In an effort to try and learn more about some of the major world religions, I contacted a number of Muslim mosques in my area to see if anyone would be willing to meet with me. While I have a textbook on world religions, and access to endless information online, I wanted to hear from the lips of believers too, and be able to ask questions.
The meeting was awesome. The man we met with was very kind, and very willing to share whatever he could. The first thing he shared was about the life and history of Muhammed. There was much about him that I did not know, and that was fascinating. Interestingly, under Muhammed’s leadership, both Christians and Jews were a protected people under Islam, which seems to go against what I assumed about the relationship between the 3 religions.
Then we discussed the beliefs specific to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. They believe that a man named Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who was born in 1835, was the messiah who had come to restore Islam back to a proper understanding of the Quran and the faith. Initially, before his claim to be the messiah, his work and teaching was very highly respected by all Muslims. But, as soon he made the claim, everyone turned against him.
The Ahmadiyya are a peaceful, missions-focused group. Part of the teaching of Ahmad was that violence as a part of Islam is not applicable to today’s world, so they very much do not agree with what many now understand as Jihad (translated to “struggle”), the name by which the violent radical Muslims go by, and which they believe is a 20th century misinterpretation of the Quran. Mufti Muhammad Sadiq was the first Ahmadiyya Muslim missionary to come to North America in 1921, and he built their first mosque in Chicago.
They have an interesting take on Jesus that I had never heard before. I am not sure wether this is unique to the Ahmadiyya Muslims, or if this is the general understanding in Islam as a whole. They believe that Jesus really did come, but his claim to be the messiah was false. He was just a prophet. It is believed that Jesus was indeed crucified (and some also believe that it may have been one of his disciples instead, or a Roman solider), but never died. Instead he was taken off the cross in a coma, and tended to by his disciples for 3 days. Like the Gospels say, he was with people and the disciples for many days after the crucifixion, but was not taken up into heaven like the Gospels say. Instead, he migrated to India to teach there.
Unlike Christianity and Judaism, they believe that man is born good. Our natural state is attracted to good, and that we have an engrained love in our sole that is trying to find God. They do not believe in an eternal hell, or that hell means something like actual fire and flames. Instead, they believe that hell is a state of restlessness and discontentment (similar to going through a really difficult thing in life), and that there is an eventual way to get out of hell and into heaven. Heaven to them is based on how you live your life. How good you are determines how well you will be rewarded (the 72 virgins thing – that is a 20th+ century belief that cannot be found in the Quran or the books of tradition and is not a part of true Islam).
In terms of being able to get to heaven, it is all based off if you believe in one God, and if you do good works. They believe that other people outside of Islam can get to heaven, including Christians, Jews, and even agnostics. So while Islam does not hold the monopoly on heaven, like Christianity claims, it is a safe and sure route.
There is a lot more that we discussed, but I will leave it at that for now. He gave me a couple books to learn more from that look interesting. The first one is called “The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam” (you can get the PDF version for free), which is written by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the messiah of the Ahmadiyya Muslims. In it, he answers 5 major questions:
- What is the physical, moral and spiritual states of man?
- What is the state of man after death?
- What is the true purpose of man’s existence on earth and how can it be achieved?
- What are the affects of one’s deeds in this life and the afterlife?
- What are the sources of divine knowledge?
Another book he gave me is called “Islam’s Response To Contemporary Issues”, which covers a lot of things and should be very interesting. I also received a Quran from him as well.
This was a very fascinating meeting, and I am grateful that he was willing to meet with me and teach me more about what he believed. It is truly amazing what you can learn from people if you just ask.