Politics · Women

Lessons Worth Learning

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Sarah Ward Khan, London

I love studying history. I have always been enthralled by the lives of those who paved a way forward before me and steered society towards its current point. Growing up in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s was also a heady time: we felt history unfolding before us and we were part of it. And the history I saw around me as a young child was an intoxicating, positive movement: it was change for the better. The fall of the Berlin Wall, the end of apartheid, the end of the Cold War – the future at that time looked bright. Social movements were making life better for the oppressed and the downtrodden, righting the wrongs of the past and moving forward with hope.

So, it is with a heavy heart that I ponder over the world today, Society is still changing, technology and communication are changing the way we interact and forging new norms. But is it, I wonder, a better society we are building? Where are the values of freedom, tolerance, equality which were upheld in those heady days? Where is the sense of social justice and liberation?

The burqa debate and the comments of Boris Johnson only seem to highlight the difference between my childhood and now. Instead of moving towards a better life, we seem to be regressing to the dark days of nationalism, popularism and self-interest. As I look to the future I don’t see better things ahead, I see division and separation: them and us mentality and fear of others.

And who will lead the charge against this decline? Who are the leaders in society who will uphold those virtues and values that made the world a better place for all? I would hope that people in public life might feel the weight of their role and understand this facet of their influence. This is especially true of politicians. Politicians are there to serve – the needs of everyone and not just themselves. They are there to stand up for the poor, the weak and the oppressed. Their goal should be to uphold an inclusive and peaceful society and if it isn’t that goal – then what are they aiming for?

Which is why Boris Johnson’s words matter. They weren’t off the cuff, they were planned and printed in a national newspaper. They very deliberately targeted a small minority of women using mocking and ridiculing language. Commentators and Twitter trolls have leapt on the band wagon telling women to get over it, have a laugh and to get a sense of humour. Are these the values we want to build our society upon? That we are free to offend and insult and if your feelings are hurt you should grow up? What kind of a society would that create?

It’s certainly not the society I create in my classroom as a teacher and I would have failed to qualify for the profession if I had taught children in my care this principle. I teach them that words matter, that we laugh with and never at others. We share a joke – we don’t target one person or one group. This is part of the British Values of tolerance and respect which every teacher in the UK is obliged to promote. Why is Mr Johnson exempt from these values his government created and enforces? Why does is he not held to the standards he expects us all to teach? This is hypocrisy of the clearest kind.

In my personal life I go further than these broad notions, I try to uphold a very specific standard. In the 10 Conditions of Bai’at, a pledge of allegiance taken by all members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, which set out standards of faith and conduct. The fourth condition is: That under the impulse of any passion, he/she shall cause no harm whatsoever to the creatures of God in general and Muslims in particular, neither by his/her tongue, hands, nor by any other means.

What an inspiring principle and aim this is in my life! I may well fall short of this but the renewed pledge taken at Jalsa Salana UK annually reminds and refocuses our minds on this. What a beautiful, peaceful, equal society this principle could create if we all stuck to it. We would not hurt anyone by any means – including the words we say. What unity there would be. Nobody would fear, like the Muslim women so openly targeted in the national press all week, that they would be coerced and bullied into conforming to the beliefs of others at the cost of their own choice. Mutual respect and care would mean that we would prevent ourselves from offending others and unity would be the result. Not uniformity and force and coercion, as many in the burqa debate wish to impose by removing women’s right to choose their own clothes, but fellowship built on peace and respect.

So, faced with these two versions of society – one in which we can say what we feel and ignore the impact on the sentiments of others, or one in which we try not to hurt any member of the community, I know where I would rather live. I, and so many other women are speaking up now because we know that this is a moment in history where the society in which we live is about to make that choice. Either we agree that insult is acceptable in public servants or we defend the value of respect and unity. History will show which side of the battle succeeds.

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Hijab · Women

Muslim Women

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Yusra Dahri, London

This is not just a cloth
Nor the hatred that you’ve made,
But a symbol of faith and trust.
A decision that will not fade.

Yet all cloths are woven from thread.
And this thread has been constantly weaving.
From our mothers to our grandmothers,
From ancient scriptures to a world never sleeping.

