Maaham Ahmad, South Wimbledon
Anyone who has perused the pages of the Holy Qur’an can determine that it is unlike any other book, it is a vessel of guidance and righteousness for mankind. Within its pages are found the lessons for a society in need of such advice so that they may live with righteousness and morality. All elements of good and bad, right and wrong can be found in the Holy Qur’an. Revealed to the Holy Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) over 1400 years ago, the Holy Qur’an is a Divine Scripture which is still being read, recited, and embraced to this day. Clearly, this exemplifies that the light contained in the words of the Holy Qur’an continues to shine on in the hearts of believers.
The Qur’an itself claims to possess perfection within its pages.
‘This is a perfect Book; there is no doubt in it; it is a guidance for the righteous,’ (2:3).
It is indeed a perfect book which is unlike any other of the Scriptures revealed before it. While many of those Scriptures have been altered to fit the changing times or innovations of man, the message of the Holy Qur’an remains the same. To this day, the divine guidance as it was revealed to the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) maintains its relevance even in the modern age. This is the beauty of the Holy Qur’an – that God Almighty sent down such a revelation that it would continue to reverberate in the hearts of mankind centuries later.
The Qur’an is not only a book of the qualities and morals a Muslim needs to embrace in order to attain high spiritual station, it also encompasses the glorification of our Creator. God Almighty draws our attention again and again to His omnipotence by reminding us how He is the Creator of all that we see before us and all that is still unknown to us.
‘Verily, We created man from an extract of clay; Then We placed him as a drop of sperm in a safe depository; Then We fashioned the sperm into a clot; then We fashioned the clot into a shapeless lump; then We fashioned bones out of this shapeless lump, then We clothed the bones with flesh; then We developed it into another creation. So blessed be Allah, the Best of creators.’ (23:13-15).
These verses referring to Allah’s creation of mankind illustrate the divine miracle that is the Holy Qur’an. Revealed centuries before modern technology allowed us to see the smallest of atoms with our own eyes, the Holy Qur’an is full of references to natural phenomenon and sciences which scientists today spend years researching to find the answers behind. One needs to simply study the Holy Qur’an to understand that the life around us and the heavens above us were created without flaw by the Best of creators.
In Muhammad and Islam, Boswell Smith write, ‘Thanks to the teachings of the Qur’an and its emphasis on the cultivation of knowledge, countless scholars made their appearance and wrote innumerable books. Different scientific disciplines were derived from the Qur’an and spread across the world by Muslim thinkers. The world was illumined with the light of the Qur’an and the culture of Islam.’[i]
Smith, and many non-Muslims like him who have studied the Qur’an agree that it was ahead of its time in paving the way for many scientific paths of study.
The Holy Qur’an contains eternal teachings of such infinite knowledge which indicate that only The Almighty could have revealed it. No man could have been capable of penning such wisdom and divine guidance into one text. His Holiness Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community (peace be on him), said regarding the Holy Qur’an:
‘The matchlessness of the Holy Quran is so patent and obvious in the estimation of seekers after truth that, like the sun, it spreads its rays in all directions and there is no doubt or difficulty in knowing and understanding it. This perfect light can be seen even with minimal attention, provided the darkness of prejudice and ill-will does not block it.’[ii]
The Qur’an contains such depth that by studying its pages one can attain knowledge about social, economic, political, scientific, and religious issues. The enlightenment one can gain from the Holy Qur’an is incomparable to any other worldly source.
The Qur’an was sent to mankind by God Almighty in order to guide us to live with righteousness in a perfect world of justice, peace, and love for all. Today, and God-willing for centuries to come, the teachings of the true Islam as comprised in the Holy Qur’an will continue to reverberate in the hearts of Muslims all over the world.
[ii] Barahin e Ahmadiyya, Part III, pp. 31-32
Amber Amir, Hounslow
Every year on the 5th of June, we celebrate World Environment Day. However, what is this day actually about? Well, the basic purpose of this day is to raise awareness about how we can protect the environment. It centres around the actions that we can take as individuals to sustain the world that we live in. Every year, there’s a different theme to focus on and in 2021, this theme is Ecosystem restoration. This topic encompasses the recovery of ecosystems that have become degraded but it also emphasises the importance of conservation. As mentioned by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), “the earth is green and beautiful and Allah has appointed you his stewards over it”. Therefore, as Ahmadi Muslims, and just as humans, we have a responsibility to preserve the Earth, as Allah gave it to us.
Now, how can we do this? Perhaps, one of the most obvious ways that we can help to save our environment is through recycling – instead of throwing plastic packaging in the bin, throw it away in your recycling bin. It doesn’t take much time at all but has an incredible impact on the world. For instance, recycling just one tonne of paper saves 17 trees; 4000 KW of energy (the amount of energy needed to power a home for a year); 380 gallons of oil; 7000 gallons of water and approximately 3 cubic metres of landfill space. After reading this, there should be no reason for not recycling.
Another way we can protect our environment is through aiding local ecosystems. For example, planting a tree or simply having a bird feeder in your garden can make a huge difference. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) stated himself “Whoever plants a tree and diligently looks after it until it matures and bears fruit is rewarded”. We can use the example of the tree as a microcosm of Earth. Islam clearly states that we should take care of Earth, so who are we to dispute this fact?
