims and upheld a minimalist definition of a Muslim as anyone who believes in one God and the prophecy of Mohammad. supplementing these with additional arguments about religious noninterference and the Islamic tradition. 20. colonial courts were no doubt concerned with distancing themselves from thorny theological issues that might unwittingly lead them to pronounce on issues of heresy and apostasy.19 In upholding this definition of a Muslim. This case. I examine both claims that were geared toward drawing on existing imperial networks for informational gains and those that centered on the imperial discourse about religious freedom. My aim is to historicize how Ahmadis encountered the “macro” realities described above on the ground. which include belief in one God and in the prophecy of Muhammad. These episodes demonstrate the ways in which Ahmadis sought to deploy the institutional and ideological infrastructure of the British Empire to facilitate their transnational endeavors. In this instance. 22.22 European powers did intervene in the internal religious affairs of foreign polities on grounds of defending religious freedom when it served their interests. It is striking that Ahmadis engaged in transnational religious activism at the same time that notions about territorial sovereignty and national self-­determination were becoming increasingly entrenched in India. Sovereignty. The Madras High Court. Outlines of Muhammadan Law. In contrast. reversed the judgment of the lower court. According to sharia law. 59 – 60. with their strategic goals. Africa and the Middle East 2 32 Comparative Studies of South Asia. The lower court that heard the case rejected the charge of bigamy on the grounds that the Indian Muslim community generally considered Ahmadis apostates. European imperial powers were also consolidating a national territorial jurisdiction for liberal rights through 19. Producing India. The reason that essentialist representations about Islam surfaced so readily in extralegal and transnational spheres was that British responses to Ahmadiyya demands were primarily premised on arguments about territorial jurisdiction. At the same time. depending on the nature and place of the conflict. when British officials got drawn into conflicts between Ahmadis and non-­A hmadis outside the sphere of formal law and in physical spaces outside British India. 21. as well as the dispositions of the authorities attending to the conflict. and Moyn. In these instances. “Religious Freedom. while colonial law in India considered Ahmadis Muslim. band to have committed apostasy and subsequently married another man. Here. At the same time. This suggests the importance of considering how British authorities attended to the question of religious freedom differently. Ahmadis were readily deemed heretics.” . Goswami. where the case landed on appeal.Comparative Studies of South Asia. this essay considers how the above factors crystallized during the course of concrete historical events.20 At this time. Imperialism. The plaintiffs in this case were Ahmadis who accused the woman of bigamy. See Anghie. The Last Utopia. decided by the Madras High Court in 1922. holding that Ahmadis met the minimal Published by Duke University Press conditions of being Muslim. See Fyzee. This crafted a discursive space for perceptions about Islam to be freely articulated as secondary justifications. Mahmood. officials on the ground were guided by a different understanding of Ahmadiyya religious difference.21 An examination of the Ahmadiyya movement’s transnational religious activism shows that transnational imaginaries about religious rights coincided with these powerful historical movements and trends. British authorities rendered arguments about national territorial jurisdictions of religious rights as justifications for their nonintervention. Africa and the Middle East • heterodox went against the grain of colonial law’s handling of the issue of Ahmadiyya religious difference in British India. It concerned a married Muslim man who subsequently became an Ahmadi. British responses to Ahmadiyya claims demonstrate the limits of this activism as both the realities of territorial sovereignty and assumptions about Islam came to fore. and indeed often collided. essentially hinged on the question of whether Ahmadis were Muslim or not. However. the wife considered the hus- 36:2 • 2016 various national and international instruments such as the League of Nations. since the subversion of Ahmadiyya claims was not based exclusively or primarily on these perceptions.

”25 The movement met immense success in achieving this goal by virtue of both sending organized missions abroad and through actively utilizing print media. the Ahmadiyya movement was drawing on and learning from the experiences of Christian missionaries. and his will maintained that a council of pious men be formed to accumulate and administer funds for missionary activities. The Ahmadiyah Movement. missionary activities. religious imperative. to further the cause of righteousness.30 Various departments were formed to manage financial and budgetary affairs. In 1934. Ghulam Ahmad made a series of theological claims. publications. the Qadian Group and the Lahori Group. the activities of mi- 29.31 By proclaiming himself the figure of the (returned) Christ. The Ahmadiyah Movement.­e -­Jadid (New Movement) was launched that was entrusted solely with the intensification of missionary activities. Prophecy Continuous. as well as on a small number of revealing archival fragments found in the India Office Records at the British Library. Socio-­Religious Reform Movements.29 An elaborate organizational structure was put into place in Qadian. Ghulam Ahmad’s most controversial claim for Muslims was his reinterpretation of the issue of the Finality of Prophethood to make room for his own claim to prophecy. purity.” 157. 28. Lavan. bought printing presses and published their own newspapers. See Jones. journals. to eradicate evil habits and customs. education. This propagation of Islam through peaceful preaching was articulated as a 23. 24. Prophecy Continuous. The Ahmadiyya Movement The A hmadiy ya movement was founded by Mirza Ghulam Ahmed (1838 –  1908) in the city of Qadian in colonial Punjab. Community life was more tightly structured through annual meetings and religious fairs. and both formed organizations for missionary activities.27 A central committee called the Sadr Anjuman-­ e. the movement declared its goals: “To propagate Islam. In 1891. to think our ways and means of promoting the welfare of new converts to Islam in Europe and America. Ghulam Ahmad successfully requested of colonial authorities that the Ahmadiyya movement be enumerated separately on the Census of 1901. he sought to legitimize his movement as a unique Muslim sect on par with other mainstream Muslim groups.28 In both its print and missionary activities. mission statements. The focus of this essay is the Qadian group. 215. Ghulam Ahmad strongly antagonized Christian missionaries. 31. external and government affairs. consisting of key offices with clearly defined responsibilities and rules for placement into these offices.­Ahmadiyya was subsequently formed for these purposes. One of the key features of these groups was thus their organizational conformity along a number of institutional dimensions such as formal membership. written rules and internal hierarchies with officers. community discipline. a new institutional body called the Tehrik. Friedmann. Published by Duke University Press 233 . to appreciate with gratitude the good work of the British government. Local bodies were formed outside Qadian and India and their amirs (heads) appointed. and annual reports.26 Ghulam Ahmad was concerned with the continuation of his religious movement after his death. In general. 93. presenting himself as first a divinely inspired reformer and ultimately the Messiah and a prophet invested with the holy mission of returning Islam to its pristine purity.Comparative Studies of South Asia. who were to maintain links with Qadian. Friedmann. Gaborieau. Africa and the Middle East Sadia Saeed | Imperial Ideologies. The movement split into two groups in 1914. “A Peaceful Jihad?” 27. “The Ahmadiyya Print Jihad.23 Through this self-­objectification. The analysis relies on secondary literatures on the Ahmadiyya movement. Ghulam Ahmed also aspired to craft a truly transnational movement. including the Ahmadiyya. Cited in Lavan. At a time when world religions were becoming more internally uniform. 12. 26. Colonial authorities granted legal rights to registered groups to own property and conduct business.”24 As early as 1892. and books. he announced that the movement would hold annual meetings in Qadian and that one of the objectives of these gatherings would be to “chart plans for missionary activities overseas. Sevea. Lavan. 25. Transnational Activism they also point to the limits of the Ahmadiyya movement’s transnational activism. piety and moral excellence throughout the world. The Ahmadiyah Movement. 93 – 94. A large number of these groups. 30. most religious reform and revival movements adopted a number of ideal-­ typical organizational traits that were learned through contact with European organizational forms. and hospitality. In addition to propagating his message among local Punjabis and participating in cross-­ religious competition for religious converts.

