Equality Rooted in the Divine Essence

Equality rooted in the Divine Essence (1)

Tooba Ali

“Allah” means “God”, “Haq” means “Truth”—these two words most often used to speak of the Divine in Islam encapsulate the very heart of this faith. That God is all that is true, the centre and orb of the universe.

The Holy Qur’an enumerates many of the Divine Attributes, the “Asmaa al Husna” (lit. beautiful names). Al Quddus, the Holy One, al Wali, the Friend, al Haleem, the Forbearing. Through study of these names, we can build a picture of Islamic ethics and values that illumine our understanding of both our past and present selves.

English Romantic poet William Blake struggled to come to terms with the ills of racism and child poverty that so plagued Britain in the late 18th century. In “The Little Black Boy”, he seems to want to rise against a culture that saw holiness and whiteness as inseparable.

However, the painting that accompanies the poem in his 1789 collection, ‘Songs of Innocence’ depicts a fair featured God embracing two boys, a white blond-haired boy, and a dark-skinned boy with black curls. Indeed, in the iconographic traditions of various faiths, God is usually portrayed in the guise of a fair-skinned man.

However, in the Islamic tradition, where iconography doesn’t feature, it is words that map our path to the Divine. Namely, the words of our Holy Book, the Qur’an. In contrast to the Torah, which invokes “the God of the Hebrews” in verses of prayer, the Qur’an never once describes the Divine in such a way. In fact, in the opening chapter Allah is declared as “Lord of all the worlds”. This is the chapter that forms the core of Muslim daily worship. So, in our religious practices, we are constantly re-affirming that God’s Mercy is an endless river, that ebbs and flows in the hearts of men. It is a tree whose shade gives shelter to all of creation.

Our God is “ar Rahman”, the Most Gracious. This, alongside an attribute from the same root in Arabic “ar Raheem” the Ever Merciful, is the attribute we invoke before reciting any Quranic verse. His Mercy therefore wraps every other Divine Utterance in its fold. In the Holy Qur’an we read of this Divine Attribute, “…My Mercy encompasses all things…” (7:157).

Humans are the microcosm in which Divine Attributes are illumined. The Gentle conceals itself in every gentle heart. The Merciful is veiled in every merciful soul. The universal nature of the Divine Names means that holiness can inhabit any human heart, on the condition that it is pure.

History is testament to mankind’s obsession with hierarchies. From the caste system in the Indian Subcontinent, to serfdom in Europe and beyond. Even the Greeks thought it perfectly natural that some men were born “free” and others, “slaves”.

However, in sharp contrast to all that seeks to divide, the Holy Qur’an teaches us that God is One. That equality and oneness are rooted in the Divine Essence. That the Divine Names are vast and take all within their fold. That the Divine Spirit can dwell within any human soul. That the Merciful looks to nothing at all, but the state of one’s heart. And that it is this very heart that holds the key to its Creator.

Jihad of an Ahmadi Muslim Woman

Jihad of an

Nadia Nauman, Bolton

In today’s world, when life is full of all sorts of distractions, the struggles of an Ahmadi Muslim woman are challenging. These struggles are the battles fought on a daily basis. Not the battles on the ground. Rather, the battles with one’s own self. Today is the time for jihad (striving) against one’s ‘nafs’ (the self).

When we refer to distractions, the point to ponder is what are these pulling forces? Forces that pull us away from our reason of creation – ibaadat (worship of God). Foremost amongst these forces is social media that has crept so silently into our homes. We allow our children to use it in the name of staying abreast with technology. At other times, it is the most accepted form of social interaction with their friends. This often leads to peer pressure from schools and children and their parents have to struggle over it.

Once this initial struggling period is over, these very gadgets invade our homes. Parents then find it easier to keep their children engaged with all sorts of gadgets. This turns out to be an easy way out of parenting responsibilities, where both parties involved are happy. It becomes difficult to really recall when exactly these gadgets invaded our dining tables, our living rooms, and even our bedrooms. Most of our time gets consumed over the use of social media, games, and online entertainment programmes. At the end of the day, many real tasks go into the pending list. And we remain ever complaining that we do not get the time for more fruitful things in life.

These forces have created invisible walls within families. Our dining tables have gone quiet as everyone is engaged with the gadget in hand. Sitting in the same room, members of the family are no more interactive with each other. Focus is on the people on the screen, not those sitting right beside us. This is creating all sorts of problems in adult relationships too.

This vicious circle has to stop. And the time for this is now. This is the time for internal jihad. The Ahmadi Muslim woman has to play her part. Not only does she herself need to deal with and repel these pulling forces of her ‘nafs‘, she also has to safeguard her family against this.

