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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

GOD IS ONE, NOT THREE-IN-ONE


The Christmas season is here, and with it, the focus turns to Jesus (peace be upon him). Over this past year, I have read numerous essays from ministers proclaiming Jesus is God, that he was God in the flesh when he walked this earth 2,000 years ago, and that he was also -- at the same time -- God’s physical son who came to die as payment for our sins so that all who accept him as their Lord and Savior can go to heaven.
This is all very confusing and raises many questions, a few of which I humbly pose to Trinitarian Christians: Who do you focus on as God when you pray? Is it the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit? Do you pray to each one equally, unequally or all together? Calling them “three-in-one” doesn’t make it so. The classical definition of Trinity -- “God the Father, and God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit” -- creates three separate “gods” in your mind. Saying they are all still “one” doesn’t change this. The language still defines them as three separate gods. And I’m guessing for most Christians, their focus on God comes mainly through Jesus.
Now, all Muslims are taught to respect and believe in Jesus as a true prophet sent by God to the Israelites as their messiah. But no Muslim considers Jesus to be God incarnate as a human being and/or the literal Son of God whose purpose was to die an accursed death for anyone’s sins.
The truth is that Paul knew these ideas came from Greek religion (see Acts 14:11 and www.POCM.info) and he merged them with Judaism to successfully preach to the Greeks, Romans and Gentiles. The result is the Christianity we have to this day -- be it Catholic or Protestant -- which tells Christians they must believe Jesus is God and/or the literal Son of God who died for their sins and was resurrected. If Christians reject any or all of these beliefs, they lose their salvation. Paul understood this and stated (in 1 Cor.15:14) that: “If Christ is not risen, our preaching and our faith are in vain.”
This Holiday (Holy Day) Season, I ask our Christian readers to ask themselves: “Who is really God?” Is He God the Father? This is what Jesus, being a practicing Jew, believed. Jesus was a humble servant who bowed down and prayed to God the Father, not to himself. Jesus never said (or seemed to know) he was God in the flesh who came to die for our sins or that we must worship him as God. Christians can only present a few statements by Jesus -- such as “The Father and I are one” and “If you have seen me you have seen the Father” -- as “proof” that Jesus is saying he is equal to God or God Himself in the flesh. But these statements can easily be understood as metaphorical allusions, not literal pronouncements. Here is what Jesus said on who God is and who he is that is not metaphorical: “God is spirit so worship Him in spirit and truth. . . I am the Christ [i.e., the one anointed by God as His prophet and messiah ]. . .” (John 4:24-26)
Here are two more statements by Jesus that every Christian should study and reflect on: “. . . I desire not sacrifice, but mercy; I came not for the righteous, but for the sinners to repent.” (Matt. 9:13) And: “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.” (John 17:3) It doesn’t get any clearer than that. Jesus says he came for sinners to repent, not for him to die for their sins. And Jesus says clearly the only true God is his spiritual Father, Who (in Matt. 15:24) sent His spiritual son to “only gather the Lost Sheep of the House of Israel.”
And speaking of God, He speaks for Himself as to who and what He is -- Christians must decide who they are going to believe and follow: God or Paul. God states clearly in the Old Testament in Numbers 23:19 that He is not a human being [because they lie and God doesn’t ], nor is He a Son of Man [i.e., a prophet ] that He repents. What does “repent” mean? Exodus 32:30-34 explains this when it relates the story of the Israelites who, after being freed from slavery in Egypt, built and worshiped a golden calf. When Moses pleaded before God to be punished instead for their sin of idol worship, God tells Moses He does not punish the innocent for the sins of the guilty -- it is the sinners who must repent of their sins in order to achieve atonement (at-one-ment) with God.
A common response by Christians who believe that Jesus is God is to say that, since God can do anything, He can choose to manifest on earth as a human being. Why is this so objectionable? The reason is simple: for God to be All-Powerful, All-Knowing, Ever-Living, and possess all the divine qualities we expect in the Supreme Being Who created the universe and everything in it, God cannot be “put in a box.” In Christianity, the box is called Jesus. In reality, there is no “box” that can hold Him – no fire or man or animal or celestial body or even the entire universe. When other religions claim their gods are human beings, cats, cows, the sun, moon and planets, etc., no Christian declares these gods are real or true -- except when the claim is about Jesus. Then the same falsehood is suddenly true.
In Isaiah 43:10 God says that before Him there was no god formed, and there shall be none formed after Him. Since God has no beginning and no end, this can only mean that God is telling Isaiah that at no time in the past was there any god formed, and there shall be no god formed at any time in the future. Every Christian believes Jesus was conceived and formed in the womb of his mother, Mary, who bore him nine months later as a helpless infant totally dependent on his mother for his existence. The fact that Jesus was physically created -- weak, helpless and dependent on others -- means he cannot be God because God is none of those things. 
If God is limited by physical dimensions, He becomes finite instead of infinite, created instead of uncreated, corporeal instead of non-corporeal. Only God lives forever and has no beginning or end. All else is His creation -- including Jesus. To expunge idolatry from the hearts of the Israelites, God forbade them to worship any created object or being or to make any image of Him. Christians who believe Jesus is God in the flesh and have created images of him have broken the first two of God’s Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:3-17. 
Islam says God is One. He has no partners, no equals, no children. There is no Trinity or worship of human beings in Islam. We only worship God, five times a day. God’s Final Law, the Holy Quran, answers every social, moral and spiritual need of mankind for all times and all situations. Salvation is available to all from God directly through His infinite Grace and all-encompassing Mercy. He has all power to forgive, without requiring the mur:der of His son or Himself as His son to pay Himself for your sins. It’s all a matter of focus. God can put His focus on you alone. Can you put your focus on God alone? As Muslims, that’s our focus. What’s yours?  
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[ with Imam Shamshad A. Nasir; appeared online at AhmadiyyaTimes.com Thursday, Dec. 12th, 2013 at this link: http://ahmadiyyatimes.blogspot.com/2013/12/perspective-god-is-one-not-three-in-one.html and an abridged version of this ran in the Daily Bulletin religion section's "From the Pulpit" on Sat., Dec. 21st, 2013] and online at AhmadiyyaTimes.com at this link: http://ahmadiyyatimes.blogspot.com/2013/12/from-pulpit-focus-on-god-should-not-be.html ]

