European Workshop on Peace & Integration, Milan Italy

Minhaj-ul-Quran European Council and Minhaj-ul-Quran International (Italy chapter) organized Peace & Integration Workshop in Ripa Monti Hotel of Milan city of Italy from July 17 to July 19, 2009. Shaykh-ul-Islam Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri, founding leader and patron-in-chief of Minhaj-ul-Quran International, graced the occasion on special invitation. Besides him, the distinguished participants who attended the Workshop included Sahibzada Hassan Mohi-ud-Din Qadri, president of MQI Supreme Council, Sahibzada Hammad Mustafa Qadri al-Madani, Dr Raheeq Ahmad Abbasi; MQI Secretary General, Allama Nazir Ahmad Khan, Dawood Hussain Mash`hadi, coordinator foreign affairs; Allama Hassan Mir Qadri, Amir European Council, Sayyid Arshad Shah, president of European Council, Muhammad Naeem Shah, vice president of European Council, Hafiz Muhammad Iqbal Azam, Secretary General European Council, Mian Maqsood Ikram, director Media of European Council, Naveed Ahmad Andalusi, and other leaders of MQI Europe. Sarfraz Ahmad, president of MQI North Italy, Haji Khalid Mahmood, vice president, Muhammad Ashraf, and office holders of MQI South Italy Muhammad Ali Baghat, Manshad Ahmad, Samee Ullah Warriach, Hafiz Abdul Manaf, Zaheer Anjum and other workers made strenuous efforts day in and day out to make this Workshop a success.

Proceedings of the Day One
The participants had started reaching the nearby airports i.e. Bergamo and Malpensa near the Milan city one day before the start of the workshop for participation in the Workshop. The associates and workers of MQI across Europe began to arrive at 7 am since morning on the first day of the workshop on July 17. The host organization had made arrangements of buses and cars for transportation of the participants who were coming from different parts of Europe to the hotels. The guests, who were coming in the form of caravans, were divided into various groups and transported to the Ripamonti hotel through hired buses and cars from all the airports of Milan. The host organization formed two committees to look after the transport matters and facilitate the incoming guests in the best possible manner with minimum of inconvenience.

Caravans and their leaderships
A caravan of 154 people led by MQI France chapter president, Abdul Jabbar Butt, reached Milan, which was welcomed by Haji Muhammad Khalid and its companions. A 40-member delegation from Barcelona (Spain) reached Milan under the leadership of MQI patron, Muhammad Nawaz Kiyani, which was received by Sarmad Javed of Youth League, Milan. Other caravans from Austria, New Spain, Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, Belgium, and different cities of South Italy also reached Milan led by their respective leaderships. Upon their arrival in the hotel, the delegates were registered and handed down room cards. Due to rush of the participants, the registration process continued from 7 am to 4 pm. Muhammad Naeem Chaudhry, Allama Iqbal Azam, Naveed Ahmad Andalusi and Muhammad Ashraf Khokar undertook the registration process amicably. Dr Raheeq Ahmad Abbasi, MQI Secretary General, kept on supervising the registration process from time to time.

After the registration and other formalities were over, the delegates gathered in a hall located near the hotel for offering Juma prayers. Media personnel and secretaries of Information of MQI also came all the way from different parts of Europe to cover the historic Training Workshop, which included Naveed Ahmad Andalusi, vice secretary information & broadcasting, Rao Khalil Ahmad, In-charge of Media Council France, Muhammad Shakeel Chughtai, media coordinator of Minhaj European Council, Muhammad Akram Bajwa of Jazba International Austria, Shafqat Ali Raza of Pak News Spain, and Sayyid Muhammad Jamil of the Community Radio in Austria.

A special media team also reached the venue for the video coverage of the event on the invitation of Minhaj-ul-Quran France. These videos would then be dispatched to QTV and central Directorate of Productions. The team included Azhar Saddiqi, Sajid Fayyaz, Farhad Gulzar and Numan Aslam. The youth of Minhaj-ul-Quran Italy welcomed the guests at the external gates of main hall. The internal doors featured the stalls of CDs, DVDs and books of Shaykh-ul-Islam Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri put up by MQI Italy. Amir of MQI European Council, Allama Hassan Mir Qadri, addressed the Juma congregation on the topic of ‘Worker and Leader’. The Juma prayer was offered at 3:00 pm.

