Features

The Musleh Maud Prophecy Fulfilled

Prophecy of the Promised Reformer Fulfilled Blog

By Navida Sayed, Hounslow

After spending forty days in chilla (spiritual retreat in solitude) on 20 February 1886, the Promised Messiah (peace be on him) received a divine revelation of a grand prophecy informing him that an illustrious son would be born to him. This prophecy was fulfilled, on 12 January 1889, when Mirza Bashir-ud-Din Mahmood Ahmad was born. This prophecy came to be known as the prophecy of ‘Musleh Maud’, meaning the ‘Promised Reformer’ extraordinarily pious, righteous son and the Promised Reformer.

Throughout his life Hazrat Mirza Bashir-ud-Din Mahmood Ahmad demonstrated great wisdom, courage, piety and remarkable leadership skills. His Khilafat testifies countless achievements and efforts he made to spread the true and peaceful message of Islam around the world.

The Promised Reformer or Musleh Maud Day commemorated on 20 February each year by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community marks a day when Ahmadi Muslims around the globe, do not commemorate a birthday but instead celebrate the fulfilment of the grand prophecy and achievements of Hazrat Mirza Bashir-ud-din Mahmood Ahmad (may Allah be pleased with him). In 1914 the ‘Promised Son’ was elected as the Second Khalifa of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and his period of spiritual leadership lasted for more than 52 years as the second successor to the Promised Messiah (peace be on him). This day is also celebrated in order to inspire, motivate and empower members of the community by remembering the towering efforts of Hazrat Mirza Bashir-ud-din Mahmood Ahmad (may Allah be pleased with him). He strove hard to maintain the aim of guiding individuals to self-reform and propagate the message of Islam.

Expounding on the works of the Promised Messiah (peace be on him) the second Khalifa provided the world with a magnificent source of true Islamic interpretation through his outstanding commentaries of the Holy Qur’an.

These commentaries have proved to be an invaluable source in this day and age when extremism is at its peak resulting in waves of suicide attacks wrongly in the name of Islam. The commentaries were written in light of the Promised Messiah (peace be on him) who recognised a dangerous trend that was entirely contrary to the teachings of the Holy Qur’an more than 100 years ago. The Qur’anic commentaries by the second Khalifa are a guiding light for the youth and Muslims of today saving them from the pitfall of possible radicalisation. Instead Ahmadi Muslims try to educate the world to show how a number of today’s Islamic scholars completely misunderstand the concept of Jihad and misrepresent it to

the general public, and that this type of Jihad is not of the Divine religious Law (Islamic Shari‘ah) instead it is a grievous sin and a violation of the clear instructions of God and His Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him).

Furthermore the comprehensive Qur’anic commentaries of the Holy Qur’an by the second Khalifa and his spiritual guidance outline golden principles for the establishment of world peace. In turn regardless of theological differences, as Ahmadi Muslims we are guided to promote unity and cohesion by having respect for all religions, their founders and their scriptures. As a result understanding the true underlying, beautiful teachings of Islam enables building bridges through mutual respect and understanding between the followers of all faiths.

As a worldwide spiritual leader and guide he worked tirelessly to extol mutual understanding, peace, love and tolerance as the foundations of Islamic teachings not only in the wider society but also within the community. The second Khalifa dealt with all family, societal, political and global matters comprehensively in his Qur’anic commentaries in relation to human rights, women’s rights, matrimonial relationships, rights of children and parents, rights of neighbours and individuals in society.

The second Khalifa took this a step further in a practical way by organising the Community into auxiliary departments. Men, women and children were to have their own association – Majlis Ansarullah for the elder male members, Lajna Ima’illah for the women, Majlis Khuddam-ul Ahmadiyya for the male youth members and Majlis Atfal-ul Ahmadiyya and Nasirat-ul Ahmadiyya for younger boys and girls. These bodies were not set up to divide the community rather to motivate, empower and instil life skills in individuals. These auxiliary departments of the Community can now be witnessed in all continents of the world and probably constitute the largest voluntary organisation in the world. Muslim girls and women excel higher in education and leadership roles in the Community and the wider society working side by side along their male counterparts. Yet the women enjoy their own equal mosque space and freedom to participate in their own auxiliary organisation without any interference or interruption from the men. The world can witness the members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community especially the youth, promoting peace, cleaning the streets, engaging in charitable work, feeding the homeless, donating blood, reaching out to areas stricken by natural disasters.

In his Friday Sermon of February 18 2011 Hazrat Khalifatul Masih V reminded us of our responsibilities in this regard. It is our task to try and be ‘Musleh’ in our own spheres and spread Islam with our knowledge, our word and our deed. We should pay attention towards reformation of the self, reformation of our children and reformation of society. If we spend our lives with this consideration, we will be honouring the dues of Musleh Maud Day, otherwise ours will be hollow speeches. May God enable us to do so.

