Features · Islam

اَلْحَمِیْد al-Hameed (The Praiseworthy)

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By Dr Aalia Khan, London

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

References:

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

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

Precious Pearls, p. 42

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Features · Islam

I’tikaf: A Young Person’s Experience

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Abgina Sohail, Kingston

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ahmadiyya · Features · Islam

‘Al Salam’: The Source of Peace

AlSalamblog.pngTooba Khokhar, Cambridge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ahmadiyya · Features

‘Enlarge Thy House’ – Blessings That Follow Khilafat

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Nooresahar Ahmad, Hartlepool

“Today with the Grace of Allah, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has spread to 206* countries of the world and rather than tiny wooden sheds, Allah has bestowed upon us very large buildings with solid foundations in all parts of the world. Thus, the prophecy within the revelation ‘Enlarge thy house’ has been fulfilled on countless occasions throughout the world, Alhamdolillah.” -Khalifatul Masih V, 2015

History can sometimes feel like nothing more than a random series of events. The history of Khilafat, however, is different. And why wouldn’t it be? When an institution is so Divinely guided, is it any wonder that every action is completed with thoughtfulness, that consequences are prophesised, and that each moment is blessed?

In the Holy Qur’an, Khalifas are described as ‘successors in the earth’ (24:56) . Khilafat is not a blessing destined for a single country, and Khalifas are not here to lead the inhabitants of one particular place. Rather, they are guidance for the whole earth, and blessings follow them wherever they are.

The history of the Ahmadiyya Khilafat begins in Qadian. In the early period of the Promised Messiah’s (peace be on him) life, Qadian was unknown and difficult to reach . Yet this place was granted the honour of being the birthplace and home of the Promised Messiah (peace be on him) and the centre of Khilafat for 40 years. The development of Qadian, began by the Promised Messiah (peace be on him) who built Mubarak Mosque and made accommodation and meals available to all guests, was continued during the Khilafat of His Holiness Hakim Maulvi Nooruddin (may Allah be pleased with him) – a new neighbourhood was added and Aqsa Mosque extended. When His Holiness Mirza Bashirudin Mahmood Ahmad (may Allah be pleased with him) became Khalifa in 1914, the construction of Minaratul Masih was completed by 1916.

The Community began to spread outwards – Ahmadi missionaries landed in America, Africa and Europe for the first time, and mosques were constructed in Washington, Zurich and London. Qadian remained the pulse of the community, and home to the Khalifa. Today, it is a well-established town – a world away from the unknown village it was, less than two centuries ago.

In 1947, during the turbulent Partition of India and Pakistan, under the guidance of the Second Khalifa, the Community migrated to Pakistan – specifically, to 1500 acres of barren land we now know as Rabwah. Quickly, however, the town began to grow: the foundation for Fazl-e-Omar Hospital was laid by the hand of the second Khalifa, offices were set up and electricity connections made by 1956 . In less than 10 years Rabwah was unrecognisable, and from 1965 the third Khalifa, His Holiness Mirza Nasir Ahmad (may Allah have mercy on him) continued the abundant work of the Jamaat. The Khilafat Library was inaugurated, Fazle Omar Foundation established, and His Holiness guided the Ahmadi Muslim Community as they suffered severe persecution for their faith.

Whilst the blessings of Khilafat had turned an empty, insignificant patch of land, into a thriving historical site, this persecution meant that the ‘Markaz’ (Centre) would move in 1984. His Holiness Mirza Tahir Ahmad (may Allah have mercy on him) moved to London, England in order to safeguard the institution of Khilafat. The rest of his Khilafat was led from Fazl Mosque. MTA, Muslim Television Ahmadiyya, was set up in 1992, and the largest mosque in Western Europe at the time- Baitul Futuh- was built in London in 2003. London remained the centre for the fifth and current Khalifatul Masih, His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad (may Allah be his Helper), who continues to propagate the message of ‘Love for All, Hatred for None’ not only in halls of Westminster, the Parliament of Europe or Capitol Hill USA, but in Africa, the Far East and recently in Guatemala, South America.

