Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad calls for respect and tolerance between people of different faiths and beliefs
The World Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, the Fifth Khalifa (Caliph), His Holiness, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad delivered an historic keynote address on 8th October 2019 at the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Headquarters in Paris.
The event was attended by over 80 dignitaries and guests, including diplomats, politicians, academics and the representatives of think tanks, as well as business leaders and various other professions.
During his address, theHead of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community commended the foundational objectives of UNESCO, which included developing sustainable peace, promoting the rule of law, the protection of human rights, safeguarding the cultural heritage of different groups and communities and seeking to ensure the future prosperity of the world. Thereafter, His Holiness said that over 1400 years ago, Islam instructed Muslims to pursue these same goals in the interests of the peace and prosperity of mankind.
His Holiness stressed the importance of education across society. He said that access to education was the means of ensuring peace and stability and that Islam emphasised the importance of ensuring that girls were educated and given equal opportunities as boys.
Furthermore, His Holiness refuted the allegation that Islam was a religion that failed to encourage intellectual advancement. Rather, he emphasised how from the very outset Islam taught that human beings should continually seek to push the boundaries of human knowledge and that there was no contradiction between science and religion.
Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad spoke about the utmost importance of education for the establishment of peace and how the teachings of Islam have laid down the foundations for a model society.
Such teachings had motivated and inspired generations of Muslim scholars and philosophers who had advanced the cause of the intellectual progress of mankind through the Middle Ages. Now, in the modern era, it was the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community that sought to draw on that rich intellectual history by encouraging learning and the pursuit of human knowledge.
At the outset, His Holiness praised the founding principles of UNESCO.
Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad said:
“The founding objectives of UNESCO are excellent and praiseworthy. Amongst its objectives, are fostering peace and respect, promoting the rule of law, human rights and education across the world. UNESCO also advocates for press freedom and protecting different cultures and heritages. Another of its stated goals is to eradicate poverty and to promote sustainable global growth and development and to try to ensure that humanity leaves behind a positive legacy from which future generations can benefit.”
Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad continued:
“You may be surprised to learn that Islamic teachings require Muslims to work towards fulfilling these same objectives and to continually strive for the progress of humanity.”
His Holiness said that the Holy Quran has stated that Allah the Almighty is the ‘Lord of All the Worlds’, and hence Muslims believe him to be the Creator and Provider for all humankind, regardless of creed or colour.
As a result, it was an incumbent religious obligation placed on Muslims to serve humanity without distinction of their religious, social or ethnic background.
“The very first chapter of the Holy Quran states that Allah the Almighty is the ‘Lord of all the Worlds’. This verse is central to the Islamic faith whereby Muslims are taught that God Almighty is not just their Lord and Provider but He is the Provider and Sustainer of all humankind. He is the Gracious and Merciful and so, irrespective of caste, creed or colour, God Almighty fulfils the needs of His Creation.”
“Given this, true Muslims firmly believe that all humans are born equal and that regardless of differences of belief, the values of mutual respect and tolerance must be firmly embedded within society.”
His Holiness said that the Prophet of Islam, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) was the perfect manifestation of the teachings of Islam. Following his migration to Medina, and under his leadership, a thriving, multicultural society was established which continued to serve as an example for mankind.
Speaking of the reasons for his migration and what transpired thereafter, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad said:
“After he founded Islam, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) and his followers were subjected to brutal and inhumane treatment by the non-Muslims of Makkah, which they endured with patience and restraint. Finally, after suffering years of relentless persecution, they migrated to the city of Medina where the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) formed a covenant of peace between the Muslim migrants, the Jewish people and the other members of society.”
“According to its terms, the divergent groups pledged to live peacefully, to fulfil the rights of one another and to foster a spirit of mutual sympathy, tolerance and cooperation. The Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) was elected as the Head of State and, under his leadership, the covenant proved to be a magnificent charter of human rights and governance and it ensured peace between the different communities.”
Thereafter, His Holiness very carefully analysed and discussed the key characteristics and achievements of that first government of Medina.
His Holiness said that its system of governance was underpinned by an entirely impartial system of law and order and justice, wherein all people were equal under the law of the land.
