Decline and Fall of League of Nations: A timely lesson for UN

18th November 2023

Awwab Saad Hayat, Al Hakam

In his Friday Sermon on 17 November 2023, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih Vaa, while urging for continuous prayers for Palestinians, said:

“The UN Secretary-General is speaking well these days, but it seems his words carry no weight.

“It appears that if this conflict escalates further and acquires the form of a world war, then, after its conclusion, the UN might also come to an end.

“May Allah grant wisdom to the world.”

In this regard, we see that the First World War lasted from July 1, 1914, to November 1918, in which nearly 20 million people died and many more were injured and became disabled for the rest of their lives. 

With the end of this bloody war, a number of small and big associations started to form in some countries of Europe, especially in England, France, Germany, etc., whose slogan was that there should never again be such a bloody war and that it was a basic right for all people to live in peace. Such voices grew louder and louder and finally, in January 1920, the “League of Nations” was established in Paris. Initially, 28 allied and 14 neutral countries joined this organisation. This number later increased to 60.

Along with the establishment of the League of Nations, some of its auxiliary institutions were also established to facilitate the organisation in carrying out its duties. These included the establishment of the Assembly, the Council, the Security Treaty, the International Labour Office, and the International Court of Justice.

The League of Nations remained in existence until 20 April 1946, after which the above-mentioned bodies of the League were merged into the United Nations.

And today we have the United Nations, 75 years into its existence, and the arguments about the success or failure of this organisation continue.

In this article under review, however, we will look at some of the history of the League of Nations and explore some of the reasons for its failure in order to secure the future of the United Nations.

Introduction to the League

According to the original manifesto, any independent country that was able to accept international obligations and abide by the decisions of the League of Nations in military affairs could belong to the League of Nations. The main objective of this League was to promote this special cooperation on the basis of justice and mutual respect between the member countries so that wars could be avoided in the future.

The headquarters of this organisation were in Geneva. Its official languages ​​were English and French.

According to the manifesto, each country took an oath that, in the event of a conflict with another country, it would endeavour to resolve it by peaceful means and that if all possibilities of reconciliation were exhausted (after a certain period of time), it would resort to war. At the same time, all other countries in the organisation are obliged to cut economic and financial ties with the aggressor country. It should be remembered that the clause not to use collective military force against the aggressor was the seed of the League’s failure from day one.

Some of the League’s Achievements

In the beginning, this organisation was successful in bringing about reconciliation between different countries.

For example, when the European country of Yugoslavia attacked its neighbouring country, Albania in 1921 in the run-up to the First Balkan War, the League intervened. Similarly, when Bulgaria attacked Greece in 1925, peace was temporarily achieved by the organisation itself. This war has been preserved in the history books under a somewhat strange name: War of the Stray Dog.

Furthermore, when the bitterness between Sweden and Finland about the island of Holland increased, the League became involved, and when it came to the border dispute between Turkey and Iraq, reconciliation could only be achieved through the efforts of the organisation.

But this situation was not to last long.

Member States of the League and the beginning of its decline

As time went on, various countries joined the League of Nations, and some broke away from it. As in the beginning, Afghanistan and Russia also joined this League. But in 1935, Germany and Japan left the League, and after them, in 1937, Italy also left.

Therefore, when the interests of the powers came into play, the goals of the organisation began to be defeated. Moreover, this organisation had no power or authority to implement decisions, so this flaw led to its destruction.

According to online encyclopaedias, the League of Nations was unable to reach a settlement over territorial disputes in Poland and Lithuania, for example. Similarly, the dispute between Italy and Greece could not be resolved. The result was that the lofty goals for which this organisation had been established seemed to remain unfulfilled.

The failure of the arms embargo in 1935 and the Italian invasion of Abyssinia in the same year were the result of the organisation’s ineffectiveness.

When a war broke out between the South American countries of Paraguay and Bolivia over a mutual issue, even then the organisation could not make peace between the two countries.

When Japan occupied Manchuria, the League seemed silent.

Germany occupied Austria and Czechoslovakia with no effective action by Tolig. In 1939, when Germany attacked Poland, this League was seen as a mere name, and this attack led to the beginning of World War II, etc.

An important meeting of the League of Nations involving a respected Ahmadi making a last attempt to improve the situation

When Russia invaded Finland, a meeting of the League’s Assembly was convened in December 1939, at which Russia was condemned and expelled from membership. This was the last action of this association. But by then it was already too late.