This gigantic task can only be achieved through prayer and a close connection with the community. It is very easy to get lost in the worldly affairs. The struggle is to bring ourselves back on the righteous path every time we move astray. It is imperative for an Ahmadi woman to create the environment within her home that fosters peace and tranquillity. She is responsible to inculcate in each and every member of the family the love to offer the five daily Prayers. The weekly Friday sermon should be listened to as a family, with complete respect for that one hour.

The rule of ‘no gadgets on the dining table’ will be enforced only if the parents also abide by it. The Ahmadi Muslim woman has to be a role model for her children. This is possible only when she subjugates the worldly desires of her own ‘nafs’. She has to create a balanced and spiritual life in the modern world. She has a responsibility towards this, for which she will be questioned on the Day of Judgment. May Allah enable us to fulfil our responsibilities in the best possible manner, ameen.

 

How COVID-19 Revealed the False Pillars of our Economy –

COVID19 revealing the false pillars of our economy

Amtul Kafi Yadullah Bhunnoo, London

Due to COVID-19, the global economy has plummeted far worse than it did in the Great Depression [1]. However, this pandemic has only brought out the false pillars of the economy that it was standing on.

Why have banks lowered the interest rate to nearly 0% in order to help businesses?[2] Why were clothing shops, hair and beauty salons, event venues, pubs and bars not part of the essential places to remain open?[3] The closing of these services made a lot of people question their spending of both money and time on them. Places of worship were also closed but worshippers continued to pray at home, after all praying is a meditation that helps the mind.[4] Why was nobody buying flowers for occasions?[5] Why were fancy funeral services not taking place?[6] Why did we run out of toilet paper?[7] Why have oil prices fallen so much?[8] Why is transport reduced?[9] Why is online learning becoming more popular?[10] Why has online gambling increased?[11] Why have mental health issues, suicide rates, stress levels increased?[12]

All these questions point to the fact that for so long we have built a society with social customs and norms that were useless and harming our family units. It was never necessary to meet friends and family in pubs where alcohol dependency is promoted and exemplified to children. It was never necessary for women to spend thousands of pounds on hair and beauty products to be made “worth it” with ad campaigns, which they now learn they can live without and can replace with homemade chemical-free and environmentally friendly skincare. Plucked out flowers for occasions are not just unnecessary but harmful for the environment. The fields that were used for growing flowers for the events and hospitality industry, could be used for growing edible flowers, fruits and vegetables for humans and other animals. Was it necessary to hold a wedding in an expensive venue and invite hundreds of people for the show?

When we revisit the number of citizens dying in countries like Yemen due to famine, and lack of basic amenities such as clean water, migrants in India having no availability of transport due to lack of government planning, and citizens in USA and Europe worried about the rents they have to pay with job uncertainty and unemployment increase.[13,14,15] Yet some governments have spent more on defence and wars on foreign countries than its citizens welfare. UK household debt has increased.[16] This really makes us wonder about the priorities of some governments and whether we as global citizens of the world are in anyway part of the problem? How do governments decide the priorities and what to put on the agenda? Why are we so easily influenced by adverts that pick on insecurities and issues than real wholesome solutions to world problems?  Our spending and priorities send a signal to the governments and industries on what they should focus on and put as priority.

We really have to evaluate and understand our lives and prioritise our relationships, education, health and well-being over anything lavish and unnecessary.  How much stress were you going through in the morning to rush for the best outfit, transport, coffee shop to get to work and all to accomplish what? COVID19 has made us realise that basics is all we need, and is everything.

The Holy Qur’an says ‘…shun all that which is vain.’ [23:4][19]

 

  1. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-52236936
  2. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/mar/19/bank-of-england-cuts-interest-rates-to-all-time-low-of-01
  3. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/further-businesses-and-premises-to-close/further-businesses-and-premises-to-close-guidance
  4. https://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/docs/default-source/members/sigs/spirituality-spsig/spirituality-special-interest-group-publications-julia-head-please-pray-for-me.pdf?sfvrsn=3ce47206_2
  5. https://qz.com/1848936/the-global-flower-industry-is-wilting-ahead-of-mothers-day/
  6. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/may/11/mourners-choosing-simplified-funerals-during-covid-19-crisis
  7. https://inews.co.uk/news/coronavirus-uk-stockpiling-toilet-roll-no-shortage-manufacturer-supermarket-409137
  8. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/apr/15/oil-prices-slump-as-market-faces-lowest-demand-in-25-years-covid-19
  9. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/coronavirus-public-transport-social-distancing-shapps-a9506886.html
  10. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/04/coronavirus-education-global-covid19-online-digital-learning/
  11. https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20200515005422/en/Global-Online-Gambling-Market-Forecast-Increase-Significantly
  12. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/global-health/science-and-disease/covid-19-mental-health-crisis-expect-depression-anxiety-stress/
  13. https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/menasource/an-update-on-yemen-s-water-crisis-and-the-weaponization-of-water/
  14. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-52360757
  15. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-51979245
  16. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-50671834

