Ramadan: Benefits on the Body

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.” [1]

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.[2] 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[3]. When the body’s usual energy sources begin depleting, the body instead converts ‘bad’ cholesterol from fat cells into energy[4]. 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[5]. 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[6]. 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[7].

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.[8]

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.

[1] The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam, 5-6.

[2] http://arabiclexicon.hawramani.com/search/%D8%B1%D9%85%D8%B6?cat=50 [Lane’s online dictionary]

[3] https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/fasting-benefits

[4] https://www.alhakam.org/health-benefits-of-fasting-in-ramadan/

[5] https://skinverse.com/fasting-for-better-health-and-skin/

[6] https://www.brainfacts.org/thinking-sensing-and-behaving/diet-and-lifestyle/2018/how-does-fasting-affect-the-brain-071318

[7] https://www.alhakam.org/health-benefits-of-fasting-in-ramadan/

[8] https://ugm.ac.id/en/news/19358-discovering-the-advantages-of-fasting-for-mental-health#:~:text=By%20organizing%20the%20eating%20schedule,it%20can%20reduce%20stress%20levels.

Fasting and Physical Health: Science and Spirituality

Dr Munazzah Chou, Farnham

The Holy Prophet (peace and blessing of Allah be on him) is said to have remarked that, ‘There are two blessings of which people do not take full advantage: health and leisure.’[1]

Physical health is an essential part of the spiritual progress of a person, we are taught in Islam. It is unsurprising then that there are many health-related injunctions in the Quran and in the Sayings of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessing of Allah be on him). 

Islam prescribes fasting during the month of Ramadhan as well as encouraging non-obligatory fasts throughout the year. Ramadan is of course a spiritual exercise; a test of obedience, patience, sacrifice and an opportunity to focus on our spiritual health, tend to our moral ailments and emerge with spiritual vitality. But a convenient side effect is the physical health gain to be had.

Clinical research has shown that numerous physiological indicators of health are improved with fasting. In 2019, in the New England Journal of Medicine, de Cabo and Mattson report that, ‘Evidence is accumulating that eating in a 6-hour period and fasting for 18 hours can trigger a metabolic switch from glucose-based to ketone-based energy, with increased stress resistance, increased longevity, and a decreased incidence of diseases, including cancer and obesity.’ [2]

In Nature Ageing this year, Longo et al reviewed current literature examining the relationship between fasting, longevity and disease. They found that in humans, the ‘alternation of fasting and refeeding periods is accompanied by positive effects on risk factors for aging, diabetes, autoimmunity, cardiovascular disease, neurodegeneration and cancer.’[3] These diseases are of particular relevance as the main risk factor for these major diseases is age.

Fasting has also been examined as a potential treatment following injury.

Traumatic brain injury is one of the most common causes of neurological damage in young people. Fasting has been shown to protect neurons against dysfunction and degeneration in animal models of stroke and Parkinson’s disease. For example, learning and memory was impaired 30 days post-injury in mice fed ad libitum, but not in mice who were fasted. [5] Fasting therefore, has been proposed as a clinical intervention to reduce brain damage.

Physical health is considered an essential part of the progress of a person spiritually. Whilst the physical state influences the spiritual state, the reverse is also true. A spiritually depressed person may develop physical problems. Similarly, bad habits become morally depressive and spiritually inhibitive. [6]

But fasting is not for everyone; in fact it is forbidden for those who are sick or travelling. Patients who take medication or eye drops may feel that they can continue to fast if they take their medication before sunrise or after sunset, their desire to reap the rewards of fasting overcoming any health concerns.  But fasting has the potential to exacerbate disease and injury. Good quality research is difficult to come by on this subject but the probability of adverse effects of fasting on eye health has been investigated by Javadi et al. They find that fasting may alter a variety of physiological parameters e.g. glucose metabolism, intraocular pressure, ocular blood flow. [7] These deviations from the norm could adversely affect for example a patient with glaucoma, with an underlying vulnerability. For those who shouldn’t fast, Islam has an alternative, so people are not deprived of the blessings they seek in fasting, i.e. fidya, (expiation) the feeding of a needy individual for a month.

For those who are able to fast, a further reported beneficial effect includes increased alertness and increased mental acuity.[8] This alongside the physical benefits alone would be a welcome experience during this pandemic which has kept people indoors, and adversely affected the health of many. Thirty days to concentrate our minds on something beyond our immediate environment and a chance to focus on self-improvement is a highly anticipated opportunity throughout the Muslim world.