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Features · Holy Quran

Explaining the Inexplicable: Science, Faith and Miraculous Events

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Nabila Khalid, Bolton

I have come across atheists that fall into 2 categories –

– Those that dismiss miracles as fictitious fairy tales because they believe they go against the laws of nature.
– Those that are aware that the miracles referred to in religious scriptures can be proved through science and mathematics and can therefore not be classed as miracles at all.

I remember at the end of one of my lectures whilst studying Biomedical Sciences, the professor raving on about Richard Dawkins and how amazing his work is. How he proves that in a world of science – God is not only unnecessary but a delusion of the believers.

Am I the only one who is totally amazed by people who come to the conclusion that, because science can explain everything, it proves that there is no God? I wonder if my professor was aware that Dawkins himself stated “One can’t prove that God doesn’t exist.”

Naturally one must look at the definition of miracles – there are so many variations and interpretations. The Oxford Living Dictionaries defines a miracle as:

1. An extraordinary and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore attributed to a divine agency.
1.1 A remarkable event or development that brings very welcome consequences.

Ahmadi Muslims do not believe in the 1st definition. As His Holiness Mirza Tahir Ahmad (may Allah have mercy on him), the fouth Khalifa/Caliph of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community explains:

“Miracles are not seen in Islam as unnatural occurrences, but as natural phenomena that are concealed from human knowledge at that period of time. Otherwise, there would be many questions raised against the wisdom of God. If God created the laws of nature Himself, He should have made some provisions whereby without breaking them, He could bring about desired solutions to a problem.”

We can all agree that the human knowledge of the laws of nature is incomplete, if it was complete we would not be making new scientific discoveries all the time. It is due to this lack of knowledge that miracles such as those that occurred in the lifetime of Prophet Moses (peace be on him) as believed by not only Muslims but also Jews and Christians were ruled out by many as fictitious stories (some even go to the extreme that they deny Israelites ever lived in Egypt.) But both scientific and archaeological evidence is continuously emerging that give testament to the reality of the stories found in the scriptures.

“Then We sent upon them the storm and the locusts, and the lice, and the frogs, and the blood — clear Signs; but they behaved proudly and were a sinful people.” [Holy Qur’an 7:134]

This verse refers to the 10 plagues mentioned in the Bible (Exod. Chaps. 7-11) All of these can be explained scientifically. If we look at the sign of the blood which is referring to the water turning red when Moses (peace be on him) struck the river Nile with his staff, this can be explained by a phenomenon known as “red tide” in oceans which is when it suddenly appears red in colour due to a sudden red algae bloom. Red algae can be found in freshwater ecosystems and can be harmful to wildlife.

“Then We revealed to Moses, saying, ‘Strike the sea with thy rod.’ Thereupon it parted, and every part looked like a huge mountain. And We let others approach that place.
And We saved Moses and those who were with him. Then We drowned the others.” [Holy Qur’an 26: 64-67]

The splitting of the sea is another example of a miracle that has scientific explanations to it. Russian researchers have calculated that if there were strong winds of 67miles per hour overnight, in the time of Moses when the Red Sea would have been much shallower, it could have exposed the seabed. A Russian mathematician admits that there was still some miraculous intervention occurring adding “I am convinced that God rules the Earth through the laws of physics.”
It is evident from both the Biblical account of the event as well as the Quranic account that when Moses and his followers reached the sea, it was time for the ebb-tide and the sea was receding, leaving a dry bed. Following the command of God, Moses and his people crossed it quickly. There is evidence that the part of the sea they crossed was only 2/3-mile-wide so the Israelites would have made it across during the low tide. When Pharaoh’s people reached they did not notice that it was almost time for high tide again. It appeared that Pharaoh’s people were heavily equipped with big chariots and heavy weapons, slowing them down so that they were still in the middle of the sea when high tide returned and drowned them all.

What is important to notice in these incidents is timing. Is it nothing short of a miracle that at the exact time when Pharaoh demanded a Divine sign from God, the river turned red? When the escaping Israelites were blocked by the sea and nearly over taken by Pharaoh and his men and facing death started to lose hope – God instructed Moses to strike the sea with his rod. Is it nothing short of a Miracle or Divine intervention that it was the exact time when the water started to recede?