Furthermore, it is particularly important to consider the legacy we will leave behind for future generations. If we destroy our planet, how will future generations thrive? His Holiness, Mirza Masroor Ahmad , highlighted the significance of this at the 15th Annual Peace Symposium UK. He stated, ‘striving to protect the environment and to look after our planet is an extremely precious and noble cause’. The environment is incredibly necessary to our everyday lives, and we can physically not survive without it. Therefore, it is our duty to protect the world.
However, in this speech, His Holiness also highlighted that the protection of the environment should not be the only issue tackled with urgency. He said, “people living in the world’s poorest nations do not concern themselves with the environment, or the latest figures on carbon emissions; rather they wake up each day wondering if they will be able to feed their children”. Wealth inequality is a rapidly increasing issue across the world. Poverty is becoming a widespread phenomenon, and as highlighted by His Holiness many people struggle to even get access to clean drinking water. If we are protecting our environment, should we not make it our duty to protect those who live in it as well? Every child, who grows up in poverty, is likely to remain there and this issue becomes exacerbated with each generation.
So, as we celebrate World Environment Day, we should remember that whilst the protection of our environment is highly valued, there are other issues that should receive the same amount of significance from us.
Yusra Dahri, Tilford
*Huzoor is the term Ahmadi Muslims use to refer to His Holiness, the fifth Caliph/Khalifa of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community*
There’s no denying that family can often influence your relationship with faith, especially growing up in a religious family. As a child, the way you see your most religious relatives can affect the way you view religion itself – for better or for worse.
Only when we are older, and we understand Islam, can we discern the difference between the actions of Muslims and the pristine teachings of Islam. As a result, we might endeavour to become better than those who came before us.
However, I grew up watching someone who I quickly recognised as following Islam as truthfully and sincerely as perhaps is humanly possible: Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (may Allah be his Helper), the fifth Caliph of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, and my grandfather.
Throughout my life, I have been sure of this:
I do not say this lightly, because I do not believe there is a better measure of a person’s character than how they behave when they believe no one is watching. When there is no reason to believe that what they say or do will be recorded, or even remembered. And yet, Huzoor’s example has always been unforgettable to me.
I do not speak of sweeping events of grandeur or glory, but the quiet moments of humility and kindness, where I believe a person’s true character can be found. Those are the moments I know best.
Huzoor’s humility – as is all true humility – is silent. He is silent when he wipes something off the floor that nobody has seen or bothered to clean. He is silent when he washes the fruit that arrives at the door, before anyone has realised to help. He is silent when he picks vegetables from the garden, or lifts heavy bags, or clears out the hoover. I have come to memorise his footsteps, to listen for the silence – where there is not one word or reproach, only patience.
But Huzoor speaks out at injustice. He speaks out when someone has said an unkind word. He speaks out at the cruelty countries dole out to their citizens. He speaks out at the suffering of Ahmadis around the world. Not only in Friday Sermons, but he frequently mentions this at the dinner table. It is a constant thought. Yet, he never complains of any personal suffering, major or minor. I ask Huzoor how he is, and he smiles and says, “Alhamdulillah.”
Huzoor’s kindness has shaped my life, and I am grateful for the opportunity to say this openly. It may surprise some people who have read other blogs that I have written, that as a younger teenager, I used to be very shy about my writing, especially my poetry. Huzoor and my grandmother discovered this and encouraged me to share my poetry with them, which I tentatively did. Encouraged by this, I shared a second and a third poem. At the fourth poem, Huzoor took my poem and began reading it. Out. Loud. That day, I hid under the dining table for a good five minutes until my embarrassment died down. Once I came back to the surface, I felt my lifelong shyness begin to subside.
Huzoor encouraged me to give my poems to Lajna to publish, so that it could empower other girls my age. So, I began to write more, and share more. After one Jalsa, Huzoor’s example inspired me so much that I wrote a poem to him, about him. After I gave it to him, I ran away. Later, he simply told me that he didn’t know what to say. I won’t publish this poem, partly because I really would die from embarrassment, but also because Huzoor never encouraged me to share it. I don’t think that’s what he would want. Huzoor doesn’t ask for praise, which only makes him deserve it more. It’s the things that are left unsaid that often need to be said the most.
Other examples of Huzoor’s kindness are sprinkled throughout my life. Last winter when it snowed, I stopped building a snowman because my fingerless gloves made my hands too cold. Huzoor noticed that I had stopped and so gave me his gloves instead. When I was about 11, I, for some reason, really wanted to play chess with Huzoor. He came back at around 11:30 that night from his office, and at that age, I guess I lacked the sensitivity to consider that he could be tired from working so late. I realise this now looking back, but at the time, Huzoor never said a word to make me feel as though I was being ridiculous or that it wasn’t the best time. He simply played with me, and told me I had gotten better at chess. When the mood is low, and everyone is preoccupied with their own weariness, Huzoor’s humour always lightens the room. There are times when I have felt sadness creeping up on me, but Huzoor’s cheerful demeanor has brought me back to reality.
Perhaps most obvious of all, I have learnt so much from Huzoor. He has taught me that, say, when a handle falls off a cupboard, a person should rely on their own strength to fix it, rather than asking for outside help. Though dinner isn’t necessarily the best time for a theological discussion, Huzoor always answers my questions about Islam with clarity and acuity. And, how to pray.
