Naseem Mahdi issued a salam -- a greeting -- "from God, who is the source of peace and security."
Mahdi, an imam and national vice president and chief missionary of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in the United States, spoke April 10 in a program presented by the Al-Islam Student Association at the University of Arkansas.
Words of the Quran
God’s Grace and Mercy
In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful.
All the praises and thanks be to Allah, the Lord of the ‘Alamin (mankind, jinns and all that exists).
The Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful.
The Only Owner (and the Only Ruling Judge) of the Day of Recompense (i.e. the Day of Resurrection)
You (Alone) we worship, and You (Alone) we ask for help (for each and everything).
Guide us to the Straight Way
The Way of those on whom You have bestowed Your Grace, not (the way) of those who earned Your Anger, nor of those who went astray.
— Al-Fatihah 1:1-7
Say (O Muhammad ): “We believe in Allah and in what has been sent down to us, and what was sent down to Ibrahim (Abraham), Isma’il (Ishmael), Ishaque (Isaac), Ya’qub (Jacob) and Al-Asbat [the twelve sons of Ya’qub (Jacob)] and what was given to Musa (Moses), ‘Iesa (Jesus) and the Prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between one another among them and to Him (Allah) we have submitted (in Islam).”
— Aal-‘Imran 3:84
The Revelation of the Law
And (O Children of Israel, remember) when We took your covenant and We raised above you the Mount (saying): “Hold fast to that which We have given you, and remember that which is therein so that you may become Al-Muttaqun (the pious).
Then after that you turned away. Had it not been for the Grace and Mercy of Allah upon you, indeed you would have been among the losers.
— Al-Baqarah 2:63-64
The Virgin Birth
(Remember) when the angels said: “O Maryam (Mary)! Verily, Allah gives you the glad tidings of a Word from Him, his name will be the Messiah ‘Iesa (Jesus), the son of Maryam (Mary), held in honour in this world and in the Hereafter, and will be one of those who are near to Allah.”
“He will speak to the people in the cradle and in manhood, and he will be one of the righteous.”
She said: “O my Lord! How shall I have a son when no man has touched me.” He said: “So (it will be) for Allah creates what He wills. When He has decreed something, He says to it only: ‘Be!’ and it is.”
— Aal-‘Imran 3:45-47
Verily! Those who believe and those who are Jews and Christians, and Sabians, whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day and do righteous good deeds shall have their reward with their Lord, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve .
— Al-Baqarah 2:62
SOURCE: The Noble Quran
A Biography of Muhammad
Muhammad was born in 570 in Mecca, a mountain town in the high desert plateau of western Arabia and an important center for nomadic tribes. Orphaned early in life, he was raised by a nurses, his grandfather and an uncle. He worked as a shepher and as courier for merchants to trade centers in other lands. At age 25, he married one of the merchants, a widow named Khadija bint Khawalayd, nearly 40. The two were distant cousins. They had six children — two sons died in infancy. Muhammad and Khadifa profited with Mecca’s success.
Muhammad was distressed by the materialism and idolitry of his hometown in Mecca. He began making long retreats to a mountain cave outside town. There, he fasted and meditated, where he experienced his visions of what would later become the Quran. As he revealed them to Meccans, he and his followers were ridiculed, then persecuted and physically attacked for departing from traditional Mecca’s tribal ways and finally the leaders of Mecca attempted to assassinate Muhammad.
Muhammad and his followers moved to Medina, where he established the first Muslim community, based on a monotheistic message. Mecca’s leaders mounted three battles against Muhammad and Medina.
Recent actions by ISIS and other terrorist groups present a negative image of Islam, said Nassir Naseem, president of Al-Islam. "We want to clarify that Islam is not a message of war, but rather, peace."
Islam is in crisis, Mahdi said, because "there is a very acute ignorance about Islam by both non-Muslims and Muslims. Islam is in crisis because Muslims don't know what Allah has given them."
The world holds 1.5 billion Muslims, making Islam the second-largest religion in the world or 23 percent of the world population, according to a 2010 report by the Pew Center. "So the majority are non-Muslims," Mahdi pointed out.
The Muslim source for a righteous life comes from the Quran, a holy text delivered by Allah to the prophet Muhammad over 33 years, said Mahdi, whose understanding of the Quran was apparent. The Quran's language is Arabic.
"From childhood, Muslims learn Arabic, but they are learning it without meaning," Mahdi said. Naseem admitted to reading the English translation listed next to the Arabic in his personal copy of the Quran.
"Today, Muslims are very good and enthusiastic, but they don't know what's in the Quran -- even if they could read the texts," Mahdi continued. "The clerics have the religious responsibility to do this."
Mahdi likened the situation to the Middle Ages, when Christians were forbidden to translate the Bible in any language but the originals -- Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. "The cleric or bishop had to tell you what is right or wrong," he said. "They told you what to follow."
The Quran presents a "sharia" -- a law or path -- for believers to follow, similar to the laws God delivered to Moses as recorded in the Jewish Torah and the Christian Bible. "The sharia is the law of the Holy Quran," Mahdi said.