“In this, verily, there is a Sign; but most of these would not believe. And surely thy Lord — He is the Mighty, the Merciful.” (Holy Qur’an 26:68-69)

 

References:

i. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2018/03/14/im-not-afraid-what-stephen-hawking-said-about-god-his-atheism-and-his-own-death/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.02894d66b306

ii. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miracle

iii. https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/miracle

iv. https://www.alislam.org/library/books/christianity_facts_to_fiction/chapter_1.html#pgfId-1006068

v. https://www.alislam.org/quran/tafseer/?page=1646&region=E1&CR=E3%2CE2

vi. https://www.livescience.com/58638-science-of-the-10-plagues.html

vii. https://www.express.co.uk/news/science/759762/red-sea-moses-parted-bible-ancient-egypt

Exod. 14:21-28
Enc. Bib., col. 1437

Holy Quran · Islam

The Perfect Authority

The Perfect Authority Blog

Nooresahar Ahmad, Hartlepool

In a recent RE class we studied the authority of the Bible in Christianity. The Bible is undoubtedly a most interesting text; at 5 billion copies sold it is the bestselling book in the world1 and holds a lot of fascinating information and wisdom as well as songs, poetry and historical accounts. Yet, it did come as a shock to me that the Bible has in fact been mistranslated and edited over the years; to the point where there are errors and contradictions found within the book.

Perhaps this surprise was naïve of me. After all, I am used to the Holy Qur’an; a text which was revealed around 1400 years ago and remains as intact as if it had been revealed yesterday. A text which came to the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) through the angel Gabriel, from God Himself. A text which states, “Verily, We Ourselves have sent down this Exhortation, and most surely We will be its Guardian.” (Al-Hijr, 15:10).

The gradual corrosion of the Biblical text seems inevitable, when we think of how long ago it was first written, and the amount of translations required to provide copies in over 2000 languages. This prompted me to wonder- what were the means by which the Qur’an has remained so perfect, and completely avoided corruption?

Well, as it turns out, through a number of interesting methods: 2

  • The revelation of the Holy Qur’an to the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) took place over a period of 23 years, and was revealed in small segments by the Angel Gabriel. He then required the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) to recite the revealed verses in his presence to assure they had been heard and memorised correctly.
  • Upon receiving the revelation, Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) appointed four teachers, who he personally instructed in the memorisation of these revelations, thus ensuring the message was preserved- right down to the accuracy of the pronunciation.
  • Furthermore, the verses would promptly be read in Salat after their revelation. In this way, the main method of safeguarding the Quranic verses was via memorisation. By the time of the Holy Prophet’s (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) demise, there were over 100,000 Muslims and the memorising of the Holy Qur’an had become easy. [i]
  • On top of this, the verses were also recorded in written form; fifteen scribes were instructed by the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) to preserve the revelations in writing, to serve as a backup.
  • During the revelation of the Qur’an, each Ramadan, the Angel Gabriel would recite all of the verses which had been revealed up to that point to the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him)- and after the revelations completion, the angel recited the entire Qur’an to the Prophet twice. This served to arrange the revelations in their present order.
  • After the Holy Prophet’s (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) passing away, Hazrat Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) – the first Caliph of Islam- appointed a commission (largely consisting of the scribes previously employed by the Prophet) with the assignment of compiling the Quranic revelations into a single volume. The accuracy was checked by those Companions who had committed the whole Qur’an to memory. This was completed within two years of the Prophet’s (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) passing.
  • The third Caliph of Islam, Hazrat Uthman (may Allah be pleased with him), had the same group compile seven more copies which were checked for accuracy and distributed through the Muslim world. Those that were preserved have been used to check the accuracy of the current text.

And so, the authenticity, preciseness and preservation of the Holy Qur’an is something that has been greatly studied and accepted without a shadow of doubt. In a world of constant changes, shifts and development, there is something inherently comforting in always having an unchangeable constant to turn to for guidance; much like the One Whose Word it is.

1 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_best-selling_books

2 https://www.alislam.org/library/articles/quran-history-of-text/

[i] https://www.alislam.org/quran/tafseer/?page=-54&region=E1

 

Islam · Women

Evolution of Feminism in Relation to Islam

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Wajeeha Rana, Slough

Feminism has become a widely circulated term in today’s media; it is a word loaded with meaning, yet difficult to define due to the emergence of several different branches of its kind. However, central to this movement is its purpose to advocate “equality of the sexes and the establishment of the political, social, and economic rights of the female sex” (1). Feminism has seen its evolution from roughly the 19th century to the present day, from its first-wave to its third. The question I raise is- how many more “waves” will be needed before women can truly be reassured that they have achieved equality? This further leads me to question what “equality” truly means. It would be far too naïve to assume that equality means “sameness”, because where men and women have equally multifaceted talents, they are by no means the same in their nature or their physicality. As an Ahmadi Muslim woman, I believe that for me this is where Islam comes in, because its principles work to consolidate these differences in the most dignified manner.

