We are today living in a multiracial, multi-religious and multicultural society. To live in harmony, peace and friendship, it is important that we understand each others’ traditions and faiths and religions, which have great impact on human sensitivities and emotions.
While inter-religious dialogue is in full swing today, the religion of Islam seems to have been excluded from this circle of goodwill. The Western world holds a false perception about Islam that has no relationship with reality; and the intensity and continuity of this prejudice shows no signs of slackening even in this liberal and tolerant climate of today’s world. Unfortunately, the real fault lies with the Muslim world itself.
Take the examples of 9/11 in New York, 7/7 in London and the Lal Masjid episode in Islamabad, Pakistan. Such events have left a lasting impact on the minds of people and continue to enforce the incorrect perception of Islam being a religion that encourages violence. Muslim Ulema [clergy] appear to propagate prejudice and intolerance not only against other faiths but also against other Muslims as well. Muslims who do not subscribe to their views are immediately branded ‘Kafirs’ [disbelievers] and aggression and violence is promoted against such Muslim communities.
In the Western perception, Sharia Law is seen as law of intolerance which promotes the denial of basic human rights and is intolerant of other faiths. It is also presumed that Sharia Law does not give any rights to women and treats them as second-class citizens. This perception is based on the stories that are published in the press about the practices of honour killing and the treatment of women in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Fortunately, we all know that the religion of Islam does not teach us division or hatred. Islam only teaches peace and co-existence and understanding of each other and stands supreme among all religions for its compre-hensiveness and rationality. Then why does the Muslim world suffer from individual disarray, interstate divisions aggravated by sectarian and political expe-diencies? One may ask, quite legitimately, how has this state come about in the Muslim world and where lies the solution?
We have to go back to the very beginning to analyse the problem and seek the solution. Before the advent of Islam, the Arab world was in dire need of moral, spiritual and intellectual guidance for its people. The Holy Prophet Muhammad(saw), our beloved Prophet, the last Prophet, was sent by Allah the Almighty to lead us all to the righteous path that leads us to our Maker and gives inner peace within ourselves. The Holy Qur’an and the Sunnah [practical example of the Prophet(saw)] will remain forever as a beacon of guidance for all humanity to the end of the world.
The Holy Prophet Muhammad(saw) encapsulated the guidance in his sermon that he delivered on the ninth day of Dhul-Hajj [month in Muslim calendar], 10 A.H., in the valley of Mount ‘Arafat in Makkah.
The injunctions given to us by the Holy Prophet Muhammad(saw) more than 1400 years ago constitute a veritable Charter of Human Rights that the civilised world only adopted in 1949 through the United Nations. Unfortunately the Muslims forgot these injunctions and the results are evident today in the humiliating state of the Muslim world.
The Muslim world needs to inculcate the values of trust, equity, justice, forgiveness and brotherhood. But above all, comes the injunction of righteousness. Because, it is from righteousness that every other condition flows. Peace is not only physical security or absence of war and conflict, although it is an essential aspect of the wider concept of peace. Peace really means harmonious adjustment and orientation of the individual with and towards, on the one side, his Creator and, on the other side, with his fellow beings. Peace must originate in the heart of man. No one can be at peace with his brother unless he is at peace with himself and no one is at peace with himself unless he is at peace with his Maker. That is the fundamental of peace and a most comprehensive concept.
The Holy Qur’an, that vast reservoir of Divine guidance, simply tells us:
Those who have faith and do not let it be debased by injustice are the ones who shall have peace. It is they who are rightly guided. (Ch.6:V.83)
In fact, equity and absolute justice are the core around which a fair society can be built. That is why obligation of adhering to the truth and of acting justly is not restricted only to matters of disputes. It comprehends all spheres of life. In his address to the world during the 2007 Annual Peace Conference, Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih V, touched on the issue of absolute justice in the global environment. He declared:
“We can only establish peace in the world when the nations and countries try to establish peace in this way. It is regrettable that the League of Nations did not follow these principles and failed as a consequence. Today, the United Nations Organisation also seems to be failing in dispensing the requirements of justice. There are different standards of justice for different countries and different continents. Except for some very few decisions, most of the resolutions passed, in the past and even being adopted today by the United Nations, have been based on expediency and partisanship. Till such time that all countries are treated equally and at par, and the grudges and deep-seated sense of injustice are removed, no matter how many organisations are formed, they cannot bring peace to the world. It is also regrettable that Muslims, who have been given this teaching, are not acting on it themselves. They harbour enmity against each other and this is the case all over the world. Peace will remain a dream as long as each nation considers its own interests above all others.”
Quoting another example from the annals of Muslim history, Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih V gave the example of Hadhrat Abu Ubaidah(ra) when he was the governor of Syria in the time of Hadhrat ‘Umar(ra). In those days a tax was levied on the Syrian Christians and in return they were exempted from military duty and their protection became the duty of the Muslim rulers (even in this, Hadhrat ‘Umar(ra) had forbidden to tax the poor). However, when a moment came when there was a danger of war from the Constantinian forces of the Roman Empire, Hadhrat Abu Ubaidah(ra), as a Governor of Syria, returned all taxes to the Christians telling them that because he might not be able to provide protection, he had no excuse to retain their taxes. The Christian were so impressed by this gesture of honesty and justice that they said with one voice that they prayed that Muslims become victorious over Romans and then come back to rule the country of Syria once again because Muslims not only do justice but also do good to Christians.
