Hadrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad (Khalifat-tul-Masih IV) on African-American Race-Relations, Classism, and Islam

mirzatahirahmad In light of what’s going on in Ferguson, Missouri, with the killing of an African-American boy named Michael Brown by an American policeman, I thought I would post a relevant passages of a sermon by the late Hadrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad, Khalīfat-ul-Masīh IV (Caliph IV of the Imām Mahdī and Promised Messiah), may Allah bestow upon him His mercy, delivered on October 16, 1987 in Detroit, Michigan to the people of America regarding Islam’s role on race-relations and classism. The sermon in its entirety may be found here.

Story of Noah’s People in the Qur’ān
Greatness does not lie in Wealth
The Plight of present day African-Americans
Inferiority Complex of Southasian Immigrants
History of Ahmadiyya Islam and African-Americans in USA
Sun of Islam rising in the West
Immigrants must not be Arrogant
The Holy Prophet (sa) on Classism
The Holy Prophet’s (sa) love for Black People and the Poor
Love of African-Americans for Ahmadiyyat
The late Grammy-Award winning Yusuf Abdul Latif
The Holy Prophet (sa) as the Greatest Psychologist
The Poor should also not be Arrogant

Story of Noah’s People in the Qur’ān
فَقَالَ ٱلۡمَلَأُ ٱلَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ مِن قَوۡمِهِۦ مَا نَرَٮٰكَ إِلَّا بَشَرً۬ا مِّثۡلَنَا وَمَا نَرَٮٰكَ ٱتَّبَعَكَ إِلَّا ٱلَّذِينَ هُمۡ أَرَاذِلُنَا بَادِىَ ٱلرَّأۡىِ وَمَا نَرَىٰ لَكُمۡ عَلَيۡنَا مِن فَضۡلِۭ بَلۡ نَظُنُّكُمۡ كَـٰذِبِينَ (٢٧) قَالَ يَـٰقَوۡمِ أَرَءَيۡتُمۡ إِن كُنتُ عَلَىٰ بَيِّنَةٍ۬ مِّن رَّبِّى وَءَاتَٮٰنِى رَحۡمَةً۬ مِّنۡ عِندِهِۦ فَعُمِّيَتۡ عَلَيۡكُمۡ أَنُلۡزِمُكُمُوهَا وَأَنتُمۡ لَهَا كَـٰرِهُونَ (٢٨) وَيَـٰقَوۡمِ لَآ أَسۡـَٔلُڪُمۡ عَلَيۡهِ مَالاً‌ۖ إِنۡ أَجۡرِىَ إِلَّا عَلَى ٱللَّهِ‌ۚ وَمَآ أَنَا۟ بِطَارِدِ ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوٓاْ‌ۚ إِنَّهُم مُّلَـٰقُواْ رَبِّہِمۡ وَلَـٰكِنِّىٓ أَرَٮٰكُمۡ قَوۡمً۬ا تَجۡهَلُونَ (٢٩) وَيَـٰقَوۡمِ مَن يَنصُرُنِى مِنَ ٱللَّهِ إِن طَرَدتُّہُمۡ‌ۚ أَفَلَا تَذَڪَّرُونَ (٣٠) وَلَآ أَقُولُ لَكُمۡ عِندِى خَزَآٮِٕنُ ٱللَّهِ وَلَآ أَعۡلَمُ ٱلۡغَيۡبَ وَلَآ أَقُولُ إِنِّى مَلَكٌ۬ وَلَآ أَقُولُ لِلَّذِينَ تَزۡدَرِىٓ أَعۡيُنُكُمۡ لَن يُؤۡتِيَہُمُ ٱللَّهُ خَيۡرًا‌ۖ ٱللَّهُ أَعۡلَمُ بِمَا فِىٓ أَنفُسِهِمۡ‌ۖ إِنِّىٓ إِذً۬ا لَّمِنَ ٱلظَّـٰلِمِينَ

The chieftains of his folk, who disbelieved, said: We see thee but a mortal like us, and we see not that any follow thee save the most abject among us, without reflection. We behold in you no merit above us – nay, we deem you liars.