The reason I wanted to highlight the changes in the centres of Khilafat over the years, is partly because of how relevant it feels for us Ahmadi Muslims today. In the last month, we have seen our beloved Khalifa move from Masjid Fazl, London to Islamabad, Tilford Surrey. The creation of a new Markaz, a mini village in the rural farmlands of Tilford, Surrey, complete with its’ own Masjid Mubarak, hails a new blessed chapter in the history of the illustrious Khilafat of the Promised Messiah (peace be on him).

Since 1908, our community’s history has been defined by our Khalifas sacrificing their personal comfort for the sake of the propagation of Islam Ahmadiyyat. They have built upon empty land, left their homes without complaint, and unified the Community over and over.

‘Successors in the earth’- and may the earth and its’ inhabitants continue to flourish around them.

REFERENCES
*This figure now stands at 212, https://www.alislam.org/tj/sermons/FSJ20190322-EN.pdf.
1 https://www.alislam.org/library/press-release/head-of-ahmadiyya-muslim-community-inaugurates-baitul-aafiyyat-in-frankfurt/
2 https://www.alislam.org/library/articles/passage-quran-khilafat/
3 https://www.alislam.org/library/books/Ahmad-The-Guided-One.pdf
4 https://www.alislam.org/library/book/brief-history-ahmadiyya-muslim/milestones-of-his-caliphate/
5 https://www.alislam.org/library/ahmadiyya-history/construction-minara-tul-masih-qadian/
6 https://www.alislam.org/library/book/brief-history-ahmadiyya-muslim/establishment-of-rabwah/
7 http://www.irabwah.com/history-of-rabwah/

Features · Holy Quran

Prohibitions in Islam – Alcohol and Gambling

Prohibitions blog

Fezia Haq, Southfields

‘O ye who believe! intoxicants and games of chance… are only an abomination of Satan’s handiwork. So shun each one of them that you may prosper.’ [Chapter 5, Verse 91]

‘No alcohol safe to drink, global study confirms’ [1], read a BBC article in late 2018. Yet it is one of the intoxicants highly publicised in the media, with a study by Barker et al. (2018) finding that in the year 2015, over 50% of daytime UK television portrayed alcohol content [2]. Its detrimental impacts can be seen in statistics [3]: in the UK, there were over nine thousand alcohol-related deaths in 2016; in the same year, there were around 1.13 million hospital admissions due to alcohol consumption in England; finally, between 2014 and 2016, 67% of all violent incidents were related to alcohol use in England and Wales.

Regarding the ‘game of chance’, better known as gambling, we find that in the year 2018, the gambling or betting industries of the UK had a total of £14.4 billion in gross-gambling-yield. In the same year, 47% of online gamblers reported advertisements to have prompted them to bet [4]. A Guardian article of 2017 highlighted that a government commission found more than 2 million people in the UK to be addicted to gambling or at risk of developing a problem. The case studies mentioned in the article suggest that there is a direct link of gambling with crime, health issues and problems with money – including fraud and loss [5]. Certainly, there are better places such wealth can be spent on.

Even before such studies emerged, we were blessed to have the Holy Qur’an warn us of the use of all intoxicants, including alcohol and wine, as well as involvement in gambling. In the verse above, the Arabic word ‘Khamr’ is used to explain anything that causes drunkenness. The fourth Khalifa (Caliph) of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, His Holiness Mirza Tahir Ahmad (may Allah have mercy on him) eloquently explains this verse[6], stating that alcohol and gambling have ‘satanic elements’ to them. Gambling also impacts our consciousness, and is therefore a vice which must be avoided.

The verse that follows goes on to call out these two acts, and His Holiness’ commentary of it elucidates that these acts break society up, cause discontentment as well as grudges in life. They also hinder a person from following his or her religious duties and from carrying out good works. As we can see, God has placed much wisdom behind these prohibitions, since our involvement in them is not only dangerous to ourselves, but also to those around us, risking well-being, safety and wealth as well as our spiritual states.

Prohibitions may sound like limiting us in what we can do and achieve, but the wisdom of those in the Holy Qur’an are there for the benefit of communities. In the words of our beloved Khalifa His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad (may Allah be his Helper): “Sins like gambling and alcohol consumption are known as ‘ismul kabeer’ (great sin). Ismul kabeer is a sin that repeatedly incites one to commit sin.”[7]

When matters have been opened up so much, it only becomes incumbent upon us to stay away from these vices.

