The Ahmadiyya Muslim Association UK held its 6th Annual Peace Symposium on 21st March, 2009 at the Baitul Futuh Mosque, Morden. The guests attending included prominent officials and representatives from various political parties, faith groups, and civic organisations. Siobhain McDonagh, MP for Mitcham and Morden, Justine Greening MP, Shadow Minister for Communities and Local Government, Chris Grayling MP, Shadow Home Secretary, and Baroness Emma Nicholson MEP all addressed the gathering. Below is the text of the keynote address delivered by Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih V, Head of the worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim community (may Allah be his Helper).
All the respected and honourable guests, Assalamu ‘Alaikum Warahmatullah, Peace and blessings of Allah be upon you all.
Most of you are accustomed to this function by now, because over the last few years it has been a means for people of various faiths and nationalities, sharing common interests, to come together to promote love, affection and to express their strong desire to establish peace. The new faces amongst us would certainly agree that sentiments of love, affection and appreciation are real human values that distinguish us from other living creatures.
I would like to first of all thank all guests who have gathered here to renew and share their feelings with us. Despite having heard negative views about Muslims, those who have come here for the first time, are participating in this gathering to learn the truth about Islam. I pray that God enables the inherent good nature within all human beings to emerge brighter than before.
As I have mentioned we all strongly desire to establish peace. I have used the word ‘desire’ deliberately because, despite the yearning for peace, the majority of us, those present here, are at the end of the day unable to take practical steps to establish peace. There are some Members of Parliament here. It cannot be said that even their efforts to develop peace can be one hundred percent fruitful.
In any case, though we have a desire for peace, we do not have the ability to take practical measures. Although we wish the world to be a peaceful abode, our limitations constrain us from making the world such a haven. For some, bringing about peace is beyond their power and control. And for others governmental policies constrain them. Despite the differences in opinion, they are bound by government policy or party politics. I do not blame anyone specifically because they are obliged to adhere to such policies.
People free of constraints have double standards and wish to pursue only their own interests. They will help in something good as long as they have a personal interest, but if they have no gain from it, they will either help or remain aloof. If something occurs against their personal interest, then to safeguard those interests they will stop at nothing even if they have to infringe on the rights and benefits of others. Such is human psyche. It belongs to no nation, class or religion. Such people exist in the East and the West and the North and the South. They exist amongst Muslims and Christians and people of all other religions and also among people of no faith.
In this selfish and materialistic age more attention is paid to one’s own interests, at both an individual or collective level, even if it be by concealing the truth. Some people call this politics if it is in the country’s own interests, or sometimes when certain countries join together in alliance with other countries as a political means to safeguard their own interests at an international level.
When one country begins to give precedence to its own interests over those of other countries, then the standards of justice become imbalanced. On the face of it, the country’s political interests start turning into material and economic benefits. Nevertheless, this is such a vicious cycle that it does not allow a person to escape from the circle of one’s own ego and self interest.
Human beings are the most eminent of all creation, and their intellect distinguishes them from animals. They have been given the ability to think both when calm, and when angry. Despite possessing knowledge and intellect they begin to devour each other like animals.
Unfortunately, in ignorance, people of no faith who might also behave in a similar manner, blame religion for this state of affairs, even though religion teaches good morals, tolerance and patience.
Because I speak on behalf of Islam, I will discuss some of the Islamic injunctions in the context of the current world situation.
Islam teaches ways of removing hatred at every level. If we analyse the situation at an individual and national level then many problems arise because man has ceased to exercise patience. As a result, people begin to think ill of each other and then good morals become evils and others are deprived their due rights.
What does the Qur’an teach us about avoiding this? It states:
… and whatever good you send on before you for yourselves, you shall find it with Allah, surely, Allah sees all that you do. (Ch.2: V.111)
And what should be sent? I should explain here one aspect. It states that:
And if you desire to punish the oppressors, then punish them to the extent to which you have been wronged; but if you show patience, then surely, that is best for those who are patient. (Ch.16: V.127)
Patience is one of the virtues and in our view an extremely important value, because at one place in the Holy Qur’an, God Almighty has stated that He loves those who show patience. Normally the world considers patience to be a cowardly thing, but in the verse quoted above, it has been taught as a principle in the context of warfare. It may seem strange that there can be war and patience at the same time, because if bloodshed is apparently permissible during war, then how can war and patience co-exist?
A horrific example of bloodshed known to us in this so called civilised age occurred only a few decades before. According to one estimate 60-70 million people died during the Second World War of whom approximately 40 million were civilians. Alas! If only people acted with patience and did not have their hands covered in blood. But mankind proved itself to be so impatient that after some time it forgot its cruel acts of bloodshed that had stained humanity.
Mankind should have learnt its lesson but regrettably the people of today are failing to learn from the mistakes of the past. Even those who call themselves Muslims are shedding blood as are those working on the pretext of establishing peace. In one way or another they are shedding blood.
