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The Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha'at-e-Islam Lahore UK's Official Website > Newsletters Section > "Islam -- The Religion of Peace" by Mr. Shahid Aziz (General Secretary of the AAIIL(UK)) [A Presentation at New Haw Community Centre, Woking]

Islam -- The Religion of Peace:
by Mr. Shahid Aziz (General Secretary of the AAIIL(UK))
A Presentation at New Haw Community Centre, Woking


The topic of today’s presentation is: Islam – The Religion of Peace. This is a vast topic and much can be said about each aspect of this topic.

Topics for the Day:


The two aspects, which I want to consider today, are:

1. How should a Muslim treat or interact with followers of other faiths in the country where he lives?
and,
2. How should a Muslim nation interact with other nations?

Sources:


The sources that I intend to use to support my thesis are these:

1. The Holy Quran which Muslims believe to be the directly revealed word of Allah, preserved in exactly the same words in which it was revealed to the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

2. The Hadith that is a collection of the sayings and description of the actions of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

3. The Arabic language in which the Holy Quran was revealed.

Fundamental Beliefs:


Before dealing with the topic itself it will also be useful to look at the fundamental beliefs of the Muslims.

1. There is One God who created mankind.

2. Divine guidance was sent to all mankind through Prophets raised by Allah.

3. The Last Prophet after whom there will be no other, new or old, was the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

4. The Last brotherhood to be established was that of the Muslims.

These beliefs are important in understanding Islam’s attitude to other religions. The unity of the humankind flows from the concept of the Unity of the Godhead. If there is One God who created all, then He will treat us all with justice and equity regardless of our beliefs. We are all His children. A father may find that one child is naughty, another lazy, yet a third one hard working and so on. But, he loves them all. He tries to do his best for all of them. He may punish one for breaking the rules or being disobedient but even the punishment is a reflection of his love.

Meaning of the Word Islam:


This takes us to the name of our religion, which is Islam. Islam means submission to Allah. It also means peace. The reason is that there cannot be peace unless we submit to a higher authority and that higher authority treats every one equally. For example, we have local councils and we find that people tend to move to those areas where these councils offer people greater facilities. If a local council provides better schools in its area, house prices in those areas go up because people want to move to that area. This leads to resentment and disharmony in the people who cannot avail those facilities. So, there will not be peace and harmony just because we all submit to a higher authority. Peace and harmony will only prevail in a society if we are all treated equally. And, just as in the earlier example, a father punishes a child for disobedience; the higher authority also punishes people who try to break the rules. If it does not then chaos is the result.

What does Allah tell us about other Nations?


In the Holy Quran Allah instructs Muslim about how they must regard other nations and their founders.

"And when his Lord tried Abraham with certain commands he fulfilled them. He said: Surely I will make thee a leader of men. (Abraham) said: And of my offspring? My covenant does not include the wrongdoers, said He." (2:124)

On the fact of it here we have the founder of another religion being recognised by the Holy Quran. Not only that, in response to his prayer for his offspring, he is being promised that the righteous amongst his children will be made leaders of nations. What an astounding statement this is! Do we have any other scripture in which righteous of other religions are promised leadership of mankind?

Further on, Allah instructs Muslims how they are to regard the founders of other religions. Says the Holy Quran:

"(O Muslims say) We believe in Allah and (in) that which has been revealed to us, and (in) that which was revealed to Abraham, and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the tribes, and (in) that which was given to Moses and Jesus, and (in) that which was given to the prophets from their Lord, we do not make any distinction between any of them and to Him do we submit." (2:136)

Here belief in founders of other religions is made a matter of faith for a Muslim. A Muslim is told to declare that he believes that Allah guided founders of all religions. You may say that some prophets of Allah are mentioned here. These came to the Jews and to Christians, if you regard Christianity to be a separate religion from Judaism. What about other people? What about the people of China or Australia or the Americas? The point is that Allah specifically mentioned founders of those religions of which the Arabs knew. There were communities of Christians and the Jews in Arabia, so their prophets were specifically mentioned. Having done that Allah then sets out a general statement saying "and in that which was given to prophets from their Lord . . ." Who then are these prophets? They have to be different from the ones already mentioned in the first part of this verse and so this must mean that a Muslim, to remain in the faith of Islam, must believe that Allah provided guidance for all humanity, wherever it was located, not only those who appear in, what is now called, the Middle East.

