A Vaccine Against Hate

Mahrukh Arif-Tayyeb, Newcastle

2020 is soon coming to an end, and so is, God Willing, the Coronavirus. The news regarding the effectiveness of a vaccine against a virus which has literally turned our world upside down is undoubtedly the highlight of this year. Many people are longing to meet their loved ones while others have to carry on living with the heartache of having lost them forever. This pandemic has drained us physically, mentally and emotionally. It has made us lonely and broken our routines but has also made us appreciate what we had and took for granted. For me, the simple fact of not being able to go to the mosque or attending the Jalsa Salana this year has been devastating. My son is turning a year-old this month and I feel so sad that I still haven’t been able to show him to my beloved Khalifa (may Allah be his Helper). I realised how blessed we are to have the institution of Khilafat, how grateful we should be, as Ahmadi Muslims, to have someone who cares and prays for us more than our own loved ones. We have witnessed how clueless our political leaders have been throughout this year, how the pandemic got the best of them and their country’s economy and stability. Yet, this one person, has never let us down. He has been reassuring us, every Friday, by gently telling us that if Allah is near then there is no fear.

This pandemic has tested our patience and perseverance on so many levels. Previously I didn’t think twice before travelling to my parents in France. Now, everything is almost a life and death situation – going out to have a meal or just a simple ride on the bus. More than these personal considerations, 2020 has also been the worst year for humanity. During the lockdown, we have seen children being separated from their parents at the Mexican border, a black man screaming ‘I can’t breathe’ and dying mercilessly at the hands of a white police officer, deep unrest and war-like scenes in the Middle East, lunatics hijacking our religion and taking innocent lives cold-heartedly, and many more such atrocities. It is sad to realise that mankind has reached the peak of progress yet still hasn’t learnt from its history. Black people are still suffering from racism and bias even though slavery ended over 150 years ago. Islam has been in the news for all the wrong reasons while its founder was, in fact, sent as a mercy for mankind.

Indeed, if mankind turned to God and pondered over the beautiful teachings of Islam, they would find the biggest treasures and pearls of wisdom to tackle these modern issues. The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) declared 1400 years ago, that all mankind is equal, no race is superior than another, no soul is superior to another except by piety. He instructed us to be truthful and deal with justice in all matters. His example leaves no space for any violence or bitterness. He was the most gentle, caring and peace-loving human being sent to mankind; his forgiveness and mercy is unmatchable and it is always astonishing to see how he had the humility to forgive all the Meccans who used to persecute him and kill his spiritual and biological family members without mercy. Seeing this blessed person being depicted in such a disgraceful manner again has been the hardest part of this year. But again, this same person has taught us to face adversity and hardships with patience and prayer. This same blessed person taught us that when an assembly or a group of people is being ignorant and mocks relentlessly, the Holy Qur’an says servants of the Gracious God respond with the word: “Peace!” (Qur’an 25 : 64).

Peace is what we are all looking forward to next year. This lockdown has given us all a time to slow down the fast pace of our lives and reflect. If we think about it, this Coronavirus might have been a poisoned gift for all of us to get back to the essential – God.

So as we rejoice over the discovery of a vaccine which is hoped to put an end to this deadly virus and look forward to end an extremely challenging year with a touch of positivity, I wish the world would develop a vaccine against hate as well. A vaccine that would enable us to love all and hate none.

Misled by the Mainstream

Nadia Ghauri, Bournemouth

The narratives informing our views on the world are produced and perpetuated by media outlets, books, TV programmes, even our education system. It’s often the case that we unthinkingly embrace these viewpoints. However, we need to take a step back and adopt a more critical lens. Mainstream narratives frequently use language which divides, rather than unifies, society. Refugees, for example, are a case in point, often painted in threatening terms; arriving in ‘floods’, causing a national ‘meltdown’ or unbridled ‘chaos’. The dichotomising language of these dominating narratives splits society into ‘Us’ and ‘Them’. It’s always the ‘Them’; the homeless, the Muslims, the jobseekers, the foreign workers etc. whose voices are stifled, if not erased. The ‘Us’ controlling the narratives, typically white, privileged and able-bodied, in turn stifle any remaining empathy.

An Amnesty International representative recently commented, “This language of invasion has become increasingly mainstream as it trips off the tongue of populist political leaders”.[i]  But alarmingly, these narratives are seeping into more ‘mainstream’ politics. Earlier this year, refugees were described as ‘invading migrants’ by a group of 23 Tory MPs in a letter to the Home Secretary.[ii] This weaponisation of innocent people to further political agendas is utterly dehumanising and disingenuous. This rhetoric encourages racist and xenophobic suspicions towards individuals who have risked their lives to escape unimaginable horrors; often to protect their loved ones.

Another common yet detrimental narrative was highlighted by the recent controversy regarding food vouchers for children on free school meals. Certain outlets and high-platform individuals raised a hue and cry against this proposition, claiming low-income parents were irresponsible and would use the vouchers for personal reasons. One MP criticised that this act – of providing a basic human right – would be ‘nationalising children’[iii]. This narrative distracted from an ugly truth: children in one of the world’s most developed and richest nations are going to sleep hungry. It was particularly disturbing to see how people in positions of power i.e. MPs, echoed such sentiments. Countless other slurs against people supported by the welfare state reflect the class prejudices in the UK. This lack of compassion diverts people from practising a core value that Muslims are taught in the Holy Qur’an – justice:

“O ye who believe! be strict in observing justice, being witnesses for the sake of Allah, even though it be against yourselves or against parents and kindred. Whether he be rich or poor, Allah is more regardful of them both than you are. Therefore follow not low desires so that you may be able to act equitably.” (4:136)

The one-dimensional narratives concerning Muslims also fail to engage with true Islamic teachings. As a result, many Muslim women like myself often find ourselves having to define our identities by what we are not, rather than who we actually are. It is ironic how platforms will discuss our ‘subjugation’ or ‘victimhood’ when they fail to offer Muslim women the opportunity to speak out openly about their experiences. Ultimately, such public discourses are more driven by power, politics or money.

