[Editor, Asia Today]: I am talking with Imam Shamshad A. Nasir, the spiritual leader (Imam) at the Baitul Hameed Mosque in Chino, CA and the southwest regional missionary in the U.S. for the worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.
Q: Imam sahib, could you tell our readers a little about yourself?
A: Thank you very much. . . My name is Imam Shamshad A. Nasir, I am originally from Pakistan, I graduated from High School in 1966 at the age of 15, and in the Fall of that year, I was accepted into the Ahmadiyya Muslim missionary training college in Rabwah, Pakistan -- a 7-year seminary training program. I graduated in 1973.
Q: Why did you want to become an Imam?
A: I loved my religion and I wanted to teach it to others, and I wanted to learn my religion as best I could, so I applied for our Community’s training college and was accepted. It was a critical time, when people had very little knowledge of Islam and their perception of Islam was not good. I wanted to educate people about the real teachings of the Holy Quran and the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of God be upon him).
Q: You belong to a Muslim community that is heavily persecuted in the Islamic world. Was this a factor in your decision to want to become an Imam and tell people, Muslims included, what your true beliefs were?
A: At the time I went into the missionary training program, there was not the kind of persecution like we have today, which really started after 1974. The government of Pakistan had not yet declared Ahmadis non-Muslims. Back then, I just wanted to learn my own religion so I could communicate those teachings to the people.
Q: So how are the teachings of Ahmadiyya [Islam] different from the standard Sunni or Shia Muslim beliefs?
A: This is a very important question for this time. As you know, all religions have many denominations, sects, like in Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism; and the same is true for Islam. There are now 73 distinct denominations in Islam, and ours, called Ahmadiyyat, is one of them. We are the 73rd group. What defines Ahmadis from other groups is that we believe Mirza Ghulam Ahmad is the Promised Messiah. I will go into a little bit more detail about the founder of Ahmadiyyat and what he claimed.
The rest of the Muslims are waiting for the return of the Israelite messiah, Jesus (pbuh) from heaven, where they believe he was taken up alive 2,000 years ago in his physical body. They think this same messiah will come back down bodily alive from heaven in the latter days. They also believe he was never put to death on the cross like the Christians believe, but was instead taken up alive bodily into heaven where he waits to come back.
The Ahmadiyya Muslim belief is quite simple. Jesus Christ was put on the cross and he suffered a lot, but God saved him from dying on the cross. In reality he was only unconscious – he only appeared to be dead. He was taken down by his friends, one of whom was a doctor who treated him, and he recovered. The Ahmadiyya belief is that Jesus was saved from an accursed death on the cross, that he survived the ordeal, and went on to complete his mission to preach to the Lost Tribes of Israel.
Jesus did not go up alive into heaven; he is not waiting there and will not come back down, as Christians and now Muslims believe. Ahmadi Muslims believe that the founder of the Community, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (pbuh), was the second coming of Jesus. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (pbuh) proved from the Holy Quran that Jesus (pbuh) died a natural death here on earth 2,000 years ago and is not ever coming back. All human beings live and die here on this earth.
It is even mentioned in the Quran that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was challenged by the disbelievers to ascend bodily into heaven and bring them down a book for them as proof that he was from God. The Holy Prophet (pbuh) says in response that he is a mortal man like they are and he cannot ascend alive to heaven and come back down. And even if he could do this, it wouldn’t matter: the disbelievers would still not believe in him or accept Islam.
What Ahmadis believe is that God raised Mirza Ghulam Ahmad as the Promised Messiah in the power and spirit of Jesus to restore the religion of Islam and the honor of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) and bring people back to God in this way. But the Promised Messiah will be a Muslim and will be completely devoted and subordinate to the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). He will not be separate from Islam or from the Holy Prophet (pbuh) – he will under his direction, his teachings and his example. He will uphold the teachings of Islam and the Holy Prophet (pbuh) 100-percent.
Q: Ahmadis claim that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was a prophet, yet one of the standard beliefs among Muslims today is that Prophet Muhammad was the last prophet and that no prophet can come after him. This is one of the main reasons Muslims say the founder of Ahmadiyyat and its members are not Muslims. Could you explain the Ahmadiyya position and why you believe in Mirza Ghulam Ahmad is a prophet?
A: It is true that Muslim raise the objection against the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and our founder on the basis of this belief that Muhammad pbuh) was the last prophet and no prophet can come after him. This is not the case, and Muslims need to study the history of their own faith as well as the other religions and how God has sent different kinds of prophets to other groups of people in the past.
Muslims also believe in the coming of a prophet after the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). They believe Jesus (pbuh) is a prophet and that he will be coming back and he will do so after the Holy Prophet (pbuh). The only difference is the Muslims believe this prophet will be from 2,000 years ago and not somebody born in these times.
What is more believable? That God will keep alive in heaven a prophet sent only to the Israelites 2,000 years ago, rather than raise up a Muslim prophet who brings no new Shariah -- no new Holy Book -- to save Islam from destruction by its enemies?
The Ahmadi belief is that God raised up a devout Muslim who loved and followed the Holy Prophet (pbuh) and that person was Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. He did not bring any new Law, he did not come to demolish or abrogate the Holy Quran and the teachings of Muhammad (pbuh) but to restore them in the hearts of the Muslims. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad claimed to be a non-Law-bearing prophet completely subordinate to the Holy Prophet (pbuh). He did not come as an independent prophet who came to change the Holy Quran – no, nothing like that.
Q: Just as Jesus (pbuh) was the Jewish messiah who was subordinate to Moses (pbuh) who was the Law-bearing prophet for the Israelites. . .