The formal proceedings of the Training Workshop got underway with the recitation from the Holy Quran by Qari Muhammad Tariq (France) followed by recital of Naat by various Naat-Khawans like Muhammad Asghar Qadri (Greece), Qari Muhammad Tariq (France), Farhan Aslam (France), Muhammad Qadeer Ahmad Khan (Spain) and Muhammad Afzal Qadri (Italy). Allama Hassan Mir Qadri gave introductory talk, briefed the delegates about the schedule of the camp and passed on other instructions. Muhammad Naeem Chaudhry, vice president of MQI European Council, welcomed the guests on behalf of Minhaj European Council and Minhaj-ul-Quran International Italy. Asr prayer was offered afterwards.

At 6:40 pm, Shaykh-ul-Islam Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri entered the hall and more than seven hundred workers, associates and leaders of MQI from across Europe gave a standing ovation to His Eminence. Before the formal start of speech, Shaykh-ul-Islam welcomed all the delegates and congratulated MQI Italy for holding prestigious and historic Training Workshop on Peace & Integration. Mr. Giampiero Alberti, in-charge priest of interfaith relations of Catholic Church (Italy), also came to the camp on special invitation and held a meeting with Shaykh-ul-Islam Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri. Shaykh-ul-Islam welcomed the guest and said that he was pleased at his coming. Conversation between Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri and Mr. Giampiero Alberti took place in Italian language. Mr. Faizan Ashraf and Muhammad Arshad Shah rendered the translation services.

The representative of the Christian Community said in his talk that he was working for promotion of interfaith relations and was immensely impressed by the work Minhaj-ul-Quran International was doing for the promotion of global peace and harmony among civilizations through its worldwide network. He said that the doors of all Churches of Italy were open for MQI. He said both Christians and Muslims believed in the same God and this fostered the feelings of brotherhood and mutual respect. Shaykh-ul-Islam Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri told the Christian leader that MQI was playing its important role in bringing people of different cultures, religions and civilizations closer to one another in the entire world including Europe. Welcoming the gesture of the Christian Community leader, he also conveyed the message of good will to the followers of Christianity on behalf of the Muslim community.

Shaykh-ul-Islam’s keynote speech
His Eminence Shaykh-ul-Islam Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri spoke on the topic of mutual brotherhood and the Sunna of the Holy Prophet (saw). Shaykh-ul-Islam Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri said that Islam espoused and promoted peace and harmony and has ordained its followers to become the source of peace for those around them. Some misguided people were bringing a bad name to Islam and peaceful Muslims through their actions. However, presence of such fringe elements should never be construed as being the representation of Islam's message and thought. Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri, whose services for promotion of interfaith dialogue and harmony at the global level are recognized, urged the West to start a dialogue with the mainstream Muslims at an institutional level to help curb extremist tendencies.

During the speech of Shaykh-ul-Islam, there was break for evening prayer. The speech of His Eminence Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri continued till 12 at night. After Isha prayers at 12, arrangements for open air dinner were in place for the delegates by Minhaj European Council and MQI Italy.

Proceedings of the second day
The activities of the second day started with the breakfast in the morning. The delegates after taking their breakfast at 9:30 am started reaching the Workshop Hall. Allama Hassan Mir Qadri threw light on the topic of ‘requisite character for service of religion’ in the light of training manual ‘Minhaj-ul-Aml’. He instructed the participants to order their lives in accordance with the directions contained in the training manual. Dr Raheeq Ahmad Abbasi also spoke on the aims and objectives of MQI. He asked workers to resolve their mutual differences amicably, act upon the Constitution of MQI, implement and get the policy decisions of Central Secretariat implemented, and respect the difference of opinion etc.