Friday, November 8, 2013

PAKISTAN'S DEADLY BLASPHEMY LAWS

HOW A MAN OF GOD IN 1880s PUNJAB
INCITED THE END OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN 1970s PAKISTAN
AND MADE THEM CHANGE THEIR CONSTITUTION

“There should be no compulsion in religion...” Quran 2:257[1]
“...And do not say to anyone who greets you with the greeting of peace,                             [i.e., salaam alaikum] ‘You are not a believer.’...”  Quran 4:95
Religious blasphemy laws can be a touchy subject, especially in Pakistan, where just bringing up the subject of the blasphemy laws and whether they are right or wrong is considered to be, well… blasphemous. This wasn’t always the case.
The well-intentioned concept and motives of most blasphemy laws are easy to understand. No person or group should be free to insult another religion’s beliefs or holy personages, or desecrate their Holy Scriptures, icons or places of worship. The Golden Rule is the foundation of many freedoms – from speech to the press to privacy – with the right to freely choose and practice one’s religion, without fear of insult or attack, usually at or near the top of the list for most people, even those who are not religious. As Jesus (peace be upon him) said: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Article 18 of the UN’s 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights[2] states, with regard to a per son’s beliefs, that:
“Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”
Most blasphemy laws are formulated with that sentiment in mind. They operate on the premise that offensive speech or actions designed to hurt someone’s feelings or provoke physical harm are usually directed at members of one religion by the members of another, separate religion; Muslims against Hindus or Christians against Jews, for example. But religious persecution can and frequently does occur between denominations within the same faith; Catholics against Protestants, or Sunni Muslims against Shia Muslims.
It is, in fact, this element of sectarian animosity and persecution that can turn blasphemy laws into a double-edged sword used to cut the throats of the very people they were intended to protect. This is exactly what is happening – and has been happening for nearly thirty years – in Pakistan, where accusations by Sunni Muslims of desecrating the Quran or uttering blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) are routinely used to jail business rivals or personal enemies or members of minority sects like the Shias and the Ahmadis or members of other religions whose homes or business are coveted by blasphemy accusers.
“Proof” of Quran desecration is often only eyewitness testimony or is found to have been done by the accuser to prove their charge. In the matter of “proof” of uttering blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), no evidence is presented because to do so would require repeating the blasphemous remark, thus prompting another blasphemy charge, ad infinitum. This puts the power to accuse in the hands of anyone with a score to settle or hatred against a member of another sect of Islam or another religion, leaving the accused with no way to defend themselves. Lawyers are hesitant to take the side of those accused of blasphemy because it implies support for them, which could mean losing business -- or worse, your life.
And in fact, lawyers are rarely needed anyway, because just the accusation of Quran desecration or insult to Islam or Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is enough to generate a mullah-led flash mob of angry Muslims intent on beating or killing the accused. Even police protection in jail isn’t really protection because those accused of blasphemy are almost guaranteed to be brutally assaulted, raped (if they are women) or murdered in jail by the police or other inmates. As a result of what they know is coming if they are accused of blasphemy, most victims go into hiding or flee their homes or the country itself, if they can afford to. These last are indeed the lucky few.
Because of this sad state of affairs, Pakistan today has a reputation as one of the most dangerous and religiously intolerant places on earth. And what many people in the West do not appreciate or even understand is that the inferno of religious violence and bigotry that is tearing Pakistan apart is being stoked not just by the anti-Western, Jihadist agendas of Al-Qaida and the Taliban, but by the tacit approval – via legislative and Constitutional sanctions – of the government.  
This began in 1974 under democratically-elected president Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who endorsed and signed an amendment to Pakistan’s Constitution which declared that Ahmadi Muslims were non-Muslims.[3] Here are the amended and added sections of the Constitution pertaining to Ahmadis.[4]
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CONSTITUTION (SECOND AMENDMENT) ACT OF 1974
[
Declaring AHMADI MUSLIMS to be “NON-MUSLIMS” ]

An Act to amend the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan . . . is hereby enacted:

1.        (1) This Act may be called the Constitution (Second Amendment) Act, 1974
(2) It shall come into force at once.