 

  1. The Holy Qur’an with English Translation by Maulawi Sher Ali (ra)

Continuing Education in a Global Pandemic

Continuing Education during a Global Pandemic

Kholood Tahir, Morden

In the past few months, we have lived through  unprecedented times which will indeed make it to the history books . Covid-19 has rattled the world in such a way that people from all walks of life – the elderly, the young, the rich, the poor – are left fearing for their lives. Although viral infections are quite common, what has made Covid-19 so dangerous is its tendency to spread easily and the lack of any vaccine or treatment. On the 23rd of March, England entered lockdown with only essential travel being permitted and just key workers going to work. This indeed had a great impact on the lives of many, including students. The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) stated that:

‘Acquiring knowledge is an obligation on all Muslims.’[i]

For some seekers of knowledge, the news of lockdown brought a temporary pause to their daily routines, with exams being postponed until September or being cancelled altogether; for others, education continued through a remote format with assignments and exams being conducted online. For the second type of student, whilst the world was trying to learn new skills, bake the tastiest banana bread or whip up the perfect dalgona coffee, the only thing on their mind was to prepare for the strangest exam season of their lives, with Muslims reciting the Qur’anic prayer:

‘…My Lord! increase me in knowledge.’ [ii]

At King’s College London, most of the senior lecturers for the Medicine course are also clinicians or doctors, so they were pulled away from their teaching duties to serve at the front line. Therefore, we as first year medics were given access to the previous years’ lecture recordings, as well as workshop/ seminar worksheets with answers and an email of good luck to complete the rest of the year by ourselves. It was a challenge for us to complete units such as Neuroscience, Epidemiology, Genomics etc. on our own. Where normally teaching would be supported with anatomy practical sessions, we tried to make do with YouTube videos and turned to resources on the internet to help us through this time. Many of us who were accustomed to studying in quiet spaces away from home, were left with no choice but to clear the clutter from our bedroom desks and transform our rooms into libraries.

‘…Our Lord, in Thee do we put our trust, and to Thy do we turn repentant, and towards Thee is the final return.’ [iii]

Personally, the arrival of Ramadan during lockdown for me was God’s Gift to help me get through those increasingly stressful days preceding my exams. During the day, I endeavoured to fulfil the Haquq’Allah (Rights of God) by fasting and spending my time in the remembrance of Almighty God and during the nights I would endeavour to prepare myself to one day fulfil the Haquq-ul-Ibaad (Rights of people) by studying the various systems of the human body and the biochemical pathways that take place to keep us alive. One of my favourite modules to revise was Nutrition & Metabolism as it was interesting to learn in depth the processes that take place in the body whilst fasting and the many physical benefits all the while being mindful that Allah is the ultimate Healer.

‘O Lord of mankind! Remove my illness and cure me. Only You can cure and there is no cure except through You. Such a cure which leaves behind no disease.’ [iv]

More than anything, the experience of living through a global pandemic taught me the value of service to humanity and the incredible role all key workers have played for the wellbeing of the country and the world. During the span of the time, all worldly activities such as retail, transport, leisure and social activities came to a stop, however service to humanity continued. A few months ago His Holiness Khalifatul Masih V reminded us that the Holy Prophet of Islam (peace be upon him) taught “…spiritual advancement is intrinsically linked to serving humanity and so a Muslim could not attain the love of God Almighty just through worship and prayer. Rather the love of God Almighty requires Muslims to serve humanity.” [v] May Allah the Almighty enable us to do this, Ameen.

‘…Our Lord, grant us good in this world as well as good in the world to come…’ [vi]

 

 

[i] Hadith Sunan Ibn Majah

[ii] Holy Qur’an chapter 20 verse 115. Maulawi Sher Ali translation

[iii] Holy Qur’an chapter 60 verse 5. Maulawi Sher Ali translation

[iv] Prayer for healing as cited by Huzoor Aqdas in his Friday sermon of 28 Sept 2018. Translation taken from Al Hakam of 19 Oct 2018.

[v] Address by Hazrat Khalifatul Masih V delivered at UNESCO headquarters, Paris, France. https://www.alislam.org/articles/islamic-principles-on-education-serving-humanity/

[vi] Holy Qur’an chapter 2 verse 202. Maulawi Sher Ali translation

Billionaires Vs The Billions

Billionaires (1)