  1. ChaudaryZafrulla Khan, Wisdom of the Holy Prophet, p36
  2. Rafael de Cabo, Ph.D., Mark P. Mattson, Effects of Intermittent Fasting on Health, Aging, and Disease, N Engl J Med 2019; December 26, 2019
  3. Longo, V.D., Di Tano, M., Mattson, M.P. et al. Intermittent and periodic fasting,longevity and disease. Nat Aging 1, 47–59 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s43587-020-00013-3
  4. Rubovitch, Vardit&Pharayra, A. & Har-Even, M. &Dvir, O. & Mattson, M. & Pick, Chaim. (2019). Dietary Energy Restriction Ameliorates Cognitive Impairment in a Mouse Model of Traumatic Brain Injury. Journal of Molecular Neuroscience. 67. 1-9. 10.1007/s12031-019-01271-6.
  5. https://www.alislam.org/question/physical-moral-spiritual-conditions-of-man/
  6. Mohammad Ali JavadiMahsanAssadiBahram EinollahiHossein Mohammad Rabei,1 Mehrdad Afarid,2 and Majid Assadi. The effects of Ramadan fasting on the health and function of the eye. J Res Med Sci. 2014 Aug; 19(8): 786–791.
  7. Fond G, Macgregor A, Leboyer M, Michalsen A. Fasting in mood disorders: neurobiology and effectiveness. A review of the literature. Psychiatry Res. 2013;209:253–258.

Hijab and the French ‘Separatism Bill’

Kholood Tahir, Morden

The latest in France’s long-standing history of issues against Muslim Women, has been the voting on the “Separatism Bill” which bans girls under the age of 18 from wearing a hijab in public places. Ironically, under the guise of protecting and liberating young Muslim girls from Islam, which itself teaches, the bill takes away bodily autonomy, free will and the right to choose from them and oppresses them to conform to look a certain way.

In the hopes of secular liberty, the French Senate should not forget that diversity and differences are things to be celebrated, not suppressed. Schools should reflect the diverse world we live in. As a Muslim girl myself, who was fortunate enough to learn in an environment here in the UK where differences were respected, it saddens me to think of the toll this decision will have on an already vulnerable minority. Not once did my wearing the hijab hinder me from partaking in anything at school, I was perfectly able to thrive socially and academically, all whilst wearing a hijab.

It really is absurd that in the 21st Century, others are still trying to regulate and decide how a woman should dress. Encapsulated in the words of His Holiness Mirza Masoor Ahmad, current worldwide head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, “Is it such a heinous crime to cover one’s head and chin with a piece of cloth, that an entire Parliament should sit to pass a law against it?”

Islamophobia, The New Anti-Semitism?

Khanssa Ahsan, Thornton Heath

10 years ago, the French government passed a law which stated that Muslim women were not permitted to wear the niqab, a piece of clothing that covers the face. Ironically in August of 2020, the government made it compulsory for people to start wearing a mask which covers the same part of the face, due to Covid-19, whilst the niqab still remains prohibited and breaking this law is punishable with a fine and French citizenship education.

Now in 2021, in another attempt to control and suppress the Muslim women of the country by modernising and redefining Islam, the French government has decided that implementing a hijab ban is also necessary. The strategy of targeting a younger age group demonstrates that there has been careful consideration in order to implement this new bill, by targeting vulnerable young girls who will be forced to choose between religion and education. Muslim girls under the age of 18 may potentially be banned from wearing a hijab in public places and no justification behind this new bill has been given so far. The key question that arises from this is what is the true purpose and motive? How can a piece of clothing, which resembles the veil worn by Catholic nuns, and the tichel worn by Orthodox Jewish women, possibly cause so much concern for the French Senate, that they deem it necessary to implement such extreme laws?

A clear comparison can be seen between anti-Semitism and the current situation in France, as the French government targets the Muslim women as a way of controlling and supressing the minority. If this new law is approved, it will only mark the beginning of many more manipulative laws to come. These recent events clearly mark the fact that history repeats itself and that no matter what, humanity is still failing to learn from its past mistakes. Seeing as the media has once again failed to provide sufficient coverage on this news, it is important to raise awareness on this situation and to fully address the injustice happening against Muslims as a result of Islamophobia.