REFERENCES:

[1] Ives, L. (2018). No alcohol safe to drink, global study confirms. [online] BBC News. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-45283401.

[2] Barker, A. et al. (2018). A content analysis of alcohol content in UK television. [online] Oxford Academic Journal of Public Health. Available at:

https://academic.oup.com/jpubhealth/advance-article/doi/10.1093/pubmed/fdy142/5078451

[3] Alcohol Change UK. (n.d.). Alcohol statistics | Alcohol Change UK. [online] Available at: https://alcoholchange.org.uk/alcohol-facts/fact-sheets/alcohol-statistics.

[4] Gamblingcommission.gov.uk. (n.d.). Statistics and research. [online] Available at: https://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/news-action-and-statistics/Statistics-and-research/Statistics-and-research.aspx.

[5] Davies, R. (2017). Number of problem gamblers in the UK rises to more than 400,000. [online] The Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/aug/24/problem-gamblers-uk-gambling-commission-report.

[6] Tarjumatul Quran – Surah al-Maidah [The Banquet]: 84 – 96. (1995). London, UK: MTA International. Available at:

[7] Alislam.org. (2010). Friday Sermon: Jalsa Salana Spain. [online] Available at: https://www.alislam.org/friday-sermon/2010-04-02.html.

Khan, A. (2016). Why Alcohol is Prohibited in Islam. [online] Review of Religions. Available at: http://www.reviewofreligions.org/12519/why-alcohol-is-prohibited-in-islam/#.

Why Alcohol is Prohibited in Islam

Features

Pain and Suffering; Is There A Purpose?

Pain & Suffering blog

Nabila Khalid, Bolton

I have heard too many people deny the existence of God, with the rationale that if there was a ‘good’ God why would a He allow suffering?

If suffering is a punishment of our sins, then why do bad things happen to good people?

If suffering is due to free will then how does that explain congenital and hereditary conditions? It is evident that these questions are as a result of a superficial view of suffering and a very naive way of thinking that…

Suffering is bad – If there was no suffering, the world would be a better place – There is suffering so either (A) there is no God, or (B) God is bad.

Because on a deeper look you realise that it isn’t as simple as suffering or no suffering. Of course this question of evil and suffering is one that many philosophers and religious scholars have tried to answer.

In his book ‘Revelation, Rationality, Knowledge and Truth’, the fourth Caliph of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, His Holiness Mirza Tahir Ahmad has devoted a full chapter to the question of suffering.

1 – WHAT IS SUFFERING?

Suffering is not an independent entity – it is an awareness of the absence of happiness and comfort, just as our sense of darkness comes from our awareness of the absence of light. If we want to get rid of suffering we would have to forego the sense of comfort and relief.

When a patient of depression and anxiety disorders undergoes treatment from a therapist – one of the steps involved is a realisation that we must accept and experience our pains rather than try to escape them. From a biological point of view experiencing a small amount of pain is necessary to protect us from further damage by triggering the withdrawal reflex.

Pain is a necessity for evolution as the following explains:

‘Pain as an evolutionary necessity’ is a title that may rise an immediate rejection, if it is not clear that the term is here referred to the acute pain that signals a risk: the risk that the disease, which pain is part of, could reversibly damage or even destroy without any possibility of appeal the physical or mental integrity of one of us.

The inherited condition known as congenital insensitivity to pain is a frequent cause of premature death due to complications of trauma and injuries. This is probably the most striking evidence of the defensive role carried by our ability in perceiving pain”
2 – WHO SUFFERS & WHY THEM?

The explanation that all suffering is a punishment for our crimes is incomplete and flawed because clearly this cannot explain many forms of suffering such as natural disasters or genetic conditions. Not all suffering can be categorised as a punishment, nor all happiness as a reward.

We must recognise that cause and effect is not the same as crime and punishment. Although some cases of suffering can be attributed to being a punishment of man’s own actions, other cases are in fact the cause for which the effect is evolution
“Surveys reveal people with disabilities consistently report a quality of life as good as, or sometimes even better than, that of non-disabled people.”