When I hear Huzoor pray, my heart feels both heavy and light at the same time. Heavy, because of my slight understanding of the responsibilities he carries. Light, because God has chosen this person to be our Khalifa.
Iffat Mirza, Cambridge
Editor’s note: Khilafat or Khilaafa is an Arabic term which means the institution that runs under the leadership of a Khalifa. The word Khalifa means successor/deputy/vicegerent; a spiritual leader of Muslims. The terms Caliphate and Caliph are both taken from these two Arabic terms.
In the last decade or so, the term ‘Caliph’ or ‘Caliphate’ has become marred and can now be enough to ignite fear or hatred in some hearts. Such warmongers as Daesh cannot be called true leaders, nor men of God. The reality of a true Islamic Caliph couldn’t be further from this.
The concept of a Caliphate is one that’s necessary in order to keep peace and harmony amongst the communities of the world. No one can doubt the need for honest and genuine leadership. Wherever we see unrest in the world, it is always due to a weak, corrupt, or absent leader. In chapter 24 verse 56, the Holy Qur’an warns us of such instability which is always a threat where there is no true and selfless leader:
‘Allah has promised to those among you who believe and do good works that He will surely, make them Successors in the earth, as He made Successors from among those who were before them; and that He will, surely establish for them their religion which He has chosen for them; and that He will, surely give them in exchange security and peace after their fear…’
A Caliphate followed the demise of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) which saw the spread and the first historiographies of Islam. Now, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has seen five Caliphs follow the Promised Messiah, His Holiness Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (on whom be peace). Much like the Caliphs of the Holy Prophet, such five holy men have seen the community grow from a small movement in northern India to a global community, which in every corner of the world has sought to spread peace, joy, empathy, and compassion. It’s only under the direction of such divine guidance that this could have been done.
Belonging to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, the concept of a Caliph has always been a source of hope and compassion for me. Being fortunate enough to live within an hour’s drive from the current Caliph, His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad’s residence and offices, I’ve been extremely lucky to be on the receiving end of such a holy personage’s love. I don’t know anyone else who would remain in prayer all night for the benefit of his people. Nor do I know anyone who would give so much attention to communicating with world leaders about the dire need for peace, and spending time with the youth of the community just to give them advice and affection.
In his own words, the current Caliph states:
“Before sleeping at night, there is no country of the world that I do not visit in my imagination and no Ahmadi for whom I do not pray whilst sleeping and whilst awake.”
To think someone who is tasked with such arduous challenges, would still take time to remember me and my petty problems is most humbling for me.
Then it is no surprise that such a Caliphate would be the only voice which unequivocally calls for peace and de-escalation of violence and injustice at every instance. Even today with the tragic events we are seeing in Palestine, amongst all the Muslim leaders and nations, there’s one voice which is brave enough to speak in favour of the Palestinian voice: that of the Caliph of Ahmadiyyat.
And this certainly isn’t a matter of it being ‘trendy’ to speak in favour of the oppressed, as many social justice issues can be viewed. The Ahmadiyya Caliphate has always been vocal on this matter as well as many more. Just last year, His Holiness was very vocal and empathetic to the racial justice movement that we saw; whilst simultaneously supporting the demands of the oppressed African Americans, he also approached the topic with immense wisdom and genuine concern to ensure that the movement didn’t become exploited by political interventions and remained true to its desire for justice. The difference between His Holiness’ words and that of secular world leaders was evident to anyone; whilst other world leaders remained hesitant to show genuine support for either side and resulted in watered down comments as formalities, His Holiness took a genuine stance to promote the supremacy of justice.
It’s vital that we see the one true Caliphate for what it is. As the Qur’an promises, it’s for those who are righteous. Thus, if one were ever to see a self-proclaimed Caliph acting out of vile hatred and desire for destruction, under no circumstances can they be considered a true Caliph and certainly, they can in no way be considered a representative of Islam. For this sake, it’s imperative that we consider the influence of the righteous Caliphate of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.
Friday Sermon 6 June 2014 as quoted in https://www.alhakam.org/the-binding-of-hearts-love-between-ahmadis-and-the-khalifa/
Arfa Yassir, Swindon
What unites the Ahmadiyya Muslim community?
It has been 113 years since the Ahmadiyya Khilafat was established in 1908 after the demise of its founder, His Holiness Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (peace be on him), the Promised Messiah; the community has grown and prospered ever since.
What unites us? A common country, race or political concerns?
No. The community is made up of people of many races spread across the world.
Does this unity bring us worldly protection and financial gain?
No, in fact it makes us vulnerable in places and rather than gaining, we happily make financial sacrifices.
Do we have a common cause? YES!
That common cause is the love of God and humanity; it is ‘Islam’. We stand by the words ‘love for all, hatred for none’ and are united under the leadership of our Khalifa, currently the fifth head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad (may Allah be his Helper).
So, we are united, but at what cost?
Sometimes the cost of upholding one’s faith is being despised in certain societies, facing problems at work, school, and sometimes even life. Being ‘the other’ in society is not easy and can take its toll.
In countries like Pakistan, there has been constant persecution for decades. Almost every Ahmadi there has experienced losing friendships when the news of being ‘Ahmadi’ breaks at school; this is the minimum cost of professing our faith. We have grown up listening to being called ‘kafir’ (disbeliever) ‘agents of the Jews’, ‘fitna’ (evil), ‘planted by the British’ and so on.
