Social Integration

 

Social Integration

Sameea Ahmad, Aldershot

Modern Britain is full of people of different faiths from around the world mixing with a traditionally Christian, white population. Potentially this could cause problems and has done at times, when newcomers have been seen as intruders bringing with them their strange ways.

Actually, for a Muslim there is no conflict between Islam and other faiths or peoples, and Muslims who choose to live in a predominantly non-Muslim country are fully a part of it and just as loyal as they are to a country of their own faith. His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad, worldwide head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, said in December 2012:

“Islam… actually commands us to be absolutely loyal and devoted to our country of residence. Indeed, the Holy Prophetsa particularly emphasised that love for one’s nation is a part of faith for any true Muslim.” i

True loyalty and devotion can be shown by integrating into society.

Sometimes minorities have heavily populated certain areas, for example Jews in Golders Green, north London or South Asians in Southall which has led to accusations that they are not integrating. Visible Muslims seem more pressured to integrate partly because of their different way of dressing and partly as a backlash against Islam in these days of terrorism and conflict. Muslims, especially women, are told many times they should ‘fit in’ to modern Britain by discarding their ‘archaic’ head coverings and conforming to modern Western practices.

However there is actually no need to discard symbols of our faith or stop practicing any aspect of it in order to integrate into society; it is entirely possible to become part of our local community whilst staying true to our faith. There are Muslim men and women across the country working in different jobs while still practicing their faith without compromise; the female doctor or teacher working in her hijab, for example, is a very visible sign of integration. As well as this Muslim men and women continue to perform their five daily Prayers or keep fasts without neglecting their work, something which is not obviously visible. Muslim students go to university and are able to participate fully in student life without drinking alcohol the way their non Muslim peers may be doing, and in fact often find their friends keep in mind that they won’t be drinking for religious reasons and so don’t pressure them.

Showing loyalty to our nation is one aspect of becoming part of the society in which we live, and this can be done literally, for example by joining the police force or army as well as by small day-to-day sacrifices of our time or money in order to benefit our local communities. Looking after the welfare of friends and neighbours or volunteering in schools are ways Muslim women can contribute to society even if they are not working.

There have been reports from time to time of local councils being reluctant to put up Christmas decorations to avoid offending local Muslims; many could be offended but the headlines always lay the blame on Muslims, which results in an increase of hostility towards Islam with accusations that Muslims are not integrating. However, most Muslims aren’t offended if their non Muslim neighbours celebrate their festivals; if our neighbours celebrate Christmas we can and should give them greeting cards and gifts to show we wish them well. We can also send them something at Eid and tell them we would like to share our celebration with them.

My local mosque, the Mubarak Mosque is situated in an area that is traditionally not diverse and its opening made me think about the importance of integrating into society rather than being cut off from it. At the inauguration of the mosque on 29th June 2019 His Holiness, Mirza Masroor Ahmad summed it up perfectly and his words are guidance for all Ahmadi Muslims, and, indeed, other minorities, to follow:

“Ever since we came here, we have sought to assimilate into the local society and this is proved by the fact that many of you are our old friends and acquaintances… Certainly, we have no desire to live an isolated existence, rather we desire to integrate and to be responsible citizens who serve and benefit the local community.

Indeed, this is what I believe to be the definition of true integration – to be entirely loyal to your country of residence, to uphold the laws of the land, to serve your local community and to use whatever skills or capabilities you have for the betterment of your nation.” ii

If these words were followed all newcomers would integrate smoothly into society leading to an ideal situation for everyone.

 

 

I – https://www.reviewofreligions.org/8827/can-muslims-integrate-into-western-societies/

 

Ii – https://www.alislam.org/articles/islamabad-glorious-symbol-of-peace/

 

Innovations in Religion

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Maleeha Mansur, Hayes

Religion is a means of attaining nearness to our Creator, to be free from the chains of materialism and to see light in the darkness of the world. What can be said of a religion that strips its followers of purity and takes one far from God by indulging in worldly pursuits and customs?

All of the early religions of the world have unfortunately, lost their original teachings due to the introduction of innovations. Within Hinduism, we see the caste system has taken deep root, ostracizing many sections of society and ruining the peace of society. In Judaism, we find various innovations avoid observing the Sabbath. Within Christianity, for example, we have Halloween, whilst now a highly commercialised event, it is actually adopted from old Irish pagan practices, based on the concept of the boundaries between the living and the dead being removed and the dead returning to harm the living. Christianity adopted this ritual, in particular the Catholic Church and hence this ritual of Halloween spread all over the world.