Nooresahar Ahmad, Hartlepool

Due to the economic impact of COVID-19, it is estimated 1.6 billion people are in “immediate danger of having their livelihoods destroyed”. In contrast, the number of billionaires in the world has reached 2095- none of whom, I would assume, will feel any impact on their economic livelihoods. Previous to the pandemic, the question of whether individuals should be able to amass such vast amounts of wealth had been debated. The cut off point for how much money one person should possess now seems to be, for some people, one billion dollars. As one article in the New York Times put it, “A billion dollars is wildly more than anyone needs… It’s far more than anyone might reasonably claim to deserve, however much he believes he has contributed to society”, adding, “At some level of extreme wealth, money inevitably corrupts. On the left and the right, it buys political power… [and] serves primarily to perpetuate ever-greater wealth, often unrelated to any reciprocal social good.” There are examples which bear testament to these assertions- such as that of the Koch Brothers, American billionaires who have funded an organisation which has tilted the whole landscape of American politics to the right. Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, is another example- whilst he is on track to become the world’s first trillionaire by 2026, employees have complained of the high pressure environment Amazon enforces, with Muslim workers in Minnesota reporting having to “choose prayer over bathroom” in their short timed breaks so that they don’t lose their jobs because of a dip in their packing rate.

Though my knowledge of Islamic economic thought is certainly limited, one thing I’ve learnt from Islam’s pure and just teachings, is that wealth is not ours to hoard, but given to us by Allah and best used when serving humanity. Take just one example from the Holy Qur’an: “…And those who hoard up gold and silver and spend it not in the way of Allah — give to them the tidings of a painful punishment,” (9:34). His Holiness Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad described the meaning of this verse, saying, “the verse… refers to the gold and silver that did not give any benefit to the general public. God says that on the day of judgement this gold and silver is returned to you. But since gold and silver are of no use in the afterlife, it only ‘brands their foreheads and their sides and their backs’. In this way they find out how sinful it was to withhold wealth from the benefit of mankind.” [i]

Whilst there are cases of philanthropic billionaires who donate huge amounts to charity, such as Bill Gates, who founded the ‘Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’ which focuses on improving the health of those living in extreme poverty, research at Oxford University has warned that philanthropic interventions can skew public health programmes ‘towards issues of the greatest concern to wealthy donors…which are not necessarily top priority for people in the recipient country.’ Professor of Global Public Health at Queen Mary University, David McCoy, put it simply in saying, ‘Appealing to the mega rich to be more charitable is not a solution to global health problems. We need a system that does not create so many billionaires and… this kind of philanthropy is either a distraction or potentially harmful to the need for systemic change to the political economy.’ Indeed, His Holiness Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad noted, “if certain economic problems cannot be corrected through voluntary actions… then legal means should be adopted to rectify such situations and bring them in line with the divine will.” [ii]

In short, there seems to be a growing feeling that a billion dollars in the hands of one person creates far more moral, political and social problems than it solves. And as governments all over the world plan how best to deal with the economic aftermath of the coronavirus, I find myself wishing politicians would take inspiration from Islamic teachings: “Whatever Allah has given to His Messenger as spoils from the people of the towns is for Allah and for the Messenger and for the near of kin and the orphans and the needy and the wayfarer, that it may not circulate only among those of you who are rich…” (59:8)

 

[i] https://www.alislam.org/library/books/Economic-System-of-Islam.pdf

 

 

[ii] Ibid

The Pandemic and the Path back to Allah

The Pandemic and the Path back to Allah (1)

Dur-e-Shewar Anwar,  Manchester 

On January 30th 2020, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak of Covid-19 to be a public health emergency of international concern and life as we knew it began to change. The effects of this pandemic have been globally overwhelming with rolling lockdowns across the world, economic collapse in some of the richest countries and most devastatingly a global death toll of over 400,000. Simultaneously, we have witnessed an increase in community service and charity work, massive reductions in air pollution and unbelievable global unity. This pandemic has revealed that mankind is capable of great goodness when put through trials; an illustration of a key Islamic concept that it is through trials and tribulations that we can re-discover our connection with our Creator. The Holy Qur’an states:

And We will try you with something of fear and hunger, and loss of wealth and lives, and fruits; but give glad tidings to the patient. Who, when a misfortune overtakes them, say, ‘Surely, to Allah we belong and to Him shall we return.’ [2:156-7] [1]

Islam does not offer a life of freedom from hardships, nor does it promise that bad things will never happen. Instead Islam teaches that trials occur by the permission of an Omnipotent, Omniscient and Benevolent God.  It is through the endurance of these trials, with patience and steadfastness that a believer can increase their spiritual and moral character and it is these qualities that will remain when the trial has passed. In his book, The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam, the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) comments on the aforementioned verse stating that:

…when one suffers a loss, one should consider it as rendering back to God that which He had bestowed, and should utter no complaint about it. One should affirm that it was a bounty of God which He has recalled and that one is reconciled to God’s pleasure.[2]

