Features · Islam

Divine Attributes: Al Wali, The Friend

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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

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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

Features

The Holocaust—Strive for ‘Never Again’

Holocaust

Basira Ajmal, Bournemouth

It is of course always with feelings of deep sadness that one writes about the Holocaust— a catastrophe in which millions of people, especially Jews were mass murdered remorselessly by the Nazi regime and its collaborators. A genocide to exterminate Jews, an atrocious horror.

While we honour the victims of the Holocaust each year on the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, what is also crucial is the need to ask ourselves, what did we learn from history?

What the Holocaust has revealed is the most averse reality of all times; humans have the capacity to execute such heinous and inconceivable cruelties against each other. It envisages that if it has happened in the past, it can happen again and my heart twinges when I write that unfortunately, this vicious crime is still taking place. Yes, you read that correct; I do think that genocide is continually going on around the world.

According to article II of the UN Genocide Convention, any killing or inflicting destructive circumstances or serious bodily or mental harm to anyone with the intent to destroy in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group is called Genocide.

Have we forgotten what transpired in Cambodia or the mass slaughters of Rwanda? What about the Bosnian genocide? If all of those were too long ago to be remembered, is the Darfur genocide , the atrocities in Syria and the persecutions in Rohingya also a matter of the past? No, I am afraid  these are contemporary issue. Most regretfully, the frequent occurrence of this barbarity has made us somehow immune to feel the pain and agony it inflicts. To make it happen ‘Never Again’, it needs to be addressed everyday rather than on only one particular day of remembrance.

Now generally speaking, to shut down anything like a factory, a machine or a car, we cut off the fuel, whether it is manual energy, electrical or chemical fuel. Similarly, to tackle this unending problem of genocide, we need to cut off what propels it. Genocide is often instigated and later fueled by pervasive hate speech. We are living in a time when the phrase ‘Free Speech’ has become a part of our active vocabulary and is always at the tip of our tongues as well as our pens. However, we need to comprehend both constructive and destructive aspects of the power of speech. Eloquent and positively motivational speech promotes peace and productivity. On the other hand, disparaging and disdainful speech spurs violence and agitation, as the author Newton Lee says, “There is a fine line between free speech and hate speech. Free speech encourages debate whereas hate speech incites violence.”

In exercising our freedom of speech, we need to be wary that we do not suppress anyone else’s freedom, as we are all equal human beings brought into existence by One  Creator. In order to achieve their egocentric objectives, use of presumptuous and provocative words has always been common among the political and national leaders who hold the responsibility of bridging gaps and bringing peace to the society. This depreciatory rhetoric aggravates hatred and incites violence against specific groups of society putting them at a risk, which can in extreme cases lead to genocide.

It is time we bring about a change and actively discourage the use of hate speech and derogatory terms, as advised by our Creator in the Holy Qur’an, chapter 49, verse 12,

‘O ye who believe! let not one people deride another people, who may be better than they, nor let women deride other women, who may be better than they. And do not slander your own people, nor taunt each other with nicknames…’

This beautiful and universal teaching of the Qur’an is a measure to prevent hatred and disparity among different and diverse communities in a society. Within this context, the worldwide ambassador of peace, His Holiness Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad says in a Friday sermon[i], ‘Freedom of expression certainly does not mean that sentiments are trifled with, or are caused to be hurt. If this is the freedom that the West is proud of, and then this freedom does not lead to advancement, rather it leads to decline.’ At another instance[ii], the Khalifa of Islam says these thought provoking and eye-opening words, “Let it not be that in the name of freedom of speech the peace of the entire world be destroyed.”

Thus, we must inculcate these fruitful and valuable teachings into our lives and be mindful of our words and speech lest they incite any kind of hatred or violence against any individual or group. Only then, we could say that we are making an effort to eradicate violence and the unspeakable horror of genocide from our society and are truly striving for  ‘Never Again’.

 

 

[i] https://www.alislam.org/library/books/TheBlessedModelAndCaricatures.pdf

 

[ii] https://www.alislam.org/library/press-release/world-muslim-leader-condemns-anti-islam-film/#sthash.qc4USr9W.67XXQ9g2.dpuf

 

Features · Politics

Westminster Reflections

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Sameea Jonnud, Aldershot

The Metro newspaper had a story a couple of days ago about a terror response exercise on the river Thames; as events unfolded in Westminster yesterday afternoon it felt surreal as if reality and training were merging. Three members of the public died and dozens are being treated for extensive injuries after a car was driven into a crowd on Westminster Bridge. PC Keith Palmer was stabbed and died after confronting a man who ran towards the entrance and tried to gain access to Parliament; this man was shot dead by police. Parliament and the surrounding area remained under lockdown for several hours and now, on the morning after, the country is left reflecting on what happened.

