I’ve made up my mind. I’ll soon be packing my bags and leaving Birmingham to pledge allegiance to the Caliphate. Thousands more, mostly from Europe, will be doing the same.
As you react with horror, contemplate alerting the police and (worse) consider blocking me on social media, rest assured: I’m not referring to the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Rather, I’m talking about a Caliph you may never have heard of - and who certainly doesn’t get near as much publicity - but is the head of a global spiritual community, described as a champion of human rights and who stands firmly against terrorism. He lives in London too.
This Caliph will be the centre of attention at the UK’s largest international gathering of Muslims. Thirty thousand people from 90 countries and 100 cities across the land will be there, with millions more tuning in via satellite TV screens and internet streams.
Like me, they will be affirming their loyalty to him and vow to live by a simple maxim: Love for all, hatred for none. This is sure to raise some eyebrows, and probably startle those who equate caliphate with something closer to a barbaric totalitarian theocracy. And you’d be forgiven for thinking so.
A Caliphate is a system of successorship as old as humankind. But in Islamic theology, it refers mainly to the “rightly-guided” leaders (caliphs) appointed after the Prophet’s death for the protection and progress of the Muslim community. That caliphate came to an end following the assassination of Ali, the fourth successor of Muhammad.
Since then, various declarations have arisen throughout history, with Isis' being the most recent. Yet divinely-mandated authority is much more sophisticated than any random Tariq, Daud or Hamza taking over a piece of land and proclaiming themselves ruler of the believers. According to the Koran, a caliphate restores Islam to its original purity, purged of the corruptions that have crept into it. It should also replace fear with peace and security. Clearly, al-Baghdadi and Isis fail on both fronts here.
The leader of the Caliphate I'm referring to is Mirza Masroor Ahmad – the head of tens of millions of Ahmadiyya Muslims who have joined the community from every denomination and religion you can imagine. He travels extensively and is welcomed by heads of state, and has spoken at Capitol Hill, the European Parliament and the House of Commons. Prime Minister David Cameron is among many who have praised him as “a man of peace”.
When caricatures of the Prophet were published, he counseled Muslims to write articles promoting the real character of Muhammad. When Pastor Terry Jones threatened to burn the Koran, he called on faith leaders to respect each other’s holy scriptures. And when his own followers were massacred in Pakistan, he urged his community to exercise patience and offer prayers.
By rejecting violence, inspiring service to one’s country and defending freedom of conscience, this is a Caliph who is a living example of real Islamic values.
Why should any of this matter? It’s because this is a Caliph everyone needs to know more about, and deserves the platform world leaders also want “strong, positive Muslim voices” to be given.
If extremism is the “struggle of our generation”, here is a Caliph who offers hope and a solution. And that’s why millions including me are pledging allegiance to him.
Waqar Ahmad Ahmedi is Head of Religious Education at a comprehensive school in Birmingham. He is also an A level and GCSE Religious Studies examiner and writer on faith and education. He blogs at http://waqarahmedi.wordpress.com/
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