Ahmadiyya · Women

Nasirat Ijtema

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Danila Jonnud, Aldershot

It’s Saturday the 14th of September and Day 2 of the National Lajna Ima’illah and Nasiratul Ahmadiyya Ijtema 2019. Ijtema is three days of attending speeches and presentations, listening to Tilawats (recitations of the Holy Qur’an) and Nazms (Urdu poems) as well as other interesting items.

Throughout the years, much has changed about Ijtema. When I was younger, we would sit in a big hall at Baitul Futuh Mosque complex, and listen to all the competitors, waiting for lunch to arrive when we ran around playing games, or buying chips.

This morning was different though with such a sense of déja vu as I walked in and saw the big white tents, and the grass, when barely two months ago we had the Jalsa Salana with a similar scene, There was a large marquee for the main Lajna programme as well a a series of smaller marquees for accommodation, dining, lectures, exhibition and Nasirat programme; lots to choose from.

For the past couple of years, the Nasirat girls (aged 7-14) have been given more to do than simply listen, and there have been specially tailored lectures on interesting current issues as well as an exhibition marquee. As soon as I walked into the exhibition marquee I saw signs with interactive stalls such as Lajna Mastermind – two minutes to answer questions and get on the leader board, or building blocks which you could write on to build a wall for strengthening methods of tabligh (outreach). Further on, there was a stall about sound, another about the Solar System with a quiz, and a third about recycling and how to reduce our use of plastics. Right at the end of the marquee, there was a display of homegrown vegetables and how to do the same. I also liked the stall about light where, using shaded plastic, I could see ‘invisible’ writing. All these stalls were linked with a different attribute of Allah, for example the one featuring light was accompanied by a banner about Al-Noor the Light.

In the lecture marquee which featured many interesting discussions conducted by AMRA (Ahmadiyya Muslim Research Association) which included ancient history, disabilities and special needs, mental health, and health and fitness.

For my generation, I think it’s especially important to raise awareness on such important topics. Both the sustainability of our Earth, as well as being able to tackle things such as depression and anxiety are fundamental for our future.

Then in the central marquee, the participants of the many Lajna competitions presented their research based on the theme of the Ijtema, The Divine Attributes of Allah the Almighty. These were also interesting because the teams used both words and visuals in English and in Urdu so everyone there could understand and enjoy their presentations.

There was such a lot to see and do at Ijtema and, for those staying after dark, there was even the chance to do some stargazing. As Day 2 ends I’m looking forward to the final day when Hadhur, may Allah be his Helper, is scheduled to address the Lajna and Nasirat from our marquee.

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Ahmadiyya · Women

Ijtema Time

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Sameea Jonnud, Aldershot

After Jalsa Salana and before winter sets in, the Ahmadiyya Muslim community auxiliaries hold their annual “Ijtema”, where members assemble to learn about their faith and its teachings. To me going to Ijtema holds the same importance as going to Jalsa Salana, something that, while not obligatory the way Eid Prayer is, I can’t think of not doing.

The very earliest Lajna and Nasirat Ijtemas I remember were held in the Mahmood Hall of Fazl Mosque where there would be competitions in recitation of the Holy Qur’an and poems, memorised speeches and a quiz on Islamic knowledge. After this, as numbers increased, Ijtema moved to different locations including the Baitul Futuh Mosque complex for many years. Currently it is held at Country Market, near Bordon in Hampshire. Academic competitions are still held but alongside them is a programme of lectures and exhibitions as well as outdoor activities for the girls.

The theme of this year’s ijtema is “Attributes of Allah the Almighty”, a theme I find especially fitting as our new local Mubarak Mosque in Islamabad, is unique in being decorated with examples of God’s Attributes in beautiful Arabic script so whenever you enter and look around, you see His Names and can reflect on them. With the Attributes of Allah being researched and presented at Ijtema, the audience will be able to spend the weekend reflecting on them.

In addition to the religious academic events there are lectures planned on different topics which are so important in our daily lives, for example physical and mental health, special needs and disabilities. Exhibitions include sustainability and environmental issues which are important for our future.

Wherever we go in Ijtema, whether watching the presentations, listening to lectures or learning about science and life it is Allah and His different attributes that we will be reminded of and be grateful to for all that He gives us, which, ultimately is the purpose of Ijtema.

All of this is alongside the opportunity to meet up with friends and family from across the country plus the great example for our children of women planning and running their own event. I’ve always looked forward to Ijtema each year and this year is no different.