The Rope of Allah

وَاعْتَصِمُوْا بِحَبْلِ اللّٰہِ جَمِيْعًا وَّلاَ تَفَرَّقُوْا ۚ وَاذْكُرُوْا نِعْمَتَ اللّٰهِ عَلَيْكُمْ اِذْ كُنْتُمْ اَعْدَآءً فَاَلَّفَ بَيْنَ قُلُوْبِكُمْ فَاَصْبَحْتُمْ بِنِعْمَتِهٖ اِخْوَانًا وَكُنْتُمْ عَلىٰ شَفا حُفْرَةٍ مِّنَ النَّارِ فَاَنْقَذَكُمْ مِّنْها كَذٰلِكَ يُبَيِّنُ اللّٰهُ لَكُمْ اٰيٰتِهٖ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَهْتَدُوْنَ

“And hold fast, all together, by the rope of Allah and be not divided; and remember the favour of Allah which He bestowed upon you when you were enemies and He united your hearts in love, so that by His grace you became as brothers; and you were on the brink of a pit of fire and He saved you from it. Thus does Allah explain to you His commandments that you may be guided”.  Holy Qur’an 3:104

Qudsia Ward, Cornwall

One of the strongest threads in nature is the thread of a spider.  Yet despite being strong it is also frail.

“a given weight of spider silk is five times as strong as the same weight of steel” Wiki.

“…and surely the frailest of all houses is the house of the spider, if they but knew!..” Holy Qur’an 29:42

What can this teach us?  Strong yet frail!

Rope is not one thread.  Rope is made of many threads twisted together.  The more threads used, the stronger the rope becomes.  Sometimes thin ropes are twisted together to make thicker, stronger ropes but all begin with a single thread.   

Each one of us alone can be amazingly strong, but like the spider’s web we are also quite frail.  By being together we are stronger. If we work alongside others, each like one thread combined into a rope, we create something stronger.  We can achieve more.  The more we are together the stronger we become.

Now what are ropes used for?  Ropes were essential on sailing ships that travelled the world. People discovered new lands, explored new places and ideas, found different resources and carried their own resources to others.  Rope was used to make cargo nets to carry items of trade to exchange around the nations of the world.

Rope can be used light-heartedly, in play as a skipping rope, a net for ball games.

Rope can be used to rescue, to save lives.  Thrown from a boat it can save a drowning person.  On a mountain or a cliff, it can save someone from falling. 

To be rescued it is essential that you hold on tight to the rope.  Your life depends on it.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community1 is like a rope, a cargo net made of rope, a rope giving security, a rope that can rescue. It is many individuals creating a community, bound together, matching all the examples rope was used for, making each of its members strong, serving nations, helping others.

But the ‘rope of Allah’.  What can that be?

To me it is the threads of the guidance given by God in the Holy Qur’an, practiced by the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) who was the best of men, a mercy for mankind, a role model for the oppressed and downtrodden, for leaders and kings, under oppression or in authority. 

This ‘rope’ provided by Allah, can save us from drowning in a sea of distractions, a river of pressures, a lake of society that does not know God. This rope of Allah can save us from danger, from failing.  It can raise us up to safety, but you must hold on tight.  It can bind us, make us secure but you must work with others.

The Promised Messiah, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (peace be on him) 2identified more than 700 commandments in the Holy Qur’an, each one a thread on its own but together an extraordinarily strong rope which can save us from many dangers of life but also give us access to the many blessings Allah has designed for us. His teaching based on the Holy Qur’an and blessed example of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) are like a rope which binds the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community together.  This rope has carried the Community around the world, has been like a net bringing others into its fold, rescuing those who felt as if they were drowning, raising those fallen and in danger.  Each member of the Community is like the spider’s thread.  Strong and frail.

 May All Powerful Allah keep us bound together to serve His people as rope has serve mankind.

  1. Ahmadiyya Muslim Community  –  https://www.alislam.org
  2. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (peace be on him) –  https://www.alislam.org/messiah/

Education: Equal Access for All

Maaham Ahmad, South Wimbledon

The pursuit of education is a human right that is crucial to the future advancement of our society. While many of us may take our easy access to education for granted, there are millions of children in our world fighting for their right to simply attend school and acquire the knowledge they need in order to build the future of the world. Some governments and political groups around the world have especially made it difficult for girls and young women to attain the education that would give them the opportunity to be able to not only stand on their own two feet, but to go forth and educate future generations.

It is shocking to think, that in the modern day, education is still not accessible to all, especially to women. Many people feel that there is an advantage to living in the west, after all, women here are able to attain high levels of education without any problem. While this is an achievement, it feels necessary to point out that American and European women did not receive the rights to pursue education without discrimination until the mid to late 20th century.