2.      AMENDMENT OF ARTICLE 106 OF THE CONSTITUTION.
In the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan . . . in Article 106, in clause (3), after the word “communities” [ i.e., those declared non-Muslim ], the words and brackets “and persons of the Qadiani group or the Lahori group (who call themselves ‘Ahmadis’)” shall be inserted. [ bold emphasis mine. ]

3.      AMENDMENT OF ARTICLE 260 OF THE CONSTITUTION.
. . . after clause (2), the following new clause shall be added, namely:
“(3) A person who does not believe in the absolute and unqualified finality of the Prophethood of Muhammad (peace be upon him) as the last of the Prophets or claims to be a Prophet, in any sense of the word or of any description whatsoever, after Muhammad (peace be upon him), or recognizes such a claimant as a Prophet or a religious reformer, is not a Muslim for the purposes of the Constitution or law.”
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It is vital to understand that Clause (3) of Article 260 was written specifically to legislatively nullify and deny the claims of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1908). He founded the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in 1889 in Qadian, India, for the purpose of bringing people back to God and restoring Islam to its original purity and spiritual vitality. Ahmad proclaimed that God had appointed him the Imam Mahdi and Promised Messiah[5] whose advent was foretold in the Holy Quran[6] and in the Hadith[7] (recorded sayings) of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). What particularly incensed Muslims of his day (and to this day) was that he forbade the Jihad of the sword (to convert people to Islam or wage offensive wars[8]), replacing it instead with the Jihad of the pen.[9]
To that end, he wrote more than 80 books in defense of Islam, the Quran and Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) to remove the misconceptions and corruptions that have disfigured Islam from its true form and beauty. His writings and life have inspired tens of millions of Muslims (and non-Muslims alike) to dedicate themselves to God and strive in the Greatest Jihad – to become righteous, God-fearing and peaceful members of society and of his Community, whose motto is: “Love for All – Hatred for None.” Despite intense, often violent and deadly persecution by other Muslims, the number of Ahmadis in the world continues to increase on a daily basis.
Ahmadiyyat Islam is the only unified body of Muslims in the world – unified under the divinely-supported system of the world’s only spiritual Khalifate, which has continued in an uninterrupted chain of successors (Khalifas) from the time of the demise of the Promised Messiah in 1908 up until the current, 5th Khalifa, Mirza Masroor Ahmad.[10] With all this going for it, you would Muslims would flock to join Ahmadiyyat, but no – most reject it and consider the founder an apostate and his followers “wajibul qatl” – an Arabic slogan referring to Ahmadis which means ”Deserving of death.” This expression calling for the murder of Ahmadis is a common sight in Pakistan on government buildings and courthouses, in storefront windows, on banners and signs, in newspapers and magazines, and on religious TV shows hosted by popular clerics like Amir Liaqat. The question that most non-Muslims would ask is: why all this hatred against Mirza Ghulam Ahmad and the Ahmadis? The answer has to do with what Muslims expect from the Imam Mahdi.   
Prior to the 20th century, Sunni Muslims expected that the Imam Mahdi (lit., divinely-Guided spiritual leader) would be raised by God sometime during the mid-to-late 19th century (the beginning of the Muslim 14th century). This corresponded with expectations[11] by several newly-born Christian sects of the imminent Second Coming of Jesus (pbuh) during this same period. Ahmadi Muslims are the only Muslims who believe that both events – the advent of the Imam Mahdi and the Second Coming of Jesus (pbuh) – manifested as prophesized in Islam and Christianity in the person of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. All other Muslims believe that Jesus (pbuh) was taken bodily alive to heaven before the crucifixion (someone else was made to look like Jesus and crucified instead) and that Jesus will bodily descend from heaven to the earth after the appearance of the Imam Mahdi.[12]
Generally speaking, what will follow after that won’t be peace and love, but war and bloodshed – the “Bloody Imam” concept – to restore the worldly power and material glory of Islam through the conquest and destruction of its enemies (the Christians and Jews, primarily. This is what drove Osama bin Laden and motivates like-minded Jihadists today.)
The Imam Mahdi is also supposed to abolish war (an easy thing once all your enemies are forcibly converted or killed for refusing), and hand out limitless treasures to all Muslims. But wait, there’s more! The Imam Mahdi is also supposed to travel the earth breaking – literally – every cross on every church or around the neck of every Christian. And if that wasn’t enough, he’s also going to kill all the pigs. (One wonders when he’ll have time to sleep, what with all that killing of pigs and disbelievers, cross-breaking and distribution of loot.)
Ahmad’s mission was decidedly non-violent and definitely more spiritual and metaphorical. The treasures he dispensed were the true teachings of Islam. The pigs he killed were the un-Islamic habits and low desires from which Muslims and millions of others suffer. The crosses that he broke were the doctrines of Trinity and the belief that Jesus was God in the flesh and/or the literal Son of God who came to die on the cross for our sins.[13]
The cardinal difference between Ahmadi Muslims and non-Ahmadi Muslims with regard to Jesus (pbuh) is that non-Ahmadis believe he was never put on the cross at all but was taken up alive to heaven. Ahmadis, however, believe Jesus was put on the cross, but he just didn’t die on it. He survived the ordeal to fulfill the “Sign of Jonah”[14] and was taken down alive but unconscious. He was treated for his wounds and eventually completed his mission as stated in Matt.15:24 to “gather the Lost Sheep of the House of Israel.”