The rights of women outlined more than 1,400 years ago in the Holy Qur’an seem to me far more conducive to the feminist struggle for equality, than a model that continues to evolve to unsatisfactory effect. In actuality, it is with the advent of Islam that the issue of women’s rights was first raised, at a time when women were likened to slaves and in no position to campaign for themselves. If being a feminist simply means to support other women, then there can be no greater service to womankind than what the Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) carried out. He has said, “It is the duty of every Muslim man and every Muslim woman to acquire knowledge” (2), which shows that education is a fundamental right regardless of one’s gender. Regarding the economic security of women, in the Holy Qur’an it says “…Men shall have a share of that which they have earned, and women a share of that which they have earned…” (4:33) (3), and so it is very clear that women are free to regulate their own wealth and earnings. In Britain, it was not until the 19th century that women could be awarded degrees, vote equally to men or inherit property, yet all these rights and many more were part of Islam’s core teachings hundreds of years before.

With the politicising of the feminist movement, the question of women’s rights has also brought the hijab and Muslim women’s dress into this sphere. Instead of choosing to embrace immodesty to feel liberated as is often seen on social media, I make a different choice. I embrace modesty because Islam removes the pressure on women to adhere to impossible standards of outward beauty and focuses on a woman’s intellect as her biggest asset in society. In the Holy Qur’an it says: “…whoso does good works, whether male or female, and is a believer, such shall enter heaven, and shall not be wronged…” (4:125). I feel empowered knowing that my spirituality and morality being most important to me, is equally weighted to that of any man in the eyes of God.

Whether we tentatively support feminism or champion it enthusiastically, it is safe to assume that regardless of one’s gender, beliefs or other affiliations, we would all like to live in a world in which women, as integral members of our society, consider themselves to be respected. In one Friday Sermon, His Holiness Khalifatul Masih V (may Allah be his Helper) emphasised that “Muslims are those who are taking their countries to real higher levels of developments” (4) and in acknowledging women’s rights as Islam has done, a valuable contribution is made to that development. I argue that the rights of women presented in the Holy Qur’an 1,400 years ago require no amendment or evolution. This model is not regressive but rather quite the opposite; it is so far ahead of its time that our society has not yet caught up, and for those societies who claim to be based on Islamic principles and still oppress women, they must be called to urgently re-evaluate themselves.

Sources (for further information)
(1) Oxford English Dictionary, http://www.oed.com
(2) ‘Chapter 2: Women’s Issues’, in Pathway to Paradise A Guidebook to Islam
(3) The Holy Qur’an, English translation by Maulawi Sher Ali (ra)
(4) Friday Sermon, Striving for Moral Excellence: The Islamic Teachings (13th January 2017)

Education · Hijab · Islam · Women

The Educational Potential of the Hijab: A cloth which can tie us together

educational potential of hijab (1)

Yusra Dahri, London

Recently in the news, Amanda Spielman, Ofsted chief inspector, has progressed with her previous comments about the hijab. It’s true that there is no necessity in primary school for a Muslim girl to wear the hijab. I didn’t wear a headscarf in primary school, but I don’t see the harm in wearing it either.

My classmates, genuinely curious, would have asked me why I wore it, and I would have explained to them why I liked wearing it and why my mother wore it. It could open up pathways for interfaith discussion and be an interesting supplement to RE, opening up the world for everyone present which is arguably, the purpose of school. Fast forward five or six years, when the hijab has been heavily politicised, perhaps my classmates would remember our discussions over what has been filtered down to them through the media.

Now, I try imagining what it would be like to be a little Muslim girl today. If I wanted to wear my headscarf, I would be questioned. Not by my friends, but by adults. I would be asked why I got in trouble by my friends and if I told them it was because of my headscarf, they would undoubtedly think it was something bad. By the time we reached secondary school, it would be a taboo topic. Instead of building a bridge between two parts of my life, I would begin to disrespect either religion or the establishment of education. Either would detract from my quality of life and personal enrichment.

I just have to wonder if this Ofsted policy would end up doing more harm than good. What’s the point in trying to relieve a child of family pressures when it is swiftly replaced by those of society and politics? School lays more and more pressure on children, year after year. As a student myself, I would say that my religion and prayer helped me more than anything my school could provide pastorally during my GCSEs. If I wanted children to fully succeed and enjoy their education, I would at least give them the freedom to think for themselves.

Personally, I feel the education sector has more to reconsider in regards to the restrictions placed on pupils propagated by the education system itself rather than diverting attention to the religion some students happen to follow.

Health and wellbeing · Islam

Keeping Physically Healthy

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Maleeha Mansur, Hayes

There is no doubt about the importance of physical health, not least to reduce the risk of developing various diseases. Keeping physically healthy is a means of enhancing one’s emotional well being, confidence, longevity and of course, fighting off illness. But, is there a role for religion in guiding us about physical health?