For a faith that is constantly criticised by its opponents for being ignorant and backwards, nearly 1400 years ago, Islam was actually a torchbearer in providing both men and women an equal right to acquiring an education. The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) has said: “It is the duty of every Muslim man and Muslim woman to acquire knowledge.” He has even said that Muslim men and Muslim women should “seek knowledge even if you need to go to China,”[1] so that even if one needs to travel far distances to acquire a higher level of education, then they should absolutely do so. This has always and will always apply to both men and women. There are no obstacles set by the teachings of Islam stopping women from reaching the same level of knowledge as their male counterparts, in fact the same amount of emphasis is laid on the attainment of education for both men and women.

In the eyes of those who choose to criticise Islam rather than try to understand it, Muslim women are oppressed and kept ignorant to the world as well as to the true teachings of their faith. This view they so stubbornly hold on to is actually so far off from the reality that Muslim women are in fact pursuing higher education all over the world where it is accessible. There are multitudes of women excelling in medicine, education, technology, law, and many other fields of expertise. Women are not just encouraged to attain secular knowledge but religious knowledge as well. After all, it is important for all to fully understand the teachings of the faith they follow. The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), would say that half the religion of Islam should be learnt from ‘Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her), his wife. She was known for having such knowledge about the teachings of Islam that she would even lecture from behind a curtain and share her knowledge on religious topics in gatherings which were also attended by men.[2] Now for the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) to be telling his followers to gain knowledge of Islam from his wife says a great deal about his and Islam’s stance on the education of women. This makes it clear to us that knowledge of the faith is not kept from women in Islam to keep them ignorant but in actuality, is made accessible for them just as it is for men.

The fact that Islam, a religion which was revealed centuries ago, brought with it the concept of equal access to education for all should serve as a wake-up call to those who persist in using their power and baseless reasons to deprive men, women, and children from their right to an education.  In addition, those who themselves are ignorant to the truth and choose to create false ideas about women in Islam should first try and look at the actual teachings which starkly contrast their claims.

[1] https://www.alislam.org/book/pathway-to-paradise/womens-issues/

[2] https://www.alislam.org/articles/address-at-waqf-e-nau-ijtema-2015-girls/

Hazrat Umme Ammaarahؓ

Iffat Mirza, Cambridge

“Well behaved women seldom make history” is an easily marketable and repeatable slogan that now adorns T-Shirts, tote bags, restaurant walls etc. Simultaneously seen as a powerful tribute to the brave women of history, and a harsh indictment of patriarchy, this slogan reminds us of the very important role that women play in making history, but unfortunately it is always in a way that goes against the norms and to her contemporaries, the woman is almost always considered rebellious. She is relegated to a void that history sidesteps until a feminist historian such as Laurel Thatcher Ulrich comes along to rediscover the role women have played in building western society.

But what does this say about a society in which we live, where a woman can only be influential if she must break the mould and be re-discovered hundreds or perhaps even thousands of years later? Surely this is all indicative of a society that does not respect women’s achievements or ideas, whether they be political, social, domestic, or economic. It is almost always a matter of such women being honoured posthumously by other women. Now this is not to suggest that the true yard-stick of measuring a woman’s success is by how many people of her time can appreciate her. But it certainly is telling of a society where a group of people can appreciate a woman’s achievements for what they are rather than feeling the need to silence and shun her achievements until many years later for when ‘feminist theory’ itself must become a disciplinary framework in order to charitably donate some sort of appreciation to such women.

For this reason, Early Islam was a revolutionary period. Not only in how the women set a precedent of all that women can achieve and aspire to be in a society that respects them, but also because it was a society where people gave these women the recognition and respect they deserved for it.

One such woman who Islamic history deeply honours is Hazrat* Umme Ammaarah (may Allah be pleased with her). A female Companion of the Holy Prophet, Hazrat Umme Ammaarah was a dedicated follower of Islam which manifested itself in many ways. A devoted wife and mother, she was also keen in spreading the word of Islam in a time which was gravely dangerous not least for women, but also for men. She would hold to the highest standard the importance of moral training. But above all this, she was a brave and skilled soldier, and a wise diplomat who served on the frontlines of many battles that the enemies of Islam waged against the Muslims and was privileged enough to participate in the historic Treaty of Hudaibiyyah.

Her achievements and sacrifices were not in vain. Not only has history been careful to honour her, but also her male contemporaries, including none other than the Holy Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). Hazrat Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) said that “I have myself heard the Holy Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) say that ‘when I looked to my left and my right during the Battle of Uhud, I saw Umme Ammaarah fighting to defend me.’