Why not end these problems by detaching from the community?
With the grace of God, after recognising the truth of the Prophethood of The Promised Messiah (peace be on him), and his prophecy of Khilafat after him, not even the strongest wind of opposition can shake our faith. Knowing the true and enduring safety and security of our generations to come, lies in attachment with the spiritual system of Khilafat; community members are willing to suffer worldly losses for this bigger cause.
We believe this community has been initiated by God Almighty Himself, and it is not in the capacity of any worldly power, government or person to contest with God’s will. It is a revival of the message of Islam as prophesized by the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be on him).
Some might ask, what is the proof that our Khalifa is indeed appointed by God Almighty?
Had this been a worldly leadership appointed by people, there would be a struggle for power. Yet, what is happening around Khilafat? For over a hundred years now, people have rallied around the Khalifa of the time, ready to sacrifice their very lives for him! If the people around the Khalifa of our community were initially there due to personal interest, the generations to follow could have easily drifted away; but we see Ahmadi Muslims generation after generation ever strengthening this bond of loyalty to the Khalifa of the time.
Can the institution of Ahmadiyya Khilafat be anything other than Divine Decree? Not at all. This is a remarkable sign in favour of Islam from God Almighty.
There is no good energy left untapped by members of the community, ever ready to serve humanity, and this has resulted in our strength being doubled. Recently, the myths about the Covid-19 vaccine could not sway our members and its acceptance is very high. The Khalifa, guides us all the time on many worldly matters as well, whether it be addiction to video games, crypto currency or any other misconceptions.
Can anyone give an example of a leader of this kind in the entire world? The answer is a simple no.
This blessing brings huge responsibility. As community members, we should be mindful of our actions and be constantly in a state of spiritual reform and upgrade. We have to constantly prove ourselves to be worthy of these blessings, as the tree of Khilafat is an evergreen tree in accordance with God Almighty’s promise to the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be on him):
“Surely every hour that follows is better for thee than the one that precedes.” 
If we, God forbid, become a leaf fallen from the tree then we will keep floating along the winds of worldly pursuits but never prosper!
Dur-e-Shewar Anwar, Manchester
In contemporary culture fasting in its various forms is being increasingly revered for its health benefits. However, fasting is an age-old tradition; practised historically by religious or spiritual individuals seeking some form of detachment from the physical world in order to progress in their spiritual development. In Islam fasting is prescribed by the Holy Qur’an as a means for Muslims to attain righteousness. The characteristics comprising righteousness are vast; encompassing the entire essence of the teachings of the Holy Qur’an, through which Muslims are able to fulfil their duty to mankind and to Allah. Specifically fasting in the month of Ramadan is fundamental for Muslims; it is a means of developing our spiritual condition, facilitating our journey to righteousness and purifying the soul.
For many, the concept of soul is something of an enigma, oftentimes perceived as an entity wholly distinct from the body. However, through reflecting on the teachings of the Holy Qur’an the Promised Messiah and founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, His Holiness Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (peace be on him) explains that in fact the soul is in inherent part of the human being, describing the body as the mother of the soul to emphasise the almost symbiotic connection between body and soul. He further explains that there are three states of the soul, from which three distinct human conditions exist. The first is the self that incites to evil, which forms the natural or physical state of being. This is an unrefined condition where we are driven by our natural, base desires. The second is the reproving self which forms our moral state; it motivates us to reflect on our actions and become cognisant of our weaknesses. The reproving self allows refinement and discipline of the self that incites to evil, converting our natural inclinations into moral qualities that are expressed in an appropriate way. Finally, there exists the soul at rest which forms our spiritual condition, a state of peace and tranquillity. Wherein all words and deeds are for the sake of Allah and the individual has attained complete righteousness; they have the power to abstain from sin whilst being safeguarded against harm.
Attaining this spiritual condition, of the soul at rest, when a person is imbued with complete righteousness is the ultimate goal for Muslims. In concurrence with the philosophy of the teachings of Islam, fasting in the month of Ramadan and its associated practises, serve to benefit all three states of the soul in order to fulfil the goal of fasting, to achieve righteousness. To illustrate its significance in the attainment of righteousness the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing of Allah be upon him) said that during Ramadan the gates of Hell are shut, that rebellious elements are disciplined and satanic forces are chained and the gates of Heaven are flung open. Thus the Holy month of Ramadan creates an optimal environment for Muslims for the purification of the soul.
Ramadan cultivates a unique balance that is not found in other months where some faculties are restrained whereas others are enlarged. There is abstinence from all forms of indulgence, even lawful ones such as eating and drinking, thereby supressing the self that incites to evil. Simultaneously there is an encouragement to increase in almsgiving, to sympathise with the needs of the less-fortunate. To be proactive in serving humanity whilst also increasing worship of Allah and contemplation of the Holy Qur’an. All behaviours that promote the reproving self which eventually, through striving in the way of Allah transforms into the soul at rest. In one of his discourses, The Promised Messiah (peace be on him) beautifully elaborates on this concept, stating that:
“Fasting is not merely staying hungry and thirsty; rather its reality and its impact can only be gained through experience. It is human nature that the less one eats, the more one’s spirit is purified and thus his capacity for [spiritual] visions increases. The will of God is to decrease one kind of sustenance and to increase the other. A person who is fasting should always be mindful that he is not just required to stay hungry. On the contrary, he should remain engaged in the remembrance of God so that he can cut asunder ties of worldly desires and amusements and is wholly devoted to God. Hence, the significance of fasting is this alone that man gives up one kind of sustenance which only nourishes the body and attains the other kind of sustenance which is a source of comfort and gratification for the soul.”
