With the world hurtling rapidly towards a catastrophic world war and the Ukraine-Russia conflict showing no signs of abating, threatening to explode into a wider conflict, all current solutions seem to have proved unmeaningful. The potential for the unthinkable, nuclear war, is now being commonly spoken about as a possibility. A different solution is required to stem the tide of fast-gathering clouds of destruction to establish lasting peace.
On 4th March 2023, the Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, the Fifth Khalifah (Caliph), His Holiness, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba) delivered the keynote address at the 17th National Peace Symposium hosted by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community UK. The event also served as the inauguration of the new five-storey building in the Baitul Futuh Mosque, which was rebuilt after a fire in 2015. The event was attended by more than 1500 people including 500 dignitaries and guests who had gathered from 40 countries, comprising of Ministers, Ambassadors of State, and Members of Parliament. The official transcript of the address delivered by His Holiness on this occasion is presented below:
After reciting Ta`awwuz and Bismillah, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, (aba), Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Fifth Successor to the Promised Messiah (as) said:
‘All distinguished guests Assalamo Alaikum Wa Rahmatullahe Wa Barakatuhu – peace and blessings of Allah be upon you all.
Firstly, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all of our guests who have joined us here this evening. Due to the COVID pandemic, we were unable to hold such a guest reception for the last few years. Given this, we are extremely pleased that today, after an interval of four years, we are able to host all of you, old and new friends alike, once again. This event is being held to inaugurate the reconstruction of the administrative block of the Baitul Futuh Mosque complex, and alongside the inauguration, we are holding our National Peace Symposium. Therefore, I will seek to briefly mention the objectives of a mosque and also offer my thoughts on the current state of the world and how to achieve global peace and security.
The Core Values of a True Muslim
According to my belief, it is not possible to fulfil the rights of Allah the Almighty or attain His nearness without fulfilling the rights of our fellow human beings and all of God’s creation. True Muslims, therefore, live their lives peacefully and seek to propagate peace, tolerance, and mutual understanding in society. Indeed, Ahmadi Muslims believe that the founder of our community was sent by Allah the Almighty to draw the attention of mankind towards these core fundamental Islamic principles of fulfiling the rights of worship of God Almighty, fulfiling the rights of humanity, and seeking to spread peace and harmony throughout the world. He bequeathed us a legacy of peace by making it clear that there is a direct correlation between the worship of God Almighty and fulfilling the rights of mankind.
This is something to keep in mind as we gather in this building that stands adjacent to the main mosque, and so forms part of the mosque complex. Mosques are built for the worship of Allah the Almighty, and it is stated in the Holy Qur’an that if a person does not fulfil the rights of God’s creation, their prayers and worship will be rejected. Indeed, the Qur’an states that the worship of those who fail to pay heed to other people’s rights will be the means of their downfall and humiliation rather than the means of their salvation.
Mosques – Entering a State of Peace
Furthermore, it is essential to note that Muslims are commanded to build a mosque in the direction of the Holy Ka’bah, the sacred house of Makkah, and to worship towards it. Yet, it is not enough to merely turn one’s physical direction towards the Holy Ka’bah, rather Muslims and their mosques must fulfil the objectives of the Ka’bah, outlined in chapter 3, verse 98 of the Holy Qur’an, where it states that whosoever enters the sacred house of Allah enters peace. This Qur’anic verse means that a true Muslim, upon entering a mosque shall himself enter a state of peace and shall, by fulfilling the rights and commands of God, prove a beacon of peace and security for others. All of our mosques spiritually mirror the Holy Ka’bah, wherein they serve not only as an abode of worshipping God Almighty, but are also a means of fulfilling the rights of mankind and establishing peace in the world.
As Muslims, we pray five times a day, and in each prayer, it is incumbent upon us to recite the first chapter of the Holy Qur’an. In its second verse, Allah the Almighty proclaims that He is the Lord of all the Worlds and of all people. He is not just the Provider and Sustainer of Muslims, but He provides for, and sustains Christians, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, and indeed people of all religions and beliefs. He grants them life, and He fulfils their basic needs through His grace and compassion. Consequently, from the very start of the Holy Qur’an, Muslims are taught that the fundamental pillar of Islamic teaching is that a sincere Muslim must never harm the people of other faiths or religions, harbour any form of hatred or speak ill of them in any way, as we are all the creation of God Almighty.
Indeed, it is our conviction and teaching that Allah the Almighty fulfils the needs of those who do not appreciate His grace and reject His very existence. Not only does He provide for them, but He also grants them the fruits of their labour. This is the concept of the All-Merciful God in Whom we believe. Surely, those who have faith in such a Gracious God can never seek to undermine the peace and well-being of others. Thus, it is purely to attain the nearness and love of such a Benevolent and Loving God that the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community strives to foster peace and harmony around the world. Ever since our community was founded in the late 19th Century, alongside inviting others towards God Almighty, we have consistently practised and preached a message of mutual understanding and tolerance and sought to establish true peace in the world.
