On Saturday 28th September 2019, the Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, the Fifth Khalifah (Caliph), His Holiness, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad(aba) addressed an audience of more than 125 dignitaries and guests on the second day of the 39th Annual Convention (Jalsa Salana) of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Holland.
After reciting Tashahhud, Ta’awwuz and Bismillah, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Fifth Khalifah (Caliph) said:
“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 and joined us here today, even though much has been said against Islam and its founder in recent years.
In fact, a concerted attempt has been made to spread hatred and misinformation about Islam and to malign the character of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). In light of this, your attendance at this religious event, hosted by a Muslim community, testifies to your open hearts and broad-mindedness and for this, I can only commend and thank you.
I pray that this generous and tolerant spirit always remains within you and that it spreads much further afield so that the people of all communities can live together in peace and with a spirit of mutual love and respect.
We, Ahmadi Muslims, firmly believe that religion is a personal matter for every individual. It is a matter of the heart and no one has the right to speak ill of the beliefs of other people.
No one should mock what others consider sacred, because treating other people with derision and contempt can only lead to pain and suffering and create division.
Conversely, tolerance and mutual respect are the cornerstones through which we can build a peaceful and harmonious society.
As I have mentioned, the character of the Holy Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) has long been slandered and distorted in the non-Muslim world. Here in Holland as well, certain people have taken the lead in inciting hatred against Islam and making utterly false and horrific assertions about the Holy Quran and the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).
In this regard, I shall, in the short time available, speak about Islam’s true teachings and the character of its founder (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). However, before proceeding, I would like to speak, more generally, about what constitutes peace and why it is so important.
Undoubtedly, at a personal level, peace is something we all desire, whilst at a broader level, it is something that different nations and communities claim to aspire towards.
However, what is peace and why do we need it?
In my view, there are two types of peace.
There is outward peace and inner peace.
Often, at a superficial level, people can appear to be happy and content.
Yet, though they have outward peace, they remain bereft of inner peace.
For example, powerful and influential people often speak about developing peace and they personally possess all the trappings and comforts of the world.
Nevertheless, many admit that they remain in search of peace of mind and are consumed by tension and vexation.
From a purely external and material point of view, they have all that they need, yet their minds remain plagued by anxiety and their hearts remain unfulfilled.
Thus, the reality is that until a person attains inner peace, their material comforts are worthless.
Simply put, the one thing money cannot buy is inner peace.
For example, imagine the case of an affluent mother, who has riches beyond her needs, but her child becomes lost. Despite having every possible worldly comfort, she will remain frantic and desperate until she finds her child.
Sadly, in both the developed and developing world, mental health issues are on the rise. In rich countries, increasing numbers of people are committing suicide, suffering from breakdowns or depression, even though they are relatively strong in financial terms.
Unsurprisingly, a lack of inner-peace is also common amongst the weaker and vulnerable members of society, who cannot fulfil their basic needs, and who desperately yearn for the comforts available to others.
Thus, frustration and inner-turmoil is palpable amongst the rich and the poor.
On one side, affluent people, who have all they need in material terms, remain bereft of inner peace. At the other end of the spectrum, the poor and needy are plagued by their circumstances and crave the comfortable lives of others.
People may have different goals or desires, and they may be poles apart in terms of their material state, but they are united in their failure to attain inner-contentment.
In today’s world, critics are quick to blame religion and particularly Islam, for the problems of the world. Yet, many people who are suffering from inner-torment and unrest are those who live a purely secular existence and so their problems cannot be blamed on Islam or any other religion.
As a religious leader, I firmly believe that instead of being the cause of today’s problems, religion is the answer and from an Islamic perspective, the solution is quite simple.
The Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings be upon him) taught that true peace of mind requires for a person to recognise God Almighty and to develop a connection with Him because, according to Islam, one of the attributes of God Almighty is that He is the ‘Source of Peace’.
He desires for His creation to live peacefully, irrespective of any differences of religion or belief. Furthermore, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) taught that Allah the Almighty is the provider and sustainer of all creation.
He does not just provide for Muslims, but His grace encompasses all humanity, be they Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Jews or the people of other faiths and beliefs and indeed of those who have no faith and deny His existence.