This is why the public authority in all spheres, including judicial authority, should be given only in the hands of those who can discharge it honestly. The Holy Qur’an commands:
Verily, Allah commands you to give over the trust to those entitled to them, and that, when you judge between men, you judge with justice. And surely excellent is that with which Allah admonishes you. Allah is All-Hearing, All-Seeing. (Ch.4:V.59)
Then again, the Holy Qur’an admonishes:
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)
Explaining this verse, the Promised Messiah(as) states:
‘Allah the Almighty says about justice that it cannot be achieved without truth-fulness, that your enmity towards enemy nations should not hinder you from dispensing justice. Remain just because righteousness lies in it…
…I say to you in truth that it is easy to deal with an enemy with hostility but it is very difficult to safeguard the rights of opponents and to deal justly with your enemy.’
This is the ultimate state of establishing peace with justice: that if you have to testify, you must remain just. At another place the Holy Qur’an 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 notice this commandment being practised in the early period of Islamic history. When a dispute between a Muslim and a Jewish citizen was brought before Hadhrat ‘Umar(ra), he found the Jewish citizen to be right and he decided in his favour.
Indeed, there is such great emphasis on justice, whether as a judge or as a witness, that the stability of a society or a nation depends on it. However, a true and righteous believer must move beyond justice and dispense good (Ihsan). Allah says in the Holy Qur’an:
Verily, Allah enjoins justice and doing of good to others; and giving like kindred; and forbids indecency and manifest evil and trans-gression. He admonishes you that you may take heed. (Ch:16:V.91)
Explaining this verse, the Promised Messiah(as) says:
‘This verse means that you should deal with equity with your near ones and humanity at large, and do not demand from them any more than what is your right, and persevere with justice. If you wish to progress further, the next stage is to do ‘IHSAN’ good, and if your brother stoops to wickedness, return his wickedness with a good deed and in return for the pain that he causes you provide him comfort and as a gesture of goodwill provide him help. The next stage is ‘like kindred’ and that is that whatever good deeds and favours you do to your brethren and to human beings, you should do that without any expectation of favourable return. You should do that out of sheer humanitarian feelings and without any hesitancy as one kinsman does to another because of the love pertaining to relationship.’
Unfortunately, equity, justice, tolerance and amity are practices rarely visible in the Muslim world. Justice, let alone ‘Ihsan’, or doing good, is totally absent. Whereas Islam permits freedom of conscience and belief, people of minority religions are not tolerated in the so-called Muslim world. The lives and possessions of the minority have no value. Perpetrators of crimes against minorities walk free without being brought to justice.
If the Muslims want to create peace in the society then they must fulfil the rights of others selflessly. They must get rid of the poison of superiority complex. They must eliminate the distinction between Muslims and non-Muslims, between ethnic majority and non-ethnic minorities and between rich and poor. In fact, they must get rid of all national and racial prejudices.
On the one hand, ‘Muslims’ claim to be broad-minded, and on the hand, they have a class of clerics within their society in which volcanoes of racial hatred are ready to erupt. The ‘Jihadi’ movements and suicide attackers have disfigured the image of Islam all over the world.
Only the most deluded could regard the suicide-attacks as having been launched by ‘mujahidin’, striking a blow in the name of Islam against ‘legitimate targets’. Despite its evident falsity, the image of Islam conveyed by this disfiguration of Islamic principles is not easily removed from the popular imagination in the West. There is an unhealthy and dangerous convergence of perception between, on the one hand, those – albeit a tiny minority – in the Muslim world who see the attacks as part of a necessary anti-Western Jihad; and on the other, those in the West – unfortunately, not such a tiny minority – who likewise see the attacks as the logical expression of an inherently militant religion that is irrevocably opposed to the West. Muslim scholars have pointed out that the terror attacks are totally devoid of any legitimacy in terms of Islamic law and morality.
More than one hundred years ago, the Promised Messiah(as) declared:
‘If you want to be associated with me and if you want to join my Community, you will have to purify yourselves from cruelty and rebellion, and know that the assumption of Jihad with force has ended with my advent. Perform your Jihad, he said, but in the manner that the Holy Prophet(saw), performed Jihad-e-Akbar; and that Jihad is guiding people to Allah, exhorting others to righteousness, reformation of oneself and service to mankind.’
Let us pause and think why more and more desperate Muslims are taking this course of personal violence. The answer is stark and simple – poverty and denial of the environment to fulfil the aspirations to live and prosper in peace. The solution is simple for the Muslim world. The Holy Prophet Muhammad(saw), gave us the five pillars of Islam. Zakat, or spending of one’s wealth in the way of Allah, if truly followed can eliminate poverty from the Muslim world in a very short time thus removing the real reasons of violence and militancy. Allah the Almighty has blessed the Muslim world with immense wealth and resources. If only this God-given wealth were used properly, in accordance with the guidance given in the Holy Qur’an and as practised by our beloved Prophet Muhammad(saw) and his rightly guided Khulafa! They practised the true Jihad-e-Akbar – that is, Jihad against inequity, against social injustice and against poverty. The time is now for the Muslim Ummah to practise this Jihad-e-Akbar once again.