Islamic historiography has also honoured her own testimony. That is to say, her testimony has always been given the utmost value; her achievements were appreciated by men, but equally she was perfectly capable of speaking for herself. She relates, “A person from the Banu Hawazin (a tribe) entered the battlefield on camelback waving a flag. As soon as the opportunity arose, I struck the back of the camel most forcefully. The camel stumbled and fell along with its rider. I struck the falling rider so powerfully that he could not get up.”

Sustaining wounds which would require a year of recovery, or in some cases where full recovery was never possible, such as losing her arm, she was an iconic woman who has indeed made history in a way that can and should be considered outside the context of ‘Islamic history’. Nonetheless, she is a woman who absolutely was a ‘well-behaved woman.’ Precisely because the society in which she lived was not intimidated by her conviction and skill. Her society appreciated her at the time, did not cast her as rebellious. As such, history remembered her as her contemporaries did: a brave and moral woman from whom all could learn a lot, both men and women.

*An honorific Arabic title used to honour a person.

My Spiritual Growth During Lockdown

Jaziba Ahmed, Earlsfield

2020 was a most significant and life-changing year for all of us. A year where life took a sudden turn as the outbreak of the coronavirus dominated all over the world and forced us into lockdown here in the UK. From the closure of schools, universities and work to not being able to see our loved ones and some of us losing our loved during these difficult circumstances. It has been difficult to lose the privilege of having social interactions as now we are all constantly at home and rely on online audio and video calls.

Personally, 2020 tested my physical and mental capacity like no other. During the first few weeks of quarantine, I was full of energy and kept on track with online lectures and was desperate to keep up with trends, the most popular of course baking banana bread! But something changed as cases spiked and then the realisation hit that things would not go back to normal as quickly as we had imagined.

From being a first-year university student and enjoying my lectures and making incredible new friends to campus life being cut short and lasting only five months, not to mention the move to online learning which was abrupt to say the least. I felt demotivated and procrastination was at the highest level as workload kept increasing.

How do we cope with this heavy burden and the stress that comes with it? Although the pandemic has affected my studies, the increased time at home granted me the opportunity to self-reflect and establish my personal goal of Praying five times a day on time. Time at home revealed my weaknesses and allowed me to re-evaluate my purpose in life. We are Ahmadi Muslims. And there is no contentment we can gain unless we turn towards God Almighty. The blessed month of Ramadan enabled me to spend time invoking blessings and salutations on the Holy Prophet and praying to God Almighty to seek forgiveness and guidance, and to aid me in my goal to increase my attachment to my faith.

His Holiness Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community (peace be upon him) has reminded us of the importance of prayer. In his own words,

‘… take refuge with God Almighty and observe your Prayers with strict regularity. Sometimes people will only offer one Prayer, but remember that there is no concession in the matter of Prayer. Even the Prophets were not excused.’ (Malfuzat, Vol. I, p. 264)

The pandemic was a blessing in disguise and has allowed me to spend time with my loved ones at home. I thank God Almighty every day and I am truly grateful for everything I have been given in my life. The pandemic has given us an opportunity to reflect upon our actions and prioritise the most important thing in this world, our religion. It is crucial to form a relationship with the Supreme Being and communicate with Him in these unavoidable situations we have been placed in.

Our beloved Khalifa, His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad, current worldwide head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community urged us that in these “circumstances to reform ourselves, it also becomes incumbent to increase in informing others about the peaceful message of Islam…We must tell people that for the ultimate result to be good, we must turn towards God and realise that true life is that which is in the Hereafter and we must not associate any partners with Him and fulfil the rights of His creation”  (Address by His Holiness, March 21, 2020).

An important thing I have taken away from this current pandemic is that everything in life that we worry about is temporary. We have adjusted to many changes and this pandemic has taught us valuable lessons of appreciating small things we have been granted in life. It has been a difficult and emotional rollercoaster indeed. We must remember that strength is found in unity and we should make a duty to become more devoted to God Almighty.

So, this has been my one-year journey in quarantine. As we have entered 2021 with continuing concerns over the pandemic and the heightened tensions of current affairs leading to a World War 3, I pray that God Almighty forgives our shortcomings and that we turn our hearts towards Him.

Legacy of ‘Aishah ؓ

Maaham Ahmad, South Wimbledon

Many people may be surprised to learn that when Islam was in its early stages, and the Arab world was being pulled out of its medieval ways, it was a woman who was acting in part as a scholar and leader in this primarily patriarchal society.