The apostle Paul in his letter to the Galatians wrote that Christ as the Redeemer had delivered Christians from the curse of the law -- not the law given to Moses and followed by the prophets. "Jesus saw readings of the Torah in his time had become distorted and knew this was wrong," Mahdi shared.
"This was the God-given law, the law given to Moses, sacred law," he continued. "But it had been misinterpreted. Wrong information was given when the Jewish leaders did not know the text. Jesus Christ came to deliver Jews from 'the curse of the law.'"
Likewise, the sharia has been misinterpreted and exploited by many terrorist groups today.
"It doesn't say, 'You must get out and kill Christians and Jews. It's your religious responsibility, even if it means suicide,'" Mahdi assured. "All that exploit the Holy Quran and Islamic law are not doing something right."
"'Islam' means 'peace,'" Mahdi continued. "But also 'submission' to Allah and the law."
"Allah" simply is the name Muslims use for "God," he explained. "When we talk of God, we use one word: Allah."
Message of God
The source of the sharia comes from the Quran, Mahdi said.
The first chapter starts: "In the name of God, the gracious, the merciful, ..." Mahdi read.
And everything in the chapter will be about God's grace and mercy. In fact, all of the Quran is based on God's grace and mercy, he said.
"God says, 'My mercy encompasses everything.'"
Mahdi spoke of prophecies in the Quran that are similar to the world's other religious traditions.
"I believe in Allah as he was revealed to us, as God was revealed to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the tribes of Joseph," Mahdi said, repeating words of the Quran.
Muslims consider Jesus and, later, Muhammad, as prophets in the line of the House of David, Mahdi said.
"The Quran says, God sent man the truth-bearer of glad tidings. God sent a messenger to all nations," Mahdi said. "There is not a single nation that God did not send that message to. He sent a prophet to all the nations -- not just those in the Middle East. He sent a prophet to Africa, Australia, Mexico and America ... They all received the message of God.
"Jesus Christ is my prophet, and I believe in him as I believe in Abraham, as I believe in Krishna of Hindu and as I believe in all other prophets that were sent, but I do not know their names.
"Why would he create all of humanity, but send a messenger only to the Middle East," Mahdi implored.
The Quran also refers to virgin birth of Jesus, from the angel Gabriel's visit with Mary.
"Allah said his name shall be 'Jesus, the Messiah'," Mahdi continued. "How can any Muslim in the U.S. or in any part of the world who believes the Holy Quran and its verses ... How can they say a word against Jesus Christ, the Holy Lord?"
But who will enter Paradise? Who will have Salvation?
"Salvation isn't ours; it's for all," Mahdi said. "And that's been little debated over the centuries.
"One faith can't monopolize salvation. It's God who decides who lives in paradise and who doesn't."
Mahdi once faced a critic who challenged the imam there were no words like this in the Quran. "His cleric told him all others would be thrown in hell," Mahdi repeated. But as the man read the words from the Quran, he responded: "The cleric has been telling us something that was totally fabricated and wrong in the name of God."
Haley Wheelis, a UA junior from Melbourne, attended Mahdi's presentation in support of Naseem, a good friend. "I'm a Southern Baptist Christian," she said, and didn't realize Muslims worship the same God as Christians.
"This is one of the first times I've had to sit and listen to this view -- and I wanted to sit and listen. I've never heard some of this stuff before."
Jihad is another aspect of Islam misunderstood by many cultures.
"Jihad is not a religious responsibility that, if you do not accept Muhammad, we will chop off your head," Mahdi said. "Making it a condition to accept Islam is not jihad.
"That is not in the Quran," he stated.
Jihad means making an effort to do something good, or striving for something good -- which can include how a Muslim treats Christians and Jews, Mahdi continued. "Jihad is also when you're struggling to be spiritually pure.
"That is from the Holy Quran."
Mahdi admitted Muhammad's involvement in wars against Mecca, but these were defensive wars. Muhammad's followers had been tortured, captured and killed by those who didn't like the prophet's message of peace, goodness and holiness. After 13 years of persecution, the Meccans decided to murder Muhammad and attack Medina to "finish the problem," Mahdi related."A 'good cause' can be defensive," he said. And jihad as permission to fight and protect was given to Muslims against those who desecrate churches, synagogues and break the rules of the Holy Quran, he added."They are church burning because they don't know sharia."
UA student Alborz Sadehgian identified himself as an "ex-Muslim" from Iran. He challenged Mahdi, believing the modern focus of making Westerners think Islam is peaceful is not as important as protecting "normal people" from execution by Mulism militants, such as a young woman in his hometown, killed for burning a Quran.
"The focus in Islam is peace and surrender to Allah," Mahdi replied simply but firmly."ISIS, Al-Qua'ida, the Taliban, they're all doing this," Mahdi said. "They go against the clear dictate of the Holy Quran. ISIS is a calamity. They ruthlessly and recklessly kill all who come before them. All you see is the so-called cleric's misuse of the enthusiasm of Muslims. Allah does not love disorder."
"Christians, Jews and Muslims all love Jesus as a messenger of God," Mahdi concluded. "We need to work together to eliminate any suffering and not be a part of suffering."
NAN Religion on 04/18/2015