too. 37. U. 1925.35 That Ahmadis were incredibly savvy religious entrepreneurs who were profoundly aware of the opportunities that the imperial context offered has gone largely unnoticed in the burgeoning scholarship on this movement. 338. The Ahmadiyya movement’s explicit assertions of political loyalty to the British were often rendered in this context. January 6. on Ahmadiyya missionary activities in West Africa. Africa and the Middle East 234 Comparative Studies of South Asia. For example. and Afghanistan. The Ahmadis and the Politics of Religious Exclusion. Sunni Islam emerged as a more coherent and organized religious community at a world level.P. Prophecy Continuous. 34.P. Gualtieri.P.P. For example. and Sierra Leone33) and faced the greatest difficulties in the Arab world. A. The Ahmadiyah Movement. 30.39 At the same time. GOI to Governor. and Metcalf. 33. it is nonetheless crucial for understanding how these enterprising colonial subjects. Bayly. In general.. to Governor. in 1925. leading to acute hostilities with mainstream Muslim groups.. the empire facilitated access to information. As much the largest entity. on the other hand. Islam in the Public Published by Duke University Press Sphere.) contacted the governor of U. See Reetz.37 But what did these “connections of British Empire” mean in practice for the movement? On a very practical level. British Library. The existing literature on the movement has tended to emphasize either the theological dimensions of the movement’s belief system or the hostilities directed toward Ahmadis in colonial India. Ahmadi missions met with greatest success in Africa (particularly Nigeria. Furthermore. Indonesia. Informational Claims The British imperial context allowed the Ahmadiyya movement to forge new transnational networks that differed from both premodern and emerging ones. Friedmann. requesting that he communicate with the central Government of India (GOI) to ascertain the whereabouts and well-­being of its two missionaries in Syria. See Fisher. Africa and the Middle East • nority groups such as the Ahmadiyya movement inevitably led to escalation of sectarian tensions. U. 35.34 The Ahamdiyya movement claimed to represent true Islam and not a particular interpretation of it. with a large bulk joining various anticolonial causes. Pakistan. and Saeed. “The British Empire and the Muslim World. As Francis Robinson notes. Prophecy Continuous. 1926.” actively appropriated the British imperial structure. “the connections of British Empire” enabled the Ahmadiyya movement to advance their proselytizing mission outside British India. the stance of loyalty was adopted by Syed Ahmad Khan (1817 – 98). Ahmadiyyah. 38. India Office Records. the founder of the Aligarh educational movement. and their welfare communicated. “Political Fields and Religious Movements.36 As we will see next. did the smaller sects.” 36:2 • 2016 tentially useful resources that could be skillfully tapped into. Zubair. Ahmadiyya movement 36. Maulana M.” 418. “The conflict between the different sects within Islam was deepened by the new opportunities for transmitting ideas over long distances and by the pamphlet and newspaper wars that erupted in particular localities. In so doing. London (hereafter IOR): IOR/L/PS/11/263/4399. Prominent ulema (traditional Muslim scholars). The Birth of the Modern World.P. Bayly has aptly noted. ibid. Ghana. the local Ahmadi representative in the United Provinces of British India (U. who were neither “elites” nor “subalterns. Conscience and Coercion. Robinson.P. that authorities in Damascus had been contacted and that Ahmadi missionaries were indeed safe. exhibited widely differing political orientations and attitudes toward colonial rule. 39. A number of religious reformers adopted a loyalist position toward British colonial authorities while others joined resistance movements. through a letter. conferrals of legitimacy functioned as a resource for forging ties with the British while imperial networks and ideologies emerged as po- 32. December 3. .Comparative Studies of South Asia. see Friedmann. Lavan. this Ahmadi sought to draw on existing communication networks of colonial administration for informational gains. But so. Although a mundane dimension of the British-­A hmadiyya encounter.”32 The Ahmadiyya movement was another such Islamic sect that established itself at a world level.”38 A little over a month later. Qasmi. This rhetoric of loyalty created a critical space for the movement’s leadership to engage in claims making with the end of advancing their own goals. as C. For example. Islamic Revival in British India. the Shais and Ismailis. and elsewhere. Ahmadiyya Representative in U. GOI reported to U. The specific claim made was that Ahmadi missionaries should be given “protection through [the] British Embassy at Damascus” and that they “may be kept there under British Protection if they like.

