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The Caliph Warned of World War — but did the World listen?

First published by Rational Religion, written by Damir Rafi

Over the last few weeks, Russia has launched a devastating attack on Ukraine, causing global uncertainty and the potential for widespread escalation. Not since the most dangerous moments of the Cold War have tensions between the West and Russia been so high. Numerous political commentators are now openly declaring that nuclear war is a real and imminent possibility.

It is easy to now jump on the ‘World War III’ bandwagon, and indeed the media know that shocking and dramatic headlines increase their readership and views. Equally, Western media who paint President Putin as a ‘Hitler-esque’ uniquely evil figure know that generating division and outrage also plays in their favour.

What was more difficult, however, was to have predicted such a chain of events a long time ago, and to condemn the injustices that would cause it, rather than simply cheerleading for a particular group or nation. To this end, the Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, the Caliph, His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad, has done exactly this. While leading the single largest Muslim community on Earth, he has been warning for over a decade that the threat of a World War between the West and Russia looms on the horizon. He has delivered speeches to the US congress, the EU Parliament, the House of Commons, UNESCO, the parliaments of the Netherlands, Japan, New Zealand, and many others. He has addressed universities and the common person alike. His message has been consistent for over a decade: War is coming, unless a change is made.

The Caliph addressing Congress in Capitol Hill, 2012

As the world passed through economic recession, the war in Syria, the Ukraine Crisis of 2014, growing tensions with Iran and North Korea, and a resurgence in nuclear proliferation, the Caliph’s far-farsighted warnings were unrelenting.

In a ‘Peace Symposium’ speech delivered in 2013, speaking to the economic hardship of the Europeans, he said:

“We should not sit here and only be concerned at the prospect of becoming involved in wars that are taking place in Asia, but we should also be extremely concerned about the problems on our own doorsteps. If we look at Europe’s own financial crisis and its long-term effects, we see that it is causing restlessness to spread within Europe’s population and this anxiety is increasing at great speed. If not handled properly, the results of such frustrations and desperation will prove to be catastrophic.”

The next year, tensions erupted in Ukraine over which economic bloc to join. Later in 2013, in a special reception held in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, the Caliph said:

“The direction the world is moving in suggests that the dark shadow of war is being cast over a very large part of the globe. If war breaks out then countless innocent women, children and elderly people will all die. The destruction will be greater than was witnessed in the previous two World Wars.”

At that time, almost a decade ago, there were few media commentators or reporters who apprehended the threat of World War. Indeed, given the hyperbole, exaggeration and dramatization that the media love to convey, if they even had had an inkling that world war was a threat, they would certainly have mentioned it, to generate shock and subsequent readership.

In an address to British Parliament in London in June 2013, the Caliph again addressed the topic of war:

“The world has become a global village, and so a lack of mutual respect and a failure to join together to promote peace will not only harm the local area, city or country, but in fact will ultimately lead to the destruction of the entire world. We are all well aware of the horrific devastation caused by the last two world wars, due to the acts of certain countries. The signs are that another world war is on the horizon. If a world war breaks out, the Western world will also be deeply affected by its far-reaching and devastating consequences.”

In a 2015 address at the National Peace Symposium of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, the Caliph specifically mentioned Ukraine as a severe threat to world peace:

“The world is being consumed by various issues that are leading to frustration and resentment, which in turn are undermining peace. For example, the effects of the financial crisis continue to be felt in much of the world…. Then there is the conflict in Ukraine and the global arms race. These are all threats to world peace that are not linked to Islam, but rather have developed as a result of an unquenchable thirst for power, influence and resources. ”

The Caliph addressing the Houses of Parliament, 2013

A few months later, he did so again, during a speech in Tokyo in November 2015:

“We are living in extremely precarious and dangerous times, in which the state of the world is a cause of huge concern. Conflict and disorder are consuming the world and threatening international peace and security…. In Eastern Europe, hostilities between Russia and Ukraine and other European countries are continuing to flare…”

The Caliph addresses dignitaries in Tokyo, 2015

In 2016, the book ‘World Crisis and Pathway to Peace,’ was published, which contained a series of speeches delivered by the Caliph, and a series of letters that he had written to world leaders over the recent years. In a 2012 letter to President Barack Obama, the Caliph warned:

“My request to you, and indeed to all world leaders, is that instead of using force to suppress other nations, use diplomacy, dialogue and wisdom. The major powers of the world, such as the United States, should play their role towards establishing peace. They should not use the acts of smaller countries as a pretext to disturb world harmony. Currently, nuclear arms are not only possessed by the United States and other major powers; rather, even relatively smaller countries now possess such weapons of mass destruction, where those who are in power are often trigger-happy leaders who act without thought or consideration. Thus, it is my humble request to you to strive to your utmost to prevent the major and minor powers from erupting into a Third World War. There should be no doubt in our minds that if we fail in this task then the effects and aftermath of such a war will not be limited to only the poor countries of Asia, Europe and the Americas; rather, our future generations will have to bear the horrific consequences of our actions and children everywhere in the world will be born disabled or deformed. They will never forgive their elders who led the world to a global catastrophe.”

