Keynote Address delivered by Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmadaba, Khalifatul Masih V, Head of the worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community on 11th May 2013 at a special reception held at the Montage Hotel in Beverley Hills, California, USA.
The Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at and Fifth Khalifah, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmadaba delivered the keynote address at a special reception held in his honour at the Montage in Beverly Hills, California on 11th May 2013 during an historic tour of USA. More than 300 politicians, academics and community leaders attended, including the California Lieutenant Governor, mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti, and several members of the United States Congress.
During the event the Los Angeles City Council presented Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmadaba with the golden key to the city, declaring:
“This Key is reserved for only the most honoured people on Earth.”
In his keynote address Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmadaba said the American people had no reason to fear Islam because it was a religion that advocated peace, universal human rights and a respect for human dignity. A number of dignitaries also took to the stage to welcome Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmadaba to Los Angeles and to congratulate the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at on its continued commitment to developing peace and tolerance globally.
Gavin Newsom, California Lieutenant Governor said the presence of Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmadaba meant it was a “special day” and he thanked His Holiness for, “sowing the seeds of possibility to the entire world.” He also said the people of LA “do not tolerate diversity, we celebrate it”.
U.S. Congresswoman Julia Brownley praised His Holiness as, “One of the greatest ecumenical leaders of our time.”
U.S. Congresswoman Judy Chu added, “I am here because His Holiness stands against terrorists and war.”
U.S. Congresswoman Karen Bass said, “His Holiness is a transformative figure who has promoted peace and tolerance across the world.”
Lee Baca, Los Angeles County Sheriff said, “Your Holiness, you are a worldwide spiritual leader. You have made a huge impact in all parts of the world and so we are all drawn to you today for the sake of wisdom.”
The reception was preceded by both a Press Conference and a private meeting between Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmadaba and various dignitaries.
Keynote Address delivered by Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmadaba, Khalifatul Masih V, Head of the worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community
“I seek refuge with Allah from Satan the accursed. In the Name of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful.
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 thank all of our guests who have accepted our invitation to this event and who by coming here have enlightened the occasion. I also thank all those honourable guests who have spoken and praised the Community. I also thank all those who have shown a kind gesture and gave me gifts, especially the Key of this area. Thank you very much for this. Your kind approach towards an Islamic religious organisation is clearly demonstrated by your attendance and shows that you have a very tolerant attitude, and a keen desire to learn about Islam.
With these few words, I would like to turn towards an issue of great importance and for which there is an urgent need to deliberate and talk about in today’s world. What I wish to discuss is something that has created ‘Islamophobia’ in the Western and Non-Muslim world. There can be no doubt that this state of fear and anxiety has been fuelled by the acts of certain so-called Muslims or so-called Muslim groups. However, there is also no doubt that the acts of terrorism or extremism that they perpetrate have nothing whatsoever to do with the true teachings of Islam.
The very meaning of “Islam” is peace, security and giving a guarantee of protection against all forms of harm and evil. Indeed, the Holy Qur’an declares that this is the teaching that every single Prophet of God taught. Islam requires Muslims to abide by its teachings, and fundamental amongst them is that they must not only fulfil the rights owed to God Almighty, but just as importantly they must also fulfil the rights owed to God’s creation.
The Qur’an has shined a bright light on the beauty of the teachings of all Prophets by making it clear that they all drew mankind’s attention to fulfilling the rights owed both to God and to His creation. How then could it be possible that on the one hand, God has praised the qualities of all religions for urging mankind to fulfil the rights of God and of man, yet on the other hand, God could enjoin the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa, upon whom the Great Book was revealed, to not establish peace and security in the world? How could it be possible that they were instructed to cause destruction and to destroy the peace and security of the world? Certainly no wise person could ever accept this.
True justice and fairness requires that rather than judging Islam in a prejudiced manner or by making false assumptions based on hearsay, a person should study the religion and try to develop an understanding of its teachings before criticising it and its Founder. An informed decision about any issue can only be made once a person has studied its teachings in depth and strived to learn the truth. The truth or reality of any faith can only be learned from those who are practising or striving to follow its true and authentic teachings. Today, it is the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community which claims to follow the original and true teachings of Islam and is spreading it.