The Covid-19 pandemic is unique in its nature as compared to other natural disasters or individual hardships. It has not caused complete devastation of infrastructure as an earthquake or tsunami might, nor does it only impact one person or particular group of people. Whilst the disease has regrettably claimed many lives it has also prompted mass introspection of society and the values it upholds. It has made people re-consider their priorities and compelled governments to increase provision for essential services such as public health and social care setting the tone for a society where wealth and resources can be more fairly distributed. It has forced thousands of people to abandon their daily routines of work and school; of striving for personal success and instead they are focusing on how they can reform themselves and their community. In an article published by The Review of Religions in 1993, the fourth head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community His Holiness Mirza Tahir Ahmad (may Allah have mercy on him) writes:

It is also obvious from a study of the Holy Qur’an that the laws of nature sometimes serve some specific Will of God Almighty and that whenever this happens, the changes brought about by nature lead to a reformation or betterment of a nation or people and they derive some extraordinary benefit therefrom.[3]

As Muslims we should remain steadfast through all the difficulty and have faith in Allah’s divine Will and perfect plan for the world. We should take note of this incredible opportunity that Allah has granted us. An opportunity to increase our good deeds by doing charity work and serving our community. It is an opportunity to spend time with our families and promote harmonious relationships within the home. Most importantly we should use this time to reform and educate ourselves, engage with Islamic knowledge and strengthen the practise of our faith and connection with Allah in the absence of our usual worldly excuses and distractions.

The pandemic has given us a chance to turn back to Allah; a blessing in the midst of a trial.

 

 

References:

[1] The Holy Qur’an with English Translation by Maulawi Sher Ali (ra)

[2] The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam by His Holiness Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, The Promised Messiah and Mahdi. Available at URL: [https://www.alislam.org/book/philosophy-teachings-islam/]

[3] Natural Disasters or Divine Punishment? Review of Religions, December 1993. His Holiness Mirza Tahir Ahmad. Available at URL: [https://www.alislam.org/articles/natural-disasters-or-divine-punishment/]

To Everything Turn, Turn, Turn!

Sarah blog

Sarah Ward, London

Despite being born decades after, the iconic sounds of the sixties were the memorable backdrop to my childhood.  On long car journeys, the only acceptable music came from my father’s cassettes containing the hit parade from his own adolescence.  Today, many lyrics are still imprinted on my memory.  And at this turbulent and changing time, one song keeps popping into my head.  Turn!Turn!Turn! by the Byrds rings across the years.

To everything turn, turn, turn

There is a season turn, turn, turn

And a time to every purpose

Under heaven

This song was penned in a former time of social turbulence to which there are many contemporary parallels. Social unrest was fomenting; the prospect of war loomed, economies were slowing and racial discrimination was being challenged.

But for me the overriding message of the song resonates with a core Islamic philosophy found in the Holy Qur’an:

‘‘And they planned, and Allah also planned; and Allah is the Best of planners.’ (3:55).

For me, this philosophy has been a rock amid the swaying ocean in recent months.  The belief that Allah is a Caring, Loving Being Who has oversight over all that is before and after us is a source of comfort in a world where all the rules have changed and norms subverted within a matter of days.

It seems a lifetime ago that I was accompanying my class of 30 into central London to visit the Houses of Parliament on the day the first Coronavirus debate was held.  How rapidly the landscape shifted.  All of the normal patterns of life were disrupted with no little warning and choice removed.  But as a society we adapted and tried to follow the rules.  It was clear that the individual needs were to be put second for the overall good of society as a whole.

But now the world has turned again – lockdown is easing and the rules of communities are changing. Schools that had empty classrooms are now refilling with the sounds of laughing children.  But now the rules are unclear, we are unsure about what we should do and the element of personal choice has been reintroduced.  The re-opening of schools has laid this into sharp relief with only around 60-70% of eligible students opting to return.  Fear and worry cast an uncertain shadow over the decisions of families who need to consider their personal risks. The pace at which the seasons of the world have changed has been more rapid than ever before.  But faith has been the sun, central in the spinning of circumstances the world faces.

Apart from the notion that Allah has a plan in place, Islam offers further reassurances.

‘Surely there is ease after hardship. Aye, surely there is ease after hardship.’ (94:6-7)

This is a promise made by Allah in the Holy Qur’an and in times of turbulence it is a reassuring truth that this too will pass, the hardship will eventually ease.  As I grow older, I find that this is indeed true. The burden of a few moments ease and the world is in summer sun again.

Leadership provides a sense of direction where the rules of a community are called into question.  During the Covid-19 crisis the world has seen the impact of affective and ineffective leaders and the strength or damage they can create.

With the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, the Khalifah, has given clear guidance that all Government rules must be followed strictly.  He also advised people to turn to prayer.

He said:

‘The ultimate tool we have at our disposal is that of prayer. We should all pray for the entire world that Allah the Almighty may save mankind from the harmful effects of this virus. Furthermore, may Allah grant health to all Ahmadi Muslims alongside the ability to become stronger in their faith.’   [i]

Prayer can also give a sense of inner peace and ease, especially in times of changing rules and difficulty.  As the world begins to turn away from one crisis, we don’t know where it will turn next.  The constant of prayer and faith can provide certainty in a changing world.