“Immediately after the onset of injury or disease, one can feel profoundly depressed, and even contemplate suicide. Yet after a period of time, people adapt to their new situation, re-evaluate their attitude to the disability, and start making the most of it. Sometimes, they are driven to greater achievements than before.”

But imagine a scenario where every child is born equally healthy. We would still be unhappy because we are all born looking different which causes a lot of psychological suffering for those who are perceived to be unattractive. So then for the creator to be fair, we must all have the exact same appearance. And then that would lead the question to the psychological suffering due to differences in intellect. Ultimately, we would all have to be clones for there to be complete fairness.
WHAT WOULD THE ABSENCE OF SUFFERING LOOK LIKE?

In short:
1. There cannot be evolution
2. There would be no invention
3. There must be no variation
4. There must be no free will
5. We would all be a senseless mass of vegetation
6. Therefore, there would also be no happiness
“We must go back all the way in the history of life; all the way to the very beginning and start to build the ladder of evolution anew, rung by rung. But try as we may, we are bound to get stuck at the very first step, the starting point of life. We would not be able to take a single step forward because an equal distribution of happiness and total absence of suffering would entirely eliminate the impetus for evolution. There would be no struggle for existence, no natural selection, no survival of the fittest. Not a single progressive step would be taken by the first, most rudimentary forms of life.”

Is a world with no suffering really a better world? Would we all be happier? Given the choice between a meaningless and vegetative but pain-free existence or one with pain, purpose and progression the majority of us, if not all, would chose the latter.

Suffering proves the existence of a conscious God. It proves that there is a plan and a purpose for our existence, one which has been thought through to such detail and designed at microscopic levels that we cannot even comprehend at a first glance.

“Blessed is He in whose hand is the kingdom, and He has power over all things;
Who has created death and life that He might try you—which of you is best in deeds; and He is the Mighty, the Most Forgiving.”

(Holy Quran, 67:2-3)

 

A Point of View: Happiness and disability

https://www.alislam.org/library/books/RRKT.pdf

Features

The Importance of Truth in a World of ‘Fake News’

Truth blog

Iffat Mirza, Raynes Park

I grew up hearing the saying of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) being repeated to me. ‘Truth saves, falsehood destroys’. I never really questioned it. Of course, the truth saves! It is only very recently, when I have seen the lines between fact and fiction being blurred, that I have taken a more invested approach to the truth and its necessity.

It seems that within a few years a war has been waged on the media in a battle for truth. As journalists and news outlets came under fire for ‘fake news’ (indeed, ‘fake news’ was even named as a Collins Dictionary word of the year), there has been a great cultural shift towards searching for this truth and questioning whether it even exists. It is a time where we must look around us and try to find, amongst all the uncertainty and rumours, glimpses of truth and uncover them so that they may dazzle brighter than any lie told. Indeed, before we embark on uncovering the greatest truths of the world, we must look towards ourselves and put ourselves under harsh interrogation. Are we complicit in allowing the creation of an untrustworthy atmosphere?

Perhaps my first realisation regarding the truth was understanding that lying is a coward’s tool. It is an escape route for those who do not have the conviction to follow through with their beliefs or their actions. It’s a valid point, there have been moments and places in history (and regrettably, even in the present) where it is not easy to find comfort in the conviction of our beliefs, no matter how moral they may be. However, truth, in the face of even tyranny, is paramount and whilst the stakes may be higher than imaginable, surely Allah the Almighty lets no good deed go to waste.

In this situation, the example that Hadhrat Bilal (may Allah be pleased with him) left for us is most inspiring.
Hadhrat Bilal (may Allah be pleased with him) was a slave and therefore when he accepted Islam, he was subjected to the cruellest of punishments and torture by his owner Ummayya who whipped him and forced him to lie on hot sand, had him dragged through the streets until he bled ceaselessly. He was told the torture would only stop if he renounced Islam and the Prophet Muhammad (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). His only reply was ‘Ahad, Ahad’ – ‘God is only One’.

Despite the pain his body suffered, he remained truthful to his beliefs. Indeed, his conviction to his true belief ‘saved’ him, as he had a very dear place in the heart of the Holy Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).

