The following are excerpts from Younus AlGohar's interview with ART TV during his recent trip to Sri Lanka.
On The Difference between Islam and Islamism
Islam is a religion which was established some 1450 years ago by the Prophet of Islam, Prophet Mohammad. A book called the Quran was revealed upon his heart. Islam is a wonderful religion: it is a religion of peace, love and equality. Islam gave a lot of rights to women especially, in the age where people used to bury their daughters alive. Islamism is a segment which was invented by some religious fanatics.
It has been there for many centuries, but in the last few decades, Islamism has been promoted with the help of money and political power. Now we see that Islam is separated from Muslims. Most Muslims in the world are now practising Islamism, which is nothing to do with Islam itself.
The problem is: Islam has been subjected to a lot of adulteration. Modification has taken place and wrong interpretation of the word of God, Quran, has come into practice. As a result, people failed to understand the true meaning of the word of God. Many people who have been considered to be Islamic scholars have polluted the philosophy of Islam with their own personal opinion. As a result of this mixture of Islam and their personal opinion, people have developed a wrong concept and notion of Islam.
A new version of Islam has emerged, which is purely based on fighting with non-Muslims and killing every single person who does not belong to their philosophy and version of Islam. They call this Jihad. [This version of Islam is Wahhabism]. Even if those who do not follow this new version of Islam are Muslims, they are being subjected to a lot of persecution and massacre all over the world, especially in Pakistan. Wahhabism has become a powerful force, politically and financially.
Anybody, even if he is a Muslim, if he does not practise Wahhabism, in the eyes of Wahhabis, they’re considered to be non-Muslims and they’re being slaughtered.
Wahhabism is a set of beliefs which have been conceived by people who have opinionated Islam with their own personal perception. The pollution of their opinion has deviated the path of Islam from the true understanding of the religion. Wahhabism is a movement which started about 150 years ago; their leader, Muhammad Abdul Wahhab Najdi, is considered to be a revivalist in their circle. They believe Islam was corrupted and Najdi had purified Islam. Sufis - who used to embrace all religions, love everybody, sing and dance in love of God - have been declared as heretics. They have introduced their own very strict version of Islam which even the Quran does not support.
So Wahhabism is a religious ideology which is absolutely parallel to the original Islam.
On the Principal Sponsor of Wahhabism
The Wahhabi school of thought and their scholars give people the wrong interpretation of the Quran. They declare that this ideology comes from the Quran. It is a myth that the Quran was revealed in the Arabic language; 90% of Muslims do not understand the language, so whatever translation and meaning of the Quran is said to them, they have no other choice but to believe what they have been told.
This is where the problem occurs: the wrong interpretation and wrong meaning of the Quran has been hammered into the brains of people.
The wrong translation of the divine book has been spread around.
The driving force behind Wahhabism is not just the philosophy of Wahhabism, but it has been supported by a government.
Saudi Arabia is the country that, on a government level, supports Wahhabism. They financially and physically support Wahhabism. Anywhere in the world you see a mosque that has been funded by Saudi Arabia, they’re not just building and funding the mosque; they’re giving away the translation of the Quran and Islamic books which talk about the Wahhabi school of thought. They do not represent the true form of Islam.
Because of the oil money and manpower, the Wahhabi concept of Islam is spread all over the world; whereas the other segments within Islam - in particular, the Sufi thought - have never been supported by a government. [Sufis] don’t have enough resources, so their message of love and peace did not reach countries.
In the early 20th century, when this part of land [now known as Saudi Arabia] was governed by the Ottoman Empire, the British, with the help of the Al-Saud family, were able to defeat the Ottoman Empire there. Then, under the umbrella of the British government, there was a pact between Wahhabis and the Al-Saud family: the Wahhabis were to politically support the Al-Saud family and the Al-Saud would give the Wahhabis a free hand to spread their ideology. The pact was signed and it is still in practice.
Now the Al-Saud family are putting oil money in their pockets and they allow the Wahhabi scholars to impose the Wahhabi ideology in the country. They also send delegations all over the world to spread their word. This is a sort of pact between these two, which is working fine for them.
Saudi Arabia, apparently, is not supporting terrorism; but they are supporting those who harbour terrorism like the Wahhabi school of thought.
