Islam – Safeguarding Rights and Freedoms
Address by Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community to French Guests on the 2nd Day of the Jalsa Salana (Annual Convention) France 2019
On Saturday 5th October 2019, the Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, the Fifth Khalifah (Caliph), His Holiness, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad(aba) addressed an audience of dignitaries and guests on the second day of the 27th Jalsa Salana (Annual Convention) of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in France. During his address, His Holiness spoke about how the teachings of Islam safeguard the rights and freedoms of all people and how by acting upon these teachings lasting peace in society can be achieved. The official transcript of the address of His Holiness on this occasion is presented below.
After reciting Tashahhud, Ta’awwuz and Bismillah, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad(aba), Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Fifth Khalifah, said:
‘All distinguished guests, Assalamo Alaikum Wa Rahmatullah Wa Barakatohu, peace and blessings of Allah be upon you all.
First of all, I would like to thank all of our guests for having joined us at today’s event, which is a purely religious function, organised by a Muslim community.
In recent years, the horrific and brutal atrocities of certain so-called Muslim groups have caused immeasurable levels of pain and anguish in different countries, including here in France.
Such attacks can only be condemned in the strongest possible terms and our prayers and sympathies are always with the victims of such heinous crimes.
The true teachings of Islam have nothing to do with terrorism and extremism;rather, Islam is a religion of peace, love, tolerance and reconciliation.
The word ‘Islam’ literally means ‘peace’ and ‘security’ and so a true Muslim is a person who is himself peaceful and who strives to establish peace and harmony in the world. At a very basic level, Muslims are instructed to greet other people, be they Muslims or non-Muslims, with the words ‘Assalamo Alaikum’ which mean ‘peace be upon you’.
This Islamic greeting is a gesture of goodwill, conveying peace and security to the recipient. Indeed, I have seen many non-Muslims, who have Muslim friends or acquaintances, who also choose to greet them in the Islamic way by offering peace of ‘salam’.
Anyway, it simply cannot be that our faith teaches us to receive every person with a message of peace and security, and at the same time, it requires us to usurp their rights, to oppose them or violently take up arms against them.
It is impossible that Islam could have such contradictory teachings.
Therefore, let it be clear that all forms of extremism and violence are completely against Islam’s teachings.
To understand the true nature of Islam, it is important to reflect upon the time of the Founder of Islam, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).
When he claimed to be a prophet of God, he and his followers were subjected to relentless and barbaric persecution.
A few of the early Muslims were from relatively well-off and well-regarded families, but the vast majority were poorer members of society, including slaves. In order to intimidate and strike fear into them, the disbelievers of Makkah inflicted grievous and brutal cruelties upon them.
However, the Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) withstood the inhumane treatment and the unrelenting injustices with unparalleled levels of patience and fortitude and counselled his followers to do the same.
For example, on one occasion, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) observed a Muslim husband and wife and their young son being beaten and tortured by non-Muslims.
Despite the merciless abuse and vicious torture, the Holy Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) urged them to show restraint and to endure the horrific violence with patience.
He neither instructed them to retaliate and nor did he invite his other followers to come and fight back against the non-Muslims; rather, he called on his followers to remain peaceful, even if it meant they lost their lives, and he reassured them that their reward lay in the hereafter in the loving arms of Allah the Almighty.
Thereafter, the Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and his companions continued to endure the relentless oppression for many years, until finally they migrated to the city of Madinah so that they could practice their religion freely and live in peace.
However, it was not long before the disbelievers of Makkah pursued the Muslims to their new home and waged war against them. It was then that for the very first time, Allah the Almighty permitted the Muslims to fight back and this permission is mentioned in chapter 22, verses 40 to 41 of the Holy Quran.
In these verses, Allah the Almighty proclaimed that permission to fight was granted, because the Muslims were being attacked by people who sought not only the elimination of Islam, but who sought to destroy the institution of religion itself.
The Quran says that if the Muslims were not permitted to fight back, then no church, synagogue, temple, mosque or the place of worship of any religion would remain safe.
Hence, when the Holy Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and his followers were forced to partake in wars and battles, it was for the sake of defending the rights of all people.
It was to ensure that Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims and the people of other faiths and beliefs had the right to worship as they pleased.
If, as is often alleged, Islam permitted Muslims to spread its teachings violently, to conquer lands, and to try to eliminate other religions, then why would the Holy Quran explicitly state that it was the religious duty of Muslims to protect all religions and to safeguard the rights of their followers?
The reality is that the early Muslims gave their lives in order to establish and enshrine, once and for all, the principles of individual liberty, freedom of religion and freedom of belief.
These freedoms are the cornerstones of the Islamic faith and have been preserved eternally in the Holy Quran, which has categorically declared in chapter 2, verse 257 that ‘there should be no compulsion in religion.’
What a clear and unequivocal statement in defence of freedom of thought, freedom of religion and freedom of conscience.
