Interest Persecution

Removing Some Common Misunderstandings about Islam

Islam teaches that everyone is free to change his faith and Muslims are instructed to defend places of worship of all religions – thus Islam does not violate the rights of anyone.

Delivered by Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih V, Head of the Worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim community (may Allah strengthen his hand) on 15th August, 2009 in Germany

Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih  V, Head of the Worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim  community
Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih V, Head of the Worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim community

Assalamu Alaikum Warahmatullah – peace and blessings of Allah be upon you.

Today I am once again addressing my German friends who are not members of the Community but are present due to their relations with members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community. (Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih V asks: can I know the number of how many Germans there are here? National President Ahmadiyya Muslim community Germany replies: around 80% sitting here are Germans. Hudhur continues). Moreover, I believe that due to the good nature that God has placed in your hearts, you have a desire to try and understand the beliefs and teachings of Islam as seen by the Ahmadiyya community.

Religion is no doubt a matter of personal choice, and this should indeed be the underlying principle of religion, because one cannot convert anyone to a religion by force. And, neither can force be used to make a person believe in the existence of God. This is why the Holy Qur’an very clearly states that ‘there should be no compulsion in religion’
(Ch.2:V.257).

Most of all I am grateful to you that as you consider the interests of mankind and human values foremost, you have joined us here today, even though in today’s world there is so much propaganda about Muslims.

Some call them extremists; others call them terrorists; and some say that Muslims violate the rights of others. Sometimes it is alleged that the teachings of Islam deprive women of their due rights. Another common allegation is that Muslims are disloyal to their own country and conspire against their own governments.

Keeping all of these matters in view, the concept has taken firm root in some quarters that if Muslims gain power the world will become a symbol of evil and cruelty. Despite hearing all these horrific views, which are nothing but an attempt to defame Islam, the fact that you have come here proves that you seek truth.

In this short time I cannot describe the teachings of Islam in full, but I will mention some points in brief from which you will at least realise that the real teachings of Islam are not as commonly understood. Also, I will address what ought to be the conduct of a true Muslim in light of the picture painted by the Ahmadiyya Muslim community.

As I have said the biggest allegation against Islam is that it teaches extremism, and uses force to make people Muslim. If someone is subjugated and forced to become a Muslim, then remember that force can control the body but not the heart. If we look at the period after the Holy Prophet Muhammad(saw) made his claim to prophethood, he and his followers were treated by the disbelievers of Makkah in the same way that all previous prophets and their followers had been treated.

His followers in Makkah were weak and poor, even though a few of them were noble people who belonged to the highly respected families of Makkah. However, they were not deemed as leaders of their respective tribes. After accepting Islam they had to put up with the animosity of their tribal leaders. Having accepted Islam, Abu Bakr(ra), who was a noble person of the Quraish, the highly respected family of Makkah, endured so much persecution that he had no choice but to migrate from Makkah. When a leader of the Quraish saw that he was preparing to leave, he tried to stop Abu Bakr(ra), and said to him that you possess every good quality and a person like you should remain amongst us. Furthermore, he offered Abu Bakr(ra) his protection. As a result, Abu Bakr(ra) remained in Makkah. Nonetheless, because he acted in accordance with the teachings of Islam, he became a target of fresh persecution.

Many slaves also accepted Islam and they too were tortured. Yet they neither abandoned their worship of the One God nor did they choose anything other than to remain servants of the Holy Prophet(saw). They were made to lie on hot burning sand and burning coal, and men and women were barbarically killed. For two and half years, the Holy Prophet(saw) and his followers were laid under siege and placed under a boycott in a valley, so much so that they had to endure famine for many days.

Later, when they migrated to Madinah, a town many miles north of Makkah, there too the disbelievers did not leave them at peace. They wanted to annihilate them by fighting and waging war. It was then that Allah permitted the Muslims to defend themselves because the cruelty had transgressed all bounds. And permission was granted on the basis that if they did not respond firmly, then not only would Islam be destroyed, but no religion would be safe.

The cruel people would have a free hand to attack all places of worship, whether they belonged to Christians, Jews or people of any other religion. Therefore, the Muslims were not only commanded to defend their own faith, but in order to protect all other faiths, they had to fight back. It is all mentioned in Chapter 22, Verses 40 to 41.

What was the condition of the Muslims when they were asked to repel? History bears testimony, and this is accepted by the non-Muslims as well, that compared to the large army of the opponents there were only around 300 Muslims. These Muslims were extremely ill-equipped. They had only a small number of horses and camels and a few wooden swords, whereas the opponents were fully armed. But despite their poor condition Allah’s support was with the Muslims and so they were victorious over the disbelievers.
The purpose of drawing attention to this state of affairs is that had people been made to accept Islam by force, then the Muslims would not have endured the cruelty in Makkah, nor would they have confronted a fully armed force of disbelievers after arriving in Madinah. The passion for their faith gave them the strength to endure all the cruelty and defend themselves. Therefore, whoever accepted Islam did so with his heart, and not due to force.