 

 

[i] https://www.pressahmadiyya.com/press-releases/2020/03/head-ahmadiyya-muslim-community-addresses-coronavirus-pandemic/

A World That Serves Humanity

A World that serves Humanity

Sitwat Mirza, London

Amidst all the hysteria that this pandemic has wrought, we have also witnessed the emergence of an increasingly thoughtful society built on the values of compassion and respect towards humanity. It is now our collective responsibility to maintain this level of heartfelt commitment towards performing humanitarian acts for the greater good.

Islam urges us to make financial sacrifices to allow the even distribution of wealth between the rich and the poor.[1] As Ahmadi Muslims, it is our duty to pursue the righteous act of giving charity to seek the love of Allah, display the peaceful and loving image of what Islam represents, and to instil an awareness in the hearts of all of mankind to sincerely care for their fellow brethren in times of need.

Allah the Almighty states in the Holy Qur’an:

‘And worship Allah and associate naught with Him, and show kindness to parents, and to kindred, and orphans, and the needy, and to the neighbour that is a kinsman and the neighbour that is a stranger, and the companion by your side, and the wayfarer, and those when your right hands possess. Surely, Allah loves not the proud and the boastful.’ (4:37)[2]

 Hence, we should not only show concern for our friends and family, but for anyone  we come across in need of assistance, regardless of their faith, race or ethnicity. In this way we should strive to become an  example of our motto: ‘Love for All, Hatred for None.’

The hope in seeing this pandemic through as a global community has provoked us to act in the interest of not just ourselves, but for all those around us. From the panic that rapidly spread across the nation during the first few weeks of the outbreak of Covid-19, stemmed a feeling of selfishness as individuals sought ways to protect themselves and their families. In the weeks to follow, difficulties in attaining regular income, sometimes forcing us to use leftovers to prepare family meals due to a shortage of stock in shops, and the affliction felt in seeing our loved ones suffer, brought about an important realisation for us all.

Through this difficult process of constant readjustment to a new way of life, we have learnt to appreciate those who sacrifice their time to keep things going smoothly for the rest of us, namely the key workers. As well as this, we have chosen to make the time to give to those around us, principally the most vulnerable in our society including the underprivileged, the elderly, the disabled, and the sick. These gestures of good will have ranged from participating in larger charitable initiatives like the sewing of face masks at home for hospitals and giving donations to food banks, to actively volunteering to help neighbours in isolation.

In the final Friday Sermon of the Holy month of Ramadan this year, His Holiness Khalifatul Masih V reminded us to persist in doing good works for the love of God and mankind, even after the blessed days of the Holy month of Ramadan are over, and as the government continues to ease the restrictions of lockdown.[3] After making such remarkable progress in humanitarian efforts, would it not be a shame to once again forget the true values on which a successful community is built when the lockdown is over?

Do we wish to live in a society where we find pleasure only in the materialistic gains of this world and go about in our daily lives in a self-seeking manner, or one where we exhibit friendliness, approachability and a real concern for humanity?

It is only through understanding our duties towards safeguarding the most fragile parts of our society, that we can become a prudent community that genuinely makes an effort towards fulfilling the rights of others. May Allah enable us all to continue seeking the love of Allah through the service of humanity.

 

 

[1] https://www.alislam.org/book/economic-system-islam/teachings-islam-establishing-just-society/islamic-injunction-use-wealth/

[2]  Holy Qur’an Chapter 4 Verse 37

[3]3   https://www.alislam.org/friday-sermon/2020-05-22.html

But the Economy?

Iffat blog on Post Covid Economy

Iffat Mirza, Raynes Park

A question that we continue to hear in every debate, every newscast, every conversation regarding the lockdown. One cannot deny the fact that we live in a world that has made us all dependent on money. The novel coronavirus, for all of us, has put a pause on the normalcy of our lives. Whilst we are eager to return to what we knew, this moment calls for strong introspection of our values and how these values are reflected in our quotidian material circumstances. Our economic system necessarily is, and always will be, a reflection of our morals. The virus has exposed some of the most touching aspects of our humanity but we cannot return to a system where benevolence and generosity are headlines, rather than the norm.

For example, like many others across the nation, I was touched by Captain Tom Moore’s efforts to raise money for the NHS, and other old-age pensioners have also raised large sums of money for our NHS. But surely we must question a system which relies on elderly pensioners for funding our healthcare.

For the longest time, I believed that the choice was simply between communism and capitalism. Yet neither sat quite right with me. It occurred to me rather late, that we often force ourselves to choose between two less-than-mediocre choices in most areas of life, completely neglecting the fact that there can be, and often is, an optimum third option.