It may seem that perhaps Halloween and other innovations are a harmless means of enjoyment or part of culture. However, such tampering with religion, is something that has been strongly condemned within Islam. Indeed, the Founder of Islam, the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of God be upon him) is reported to have said, ‘An innovation in religion which has nothing to do with matters of faith is to be rejected and is unacceptable.’ Nonetheless, the nature of man is to tamper, change and alter and this includes religion. Sadly, we see that all other religions have been susceptible to such changes and alterations. One may argue that if religions are from God, how can this be possible? We must remember that initially, God sent His Messengers and scriptures for a certain time, place and people. However, this changed with the advent of Islam, which God planned to be at such a time that it would see the unification of the world. Thus with the advent of Islam came a Messenger and Message for all of time and all people. Indeed, the Holy Book of Islam, the Holy Qur’an is unique amongst the Scriptures as within its own verses God promises its preservation and protection. God says “Verily, We Ourself have sent down this Exhortation, and most surely We will be its Guardian.”

There is another aspect that must be noted here. Not only does God’s promise relate to preserving the content of the Holy Book but the teachings of Islam itself. Over time, some harmful innovations did make their way into Islam. However, in accordance with His promise, God sent the Promised Messiah and Mahdi, the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, to safeguard Islam from such innovations. He came to revive the true teachings of Islam at a time when as had happened with all other religions, Muslims had drifted far from its truth. Today, his Community, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is guided with a distinctive system of Muslim spiritual leadership, Khilafat. Through this a Divinely appointed Khalifa constantly guides and protects Islam from the onslaughts of innovations and provides guidance on all matters new and old that arise. Indeed, addressing the issue of innovations, the current Khalifa, His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad, cautions that “…those innovations that have nothing to do with faith, which take one away from faith, which disrespect the commandments of Allah and His Apostle, are all worthy of rejection. They are all useless and ought to be shunned. Stay away from them because they will gradually corrupt faith.”
i Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Friday Sermon October 29th, 2010

ii Sahih Al Bukhari, Kitab-us-Sulhi, Babu Izastalahu ‘ala sulhin jaurin. Conditions of Bai’at and Responsibilities of an Ahmadi, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, page 106

iii The Holy Qur’an, Chapter 15: Verse 10

iii Conditions of Bai’at and Responsibilities of an Ahmadi, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, page 107

 

The Need for Scripture

The Need for Scripture

Iffat Mirza, Raynes Park

One word that a book-lover stumbles upon in life often is ‘timeless’. We often talk about certain books having a persisting influence over the centuries. Reading, for me, has never just been a hobby. For hours upon hours I would devour books. It ultimately culminated in my opting to do a degree in literature. It became very clear that I just simply could not live without words.

Over the course of my education and degree, I have been exposed to new languages and books from around the world. No doubt, this led me to question the role of language and literature in our lives. Even looking back to some of those novels that I would go as far as to say shaped my worldview, I often find myself pondering on the power of words on civilisation.

Then I think back to the idea of ‘timelessness’. What makes a text timeless? For me, it is those texts that reveal to humanity the rights and the wrongs. The good and the bad. The past and the future. Despite the rise in atheism and the general abandonment of holy scripture, I find that scripture is indeed the most timeless of texts – particularly the Holy Qur’an. The 21st century most certainly is not so far advanced, and it will never be, that it can abandon the holy words of God Almighty.

Having survived over a thousand years, the Holy Qur’an has had unquantifiable influence over societies and individuals across the world, to such a strong degree that people would be prepared to live and die for these words.

The second chapter of the Holy Qur’an opens with an introduction to itself:

“This is a perfect Book; there is no doubt in it; it is a guidance for the righteous”[1]

The Holy Qur’an, unlike most books, claims it is a timeless guidance for humanity. It is not simply a book of tales to entertain but rather seeks to benefit mankind. As a Muslim, living in the West in the 21st century, approximately 1,400 years after the advent of the Holy Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), the Holy Qur’an has undoubtedly taught me more about morals and ethics than any other source.

