Recently, several accounts of Western Muslim youth leaving their homes to join ISIS have been making headlines. Many of these youth have been recruited via social media or by friends who have traveled to Syria to pledge allegiance to a life of war and destruction. It is indeed an unfathomable thought to embrace yet alone act upon, and one questions why anyone would leave their freedom to be imprisoned to a life of cruelty. Many would argue that these youth do not have the guidance they need and that centralized Muslim leadership is the solution to end this crisis.
One group of Muslims with organized leadership is the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. This past August, under the guidance of their worldwide spiritual leader the Khalifa of Islam, His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad, 35,000 Muslims gathered in Hampshire, England to pledge their allegiance to a peaceful Khilafat. These Muslims came from 90 nations and gathered for the the 3 day annual convention known as Jalsa Salana. During the 3 day event, those in attendance heard the Khalifa of Islam speak to them directly in five speeches. His Holiness addressed topics such as women’s rights, true Islam, solutions against ISIS, and how to establish world peace. After the speeches, the Khalifa of Islam continued with his outreach and met individually with thousands of delegates and dignitaries who had traveled from afar to greet him in person.
Speeches were given to promote peace and help the attendees understand the pristine teachings of the Prophet Muhammad. Well known government officials were also in attendance pledging their commitment to the message of peace the Khalifa of Islam was promoting. Several workshops were held in between the sessions including a presentation on the Shroud of Turin by Jewish scholar Barry Schwortz. The atmosphere showed people from all ages and from all over the world gathering in unity and embracing one another with mutual love and respect. This was indeed a gathering of unity and harmony, unlike what is being witnessed by those who fall prey to ISIS.
His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the Khalifa of Islam, addressed that the term “jihad” is widely misunderstood by radicalized Muslim youth as well as by some non-Muslims. He further stated, “Even some women and young girls are being misled and so they are traveling from their home countries towards Muslim countries to join so-called jihadi organizations in a completely false jihad. It must be clear that jihad is not a concept that supports injustices, cruelty, pillaging and anarchy for the sake of fulfilling vested interests.”
This annual convention occurs in multiple countries around the world, attracting thousands of Muslims, yet the one in the United Kingdom is felt as the most international in attendance. It is broadcasted live on satellite Muslim Television Ahmadiyya, radio, and television, drawing millions of viewers. On the third and final day, a pledge reaffirming one’s faith and allegiance towards God and humanity was conducted and is felt as an emotional spiritual event for those participating even remotely via satellite.
Joining the pledge towards peace and dedication to humanity is perhaps the strongest need of the Muslim youth who are in need of clear direction of the true teachings of Islam. No members under the Khalifa of Islam’s direct guidance have ever fallen prey to extremists. For Muslim youth in need of clear understanding, being under the guidance of a genuine Muslim leader who offers solutions and directions towards peace is perhaps the only solution for those seeking to pledge their life to true Islam.
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