As one of the wives of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), Hazrat* ‘Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her), left a legacy that continues to inspire men and women, such that many refer to her as the “Mother of the Believers”. ‘Aishah was not just a devoted wife of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) but was also his beloved companion and confidante. ‘Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her) was very knowledgeable about Islam and had even memorized many verses of the Holy Quran. Her knowledge of Islam was so great that the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) once said that half the religion of Islam could be learnt by her. She was even known to take classes from behind a curtain and share her knowledge and opinions on religious topics with the men and women who attended[1].  It is narrated that whenever the companions of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) would be confronted with a difficulty concerning any matter, they would consult with ‘A’ishah. This illustrates how great her memory was. Once a prolific speaker of the time, said, “I have never heard any speaker more eloquent than ‘A’ishah nor anyone more intelligent.” [2]

Indeed, after his passing, the Prophet’s companions would come to confer with her on many issues pertaining to Islamic teachings. She is also attributed with narrating up to 2,200 Ahadith, or sayings of the Prophet.  ‘Aishah’s (may Allah be pleased with her) dedication to Islam was so great that she persevered in spreading its message, sharing her knowledge and acting as one of the earliest teachers of the faith. As a woman living in a society which was finally learning to uphold the status of women, she was granted such dignity that allowed her to contribute to the rise of Islam, the impact of which we still witness today. The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said that among all his wives, it was only in ‘Aishah’s abode that he received revelation[3].

There has always been some debate about the age of ‘Aishah ( may Allah be pleased with her) at the time of marriage. Her nikah to the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings be on him) took place earlier but according to local custom she continued to live with her parents. A study of the circumstances reveals that at the time of leaving her parents’ home to start her married life, Hazrat ‘Aishah was  12 years old, and fully mature, the age of maturity of course very much dependent on climate and environment. Her married life began two years after the migration to Medina.  [4]

When we think of role models to look up to, there is no need to look further than ‘Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her), a young woman who saw the truth for what it was and worked to spread it in as many ways as she could. ‘Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her) was influential not just because she was a beloved wife of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be with him), but because she carried with her such deep knowledge of Islam, history, medicine, and even poetry. Islam brought with it the rights of women, and ‘Aishah was a living example of these rights.

These qualities of ‘Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her) were cherished by the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) so much so that once, upon being asked who was the most beloved of the people to him, he replied, “Aishah” He was then asked, “And who is most beloved to you from among the men?” he replied, “Her father” [5].

Through her love for the Holy Prophet and her love for Allah and service to Islam, she will always hold the distinction of being a leader, teacher, and inspiration to the many generations of Muslim women to come.

*An honorific Arabic title used to honour a person.

[1] Address at Waqf-e-Nau Ijtema 2015. By His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad, current head of the Worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in 2015. Summary available at URL: https://www.alislam.org/articles/address-at-waqf-e-nau-ijtema-2015-girls/

[2] Mother of the Believers – Hazrat ‘A’ishahra. By Hafiz Muzaffar Ahmad, translated by Murtaza Ahmad. Available at URL: https://www.reviewofreligions.org/9186/the-noble-wives-of-the-holy-prophet-sa-3/

[3] Sahih al-Bukhari, Hadith no. 3775. https://www.alhakam.org/hazrat-aisha-bint-abi-bakr-r-a/

[4] https://www.alislam.org/library/books/Seal-of-Prophets-Vol-2.pdf

[5] Jami’ at- Tirmidhi 


Sofia Aamir, London

‘How do Muslim men keep their vows with their first partner if they are allowed to marry four times?’, asked my teacher. As a 14-year-old, sitting in a Religious Education lesson, I had no answer! Honestly, it got me thinking too. Now, 6 years later, I wish I could go back in time to answer the question. So, here I am to say something on this issue.

Time and time again, polygamy in Islam is highlighted as a grave issue, a hurdle in way of discussing Islam. First of all, the concept of marriage in religions vary. In Christianity, marriage is based on vows taken at the time of marriage whereas in Islam marriage is seen to be a contract between the two. The distinction is vital in answering the question since Islam emphasises the importance of fulfilling promises especially the ones which are made to Allah the Almighty as can be demonstrated in the following Quranic verse “…and fulfil the covenant; for the covenant shall be questioned about.” (Surah Bani Isra’il, 17:35). Had marriage been seen as a promise between the two as is the case in Christianity then there would never be an option of coming out of it or of divorce.  Marriage is a sacred institution in Islam with great objectives to achieve from it; far off from the thought that men marry multiple times to pursue their lust. Nowhere in the Qur’an, or teachings of Islam the purpose of marriage is described as a way of fulfilling lust and sensuality, thus it is a complete misconception to think this way. There are other objectives described in the Holy Qur’an such as: Marriage in Islam is a protection against physical, moral and spiritual ailments (4:252:188), it is for the continuation of human life (2:224), it is for companionship and peace of mind (30:22) and for the growth of relations of love and compassion (30:224:2).