The Holy Quran Glorifies All Prophets:


You may say that belief in other prophets was made a part of Islam to spare the feelings of the people of other religions who lived in Arabia and surrounding areas. But read the last verse quoted above. It instructs Muslims thus: "we do not make any distinction between any of them" Here a Muslim is expressly forbidden to say that any prophet, and this includes the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), is superior or inferior to any other prophet. As we all know this is not the case with other religions. Followers of every other religion say that their founder was better than the founders of all other religions.

As if this was not enough in the following verses the Holy Quran glorifies all the prophets.

"And peace on him (Jesus) the day he was born and the day he died, and the day he is raised to life! (19:15)

"Peace be to Abraham!" (37:109)

"Peace be to Moses and Aaron!" (37:120)

"Peace be to Elias!" (37:130)

"Peace be to Noah among the nations!" (37:79)

Remember that a Muslim recites the Holy Quran in his five daily prayers. Thus every time a Muslim prays and recites these verses, he is praying for founders of all other religions. How can this charge then be true that Muslims hate other religions or their followers?

But what about the Followers of other Religions?


You may object to this statement I have made. You may say that the verses I have quoted make no mention of the followers of other religions. It is one thing to venerate the founders of other religions and a different matter altogether to respect the followers of those religions. Let us then return to the Holy Quran and see if it has any instructions for the Muslims in this regard.

"Surely those who believe, and those who are Jews, and the Christians, and the Sabians, whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day and does good, they have their reward with their Lord, and there is no fear for them, nor shall they grieve." (2:62)

"They are not all alike. Of the People of the Book there is an upright party who recite Allah’s messages in the nighttime and they adore (Him). They believe in Allah and the Last Day, and they enjoin good and forbid evil and vie one with another in good deeds. And those are among the righteous. And whatever good they do, they will not be denied it. And Allah knows those who keep their duty." (3:113-115)

So the Holy Quran tells Muslims to recognise goodness wherever it may be found. The reason that a Muslim should appreciate goodness in all nations is that Allah recognises goodness in all creatures. He will reward all those who do good deeds regardless of their faith. Allah does not discriminate between His creatures. He does not need a Race Discrimination Act. He does not need a Sexual Equality Act. In simple and in clear terms He tells us that whatever good any one does He shall not deny them the reward of that good. This is a far cry from other religions. In some you need to be born among the chosen few to receive Allah’s blessings, in others our efforts at being good and at being righteous are wasteful because we do not hold certain doctrinal views. It is only the Holy Scripture of Islam that declares that good people, righteous people are to be found in every nation and that Allah will reward them all for their deeds.

What about Relations with non-Muslims in our Day-to-day Lives?


I can hear you thinking this is mere theory. It’s all very well to declare things as a matter of belief but there is nothing practical here about how Muslims should deal with or treat their non-Muslim neighbours, friends or colleagues.

This is not correct for the Holy Quran instructs Muslims in these words:

"It is not righteousness that you turn your faces towards the East and the West, but righteous is the one who believes in Allah, and the Last Day, and the angels and the Book and the prophets, and gives away wealth out of love for Him to the near of kin and the orphans and the needy and the wayfarer and to those who ask and to set slaves free and keeps up prayer and pays the poor-rate; and the performers of their promise when they make a promise, and the patient in distress and affliction and in the time of conflict. These are they who are truthful; and these are they who keep their duty." (2:177)

Notice that when Allah speaks of charity He says that we should give out our wealth to "the near of kin and the orphans and the needy and the wayfarer and to those who ask and to set slaves free". It does not say we should give charity to our Muslim relatives or Muslim orphans or Muslim wayfarer or free Muslim slaves. It is an important point to remember that when these verses were being revealed all of Arabia had not embraced Islam. Muslims had non-Muslim relatives and friends and neighbours. Therefore, for Allah not to qualify the relatives and the needy, etc., is significant. Its significance lies in the fact that, in my view, Allah is instructing the Muslims to have regard only for a person’s need, not for his or her religion or nationality or colour. If Allah had wanted to restrict Muslims’ charity to their brothers-in-faith, it would have been easy to add that qualification. This shows that here Allah is Commanding Muslims not to discriminate between the people of different religions in this manner.