We are not hidden but carrying a trove of history.
Our minds are bejeweled with meaning.
So let us teach you how we live.
We are not asleep, but dreaming

Features

Inspirational Smiles

InspirationalSmiles!

Sameea Jonnud, Aldershot

At the inspection and inauguration of Jalsa Salana on Sunday, after Sadr Lajna UK had earlier requested advice from Hadhoor regarding Jalsa work, Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih gave Lajna Jalsa duty workers the advice that they should engage in prayer and that they should smile and keep smiling all three days of Jalsa. This brought to mind some memories from past Jalsa days.

It was the Thursday before Jalsa in 2014 and I was working in accommodation on the Hadeeqatul Mahdi site. Our job was to register guests, see if they needed any bedding and settle them with mattresses in the marquees. Guests had been arriving all morning and the marquees were filling up fast when in the late morning the fire drill inspection team arrived and we had to do a fire drill. Our team sprang into action, one took over the fire bell to alert the guests, several swept through the marquees making sure no one was left behind and within five minutes everyone, even the disabled elderly, had assembled outside the accommodation area. The inspection team were happy and we helped the guests go back to their marquees and continued working.

Afterwards it got me thinking about all the various work I had done at Jalsas down the years and that other volunteers did, both male and female, adults and children. For this Jalsa I had attended a fire safety course along with female volunteers from other departments, learning about fire hazards, how to deal with fires and keeping people safe. It meant that at Jalsa each area had a fire safety team who could swing into action and evacuate the whole site if necessary. My accommodation team work gave me skills in dealing with people in sometimes difficult circumstances, such as tiredness, bad weather, etc. Last year at the end of Jalsa, I visited my daughters who were still working in accommodation and found them and their team in rain capes helping guests and their children and baggage onto golf buggies to leave the site; this was after they had settled their department’s finances and helped stack returned mattresses And all of this with smiles on their faces.

Around the jalsa site there had been hundreds of women working throughout the weekend, keeping the site clean, distributing food and water, running various stalls, managing respite and crèche areas, inspecting for hygiene and safety, driving guests around, administering first aid and many, many more jobs. And whenever they saw someone they knew or just made eye contact with, they would pause, often only briefly, to smile, offer greetings and ask “how are you?” before continuing with their work.

Down the years, I’ve seen and experienced working at different jobs in extremely hot, sunny conditions as well as wearing wellies in the rain and mud. And down the years I’ve been astounded at the passion and skill displayed by these ordinary women volunteers. I’ve worked with teachers, doctors, mothers, students, scientists and more, each volunteer unafraid to get her hands dirty and each working her hardest to get the job done, just to make the Jalsa run smoothly and to please God.

What an example these cheerful women are for the younger generation and as has happened through the years, that younger generation will undoubtedly follow in their footsteps and become similar inspirational, smiling women.

Features

Jalsa Stories – Roti

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Sameea Jonnud, Aldershot

My dad was telling my daughter and I about Jalsa Salana in Rabwah and how the last Jalsa there had an attendance of 275,000 people, making our Jalsa in the UK seem tiny by comparison. Imagine cooking food for that many people, my dad laughed, imagine the number of rotis that were made!

He recalled a Jalsa in the mid-seventies when the rotis were made by non-Ahmadis from areas surrounding Rabwah rather than Ahmadi volunteers. It had reached Jalsa time and some people trying to make trouble told the roti makers to demand more money at this last moment or refuse to make the rotis assuming the Jamaat would give in because the Jalsa guests had already arrived in Rabwah and needed feeding.

Jamaat officials seeing no way around this difficulty thought it might be best to give in to their demands on this last minute occasion but Hadhrat Mirza Nasir Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih III, told them not to. He advised that every household in Rabwah should be asked to help by making rotis and at this last moment the ingredients were sent around to homes and the members of the community answered the call and made rotis to feed the guests!

This reminded my mum and I about an incident during the nineties when Jalsa UK was held at Islamabad. Early on the morning of the final day we got a call that the roti plant had broken down and a lot of dough was already mixed so rotis could be made for lunch. All the households in Islamabad jamaat including those in Aldershot were asked to take dough and make rotis. The large plastic bowls of dough were distributed and we began making rotis.