Humankind has become close-minded. Now living in secular societies, we have forgotten the scriptures of old – be it the Bible, the Torah, the Vedas or the Holy Qur’an. Societies, for centuries, have turned to these sources to write laws and legislation. Our very fundamentals: do not murder, do not steal, do not commit adultery, are all teachings of religion.

The truth is that scripture, despite being thousands of years old, is still unimaginably relevant. Human nature has not changed so much, nor will it, that it would need a whole new set of morals.

Ideas of justice and equity are at the heart of the Holy Qur’an. It beautifully instructs mankind: ‘And O my people, give full measure and full weight with equity, and do not deprive people of things which by right belong to them and commit not iniquity in the earth, causing disorder.’[2]

This particularly never fails to resonate with me – living in the 21st century, justice and equity are always on my mind. Flicking through the news channels I see the suffering and the disorder across the earth. The project for world peace is larger than life itself and often seems impossible. However, the repeated teachings of kindness and justice, make it clear that the Holy Qur’an does have the solution to this arduous task.

In fact, on this topic, His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has echoed the words of the Holy Qur’an in his advocacy for world peace: “Hence, according to the Qur’an, justice requires that a person is willing to testify even against himself and his most loved ones in order to guard and protect the truth. The second level of engagement advocated by the Holy Qur’an is that a person should not only be just, but should go beyond it by doing ‘good to others’ by manifesting generosity and forgiveness. As I have already mentioned, the Holy Qur’an teaches that once you have successfully stopped an aggressive nation from inflicting further cruelties, you should not seek revenge or impose hardship upon it. Rather, you should seek to help them build up their economy and infrastructure. Where this will help them, it will also help you in the long term.”[3]

The need for scripture, I would argue, is more pertinent than ever. We are living in dangerous times. In such a global community, it is impossible for events to take place in isolation. They will inevitably impact the whole globe. Therefore, it is imperative that we look to the book that was sent for all of mankind, and recognise it as a source of genuine solutions.

 

[1] Holy Qur’an English translation by Maulvi Sher Ali (ra) Chapter 2 Verse 3

[2] Holy Qur’an English translation by Maulvi Sher Ali (ra) Chapter 11 Verse 86

[3] https://www.reviewofreligions.org/14665/true-and-sustainable-world-peace/

Modesty

Modesty (1)

Aroosa Akram, Slough

The Islamic principle of modesty is an essential part of faith and it concerns a Muslim’s physical and mental state.

To fully understand the importance of modesty, ‘haya’ (حیاء) in Arabic, let us look at its meaning in some detail. The word ‘haya’ comes from the Arabic word of ‘hayat’ which means life. It also means sense of shame or modesty or shyness or bashfulness or ‘keeping back from a thing from fear of blame’. The word ‘haya’ is the antonym of the Arabic word ‘fahsha’ which means lewdness, an excess or enormity of anything exceeding the bounds of rectitude, or a thing excessively and enormously foul, immoral or obscene.

For Muslim women, outward expression of modesty usually includes covering of the head and shape of one’s body. It seems simple enough but in Western countries where the outer appearance of women is held to such a high importance that women are always expected to fit within a very narrow concept of acceptable beauty standards. These so-called beauty standards are used to bash women for not dressing in certain ways which in turn the media dictates. This can be seen, for example, in the vilification of women in burkas in French media. In such an appearance focused atmosphere, remaining modest by wearing a hijab and not showing off one’s beauty can be difficult.

His Holiness, Khalifatul Masih V the Khalifa (Caliph) of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community gave excellent guidance regarding modesty during his address to the ladies at the Jalsa Salana (annual convention) on 3rd August 2019.  His Holiness said: “modesty is the true adornment for women, and they should take pride in this”[1]. For Muslim Women, modesty is their way of beautification and they should be confident when covering themselves. To wear revealing clothes would be the opposite of ‘haya’.

Another aspect of modesty described in the Holy Qur’an is of one’s mind. This means to have pure thoughts and refrain from any unpleasant thoughts.

An example where a Muslim practices modesty of the mind is by refraining from having any indecent thoughts or viewing anything indecent on the media. As mentioned earlier ‘immodesty’ in Arabic means ‘fahsha’ which is the antonym of modesty (haya). A Muslim is taught to remain chaste from a young age and to not watch indecent and sexual images. However, in such a promiscuous society, a person is introduced to lewdness from childhood through magazines and films. Through encouraging boys and girls to become friends to allowing naked images in newspapers with models giving a ‘sexual gaze’. It is ingrained in mass media and has become normalised.