Transnational Activism leaders in Qadian contacted the Foreign Office in London with the same request.”42 In other words.”44 The Ahmadi missionary. 1927. India to FO. the Consul General at Meshed and the Government of India to ascertain his whereabouts and effect his release. with central headquarters in Qadian and local bodies in the provinces and London. For example. British authorities in Damascus also relayed the information to the Foreign Office in London. GOI. Ahmadiyya movement leaders sent a letter to the GOI requesting it to trace Hussain’s whereabouts and have him brought back to 42. April 30. April 24. a Persian city bordering Russia. British authorities were thanked in the following terms: “God Almighty has given British Government the unique privilege of protecting both Christian and Muslim Missionaries — the latter sent to foreign lands (French and Dutch territories) from the Ahmadiyya movement[. December 24.P.Comparative Studies of South Asia. ibid. 1925. was pivotal in the emergence (and eventually consolidation) of Ahmadiyya leaders as coordinated claimants upon multiple British authorities. A letter sent by the Ahmadiyya movement leadership to British authorities at the conclusion of this correspondence provides a glimpse of another motivation behind these numerous claims. Published by Duke University Press 235 . the Ahmadiyya movement simultaneously drew on numerous crosscutting imperial communication networks for informational gains. Mohammad Amin. British authorities routinely accommodated Ahmadi requests to ascertain the whereabouts of their missionaries outside India. A British official made the following observation about the situation: “He [Mohammad Amin] deliberately courts arrest by entering territory admission to which without a passport is prohibited. Mashhad to GOI. and the British consul in Damascus. the Ahmadiyya movement held that colonial authorities had the “unique privilege” of giving equal protection to “both Christian and Muslim 40. that this was a routine strategy that had in the past met with success. In this letter.” Furthermore.40 Thus. 1926. Qadian to GOI. 41. He had been sent to Central Asia for proselytizing and winning converts.”41 The ties forged with colonial authorities during the course of their claims making allowed the Ahmadiyya community to situate their missionaries on par with Christian missionaries. Damascus to Foreign Office. was imprisoned in Bukhara by Russian authorities for not obtaining the proper passport for entry. Africa and the Middle East Sadia Saeed | Imperial Ideologies. British officials noted that this was not the first time that Amin had attempted to illegally enter Central Asia. 1927. London (hereafter FO).43 In response. At around the same time as this claim was being made. noting that they had responded to a similar query not only to GOI but also directly to the Ahmadiyya community representative in London and the Department of Missionary Work of the Ahmadiyya movement in Qadian. Ahmadiyya movement headquarters in Qadian. Emphasis mine. In 1926. the Tablighi Jamaat was beginning to take shape in British India. Missionaries. Zahur Hussain. the movement communicated its own supposedly unique position through referring to itself as “the only Muslim organization in the world. These numerous communications with various British authorities suggest that one of the aims of the Ahmadiyya movement was to forge ties with multiple layers of colonial and imperial authorities: the governor in U.] the only Muslim organization in the world only this year. an Ahmadi missionary. Through implicitly invoking the norm of religious equality. October 28. in 1927. claims making was a means not only for gathering information and facilitating its missionaries abroad but also for articulating the historical specificity and uniqueness of the Ahmadiyya movement. ibid. Ahmadi leaders demanded that the GOI inquire into the matter and have Amin repatriated. 43. the Foreign Office in Britain. and appeals are then addressed by the Qadiani community to His Majesty’s Diplomatic Representatives at Moscow and Tehran. The organizational form of the Ahmadiyya movement. appears to have courted arrest. Hussain was arrested and imprisoned by Russian authorities. Hussain had attempted to enter Russia without obtaining the proper passport at Mashhad. 44.. He had been previously arrested and expelled by Russian authorities on more than one occasion. We can see through the experience of another Ahmadi missionary. ibid. IOR/L/ PS/11/266/677. then.

The basis of the claim was that British authorities were under obligation to investigate this incident because of their official commitment to norms of religious freedom and equality. They requested a formal investigation of the expulsion. Claiming Religious Freedom in French Syria In 1927. also noted that Shams was “most willing [to leave]. The British consul officer at Damascus. Africa and the Middle East 236 Comparative Studies of South Asia. “The Local Government there has done so only because the Muslim priests there differ from us in certain religious doctrines such as Jehad etc. “at considerable expense and after a good deal of correspondence. the secretary of the state for India who was the political head of the India Office seated in Britain. it was the basis rather than the mere fact of expulsion that was objectionable and thus necessitated British intervention. successor. official designation of Ahmadiy ya community leader].” Hole maintained that he had in fact written to Qadian himself. Long Live His Majesty the King Emperor!”46 In 1927. Hole. the Ahmadiyya movement sought to adopt the institutional structure of the modern bureaucratic state.Comparative Studies of South Asia. C. Ahmadi leaders in India directly approached Sir Austen Chamberlain. ibid. Damascus to GOI.49 This account was also conveyed to 45. April 1. 46. Africa and the Middle East • India. Persia (hereafter Persia) to GOI. 48. potentially leading to the loss of Shams’s life. 36:2 • 2016 which includes an office devoted exclusively to foreign affairs. However. 1928. GOI to FO. expelled the Ahmadiyya missionary] only because the Muslim priests there differ from us in certain religious doctrines” depicts that for Ahmadis. April 19.”45 Ahmadi leaders subsequently sent a letter to the British Consul in Tehran. IOR /L / PS/11/263/4399. in the words of a colonial official. Mohammad Amin was similarly brought back to India with the help of British authorities in Russia. . Q adian to GO I. British Consul General. ibid. 1926. This request was met by the GOI through contacting British consul authorities in both Persia and Russia although. but his hierarchical superiors apparently preferred that he should remain. By establishing this office.” particularly with his claim that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was a reincarnation of Jesus Christ. E. claiming. These informational claims demonstrate one of the ways in which imperial networks were utilized by Ahmadis to facilitate their missionaries abroad.” A perusal of various correspondences issued from this office reveals that “foreign” refers to those external affairs of the community that necessitated contact with official authorities. April 30. By creating a “foreign office” of sorts. It was implicitly held that British authorities ought to defend these principles outside their imperial borders as well. Ahmadis also made deeply ideological claims based on the imperial discourse of religious freedom. 