Both my parents and I had houses full of guests from abroad and most had already gone to Jalsa for the congregational pledge. One of my cousins came to help me and her sister remained with my mum and we spent the whole morning listening to Jalsa on MTA while making rotis.

Finally we had two large crates filled with round, soft naan-like bread which we were then able to transport to Islamabad in time for lunch. By then the roti plant was working once more so our rotis joined those to feed the thousands of Jalsa guests. Just as the families of Rabwah had answered the call to serve the jamaat so now had the families of Islamabad been given the opportunity to do so.

It was a hot, frantic, arm-aching morning but so fulfilling and one which will always stand out among our memories of Jalsa.

Features · Women

Celebrating the Right to Drive – a Novel or Forgotten Right?

 Ayesha's Blog

Ayesha Malik, Surrey

On June 24th this year, women in Saudi Arabia took to the steering wheel for the first time, after being banned from driving for decades. The reforms introduced by Crown Prince Muhammed bin Salman are considered to be sweeping, granting Saudi women the right to drive without a legal guardian. The measures allowing driving licenses to be issued to women were announced in September 2017, with driving schools never having opened their doors to Saudi women before this.

Ironically, a month before the ban was due to be formally lifted, prominent female campaigners including Loujain al-Hathloul, Eman al-Nafjan and Aisha Al-Mana were detained by Saudi authorities who declined to reveal the reason for their detention. However, Sarah Leah Whitson, the Middle East director at Human Rights Watch said that, “The message is clear that anyone expressing scepticism about the crown prince’s rights agenda faces time in jail.” These women were part of dozens of women activists who had been campaigning for years for the driving ban to be lifted and were part of the Women2Drive Movement. When the pronouncement to lift the ban was made in autumn last year, the authorities were quick to contact these women urging them not to comment on the decision in the media.

The Saudi Government’s contradictory two-pronged approach has become a hallmark of the Kingdom’s repressive regime against women. That this should be the case in a country where Islam dawned is deeply disconcerting. Early Islamic history records women partaking in battle and aiding the wounded soldiers in combat. At a time when horseback and camels were the only means of transport, having women on the battlefield was concomitant to women riding horses or camels. In the 21st century, this right would translate into the right to drive motor vehicles.

For those celebrating the right of Saudi women to drive as something worth hailing as part of a liberal rights movement are in need of a history lesson. All too often history is forgotten for the pursuit of partisan agendas and geo-political haggling. Saudi women have too often become the scapegoat of this phenomenon. In fact, horse riding is a Sunnah (practice) of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon Him) and there are Ahadith (traditions) in which he urged his followers to learn to ride a horse, shoot a bow and swim.

Thus, June 24th simply “gave back” Saudi women a right they had earned 1400 years ago. The image of the Saudi Muslim woman has become the archetype of oppression and subjugation. The construction of this image has been the product of the Saudi Government’s adherence to a puritanical version of Islam, which is completely antithetical to the original teachings of the faith. This image is also cemented by the mainstream media, which has effectively hijacked the notion of what ought to be considered liberty for women worldwide – with little deference to cultural or personal preference. A far more informed and balanced discourse is required in order to cut through the glaze of both these competing views such that the nuance of socio-religious stories is preserved.

Features

Life and Choice

Munazzah's Blog

Dr Munazzah Chou, Farnham

The debate between pro-life and pro-choice rages on and has come to the fore recently around the Irish referendum in which Ireland voted to repeal the amendment of its constitution which effectively prohibited abortion, and now the issue plays a central role in the appointment of a Supreme Court Judge in the US. It is a hugely emotive subject and positions are often entrenched on both sides.

Islam goes to great lengths to protect the sanctity of all human life and condemns abortion as tantamount to taking the life of another human being. However, when the mother’s health is in danger Islam grants greater right to the mother and abortion in this situation is not only permissible but advisable.

