Shortly after the replacement of elected leadership (khilafat), open government and decisions by mutual consultation (shura) with monarchy the idea of jihad was distorted by the kings because it provided free or cheap soldiers for the battlefield. The exhortation “kill a non-believer and enter paradise” became a common slogan. The idea of jihad was used by these kings to expand their own empires. Interestingly, in many cases they were fighting other Muslims but it was still jihad, for example when Mughals invaded India large parts of it were ruled by Muslims!
Gradually Muslim lost political and military power and the lands they ruled were taken over by non-Muslims. India was one such place. Before the British arrived it was ruled by the muslim dynasty called Mughals (people who built the Taj Mahal and the Red Fort in Delhi etc). When the Mughal power weakened India splintered into many “princely states” ruled by kings. At the same time the British who had arrived as traders and merchants extended their influence by entering alliances and supporting rival factions as they vied for power eventually winning control of large areas ruled by the British directly. However, the “independent” princely states could do nothing without British approval. One such state was the Punjab. At that time this state consisted of two areas which are now in Pakistan (Nortwest Frontier – the northern area bordering Afghanistan, and Punjab) and two areas which are now in India (the state of Haryana and Punjab). So it stretched from Afghanistan to New Delhi. This Punjab was ruled by the Sikh under a king called Ranjit Singh. After his death his sons started fighting each other and then the British who defeated them and took over the control of the state directly.
Sikhs had always been politically very active all the time especially when the religion came into being during the time that the Mughals ruled India. The Mughal’s rule of succession was that on the death of the king his sons fought each other to become the king. The nobles etc would choose a prince and support it. Unfortunately the Sikhs always chose the side that lost the battle for succession and were thus persecuted by many Muslim kings. When Ranjit Singh became the ruler of the Punjab he vowed to take revenge upon the Muslims. He reduced them to the state of slaves and forbade calling out of the Muslim call for prayer from the minaret of a mosque – like someone was to ban ringing church bells on Sunday! Muslims suffered great persecution under the Sikh rule. Hazrat Mirza Sahib’s forefathers ruled large parts of Punjab which they lost under the Sikhs.
When the Sikhs lost the Punjab to the British, the British restored freedom of worship and religion etc. This also resulted in lots of Christian missionaries arriving in the Punjab, as elsewhere in India, building schools, hospitals etc but also trying to convert people to Chrisitanity. Once tactic was to print and distribute literature against Islam and the Holy prophet Muhammad which was extremely abusive. The traditional leaders at that time on the one hand told Muslims that if they killed the British they would go to heaven and on the other professed loyalty to the British.
Under these circumstances Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad wrote the booklet “The British Government and Jihad” in which he said that:-
-The British did Muslims a favour by defeating the Sikhs and restoring freedom of religion and Muslims should return that favour by showing loyalty to the British;
-Jihad means an armed struggle as a defensive war and is only to be undertaken when a government interferes with people’s liberty;
-Jihad can only be declared by a government and individuals cannot call Muslims to rise to jihad so he called upon the ruler of Afghanistan to call a conference to discuss whether jihad against the British was lawful;
-A petition to the government to ban abusive religious literature as creates tensions between various communities.
His general theme in the book is that two kinds of injustice has been committed; one by Christians who attribute Godhead to Jesus usurping God’s right and second by Muslims who by preaching an aggressive offensive jihad usurp the rights of human beings. He also complained that Christians were also at fault because they re-enforced the erroneous idea of jihad Muslims leaders were preaching by saying exactly the same thing – Islam says if you kill a non-believer you will go to heaven.