Breaking the Myth that Islam Promotes Extremism
On the 2nd Day of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Germany’s Annual Convention (Jalsa Salana) on 2nd June 2012, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad(aba), Khalifatul Masih V, Fifth Successor to the Promised Messiah(as) and Head of the worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, delivered an address to an audience of over 600 non-Ahmadi guests. Around 430 of the guests were from Germany, whilst the remaining guests consisted of approximately: 70 guests from Bulgaria, 40 guests from Macedonia, 20 guests from Albania, Kosovo, Bosnia and Montenegro, 50 guests from France, Iran, Afghanistan, Tunis, Morocco, Spain, Poland, Ghana, Italy and Syria, 8 guest from Hungary, 3 guests from Iceland and 2 guests from Malta. The guests included people from various professions and all walks of life including doctors, teachers, lawyers, professors, politicians, representatives of churches as well as ordinary citizens. We present below the transcript of the address delivered by Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad(aba).
After reciting Tashhahud, Ta’awwudh and Bismillah, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih V(aba) said:
“Today, as in previous years, I would like to welcome all of our non-Ahmadi guests who have come to attend this event at the Annual Convention of our Community, here in Germany. I would like to express my gratitude and appreciation to all of you who have enlightened today’s event with your presence, which has been organised for our non-Ahmadi friends. Your attendance demonstrates your interest in religion. This is particularly commendable given that in today’s world fewer and fewer people are interested in religion. Although Germany is known as a Christian nation in which the vast majority of the population class themselves as Christians, yet according to certain statistics, only around 13% of people regularly attend church, or practically follow the religion. In fact, even this figure is gradually declining, and so in reality, there is very little attachment to religion. Indeed, in today’s world we find that there is a large population of people who reject the existence of God altogether. In light of such circumstances, your participation at a purely religious function and your effort to learn about Islam proves not only your interest in religion, but also demonstrates your tolerance and open-mindedness. With these few words, I would now like to proceed with the main part of my speech and speak to you about the true teachings of Islam.
As you would most likely have already heard from your Ahmadi friends we, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, are a sect of Islam and it is our belief that with the passage of time decline begins to set in all religions, even though they were originally established by a prophet of God. Thus, the majority of followers of the religion begin to move away from its real and original teachings. Upon observing such moral decline, as a means to halt this period of darkness and to bring light to the world, it is the practice of God Almighty to send His chosen representative to guide mankind. The chosen one is sent by God to either bring a new and improved teaching or to re-establish or rejuvenate the original teaching brought by a previous Prophet. One prime example of this was witnessed when Prophet Jesus(as) was sent by God Almighty around 1400 years after the era of Prophet Moses(as). Jesus(as) came and presented the real and pristine teachings that Moses(as) had brought and thus guide those who had strayed.
Therefore, this has always been the Divine Practice and God Almighty has not set a seal on it, or brought this process to an end. In fact, we believe that when God Almighty deemed that mankind had progressed to such a level where it was ready to accept and comprehend a perfect and complete teaching, then at that time, He sent the Holy Prophet Muhammad(saw) with a Perfect Law in the shape of the Holy Qur’an. Indeed, the Qur’an itself states that through its teachings religion had finally achieved perfection and had reached its pinnacle. In Chapter 15, Verse 10 of the Qur’an, Allah the Almighty also has stated that as He Himself revealed the Qur’an as a Book of Guidance, thus He Himself would forever be its Guardian and Protector. Therefore, we find that the text of the Holy Qur’an today is exactly the same as it was 1400 hundred years ago. It remains the very same text that was revealed to the Holy Prophet Muhammad(saw). The Qur’an remains the true Word of God because whenever any portion of the Holy Qur’an was revealed to him, the Holy Prophet(saw) would recite it to his Companions who then used to memorise it perfectly and write it down in the exact same way as it was revealed.
