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ESTABLISHING SOCIETAL PEACE

19The Review of Religions – July 2007 The Pro Vice Chancellor Roehampton University, Dr Peter Briggs, the Vice Chancellor Southlands College, Professor Mr Paul O’Prey, all the distinguished guests Peace and blessings of Allah be upon you I have been given 40-45 minutes on this topic, so I will try to finish this subject in brief. A key issue of the world today is Peace. The erosion of peace is on the tip of everyone’s tongue. Some attribute this to economic causes, others to social issues whether on an individual, national or international level, yet others point to political causes, whilst others attribute it to religious differences and as a consequence to the very concept of a God. Time does not permit me to go into its various subdivisions and other causes but if we examine this fairly, the primary cause is man’s extreme selfishness and ESTABLISHING Societal Peace An address by Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih V, Head of the worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim community delivered at the Roehampton University London in the Chapman Hall, Southlands College on 16 April 2007 After welcoming remarks and an introduction to the University of Roehampton by the Vice Chancellor, a recitation from the Holy Qur’an of Ch.4:V.135-136 by Mr Hafiz Fazle Rabbi and the English translation by Mr Salim Malik, and a further introduction by the Pro Vice Chancellor and after shahada, ta’wud and bismillah, Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih V said: 20 The Review of Religions – July 2007 his neglect of the purpose of his creation. Be that as it may, I shall say a few words on the basis of the teachings of Islam and the Holy Qur’an. In turn, this perspective of true Islam is based on the direct guidance received from God Almighty by the Holy Founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, which he conveyed to us and by means of which we have been shown the ways of establishing peace in the world. This is important because some people who call themselves Muslims do not have a proper understanding of Islam and are responsible for presenting such an image of Islam that it is not even remotely connected to the true and fundamental teachings and the example set by the Founder of Islam, the Holy Prophet Muhammad(saw). In pursuit of their personal and selfish vested interests, some so-called Muslim scholars or leaders have created this backward concept to grow amongst a group of ill-informed Muslims. Such people neither serve Islam nor mankind. As I have just said that all the causes that disturb peace, be they major or minor, and whether they are manifest or hidden and working underground, are attributable to man’s growing selfishness and his forgetfulness of why he is here in this world. If one forgets the purpose of one’s creation, one becomes selfish. In turn, this selfishness and conceit at different levels leads to usurping the rights of others. In other words, this is a satanic cycle and man is finding it increasingly difficult to find a way out. Despite the fact that there is a desire to come out of it, there is no easy means out. Now we shall see, what is the Islamic teaching about the purpose of man’s creation and how man can achieve this? God Almighty says in the Holy Qur’an: And I have not created the Jinn and the men but that they may worship Me. [Ch.51:V.57] ESTABLISHING SOCIETAL PEACE Therefore, it is the basic reality that if man recognises God, peace will be established in the world. It should always be remembered that the lack of peace, whether at domestic or international level, is caused by the unrest of the heart and the unrest of the heart can be removed by the purpose taught to us in the Holy Qur’an. This commandment, or call it a teaching or formula, is for all kinds of people. Great powerful people who hold personal power have been addressed just as different superpowers and the very wealthy people as is obvious from the Arabic word Jinn. And the word ‘Ins’ or ‘Men’ means the ordinary people of a country and poor people and nations who have been asked to reflect upon their purpose of creation. When you understand this issue, your priorities will change. When priorities will alter, your life will naturally change according to the nature in which man has been created and whose example we can see in an innocent child. The child is unattached to the world and all that is in it. Irrespective of whether it speaks to a dictator or a fakir or a poor man, it says whatever it sees because it knows not the ways of the world. But as it grows older and in its learning age begins to be reprimanded or punished on its deeds, it responds as best befits the situation but that response is removed from that nature of innocence and 21The Review of Religions – July 2007 ESTABLISHING SOCIETAL PEACE 22 The Review of Religions – July 2007 truth. As a result, it gradually drifts away from