Marrying more than once at a time is not a rule! But it is a provision for certain circumstances. Islam does not encourage polygamy, instead discourages the practice. Allah states in the Holy Qur’an: “And if you fear you will not deal justly , then marry only one…” (Holy Qur’an, 4:4). In fact, Islam is the only religion which limits the number of partners a man can have because in an ancient practice, there was no limit of how many wives one could have. The fourth caliph of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, His Holiness Mirza Tahir Ahmad  , in explaining the circumstances in which Islam gives permission for men to marry more than once wrote, “…it is evident from a study of the Holy Quran that a special situation of a post-war period is being discussed. It is a time when a society is left with a large number of orphans and young widows, and the balance of male and female population is severely disturbed. A similar situation prevailed in Germany after the Second World War… There were a large number of virgins, dejected spinsters and young widows for whom it was impossible to get married” (Islam’s Response to Contemporary Issues, p. 98). Islam provides a practical solution for circumstances like these and it does so to protect the moral condition of  individuals and of the society as a whole. Islam shows mercy and compassion and by providing such solution, actually gives justice for those widows, orphans and virgins who otherwise would be abandoned.

There are other reasons for polygamy as well such as: you can take a second wife  if your first wife cannot bear children because one of the purposes of marriage in Islam is the continuation of human life. Even women are allowed to take divorce from their husband, if they wish to, if the husband is chronically ill. One may ask, why are women not allowed to marry more than once at a time?  The answer to this is that Allah the Almighty has created men and women differently, although similar but not the same, there is different design and different intent. Given human nature, having two or more husbands to one wife is bound to cause conflict between them and the families. More than this there will always be a confusion about the lineage of each child. We need to understand that Islam is a universal religion, which keeps into account good of individuals but also greater good of the society as a whole. Nevertheless, women are not restricted to stay with a man if they are not fulfilling the objectives of marriage. Women can recourse through divorce. Polygamy is the solution and path presented by Islam because it can bring greater benefits than harm to individuals and the society as a whole compared to having two husbands to a wife.

Polygamy puts greater responsibility on men; hence they will certainly be accountable for their treatment with their wives. Allah the Almighty has put a condition of just treatment and of taqwa; righteousness when taking such decisions. Finally, it must be emphasised that Ahmadi Muslims are required to follow and obey the laws of the country they reside in as long as the laws do not conflict with commandments of Allah which are clearly taught to be expressed.  

The Perfect Role Model

Amtul Kafi Bhunnoo, London

When the world is looking for the perfect role model for 21st century women, tendency goes towards corporate women making it to the list of the top “richest” or “women of the year” or “women to look up to”. However, one of the most overlooked women in history, who was a most successful businesswoman, was none other than Hazrat* Khadija (may Allah be pleased with her). She was the first wife of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) and the first Muslim woman. She had two sons who died in infancy and four daughters with the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him); she was also one of the richest women in Arabia. A woman of such calibre, just imagine her daily dealings of business with men, something generally unheard of in that period. Of course, this was the period of pre-Islamic Arabia; post-Islamic Arabia had many businesswomen in Mecca because they had the backing and support of the religion of Islam, but Khadija (may Allah be pleased with her) was completely on her own and up against large numbers of men before this. How many of us have faced obstacles we have had to overcome? Pre-Islamic Arabia was a place where girls were buried alive at birth as they were unwanted. What kind of society must it have been for women?

She was a true go-getter, and knew the value of the most precious thing – a good character, something she saw in the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) when she proposed to him. Now also imagine the line of beliefs she must have had – the kindness, the understanding, the truth in her heart – believing in the Holy Prophet, when he told her that an angel came to him. She didn’t laugh and reject him, but believed in every single word. She went on to help him find someone to make him understand what he was really seeing, as it is narrated by Hazrat ‘Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her): ‘The Prophet returned to Khadija while his heart was beating rapidly. She took him to Waraqa bin Naufal who was a Christian convert and used to read the Gospels in Arabic. Waraqa asked, “What do you see?” When he told him, Waraqa said, “That is the same angel whom Allah sent to Prophet Moses’. (Sahih Bukhari )

Human nature doesn’t change and so there is much we can learn from Hazrat Khadija (may Allah be pleased with her). The role model that the world needs is not a woman who has gained it all monetarily or is driven by reaching the top rank, but a woman who has balanced it all and holds precious the real values of humanity; a true businesswoman, an achiever, and survivor of a harsh climate when the tide was certainly against women. We must also note that with her we see that being honest in business can get you much farther than cheating people out of their money.