In the Holy Qur’an Allah the Almighty has described people He will reward as chaste: “…men who guard their chastity and women who guard their chastity…” (33:36) [2]. To protect their chastity Islam asks men and women to have separate seating at events and to restrain their eyes, allowing them to remain modest.

Modesty remains a large part of a Muslim’s life in every way. From controlling base urges to avoid cursing and swearing to dressing modestly and restraining of the eyes. His Holiness, Khalifatul Masih V has said that a woman should be proud of her modesty and use it to adorn herself in the deeper, real sense rather than dressing provocatively. The Holy Qur’an repeatedly mentions sense of modesty in different forms for example chastity.  His Holiness Khalifatul Masih V explained in his Friday sermon of 15 January 2010 that a Hadith relates that indecency makes the perpetrator unsightly and modesty gives a modest and bashful person inner and outer beauty.

 

[1] http://www.alhakam.org/take-pride-in-modesty-hazrat-khalifatul-masih-delivers-address-at-ladies-jalsa-gah/

[2] The Holy Quran, Chapter 33, Verse 36.

The Concept of Sacrifice in Islam

Concept of Sacrifice In Islam.png

Basma Malik, Roehampton

‘Say, ‘My Prayer and my sacrifice and my life and my death are all for Allah, the Lord of the worlds.’ (6:163)

Sacrifice is a concept that is present in religions and cultures from the Hebrews to the Aztecs notably in the form of animal sacrifice. In the religious context, sacrifice is a complex phenomenon and an essential part of worship. In Arabic, the word for sacrifice is ‘dhabaha’ and usually refers to the slaughtering of an animal as sacrifice, as is done for Eid Ul Adha in memory of Hazrat Ibrahim’s (peace be on him) act of obedience to his Lord where he was prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice of his own son for the sake of Allah’s pleasure.

Indeed, sacrifice is not a concept unique to Islam, it is present everywhere. People from all over the world sacrifice for what they love. So, what makes the concept of sacrifice in Islam different? Sacrifice in Islam is for the Divine Being Who is responsible for everything in the world and has the power to give endlessly to the one who is near to Him. He is the Source of all that is good, beautiful and peaceful in the world. However, Islam is a religion with much depth and as such all forms of sacrifice in Islam are multi-faceted.

Both Eid Ul Fitr and Eid Ul Adha are celebrated after sacrifice; prior to Eid Ul Fitr we forsake food and drink for Allah Almighty. This act not only allows one to attain the pleasure of Allah as we lay aside our physical needs for a while to focus on spirituality, but it also cultivates discipline, health and the understanding of what the poor suffer from and gratitude.

The word Islam means submission to Allah Almighty through which a Muslim attains righteousness and peace. Indeed ultimate submission requires sacrificing for the pleasure of Allah, giving up what one cherishes for His sake. To obtain anything in life one has to endeavour and struggle in some way or another, therefore to attain the pleasure of God and to become a true believer one also has to sacrifice. Sacrifice altogether increases and strengthens one’s iman (faith) and it enforces self-discipline taking one away from worldly pleasures and towards the pleasure of the Creator as it shows that the pleasure of God is more important to a believer than anything else in this world.

His Holiness Khalifatul Masih V, the worldwide head of our Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has mentioned:

‘One should be ready to sacrifice everything for the sake of Allah. One should be ready to sacrifice a small thing to attain a much more exalted goal; one should be ready to follow God’s commands always.’ (Eid Ul Adha Sermon 12th August 2019).

There are different forms of sacrifice in Islam for example sacrificing time to perform prayer, forsaking food and drink in the form of fasting, financial sacrifice, sacrificing one’s likes and dislikes for Allah’s sake and showing patience in times of trials, and self-sacrifice in the form of doing charitable actions and the ultimate self-sacrifice of martyrs for the cause of faith.

The Holy Quran states: ‘Never shall you attain to righteousness unless you spend out of that which you love; and whatever you spend, Allah surely knows it well.’ (3:93), this makes it clear that financial sacrifice, which is the fruit of one’s labour is an essential requirement for attaining righteousness.

Genuinely striving to achieve the Pleasure of Allah will of course bring with it immense blessings, likewise it is a way of showing gratitude to Allah for the infinite number of things He has bestowed upon us.