As described by Chaudhry Muhammad Zafrulla Khan sahib, ‘a beautiful body is a blessing from Allah (God) and the Holy Prophet of Islam (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) used to show his gratitude to Allah for giving him a beautiful and pleasing body. Whenever the Holy Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) saw his face in a mirror, he used to pray, “O Lord! Make my nature as pleasing as my body.” It shows that in religious matters, the human body is not an inferior thing. Without the body, you cannot have a spiritual life. It is true that the body is like a container and the soul is what is placed in that container. The body is only like a husk and the soul is a kernel. If we carefully analyse, we can see that if you break any container then the contents will spill. The soul and the body are also associated in this way and any damage to the body will affect the soul. According to the commandment of Allah the Almighty, whilst it is important to take care of your soul, it is equally important to look after your body. According to Islam, if a person deliberately adopts a lifestyle which results in his death, then he is a murderer and guilty of his own murder.’i

Physical health constitutes two predominant parts, diet and exercise.

For one’s diet, most people have come across the concept of the healthy diet plate as a guide for the proportion of fruit, vegetables, protein, dairy and carbohydrates we should be consuming. However, recent guidance has shifted to the importance also of quantity. An intuitive means of measuring proportions based on one’s hands has recently been proposed by the British Nutrition Foundation. The Holy Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), has so beautifully addressed this with great clarity 1400 years ago. He said, “no man fills a vessel worse than his stomach. A few mouthfuls that would suffice to keep his back upright are enough for a man, but if he must eat more, then he should fill one-third with food, one-third with drink and leave one-third for easy breathing.”ii

As women, when it come to a healthy diet, we have a crucial role. Not only do we decide the type of food our families eat, but the food tendencies and habits that we instil in our children will be with them for life. Thus, we hold a heavy responsibility in shaping the health of our future generations.

As for exercise, most people have had run-ins with some sort of gym membership, but mostly to temporary effect. With the example of the Holy Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) Islam has presented a beautiful model of how to incorporate exercise into one’s life sustainably. Firstly, with the five daily prayers, Muslims go through various postures giving effective physical exercise to many muscle groups. Secondly, from the example of the Holy Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), we know that he ‘used to work with his own hands and this was the practice of his companions as well.’iii This habit distances ones from laziness, making one alert and in the habit of hard work. Thirdly, we often hear that walking is the best exercise, in this regard, a companion of the Holy Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) related that ‘I have never seen anyone walk faster than the Holy Prophet Muhammad (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). It seemed as if the earth was folding underneath him. We would become tired when walking with him, but there would be no signs of fatigue on him. He did not walk with his head held high, and he would keep his gaze low.’iv

Within the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, a whole department is committed to looking after the physical health and well being of members. The community holds regular charity challenge marathons enabling us to raise funds for local charitable causes whilst maintaining our physical health. Islam truly is a universal religion that, not only caters for religious needs but provides guidance on every aspect of the life and society.

i Steps to Exercise by Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad (rh), page 12
ii Tirmidhī
iii Steps to Exercise by Hazrat Mirza Tahir A Steps to Exercise by Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad (rh), page 12 hmad (rh), page 32
iv Shuma’ile Tirmadhi Babma ja’ fi Mashiyyate Rasullullahsa, Muhammadsa the Perfect Man by Hafiz Muzaffar Ahmad, page 17

Health and wellbeing

A Peaceful Mind

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Dr Sarah Waseem, London

As we enter a new year, many of us set targets to improve our health. Usually this takes the form of signing up to gyms, weight loss programmes or giving up unhealthy eating habits; few of us however consider how we could improve our mental health.
Perhaps that’s understandable, given how much we hear about the consequences of poor physical health on our life and diseases that await us if we don’t take action! The list is extensive – diabetes, cancer, heart disease, strokes, arthritis… and so it goes on!

However, how many of us appreciate the relationship between mental health problems and the overall disease burden worldwide? The statistics are quite shocking.

Mental health and behavioural problems (e.g. depression, anxiety and drug use) are reported to be the primary drivers of disability worldwide. In the UK, these mental health problems are responsible for the largest burden of disease – 28% of the burden, compared to 16% each for cancer and heart disease. Major depression is thought to be the second leading cause of disability worldwide and a major contributor to the burden of suicide and ischemic heart disease.

The statistics for young people make grim reading. 20% of adolescents may experience a mental health problem in any given year. 50% of mental health problems are established by age 14 and 75% by age 24. 10% of children and young people (aged 5-16 years) have a clinically diagnosable mental health problem, yet 70% of children and adolescents who experience mental health problems have not had appropriate interventions at a sufficiently early age.