Never has any scholar, reformer or holy person ever dared or desired to make any alteration to the original text. Yet unfortunately, there are some critics who make allegations questioning the Qur’an’s authenticity. Just very recently a book has been written on this issue in which the author has claimed that it was only in 1924 when Muslims came together and agreed upon a ‘final version’ of the Qur’an. However, this is entirely wrong and is merely false propaganda against Islam and the Holy Qur’an. There are many old and well-established libraries in different parts of the world where you can find copies of the Holy Qur’an from hundreds of years ago. If you compare them to today’s version of the Qur’an, you will find that not even a single dot or letter has been changed or is in any way different. With regards to the Qur’an being in its original form, even many Orientalists and historians have written about this subject and have accepted this fact openly. Thus, there is no doubt the Holy Qur’an remains exactly as it ever was, and this is a great distinction which it holds. Where Allah has promised to be the Guardian of the Qur’an, it means that the true and real teachings within it will always prevail and be protected. This means that if ever a time comes, where people distort the teachings and interpretations of the Holy Qur’an and present them wrongly and out of context, then Allah will take action and send his Representative to enlighten the world as to the real and beautiful teachings and meanings of the Qur’an.
As I have already mentioned, we believe that with the passing of time, every religion begins to decline and its follower stray from the original teachings. In the very same way, the Holy Prophet Muhammad(saw) prophesised the decline in the future of Islam. He said that a time would come when even though so-called Muslim scholars or clerics would exist, however in reality their state would be impure and wholly opposed to the true teachings of Islam. Such people would give far greater precedence to their worldly and materialistic desires, rather than to the religion. The Holy Prophet(saw) said that at such a time, though the words and text of the Qur’an would remain the same, yet very few people would understand it and practically implement its true teachings. Mosques would no longer fulfil their true objective, which is the pure worship of God. The Holy Prophet(saw) thus prophesised that when such circumstances would arise, then Allah would send a Messiah of Muhammad(saw), just as he had sent the Messiah of Moses(as). The Promised Messiah who was destined to come and reform the followers of the Holy Prophet Muhammad(saw) would, on the one hand, shine a light upon true Islam to the non-Muslims, but on the other hand, he would also enlighten the Muslims themselves towards the real teachings of their religion. The Promised Messiah(as) would explain the true teachings and meanings of the Holy Qur’an and would strive to unite all the fragmented Islamic sects together as one. In this way, his purpose would be to implement true Islam so that the world could become a haven of peace, love and compassion.
As I have already said, a time came when Allah deemed that mankind had progressed to such a level where it could comprehend and act upon a complete message and teaching. Mankind had reached its final stage of development. As a result, there was no longer a need for prophets to be sent only to reform the people of certain countries or certain regions. Instead, Allah deemed that a time had come for a prophet to be sent with a perfect teaching that would prove to be universal and everlasting. Therefore, Allah the Almighty sent the Holy Prophet Muhammad(saw) as a Messenger for the entire world and revealed the Holy Qur’an to him. Addressing the Holy Prophet(saw) as his status as a universal Prophet, Allah says:
‘Say, ‘O mankind! Truly I am a Messenger to you all from Allah…’ (Ch.7:V.159)
Then in another verse Allah states:
‘We have sent thee not, but as a mercy and compassion for all people.’ (Ch.21:V.108)
Where a person has been sent as a source of mercy for all people, then it is quite obvious that neither he nor his true followers could ever prove to be a means of harm and suffering for anyone in the world. In this context, a question that is sometimes raised against Islam is that if the Holy Prophet(saw) really was a ‘mercy for all mankind’ and Islam really does not teach extremism, then why do we find that wars were fought in both early Islam and also other periods of its history? And why, if Islam teaches peace, do we find that in today’s world so-called Muslim terrorist and extremist groups are becoming ever more cruel, yet they continue to justify their ideology and acts on the teachings of Islam and the Holy Qur’an? In order to answer these questions it is essential that we understand and learn about the history of early Islam. We should not use the testimony of biased and unjust historians who appeared hundreds of years after the life of the Holy Prophet(saw); instead we should analyse and refer to the books of such Muslim historians who have utilised original and authentic sources as the basis of their works. Indeed, the narrations relating to early Islam of such writers have been supported and verified by fair-minded and just writers who came a long time after them. Therefore, to understand the true circumstances of early Islam, it is essential to consult the most authentic and genuine sources of its history.
