From WikiAhmadiyya, the free encyclopedia on Islam and Ahmadiyyat

Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq (1924-1988), was a Pakistani general, who served as the 6th President of Pakistan from 1978 until his death in 1988, having declared martial law for the third time in the country's history in 1977. Pakistan's longest-serving head of state, Zia legislated against the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and entered into a prayer duel with the fourth Caliph of the community in 1988. 

Ordinance XX


The Pakistan government had previously amended the constitution to declare Ahmadi Muslims 'kafirs' (non-Muslims) in 1974. However, anti-Ahmadiyya propaganda continued throughout Pakistan (national paper Nawa-e-Waqt even accused the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of building nuclear bombs at its headquarters in Rabwah) and reached its peek on the disappearance of Aslam Qureshi. Qureshi was a Pakistani anti-Ahmadiyya religious cleric who had previously attempted to assasinate Mirza Muzaffar Ahmad, the grandson of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad and a leading Pakistani civil servant. Ahmad had fought off Qureshi after Qureshi stabbed him with a knife. 

Having served a nominal prison sentence, Qureshi disappeared in 1983 on the day he was due to deliver a speech at an anti-Ahmadiyya rally. Pakistan's media immediately accused the Caliph of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad, of murdering Qureshi:

Since the election of Mirza Tahir Ahmad the movement has started a terrorist campaign. Aslam Qureshi has not only been abducted but possibly killed by Ahmadis.

Laulak Newspaper

During recent months, the clerics of different shades of opinion gathered under the banner of the anti-Ahmadiyya movement, accelerated their campaign against the Ahmadiyya sect and demanded that the Government should remove all Ahmadis from influential and sensitive public offices, ban all literature published by them, impose restrictions on their missionary activities and arrest Mirza Tahir Ahmad, head of the Ahmadiyya community, on charges of involvement in the presumed murder of Maulana Aslam Qureshi. The ulema alleged that Maulana Aslam, a strong activist of their campaign, was kidnapped by some Ahmadis, and was feared murdered because police had failed to trace his whereabouts..

- Viewpoint Newspaper 

Pakistani president Zia-ul-Haq gave a large financial donation to Qureshi's family and added:

We will persevere in our efforts to ensure that the cancer of Ahmadiyya

- Zia-ul-Haq, anti-Ahmadiyya conference 


Zia brought Ordinance XX into Law in 1984. The legislation restricted the religious freedom of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, prohibited them from offering "salam" (the Islamic greeting common to the local Urdu language) prohibited the reading and writing of the Quran, prohibited the community from building mosques, prohibited the community from Islamic worship and prohibited Ahmadi Muslims from calling themselves Muslim and threatened prison terms for any individual who 'in any manner whatsoever outrages the religious feelings of Muslims':

Any person of the Qadiani group or the Lahori group (who call themselves 'Ahmadis' or by any other name) who by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation:

-refers to, or names, or calls, his place of worship as 'Mosque': shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years, and shall also be liable to fine.

-refers to the mode or form of call to prayers followed by his faith as 'Azan', or recites Azan as used by the Muslims, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years, and shall also be liable to fine.

-directly or indirectly, poses himself as a Muslim, or calls, or refers to his faith as Islam, or preaches or propagates his faith, or invites others to accept his faith, by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representations, or in any manner whatsoever outrages the religious feelings of Muslims, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.

- Zia-ul-Haq, Ordinance XX 

Ahmadiyya response

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community responded in a characteristically peaceful and law-abiding manner to the new legislation:

I made it clear that not a single Ahmadi should, at any time, even under extreme provocation, behave irresponsibly. Furthermore, I told them that I could only permit them to supplicate and wail before God Almighty and they were not permitted to be beyond that limit...I will now mention some dreams and visions which relate to the current events. At a later stage, I will give out a vision of the Promised Messiah which also relates to the current situation. I received several messages clearly indicating impending danger and containing assurances of Allah's protection. There were indications that some who would not desist from wrongful acts would attract the wrath of Allah. We must, therefore, pray for the Pakistani nation with great humility and earnestness.

Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad, 30 April 1984 

According to reports, the Ahmadiyya Community, after a high-level meeting held in Rabwah under the chairmanship of its head Mirza Tahir Ahmad, ordered all its organisations in the country to accept the bans imposed on them.

Viewpoint Newspaper, 3 May 1984 

However, the legislation left it impossible for the Caliph to carry out his religious duties in Pakistan. Moreover, Zia had previously had his political rival Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto killed and rumours were circulating that Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad faced the same fate. Government soldiers were carefully watching his movements, however Ahmad was able to escape Pakistan after Zia mistakenly ordered all airports to prevent Hazrat Mirza Nasir Ahmad (the Caliph's deceased predecessor) and not Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad from leaving the country. 

Persecution Intensifies

In four years immediately after the introduction of Ordinance XX, 3,000 Ahmadi Muslims were charged. Six were sentenced to to 25 years imprisonment each. Four more were sentenced to death. Children as young as 12 were taken to court for describing themselves as Muslims. When applying for passports, Pakistanis either had to declare that they were non-Muslims, or sign a statement saying: "I consider Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Qadiani to be an imposter and also consider his followers to be non-Muslims". Meanwhile government officials continued to attack the community. Malik Khuda Bux Tiwana, a provincial minister in Punjab, said: "The present Government is determined to eradicate the evil of Ahmadiyya and is duty-bound to uproot it completely. A Committee has already been set up for this purpose."

