A Symbol of Peace

Keynote address delivered by His Holiness, Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad(aba), Khalifatul Masih V, Head of the worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim community at the civic reception held at the Clayton Hotel in Galway on 17 September 2010, on the laying of the foundation stone of the Maryam (Mary) Mosque in Galway. With a population of over 70,000, Galway is the fifth largest and fastest growing city on the island of Ireland, and third largest in the Republic of Ireland. Located on its western coast, Galway is known as ‘Ireland’s cultural heart’. Over 100 Irish people attended the civic reception from every walk of life, including members of parliament, mayors, local councillors, police officers, professors, doctors, teachers, solicitors, and ordinary citizens including neighbours. Also addressing the reception were Cllr. Michael J. Crowe (His Worshipful Mayor of Galway City), Most Rev Dr Martin Drennan (Bishop of Galway (Roman Catholic Church)), Mr Eamon O’ Cuiv (TD and Minister for Social Protection, Fianna Fail Party), Mr Michael D Higgins (TD Labour Party President and Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs), Mr Frank Feighan (TD and Fine Gael Party Spokesperson on Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs) and Mr Jon O’ Mahony (Asst. Commissioner An Garda Siochana (Police)). The Maryam (Mary) Mosque will be the Ahmadiyya Muslim community’s first ever mosque in Ireland.

After reciting Tashahhud, Ta‘awwudh and Bismillah, Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih V(aba) said:

“All the distinguished guests,

Assalamo ‘Alaikum Wa Rahmatullahe Wa Barakatohu – peace and blessings of Allah be upon you all.

To begin with, I would like to thank all the guests here today who, even though are not Ahmadis or Muslims, have come as a result of their connection with certain Ahmadis, or perhaps have come due to their good impression of our community, or because they have been invited for the first time.

In any case, your presence shows that, irrespective of differences of religion, you have come here to maintain good relations and share human values. Not only am I thankful for your coming here, but also from the depth of my heart, I respect and appreciate this gesture of goodwill. May God Almighty reward you for this.

After this expression of thanks, I would like to briefly say a few words to you.

As you are well-aware, this age of fast communication and electronic media has exposed the cultures and religions of people of different countries of the world, so much so, that at the touch of a button all kinds of information about people of a country, its culture and religion etc. can be easily obtained. There is no incident that takes place the news of which does not reach the corners of the world within just a few minutes. Also, due to the ease of travel, nations are coming closer together.

At this time, most of the members of the Ahmadiyya community here that you see are Pakistani or Asian, although there are also a few Irish Ahmadis. By the grace of God, our Missionary here, Mr Ibrahim Noonan, is also Irish. Nevertheless, the majority is of Pakistani origin, whose way of living, words and deeds, and behaviour and conduct are visible to all. If anyone wishes to know what Ahmadis of Pakistani origin are like or how they are, they can find out very easily by observing them for a few days.

What I mean to say is that in the modern world you do not have to go to too much trouble to assess the true nature, manners and conduct of any peoples. In other words, a secret is no longer a secret. At the very least, there is nothing hidden about the character of a people or a nation, and in fact, through very little research all becomes easily apparent.

Whereas there are some benefits to the global village, there are also some drawbacks, caused by the media and by a desire to keep up with the modern trends. There is good and bad in every person. Whereas good leaves its effect, so does evil, but from a religious point of view, those who spread evil have a stronger effect than those who incline others to goodness, especially in matters of establishing the rights due to the Creator. Here, the majority of people disregard this, and unfortunately, the number of such people who do not honour religion or their Creator is on the increase. And that is why God sends His Prophets and chosen people to the world, to highlight the evil ways of mankind and to draw people towards good deeds.

In this age, we, Ahmadis, consider the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad(as) of Qadian, to be the Promised Messiah. We believe that he was sent to the world to establish goodness and bring people closer to God Almighty.