Peace – A Golden Key
As I mentioned earlier, prior to the pandemic, we held this National Peace Symposium each year, and we are grateful to have the opportunity to resume this event in an effort to advance the cause of peace. In addition, we hold similar conferences and events all around the world, seeking to bring people together, irrespective of their caste, creed or colour, under the banner of humanity and strive to identify solutions to the problems faced in the world. Our motivation is for true and lasting peace to emerge so that mankind can save itself from self-destruction. Our objective is to raise awareness of the fact that the world stands at the precipice of disaster and to urge humanity to take a step back and consider our responsibilities, not only to the people of today, but also to our future generations.
We hold such events so we can proclaim our firm conviction that only in peace lies the salvation of the world. Peace is a golden key to unlocking the door to societal progress and development and ensuring that our future generations can thrive and prosper. Though we have long preached this message, it seems to have fallen upon deaf ears. I believe the fundamental reason is that the vast majority of the world has turned away from God Almighty and consider materialistic gains and worldly pursuits to be their ultimate objective. It was due to such vain and covetous pursuits that mankind was dragged into two calamitous and harrowing world wars during the 20th Century. Rather than learn from the horrors of the past, the world is once again engulfed by warfare and conflict.
At this point, I should clarify that I do not believe that the blame lies exclusively with Muslims or non-Muslims, nor do I say that cruelties or injustices are the sole preserve of any one group or nation. Any Muslims or so-called Islamic groups who inflict cruelties or conduct barbaric acts violate their religious teachings and are fully culpable to be condemned in the strongest terms. According to Islam’s teachings, permission for war is only granted under extreme circumstances as a defensive measure where a concerted effort is made to destroy the institution of religion and freedom of belief through warfare. Islam has never, and never will, permit aggressive warfare for the sake of territorial gains or fulfiling geopolitical ambitions.
Practical Methods for Reconciliation in Times of War
Furthermore, the Holy Qur’an has instructed that every possible opportunity to achieve peace must be pursued no matter how remote the chances of success are. In chapter 49, verse 10, Allah the Almighty states that when two nations are at war, third parties should seek to reconcile them and draw them to a peaceful settlement. If the aggressor continues to wage war, it is up to other nations to join forces and use proportionate and legitimate force to stop the oppressor. However, once their cruelties cease, unjust retribution or revenge must not be exacted. Regarding this principle, chapter 5, verse 9 of the Holy Qur’an categorically states that you must not let the enmity of any nation or party prevent you from upholding the true standards of justice and equity.
Accordingly, punitive sanctions or other unjust measures that prevent a nation from moving forward post-war and limit its freedom and prosperity should be avoided at all costs. Just a few days ago marked the first anniversary of the war in Ukraine, and sadly there is no sign of how or when the war will end. Nonetheless, this has not stopped certain political leaders from stating that once the war does end, Russia should be subjected to extreme sanctions and made to pay for its actions.
Recently, a column by the journalist Matthew Parris was published in The Times stating that such statements in advance of any meaningful peace talks are ill-judged and serve only to further inflame a volatile situation and reduce the chances of a peaceful settlement. The columnist wrote that political leaders should be above seeking short-term media acclaim and recognise, as he puts it, that the words spoken now can cast long shadows across a future terrain of which we are still ignorant. He writes that now is not the time to speak of reparations from a defeated Russia or to call for Nuremberg-style war crimes tribunals. I believe he is right to serve this warning. What incentive will Russia and its leaders have to cease hostilities if they know that their withdrawal will lead to their certain ruin?
As I have said, Islamic teachings require every effort to be made to bring a peaceful solution to a conflict. For this reason, I believe it is essential to keep the channels of communication open and to strive to find mutually acceptable terms of agreement. If, however, the aggressor remains bent on causing misery and destruction and refuses to withdraw, Islam teaches that other nations should join together as one and use proportionate and necessary force to end the cruelties.
The objective of the intervening parties must remain at all times to establish peace instead of seeking revenge or humiliating the aggressor, nor should their underlying intention ever be to line one’s pockets or to exploit the conflict to advance vested interests. Otherwise, those who have been demeaned will undoubtedly harbour a sense of injustice and resentment. Such frustrations are bound to eventually boil over and lead to further conflict, and so the cycle of incessant violence will continue to rotate with ever greater fury.
Regrettably, as the columnist noted, rather than acting wisely, certain leaders and officials are making statements or pledges that serve only to pour petrol on the fire. Instead of helping to end the war, their comments reduce the long-term chances of peace. In a similar vein, an extremely dangerous consequence of the war in Ukraine has been the solidification of opposing political blocs and alliances, and the rhetoric being used in international relations is becoming increasingly hostile on all sides. For example, much has been written about how Russia and China are forging closer ties bonded by their mutual antagonism towards the West.
Bringing an End to the Cycle of Bloodshed
The truth is that war often begets war. There are genuine concerns that the Ukraine conflict could spread, or that other nations could be emboldened to abandon diplomatic efforts to resolve their disputes and resort to force. For example, the situation in Taiwan is becoming increasingly precarious as China seeks to assert its control. Hence, world leaders, the media, and others should not fall into the trap of thinking that the war in Ukraine can be easily contained.