When such sources are viewed then we find that in the early period of Islam, many Muslims were savagely and brutally beaten, persecuted and oppressed due to their faith, by the disbelievers. Men, women and children all suffered such horrific cruelties. For example, some Muslims were made to lie down on burning hot coals, whilst others were made to lie upon boiling hot sand as stones were placed on their bodies. Then there were some Muslims who had their legs ripped apart, and so their bodies were literally broken into two pieces. For two and a half years the Holy Prophet(saw), his family and all his Companions were forced to remain in a valley, where they were boycotted and shunned from society. Thus they had no access to food, water and provisions. For days on end they would remain starving and thirsty. The Muslim children would endlessly cry in anguish and despair. Yet the disbelievers showed no mercy or compassion whatsoever. Upon having to endure such cruelties and deprivation, the Muslims would sometimes request permission from the Holy Prophet(saw) to stand up and defend themselves with force, yet on each occasion the Holy Prophet(saw) would deny permission, and would instead counsel them towards patience. It is a natural state that when a person reaches a point where he knows that no matter what he is likely to die, he would in his state of desperation prefer to try and fight and kill the opposition before dying. Yet, as I said, on each occasion the Holy Prophet(saw) instructed his followers to show restraint and patience despite the extreme circumstances that they faced. He counselled patience because he said that God Almighty had not permitted him to fight back against the opponents of Islam. A well-known Italian Orientalist, Laura Veccia Vaglieri, wrote about this very state of affairs and attested that:
“Mohammed [saw], the patient victim of the sarcasm and persecution of the Quraish.”
After years of such cruel oppression and deprivation, a large party of Muslims migrated from Makkah. Then after some more time the Holy Prophet(saw) himself migrated with his Companions to the city of Madinah. Yet the disbelievers of Makkah did not allow the Muslims to live in peace even after migration. Around two years later, the disbelievers proceeded to Madinah and launched a vicious attack against the Muslims. Their only intention was to wipe out Islam and all of the Muslims once and for all. The army of the disbelievers was very large and strong and they came with huge stocks of weaponry and artillery. In comparison, there were only around 300 Muslims and their resources and weaponry were equivalent to virtually nothing. However, in spite of the huge gulf in resources, it was at that very time that Allah commanded the Muslims for the very first time to stand up and defend themselves from the enmity and cruelty of the opponents. This permission is referred to in the Holy Qur’an in Chapter 22, Verses 40-41; it 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. And Allah will surely help one who helps Him. Allah is indeed Powerful, Mighty.’
Therefore, we clearly find that when the Muslims were finally granted permission to defend themselves against the opponents, it was given due to the existence of certain extreme circumstances, yet it was given with certain conditions attached that is evident from the verses I have just quoted. Firstly, Allah stated that the cruelty had gone beyond all limits and the Muslims had been removed from their homes. They were not left in peace even after migration and instead the opponents mercilessly followed them in an effort to try and eliminate them altogether. The only ‘crime’ committed by the oppressed Muslims was that they had proclaimed the belief in the One God and worshiped him. Furthermore, these verses make it clear that permission was not only granted to protect the Muslims, but so that the followers of all religions were protected and safeguarded.
History bears witness to the fact that the Four Rightly Guided Successors of the Holy Prophet(saw) implemented his true teachings and always kept the teachings of the Holy Qur’an as their guiding principle, during their respective periods of Khilafat. None of them ever instigated a single war and only ever fought in self-defence. In terms of the later wars that were fought by Muslim kings and rulers, in reality very few were religious wars, but in fact they were wars based on political differences and ambitions. In today’s world we again find that political wars are taking place rather than religious warfare. There is no doubt that terrorist and extremist groups, who associate themselves with Islam in order to justify their hateful acts, are on the increase. Furthermore, in certain Muslim majority countries we find that disorder and disturbances are on the increase. Then there are certain Muslim governments whose approaches and attitudes are unjust. Yet even if all of these groups try to align themselves with Islam, the truth is that none of them have any link with the true teachings of the religion.