Allah the Almighty says that patience, courage and justice must be shown to save mankind. This means that punishment should be proportionate to the crime committed. It has been made absolutely clear that you should not transgress. If your rights have been usurped or your borders illegally attacked or if they try to take control of your economy, then yes, you are permitted to fight and punish and seek the help of your allies.
At another place it is stated in the Qur’an:
And if two parties of believers fight against each other, make peace between them; then if after that one of them transgresses against the other, fight the party that transgresses until it returns to the command of Allah. Then if it returns, make peace between them with equity, and act justly. Verily, Allah loves the just. (Ch.49: V.10)
Although Muslims have been addressed in this verse, we observe that the golden principle is that the oppressed should be assisted by all nations coming together to support it.
They should stop the hand of the aggressor. And when the war is over, then under no circumstances should one take control of the economy of the aggressor nor dictate one’s terms upon its government. If there is danger of the recurrence of cruelty then a condition can be applied that in the event of the aggressor transgressing, he would be penalised or face grievous consequences. This, however, is only possible when large and minor nations are at par with each other.
Even in the United Nations, a distinction is made between certain countries. If the United Nations wants to establish the higher standards of justice, then it will have to pay attention to equal rights across the board. Leaving aside the small countries, even the developing countries are shackled by chains of sanctions.
For example, Japan made tremendous economic progress after the Second World War.
The impression I received from some of the Japanese people whom I met, who expressed their views both openly and in hidden tones, was that though they are independent, yet the imposition of certain restrictions have bound them in such a way that they cannot express their policies freely, whether they relate to policies for the establishment of peace or economic policies.
The United Nations was formed for the establishment of peace. Yet its attempts at bringing about peace in any country where there is turmoil has never achieved the level of success that could have been expected from such a large institution. And this is the reason why once again the world is rapidly moving towards the brink of another world war.
As Allah the Almighty says in the Holy Qur’an, in order to fulfil the requirements of justice, one must make honest efforts for the reconciliation of disputes. Justice means absolute justice and that can only occur when your hearts are purified to the extent that no element of malice remains whatsoever.
If we assess the situation today, such justice cannot be found anywhere in the world. Since we cannot find such standards of justice, then the dire consequence of this will be that the sparks of animosity and malice will continue to flare up. Its ultimate result will be catastrophic. Just to think of this makes one’s hair stand on end.
This is why the Holy Qur’an has instructed us:
O ye who believe! Be steadfast in the cause of Allah, bearing witness in equity; and let not a people’s enmity incite you to act otherwise than with justice. Be always just, that is nearer to righteousness. And fear Allah. Surely, Allah is aware of what you do. (Ch.5:V.9)
Therefore, we need to assess whether people are ready to give evidence in support of justice. If we analyse this further, then we will hardly find any example of justice. Rather, we observe elements of vested interests. The spread of vested interests has widened so much that they have all but masked the requirements of justice.
If we leave alone the apparent animosities between nations, then due to the political, geographic, or economic value of certain countries, other nations have tried to overpower them through their greed and might as a means of serving their own interests. Consequently new alliances have begun to form. The main cause of all of this is that man has forgotten His Creator and His teachings.
The desire for material progress, world fame and dignity has blinded the world. This is the reason why nobody pays heed to God’s commands. And when there is no regard for God’s commandments then people only fulfil the rights due to others to the extent that their own interests are not affected. Their sympathy is an expression of mere lip service. The concrete steps that should have been taken are still not being implemented today, and the consequences will always be unpleasant. Despite our attempts to bury our heads in the sand, we are compelled to view horrific scenes that shake a person to the core.
In the Second World War, both in Asia and in Europe, there were different countries in conflict with each other on a small scale. Ultimately these culminated in a world war between two power blocks. The League of Nations proved powerless.
Even today we see in the Middle East, particularly in Israel, Palestine, Syria and Lebanon, that animosities continue to increase. Likewise actions are being taken against Iran, and Iran is reacting by making threats against Israel and the West.
There are countries that are suffering from unrest because of their internal political and power struggles, for example Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq. On the other hand, due to the indulgence of the superpowers, the Cold War continues in countries like Georgia and Poland etc. These cannot be classified as religious conflicts. When civil war occurs as in Afghanistan or Iraq a power struggle ensues. Due to their inherent strategic value some countries try to derive benefit and take advantage of their geographic position and exploit the natural resources of such countries. By using the local politicians or providing aid, they try to retain control of those countries.
Be that as it may, the impression which continues to arise in those countries is that the promises made by the UN for granting the independence of each country have not been fulfilled. Due to the influence of superpowers and the UN, the sphere of unrest is expanding. We cannot simply close our eyes to this. The cause of the Second World War was the existence of such unrest and mini-wars.