Lajna Survival Weekend

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By Saadiyya Khan, London

When I first heard of the opportunity to go on a survival weekend organised by Lajna Health and Fitness department, I immediately thought ‘not for me’; I’m a city girl who lives for home comforts and Netflix. And friends and family said ‘You can’t rough it! Why’d you sign up?’ Two reasons: what appear to be impending challenges of Brexit and the words of our beloved Khalifa, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad.

His Holiness said at the Calgary Peace Symposium on 11 November 2016,

“Storm clouds forewarning us of a Third World War are getting heavier by the day. The effects of such a war would last for decades to come.”

So this was my way of preparing for both scenarios; trying to ensure that if life got less than comfortable, for whatever reason, I’d be realistic and equipped with the right skillset. To say that I was a little apprehensive about spending a night in the woods, in the open air, is an understatement. Whilst the thought of creepy crawly critters getting too close for comfort while I tried to sleep in the frigid night air was daunting, I knew the experience, and what I’d learn from it, would be worth the challenges.

And so it was.

After a surprisingly exhausting 6km hike (which included being chased by cows and temporarily going awry in a Stephen-King-esque field of corn), we arrived at our large campsite with a cozy fire. The rest of the afternoon consisted of learning about the various types of vegetation around us, what it could potentially be used for and which of it could be safely eaten. It never ceases to amaze how much Allah has provided for us and how much of it we take for granted. He is truly Ar-Razzaq, The Provider.

Before sunset we set up camp which included attaching large plastic tarps to trees and gathering foliage for bedding. The night was as predicted: creepy crawly critters, freezing air, punctuated by alternating laughter and screams of scared school girls throughout. All of which, to my amazement, I managed to ignore and obtain a few hours’ sleep.

The first session of the second day taught the ultimate survival training skill – how to obtain drinking water in the wild, in an emergency. I have never been more grateful for the blessing of tap water that is safe to drink. The process of purifying and then sanitising the water from the nearby pond was laborious and lengthy. We learned that only 2.5% of our planet’s water is freshwater and only 1% of this is easily accessible, (1)

The next challenge was learning how to start a fire in an emergency using materials you might have to hand. Like the water purification, this process was far from easy and I found myself being grateful again, this time for the spark in my boiler. Whilst necessary to human survival, heat and fire are not to be trifled with. They must be contained and safely extinguished. As the ever prevalent news of forest fires and the burning of the Amazon rainforest (aka the world’s lungs) has shown, we must safeguard the trees and vegetation which purify our air.

The last session was the one I was most looking forward to – knife-handling. The knives provided were very sharp and learning how to use them safely (to chop wood, prepare materials to build a shelter and skin wood for use in food preparation) was crucial. The most repeated phrase from the instructor was to stay out of the blood zone – the radius of reach around a person handling a knife.

Over the weekend nearly all us cooked over the open camp fire, cleaned, washed up and prepared food. Whilst most of the tools required for such activities were provided, there were times we had to improvise, providing opportunities for learning and creative thinking.

One of the most significant benefits of the weekend for all participants was disconnecting and reconnecting. It was a relief to be free from my mobile, which had become an extension of my hand; forever attached and visible. It was a detox I very much needed. And looking up from my mobile-less hand I found forty-six Lajna, sisters in faith, of all ages and backgrounds, laughing, exchanging experiences and advice, examining their lives for how changes in their daily habits could reverse the impacts of the climate crisis; not just surviving but thriving; perfectly conceptualising why such events are so valuable and necessary.

1 https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/freshwater/freshwater-crisis/

My Travelogue

WhatsApp Image 2019-09-26 at 13.32.09

Manaal Rehman, Cheam

Part I

‘Have they not travelled in the land, so that they may have hearts wherewith to understand, or ears wherewith to hear?…’ (Holy Qur’an 22:47)

Allah the Almighty in the Holy Qur’an encourages all Muslims to travel and observe the world around them. And by His grace, I was given the opportunity to make such a journey to Bangalore in the state of Karnataka in southwest India, through a summer internship.

I was in the penultimate year of my Integrated Master course in Computer Science at King’s College London which has a partnership with an international technology consultancy based in India. During the application process, I did not expect to get an offer, let alone take the placement. I merely wanted to see how far in the application process I could go. Having been rejected by three other companies in London, I wasn’t too optimistic.