The Caliph addressing the Dutch Parliament, 2015

To then-Prime Minister David Cameron, in the same year, he wrote:

“We observe that the situation of the world today is similar to the situation in 1932, both economically and politically. There are many other similarities and parallels, which when combined together, form the same image today that was witnessed just prior to the outbreak of the Second World War. If these sparks ever truly ignite, we will witness the terrifying scenario of a Third World War.”

Even in more recent years, the Caliph highlighted the fact that the world was becoming more and more divided, and yet most were not aware of the potential dangers. In a 2019 speech at the French Annual Convention of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, he said:

“Today, once again, blocs are rapidly forming, society is becoming polarised and rifts between nations are deepening by the day. Many countries, Muslim and non-Muslim, do not seem to comprehend the true value of peace or to recognise the dangers that lie ahead. Certainly, the consequences of warfare today are potentially far deadlier than anything we have ever seen before because several nations have developed nuclear weapons. If any of those countries ever use the deadly weapons at their disposal they will not just be destroying the world as we know it, but will be ensuring that we leave behind the most horrific and devastating legacy for our children.”

With the advent of COVID-19, the Caliph presciently warned in letters to global leaders that economic distress may turn nations to war. In one such letter to the Prime Minister of Ghana, he wrote:

When we examine the financial impact of the coronavirus, it is clearly apparent that it is causing immense damage to economies across the world, including those of the most powerful countries on earth. History tells us that the worst of mankind is often witnessed when economies collapse, and the wealth and power of a country is threatened. Often, selfishness and greed prevail over justice and fairness and nations seek to usurp the rights of other countries to save themselves and, in this way, devastating wars and bloody conflicts have often been ignited by economic forces…. [A] glance at history makes it clear that wars are often sparked by economic pressures and frustrations, as nations seek to unjustly fulfil their vested interests through warfare and violence. If, and when, a Third World War breaks out, it cannot be assumed that Africa will not be drawn into the conflict because the modern world has come to resemble a global village in which each nation and continent is now more connected than ever before.

As recently as October 2021, he advised his followers:

I feel that it is quite possible that a war or a conflict could break out after this pandemic of coronavirus ends and its ruinous effects could last for many years before it returns to normality. Thus, we must pray that such circumstances may not arise, that may lead to wars and that world leaders act with sense so that the global situation can stabilise as quickly as possible and return to normal.

For over a decade then, the Caliph has warned the world that a global war was drawing ever closer. These warnings were persistent, and many of them were delivered in the presence of the highest and most influential politicians and dignitaries in the world. Some initially dismissed his talk as overly pessimistic. And certainly, few seemed to truly take heed of his warnings.

Some religious groups in today’s world prophecise doomsday and incoming calamities almost with a sense of glee. In their view, such disasters ultimately will herald the second coming of Christ, meaning their faith will be vindicated and their sect will triumph. They warn of societal collapse, not with a sense of true concern for the world, but rather with their own vested interests at stake. Some even hope for this collapse to occur, such that their victory can be hastened.

Despite being the head of a religious community, the warnings by His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad, are not of this nature. He lays out, in detail, the root causes of the perilous state of the world, and patiently explains how we can solve them, thereby preventing such disasters from ever occurring.

In 2016, in his address at the 13th Annual Peace Symposium of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, the Caliph said:

“For many years I have warned that the world is moving rapidly towards another world war and now others are reaching the same conclusion. In fact, some prominent people are now saying that they believe that a world war has already begun. Nonetheless, I believe that we still have the time to stop such a war in its tracks but the solution remains, as I have already said, to act with justice and to leave aside all vested interests.”

Addressing the Dutch Foreign Affairs Committee, 2015

On another occasion, more recently, in May 2021, he told a group of journalists from the Gambia:

“If there is no justice, there is no peace. If you have double standards, as we can see in today’s world shown by the big powers, they cannot maintain peace in the world…. This is why you can see there is disturbance in the world today. So, if there is no justice, there is no peace.”

In other words, injustice is the ultimate cause of the conflicts and suffering we see today. In a global world, nations should work together for the common good, rather than excessively pursuing their own interests at the expense of others.

Why can a true and lasting peace not be attained without justice? If an individual, a group, or a nation feels unfairly victimised, perceiving that they have been unjustly treated, feelings of enmity and anger inevitably develop. Even if at first their enmity is suppressed, ultimately it may be released at an unpredictable or unlikely moment. The strength and power of military weapons today, and the fact that many of these missiles lie in the hands of irresponsible leaders, constitute a recipe for disaster. While the job of the world’s leaders is to protect their own national security, some decide to utilise their power to inflict pain and misery upon other weaker nations, waging wars of aggression, either overtly or covertly. Such injustice leads other nations to take a particular side, and as the Caliph warned, blocs begin to form.

What we have seen over the past two decades has been powerful nations waging wars upon weaker nations, in particular, upon Muslim countries. Such wars have left devastating impacts upon Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Syria, among others. It has also fueled many individuals to develop a hatred of the West. Some of these individuals then formed groups and committed their own barbaric atrocities upon the innocent civilians of Western society. Divisions, suspicions, and hatreds began to grow further.