47. Qadian to Persia. This led to local “protestations. Chamberlain first directed the political department of the India Office in London to investigate this incident. I turn to these next.”47 The claim was formally made on the movement’s official letterhead and was directed from the “office” of “Foreign Secretary of Khalifa [literally. In response. 1928.” Shams was subsequently stabbed by a “religious zealot” and was asked by French authorities to leave the country. The letter maintained that “this adds another link to the chain of British Government’s favour on our people. He also noted that the presence of Shams would have created religious disturbances. The invocation that “the Local Government there has done so [that is. Published by Duke University Press 49. 1927. It was subsequently learned from the British consul in Damascus that the Ahmadi missionary Jalal-­ud-­Din Shams had scandalized the highly orthodox Muslim community of Damascus with his “heresy. 1928. As far as he was aware. ibid. thanking it and British authorities in India and Russia for their “kind efforts” in Hussain’s repatriation. it also established a legitimate and direct line of communication with British authorities.” Hole maintained that Shams had asked Hole to intervene on his behalf and write to Qadian to inform his community that “his work exposed him to grave danger and that he would do well to leave Syria. Shams had left Syria on his own accord. ibid. an Ahmadi missionary named Jalal-­ud-­ Din Shams was stabbed in Damascus by a Muslim and subsequently expelled by French authorities. November 22.48 The latter in turn contacted the British consul at Damascus. June 26.

On French colonial rule in Syria see Thompson. Africa and the Middle East Sadia Saeed | Imperial Ideologies. The first relevant issue here is how the question of territorial jurisdiction was handled. GOI to Qadian. 51. January 24. From Sufism to Ahmadiyya. IOR /L / PS/11/263/4399. ibid. passed along to the Ahmadiyya movement in Qadian. However. 1929. a “soft” intervention far from intruding on the territorial sovereignty of French Syria. essentially violating the territorial sovereignty of these countries. 1928. April 1. cision was based on the “consideration of public order. Q adian to GO I.Comparative Studies of South Asia. Ahmadis were petitioning the British to advocate the principle of religious freedom to a foreign government. British authorities were being requested by Ahmadis to verbally defend the principle of religious freedom to French authorities. Transnational Activism GOI50 and.58 At this moment.”56 For instance. This episode. British authorities were unwilling to engage French authorities on behalf of the Ahmadiyya movement. January 24. in turn. 1929. 133­ – 35. This can be seen by their use of a “public order” argument to provide justifications for the actions of local French authorities and for their own nonintervention. GOI to Qadian. See Mahmood. ibid.52 Ahmadis claimed that the French expelled Shams while the British held that Shams left Syria on his own accord. they ought to extend a similar privilege to Muslim missionaries. 56. 53 . Even more significant. mainstream religious communities and those like the Ahmadiyya who were propagating a new religion. making it incumbent upon the British to lodge a protest with French authorities in Syria so that “religious independence” could be established for all religious communities equally: “The Local Government there has done so only because the Muslim priests there differ from us in certain religious doctrines such as Jehad etc.” They invoked a distinction between missionaries in Syria who were engaged in providing for “the spiritual welfare of an established community” and those like Shams who were engaged in “creating a new one. 1928. 58. Colonial Citizens. 57. June 26. the local French authorities had violated the norm of religious freedom. this imaginary represents the very same discursive logic through which Western imperial powers have deployed the trope of religious freedom to intervene militarily and politically in Middle Eastern countries. 52. From the Ahmadiyya perspective. Damascus to FO. too.55 The latter claim was explicitly rejected by British authorities who noted that the French de50. 1928. IOR/L/ PS/11/263/4399.” Published by Duke University Press 237 . Incidentally. however. nonetheless allows an exploration of how the right to religious freedom was understood differently by Ahamdis and British imperial authorities. ibid. 55.54 The (supposed) expulsion of Shams provided an opportunity for Ahmadis to engage in transnational activism around the issue of religious freedom. British authorities informed Qadian that Ahmadi missionaries “differed from those of other missionaries in Damascus in that they were a dissemination of a new religion rather than a mainstream to adherents of established religions. “Religious Freedom. Damascus to GOI. Essentially. It allowed Ahmadis to convey the significance of their own proselytizing mission and to negotiate the norm of religious neutrality — if the British gave protection to their European missionaries outside their home turfs.51 The facts of the matter are hard to establish from the colonial archive itself.”57 In other words. August 2. British authorities pushed back against the norm of religious freedom by invoking a distinction between well-­established. This claim is reflective of a transnational imaginary of religious rights that rests on the notion that territorial sovereignty cannot become a pretext for violation of (supposedly) universal principles. 54. Van der Veer.”53 The principle of religious freedom was as desirable for Ahmadis as it had been for the British missionaries who had advocated the separation of religion and state in India so that they could freely convert Indians to Christianity. Imperial Encounters. This episode also demonstrates both the nature and limits of the Ahmadiyya movement’s transnational activism. Also see Khan. and therefore I request your favour of communicating with the Foreign Government urging them to give a religious independence to our missionaries like they have given to the Christian Missionaries and the Missionaries of other denomination. Ahmadis demanded that British authorities ought to defend the principle of religious freedom to French colonial authorities in Syria. in particular the correspondence between Ahmadis and the British authorities.