As I have said, it is our belief that with the passage of time weaknesses and innovations develop in all religions, either in terms of its teachings or in terms of the acts of the followers. Such weaknesses and wrong practices certainly spread amongst the Muslims as well. That is why Allah the Almighty sent the Promised Messiah to guide the world. We Ahmadi Muslims believe that the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad(as) of Qadian, was that very Messiah, who was sent by Allah to guide the entire world towards the true teachings of Islam. Upon his advent the Promised Messiah(as) refuted all allegations levelled against Islam and presented its real and beautiful teachings. Alongside this he also openly proclaimed to the Muslims that he had been sent as the Messiah and Mahdi in fulfilment of the grand prophecy made by the Holy Prophet Muhammad(saw). Thus, he said that he should be accepted so that he could guide them towards the true teachings of Islam.
The Promised Messiah(as) openly outlined the reasons why he had been commissioned by Allah. First of all he said he had been sent to bring mankind closer to Allah, so that people could become truly grateful to God for the countless favours He had granted them due to His Compassion and Mercy. He repeatedly counselled them that the only way to become closer to Allah was to fulfil the rights of worship that are owed to Allah. The Promised Messiah(as) also announced that the era of religious warfare had come to an end because the opponents of Islam were no longer engaged in physical warfare against the Muslims. Instead, in this era, rather than using swords, the opponents of Islam utilised the various means of communication available to spread lies and false propaganda in an effort to end Islam. Therefore, he said, it was the duty of every Muslim to convey the true and exemplary teachings of Islam to the entire world. This was the way to rebut the modern day opponents of Islam. He said that only Muslims who associated themselves with him could manifest the true beauty of Islam to the world.
Another key objective of the Promised Messiah(as) was that he had been sent to make mankind aware of its responsibilities towards each other and the essential need to fulfil each other’s due rights, because in reality it is only when each other’s due rights are fulfilled, that peace can be established in the society, and indeed in the wider world. All of these objectives and teachings of the Promised Messiah(as) were exactly due to the teachings of the Holy Qur’an. This is the real Jihad, which requires an inner struggle by man to reform himself, to establish a relationship with God and to fulfil the rights of his fellow men. This is the guidance and teaching that was propagated by the Promised Messiah. It is these very teachings that every member of our Community, from the outset until today, has lived by and promoted. Ahmadi Muslims will, God Willing, always continue to spread these teachings. Therefore, if anyone desires to see the true model and example of Islam’s teachings, then they should look towards the Ahmadiyya Community.
The Holy Qur’an is filled from cover to cover with guidance and within it there are hundreds of commands that have been given. The vast majority relate to either to the rights of God’s worship, the rights due to His Creation and the means for establishing an atmosphere of peace, love and reconciliation. As I stated earlier, where permission for war was granted, it was limited to certain extreme conditions and its purpose was given only for self-defence and in order to establish long-term peace. Furthermore, Islam very clearly teaches that as soon as peace is established, the party who has been defeated should not be taken advantage of or be subjugated, and nor should their resources be ceased or unjustly taken over. Another command given for the establishment of peace of society is given in Chapter 49, Verse 13 of the Holy Qur’an where it is stated that believers should avoid suspicions, because certain suspicions result in sin. The verse further states that one should not spy on another or go out of his way to try and uncover the faults of others. On the surface this may seem like a small or insignificant point. However, if this teaching is properly followed, then it will lead to peace being established throughout society, both on a small scale and at a wider level.