The Holy Qur’an states ‘And confound not truth with falsehood nor hide the truth, knowingly.’ It is this word ‘confounds’ that fascinates me. There is a clear indication that the two can be confused, though they must not be. Words revealed to the Holy Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be on him) over 1,400 years ago seem to perfectly encapsulate today’s war on truth.

Why are the lines so blurred? Have they always been so blurred? I would argue that they blur when we lose sight of our goals. When the consequence of a lie seems more attractive than that of the truth, it is not difficult to disguise lies as truths. Today we see politicians and media personalities chasing power and wealth through lies that are only fractioning society. If, instead, our sights were collectively placed on what is truly beneficial for us all, the truth would be the one to guide our narratives and thus lead us to bettering our world for the present and the future. Once we face the truth head on and see our flaws we will be forced to overcome them and make peace with them, leading us to a harmonious society that is forever improving, as opposed to fashioning tales of our unquestionable superiority and thus ignoring our faults which are only left to fester and breed more faults.

The truth is not always easy to tell. Nor is it easy to face. But indisputably it is that which is best for us. It forces us to interrogate ourselves and guides us on the road to self-improvement. Whether it is a matter of a personal truth or part of a larger narrative with national and global consequences, honesty is what will lead us to peace and harmony. To confuse truth with falsehood is a slippery slope; sometimes we even believe our own lies. Let us not slip so much that we lose sight of our priorities only to wake up one day not recognising ourselves or our surroundings, that we have been complicit in creating. We cannot expect to arrive to a moral outcome using immoral means.

i. https://www.alislam.org/library/books/Sayyedna-Bilal.pdf

ii. Holy Qur’an Chapter 2 Verse 43 English translation by Maulvi Sher Ali(ra)

Features · Islam

Emancipation: Islamic Teachings on Slavery

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Arfa Yassir, Swindon

Islam believes in the growth and nourishment of the human heart, soul and mind. It emancipates and liberates the person. It gives him freedom of choice to direct his life. ‘Slavery’ deprives a person of freedom given to him by God. In de jure slavery, known as traditional slavery or chattel slavery or simply slavery is a system in which property laws are applied to people and people are bought and sold like commodities and used as labour force.

Slavery was a source of economic benefit and hence was widely practised in the world. There are heart wrenching accounts of many slaves especially those enslaved in the Americas in works of history and fiction especially the Atlantic slave trade. Britain has also been a part of it and cities such as Bristol, London and Liverpool grew rich off the trade. (i)

An article in The Guardian published in 2015 rightly points out that roots of racism in Europe may well be traced back to slavery and Colonialism (ii).

At the time of the advent of Islam slavery legally existed in almost all countries. Islam had a twofold approach towards it. Firstly there were steps towards betterment of slaves and gradual emancipation, as freeing all slaves at once was not feasible because it would induce jobless, helpless and unprotected people into the wider society all at once. Secondly there were steps to abolish slavery altogether.

For their betterment Islam enjoins its followers to treat slaves with kindness as the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing of Allah be on him) taught his followers to treat slaves in a very kind and gentle manner by taking care of their food, clothing and work load (iii). The base of these teachings being, as stated by the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing of Allah be on him): “do you not know there is God above you Who has far greater power over you than you seem to have over your slave” (iv).

Islam adapts several methods for the permanent emancipation of slaves; it not only considers freeing of a slave as an act of virtue (v), but also prescribes freeing of a slave (if possible) as an expiation of several offences. (vi)

Other mandatory methods for the emancipation of slaves include (vii):

* Punishment for beating a slave is to set him free.
* If the slave is a relative of the master he is automatically set free.
* If a slave is owned by two people and one of them sets him free, he must pay the co-partner to earn complete freedom for the slave. If he cannot afford to do so, the slave must be set free to earn and pay the money.
* The slaves who had fled from Mecca were not given back to their masters so they could be saved from slavery and infidelity.
* If any person, at that time, entered into matrimonial relationship with a female slave and she begot a child, she was set free.

Islam also provisions ‘mukatabat’ (deed of manumission, or contract of liberation) (viii) as per the will of the slaves and not their masters. So they may be set free and earn the money to pay back to their masters. This is clearly stated in the Holy Qur’an 24:34.