Another matter which compels us to ponder, and is a cause of concern, is the present financial crisis and deep-seated recession. We observe that in 1929 there was a severe economic crisis. Today, we are passing through a similar predicament. At that time the depression started in America when its stock market crashed. The current crisis, that has caused distress in the world, also has its roots in the United States. At the recent World Economic Forum in Switzerland, both China and Russia openly held the United States responsible for the downturn.
In 1929, every country of the world was engulfed in an economic crisis, and today’s credit crunch is no different. International trade was severely affected then. The same is true today. Revenues from income tax, levies and profits fell dramatically. The same can be seen now.
In 1929 industry suffered a great setback and that is being replicated today.
It was recently reported in the news recently that the car industry had to reduce production by more than 50%. This is just one example. All the other industries face a similar predicament.
Construction and in particular housing construction suffered and this is the same now. Due to an inability to repay mortgages, houses are being repossessed by the lenders. In anticipation of future benefits, capitalists had heavily invested in real estate, but have found that their businesses have now collapsed.
In the absence of the public’s purchasing power, newly-built houses in America, here in the UK and in other countries are lying vacant. Construction projects have frozen midway. A similar scenario can be observed in other businesses. People have been made redundant in hundreds of thousands in every country and have become a burden on the Treasury. In other words, the world is going through a very precarious time.
Analysts suggest that the end of the 1929 Depression was related to the start of the Second World War. At that time, some fanned the flames of their rivalries to their own vested interests. Particularly in such circumstances money begins to accumulate in a few hands individually or amongst a certain class where money always flows. Such people preserve their interests and at the same time provide capital to the governments who consequentially become indebted to them. This is no secret. The debts incurred during the Second World War by the various governments provided testimony to this fact.
Today the banks are being bailed out by governments in order to save them and such bailouts amounts to trillions of dollars. However, in the overall scheme of things, it is an insignificant amount compared to the total loss incurred.
It is strange that on the one hand a government announces an aid package of 700 billion dollars as a means to arrest the credit crunch and then on the other hand it emerges that a huge sum out of this had been committed as bonuses. Then it emerges that so and so has made off with 100 billion dollars. After that there is silence and we hear no more. The public is being fed bitter pills that do not improve its health, but in the shape of daily redundancies, they are in fact a bitter and toxic pill. Will not such a situation cause unrest?
Then we come to the Third World or the developing countries. The rich are usurping the rights of the poor and this knows no end. It is claimed that there is investment and the economy will strengthen and that this wealth will trickle down to the public. These are childish consolations.
All countries are involved in usurping the rights of the common man, irrespective of colour or creed. Wealthy nations help other countries on the pretext of aid but they do not follow what is the outcome of that. Because of this, there is anxiety in these countries.
Superpowers have a hand in the policy-making of the minor countries and even the ordinary people are aware of this. The superpowers play a role in either supporting the political governments or uprooting them. Consequently the people of these minor countries develop hatred in their hearts against the superpowers, even though, in my opinion, it is the leaders of those countries who are the most to blame.
I should mention by way of example how the Founder of Islam, Hazrat Muhammad Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wasallam, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, tackled a financial crisis and addressed a shortage of food.
Once there was a famine and he ordered each person to bring forth whatever was in their homes, and they duly obliged. Then all the food was distributed equitably amongst the entire population so that no one should be left hungry. This was the equitable treatment that the Holy Founder of Islam peace be upon him established in order to discharge the rights of others and remove unrest.
It should not be that one person makes off with hundreds of billions whilst another is left jobless or that somebody should withdraw a huge bonus from the public purse, whilst another person is deprived of even a basic salary, or despite a person’s part repayment of his mortgage, he rather loses his home, because he was unable to complete the full payment.
It should be remembered this action of the Holy Prophet’s, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, is not a form of socialism; on the contrary some of his Companions owned very profitable businesses and had vast reserves of gold. In fact, the Founder of Islam, Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, established but the loftiest example fulfilling the need of the hour.
Sadly the leaders of the Muslim countries fill their own coffers but pay scant attention to the needs of their own people. The super-powers and the United Nations are responsible because having helped them they do not analyse whether or not their aid has been correctly utilised.
Nevertheless, this topic is like a Pandora’s Box. As new issues emerge, one issue leads to another.
I will not take any more of your time and will end by saying only this; that every person should pray and try their utmost to help achieve peace. Likewise governments and prominent officials at the United Nations must ensure that betterment of the economy should not be in the shape of what is called the war economy, and not repeat the mistakes of the 1929 crisis and what emerged from it.
Governments and providers of capital and the UN should understand their responsibilities. These are to fulfil the requirements of justice and to give due regard to the rights of each other. They should think, deliberate and find a solution based on justice. They should selflessly endeavour to establish peace.
And most importantly they should fulfil the rights owed to their Creator and avoid His displeasure.
May Allah enable all of us to do this.
Finally I would like to once again thank all the distinguished guests who have given their precious time.
Thank you very much.