He said: ‘O my people! Bethink you, if I rely on a clear proof from my Lord and there hath come unto me a mercy from His presence, and it hath been made obscure to you, can we compel you to accept it when ye are averse thereto?’

And ‘O my people! I ask of you no wealth therefor. My reward is the concern only of Allah, and I am not going to thrust away those who believe – Lo! they have to meet their Lord! – but I see you a folk that are ignorant.’

And, ‘O my people! who would deliver me from Allah if I thrust them away? Will ye not then reflect?’

I say not unto you: “I have the treasures of Allah” nor “I have knowledge of the Unseen,” nor say I: “Lo! I am an angel!” Nor say I unto those whom your eyes scorn that Allah will not give them good – Allah knoweth best what is in their hearts – Lo! then indeed I should be of the wrong-doers.'”

(Qur’ān, Sūrah al-Hūd, 11:28-32)

These verses from the Holy Qur’ān, which I have just recited, do not merely narrate an ancient historical episode, but along with other Qur’ānic verses and historical evidence are meant to describe a permanently established psychological phenomenon. Time and again, conditions of Noah’s era are repeated, and every time human response to them remains the same. As indicated by the Holy Qur’ān, a great civilization and rich culture flourished at Noah’s time. The Promised Messiah (peace be upon him) has elaborated in detail that a rare and magnificent civilization existed in the age of Noah (peace be upon him). One of the arguments put forward by the people to reject Noah (as) was, as described in these verses:

وَمَا نَرَٮٰكَ ٱتَّبَعَكَ إِلَّا ٱلَّذِينَ هُمۡ أَرَاذِلُنَا بَادِىَ ٱلرَّأۡ

(Paraphrasing) In our view, we find only low and insignificant people as your followers. None of our learned, rich and honorable persons follows you. What superiority, if any do you have over us? How can we take him who is a leader of the poor, the weak, the low, and the distressed and his followers as better or greater than us?

وَمَا نَرَىٰ لَكُمۡ عَلَيۡنَا مِن فَضۡلِۭ بَلۡ نَظُنُّكُمۡ كَـٰذِبِينَ

Under the circumstances, we are compelled to conclude that you are a liar. Were you a truthful person, people with honor and dignity, powerful leaders and great nations on earth would have followed you.

Noah’s response to this objection is recorded verbatim in the Holy Qur’ān:

قَالَ يَـٰقَوۡمِ أَرَءَيۡتُمۡ إِن كُنتُ عَلَىٰ بَيِّنَةٍ۬ مِّن رَّبِّى وَءَاتَٮٰنِى رَحۡمَةً۬ مِّنۡ عِندِهِۦ فَعُمِّيَتۡ عَلَيۡكُمۡ أَنُلۡزِمُكُمُوهَا وَأَنتُمۡ لَهَا كَـٰرِهُونَ

Oh my people, do you not realize that God has sent me with cogent arguments and bright signs, and He has bestowed upon me a great mercy? If you are unable to recognize this mercy, and are unable to see my closeness to the Creator and His love for me, how then can I help cure your blindness? Things which you value as great are insignificant in my eyes and the great blessings which God has bestowed on me remain obscure to you. How can I impose these favors upon you? His love and bounties are supreme over everything. And one who enjoys the blessing of our Lord, he alone is, indeed, to be counted as great.

He further said:

وَيَـٰقَوۡمِ لَآ أَسۡـَٔلُڪُمۡ عَلَيۡهِ مَالاً‌ۖ إِنۡ أَجۡرِىَ إِلَّا عَلَى ٱللَّهِ‌ۚ

And oh my people, I do not ask of you any monetary reward for my service to the nation. My reward is due from Allah alone. I teach goodness. I give you advice day and night without demanding any favors in return. That is, if your wealth was of any value to me I would have asked for money in return for my good works.