- The Holy Qur’an with English translation by Malawi Sher Ali. Chapter 2, verse 184.
- Friday Sermon delivered by His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih V (may Allah be his Helper) on May 18th 2018. Available at URL: [https://www.alislam.org/friday-sermon/2018-05-18.html]
- The Essence of Islam Vol II by The Promised Messiah, His Holiness Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (peace be on him). Available at URL: [https://www.alislam.org/book/philosophy-teachings-islam/]
- The Philosophy of The Teachings of Islam by His Holiness Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (peace be on him). Available at URL: [https://www.alislam.org/book/philosophy-teachings-islam/]
- Ramadan and Its Blessings by Sheikh Mubarak Ahmad. Available at URL: [https://www.alislam.org/book/ramadhan-blessings/]
- Quote cited in article: The Significance of Ramadan by Aizaz Ahmad Khan. Available at URL: https://www.alislam.org/articles/significance-of-ramadan/
Arfa Yassir, Swindon
To listen we need to be attentive and focused. The process of listening to yourself i.e. reflection and contemplation requires to disconnect from the hustle of daily life, a silence to reflect inwards.
One is reminded of a quote from the celebrated 13th century Persian mystic and poet Maulana Rumi:
“Let silence take you to the core of life”
Ability to think and exercise free-will distinguishes the human race from other forms of life. It is bestowed unto us to help us recognise our Creator. From monks in the desert to Hindu philosophers to Jewish mystics – all have been reported to retreat from society to contemplate and enhance their faith. The Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) also used to temporarily retreat to the solitary valleys and rocks near Mecca to meditate. [i]
To go into a spiritual retreat is apparently a physical drill but has a profound impact on our soul. As per modern science, free human will proves we are something beyond matter and energy. We have a soul which is beyond physical body and continues to exist after death. [ii]
Islam has set out an optimised way to carry out this exercise for which we do not have to halt the routine of our daily lives and yet experience the benefits of a spiritual retreat: Fasting during the holy month of Ramadan. Basically abstaining from food and drink for a set interval during the day for a month. A Muslim who is observing a fast must strive to spend most of his or her time fulfilling their duties toward God and His creation. Hence it aims to bring a change in the entire society.
The Holy Qur’an states:
“O ye who believe! fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may become righteous.” [iii]
The end of the verse explains the reason behind the commandment i.e. piety, or purification of the soul. What is the link between our physical beings and our spiritual beings? The Promised Messiah (peace be on him) has expounded this in the following words:
“…the Holy Quran has laid stress on physical cleanliness and postures, and their regulation in relation to all worship and inner purity and spiritual humility. Upon reflection, this very philosophy is borne out as exceedingly accurate; namely, that physical conditions deeply affect the soul. For instance, when our eyes are filled with tears, even if the tears are artificially induced, the heart is immediately affected and becomes sorrowful. In the same way, when we begin to laugh, even if the laughter is artificially induced, the heart begins to feel cheerful. It has also been observed that physical prostration in prayer induces humility in the soul.” [iv]
When we amend our schedules to follow God’s commandments to a higher degree than is usual, it effects our soul. Ramadan, in this regard, is an amazing opportunity for spiritual uplift. It is up to us if we merely go through it as a schedule of staying hungry and thirsty or make it an experience to cleanse the soul.
Although a Muslim’s life is controlled by beneficent regulations all the time but during Ramadan a stricter disciplined routine has to be followed. It is a rigorous spiritual regime to control our passions, create the mindsets and lifestyles that last even after Ramadan helping us lead a spiritually productive life. That is why The Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) used to intensify efforts in all means to attain nearness to God Almighty during Ramadan; be it voluntary Prayer, reciting the Holy Qur’an, spending in the way of God etc. [v]
It is a month to minimise worldly distractions, as much as possible, to reflect and Pray. Mundane pursuits and occupations are carried on as usual, whilst intensifying moral and spiritual reformation hence everything else is secondary to the main purpose. We can plan and make the most of the blessed time. It is a very special time for the acceptance of prayers and especially when it is the nearness of God that is being sought. [vi]
This way the silence we create during the month will lead us to the core of life i.e. the love of our Creator.
[iii] The Holy Qur’an 2:184
[iv] ‘The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam’ By the Promised Messiah (peace be on him) pp (7-10) Available at URL [https://www.alislam.org/book/philosophy-teachings-islam/]
[vi] The Holy Qur’an 2:187
When I found out that high risk and essential worker populations were given priority for the COVID vaccine, I didn’t think that their life was being valued over mine; I knew I had the privilege of health that others didn’t. When I had to attend pre-natal appointments alone due to COVID restrictions, though painful, I knew along with my baby, I was priority – as was the safety of the healthcare workers taking care of me. When I found out that women temporarily did not have access to congregational Prayer in mosques in response to UK government COVID guidelines, I didn’t even give it a second thought.
It was disheartening to say the least then, when I read headlines from the BBC and The Telegraph, claiming women were being denied rights by Muslim men or worse, by Islam, through the restriction of access to congregational Prayer in mosques.