The Wahhabi school of thought is very intolerant. They want everybody to become a Wahhabi. A Wahhabi is one who believes in God but he doesn’t to respect the one who brought them the message of God. They don’t want to respect the Prophet of Islam. They do not respect Sufis. They don’t believe in the message of love and peace. They want to rule the world. They want to become the superpower. They want all the countries to submit to their ideology and they want to turn this world into an Islamic, global society in which they appoint their caliph and everybody lives under their rule. This is what their perception is.
On The Philosophy of Messiah Foundation International
Messiah Foundation International is a purely spiritual organisation. We do not follow any religion in particular, however we address all religions. We invite them to embrace the message of love and peace.
We do this through our teachings of spirituality in which we invite people to embrace purification of the heart, awakening of the spiritual heart and enlightenment of the heart. We invite people to mortify and purify the evil soul that everybody is born with. We invite them to root out all the negative traits from their characters - as a result of which they become wonderful human beings who respect humanity, who co-exist with other religions, atheists, etc.
If you believe in God or not, I shouldn’t be bothered. This is between you and God. As a human being, I should respect you and you should respect me. We should give each other some space. This is what MFI promotes.
We respect all messengers and prophets. We respect Krishna, Bhagwan, Ra Raam etc. We believe they all came from God. They’re different names and religions, but the source is the same. This is what we believe.
We’re focused on God and his love. We’re not restricted by boundaries created by religions. We understand all these religions were established by the same God. Rather than restricting ourselves to one particular religion or faith; we have broadened our view of embracing all and being more focused on the gist of every religion: love, equality and brotherhood.
On Why Youth Join ISIS
There is a motive behind it.
Western culture has reached all countries. Western culture means having a free life. You can have a girlfriend or boyfriend; you don’t need to marry them. You just need mutual consent: as long as your partner agrees to sleep with you, you don’t carry any guilt on your heart. You go to a bar, get drunk, sleep, have a hangover, take a tablet and go back to work. There is no sin.
The young generation born in America, Canada, the UK, Australia, etc. who come from a Muslim background are being bred and brought up in this kind of environment. They’re going through a crisis of dual identity.
When they come back home, they’re told, ‘You’re Muslim, don’t do this.’ When they go to work or college, they see everybody is doing it. They’re in a very complex situation. They do want to go along with that western, secular lifestyle, but when they come back home, they find totally the opposite environment.
Now we look at what ISIS, Taliban and other Islamist groups are doing. Drugs, killing and guns - everything is free [for them]. They’ve been sleeping with girls in Australia, Canada, America and the UK, but at the same time, they carry this guilt on their heart that they’re doing something wrong. They’re told, ‘Why don’t you come and join ISIS, where you’ll have more girls to sleep with? Where you will have more freedom? Where you will have drugs and alcohol - and everything has been allowed by God for you? Why don’t you do the (so-called) Islamic way?’ They are lured into it.
These people are grabbing girls from their hair and they’re selling them for $50, $40 and $10. Whereas, when they go into a disco bar, they cannot touch a girl until she agrees to go with them. In this secular society where we are living, you cannot force anybody to have sex with you. You have to be in mutual consent. But when they’re given an opportunity to go and have sex with ten young girls, and they’re told, ‘This is right, this is perfect; you deserve this,’ they have more freedom of fulfilling their lustful desires under the banner of a religion. It is a so-called religion, which is neither supported by the Quran nor God.
This is why the young generation is lured into this lunatic ideology of Wahhabism, terrorism.
I understand they are radicalised through academic misconception: they give them a wrong ideology. We need to fix their concept. What is messed up is the religious interpretation of Islam and Quran. We have a dialogue with them and we tell them, ‘What Quran means is not what you believe today. This is what God [really] said.’ We give references from the Quran and from the noted Sufi scholars.
For example, suicide bombing. They are told, ‘If you put on a jacket full of explosives, blow yourself up with another 200 people, as soon as you die, you will go into paradise where 70 virgins will be waiting for you.’ This is wrong. This is a self-manifested ideology. There was a Companion of Prophet Mohammad who was fighting against the enemies of Islam alongside Prophet Mohammad; he got badly injured and he was in such pain that he took his own life. When it was reported to the Prophet Mohammad, Prophet Mohammad was really angry. Regarding this man who sacrificed so much for Islam, just because he committed suicide, Prophet Mohammad said, ‘He is going to end up in hellfire.’