After the speech of Secretary General Dr Abbasi, a documentary film containing the introduction of various Directorates of MQI was played on projector screen, which the audience liked very much. At 2 pm, Allama Hafiz Nazeer Ahmad delivered speech on the services of Shaykh-ul-Islam Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri for the revival of the Muslim culture, civilization and polity.

Sahibzada Hassan Mohi-ud-Din Qadri, president of MQI Supreme Council, gave detailed talk on the topic of qualities of leadership for two hours. The main points of his speech were as follows:

  • Despite being shown the destination, leadership’s exposure to difficulties and trying circumstances in the light of life of the Prophets and Friends of Allah;
  • MQI is also on its way moving forward towards destination achieving its targets on the pattern of Friends of Allah and the Prophets;
  • Need of continuous hard work, patience and forbearance for the attainment of destination;

After the Asr prayers, Shaykh-ul-Islam said in his keynote speech on the second day:
"Thanks to some developments across the globe for last few years, the universal values of great religion, Islam, have come in for denunciation. By invoking the actions of a few individual Muslims to typify the character and conduct of millions of adherents of this divine faith, efforts have been made to equate Islam with bigotry and obscurantism. This is most unfortunate at a time when the need for inter-faith dialogue and harmony cannot be over-emphasized in order to bridge the gulf between Islam and West. The proponents of 'clash of civilizations' and their counterparts in the Islamic world are bent upon creating differences aimed at spreading confusion and misunderstanding about the teachings of Islam. In view of these circumstances, it is all the more necessary to bring the message of Islam in correct perspective to serve the cause of coexistence Islam so emphatically lays its stress on.

Let me state at the outset categorically and unambiguously that the message of Islam is peace, tranquility and unity. If one concentrates on the meanings of word 'Islam', it appears that this word takes its origin from saluma (safety) or silm (peace). Etymologically and literally the word 'Islam' means 'peace, tranquility and harmony'. The word 'Imaan' can be translated into or more clearly it means 'faith'. Every religion is based on faith. Faith is known as Imaan in Islamic terminology. Imaan has its own root-word and that is amn. Amn again means 'peace, tranquility and harmony'. The difference between Islam andImaan can be explained in the sense that there is a faith to be believed in and there is practical order to be practised. The faith is known as Imaan and the practical order is known as Islam.

In Islam, the word Imaan is used in two dimensions. Firstly Imaanmeans to be in peace or to live in peace. Secondly, the other meaning is to live for peace and to be peaceful to others. According to Islam a man who does not maintain peace for mankind, cannot be regarded as a genuine Muslim or even a believer. The believer is the man who lives only peacefully for mankind. When he lives for the sake of others, only then he would be blessed by Divine peace from Allah Almighty. The Holy Prophet (saw) was sent not only for the Arabs or a specific tribe or territory but his raising was for the whole of mankind. As declared by the Holy Qur'an:

"O men! I am sent to you all as the Apostle of Allah."(7:158)

In the tradition of the Holy Prophet (saw), it has been mentioned: "I have been raised (as messenger) for the whole creation." Here lies the main point. Since the raising of the Holy Prophet (saw) was for the whole mankind, his message of peace is also for the whole mankind. The Holy Qur'an gives the idea of peace and welfare for mankind on the basis of unity of mankind. The Holy Quran says:

"O mankind! Reverence your Guardian-Lord, Who created you from a single person."(4:1)

The verse has two layers of interpretation namely historical interpretation and scientific interpretation. From the point of view of historical interpretation, the whole mankind has been created from a single father, Adam (as). He is the origin of the whole mankind. Everybody has been created from the same single unit. From the perspective of scientific interpretation, the verse shows that the whole mankind has been created from a single cell of life and that is zygote.

According to the historical and scientific approach, the origin of human life comes into the category of single unity. This unity (historically and scientifically) of the creation of mankind indicates that our destination is also the attainment of unity. We should work for uplift and unity of mankind. This uplift of mankind, its welfare and betterment is absolutely impossible without harmony, reconciliation and unity.