­e .Comparative Studies of South Asia. 36:2 • 2016 deviants whose “heresies” led to law and order problems. privileging the former to the detriment of Ahmadis. were privileged over the Ahmadiyya claim to religious freedom. Resisting Persecution in Afghanistan As seen above. British authorities drew on this more restrictive definition of a Muslim that was increasingly becoming dominant in South Asian reformist Islam and was advocated by anti-­A hmadi Muslim groups in colonial India to situate Ahmadis outside the pale of Islam. they also advanced an argument about why the French decision to expel Shams was wholly justified. where Ahmadis met with outright persecution. 60. Through an analysis of some of these instances of persecution. considerations of public order were folded into specific understandings of the Islamic belief system such that they served to establish a symbolic boundary between heterodoxy and orthodoxy. Outlines of Muhammadan Law.61 By authorizing this definition. Africa and the Middle East 238 Comparative Studies of South Asia.”60 In deeming Ahmadis heretics. “Specters of Macaulay. manifest in the stabbing of an Ahmadi missionary by a Muslim. Sevea. Published by Duke University Press 63. British authorities were aligning themselves with another definition of a Muslim that hinges on the question of khatam. the heterodoxy of its religious tenets created unique problems for the Ahmadiyya movement outside India. these courts tended to define a Muslim as “any person who professes the religion of Islam. I present an eventful narrative that depicts how the British imperial context both enabled the Ahmadiyya movement’s transnational activism and placed constraints on this activism. originally an Afghan subject who sub- 62. the supposed religious sensibilities of the orthodox majority. To take another example: in July of 1925. specifically calling on the government to ban Ahmadiyya literature. Ahmadis and non-­A hmadis. accepts the unity of God and the prophetic character of Mohammad. however. an Ahmadi named Maulvi Neymatullah Khan. See Goswami. in other words. From their perspective. British authorities not only upheld a national territorial jurisdiction for religious rights. Consequently. or the seal of prophecy (of Mohammad).59 Drawing on the authority of the Indian Muslim jurist Syed Ameer Ali (1849 – 1928). In this instance. since the latter’s activities were not suspect in the eyes of their coreligionists. over two thousand people gathered in Victoria Memorial Hall in Singapore to protest the influx of Ahmadiyya influence through print media. In 1919. which tended to minimize the religious differences between Ahmadis and non-­A hmadis. The limiting condition in this instance arose from the normative issue of who constituted the legitimate subject of rights. Ahmadis were marked as public nuisances and religious 59. “The Ahmadiyya Print Jihad. Self and Sovereignty. Here. assumptions about Islam resurfaced once again to situate Ahmadis as heretics. British authorities drew a distinction between rights of individual British colonial subjects and the transnational rights of a religious group. 59. In the course of these considerations.63 It was in neighboring Afghanistan.” 134. Geopolitical realities defined by interstate relations between the colonial state in India and the neighboring Afghan government were equally important in shaping the British government’s policy of religious noninterference. Ahmadi missionaries could not be equated with Christian missionaries.” This position contrasts sharply with that of colonial courts in British India. Essentially. however.­nabiyeen. For an incisive discussion of this dynamic of normalization in colonial India see Ahmed. while Ahmadiyya claims to being a Muslim sect engaged in spreading Islam were deeply resented by mainstream Muslims because of Ahmadiyya “heresies. British authorities essentially normalized the rage that Muslims supposedly feel when confronted with the transgressions of Ahmadis. Africa and the Middle East • The second issue concerns how British authorities’ defense of the French response was entangled with their normative evaluation of the religious difference of the Ahmadiyya faith.” 61. and not the enraged Muslim who stabbed Shams. Producing India. Fyzee. it was Shams.62 Consequently. . Jalal. the critical point is not simply belief in the prophecy of Mohammad but in the absolute and unqualified finality of prophethood with Mohammad. who was deemed responsible for disrupting public order.

1925. events in Afghanistan led to organized transnational activism that included various Ahmadiyya community organizations and prominent Britons and Indians. Walter. and the Ottoman Empire (1908). Morning Post (London). making education accessible to women. 30.Comparative Studies of South Asia. China. Rafiq. After World War Two. IOR/ L/PS/11/250. including H. The Emergence of Modern Afghanistan. However. In 1912. H. G. 67. and Arthur Conan Doyle. there were twelve paid Ahmadiyya missionaries in different parts of India.64 This was done under the reign of King Amanullah Khan (1919 – 29).67 Tarzi assured the delegation that Ahmadi missionaries would be safe in Afghanistan and no Ahmadi would be targeted on the basis of his religious beliefs. similar charges of apostasy on August 31. the Philippines. London to FO. a member of the Royal Asiatic Society. 1925.” were further afoot (Walter. and the Ahmadiyya lawyer Zafrullah Khan (who would serve as a Muslim member in the Viceroy’s Executive Council between 1935 and 1941). and London and that ambitious plans to send more missionaries to “England. “Constitutional Developments in Afghanistan. Walter’s study also indicates tight linkages between Qadian and the Ceylon Ahmadiyya Association. Maulvi Muhammad Din. the Ahmadiyya movement 70. leader of the Free Religious Movement. Letter appended in FO to GOI. King Amanullah appointed constitutionalists in his government upon becoming king. He promulgated the country’s first constitution in 1923. and guaranteed equal rights to all Afghan subjects. IOR/ L/PS/11/250. In 1924. Iran (1906). In February of 1925. See Friedmann. Mauritius.66 It was perceived by Ahmadiyya movement leaders that their missionaries would enjoy greater freedoms in carrying out their activities under King Amanullah than they had in the past. 71. In short. A. September 18. Holland. The Religious Life of India. 118). Chicago to FO. made torture unlawful. 1924. Ahmadiyya centers were established in other European countries like Germany.” 946 – 67. 69. Members of the delegation explicitly asked Tarzi if King Amanullah’s proclamations regarding tolerance and freedom of faith applied to the Ahmadiyya movement as well. The Afghan Martyrs.70 Prominent British and Indian lawyers. through the efforts of the imam of the Ahmadiyya mosque in London and sent to the British government expressing their strong condemnation and disapproval of the Afghan government. 