The Holy Quran teaches that religion is a personal matter for each individual and no one has the right to compel or coerce other people in this regard.
During the time of the Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and his four rightly guided Caliphs, the rights of non-Muslims were never usurped and nor were they pressured into accepting Islam or abandoning their traditions and beliefs.
At every moment of his life, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) sought peace and promoted inter-faith dialogue, mutual understanding and respect between the people of different communities.
For example, after migrating to Madinah, he formed a treaty with the Jewish community and together they formed a system of government in which the Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was mutually chosen as the head of state.
According to the terms of the covenant, the Muslims and the Jews pledged to cooperate and to be faithful citizens of the state. The treaty guaranteed the right of every individual to practice their religion and customs without fear of persecution or sanction.
Never once did the Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) deviate from the terms of the covenant. On the other hand, there were some instances when the non-Muslims violated the treaty and they were sanctioned according to the pre-existing terms.
Islam has never permitted its followers to spread their faith through the use of force and nor does it permit Muslim governments or leaders to claim that only Muslims are permitted to live in their society.
As I have mentioned, under the terms of the Treaty of Madinah, all people were free to practice their traditions and beliefs. That society was bound together by one overriding principle, that irrespective of their religious beliefs, all members of society were duty-bound to be loyal citizens of the state and to refrain from all activities that could undermine the peace and security of society.
Most certainly, during that era, Madinah was a model of pluralism, tolerance and a shining example of a thriving, multi-cultural society.
Therefore, it would be entirely unjust to blame Islam for the misguided and malevolent conduct of the tiny minority of Muslims who defy its peaceful teachings.
Those individuals or groups who become radicalised and who seek to fulfil their own interests through extremism and terrorism have nothing to do with Islam. They may try to justify their hate-filled acts in Islam’s name but all they do is defame and besmirch the noble and peaceful teachings of the Holy Quran and the Holy Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).
From cover to cover, the Holy Quran is replete with enlightened guidance that instructs Muslims to avail every opportunity for attaining peace in the world.
For example, chapter 43, verses 89 to 90 describe the anguished and grief-stricken prayers of the Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) in which he supplicated to Allah the Almighty that the message of truth and compassion that he presented to his people was being rejected.
In reply, Allah the Almighty instructed him to turn aside and to continue to offer peace to others.
The Arabic word ‘Amina’ used, means to believe and to impart peace and so Allah the Almighty instructed the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) to convey the message of Islam and thereafter to leave the matter in the hands of God and to continue to bestow peace on those who rejected him.
Allah the Almighty reassured his Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) that a time would come when those who rejected his teachings would recognise its truth.
The Holy Quran never once advocated violence or force against those who shunned its teachings; rather, it called on the Muslims to exhibit tolerance and patience. Therefore, if today, so-called Muslims or so-called Islamic governments manifest extremism or fanaticism, the blame lays squarely with them.
Their deceitful and abhorrent behaviour, through which the peace and harmony of the world is being shattered, can never be justified or excused in any way. Islam’s teachings are categorical that violent conquest or forceful conversion are strictly prohibited.
Indeed, any act or conduct that is detrimental to the peace and security of society is forbidden. At every juncture, the Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) manifested compassion and benevolence.
He taught that a true Muslim is he from whose tongue and hand all others are safe. He did not differentiate by saying that Muslims should be sympathetic and kind to Muslims alone, rather he made it clear that they must protect and care for all members of society, irrespective of their differences of belief.
Consequently, terrorists who commit suicide bombings, attack nightclubs, concert halls or stadiums or manically drive vehicles into members of the public are all guilty of violating the teachings of Islam in the most ghastly and barbaric fashion.
Apart from enshrining freedom of belief as a core human right, the Holy Quran has also given many guiding principles for day-to-day life through which people can live together peacefully, irrespective of their different backgrounds or beliefs. For example, chapter 2, verse 189 of the Holy Quran lays down the principles for fair-trading and ensuring the integrity of all financial relationships or transactions.
In this verse, Allah the Almighty has instructed Muslims that they must never acquire wealth or property through means of deception; rather, Muslims are taught to be honest, trustworthy and to uphold the truth so that grievances and malice do not develop between different parties.
Islam teaches that unfair dealing and unjust trading weakens the unity within society and destroys its peace. Certainly, at a time when so much of the world’s disorder and suffering, both at an individual and a collective level, is based upon selfishness and greed, the principles of equity and justice are crucial to maintaining peace within society.
Furthermore, in chapter 83, verses 2-4, the Holy Quran states:
“Woe unto those who give short measure. Those who, when they take by measure from other people, take it full; but when they give by measure to others or weigh to them, they give them less.”
These verses affirm that those who are exploitative in business transactions, who try to short-change others, whilst demanding more than their dues in return and who resort to deception and fraud, are cursed and will be disgraced.
The Holy Quran has also given detailed guidance regarding international relations and resolving internal conflicts or those that arise between nations. The Islamic focus is always on establishing sustainable peace and eliminating enmities and rivalries.