“The Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings be upon him) established an impartial judiciary for dispute resolution. He made it clear that there would not be one law for the rich and powerful and another for the poor and weak. Rather, in what was a revolutionary concept, all people were treated equally according to the law of the land.”
Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad explained how the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) established various programmes and schemes designed to ensure the progress and stability of society.
These included establishing an education system, a taxation system designed to raise the standards of the poor, a public health system focused on sanitation and educating citizens about health, a transport system and a code of conduct for business and financial ethics leading to tremendous social progress.
“During the 7thCentury, under the government led by the Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings be upon him), astonishing progress was made in Medina to advance the cause of individual and collective rights. Indeed, for the very first time amongst the Arabs, an orderly and civilised society was established. In many ways, it was a model society – in terms of infrastructure, services and, more importantly, in terms of the unity and tolerance displayed in what was a multicultural society.”
His Holiness expressed
that a concerted effort had taken place in the modern world to malign and defame the character of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him).
“The Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) has been branded as a belligerent leader – when nothing could be further from the truth. The reality is that the Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings be upon him) spent every moment of his life championing the rights of all people and, through the teachings of Islam, he established an incomparable and timeless charter of human rights.”
His Holiness condemned those who sought to attack or mock religion and the Prophets of God.
“In my view, it is deeply regrettable, that the principle of mutual respect, which is the means of establishing love and unity, has been sacrificed in the modern world in the name of so-called freedom and even in the name of ‘entertainment’. Even the Founders of religion are no longer spared mockery and contempt, even though their derision causes anguish and pain to millions of their followers around the world.”
In stark contrast to how he was oft portrayed by the opponents of Islam, His Holiness explained that the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) set a timeless example of compassion and humanity. He forever sought to care for the weak and vulnerable members of society and established many schemes to ensure their welfare.
Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad also spoke about the Holy Prophet’s (peace and blessings be upon him) continuous efforts to eradicate slavery. In an era when slavery was rampant and considered a fundamental part of society, the Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings be upon him) sought to emancipate those who were shackled by the chains of bondage and servitude.
“The Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings be upon him) repeatedly advocated the freeing of slaves and instructed that if it was not immediately possible for them to release them, then at the very minimum, they were to feed and clothe them in the same way they fed and clothed themselves.”
His Holiness said that another allegation often raised is that Islam fails to protect women’s rights or advocates discrimination between the sexes. However, this was entirely false and unfair. From the start, Islam prescribed the equal rights of women and taught that educating girls was of primary importance and a religious requirement for all Muslims.
“Islam established the rights of women and girls for the first time. At a time, when women and girls were discriminated against and often looked down upon, the Holy Prophet of Islam instructed his followers to ensure that girls were educated and respected. Indeed, he said that if a person had three daughters who they educated and guided in the best way they would be sure to enter Paradise.”
“Based upon the teachings of the Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings be upon him) Ahmadi Muslim girls across the world are educated and are excelling in various fields. They are becoming doctors, teachers, architects and entering other professions through which they can serve humanity.”
Answering the allegation that Islam is a religion that promotes violence or permits violence in the name of religion, His Holiness said that the wars in the early period of Islam were defensive and fought as a last resort in order to protect the rights of Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
“The truth is that, as is stated in the Holy Quran, permission to fight back was granted to (the early Muslims) to establish and preserve the principles of freedom of belief and freedom of conscience for all mankind. The Quran states that if the Muslims did not defend themselves against the Meccan army, then no church, synagogue, temple, mosque or any other place of worship would be safe because the opponents of Islam were determined to eliminate all forms of religion.”
“In reality, if the early Muslims engaged in warfare it was always defensive and fought for the sake of establishing long-term peace and to protect the right of all people to live with freedom. If today, there are Muslims who have adopted extremist tactics or who preach violence it is because they have abandoned Islam’s teachings or are wholly ignorant of it.”
As he graced the audience at UNESCO, His Holiness refuted the suggestion that Islam was an ‘archaic and backward religion’ and one that did not promote intellectual advancement. His Holiness branded such a claim as
“a lazy stereotype that is based on fiction rather than fact”.
His Holiness presented an extensive array of historical examples illustrating the contribution of Muslims to the cause of intellectual enlightenment.