The Holy Qur’an states, ‘…nor kill a person that Allah has forbidden except for just cause…and he who does that shall meet with the punishment of sin .’ (25:69) ‘…whosoever killed a person … it shall be as if he had killed all mankind; and whoso gave life to one, it shall be as if he had given life to all mankind.’ (5:33)

In England and Wales abortions are permitted on a number of grounds including grave danger to the health of the mother, expected serious physical or mental abnormalities of the child, and for any other physical or mental health risk for the mother if the pregnancy is under 24 weeks. In 2016 190,406 abortions were carried out, a rate of 16 per 1,000 women aged 15-44. Of these only 246 abortions were carried out due to grave danger of the pregnancy to the mother or risk of life and only 6 cases were performed as a medical emergency to save the life of the mother. The vast majority (97%) of abortions were carried out because of a stated risk to the woman’s mental health. This could for example be if a woman didn’t feel ready to raise a child at that point in time.

Pro-choice advocates believe that women have the right to access abortion as a valid and positive reproductive choice for any reason in an ‘on-demand’ service. The Holy Qur’an however, specifically forbids abortions due to fear of financial strain. It states, ‘Kill not your children for fear of poverty. It is We Who provide for them and for you. Surely, the killing of them is a great sin.”(17:32)

God’s bounty is limitless and in “Exploding Population Myths” Jim Peron writes that “in most of the world, food production is easily outstripping population growth, and on a world-wide basis the problem of overpopulation no longer exists. It is true, of course, that some nations still cannot feed themselves, but the reasons for this tend to be political.”

Unwanted pregnancies are the product of society’s attitude to sex and inadequate contraception. Islam is clear on the subject of appropriate sexual relations. However, as 16% of abortions in England and Wales are among married women, the issue of contraception is important to address. The fourth Khalifa of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, His Holiness Mirza Tahir Ahmad (may Allah have mercy on him) writes in his book ‘Absolute, Justice, Kindness and Kinship’ that ‘Wherever Allah has forbidden family planning in the Holy Qur’an, He has done so on account of the fear of family planners for shortage of food. The Companions of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) narrate that the only practice they carried out was not to abort children for fear of poverty, but to take preventative measures against their conception for other reason.’

Abortion as a means of contraception is unacceptable. As is true for all medical conditions prophylaxis is superior to treatment from a clinical as well as economic perspective, and in this case also from a moral standpoint. The relationship between accessible contraception and abortion rates is clear. In 2012 the average abortion rate in England and Wales was around 9.7% higher in areas where sexual health and contraceptive services were restricted, compared with areas with no restrictions. In the USA the poorest 33% account for 75% of abortions. So data strongly suggest that a significant proportion of women undergo terminations due to poverty. In this context abortion cannot be considered to be a “choice” and addressing poverty may avoid a number of unwanted abortions.

The theologian Helmut Thielicke, in his work Being Human, Becoming Human points out that ‘Only if human life is unconditionally sacred and humanity is made the measure of all things are we protected against its being made a thing or tool and thus consigned to the scrap heap, as machines are when they wear out and are no longer of use.’

 

References

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/679028/Abortions_stats_England_Wales_2016.pdf

Chika E Uzoigwe, After 50 years of legal abortion in Great Britain, calls grow for further liberalisation, BMJ 2017;359:j5278

Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad, Absolute Justice, Kindness and Kinship p 384

 

Holy Quran · Islam

A Colour That Never Fades

Arfa Blog

 

Arfa Niswan Yassir, Swindon

It is stated in the Holy Qur’an:

 صِبْغَةَ اللَّهِ ۖ وَمَنْ أَحْسَنُ مِنَ اللَّهِ صِبْغَةً ۖ وَنَحْنُ لَهُ عَابِدُونَ

Translation: “Say, ‘We will adopt the religion of Allah; and who is better than Allah in teaching religion, and Him alone do we worship.’ (2:139)

Quranic commentary tells us that this verse is about colouring ourselves in God’s colour because His colour is the best. This indeed gives a new meaning to the word ‘colour’ and this is a beautiful expression everyone can relate to. It showcases the beauty of expression of the Holy Qur’an. ‘Colour’ is used so often in our lives in various contexts like the term ‘black or white’, then there are colours of races, flags are represented by colours and patterns. So Allah unites all forms of colour under one best colour that is the colour of Allah!