Mental health is thus closely linked to physical health, but what do we mean by the term ‘mental health’ and how do we improve it?

Good mental health can be characterised as having the ability to be able to feel, express and manage a range of emotions in a positive way. That means being able to feel anxious, sad, happy, or even angry, AND to be able to accept the feelings AND be able to speak about them AND deal with them in a healthy manner. So for instance, a healthy anxiety about sitting an exam might mean we study more than usual, talk to professors and friends to get their input on how we could do well, check out past papers , and write practice answers. We may still feel anxious, but we are trying to respond to it in a helpful way. An unhealthy response would be to just worry excessively, to stay up long hours revising, or to avoid talking about the exam. Other unhealthy responses might include self harm, panic attacks or avoidance.

Resilience and coping with uncertaintly are also very important for good mental health. Resilience helps us cope with setbacks. Resilience allows us to get through unpleasant life events such as losing loved ones, or jobs or experiencing changes in our roles, for example changing areas where we live, going to University, getting married, or divorced and starting new jobs.

So how do go about developing good ‘mental health’? Interestingly some of the strategies that work with physical health are also helpful. These include having a good diet and engaging in exercise. There is a lot of evidence demonstrating the positive effects of physical exercise on our brains and how exercise enables the release of ‘feel good’ neuro-transmitters like dopamine. Getting physically active is often an initial treatment for depression and of course we can exercise the brain in other ways such as learning new languages, doing puzzles, reading, crosswords, and problem solving activities.

Relationships with others are important. Social contact helps us to feel connected and this is especially so for young people. Sharing our achievements, our joys and our difficulties means that we get other perspectives on what may seem at the time to be an insurmountable problem. However it is important that we have healthy relationships, with individuals who support us, who care about us and who also have a positive outlook on life. It’s rather like having our own personal football team. We need the players to support and score goals for us not for the other side! Again for younger people, this is especially important. Being part of a social network where one is being bullied or criticised or abused in some way, is very destructive and can have serious consequences for one’s self esteem.

We develop resilience by being able to use positive coping skills to deal with setbacks. These skills can include getting perspective on a difficult event, seeing it for what it is rather than catastrophising about it. So setbacks are just that – they may push us further away from our goals, but they don’t remove the goals. Parents have a huge role here in helping young children develop good mental health, and much of this will come through their own ability to model coping strategies.

Mental health, like physical health, doesn’t always stay the same. It can change as circumstances change and as one moves through different stages of life. However, we need to value it and accord it the same care that we do for physical health.

Ref:
https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/statistics/mental-health-statistics-uk-and-worldwide

Features · Health and wellbeing

Eat to Live or Live to Eat?

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By Rabia Salim, Manchester

I am a mother of three fairly young children, and after I had the kids, I realised how great fasting was for setting a routine, getting healthy and simplifying my life. Also there are many Islamic etiquettes of eating that I have passed on to my children. When my oldest would try to eat on the go, my aim was to get her to sit down at a fixed time, eat with her right hand, eat what was in front of her and try everything on her plate (1). These things are in Islam because it affects spirituality and our morals (2). What also changed in our lives is my husband developed a disease of the colon, ulcerative colitis, which is the inflammation of digestive body cells. It is also related to the immune system, but I learnt it is largely connected to the food he ate. I knew we needed to focus more on the effect of food and eating.

Diligently my neighbour and I read up on conditions that bothered my family and hers such as asthma, eczema and the major things that were affecting our home, diseases called auto immune diseases. Her husband has Multiple Sclerosis and mine had Ulcerative Colitis. I say it in the past tense, as we had to get his colon removed ultimately, it was so severe.

Seeing as we were the gatekeepers of our kitchens, we both tried to cook differently. This meant foods low in sugar and carbs. And less processed. We could do this! She exclaimed to me one day that her son’s eczema had really cleared up. She also was amazed as her holistic doctor had prescribed a gluten and lactose free diet to achieve this! Which made me wonder; was my husband’s condition afflicted by common foods? It was too late to reverse the disease. Her son’s eczema was gone, our husbands still had a way to go.

8 years on we eat differently and my husband has improved. His colon had to go but would his body adapt? Spice and fat levels need to be constantly controlled. I learnt about eating to live, as we were doing a kitchen science on how food affected our energy levels, health and even mood.

At the same time I was realising how Ramadan was detoxing my poor gut from all that work. My body was healing and my time management improved when I fasted in this month from focusing on spirituality and those less fortunate than me. So this is how food affects our morals and empathy for others.