Does the Duty to Propagate Islam not Imply Intolerance?


It is true that it is a religious duty of every single Muslim to propagate Islam. But this does not mean that a Muslim is being intolerant towards other people for the Holy Quran sets out specific instructions about how propagation is to be carried out.

"There is no compulsion in religion – the right way is indeed clearly distinct from error." (2:256)

How can propagation of Islam make one intolerant when Allah has clearly told us that we are not to try and force or coerce people into embracing Islam? Indeed, the corollary of this statement is also true and that is that we should not force any one to remain within the fold of Islam if their conscience dictates otherwise. Apart from it being a Divinely bestowed right that every person should be free to follow the path they consider to be correct, it is also a matter of common sense. If people are forced to remain within the fold of Islam when in their heart they do not accept its truth then we will have a party of hypocrites in our midst. And they can cause greater damage to Islam than any non-Muslim. This is supported by another verse of the Holy Quran, which is specifically directed to the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). It says:

"And We have not appointed thee a keeper over them, and thou art not placed in charge of them." (6:107)

Elsewhere the Holy Prophet is told that his duty is to deliver the message entrusted to him and no more. Whether people choose to follow him or not, it is up to them. History also supports this. Muslims were asked to invade Spain by a sect of Christians. The reason they gave for this request was that they were being persecuted by the rulers of Spain who belonged to a different sect and they had come to seek help from Muslims because they had heard that there was no compulsion in Islam!

The Holy Quran also tells us how to propagate Islam.

"Call to the way of thy Lord with wisdom and goodly exhortation, and argue with them in the best manner. Surely thy Lord knows best him who strays from His path, and He knows best those who go aright." (16:125)

So the propagation is to be carried out by speaking to people in a respectful manner and not by taunting them or trying to humiliate them. Again, it is a matter of common sense, apart from being a Divine Decree, that if we speak to people nicely they are more likely to listen to us. And the Holy Quran is reminding us not to lose sight of common sense when propagating Islam. The following verse also supports what I have just said.

"And abuse not those whom they call upon besides Allah, lest, exceeding the limits, they abuse Allah through ignorance. Thus to every people have We made their deeds fair-seeming; then to their Lord is their return so He will inform them of what they did." (6:108)

The greatest sin in Islam is to set up Gods besides Allah. Yet, Muslims are told that they are not even to abuse them. These people are wrong, they do not know what is right but they believe what they do because "We made their deeds fair-seeming". What a brilliant statement! Everyone believes as they do because they think it is the right religion and the correct path to follow. We do not come across any person who says I believe in this religion but it is totally wrong. Allah also tells Muslims that there is another reason for not insulting these false deities. The other party will respond by abusing Allah and not knowing what they are doing they would commit a sin. It will also mean that the Muslims who hear Allah being abused will become enraged and a conflict will ensue. A Muslim is to leave everything to Allah and it is Allah who will tell these people what they believed or did was wrong.

What should a Muslim do, if the Message of Islam is Rejected?


So, you, as a Muslim, do your duty. You speak to non-Muslims nicely, you do not abuse their Gods, you explain to them why Islam is the right course to follow. And despite all your efforts your message is rejected. What should you do? Should you shout at this person? Should you attack him? How Muslims should react is, again, written in the Holy Quran. It says:

"And if they reject thee -- truly messengers before thee were rejected. And to Allah are all affairs returned." (35:4)

"So turn away from them." (54:6)

These verses are addressed to the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) himself. He is told that this has always happened to prophets and he should leave the eventual outcome in the hands of Allah. Further than that, Allah tells the Holy Prophet that if the disbelievers become argumentative and the discussion becomes heated he should turn away from these people. Muslims are also told, in general terms, what to do if an opponent becomes angry or argumentative. He is told:

"And when they hear idle talk, they turn aside from it and say: For us are our deeds and for you your deeds. Peace be to you! We desire not the ignorant. Surely thou canst not guide whom thou lovest, but Allah guides whom He pleases; and He knows best those who walk aright." (28:55-56)

A Muslim is to remind the person that we are all responsible and accountable for our own deeds and actions. He is to respond to abuse by asking his opponent to go in peace because the Muslim does not want to be a cause of disharmony or discord.