Upon hearing this, you may question how Ahmadis can claim that they alone understand the true teachings of Islam, given that a large proportion of Muslims and the Islamic clergy do not even consider Ahmadis to be Muslims. To answer this question, firstly and as I have already said, the Qur’an has clearly stated that Islam is a religion of peace that has nothing to do with terrorism or extremism. Secondly, in a grand prophecy made by the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa, he said that as had happened with all previous religions, a time would come when the state of Muslims would become ruined and corrupted. The Muslim scholars would spread false doctrines and ideologies and there would be great division and conflict within the Muslim world. Whilst the Holy Qur’an would remain preserved in its original state, false commentaries and interpretations would be made, which would lead Muslims away from its true teachings.
According to the prophecy, when such a desperate state of affairs came to pass, God Almighty would send a person as the Promised Messiah and Imam Mahdi to rejuvenate Islam. He would clarify the correct meanings of the Qur’an and would inform the world of the true Islam practiced by the Holy Prophetsa and his rightly guided successors 1400 years before. The Promised Messiah would guide the world towards living together in love, peace and harmony and would foster a spirit of mutual understanding and reconciliation. The Promised Messiah would do all of this in light of the shining example of the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa and the true teachings of the Qur’an. Furthermore, the Promised Messiah would bring an end to all forms of religious warfare. We, Ahmadi Muslims, believe that the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas of Qadian, was that promised person foretold by the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa. We believe he came as a beacon of light to convey the true and luminous teachings of Islam to the entire world.
With these words of introduction, I shall now briefly present some examples of the beautiful and peaceful characteristics of Islam. Before I give specific examples, I should mention that the person who followed the teachings of the Qur’an to the greatest extent possible was the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa. That is why one of his wives once said that his morals and his acts were a perfect mirror image and reflection of the teachings of the Qur’an. Consequently, if a person studies the Qur’an, then the life and character of the Holy Prophetsa will naturally become clear and apparent.
In the limited time available it is not possible for me to cover all aspects of the Qur’an, in fact it is not possible for me to cover even one aspect of its teachings. Nonetheless, I shall try to briefly explain one part of Islamic teaching, which has sadly become very misunderstood in the modern world, and has thus caused a great deal of fear to develop in the non-Muslim world. I refer to the teachings of the Qur’an and the Holy Prophetsa in relation to establishing peace in the world.
From its very first verse and chapter, the Qur’an gives a message of peace. The first verse of the Qur’an reads:
‘All praise belongs to Allah, Lord of all the worlds.’
This verse means that the God Who Muslims worship is the One God, Who sustains and nourishes everything and everyone without any distinction. He fulfils all of the needs of His Creation. In other words, He is the God of the Christians, the God of the Jews, the God of the Hindus and indeed He even gives nourishment and provides to those who do not believe in His existence. Whenever I reflect upon this particular point, I realise that I believe in that One God Who is the Lord of all nations, all races and all religions, and so it becomes impossible that I could ever develop any hatred in my heart for any nation, any race or any religion. In this context I would like to say that my sympathies and prayers are with the victims of the recent Boston attacks. We fully condemn that as well.
A Muslim has been commanded by God Almighty to pray five times a day and to recite the opening chapter of the Qur’an in each unit of prayer. And so, at the very least, a Muslim must repeat the prayer that His Lord is the ‘Lord of all of the Worlds’ at least thirty-two times each and every day. The entire world is God’s creation and He loves His creation dearly. Thus the reason we praise the ‘Lord of all the Worlds’ and repeat this prayer so many times each day is so that we realise and accept the beauty of all people and all nations, because they are all part of God’s creation. When the beauty and merit of something is accepted, then it is impossible to bear hatred or malice towards it, rather love and compassion shine forth. If this point is understood, then the question can not even arise in the heart of a true Muslim that he should bear enmity, ill-will or hatred towards any of God’s creation.
This is why the Holy Prophetsa, who had the greatest insight and understanding of God’s Word, used to recite the words ‘All Praise belongs to Allah, Lord of all the Worlds’ not just in his obligatory prayers, but also in the countless voluntary prayers he used to offer. More than anyone else, his heart was consumed by a love for all and was entirely free from any form of hatred or spite. The Holy Prophetsa had love for all of God’s creation, but most particularly for mankind, because humans have been deemed to be the best of God’s creation. Human beings have been given wisdom to differentiate between right and wrong and so there is reward for goodness and punishment for wrongdoing.