Regrettably, Baitul Futuh Mosque, a mosque of my own faith community – the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community – was also ‘smeared’ in these articles. A mosque which I have attended since I was a child. A mosque where the space for females to Pray in congregation is just as large as the space for men, with additional facilities for women with children. A mosque where the women in the community have organised educational, spiritual, community outreach and sporting events, independent from the men. A mosque where there’s a dedicated women’s media team and their facilities are still open for them to carry out their work during COVID. A mosque where women feel safe and have freedom to practice their faith and develop other life skills.
Though such divisive, ill-informed articles are unsurprising, possibly more perplexing to those unfamiliar with the teachings of Islam, or women’s rights’ activists, were the empowered cries of thousands of affronted Ahmadi Muslim women on social media. They countered with the resounding message of: we are not oppressed, our voices will be heard over those who try to speak for us.
This brings us to the issue at hand: are women being denied rights of congregational Prayer in mosques? The answer sheds light on why thousands of Muslim women did not give a second thought to mosque COVID restrictions.
In Islam, men are not only expected to attend the mosque for the congregational Prayers 5 times a day, but it is a requirement of faith the Holy Qur’an outlines. Women also have every right to attend congregational Prayer. The key difference? They are afforded an additional right to Pray independently or in congregation in their homes, for which they gain blessings equal to men attending the mosque. It would be considered foolish to claim men and women are identical and, in its wisdom, Islam understands the needs of women differ. As such, they are not burdened with obligation in mosque-attendance in order for spiritual progress.
Unfortunately, faith and spirituality cannot be quantitatively measured, nor understood universally, especially by those who do not align themselves with faith. However, in a global pandemic where women have been stretched between facilitating remote learning, being primary caregivers, as well as work and other obligations, this serves as a perfect example of a time where Islam offers relief to women. They can rest assured knowing that their spiritual benefit won’t be compromised Praying at home, whereas men are not offered such luxury.
Moreover, it is important to note there is no difference in the physical act and sequence of Prayer, wherever performed. Therefore, when women realised that as a result of COVID guidelines, their access to congregational Prayer in a mosque was limited, they understood it. They understood that just as those who were offered the vaccine first were not taking away their rights, and just as the safety of healthcare workers and patients when attending medical appointments was priority, that their rights during a global pandemic were not being denied. Rather, Islam had already given them an advantage of spiritual benefit regardless of the place of their worship in a way that men had not.
Such articles have dampened the efforts of countless Muslim women in keeping their country safe. One purpose of congregational Prayer is to develop unity and sisterhood. Though we miss the physical space of the mosque, we have maintained that unity through regular local, regional and national virtual women’s events.
As the media continues to mute our experiences, portraying us helpless at the hands of men, we will continue to use our voices to ensure our experiences are heard. Most importantly, we will unwaveringly practice our faith in the safety of our homes, waiting for the day COVID ceases its restriction on our planet.
Navida Sayed, London
Following the news reports on @BBCNews website and the Daily Telegraph three days ago about restrictions on Muslim women to worship in mosques, we once again read calls for equal rights and women only spaces in mosques around the UK, alleging Covid is an excuse to shut women out. One activist likened mosques to men’s clubs. Unfortunately, in some areas there is inadequate or no space for Muslim women in some mosques. However, this is could not be further from the truth for the Baitul Futuh mosque, which was mentioned in both the news reports. Mainstream news outlets misrepresented and sensationalised on account of misconstrued allegations by those who view mosques as male dominated, patriarchal spaces.
A recent report highlights an official inquiry commissioned by the UK government identified that the risk of dying from Covid-19 is substantially higher in people from BAME groups than those from White ethnic groups, with the highest mortality rates seen among people from Black and Asian backgrounds. Baitul Futuh is largely attended by families of south Asian ethnicity. Indeed, we have more than adequate women only space at Baitul Futuh mosque, yet during the pandemic with restrictions in place we have felt safe following government guidelines by worshipping at home.
To use the Covid situation to divide communities and cause strife instead of uniting and supporting, does not help the emotional and mental well-being of individuals affected by the impact of the pandemic. In these challenging times prayer is a source of solace for many individuals and the act of worship is a sacred communion with God, not a battle of the sexes. Any individual can observe Prayer and communion with God worshipping at home or in the mosque.
Islamic teachings do not prohibit women entering mosques and Praying there, historical evidence shows that women in the time of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) attended congregational Prayers in the mosque.
It is narrated that the Holy Prophet (may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: ‘When women ask permission for going to the mosque, do not prevent them.’ (Sahih Muslim 442a). In fact, it is evident that women and children were present during congregational Prayers at the time of the Holy Prophet (peace be on him) recorded in the following traditions: The Holy Prophet Muhammad (may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) showed great respect for mothers. He stated, ‘During Prayer when I hear a child crying, I shorten my Prayer in apprehension of the trouble to the mother.’ (Tirmidhī).
It is also narrated that the Holy Prophet (may peace and blessings of Allah be on him) said: ‘Do not prevent your womenfolk from attending the mosque, even though their houses are better for them.’ (Sunan Abu Dawud) The hadith does not infer that women are not worthy of Praying in a mosque, nor is this a gateway for men to dictate that the woman’s place is only in the home. The beauty, wisdom and logic behind these teachings offer Muslim women the choice and freedom to pray at home or in the mosque, whereas Muslim men do not have the option. In fact, women can reap the same blessings through worshipping at home.