According to commentary of the Holy Qur’an the Arabic word in the verse صبغہ means dye or colour, mode of a thing, religion, baptism and code of laws.

The commentary also tells us that adopting the colour of Allah is the true baptism, that is, an initiation through which one can try to acquire Divine attributes on a human level and try and be a living manifestation of the same.

Like every other instruction in Qur’an this verse also demands thought and action. By reflecting on it and then putting it in practice we can fulfil the purpose of our existence i.e.  We colour our lives in His Colour. If we make this our goal, our objective and reason to be ultimately becomes our strength. Of course it’s difficult to maintain His colour in the presence of so many tempting colours of the world! However, we can pray and earnestly try for it! Though the colours of the world are tempting but their reality is nothing. So we need to strive to think, ponder and move from the superficial worldly colours to the enduring divine colours i.e. the attributes of Allah which we need to adopt on a human level and try and demonstrate in our lives.

Allah’s colour, His religion, His code of law is what constitutes the Holy Qur’an and it was also Allah’s colour that was demonstrated in the blessed life of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be on him).

The process of adopting Allah’s colour is a wonderful journey, journey worth spending all our efforts on! So now is the time to take steps towards Allah before it is too late! To attain His colour should be the greater focus of life towards which all other intentions should be directed. This also means knowing how to keep moving in the right direction during the toughest of times, trying one’s best to keep one’s direction towards Allah.

His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the fifth spiritual head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community mentioned and explained the aforementioned Quranic verse in one of his Friday Sermons a few years ago. He said:

“By adopting Divine attributes a person gains nearness to God. When a believer imbues God’s colour he or she attain his or her purpose of creation. He or she tries to practice that which God likes and tries and resists what God dislikes. The commandment ‘to adopt the religion/colour of God’ signifies that God has put the capacity in humans to adopt His attributes within their own sphere and to also demonstrate them. For example, man can adopt the Divine qualities of Malikiyyat (quality of being the Master), Rahmaniyyat (quality of being Gracious), Raheemiyyat (quality of being Merciful) and Rububiyyat (quality of being the Sustainer/Nurturer) on human level. Man can adopt the quality of being Sattar (One Who covers the faults of others) and of Wahab (the Bestower), in fact these qualities are sometimes demonstrated in the life of an ordinary person. A true believer imbues the colours/qualities of God to attract His love. It is essential to demonstrate these qualities to attract the love of God, to save humanity from sin and to attain the purpose of one’s creation. Ultimately, this demonstration becomes a source of merit in God’s sight.”[i]

Although this journey of adopting colour of Allah is a most fulfilling spiritual experience, it is not an easy way. It demands sacrifice of worldly wishes and desires, it demands a complete state of fanaa, a state where one is completely absorbed and devoted to Allah.

May Allah deepen HIS colour in our souls! AMEEN

 

[i] https://www.alislam.org/friday-sermon/2012-08-10.html#summary-tab

Features

Safeguarding Yourself: Time For Change

Laiqas blog 1

Laiqa Bhatti, Surrey

In recent months, media coverage of high profile sexual assault cases has driven countless women to speak up about the sexual harassment and assault they themselves have faced in all walks of life. In the UK alone, at least half of British women have been sexually harassed at work or a place of study and despite the widespread effort to achieve gender equality, reported cases of sexual assault have increased between 2012 and 2017 [1]. Police recorded offences have more than doubled to over 120,000 cases reported in the year 2017 [2]. These statistics raise questions as to why this issue is so widespread and commonplace and has not been effectively tackled. Even more worryingly, according to a BBC survey 63% of women said that they did not report sexual harassment at work or places of education to anyone. This portrays a bleak image where sexual harassment is almost expected and accepted as part of daily life if you are a girl or a woman.