Due to the infinite love God instilled in the heart of the Holy Prophetsa for all people, he used to feel great anguish and despair for the state of mankind. He was constantly overwhelmed by a concern that due to wrongdoing, a large number of people were at grave risk of incurring the Wrath of God and His chastisement. The Holy Prophetsa used to spend night upon night beseeching his Lord and praying that those who had forgotten God were guided to the right path. He used to feel this burden with such intensity that Allah the Almighty has said in the Qur’an that the Holy Prophet would grieve himself to death due to his anguish for mankind. The Holy Prophetsa was held captive and enslaved in his heartfelt distress and desire to save the people of the world from destruction. And so it is a cause of great injustice that many people today try to stain his blessed character by saying that, God forbid, he brought teachings of cruelty, oppression and injustice.
Today, when we, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at, raise the slogan of ‘Love for All, Hatred for None’ as a means to establish global peace, we do so directly in fulfilment of the teachings of the Holy Qur’an and the practice of the Holy Prophetsa.
The Holy Prophetsa was so consumed by his desire to serve humanity and to fulfil the rights of mankind that throughout his life he stood ever ready for this cause. Even after becoming a Prophet of God, which was a huge responsibility and the greatest task imaginable, he said that if any person, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, called him at any time for the mission of serving humanity, then he would most certainly join them in their effort to serve mankind. This was his example, whereby irrespective of religion, if a person was in any kind of need or came from a deprived segment of society, he deemed it essential to come forward to help and assist him. Despite his great status as Islam’s Founder and a Prophet of God, he deemed it of utmost importance to work towards this pious objective with non-Muslims.
The question may well arise in some people’s minds that if the Holy Prophetsa was filled with so much love for humanity, then why is his name associated with warfare? Why did he take part in some wars and why did he send some armies into battle? To answer this question, we must assess whether an entirely pacifistic attitude, whereby war in all circumstances is wrong, is a correct doctrine, or alternatively whether in extreme circumstances fighting may be permitted? And, if in certain circumstances it is permissible, then what are the required conditions and to what extent is war allowed. What does Islam teach us about this?
As I explained earlier, when a Muslim praises the ‘Lord of all the Worlds,’ the beauty of God’s creation comes before him and he is compelled to praise and be attracted to it. When this beauty is acknowledged, one cannot harbour any ill-will or malice towards God’s creation. However there will always be some people who do not act upon this teaching and who are determined to spread disorder in society and the wider world. Islam has given very clear and detailed guidance about how to reform such people so that global peace and harmony can be maintained. Allah the Almighty says in the Holy Qur’an that
‘Had not Allah repelled some men by others, the earth would indeed be full of mischief, but Allah is Lord of Grace to all people.’ (Ch.2:V.252)
If we ponder over the meaning of this, we see that peace is undoubtedly the best state of affairs and so Allah has naturally instilled its attraction inside the human mind. However sometimes man goes against his natural tendencies and inclinations. His greed, envy, selfish interests and hatred overpower him and incite him to such an extent that he no longer has any concern for the rights of others. As a result, disorder develops in society, in a country and in the wider world. Such people move far away from peace. It becomes their objective to supress and violate the freedoms that society holds dear. They attack basic human rights such as freedom of conscience and freedom of thought by using force and severity. Indeed, such people also target religious freedom and seek to supress it. It was when such subjugating circumstances arose that Allah granted permission to the early Muslims to respond to force with force. This permission was granted only as a means to stop disorder, to stop cruelty and establish peace and harmony.
Allah has said in the Qur’an that He bestows His Grace and Blessings on all of the Worlds. He does not favour any nation or region. He does not desire peace for just a limited few; rather He wants to see the entire world filled with peace, harmony and compassion. In the sight of Allah, all of His creation is equal and the same. If God has enabled someone to become wealthy then he does not have the right to deprive a poor person of his rights. Similarly, if any nation or country becomes powerful and wealthy it does not have the right to usurp the rights of weaker and poorer countries. God Almighty has clearly said that such cruelties only create divisions and conflict. In the eyes of God, peace is a great and paramount objective, and so to establish it, if you occasionally have to sacrifice a smaller ideal then there is no harm, as it is for the greater good of mankind.
