Responding to Common Allegations Against Islam

Address by Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community to Non-Ahmadi Guests on Saturday 2nd September 2023 at Jalsa Salana Germany 2023

On 2nd September 2023, addressing an audience of over 880 guests and dignitaries attending the Jalsa Salana (Annual Convention) Germany, the Fifth Caliph and Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community dispelled misconceptions and some of the most common allegations levelled against Islam. The following is the official transcript of the address

*Please note that this transcript may not be reproduced without express permission, either on other websites or in print format.

After reciting TashahhudTa`awwuz and Bismillah, His Holiness, 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 Barakatohu – peace and blessings of Allah be upon you all. 

First of all, I would like to take this opportunity to offer my sincere gratitude to all of our guests who have graciously accepted our invitation to attend the Jalsa Salana despite not being members of our Community. Your interest in learning about Islam and willingness to attend this religious event testifies to your open hearts and tolerance.

Today, I wish to briefly address and respond to certain major allegations commonly levelled against Islam. 

For example, it is alleged that Islam’s teachings are extremist and encourage Muslims to use force and violence to conquer lands or to eliminate other religions and beliefs. It is also claimed that Muslims consider non-Muslims inferior and that Islam does not prioritise human values or bestow equal rights to certain sections of society, especially women. 

As I said, one of the principal allegations levelled at Islam is that it was spread by the sword and that Muslims are permitted to engage in violence to compel others to accept its teachings. In this respect, it is vital to ascertain what the Holy Qur’an, which is the basis of all Islamic teachings, says in relation to the propagation of Islam. In chapter 10, verse 100 of the Holy Qur’an, Allah the Almighty states:

“And if thy Lord had enforced His will, surely, all who are on the earth would have believed together. Wilt thou, then, force men to become believers?”

Here, Allah the Almighty proclaims that if He so desired, He could have compelled all people to accept Islam; however, He determined that human beings would have free will. Thereafter, Allah the Almighty states that if He did not compel mankind to accept Islam, it was impossible for the Holy Prophet (sa) or his true followers to violate the principle of freedom of belief. This verse alone is unequivocal proof that Islam does not permit the use of force in religious matters and that every person is free to choose their own path. In a similar vein, chapter 18, verse 30 of the Holy Qur’an states:

“And say, ‘it is the truth from your Lord; wherefore let him who will, believe, and let him who will, disbelieve.’”

Whilst affirming that Islam is a true religion from God and is the pinnacle of truth leading mankind towards salvation, this verse reiterates that every person is free to accept or reject its teachings. Islam does not permit Muslims to propagate their faith coercively through the abhorrent and destructive power of swords, bombs or guns, but instead calls on them to use reason, evidence and love to win the hearts and minds of mankind. 

Above all, Islam teaches that it is paramount that all people live amicably together and that society is underpinned by a spirit of mutual respect and tolerance, irrespective of different beliefs. Moreover, Allah the Almighty has repeatedly commanded Muslims to attain the highest moral standards. In even small or seemingly insignificant day-to-day matters, it teaches Muslims to ensure their conduct is of the highest order. 

Further, Islam does not tell Muslims to limit kindness to their loved ones or fellow Muslims. On the contrary, the Holy Qur’an instructs Muslims to treat all people with justice, benevolence and compassion. For instance, chapter five, verse nine of the Holy Qur’an enshrines a timeless and magnificent standard of truth and integrity. Allah the Almighty states:

“Let not a people’s enmity incite you to act otherwise than with justice.”

The verse goes on to state that:

“Be always just, that is nearer to righteousness.”

This verse defines the standard of justice advocated by Islam, which requires that even if someone has grievously mistreated or persecuted you, it must never lead you to seek revenge or be anything other than proportionate and fair in your response. Throughout history, wars and disputes have plagued society, and this sorrowful trend continues today. Can it be said that such honourable standards of justice are being upheld in international relations or amongst warring nations, irrespective of whether their governments are secular or religious? The simple answer is no. Only in Islam do we find such an unequivocal and peerless principle of absolute justice, and it is a cause of great regret that even modern-day Muslim governments are failing to govern according to this Islamic standard. 