 The recent Black Lives Matter movement calling for racial equality further illustrates a need to shift the vantage point away from the ruling elites. This will grant us an understanding of marginalised communities. It is unlikely that we can singlehandedly demolish the systemic issues in our society which suppress the voices that need to be heard. However, what we can do is encourage authorities to foster empathy. Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be on him)stated, “Help your brother, whether he is an oppressor or he is oppressed.” When he was then asked: “It is right to help him if he is oppressed, but how should we help him if he is an oppressor?” He responded: “By preventing him from oppressing others.”[iv] These words convey that we can both alleviate the symptoms of social issues, whilst actively challenging the root causes. His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad has beautifully explained that,

Islam requires us to bandage the wounds of those in pain, to remove the anxieties of those who are distressed and to show love and compassion without any desire for recognition or worldly reward….”[v]

In light of these words, it is worth recognising that Covid-19 has disproportionately affected those who are oft misrepresented in the media. It is our responsibility to fulfil haqooq al-ibad – the rights of mankind, in whatever capacity we can, be it by food bank donations, signing petitions, or reaching out to friends and neighbours. The pandemic has further deepened the pre-existing divisions created by social and economic inequalities. We must look beyond the narratives which surround us, and instead, as His Holiness continued,

“…We should be there to wipe away the tears of those who have been left bereft, heartbroken and vulnerable.”[vi]


[i] https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/03/why-the-language-we-use-to-talk-about-refugees-matters/

[ii] https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/aug/11/dover-mp-natalie-elphicke-tories-invading-migrants-letter-channel-crossings

[iii] https://www.theguardian.com/education/2020/oct/21/marcus-rashford-in-despair-as-mps-reject-free-school-meal-plan

[iv] Bukhari, Vol 3, #624.

[v] https://www.pressahmadiyya.com/press-releases/2020/11/head-of-ahmadiyya-muslim-community-responds-to-comments-of-french-president-about-islam-and-calls-for-unity-amongst-the-islamic-world/

[vi] Ibid.

Islam in News Media

Shumaila Iftikhar, London

When we hear about Islam in the news media, the chances are it isn’t going to be positive news. Many of us in the West will be accustomed to hearing associations of Islam to, at best, backwardness and a lack of integration, and at worst, terror and resentment. Seeing coverage of the aftermath of terrorist attacks on our television screens, with words such as “Islamist”, “Muslims” and “refugee” forming the details is far from uncommon.

Even when Islam hasn’t been thrust into the fore when speaking about a terrorist incident, or when a case of social disintegration has seemingly transpired, we still get to hear of some level of alienation to the religion injected in conversations or debates connecting, for example, the hijab with oppression.

In all of this, the news media’s narrative is clear: Islam does not accord with our modern and free society. And it is important to note that this is but a narrative, that should be taken with a large pinch of salt.

Now, it is true that Islam is a religion like no other in contemporary times. With its key features including women observing hijab, the segregation of genders, and Praying five times a day, it is much unlike any other faith practised today. Add to that list, the (oft-misconstrued) concept of Jihad, and to anyone looking in without a clue as to what Islam is all about, it can seem foreign.

However, to treat something with prejudice just because you don’t understand it, is bigotry. Yet, time and again, the news media will be guilty of portraying Islam in such a way that does not align with its true teachings. So, first and foremost, what are some of the things Islam teaches?

To echo the words of the Head of our worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad, “Islam’s teachings are of peace, love, reconciliation and brotherhood”. Islam “enshrines universal human values and human rights” and “its teachings seek to unite mankind under the banner of humanity and guarantee the rights of every individual to live with freedom, equality, liberty and justice”. [i].

 In other words, it upholds what we consider to be fundamental values in a free, cohesive society. That’s evident from the Holy Qur’an, which comprehends the purest essence of this faith. For example, chapter 13, verse 26 says,

“And those who break the covenant of Allah, after having established it and cut asunder what Allah has commanded to be joined, and act corruptly in the earth – on them is the curse and they shall have a grievous abode” [ii].

Here, Muslims are instructed to both keep to their words and refrain from acting selfishly and causing disorder on the earth. It brings to mind the oath that is made by anyone acquiring citizenship in a country they’ve arrived in, to obey the laws of the land. In this regard, equating such a thing as terrorism to Islam would make no sense at all. However, it happens often, and the term “jihadi” is used to somehow rationalise it.

What, then, is Jihad, and why would it not run adversely to a religion built on peace? Jihad takes root from the Arabic word Jahada, meaning to struggle or strive, and, in Islam, that struggle is in the way of God. Putting it simply, acts of terrorism and jihad are not the same.