By reference to evil, I would like to draw attention to the fact that any evil committed, however small it might be, appears more prominent when it harms others. In the eyes of the world even if there is any good in that person or group committing it, that becomes subdued and the evil becomes prominent. In effect, the world cannot see any good in such people, and even in their goodness tries to find aspects of evil.

Unfortunately today, certain deeds of some Muslim groups, which are contrary to the teachings of Islam and which are committed in its name, portray Islam in a bad light. The opponents of Islam then try to find faults and means to defame it. The Muslims who carry out such misdeeds have given so much ammunition to the anti-Islamic groups that they are taking advantage of this and using the media to project Islam in the wrong light. The average man on the street does not question or query what he is told, and so he thinks that the propaganda against Islam must be true. The more educated or the researcher, however, tries to investigate the matter to a deeper level. And I am fortunate enough to have educated people amongst us tonight.

One such well-versed person is Professor Richard Bonney, the former Head of the Department of History at Leicester University. He has deep knowledge of religious matters, and in particular of Islam. He has also acquired the title of Reverend from the Church of England and he is a leading member and executive of many different societies. He has written a book about Jihad and in it he has tried to clarify various aspects. On scrutiny, it becomes obvious that the interpretation given by extremists is not true Jihad. In this book he has also referred to the Ahmadiyya community, of course in a positive way.

In any case, what I wish to say is that those who want to find the true reality are able to find the truth through research and effort, but there are very few who work in a just manner as such to try to find out the real facts. Instead, the general public rarely makes any effort, and so the majority bases its views on the acts of a few groups who paint a wrong picture of Islam.

In view of this, I request those of you who have come here today that before you form any opinion of Islam, reflect on it from every angle and research for the truth – I hope you will do so.

It is our claim that the Ahmadiyya community alone presents the real picture of Islam to the world today. And what we say is based on provable arguments and on our Holy Book, the Holy Qur’an.

Today, as we know, marks the occasion of the laying of the foundation stone of this mosque, which is being laid with the consent of the council and the agreement of the local people. However, the laying of this foundation stone has reminded me of the proposed building of another mosque, one which has drawn the attention of the world and in particular the American public.

The mosque that I am referring to is the proposed mosque in New York City at Ground Zero, where a few years ago terrorists smashed planes into the Twin Towers.

President Obama and the New York Mayor have expressed support for this project, but the majority of Americans are opposed to it, and this difference of opinion is becoming ever more intense and is increasing.

Those who support the building of the mosque argue that because Muslims are blamed for bringing down the Twin Towers, this mosque will show that Muslims truly love peace. On the other side, those against the construction argue, amongst many other points, that a particular Muslim group undertook this terrorist act and the nation had to pay a terrible price. Building this mosque will be a permanent sign that having destroyed our beautiful buildings, Muslims have now built their own mosque at the same place. They argue that its construction will be a means of continually hurting their feelings and thus it will be a victory for the terrorists who want to take over our places through force.

In any case, this is a controversy in which the entire American and the international press, along with the American public, are involved. The press also contacted the Ahmadiyya community to ask our views on this project. We have always said that if the buildings that were destroyed by the plane crashes were the acts of a Muslim group, then first of all, it is absolutely contrary to the teachings of Islam to kill innocent people indiscriminately. Such an act is nothing but grave cruelty.

Secondly, if this building is to be built as a memorial for national unity, for peace, for religious tolerance, and to show the peaceful teachings of Islam, then why construct only a mosque?

This should be widened so that next to the mosque let there be a church, let there be a synagogue and let the places of worship of all other faiths also be built there, so that religious unity and tolerance can be truly displayed and so that it can be known that Islam has no link with terrorism. This would clearly show that Islam wants to live side by side with the followers of all other faiths. It would make it clear that terrorism has no religion, nor does any religion sanction murder in its name. It would make it known that in contrast to those who murder in the name of religion, Islam takes the side of every peace-loving group.

When the places of worship of all religions are in one place it will be a declaration that no religion teaches unlawful killing, and Islam is also a religion of peaceful teachings whose purpose is to remind man about the rights of God and the rights owed to human beings – and this is the sign of a true religion from God.