Here the Holy Qur’ān has given us sound criterion based on great insight and wisdom that always makes a distinction between the truthful and the liars. People who work in the name of goodness can be one of two kinds:

1.) Those who spend out of their own pockets and make personal sacrifices prior to preaching.
2.) Or those who receive millions of dollars from big governments before providing guidance or service to humanity.

In this latter category, service is conditional upon receipt of money. If flow of funds ceases, so does their service to humanity. Obviously, such people give real value only to money and not to the service.

If the history of the Ahmadiyya Jamā’at is studied from this point of view, it becomes clear that the Jamā’at embarked on its mission to spread the message of goodness to nations in the West as well as in the East even when it was utterly poor and without any resources…

Greatness does not lie in Wealth
…Why then didn’t Noah’s people understand that greatness was not in being wealthy? Real greatness lays in mans’ nobility and his relationship with God…

…Should he throw them away because they were penniless, or because they had no worldly status, or discard them because of the color of their skin was black? Or because they once were slaves? Even at that time, powerful and rich nations had slaves which not only included blacks, but also all other races…

…This dialogue between Noah (as) and his people also indicates that Noah (as) himself belonged to an elite ruling class which enjoyed a high status and authority, and people of his class felt embarrassed and disgraced when Noah started embracing the low and the poor. Therefore, the elite wanted nothing to do with him…

The Plight of present day African-Americans
…From this brief interpretive translation of these verses, it is clear that although Noah’s period is far off in history, the subject matter still relates to the present day condition in America.

Here too lives a race who is looked down upon by others. Their own countrymen who are of white color mistreat them. Although the law of the land establishes some rights and liberties and gives equal opportunities, in actuality these people remain impoverished.

They are seen doing the lowest jobs in the streets and in factories. The fact is that the actual power and authority are still in the hands of the whites. Consequently, the blacks live in an agitated state of extreme distress.

As far as Islam is concerned, it is a universal religion that does not discriminate between races. It forbids mistreatment of people due to their race or color. Yet at the same time it does not allow the discriminated to take revenge or act unjustly. Islam is a religion of balance and does not allow any injustice. Therefore, I am making it clear that Ahmadiyyat does not take sides or discriminate among people. According to Ahmadiyyat, all human beings are equal and enjoy the same status, if Ahmadiyyat makes any discrimination, it is between the oppressor and the oppressed…

Inferiority Complex of Southasian Immigrants
…The fact of the matter is that immigrant Pakistanis who have settled here are victims of a type of complex, namely, the inferiority complex. In fact, this inferiority complex has nothing to do with the shade of your color — may it be pure black or lesser black. This complex develops due to narrowness of heart and mind. Narrowness of heart and mind of a person, regardless of his color, always expresses itself in a feeling of inferiority.

Many ills of human society grow out of this complex, but the consequences are extremely devastating if people become its victims in the realm of religion. These verses of the Holy Qur’ān tell us that truth and an inferiority complex cannot exist together. The two are in direct opposition to each other and cannot flourish together. Truth suffers greatly at the hands of this complex. Like a thing destroyed by termites, one looses faith due to an inferiority complex it preys upon truthfulness and nobility of character.

However, at times it may be temporary. For example, immigrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh, or any Arab country may feel that they are financially better off as compared to the blacks, and further may feel that their color is lighter.

Thus, unconsciously, they tend to become a part of the social set—up of the whites. By making closer relationships with the whites, they may feel a kind of superiority over others…

…Quite a long time ago, when there were not many Pakistanis in America, one person told me that in his opinion, the greatest problem in America was, God forbid, that our missionaries had made a blunder by first going to the blacks for tablīgh (preaching). Consequently, the blacks were joining Ahmadiyyat in great numbers, and thus, the doors, were being closed for the whites to join Islam. This statement depicted the same inferiority complex that existed in Noah’s nation. It was foolishly being implied that people with relatively lesser social status remain disreputed even though they had accepted God. Religion would be honored only when the whites would join it; and without the whites, the religion would not be honored. I felt nauseous, after hearing such rubbish and inane talk…

History of Ahmadiyya Islam and African-Americans in USA

The early Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in America, led in Salat (prayer) by Rashid Ahmad American

