Justice, Kindness and Kinship: An Islamic and American Imperative


Originally published in Patheos

Bismillah wa alhamdulillah wa salawat ‘ala Rasulillah.

I, Dr. John Andrew Morrow, known as Ilyas ‘Abd al-‘Alim Islam, am honored to address the 69th Annual Convention of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.

I am one of the few Muslim leaders who leads Friday prayers for Sunnis, who performs majlis for Shiis, who participates in dhikr with Sufis, and who speaks on the same platform as Ahmadis.

I am one of the few Muslim leaders who addresses Christian audiences, Jewish audiences, and secular audiences.

I am a person who values diversity but who seeks unity within diversity.

I believe in building bridges and common ground. I believe in focusing on similarity instead of difference. I believe in addressing agreement as opposed to disagreement.

I am not a minimalist. I refuse to be a minority of a minority of a minority.

I am Métis. Our ethnogenesis was the product of a genetic and cultural mixture between French Canadian fur-trappers and First Nation women. I am Quebecois. I am French Canadian. I am Canadian. I am American. I am a citizen of planet earth.

I am universalist.

Let us not reduce ourselves to nothing. We may be Shii. We may be Sunni. We may be Sufi. We may be Ahmadi. But we are not only that.

We may be Malikis, Shafis, Hanbalis, Hanafis, Ja‘faris, Zaydis or Isma‘ilis. But we are not only that. We may belong to dozens of different theological, legal or spiritual paths. But we are not only that.

We may be Jews, Samaritans, Christians, and Muslims but most importantly we are monotheists. We are believers in the One and Only God, the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe.

You can take a cow and chop it into thousands of different cuts: but it is still beef. That’s an allegory for anyone who might be hungry right now.

We have differences. That is a given. That is a blessing. That is what enriches us as human beings. But we are not the sum of our differences.

Let us set aside our differences and focus on fundamentals, the belief in One God, the belief in the Prophets of God, and the belief in Life after Death.

Let us unite on the basis of primordial ethical and moral principles.

God is One and God is Just so let us stand for social justice. As Almighty Allah says in the Glorious Qur’an:

O ye who believe! stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for Allah can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest ye swerve, and if ye distort (justice) or decline to do justice, verily Allah is well-acquainted with all that ye do. (4:135)

Let us be kind and considerate for as the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, preached: “None of you has faith until you love for your neighbor what you love for yourself.”

Let us build bonds of brotherhood and sisterhood for as Almighty Allah commands the Prophet in al-Qur’an al-Karim: “Say: ‘No reward do I ask of you for this except the love of those near of kin.’” (42:23)

Finally, as the Messenger of Allah said: “He who does not thank people does not thank Allah” (Tirmidhi and Ahmad)

So let me thank the Ahmadi Community for inviting me here today and let me give credit where credit is due.

The Ahmadi Community was the first to systematically spread Islam in the Western world in general and here in the United States in particular. For this, I thank you.

The Ahmadi Community has always rejected violent jihad and terrorism. For this, I thank you.

The Covenants of the Prophet may be new to some Sunnis, Shiites, and Sufis; however, they are time-honored traditions to the Ahmadi Community. For this, I thank you.

The Covenants of the Prophet were recognized as authentic by the Islamic Review, an Ahmadi academic journal, in 1940.

The Covenants of the Prophet were recognized as authentic by Abdullah Alladin, the Ahmadi scholar, in 1971.

The Covenants of the Prophet were recognized as authentic by Qasim Rashid, my friend and colleague, in 2014.

Finally, in 2016, His Holiness, Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the current Khalifa of the Ahmadi Muslim Community, quoted a study on the Covenants of the Prophet that was completed by my friend and colleague, Dr. Craig Considine.

Shukran lakum wa shukralillah. Thank you and thank Allah.

Al-salaamu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu.

(This speech was delivered to the 69th annual convention of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA. It can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=znOMN2sY8cI.)

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The premier writers guild in the English language dedicated to defending the honor of Islam and Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)

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I’m sure we would all welcome the covenants Dr Morrow writes of, if genuine, but there are three problems arising from the timeline. The principal covenant, the Covenant with the Monks of Mount Sinai, is dated “on the third of Muharram in the second year of the Prophet’s Hegira”, ie in 623 AD, one year after the Hijra, Mohammed’s migration from Mecca to Medina.

1. Sinai did not come under Muslim control until c.640 AD. Why would Mohammed grant a covenant of protection in 623 AD to a group who were not under his control and who he was therefore not in a
position to protect?

2. Similarly, why would he release them from the obligation to pay the jizya tax which they were therefore not subject to?

3. In 623 AD Mohammed had not yet instituted jizya, the discriminatory poll tax on subjugated non-Muslims, even in Medina. According to Dr Morrow the Constitution of Medina, giving equal rights to Muslims and non-Muslims, had only just been set up. In fact he specifically tells us in his book on the covenants that jizya did not exist in the early days of Islam.

So the Covenant promised protection to a group that Mohammed was in no position to protect, and exemption from paying a tax which they were not subject to and which did not even yet exist.

Can Dr Morrow explain these anomalies? If he cannot the only explanation must surely be that the Covenant was written later than 623 AD and is therefore a forgery.