the purpose for which man was created. I should perhaps explain here as to what is meant by worship. According to an Ahmadi Muslim, worship is to discharge the rights owed to the Creator, to bow before the Lord and to discharge all the rights of His creation which include all kinds of personal, social, economic and moral rights. To return to the subject, although a majority of this world acknowledges that there is a Creator of all that exists in the universe, it is in doubt about faith or considers some faiths, or if I can be more specific, considers Islam neither to be a true religion nor from God. One reason is the unawareness of the true teachings of Islam. Secondly, the evil deeds committed by some people make them even more dubious. As I said earlier, there is, unfortunately, a group amongst the Muslims which commits foul deeds in the name of Islam but this group is not even remotely connected to Islam. Because of their deeds, those who do not believe in religion and deny the existence of God, make religion the primary target for the lack of peace and go so far as to attribute this to the concept of God even though there are many other reasons for this disorder in the world as stated earlier. Then, as an Ahmadi Muslim, I believe that God sent His Messengers to their respective people with moral and spiritual guidance so as to teach man tolerance, respect and how to live at peace with other people The Messengers fulfilled their assigned missions. Finally, God sent Muhammad(saw) with the declared message that: And We have sent you not but as a mercy for all peoples. [Ch.21: V.108] Therefore, it is inconceivable that the Prophet(saw) who was sent as a mercy for all people by the Lord of the heaven and the earth ESTABLISHING SOCIETAL PEACE 23The Review of Religions – July 2007 to share His bounties could bring a teaching of cruelty and spread disorder nor is it possible that a God Who sent such a Prophet could be a God Who should cause His creation to suffer cruelty and transgression. The Prophet(saw) was a mercy for his friends and foes. It was his kindness and compassion that converted the backward and uncivilised Arabs – who neither had regard for relations nor any social responsibility – into a civilised people with high moral values. In fact I believe that God Almighty revealed such a teaching that was to foster love and affection and mercy not only amongst the generations that followed him but generations that were yet to come till the end of time providing that they comply with its true sprit and do not confine themselves to the teachings but adopt it in practice. The history of Islam is full of such noble examples. For instance, the most deprived and worthy of kindness indi- viduals in Arabia were the slaves that every rich person of that time possessed. Before the advent of Islam, the slaves were ESTABLISHING SOCIETAL PEACE 24 The Review of Religions – July 2007 treated in a most cruel way. After a hard day’s labour, they were not even fed properly. In order to restore the rights to a deprived class and create a peaceful society, Islam advo- cated the kind treatment of slaves by saying that if you employ them for hard work, help them. Then, in relation to the emanci- pation of slaves, the Holy Qur’an teaches: And what should make you know what the Aqabah (or ascent) is? It is the freeing of a slave. [Ch.90:V.13-14] This action of yours against a deprived class whom you have subjugated and whose rights are being violated is disliked by God in respect of His creation. This is why in the do’s and don’t’s mentioned in the Holy Qur’an and in some cases punishments or expiation has been prescribed, one of the good deeds is that if you have a slave, he should be set free. As for the Holy Prophet(saw), he himself set free all the slaves he possessed long before his claim of prophethood. These slaves became indebted to him. One of them was Zaid. When his father and his other relatives came to take him back, he refused to go with them even though he was free and said: ‘I cannot leave the person who loves me so much and is so careful about dis- charging the rights of the poor people.’ The Holy Prophet(saw) advised the Muslims that if you wish to enter paradise, free the slaves. There are two benefits of this teaching. One is a means of entering para- dise in the hereafter. The other is that by granting freedom in this world to a deprived class you will be able to grant them the same status of a freeman. This will remove the unrest within because it is quite possible that if this unrest continues to grow in them then a time will come when the slaves will fight for their freedom and the societal peace will disappear. If a society is peaceful, it can be an example of ESTABLISHING SOCIETAL PEACE 25The Review of Religions – July 2007 paradise on earth but the lack of peace can become a hell. Just look at today’s society. When superpowers compel other nations to agree to their terms and conditions and effectively hold them