In this regard, the journalist Peter Hitchens recently wrote in a national newspaper about the decision of several Western countries to send their tanks to Ukraine. He wrote, “If they (the tanks being given to Ukraine) cross into what Russia regards as its own territory, then do not be surprised by anything which happens.” He continues, “There is the real possibility that a large chunk of Europe might be turned into a radioactive graveyard and that American conventional retaliations for this (which will be furious and powerful) will take us a stage further into the world of horror, loss, flight, pestilence, and poverty which always follows war.” Regarding Russia and Ukraine, he says, “Two countries are in a furious grapple because their deep, hard and unalterable interests conflict. The sane and decent policy for any outside power is to help push them into a lasting compromise, as the world did to France and Germany after 1945. Instead, we send tanks. It is as if the fire brigade went about starting fires.”
Other commentators are reaching similar conclusions. During a recent interview, the renowned economist Professor Jeffrey Sachs said, “I did contact the White House (at the end of 2021) and said there will be war unless the US enters diplomatic talks with President Putin over this question of NATO enlargement. I was told the US will never do that. That is off the table. Now we have a war that is extraordinarily dangerous. And we are taking exactly the same tactics in East Asia that led to the war in Ukraine. We’re organising alliances, building up weaponry.” He continues, “The Chinese government said, ‘Please lower the temperature, lower the tensions.’ We say, ‘No, we do what we want,’ and now send more arms. This is the recipe for yet another war, and to my mind it is terrifying.”
Increasingly, academics, political experts, and respected analysts are warning that we are approaching a grave period in the history of humanity. For example, the symbolic Doomsday Clock controlled by an international panel of scientists, which forecasts the likelihood of a human-made global catastrophe, was recently turned to just 90 seconds until midnight, the closest to a global disaster it has ever predicted. The scientists stated that we are living in a time of unprecedented danger and warned that there is a significant risk of global war triggered either by accident, miscalculation or even intentionally.
As we ponder over such dire warnings, the obvious question is how can the world bring an end to the cycle of warfare and bloodshed that we witness today. The world is well-versed in supporting victims and those suffering injustice, as is the case with the Ukrainian nation at this time, yet it may surprise you to hear that Islam teaches Muslims to help not only the victim of the persecuted but also the perpetrator and oppressor. Of course, this does not mean that you provide the aggressor with the means of freedom to inflict further cruelties. Rather, to help an aggressor means to stop them from committing further brutalities and injustice.
Whatever wrongs are being committed by the Russian state, we must keep in mind the broader picture that if the war is not brought to an end, it will lead to a deepening global crisis with potentially catastrophic results. Opposing blocs will become further entrenched. Hatreds will become even more deeply rooted, increasing the likelihood of a world war. Hence, as they continue to support Ukraine as it defends itself, world powers should also be making every possible effort to end the war through peace talks and good-faith negotiations. Otherwise, I fear the war will spread beyond Europe and eastwards towards Asia, and who knows where it will stop.
For many years, I have warned of the risks of a full-scale world war and have spoken of how its deadly and destructive consequences are far beyond our comprehension. Having long warned of such a war, I take no satisfaction in the fact that we are moving ever closer to it and that others are now expressing similar sentiments and fears. Rather, I feel only grief and anguish as I see the world hurtling ever-faster towards a terrifying world war in which the lives of millions of innocent people will be lost or permanently destroyed.
Leaving a Legacy for Future Generations
Moreover, what kind of future will we leave behind for those who are yet to come? Instead of bestowing a legacy of peace and prosperity to our future generations, our parting gift to them will be nothing except death, destruction, and misery.
Certainly, it is my grave fear that today’s geopolitical tensions could spiral out of all control and ultimately lead to a nuclear war. We should be under no illusion about the fact that if God forbid, a nuclear weapon is ever used, it will strike the earth with such velocity and force that its toxic effects will be felt for decades to come. Hundreds of thousands or even millions will surely die either instantly or in the aftermath. Those who survive will suffer miserable and tortuous lives as they seek to pick up the shattered pieces of humanity. As for the devastating impact on future generations, countless infants will be born with genetic defects and disabilities as a result of the perpetual effects of radiation.
Thus, with all my heart, I pray that may Allah Almighty have mercy upon humanity and may the people of the world, especially its leaders and policymakers, see sense before it is too late. I pray that instead of warmongering and sabre-rattling, they utilise all their faculties and resources to foster peace and security for all peoples and nations, rather than seeking to feed their egos and satisfy their lust for power by fueling wars. May they recognise their responsibilities to safeguard humanity for the sake of people today and for our future generations by making policies that end all forms of conflict. May they be the guardians of peace and prosperity rather than the agents of war and bloodshed.
As a religious person, I firmly believe that this can only happen when mankind sets aside its selfish ways and materialistic desires and comes to recognise and worship the One God and strives to fulfil His rights and act upon His teachings. I pray that may Allah the Almighty grant people wisdom and may all mankind manifest those principle objectives that the Creator and Master of this world, Allah the Almighty, desires from us – to fulfil His rights and those of His creations. Ameen. With these words, I thank you all once again for joining us this evening. Thank you very much.’