In terms of a smaller scale, we find that domestic households are the building bricks for society. However, if we assess today’s society, it is quite clear that unfortunately, throughout the world, marriages are breaking down in large numbers. The fundamental reason for this is that suspicions often develop between husbands and wives, or backbiting occurs. Then, on a wider and much larger scale, we find that suspicions and thinking ill of others is the primary reason why relationships between different groups or nations break down. Another issue that the Qur’an constantly draws attention towards is fulfilling the rights of one another. Thus, in Chapter 83, Verses 2-4, Allah has stated that those who usurp the rights of others and who are unjust in their dealings, will be cursed and destroyed. This refers to such people who, when they take things for themselves, make sure the scales are fully tipped in their favour and take full measure, yet when they give to others, they desist from acting fairly and give less than what it is due. Thus, in these few lines, the Holy Qur’an has commanded against wrongdoing and cruelty and has also laid the foundation for the protection of life, honour and the dignity of all people. For example, where a person has been persecuted or treated unfairly, then in reaction it is quite possible that he will seek revenge or retribution. However, in doing so he could easily exceed the limits of proportionality and justice and go to extreme lengths to seek revenge. Therefore, Allah has commanded that to prevent such wrongdoing the rights of others must never be usurped, because the consequences are potentially extremely grave and dangerous. To prevent matters being blown out of proportion the Qur’an has commanded that all parties must remain equitable and proportionate in their dealings. They must give and take in equal measure. Through these teachings the rights of the poor and deprived are safeguarded by the Qur’an, because this injunction requires justice and fairness towards all. If such principles are observed then it will lead to the deprived segments of society being able to stand upon their own two feet, to gain self-respect and to live with dignity.
The Companions of the Holy Prophet Muhammad(saw) practically demonstrated these teachings in their acts and behaviour. For example, we find one narration where a Muslim, at the time of the Holy Prophet(saw), who wanted to sell his horse, valued it at 200 dinars. However, when another Muslim came to purchase it, he said that the fee demanded was less than the real value and its value was exactly 500 dinars; so that sum show be taken from him. Yet the owner did not seek to take advantage of this offer, but repeated that his value was only 200 dinars. Thus, their quarrel was not due to their desire to protect their own rights at the expense of others, but in complete opposite, they were willing to forgo their own interests so that the rights of others could be fully protected. It is quite certain that such examples of honesty and integrity are rarely, if ever, found in today’s world. Indeed, quite the contrary – for example, in today’s business word, if the total cost of something is 10 euros, then the owner will try to package and present it in such an appealing manner and advertise it in such a way, that he would try and sell it for 50 euros. In this way people are not given true value and so the requirements of justice are not fulfilled.
In terms of the real estate market, we find in the recent past truly unrealistic and exaggerated valuations were levied across the board. Due to this house prices rocketed. Yet, in order to support these unrealistic valuations, for many years banks offered loans to purchasers in order to increase their profits; but such a false economy could not be sustained in the long-term. Thus, when the financial crisis emerged a few years ago, homeowners who thought they owned their properties were left with the bitter realisation that their homes were not actually theirs. Thousands upon thousands of homes were repossessed by banks or lenders. In this way, many businessmen and homeowners lost their properties. Their dignity and wealth were all wiped away in an instant. Furthermore, we find that as a result of the financial crisis in Europe, a number of countries became riddled with insurmountable debt and were effectively bankrupted. The main reason for this state of affairs was the false economy that had been based on unrealistic valuations and exaggerated prices. A number of economists have studied the crisis of the past few years and have reached the conclusion that the same exact conditions have arisen today that existed in 1932. It was due to those particular circumstances that the Second World War broke out. We must all realise, therefore, that today’s economic and business crisis, which is based on unrealistic valuations and market forces, could once again lead to another world war breaking out. Thus, no matter or issue should be considered trivial or insignificant, but should be treated with serious concern.