Another oft-repeated allegation is that Islam is a religion of warfare and bloodshed. In this respect, it should be clear that Allah the Almighty has never given Muslims free reign to fight or take up arms. Where the Holy Qur’an granted permission to fight, it was only under extreme circumstances and with stringent conditions and restrictions imposed. 

Unquestionably, if one looks at the early period of Islam through an objective and impartial lens, they will see that the battles fought by the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa) were entirely defensive in nature. After patiently enduring years of unspeakable cruelties and sustained persecution at the hands of the non-Muslim disbelievers in his hometown of Makkah, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa) and his Companions migrated to the Arabian city of Madinah. However, even after migrating, they could not live in peace as the Makkan army aggressively pursued them, intending to kill the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa) and eliminate Islam once and for all. 

Under those extreme circumstances, Allah the Almighty permitted the Muslims to engage in a defensive battle. The permission is enshrined in chapter 22, verses 40-41, which states:

“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.”

These verses demonstrate that Allah the Almighty did not command the Holy Prophet Muhammad (as) to fight back only to save the Islamic faith. Rather, the Holy Qur’an testifies that the ultimate objective of the Makkans was to eradicate all religions and to demolish all places of worship. It was only then that Allah the Almighty commanded the Muslims to fight back in order to establish the universal principle of freedom of conscience and belief. Indeed, according to Islam’s teachings, if ever the followers of other religions seek the help of Muslims to protect and preserve religious freedom, Muslims should support them.

If these are Islam’s actual teachings, you may query why terrorists have conducted heinous attacks in the name of Islam in recent years. The answer is that hateful extremists, or those with political objectives, have extrapolated entirely false conclusions from certain verses of the Holy Qur’an to serve their own evil desires and interests. Yet if a person studies the proper context of those verses impartially, they will see that Islam does not permit any form of cruelty, and there are no contradictions within the Holy Qur’an or Islamic teachings. Without doubt, each Qur’anic verse lies in perfect harmony with one another. 

Another golden principle for ensuring peace in society is given in chapter 16, verse 91 of the Holy Qur’an, where Allah the Almighty states:

“Verily, Allah enjoins justice and the doing of good to others; and giving like kindred; and forbids indecency, and manifest evil and transgression. He admonishes you that you may take heed.”

In this verse, Allah the Almighty commands Muslims to not only act with justice, but to go beyond this and to treat all people, regardless of their religious affiliation, with love and compassion. It obliges Muslims to help others selflessly without desiring anything in return. 

Furthermore, this verse expressly prohibits Muslims from acts of rebellion or violating the laws of the land. Given this, there is no question of a true Muslim being a threat to his nation or people. In the very next verse, Allah the Almighty states:

“And fulfil the covenant of Allah when you have made, and break not the oaths after making them firm while you have made Allah your surety. Certainly, Allah knows what you do.”

Here, Allah the Almighty states that Muslims must never break their word or fail to uphold their pledges. Those guilty of violating their oaths will be held directly accountable by Allah the Almighty. Often, the loyalty and trustworthiness of Muslim immigrants to the West is questioned. Yet, as citizens, whether it is here in Germany or elsewhere, Muslims pledge loyalty and sincerity to their nations and vow to be law-abiding. It is their religious duty to uphold this pledge, faithfully serve their nations, and strive towards its prosperity. 

Indeed, a well-known Hadith – saying of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa) – is that “love for one’s nation is a part of one’s faith”. Given this, how can it be suggested that true Muslims are not loyal citizens or likely to sow seeds of division in society? Rather, fulfilling their pledge requires Muslims to be ever-ready to make all possible sacrifices for the sake of their nation. 

What can be a better form of integration than for Muslim immigrants to live with the heartfelt conviction that though they were born elsewhere, they are now part of their adopted nation and stand ready to make great sacrifices for the sake of its prosperity. Furthermore, they pledge to reject any form of rebellion against the state and to refrain from all unlawful activities. Hence, it is entirely wrong to assert that Islamic teachings are such that Muslims are incapable of assimilating into non-Muslim nations. 