But, who in the world of Islam can take on the onerous task of applying the true and pristine teachings of Islam? Who is going to unite all the diverse Muslim populace? No man-made organisations for the unity of Muslim can perform this task nor any individuals. Many in the recent past aspired to become leaders or dreamt of becoming ‘Amir-ul-Mu’mineen’ [Leader of the believers]. They and their false credentials were blown away in the winds like the autumn leaves. But there is no need to despair. Allah, in His Mercy, never leaves the Muslims alone.
Remember! The religion of Islam is forever and for all times and the guidance given in the Holy Qur’an is comprehensive and forever and for all times. The words of God possess the same quality as the works of God. That is to say, it is alive as the universe is alive and keeps abreast, rather ahead of all developments and continuously gives guidance for the human life that goes on changing in a dynamic world. Every part of Allah’s creation testifies to Allah’s existence, sings His praises and glorifies Him. He continuously com-municates with those who are steadfast in their faith in Him and He manifests Himself in various ways. Allah promises in the Holy Qur’an:
As for those who say, ‘Our Lord is Allah’, and then remain steadfast, the angels descend on them, reassuring them, ‘Fear not, nor grieve; and rejoice in the glad tidings of the Gardens which you were promised. We are your friends in this life and in the Hereafter…(Ch.41:Vs.31, 32)
Within the religion of Islam, angels have been descending on the righteous and the steadfast to guide them to revive and revitalise the religion of Islam until at the head of the 14th century Hijra, corresponding to the last decade of 19th century, Allah the Almighty sent the Messiah for whom all the religions of the world were waiting. The Messiah that was promised and prophesised by the Holy Prophet Muhammad(saw) in the Tradtions and promised in the Holy Qur’an, Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad(as) of Qadian, under Divine revelation, claimed in 1889 to be the Messiah and declared that his advent was the fulfilment of various prophecies made for the Reformer of the latter days. His task, he claimed, was to revive the beautiful teachings of Islam that had been disfigured by the addition, innovations and distorted inter-pretations. During his lifetime, he defended the cause of Islam with all his might and repulsed vigorously all the attacks that were made on the teachings of Islam and on the Holy Prophet Muhammad(saw). The scholars of the Muslim Ummah of the time complimented him for his Jihad but turned away as soon as he made his claim of being the Promised Messiah. That was the most unfortunate turning point for all the Muslims of the world. All of them are still mired in the bog of prejudice, intolerance and sectarianism. When we look around, we see very few men of real religion, a small number of defenders and champions of the truth – when one sees ignorant persons imagining that the principle of Islam is hardness, severity, extravagance and barbarity – it is time to repeat these words that were used by Hadhrat Ya‘qub(as):
…So now dignified patience is good for me. And it is Allah alone Whose help is to be sought… (Ch.12:V.19)
The Promised Messaih(as) declared more than hundred years ago, in his book, A Message of Peace’:
‘Irrespective of whether we are Muslims or Non-Muslims, and although we have many differences, we believe in God Who has created this world and all that is contained in it. We also claim commonality as human beings. It is our duty that we should become friends with a clear conscience and honest intentions. We should sympathise with each other on all matters temporal or religious. My Friends! That faith is no faith that does not teach sympathy for mankind. A human being is not human unless he displays some element of sympathy. Our God has made no distinction in any nation. Whatever faculties were given to the ancient nations have been given to the Arab, Persian, Chinese, Japanese, European and American nations. The earth serves as a common ground for all and the Sun, the Moon and the Stars perform common service for all mankind. These divine manifestations teach us that we should also treat each other equally, with amity and with tolerance. Narrow-mindedness or hard-heartedness has no place in human relations.’
With the above message and under the present Khalifa, Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the 5th successor of the Promised Messiah(as), Islam Ahmadiyyat is recognised and respected in 190 countries of the world. The real solution to the problems of the Muslim world lies in their unity under one leader. One solution is to join the leader that Allah has appointed for the Muslims at this difficult juncture. Come under the standard of Khilafat-e-Ahmadiyya because this will provide you with true protection against all evils. This will unite you once again like the Ummahwas united under the rightly guided Khulafa of the Holy Prophet Muhammad(saw). More than hundred years ago, the Promised Messiah(as), addressed the Ummah and invited it with these words:
Come towards me truthfully, your security lies in this
Wild beasts are all around you, I am the impregnable fort of security
The whole Muslim world is floundering in dissension and without direction and they are surrounded by hostile forces that are bent on decimating each Muslim country one by one.
That is why, with all sincerity and the love and sympathy that I feel for my Muslim brethren, I implore them: the solution to problems lies in accepting Khilafat that Allah has established for Muslims; He has blessed this institution for the last one hundred years. May Allah give the Muslims wisdom to accept the truth. Amin!