An address by Ahmadiyya Head.
Posted on June 14th, 2021

By A. Abdul Aziz.

The Gist of the Address by the Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community the Fifth Khalifah (Caliph), His Holiness, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, France on 8th October 2019. 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. 

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, 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.

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. Such service is based upon the very first chapter of the Holy Quran, which states that Allah the Almighty is the Lord of all the worlds.”

In Islam, the philosophy of punishment or sanction established by God Almighty is weighted more towards the hereafter, whilst in this life, Allah the Almighty continues to manifest His Grace and Mercy upon the world. By instructing Muslims to adopt His ways, Allah the Almighty has instructed them to show compassion and sympathy to their fellow creation. In light of this, it is a religious obligation on Muslims to fulfil the requirements of other people, irrespective of religion, culture or ethnicity and to always be kind and empathetic to the emotions and needs of others.

Moreover, the Holy Quran has pronounced that the Holy Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was sent to the world by God Almighty as a source of unparalleled mercy and benevolence for all humanity. He was the practical manifestation of the compassionate teachings of Islam.

The Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) 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. The Prophet of Islam (PBUH) established an impartial judiciary for dispute resolution. He made it clear that there would be one law for the rich and powerful and for the poor and weak and all people would be treated equally according to the law of the land.

For example, on one occasion, an affluent lady committed a crime and many people suggested that, given her high standing in society, it was better to turn a blind eye to her crimes. The Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) rejected their advice and made it clear that even if his daughter committed an offence, she too would be subject to the law and no favouritism or nepotism would occur.

In addition, the Prophet of Islam (PBUH) established an excellent education system, through which the intellectual standards of that society were raised. Literate and well-educated people were instructed to teach the illiterate. Special measures were put in place to provide education to orphans and other vulnerable members of society. This was all done so that the weak and powerless could stand on their own two feet and advance.

A taxation system was established, whereby taxes were levied on wealthier members of society and the proceeds were used to provide financial aid for disadvantaged members of society. According to the teachings of the Holy Quran, the Prophet of Islam (PBUH) established a code of business and financial ethics to ensure that trading was fair and honest.

In an age when slavery was rampant and slave-owners treated their slaves mercilessly, the Prophet of Islam (PBUH) sought to bring about a revolution in society. Slave-owners were ordered to treat their slaves with compassion and respect and the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) repeatedly urged them to free them.

Also, under the leadership of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), a system of public sanitation was developed. A city cleaning programme was implemented and people were educated about the importance of personal hygiene and physical health. The roads of the city were expanded and improved. A census was conducted to collect data and to identify the needs of the citizens.

Moving on, in terms of the teachings of Islam, it is a cause of profound sadness that in today’s world, the Holy Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) has been grievously mischaracterised. He has been branded as a belligerent leader, when nothing could be further from the truth.

The reality is that the Prophet of Islam (PBUH) 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. For example, he taught that people should respect the beliefs and feelings of one another. They should abstain from criticising what others held sacred.

Once, a Jewish person came to him and complained about the conduct of one of his closest companion. The Prophet of Islam (PBUH) summoned him and asked what had transpired. He said that the Jew had claimed that Moses (peace be upon him) was superior in rank to the Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and he could not tolerate this. He had strongly refuted it and said that the Holy Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was of a higher rank.

Upon this, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) expressed his displeasure with his closest confidant and said that he should not have argued with the Jew and should instead have respected his religious sentiments. These were his peerless teachings and 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.

In terms of fulfilling the rights of the weak and poor, the Holy Prophet of Islam (PBUH) established various schemes and projects to raise their standards of living and to ensure that they were not deprived of their dignity. He said that whilst most people afforded a high status to those who were wealthy and powerful, a poor person who was moral and considerate had far greater value, than a rich person who cared not for the feelings of others and merely lived off his name.

Even in small matters, the Holy Prophet of Islam (PBUH) paid great attention to ensuring that the feelings of underprivileged people were protected. For example, he instructed Muslims to always invite the poor and needy to their dinner parties or social gatherings. If less affluent people were exploited by the rich or powerful, the Prophet of Islam (PBUH) instructed his followers to help the weaker party attain justice.

Another issue often raised is of women’s rights and it is often alleged that Islam denies women’s rights. Nothing could be further from the truth! Rather, 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 (PBUH) instructed his followers to ensure that girls were educated and respected.

