This article is edited/adapted from an email exchange between an Ahmadi Muslim and non-Ahmadi Muslim in which they discussed several allegations against the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. The answers of the Ahmadi brother have been adapted according to their subject matter in the subheadings below for your enjoyment:
Chanda and financial sacrifice
I find it interesting and kind of strange that non-Ahmadis take offense to the concept of a chanda or the international bay'ah. The early Muslims during the Khilāfah al-Rāshidah would pay taxes on top of mere Zakāh to the Bayt al-Māl to reinforce the infrastructure and order of the Muslim community at large. It is this very financial system that safeguards the Ahmadīyyah Order from financial enslavement to the West (Masīh al-Dajjāl as per eschatology). Many Sunni Muslim organizations and shuyūkh themselves also request monetary donations from Muslims, for instance Shaykh Hamza Yusuf. This is not something bad in itself.
The pledge of allegiance
The concept of bay'ah at the hands of the Imām appointed by Allāh is per the Sunnah of the Prophet, Sayyidina Muhammad al-Mustafā (sallAllāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) himself, and is followed by many Sufi Turūq (i.e. Naqshabandis, Qadiris etc.) for their shuyūkh. I find it strange that non-Ahmadi Muslims find it a wrong practice, as it is directly from the Sunnah. The Prophet (sa) took bay'ah of his followers at 'Aqabah and there is also another famous bay'ah known as the bay'ah of Ridhwān. The Rāshidūn Caliphs also requested that people take their bay'ah. This is not heretical in itself.
Unfortunately some people in the Jama'at may behave in such a manner where they deride the Sunnah with regards to the keeping of the beard. May Allah forgive us all our shortcomings and grant us all the ability to keep one. This is a sociological condition brought about due to the anti-blasphemy laws back in 1974, and also due to the pitiful state of Islamic "scholars" in Pakistan. I know many Ahmadi Muslim friends who keep their beards at the length of a fist. This is followed by our Khalifah, and is a position by Ahmadīyyah itself:
"Once, someone raised the objection, in the presence of the Promised Messiah (as), that some members of his Community shaved their beard. The Promised Messiah (as) said: “Once they acquire perfect love, they will automatically start maintaining a beard because I have one; there would, then, be no need of any advice or directive”. – Promised Messiah (as) in Khilafat-e-Rashida by Hadrat Khalifa-tul-Masih II, pg. 40
Status of Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad"Man thinks in his heart that some Westerners (انگریز ) shave their beards and moustaches totally and consider this a thing of beauty, whereas I despise this so much so that if such a one was sitting opposite me I would not be able to eat in front of him ( مگرہمیں اس سے ایسی کراہت ہے کے سامنے ہو تو کھانا کھانے کو جی نہیں چہتھا ). The ways of the beard adopted by the prophets and disciplined ascetics is highly preferable. However, if it gets too long then one should cut it: one fist-length should remain/be left ( البتہ اگھر بوہت لمبے ہو تو ایک مشت رکھ کر کٹوا دنے چاہے ). Allah has set this as a thing of difference between men and women." - Promised Messiah (as) in Fatāwa Ahmadiyya, pg. 226"I often hear complaints that certain Mubalighīn (missionaries) do not keep the beard long. They have an element of naqas [shortcoming] within them, and should keep it long. In this manner, the Holy Prophet (sa) kept a long beard, Hadrat Abu Bakr (ra), Hadrat 'Umar (ra), and Hadrat 'Uthman (ra) all kept long beards. Hadrat 'Ali (ra) might have had a short beard due to medical reasons. But even if he didn't, why should the sunnah of Hadrat 'Ali (ra) be followed over the sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (sa)? In any case there is a weakness in their beards. The Promised Messiah (as) also kept a long beard, so did Khalifa-tul-Masih I (ra), and myself." – Khalifa II (ra) in Fatāwa Hadrat Muslih Maw’ūd, pg. 177-178, and Al-Faḍl January 24, 1935“I draw the attention of Khuddamul-Aḥmadiyya and Ansarullah that they should propagate the growing of beard among themselves. Khuddam should explain to the youth and Ansar should explain to the elders. One who is clean shaven, should grow a small beard, one who already has one, should grow it by an inch, and in this manner grow to a full beard... In this way, if our Jamā'at becomes aware of establishing religious ways and they follow it closely, then this would definitely affect the heart of other people and they would think that ... if these people are so strict in the matter of beard, then how firm they would be in other matters of religion… Your lack of commitment in matter of beard causes the majesty and dignity of Jamā'at to be compromised.” – Khalifa II (ra) in Fatāwa Hadrat Muslih Maw’ūd, pg. 173, and Al-Faḍl, February 21, 1945, pg. 17“Another change described by the Holy Prophet is that men would take pains over their appearance and tend to look like women. The change is already apparent. Shaving of chin and lips is now the fashion and this has made men look more like women. Time was when the beard was thought to be a male's glory. For Muslims, it was a thing of merit, because it was an imitation of the Holy Prophet, a sign of deference to his wish. The