In the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community we are blessed to have a spiritual guide and world leader His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad who graciously guides us weekly through his Friday Sermons and we have access to his virtual discourses. We look forward to going back to our mosques to Pray and meet our lovely members of the community when it is safe to do so.
 “Mosques that don’t given women equal space to pray should face consequences”. 2021. inews.co.uk <https://inews.co.uk/opinion/mosques-mens-clubs-women-equal-space-to-pray-ramadan-974253> [accessed 4 May 2021]
“The Disproportionate Impact Of COVID-19 On BAME Communities In The UK: An Urgent Research Priority | Coronavirus (COVID-19) Blog Posts Collection – BMJ Journals”, Coronavirus (COVID-19) Blog Posts Collection – BMJ Journals, 2021 <https://blogs.bmj.com/covid-19/2020/09/25/the-disproportionate-impact-of-covid-19-on-bame-communities-in-the-uk-an-urgent-research-priority/> [Accessed 4 May 2021]
Navida Sayed, London
Mobile phones, iPads, tablets, and laptops significantly transformed people’s lives during the lockdown. Devices and gadgets became the central hub of social communication, education, the workplace and in the home. While electronic devices were pivotal for social connections and interactions during the pandemic, media outlets recently reported serious concerns over the dangers associated with prolonged screen time and its mental health implications. A report mentioned problems relating to teenagers being exposed to cyberbullying, sexting, nudity and gaming addiction. Even politicians recognised the impact of excessive social media; in this context a newspaper reported how ‘social media addiction should be seen as a disease’. Another media outlet reported ‘Why not regulate social media like tobacco or alcohol?’ a form of psychological addiction. Evidence surrounding excessive screen time impact on mental health and wellbeing is not new. Many famous celebrities embarked on digital detox programs to gain wellbeing in body and mind. In this vein, a wonderful solution Islam offers in gaining maximum physical and mental health benefits is through the process of fasting during the month of Ramadan; this would be an excellent time to benefit from screen time management, a screen time detox or even a screen time fast.
Ramadan is a perfect time to experience emotional and mental well-being through self-discipline and practice of controlling one’s emotions, and behaviours. During Ramadan practicing mindfulness of self-consciousness and becoming aware of ones thoughts and actions, enables individuals to steer away from negativity through worship, recitation of the Holy Qur’an and by attaining spiritual knowledge. The act of worship and reflection allows the flow of pure thoughts and peace of mind. While digital devices form an integral part of our day to day communication, during the month of Ramadan taking a break from unnecessary screen time would be beneficial.
If individuals are unable to fast due to medical reasons, including children due to young age, they can continue to seek the blessings through engaging in extra prayer throughout the holy month.
Fasting in the month of Ramadan enables a process of mental well-being by refraining from bad practices and habits such as arguing, fighting, or lustful thoughts. Many bad practices are associated with the internet and screen time. Studies reflect mobile devices demonstrate harmful effects in adult relationships and the technology that was designed to bring humans closer together has distanced relationships, these studies involved individuals like husbands and wives engrossed in their devices to the extent that they ignored what their loved one was saying. Research provides evidence about the potential connections between frequent social media usage, mental health and wellbeing in young people and adolescents. A study showed how adolescents spending more time on screens reported mental health issues, whereas adolescents who reduced screen time and engaged in activities such as, sports/exercise, studying and attending religious services were less likely to suffer mental health implications. Ramadan offers an opportunity to engage in religious worship and more family time especially during the meal times before and after opening the fast.
Set this as an individual or family challenge to try a screen time detox in the month of Ramadan alongside fasting and get family and friends to join in. Take advantage of the blessed month of Ramadan to balance screen time effectively and gain maximum benefit of physical and emotional well-being by focusing on extra worship and family time instead of screen time.
The Irish Times. 2021. Screen time linked to rising mental health issues in children – study. [online] Available at: <https://www.irishtimes.com/news/health/screen-time-linked-to-rising-mental-health-issues-in-children-study-1.4360883>.
time, M., 2021. Mental health concerns as pandemic increases children’s screen time. [online] euronews. Available at: <https://www.euronews.com/2021/03/30/increased-screen-time-creates-mental-health-concerns-in-children> [Accessed 30 March 2021].
the Guardian. 2021. Social media addiction should be seen as a disease, MPs say. [online] Available at: <https://www.theguardian.com/media/2019/mar/18/social-media-addiction-should-be-seen-as-disease-mps-say>.
the Guardian. 2018. Why not regulate social media like tobacco or alcohol? | Roger McNamee. [online] Available at: <https://www.theguardian.com/media/2018/jan/29/social-media-tobacco-facebook-google>.
The Cabin Chiang Mai. 2017. Digitally Detoxing Celebrities. [online] Available at: <https://www.thecabinchiangmai.com/blog/digitally-detoxing-celebrities/>.
David, M. and Roberts, J., 2017. Phubbed and Alone: Phone Snubbing, Social Exclusion, and Attachment to Social Media. Journal of the Association for Consumer Research, 2(2), pp.155-163.