It is also narrated by Hazrat Abu Huraira, ‘Gabriel came to the Prophet and said, “O Allah’s Apostle! This is Khadija coming to you with a dish having meat soup . When she reaches you, greet her on behalf of her Lord  and on my behalf, and give her the glad tidings of having a Qasab palace in Paradise wherein there will be neither any noise nor any fatigue’ (Sahih Al-Bukhari)

In Islam, the role of a Muslim woman is multi-faceted and endless. There are some responsibilities Allah has given specifically to women, and others He has given to all of mankind; she has the responsibility of raising her children, of being a good wife, of calling people to the beauty of Islam, of speaking out against oppression, of giving charity, of being kind to her neighbours, of helping the poor, and the list goes on. We should take pride in these responsibilities that Allah has favoured us with, and fulfil them to the best of our abilities.

It is narrated by Hazrat Ali,‘I heard the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) saying, “Mary, the daughter of Imran, was the best among the women of the world of her time and Khadija is the best amongst the women of this nation.” (Sahih Al-Bukhari )

Hazrat Khadija (may Allah be pleased with her) was indeed a true leader, and the most perfect role model for women for all time and so aptly given the honorific Khadijatul Kubra, meaning Khadija the Great.

*An honorific Arabic title used to honour a person.



Exceptional Women in Islam


Sophia Anwar, Birmingham South

History is witness to the fact that there has been much inequality between men and women. The basic right to vote, have an education, divorce or inherit is not something we should take for granted and we owe gratitude to those who campaigned and worked hard to obtain these rights. International Women’s Day brings focus to how much has been achieved by women and gives us the opportunity to celebrate the exceptional accomplishments of women.

The role of women in Islam unfortunately gets misrepresented, with the media often sending an incorrect message. These misconceptions surrounding what the Western world perceives as the poor unliberated Muslim woman could not be further from the truth.

Muslim women are making great progress in the world today, but people don’t often realise that this is neither a new phenomenon for Muslim women nor did they have to wait until the twentieth century to be liberated. Women were liberated 1400 years ago by our Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) when he brought the teachings of Islam. Islam confers on women all the political rights and social rights which men enjoy and The Holy Qur’an tells us that by following a certain way of life, both men and women can attain the same spiritual heights and the requirements of piety are the same.

The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) told the world that God had especially entrusted to him the task of safeguarding the rights of women. Islam gave women rights that the non-Islamic world has given to women only within the past 200 years: the right to inherit property, ask for and get a divorce. The right to an education was granted equally to both sexes in Islam.

In history, the names of such extraordinary figures like Mother Teresa whose whole life was devoted to the service of mankind and Florence Nightingale “The Lady with the Lamp” making rounds of wounded soldiers at night are held in very high regard.

But what is less well known is that women also played an important role in the Muslim world as scholars, poets and warriors. One such example is Khadija Khuwaylid (may Allah be pleased with her); even before her marriage to the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), she was an important figure in her own right, and was a successful merchant in Mecca. A compassionate woman making many contributions to society at that time, she played a central role in supporting and propagating the new faith of Islam and has the distinction of being the first Muslim woman. The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, in a hadith preserved in Sahih Muslim: “God Almighty never granted me anyone better in this life than her. She accepted me when people rejected me; she shared her wealth with me when people deprived me; and God granted me children only through her.”

Umme ‘Ammarah, was a member of the Banū Najjār tribe and one of the earliest converts to Islam in Medina. A Companion of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) she had many virtues and is most remembered for taking part in the Battle of Uhud (625 CE), in which she carried sword and shield fighting against the Meccans. She shielded the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) from enemies during the battle and even sustained several lance wounds as she cast herself in front of him to protect him. It is said that after she sustained her twelfth wound, she fell unconscious and the first question she asked when she awoke a day later in Medina was “did the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, survive?”

A’ishah was also the wife of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) who had perhaps the most influence on the Muslim community after his death. She played a major role as a transmitter of Islamic teachings and is one of the major narrators of ahadith, sayings of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).

As mothers, Islam has placed women at a higher status than men. As daughters, their importance is such that their upbringing leads parents to Paradise. And finally, as wives, the character of men in Islamic society is established in relation to their treatment of women.

Equality in Islam is having the same basic rights whilst celebrating our differences and enjoying the high status Islam has given us as mothers, daughters and wives. As an Ahmadi Muslim woman I want to share with the world what a high regard our religion has for women.

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