Islam instructs Muslims to emulate, to the best of their abilities, the attributes of God and so the Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings be upon him) stated repeatedly that his followers must be compassionate and considerate and strive to impart peace to others.
A golden principle given by the Founder of Islam (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) is that a true Muslim should like for others, what he likes for himself.
I believe that this simple and profound point, if acted upon, not just by Muslims, but by all people, is the means for everlasting peace in society. No doubt, everyone desires peace for themselves and their loved ones, but most people will be lying if they claim that they want their opponents and competitors to have peace and to live with contentment.
Yet this is the standard of nobility and generosity of spirit that Islam requires. It is a religion and teaching that promotes selflessness and urges humans to discard all traces of selfishness. The principle given by Islam’s Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) is that a person should be open-hearted and pure of mind.
Instead of desiring only the best for himself, a person should desire the same for others as well. Sadly, in today’s world, we tend to see the opposite.
Modern society is consumed by self-interest and greed. Disorder, conflict and warfare are on the rise and the principles of equity and justice are being consistently discarded.
This is illustrated by the foreign policies of many powerful and rich countries. It has been a constant theme of modern history that dominant powers have sent their armies to distant lands, on the pretext of establishing peace, but time has proven that their real objective has been to protect and enhance their vested interests.
During such conflicts, if just one of their soldiers dies there is an outpouring of grief and they pledge to take revenge. Yet, when their bombs or munitions cause the death of hundreds or even thousands of innocent civilians – including defenceless women and children – they remain silent and do not express any hint of regret or remorse.
The consequences of such injustice are extremely damaging and far-reaching. The local people see that their lives are deemed to be of far less worth and value than the lives of those who are from powerful nations.
As they observe the stark double standards and the lack of humanity, they become overcome by frustration, anger and resentment and their emotions threaten to boil over at any time.
The peace and security of such nations lie in ruins but the rest of the world would be foolish to think that they will not be affected; rather, the world is now so inter-connected that the ramifications of hostilities in one part of the world, are bound to spread beyond borders and we have seen many examples of this in recent years.
Hence, if we genuinely desire peace, whether in our personal lives or at a collective level, the pivotal point is that we should like for others what we like for ourselves.
As I said before, this simple principle is the foundation for true peace in the world.
In terms of religion, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) taught that developing true peace requires for mankind to turn towards God Almighty, who is the source of peace, the noble and the pure and to try to emulate His attributes. This means that human beings should set aside their personal interests in the pursuit of peace and ensure that their motivations are pure at all times.
Certainly, much of the division prevalent in the world today is because the underlying intentions of the parties involved are not innocent or honest. There are clear contradictions between their words and deeds and there can never be peace if there is disharmony between what a person says and what he does.
Every government and every political leader – be they from the United States, China, Russia, European countries, the Muslim world or elsewhere – routinely condemn warfare and bloodshed. However, the reality is that their opposition to such matters tends to remain limited to their interests and their people.
Their cries in favour of the rule of law, justice and human rights are all too often rendered hollow when their interests are at stake. If they are attacked or their rights are usurped, they express blind fury and indignation at the injustice, yet they are themselves guilty of targeting weaker nations and exploiting civil wars or conflicts within other countries for their own benefit.
Instead of calling the different parties to the negotiating table and establishing fair and honest dialogue, major powers have habitually interfered in the conflicts of other countries by arming or funding whichever side supports their interests. They are pouring petrol on an open flame and the result is that innocent people, including women, children and the elderly, are losing their lives and observing the torment of their families.
Cities, towns and villages are being ravaged and torn asunder.
The only possible result is an upsurge in frustration and resentment amongst the local people and this is something that has been all too apparent in war-torn Muslim countries in recent years.
Can those external powers, who prioritise their own interests, really claim to be facilitating peace?
Furthermore, can the critics of Islam continue to lay the blame for the lack of peace in the world at Islam’s door?
Can they continue to hold the Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) responsible for the injustices that are taking place today?
Let it be clear that the state of unrest in the world, whether in Muslim countries or otherwise, has nothing to do with the teachings of Islam; rather, such turmoil is based on the vested interests and selfish ways of certain leaders or corrupt governments on the one side and rebel, insurgent or separatist groups on the other.