in bondage, a time comes when there is a reaction against this bondage. Past history bears testimony to this and the same is happening today. A society in which there is peace will look beautiful but where there is fire and bloodshed, the same society will seem like hell. Today, the ways of enslaving and bondage have changed but the underlying concepts of exploi- tation are the same in that conditions are imposed on weak nations and the developing countries in respect of debt provided as aid for their development projects so that they are permanently held under the yoke of slavery. We are witnessing the consequence of this unwise logic being suffered by the whole world. Therefore, the developed coun- tries should help the developing world to gain economic inde- pendence. They should assist them so that they are able to utilise their own resources to enable them to stand on their own feet and thus strengthen their economy. When each country looks at another country and each nation looks at another nation as an equal, the thought will never come to mind that we have to monopolise the market. They will never think that they have to only help the poor nations so that they do not perish or when they are about to die, they announce some economic aid and inject a temporary boost of assistance and publicise by saying that look here how much aid has been given to the poor nations. Till this way of thinking changes, unrest and lack of peace will continue to be the hallmark of the world. It is true that these are the mistakes committed by the people and their leaders and that their weaknesses, apathy, worth- ESTABLISHING SOCIETAL PEACE 26 The Review of Religions – July 2007 lessness and selfishness are playing a key role. However, if there is a desire for true peace, then wealthier nations can relate their aid to the GDP and pace of economic growth of the developing countries. This is the only way to emancipate the world from economic slavery and to solve the problem of restlessness that arises from economic causes. I should mention here the teachings of Islam regarding how to end economic unrest and how to create an economically peaceful society. The Qur’an says: Those who devour interest do not rise except as rises one whom Satan has smitten with insanity. That is because they say: ‘Trade also is like interest,’ whereas Allah has made trade lawful and made interest unlawful. So he to whom an admonition comes from his Lord and he desists, then will that which he received in the past be his; and his affair is with Allah. And those who revert to it, they are the inmates of the Fire; therein shall they abide. Allah will abolish interest and will cause charity to increase and Allah loves not anyone who is a confirmed dis- believer and an arch-sinner. [Ch.2:V.276-277] O ye who believe! Fear Allah and relinquish what remains of interest, if you are believers. But if you do it not, then beware of war from Allah and His Messenger; and if you repent, then you shall have your original sums; thus you shall not wrong, nor shall you be wronged. And if any debtor be in straitened circumstances, then grant him respite till a time of ease. And that you remit it as charity shall be better for you, if only you knew. [Ch.2:V.279-281] I have cast this Islamic teaching here as following the reference to economic bondage. If we assess the world today, it is only interest ESTABLISHING SOCIETAL PEACE 27The Review of Religions – July 2007 that has enslaved the people and nations; keep aside the man of a poor nation, even a common man in the developed world is enslaved to interest although apparently the person is the possessor of property, yet he rarely becomes the true owner of the property till the time of his death. His earning power, the increase in the rate of inflation and the repayment of interest do not enable the poor man to leave the world free of debt. The same is the situation with the poor countries. They are immersed in debt and this economic slavery perpetuates through generations. I cannot go into further details on this issue but if you look into it yourself, you will no doubt agree with me. Therefore, as I have quoted the teachings of the Holy Qur’an, Islam instructs that you should not enslave people through interest because when you are cruel to a needy person, your greed for interest will make your thinking evil and cruel. You will not be counting the true and base capital but will give greater preference to interest and as a result you will continue to squeeze further an already crushed class. So, if you are a true Muslim, then lend sympathetically and without interest because God Almighty will bless your capital. This act will also foster love and affection for others and a peace-loving society will begin to emerge. Otherwise, remember this well that by disobeying God, you are declaring war against God. Due to interest, the ability to repay will diminish, unrest will increase and a time will come when you will fight against each