Does Islam forbid Muslims to Associate with People of other Religions?


Let us see what the Holy Quran says:

"Allah forbids you not respecting those who fight you not for religion, nor drive you forth from your homes, that you show them kindness and deal with them justly. Surely Allah loves the doers of justice. Allah forbids you only respecting those who fight you for religion, and drive you forth from your homes and help (others) in your expulsion, that you make friends of them; and whoever makes friends of them, these are the wrongdoers." (60:8-9)

It seems to me that this instruction says what governments, the world over, have been practicing. Many years ago I joined the British Civil Service. Apart from being asked to sign the Official Secrets Act I was also asked to sign a declaration, which stated that if I intend to travel to certain countries I shall obtain written permission. The list contained the names of all communist countries such as the USSR, as it was then, China, etc. Is the Holy Quran asking for anything different? It is merely asking Muslims not to reconcile themselves with people who subjected them to tyranny because, in Islam, tyranny is worse than killing. I am sure that other Western governments asked their civil servants to sign similar declarations. I am also sure that the communist governments did the same. Why is it wrong for Allah to demand this of Muslims if it is not wrong for the governments of this world to do so?

What then is Jihad?


In answering this I will not use a Muslim source. I will use quotations from an article written by Dr. Leitner, who built the Woking Mosque which is near here. In his article titled Misconceptions about Jihad, he says:

"Etymologically the root is jahd, ‘he exerted himself’, and the substantival infinitive that is formed from it means ‘utmost exertion’. Its first use amongst Arabic authors refers to that particular exertion which takes place under great difficulties, and, when applied to religious matters, it means an exertion under religious difficulties on behalf of the true religion."

He then goes on to tell us what it means when a Muslim is asked to perform Jihad. He says:

"So that when people say that jihad means the duty of the Muhammadans to wage war against a non-Muhammadan government or country and call this jihad (although it is possible to conceive that under certain circumstances this use of the word might be legitimate), they really talk nonsense, and cast an undeserved libel on a religion with which they are not acquainted." 

Yes, Jihad is a duty of every Muslim. It is true that a Muslim must, throughout his life, constantly engage in Jihad. But Dr. Leitner says that "The Koran, when using the word jihad, seems preferentially to use it for war with sin: ‘Whoever wages jihad in morality We will show him the true way.’ "

This is shown by what the Holy Prophet Muhammad did and said. Dr. Leitner informs us:

"When some people applied to Muhammad for permission to join in a holy war against those who were oppressing Muhammadans, he replied to them, ‘Your true jihad is in endeavouring to serve your parents.’ "

And further on:

". . . returning cheerfully from a victorious war . . . the Prophet, . . . (said): ‘We have returned from the small jihad, the war with the aggressors on the Muhammadan faith, to the great jihad, the war with sin.’ "

So both the Holy Quran and the Sunnah [Actions] and Hadith [Sayings] of our beloved prophet Muhammad (pbuh) tell us the fighting is not the primary meaning or purpose of making jihad a duty of every Muslim.

What about Fighting?


