Apostasy, Blasphemy and Heresy Freedom of Speech Persecution UK


16 The Review of Religions – September 2007 After recitation from the Holy Qur’an by Mr Laiq Ahmad Tahir; its translation by Mr Bashir Ahmad Orchard; a welcome introductory address by Mr Aftab Ahmad Khan, then National President of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association UK; a poem recited by an Armenian leader; and a speech by Lord Avebury, Joint- Chairman of the Parliamentary Group for Human Rights; tashahhud, ta’awwudh and bismillah, Huzur(ru) said: Ahmadiyya Muslim Centenary (1889-1989) Keynote Address by Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih IV(ru) Delivered at a Thanksgiving Centenary dinner attended by several leading MPs, MEPs, Mayors, Councillors, Ambassadors and other distinguished guests at the Grosvenor House Hotel, London W1, on 23 March 1989 (100 years after the foundation of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at on 23rd March 1889). Sept 2007.qxd 10/10/07 22:11 Page 16 17The Review of Religions – September 2007 Your Lordships, Rt. Hon. Mr. David Mellor, MP, Your Lordships the Mayors, Your Excellencies the Diplomatic Representatives of various countries and all the Distinguished Guests First of all I thank you for gracing this occasion with your presence and for being so kind to us. I shall speak on just a few points as I know the night is ripening rapidly and I see the signs of fatigue on some faces already, so I will not take much longer of your time. Now, we have been discussing the subject of tolerance and persecution. According to my study tolerance has always been an outstanding feature of the British character. The only thing the British cannot tolerate is intolerance. It is there where there is a parting of the ways between them and us. We have somehow learnt to live with intolerance not only in Pakistan – it will be unfair to single out the country Pakistan, which is my country (and my beloved country for that matter); but, unfortunately, there is an attitude of intolerance towards Ahmadis – but there are other countries in the world which have been intolerant. There would always be other countries (that are intolerant): it only depends on how far you have created a threat to the old order. From then on, once the message is delivered, a potent force of revolution starts striving ahead, or forging forward, to change the order of things which have become obsolete and bring about a new order. When this sort of revolution is challenged – whether it is a challenge of coercion to be carried out or to be achieved with the help of the sword or whether the challenge is through persuasion, love and continuous sacrifice, regardless of this – this challenge is always met with hatred and utmost hostility. Human history bears me out that there is no change in this relationship. This relation- ship between the challenger of the old order and those who AHMADIYYA MUSLIM CENTENARY ADDRESS – (1889-1989) Sept 2007.qxd 10/10/07 22:11 Page 17 18 The Review of Religions – September 2007 belong to the old order is a constant in the history of human affairs. Religion particularly has been posing this challenge in various parts of the world. Now, sometimes this challenge in the beginning is so humble, so insignificant to look at that it is impossible for anybody to believe that religion poses a real threat and can usher in a new era, a new order of things, a new system or a new religious code of values and so on and so forth. Look at the history of Christianity, for instance. How humble was Jesus Christ, peace be upon him? How helpless were his few disciples? The teaching was amazing, yet so powerless to look at from the point of view of the Roman Emperor and his deputies, governors etc. The teaching was that if somebody smacks you on the right cheek, offer the other one. How could this small insignificant section of society, looked down upon by their own people, by the Jews, react? They were so small in number and so weak in their social status. They were all fishermen; in fact almost all of them, as far as I remember, were looked down upon and belonging to the lower status of society. On top of it, add this teaching that you are not permitted to hit back at your offender. Yet that message was taken very seriously. It posed a threat. That message was understood by the whole society. What was there in that humble message – that most meek attitude in life – which created such turmoil and threat to that region? It was the basic potential of truth. It is the truth which the people fear. Whether it is meek, humble, softly spread or boldly delivered to the opponents, it still remains true. It is only the truth which people of an age who are untrue hate. So the prophets and the messengers of this entire world come in an age which is living a lie, such as, unfortunately, this age today. I do not want to hurt the sensibilities of any human being. AHMADIYYA MUSLIM CENTENARY ADDRESS – (1889-1989) Sept 2007.qxd 10/10/07 22:11 Page 18 19The Review of Religions – September 2007 We have been on the receiving end as far as hurting the sensi- bilities are concerned. We fully understand. We know what the suffering is, to be hurt and to be lashed many times. So it is not in that spirit at all that I am saying that the world is living a lie today; it is because this is true. I am a man of truth. I know I am a man of truth from my own inner personal experience and from my long relationship with human beings and with God, my Creator. So when I express truth, even if it sounds bitter to some ears, I express it with humility and with softness. I do not say that Ahmadis