Going back to news media, we can’t dispute the fact that the news isn’t a completely true representation of reality. However, it affects our perception of the world it presents, and we accept, often without question, especially when the news makes its claims of objectivity. Yet, the news media thrives on sensationalism, on flashy headlines and the kind of negative framing that catches attention. Fear mongering and ostracising the other are common features of the news media, so when you have something that seems out of the ordinary, they will grab at it. They decide their narrative.

And we as the consumers must understand why something has been presented to us in a certain way, not just what, because the teachings of Islam are of eternal peace and cannot be cherry-picked. It is a complete religion, come for the reformation of the entire world, not just a select few.

 [i] https://www.alislam.org/articles/religious-tolerance-freedom-islam/

[ii] The Holy Qur’an.

[iii] https://www.alislam.org/question/what-does-jihad-mean/

Tolerance in Islam

Nida Salahat, Hounslow South

One of our core British values is that of tolerance.  It is also a moral virtue and the basis for a fair society, as it teaches us to acknowledge other people’s opinions and beliefs, to accept that these might differ from ours, and to not put our opinions above those of others. Thus, tolerance comes from our recognition of the dignity of human beings, the basic equality of all human beings, universal human rights, and fundamental freedom of thought, conscience, and belief. 

In recent days, events in France have led President Macron to pass controversial statements on Islam, calling it a religion that was in crisis which is in need of a reform. Not a jot in the scripture of Islam, the Holy Qur’an, has changed since it was first revealed 1400 years ago. Its pristine message remains intact and is practised by its billion plus adherents globally. So let us not confuse atrocities borne out of geo-political grievances, carried out under utterly false pretence of faith, with religious crisis.

The Holy Quran calls for peace, unity, justice, tolerance and equality.   The Holy Qur’an explains that no matter what the circumstance, you are not to abandon tolerance. Irrespective of the cruelties inflicted, Muslims are not to act other than with justice and cannot take revenge by being just as cruel. The Holy Qur’an states: …and let not a people’s enmity incite you to act otherwise than with justice. Be always just, that is nearer to righteousness…’ (5:9) 

A beacon of tolerance who left mankind with abundance of examples throughout his life is the Holy Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (may peace and blessings be upon him).  He is the one who forgave his bitterest enemies when Makkah was conquered by the Muslims and it was his hour of triumph.  

Earlier on during his visit to the city of Taif where the locals ridiculed him, threw stones at him and injured him, he chose to pray for them instead. When Allah sent the angel of mountains, seeking the Holy Prophet’s permission to join the two hills and crush the city of  Taif, between which it was located - out of his great tolerance and mercy, the Messenger of God replied: ‘No!  For, I hope that God will bring forth from their loins people who will worship God alone, associating nothing with Him.’ (Sahih Muslim) 

His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the head of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community once remarked in one of his addresses: ‘We Muslims believe that there have been 124,000 messengers who have come to the world. They identified the One God and taught man to live in love and affection with each other. The last person to bring a new Law and teaching was Hazrat Muhammad (saw). In other words, a Muslim believes in all prophets and reformers from Adam (as) to Muhammad (saw), peace and blessings of Allah be upon them all. Islam requires belief in and respect of all prophets and believes that the teachings revealed to them at the time of their advent was true, then how can it be said that such a religion does not teach tolerance of other faiths?’[i]

Tolerance is the need of the hour today as it was yesterday. We, as Ahmadi Muslims must emphasise the need for this virtue among us and in the world. We must foster tolerance through deliberate efforts. Our focus is to respect each other irrespective of caste, creed, gender, nationality, and ethnicity. Tolerance is the affectionate knot which binds the family, society and keeps nations intact.  

At another occasion His Holiness said: ‘These are the true teachings of Islam and with the Grace of Allah it is with these peaceful and compassionate teachings that the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has flourished and spread to every part of the world. The message we deliver does not contain harsh language and nor does it contain any type of force or compulsion. 

Rather, our message is of love, affection and unity. We have been taught to reply to abusive and hurtful language with prayers. And in response to the persecution and grief we face, we give only love, peace and comfort to the world. This is our teaching and this is our faith.’ [ii]

Islam is the religion about which it is stated in the Holy Qur’an: ‘…This day have I perfected your religion for you and completed My favour upon you and have chosen for you Islam as religion…’ (5:4).  We believe this is the religion that has provided every solution and answer to all problems or issues that have arisen and that will arise until the end of time.


[i] https://www.alislam.org/articles/freedom-of-speech-and-tolerance-in-islam/

[ii] https://www.alislam.org/articles/islam-threat-source-of-peace/

Embodiment of Tolerance

Mubarka Hamid, Birmingham South

When you experience transgression or are wronged, it is a normal human response to react. How you react varies from person to person, and also from religion to religion. Christianity teaches us to turn the other cheek. Judaism teaches revenge in the form of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.

 The teachings of Islam are balanced, rational and practical. They look at the greater good and promotion of peace and harmony in society. The Holy Qur’an states: ‘And the recompense of an injury is an injury the like thereof; but whoso forgives, and his act brings reformation, his reward is with Allah.’ (42:41) So Islam permits punishment proportional to the wrong, but promotes forgiveness leading to reformation. In some cases, especially in repeat offenders, punishment may be required for the protection and greater good of the society. It is a teaching full of wisdom and takes care of all possible scenarios.