While harassment of any form, including sexual is illegal, gathering evidence and proving it can sometimes be difficult which could be one reason many women do not report it. Therefore, any solution to tackle this issue requires preventative actions as lack of successful prosecution shows it cannot and does not serve as a deterrent. Yet debate on how to effectively reduce sexual harassment is often stifled when suggestions are presented that involve refuge for or change in behaviour by the victim. It is considered victim blaming and for many a no go. Yet the ‘Protection from Harassment Act 1997’ should have safeguarded women from unwanted sexual advances, it seems that women are no less at risk now than they were then [3]. It certainly has not eradicated harassment or even come close which calls for an alternative solution to be considered. With the media continuing to perpetually sexualise women and reducing their status to a mere object designed to be ogled, as a society it embeds the notion that the role of a woman is only one of a visual pleasure for others. With that sense of entitlement, sexual harassment is the next natural step if self-restraint is not exercised. For that reason, in the first instance Islam prescribes protection for all women in the way of men lowering their gaze. In the Holy Qur’an, it says:

‘Say to the believing men that they restrain their eyes and guard their private parts. That is purer for them. Surely, Allah is well-aware of what they do.’ (24:31) [4]

If truly adhered to, the man that does not look directly at women out of respect, how will he even consider harassing her? In this way, Islam does not only protect Muslim women but all women. However, Islam also recognises that this injunction does not apply to non-believing men and therefore is nowhere enough to fully protect women from harassment so it goes on to say:

‘And say to the believing women that they restrain their eyes and guard their private parts and that they display not their beauty and embellishments except that which is apparent, thereof, and that they draw their head-covers over their bosoms, and that they display not their beauty and embellishments thereof save to their husbands, or to their fathers or the fathers of their husbands or their sons or the sons of their husbands or their brothers or the sons of their brothers or the sons of their sisters or their women or what their right hands possess or such of male attendants who have no wickedness in them, or young children who have not yet attained any concept of the private parts of women. And they walk not in the style that such of their beauty as they conceal is noticed. And turn you to Allah all together, O believers that you may succeed.’ (24:32) [5]

Alongside other guidance that Islam sets out, the essence of modesty is the keystone to protecting women from any unwanted sexual advances. Islam guides women towards modesty to protect them from sexual harassment. If we lived in Utopia where all men would truly lower their gaze and respected women, then perhaps women wouldn’t have to take actions to safeguard themselves. The sad truth is, even in Western countries where there is a strong fight towards gender equality, sexual harassment is commonplace and even more worryingly, on the rise. Yet gender equality cannot be achieved without women receiving the respect they deserve. No woman deserves to be cat called, approached with unwanted comments or even worse. Safeguarding yourself from anything negative is not victim blaming. It is simply being sensible in a less than ideal world. The founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, has elaborated on the philosophy of modesty as follows:

‘It should be remembered that to restrain one’s looks and to direct them only towards observing that which is permissible is described in Arabic by the expression ghadde basar, which is the expression employed in the Holy Quran in this context. It does not behove a pious person who desires to keep his heart pure that he should lift his eyes freely in every direction like an animal. It is necessary that such a one should cultivate the habit of ghadde basar in his social life. This is a blessed habit through which his natural impulses would be converted into a high moral quality without interfering with his social needs. This is the quality which is called chastity in Islam.’[6]

As a Muslim woman, I experience the protective nature of modesty myself in my daily life. Hearing the notion of women protecting themselves from any form of abuse as ‘victim blaming’ is incorrect and insulting. Is locking our front door to protect ourselves from burglars also victim blaming? It is simply recognising that despite all other efforts, theft can happen and requires preventative measures. In the same way, women need to accept that alongside education and reformation of the way society views us, we should take measures to protect ourselves and modesty is a large part of that. Sexual harassment shouldn’t become a part of our everyday life, accepted as a by-product of our freedom and modesty shouldn’t be seen as a barrier to that freedom. Instead modesty allows us to go on in our daily life without the fear of being objectified and treated as though our only purpose in this life is a superficial one. There is no freedom for a woman if she constantly worries and continuously finds herself at risk of sexual harassment. It stifles her ability to conduct her work with full confidence and to the best of her ability. Yet if her dress portrays modesty, she stands out of the crowd as someone whose sole purpose isn’t to visually appeal to others.

In an ideal world the way a woman dresses should not have a bearing on her safety or the respect she is given, however we also cannot deny that in our current society, the Islamic solution is the one that truly protects women.