Even when, according to our view, the institution of Khalifat no longer prevailed in its correct form, Islamic governments continued to discharge the due rights of the non-Muslims. In contrast, when as a consequence of their bad deeds, I mean the bad deeds of the Muslims, and weaknesses, the Muslims lost power in Spain, what grave cruelties did the Christian rulers not commit? They killed and looted and forced the Muslims to change their religion. This is no hidden fact but is well-documented in history. Despite this we never say that Christianity teaches cruelty. What occurred was the fault of that Christian ruler who murdered in the name of God. The Christian teaching is that of Jesus Christ, peace be upon him, who taught that whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also [Matthew, 5:39)].

Now let us observe what the Qur’an teaches about how to propagate Islam, whether by force or by kindness. It says in Chapter 2, verse 257:

There should be no compulsion in religion. Surely, right has become distinct from wrong; so whosoever refused to be led by those who transgress, and believes in Allah, has surely grasped a strong handle which knows no breaking. And Allah is All-Hearing, All Knowing.

The verse I have quoted makes it clear that there should be no compulsion in religion. It states that your only task is to proclaim that in fulfilment of the prophecies of the past prophets, the prophet for the latter days has come with a complete and perfect teaching. The condition of those people, who abstain from following Satan and act on God’s teachings, will be as though they have grasped hold of a strong handle that can not be broken, and have prevented themselves from being drowned in the storms of darkness. Then in Chapter 25, verse 58, the Qur’an says:

Say, I ask of you no recompense for it, save that whoso chooses may take a way unto his Lord.

So every person is free to choose the path to His Creator. Then in Chapter 18, verse 30 the Qur’an states:

And say, ‘It is the truth from your Lord; wherefore let him who will, believe, and let him who will, disbelieve. Verily, We have prepared for the wrongdoers a fire whose flaming canopy shall enclose them. And if they cry for help, they will be helped with water like molten lead which will burn the faces. How dreadful the drink, and how evil is the Fire as a resting place!

By proclaiming the truth, the choice has been left to the discretion of people, and it is up to God, not man, to punish disbelief. The Holy Prophet(saw) of Islam was extremely anxious in his heart that the world should recognise its Creator and he remained restless in this cause. Due to this restless-ness, God Almighty states in Chapter 28, Verse 57:

Surely thou wilt not be able to guide all whom thou lovest; but Allah guides whomsoever He pleases; and He knows best those who would accept guidance.

No doubt Muslims have been given the responsibility to spread the message of Islam, but it is the work of Allah to guide. Therefore, how can it be alleged about a faith, whose teaching is as I have described, that it uses force to make people submit?

I shall now describe the outstanding example of the Holy Prophet(saw) and his Successors. After migration to Madinah, despite the establishment of an Islamic Government there, pacts were drawn up with Jews and people of other faiths so that they could spend their lives in accordance with their own respective laws and traditions.

It was not said that he who becomes Muslim will not be harmed. History bears witness that the Holy Prophet(saw) said that there would be no pre-conditions attached to this amnesty. The Holy Prophet(saw) gave a free hand to everybody. It was not only that the Muslims will not be harmed but everyone will be respected and safeguarded. He even forgave his worst enemy and the son of that extreme opponent, Ikramah, even though he had not accepted Islam. It all happened after he conquered Makkah. Later, having seen the Holy Prophet’s(saw) kind treatment, even Ikramah became a Muslim and he spent his wealth without hesitation for the sake of Islam.

And when after accepting Islam, Ikramah defended Islam, he went fearlessly into the ranks of the enemy and was martyred. Can those who rise to such standards have been converted by force, or were they forced by their hearts?

As for the allegation of Islam violating the rights of others, this is an entirely baseless accusation. I have just explained the right of freedom of worship. Permission to fight was given because otherwise the disbelievers would try to violate the freedom of faith.

No one has protected human rights as much as Islam. In his Farewell Sermon, the Holy Prophet(saw) stated that an Arab is not superior to a non-Arab, nor is a non-Arab superior to an Arab; neither is a white person superior to a black, nor is a black superior to a white; all people are equal as humans. The Qur’an says in Chapter 49, verse 14:

O mankind, We have created you from a male and a female; and We have made you into tribes and sub-tribes that you may recognise one another. Verily, the most honourable among you, in the sight of Allah, is he who is the most righteous among you. Surely, Allah is All-knowing, All-Aware.

If Islam gives preference to anything then it is to righteousness. And what is righteousness? It is maintaining a fear of God and discharging the rights of worship due to God Almighty and discharging the rights owed to His Creation. It is essential that both of these rights are discharged. If one of these is being disregarded, then in the sight of God other acts are meaningless. However much one worships God, if one does not discharge the rights due to others, he is not righteous.

Therefore, where the Ahmadiyya Muslim community emphasises the building of mosques for the worship of God, it also opens schools and hospitals to serve mankind. We try to provide electricity and water to the poorer countries, irrespective of race, colour, creed and religion.

We provide scholarships to talented students to attend university. This isthe real service of mankind.

If we look at the Arabs 1500 years ago we realise that Islam actually eradicated slavery, because prior to its advent slavery was prevalent everywhere. The Holy Qur’an teaches us in chapter 90, verses 14-17:

It is the freeing of a slave. Or feeding in a day of hunger, an orphan near of kin, or a poor man lying in the dust.