However, this company was providing me with the opportunity to spend 8-12 weeks living on a fully facilitated campus, along with a large stipend, to be part of one of their projects. However, it was very far from my home, family and my Jama’at. [i]

After much prayer, deliberation and research, my parents and I decided it was not something that I could turn down and my mother encouraged to take advantage of the opportunity. Hence it was finalised, that I would leave on the 1st June and come back the week before Jalsa Salana UK.[ii]

However, there were two conditions, first, that I have my own private accommodation (which was already provided by the company) and that I stay in touch with the Jamaat in Banglore. As soon as signing my offer letter, my family wrote to Amir Sahib UK, and his office provided us with the contact details of the Amir Jama’at of Bangalore, the Missionary Incharge and the Sadr Lajna. Prior to my departure, I contacted the Sadr informing her of my arrival.

Being from the UK, and never having travelled to India or Pakistan alone before, it was terrifying. Upon my arrival, everything…and I mean everything, seemed like a surprise. The traffic, the people, the sights, sounds, smells were all so vastly different from home, it was both scary and exciting. It was a very interesting experience to delve back into the culture of my origin, and forefathers, and I realised that despite being raised in the UK, I still felt that the values I espoused were more common with the local people.

Upon arriving at campus, I immediately called home and made this a daily habit. I called my parents, sister, grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles, almost every day. And made a habit of ensuring that everyone knew what I would be doing and that I was being very well looked after.

I arrived on Sunday the 2nd of June, and company orientation and formalities began. Fortunately, on the 5th of June, everyone was given a holiday for Eid, and I requested a cab to take me to the Ahmadiyya mosque. When I arrived at the mosque, I found that arrangements had been made for Lajna also, such that women on chairs were sitting outside in a canopy made of scarves and those that could sit, would go upstairs. I was very surprised to find that many ladies in Jama’at knew who I was and had been anticipating my arrival.

I was delighted by the amount of love and respect they showed me, and despite being a very small and entirely different setup, I felt like I was in my local Jama’at back home. On Eid, I was introduced to Saliha Baji, who lived very close to my campus, and we immediately became friends. I then met Sadr Sahiba, who took us to her home for lunch. Both Sadr Lajna of Bangalore and Saliha Baji, looked after me a lot and showed me many places during my stay and I am very grateful to them. At this time, I could truly feel the blessings of the Jama’at showering upon me.

Part II

The following week, I was assigned my project and introduced to my team. This was the first time I realised that I had a very strong advantage, due to the fact that I could speak to the employees in both Urdu/ Hindi and English. My mother had taught me Urdu, due to the guidance of Khalifatul Masih IV, and this was as ever a blessing of Khilafat. This made me feel much more at home in this new place and I did not feel foreign at all. By the grace of Allah, I was part of a historic project, which was very successful. I had the opportunity to also be part of two other projects, one of which I got due to my work with MTA international. I was also blessed with a very nice and caring team, who encouraged and taught me a lot.

Other than having the opportunity to travel Kerala and Mysore, I was also given the opportunity to get to know the Jama’at, who like us held a Youm-e-Umahat (Day of Mothers), Youm-e-Khilafat (Khilafat Day), their Meena Bazaar (delicious food only) and their regional Tarbiyati class, at which they requested me to speak.

Later during my stay, I realised that Amtul Baji, who I met in the mosque, also worked for the same company, on the same campus, and we had dinner together. I expressed a desire to want to visit a village, and she arranged for me to visit her village 8 hours away, called Shivamogga. Despite living simple lives, the level of respect and hospitality that I was shown, was beyond anything that I had ever experienced before, it was phenomenal. This was an incredibly eye-opening experience, I realised how vastly different people can be in how they live, speak and even what they eat. Yet we are all united under the umbrella of Ahmadiyyat. I was honoured to meet many families, all of whom gave me the utmost regard. Their love and esteem stemmed from the fact that I had met and spoken to His Holiness, the fifth Khalifa of our Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. Both in Bangalore and Shivamogga, most people wanted me to tell them what it was like meeting His Holiness and growing up as a child in the headquarters of the Jama’at. For these people, seeing His Holiness, was like a dream, and I realised how lucky and privileged we are to have Khilafat so close to us in the UK in the physical sense. Many of us will never understand this pain and longing.