“The truth is that the Holy Quran and the teachings of the Holy Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings be upon him) inspired the works of generations of Muslim intellectuals, philosophers and inventors in the Middle Ages. Indeed, if we look back more than a millennium we see how Muslim scientists and inventors played a fundamental role in advancing knowledge and developing technologies which transformed the world and remain in use today.”
Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad mentioned ground-breaking contributions to medicine, technology, chemistry, physics, ethics, philosophy, mathematics amongst others.
In this era, it was the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community that had taken up the mantle of promoting education and furthering the cause of intellectual progress.
His Holiness mentioned the distinguished contribution to science and human knowledge Professor Dr Abdus Salam and how he had been inspired by his faith.
“With the Grace of Allah, the very first Muslim Nobel Laureate was an Ahmadi Muslim, Professor Dr Abdus Salam, an eminent physicist who won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1979. Throughout his life, Professor Salam spoke of how Islam, and the Holy Quran in particular, was the inspiration and guiding light behind his work.”
Later, His Holiness spoke of the charitable endeavours of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community which sought to alleviate the suffering of mankind. He also stated that breaking the cycle of poverty that afflicted generations of families in economically weak nations was the means of establishing peace in the world.
“In remote and poverty-stricken parts of Africa, we have established primary and secondary schools and we have also opened hospitals and clinics. We are providing clean running water in remote villages, which mean that children are free to go to school, instead of spending their days travelling for miles seeking to collect pond-water for their domestic family use. We have also set up a project of building model villages, which include community halls, access to clean water, solar energy infrastructure and various other facilities.”
“Where, out of human sympathy, we seek to eradicate poverty and destitution, we also consider it to be the key to developing sustainable peace in the world.”
Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad further said:
“Only if people have food to eat, water to drink, shelter, schooling for their children and healthcare will they be able to live in peace and escape the deadly clutches of frustration and resentment that lead people towards extremism. These are all basic human rights and so until we help people flee poverty and destitution we will not see true peace in the world.”
Concluding, His Holiness called for a change in the priorities of mankind.
“At the end, I pray with all my heart that mankind forsakes greed and forgoes the pursuit of narrow self-interests and instead focuses on relieving the pain and anguish of those who are suffering in the world. Ameen.”
Before the keynote address, several distinguished speakers took to the stage and spoke of their admiration of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and its efforts to propagate Islam’s message of peace across the world, as well as its commitment to serving humanity.
Ambassador Oumar Keïta, Delegate of Mali to UNESCO,said:
“Your Holiness, the Caliph (Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad), we salute all the contributions you have made (in Mali) such as the building of hospitals mosques and schools and the various projects you have set up through Humanity First… Your Holiness, I congratulate you for the message of peace that you propagate, it consolidates our society in Mali and is in line with the ideals of UNESCO.”
Religious Advisor of Foreign Affairs Ministry, Mr Jean Christophe Auge said:
“I am happy to welcome His Holiness the Caliph (Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad) here today… We are very familiar with what the Caliph and the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community represent both in this country and around the world. I would like to salute the visit of His Holiness to this country and I wish you every success for this visit.”
Director of the Central Religion Advisory Board to the Interior Ministry of France, Mr Clément Rouchouse said:
“I am very pleased to be here today to salute the Caliph of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community’s visit to France. I would like to welcome you to France in this country which has a tradition of welcoming different religions based on the principle of secularism.”
Mayor of Eaubonne, Mr Guillaume Dublineau, said:
“Despite the differences in colours and cultures and languages we are all pursuing the same principles wherever we live and in whatever town we are. We aspire to live in peace and justice, with tolerance and a sharing of our values. I would like to praise the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, as it is a community that brings love and warmth but also friendship and brotherhood.”
President of the NATO Memorial, Mr Willy Breton also spoke and commended the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community for its continued efforts to promote peace.
An introduction to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and the Promised Messiah (peace be upon him) was given by the National External Affairs Secretary of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in France, Mr Asif Arif.
The event concluded with a silent prayer led by His Holiness.
Following the event, guests were able to personally with His Holiness, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad.
They all acknowledged their appreciation of the keynote address and reflected on the various points made by His Holiness in defence of Islam and for the sake of the peace and stability of the world.
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