At the same time, wealth inequality across the globe has grown to extortionate levels, with a handful of people now possessing more money than half of the world’s population. During the COVID-19 pandemic, when many were struggling financially due to redundancies and a lack of gainful employment, 700 billionaires got $1.7 trillion richer. Long-standing government policies have disproportionately affected the poor over the last decade, with inflation now rearing its ugly head. Increasing poverty due to this financial injustice has caused families to become desperate, and in times of desperation people become increasingly polarised and divided, focusing on helping themselves rather than others. Instead of blaming the architects and guardians of our financial system, the media often did their best to persuade them that their spiralling debts, depreciating currencies, and increasing poverty over the past decades were caused by other people entirely. Those blamed included refugees fleeing war-zones that the West created, Muslims, and frustrated people across the political spectrum.

Against such a backdrop, no wonder that we are so far away from any sort of peace – whether individual, societal, or global. As the Caliph has explained in numerous addresses, adhering to justice is not simply the job of world leaders. Rather it is the job of all of us, in our respective spheres, to treat all those that surround us with justice, kindness and grace. When real justice is observed on the lower levels of society, it permeates upwards. As they say, real change always comes from the bottom up. The Caliph continually tells his followers and the world at large that their own conduct, however small it appears, can influence others, and ultimately cause a shift in world events themselves.

The faithful gather to hear the Caliph in Qadian, India, during the Covid Pandemic

However, how can such justice truly be achieved?

How can we expect individuals and nations to behave at a standard by which they adhere to justice, even if their own interests appear to be compromised thereby?

The Holy Quran sheds light on this dilemma:

“O ye who believe! Be strict in observing justice, and be witnesses for Allah, even though it be against yourselves or against parents and kindred. Whether he be rich or poor, Allah is more regardful of them both than you are. Therefore, follow not your low desires so that you may be able to act equitably. And if you conceal the truth or evade it, then remember that Allah is well aware of what you do.” Holy Quran 4:136

The verse highlights the fact that Islam teaches individuals to observe justice, even if it comes at personal cost. The verse then describes how people should motivate themselves to adhere to such high standards of morality – by saying that God is aware of their actions. In other words, we are directly accountable to God, and in our process of developing a relationship with Him, we must remember the standards that He expects of us, and recognise that ultimately, we will return to Him.

The West is dominated today by agnosticism and atheism. In such a worldview, where there is no Higher Power to whom we are accountable, there is little incentive to people to observe justice when inconvenient to them. If this life is the only life, why not try to fulfill all one’s personal goals, regardless of the negative consequences to others? Why not try to amass as much wealth as physically possible, even if it means others sit starving? Why not extend our geopolitical power even if others feel threatened thereby? Individualism and atheism combine to create a sort of spiritual anarchy, where our own personal interests take precedence over all else.

But in a world in which we do feel accountable to a Higher Power, and realise that we will one day return to Him, we are compelled to keep our morality more in-check, fearing that even though other people may not be able to perceive our unjust actions, God indeed can.

The only way that people can truly reach the highest stages of morality, however, is if their love for God outweighs their love for the material world. To achieve this, a sense of humility is required, and for political leaders and their citizens alike to turn to God in prayer, asking Him to reveal Himself to them so they can have certainty in His existence. People can then improve from a state of simply being accountable to God, to actually developing a two-way relationship with Him. This has the potential to be a transformative process, and it is one desperately needed in these troubled times.

Not long ago, I had a discussion regarding the Russia-Ukraine conflict with a work colleague. He told me that though he used to believe in God and pray, he recently stopped engaging in religious practice. However, he told me that if a world war were to break out, then he would ‘probably become an ardent fundamental believer in God and in religion.’

Such a situation would be extremely common. At times of suffering and calamity, people realise that they have no control over their lives, that their lives rest in the hands of God. They would therefore humble themselves, and bow down in submission to a Higher Power, realising that they are helpless. But if this attitude could be developed in people before such a calamity occurred, then it may be averted. Egotism, brashness and displays of strength threaten to tear the world apart. Humility and prayer can piece it back together, even before it becomes completely destroyed.

The Caliph, His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad, was a lone voice, warning the world of a global conflict developing. Now, we are on the precipice. As well as simply warning of catastrophe, he also conveyed to the world, in clear terms, how it could be averted. The world failed to initially take heed of his warning, but it must now take heed of his solution – to turn to God and observe justice at all levels of society.

The consequences of ignoring him, and falling into the pit of World War, are too shocking to even contemplate.

“I have been telling, all the time, to the people of the world – to politicians, to leaders – that they ought to change themselves and try to establish true justice, absolute justice in the world and discharge their duties to their Creator and their fellow beings. Otherwise, there is no guarantee [about] what is going to happen, and what we can see is a very dark and bleak end of this world.” Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad: 11 September 2021, during a virtual meeting of UK members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.

If the unthinkable happens, let history record that the world was warned.

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