By Mohammad Ahmad
August 08, 2013
While others have at least the legal right to inform others about their true beliefs, the Ahmadis do not even have the basic right to reply as a consequence of amendments in the Pakistan penal code.
Most of us are born to parents at least professing even if not practising a faith. As we grow we acquire whatever values our parents have given us. As adults, most continue being bound to the faith or belief they were born into without ever getting any direct knowledge about a differing thought. Most have a pre-formed opinion about other faiths about which they have either limited or wrong information. Consequently, in matters of faith the majority judges by perception rather than knowledge and yet claims freedom in their judgment. Such flawed judgments breed prejudices and society suffers.
Many a global tragedy has its roots in prejudging a faith. Yet the practice continues. The atrocities committed during the Holocaust by Hitler and the infamous Inquisition to which the Muslims were subjected in medieval Spain hold their roots in this narrative. Man has not learned from his past mistakes and the same behaviour continues even now. A perfect illustration of this is the wrong perception about Islam in the west. Holy war or jihad is perceived to be a war to grab territory and force conversions although it was essentially only allowed in defence and to protect the freedom of faith of the people belonging to other religions as well.
The Quran says:
[22:39] Permission is granted to those who are being persecuted, since injustice has befallen them, and God is certainly able to support them.
[22:40] They were evicted from their homes unjustly, for no reason other than saying ‘Our Lord is God’. If it were not for God’s supporting of some people against others, monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques — where the name of God is commemorated frequently — would have been destroyed. Absolutely, God supports those who support Him. God is Powerful, Almighty.
[2:256] There shall be no compulsion in religion: the right way is now distinct from the wrong way. Anyone who denounces the devil and believes in God has grasped the strongest bond; one that never breaks. God is Hearer, Omniscient.
Similarly Islam’s teaching on interfaith harmony that calls for convergence on common values are overlooked due to the wrong perception that it holds in the west. The Holy Quran invites the Christians as follows:
[3:64] Say: O people of the Scripture: Come to a word that is just between us and you, that we worship none but God, and that we associate no partners with Him, and that none of us shall take others as lords besides God.
An example from the life of the Apostle of God relating to such interfaith harmony would further augment this view.
The Prophet (PBUH) received in Medina in the year 10 AH (631 CE), a delegation of 60 Christians from Najran, a territory near Yemen, about 450 miles south of Medina. They were received in his mosque, and the Prophet (PBUH) allowed them to pray in the mosque, which they did facing east following the Byzantine Christian rite.
Unfortunately, such examples are now extinct because the perception is that a child growing up in many Muslim homes thinks that all Christians are bad. The Muslim cleric too does not correct him since then the cleric will not be able to continue with his divisive ideology that even includes other Muslim sects. Therefore, contrary to the permission granted by the Apostle of Allah to even the Christians, extremists prohibit a worshipper from a different sect to pray in their mosque though Allah the Almighty was to be praised. Obviously such an action is not based not on any deep analysis by the person involved but is based on perceptions formed during the years the young mind was developing.
At the other end the Christian leaders too do not tell their flock about this noble act of the Prophet (PBUH), allowing prayers to the Christians inside the holy mosque in Medina as it suits their propaganda. The west, therefore, continues with the perception that Islam considers all Christians bad and wants them to be eliminated. Their growing generations continue considering Islam a cult.
This is leading the world to a war of civilisations and the common follower of both the religions is by design kept unaware that the Quran says the following about the people of the scripture.
[3:113] They are not [all] the same; among the People of the Scripture is a community standing [in obedience], reciting the verses of Allah during periods of the night and prostrating [in prayer].
[3:114] They believe in Allah and the Last Day, and they enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and hasten to good deeds. And those are among the righteous.
[3:115] And whatever good they do — never will it be removed from them. And Allah is Knowing of the righteous.
This perception-based image runs deeper here in Pakistan as many religious leaders hold the belief that they are right to the absolute degree and there is not even a possibility of them being wrong and the other being right. They thus act as if divinely informed. They discourage and even prohibit reading about other schools of thought. Dialogue is killed and interfaith harmony is the victim. Society continues to remain full of misconceptions about the belief of Shiites, Agha Khanis, Ahmadis, Bahais, Catholics, etc. Beliefs are attributed to them that they might not be having and hatred is fanned in order to spread extremism and to use the unsuspecting follower as a tool. While others have at least the legal right to inform others about their true beliefs, the Ahmadis do not even have the basic right to reply as a consequence of amendments in the Pakistan penal code.
It would be fair to conclude that the reaction about so many religions or ideologies by the majority of the human population is involuntary and is not based on any logical analysis, as the mind has become hostage to the information that was fed to it in the developing years. If only we could act with complete liberty of the mind, independent of all social, political or religious prejudice, loving only the truth, the world would be a better place to live in.
Undoubtedly the world where its people are not hostages to perceptions and where faiths and ideologies are not prejudged and the human mind is free of bias and takes voluntary and informed action based on knowledge and truth should be the goal. The free will of humans will be exercised only when this happens. The world waits for such humans to evolve.