Presented below is an answer by Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad, the Fourth Head of the Ahmadiyya Community, to a question raised in a Question/Answer session held in London on 4th January 1986.
Questioner: (The question was asked through a friend). He says that his feeling is that the Ahmadiyya literature he has studied and whatever he has discovered about the Ahmadiyya Community is quite agreeable. In view of this, why is there such a great agitation by the Maulvis (the religious clergy) against the Ahmadiyya Community? The second part of the same question is: Would it not be better for the leading religious scholars on both sides to get together and discuss openly the differences between themselves for the enlightenment of the ordinary people?
Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad: As far as the first part of the question is concerned, the most important fact which we should not ignore is that the founder of the Ahmadiyya Community, (Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as) of Qadian) has claimed to have been sent by Allah. This is the most important, fundamental claim that he ever made in his life. Now, what happened to him after this claim should be in total agreement with what happened to similar claimants in the past. How was a person treated when he claimed to be from God? This is the most important issue to be decided. If the (true) claimants in the past met different treatment to that faced by the present claimant, then he would be proved a false person, a false claimant--not a true one. So, look back now at the history of those from the time of Adam (as) to the time of the Prophet Muhammad (saw). When a person claimed that he was sent by God, how was he treated by the clergy of his time? Was he supported or was he opposed vehemently by the whole society, a society otherwise divided in itself? Was it the case or otherwise that the clergy of one section hating the clergy of the other, yet joined forces in hating the one person who had claimed that he was from God? So, how could there occur a different phenomenon at the time of the Imam Mahdi (the rightly guided leader)? Suppose for a while that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as) is not the Imam Mahdi in which case the Imam Mahdi is bound to come. If an Imam Mahdi comes and the Mullahs (the clergy) of the time support him and say 'Yes, you are right', this would be a revolutionary event. It would, in fact be such a strong deviation from the past behaviour (of similar people) that immediately we should recognise this fact to be something very alarming. Why should this Imam Mahdi be treated so kindly and gently by the clergy while his Master (as) was rejected outright by the clergy of his time, as were all the earlier people who made similar claims and were totally rejected and cruelly treated? So, what is there so special about the Imam Mahdi that, contrary to the past sunnat-ullah (the path laid down by God), this particular person is to be treated so amicably and in such a friendly and brotherly way? It is impossible. If he is treated like this, contrary to the treatment received by the previous true claimants, then he must be a false claimant.
That is one answer to the question. However, a second answer can be given from the perspective of the issues relating to the need for an Imam (a religious leader). An Imam, whether he is an Imam Mahdi (one guided by God) or any other Imam, is only required when the clergy of that religion has decayed and has become corrupt. If the leadership of a religion is not corrupt and is honest, there is no need for Allah to send anyone from himself -- or is there? So, when the Imam comes that is the time when, according to the verdict of God, the society has already become corrupt, mostly at the top because when the leadership is destroyed, then the ordinary people are also destroyed. When the leaders, the very best in town, become corrupt, they then destroy others (who follow). That is why the Holy Qur'an refers to Pharaoh as having led his people to destruction and annihilation. So, this is the most important factor which should also be kept in mind that if the religious leadership was intact and the Muslims were led by honest, God-fearing people, why would God send Imam Mahdi? But the Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) presents a totally different picture. According to him, the Messiah and the Imam were to come at a time when the (condition of the) Muslims would have rotted totally. They would have gone astray and would have followed the same pattern as that followed earlier, by the Jews--these are his words. So, do you expect co-operation from such people when an Imam comes from God? Can you expect co-operation from people who have been declared corrupt by God? That is the reason for the advent of the Imam but if suddenly the corrupt people were to rise in unison and say 'Alhamdo lillah (All praise be to God), the Imam has come, we believe him' -- would that make sense? If the clergy were that honest there would have been no need for the Imam in the first place and if they differed with each other so much as to turn Islam into various factions, how could they agree with the true Imam when knowing the Holy Qur'an, knowing the Book, they chose to differ fundamentally from each other. That means that they were corrupt, not the Holy Qur'an. It was not the Holy Qur'an which led them astray into believing in different things. They were already corrupt and did not want to believe in the truth. That is why they derived widely differing inferences from the book and stuck rigidly to their own inferences despite the fact that those inferences were contradicting each other.