It is caused by the brutal acts of terrorist and extremist groups who seek only enrichment or power. The centre of today’s disorder may well be Muslim countries, but no one can deny that non-Muslim countries have inflamed the situation, rather than resolve it.
It may be claimed that Islamic teachings have motivated extremists and terrorists, but let it be crystal clear that nothing could be further from the truth. As I said, the Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) taught that Allah the Almighty is the Source of Peace and the Provider and Sustainer of all mankind. Indeed, this has been mentioned in the the first chapter of the Holy Quran.
Thus, how could it be possible for him to promote intolerance or to sow the seeds of division in society?
Rather, throughout his life, he promoted inter-faith harmony and emphasised the need for peace at every level of society – from the basic domestic family unit all the way to international relations.
This was not just his teaching, but was also his practice.
From the outset, the Holy Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) conveyed a message of peace and promoted a tolerant and inclusive society. He proclaimed that God Almighty desired for all people, irrespective of their ethnic background or beliefs, to live in peace and for human values to be recognised and upheld.
It is often alleged that the early Muslims engaged in warfare or were intolerant of the beliefs of others. Yet a fair-minded review of Islamic history proves that these are completely unjust and false accusations.
When Islam was founded, the early Muslims were themselves the victims of merciless persecution in Makkah. Some were brutally martyred, others were savagely tortured but the Muslims remained patient and never retaliated.
After bearing the most horrific imaginable cruelties, some of the vulnerable Muslims migrated to the land known today as Ethiopia. Yet still, the opponents of Islam did not let them live in peace; rather they followed them and presented themselves before the King of the land and pleaded with him to banish the Muslims and force them to return to Makkah so they could continue to persecute them and ensure that Islam did not spread.
The disbelievers of Makkah told the King that the Muslims had established a new faith and had condemned idol worship. They claimed the Muslims spread disorder and disturbed the peace of society.
Upon being instructed by the King to present their defence, the Muslims declared their belief in the One God, who was the Creator of all creation. They worshipped Him alone, but at the same time, sought peace with all people and communities and believed that people of different faiths and beliefs should respect one another.
They expressed their belief that the mighty and rich should not trample upon the rights of the weak and underprivileged, whilst the poor and deprived should not bear hatred for those who were better off.
The King asked the disbelievers if the Muslims had ever waged war, whether they lied, if they broke their pledges or incited rebellion. In reply, the opponents of Islam were forced to admit that the Muslims were innocent of all charges.
Despite their hatred for the Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings be upon him) and his followers and despite their intense desire to finish Islam, the people of Makkah testified to the fact that the Founder of Islam (peace and blessings be upon him) had never spoken an untruth, had never broken a promise and nor had he ever acted with cruelty or injustice.
They were forced to admit that the Holy Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and his followers were those who only ever sought to spread love and affection in society and who peacefully propagated their belief in the Unity of God.
At all times, the Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) remained patient, even in the face of the most cruel and barbaric oppression.
He turned only to God Almighty to share his pain and so it is mentioned in the Holy Quran that during prayer, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) spoke of his grief that he called his people towards peace and prosperity and yet they responded with brutal and incessant cruelty.
Despite their brutalities, during the Makkan period, the Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings be upon him) never raised his sword against those who persecuted the Muslims, nor did he ever stop cooperating with the authorities of Makkah or incite any form of revolt.
The patience of the Muslims was based on the command of Allah the Almighty, which is mentioned in chapter 25, verse 64 of the Holy Quran. Addressing the Muslims in this verse, Allah the Almighty said:
“And the servants of the Gracious God are those who walk on the earth in a dignified manner, and when the ignorant address them, they say, ‘Peace!’”
Hence, the Holy Quran reassured the Muslims and counselled them to be patient no matter how much they were provoked or tormented. In the face of adversity and hatred, they were to respond by offering peace to their enemies and opponents.
Consequently, where the early Muslims were tortured, vilified and maligned, they remained patient on the command of God Almighty. Disregarding a natural inclination for revenge, and, living up to the standard of liking for others what you like for yourself, the Muslims sought peace for their enemies.
It was not just a temporary peace the Muslims desired for others, rather an everlasting peace. Thus, in chapter 10, verse 26, Allah the Almighty has stated:
“And Allah calls to the abode of peace…”
This verse makes it clear that Muslims were instructed to spare no effort in promoting a permanent state of peace and harmony and to bring people together.
