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Muslim leaders speak out


By Lisa Brody
News Editor
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ALMASMARI:
There are many ways to look at the Muslim faith. The foundation that Islam is based on, you have five major pillars: the first one is to bear witness that there is no God but God, and Muhammad is the last messenger of God; accepting all the prophets, beginning with Adam all the way to Moses and Jesus. Then you go to the second pillar which is prayer. We do pray five times a day, to show appreciation, to stay connected to God, to distance ourselves from that which is wrong. So it's a constant reminder.

Number three, Muslims do have to gift 2.5 percent of their savings per year, for the less fortunate, for those in need, whatever your religious background, your ethnic background. Basically going and giving to those who live in poverty.

Number four, we fast once a year, for a complete month, and we begin from dawn to sunset, even liquids. People do find it challenging, but for Muslims, it's become part of who they are. You find young children who don't have to fast who force it upon themselves, just to be part of the whole community. And the last pillar is that Muslims must go to Hajj once in their lifetime, if they're physically and financially able to travel, then they must fulfill the last pillar. If they are not, then of course, they are forgiven for not performing the pilgrimage.

We always tell people that reading is beyond important – it shows how much we have in common. In terms of the basic teachings of Islam, I don't see any differences from Christianity and Judaism whatsoever. It's very, very similar, and that's why they were able to co-exist for so many thousands of years. In Jerusalem, they were able to live together for over 1,000 years. And before that, they were able to co-exist. There's a lot of commonalities. What brings us together is more than what we differ in. There's few differences in theology, but in terms of hold in good character, love one another, sacrificing, obtaining high goals in life, receiving the right education, loving your neighbor, everything is very similar.

OSMAN: We are the Ahmadi Muslims, we are Muslims who believe in the Messiah, beyond India. (Mirza Ghulam Ahmad) was a reformer, a prophet, who we believe came to reform the Muslim people in 1889. To put it in comparative terms, we know that in the Jewish religion, Moses brought the law, he brought the Torah. There were other Jewish prophets afterwards that didn't change the Jewish religion – it was just the Jews were going astray, so the Jews had to be brought back to the fold. So prophets were anointed to bring them back to the fold. In a similar sense, prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, brought the religion of Islam, brought the Quran, brought that law, and Mirza Ghulam was a reformer because Muslims were going astray, to bring them back to that fold. Ending religious wars, ending this idea of jihad being anything to do with terrorism, saying the time of the sword is over, saying now the jihad is the pen. Now we must educate and be peaceful individuals. After his demise, a caliphate has been instituted, so we have a central instituted leader, who resides in London, England. We're currently on our fifth calipha. I say we're the Catholics of the Muslim world, because we have a spiritual head and an organizational structure. We know all of our members all across the world. We're established in over 200 countries. Here in the United States, we have over 72 different chapters. And I know everyone in the Columbus chapter, and the L.A. chapter, Chicago, New York, Florida, all over the place. We're constantly having national events where we get together.

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