Islam looks after the rights of all human beings, whether Muslim or non-Muslim. It is a religion of tolerance. When a few senseless people use the name of religion to commit evil deeds, they do not represent that religion. If you look at the history of the world, such people have been present in all major religions.   Fact is that Allah commands Muslims in the Holy Qur’an to be: ‘…those who supress anger and pardon men…’ (3:135)

The Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) practiced what he preached. He always promoted tolerance and forgiveness, and even when faced with extreme foul behaviour and aggression, always exhibited forbearance. Despite his supreme status, he was always humble and tolerant.

During the period of grief after the death of his beloved wife Hazrat Khadija, he was walking through the streets of Mecca when a wicked Quraish man threw mud on his head. He did not say a word, but quietly went home to his daughter Hazrat Fatima, who wept while she washed the dirt off his hair.

A woman used to throw rubbish in the Prophet’s (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) path as he walked to the mosque, but he never said a bad word to her. When for a few days no rubbish was thrown, he inquired and was told that the woman was ill. He went to check on her and offered his help with her treatment. Such tolerance and kindness was unique to him.

 In the fifth year after migration to Medina, when the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) was a very respected ruler with thousands of followers who loved him, a hypocrite called Ibn Ubbayy was publicly rude to him. The Prophet’s (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) Companions were offended and angry and wanted to kill Ibn Ubbayy. But the Prophet stopped them and did not say anything back to him. In fact, he forgave the man. This was a great lesson in tolerance for his Companions.

It was this kind, humble and tolerant nature of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) that enabled him to conquer the hearts of the whole of Arabia. He was, and is, without doubt, the most loved human being. It is wholly false to project the Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) as a man of violence. It is very distressing for Muslims when these fabrications are bandied about. Freedom of speech does not mean blatant drift from the truth. The Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings of Allah be on him)  used to preach that foul language should not be used for any deity or founder of any religion, in order to safeguard the feelings and emotions of their followers – perhaps some in the developed world should take heed and follow this simple advice. In this way, instead of hatred and discontent, love and harmony will manifest between people of different backgrounds and beliefs.

Islam: A Dividing Force?

Iffat Mirza, Cambridge

The word ‘history’ in many languages is the same word as the word ‘story’, thus signalling the question ‘do we ever have a neutral history?’ Or are all histories just narratives that have been spun in order to entrap their prey?

Quite often we attribute the horrendous terror attacks of 9/11 as the turning point in anti-Islamic sentiment but the reality is that it has permeated our culture for centuries. For many centuries we have attributed Muslim discoveries and inventions to later European or western scientists and philosophers. For example, we owe a lot of what we know about Ancient Greek philosophers to Ibn Rushd, or Averroes, for having translated and provided commentaries on eminent Western scholars such as Aristotle, who have formed the very foundations of Western Civilization. Whilst historiographies neglected the ways in which Muslims and Islamic nations have advanced humanity through their achievements in the sciences and humanities, they focussed on the more barbaric acts of a few so-called Muslims and thus painted the whole religion with the same tarred brush.

In doing so, a false dichotomy between the geopolitical region known as ‘the West’ and the religion of Islam has been created, fomenting the erroneous belief that the two are fundamentally incompatible and one will inevitably overpower the other, thus ensuring that it should be Islam that will be defeated.

The reality is actually quite clear. Islam being an Abrahamic faith has far more to reason to be compatible with Judeo-Christian traditions than to be cause for concern. In fact, the Holy Qur’an unites us in stating in chapter 2 verse 63, ‘Surely, the Believers, and the Jews, and the Christians and the Sabians — whichever party from among these truly believes in Allah and the Last Day and does good deeds — shall have their reward with their Lord, and no fear shall come upon them, nor shall they grieve.’

Evidently, Islam seeks to unite civilizations across time and space, not only in this world but also in the hereafter. As such, it is worth questioning, why does it seem that Muslims are intent on destroying societal relations and making it their mission to destroy the West.

The simple answer is ‘they’re not.’

The false dichotomy of Islam and the West has cost countless lives in, both, immediate conflict and the long-lasting consequences of war and terrorism, such as damage to infrastructure and the halting of economy.

His Holiness, Mirza Masroor Ahmad (May Allah be his Helper), drawing on the long-drawn-out conflict in the Middle East and the interventions from international powers commented in 2018, ‘Thus, the world is stuck in a vicious cycle of conflict and counter-conflict, as rivalries ferment and hatreds become ever more deeply entrenched. No one knows where such issues will finally lead us or how horrific the consequences will prove to be.’

The key phrase is the creation of hatred. Hatred is not a natural response to anything – rather it is fear that develops into hatred. The fear of the unknown. The fear of the possibility of being overpowered. The fear that the Other may dominate can only be confronted if the fear manifests as hatred and as such leads to the ‘vicious cycle of conflict’ as stated by His Holiness.

In October 2019, His Holiness addressed the UNESCO headquarters in France and reminded us that “During the 7th Century, under the government led by the Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings be upon him), astonishing progress was made in Medina to advance the cause of individual and collective rights. Indeed, for the very first time amongst the Arabs, an orderly and civilised society was established. In many ways, it was a model society – in terms of infrastructure, services and, more importantly, in terms of the unity and tolerance displayed in what was a multicultural society.”

Is this not exactly the kind of progress the modern world looks for today? Why then, is the idea of Islam so abhorrent to so many? It is clear that the criticisms that Islam faces today has very little to do with genuine Islamic teachings and far more to do with what is reflected in the narratives surrounding Islam.