Yet the bitter persecution continued for years and finally, when their cruelties exceeded all bounds, the Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings be upon him) and his followers migrated to the city of Medina.
Still, the opponents of Islam did not let them live in peace; rather, the disbelievers of Makkah pursued them and soon waged war against the Muslims. Only then, after years of bearing hateful persecution, and after having been driven out of their homes, did God Almighty permit the Muslims to respond with force and to defend themselves.
Here, it is very important to note that permission to fight back was not given just to defend Islam or Muslims; rather, the Holy Quran states in chapter 22, verses 40-41 that permission to fight back was given to defend the institution of religion and universal freedom of belief, as those were the real targets of the opponents of Islam.
It should also be clarified that the Holy Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) instructed his followers to abide by the strictest possible rules of engagement. For example, he ensured that prisoners of war were treated with compassion and freed wherever possible.
He instructed that no child, woman, elderly or sick person was to be targeted, nor were places of worship or religious leaders to be attacked. Further, he instructed that if the opposing side even hinted towards reconciliation their gesture was to be immediately accepted, so that no opportunity for peace was lost.
It is also of note that, where it is commonly suggested that the early Muslims were belligerent or blood-thirsty, today several Western and non-Muslim historians admit that this is wholly inaccurate.
In fact, their research shows that the number of people who lost their lives in all of the wars fought in the period of early Islam was a fraction compared to the numbers of people who died at the hands of single bombs in the modern era.
Therefore, rather than seeking conflict or fostering hatred, Islam has only ever instructed Muslims to knock down the walls of hatred that divide mankind and to build bridges of love and compassion in order to unite it.
In short, at every level of society, and across all communities and peoples, Muslims have a duty to spread peace and the fundamental reason for this, as I have already mentioned, is that the very first chapter of the Holy Quran states:
“All praise belongs to Allah, Lord of all the worlds.”
Accordingly, where God Almighty is the Provider and Sustainer for all mankind, it simply not possible for true Muslims to bear hatred or ill-will towards their fellow creation; rather, our hearts can only be filled with sentiments of love, compassion and sympathy for others.
Of course, as practicing Muslims, we have our religious beliefs. We believe that God is One and that it is our duty to turn to Him and to worship Him alone. Yet, we also firmly abide by the timeless precept of the Holy Quran that there should be no compulsion in religion.
As I said before, religion is, and always will be, a matter of the heart and a personal matter for each individual. The very meaning of the word Islam is ‘peace’ and there are many verses in the Quran that make it categorically clear that Muslims must be peaceful and show love and respect to others.
How could it be that when such a peaceful teaching was revealed to the Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) that he himself would violate its teachings?
Honest and fair historians testify to the fact that the Holy Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) never inflicted any cruelty or usurped the rights of other people.
At every juncture, he taught peace, forbearance and fulfilling the rights of mankind and certainly, his teachings are our inspiration. We proudly proclaim to be the followers of that noble Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) who the Holy Quran declared as a mercy for mankind.
This is the reason that the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community raises the slogan of Love for All, Hatred for None. At this time of strife and division, our message is that all nations and all people must urgently strive for peace.
The fierce critics of Islam should recognise that instead of targeting their bile and venom towards Islam and its noble Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), they should eradicate the traces of bias, prejudice and self-interest.
Otherwise, disorder and hatred in the world will continue to escalate. Frustrations and anger amongst those Muslims, who are uneducated or ignorant of the true teachings of their religion, will rise to the surface.
Not only amongst the Muslim community, but across society, wherever young people are left hopeless and frustrated, they become easy prey for hateful clerics or extremists who poison their minds.
We must guard against this, otherwise, the bitter cycle of hatred that has darkened the modern world, will continue to turn. Peace within Muslim societies, and in the wider world, will become an ever more distant dream.
As I said at the outset, it is the need of the time that we all join together and instead of inveighing against one another’s religious sentiments, we join forces and work towards building a better future for our children and future generations.
Let us set aside our differences and work faithfully towards developing true and sustainable peace in the world. Let us respect one another and strive to build a better society founded upon principles of unity and the common good.
May Allah the Almighty enable us to do so – Ameen.”