Today slavery is outlawed in all recognised countries of the world, but certain forms of slavery still exist in which a person is de facto forced to work against their own will. It includes human trafficking, debt bondage, unwilling domestic servants and forced marriage. Trafficked humans are used for sexual slavery, forced labour, forced marriage etc. Islam gives a just economic system along with giving due rights to men and women according to their role in society hence leaving no room for slavery of any kind. The Islamic state, according to the Holy Qur’an, is instructed to spend money for the emancipation of slaves and debtors (ix).

The purpose of our existence as described by the Holy Qur’an is to manifest God’s attributes in ourselves. A person who is held under the custody of another person has a limited horizon of thought and action and Islam stands against this.

References:

i http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/6185756.stm
ii https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/sep/08/european-racism-africa-slavery
iii Islam and Slavery by: Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmad p. 7-11
iv Islam and Slavery by: Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmad p. 11
v Al-Qur’an 90: 9-17
vi Islam and Slavery by: Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmad p. 13-15
vii Islam and Slavery by: Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmad p. 15-18
viii Al-Qur’an 24:34
ix Al-Qur’an 9:60

Features

Water Of Life

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Manaal Rehman, Cheam

‘Ma’a’ is the Arabic word for water, which appears in the Holy Qur’an 63 times. And throughout the Holy Qur’an, we are reminded that it is a blessing from God Almighty.

“Do not the disbelievers see that the heavens and the earth were a closed-up mass, then We opened them out? And We made from water every living thing. Will they not then believe?” (21:31)

This verse indicates that water is crucial to the survival of mankind and planet Earth itself. For centuries, the land of Mecca was a barren desert. Only after Prophet Ibrahim (on whom be peace) left his child and wife in this desert, did Allah miraculously allow water to flow. And it was the inception of Ab-e-Zamzam, the well which sprang from the ground, which led to the habitation of this barren desert, known as the Holy place of Ka’aba.

And again, Allah reminds us: “And He it is Who has created man from water…” (25:55). We now know that 60% of the human body and 71% of the planet consists of water alone, making it a fundamental element to our existence. Thus, Allah Almighty made this relatively recent discovery by science very clear to us over 1400 years ago.

However, pollution, changing weather patterns and global warming is proving to be detrimental to our water supply. Toxic waste dumps, plastic bags and sewage is making, once pure water, untouchable, let alone drinkable and usable.

“And We sent down water from the sky according to measure, and We caused it to stay in the earth — and surely it is We Who determine its taking away —” (23:19)

In this verse, Allah Almighty warns us that He has blessed mankind with water and it is He alone who can take it away from us as well. The Holy Prophet (peace and blessing of Allah be upon him) has told us that ‘Muslims are equal partners in three things; water, grass and fuel.’ Thus, he reminded us that no individual has sole ownership of any natural resource, and they must be sustained and used responsibly. In addition to this, Allah Almighty has reminded us in the Holy Qur’an to not be wasteful.

“O children of Adam! look to your adornment at every time and place of worship, and eat and drink but exceed not the bounds; surely, He does not love those who exceed the bounds.” (7:32).

The Holy Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), stated that ‘Cleanliness is half of your faith.’ And it goes without saying that water is essential to one’s physical cleanliness, which naturally reflects onto one’s spiritually as well. Thus, Allah has blessed us with water, to not only give us life but purify our physical and spiritual state.

Yet many, if not all of us take it for granted. His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad (May Allah be his Helper), who is the worldwide leader of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, stated on the 9th of June 2015: “Here in the West it is common for people to waste water but I personally spent 8 years living in Africa and so I have seen for myself how desperate for water those people are. Young children, no older than 7 or 8, have to walk for miles with large water vessels balanced on their heads in order to retrieve water from dirt-filled ponds.” He reminded us that we are privileged to have constant access to water and the struggle that millions of people face in having access to water, due to it being a basic necessity for our survival. i

Thus, I would like to request my readers to always make a conscious effort to conserve this precious resource because, given the current state of our planet, we do not know how much longer we will continue to have sustained access to this truly amazing natural resource for. I would like to urge you all to give the water the respect it deserves as a blessing from Allah.

