Features

Inspirational Smiles

InspirationalSmiles!

Sameea Jonnud, Aldershot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Features

Jalsa Stories – Roti

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Sameea Jonnud, Aldershot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Features · Women

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

 Ayesha's Blog

Ayesha Malik, Surrey

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

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

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

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

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

Features

Life and Choice

Munazzah's Blog

Dr Munazzah Chou, Farnham

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

References

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

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

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

 

Features

Safeguarding Yourself: Time For Change

Laiqas blog 1

Laiqa Bhatti, Surrey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

[4] The Holy Qur’an, 24:31

[5] The Holy Qur’an, 24:32

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

 

Features · Politics

One Brotherhood

Manaal Blog - Brotherhood

Manaal Rehman, Cheam, UK

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Features

A Personal Journey, An Individual Choice

Personal Journey

Christine Sharif, Luton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Features · Islam

Divine Attributes: Al Wali, The Friend

Al Wali.png

Reem Shraiky, London

And to Allah alone belong all perfect attributes. So, call on Him by these. And leave alone those who deviate from the right way with respect to His attributes. They shall be repaid for what they do.

-Al-Araf, verse 181

One of the Divine Attributes of Allah is Al-Wali: The Arabic word Wali has various possible meanings and has a very broad spectrum of usage in Arabic, it means among other things: the helper, a Being that takes care of all matters of the universe and all creation, so it applies to the relation of Allah with the believers.

One of the other meanings of Wali we find in the Arabic lexicon is rain which follows upon rain. So, what connection or relationship has this got with the word Wali as it is commonly understood? We understand the word Wali to mean someone who is very friendly, who is very loving to someone, but it also as I mentioned means a rain which is incessant, or a storm on the heel of another and so on, such that there is no dry period in between.

Given that rain is a potender of blessings, we can take this to mean that the true lovers – or real friends – whom we can term Wali are those whose benefit continues to flow in the directions of those whom they hold dear, and there are no dry periods. There is no latent hindrance in between, no gaps, no chasms in between, and a true friend is the one who is always good to his or her friend. Now, there may be some patches where you may feel that the friend is not your friend anymore, but if the friendship is true, that rough patch would immediately be followed by another expression of love. So that is why it is not a continuous rain but rather rain after rain that is described and this can be experienced in everyday life, in true friendship.

Sometimes, not only in friendships but also in other relationships which such as the parent-child relationship, the parents become apparently angry, for a while they seem to be breaking away from their children and dissociating with them, in extreme cases they ostracise them. Then there follows another rain, which sometimes is even stronger than before, of expressions of love. So, that is why, this is a beautiful word described as we find it in the Arabic usage.

So, God has applied it in the context of His relationship with the believers. Sometimes, the believers find themselves in a state where they think God has ceased to be kind to them but that is only a temporary phase. So, people  briefly feel sometimes they are abandoned by God, as if God had no relationship with them, and cares no more for them, but that also is an expression of love. He’s trying them like a parent tries their child. This doesn’t mean that the parent has ceased to love them during that period of trial, it only means that they decided to wait for their child to emerge successful from the trial that they might show them what love is, and shower bounties upon bounties and one expression of love after another would follow after this short period of trial is over. So, wilayat of God with the believers has exactly the same nature and the same connotation.

It is stated in Surah Al Baqarah ‘Allah is the friend of those who believe…’ God is the Helper of believers and fulfils their needs, guides them and establishes for them reasoning and proofs. He takes them out of spiritual and physical weakness towards advancement and strength. Those who abide by God’s commandments, God truly becomes their Friend and no opposition, no force on this earth can destroy them.

And with some of Allah’s friends, you also see expressions of such closeness as if God is following their calls and demands, and that we have seen numerous times in the blessed lifetime of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings be on him). He predicted and foretold many things. Also, we have seen this illustrated in the lifetime of the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace), that instead of having received a definite message from God, he said, Allah would do it, and God would do it exactly so and this has also been witnessed by the companions of the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) by way of prayer. It is as if God had told them that He was going to do certain things in a certain manner. So, they would say, so and so would happen, and it happened. This fulfills another connotation of Wali which means one who listens.