Another crucial point for the establishment of world peace given by the Holy Qur’an is that if two Muslim governments enter hostilities or disputes, then other governments should unite together in an effort to encourage them to reconcile. If the warring nations accept a truce, but then one party breaks the agreement, or openly rejects the peace plan and remains determined to transgress, then at that stage the other government should come together and oppose the aggressor. The victim nations should not, in such circumstances, be left on their own, until they are once again living in peace. Thereafter, if the aggressor withdraws, accepts his mistake and pledges to observe peace, then revenge should not taken and nor should unreasonable, inappropriate and unfair demands be placed on them. Thus, the fundamental principle when dealing with such matters is acting with justice. This guidance is taken from Chapter 49, Verse 10 of the Holy Qur’an. It should not only be considered as guidance for Muslim countries, because the truth is that if all countries came to follow these rules then grievances would die down rather than increase. Unfortunately, such principles were not kept in view during and after the First World War, and because of this, ultimately the world was led to the Second World War. During that war, once again these principles were not kept in view and the requirements of justice were not fulfilled. Keeping in mind our past history, it is clear that today the foundation for a Third World War is being laid.
After the Second World War, Germany itself became a target for injustice and it was soon divided into two separate countries. It is a great favour of God Almighty upon the German nation that it soon came to realise its error and so it ended the circle of cruelty and united as one nation once again. Nonetheless, it is an unfortunate reality that certain restrictions and limitations have been placed upon the German Government by outside powers. Indeed, certain other countries are suffering in this way. For example, we find that in the United Nations, all countries do not have equal rights in terms of the decision making process. Such injustices and inequalities are spreading through the world and are leading to anxiety and restlessness amongst peoples and nations. These anxieties are adding to the pressure that already exists due to the global financial crisis. Thus, we find that the world is being led towards another world war. The last world war was fought almost exclusively with conventional weapons; yet still, according to some estimates, at least 8 million Germans were killed, of which between 2 and 2.5 million were civilians. The total death toll globally during the Second World War is estimated at between 70 and 80
The situation today is far more precarious because even many smaller nations have come to possess nuclear weapons. Whilst they possess such destructive weapons, their leaders do not necessarily have the sense or wisdom required to understand the consequences of their actions, rather they are quite trigger-happy. No doubt therefore, that if a world war does break out once again, the aftermath will be so horrific that its consequences are beyond our imagination. Therefore, those of us who are members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at are extremely concerned about the current state of affairs of the world, because it seems as if the world is being engulfed by a global catastrophe. This heartfelt anguish for humanity and our love for mankind is based upon the teachings of the Holy Qur’an and the most perfect example of the Holy Prophet Muhammad(saw).
As I have already said, Islam’s teachings are universal and span all spectrums of life, starting from the domestic family unit, to the wider society and ultimately it also encompasses the rights of nations and the means of conducting international relations. In the time available I have presented only a few examples. In this era, it was the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Jama’at, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad(as) of Qadian, who infused within all Ahmadi Muslims the spirit of ensuring that all parties are granted their due rights. Thus, in an effort to preserve and protect mutual rights, we make strong efforts and we encourage others to do the same. Recently, in an effort to establish peace in the world, I have written a series of letters to world leaders to try and draw their attention towards the needs of the time. I have written to Pope Benedict, to the leaders of Israel and Iran and to President Obama. I have also written to Germany’s Chancellor and certain other world leaders. I hope and pray that they read these letters with care and consideration, and so I hope that they come to play their respective roles in working towards peace and striving to prevent the world from destruction. I hope and pray that they lead us to peace, rather than to war.
In this regard I would like to request all of you that within your own circles, you should strive to establish justice and the rights of all people, so that the world can be saved from destruction. The most important and greatest means to achieve this is, of course, through recognising Our Creator. When a person recognises His Creator, then naturally the love of His Creation comes to penetrate his heart. By the Grace of Allah, it is due to our relationship with God and our fear of Him and the fact that we are following the true teachings of Islam, that we Ahmadi Muslims have such a great love for mankind. This is why we constantly raise the slogan ‘Love for All, Hatred for None.’ and to achieve this objective we seek Allah’s Help to bless our efforts. At the end, I would like to once again sincerely express my vast gratitude to all of you for taking so much time to sit here and listen to my address. May Allah bless you. Thank you very much.”