In his landmark 1899 book “Jesus in India”[15] Mirza Ghulam Ahmad demonstrated conclusively that Jesus traveled to India and the Near East to find and preach to the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, and that he died at a very old age in Kashmir and is buried in a Jewish-style tomb in the city of Srinagar.[16]
As the Imam Mahdi and Promised Messiah, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was given the duties and capacity of a non-Law-(Shariah)-bearing, follower prophet who was completely subordinate to the final Law-bearing Master Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). In this Age, Ahmad was the greatest lover of the Holy Prophet (pbuh), the greatest expounder of the deep, spiritual truths of the Holy Quran, and the greatest champion in the defense of Islam against its harshest critics and vilest detractors. You can see why the extremist Muslim clerics and their followers – more often than not the rank-and-file average citizens of Pakistan – have always been so opposed to Mirza Ghulam Ahmad and his followers: it’s quintessentially why the mullahs pushed so hard to change the Constitution of Pakistan to outlaw the teachings of Ahmadiyyat and criminalize the practice of Islam by Ahmadis. Peace, tolerance and non-violence are dangerous things – especially to those who are opposed to them and who use their religion to defend their un-Islamic ideas and barbaric actions.
Thus, Clause (3) of Article 260 defines as “non-Muslim” anyone who makes any claims to be a prophet or reformer after Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). This effectively declares anyone who ever claims to be the Imam Mahdi – who by definition must be a Muslim – is not a Muslim, along with all those who believe in and follow him.
The idiocy of this is matched only by its irony: all Muslims, Sunni and Shia alike, believe in the eventual appearance of the Imam Mahdi who (as his title denotes) will be guided by God and thus, by all rational definitions, will have to be a prophet of God and a Muslim. But when you apply the criteria enshrined in the Constitution’s Second Amendment and the blasphemy laws in Ordinance XX, the very person they believe must come to save Islam – the Imam Mahdi – won’t be a Muslim because he will be coming after the time of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). But Muslims still believe the Imam Mahdi must come. Just not in Pakistan. Nope, sorry, can’t happen there because Pakistan’s Constitution and penal codes forbid it. No prophet can come after Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), which also applies to Jesus (pbuh) by the way.
According to the Quran and the Bible, Jesus (pbuh) was a prophet and the Messiah sent to the Israelites[17] – titles that can’t be stripped away by anyone – and since all Muslims (except Ahmadis) believe that the same Jesus who ascended physically to heaven 2,000 years ago will return in the latter days, so the question is: what would happen to him if he descended to earth in Pakistan? I answered that in an article entitled: “What if Jesus were to visit Pakistan?”[18] The inherent injustices created by Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are laid bare by just one idea, which is central to our understanding and protection of the basic human right to freedom of religion and conscience. I wrote: “This [blasphemy] law is unjust on more than just legal grounds because no political assembly has any religious authority or right to interfere with anyone's chosen religious beliefs.”  What is sadly ironic – tragic, really – is that in August of 1947, the founder and first President of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, echoed this in his famous statement promising complete religious freedom for all in the newly-created country of Pakistan. He declared:
“You are free; you are free to go to your temples. You are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion, caste or creed – that has nothing to do with the business of the State.”[19]
Fast-forward a quarter century to the time of the Constitutional amendment declaring Ahmadis non-Muslims and one can easily see how ethically bankrupt and blinded by religious fanaticism the lawmakers of Pakistan had become. And to take things to even higher levels of absurdity and moral insanity, this official government disenfranchisement of Ahmadis of their God-given right to profess to be Muslim and freely practice their faith of Islam was later criminalized in 1984 under Dictator Gen. Zia ul-Haq’s infamous Ordinance XX. This addition and modification to the pre-existing British colonial rule-era blasphemy laws of 1860 and 1898 was largely instigated by the same Muslim clerics and political leaders (and their followers) who had demanded only a decade earlier that Ahmadis be declared non-Muslims by the government.
To put the bite of law into that 1974 Constitutional amendment, Ordinance XX not only specified by name as its target anyone calling themselves Ahmadi, but it increased the severity of the penalties for acts or statements deemed offensive to Muslims or directed against Islam, the Quran or the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). These harsher penalties included life in prison for defacing or destroying the Quran, and a death sentence for anyone convicted of blaspheming the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).
Listed below are the blasphemy laws that do not name Ahmadis, but which are routinely brought to bear against Ahmadis, Shias, Christians, Hindus, Sikhs and the members of other religious minorities in Pakistan.
Pakistan's Criminal Codes (PPCs) relating to blasphemy.
295 forbids damaging or defiling a place of worship or a sacred object.
295-A forbids outraging religious feelings.[20]
295-B forbids defiling the Quran.
295-C forbids defaming the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)   
Here are the new penal codes, 298B & 298C, specifically targeting Ahmadis, that were added to the blasphemy laws by Ordinance XX:
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ORDINANCE NO. XX OF 1984