Listen to the account of this meeting in the words of the representative of a member country who participated in it: Hazrat Chaudhry Sir Muhammad Zafrulla Khanra narrates in his book Tehdis-e-Nimat that when he travelled from India to attend the conference of the Dominion Ministers in 1939, he was still staying in England. At that time, a meeting of the Assembly of the League of Nations was called at the request of Finland to deal with the Russian aggression against Finland. Hazrat Chaudhry Sahibra received instructions from the Viceroy of India to represent India in this meeting. He took with him an experienced official from the India Office as his secretary. The secretary who came with him from India also joined, so that a complete delegation was formed, and Hazrat Chaudhry Sahibra became the head of the delegation which went to the Assembly of the League of Nations and the delegation reached Geneva. Then the Viceroy of India said to Hazrat Chaudhry Sahibra that the situation in the war between Russia and Finland was clear. They all sympathised with Finland, so he should reach there and see what kind of action would be appropriate. If he thought it necessary, he could consult him, and he should lead the delegation.

Hazrat Chaudhry Sahibra writes in his memoirs under the title Recommendations of the Assembly of the League of Nations after mentioning his trip and the participants of the trip:

‘‘After deliberating on the protest of Finland, the council of the League recommended Russia’s expulsion. Most speeches were in support but subdued for fear of retaliation by Russia. All European nations were afraid of Hitler and wary of hurting his sensibilities. I was surprised and even upset on such a state of affairs and told Mr Butler that I must speak plainly. He said ‘for Heaven’s sake you must for we dare not’. On my turn, I began by drawing a comparison between the politics, culture and social norms of Finland and Russia and strongly supported the resolution and concluded by urging the audience to ‘unammously raise a voice against every kind of wrong and take steps to prevent it. ‘If we don’t, all of us, will be crushed one after the other and the flame of civilization and morality will be extinguished for centuries to come,’ I concluded.

The president of the assembly, Mr Hembro, representing Norway, looked scared by my unrestrained warning. He could not stop me, but as I finished, he told the interpreter that, under the rules, it wouldn’t be necessary to translate the speech in full – a summary should suffice. The proposal of the council was approved, and Russia was expelled from the League of Nations. Sir Aga Khan later told me that the Swiss delegate told him that in the whole session, the only speech worth its while was that of the delegate from India.” (Tehdis-e-Nimat, p. 448)

The last meeting of the League of Nations was held on April 18, 1946, in which 34 representative countries participated, and this organisation, which had only existed for 26 years, was dissolved on April 20, 1946. Meanwhile, in mid-1945, World War II had ended with the devastating dropping of two atomic bombs on Japan, and a new international organisation was established with the name of the United Nations.

Flaws pointed out by the Ahmadiyya Jamaat

It is not that no one paid attention to some of the flaws and power imbalances of the League of Nations, but it was the Ahmadiyya Jamaat that recognised these dangers in its early days and focused on reforms, for example. In 1924, when Hazrat Mirza Bashir-ud-Din Mahmud Ahmad, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIra, al-Muslih al-Maud, embarked on his historic journey to Europe, he raised the issue of the League of Nations at the grand conference of the member states of the British Empire. With reference to the League of Nations, he took care of the point in front of eminent people from around the world and opened before the League of Nations the correct Islamic teaching. In his address, he declared:

As the Promised Messiahas was only a spiritual Khalifah his successors will also remain, so far as possible, outside and above politics, even when sovereigns and States join the Movement. They will perform the functions of a real League of Nations, and will endeavour, with the help and advice of the representatives of different countries, to regulate international relations.” (Ahmadiyyat or The True Islam, p. 270)

During his historic tour of Europe, Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra called on the Secretary of the Religion and Ethics Department in the League of Nations on 11 September 1924, and a topic of mutual interest – world peace – was discussed in detail.

The following subject was discussed in this meeting:

“Mr Ellison asked Huzoorra, ‘In what way will you help the League of Nations?’ In reply, he said: ‘I sympathise with every movement that works towards the restoration of peace in the world because the founder of the Ahmadiyya Community has been given the name of Prince of Peace by God Almighty; therefore it is my duty to strive for the fulfilment of this purpose for which Allah the Almighty sent him, because I am the Khalifa of this Prince of Peace.’” (Al-Fazl, 14 October 1924, pp. 3f)

Hazrat Sheikh Yaqub Ali Irfanira has recorded the details of this meeting in his report as follows:

“After five o’clock, the Secretary of the Religion and Ethics Department of the League of Nations, Mr Ellison and Mr Ren came to a meeting, and Huzoor answered their questions.