This was, in fact, the state of the society to which Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Promised Messiah (as) was sent. In view of this, no-one should expect co-operation at the hands of the so-called, Ullema (religious scholars) towards him. There is no other way out. I cannot conceive of anything else -- it has to be like this and it is like this. The different religious sects do not like each other -- they hate each other. They declare each other to be kafirs (infidels). They are divided amongst themselves so thoroughly, so deeply and so finally that they cannot come together again, yet they decide to come together only against one Imam and join hands for that purpose. This supports the truth of the Imam rather than the other way round.
As far as the second part of the question is concerned, dialogues (of public debate) have been held right from the start. Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Promised Messiah (as) himself started the dialogue and his dialogues (of public debates) with the greatest scholars of the time were published. But later on he abstained from entering into such public debates with others because the people who initially invited him for debate, began to use it for purposes of mischief, trouble and disorder. What is more, despite the opportunity given to them by the Imam (of the age) in that he was himself prepared to present his case to the most important religious leadership of the time, they misused such occasions and it always ended in abuse and invective, one-sided edicts of kufr (infidelity) against him and incitement to take his life and so on. In view of this the exercise proved to be futile. The Promised Messiah (as), therefore, declared that there should be no more of these debates because they had gone beyond the reasonable limits of what could be defined as a sensible, civilised debate. But it did not end there. As far as many other scholars of Ahmadiyyat are concerned, they have continuously engaged in such debates, particularly during the days before the partition (of India). Great Munazras as they were called (open public debates) were held between the Ahmadiyya scholars and the others (non-Ahmadi Maulvis).
However, the most interesting fact which should be noted by you is that the accounts of the debates were published by Ahmadis and never by the opponents. One can still find the books which contain the full account of sessions in which Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Promised Messiah (as) entered dialogue with a non-Ahmadi scholar. Other Ahmadis also held debates with non-Ahmadis.
Here, it should strike one as strange that Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Promised Messiah (as) publishes the account, word for word, but the other party does not because they do not want their people to know what passed between them. This is proof of their weakness. This is proof also of their dishonesty. If a dialogue was held, surely, it is was held for a purpose. It should have been a meaningful dialogue so why insist on keeping your own people from the contents of that dialogue? All the books containing accounts of Munazras (public debates) held by Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Promised Messiah (as) are still available. They have been published by the Ahmadiyya Community but none of these accounts is ever published by the opponents. Many Munazras were held by such scholars as the late Maulana Abdul Ata Sahib, by Maulana Jalaludin Shams Sahib, by Hadhrat Maulvi Rajekira Sahib, Maulvi Roshan Alira Sahib, Qazi Mohammad Nazir Sahib and others. The accounts of all these are recorded and published by the Ahmadiyya Community but if the Ahmadis had been defeated (in these debates) it should have been the other way round--our opponents should have published the accounts and Ahmadis should have hidden it.
However, we do not need to go that far back in history. I will now bring your attention to a more recent occurrence. In fact, a sort of debate was actually held in the National Assembly (of Pakistan) prior to the Declaration that Ahmadis were no longer to be considered Muslims. The 'debate' went on for 14 days. My predecessor, Hadhrat Khalifatul-Masih III, Mirza Nasir Ahmad (ra), represented the case of Jamaat Ahmadiyya together with a few Ahmadi scholars whom he had chosen to help him but he himself was the only spokesman. On the other side, all the very cream of non-Ahmadi society was present in the National Assembly and the whole Department of Religious Affairs of the Government of Pakistan was giving them support. The entire Department of Law was there to assist them. All these supporting offices were open day and night to help them and they helped them. A dialogue was held—why do they not publish it? This is what you want, this is exactly what you need, that a dialogue should not only be held but that its account should also be made public -- available to everyone. People should be able to judge who is right and who is wrong and a dialogue is already there but the Government (of Pakistan) insists that it will not be published. It prohibits Ahmadis, on pain of punishment, from publishing it. The Ahmadis are told that if they were to publish it, the Government will prosecute them. Why? It is the same weakness-- they have accepted defeat. Why else the show of force, putting people to death, burning people's houses, and so on? This is defeat -- defeat of logic that compels people to have recourse to violent actions. Their behaviour is, again, in complete conformity with the behaviour of the opponents of the Messengers of God. This behaviour is so visible, so obvious (as one of opposition to a Messenger of God) that if a sane person wished to know right from wrong, the writing is so plain on the wall -- so much so that I really wonder how anyone can miss it!