Leaving the Ahmadiyya belief and organisation is difficult for anyone but I believe it is even more difficult for a female. The Ahmadiyya organisation is very much patriarchal, in which the woman’s voice is considered much inferior to its male counterpart. Although the organisation has a separate auxiliary organisation for the ladies, women do not have any decision-making power in the main body of the organisation. This patriarchal ethos is embedded in the attitudes of the Ahmadiyya organisation’s members. Furthermore in homes, the female members of the family are considered less than the males (in most families). And considering that the majority of the members of the Ahmadiyya organisation are from the Indian subcontinent, these patriarchal attitudes are prevalent in the majority of the followers.
During my years as an Ahmadi, I noticed that the women in the community did not show a desire to be heard or to challenge the norm. Instead they conformed to the thoughts that had been indoctrinated into them, and they very much adopted the role of the subservient gender. Most females do not interact with the world outside of Ahmadiyya (except students and those women that are in employment). They either spend their time in the home or at Jama’at meetings/functions. Their social circle consists of other Ahmadi women from similar family backgrounds and attitudes. In this way, social norms are reinforced and adhered to.
Growing up in such an environment makes it difficult for a woman to be independent or to challenge the norms. Any woman who does find the courage to stand up and speak against the status quo is frowned upon and labelled as being ‘rebellious’ or ‘rude’. In some cases, a woman’s education is blamed for her ‘abnormal’ or ‘rebellious’ thoughts and ideas if she speaks her mind or asserts her independence. Taking such a bold step of challenging existing thoughts and ideas could have repercussions for a woman, such as difficulty in getting marriage proposals.
Another negative aspect of the culture is worrying about what people will think or say. This pressure keeps a lot of women suppressed and they are unable to speak their minds or do things which are perfectly within the boundaries of Islam.
I have mentioned the above points just to paint a picture of the environment and thought system in which females are brought up in the Ahmadiyya organisation. This environment and the aforementioned attitudes of the social circle play a vital role in the upbringing of a child and the personality that they will form. A subservient personality will often lack confidence and self esteem and this could potentially be an unhealthy ingredient in developing social relationships later on in life. It can also lead to depression and other mental illnesses.
This kind of environment makes it extremely difficult for a woman to question her belief system. She would have to fight a lot of battles within herself, to gain the strength and courage to question the system even within her own mind. The next obstacle would be an even harder one - expressing her concerns to her family for fear of being shunned/ex-communicated.
As a woman, my journey out of Ahmadiyya was a difficult one, mainly because of the attitudes of others when I told them about my research of Mirza Ghulam’s books. Almost everyone I spoke to accused me of misunderstanding the writings of the ‘Promised Messiah’ and advised me to speak to a Missionary so that they could explain the actual meanings to me. Despite being educated to a high level, I was made to feel like an illiterate person who does not have the ability to understand.
I experienced a lot of condescending attitudes, especially from my male relatives who, when unable to answer the points I was raising, resorted to battles of the loudest voice – as if that was the measure of truth.
The most common response I got was "you’ve been influenced by a Maluvi" even though I do not know of any maulvies. Other responses were that I hadn’t performed Istikhara properly – despite the fact that I had prayed the Istikhara prayer as advised by the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW). I was told that people had had dreams about me and that I was going astray. Family members tried to use emotional coercion by trying to make me feel guilty for questioning the beliefs of my ancestors. All this drama but no answers to the points I had raised about Mirza Ghulam’s un-Islamic and inappropriate writings.
Because a woman is thought of as being sensitive or weak-minded, family members assume that pressurising tactics or emotional blackmail will prevent her from taking the step to leave a false belief. Or they think that by making her feel guilty for hurting them, and making her feel like she is being selfish, she will reconsider her decision.
My advice to other women seeking the truth is to trust Allah (subhanahu wata aala) and have faith in Him to Guide you towards the Truth. I believe that Allah (subhanahu wata aala) Guides those who sincerely ask for His Guidance. Insha’Allah Allah (subhanahu wata aala) will Give you the strength and courage you need, to deal with any hardship that you may face. Admittedly, it is very difficult to face the possibility of losing loved ones, to see parents crying in desperation and worrying about being shunned by the community. It is heart breaking to see loved ones in anguish. But you must ask yourselves – is it worth staying in falsehood just to give false comfort to your parents and loved ones? Ultimately our loyalty should be with our Creator and we must obey His Commands. When you take a step for His Sake then He will give you the peace and comfort that no one else can give you.
Blog posted by: Liberated