I am the Caliph of the Prince of Peace

Mr Ellison asked how His Holiness could help them.

He said, “I sympathise with every movement that aims for the betterment and peace in the world because one of the names of the founder of the Ahmadiyya movement, after whom God named him is Prince of Peace. This is the purpose for which Allah has sent him. It is my duty to try to fulfil this goal because I am the Caliph of this Prince of Peace. Some of the teachings of the Holy Quran will be fulfilled in the time of the prophet of the Latter Days, and their practical propagation is associated with this era. One of them is the propagation of peace. The propagation of religion is prohibited by the sword. The teachings of our community have greatly helped and benefited the world in spreading peace. Therefore, regarding the establishment of peace on the border of India, the British government officials themselves have admitted that they have benefited a lot from the teachings of the Ahmadiyya community.

We do not believe in sword and war for the propagation of religion, and jihad of the sword for the propagation of religion, which Muslims mistakenly consider as their last resort, is prohibited in our movement. This is the teaching of Islam. Its implementation and propagation have been done by the founder of our movement. That is why, due to the propagation and expression of this teaching in India and other Muslim countries, we face persecution. Therefore, the people of Afghanistan and the Afghan government have martyred our people. Just recently, on August 31, 1924, one of our preachers was martyred by stoning. However, despite all these sufferings and persecutions, I consider it my duty to complete what the founder of the community has initiated for global peace, and for this purpose, I am ready to give all possible help and willing to make every sacrifice.’

After that, in the report, Hazrat Sheikh Sahibra, on this occasion, Mr Ren asked a question about religious tolerance, to which His Holinessra gave a detailed answer. 

While reporting further, he wrote:

Assistance in Peacekeeping

Mr Ellison asked that if they wanted to establish a branch in India, would he help them. Mrs Benson also promised assistance.

He said: Mrs. Benson interferes in politics. Hence, her assistance would not be of much benefit to the League of Nations. We are ready to provice all kinds of assistance, and we will cooperate with people who are even our opponents for this pure cause. However, the condition is that we are not forced to join on the basis of any religious principles.

I also want to say that the League is not yet a perfect means for peace. Because peace can be established in two ways: first, through changes in hearts. If there is a change in hearts, then there is no need for a League. Second, by force. And by power, I do not mean that the League should maintain an army. In that case, the League itself will become a party. Rather, what I mean is that when a nation violates peace, all other nations should use moral force against it, and when they are defeated, at the time of peace, only that issue which was the cause of conflict should be resolved. Other issues should not be raise, as stated in Treaty of Versailles.

Mr Ellison inquired how they should keep His Holinessra informed of their efforts.

He said, ‘Through our local representative who will be Maulvi Abdul Rahim Dard MA in London.’” (Al Fazl, Qadian, 14 October 1924, pp. 3-4)

In the same way, on 12 October 1951, while addressing the ijtima‘ of Majlis Khuddam-ul-Ahmadiyya, Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra said:

“Even today, the Holy Quran can fulfil all the needs of the world. The world has made numerous efforts to establish peace – at times through the League of Nations and at other times through the United Nations – however, they are proving unsuccessful since these efforts are not based on spirituality, and each party prioritises its own interests and rights. In reality, the solution to the world’s problems lies in the establishment of pure morals, and pure morals cannot be established through worldly efforts, but rather through the teachings given in the Holy Quran.” (Daily Al Fazl, Lahore, 16 October 1951, p. 2)

The Ahmadiyya Jamaat called on the League of Nations to raise its voice on the painful martyrdom of the Ahmadis in Kabul in 1924 for the sake of their faith. As a result, the contemporary newspapers of the subcontinent also declared Ahmadiyya Jamaat was in the right with this demand. After all, the protection of the religious rights of the members in the member countries is also one of the most important issues.

Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra appreciated every effort to establish and maintain peace, including the League of Nations, but it is also a special virtue to point out someone’s obvious mistakes and save that person or organisation from failure. Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra comments on Surah Al-Kausar in his Tafsir-e Kabir as follows:

“Islam has laid down laws regarding relations between governments that no religion can compete with. For instance, Islam has proposed certain fundamental principles to resolve disputes between governments, which are so comprehensive that neither the League of Nations, which existed before, nor the United Nations, which has now become a body, could compete with them. Because neither the former association fully adopted the principles prescribed in the Holy Quran nor is the current association adopting them. It is mentioned in the Holy Quran that when two nations engage in conflict, other governments should exert pressure on both and resolve their differences. And if after the decision has been made, one nation refuses to accept it and attacks the other, then all governments should unite and use force against the aggressor until the conflict ceases and the decision made by the representatives of different nations is accepted. And if the aggressor nation accepts its mistake and ceases hostilities, then the peacekeeping governments should enforce their initial decision without taking undue advantage of the other party or attempting to loot. This alone is sufficient for establishing peace in the world.

When the League of Nations was formed, I was in England at the time, and I said then that it would never be successful because the Holy Quran has stipulated that when there is discord between two nations and one of them does not accept your decision, then all the other governments should join forces against it. However, the League of Nations did not resort to this kind of force, and now the United Nations has been formed. Regarding this, I say the same that it will never succeed until they amend their rules. Because it also lacks the conditions entirely that Islam has prescribed.” (Tafsir-e-Kabir, Vol. 10, pp. 312-313)

The missionaries sent by Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra also continued to point out some of the shortcomings of the League of Nations and the United Nations in their respective spheres of influence. They tried to convey this important message to the people working in the corridors of power with great confidence. For example, a prominent preacher of the Jamaat, Mawlana Muhammad Siddiq Amritsari, in his very valuable work Ruh Parwar Yadein writes at one point under the title Identifying a clear flaw of the United Nations:

In December 1959, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Dag Hammarskjöld, visited Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, during an official visit to African countries. He stayed for three days to study the political, cultural, and general conditions of Liberia. Seizing this opportunity, I, as the missionary in charge of the Ahmadiyya Mission in Liberia, met him on December 23, 1959, and presented him with a copy of the Holy Quran in English, as well as other books on the teachings of Islam, Ahmadiyyat, the Life of Muhammad, and our foreign missions, among others. I also provided him with a typed welcome address, parts of which he read at the time and expressed his gratitude.

Boldly addressing the head of an institution like the United Nations, this Ahmadi missionary, while highlighting the UNؔs shortcomings, would have also laid the foundation by elucidating the interpretation of verse 10 of Surah Al-Hujurat, as expressed by Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra, who writes:

“This verse depicts the role of the UN. Unfortunately, the League of Nations did not act upon it and failed. The UN also appears cowardly and is experiencing the consequences of failure. As long as the UN does not act in accordance with the conditions outlined in this verse, it will not be successful.” (Tafsir-e-Saghir, under the above verse, p. 859, footnote no. 1)

The Urdu version of this valuable address presented by this Ahmadi missionary and the response from the Executive Office of the Secretary-General of the United Nations can be found in the letter of thanks from their Personal Secretary, Wachmeister, titled Memories that Inspire (pp. 534-538). In this, the Personal Secretary wrote, “The Secretary-General of the United Nations carefully considered the principles presented from the Holy Quran and expressed good wishes for your mission and community.”

Ambassador of peace for peace in the world

Hence, after the League of Nations, the United Nations also continued its journey down the same slope, the next phase of which is known to everyone. But it is not that the Ahmadiyya Jamaat has stopped the process of awakening the United Nations from its slumber and guiding it on the right path, that is not the case at all.

Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Vaa once said while commenting on the current world situation:

“Upon analysis, it would seem that the major powers are bent on fanning the flames of war, rather than putting them out; they do not wish to end warfare. After the First World War, the major powers created the League of Nations in order to put an end to wars. However, due to their failure to fulfil the demands of justice, and  establish its authority, it proved unsuccessful. Consequently, the Second World War broke out, and it is said that more than 70 million lives were lost. The same is happening now with the UN. It was created to establish justice in the world, support the oppressed and to try to put an end to wars. However, these are all far from becoming reality. Everyone is simply concerned with their own interests.’’ (

In the same way, on 22 May 2021, during a virtual meeting of the Gambian journalists with the Ahmadiyya Khalifa, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmadaa, a journalist referenced Huzoor’s book, World Crisis and the Pathway to Peace, and said that Huzooraa had paid a lot of emphasis on global peace. He asked about the importance of justice and why it was crucial to speak out against injustices. In response, Huzooraa said:

“[…] In the case of worldly affairs, if there is no justice, there is no peace. If you have double standards, as we can see in today’s world shown by the big powers, they cannot maintain peace in the world. This is what happened when the League of Nations was formed. The League of Nations was formed to maintain justice and give equal rights to each and every nation, but it failed. Resultantly, there was an eruption of the Second World War. And the same is happening with the UNO – they are not maintaining justice, they have double standards for poor countries and for the rich countries, for Western countries and African and Asian countries. This is why you can see there is disturbance in the world today. So, if there is no justice, there is no peace.” (Al Hakam, 28 May 2021, Issue 167, pp. 1-2)

The most recent example of this guidance and concern is the Friday Sermon in which the fifth successor of the founder of the Ahmadiyya Jamaat, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Vaa, reiterated the prayer for the oppressed Palestinians in the war between Hamas and the Israeli government, saying:

“These people simply follow whoever has power. They will bend before anyone who has worldly means. Upon analysis, it would seem that the major powers are bent on fanning the flames of war, rather than putting them out; they do not wish to end warfare. After the First World War, the major powers created the League of Nations in order to bring an end to wars. However, due to not fulfilling the demands of justice, and in striving  to maintain its own dominance, it failed. Then, the Second World War took place, and it is said that more than 70 million lives were lost. The same is happening now with the UN. It was created to establish justice in the world, support the oppressed and to try and bring an end to wars. However, these are all far from being reality. Everyone is simply concerned with their own interests. The average person cannot even fathom the harmful consequences of the war that will result from these injustices; however, all the major powers are well aware of the grave consequences. Yet, despite this, there is no attention given towards establishing justice. No one is even prepared to pay attention to this.” (Friday Sermon, 13 October 2023)

When the United Nations was founded, its charter stated as its main objective “to protect future generations from the scourge of war”. There have been many wars around us, of which two major fronts are still affecting the whole world with their fierceness. And fears of these flames are becoming uncontrollable are starting to be expressed everywhere. If the first League failed due to some flaws in its manifesto, the current UN finds itself in a strange dilemma because of the peculiar rule of the right of veto. And this right of veto, which a few countries have, is in clear contradiction to the democratic system prevailing in the Western world, in which the whole world is on one side and a country with the right of veto on the other.

So we see that our beloved Imam, Khalifatul Masih Vaa, appointed by God, has given such a clear message and warning that we end up saying that the second Secretary-General of the United Nations, Dag Hammarskjöld, once said that the United Nations “was not established to take mankind to heaven, but to save mankind from hell”.

And today, the situation is such that, under the very noses of all the member countries of the United Nations, the lives of millions of innocent people are being made hell. Remember that Allah Almighty says in the Holy Quran:

مَنۡ قَتَلَ نَفۡسًۢا بِغَیۡرِ نَفۡسٍ اَوۡ فَسَادٍ فِی الۡاَرۡضِ فَکَاَنَّمَا قَتَلَ النَّاسَ جَمِیۡعًا

“[W]hosoever killed a person — unless it be for killing a person or for creating disorder in the land — it shall be as if he had killed all mankind.” (Surah al-Maidah, Ch.5: V.33)

The word of God is very subtle and extraordinary, in the light of this verse, all the innocent people who were bathed in unjust blood in Gaza or by any oppressor on earth, for them the entire human community today is dead and had no strength, and their status was equal to that of the dead. Moreover, the very image of the universe was in the imagination of that person, who became the fuel of the war, as this innocent soul left this world, that very image of his universe was erased.

If we consider this verse further, we see that today the inhabitants of the East and the West of the world, in their ignorance, understand that only the people of Palestine and Ukraine are grinding in the mill of destruction and war, and we people in other countries of the world, each of us, is enjoying life with our families comfortably. All such thoughts and those who hold them are gravely mistaken. For today all the other nations and eras of the world are in peace only because the killer has not reached there yet. Otherwise, the one who has bathed Gaza in blood, if he deems it necessary, how could he refrain from killing another city or village. Always remember that the sanctity of human life is the always the same. In today’s world, we see that the hand of the oppressor is unstoppable. For there is no one left, but God. And it is to this God that Ahmadi men and women all over the world bow down upon the call of their beloved Khalifa. God will surely listen to the cries of his beloved. And He will sever the hand of the oppressor. Insha-Allah.


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