The only meaning of Islam is love, affection and brotherhood. If this is the only meaning of Islam then how can it be that we do not live with other religions in love, affection and brotherhood?

A classic example of religious intolerance is the recent Qur’an-burning issue that has gained everyone’s attention. And I believe you would have heard of it as well. I am surprised at how a person, and a pastor at that, can even think of doing such an insensible act to show opposition to the building of the Ground Zero Mosque. However, I thank God that this plan has been dropped and the world has been saved from the disorder that would have arisen in response to it.

The animosity already existing that some extremist Muslims hold for the West might have erupted into something big. They would have reacted in a wrong way; that would lead to further religious intolerance and dissention. Islam, however, is a peace-loving religion, which does not teach us to do wrong to stop wrong. And we, the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, follow this principle and believe in the peaceful solution to all matters in places where the Jama’at (community) is well-established; this fact is well-known.

To give you an example of this, some months ago, for the sake of their vested interests, certain politicians and a particular party started a campaign in Switzerland against minarets of the mosques, and they won a referendum on this issue.

Actually, a majority of the public did not even vote in the referendum because people assumed that no one would vote on this seemingly silly matter. However, after this, members of the media, politicians, local people and even some churches expressed their horror at this decision.

In Zurich, the Ahmadiyya community has a mosque with the highest minaret, and right across the road is a church. The Swiss newspapers printed pictures of our mosque along with quotes from the nearby church who openly said that they have always heard only voices of love, affection and peace from the mosque. In fact, our relations with the church are such that if our mosque cannot hold the entire congregation, they let us use their halls, and I myself have once led prayers in this church hall.

It is because of our way of dealing and the teachings of love and brotherhood that the church has so much trust in us. It is clear, therefore, that Muslims are not the terrorists that are portrayed by the wrong deeds of certain Muslims, who act for their own interests and against the teachings of Islam. In fact, true Muslims are ambassadors of peace. And with the construction of this mosque you will see the proof of this with your own eyes, God Willing.

Those who are opposed to religion consider it to be a cause of hatred and war. However, if you assess the reasons for such wars, you will find either political motives, or disputes over geographical boundaries to capture or benefit from the resources of another, or sometimes they are due to national or tribal conflicts. It is true that sometimes wars have been fought on the pretext of religion. This is because it is very easy to inflame people in the name of religion to mount a war.

A major allegation laid against Islam is that it was spread by the sword. As I said earlier, this is an allegation against Islam, which I will clarify. Why and under what circumstances did Muhammad(saw), the Holy Prophet of Islam have to fight some battles? And indeed these same conditions had to be met by his spiritual successors, the Caliphs.

As far as religion is concerned no religion of the world advocates cruelty or barbarism, because religion comes directly from God, and God loves His creation very much. This is what we also learn from the Holy Qur’an. I have used the term ‘spiritual successors’ because after the four Caliphs who succeeded the Holy Prophet(saw), the system of Caliphate changed into a form of monarchy. The wars the monarchs fought were generally for the political and geographical reasons mentioned earlier.

There were very few wars for religious purposes and those that were fought were done so out of a state of necessity. In any case, I cannot go into details in this short time. But the fact of the matter is that the basis of Islamic teaching is the Law that was revealed to the Holy Prophet(saw) in the shape of the Holy Qur’an. And whilst the Holy Qur’an permits the use of arms to defend against the enemy, it gives reasons for this.

If we look at the first thirteen years in the history of Islam, the Holy Prophet(saw) and his Companions had to endure extreme persecution and brutality. He was not spared any form of cruelty. The Muslims even had to hide from the Makkans, out of fear, in order to pray, so much so, that they were made to lay on burning coals even if they uttered the name of God. They were whipped, and sometimes had to face even greater cruelty than this ─ the mere mention of these atrocities makes one tremble.