Furthermore, there were many times where I felt like Allah Almighty protected me either by changing circumstances or sending the right person at the right time. Additionally, there were many times that I had to make decisions on my own. This was a new experience because I quickly came to know that I was completely independent and without support or guidance, nor could I ask someone what I should or should not do. In these times, I would think, what does Islam say? What have the Khulafa told us? And what have my parents taught me?

I hope that all Ahmadi Muslim women keep these in mind whenever they have a chance to be independent, and represent the Jama’at in the best manner possible. Ameen.

 

 

[i] Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in the UK

[ii] The Annual Convention of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in the UK

‘O my Lord, increase me in knowledge’

Nooresahar blog

Nooresahar Ahmad, Hartlepool

 

In chapter 20, verse 115 of the Holy Qur’an is a simple prayer: “… O my Lord, increase me in knowledge.” The Arabic is but three words: rabbi zidni ilma. It’s probably the first prayer I ever learnt, the prayer I always recite before an exam (and the prayer I repeat, over and over, when I undoubtedly get stuck on a question). It has informed believers of all ages that the pursuit of knowledge is worthy and rewarding.

Today, this sentiment remains relevant, and education remains an empowering tool- with the ability to transform not just individuals, but entire generations. According to the World Bank, education is one of the most powerful instruments for reducing poverty and inequality and lays a foundation for sustained economic growth1.

For women, however, this powerful instrument has not always been easy to access. In the UK, women couldn’t receive degrees until 18782, whilst it was not until 1948 that Cambridge University would confer them on women3. Since then, though women in this country have come a long way  (in 2017, nearly half of women from the UK had entered higher education by the age of 19)4– there are still disparities: women hold only 20% of professorships in UK universities, and in Cambridge that number is just 15%5. Globally, the issue is even more prevalent: recent studies have shown that in 2014, 77% of countries had not achieved gender parity in upper secondary school6.

It seems hard to believe that education is only just becoming more accessible to women. In truth, it is not just a contemporary issue. The introduction of Islam over 1400 years ago not only emphasised the importance of knowledge for all Muslims, but also elevated women to an equal footing with men. In chapter 33, verse 36, the Qur’an states: “Surely, men who submit themselves to God and women who submit themselves to Him, and believing men and believing women… Allah has prepared for all of them forgiveness and a great reward.”

This emphasis of men and women underlines that in Islam, both are given equal value in the eyes of God. Similarly, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “A person who is blessed with a daughter or daughters and makes no discrimination between them and his sons and brings them up with kindness and affection, will be as close to me in Paradise as my forefinger and middle finger are to each other.”3 He (peace be upon him) also said: “It is the duty of every Muslim man and every Muslim woman to acquire knowledge”3. Thus did the emphasis laid in Islam on equality lead to women gaining their right to education. Indeed, the Prophet’s life bears testament to this commitment to women receiving education on par with men; his own wife, Ayesha (may Allah be pleased with her) was one of the foremost Islamic scholars, had extensive knowledge of medicine, literature and Islamic law- and was a source of narration for manifold Hadith7.

The saying, and the repeated emphasis in the Qur’an on the pursuit of knowledge, has certainly been taken to heart by millions of Muslims: Muslims invented the pin-hole camera8, surgery, experimental chemistry, the modern numeral system9– the list goes on. As for Muslim women- the history of early Islam is abundant with enlightened female figures, who were well versed in the arts, sciences and mathematics: whether it be intellectuals such as Fatima al-Fihri, founder of the oldest university and library in the world, or powerful female leaders such as Queen Zubayda, an intellectual of the 9th century who was especially invested in public works10. Today, countless Ahmadi Muslim women have attained education of the highest standard, with the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community abounding with women writers, doctors and teachers, with female students attaining qualifications of the highest level from some of the most revered academic establishments in the world.

Islam has always empowered women to access education- even whilst individuals, cultures and world leaders have not. Today, it is Ahmadi Muslim women who, through the guidance of the Khalifa, continue to benefit from these pure Islamic teachings.

REFERENCES

 

We Must Seek Peace: It’s Non-negotiable

International Peace Day

Iffat Mirza, Raynes Park

It’s strange to think that a headline itself can make headlines. On 22nd March 2019 the New Zealand newspaper The Press published the paper with a blank front page, with only the Arabic word Salaam written on it, accompanied with a translation in English: Peace.