The early Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in America, led in Salat (prayer) by Rashid Ahmad American

…What a glorious time it was — full of glad tidings — when Hadrat Mufti Muhammad Sadiq (may Allah be pleased with him) came here. He threw wide open the gates of Ahmadiyyat for those who are called the blacks, and received them warmly with open arms…

… No one ever asked him whether they were blacks or whites who were joining Islam. No one ever asked Mufti Muhammad Sadiq Sahib (ra) what his policy and approach was — was he converting only the blacks and leaving the whites behind? Whoever came forward to join Ahmadiyyat was a servant of God, and as such was greeted and embraced by the servants of God. Every newcomer brought with him blessings of righteousness…

Sun of Islam rising in the West
…If the pace of progress of that time was maintained, it was not improbable that today, by the grace and mercy of God, a great number would have been in Ahmadiyyat/Islam — and America would have been distributing blessings to the world instead of being a source of all sorts of evil. The world would have been receiving mundane as well as spiritual blessings from here. This country would have emerged for the rest of the world as a great benefactor. It is such a great and powerful nation that if it adopts true Islamic civilization and values and links itself with khilāfat, it will definitely become the greatest nation on earth…

…Therefore, I am saying that today the course of human history would have been different, today the’ Sun of Islam would have risen from the land of America. You could have witnessed the prophecy that the Sun will rise from the West…

…It is unfortunate that some, due to their own sick mentality, feel themselves superior over servants of God who are less privileged, and treat them with arrogance. You may not be one of the insolent, yet you did not exhibit the desired love and affection to them. Later on, many false versions of Islam began to surface. Organizations came into existence in the name of Islam, and were financed to propagate Islam in America. Noah’s statement proves them wrong since they did not come forward to propagate Islam until after they received huge amounts of money. ..

Immigrants must not be Arrogant
…Have a greater fear of arrogance than you fear a ferocious lion. There is nothing deadlier than insolence. It creeps in imperceptibly through concealed openings and overpowers you in entirety. And more often the preachers of humility and claimants of meekness are themselves a prey to arrogance. Therefore, it is extremely essential for immigrants to modify their outlook. They should be thankful to God that He has given them the opportunity in a foreign land to make fortunes that can be diverted towards the service of their faith. If this cannot be done, their coming over here is useless…

The Holy Prophet (sa) on Classism
…The Holy Prophet (sa) used to say, “If you wish to locate me, you will find me among the poor and the destitute.” Moreover, he observed that on the Day of Judgment, God would raise him up among the poor and the weak because he loved them abundantly. A companion asked the Holy Prophet to pray that he be raised up on the Day of Judgment in his company. The Holy Prophet (sa) inquired what specific quality did he possess. He replied that he loved the Holy Prophet (sa) and had nothing else but love for him. The Holy Prophet (sa) responded “On the Day of Judgment a person would be raised along with the one he loves.”…

The Holy Prophet’s (sa) love for Black people and the Poor
…As far as race and color are concerned, you know well the dignity bestowed on Hadrat Bilal (ra). He was a black man and a slave too. But Hadrat ‘Umar (ra) at the time when he was Khalīfa, would address him saying “Our leader, Bilal” and show great respect by standing up in his honor. What a magnificent religion it was for which the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was chosen to be its mirror and who, in return, eliminated his own self and presented the Holy Quran all in all. The love and compassion of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) for mankind and particularly the poor is reflected through this incident:

There was a black person who was very poor and his features were considered so grotesque that he was counted among the ugliest. Some people would not look at him because of his repelling features. He was a poor laborer.

Once he was standing alone and thinking with heavy heart about his depressing life. The Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) happened to pass by and, approaching this man from behind, like a mother would do to her own child, he covered his eyes with his own hands to see whether or not he would recognize him. The man realized that no one except the Holy Prophet (sa) would behave so lovingly towards a miserable wretch like him. But seizing upon this rare opportunity, he started rubbing his sweaty body and odorous clothes with that of the Holy Prophet (sa), and started to touch and feel him with his hands.