other. So it is better for you that you stick to your basic capital and with reference to capital, the teaching is that grant him respite till a time of ease and that if you remit it as charity, it shall be better for you. I should clarify here that Islam requires the borrower to honour his debt and pledge even if he has to suffer hardship in order to repay the debt. In other words, this is not a one-way street but ESTABLISHING SOCIETAL PEACE 28 The Review of Religions – July 2007 both the lender and the borrower have been bound that in order to maintain social peace they have to work hard together. So, this is one of the Islamic teachings of God about honouring the economic rights so as to create economic and social peace in the world. What was the example of the Holy Prophet(saw), with regard to the repayment of debt. He always repaid more than he had borrowed, that is to say, by repaying more as a reward for the help that was given at the time of need rather than as a pre- determined amount agreed at the outset. That is why such an act leads one to love and affection and will guarantee peace and in this regard this was his practice with both the Muslims and the non-Muslims. The last words that came from his blessed tongue were to draw attention to two very important issues. He said: ‘O Ye Muslims! Do not forget my teachings about prayers and slaves.’ In other words, while you remember your duty to God that it will lead you to do good works, at the same time, remember the rights of the weakest in the society. Be very kind to your slaves and your task is to try to free them, and never try to enslave those who are free due to their helplessness, whether that enslavement is physical, social or economic. Then, there is another aspect of maintaining peace. Allah the Almighty commands: Those who spend in prosperity and adversity and those who suppress anger and pardon men; and Allah loves those who do good. (Ch.3:V.135) Get into the habit of suppressing anger and forgiving others as this acts as a guarantee for peace in society. It is not easy to suppress anger and forgive people. That is why Allah the Almighty has said that if you wish to develop your association with Me and if you want to gain My pleasure, then you will have to do ESTABLISHING SOCIETAL PEACE 29The Review of Religions – July 2007 good to others without expecting anything in return. Doing good means forgiving the guilty despite their wrong-doing. Where, in the beginning, Allah says to spend, this means spend in the way of Allah, for religious needs as well as for fulfilling the rights of the people. If you spend on the needy without their having to ask you, you will guarantee peace. Then we have been commanded to sustain peace because, whereas we can suppress our anger and forgive temporarily, and can also spend for the good of others, and treat them with kindness now and then, it is very difficult to continue to do this good work in a steadfast manner. That is why, Allah the Almighty says in the Holy Qur’an: And those who persevere in seeking the favour of their Lord, and observe Prayer, and spend out of that with which We have provided them, secretly and openly, and repel evil with good. It is these who shall have the best reward of the final Abode. (Ch.13:V.23) It is clear from these verses that one requires, not only patience to do good and repel evil, but also steadfastness. And to achieve this, there is also a command- ment to not only spend the money, but also to share all that knowledge and utilise all the faculties that are required to spread goodness and stop all evil tendencies, using all the resources that have been put at the discretion of the well-to-do. There is an injunction for both individuals and nations that the establishment of peace requires patience and consistency. It is not enough to stop evil but it is also essential to do good works. If evil alone is suppressed, there will be a reaction. There are many who incite evil-doers to believe that they have been wronged. But, if after stopping the evil, all means are used for the improvement of the society, they will realise that the people who advocated doing good works are really their ESTABLISHING SOCIETAL PEACE 30 The Review of Religions – July 2007 friends and sympathisers who pointed the evil in the society and helped them to move forward towards goodness. Such action helps to eliminate evil permanently from society. However, this reformation will neither be permanent nor will it help to establish peace, if all the action is only to achieve vested personal interests. The Holy Qur’an teaches us that in order to maintain peace, it is essential to establish justice in society. Besides justice, if good is done in society in accordance with the need, it will help to create an environment of love and affection. I have deliberately used the words ‘in accordance with the need’, because you will come across a person who is a habitual criminal, and despite all efforts to reform him, he