A: Yes. But the difference is that Allah says very clearly in the Holy Quran in surah Bani Israel that Jesus son of Mary was sent as a messenger to the Israelites. Jesus even says this in the Bible – that he came only for the Israelites. But the Quran says that Muhammad (pbuh) came as a mercy for all mankind, just as Islam says it is the completed religion for all mankind as well. In this same way, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad came as the messiah for the Muslims and for all other religions as well.
Q: Now, the Muslims are expecting the Imam Mahdi to come along with the messiah Jesus. . . How is the Ahmadiyya belief different from that?
A: Our belief is that "Messiah" and "Mahdi" are not two separate people, but two titles or responsibilities given to one person, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. The Christians are waiting for the second coming of Jesus. For them, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad is that messiah. The Muslims are waiting for both the messiah and the Mahdi, and for them, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad fulfills those roles in his person.
If a separate messiah came for each religion that was expecting one, how could there be unification of mankind under one messiah? It would never happen. And because God says Islam is the complete and perfect religion for all mankind for all time to come, there is only one messiah required..
Q: You’ve been an Imam for nearly 40 years. How do you see people’s reaction to Islam today as compared to when you first became an Imam?
A: By the Grace of God, we are seeing the acceptance of Islam and Ahmadiyyat growing steadily day by day everywhere in the world. You can see that when Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (pbuh) laid the foundation for his Community on March 23rd, 1889, only 40 people joined. Today, we have tens of millions of members in 202 countries. So even if we take the most conservative estimate of our numbers, we would still have a million-fold increase in our numbers from the time the Community began in 1889.
The duty of our members is to show by their example the true teachings of Islam. Our motto is: “Love for All – Hatred for None.” We have translated the Holy Quran into 70 languages, we have the Muslim world’s only 24-hour satellite TV station called MTA -- Muslim Television Ahmadiyya -- which broadcasts to every corner of the earth in Arabic, English, Urdu, Bengali, French, German and other languages. You can watch it online at www.MTA.tv. Our Khalifa’s Friday sermons are transmitted live to the world from London on MTA as well.
Q: You mentioned your Khalifa. . . There has been a lot of talk in the Islamic world about the need for a Khalifa to unify the Muslims. Can you tell me what the difference is between your Khalifa and what the rest of the Muslims are calling for?
A: Yes, this is a very important question, one that is at the heart of uniting the Muslims and restoring Islam to its true, peaceful state. What the Muslim world is calling for today is a political and military Khalifa to lead the Muslims against the rest of the world and restore the lost glory of the Islamic empire. This is only a materialistic goal.
What the Ahmadiyya Khalifa seeks to do is lead the Ahmadis in spiritual Jihad against their lower selves -- the greatest Jihad, as the Holy Prophet (pbuh) has said. The duty of the Khalifa and all Ahmadis is the same duty given to the Promised Messiah (pbuh): to reform Islam by reforming the Muslims, and to bring people back to God.
In the beginning of Islam, after the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) passed away, the majority of Muslims believe that there were four rightly-guided Khalifas in Islam. The Holy Prophet even said that there would be righteous leaders of the Muslims for a certain period of time, and then there would be leaders who were politically and worldly motivated. Muhammad (pbuh) prophesized there would be dictators and tyrants ruling the Muslims and that the religion would suffer and decline. Then, 1300 years from the time of Muhammad (pbuh), God would raise the Promised Messiah and Mahdi to sow the seed of the rejuvenation of Islam and restore it to its original spiritual purity.
Ahmadis believe this occurred with the advent of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad in the late 1800s. God also promised to re-establish Khilafat on the pattern of prophet-hood after the demise of the Promised Messiah and Mahdi. It is no accident or coincidence that it is only the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community that claims its founder was the Promised Messiah and Mahdi, and that after him came rightly-guided Khalifas as God had promised.
That is the key difference between the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and the other Muslims in the world: Ahmadis are those Muslims who have accepted the Promised Messiah and Imam Mahdi, and as a result, we are completely peaceful and totally unified around our Khalifa. His name is Mirza Masroor Ahmad, and he is the 5th successor to the Promised Messiah, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (pbuh) who passed away in 1908.
Since that time, Ahmadiyyat has had an unbroken succession of divinely-guided Khalifas – something no other Muslim group can claim. Our present Khalifa, Mirza Masroor Ahmad, has been at the forefront of bringing the peaceful message and teachings of Islam to the world.
He has addressed political leaders and government bodies many times. Just this year alone he spoke before lawmakers on Capitol Hill in Washington DC, and parliaments in Britain, Holland, Germany and the European Union in Brussels. Each time he has presented the true teachings of Islam and the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as the solution to the world’s problems and how to combat radical, extremist Muslims. As a result, more and more people are beginning to associate the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community with peaceful, tolerant, law-abiding and loving Muslims and with the kind of Islam they could live with and learn from.
Q: Thank you so much, Imam sahib, for taking the time to tell our readers about your Muslim Community. How can they get in contact with you or learn more about the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community?
A: They can reach me directly at 909-636-8332 or by Email at: firstname.lastname@example.org or they can go online at: alislam.org
( Ghosted with Imam Shamshad. Appeared in Jan. 2013 print edition of Asia Today and online at this link: https://asiatodayaz.com/chai-with-imam-shamshad/ -- it also appeared on www.AhmadiyyaTimes.com Jan. 5th at this link: http://ahmadiyyatimes.blogspot.com/2013/01/faith-and-practice-chai-withimam.html )