So, as we can see, the word Wali has a broad range of connotations all of which deepen our understanding of the love and closeness of Allah.

Have they taken for themselves protectors [Walis] other than Him? But it is Allah Who is the real Protector [the Wali]. And He quickens the dead, and He has power over all things.

-Al-Shura, verse 10

Features · Islam

Divine Attributes: Al Wadud, The Loving

Al Wadud

Tooba Khokhar, Cambridge

He who would know the secret of both worlds,
Will find the secret of them both, is Love.

—Fariduddin Attar

The belief that love is the cornerstone of the universe is a thing embedded deep in the human essence. Love, we are told, is our polestar as essential to our spirits as air and water is to our bodies. English Romantic poet William Blake went so far as to say that “…we are put on earth a little space/ that we may learn to bear the beams of love” while two centuries before him Shakespeare declared love “the star to every wand’ring bark”.

In the Islamic tradition, the earth and all its dwellers are said to be in a state of perpetual yearning for the Beloved. The ocean waves are restless and the nightingale’s song is sorrowful because of the separation from their true Beloved. Likewise, the heart of man carries a deep-seated yearning for its Maker and Creator.

The Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) would often recite a beautiful prayer seeking Divine Love. “O Allah, I ask You for Your love and the love of those who love You and such conduct as should lead me to Your love. O Allah, make Your love dearer to me than my soul and my family and my wealth and dearer than cool water.” To have in one’s heart for the Divine Beloved a love greater than that for all else we hold dear.

One of the attributes of the Divine is that He is Al-Wadud, the Loving. And as such the love that dwells in our hearts is only really a response to the loving nature of our Creator. As God Himself describes in the Holy Qu’ran, He is the Source and Origin of all true love. In chapter 19, verse 97, He promises “Those who believe and do good deeds — the Gracious God will create love in their hearts.” demonstrating that love is both a mercy and a reward from the Divine. Likewise, regarding the sacred bond between husband and wife, we read in the Holy Qur’an that “…He has put love and tenderness between you…” (30:22).

And as the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) elucidates, even human love is not a thing separate from our love of Allah, rather in every inclination of the heart, there is a trace for our instinctual longing for our Creator. In The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam, he writes of our elemental “attraction” towards the Divine.

Every exhibition of affection by a person in fact proceeds from that very attraction, and the restlessness of a lover which a person experiences is in truth a reflection of that very love, as if he takes up diverse things and examines them in search for something that he has lost and whose name he has forgotten. A person’s love of property, or children, or wife, or his soul being drawn towards the song of a sweet voiced singer, are in fact all in search of the lost Beloved[i]

Where does this attraction stem from? As the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) detailed elsewhere “Perfect praise is offered for two kinds of excellences, fullness of beauty (husn) and fullness of beneficence (ihsan). If anyone possesses both these excellences, one’s heart becomes enamoured of him”[ii] God’s characteristic of being the Loving encapsulates both fullness of beauty and fullness of beneficence for what could be purer and more beautiful than possessing an infinite capacity to love and what could be more benevolent than to bestow it upon all of creation?

However, as the Holy Qur’an states “…there are some among men who take for themselves objects of worship other than Allah, loving them as they should love Allah. But those who believe are stronger in their love for Allah…” (2:166). Many of us worship at the altar of false beloveds. However, this verse deems such love to be misplaced and encourages true belief in order to strengthen the bonds of Divine Love. For, each time we lose our way, it is in turning back to our Origin that we can again find peace, turning once again to the Creator with infinite stores of mercy and love. So, we are told “…seek forgiveness of your Lord; then turn to Him wholeheartedly. Verily, my Lord is Merciful, Most Loving.” (11:91). And it is this merciful love which is the greatest blessing of all.

Become a lover; if you don’t, one day the affairs of the world

Will come to an end, and you’ll never have had even

One glimpse of the purpose of the workings of space and time.

–Hafiz[iii]

[i] Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as), The Essence of Islam, Volume I, p. 137

[ii] Ibid., p. 92

[iii] Lloyd Ridgeon (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Sufism, p. 180

Features

The Import of Language in Reporting

Editor’s note: In April 2018 the Home Affairs Committee heard from editors of national newspapers on whether there was an issue with treatment of minority groups in the print media and the responsibilities of the print media. During the hearing editor of the Daily Express admitted his paper had helped create an Islamophobic sentiment in the media. Here is the first of our two blogs highlighting the discriminatory way Muslims are depicted in the press.