This was in response to the white supremacist shooting at a mosque in Christchurch New Zealand, the week before. Such a headline made it clear that world peace is a necessity that is of the utmost urgency. Violence is rife. Whether that is in the name of nation, religion, or even freedom, the world is edging ever closer to a global catastrophe.

I have not been living under a rock. I know many terrorist attacks and conflicts have been waged under the name of Islam. But I am also aware enough that those who instigate these attacks and conflicts who profess to be Muslim are cowards hiding behind the veil of how they distort teachings of Islam.

September 21st has been declared by the United Nations as the International Day of Peace. On such a day, it is vital to remember that peace is not only an achievable dream but is a necessity that must be attained, and despite the widespread erroneous notion that Islam is a violent religion, perhaps we could learn some key teachings of peace from it.

As The Press clarified on 22nd March, Islam literally means peace. This begs the question: if Islam  means peace, why don’t its teachings and followers reflect that?

In such an instance, it is vital to remember that humankind is prone to corruption. In fact, the Holy Qur’an recognised, over 1,400 years ago that there will be people who will exploit the religion: It states: “And when it is said to them: ‘Create not disorder on the earth,’ they say: ‘We are only promoters of peace.”[1]

When looking at groups such as ISIS, it is almost laughable though deeply sobering that they would call themselves Muslim. Do they not claim to be ‘promoters of peace’ when in reality they create disorder on the earth? They are so far-removed from religion that the French journalist who had been a group prisoner for 10 months, Didier Francois, revealed upon his release, that in his entire time as a prisoner he did not see a single copy of the Holy Qur’an.[2]

Furthermore, Muslims believe in 99 attributes of God, those which we are taught to emulate in order to live a moral and pious life. One of the many divine attributes is As Salaam – the Source of Peace. Therefore, we can accurately draw the conclusion that Muslims are taught not only to live peaceful lives themselves, but also seek to spread peace around the world. Indeed, we see that this is further supported by Islamic teaching. Again, the Qur’an states: “…Whenever they kindle a fire of war, Allah extinguishes it. And they strive to create disorder in the earth, and Allah loves not those who create disorder.” [3]

As-Salaam makes it very clear to us that once peace and security are established, then peace and tranquillity should not be disturbed and all hopes should always be put in the Source of Peace. God promises justice and has indeed taught humans of right and wrong in everything including warfare to ensure peace.

Islam draws an unbreakable link between peace and justice. The two are so vital to uphold, that Islam teaches even if one must go against oneself, one must speak the truth and promote absolute justice: “O ye who believe! be strict in observing justice, and be witnesses for Allah, even though it be against yourselves or against parents and kindred…”[4] It is this teaching that reminds Muslims that good of  wider society must always be at the heart of our actions. In fact, I would even argue that nations would benefit most greatly if they were to take heed of this teaching.

In an era of globalisation, this means that we must develop an international community that holds justice as the highest priority. It shuns arrogance and selfishness that causes nations to act unjustly with those that are too poor or weak to defend themselves. Such wisdom of the Holy Qur’an is further explained by His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the fifth Caliph of the Ahmadiyya Community, stating that Islam “teaches that no party should be given preferential treatment, or favoured unduly. It should be that a wrongdoer knows that if he tries to act unjustly towards any country, no matter its size or status, he will not be allowed to do so by the international community.”[5] It is absolutely imperative that such standards are met.

Efforts to create this international community have been made yet we have still not achieved the desired peace. No doubt that world peace is, or at least, should be, a top priority for all world leaders. Indeed, we have attempted to avoid global catastrophes in the past, with the creation of the League of Nations and its successor the United Nations. Yet we have not been very successful. Conflicts rage on and it is always, without an exception, the innocent who suffer the most. We cannot sit with our arms crossed as we watch the unforgiving wrath of conflict be fuelled by selfishness and greed.

 

 

[1] Chapter 2 Verse 12 Holy Qur’an English translation by Maulvi Sher Ali(ra)

[2] https://edition.cnn.com/2015/02/03/intl_world/amanpour-didier-francois/index.html

[3] Chapter 5 verse 65 English translation by Maulvi Sher Ali(ra)

[4] Chapter 4 Verse 136 Ibid.

[5] World Crisis and the Pathway to Peace, His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Page 110

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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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.

Darkness and Light

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