 

[1] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-41741615

[2]https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/articles/sexualoffencesinenglandandwales/yearendingmarch2017

[3] https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1997/40/contents

[4] The Holy Qur’an, 24:31

[5] The Holy Qur’an, 24:32

[6] The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam, pp 23-25

 

Features · Politics

One Brotherhood

Manaal Blog - Brotherhood

Manaal Rehman, Cheam, UK

Today, the Muslim world is divided and these divisions have been tidied up into various sects. Be they Shia, Sunni or Sufi, their variations are caused by differences in interpretation, which stem from a simple lack of unity; and each one believes that they are above the other.

Yet this unfortunate reality is far from what the Holy Prophet (Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon him) had wanted for his Ummah (Muslim community). Islam maintains a cardinal principle of the unity of the Creator, Allah Almighty, and the unity of His creation, humanity. And in line with this, the Holy Prophet (Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon him) sought a oneness, he desired a unity amongst his people. He wanted his Ummah to be like brothers, and form a brotherhood.

In his farewell sermon he stated: “You are brothers and sisters. You are all equal. No matter to which nation or tribe you belong and no matter what your status is, you are equal. Just as the fingers of both hands are alike, nobody can claim to have any distinctive right or greatness over another. The command which I give you today is not just for today but it is forever. Always remember to and keep acting upon it until you return to your true Master.”

However, quite evidently, the Muslim world has deviated from this direction. We can see that even today some people believe they are ‘better’ than others, and have the right to become ‘the masters’ of other humans, consequently leading to, for example, the recent abhorrent Libyan slave trade. The spate of terrorism perpetrated by some extremist Muslims over the last twenty years has become a blight on the world and another illustration of just how far some Muslims have strayed from Islam’s teachings of peace and tolerance towards others.

We often find that throughout history, our black brothers and sisters have been taken as inferior. The majority of the slave trade in recent history reveals the kidnapping and stealing or Africans and rather atrociously classing them as subhuman. This has ingrained into the subconscious of some in the western society, that they are (God forbid) inferior to us, and they don’t matter.

On the 19th of June, an incident occurred in Chicago where a black teen was shot, and an ambulance was called. A white sheet was placed over him, implying he was dead, when in fact he was still breathing, and he was left there. It was not until an onlooker pointed out that the boy was visibly breathing that paramedics began to examine him, yet he passed away. This is just one case in thousands, to show that some people in the world still believe that black lives are unimportant. Be it conscious or not, this mentality is contradictory to not only Islam but to all religions and it is precisely this mentality which has led to movements such as Black Lives Matter.

This Organisation says: “Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise.”

A need for such an organisation should not exist in the modern world today. We go around masquerading like we have firm beliefs in equality, yet such incidents still occur, are continuing to increase and will most likely not end while there are groups that promote self-superiority, such are right-wing extremists.

Calling themselves ‘native’ they maintain the view that the people who are indigenous to Europe are superior; these groups include Neo-Nazis who have not moved on from the German regime of World War II and groups such as Britain First. They actively encourage brutality and fear against immigrants and people of different origins and justify acts of physical violence upon them. In a world where one group is inciting violence against another and one race is considered inferior to another, can we really ever have one brotherhood, or will it remain a fantasy for humankind?

Islam is the final religion brought for all of humankind, and the behaviour and actions of its followers should be exemplary for the rest of the world; if they are fighting amongst themselves, then what hope does the rest of the world have. Can all of humanity, ever really be One Brotherhood?

I believe that it can, and as an Ahmadi Muslim, it is my duty to pray this. And dear reader, I would like to humbly request that you also pray that the Muslim Ummah, can become the image of unity that the Prophet (Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon him) had wanted and that we can live in a truly harmonious world.

Features

A Personal Journey, An Individual Choice

Personal Journey

Christine Sharif, Luton

A two day Converts Social & Spiritual Outing took place at Manchester (Mosque) and the Lake District after which a convert to Islam wrote her story.