As such, it is imperative that we look more closely at the narratives that have been spun regarding the Other, in this case Islam and Muslims in order to understand that there is actually nothing to fear for Islam teaches the unity and benevolence of God over all His creatures. It is evident that we all have far more to gain than to lose so it is imperative that we let go of the artificial rivalries that histories and mainstream media have whipped up in order to work towards a more peaceful world, where we understand that there is indeed no reason for there to be a clash of civilizations.

Counter-Narrative to Islamophobia

Dur-e-Shewar Anwar, Manchester

‘Islamist’ Separatism – whilst the terminology may be new, and the word ‘Islamist’ dubious at best, and wicked at worst, the contention is old. A political concept, borne of a fundamental lack of understanding of the true teachings of Islam; this term suggests that Islamic teachings and values are in direct opposition to those of the secular Western world and to this end encourages the dismantling of Republican States. Of late this false narrative has been fuelled by the gruesome and reprehensible attacks in France and unfortunately serves as the basis for severe and targeted legislative action being taken against Muslims living and practising their faith peacefully in France and around Europe.

The re-emergence of the crude and offensive caricatures published by Charlie Hebdo alongside the unfair and unfounded allegations made by the French government is unsettling to the billion plus Muslims who understand and adhere to the true teachings of Islam and are well acquainted with the exemplary character of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Unfortunately the response of some members of the global Muslim community to these events has been inflammatory and divisive; the boycotting of French products by Muslims around the world has impacted French businesses that were already struggling amidst a pandemic. Protests featuring demeaning cartoons and images of the French President have served to present Muslims as abrasive and disrespectful towards Western governments. In an effort to protect Islam against false allegations this impulsive backlash has only reinforced the narrative of separatism.

Islam is not a separatist religion. In Surah An-Nisa, verse 60 the Holy Qur’an states the following:

“O ye who believe! Obey Allah, and obey His Messenger and those who are in authority over you. And if you differ in anything among yourselves refer it to Allah and His Messenger if you are believers in Allah and the Last Day. That is best and most commendable in the end.”[1]

Thus, Muslims are instructed to adhere to laws of the land in which they reside that offer freedom of religious practise – as all modern, secular societies claim to do – and enjoins the promotion of community cohesion as a religious obligation. This verse also comprehensively instructs believers on what course of action should be taken when conflicts arise. Muslims should first defer the matter to Allah through prayer and then to the elegant and perfect example set by the Holy Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (peace be upon him).

As Muslims it is natural that we desire to protect our beloved faith against defamation but we must appreciate that such volatile reactions result in the beauty of Islam being lost in translation. To truly be a defender and advocate of the faith is to wholly abide by the teachings of the Holy Qur’an and follow the example of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) both in our everyday lives as well as in response to distressing events. His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad, head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community iterates this idea in his book titled The Blessed Model of the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa and the Caricatures, stating:

“We are followers of the Holy Prophetsa, who came to put the fire out, who was the Ambassador of Love, was the Prince of Peace. So rather than take harsh actions, impart his beautiful teaching to the World”[2]

The traditions of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) are taught to all Muslims and form a large part of our spiritual practise, second only to the instructions of the Holy Qur’an. Any individual that studies the life of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) will quickly come to realise that he endured severe abuse at the hands of the enemies of Islam, yet his reaction was always that of compassion, dignity, respect and mercy. It is through these means alongside the help of Allah that in just twenty three years the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) was able to establish Islam and transform society in the region, creating a nation that enjoyed many of the rights and freedoms that modern secular societies claim to strive for but are still somewhat failing to achieve.

In the name of modernity the Western world has become detached from religion, as such Islam is given a cultural identity and is considered only in terms of how Muslims behave instead of what is actually written in scripture. Intersectional conflict in the global Muslim community, corruption within Muslims states and such volatile responses to defamation have allowed Western governments to make the erroneous accusation that Islam is a religion in crisis. The only narrative powerful enough to counter these false perceptions is that set out by the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

References:

[1] The Holy Quran with English Translation by Maulawi Sher Ali (ra), Chapter 4, Verse 60.

[2] The Blessed Model of the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa and the Caricatures, His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad. Available at [URL: https://www.alislam.org/book/blessed-model-holy-prophet-muhammad-caricatures/]

Postnatal Depression and Covid Times

Mahrukh Arif-Tayyeb, Newcastle

Giving birth is a unique experience – it can also be quite a solitary one.

Women spend nine months carrying the little bundle of joy they are expecting: nine long months imagining his face, the sound of his voice, and the touch of his tiny little hands and feet. Everything is exciting for a first-time mum: the first scan, the first kicks and the gender-reveal. For nine months, the yet invisible little being growing inside you is stretching your body, tiring you out and making you weak but still making you the happiest woman in the world. And then, comes the day. The day when it all becomes real: when you finally get to hold the tiny creature who was moving inside your belly just yesterday.

The birth experience puts you into different mental stages. From the ‘I can’t wait to give birth‘ to‘ I am never doing this again‘, a million thoughts run through your head during labour. But then, when the midwife puts the baby on your chest, you forget everything almost in an instant.  The whole world stops for a second: even if you’re surrounded by a large medical team, in that moment, it’s just you and your baby. And that’s when it hits you: ‘I am a mother’.

Of course, in the beginning, the surge of hormones and the excitement of the new arrival is a source of happiness. Your family members are over the moon, you receive thousands of messages, calls even hospital visits throughout the day that cheer you up.