Reference: http://www.pressahmadiyya.com/press-releases/2015/06/new-ahmadiyya-mosque-opened-in-vechta-germany-by-head-of-the-ahmadiyya-muslim-community/

Features · Islam

The Animal Kingdom

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Zujaja Khan, London

In His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad’s Friday Sermon on 18 March 2016, he related a story from the childhood of His Holiness Musleh Maud (may Allah be pleased with him), Second Caliph and son of the Promised Messiah (peace be on him). His Holiness Musleh Maud recounted that when he was a young boy, he hunted a parrot and brought this home to his father, who said:

“Mahmood, eating of its flesh is not forbidden but every animal is not for [human] consumption.” The Promised Messiah (peace be on him) explained that some animals are pleasing to look at while others have fine voices which are pleasurable to listen [to]. Thus different animals please different senses and all animals should not be used simply for the sense of taste.i

His Holiness Musleh Maud (may Allah be pleased with him)’s memory of his father’s words left an impression on him, and taught him that all of Allah’s creatures have their own purpose to serve. The treatment of animals and the appreciation of their unique qualities are mentioned many times in the Holy Qur’an, and thus it is our duty as Muslims to ensure we follow these teachings and are kind to all creatures, humans and animals alike. One example of this in the Holy Qur’an is:

“And in your own creation and in that of all the creatures which He scatters in the earth are Signs for a people who possess firm faith.” (45:5)

Discoveries about the capacity of the human body continue to amaze scientists around the world, and prove time and again that Allah’s creations are so intricately and purposefully designed. The same can be said for the boundless information we uncover about animals each day. Only a few weeks ago a study confirmed that honey bees are capable of understanding arithmetic. Now, the benefit or need for this is disputable, but what is clear is that in every new piece of information we discover about animals, the signs of Allah’s omnipotence are irrefutable.

As a young girl, I was equal parts terrified of and fascinated by animals. I watched countless documentaries about dolphins and whales with my parents, scribbling down every little detail that came up so that I could tell my teachers. When I was 10 years old, I wrote a letter to the Canadian Prime Minister to protest the treatment of baby harp seals (this letter, I later discovered, was never posted). At primary school I started a petition to close all zoos in the UK, and asked for donations for a wildlife reserve. And through all of this, I would still run as far from a wandering dog in the park as my legs could carry me (sometimes I’m still tempted).

I don’t know where this love for animals came from, but I always felt a deep connection to the wider world through them. I still can’t quite explain my intense feelings of awe and kinship when I listen to the sounds of whales underwater, or watch polar bear cubs emerge from their snow dens for the first time. We are reminded through the acute adaptations of each animal that Allah’s designs are flawless, and heed our respect. Indeed, was it not a spider’s web that lay across the entrance to the Cave Thaur that protected the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) from being seen by his enemies?

The beauty and breadth of Allah’s creations are a wonderful reminder of the Almighty’s sublime creativity. In the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him)’s own life, he was known to be a champion for the kind treatment of animals. It is related by Abdullah bin Mas‘udra that on a journey with the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him), the group saw two young doves in a nest. The group caught the small doves, but when the mother of the doves returned she was distressed to not find her little ones. The dove flew wildly, and when the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) saw this, he said “If any one of you has caught its young ones he must release them at once to comfort it.”ii

The examples of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) and the teachings of the Holy Qur’an show us that kindness to Allah’s creations should be a steadfast notion in the hearts of Muslims. We live during an age in which climate change and corporate interference has damaged the biodiversity of our planet, and animal safeguards are waning. Species across the world are becoming increasingly vulnerable and even dying out. As Muslims, we should be making an active effort to ensure the vitality of the animal kingdom is maintained and treated with compassion, as said best by the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him): “All the creatures are the children of God and the best among you is he who treats His creatures well.”iii

 

i https://www.alislam.org/friday-sermon/printer-friendly-summary-2016-03-18.html
ii http://www.reviewofreligions.org/13243/a-glimpse-into-the-life-of-the-holy-prophet-muhammadsa-9/
iii https://www.alislam.org/library/question/islam-how-animals-be-treated/