Our lives have changed but my husband can still eat; with embracing food that doesn’t stress his body out, with health benefits for me and the children too. I felt like chocolate bingeing today but we went for a smaller dose of chocolate, an avocado salad, vegetable rice, a protein, a fruit salad, banana pancakes, a smoothie, an omelette, homemade bread and nuts and milk for snack, and one sweet. None of it sounds that bad and it sure didn’t taste bad. I feel our approach fits in with Islamic guidelines as well of eating food that is pure (‘tayyeb’) and halal. My neighbour and I have many life changing, healthy, delicious recipes, shared by that holistic doctor who understood the link between food and health.

All praise belongs to God, gone are the pre operation, helpless days when the disease took over and my husband was eating boiled rice and steamed chicken just so he had enough energy to get up and gradually to get moving and back to work.

Sometimes if I get too conscious about what we’re eating, Chapter Al-Nahl of the Holy Qur’an really heartens me. It states God’s bounties for humans for example in verse 12, “Therewith He grows corn for you, and the olive and the date-palm, and the grapes, and all manner of fruit. Surely, in that is a Sign for a people who reflect”. (3) There is a mention of land animals and seafood too. (4) Sounds delicious to me, and it’s about eating balanced, and more of the good things, rather than overindulging in detrimental things. It depends on individuals lifestyles. My neighbour and I didn’t completely clear out our old foods, but only small changes made a difference. Some patients with major diseases have to completely transform their diets. Anyway our changes were worth my time, and money. As for people that can’t afford to go with cleaner ingredients, some recipes only require 3 basic items many of us have at home. It’s just getting the best you can afford and cooking it. May God bless us with brilliant health.

(1) Nasir, Syed Mahmood Nasir (1988). Selected Sayings of the Holy Prophet. Islam International Publications Ltd, Tilford.
(2) Ahmad, Bashir-ud-Din Mahmood Khalifatul Masih II, (1926). Way of the Seekers. Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam, Silver Spring, 2002 Edition
(3) The Holy Quran 16:12
(4) The Holy Quran 16 : 6, 15

Charity · Holy Quran · Islam

Spending in the Way of Allah Secretly and Openly

spending in the way of allah

Reem Shraiky, London

Islam, in its comprehensive teachings, makes provisions for the welfare of every individual, society and the world as a whole. Among these teachings is the injunction to spend in the way of Allah that is to say to help the poor and needy out of love of God.

Spending in the cause of Allah benefits not only those who receive alms, but those who give them: ‘If you give alms openly, it is well and good; but if you conceal them and give them to the poor, it is better for you; and He will remove from you many of your sins…’ 2:272)

Social welfare in fact leads to the prosperity of the nation which leads in turn to the prosperity of the individual, but this is not the first purpose of spending, rather the goal is purely seeking Allah’s pleasure.

The Qur’an permits Muslims to spend in Allah’s way either secretly or publicly as both have their benefits and drawbacks, and both merit reward: ‘Those who spend their wealth by night and day, secretly and openly, have their reward with their Lord; on them shall come no fear, nor shall they grieve.’(2:275)

Therefore, a Muslim must assess the circumstance and situation to see which way of spending will attract Allah’s pleasure, and achieve the maximum benefit. On the other hand, showing off and bragging is categorically forbidden: ‘…render not vain your alms by taunt and injury, like him who spends his wealth to be seen of men, and he believes not in Allah and the Last Day. His case is like the case of a smooth rock covered with earth, on which heavy rain falls, leaving it bare, smooth and hard…’(2:265)

So when a Muslim spends in front of others, it must be purely to encourage them to spend in the cause of Allah and to do good, but if the intention is to show off one’s wealth in front of others, it will be as if one’s good works never were.

However, speaking of favours Allah has bestowed upon oneself monetary or otherwise, is acceptable if the aim is solely to encourage others to seek these bounties: ‘And as for the bounty of your Lord do relate it to others.’(93:12). So, giving is the noblest of acts, so long as the giver has no atom of hypocrisy, nor is led by the desire to show off or demean others.

It is preferable to hide charity when it is given particularly to the poor and needy out of respect to their feelings and dignity, but it is better to do other good deeds openly in order to inspire others to follow suit, for example, when people are called upon to openly support a humanitarian cause, we see a very high turnout. ‘Say to My servants who have believed, that they should observe Prayer and spend out of what We have given them, secretly and openly…’(14:32)

While all religions call for doing good, Islam stands alone in calling for vying with one another in this, the word vying in Arabic ‘تسابق’ means to speed up to the maximum degree, as in a race where each person competes with others. In this context, the best and most charitable person will do more good and others will try to catch up to him or her, so the race of millions vying with millions in doing good will continue with all speed and full strength and energy.