In his last sermon delivered to the believers, the Holy Prophet (saw) eliminated the unjust order imposed upon the mankind. That unjust order at that time was based on human degradation, social injustice, economic exploitation and political suppression. The Prophet of Islam (saw) inaugurated a new world order based upon four concepts namely respect for humanity, social equality, economic justice and political freedom.

The concept of human welfare is the basic target and we need to pool together all our resources for its attainment at personal, social and global levels. Any type of process of reform has to start from the personal level in Islamic scheme of things. Islam instructs and educates us that welfare should be achieved at every level by creating a balance and harmony between mundane and spiritual aspects of life. Human personality is a compact whole consisting of many parts, which are epitomized in the form of division of life between secular and spiritual aspects. Biological dimension of life is manifested in social, cultural, socio-cultural, psychological aspects and there is a need to take these factors into view too at the personal domain.

Efforts should also be made for the achievement of human welfare at the social level; the level of collective environment of our society. We have to work for the elimination of economic exploitation so that human welfare is achieved socially. We have to fight against political oppression and for educational uplift. We have to campaign for economic, social, cultural and spiritual welfare. This is not possible without eradication of hatred. There is no place for hatred in communities. Ideas and philosophies can be different but we need to look at the singularity of origin in spite of differences and plurality of ideas. Allah Almighty has created balance between singularity and plurality. It is this diversity, which brings about perfection, balance, tolerance and moderation in society. Historically speaking, people belonging to various religions have lived in Islamic societies as equal partners in the business of state and this aspect of multiculturalism figures quite prominently in Islamic societies." His Eminence Shaykh-ul-Islam Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri urged the need for more interaction and dialogue among civilizations aimed at fostering greater understanding in the larger interest of global peace and harmony. He said Minhaj-ul-Quran International was working worldwide for the achievement of the above objective. He also instructed the participants to become the source of peace and contribute to the development of their respective societies.

After the speech of Shaykh-ul-Islam Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri, evening prayer was offered. Afterwards, all delegates went to the Open Air Hall on the first floor of Conference Hall for dinner. After the conclusion of the second session, the participants were instructed to offer their Isha prayers in their rooms.

Like the day one, the management put up book, CD and DVD stalls as well as registration counter for the registration of the delegates. A separate desk was set up for media men on one side of the stage in the Conference Hall. Naveed Ahmad Andalusi, Rao Khalil Ahmad, Muhammad Shakeel Chugtai, Muhammad Akram Bajwa and Ijaz Warriach remained busy in the media coverage of this mega event. Chief Editor of Jazba International, Chaudhry Ijaz also came to attend to the Workshop on the second day. Muhammad Naeem Chaudhry and members of Media Council received him on his arrival.

Proceedings of Day Three
On the third and last day of the Camp, the delegates staying in the Ripamonti hotel had their breakfast from 7 to 9 am. Afterwards, they all started getting to the Conference Hall. After the hall was full, the proceedings of Day Three got underway with the recitation from the Holy Quran followed by Naat. Allama Hassan Mir Qadri invited the office holders of Daraman chapter of MQI (Norway) to give presentation based on purchase and construction of new Islamic centre. The representatives of MQI Daraman told the participants that this was the first center, which was constructed on the land. They also told an interesting thing that since Norwegian law banned the use of speaker for Azan, therefore, a way out of this problem had been found out by constructing a lofty minaret made up of glass whose upper portion would brighten during the Azan. The delegates cheered and applauded the local organization of Norway.

Afterwards, Allama Hassan Mir Qadri invited Ijaz Ahmad Warriach, director of Minhaj Reconciliation Council, to throw light on the activities of the Council and present a documentary. Ijaz Ahmad Warriach told the delegates that after the successful working of Minhaj Reconciliation Council in Norway, its domain had now been expanded to Spain and Italy. The Norwegian government had appreciated the MQI’s initiative and the police and other law enforcement agencies which used to suspect us were now coming to MQI Norway for guidance. He said that Scandinavian countries had also been given representation in the Minhaj Reconciliation Council on the pattern of European Union. He told that the Council spreads awareness about the forced marriages in Norway, helps the local police in the mutual fights that involve Pakistani groups and feeds the poor at night. A class of Minhaj Reconciliation Council had been made mandatory in the training syllabi of the Oslo police.