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Darkness and Light

Yusra poem

Features

Smiles and Cheerful Faces

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Basira Ajmal, Bournemouth

With 39,829 attendees from 115 countries of the world, the 53rd Jalsa Salana UK has come to a successful end. The 3 blessed days of Jalsa UK passed so quickly and gave us many Jalsa memories and love to take away with us.

You see, Jalsa for me is a lot more than just an event or gathering. It’s a whole experience, a feeling that is very hard to describe. Meeting and bonding with people from all across the globe. They’ve come from so many different nations, backgrounds and professions, but here at Jalsa there are no worldly borders between us, we are one. We feel no difference between any of us as every single one of us is here for the one same purpose; to enhance our spirituality, to share the love among ourselves and to make ourselves better persons.

And I think Jalsa is very empowering for women especially me, as you see there’s a whole area for women that is completely run by women young and old from all walks of life, including doctors, teachers, engineers, housewives, students, who all happily volunteer their capabilities for all sorts of tasks without any worldly recompense. However, they get the reward in the form of mental satisfaction from helping everyone in creating this environment of love, peace, and sisterhood.

Everywhere you look, you’ll see smiles and cheerful faces.

My favourite part of Jalsa is the International Bai’at ceremony that is the pledge of allegiance at the hand of our Beloved Khalifa.

When thousands of Ahmadi Muslims on-site form a human chain leading to His Holiness, and when all of us here and millions from around the world watching through live broadcast, repeat in unison behind the Khalifa the words of the pledge, the physical connection is turned into an emotional and spiritual connection.

We ask for God’s forgiveness and pledge to fulfil the rights of God and to fulfil the rights of our fellow human beings and be of benefit to mankind in every way possible. It is a very soul stirring and uplifting experience. It won’t be wrong to say it gives me life. A spiritual rebirth.

It is truly moving seeing everyone united behind one leader, His Holiness, the Khalifatul Masih and following one motto of Love for All Hatred for None.

Ahmadiyya · Features

A Pledge of Unity

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Wajeeha Rana, Slough

Often one’s spiritual journey is perceived to be a very private and personal matter. However, as I attend the blessed three-day event of Jalsa Salana it is evident that we can and we should have a public dialogue about what true spiritual progress is and how we can all strive for it. It is almost unheard of that more than 40,000 people would come together here in the UK solely for the purpose of enriching their spiritual selves, or even that any leader would be so gracious as to strive earnestly for the spiritual betterment of their people. The occasion of Jalsa Salana UK presents itself as a welcome opportunity for contemplation and greater self-reflection for Ahmadi Muslims. Our spirituality is enhanced and nurtured amongst the company of others who all strive for the same purpose of reaffirming their beliefs and core spiritual values.

As I sat amongst my Muslim sisters listening to the powerful guidance of the Khalifa, His Holiness Khalifatul Masih V, it occurred to me that in a gathering of a spiritual nature, the mind does not stray to wonder about another’s socio-economic background, profession, or worldly success. Certainly, to focus on strengths and weaknesses of one’s own character, is to achieve freedom from the burden of worldly expectations and standards of validation. Spiritual progress in Islam is indiscriminate of gender, race or background, and this is why people of all backgrounds are able to sit, eat, volunteer and pray alongside one another as equals. Therefore, the focal point of spirituality is not just about individualism, it also draws attention to us as a collective and becomes a means for unity.

The Jalsa Salana is a reminder to us that it is not simply sufficient to physically retire from our busy lives to the solace of green fields. We must seek true solace in also resorting to a different state of mind, one that allows us to ponder upon the superiority of spiritual progress over worldly endeavours. As we join hands with our fellow Ahmadi Muslims to pledge allegiance to our Khalifa on the final day of Jalsa, it is important to realise that our connection with one another on a spiritual level will, in comparison, always be transient outside of these few precious moments. May we all find lasting comfort and inner peace in recognising that to nurture our soul is the true path to contentment. Regardless of where we are individually on our spiritual journeys, the Jalsa Salana may be for many of us, the spiritual re-awakening that we yearn for, or at the very least a catalyst for much needed reflection on the importance of spiritual advancement.

 

Uncategorized

My Time Doing Jalsa Duty

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Baaria Basit, London

Sometimes I forget that there are people that come to Jalsa just for Jalsa, as ever since the age of seven I have been lucky enough to do different duties every year Alhamdulillah. Starting from small things such as hygiene and cleanliness, water duty, to MTA filming and press and media. The feeling of being part of something, the idea that you are helping the community, brings such happiness to my heart. Making new friends with the same vision as you and getting to know new people is one of my favourite parts of Jalsa duty. During these three days you grow close to these new people, and after Jalsa you continue to say salaam and share love.