When asked by the Holy Prophet (sa) whether he had recognized him, he said that no one but the Holy Prophet (sa) would treat a poor person with such affection. And he was merely taking advantage of the good fortune to touch him, and to hold him close, and to embrace his loving person with his hands. He said he was taking full advantage of a golden and rare opportunity.

Afterwards he said, “O Prophet of God, who else other than you would be so much concerned about the downtrodden? I am a wretched man of no value at all; no one will buy me even as a slave in the market.”

On this the Holy Prophet (sa) replied, “No, not at all. God in heaven has owned you, you enjoy His love and respect.”

This is Islam.

This is what we have learnt from the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). If you go out into the streets of America with this Islam, you will then certainly be the winners. No power on earth can arrest the influence of attraction and charm of this Islam. People will come to you for this Islam because you will then be indeed the true ambassadors of the Holy Prophet (sa) rather than mere conveyors of a hollow message.

The present day world does not care for envoys who indulge in lip—service only. Today many heads of states falsely pretend to be emissaries of peace and love…

…When I meet people the thought of any distinction of color never ever passes through my mind. I see them neither black nor white. I see them all full of God’s Light…

Love of African-Americans for Ahmadiyyat
…Their [African-Americans’] love of Ahmadiyyat is reflected from on their faces and in their eyes. Sometimes, losing control over their emotions, they embrace me crying, and between their sighing and sobbing I cannot understand what they say. I see nothing in them other than God’s light shining upon their faces. My heart goes out for them. My soul dances in their love. You have pledged bay’ah (allegiance) at my hand and I have made a pledge at the hand of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). You should become like this or you will not be true to your pledge of allegiance.

Until you adopt this attitude you will not be able to bring change in the destiny of America. Hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis, Arabs, Indonesians, Malaysians or Bengalis may come and settle down here, yet they cannot win this country until they come with the light of the Holy Prophet (sa). The people you may think to be low or those who are taken to be low by the world are in fact real gems with great potent force…

…Convey to them the message of love, beauty and moral excellence of the Holy Prophet (sa). You will see how God changes their fortunes with His grace and bounty. These are the people who are wasting away their lives in alcoholism, music and drugs. ..

The late Grammy-Award winning Yusuf Abdul Lateef
…There is an Ahmadi who was a musician by profession and in a short time became well known throughout America. According to experts he was to become the all time best. When he became Ahmadi, he cared neither for music nor did he crave for the wealth which his musician’s career would have brought him. He discarded it all. He is now a dervish. He offers tahajjud prayers regularly. Tears flow from his eyes when he utters the name of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). He loves the Promised Messiah (peace be upon him) just as much as the Promised Messiah loved his master, the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). He is an entirely transformed person. He is changed so much that the people cannot recognize what a gifted and talented man he is. I have known him for a long time and talked to him often. God listens to his prayers and answers him, and treats him with love and affection. You know not how many magnificent gems of great value are hidden here. And if, God forbid, we failed to appreciate their worth, God too will not care a bit about us…

The Holy Prophet (sa) as the Greatest Psychologist
…Therefore, it is imperative that each and every Ahmadi should get rid of all sort of inferiority complexes. Those who are of a comparatively lighter color and who are financially better off, their feelings of inferiority complex can and will certainly destroy them if they do not deviate from the present course. And those who are apparently considered to be of a lower status, should they remain a victim of inferiority, this complex will also certainly destroy them. The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) has already divulged to us all profound facts of human nature.

The greatest psychologist ever born, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) knew God the best, and God — creator of human nature — taught him all about human nature. The Holy Prophet (sa) is the only true source of understanding human nature…

The Poor should also not be Arrogant
…Once, he said that among those disliked by God are those among the poor who despite their poverty are arrogant. This explains what inferiority complex really means. The poor who are being despised by others, if they respond with pride and arrogance, then this is because of their inferiority complex, for they begin to retaliate by looking down upon others. The Holy Prophet (sa) said God dislikes such people too.


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