Indeed, he said that if a person had three daughters, whom they educated and guided in the best way, they would be sure to enter paradise. This is contrary to the extremist’s claim that a violent Jihad and the slaughter of non-Muslims will take a person to heaven. The Prophet of Islam (PBUHs) taught that the way to enter heaven was by educating and instilling moral values within girls.

Based upon these teachings, Ahmadi Muslim girls across the world are educated and are excelling in various fields. They are becoming doctors, teachers and architects and entering other professions through which they can serve humanity. We ensure that girls are given equal access to education as boys. Hence, the literacy rate of Ahmadi Muslim girls in the developing world is at least 99%. Besides education, Islam was the religion that first gave women the right to inheritance, the right to divorce and many other human rights.

Furthermore, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) emphasised the rights of one’s neighbours and said that Allah the Almighty had placed such great emphasis upon their rights, that he came to think that neighbours would be classed amongst a person’s rightful heirs. Thus, the Prophet of Islam (PBUH) established universal human rights that were due to each individual, irrespective of their beliefs, social status or ethnicity.

I have just spoken about how the Holy Prophet of Islam (PBUH) focused a great deal on the importance of education. This was reflected in the aftermath of the first battle in the history of Islam. Despite being extremely ill-equipped they were able to defeat the much stronger Makkan army with the help of Allah the Almighty.

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 countries adopt unjust and extreme policies, their goals are invariably linked to gaining geo-political benefit and asserting their dominance over others. Their conduct has nothing to do with Islam.

The Holy Quran states very clearly that there should be no compulsion in matters of faith.

Another allegation levelled against Islam by certain critics is that it is a backward and archaic religion or one that does not promote intellectual advancement. This is a lazy stereotype that is based on fiction rather than fact. It is a baseless allegation. The Holy Quran itself has signified the importance of education by teaching the prayer: O my Lord, increase me in knowledge.”

Where this prayer is a source of great help to Muslims, it also inspires them towards learning and advancing the cause of human knowledge.

The truth is that the Holy Quran and the teachings of the Holy Prophet of Islam (PBUH) 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.

For example, the first ever camera was developed by Ibn Haytham and his revolutionary work was recognised by UNESCO, when he was declared as a ‘pioneer of modern optics.’ It is also interesting to note that the word ‘camera’ is derived from the Arabic word ‘qamara’.

In the 12th Century, a Muslim cartographer produced what was regarded as the most extensive and accurate world map of the medieval times, which was used for centuries by travellers.

Furthermore, in the field of medicine, many Muslim physicians and scientists made great discoveries and pioneered many inventions that remain in use today. Many of the surgical instruments were pioneered by the Muslim physician Al-Zahrawi in the 10th Century.

In the 17th century, an English physician, William Harvey famously carried out what was considered as ground-breaking research regarding blood circulation and the functioning of the heart. However, it was later discovered that more than 400 years before Harvey’s research, Ibn Nafees, an Arab physician, had already detailed the basics of pulmonary circulation in an Arabic textbook.

In the 9th century, Jabir ibn Hayyan brought about a revolution in the field of chemistry. He invented many of the basic processes and apparatus still in use today.

The principles of Algebra were first developed by a Muslim, as was much of the theory of Trigonometry.

In the modern world, algorithms are the basis of modern computing technology and they too were first developed by Muslims.

The contribution of Muslims to intellectual enlightenment is still recognised.

Hence, from the outset, Islam emphasised the immense value of learning and pushing the boundaries of human knowledge.

Since it was founded in 1889, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has always promoted education amongst its members. 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. In fact, he used to say that there were around 750 verses in the Holy Quran directly related to science and which enhanced our understanding of nature and the universe.

Certainly, we believe that access to education is key to breaking the cycle of poverty that has plagued economically weak countries for generations. We learn this from the Holy Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) who urged Muslims to fund the education of vulnerable members of society, such as orphans.

He taught that spiritual advancement was intrinsically linked to serving humanity and so a Muslim could not attain the love of God Almighty just through worship and prayer, rather the love of God Almighty required Muslims to serve humanity. Thus, in chapter 90, verses 15 to 17 of the Holy Quran, Muslims are instructed to work to eradicate hunger and poverty, to fulfil the needs of orphans and to educate vulnerable and poor children, so that opportunities open up for them to develop.

In all parts of the world, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community acts upon these noble teachings to the best of our abilities. We believe that Islam is a religion of love and compassion and so we serve humanity without making any distinction based on the religion or ethnicity of those who we help.

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.

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.


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