does not change his ways; it will be counter- productive to do good to him. In fact, in such cases, justice demands that he be punished so that the society can be saved from his harm. Because the real purpose is to create an environment of peace and at the same protect the rights of everyone, it is this protection that provides peace to the society. The commandment in the Holy Qur’an is: Verily, Allah enjoins justice and the doing of good to others; and giving like kindred; and forbids indecency and mani-fest evil and transgression. He admonishes you that you may take heed. (Ch.16:V.91) This verse talks about three good and three evil deeds. The three good deeds are (1) showing justice; (2) the doing of good to others; and, (3) giving like kindred. The three evils mentioned are (1) exhibiting indecency; (2) manifesting evil; and (3) transgressing. Going into the details of these good and evil deeds, you will realise that the good deeds are the basics of establishing peace in a society and the evil deeds are the basics that lead to the destruction of social peace. RESTORING WORLD PEACE Therefore, if we want to create peace in our society then we must shun all evils, promote good deeds and fulfil the rights of others selflessly. We must get rid of the poison of superiority complex. We must eliminate the distinction between superpower and the poor developing countries. We must get rid of all the national and racial prejudices. In this regard, we will have to set very high targets, free of all prejudices so that humanity can advance in doing good to each other. Why is this? It is because the feelings of superiority and inferiority have become extreme. We may not agree on this, but the divides between East and West and North and South are more prominent. In fact, even today, the question of black and white is still alive and predominant in some countries. Does this situation provide any guarantee for peace of mind? I do not think so! Islam advises its believers: O ye people! Fear your Lord Who created you from a single being and created therefrom its mate, and from the two spread many men and women; and fear Allah in Whose name you appeal to one another, and fear Him particularly respecting ties of kinship. Verily Allah watches over you. (Ch.4:V.2) And again Allah reminds us: O mankind, We created you from male and female; and We made you tribes and sub- tribes that you may recognise one another. Verily, the most honourable among you, in the sight of Allah, is he who is the most righteous among you. Surely, Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware. (Ch.49:V.14) This is the teaching of the Qur’an. It leads us to the point from where the educated man wants us to move away and that 31 ESTABLISHING SOCIETAL PEACE The Review of Religions – July 2007 is that God exists and by acting on His teachings and just trying to gain His pleasure, it will help man to understand fellowmen. What does Islam teach on eliminating prejudices and thoughts of causing harm to others and to what extent does Islam emphasise on dealing with each other honestly? The Holy Qur’an says in this respect: O ye who believe! Be steadfast in the cause of Allah, bearing witness in equity; and let not a people’s enmity incite you to act otherwise than with justice. Be always just, that is nearer to righteousness. And fear Allah. Surely, Allah is aware of what you do. (Ch.5:V.9) This is the ultimate state of establishing peace with justice that if you have to bear testimony, you must always remain just. In another place, it enjoins that even if you have to testify against yourself or your near ones, then you must testify fulfilling the requirements of justice. At the same time, it has also said that even the enmity of a nation should not make you deviate from justice. We can see this commandment being put into practice in the early period of Islamic history. For example, when a dispute between a Muslim and a Jew was brought before Hadhrat Umar, the Second Successor of the Holy Prophet of Islam(saw), he found the Jew to be right and decided in his favour. The Holy Qur’an says: … And let not the enmity of a people that they hindered you from the Sacred Mosque, incite you to transgress. And help one another in righteousness and piety; but help not one another in sin and transgression. And fear Allah; surely Allah is severe in punishment. (Ch.5:V.3) See, this is the beautiful teaching! The people of Makkah 32 ESTABLISHING SOCIETAL PEACE The Review of Religions – July 2007 committed extreme cruelties against the Holy Prophet of Islam(saw), and his followers. They were made to lie on burning coal because they had accepted Islam. Muslim women were pierced with lances in their private parts and some were tied to two camels which were then made to run in opposite directions thus tearing the women asunder in two parts. The Holy Prophet(saw) was exiled with his followers and ostracised in a valley outside Makkah for two and a half years and they suffered from