Most people, when they hear of Islamic finance, reduce it to being just an interest free economic system. Yes, this is certainly true, but it is far more complex than this. The Islamic economic system is one that encompasses all aspects of a functioning economy. Primarily, it teaches that the circulation of wealth is absolutely necessary. Hoarding wealth is considered immoral. The Holy Qur’an states:

‘Behold, you are those who are called upon to spend in the way of Allah; but of you there are some who are niggardly. And whoso is niggardly, is niggardly only against his own soul…’[1]

Indeed, here it is shown that to be selfish with one’s wealth, especially in regards to not spending in the way of Allah is only damaging to our own souls as we limit ourselves from achieving nearness to Allah.

This is because it does not benefit anyone except he who holds it (and maybe not even him, seeing as he does not spend it). The rapid and free circulation of money is encouraged in Islam so that all can benefit from it and it is spent for the betterment of society. Furthermore, fair taxes are encouraged as they allow money to be spent on the public which also aids in the betterment of society. Zakat, a one of the five pillars of Islam, is a perfect example of a system which encourages a portion of one’s wealth being redistributed for the betterment of society.

In contrast to this, we are faced with a system where a select few hoard their wealth whilst others look on with nothing. Such a system is not only unnecessarily unfair, but it  makes sport of the working class who are exploited for cheap labour whilst the top 1% take the biggest shares in profits, who could easily afford to pay their employees higher wages and provide better working conditions.

In his lecture, delivered in 1945, ‘The New World Order of Islam’, His Holiness Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad stated:

‘Even today a rich man’s dogs are fed on dainties left over from his table, while a poor man’s children have to go to sleep on empty stomachs. This is no exaggerated contrast. There are hundreds of thousands of parents who have to put their children to sleep unfed. Even if the well-to-do were anxious to remedy this state of affairs, it would not be possible for them to achieve the desired end through individual effort. A rich man, however benevolent, cannot know that in a hut on a far away hill a poor man’s child is dying of starvation? How can the opulent town-dwellers learn the vicissitudes through which the distressed populations of remote areas pass? True, often even the will to help is lacking, but assuming that the wealthier classes are willing and even anxious to help, they would lack the necessary knowledge and the necessary means by which they could banish poverty and distress from the world.’

How much has changed since 1945? Is this not something that many can still relate to, not just on a global scale but within our own communities?

Coronavirus has brought all of our systems to a grinding halt. One, tiny virus, invisible to the naked eye, has proven the fragility of our economic system, and if we want to emerge from this virus stronger, we must re-evaluate our priorities and how they are reflected in our economic system: one that does not force anyone to go to sleep hungry.

 

 

 

[1] The Holy Qur’an, Chapter 47 Verse 39, Translated by Maulwi Sher Ali Sahib (ra)

 

The Emergence of a Post-Covid Society

Tahira Blog

Tahira Chaudhry, London

In the comfort of our homes we have sought refuge from Covid-19 and it is in this relative comfort that we have watched as thousands have struggled, been hurt, grieved and tens of thousands have sadly passed away. Difficulties often serve to reawaken our humility, ever present in us but sometimes silenced by the overwhelming demands and goings on of today’s material, digital and fast-moving world. The world today has had an unrivalled chance to pause and reflect and it is in this period of silence that many have reawakened and reacquainted themselves with their true inner self.

In the ‘Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam’, the Promised Messiah, on whom be peace, the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community  has most eloquently explained the three states of man and it seems most befitting to mention them here.  He explains that man in his natural state is not regulated by anyone or anything and acts on impulse alone. But when one reflects, exercises reason and begins to distinguish between good and bad then morality takes seed. When man begins to employ his faculties on the correct occasion, adopts goodness and moral qualities then a reproving self emerges. A new self that feels anxious to do good is the emergence of the moral state, but it is not one that is necessarily spiritual or religious all the time.  The spiritual state emerges when man begins his search for his Creator, the root and reason for his life. It is when man heeds his understanding of the divine that the spiritual state is established; and the soul finds peace.

To me, it seems that this emergence of one state to another as we reform and better ourselves is the journey of our lives and it is in exercising goodness only that we can have solace in the noise and flurry of this harsh but beautiful world. The more we improve, the more deep meaningful calm and peaceful joy we invite and accept into our lives and homes. In these unprecedented times then, this is the search and desire for improvement for which we should all strive.