Sadly however, the birth experience isn’t the same for every woman. Some women do not feel any happiness at the arrival of their baby. The judgement and remarks of some family members make it worse: ‘you don’t look happy’, ‘you are being ungrateful’, ‘why are you crying on such a happy occasion?’ etc. Some women have trouble bonding with their newborn and when they manage to express this, they are severely judged and misunderstood.

Depression doesn’t knock before paving a way into your mind, it strikes suddenly – and nobody should be shamed for that. Many factors lead to this condition, but most importantly, your mental state during pregnancy and your surroundings play a huge role in this. Yet, whenever it strikes, some people will put the blame on you, they will try to convince you that there is something wrong with you, that you don’t have the mother instinct, adding more guilt and affliction to your condition. As I said before, giving birth can be a unique but solitary experience. At night time, you need to manage everything by yourself, think about all the possible reasons why your baby is fussy, gassy, cranky and make decisions – the right ones. Otherwise, you feel incompetent, and at times, you feel like your own child doesn’t love/need you. Postnatal depression pushes these normal new mum struggles to an edge and makes you think the worst about yourself. This is why it is important to recognize it early and seek help. For some women, the judgement of other experienced mothers and mothers-in-law lead them to such low esteem that they end up being submerged in suicidal thoughts.

So as we enter the second national lockdown, I call onto all the pregnant ladies and young mothers to take care of their mental health. We are all in the same boat, everyone is longing to meet their loved ones, and praying to live in a world where we can all meet freely again. But you are carrying/welcoming a new life: make sure you give them the best and happiest version of yourself. Put your trust in Allah, and strengthen your bond with Him for His gentle care will reassure you in your most distressing times. I also urge all ladies and gentlemen, to bear this in mind when you go to a visit a newborn next: try not to judge, rather be helpful, try not to taunt, rather be caring.

Having experienced postnatal depression first hand, I can say that a strong bond with God and the loving and encouraging words of my friends and family saved me from the reaching an extreme phase. Postnatal depression leaves painful after-effects though, therefore, make sure you take care of the pregnant ladies and new mothers around you. It is not easy to give birth in these difficult Covid times, where you can’t get any family or friends to come over and cheer you up. Your words can make or break someone’s heart. Therefore, try to heal an anxious heart with your tender love and care – because a happy mother is a blessing for a newborn. So you would be doing your next generation a huge favour.

Postnatal Depression and Covid Times

Mahrukh Arif-Tayyeb, Newcastle

Giving birth is a unique experience – it can also be quite a solitary one.

Women spend nine months carrying the little bundle of joy they are expecting: nine long months imagining his face, the sound of his voice, and the touch of his tiny little hands and feet. Everything is exciting for a first-time mum: the first scan, the first kicks and the gender-reveal. For nine months, the yet invisible little being growing inside you is stretching your body, tiring you out and making you weak but still making you the happiest woman in the world. And then, comes the day. The day when it all becomes real: when you finally get to hold the tiny creature who was moving inside your belly just yesterday.

The birth experience puts you into different mental stages. From the ‘I can’t wait to give birth‘ to‘ I am never doing this again‘, a million thoughts run through your head during labour. But then, when the midwife puts the baby on your chest, you forget everything almost in an instant.  The whole world stops for a second: even if you’re surrounded by a large medical team, in that moment, it’s just you and your baby. And that’s when it hits you: ‘I am a mother’.

Of course, in the beginning, the surge of hormones and the excitement of the new arrival is a source of happiness. Your family members are over the moon, you receive thousands of messages, calls even hospital visits throughout the day that cheer you up.

Sadly however, the birth experience isn’t the same for every woman. Some women do not feel any happiness at the arrival of their baby. The judgement and remarks of some family members make it worse: ‘you don’t look happy’, ‘you are being ungrateful’, ‘why are you crying on such a happy occasion?’ etc. Some women have trouble bonding with their newborn and when they manage to express this, they are severely judged and misunderstood.

Depression doesn’t knock before paving a way into your mind, it strikes suddenly – and nobody should be shamed for that. Many factors lead to this condition, but most importantly, your mental state during pregnancy and your surroundings play a huge role in this. Yet, whenever it strikes, some people will put the blame on you, they will try to convince you that there is something wrong with you, that you don’t have the mother instinct, adding more guilt and affliction to your condition. As I said before, giving birth can be a unique but solitary experience. At night time, you need to manage everything by yourself, think about all the possible reasons why your baby is fussy, gassy, cranky and make decisions – the right ones. Otherwise, you feel incompetent, and at times, you feel like your own child doesn’t love/need you. Postnatal depression pushes these normal new mum struggles to an edge and makes you think the worst about yourself. This is why it is important to recognize it early and seek help. For some women, the judgement of other experienced mothers and mothers-in-law lead them to such low esteem that they end up being submerged in suicidal thoughts.

So as we enter the second national lockdown, I call onto all the pregnant ladies and young mothers to take care of their mental health. We are all in the same boat, everyone is longing to meet their loved ones, and praying to live in a world where we can all meet freely again. But you are carrying/welcoming a new life: make sure you give them the best and happiest version of yourself. Put your trust in Allah, and strengthen your bond with Him for His gentle care will reassure you in your most distressing times. I also urge all ladies and gentlemen, to bear this in mind when you go to a visit a newborn next: try not to judge, rather be helpful, try not to taunt, rather be caring.