His Holiness, our Ahmadiyya Muslim Community’s worldwide spiritual head, our Khalifa has mentioned his love and appreciation for the duty holders during Jalsa many times in his addresses. Knowing that you are doing something that makes His Holiness happy, is honestly the best feeling ever. Just hearing His Holiness thank us, and show love towards us, makes my heart thump with love for the Khilafat and Hazrat Khalifatul Masih. It is always my goal to do as much Community work as possible, as many duties as I possibly can. May Allah enable everyone to do as much Community work as possible and inshallah keep a smile on the face of His Holiness

Features

Building Up The Jalsa Atmosphere

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Danila Jonnud, Aldershot

My earliest memories of Jalsa Salana do not begin with the tents, the sun, or even the mud. No, my earliest memories of Jalsa are the guests at my grandma’s house. We would climb up to the loft and bring down as many mattresses as possible which we would use to make a slope down the stairs, and using one as a sled, me and my sisters would slide down in various positions, one after the other. It was the easiest way of getting them downstairs – and the most fun!

Once they were downstairs, which admittedly took much longer than it should have, they would be put in the sun and beaten and then set up in the tidiest but accessible positions. All the rooms upstairs would be allocated to the families coming and mattresses set up in them as well. My grandmother herself refused to sleep on her own bed and my grandfather put his mattress on their treadmill! The girls and women all slept upstairs and the men downstairs and, the chief difficulty was trying not to step on anyone if you were leaving early in the morning or going to the bathroom at 1am. The morning Salat prayer was especially difficult but, despite the three days or more obstacle course, this was what created the Jalsa atmosphere and, in all honesty, I have missed it since moving out of my grandparents’ house. 

At night was most fun because on Saturday there was not much Jalsa accommodation duty to do because most people were already settled. My cousins would come back to the house to have a reunion with the guest family and we would have dinner and play, exchange stories of the day and listen to old stories of the Jalsas when there was only a hundred people, and of when the roti plant – the place where all the flat breads and naans were made – failed and all the people near enough were given bowls and bowls of kneaded flour and worked hard to cook rotis to feed all the people coming from around the world. There was laughter and despite there being another day to go, there was a bedtime no one paid attention to and more tea, coffee, juice and chocolate than was good for us at that time of the night – but it was Jalsa! A particular memory comes to me of sharing a Toblerone bar and the older people taking one piece and breaking it in half to share with another person, while we listened to how different Jalsa UK was to Canada or America.

Next, was the actual Jalsa – the tents, the smell of the fields, and mostly the hot sun, or, the pounding rain, which meant we came back muddier and muddier every day. We had a special pack of sweets which we brought at the same time every year. Strawberry laces, and pencils, strawberry lances and cola ones too. Of course, we also stocked on crisps because we are crisp fiends and then we would come home to a good dinner with all of our family and friends from around the world.

Since 2015, I have actually been a Muavina (worker) of the Lajna (ladies) Press & Media team but my earliest memories are of working in Accommodation, where we would lodge the people coming from all over the world. They would pay a deposit to buy bedding and mattresses, to lay down in the marquees which would be their homes for the next three, four and sometimes five days!

Now for the actual three days, we would meet up with our friends and family, eat the sweets and crisps we brought, play pranks, do the work in our different departments, and listen to the speeches and presentations. Another memorable thing is the inimitable pasta, which is served for lunch each year. It’s funny being a Pakistani girl choosing the chicken pasta every time, while reporters and guests always opt for the traditional daal and naan.

These are the things that make up Jalsa for me. Everyone probably has a different way of building up the Jalsa atmosphere, and their memories will revolve around different things, but personally, it is the atmosphere and the build-up that makes Jalsa for me – as well as the sun and the mud!

Features · Islam

اَلْحَمِیْد al-Hameed (The Praiseworthy)

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By Dr Aalia Khan, London

God’s existence can be seen anywhere and everywhere, for those who are enabled to look. How can we see God’s existence in our day to day lives? Why is it important that we recognise, appreciate and praise His Being?

We know about God, Who we call Allah as Muslims, through His attributes which are immeasurable and numerous. In the Holy Quran and the Ahadith we are taught ninety-nine Divine Attributes. Al Hameed is one of them, translated as ‘The Praiseworthy’. It comes from the root Arabic word Hamd. The Holy Quran in its second verse, states:

الحمد للہ رب العلمین
‘All praise belongs to Allah, Lord of all the worlds’ (1:2)

The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) writes that hamd ‘means lauding one who has done a favour of his own volition and according to his own choice. The true reality of hamd is the due only of the Being Who is the source of all grace and light and exercises beneficence deliberately and not in ignorance or under compulsion. All this is found only in Allah, the All-Knowing, the All-Seeing. Indeed He is the true Benefactor and from Him proceed all benefits from beginning to end, and for Him is all glorification, in this world and in the hereafter and all praise that is bestowed on others reverts to Him.’