One Pakistani Ahmadi wrote:

On 4th May, for no apparent reason, the police took away one of our elders, Hafiz Muhammad Amjed of Bhera District. Mr. Muhammad Hayat Chaudhry and I went to enquire why he had been taken into custody. We parked our motorbike outside the gate of the police station. There was a mob of about twenty to thirty mullahs armed with sticks. Upon seeing us they started abusing us in the most filthy and provocative language. We ignored them and proceeded towards the police station. In no time the mob was on us and began striking blow after blow in the presence of the police. No mobster was arrested. We complained to the authorities but to our surprise the police refused to file our case. Instead a case was filed against two of our young men, the charge being that they used threatening language against the mullahs.

The Review of Religions Magazine, November 1986 

Other reports from the country stated:

The graves of some Ahmadis have been dug open by the mullahs under the supervision of police authorities and the dead bodies removed from their last resting places.

The Review of Religions, November 1986 

The Home Department of the Government of Punjab, Pakistan has issued a directive to all district Magistrates in the province instructing them to remove the inscription: "There is none worthy of worship except Allah, Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah" from all Ahmadiyya Mosque. The circular says that an organisation of the anti Ahmadiyya Mullahs called Majlis Khatme Nabuat held a meeting under the chairmanship of the Federal Minister for Religious Affairs in which they decided that these words should be removed from the Ahmadiyya mosques immediately and the members of the Ahmadiyya community responsible should be arrested and tried under section 298-C of Pakistan Penal Code. As a result the City Magistrate of the town of Kasur has ordered the police officer incharge of Gandasinghwala to comply with this order immediately in his area and report the action taken by him. It should be noted that these sacred words were not written after the controversial Ordinance of 1984 but were there from the time the mosques were erected.

The Review of Religions, February 1988 

Prayer Duel


With the Pakistan government's persecution of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community intensifying beyond all previous thresholds, the Caliph challenged Zia to a prayer duel:

I want these people who are doing these things to mend their ways and not to accept this challenge. I advise them to have fear of God and not to accept it, but be as wise the Christians of Narjan who did not accept the challenge of the holy Prophetsa. If they accept then let them be in no doubt the will of God will be manifest. If you fear God but feel you cannot admit your faults because of your worldly position then just withdraw your hands from tyranny and the oppression of the Ahmadis and simply keep quiet. We shall then assume that you have declined to accept the challenge of mubahala and we will pray to God to save you from His wrath. I do not want the head of a country with which we are related to become a target for a manifestation of God's wrath.

Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad, Friday Sermon 3 June 1988

The Caliph subsequently published and distributed the terms of the prayer duel throughout Pakistan and the world. Numerous official publications of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community including its flagship magazine, The Review of Religions, carried his message:

"Now whoso disputes with thee concerning him, after what has come to thee of knowledge, say to him, ‘Come, let us call our sons and your sons, and our women and your women, and our people and your people; then let us pray fervently and invoke the curse of Allah on those who lie.’" (Quran 3:62)

…Prominent among these to whom this invitation is specially addressed are General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, ex-Chief Martial Law Administrator of Pakistan…The following allegations are being leveled personally against me, that is, the present Imam and Head of the Ahmadiyya Community that I am involved in the kidnapping and subsequent murder of a person named Aslam Qureshi…Our Lord! Whichever of us in Thy sight are liars and fabricators let Thy wrath descend upon them within one year. May Thou inflict such disgraceful and tormenting punishment upon them that people should witness their debasement and utter destruction. Let Thy wrath descend upon them in diverse ways and let the criminals be punished and exposed in an exemplary manner so that the world bear witness that they were recipients of Thy wrath.

Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad, 10 June 1988

Reappearance of Aslam Qureshi

The Caliph's challenge had named only two people specifically; Zia and Aslam Qureshi, who the Caliph had been accused of murdering in 1983. Five years after his initial disappearance - and ten days after the Caliph's challenge - Qureshi reappeared:

Maulana Muhammad Aslam Qureshi of the Tehrik Khatme Nabuwwat, who was alleged to have been kidnapped and murdered by a minority of Pakistan over five years ago was produced on Tuesday before newsmen at a hurriedly called press conference addressed by Inspector General Police Punjab, Nisar Ahmad Cheema. Maulana Qureshi told newsmen that he served the Iranian Army for about five years and fought at various fronts during this period. He said that he had left his hometown Sialkot due to frustration caused by financial and other domestic problems.

Daily Muslim Newspaper 13 July 1988

Zia-ul-Haq's end

In spite of the prayer duel, Zia showed no sign of relenting in his persecution of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. Finally, the Caliph warned:

It means the people we are talking about who we have challenged to a prayer duel, unfortunately they will now see the wrath of Allah. Otherwise I would not have received the message from Allah the Almighty: "History repeats itself, you will not see any change, the wrongdoers will be punished." The decree of God will surely catch them and surely punish them. This punishment has become their destiny and definitely a party amongst them - not all of them, but some of them - will now become a sign.

Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad, Friday Sermon 12 August 1988

In a separate question and answer session, the Caliph said Zia would be left 'in tiny fragments'. Five days after the Caliph's speech foretelling the end of Zia, on 17 August 1988 his plane was blown from the sky with a number of his closest advisors. In the following week's Friday Sermon, Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad said:

God has given his decision. It is not correct to rejoice in the death of one's enemy. We cannot deny that Ahmadis all over the world are happy and cheerful. It is not because someone is dead. They are happy because they have witnessed the victory of God. It is a great heavenly sign of the succour that God has extended to us.

Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad, Friday Sermon 19 August 1988