beard has disappeared amongst Muslims. Muslim scholars and philosophers held in great esteem in the Muslim world prefer to shave their chins.” – Khalifa II (ra) in Invitation to Ahmadiyyat, Ch. “Testimony of the Holy Prophet: Social conditions and the condition of women” (Urdu version Da’wat al-Amīr, Ch. “Shahādat Hadrat Syed-ul-Anbiyā’(sa): Aik Tamarnī Taghīr, pg. 410)"Keeping a beard is clearly mentioned in the Ahādīth. Imam Mahdi (as) has also said the same, and his first two khulafā' had long beards. Thus, keeping a beard has been a sunnah from the very beginning. And it is also sunnah that beard should not be small. In Surah Taha, ayah 95 it shows that the length of Hadrat Hārūn's (as) beard was clearly a fist length. Today the beard that our youngsters keep, they cannot hold it with their fist [it's not a fist length]. The Promised Messiah himself told me that his position was to keep the beard the length of a fist. Only when you rub your hand across the face, you find out that there is a beard that has been trimmed within the past 24 hours. Thus, this is like making fun of it. In my opinion if in these days, a college student keeps a prominent beard, it's like the death penalty and because of this, keeping a beard in today's age has so much blessing and it involves controlling your nafs. It proves that the person has true love for Islam and Holy Prophet Muhammad (sallAllahu 'alayhi wa sallam), and he hates Dajjal. The beard is also a distinction of men over women." – Dr. Mir Muhammad Isma'il (ra), Sahabi and Brother-in-Law of the Promised Messiah (as) in the book "Mazāmin Hadrat Doctor Mir Muhammad Ismail", Volume 2, pg. 1134
When we study fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence), Arabic, and the other Islamic sciences, as well as sciences such as organic chemistry, psychology, sociology, physics, and biology, we understand that Mirza Tahir Ahmad was an unparalleled genius in the history of scholars. He was a polymath akin to the polymaths of the Golden Age of Islam like Ibn Sina who became the most famous physician of the Islamic Empire ever who was also a hafiz al-Qur'an by the age of 14, al-Jabir the founder of modern chemistry who studied the Dīn under Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq, etc.
Just read his Tafsīr al-Qur'ān labelled "Revelation, Rationality, Knowledge, and Truth". I have yet to see such a profound rebuttal to the arguments by the atheists of modern times. As a science student, these arguments are all too frequent.
I have read what the stalwarts of the Ummah today have had to offer such as Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, Zakir Naik, etc. To be honest, I'm not that impressed as compared to Mirza Tahir Ahmad. This is a nonbiased judgement based on proficiency of learning in Islamic knowledge and the sciences, which Mirza Tahir Ahmad excelled at much beyond any modern Sunni scholar.
Why I believe in Ahmadiyya
I am an Ahmadi Muslim and believer in religion and God at all due to certain spiritual experiences I have had leading me to the conclusion that Ahmadiyyah is the truth (i.e. dreams and other experiences 'min warā'i hijāb' [from behind the veil]). It strikes me as interesting that for centuries, Allāh blessed many of His Awliyā' (friends) with Divine Concourse while today the majority of those claiming to be the Ahl al-Sunnah wa'l-Jama'āh lack it.
I have yet to find Islamic scholars or ordinary Muslims today who claim to on a regular basis receive wahī or ilhām (divine revelation) or mukāshifah (spiritual visions in a state of wakefulness) or ru'yā sālihah (true dreams) in droves, or other forms of divine communion. In many forms of mainstream Sunni 'aqā'id (doctrines), such divine concourse is now in principle shut off. And in practicality, Sunni Muslims receive no such thing in day-to-day life, as far as I've experienced.
It strikes me as odd that the worst sinners among the Ahmadis such as myself can receive true dreams and divine concourse. I know quite a few Ahmadis who are regular ordinary people who have seen the Prophet (sa) in their dreams, or seen kushūf (visions), or even ilhām itself (divine words spoken in their ears or spoken uncontrollably by their lips).
If we use logic 100% we are again left with the conclusion that agnosticism is the best path to go and that religion itself may be man-made or that there are too many confounds to correctly understand what or who God is. So in my opinion, theology and polemics makes no difference to me. Nor does looking upon the state of people, Ahmadi, Sunni or otherwise (this is the logical fallacy of ad populatum). What makes a difference to me is asking Allah questions, and seeing them answered.
As an Ahmadi I have asked Him questioned, and He has answered. I have prayed for things, and He has answered. I feel honoured being such a great sinner and worthless human being to even have such spiritual gifts. The born Muslim (i.e. not formerly non-Muslim) sahābah of the Imām Mahdī, asides from hailing from many diverse Islamic backgrounds such as Salafi, Sufi etc. also had divine concourse and acceptance of prayers in a myriad of ways that astounds me.
So what we should do, if we are truly seeking the truth and not simply the acceptance of the people, is pray to Allah and ask Him if Jesus (as) is dead, and if Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as) is the Imam Mahdi.