shortage of food and other essentials. After all the sufferings, the Muslims decided to migrate to Madinah. Even then they were attacked. Muslims were stopped from going to Makkah to perform the Pilgrimage. Despite all these inhuman acts, Muslims were enjoined not to react in similar fashion; and although they were victims of many cruelties, when they entered victorious into Makkah they were taught to forget the past. They were taught that you are victorious now, therefore, forget old enmities and fear Allah because Allah wants to spread peace in the world and He is the Creator Who should be worshipped. Muslims were told not to indulge in any excesses but to use piety and goodness to establish peace and to enhance co-operation. If you understand the psychology of the Arabs of that time and how they used to carry enmities from one generation to another, you will realise that it was not possible for the Muslims to act as they did without bringing about a revolution in the psyche of the Arabs with the help of the teachings that the Prophet of Islam brought. I have explained briefly various aspects of the peaceful teachings of Islam. The question here arises that this is all very well but who is going to apply these teachings in the world and among the Muslims? The Ahmadiyya Muslim community is of the view and believes that God Almighty has always sent His messengers and reformers in this world to bring people nearer to God and return to 33 ESTABLISHING SOCIETAL PEACE The Review of Religions – July 2007 the people the rights of human beings. In this age also, according to the prophecies of the Prophet of Islam(saw) and past prophets, peace and blessings be upon them all, God Almighty has sent Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian(as) whom we believe to be the Messiah and the Mahdi, to this world, to fulfil His mission. The voice that was raised more than a hundred years ago in a small town in the Punjab in India, has reached 185 countries of the world and his followers are in millions. This could not have happened without the Divine assistance. Along with its efforts to bring man nearer its Creator, the Ahmadiyya community is serving mankind by fulfilling the medical, educational and other financial requirements of the needy. In poor countries of Africa and elsewhere, the community is helping with hospitals and schools and is trying to provide water and electricity in those regions free of any cost to the poor. Irrespective of race, religion or nationality, the Community has been and is trying to provide assistance to the victims of natural disasters like earth- quakes, tsunamis, floods etc without any ulterior motives. It is difficult to go into its details. It is worth noting that these expenses that the community incurs are not obtained from businesses, facto- ries or oil revenues. It is collected from every member of the community who reduces his own expenses to contribute towards these services for gaining the sheer love and nearness of Allah. All this is being done to bring humanity nearer to its Creator and thus fulfil the mission of the Founder of the Ahmadiyya movement. I would like to end my address with a quotation of the Founder of Ahmadiyya Community. He says: ‘The mission for which Allah has appointed me is to renew the relationship between Allah and His creatures; and remove the malice that has developed between mankind 34 ESTABLISHING SOCIETAL PEACE The Review of Religions – July 2007 and its Creator; and thus re- establish the relationship of love and sincerity between man and God; to eliminate wars between religion and lay the foundation for recon- ciliation; and bring out the truth and verities that had disappeared from the world; and manifest by example the spirituality that had been buried in darkness;….but this will not happen by my power alone. It will only come about by the power of that Almighty Who is the Lord of Heaven and Earth.’ Finally, I would like to thank all of you who have given your time to listen to me. I am grateful to the Vice Chancellor for pro- viding me this opportunity and to the Principal of Southland College for organising every- thing. May Allah the Almighty bless them and reward you abundantly. Thank you This was followed by applause and a vote of thanks in which the Vice Chancellor said: ‘… In a University which takes pride in the fact that we have a centre for human rights, social justice and citizenship – because that reflects very much what this University stands for and is founded upon – then the insight which you have shared with us about the teachings of the Holy Qur’an, of Islam and the work of the Ahmadiyya Muslim com- munity which have a bearing on all those issues and brought together in the notion of creating a world which is peaceful and which will give peace to so many millions of people who crave peace but who do not find it are inspirational and insightful. We are grateful…’ 35 ESTABLISHING SOCIETAL PEACE The Review of Religions – July 2007