Dr. Muhammed Al-ahari has very kindly allowed Hira Cumorah to publish a talk of his that he gave for the 2008 Ahmadiyya Conference in York, Pennsylvania.
Islam, the Religion of Peace and Dawah
Brief Comments given at the Ahmadiyya Khalifah Centennial
By Muhammed al-Ahari
June 21, 2008
My name is Muhammed al-Ahari. I wish to thank the Jamaat for inviting me and especially for Haris Zafar and Bilal Rana for arranging for me to come here today. I work as a public school teacher in Chicago and am at the end of a Doctorate in Educational Leadership.
I feel one duty as a Muslim is to develop an identity that has a strong moral and ethical base. The basis of this is in the example of the Prophet Muhammad, his family, his companions, his successors, and our pious ancestors.
If we study this history closely, we will see that Islam was rarely forced upon anyone. Proof for this can be seen in the missionary Reverend Thomas Arnold’s The Preaching of Islam. There he points to some factor leading to the spread of Islam – merchants, Sufis, and traveling missionary scholars. Forced conversion to Islam is an aberration according to his findings.
start of Islam in America came through the means he described – traveling
missionaries, merchants, and Sufis. The first convert, Reverend Norman, was a
Methodist missionary in Turkey. He converted through the influence of Turkish
Sufis in 1875 and sought to teach Islam upon his return to the United States.
However, little beyond the listing of his name in convert lists can be found
about his life and mission. The
second convert was an American that converted overseas from Sufi and merchant
influences, including correspondence with the Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam’s
founder Mirza Ghulam Ahmad.
This missionary convert was the St.
Louis, Missouri Republican and counsel to the Philippines, Muhammad Alexander
Russell Webb. He was a diplomat during the Cleveland administration and used
his spare time to read about religions and cultures around the world. He
studied Buddhism, Theosophy, and Islam and started correspondence with Muslims
in the Indian subcontinent. When he returned to the United States, he
represented Islam at the 1893 World Parliament of Islam in Chicago, opened a
library and Islamic reading room on Broadway in Manhattan, and started the
 Rev. Thomas W. Arnold (1913). The Preaching of Islam: A History of the Propagation of the Muslim Faith. 2nd revised and enlarged edition. LONDON: CONSTABLE & COMPANY Ltd.
 Garcin de Tassy (1875) La langue et la littérature hindoustanis en 1875: pp. 91-92. He quotes the Indian Mail for May 24, 1875, “What is even more astonishing is the perversion of a Methodist missionary named Norman, who had gone to Constantinople to preach the Gospel, but who embraced Islamism and is now preaching it in America.”
See Also “Notes and News,” The Secular Chronicle Vol. II, No. 13 (October 25, 1874): page 151. “Mr. Henry L. Norman, at one time a Methodist preacher in London, has been converted to the truths of Islam. He has just gone to America, where he is about to start a Mahomedan Church. He quotes from Bosworth Smith’s recent work, to show the rapid spread of Mahometanism in various parts of the world, and points to that as a proof that his religion is the true one, and that his hopes of it spreading are not entirely chimerical.”
Moslem World newspaper. Webb’s work sought to correct misconceptions among Christian American about the Islamic Faith and the Muslim East.
Webb proved conclusively in his 1893 work Islam in America that so-called Muslim Wars were defensive in nature and detailed the early pacifist nature of the first Muslims in Mecca for some of his proofs. In the conclusion of the speech, he quotes Thomas Carlyle’s Hero as Prophet to show how Islam changed the warrior nature of the Arab to one of a civilizing influence that helped the start of the Renaissance in Europe.
let me quote Webb’s booklet Namaz – The
Islamic Prayer about the purpose of a Muslim life – peaceful
coexistence. “To be pure in heart, in
word, and in deed, is the paramount purpose of a true Muslim’s life. The
perfect Fatherhood of God and Brotherhood of Man is the cornerstone of his
faith, and has a fuller expression in the Islamic system than in any other
religion known to man.”
 Carlyle, Thomas (1888). On Heroes, hero-worship, New York: Frederick A. Stokes & Brothers. The second lecture on May 8, 1888 was on Islam and was entitled “The Hero as Prophet.”
 Muhammad Alexander Russell Webb (1893). A guide to Namāz: a detailed exposition of the Moslem order of ablutions and prayer with a review of the five pillars of practice. New York: Moslem World Publishing Co.: page 27.