You cannot commit suicide according to the Muslim faith. How can they allow suicide bombing? They’re doing it knowingly, on purpose. They’re not just killing themselves, but they’re claiming innocent lives of people. This is totally against the teachings of Islam and practice of Prophet Mohammad.
There is another saying in the Quran and in the Prophetic Traditions, ‘Killing one human being is equal to killing the entire humanity.’ This is the total Islamic narrative supported by the Quran and Prophet Mohammad.
Your God and my God is the same; you may be a Buddhist and I may be a Muslim and someone else may be a Christian, Hindu or Jew but so what? We are all children of God. Just the fact that I may be a Muslim and you may be a Hindu doesn’t mean we have different gods. God would never want one human being to kill another.
For example, if you have five children, all of them are equally amiable and lovable to you. You would never want one of your children to kill another one, being a human being. God loves his creation more than 70 mothers love their children; God cannot allow one human being to kill another. This is totally rubbish; it has nothing to do with Islam, the Quran or any other religion.
No religion allows killing of innocent human beings in the name of God or in the name of any religion.
On Spirituality as a Tool to Combat Radicalisation
We have two ways and both ways have to work together. On an academic level, we give them the right interpretation. On the other hand, we spiritualise them; we transmit divine energy into their heart and soul. As a result of this, when divine energy enters their body, the negative, evil traits start to diminish. They feel closer to divine energy, as a result of which they feel closer to divinity.
When you feel closer to divinity, you begin to respect humanity.
The problem is, the knowledge of spirituality hasn’t been very common in the recent times. People think it is just a thing of dreams and there is no truth in it. However, our spirit and our soul is our main reality. This body will perish one day, but the spirit will never perish. Spirituality is all about enlightening the spirits inside us with divine energy.
When the divine energy enters into the spirits and souls, instantly, the attributes of God begin to show. Those attributes become part of your character. You become lovable and compassionate. You begin to forgive people and live in a society where everybody is different, but you’re clung to humanity. You think, ’They also come from the same source that I come from.’ You begin to respect them. This happens when the evil traits are rooted out with the help of divine energy, and divine attributes begin to settle in the hearts as a result of it entering into the heart.
It is very simple. Water [in a glass of water] is cool; as soon as I put my finger in it, I feel coolness. If the water is really hot, I’ll put my finger in and I’ll feel the heat, because my finger is inside this liquid. If the liquid is hot, I’ll feel hot. If the liquid is cold, I’ll feel cold. Similarly, when the divine energy - the attributes of God - enters the heart, we instantly feel divine and the negative traits begin to diminish; they part with you.
On Futility of Converting to Different Religions
Initially, when I started coming here, people thought I am here to convert people. But no, I’m not here to convert anybody. For example, right now, you may be a Buddhist and you say, ‘I want to be a Muslim,’ and in five minutes, you become a Muslim. But if I ask you, ‘What difference do you feel now in you?’ the answer will be nothing. You’re still the same. So conversion doesn’t mean anything.
What you need to convert is your heart, from bad to good.You need to become a good person. If you are not a good person, you will never become a good Christian, good Muslim or a good Hindu. Only a good person will become a good mother or father.
If Muslims are bad, they are bad because they are bad people. If Christians are bad, they are bad because they are bad people, not because their religion is bad. Religion is not bad, but what if people do not practise their religion properly? If you are suffering some disease and you do not take the medicine, you cannot blame the medicine because you are not taking it.
My message to people all around the world is that God is love. We’re all children of God. No Muslim is better or greater than a Christian or a Hindu. We’re all equal in the eyes of God. We should not hate anybody. Do not be fooled by any concocted theological ideology that you are a better race or religion, or that you are greater than everybody else - you are pure and others are impure. This is all crap.
You may practise any religion, but you must understand that God is love and love is God. One who doesn’t understand love can never understand God. This is the only message.
Religion comes second; first is humanity. We should respect human beings.
Whether somebody is following a bad or a good religion, they are not accountable to you or me. They are accountable to God. God will decide who is good and who is bad.