NEW BEGINNINGS: Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad and King Tuheitia at the opening in South Auckland of New Zealand’s biggest mosque
Islam's holy book, the Koran, has been translated into Maori by an 81-year-old Pakistani physicist.
"It took six or seven years to learn Maori," translator Shakil Ahmad Monir said yesterday at its launch at the new Baitul Muqeet mosque - the country's largest, with a capacity of 700 - in Homai, Auckland.
"It was quite hard, but I didn't give up," said Monir.
The Koran, in Te Reo, is Kur'anu Tapu.
Monir confessed to struggling a little with Maori plurals. His advancing years posed a few problems too, he said.
"My eyes are failing me a bit," he said. "And my memory, but I will not give up."
Much of the world of Islam objects to the translation of the Koran from Arabic, saying that is the language given to mankind by the Prophet Mohammed.
This translation - as well as translations of sayings and verses from the Koran in Samoan and Fijian - was carried out by the Ahmadiyya Muslims, a much-persecuted group founded in India. The translation sits next to the original Arabic text.
Ahmadiyya's caliph or leader, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, was joined by the Maori King, Tuheitia Paki, yesterday to launch the translation.
The caliph told the Sunday Star-Times the mainstream Islamic notion that Muslims had to take the word of God in Arabic was wrong. "They have deviated from the right path."
He did not know how many Maori followed Islam but he hoped more would come now that the Koran has been translated. The objective of translating it into 73 languages was because not everybody could understand Arabic.
"There is nothing sinful, it is necessary and essential to hear the true message of the Koran for the people in the language they speak," the caliph said.
Prophet Mohammed had a message for all, and all deserved to be able to read it, he said
The caliph said the Koran did not preach jihad or holy war, and extremist Muslims were not acting in accordance with the true teachings. The Koran stated only that the righteous could defend themselves when attacked. The same applied for all religions.
"If we are defending Islam, we are defending all religions."
Ahmadiyya are not regarded as extremists, but Pakistani authorities regard them as apostate and thus illegal.
Their founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, aimed to reform current practices in Islam that were not consistent with the teachings of the Holy Koran and Prophet Mohammed.