Zujaja Khan, London
As Britain and the Commonwealth mark 100 years since the end of the First World War this month, we take time to reflect on the sacrifices made, and the mistakes that led our countries down a deadly path a century ago. But despite our yearly contemplation and promises not to forget, we live in increasingly disturbing times. Not unlike the century before us, we live in times of international distrust, abandoned disarmament talks, assassinations, aborted peace resolutions, and proxy wars.
It is difficult to discuss the social and political chaos in the world now without being inundated by hysteria regarding Islam. Edward Saïd, the Palestinian American academic, once wrote that almost ‘nothing about the study of Islam today is “free” and undetermined by urgent contemporary pressures.’1 He recognised the prevailing disconnect between what Islam is and what ‘prominent sectors of a particular society take it to be’ . Yes, at times it can be complex to defend our corner when so many sectors of society seek to discredit Islam; who use the actions of minorities as a barometer of that community’s overall humanity.
During his Friday Sermon on 11th December 2015, His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad elucidated upon the climate of Islamic extremism, and the dire situation that the Muslim world finds itself in.2 He stated that the world is ‘teetering on the edge of a fire pit,’, and that it is the responsibility of Ahmadis to try to save the world from falling in fire. His Holiness explained that the best way to achieve this goal is to cultivate a special connection with Allah the Almighty, thereby advancing a mission of peace and harmony. His Holiness’s acute understanding of the global situation we find ourselves in has enabled him to provide crucial guidance in these trying times. His advocating of peace and harmony is demonstrated throughout his sermons, and especially through his addresses at our annual National Peace Symposium and his addresses around the globe.
Opponents of Islam tend to focus their criticisms on two central areas: the Holy Quran, and the life history of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). Ignorance surrounds these two important parts of Islamic teachings, particularly the notion that Islam propagates violence and creates a deep distrust between Muslims and non-Muslims. The Holy Quran itself makes clear that ‘…in it there are verses that are decisive in meaning…and there are others that are susceptible of different interpretations…’ (3:8) Critics tend to fixate on Quranic verses that discuss violence, war or death, and promote these out of context. Contrary to these misreadings, verses regarding death and war are not all commandments to engage in violence. As His Holiness has explained countless times, the fundamental tenet of Islam is peace, and those who wish to delineate from this message do so because of their own ignorance:
If a person does not follow a particular teaching properly whilst claiming to subscribe to it, then it is he who is in error, not the teaching. The meaning of the word ‘Islam’ itself is peace, love and security.3
In addition, claims of a violent Islam are absolutely rebuked when, in the Holy Quran, it is written: ‘…create not disorder in the earth after it has been set in order. This is better for you, if you are believers’ (7:86). This guidance is indisputable; however affronts to the values of Islam are perpetrated and exacerbated across the world right now by Muslims and non-Muslims alike. As Ahmadi Muslims we must be more vigilant in our efforts to dispel and educate people about the true Islam.
Indeed, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) did not advocate violence, nor did he seek it. His life continues to be grossly misunderstood by groups of Muslims who use contorted histories to justify violence; and by non-Muslims to delegitimise our beliefs. Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) clearly forbade the urge to fight when he said: “Do not wish for battle with the enemy. Pray to Allah to grant you safety; (but) when you are obliged to face them in battle, show patience.”4
It is no surprise then that our Ahmadi community is always quick to publicly denounce terrorist acts and to help the communities in which we live. We must also understand our own history, found in the examples of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). As His Holiness mentioned in his 2015 sermon, we should make our own efforts to engage with the teachings of Islam and use the tools provided for us in the Holy Quran and in our Islamic history, to remind us what true Islam is.