In any case, after these thirteen years of cruelty the Muslims migrated to Madinah and there they were able to live with a little more freedom. The Holy Prophet(saw) made a pact with the disbelievers and the Jewish people and established a State in Madinah, and according to the terms of the treaty, the Holy Prophet(saw) himself was made the leader. Even at that point, the Makkans pursued the Muslims viciously and tried to finish them off.

At that time, the disbelievers attacked yet again. God Almighty permitted His Messenger to defend, because all limits had been crossed. God commanded: O Muslims, you are permitted to respond to the fighting. God also gave the rationale behind this permission.

The Holy Qur’an says in Chapter 22, Verses 40-41:

Permission to fight is given to those against whom war is made, because they have been wronged –  and Allah indeed has power to help them – those who have been driven out from their homes unjustly only because they said, ‘Our Lord is Allah’ – and if Allah did not repel some men by means of others, there would surely have been pulled down cloisters and churches and synagogues and mosques, wherein the name of Allah is oft commemorated.  And Allah will surely help one who helps Him. Allah is, indeed, Powerful, Mighty.

This permission to defend themselves was given to those upon whom severe cruelty had been inflicted, whose only fault was that they proclaimed ‘God is our Lord’. Just for saying this, they had to endure cruelty and leave their homes. As is clear from the verse just quoted, the Muslims were not only permitted to defend themselves, but, in fact, were commanded that as the cruel people would increase in their cruelty, even churches and synagogues were not safe at their hands, nor were other places of worship; hence, in addition to protecting their own religion and mosques, the Muslims were made responsible for the protection of the places of worship of all other religions.

In this single commandment all religious wars and hatred have been cast away. These verses also prove that Islam does not permit bloodshed in the name of religion or any form of extremism.

In addition, wherever the Holy Qur’an has permitted fighting, if you look at its true context then you will see that there are very valid reasons. In this current age, however, none of the valid reasons that give permission for religious wars are present. That is why the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community(as) has said that because people of no faith are not attacking in the name of religion, there can be no justification for Muslims to fight religious wars.

Islam says there should be no compulsion in religion and that right has become distinct from wrong. In other words, we have been commanded: O Muslims! If you have understood and chosen Islam as your religion, then tread on the paths of guidance. And the paths of guidance are that you discharge the rights due to God and His creation so that the world recognises that you are rightly guided, and are not amongst those who have gone astray.

The words and deeds of those who are rightly guided speak for themselves. They need no force to spread their faith.

And this is the beautiful teaching that the Ahmadiyya Muslim community tries to act upon, that religion is a personal matter between God and man, and that force plays no role in it. Power and extremism can erect walls of hatred, but cannot win hearts.

And the people whose hearts are not won over take their revenge when the opportunity arises and, whilst remaining within the faith, they fail to offer any sacrifices.

This beautiful teaching of Islam portrayed by the Ahmadiyya Muslim community is openly displayed by its members who happily sacrifice their lives and wealth for the sake of this message of peace, and who never take the law into their own hands or create disorder.

This attitude can briefly be explained as: ‘Love for All, Hatred for None’.

Therefore, as I mentioned before, the mosque that the Ahmadiyya Muslim community wants to construct here is being built to manifest the teachings of love and peace and to spread this message. Certainly, this Maryam (Mary) Mosque will promote an atmosphere of harmony in the area.

The local people in particular and the Irish people in general will see this message and will bear witness that Islam is a religion that establishes human values. They will find that the Ahmadiyya community is the ambassador and flag-bearer for these values.

All the religions of the world are in need of religious harmony and all the people of the world need a spirit of love, affection and brotherhood to be created.

Furthermore, there is an urgent need for mankind to recognise its Creator as this is the only guarantor for the survival of humanity; otherwise, the world is rapidly moving towards self-destruction.

It is my prayer that we all understand our responsibilities and play our role in establishing peace and love, and recognition of our Creator, in the world. And I pray that we are saved from the destruction that awaits us.

Finally, I would like to once again thank the honourable guests who have spared their time and whose presence has made this such an enjoyable evening.

Thank you very much.”