ABC Mundial conducted an interview with Marwan Sarwar Gill, the Imam (Islamic theologian) and representative of the worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Argentina. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community was founded in 1889 in India and is currently established in more than 200 countries (in Argentina since the year 2017), with millions of members worldwide.
The community is mostly known in the West for their peace campaigns and humanitarian services, whereas in many Islamic countries they are persecuted and not even accepted as Muslims. We spoke about this controversy with the Imam:
How would you explain, that in many Western countries your community is praised for their humanitarian services, peace campaigns and integration, but in many Islamic countries you are not even accepted as Muslims?
Marwan Gill: I think those people in the West who acknowledge our efforts make a statement based upon our work and their personal experience with us. In the Islamic countries regrettably many people don’t judge us according to our actual beliefs or work, rather they follow blindly the false statements and misinformation of their corrupt religious leaders. We practice the same Islam - be it in the West or in Islamic countries – the difference of opinion about us is due to the different angle of judgement. Likewise, we practise, teach and preach the same Islamic traditions and values all around the world. Regrettably in many Islamic countries people are judging us whilst wearing glasses of prejudices and misinformation.
Why is the Ahmadiyya Community considered as Non-Muslims in many Islamic countries?
Marwan Gill: First of all, it should be clear that we are not the only community in the Islamic countries who are opposed and declared as disbelievers. The Muslim world is divided into more than 70 sects and branches, each community claiming to be the only guided one. There is not just the conflict between the two mayor groups, Sunnis and Shias, rather there are also further internal divisions, disagreements and persecutions.
Surprisingly when it comes to our community all the Islamic communities despite their internal differences join together to oppose us.
Howsoever, there is only one major difference between us and the majority of Muslims known as Sunnis, which is about the advent of the Messiah in the latter days. The majority of Muslims believe, that the same Jesus who once already came as the Messiah for the Jews, will come again in the latter days to reform and lead the Muslims. On the contrary, we believe that Jesus according to the Holy Quran has already passed away and when Prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam, prophesised the advent of a latter Messiah, he referred metaphorically to the advent of a new person as the Messiah of the Muslims. Hence, we believe in Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who founded the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and claimed to be the same subordinate prophet and Messiah, whose advent was foretold 1400 years ago by the Prophet Muhammad. Due to only this difference we are declared as Non-Muslims, whereas all the other Islamic practises and traditions are the same: We pray in the same manner, we fast in the same manner, we follow the same Islamic traditions and teachings, we read and follow the same Holy Quran.
For better understanding in the West: Would you agree to compare your community in relation to the Islamic world with the Mormons in relation to the Christian world?
Marwan Gill: For better understanding, I would compare our community and the founder of our Community with the prophet Jesus: The prophet Jesus came as subordinate prophet to Moses and as Messiah for the reformation of the Jews. He didn’t come to change the teachings of the Torah, rather to complete them. Likewise, the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is a subordinate prophet to the Prophet Muhammad, sent by God with the mission to reunite and reform the Muslims. He didn’t come to change Islam, rather to confirm the true Islamic values and teachings. Due to his similarities with Jesus the Muslim reformer of latter days was described metaphorically as Messiah.
Recently once again many debates and headlines were related to your community, especially in Pakistan. On social media there was a lot of hate and violence being spread against your community, including hashtags such as “Ahmadis are traitors”. Why is the Community especially in Pakistan the target of violence and persecution?
Marwan Gill: Our Community is suffering persecution in different Islamic countries, but in Pakistan the persecution and discrimination against us is supported by the constitution and law of the land. In different parts of the world several minorities are suffering political, religious or ethnical violence and persecution. However, their discrimination and persecution are not officially permitted by the constitutions, whereas in our case the law in Pakistan approves and promotes the persecution against us. In 1974, the Constitution of Pakistan declared us as Non-Muslims and deprived us from our right and freedom of religion. In Pakistan we are legally banned to call ourselves Muslims or practise any of the Islamic traditions. If we associate ourselves and practise any of the Islamic traditions we are imprisoned – the worst case scenario we could even be charged with the death penalty. This kind of persecution you will not find anywhere in the world, except against us in Pakistan.
The Holy Quran categorically teaches that religion should be a personal matter between the individual and His Creator and there shouldn’t be at all any form of compulsion in faith. The Prophet Muhammad with his own example as governor of Medina made it crystal clear that no government should interfere in religious matters, rather respect the self-determination of individuals in regards of their faith and beliefs. However, in Pakistan the government isn’t just violating against the noble teachings of Islam, but sadly using the name of Islam and our beloved prophet to promote hate and persecution against us.. Consequently, in Pakistan religious and political leaders are publically inciting people to discriminate and persecute us.
Lately a commission was formed to protect the rights of non-Muslim minorities in Pakistan, but just recently it was announced by the government after immense pressure from the society to exclude your community from that commission. What is your reaction to this?
Marwan Gill: The truth is that we never applied for that, nor would we ever accept to be a part of such a commission as a Non-Muslim minority. We don’t consider ourselves as Non-Muslims nor will we ever compromise about our identity as Muslims. The Prophet of Islam has taught us that whosoever believes in the unity of God and in Muhammad as God’s prophet, that person is a Muslim and has complete authority to identify himself as a Muslim. So, as long the constitution of God and his prophet is entitling us to call ourselves Muslims, we will never give up our identity as Muslims. The constitution of Pakistan might have declared us as Non-Muslims, but according to the constitution of Islam we are a hundred percent Muslims.
Do you see any change in the near future for your community in the Islamic countries? If so, how could it be achieved?
Marwan Gill: I am completely convinced that the situation of our community will change not only in Pakistan, but in all the Islamic countries. Facing temporary trials, violence and persecution was the hallmark of all previous prophets and Divine communities, including the Prophet Muhammad and the early Muslims for a long period were a target of persecution and violence.
Now, how will the situation change? In the same way, as the changes occurred at the times of previous prophets and Divine communities: By the grace of God! This requires constant prayers, patience, sacrifices and complete loyalty towards the teachings of God.