Import of Language in reporting

 

     Iffat Mirza, London

 ‘Islamist’, ‘Jihadist’, ‘Islamic State’. How tragically ironic that each of these words is associated with violence and hate when in reality the word Islam means peace. Language is a tool of mass construction and a weapon of mass destruction. It has the power to shape minds and societies therefore it is a great responsibility on those with power to use it wisely in order to ensure that whole truths are communicated. The media and reporting industry is perhaps one of the most important players in constructing worldviews. It is responsible for the manner in which we perceive societies, organisations, and religions.

Islam seems to have a target on its back in mainstream media. The language that is used to describe crises that occur internationally is so filled with Islamic terms that has occasioned a largely negative, and lamentably incorrect, view of Islam. Since 9/11, the media has taken many steps to ensure that Islam is portrayed in a negative light and has since been shown as a religion that incites violence and hate.

In associating words such as ‘Islamist’ and ‘jihadist’ with each other – out of context – we are legitimising the claims of terrorists who claim to be attacking in the name of Islam. Islam has made it very clear that peace is the utmost priority. The Holy Qur’an states ‘…whosoever killed a person, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind; and whoso gave life to one, it shall be as if he had given life to all mankind.’[i] Indeed, this is not a verse that is taken lightly and it continues to be upheld in true Muslim communities. His Holiness the current worldwide spiritual head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community recently said: ‘Thus, the truth is that Islam has always been diametrically opposed to any form of terrorism or extremism. Furthermore, whilst I accept that the evil acts of some Muslims have greatly damaged society, I do not accept that it is only Muslims who are to blame for the volatility of today’s world. Many commentators and experts are now openly saying that certain non-Muslim powers and groups have also played a role in undermining peace and social cohesion.’[ii]

Therefore, every time that the media uses the adjectives ‘Islamist’ and ‘Muslim’ to describe an attack or the perpetrator, they are giving legitimacy to the agendas of the attackers. They are playing into the hands of the terrorist groups.

A study showed if there is an attack and the perpetrator is a so-called Muslim, it gets 5 times more coverage than were the perpetrator a non-Muslim.[iii] As a result, the stereotype is further reinforced. This biased reporting has been a failure on the part of the media whose responsibility to cover the news honestly and impartially. Most people would agree that the news should be impartial, however since the dawn of journalism, each agency has had an agenda to stick to, whether it be political, religious, or secular. The careful selection of words has been known to subliminally highlight certain ideologies. For example, if someone sees the poor as victims, he or she may describe them as economically deprived. This term suggests a theory and ideology of wealth distribution, the lack of equality, and also, subtly, points the finger of blame at those who are not deprived.[iv]

In the same manner, when describing an attacker as a Muslim, it may seem at first as a trivial adjective to describe the attacker, however there is a subtle indication that the attacker’s religion is a direct causer of their actions. Isn’t it curious how we never hear any mention of the religions of non-Muslim attackers? Is it not strange that the Ku Klux Klan, a hate organisation that has had up to 4 million members at its peak is not associated with Christianity, despite the vast majority of the members being active Christians? [v]  There is a clear bias that with the intent of marginalising Islam, branding it as a dangerous ideology rather than a religion of love and peace.

The most frustrating aspect is, that despite all the stories that are reported on Islam, the Muslim voice largely goes unheard in the media. Instead of media agencies telling us what to believe about Islam, surely it would be better to hear from the Muslims themselves. The media needs to report on issues that concern Muslims with a focus on getting a wide range of Muslim voices. This would go a huge way to challenging the implicit media bias on Islam.

 

[i] Holy Quran Chapter 5 Verse 33, Translated by Maulawi Sher Ali

[ii] https://www.khalifaofislam.com/articles/leaving-a-legacy-for-future-generations/

[iii]  https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world-0/terror-attacks-media-coverage-muslim-islamist-white-racism-islamophobia-study-georgia-state-a7820726.html

[iv] Language and Media Michael L. Geis

[v] https://www.history.com/topics/ku-klux-klan