For example, chapter 49, verse 10 of the Holy Quran states that if two parties or nations are in conflict then their neighbours, or neutral parties, should seek to bring about reconciliation through mediation and negotiations.
Those who intervene must remain impartial, rather than trying to settle the outcome in their own best interest. If peace cannot be established through dialogue, or if any party subsequently violates the terms of a negotiated settlement, then the other nations should unite against whosoever is perpetrating injustice and use force to stop them.
Once the aggressors adopt peace, they should not be humiliated and nor should unfair sanctions be levied upon them; rather, in the interests of fairness and long-term peace, they should be permitted to move forward as a free society and given whatever support is required to rebuild their nation.
I believe that this outstanding Quranic principle is not just of value to Muslims, but is a universal principle for dispute resolution and if acted upon, can prove a means of stabilising the world and developing lasting peace.
Most regrettably, many Muslim countries fail to abide by this Quranic injunction and as a result, they continue to be embroiled in senseless conflicts and seem perpetually engaged in a cycle of violence and injustice.
As mentioned, this verse also makes it clear that once peace has been achieved, the victors should not seek to crush or humiliate the defeated party. The wisdom in this is clear to see. Peace will not last if a vanquished nation is demeaned in any way, rather frustrations and grievances are bound to emerge amongst its leaders and public.
Conversely, trust and mutual respect will develop if the defeated nation is treated with compassion and justice. However, today we repeatedly see that in the name of establishing peace, cruelties and injustices are perpetrated by dominant powers causing restlessness and animosity to develop. It means that any peace deal or truce hangs by the most delicate of threads and is constantly at risk of breaking down.
Such instability is of benefit to no one except terrorist and extremist groups, who prey on the frustrations of people and we have seen the consequences of this for many years.
In both the East and the West, the blue skies of peace and prosperity have given way to heavy clouds of war and injustice.
Across much of the world, nations are being torn apart by dissension, revenge-seeking and a desire to degrade others. This state of unrest will continue to increase, until and unless international relations are based upon justice and integrity and fulfilling the rights of others.
As I observe the world today, I can only pray that mankind does not continue to repeat the mistakes of the past.
Instead, let us learn from history, so we can build a better future for ourselves and for our coming generations.
If we look back to the period after the First World War, the League of Nations was formed, but it failed miserably in its task to maintain post-war peace.
The reason for its failure was that justice and fairness did not prevail, rather alliances and blocs were allowed to form and certain nations were treated unreasonably and deprived of their dignity.
As a result, the most deadly war in the history of mankind, the Second World War, soon erupted.
After six more devastating and chastening years of bloodshed, the war finally came to an end and the United Nations was established to maintain and preserve the peace and security of the world.
Despite its lofty goals and stated ambitions, the United Nations has also failed in its mission.
Today, once again, blocs are rapidly forming, society is becoming polarised and rifts between nations are deepening by the day.
Many countries, Muslim and non-Muslim, do not seem to comprehend the true value of peace or to recognise the dangers that lie ahead.
Certainly, the consequences of warfare today are potentially far deadlier than anything we have ever seen before because several nations have developed nuclear weapons.
If any of those countries ever use the deadly weapons at their disposal they will not just be destroying the world as we know it, but will be ensuring that we leave behind the most horrific and devastating legacy for our children.
If a nuclear war breaks out, generations of children will be born with mental and physical disabilities and so instead of contributing to their nations, they will live miserable existences and be a strain on society.
Their homes will be filled with despair.
Their towns will be filled with grief.
And their nations will be consumed by misery.
They will be justified in cursing us for engaging in such selfish and senseless warfare that shattered their dreams even before they were born.
Thus, no one should be under the illusion that this world crisis we are passing through is trivial or something that will heal itself without us changing our behaviour.
Furthermore, the instability of the world will continue to increase if the blame for the world’s lack of peace and security continues to be laid at the door of Islam.
Attacking a religion or its followers will only aggravate divisions.
It will embolden extremists on all sides to rise above the surface and to further their efforts of stoking the flames of hatred between the people of different communities and beliefs.
As I have made it clear, if Muslim countries or terrorist groups perpetrate atrocities or cruelties in the name of Islam, it is because they have disregarded their religious teachings and seek only to fulfil their vested interests.
Today’s conflicts and wars have nothing to do with religion, rather they are all about attaining wealth, power and geo-political dominance.
In light of this, I pray from the depths of my heart that may the people of the world join together for the common good and work with a spirit of unity and foster mutual trust and understanding.
Instead of blaming religion or pointing the finger at one another, let us focus all our energies on ensuring peace and leaving behind a safer world for those who follow us.
Let it be that our future generations come to remember us with love and affection, rather than with hate and resentment.
May every person and every nation come to fulfil the rights of one another and may justice and compassion prevail over all forms of injustice and conflict.
With these words, I thank you all once again for joining us today. Thank you very much.’