After reading this, we can be certain that it is because of those 98 other Divine attributes, that Allah is most deserving of praise. We see His grace, His mercy and His perfection everywhere if we only take the care to look. The Supreme Being Who created the earth on which we live. A planet that is perfectly suited to life. Abundance of water, vegetation, living things for food and sustenance, each is evidence of Allah’s perfection and balance.

In his Friday Sermon of 2 February 2018, the spiritual head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad (may Allah be his Helper) explained the attribute of Al Hameed thus:

‘Hameed means the one worthy of praise and to whom true praise belongs. In other words, Allah alone is to be praised. Strive to learn about God’s blessings and His attributes and to seek ways of praising Him. Strive for this like a greedy person. And when you reach that perfect state or even get a whiff of it, it is as if you have found Him. And this is the secret that is only revealed to the seekers of guidance. This is your Lord and your Master Who is Perfect in Himself and possesses all the perfect attributes and praises. He is the repository of hamd and comprehends all praise and all that is praiseworthy. Therefore, we should be cognizant of God being the source of hamd so that we can recognize His other attributes as well.’

According to Sahih Bukhari Book 19 Hadith 1, the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) would offer this supplication during the Tahajjud (pre-dawn supererogatory Prayer):
‘O’ Allah! All praises are for you!’
The one man who recognised fully the glory of Allah the Almighty was Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon Him). And thus he supplicated by praising Allah. The perfect example of how to praise Allah is before us.

Our goal as Muslims is the worship of our Creator. We do this not only by observing the five daily Prayers but also in our appreciation of the good things in our life: our parents, our families, our neighbours, our fellow community members, our just and righteous leaders, our teachers, our children, our spouses, our peaceful places of worship. These are all blessings of Allah the Almighty that He has bestowed on us, the favours that He has given us. These are not things that we have beseeched Him to provide for us. He has given them to us without our asking. . We don’t have to look far to recognise these blessings, these gifts. When someone gives us a gift, we say thank you. Our Lord is entitled to much much more than mere thanks.

Here is an English translation of a verse from a poem of the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace):

Praise and glory to the One Who’s Eternal
There is no one equal unto Him, nor one like Him.

 

References:

Commentary on the Holy Quran, Vol I, Surah Fatiha, p. 72

https://www.alislam.org/tj/sermons/FSJ20180202-EN.pdf (p.2)

Precious Pearls, p. 42

Features · Islam

I’tikaf: A Young Person’s Experience

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Abgina Sohail, Kingston

To seclude oneself completely from the world and devote oneself to the remembrance of Allah, the Almighty, and the study of the Holy Qur’an at a mosque for ten days straight is something that many Muslims try to do at least once in their life, if not more. This Islamic practice is referred to as ‘i’tikaf’, and it traditionally takes place in the last ten days of Ramadan. And this is exactly what I managed to complete successfully this year.

The holy month of Ramadan brings out so much goodness from everyone’s hearts that Muslims naturally try their utmost to live the best life they can in this very month. Many use this period to strengthen their spiritual selves while keeping up with their fasts every day. This kind of eagerness goes back to the time of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) who “used to tighten his girdle, keep awake for most of the night for prayers and exhort his family to do the same.” In addition to that, the “Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) used to go into retreat in the mosque during the last ten days and nights of Ramadan.” It’s no wonder that there are so many blessings throughout this month, for its foundations were so blessed.

Given the spiritual blessings of this month, many opt to practice i’tikaf during the last ten days. They cut themselves off from the world for a short while, saying goodbye to electronics and anything that may cause a distraction in the mosque. Sometimes disconnecting from the rest of the world can do wonders in terms of self-help and healing. Moreover, it helps you to connect with Allah even better since you have nothing else to turn to. It’s as if this is a physical reminder that Allah, the Almighty, is the only One Who can help us and He is the only One we should turn to when we need anything. At times, staying at the mosque for a long period can get pretty overwhelming too, because it feels as if you are under the watch of Allah more than ever once you first enter the mosque.