It is hard to fully express the incredible experience of being together with other people from such diverse backgrounds, so many different national and ethnic origins together at one time, yet sharing the same beliefs and incredible journeys of conversion. Russia, Kazakhstan, Syria, Jordan, Pakistan, Africa, Kurd, England, Indonesia, Scotland; the sheer diversity yet unity felt emotionally overwhelming and words simply cannot convey such an experience. Where else would you find such profound differences yet unity?

This unique phenomenon occurred in a recent social and spiritual outing organised by The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community for its converts. A two day event that involved a retreat at the Darul Aman Mosque in Manchester, followed by a trip to the beautiful Lake District, my birth place. The more energetic chose to take advantage of the landscape and views and went off on a lengthy hike. I chose the more sedate option of a leisurely boat trip on Ullswater Lake to Howstown for tea and scones. On our return we had a picnic which was followed by Asr Prayer. This was one of my favourite parts, Praying together in congregation beside the lake in the most glorious surroundings and weather to match. The fact that it was forecast rain and inevitably always rains in the Lake District, the weather itself was a miracle!

We were looked after incredibly well with all our needs fully catered for and with just short of 100 attendees, not an easy task for our hosts who were always cheerful and eager to please. We listened to some wonderful speeches on becoming spiritual human beings and how to meet Allah Almighty in this life, as well as some incredible journeys into Ahmadiyyat. It struck me how each story demonstrated a unique personal relationship with God which encompassed everyone’s individual capacity, needs and means towards accepting the truth. Some had dreams, others spiritual experiences, some were inspired by other Ahmadis they had encountered, as well as quests to find answers to unsatisfied questions and reflections. Whichever route our destination was the same.

Although I have returned home to my birth place countless times it was something different to be there with my Community and reflect on my own journey. Raised in Britain as a ‘typical’ English girl my knowledge of religion was meagre and superficial at best. Science was the ‘intellectually superior’ knowledge and one I held dearly, whilst belief in a Higher Being and all that came with it were supernatural fairy tales to me. Winged beings, turning water to wine and other miraculous stories seemed ridiculous to me and at odds with logic, evidence and common-sense. Christmas, Easter and other such occasions were just part of my culture and had no real meaning for me other than holidays, socialising, food, gifts and good times. I felt pity for followers of religion, who I felt were brainwashed by their respective propaganda, blinded by faith and ignorant to intellectual and rational thinking – if only they would wake up, be free of their out-dated mind-sets and join the modern world, after all I knew best – I had science!

It transpired I was the ignorant and brainwashed one, blindly accepting the ‘ideal’ of what Western society preached, a pilgrim of the atheist revolution comfortable in blissful arrogance and familiarity. It wasn’t until some life circumstances provoked an interest to know more about religion; the more I studied, the more I realised how little I knew and the more I wanted to learn. I eventually came across a book that shook my beliefs to the core – Revelation, Rationality, Truth and Knowledge. It united science and religion in a way I had never come across before and I instantly turned from agnostic to a believer in God. That was the start of my journey into a newly defined concept of religion to me.

Almost every one of my original concepts around religion were mistaken – I relearned the concept of angels, what miracles truly are and actually what an immense and intellectually challenging subject religion actually is. Overwhelmed with information I studied my field of expertise across different religions, and respective sects and the subject of women. Islam according to the Ahmadiyya way not only led me to believing in God, but its teachings are the only ones I have found that answer every question in depth, with plausibility and satisfaction. I don’t always get the answers I’m looking for quickly and sometimes I’m not satisfied with an answer so I keep searching. Other times life experience helps me to understand an aspect which I have previously felt dissatisfied with through reading or listening to an answer and it clicks, ‘I get it!.’

Islam is not an oppressive teaching which subdues and abuses women; in fact it protects women, it celebrates our strengths and gives us rights far more beneficial than those socially constructed by Western society. There is no compulsion or force in true Islamic teachings, it is a personal journey, an individual choice; I was fooled by misconceptions and ignorance.

I am still a patriotic British woman, proud of my English heritage and strong feminist conviction. I am still outspoken, compassionate about animals and have a good sense of humour. I just have a different view on life, its origins and death and choose to follow a new set of moral codes that have led me to become part of a wonderful new diverse and integrative community whose values strive for individual as well as world peace.