65. March 24. and Denmark. was sent from Qadian to Kabul for the “religious education” of Afghan Muslims. Japan. Wells. including Walter Walsh. he was met by an Ahmadiyya delegation. September 6. Ahmadiyya missions to the United States began after World War One. Africa and the Middle East Sadia Saeed | Imperial Ideologies. This account of the meeting with Tarzi has been compiled through a perusal of various minute and draft papers circulated among British officials and archived in IOR/ L/PS/11/250. Imam of Ahmadiyya Mosque. who was well known for his modernizing tendencies and accommodation of religious minorities. shows that at the time of his writing (1918). Editor of Moslem Sunrise. 72. Gregorian. titled “Afghanistan: Persecution of Ahmadiyya Sect. 1924.”68 The Ahmadiyya khalifa. Ceylon. Published by Duke University Press 239 . Java. 1924. with London emerging as the central seat of protest activity. when Afghan Foreign Minister Mahmud Tarzi visited British India. IOR/ L/PS/11/250. etc. The Ahmadia Moslem Society of Chicago71 and the Ceylon Ahmadiyya Association72 also lodged their protests directly with the British government in London. Maulvi Neymatullah Khan was stoned to death under 64. incidentally in London at that time. October 27. Ceylon. These deaths received wide publicity in India and Britain and were widely condemned. Switzerland. Arjomand. which abolished slavery. lodged their public protests with the British government against the Afghan government’s actions. Transnational Activism sequently moved to India. Times (London). made free primary education compulsory. Sidney Lee. a mosque was established in London that later became the British center of the Lahori group. especially in light of the stoning to death of two Ahmadis in 1903 by the Afghan government on charges of heresy and apostasy.69 A resolution was adopted by a number of influential Britons. The Times termed the former “a political execution” and maintained that the killing was undertaken by the Afghan rulers to “placate the reactionaries. On its part.” 68. vocally condemned the Afghan government for not allowing Maulvi Neymatullah Khan’s father to pick up his son’s dead body. 66. which still lay under rocks. March 16.65 Inspired by the constitutional revolutions in Russia (1905). and the removal of the veil. Some of his other reforms included translating traditional Islamic jurisprudence into positive law codes and bringing these under the purview of a state-­centered judiciary. two other Ahmadis were tried on charges of apostasy and also stoned to death in Afghanistan. Prophecy Continuous. a mosque run by the Qadian group was established in London. 115. 1924. Thus in 1920.

in turn reminded the government of his community’s efforts in countering and quelling incitements for jihad against the British government in Afghanistan during the Third Anglo-­A fghan War (1919). Subsequently. The primary reason for their nonintervention was the ongoing Khost Rebellion in Afghanistan led by the conservative Mangal tribe against King Amanullah because of the latter’s modernizing tendencies. Accounts of Khan’s various meetings with British authorities are gleaned from minute papers in IOR/ L/PS/11/250. in another meeting with Foreign Office officials. while another prohibiting torture was modified to legalize corporeal punishments sanctioned by sharia injunctions.” 947.77 In this heated atmosphere. biblio-­archive.Comparative Studies of South Asia. Upon its conclusion. including taking it to the League of Nations and the British prime minister as well as broadcasting it in the United States and other European countries. the foreign secretary of the Ahmadiyya khalifa. Arjomand. Africa and the Middle East 240 Comparative Studies of South Asia. Since the Ahmadiyya rial boundaries of British India (which they routinely penetrated).ch/resultatliste . See Nawid. D. The GOI was keen to distance itself from the bitter political and cultural conflicts ravaging Afghanistan at that time.74 In addition to reminding British authorities of Ahmadiyya support during this war. as indicated by an online search for Ahmadiyya in the archives of the League of Nations: United Nations Archives Geneva. Article 2 of the constitution that had declared Islam the official religion was amended to refer to “the sublime Hanafi rite.” An article stating that “Hindus and Jews must pay the poll tax and wear distinctive clothing” was added to the constitution. In short. Published by Duke University Press . British colonial authorities in India were highly disinclined to interfere in Afghanistan’s domestic matters even though British authorities in England were willing to lend their support to such intervention. 2016. Religious Response to Social Change in Afghanistan. the GOI was bypassed entirely and claims made directly to the British government in London. send a petition to the League of Nations. The British government was indeed mindful of Ahmadiyya support during the Third Anglo-­ Afghan War. It was informed that the GOI could not launch a formal protest since Maulvi Neymatullah Khan was an Afghan and not a British Indian subject. Ahmadis advanced their claim in the capacity of a loyal transnational religious community based in British India and not on behalf of the (dead) individual Afghan subject. L. 74. Africa and the Middle East • formally approached the Foreign Office in Britain and demanded that it press upon the GOI to lodge a formal complaint with the Afghan government. catalogue search. ultimately led King Amanullah to roll back his modernizing reforms. Zulfiqar Ali Khan. this war reestablished the autonomy of Afghans with respect to conducting their own foreign policy in exchange for the Afghan promise to respect the territo- 36:2 • 2016 secution. In other words. For example. did not concur with these suggestions. The Ahmadiyya movement did. The Khost Rebellion. 75. The Ahmadiyya movement demands were denied. Essentially. October 16. Khan also reminded the government of the assurances given by Tarzi to the Ahmadiyya delegation in 1920 and claimed that King Amanullah had lent his support to the persecution of Maulvi Neymatullah Khan to refute claims that he himself was an Ahmadi. Wakely of the Foreign Office suggested to GOI that Tarzi be approached informally and reminded of his assurances to the Ahmadiyya delegation. “Constitutional Developments in Afghanistan. which lasted some nine months. It was also held that Tarzi’s assurances to the Ahmadiyya delegation in 1920 were binding on the Afghan government. Draft paper by L. ibid.78 He also noted that Britain had on previous occasions lodged a protest with Turkey on behalf of Armenians who were Turkish and not British subjects and to Soviet Russia on behalf of protesting Russians. the Third Anglo-­Afghan War had restored the authority of the Afghan government to conduct its own foreign affairs (ceded to the British through a 1879 treaty) and also reaffirmed the Durand line as the political boundary between Afghanistan and British India. however.76 Taking a stance on the Ahmadi issue would have been tantamount to taking sides in the civil unrest.aspx. in fact. The GOI should urge Tarzi “to do what he can to prevent the persecution of this sect. Khan maintained that the Ahmadiyya movement was going to further publicize the issue. D. February 3. 77. 1924. 76.unog. Wakely.”75 The GOI. He also suggested that the GOI apprise Tarzi of the highly unfavorable impression of Afghans that resulted from this per- 73.73 He further maintained that the persecution of Ahmadis in Afghanistan was a direct result of this policy. 78.