Viner, R., Gireesh, A., Stiglic, N., Hudson, L., Goddings, A., Ward, J. and Nicholls, D., 2019. Roles of cyberbullying, sleep, and physical activity in mediating the effects of social media use on mental health and wellbeing among young people in England: a secondary analysis of longitudinal data. The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health, 3(10), pp.685-696.
Twenge, J., Joiner, T., Rogers, M. and Martin, G., 2017. Increases in Depressive Symptoms, Suicide-Related Outcomes, and Suicide Rates Among U.S. Adolescents After 2010 and Links to Increased New Media Screen Time. Clinical Psychological Science, 6(1), pp.3-17.
In this episode of The British Muslim Women’s podcast, Dur-e-Shewar Anwar, Faiza Mirza and Labeeda Bhatti talk about fasting in the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. They discuss why is physical health important and how can our physical health impact our faith? There has been huge emphasis in this past year on mental health and ways to manage and improve mental health and wellbeing. Can fasting improve mental health of individuals with mental health disorders such as depression and/or anxiety? Of course, fasting in the month of Ramadan is instructed to Muslims as a spiritual exercise. What, if any, is the relationship between physical and mental health and the soul? How can we maintain good spiritual health throughout the year, after Ramadan?
Nadia Ghauri, Bournemouth
Our physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing are inseparable. This is expounded by His Holiness Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (peace be upon him), the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community:
“All our natural actions like eating, drinking, sleeping waking…affect our spiritual condition. Our physical structure is related intimately to our total humanity…there is a mysterious relationship between the soul and the body which is beyond the ken of man. Reflection shows that the body is the mother of the soul.” 
Therefore, we must make the most out of Ramadan’s spiritual bounties by optimising our physical states. From an outsider’s viewpoint, fasting perhaps seems a demanding ritual that weakens us. In reality, it’s the opposite. The medical benefits, which although subordinate to the spiritual core of Ramadan, strengthen our bodies all while strengthening our faith.
Ramadan gives us as Muslims the opportunity to reap a multitude of spiritual, mental and physical benefits. During this blessed month, the 9th of the Islamic calendar, fasting has been prescribed for healthy adult Muslims. Fasting is a practice which dates back centuries and has significance in most major world religions. It is the fourth pillar of Islam which entails abstaining from food, drink and conjugal relations, dawn until dusk. The overarching objective of Ramadan is to develop our taqwa (righteousness) and deepen our devotion to God, as stated in the Holy Qur’an:
“O ye who believe! fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may become righteous.” (2:184)
The hunger and thirst experienced whilst fasting instils in us discipline, along with greater concern for those who have no choice but to go to bed on empty stomachs. The Arabic root of ‘Ramadan’, ‘r-m-d’, can even mean the physical sensation of one’s inside becoming hot due to intense thirst. Therefore, when we fast, our love and empathy for God’s creation grow and we are encouraged to become more charitable.
Scientific studies increasingly bring the health benefits of fasting into focus. From a biological perspective, being able to function well with little food aided the survival chances of earlier humans when food was scarce. Furthermore, fasting cleanses our bodies, flushing out harmful toxins and waste. It likewise lowers cholesterol levels, promotes weight loss, boosts metabolism and improves digestion. When the body’s usual energy sources begin depleting, the body instead converts ‘bad’ cholesterol from fat cells into energy. Scar tissues, tumours and old wounds can similarly be used as backup energy sources. This is why fasting stimulates healing and the clear-up of acne. To maximise these benefits, we should take care to eat a balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals and to stay hydrated during the non-fasting hours.
There is also evidence that fasting sharpens cognitive function, memory and alertness. We can leverage this by memorising Qur’anic verses, performing our Prayers with greater focus and expanding our religious knowledge. Our spiritual progress is by no means hindered by fasting, but rather, accelerated.
Islam is a religion of moderation. It does not put undue pressures onto those individuals for whom fasting could prove harmful. Pregnant and breastfeeding women, children, travellers and the sick are all exempted from fasting in Islam.
As we gradually emerge from our third lockdown, a year since the pandemic was officially declared, it is important for us to harness the physically-regenerative benefits of fasting. Many of us now lead more sedentary lives. Periods of inactivity, comfort eating and boredom snacking may have caused weight gain or unhealthy eating patterns because of the restrictions. Therefore, Ramadan can help us reset our routines. We can counterbalance the negative impacts of stressors and lifestyle changes. And of course, with the ongoing developments of different virus strains, it remains ever important for us to fortify our immunity. Fasting actually kickstarts the production of white blood cells; key building blocks to our immunity.
The adverse effects of the pandemic must not be ignored, as they influence both psychological and physical health. With livelihoods threatened, school life disrupted and loneliness on the rise, people have understandably felt greater anxiety and stress. While fasting alone is by no means a cure-all for the complexities of our mental health crisis, it does nevertheless reduce cortisol; the ‘stress hormone’. This improves our mental state, helps us feel calmer and supports our immune system, which is suppressed by excess cortisol.
While we replenish our faith, let us replenish our bodies. Our souls, housed in our bodies, are remarkable, gifted to us by our Most Gracious God, Ar-Rahman. By recognising that our physical, mental and spiritual states can be synergised, we can derive many benefits from Ramadan.
 The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam, 5-6.
 http://arabiclexicon.hawramani.com/search/%D8%B1%D9%85%D8%B6?cat=50 [Lane’s online dictionary]