Hafiz Allama Nazir Ahmad and Dr Raheeq Ahmad Abbasi were given thunderous welcome upon their arrival to the hall. Afterwards, the documentary film of ‘Aagosh’ (Orphan Care Home) being constructed by MQI in Lahore was shown. The project would house 500 orphan children and give them all facilities for a respectable life in society. After the documentary, Dr Raheeq Ahmad Abbasi threw further light on other details and aspects of the project. He told that the total cost to be incurred on the project was 340 million rupees. Allama Hafiz Iqbal Azam was also given the additional responsibility of director Welfare Foundation for Europe for construction and completion of Aagosh. The delegates made announcements of individual donations at the occasion. The Secretary General asked every organization to take the responsibility of construction of five blocks at the minimum.

The participants gave a standing ovation and rousing welcome to Shaykh-ul-Islam Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri, Sahibzada Hassan Mohi-ud-Din Qadri, Sahibzada Hammad Mustafa al-Arabi and Baji Ghazala Hassan Qadri upon their arrival. MQI Central Secretariat announced Certificates of Excellence for those office bearers of MQI Europe who rendered outstanding services. Those whose names were announced included Naveed Ahmad Undalasi, Muhammad Iqbal Chaudhry, Muhammad Nawaz Kiayani, Muhammad Noman, Farhad Gulzar, and Haji Muhammad Khalid, etc.

According to schedule of the camp, reorganization of Minhaj European Council was done. Allama Hassan Mir Qadri and Sayyid Arshad Shah were appointed as Amir and president of European Council respectively, whereas Haji Muhammad Asghar of France was chosen as Secretary General of the Council. Tasneem Sadiq from Netherlands, Muhammad Shafiq from Greece, Allama Muhammad Iqbal Azam from France, Haji Ijaz Ahmad Warriach from Norway and Sayyid Jamil Shah from Greece were assigned the responsibilities of joint secretary, coordination secretary, director Minhaj Welfare Foundation, director Minhaj Reconciliation Council and Secretary Minhaj Reconciliation Council respectively. Media Coordination Bureau replaced the Directorate of Information and Publication with Ahmad Khalil Rao from France and Naveed Ahmad Undalasi taking over as president and secretary respectively. Renowned Pakistani journalist, Muhammad Shakeel Chugtai, would be patron of this bureau. In addition to this, Muhammad Akram Bajwa and Samiullah Warriach have been nominated as members of this bureau.

While the last session of the workshop was well on its way towards conclusion, it was announced that on that day was the birthday of Dr Raheeq Ahmad Abbasi, Secretary General of MQI. Birthday cake was arranged. After Durood-o-Salam, Sahibzada Ahmad Mustafa al-Madani and the sons of Dr Raheeq Ahmad Abbasi cut the cake and delegates felicitated Dr Abbasi on his birthday. Shaykh-ul-Islam invited all younger children to the stage and ordered that the cake be divided among them. He also advised to encourage the children.

After the brief birthday ceremony, it was time for individual and organizational meetings with Shaykh-ul-Islam Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri. His Eminence Shaykh-ul-Islam went to the other hall adjacent to the main one where delegates called on him one by one. Shaykh-ul-Islam prayed for success of all delegates. Dr Raheeq Abbasi, Rana Faisal Ali Qadri and Naveed Ahmad Andalusi kept introducing the participants coming from different countries. After the brief Mahfil-e-Sama, with special Dua the third and last session was over. After lunch and offering of Zuhr prayers, the participants started going back to their homes. The management had once again made sufficient arrangements for transportation of all delegates to the airports.

Report by: Naveed Ahmad Andalusi
Edit by: Amanat Ali Chaudhry