PART II – AMENDMENT OF THE PAKISTAN PENAL CODE
 
3. Addition of new sections 298B and 298C, Act XLV of 1860.
In the Pakistan Penal Code (Act XLV of 1860), in Chapter XV, after section 298A*, the following new sections shall be added, namely:
298B. Misuse of epithets, descriptions and titles, etc., reserved for certain holy personages or places.
(1)           Any person of the Qadiani group or the Lahori group (who call themselves ‘Ahmadis’ or by any other name) who by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation;
[ Note: (a) to (c) list Islamic expressions of respect or blessing which Muslims use to refer to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), his successors (Caliphs), his companions (sahabis) and family members; Ahmadis are forbidden to use these expressions because they would other Muslims’ feelings and it would also mean Ahmadis were “posing” as Muslims. ]
(d)           refers to, or names, or calls, his place of worship as ‘Masjid’; shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.
(2)            Any person of the Qadiani group or Lahori group (who call themselves Ahmadis or by any other name) who by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation, refers to the mode or form of call to prayers followed by his faith as ‘Azan’ or recites Azan as used by the Muslims, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, and shall also be liable to fine.
(3)            298C. Person of Qadiani group etc., calling himself a Muslim or preaching or propagating his faith.
Any person of the Qadiani group or the Lahori group (who call themselves ‘Ahmadis’ or by any other name), who, directly or indirectly, poses himself as Muslim, or calls, or refers to, his faith as Islam, or preaches or propagates his faith, or invites others to accept his faith, by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representations, or in any manner whatsoever outrages the religious feelings of Muslims, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.”
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Here is a brief summation of what life is life for Ahmadis in Pakistan, directly due to their being singled-out in the blasphemy laws and the Constitution:
Ahmadis may not say “Salaam alaikum,” the standard greetings given between Muslims countless times a day. It is deemed offensive to non-Ahmadis. In addition, they may not call the Azan (the call to prayer made five times a day), nor perform the Islamic prayer in public, nor hold Islamic conventions or gatherings (large or small) for their members in any public or private venue.
Ahmadis are forbidden from preaching their faith by word, in print or by any other form of media. The government used to allow Ahmadis to publish newspapers and magazines that were only distributed among themselves, but complaints by mullahs have caused increased harassment of this activity as well. Printing of Ahmadi books is also prohibited in Pakistan; as is access to Ahmadi websites.
Ahmadis may not vote as Muslims. If they wish to register as “Muslim” in order to vote, they must sign a statement declaring they consider Mirza Ghulam Ahmad an apostate and a liar and a false prophet. No true Ahmadi will do this.
Ahmadi mosques are often attacked, vandalized, burned, closed or taken over by Sunnis with no arrests of the perpetrators by the police or help from the police in preventing such attacks. In addition, the police are often called on to remove from the outside of Ahmadi mosques the Kalima – the Arabic declaration of Islamic faith (There is no god but Allah; Muhammad is the messenger of Allah). This is almost always being done by people who are themselves Muslims! The irony of this usually escapes them completely. Oh, and Ahmadis are also forbidden to call their places of worship “mosques” – again, it offends non-Ahmadi Muslims.
Ahmadi students are regular expelled from schools and colleges because of their faith. The same goes for Ahmadis in state or government positions, or in banking or in the military. Across all levels of society, Ahmadis suffer discrimination. Even their marriages to each other are not recognized as “valid” by the state. On a family level, people who convert from Sunni Islam to Ahmadiyyat are often ostracized by their parents, siblings and relatives -- some are even killed.
In order to obtain a passport or national ID, a person must sign a statement like the one on the voter registration card which says they believe that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was an apostate, a liar and a false prophet. Again, Ahmadis refuse to sign this, effectively preventing them from leaving Pakistan to perform the hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, which is an obligation on all Muslims at least once in their lifetime, if their health and finances permit.  
And while the purpose of Ordinance XX was to destroy the Ahmadiyya Community by jailing its leaders and members for publicly “posing” as Muslims or for otherwise practicing or preaching their “heretical” version of Islam, the larger consequence was that other Muslim minorities – Shias in particular – and the members of other religions were now being re-illuminated in the State-sanctioned spotlight of overall religious bigotry, persecution and legalized vigilantism. The result has been a catastrophic rise in attacks by Sunni Muslims against Shias and Ahmadis primarily, but also between various Sunni denominations as well. In truth, no one is safe.
Equally disturbing is the escalating tide of attacks since the mid-1980s by mainstream Sunni Muslims against Christians, Hindus, Sikhs and other non-Muslims. A basic review of Pakistan’s history shows that prior to the 1974 amendment to the Constitution declaring Ahmadis non-Muslims and before the 1984 enactment of Ordinance XX, there were only sporadic eruptions of violence against Ahmadis, Shias, Christians, Hindus and others.
Now, the situation is totally different. In its 2011 annual report, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) stated:
“There was a direct link between the rise of the Taliban and the suppression and oppression of the minorities and of all those whose beliefs differed with those of the extremists who dared to expose hatred and violence in the name of religion. . . It is obvious that the mere charge of blasphemy, however preposterous it may be, is now a conviction in itself.”
A cursory look at attacks against religious minorities from July 2009 to March 2011 (about 18 months) illustrates the tragedy and intolerance that reigns unchecked in Pakistan.
July 30th, 2009 - hundreds of members of two banned radical Islamic groups descended on the Christian-populated town of Gojra in the Punjab, torching about 60 houses – including a targeted firebombing that killed a Christian family of 6 by trapping them in their home and burning them alive.[21] A 7th member of the same family was earlier shot in the head by the same attackers.  
May 28th, 2010 - members of a Pakistani Taliban group simultaneously attacked two Ahmadi mosques in Lahore -- using grenades, suicide vests and AK-47s to indiscriminately murder 86 men and boys during Friday Jumah Prayer -- only because they were Ahmadis. Several of the attackers were eventually subdued and captured by the Ahmadis inside the mosques and turned over to the police. The killers were later released without being charged and promptly disappeared.
July 2010 - A trader in Faisalabad reported to police that an employee had been given a Christian pamphlet containing disrespectful remarks about Prophet Muhammad. According to police, the pamphlet appeared to have the signatures and addresses of Christian Pastor Rashid Emmanuel and his brother Sajid. The brothers were later shot and killed while leaving a district court. Both had denied the charge of blasphemy.
November 2010 – A Christian mother of 5, Asia Bibi, was sentenced to death by hanging for blasphemy; the case sparked international condemnation in the West. Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer criticized her arrest and death sentence and visited her in jail to draw attention to her plight. He was shot dead on Jan. 4th, 2011 by his own security guard for supporting Asia Bibi. Federal minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian, also called for Asia Bibi’s release and criticized the blasphemy laws, vowing to fight to end them. On March 2nd, less than two months after the assassination of Salmaan Taseer, Shahbaz Bhatti was shot dead in Islamabad on his way to work.  
Similar statistics from a report by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom entitled “Pakistan: a history of violence”[22] details just an 18-month period between Jan. 2012 and June 2013 that tells the same story:
The findings make the bloodletting in Iraq and Afghanistan almost seem like child's play. Over the course of the study, there were 203 separate acts of sectarian violence, injuring more than 1,800 people and claiming the lives over 700 men, women, and children. The largest number of attacks was against Shi'a Muslims, followed by Ahmadis, Christians, Hindus and Sikhs. The methods include suicide bombs, bombs in markets and mosques, drive-by shootings, attacks on religious sites, torture, beheadings, and mob violence.
Another extremely comprehensive and informative briefing entitled: “Pakistan: Religious freedom in the shadow of extremism” has been compiled by the UK-based group Christian Solidarity Worldwide. Their report examines religious persecution in Pakistan in 2011. You can download it from their website: http://dynamic.csw.org.uk/article.asp?t=report&id=139