This, for me, was the most rewarding and fulfilling time I have ever spent remembering my Creator and educating myself about Islam. At first, it was definitely nerve-wracking thinking that everyone else engaging in i’tikaf would be much more adept than I was, or that they knew things I didn’t in terms of supplications and Islam in general. However, everyone was so welcoming and helpful instead, and of course, they were there for the same reasons as I was so it felt like intuition telling us all to help one another as well as support each other silently as we prayed together. There were many who kept checking on everyone else to see whether we woke up on time, or how far we had gotten in the Holy Qur’an, as well as making sure everyone was out in time to break our fast.

Our emotional journeys are something we ended up sharing as well. There were many times when I could hear the others crying and praying late at night or early morning after sehri (pre-dawn breakfast) time, which can sometimes lead one to well up with those same feelings inside. Another time, we all felt and shared our happiness as we sat in a group and listened to a few of us discussing Islam, including any questions or concerns any of us had. It became a fun part of the ten day spiritual journey to want to increase my knowledge, to want to get up early with everyone to offer tahajjud (pre-dawn voluntary) Prayers for even more blessings, and to be able to finish the Holy Qur’an before I went home.

One thing I will remember most is the last night we spent at the mosque. During our last tarawih (late night) Prayer, people were feeling so emotional as they cried that it moved me, and I as a person find it hard to cry during any kind of prayer, so I was tempted to force myself to cry along. However, I learned an important thing when I voiced this concern. To cry for show is not what Allah wants, as it is done only for other people to see. It is the sincerity and the fear of not pleasing Him, the love and the attempt to follow Him that Allah wants.

Since I was able to do so much in a mere ten days, I realised that this had always been inside me; the willpower to do everything I did to please Allah. When I came home, I had already decided that I can become an even better person by continuing to act upon what I picked up and learned.
References:

Ramadhan and its Blessings by Sheikh Mubarak Ahmad https://www.alislam.org/library/book/ramadhan-blessings/itikaf/ https://www.alislam.org/library/articles/fasting-fourth-pillar-islam/

Ahmadiyya · Features · Islam

‘Al Salam’: The Source of Peace

AlSalamblog.pngTooba Khokhar, Cambridge

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils…

I still remember encountering this poem for the first time, as many of us will have done, in an age its poet deems “apparelled in celestial light, the glory and freshness of a dream”, that is to say, childhood. Nature, the unchanging backdrop to the rituals of life, is where so many of our greatest loves and desires are often played out.

In the Persian tradition too, the lover is symbolised by a nightingale and the beloved a rose. But such an affection is tinged in sadness for the rose’s beauty is as quick to fade as it is to bloom. The nightingale whose sweet melody resounds joyfully in Spring is despondent in Winter. The question that arises then is this: is beauty that fades beauty at all? What comfort can we attain from an object that will pass and in a moment be no more?

The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) has an answer to this cosmic riddle. There is a lot of comfort to be attained, he counsels, for the attraction we feel for forms of beauty is really an attraction towards the Divine. Such love is “a reflection of that very love”[1].

Thus, any experience of beauty, momentary though it may be, is always a source of peace. Indeed, it is in this connection the Holy Qur’an states that

He it is Who sent down tranquillity into the hearts of the believers that they might add faith to their faith — and to Allah belong the hosts of the heavens and the earth, and Allah is All-knowing, Wise —[2]

Many are the ways in which God causes our hearts to blossom and be at ease. Whether in the rose or daffodil, the burst of a cool, gentle breeze, or the multifarious other ways we experience Divine comfort.

This comfort and tranquillity comes from the Divine Attribute of Al Salam, the Bestower of Peace. All true peace stems from God, therefore the seeds for such peace must be planted deep within the human soul, in a relationship with its Maker.

In the Holy Qur’an we read that “Allah calls to the abode of peace” (10:26). God as the Source of Peace, “wishes security for His Creation”[3]. And in all the verses of His revealed book, He sets out a blueprint for achieving this peace in the domain of the home, society and the world at large.

It has been said of religion that it is the “opium of the masses”. Indeed, outwardly devotion not to mention corrupt institutions may well be likened to a drug that gives momentary pleasure and lasting decay. However, could true connection with the qualities of mercy, generosity and godliness give cause to anything but lasting peace?

Indeed, they are if anything the true enablers of peace. Until we reach that stage however, we can make sweet our time by seeking peace in the glimpse afforded by the rose and daffodil into the shoreless ocean of the beauty of the Divine.

[1] The Essence of Islam, Vol I, p. 137. URL: https://www.alislam.org/books/Essence-1.pdf

[2] The Holy Qur’an 48:5. URL: https://www.alislam.org/quran/48:5

[3] Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba) in his Friday Sermon dated 11/12/2015. URL: https://www.alislam.org/archives/sermons/summary/FSD20151211-EN.pdf