reveals that the latter had in fact discussed the persecution of Ahmadis with both King Amanullah and Tarzi. Official correspondence between the GOI and the British minister stationed in Kabul. for killing an Afghan policeman. Reports of these conversations were not conveyed. which is the dominant madhab in Afghanistan. however. Mahmood. IOR/L/ PS/11/250.82 In other words. stating that they were personally in favor of religious tolerance and against religious persecutions.” The Ahmadiyya movement was establishing the specific nature of its own ties with British authorities and claiming that these ties obliged British authorities to defend their religious freedoms to a foreign government. Humphrys protests to Tarzi. the Amir (especially if his conscience is really a little uneasy) may resent the interference and. The Afghan government subsequently executed Piperno. 79. Talks negotiating the release of Piperno were under way between the Italian and Afghan governments. both expressed their personal horror toward the stoning. Africa and the Middle East Sadia Saeed | Imperial Ideologies. finally. 80. National territorial sovereignty. in a moment of reaction.”80 However. as Khan had noted.83 Equally important. the Ahmadiyya community was deemed a lower priority than the release of the imprisoned Italian. Ibid. King Amanullah felt compelled to take such an action in the face of increasing resistance to his modernizing programs. “Rome Awards. a British territory. holding that “any action however informal would satisfy his community. 81. and. The latter again denied the request.” 82. Yet. It might be possible to make a new departure if there was a chance of saving a life.”79 Furthermore. “To make the King protest against the murder of Niamat Ullah Khan would therefore be to establish a precedent: which would be to my mind. particularly undesirable in that the unfortunate man is already dead. 1924. Minute Paper. Dario Piperno. “Religious Freedom. who continued to press upon Britain authorities. the Afghan government had given a death sentence to an Italian engineer and a resident of Kabul. stating that such a course of action would be dangerous. there were precedents for the sort of intervention that Ahmadis desired. October 1. At the same time. the Foreign Office again requested the GOI to contact the Afghan authorities. Indeed. In so doing. a further justification for nonintervention was rendered through first maintaining Afghan sovereignty over their internal religious conflicts. Stoning to death is in fact the form of punishment prescribed by Islamic law for heretics. could not be deployed to justify religious persecutions since the place of religious freedom was universal and boundless. Minute Paper.81 At this instance. Frances Humphrey. which was propelling the Khost Rebellion. but to protest afterwards would be to lay His Majesty open to an unpleasant rebuff for having taken an action which could lead to no practical results. Piparno’s release is no particular concern of ours. and Tarzi informs the Amir [Amanullah] (and he will). such interventions were made when they suited European geopolitical and strategic interests and were typically undertaken on behalf of Christian minorities in the Middle East.Comparative Studies of South Asia. This event too played a part in the Foreign Office’s calculations: There seems to be a possibility that if Sir F. recoil from his intended lenience to Piparno [sic]. But the question of place was also posited in another way: what was the place of Ahmadis vis-­à-­v is other imperiled minorities that the British government did advocate for? British officials and diplomats in the Foreign Service conferred among themselves and agreed that Britain should not intervene with a foreign government “in favour of a non-­royal person. it was looking to the British for protection. Transnational Activism movement was headquartered in India. According to Humphrey’s account of these meetings. 83. then situating Ahmadis as heretics. Ahmadis situated themselves on par with other persecuted religious minorities such as Armenians in Turkey whose treatment had elicited intervention by the British. IOR/L/ PS/11/250.” Published by Duke University Press 2 41 . February 14. See Elliot. but it seems to be as much so as the manner in which Afghans deal with Afghan heretics. Hanafi law. 1924. from their perspective. drawing on an essentialist conception of Islamic law. if it was action by the British government. to the Ahmadiyya leadership. does hold that the apostate from Islam is to be executed unless he or she repents.

