By Haroon Balogun
Dr Mashud Fashola, is the Amir (President) of Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat in Nigeria, he spoke with Facing the Kaaba on issues on inter-religious harmony shortly after the end of the inter-faith coference held in Warri, Delta State recently. Excerpts.
What is the essence of the interfaith dialogue?
The theme of the conference is the advent of the coming Messiah and interfaith harmony. A Messiah’s role has always been to put people back on course when they deviate from the path of rectitude. If you remember, Jesus told the children of Israel that they have the law but they are not keeping to the spirit of the law.
He then preached to them moral excellence. He said, the law says thou shall not kill but you have been wicked to each other. if you are angry with your brother, then you endangered the law by being angry with your brother. So, your offerings may not be accepted by God until you settle with your brother. So, go settle with your brother before you come to the altar to offer offering to God. The law also says that thou shall not commit adultery.
Even by looking lustfully at a woman, you already committed it. So, what he was teaching them was moral excellence. When the law was given by the law-bearing prophet, the people became so harsh about the law. But when a Messiah comes, he teaches them the moral excellence of the law.
That is what is required to unite all religion. So, we are expecting the second coming of the messiah that will bring the moral excellence we are talking about. So, Jesus Christ was not emphasising the law but the good Samaritans. The Messiah will bring people to the reality of religion which is righteousness to God and kindness to fellow men.
That is why Ahmadiyya says: Love for all, hatred for none’ and we believe that the Messiah has come in accordance with the tide of time and the time appointed in the Bible and Qur’an. But you see, when the Messiah comes, a lot of people will not know. When Jesus came, even scholars did not know but some poor and humble people like fishermen and carpenters were able to know. The signs are there.
About the coming Messiah?
Again, people are expecting the Messiah to come down from the sky, when they will all see him, but that is not possible. The Bible says when the Messiah comes, it will be like a thief in the night. Only those who are watching will discover the advent of the Messiah. But with time, his advent will be like a lightning that shines from the east to the west and the message will go round the world.
That is what Ahmadiyyya Jamaat is preaching. When we preach, it is about Love for all, hatred for none. We are friends to all because the beginning and end of religion is righteousness. If you want the pleasure of God, always work for the good of mankind. What we desire in people is moral excellence. Of what use is our fasting and prayer at nights when at the end of the day we lack truthfulness. So, if you are such a person that lacks charity, piety and you do not support what is right, even if it came from a pagan, then you can never see happiness.
That cut across all religions. Your fasting and prayer at the end of the day does not matter. Religion should bring all of us together and that is what we are preaching and also that the advent of the promised Messiah will bring interfaith harmony. I am happy everywhere we go in the world, they accept us. In Germany, they told us this is Islam. Some one was trying to interpret a verse of the Qur’an that God will not accept any other religion other than Islam, and some fanatic Muslims will not get paradise. My take is that Islam did not start with Muhammad (s.a.w)
The Qur’an says Abraham called is followers Muslims, Jesus called his followers Muslims and the meaning of Muslim is someone who has submitted himself to the will of God. Jesus Christ also emphasised that: ‘not my will but the will of God.’ Even Hare Krishna said the same thing. Religion does not preach selfishness. And that is what the advent of Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w) propagated.
We are happy Ahmadiyya is now established in about 200 countries, and they are accepting us because our goal is to serve mankind. In USA, Ahmadiyya promised they were going to donate 1000 bags of blood and within one month, they were ready. We won’t shed blood of people but we will shed our own blood to save lives. By so doing, we will bring the moral excellence in religion.
Doctrines will not give anybody paradise. The promise of paradise by God is only for the virtuous. God says your honour before me is the measure of your piety and dutifulness. The Qur’an says let part of you get up and encourage people to virtues as the virtuous will be in bliss and the wicked will end up in hell not minding whether they fasted for a whole year. So, the advent of Prophet Muhammad was not emphasising the law but the spirit behind the law. The law is made for man and not man for the law.
With the rate of atrocities in this country, would you suggest all Muslims toe the line of Mahdists to stem the tide and bring about moral rectitude you talked about?
That is not our approach, we are not asking you to come to Ahmadiyya, but rather follow the sunnah. God told Muhammad (s.a.w) that you have no business in the wold except to be mercy to all creatures. So, follow the sunnah and show concern and kindness for people. Look at all the prophets, they did not start by asking to be made prophets, but by fighting for the oppressed.
The first followers of Prophet Muhammad were poor and great African slaves and he told the slaves and their masters that they are all equally before God. That was why the chiefs and slave-masters hated him. So, you can see that the prophets had concern for the plight of the oppressed.
Christ said unless you take care of the poor, whether he is your relation or not, you cannot attain nearness to God. For example, there was a pregnant woman who could not even get antenatal care, and at the point of delivery, she had problems. She was asked to deposit a lot of money even at a General hospital but she didn’t have any and at the end, she was advised to go to Ahmadiyya hospital. When she got there, her blood count was so low that she needed to be given blood, yet she had no money nor anybody to donate.
The doctor on duty had to call members of Ahmadiyya to come donate and they responded immediately and she was saved. The baby and the mother were taken care of and for about 25 days of intensive care she did not pay a dime. I told the doctor that even if you did not get additional money, God will give you paradise for what you have done. That is the work of mercy we do, we don’t look at you as Muslim or Christian, we look at you as human being deserving of mercy. We are all creatures of God and one family. If you do good to one person, God will bless you for it.
Yet, some people exploit our tribal and religion differences to cause chaos and divide us. This act is devilish because it was not my choice to be born a Christian, Muslim or any other Religion. It was neither my choice to be born Yoruba, Hausa or Ibo. Why must we fight?
So, the advent of the coming messiah is going to emphasise interfaith harmony. As far as we are concerned, you don’t have to belong to Ahmadiyya Muslim community, we only appeal to you to follow the principles and traditions of the Prophets who are known with kindness, who are not materialistic but spent their lives working for humanity.