are true. Never in my sermons or any declaration of mine have I made that tall claim. I keep telling Ahmadis that all your sacrifices are for the sake of truth; for upholding truth. If you yourself lose the battle within yourself then you have no right to wage a battle outside you, without you, in the society, to cause any disturbance at all. So this is the real plight of Ahmadis. It is not a question of Pakistan or India, even in Britain we have seen hard days. We have been persecuted here. The gentleman sitting before you, an Englishman by birth, accepted the Ahmadiyya Community and he was beaten up miserably in the streets of Batley here in England. So the persecution does not belong to any particular country of the world. It all depends on how far the challenge of truth has gone. That challenge may not be so vocal. It may be inherent and latent as a quality in some people. But the truth is the most hated thing in the world which lives a lie as I have repeatedly said. By living a lie permanently, if you penetrate deeply in the fabric of all human organisations and the human philosophies which support those organisations, you will find, unfortunately, that there is nowhere any com- mitment to absolute truth in human affairs today. AHMADIYYA MUSLIM CENTENARY ADDRESS – (1889-1989) Sept 2007.qxd 10/10/07 22:11 Page 19 20 The Review of Religions – September 2007 I know there are politicians sitting on my right and on my left, and I love them both. They are wonderful human beings in their personal relationships, but I am sure that as representatives of Great Britain, they can play havoc with the peace of other countries if their interests clash or dare to clash with those of Great Britain. This is what I mean: there is a lack of adherence to absolute values. There is no value such as loyalty to truth, justice and fair play. There is no truth even in a country being philanthropist and kind to the requirements of the needy. What happened in Africa a few years ago? What is happening today in Sudan? The entire rich world knew what was coming by way of drought and famine and by way of deaths of hundreds and thousands of people out of merciless hunger. They knew it in advance, because the United Nations special experts had predicted it. The entire world’s governments had been informed in advance about this coming. Nobody was moving; nobody was taking any steps to alleviate the forthcoming suffering of Africa. Preparations should have been undertaken far ahead of time when this was about to materialise, because it is not possible to start helping people just like that in these great famines scouring thousands of miles of difficult territories and in an area which cannot be communicated with easily. But nobody was moving. Why? It was because you were dealing with not just the sheer reality of the suffering but with politics, foremost and uppermost. There were countries that were friends of Russia. If America had started helping them, while America could, these countries would still enjoy the friendship of Russia yet beg America for bread. That was not acceptable to politicians. Russia was wreaking further suffering on those areas because that would have brought such countries closer to the leftist AHMADIYYA MUSLIM CENTENARY ADDRESS – (1889-1989) Sept 2007.qxd 10/10/07 22:11 Page 20 21The Review of Religions – September 2007 philosophy. Suffering and hunger always deliver the message of communism better than an opulent society could ever do. So the Russians were wreaking the worst that was to come. Things started happening. It was already too late and the conditions worsened. Even if committed, the powerful nations could not help to remove to any real degree the suffering that humanity, as we know from the news, is suffering (sic) in large areas of West Africa. So that is what I mean by living a lie. We stick to values in principle. We speak very highly of civilization. We want to project our image as a people understanding the human values and really intend to promote those values. It is good as far as all this does not conflict with our own personal interest. The moment that values begin to conflict with personal interest, the entire superstructure of these values falls apart. Nothing is left out. This is the difference between true religion and civilization. At times religion appears to be more heinous, cruel and backward than the polished sheen of civilization but in real terms of human values and real periods of crises, it is always true religion which comes to support humanity at large. So Christianity has been performing an immense task of human service not only in Europe but in Africa and in other Third World countries. So we as Ahmadis belong to that part of the world which is considered religious, but it is so misunderstood unfortunately. People claim that it is religion which creates disorder; it is religion which is a cause of persecution. We have been on the receiving end; we should know better. I know and I bear witness to this fact that it is not religion, it is politics which plays havoc with religion and begins to exploit religion. It is the ulterior motive of certain people – whether they are in religious garbs or political garbs – it is still politics in the wider sense of the word “politics” and not in the AHMADIYYA MUSLIM CENTENARY ADDRESS – (1889-1989) Sept 2007.qxd 10/10/07 22:11 Page 21 22 The Review of Religions – September 2007 limited sense in which you know where politics is in Great Britain. I mean that personal ulterior motives must be served and that is what is understood to be the politics at large in the world. And, as such, it is the corrupt human