Now, as a direct result of these blasphemy laws, hardly a day goes by without another shocking news story from Pakistan about Islamist militants or Muslim vigilantes responsible for stonings, beheadings, attacks on girls’ schools, the burning down of Christian churches and neighborhoods, and the targeted shootings of religious minorities and people like Salmaan Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti who expressed sympathy or support for them.
The common denominator in all these atrocities and violations of fundamental human rights is two-fold: one element stems from the breakdown of the Rule of Law caused by lax, non-existent or selective enforcement of civil and criminal laws. The other element, ironically, evolves from just the opposite – the sanctioning by the very laws and Constitution of Pakistan of vigilantism and religiously-motivated hate crimes. These two forces go hand-in-hand, feeding off each other like a moral and social cancer genetically engineered by Satan to inevitably and irreversibly consume Pakistan and all its inhabitants in a spiritual and worldly Hell of its own design.
And while the mention of Satan is meant to impress upon the reader the dire condition and consequences of religious intolerance in Pakistan, it should in no way be seen as an excuse or diversion of responsibility for that condition. The easy way out is always to blame “Satan” – some anomalous evil entity pulling our behavioral strings from the depths of Hades – when in reality the “satans” we need to deal with and conquer are very much alive and whispering in the hearts and minds of human beings.
          Pakistan’s blasphemy laws and Constitutional amendment targeting Ahmadis targets everyone who believes in freedom of religion and the end of religious intolerance. The blasphemy laws also highlight the behavior of two distinct camps of Islam: the Ahmadis, who have never once repaid the violence they suffer with violence from their own hands; and those Muslims who either turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to the evils borne of their infamous blasphemy laws, or those Muslims who applaud such evils – or perpetrate them – as if the intolerance and inhumanity inflicted upon the Ahmadis, Shias, Christians, Hindus and others were the sworn duty and religious obligation of every “devout” Muslim.
If this state of religious intolerance and violence continues unabated, without the collective body of Muslims in Pakistan (and elsewhere) standing up and speaking out against the blasphemy laws and the evils they produce, there is one certain outcome about which God, in the Holy Quran, has repeatedly warned the persecutors of the faithful to beware of, and that is God’s punishment, which will eventually encompass those who hinder others in the Way of God, or who drive from their homes those who say “Our Lord is Allah,” or who persecute others because of their faith – for in some ways persecution is worse than killing – and for those who unjustly take life.
A paraphrase of the famous quote by Nazi-era German pastor Martin Niemoeller[23] is tragically applicable to the present climate of religious intolerance and persecution in Pakistan:
“First they came for the Ahmadis, but I did not speak up because I was not an Ahmadi… Then they came for the Shias, but I did not speak up because I was not a Shia… Then they came for the Hindus, but I did not speak up because I was not a Hindu… Then they came for the Christians, but I did not speak up because I was not a Christian… When they came for me, there was no one left to speak up.” 
For Pakistanis especially, they need to stand up and speak up and demand the repeal of the blasphemy laws. Mark my words: that is the only way to prevent the ultimate punishment from descending by the Hand of God.         