It is true that Islam does not believe in turning the other cheek. Neither does it preach unremitting war. The Holy Quran says:

"And be not slack so as to cry for peace" (47:35)

So a Muslim, when faced by tyranny should not cower for peace like a coward. He should stand up and defend his, and every one else’s right to freedom of religion and belief. The Holy Quran tells the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh):

"Fighting is enjoined on you, though it is disliked by you . . ." (2:216)

In this verse Allah is informing Muhammad (pbuh) that although he abhors violence, it is being made his duty to fight under certain conditions. These conditions are also laid down in the Holy Scripture:

"Permission (to fight) is given to those on whom war is made, because they are oppressed. And surely Allah is Able to assist them. Those who are driven from their homes without a just cause except that they say: Our Lord is Allah. And if Allah did not repel some people by others, cloisters, and churches, and synagogues, and mosques in which Allah’s name is much remembered, would have been pulled down. And surely Allah will help him who helps Him. Surely Allah is Strong, Mighty." (22:39-40)

After reading this verse can any reasonable person say that Islam is a violent religion? Those who are oppressed and those who are subjected to violence, those who are forced from their homes simply because they glorify Allah, they are given permission to defend themselves. Here Allah also tells us what the consequences would be if Muslims were not given permission to stand up for their religion and their beliefs. The consequences would be that, not only mosques, but also other places of religious worship where Allah is glorified would be pulled down. So when a Muslim says the he is duty bound to conduct jihad under these circumstances, he is not only talking about protecting his own religion or his own places of worship but all religions and their places of worship.

Next a Muslim is told how to fight:

"And fight in the way of Allah against those who fight against you but be not aggressive. Surely Allah loves not the aggressors. And kill them wherever you find them, and drive them out from where they drove you out, and persecution is worse than slaughter." (2:190-191)

 So the fighting undertaken by a Muslim is not to be aggressive. As we saw earlier that a Muslim must not submit to tyranny and here the same instruction is repeated. Allah tells us that the reason for giving permission to fight is that to persecution is worse than slaughter. This is borne out by history. If people had not given in to Hitler and they had taken a stand earlier the consequences may not have been as grave. If Stalin had not been allowed to get away with his tyranny and oppression, the millions who lost their lives need not have died.

What are the Limits to Fighting?


Despite the permission to fight and being told that Muslims must not be aggressive, Muslims are told that fighting is to come to an end if:

"And fight them until there is no persecution, and religion is only for Allah. But if they desist, then there should be no hostility except against the oppressors." (2:193)

So, if persecution stops or opponents seek peace Muslims have to agree to it. In another place, we find an even more amazing statement:

"And if they incline to peace, incline thou also to it, and trust in Allah. Surely He is the Hearer, the Knower. And if they intend to deceive thee, then surely Allah is sufficient for thee." (8:61-62)

So a Muslim is to agree to peace even if he suspects treachery on the part of the opponents. The Muslim is to put his trust in Allah because as He says elsewhere in the Holy Quran:

"They plan and Allah plans but Allah is the best planner."

History and hadith of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) supports this interpretation. The following incident is related in Bukhari, which is regarded as the most authentic collection of the sayings of the Holy Prophet (pbuh).

"Narrated Said bin Jubair: Abdullah bin Umar came to us and we hoped that he would narrate to us a good Hadith. But before we asked him, a man got up and said to him, ‘O Abu Abdur-Rahman! Narrate to us about the battles during the time of the afflictions, as Allah says: ‘And fight them until there is no more afflictions’ ’ (2.193) Ibn Umar said (to the man), ‘Do you know what is meant by afflictions? Let your mother bereave you! Muhammad used to fight against the pagans, for a Muslim was put to trial in his religion. His fighting was not like your fighting which is carried on for the sake of ruling.’ " (Bukhair Volume 9, Book 88, Number 215)

All of this is summarised in the words of Hazrat Umar as he lay dying.

"Narrated Amr bin Maimun: Umar (after he was stabbed), instructed (his would-be-successor) saying, ‘I urge him (the new Caliph) to take care of those non-Muslims who are under the protection of Allah and His Apostle in that he should observe the convention agreed upon with them, and fight on their behalf (to secure their safety) and he should not over-tax them beyond their capability.’ " (Bukhari: Volume 4, Book 52, Number 287)

Conclusion:


In conclusion I say to you that Islam commands its followers:

And that a Muslim is duty bound to take up arms only when freedom of the people is threatened.


This page was printed from the 'Official Website of the Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha'at-e-Islam Lahore (Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement for the Propagation of Islam)'
located at
http://aaiil.org or http://www.aaiil.org

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