beings who exploit religion. Religions have never meant the use of force. Religions always stand for absolute values. The best test for that is to go closer to the sources of religion. They must be purest at the source. If you look at Islam through the reflecting mirror of Khomeini today I would not call it a fair attitude because Khomeini is standing 1400 years from the source of Islam, which emanated from the revelation to Hadhrat Muhammad Mustafa(saw). So if you are passing political judgement, you have every right to pass a judgement and censure what Khomeini stands for but for God’s sake do not mix it with religion. Religions must be judged at sources. Would it be fair to judge Christianity in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I; or during the period of persecution in Spain; or the Black Death in Europe when thousands of Jewish houses were burned and Jews occupying those houses were burnt alive? Was it religion? Is that how you judge Christianity? Certainly not. So please, for God’s sake, do not judge Islam through the reflecting mirrors of Khomeini or Qaddafi or any other political leader of modern times who happens to be a Muslim. As far as Islam goes we know that the Holy Prophet Muhammad(saw), the founder of Islam, and his followers were most mercilessly persecuted. They never persecuted a single soul in the first era of Islamic history even after they became powerful. Talking of Salman Rushdie’s book, which was incidentally mentioned, of course, it is not the fixed subject for today’s topic, but because it was brought up earlier let me refer to it briefly. AHMADIYYA MUSLIM CENTENARY ADDRESS – (1889-1989) Sept 2007.qxd 10/10/07 22:11 Page 22 23The Review of Religions – September 2007 It is said that in Islam the punishment for blasphemy is death. No, not at all indeed, because in the time of the Holy Prophet of Islam(saw) himself, blasphemy of the highest order was committed against he himself and this fact was recorded in the Holy Qur’an as well in the Tradition. The fact to which I am referring to is more of an episode in Islamic history but a very brilliant episode. Returning from an expedition which was unfortunately a very unfruitful and a very tiring expedition, considered to be a total failure by some; an erstwhile leader of Madinah known by the name Abdullah bin Ubayy bin Salul, who had been deprived the opportunity of becoming the common leader of the entire Madinah because of the migration of the Prophet Muhammad(saw), was a member of that expedition. Abdullah bin Ubayy bin Salul kept needling the Holy Prophet(saw) for what he had done to him by depriving him of acquiring that eminent position of becoming the leader of all the united tribes who occupied Madinah at that time. So Abdullah bin Ubayy bin Salul thought he had a chance of a lifetime. So in company he declared that, “when we return to Madinah, the one most honourable will surely drive out therefrom the one most mean” (Ch.63:V.9) and vilest in Madinah and banish him from Madinah forever. These are the words used by him recorded in the Holy Qur’an and also the Traditions. Of course everybody understood the message. The lovers of the Holy Prophet(saw) were infuriated beyond control. One after the other, they approached the Holy Prophet of Islam(saw) for per- mission to murder this man who had committed this blasphemy of the highest degree. And the answer every time was, “No! Not only would I not permit you to murder him but there is no punishment for that person.” Abdullah b. Ubayy’s own son approached the Holy Prophet(saw) to build his case in a very AHMADIYYA MUSLIM CENTENARY ADDRESS – (1889-1989) Sept 2007.qxd 10/10/07 22:11 Page 23 24 The Review of Religions – September 2007 interesting manner. He said, “O Prophet of God! I know why you are not permitting others to murder my father because you know that I am a true Muslim. It would hurt me and I may at some unguarded moment remember this and take a vengeance against some other Muslim who had murdered my father. But I have come to seek permission to murder my own father. I am seething with indignation for what he has done to you. Please permit me.” The answer was, “No, no question of any punishment.” Long after that when Abdullah bin Ubayy died, despite the strong advice of others including those who became Caliphs of Islam later on, the Holy Prophet(saw) led Abdullah bin Ubayy’s Janaza (funeral) prayer himself. The burial rites were led by the Holy Prophet(saw) himself. This is Islam as known to Ahmadiyya Community. This is why we are so sure we are bound to become victorious. These are values which know no defeat. These are surviving human values. If a religion has these qualities, these are the challenges to the old order which make such people who stand for such values most hateable. So it is not only Pakistan; it is unfortunately the distorted attitude of mankind towards truth which is causing us all this. But I am not afraid. I do not believe in self-pity at all. I tell my followers never to indulge in pitying themselves. The other day, in fact yesterday, I received a message from Rabwah, the Headquarters, that the Government of the Punjab has issued an order that no Ahmadi in the Punjab is permitted to celebrate the 100th anniversary year in anyway whatsoever and it went on to mention in detail what was to be a final deciding factor in the eyes of the law. If you distribute sweetmeats to your children, it is a crime. If you distribute alms to the poor, it will be considered a crime punishable by rigorous imprisonment. Even if you are neutral or near-joyous in some AHMADIYYA MUSLIM CENTENARY ADDRESS – (1889-1989) Sept 