Establishing a relationship with God and in our personal communion with Him we gain the highest form of joy because as the Promised Messiah said, ‘a person experiences a change in God according to the change in himself.’[1] It is in our personal experience of Allah and His answering of our prayers that we find comfort. In the Holy Qur’an we are told that Allah says: ‘And when My servants ask thee about Me, say: ‘I am near. I answer the prayer of the supplicant when he prays to Me. So they should hearken to Me and believe in Me, that they may follow the right way.’ (2:187)

A post-Covid society enriched by the true recognition of God and all that is good will have truly triumphed. Covid-19 has hurt us but embarking on a path of goodness we can emerge a stronger society. Prayer is that light which we seek in these dark and unprecedented times. It is in suffering that sadly much is gained, and it seems that a post-Covid society will certainly have such gains. But just as we are told that anticipation is half the joy; it also seems that anticipation is half the anguish. Anguish as lockdown opens.

Life is a journey and can be a path to purification – if we chose this for ourselves. The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) presented himself as a witness for the existence of God and this repeatedly comes to surface in his writings. He affirmed that one who moves towards God will find God and will also find that God moves closer to him with a quicker speed than his own.

These are testing times, of that there is no doubt but what is ever clear also is the truth that in remaining steadfast during trial we become truly deserving of God’s special grace. In that then, we can be sure that we will begin to taste of the fruits of heaven in this very life. That is an opening of lockdown we should all be eager for.

‘Time is short and there is no telling how long one shall live. Make haste – for twilight will soon descend.’[2]

 

 

[1] Noah’s Ark, page 19

[2] Noah’s Ark, Page 43

The Great Unifying Force of Khilafat

Qadian, 27 May 1908. Location where Hazrat Khalifatul Masih I took his first bai'at

 

Today we, in the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, mark the 112th Khilafat Day. Let us remind ourselves of the blessed words in which our five Khulafa have explained the great unifying force of the institution of Khilafat and its spiritual dimension. 

 

His Holiness Khalifatul Masih I   رضی اللہ عنہ (may Allah be pleased with him)

1908 – 1914

‘I bequeath that your grasp onto the ‘rope of Allah’ and the Holy Qur’an be your modus operandi, that there is no mutual discord because discord halts Divine beneficence… let your condition in the hands of the Imam of the age be as a dead body is in the hand of one who bathes [the body]. All your objectives and wishes should be dead and you should connect with your Imam as carriages connect to an engine. Then see if you emerge out of darkness or not. Engage in istighfar profusely and continue to pray. Do not let go of Unity of Allah… This age has been granted after thirteen hundred years and in future this age cannot come till the Day of Judgement. Thus be thankful for this blessing because thankfulness increases blessings’.[i]

His Holiness Khalifatul Masih II   رضی اللہ عنہ (may Allah be pleased with him)

1914 – 1965

‘Be exceedingly mindful that Khilafat is ‘the rope of Allah’ and is a rope holding onto which alone will lead you to progress. One who will let go of it will be destroyed’. [ii]

His Holiness Khalifatul Masih III    رحمہ اللہ تعالیٰ (may Allah have mercy on him)

1965 – 1982

‘We are under the obligation to pass our days being His grateful servants, and we should always live in unity and concord in the Jama‘at, and never lose sight of the fact that all holiness and all Wilayat is under the foot of Khilafat-e-Rashida’.[iii]

His Holiness Khalifatul Masih IV رحمہ اللہ تعالیٰ (may Allah have mercy on him)

1982 – 2003

‘Tie your connection with Khilafat till the Day of Judgement so strongly as if you have gotten hold of a strong handle that is not destined to break…thus if you are with Khilafat, Khilafat will most certainly be with you and it is this mutual accord alone that shall ultimately result in the [spread of] Unity of God’. [iv]

His Holiness Khalifatul Masih V  ایدہ اللہ تعالیٰ بنصرہ العزیز (may Allah be his Helper)

Khilafat commenced in 2003 

‘The second manifestation is a great blessing from God and its objective is to unite the people and protect them from dissension. It is that cord that strings the Community together like pearls. Scattered pearls are neither safe nor do they appear beautiful. Only pearls that are strung together are beautiful and safe. Without the second manifestation Islam could not progress. Therefore establish a relationship of absolute sincerity, love, fidelity and devotion with this manifestation. Make the fervour with which to obey Khilafat enduring; moreover enhance your love for it to such a degree that all other relations pale into insignificance’. [v]

 

 

 

 

 

 

[i] (Khutbat e Nur p. 131 – Source. Nizam e Khilafat Barakat Aur Hamari Zimadariaan, pp. 76-77)

[ii] (Dars ul Qur’an 1st March 1961 – Source. Nizam e Khilafat Barakat Aur Hamari Zimadariaan, p. 77)

[iii] (Twenty-three Great Objectives of Building the House of Allah, p. 155)

[iv] (Ref: Monthly ‘Khalid’ May 1994 pp 2-4 – Source. Nizam e Khilafat Barakat Aur Hamari Zimadariaan, pp. 77-78)

[v] (Daily Al Fazl Rabwah 30th May 2003 – Source. Nizam e Khilafat Barakat Aur Hamari Zimadariaan, pp. 78-79)

 

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