Having experienced postnatal depression first hand, I can say that a strong bond with God and the loving and encouraging words of my friends and family saved me from the reaching an extreme phase. Postnatal depression leaves painful after-effects though, therefore, make sure you take care of the pregnant ladies and new mothers around you. It is not easy to give birth in these difficult Covid times, where you can’t get any family or friends to come over and cheer you up. Your words can make or break someone’s heart. Therefore, try to heal an anxious heart with your tender love and care – because a happy mother is a blessing for a newborn. So you would be doing your next generation a huge favour.

Grief in Covid Times

Manaal Rehman, London

By the grace of Allah, I have been amongst a blessed few to have all of my childhood, teenage age years and early adulthood, surrounded by all four of my grandparents. I had the opportunity to be spoilt by them, loved by them, to know them in their health, be imparted with their wisdom and be a part of them as much as they are a part of me.  Yet, on the 13th of October, this all came to an end. My Dadi Ami (paternal grandmother), Mrs Amtul Hayee Rehman passed away in St Thomas Hospital in London, from a combination of pneumonia, a chest infection and pulmonary fibrosis. Before meeting her Maker, she made it clear that her time had come and she embraced her passing with great dignity, grace and maybe even a trace of joy.

Dadi Ami went into hospital on the Friday, convincing us all that she should be getting some oxygen and drip and then coming home, this would not have been an issue at all, but due to Covid-19 we were restricted from visiting. We called her regularly, and she told us that she was perfectly fine.

On Tuesday morning just after Fajr, we got a phone call, telling us to reach the hospital as soon as possible. Permission was granted to her husband and children to see her. Due to Covid restrictions, the rest of us were told to wait outside the ward. For a brief second, I saw my Dadi Ami through a small window in the door as they moved her into a separate room.  The hardest thing I have ever had to do, in my entire life, is to sit outside, knowing I was a few metres away from my Dadi Ami, yet I would never see her alive again. All I wanted at that moment was to hold her hand and tell her that her ‘ favourite grandchild’ was here.

Instead, we waited. Later that day, upon seeing all of her children, husband and nearest sibling together, she took her last breath.

Only after her death, we were allowed to see her, three people at a time. At the time I was patient, though angry, and numb at the same time. As my father announced to the extended family of her death, I remember thinking that ‘nope, not me, not now, I am not ready’. I tweeted that.

Upon the announcement of her death, a vast number of text messages, WhatsApp notifications and phone calls from people giving their condolences began pouring in, left-right and centre.  The three traditional days of condolence became three days of phone roulette, where my family was sitting together in a room, and just passing phones around. Essentially all listening to and repeating the same sentences again and again. ‘No, she was not ill for long’, ‘yes, she went to the hospital on the Friday to get a drip’, and ‘very sorry to hear of your loss’. This went on and on, for what felt like an eternity.

My last message to her was, ‘Dadi Ami, please pray that Allah gives my weak little heart, lots of strength’ – and I know she did. I was blessed with the opportunity to be there for her ghusl (Islamic practice of bathing the deceased), and throughout this, I was entirely numb. I was at my strongest when my family around me was grieving. My grandfather was a pillar of support for everyone. He bore his loss, replied to the messages and answered the never-ending phone calls with complete and utmost patience, and said only one thing. ‘Please pray, please pray, please pray’. 

Another hugely difficult task through coping with a death in this situation was telling people to not visit to pay their condolences, and to decline many people, who loved her dearly from coming to the funeral. Due to the Covid restrictions it was difficult for the family to decide who could come to the funeral. Eventually, it was decided that we would allow people to come to the funeral in batches, we allocated time slots for the closest family to come. A few people would come into the funeral home at a time, as it was a larger space, and guidelines at the time allowed so.

Yet, I could not be around the people that I knew could support me the most and felt that I had to hold onto my grief until I could find somewhere and someone to let it out to.

The funeral arrangement turned out to be a blessing in disguise. For the first time, in my lifetime, I had seen someone’s funeral Prayer offered six times. Six times people lined up, and six times did people pray for her forgiveness.  That must have been an honour for her in the eyes of Allah.  All deaths are difficult for those left behind, be it a pandemic or otherwise. And regardless of whatever happens grief stays, and will stay. To conclude, I would like to humbly request prayers for my Dadi Ami that may Allah grant her lofty station in Paradise, and I also request prayers for the rest of my family.

A Cycle of Retaliation

Sameea Jonnud, Aldershot

This year has been a difficult one with Covid-19 causing so much fear and anxiety in people around the world; as the virus dominated the news with reports of infection rates and restrictions, it sometimes felt as if all other news had faded into the background. When we have a common enemy this great we don’t need the added burden of conflict with one another. 

Other stories have been prominent for a time, for example the Black Lives Matter demonstrations held to protest police brutality in the USA, but now terrorism has reared its ugly head again in France, firstly with the brutal murder of teacher Samuel Paty, then with the murder of three people in a church in Nice. Inside a church, is nothing sacred? Teacher M. Paty was murdered after a lesson on freedom of speech in which he showed caricatures of the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of God be on him. He had warned his students beforehand and, understanding the pain it would give them, told them to leave the classroom or look away. Yet this lesson enraged the murderer enough for him to carry out a brutal murder.

Of course this has led to a great backlash against Islam and Muslims despite the fact that Islam, a peaceful religion, does not permit such acts. As His Holiness, Mirza Masroor Ahmad, head of the worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community stated:

“Our religion does not permit terrorism or extremism under any circumstances and anyone who claims otherwise acts against the teachings of the Holy Qur’an and contrary to the noble character of the Holy Prophet of Islam.”