Therefore, it has been made incumbent upon Muslims to free slaves; to help the helpless; to feed the hungry and to look after those who are orphaned. This is why in various places, where the rectification of weaknesses and mistakes are mentioned, we are invariably told to free the slaves. Again, in his Farewell Sermon, the Holy Prophet(saw) advised his followers to look after the slaves, to feed them with the food that the owners eat themselves, and to clothe them with the clothes that they wear themselves.

If we put this into the context of the Arabs of that time, slaves were considered worse than animals. So, this truly was a great revolution and a great teaching that the Holy Prophet gave to his followers. The subsequent treatment of the Africans, who were forcibly taken to Europe and America as slaves, is well known. So how can opponents say that Islam violated the rights of mankind? The fortresses on the coasts of West Africa relate this black history of slavery, which was a dreadful time, when human beings were traded like animals.

Will Christianity be blamed for this? No! Those were the acts of the materialistic people of that time.

Today, in accordance with the teachings of Islam, the Ahmadiyya Muslim community is pressed in the service of mankind in disaster zones. We are running orphanages and feeding the hungry. And unlike worldly governments we do not earmark a large part of our budget for our own staff, but spend each and every cent in delivering aid. The volunteers sometimes pay their own fares. Humanity First, an affiliated charity, is rendering its services in this regard and even German Ahmadis are serving in Africa. This is how to identify and care for human values and to value each person as a human being.

As far as the rights of women are concerned we should remember the time of the advent of the Holy Prophet(saw). At that time women had no rights. In fact they were considered even lower than slaves. Upon the death of her husband a woman was distributed as part of the inheritance in favour of her children. In some tribes if a girl was born, the father would be saddened and sometimes the girl would be buried alive. At that time, Islam restored the status and dignity of a woman. The Holy Prophet(saw) said that a person in whose home three daughters are born, whom he educates and brings up in an excellent manner, would enter heaven.

Islam gave women the right to inherit. And it was also declared that a mother can be the means to take her children to heaven. There is the Heaven of the Hereafter on one hand, and the other is the Heaven on earth that is attained by providing worldly and spiritual training. The Holy Qur’an instructs us to teach and bring up the young in a kind way. We are admonished to care for a woman’s feelings.

Furthermore, in the context of freedom of women, it is often alleged that by prescribing the veil, women’s freedom has been restrained. The teaching of the veil is for maintaining a woman’s respect and dignity. It is to protect her sanctity. If a Muslim woman observes the veil for the sake of her faith and it is important to her, then to oblige her to remove it, is to interfere with her religious freedom. Whenever governments in the West issue statements against the veil or take steps in this regard, a reaction by Muslim women is always provoked.

In an educated society true religious freedom is that there should be no interference, restric-tion or imposition of laws upon the fundamental teachings of a reli-gion. This freedom and tolerance is required to establish peace in today’s society.

As far as the issue of being dis-loyal to one’s country is concerned, a true Muslim can never even think of disloyalty. Love and loyalty towards one’s country is an integral part of a Muslim’s faith, and thus this accusation against Islam is made without any basis.

I would like to expand upon one point here. I have mentioned and discussed the freedom of slaves. Although in this age slaves are not shackled as they were in the past, but a different kind of slavery continues to exist even today. And that is the slavery of the ordinary people within a country even here in the Western world as well, and of the poor nations of course. This is the slavery of the current financial system, in which a person borrows money for some reason and then spends the rest of his life paying interest on the debt. As a consequence, his children are often burdened by debt.

This slavery is presented as a sugar-coated pill and people willingly accept it. For the sake of one’s own convenience a person borrows from others but continues to sink in his loan, because the system of interest does not allow a person to emerge with his freedom. This is why Islam has forbidden interest and gives the analogy of Satan smiting one with insanity. The truth of the matter is that a person who borrows without differentiating between good and evil continues to be drawn downwards into quicksand. The financial centres continue to enslave him and sometimes a person loses all his property. During the current credit crunch we have seen many examples of this.

At a collective level poorer nations are given loans by the richer countries in the name of develop-ment aid. They too have been made slaves, as they are not in a position to repay their loans and so are compelled to reschedule their debts. Even if they are given respite, conditions are attached. The standards of justice are not fulfilled as they should be.

To an extent, these poor nations are shooting themselves in the foot by borrowing and by not using the money honestly. As a conse-quence, the entire nation is enslaved. The countries that grant them the loans try to take financial, political and social advantages instead of focusing on progress and development. This is how countries are enslaved.

In conclusion, I would like to say that the teachings of Islam have nothing to do with the cause of the unrest in the world, although some so-called Muslims with vested interests have certainly played a role. Their actions are not remotely connected to Islam. Therefore, if the wealthy nations and superpowers really want to establish peace on the basis of justice, then instead of creating blocs and alliances, they should unite as one and supervise the poor countries, and help them to stand on their own feet. This is the only way that will guarantee peace in the world with goodwill.

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the guests who have participated and listened to me. Thank you.