One of the things that sets the Ahmadiyyas apart from other Muslims is their interpretation of the Qur’an, particularly the definition of jihad.

Orillia was one of 65 towns and cities in Canada to get a better understanding of Islam this weekend.

About 50 youth members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association canvassed the city Sunday, handing out fliers and speaking to residents about Islam, trying to dispel the many misconceptions the religion faces on a daily basis.

The message of Islam Understood was simple.

“Our motive is love for all, hatred for none,” said Sheraz Shafiq, one of the canvassers in Orillia. “We’re out today to distribute fliers of love, peace and unity.”

The flier shows the Muslim belief of one God and the existence of all the prophets found in other religions, from Confucius to Jesus Christ. The prophets lead up to Muhammad, “whom God revealed the universal faith of Islam,” the brochure stated. After Muhammad, God promised a final messiah.

The Ahmadiyya Muslims believe that messiah was Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who founded the sect in 1889. His message was to bring mankind back to God, through Islam.

One of the things that sets the Ahmadiyyas apart from other Muslims is their interpretation of the Qur’an, particularly the definition of jihad.

“We believe jihad is not with the sword; it’s with the pen,” Shafiq said. “You have to educate people…. (Jihad) is like a challenge you have to face in life, a hurdle you have to overcome.”

That education was on display through the canvassing in the city. Shafiq said the goal wasn’t as much to change someone’s mind on Islam, but to open it up to other possibilities. More than anything else, they wished open up a dialogue on the peaceful, true meaning of Islam.

The devotion to peace has the Ahmadiyyas on the sidelines of many battles. Just Saturday, a protest featuring pro- and anti-Muslim demonstrators took over Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto, in response to the proposed anti-Islamophobia bill in front of the federal government. No one from Shafiq’s group was there.

“We don’t protest. Our goal is not to protest, just to educate. We don’t go out to rallies; we avoid those things,” Shafiq said. “There are places around the world where we are being martyred, people are coming against us. We don’t retaliate. We don’t protest. Our goal is to be peaceful and humble and let them know what the true message is.”

The youth spent Sunday traversing the city, hopeful to attend every residence in Orillia. The early morning hours were spent leaving the pamphlet at the doors. As the afternoon broke, Shafiq said he was hopeful to have meaningful conversations with Orillians.

“We’re trying to take away any misconceptions there may be about Islam,” Shafiq said. “People who have been out, some have actually stopped and said ‘it’s good that you’re here.'”

About 1,500 Ahmadiyyas took part in spreading the Islam Understood message across the country. Alongside Orillia, other municipalities in Ontario canvassed included Barrie, Midland, Collingwood and Innisfil. –