Westerners have been quick to support the French President Emmanuel Macron who has vowed to root out ‘Islamist terrorists’ while Muslim leaders, led by Turkey’s President Erdoğan have condemned him for his attitude towards Muslims. More tension and conflict when we need to stand together.

His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad spoke about rising tensions between the West and the Islamic world:

“We consider this to be a source of deep regret and a means of further undermining the peace and stability of the world. We must all join together to root out all forms of extremism and to encourage mutual understanding and tolerance.”

Tensions between the West and Islamic countries have been going on for many years and the cycle of violence shows no sign of ending. Where understanding is needed to douse the flames of hatred, it is absent, replaced with quick hot-headed retaliation which only serves to escalate the situation.

Muslims do feel pain at attacks on their religion and the blessed character of the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of God be on him, but should a true Muslim get angry and retaliate? His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad has explained:

“I also say this to those who are known as Muslims…when the person of the Holy Prophet is attacked, rather than exhibiting momentary passion, burning flags, causing damage and destruction and attacking embassies, reform their deeds instead, so that the others do not get a chance to point their finger at them.”

Now with the murders of three worshippers in a church in Nice the situation has become all the more dangerous with the threat of escalation even higher. Muslims who are outraged by attacks on the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of God be on him, should take a breath and ask themselves what would he have done? A man who ordered places of worship to be protected, who forgave his most bitter enemies, would not celebrate these violent responses, rather he would be pained to see what is being done purportedly in his name.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community across the world has always publicly stood shoulder to shoulder with fellow citizens in times like these, joining in remembrance vigils and offering help where needed. This is what the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of God be on him, would have wanted his followers to do because this is what his teachings and actions have shown us. Only by standing together can we build understanding and have a chance to finish this cycle of conflict the world is in.

Reference:

Art and Science: Intersections of Life

Maha Khan, London

Many wonder whether facts and beauty can collide. Whether the workings of science can be intertwined with that of art or vice versa. Throughout history some have concluded that the line between the two subject matters is very much blurred.

When discussing such a vast subject matter, one reputable historical figure that comes to mind is Leonardo da Vinci, also known as the master of art and science. He understood the intersection between art and science and excelled in both fields. Many are aware of Leonardo da Vinci’s oh-so-famous masterpiece “Mona Lisa”, as it captivates all its admirers. The slight smile and the sideways glance gives a glimpse into her inner psychology. To accomplish this masterpiece, he carefully engineered the iconic portrait by cleverly studying the muscles and nerves of the face which is the beauty of the collision of science and art.

Art and science have most definitely coexisted, often indistinguishable from one another, across space and time. A great deal of early documented examples comes from the Islamic culture, where art and science joined in intricate star-shaped architectural geometry, and the use of “nur” (light) and material science to design utensils and lettering in manuscripts.

Nowadays, the relationship between art and science in our society is more complex: Even though scientists and artists both are driven to observe and create, they mainly are separated by a cultural divide and share opposing cultural spheres. These spheres come together through serendipity and other times intentionally.

However, the two are more intertwined than we like to believe, as both are human attempts to comprehend and describe the world around us. Though the audiences and methods may differ the end goal is fundamentally the same.

I believe that the most primal need of a human being is to understand our world, and our existence and share our knowledge with the rest of mankind. More than ever, there seems to be a pressing need for demolition of the wall that separates the world of science and art.

We have witnessed throughout history that mankind makes great progress when this barrier is removed. In the past, during periods of great enlightenment, scientific revolutions have often been accompanied by an artistic boom. A great example of this has been the Renaissance period which completely renewed Europe after a long, dark and unproductive period.

God has advanced mankind to the degree that it can make such innovations and discoveries. The Nobel prize winner, Dr Abdus Salam was a physicist who proclaimed that his muse was the Holy Holy Qur’an. He firmly claimed that there are hidden gems in the Holy Book for those who are willing to look and understand. God Almighty states:

‘In the creation of the heavens and the earth and in the alternation of the night and the day there are indeed Signs for men of understanding;

Those who remember Allah while standing, sitting, and lying on their sides, and ponder over the creation of the heavens and the earth: “Our Lord, Thou hast not created this in vain…’ (3:191-192)

It is bemusing to those with a curious mind that the Book which appeared 1400 years ago can hold such an important value in the scientific world. It truly is the ultimate example of the world of literature and science collaborating in an inseparable bond. The Holy Qur’an emphasizes the superiority of the alim علیم– a person endowed with or possessed of knowledge.

There are an astonishing 750 verses of the Holy Qur’an which exhort believers to study nature, to ponder, to make the best use of reason in their search for the ultimate and to make the acquiring of knowledge and scientific comprehension part of a community’s livelihood.

The study of nature whether it be through science or artistic observation has been encouraged in the religion of Islam. Islamic art has been an integral part of the architecture, paintings and other artistic mediums throughout history. There are repeating elements in Islamic art, such as the use of stylised geometric floral, or vegetal designs in a repetition known as the arabesque. The arabesque in Islamic art is often used to symbolise the transcendent, indivisible and infinite nature of God. The truth is when human minds ponder over the world that surrounds them, whether it be their conscious mind or the external realities of our existence it always leads us to the ultimate Fashioner and Creator of this universe. As a matter of fact, upon reflection, it is quite beautiful that every petal, every leaf or stone takes one back to one’s source of life, to one’s Creator.

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