claims could be made to various British authorities —  in India. this is ultimately a theoretical position. The Ahmadiyya movement thus chose to endorse the British imperial interpretation of the right to religious freedom as falling within the national territorial jurisdiction and expressed its contentment with the informal action taken by the British representative in Afghanistan on behalf of their community. Subsequently.”88 Khan also concurred that the dead missionary was an “Afghan subject” and that the present outcome was all that 84. Africa and the Middle East • in which case no action is to be taken. the discussion in Young. In either case.” 85. My analysis has been motivated by the need to analyze what the British Empire meant in practice for one of South Asian Islam’s most dynamic transnational movements. the Ahmadiyya movement.84 However. to respect territorial sovereignty through nonintervention. Britain. This. “Apostasy and Judicial Separation in British India. the British government felt multiple contradictory pulls in response to Ahmadiyya claims: to retain cordial relations with a hostile neighbor. why. Ahmadis could vary the nature of their religious claims depending on the concrete situation and the British officials being petitioned. Different imperial authorities were tied to colonial subjects in distinct ways with respect to perceived duties and obligations. and those in British consuls outside British territories — or even all. Ahmadis sought to deploy it as a resource for facilitating their transnational religious work.85 Clearly. . to respond to their Indian claimants. ibid. Masud. Ahmadis perceived that they could negotiate the practical meanings of the British Empire’s supposed commitment to religious freedom. IOR/ L/PS/11/250. The British imperial ideology of religious freedom also critically shaped the Ahmadiyya movement’s transnational religious activism. In the end. For one. That British authorities viewed this position as a timeless imperative sanctioned by positive law of Islam ultimately reveals more about British assumptions about sharia than actual historical practices in Muslim societies.Comparative Studies of South Asia. British colonial authorities did not include Islamic injunctions on apostasy in the hybrid Anglo-­ Mohammedan law put into place in colonial India. See. for example. The differences of opinion among differentially placed British authorities on this matter attest to the autonomy of colonial states from metropolitan authorities. and actual practices have varied widely across time and place in Muslim lands. to respect the integrity of Islamic law as they perceived it. “Apostasy. and. The GOI again declined to lodge a protest. Khan to FO. depending on the nature of the claim. In this sense.86 The Foreign Office in the end conveyed to Khan that it would request its representative in Afghanistan to take “informal” action. Acutely cognizant of the institutional and ideological infrastructure of the British Empire. Griffel. I have analyzed how. The African Colonial State. and with what outcomes Ahmadis used their position as imperial subjects to demand that British authorities protect their (perceived) religious rights outside the British Empire itself. 88. October 17. Conclusion This essay has sought to extend our scholarly conversations on how colonial subjects drew on imperial structures and ideologies in the course of their transnational movements. with the “hope [that] the British representative will be able to show to the Afghan authorities how their inhuman action has shocked the whole world. the Foreign Office sent a message to Khan stating that it was not possible for the GOI to launch a formal complaint.87 The matter came to an end with Khan expressing his satisfaction with this outcome and thanking the Foreign Office. finally. the Foreign Office conveyed to the GOI both its own and Humphrey’s willingness to protest the incident. the very topography of the British Empire enabled the Ahmadiyya movement. Their activism was deeply informed by notions of a transna- 86. 1924.” 36:2 • 2016 was desired. to uphold their (supposed) principled commitment to principles of religious freedom and tolerance. were excluded from Anglo-­ Mohammedan law on the grounds that they militated against considerations of equity and justice. Published by Duke University Press 87. as well as other Islamic injunctions such as those legalizing slavery. Africa and the Middle East 242 Comparative Studies of South Asia. Consequently.

The findings of this essay have implications not only for understanding the politics of religious freedom in the British Empire but also for our scholarly engagements with lived religious lives under colonialism. They were. religious noninterference. the Ahmadiyya movement’s religious activism nonetheless provides a glimpse of how a transnational sphere of religious rights was imagined by enterprising religious actors under British colonial rule. the imperative of religious freedom for all. and thus interfere in. In response. however. In such instances. and the Islamic tradition to subvert Ahmadiyya claims. however implicitly — conf licts (and their outcomes) over religious truths in autonomous religious fields. it was almost impossible for them to negotiate the practical meanings of the imperial ideology of religious freedom. while Ahmadis were often able to draw on imperial authorities for informational gains. More often than not. By upholding the religious freedoms of the socially excluded Ahmadiyya community. Transnational Activism tional sphere of religious rights wherein the British Empire would advocate for the religious rights of Ahmadis even outside the territorial jurisdiction of the British Empire. Ahmadis were neither cosmopolitan intellectuals participating in transnational conversations nor at the forefront of the anticolonial and Muslim nationalist movements that were unfolding in India. Their efforts were solidly underpinned by the institutional and political context of empire and were shaped by their lived realities. While largely unsuccessful. The Ahmadiyya movement’s transnational activism thus draws attention to a foundational tension between the norm of religious noninterference and that of religious equality. when Ahmadis made claims on British authorities to defend norms of religious freedom outside their imperial borders. skillfully moving across and beyond the British Empire to increase their numbers. The notion of religious noninterference thus took on an additional dimension by becoming linked with that of territorial sovereignty. the result of this detachment was that the religious sentiments of the orthodox majority were routinely privileged over those of a “deviant” minority. British colonial law did take a stance on. Conversely. the imperative of religious noninterference entails that the state turn its gaze away from — and thereby endorse. cosmopolitan religious activists. entails that the state take a stance on these contending religious truths with the end of protecting the rights and freedoms of the most socially vulnerable religious communities. They could not. It is this tension between the norm of religious noninterference and that of religious equality that was at play in transnational arenas of activism that I have discussed above. British authorities were oftentimes in conflict with each other with respect to which (if any) course of action ought to be followed. It is only when the British applied reli- gious noninterference as a considered policy that the Ahmadiyya claims to religious freedom were subverted. In spaces and places outside British India where the jurisdiction of colonial law did not extend and bureaucratic discretion held sway. however. In British India. Consequently. For one. interfere in domestic religious policies of other governments on behalf of their colonial subjects. an important theological matter. Conceptually. British authorities held. resting as it does on that of religious equality. the norm of religious noninterference was routinely deployed by the British to justify their nonintervention in these conflicts. British imperial authorities resisted the Ahmadiyya movement’s transnational activism through arguing that religious rights fell within the purview of national territorial states. British authorities deployed arguments about territorial jurisdiction. British imperial authorities countered Ahmadiyya claims through invoking the principle of religious noninterference with respect to the internal religious affairs of the Muslim community. Published by Duke University Press 243 . the latter responded by justifying the actions of foreign governments and their own inaction.Comparative Studies of South Asia. however. Ultimately. Africa and the Middle East Sadia Saeed | Imperial Ideologies. In transnational arenas. On the whole. This had the effect of not only subverting Ahmadiyya claims to religious freedom but also normalizing the distinction between the “orthodox” Muslim and the “heretic” Ahmadi. colonial law firmly deemed Ahmadis Muslim in a context in which mainstream Muslim religious groups vocally pronounced Ahmadis non-­Muslim. British officials routinely differentiated between orthodox and heterodox Muslims on the basis of representations of a rigid Islamic tradition.

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