If, due to their religious convictions, a Muslim abstains from drinking alcohol, chooses not to go to nightclubs, dresses modestly or rejects behaviour that is contrary to their moral values, it does not mean that they have failed to integrate. Rather, I believe integration requires an immigrant to always seek the betterment of his adopted nation, to be ready for all sacrifices for it, and to endeavour to serve its people with sincerity. Such integration is a means of ensuring that diversity in society will not result in division or conflict. Instead, it will prove a means of enriching that society, and firm bonds of unity will be forged amongst its citizens. 

In terms of serving their society, Muslims have a particular duty to help and protect those who are vulnerable or suffering in any way. For example, in chapter 51, verse 20 of the Holy Qur’an, Allah the Almighty states:

“And in their wealth was a share for one who asked for help and for those who could not.”

In this verse, the Holy Qur’an states that the hallmark of a true Muslim is that they should care for all of God’s creation and support those in need, whether they seek their help or not. A Muslim should not wait for someone to ask for help, but should proactively identify those in society who are in distress and help them overcome their challenges or troubles. 

Here, where the Holy Qur’an says that some living beings cannot speak or assert their needs, it includes animals. Some people think Islam discourages keeping pets or showing love to animals, but this verse requires a Muslim to diligently care for animals under their supervision or care. Likewise, this verse also hints at the importance of wildlife conservation and protecting the world around us. 

Similarly, in chapter 90, verses 14-17 of the Holy Qur’an, Allah the Almighty instructs Muslims to support the most vulnerable members of society. It calls on Muslims to feed the hungry and aid those mired in poverty. Muslims are taught to help those people who are isolated and do not have a network of family or friends to support them. Moreover, these verses direct Muslims to seek justice and emancipation for those inhumanly bound by the shackles of slavery or oppression. Muslims are told to treat orphans with love to ensure their rights are protected and to comfort those deprived in any way. 

These enlightened verses of the Holy Qur’an are a call to humanity to stand up for the rights of the weakest members of society and to help them stand on their own feet. Indeed, they instruct Muslims to play a foremost role in eliminating all forms of slavery, poverty and deprivation from the world. In essence, the Holy Qur’an teaches us that serving humanity is a fundamental means of spiritual progress.

There are many more verses of the Holy Qur’an that highlight the importance of fulfilling other people’s rights. In chapter 2, verse 149 of the Holy Qur’an, Allah the Almighty alludes to the fact that every person is different and has their own perspective in life and personal ambitions. Yet, Allah states that a Muslim’s overriding goal and objective should be to excel in righteousness, and fundamental to righteousness is exhibiting love and compassion towards others. 

Thereafter, chapter 4, verse 37 of the Holy Qur’an reiterates the importance of showing love to others. For example, it stipulates that people should treat their parents with tenderness and patience. It also identifies the rights of one’s relatives, loved ones, and those who are impoverished or orphaned. The verse also recognises the rights of one’s neighbours, and the definition of a neighbour according to Islam is far-reaching. At a minimum, one’s neighbours constitute the forty homes surrounding their own. It includes one’s travel companions, work colleagues and subordinates. If every person fulfilled the rights of the surrounding 40 homes and their colleagues and their companions, there is no doubt that society would be harmonious and free from conflict. 

Another golden principle to ensure the peace of society is given in chapter 49, verse 12 of the Holy Qur’an, where Allah the Almighty states that it is entirely wrong to deride or humiliate other nations or peoples. To mock or demean others is sure to cause resentment and shatter the peace of society. 

Recently, in Sweden, certain individuals have burned and vandalised copies of the Holy Qur’an and proudly displayed this despicable act on social media. Similarly, for many years, highly offensive caricatures have been published depicting the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa). Our objection to such vile acts is not limited to those incidents in which only Islam or Muslims are targeted. Rather, we firmly believe that denigrating what is sacred to the followers of any religion is reprehensible and to be condemned in the strongest terms. Such acts needlessly provoke and hurt innocent people and incite strong feelings of anger and resentment. They are a means of undermining the peace and cohesion of society. 