When permission for defensive war was first given in Islam, it was given with the reason that whilst Muslims truly desired peace, the disbelievers wished to destroy the peace. If permission to fight back had not been granted to the Muslims at that point, then all religions would have been placed in grave danger. Allah the Almighty says in the Holy Qur’an:
‘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 people 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.’ (Ch.22:Vs.40-41)
Thus, it is quite clear that Islam has made every effort to establish peace and every effort to protect all other religions. Even where defensive war was permitted for the Muslims, the Holy Prophetsa gave extremely strict rules of engagement to the Muslim armies which they were compelled to abide by. The Holy Prophetsa taught that during wars only those people who were directly engaged in the war could be fought. He gave strict instructions that no innocent person was ever to be attacked. No woman, child or elderly person was ever to be attacked. He taught that no religious leader or priest could be attacked in their place of worship. The Holy Prophetsa further taught that no person could be forced or compelled to convert to Islam. He taught that when Muslims were forced to fight for the cause of peace they must not create fear or terror amongst the members of the public nor should they be treated in a harsh or severe manner. He taught that prisoners of war should be treated with even greater care and attention than a person would pay to himself. He taught that buildings should not be targeted or destroyed and that trees should not be felled. Thus, even where conditions existed where war was justified, the Holy Prophetsa gave countless guidelines and instructions to his followers which were essential to follow. I have only mentioned very few. The Holy Prophetsa said very clearly that whosoever acted against these rules of engagement would not be fighting in accordance with the commands of Allah to establish peace, but rather would be fighting for their own personal interests or gain.
Those who criticise the Holy Prophet of Islamsa in today’s world should reflect upon whether these instructions are being followed in any of the wars taking place today. Is it not the case that today horrific weapons are being used, which are causing innocent people to be killed indiscriminately? Yet the Holy Prophetsa prohibited any form of collateral damage, to the extent that once during a war, a companion accidently killed a child. This caused great displeasure to the Holy Prophetsa who severely rebuked him for this act.
Another incident shows how much respect the Holy Prophetsa had for all of mankind. Once a funeral procession passed by and as a mark of respect he immediately stood up. Upon seeing this, a companion commented in surprise, “This is the funeral procession of a Jewish person.” Hearing this, the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa said, “Was he not a human? Respect for all humans is obligatory”. These are the characteristics and qualities which develop mutual respect in society and help develop peace.
Today’s world is ever-increasing in its criticism of Islam and its Founder, despite the fact that Islam’s teachings and the Holy Prophet’s every act were filled with love for humanity and a desire to establish peace in the world. Sadly, today’s world does not see or understand what is really happening today. As I have already said, the evil acts conducted by extremists claiming to be Muslims have nothing to do with the real teachings of Islam. If there is oppression in Muslim countries or the rights of the public are being usurped then that too is completely contrary to the teachings of Islam. The Holy Prophetsa said that such cruelties were based only on vested interests and certainly were not for the sake of God. Bearing all of this in mind, the urgent need of the time is that instead of thinking ill or holding misconceptions about Islam, all those who desire peace should join together and discuss how cruel and unjust elements can be stopped. Defaming or unjustly attacking Islam is not the right way. Leaving aside certain Muslim countries and groups, there are also non-Muslims who are conducting acts through which innocent people, women and children are losing their lives on the basis of ‘establishing peace.’
The direction the world is moving in suggests that the dark shadow of war is being cast over a very large part of the globe. If war breaks out then countless innocent women, children and elderly people will all die. The destruction will be greater than was witnessed in the previous two World Wars, and I say this knowing full well that during the Second World War, tens of millions of people lost their lives. The world’s population is now far greater and there has also been a vast increase in both the number of weapons of mass destruction and the countries that have developed a thirst for war. Under these circumstances, destruction will also be manifold.
In light of all of this, it is imperative that the world and particularly the major powers reflect upon the efforts that are required to save the world from a horrific destruction. Fear of Islam or attempts to defame it will not achieve anything nor lead to peace and reconciliation. Instead, the key to peace is to stop cruelty and oppression, wherever it occurs, with justice and equality. Only when this principle is followed will global peace develop. This will only happen when the people of the world come to recognise their Creator. It is my ardent hope and prayer that the entire world urgently comes to understand the needs of the time before it is too late – Ameen.
At the end I would like to once again thank all of our guests who have taken the time and effort to come and attend this event. May Allah bless you all. Thank you very much.”