[1] Quran verses are from the Ahmadiyya translation, which numbers the first sentence of every chapter (except 9) which is called the “Bismillah” – it is a prayer and blessing in these words: “In the name of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful.” Chapter 9 does not contain the Bismillah verse, but all other chapters of the Quran do. Non-Ahmadi Qurans do not number the Bismillah in any chapter after the first (Al-Fatitha), so verse numbers in these Qurans will be off by one except for chapters 1 and 9. Subtract one from the verse numbers shown here to find the verse in a non-Ahmadi Quran translation.
[4] Note: the term “Qadiani” and “Lahori” are used to refer to two separate groups calling themselves Ahmadis. The Qadiani group is the original Community founded by Mitza Ghulam Ahmad in 1889 in Qadian, India. The Lahori group is one that split-off from the original in 1914, six years after the death of the founder in 1908. They are called “Lahoris” because they relocated to Lahore, India in 1914 (Lahore is now in Pakistan, following the Partition of India in 1947 that created Pakistan as a Muslim country). The present membership of the Qadian group numbers in the tens of millions in over 200 countries, while the Lahore group numbers only in the tens of thousands (most are in Pakistan), with only a handful of foreign missions or mosques outside of Pakistan.
[6] Surah Al-Saff (ch.61), v.7  And call to mind when Jesus, son of Mary, said, ‘O Children of Israel, surely, I am Allah’s Messenger unto you, fulfilling that which is before me of the prophecies of the Torah, and giving glad tidings of a Messenger who will come after me, his name being Ahmad. . .  [ see the commentary in footnote 3037 here: http://www.alislam.org/quran/tafseer/?page= 1132&region=EN&CR=E1,E2&CR=E1,E2 ]. Further explanation of this prophecy is in Surah Al-Jumu’ah (ch.62), vv.62-63 which can be read with commentary here: http://www.alislam.org/quran/tafseer/?page=1136&region=EN&CR=E1,E2&CR=E1,E2
[7] Sahih Bukhari Volume 6, Book 60, Number 420 - Narrated Abu Huraira: While we were sitting with the Prophet, Surat Al-Jumu'ah was revealed to him, and when the verse, "And He (Allah) has sent him (Muhammad) also to other (Muslims).....' (62:3) was recited by the Prophet, I said, "Who are they, O Allah's Apostle?" The Prophet did not reply until I repeated my question thrice. At that time, Salman Al-Farsi (the Persian) was with us. So Allah's Apostle put his hand on Salman, saying, "If the Faith were to ascend to the Pleiades, even then some men or a man from these people (i.e. Salman's countrymen) would find it." [ It is certainly an interesting point to consider that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was, in fact, Persian by descent and not Indo-Aryan as are most residents of the Punjab where MGA was born and raised; nor . ]
[8] Forcing people to convert to Islam or being the aggressor in a war or act of hostility is already clearly forbidden in the Quran in numerous places, but most Muslims at the time of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad believed that these prohibitions were no longer valid and that Muslims were free to use violence to coerce people to accept Islam or to start wars. Ahmad came to correct these errors of belief and he proved that no verses of the Quran were abrogated or invalid.
[9] He also reminded Muslims of the saying of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) that a Muslim must be loyal to the country he lives in, and that the Quran prohibits Muslims from creating disorder (terrorism) in the land.
[11] Based on prophecies primarily in the books of Daniel and Revelation, which resulted in the creation of numerous “Second Coming” movements during the 19th century, the Russellites and Millerites being the most famous.
[12] This idea that Jesus (pbuh) will return after 2,000 years and join with the Imam Mahdi in the End Times comes from a very literalist reading of Hadith, which refer to the expected Promised Messiah as “Jesus, son of Mary.” But since the Quran clearly states that whoever goes to heaven never leaves it, and no one is ever taken up physically alive to heaven anyway – just their soul at the time of death – there is  no possibility of Jesus or anyone else ever returning to earth. When prophets make mention of their second coming or return, it is also understood to be through another person, who will be raised up in the power and spirit of the earlier prophet. Jesus (pbuh) explained this to his own disciples when he told them that John the Baptist had come in the power and spirit of Elijah, the earlier Israelite prophet the Jews were expecting to physically return from heaven before the advent of the Jewish Messiah, the Christ (anointed one), Jesus (pbuh). So if this is the “rule” governing second Comings, why on earth (no pun intended) would Jesus then violate that rule and return physically as Elijah was erroneously expected to return at the time of Jesus?
[13] 101 Questions about Christianity, as derived from the arguments of Ahmad:  http://www.alislam.org/library/links/00000040.html
[14] The Sign of Jonah and Jesus’ stated mission to seek out the Ten Lost Tribes of the Israelites are two of the most intriguing and perplexing elements of the NT narratives about Christ because they seem to contradict the doctrinal narratives that present Jesus’ purpose as being the sinless sacrifice destined from the beginning of time to die on the cross for the sins of mankind. Detailed info about the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel and the mission of Jesus is at this link: http://www.alislam.org/library/links/00000094.html
[15] Read the book “Jesus in India” online or in PDF form here: http://www.alislam.org/library/books/jesus-in-india/index.html
[16] See the website www.TombofJesus.com for extensive information on this subject.
[17] Surah Al-Saff (ch.61), v.7 in the Quran (see footnote 5 for link to commentary) where Jesus (pbuh) said, ‘O Children of Israel, surely, I am Allah’s Messenger unto you. . .“; and in Matt.15:24 in the New Testament where Jesus (pbuh) states in his own words what his mission is, declaring: “I have only come for the Lost Sheep of the House of Israel. . .“
[19] Presidential Address to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on 11th August, 1947.
[20] PPC 295-A is flagrantly abused by Sunnis to target Ahmadis, Shias, Christians, Hindus and any others not belonging to the Sunni majority because there is no way to measure the extent of an “outraged religious feeling.” Thus, almost anything said about Islam or Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in the heat of an argument can be claimed by the victim to have hurt their religious sentiments. This constitutes one of the most common methods of using the blasphemy laws as weapons to punish one’s enemies.
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[ with Imam Shamshad; appeared in an edited form in the Nov./Dec. issue of the Seventh-Day Adventist publication Liberty Magazine under the title: "Pakistan's Blasphemy Laws: how an 1880s religious movement in the Punjab incited the end of religious freedom in 1970s Pakistan": pgs. 12-17. Online link http://www.libertymagazine.org/article/pakistans-blasphemy-laws 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