Islam teaches that it is essential to care for the sentiments and feelings of one another with sensitivity and consideration. 

Moving on, and before concluding, I also wish to address the question of women’s rights in Islam. Certainly, when it comes to women’s rights, Islam has been frequently misrepresented. Rather than deny women their rights, the truth is that Islam actually established women’s rights and did so centuries before similar rights were afforded by those nations that are now considered to be progressive. In an age when women’s rights were not even deemed worthy of consideration, the Holy Qur’an and the Holy Prophet of Islam (sa) enshrined forever countless rights of women and girls, including the rights to education, to divorce and to inherit. 

On one occasion, the Holy Prophet of Islam (sa) gave an analogy of a woman being like a rib. As such, they were delicate and to be treated with love and tenderness. If one analyses this statement carefully, they would realise how esteemed the status of women in Islam is. 

The human rib is designed to protect a person’s vital organs. And so, by describing women in such a way, the Holy Prophet (sa) has pointed to the fact that women are fundamental to the survival of humanity. 

Another famous saying of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, is that “Paradise lies under the feet of one’s mother.” Women have been given this unique and elevated status because mothers play the foremost role in nurturing society’s next generation and make immense sacrifices for the sake of their children. If a woman fulfils her duties to her children, it will enable them to develop into moral and righteous individuals who contribute positively to society. In this way, mothers are the means of success and prosperity for their children in this life and guide them on the path leading to paradise in the hereafter. 

In terms of the Holy Qur’an, chapter 4, verse 20 provides an outstanding means of establishing women’s domestic rights. The verse specifically instructs Muslim men to treat their wives lovingly and be considerate of their needs. It stipulates that women are free individuals and cannot be forced into the possession of any man. In terms of their finances, whatever a woman earns is hers to keep, and her husband cannot demand a share. Upon divorce, Islam teaches that women are free to keep whatever their husbands gave them during their marriage. In today’s world, when a marriage breaks down, protracted conflicts and bitter disputes often occur as men seek to recover what they have given to their wives. However, Islam does not permit this. 

Reiterating how women should be treated, chapter 16, verse 73 of the Holy Qur’an states that men should treat their wives with tenderness and cherish those who have given birth to their children. Moreover, in chapter 2, verse 188, Allah the Almighty states that a wife is a garment for her husband, and a husband is a garment for his wife. Meaning that a husband and wife are of equal standing and a means of protection for one another. They should manifest love and protect one another rather than being a source of hurt or sorrow for their partner. 

In the short time available, I have only mentioned a few of the rights of women established by Islam. Suffice to say that allegations that Islam denies women’s rights is baseless and contrary to the facts. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to suggest that the Islamic concept of women’s rights was genuinely revolutionary. And as I outlined earlier, many other allegations have been levelled at Islam, and all are without foundation. Certainly, it is wholly wrong for Islam to be brandished as a religion of violence or extremism or to claim that Islam’s moral values are lacking in any way. It is entirely unjust to say that Islam seeks to instigate disorder in society. On the contrary, it is the religion that seeks to build bridges amongst people of all faiths and beliefs. It is a religion that promotes peace, love and harmony. 

Indeed, the word Islam literally means peace and security. If some Muslims fail to fulfil the rights of others, it is their personal failure and not the fault of Islam or its teachings. Such people are guilty of violating their faith’s teachings.

With these words, I hope that any questions you may have had about Islam would have been suitably addressed. But, if any of you require further explanation, you can speak to our missionaries or our mission here and scholars later. 

At the end, I pray that the people of the world may come to recognise their Creator and may all mankind, irrespective of their religious beliefs, live together in peace and with a spirit of compassion and respect for one another, Ameen.

Finally, I take this opportunity to thank you all again for joining us today. Thank you very much.’

[Originally published in The Review of Religions)