How Heresy Makes Orthodoxy

The Sedimentation of Sunnism in the Ahmadi Cases of South Africa

in Sociology of Islam
Restricted Access
Get Access to Full Text
Rent on DeepDyve

Have an Access Token?

Enter your access token to activate and access content online.

Please login and go to your personal user account to enter your access token.


Have Institutional Access?

Access content through your institution. Any other coaching guidance?


This article explores the on-going construction, or “sedimentation,” of Sunni orthodoxy by paying attention to the boundary role of “insider-Others.” To highlight how boundary positions of heretical communities shape the category of orthodox Islam, this paper focuses on the social processes excluding the “heretical” Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in South Africa. The paper undertakes a qualitative analysis of two Supreme Court cases involving Ahmadis and the Muslim Judicial Council of South Africa, local representatives of orthodox Sunnism. These two cases stand out in a contentious history that has led to extreme ostracism of Ahmadis by Sunni Muslims in the country. The analysis identifies three features of Sunni orthodoxy that crystallized in the process of conflict with the Ahmadiyya: alienation, transnationalism, and Archimedean moral authority. These features help make sense of social processes marginalizing Ahmadis around the world, and offer new insights into construction of global Sunni orthodoxy.



aaiil (2010). The Ahmadiyya case judgment: Decision of the Supreme Court of South Africa. The Light and Islamic Review, 87, 518.

AdamHussein M. (1995). Islam and politics in Somalia. Journal of Islamic Studies, 6(2): 189221.

afp (2010, Friday, May 14). Egypt Ahmadis detained under emergency law, Yahoo News. Retrieved from

Ahmadiyya Anjuman Ishaat Islam Lahore (sa) & Ismail Peck vs The Muslim Judicial Council & others, No. 10058/82 (Supreme Court of South Africa, Cape of Good Hope Division, Justice Williamson 1985).

ai (2007). Saudi Arabia: Amnesty International calls for end to arrests and expulsions of foreign migrant workers on discriminatory grounds. Religious Persecution of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, ai Index: mde 23/001/2007. Retrieved from The website:

al-Azmeh, Aziz (2007). The Times of History: Universal Topics in Islamic Historiography. Budapest: Central European University Press.

Al-Islam (2013). Religious Persecution of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. 2014(March 23). Retrieved from

AlasuutariPertti, BickmanLeonard, & BrannenJulia (Eds) (2008). The sage Handbook of Social Research Methods. Los Angeles: sage.

Amir, Ayaz (2002, June 21). Back to the future, Opinion column, Dawn. Retrieved from

AzizZahid (1987). The Ahmadiyya Case: Case History, Judgment and Evidence. Newark, ca: Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha’at Islam Lahore.

BellJames (2012). The world’s Muslims: Unity and diversity (pp. 164). Washinton dc: Pew Research Center Forum on Religion & Public Life.

Bourdieu, Pierre (1977). Outline of a Theory of Practice (Nice, Richard, Trans.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Center, Pew Research (2009). Mapping the Global Muslim Population: A report on the size and distribution of the world’s Muslim population. Washington dc: Pew Research Center.

CesariJocelyne (2014). The Awakening of Muslim Democracy: Religion, Modernity and the Nation-State. Cambridge, uk: Cambridge University Press.

Correspondent (2010, October 20). Fresh attack on Ahmadiyyas, Daily Star.

FriedmannYohanan (2003). Prophecy Continuous: Aspects of Ahmadi Religious Thought and Its Medieval Background (2nd ed.). New York: Oxford University Press.

GadamerHans-Georg (2004). Truth and Method (Weinsheimer, Joel & Donald G. Marshall, Trans. 2nd Revised Edition ed.). New York: Continuum.

GillespiePiers (2007). Current issues in Indonesian Islam: Analysing the 2005 Council of Indonesian Ulama Fatwa No. 7 opposing pluralism, liberalism and secularism. Journal of Islamic Studies, 18(2): 202240.

GuptaAkhil, & FergusonJames (Eds) (1997). Anthropological Locations: Boundaries and Grounds of a Field Science. Berkeley: University of California Press.

KhanAbid. (2008, March 24). Saudi persecution of Ahmadiyya Muslim community continues, Press release, International Press and Media Desk. Retrieved from

KurtzLester R. (1983). The politics of heresy. American Journal of Sociology, 88(6): 10851115.

LapidusIra M. (2002). A History of Islamic Societies (2nd ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

MahmudTayyab (1995). Freedom of religion & religious minorities in Pakistan: A study of judicial practice. Fordham International Law Journal, 19(1): 40100.

MeshalReem (2010). Antagonistic Sharī’as and the construction of orthodoxy in sixteenth-century Ottoman Cairo. Journal of Islamic Studies, 21(2): 183212.

Moosa, Ebrahim (2014). The Sunni orthodoxy. Critical Muslim, 10(April–June): 1936.

msa (2011, December 20). W. Java the ‘least tolerant province’, The Jakarta Post.

NurbaitiAti. (2011, December 10). Ahmadiyya bans: Legal justification for intolerance?, The Jakarta Post. Retrieved from

PerelmanChaïm (1982). The Realm of Rhetoric. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press.

Reporter, Municipal (1987, February 24). Petrol-bombing ‘religious persecution’, Cape Times, p. 11.

Sh. Mogamat Abbas Jassiem vs Sh. Nazim Mohamed and the Muslim Judicial Council, No. 1434, 1438/86 (Supreme Court of South Africa, Justice van den Heever 1990).

Sheikh Nazim Mohamed and the Muslim Judicial Council vs Sheikh Mogamat Abbas Jassiem, No. 201/1992 (Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of South Africa, Justices Hoexter, Smalberger, Steyn, Marais and Schutz 1995).

Siddiq, Muhammad Nadeem Ahmad (1995). Enforced apostasy: Zaheeruddin v. State and the official persecution of the Ahmadiyya community in Pakistan. Law & Inequality, 14: 275338.

ValentineSimon Ross (2008). Islam and the Ahmadiyya Jama’at: History, Belief, Practice. New York: Columbia University Press.

WeberMax (1978). Economy and Society: An Outline of Interpretive Sociology (Vol. 1). Berkeley: University of California Press.

YusufHuma (2012, December 6). Minorities Report, International Herald Tribune. Retrieved from


Established in 1945, the mjc was not the only representative Islamic body in the country. Over time the influence of other bodies – such as the Islamic Council of South Africa – dissipated. By 1990 the mjc was the largest organization representing Muslims and their interest in South Africa. In 2014, mjc controlled over 80% of the approximately 170 mosques in the Western Cape.


Content Metrics

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 16 16 11
Full Text Views 6 6 6
PDF Downloads 2 2 2
EPUB Downloads 0 0 0