LIVING THE LESSONS OF ABRAHAM

A common question asked by non-Muslims is: what is the Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca? There are specific rituals a Muslim is required to perform, but to explain them all would take more space than I have. On its most fundamental level, the Hajj is an individual Muslim’s demonstration of complete humility and submission before God -- in a gathering of 3-million other Muslims doing the same thing! It is also the greatest annual public event held in remembrance of one man who was tested by God and proven true in his love and obedience and who has been remembered throughout history. That man was Abraham (peace be upon him), a messenger of God.
Islamic history tells us that 4,000 years ago, Abraham and his son Ishmael rebuilt the Ka’aba on its original foundation from the time of Adam. Muslims believe the Ka’aba is the first house of worship built for the one, true God. After rebuilding the Ka’aba, Abraham prayed to God (Quran, 2:129-130) that his future generations be given a prophet to teach them their ways of worship and keep them righteous and submitted to God. Muslims believe that, in the 7th century AD (600 years after Christ), God fulfilled this prayer of Abraham by raising Muhammad (pbuh) in Arabia as the final Law-bearing prophet from the progeny of Abraham for all mankind.
When the Prophet and his followers became triumphant after 23 years of brutal persecution by the idol-worshiping Meccans, the first thing Muhammad (pbuh) did was enter the Ka’aba to cleanse it of all its idols. From that time on, the Ka’aba has remained the House of worship for only one God -- the God of Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad (peace be upon them all).
The Quran clearly defines Islam as “the religion of Abraham” in five separate verses (2:131,136 & 4:126 & 6:162 & 22:79). This is because Islam is not a new religion, but a fulfillment and completion of all earlier beliefs and of Judaism and Christianity in particular. This is why Muslims are required to believe in and respect previous messengers from God such as Jesus, Moses, Noah and Abraham. Muslims are also required to respect and protect against destruction the holy sites and houses of worship of other faiths. (Google “Charter of religious freedom for Christians” online for an example of this requirement to protect the worshipers and houses of worship of other faiths.)
Some outside observers question the slaughtering of animals as part of the Hajj ritual, calling it barbaric, cruel and unnecessary -- yet these same people will enjoy a steak they bought at the market without ever questioning the pain and cruelty involved in bringing it to their dinner plate.
At the Hajj (and elsewhere in the world where Muslims slaughter an animal as part of the ritual), the Halal method of slaughter is virtually painless, and Islam decrees that one-third of the meat be given to the poor, one-third to neighbors, and one-third kept for one’s family, friends and relatives. And during the Hajj, almost all the meat slaughtered there gets frozen and shipped all over the world to help feed the poor and needy. 
Aside from the humanitarian act of providing food for hundreds of thousands of people, the sacrifice of animals also symbolizes a Muslim’s determination to kill his worldly and low desires and become more spiritual and devoted to God and to the service of His creation. The focus on sacrifice should also remind a Muslim of the service and sacrifices of the members of our armed forces, hospitals, police and fire departments. Their dedication and willingness to make sacrifices for others is something we should all be thankful for and strive to emulate and embody in our lives.
The lesson that Abraham teaches us is universal -- anyone can say they believe in God, but are they prepared to sacrifice what is most dear to them to prove it? It is never a real test of one’s faith if all that is required is a mere verbal profession of belief in God or one’s readiness to sacrifice everything for the sake of God. Until a person is actually put to the test, even that person cannot know for sure if God comes first. And, ultimately, that is the reason for such a test from God – to prove to the person being tested whether or not they are truly and completely submitted to God.
In the Islamic version of the famous Bible story, Abraham has a recurring dream where he is slaughtering his first-born son, Ishmael, as a sacrifice to God. When Ishmael attains the age of reason (12 or 13), his father tells him about the dream and asks him what he thinks. Ishmael does not hesitate but tells his father he is ready to submit to whatsoever his father believes he must do to please God. And because Abraham believed that it was his heavenly Father who was instructing him to sacrifice his earthly son, Abraham proceeded to ritually slaughter Ishmael.
Then, just as Abraham is about to sacrifice his son, God stops him and tells him to replace his son with an animal as a sacrifice instead. God does not desire human sacrifice – never has – but requires man to sacrifice his ego and carnal passions. The required slaughter of an animal in substitution (in both the Jewish and Islamic rituals) supports this belief. It also reflects God’s Mercy to mankind by forbidding human sacrifice and using the sacrifice of animals as the reminder of that Mercy.
Islam proclaims itself to be the religion of Abraham, and it is by living the lessons of Abraham that we can create the common ground where the seed of mutual respect and understanding can take root and blossom into the flower of peace. The children of Abraham are still one family. May we all learn from Abraham how to sacrifice our egos and worldly fears and concerns and submit ourselves completely to God. In that way, we can all live together in peace. 
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[ Ghosted with Imam Shamshad A. Nasir; ran in slightly edited version in The Inland Valley Daily Bulletin's From the Pulpit (religion section) as: "Pilgrimage honors Abraham" on Sat., Oct. 19th, 2013 and online at AhmadiyyaTimes.com at this link: http://ahmadiyyatimes.blogspot.com/2013/10/from-pulpit-islamic-pilgrimage-honors.html ]