2007.qxd 10/10/07 22:11 Page 24 25The Review of Religions – September 2007 way you will be imprisoned. The person, a responsible officer from Rabwah, who informed me was on the verge of breakdown. His voice was shaking and I thought he would have a breakdown and start crying. I told him: “What is this non- sense? You are taking pity on yourselves. Those people who have to take pity on others, they cannot indulge in the luxury of pitying themselves. Those people who begin to pity themselves become weak in character and become nincompoops. They are incapable of bringing about a great revolution. So my order to you is to respond in a completely different way. Tell them that we reject your attempt. We will frustrate your attempt to make us unhappy. What we have earned is God’s mercy in the last 100 years. It is making it incumbent upon us to express our joy at God’s mercy. So even if we are clothed in rags and tatters, we are going to walk the streets of Rabwah laughing and joyous. Whatever you may do, you cannot defeat a people who have that spirit to live and conquer whether there is opposition of all sorts.” That changed the whole attitude. His voice suddenly acquired a steel edge to itself. Ever since I have been receiving reports from all over the Punjab that, “whatever may happen to us we are enjoying ourselves. They are imprisoning some youths, arresting them from here and there for defying the public order. But they have their rights. Even in prison, they go out kissing their handcuffs and shouting “ALLAH-O-AKBAR! (Allah is Great) What a great achievement? You have failed to suppress us! You have failed to make us unhappy!” This is the spirit. These are the human values which must emerge conqueror in the end. And that is what we know and stand for. We positively know this takes time: sometimes centuries of quiet sacrifice, generation after generation. We have steeled ourselves for that and are not expecting any quick results anywhere in the world. AHMADIYYA MUSLIM CENTENARY ADDRESS – (1889-1989) Sept 2007.qxd 10/10/07 22:11 Page 25 26 The Review of Religions – September 2007 What the last one hundred years have shown us is that the next one hundred years have great things in store for us. When I compare this time with the first century of Christianity I do sympathise with those Christians who used to make these claims and people looked down upon them as mad men even at the end of the first century. They were not found in more than a few countries and they were put to the beasts of the jungle. In the Colosseum, people roared with laughter when a poor helpless Christian was devoured by a beast and the crunching of the bones was the most dry sound in their ears. I remember all that and I knew that the entire Roman Empire and their might could not defeat Christianity, because the will of the people, its dedication to truth, and its readiness for sacrifice were what were insur- mountable. And so this juncture in history that we are passing has re-assured me in the light of the past human endeavours that we will emerge victorious in the end by the Grace of Allah and all the best men will emerge victorious with us. May Allah bless you. Let me thank you all once again with all my heart for coming this evening and spending this precious time with us. I know there are many festivals and feasts where people go and bask in the light and glory of that event because they think to be there is to achieve something, to come into the limelight. But there are others who visit such occasions and bring their light and glory along with them. They enlighten the atmosphere when they are in such places. To me, you belong to that category. It was said by the Amir UK, Ambassador Mr Aftab Ahmad Khan, that he thanked all the distinguished guests. To my dictionary of religious termi- nology, all guests are distin- guished. So I take up from there and turn to those who might consider themselves left out as undistinguished guests. No all of you are very, very dear guests as AHMADIYYA MUSLIM CENTENARY ADDRESS – (1889-1989) Sept 2007.qxd 10/10/07 22:11 Page 26 27The Review of Religions – September 2007 most distinguished guests. Thank you once again, one and all, for coming and sharing this wonderful time with us. Allah bless you. AHMADIYYA MUSLIM CENTENARY ADDRESS – (1889-1989) Verse references to the Holy Qur’an item count ‘Bismillah…’ (In the Name of Allah…) as the first verse of each Chapter. In some non-standard texts, this is not counted and should the reader refer to such texts, the verse quoted in The Review of Religions will be found at one verse less than the number quoted. In this journal, for the ease of non-Muslim readers, ‘(saw)’ or ‘saw’ after the words, ‘Holy Prophet’, or the name ‘Muhammad’, are used. They stand for ‘Sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam’ meaning ‘Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him’. Likewise, the letters ‘(as)’ or ‘as’ after the name of all other prophets is an abbreviation meaning ‘Peace be upon him’ derived from ‘Alaihis salatu wassalam’ which are words that a Muslim utters out of respect whenever he or she comes across that name. The abbreviation ‘ra’ or (ra) stands for ‘Radhiallahu Ta’ala anhu and is used for Companions of a Prophet, meaning Allah be pleased with him or her (when followed by the relevant Arabic pronoun). Finally, ‘ru’ or (ru) for Rahemahullahu Ta’ala means the Mercy of Allah the Exalted be upon him. In keeping with current universal practice, local transliterations of names of places are preferred to their anglicised versions, e.g. Makkah instead of Mecca, etc. Sept 2007.qxd 10/10/07 22:11 Page 27