One should not understand by this that Islam creates envy and greed in the hearts of its followers, rather it only shows that the believers’ duty is to help their brothers and sisters advance because the ultimate purpose is benefiting others “And let there be among you a body of men who should invite to goodness, and enjoin equity and forbid evil…’(3:105) Thus, when the believers attain good, they invite others to hurry and partake of the same blessings.

When the believers race in the act of good deeds, they take with them those who are behind and help others to catch up with them. This is in fact the greatest race of goodness and embodies the true spirit of humanity.

We have to remember the guiding principle which the Holy Qur’an taught us regarding drawing the most benefit out of giving, that is: “Never shall you attain to righteousness unless you spend out of that which you love…” (3:93). So, everything, which you love most, whether it is money, sleep, children, time, etc.., if you are ready to sacrifice it for the sake of Allah, that act would become righteousness. May Allah enable us to act upon these great teachings, Ameen.

Islam

Examining the Benefits of Prayer

IMG-20181222-WA0002.jpg

Dr Munazzah Chou, Farnham

Salat (Prayer) is one of the five fundamentals that a Muslim is obligated to perform. Salat is given the highest priority in the Holy Qur’an.

‘…observe Prayer. Surely, Prayer restrains one from indecency and manifest evil, and remembrance of Allah indeed is the greatest virtue… (29:46)

The Quranic verse shows Prayer has both a safeguarding function and an elevating effect, both essential for cultivating ideal human conduct. It first protects the worshipper by liberating them from sins of all types and then refines character and cultivates qualities to make one worthy of communion with God.

According to Islam, each human soul in relation to the human body can be likened to a foetus in utero. Maternal influences are constantly transferred to the developing foetus. Of all the influences that work towards the development of the human soul, Prayer is the most important single factor.

The Holy Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) drew the comparison of the effect of 5 daily Prayers on our soul with the taking of 5 daily baths and asked whether there could be any dirt left on our bodies after such regular washing.

The frequency of the Prayers is a constant reminder of a Muslim’s purpose in life which is the worship of Allah, as is clear from the Quranic verse, ‘And I have not created the Jinn and the men but that they may worship Me’. (51:57) Remembrance of God and pondering over His attributes during the Prayer helps man in refining his spirit, bringing it more into harmony with the nature of God.

Does God require our Prayers? His Holiness Khalifatul Masih V explained in one of his Friday sermons that these days, due to the influence of atheism people have certain questions on their minds, such as why one should pray or whether God is in need of our prayers. Elaborating on these the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) states: ‘God Almighty is Self Sufficient and is in no need for our prayers, rather, we are the ones who require prayer.’

Indeed, the commandment for Prayer is for our good. The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) said:

‘I do not find adequate words to express the faith that I have in recovery of the sick through the prayer. The Physician goes up to a certain stage and he stops there and loses hope. Further to that, it is God who opens up the way through the prayers. The understanding of the prayers is the real comprehension of the Divine and trust in God the Almighty. One should go beyond the limits that the people have fixed and he should be full of hope…It is at this stage that a man begins to recognise God.’

As well as spiritual benefits, the physical and psychological benefits of Islamic Prayer are increasingly understood. Salat can be seen as a form of regular exercise involving the whole body with benefits to cardiovascular, musculoskeletal and mental health. Most of the body muscles and joints are exercised during Salat; and Sajdah (prostration) is the only position in which the head is lower than the heart and therefore, receives increased blood supply. This is said to have a positive effect on memory, concentration, and other cognitive abilities.

From an engineering perspective an ergonomic study of body motions found that the repetitive physical movements of Salat can reduce chances of lower back pain and increase flexibilty. Interestingly an inverse relationship was seen between the time spent on each prayer posture and the back compression force affecting the person during that posture

Neuroimaging studies of Muslims whilst praying have demonstrated a decrease in activity in areas associated with depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, and post- traumatic stress disorder. Remarkably, the changes were only seen when the individual performed Prayer with concentration. In automatic/rote Prayer brain imaging showed no change from daily activity!

References

1. https://www.alislam.org/friday-sermon/printer-friendly-summary-2017-09-29.html 29 Sept 2017
2. https://www.alislam.org/friday-sermon/printer-friendly-summary-2017-01-20.html 20 Jan 2017
3. Zakariyya Virk,The Physical Benefits of Salat, Ahmadiyya Gazette, August 1993
4. Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, Malfoozat Vol. 7, pg. 386 https://www.alislam.org/library/malfoozat/efficacy-of-prayers/
5. Khasawneh et al, An ergonomic study of body motions during Muslim prayer using digital human modelling, International Journal of Industrial and Systems Engineering Volume 25, Issue 3
6. Andrew B. Newberg et al, A case series study of the neurophysiological effects of altered states of mind during intense Islamic prayer.Journal of Physiology-Paris Volume 109, Issues 4–6, December 2015, Pages 214-220