For me seeing these events happening in the city of my birth is devastating. The beautiful sights of London under lockdown and once more filled with the sound of sirens and the sight of blood because of an act of hatred. We experienced it with IRA bombings in the past as well as the 7th July attack.

Events of horror such as this one affect us all and we react in different ways; until the police actually tell us details of what happened and until we can see into the hearts of our fellow people speculation is futile.

However speculation began immediately and in this age of social media it doesn’t take long for information, both fact and fiction, to spread. Matters were made worse when the usually more reliable Channel 4 News named the suspect only for it to emerge that the man in question is actually serving a jail sentence. Many people began to blame Islam and Muslims, for carrying out and condoning terrorism; so once again and despite their open condemnation, peaceful, ordinary Muslims were blamed for ‘not doing enough’. As if reasonable people could really believe ordinary Muslims are not shocked and saddened; the fact that the great majority of devout Muslims are against terrorism should be enough to show that Islam itself does not allow for terrorism.

A couple of other things struck me as really unsavoury; first was the way former EDL leader Tommy Robinson rushed to the scene and the media interviewed him. Why should importance be given to a man who wasn’t present during the incident and is only known for stirring up hatred against Muslims? Once again the media’s need for shock value prevailed.

Another thing was that despite advice from the Police that people should contact them with information and not circulate photographs and speculation, many were shared. One showing a man in a crowd taking a selfie in front of ambulances produced immediate outrage; however the people circulating the photo didn’t maybe stop and think they were complicit just by sharing. A second photo showed a Muslim woman walking past an injured person on the pavement while speaking on a mobile phone. This led to many comments condemning “the uncaring Muslim rushing by”. But who knows the situation? She could have been contacting relatives to tell them she was safe, she could have been pacing unable to help and if she was merely walking past chatting what makes this action an illustration of an uncaring Muslim rather than the actions of any other uncaring young person these days?

Divisions and hatred may have been shouted out but the images and words that should stay in our minds are rather different. The image of MP Tobias Ellwod was all over the media as he desperately tried to save the life of the fallen police officer. The many medics rushing out from St Thomas hospital disregarding the fact the area may not yet have been secure. Passers-by helping the injured, something which has been shown again and again at times of crisis.

Hatred and pointing fingers will get us nowhere; to defeat attempts to terrorise us we must unite and show tolerance towards one another as fellow human beings. As Brendan Cox pointed out this morning, there was one act of evil but thousands of acts of kindness and bravery. This is something that what we should focus on as more details emerge in the coming days when the need for unity will be great.

Features · Women

Empowerment of Women in the 1920s: The story of Lajna Ima’illah

LajnaBlogWomen'sDay

Sameen R. Chaudhary, London

It is generally acknowledged that the role of women changed during and after the World Wars. With the men away on the battle field, it was up to women to hold down the fort at home, taking on war jobs that went beyond their traditional roles. Mechanics, factory workers, farmers; jobs that before were ‘men’s jobs’ were now being done by women. Posters of strong women and propaganda challenged the stereotypes and encouraged women to work, because the nation demanded, nay, depended on it for their survival. It was perhaps intended to be a temporary break from the norm until the men returned. Once begun however, many of these women found it difficult to go back to their roles pre-war. They had come to a realisation almost by default; that they were capable and intelligent enough to do a man’s job and for them that meant that they were now equal.

There was a quiet revolution for women happening elsewhere in the world around the same time, 1922 to be precise. There were no posters, and no propaganda. And women were not being told to leave their traditional roles temporarily. These women had already been given an equal status by their faith, Islam, more than a thousand years earlier, but they did not have to act like men to prove it. This revolution recognised the uniqueness of women and the contributions they could make to further a nation, as women in their own right. This revolution occurred in India. Here, even though approximately 1.3 million men had gone off the fight the war, still women did not have to take on the role of men. Instead they were taught how to flourish in their own role as women. When a woman is allowed to achieve everything on par with men, but in her own way, without having to prove that she can act like a man- that is not just equality. It is freedom. Freedom to be a woman, and freedom to be equal in the true sense of the word.

These women I speak of, Ahmadi Muslim women were relatively financially poor but rich with enthusiasm and love for Islam and even managed to wholly finance the first mosque in London while living in 1920s India. The Second Khalifa, the spiritual head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community set up an auxiliary women’s organisation called Lajna Ima’illah in December 1922. Its aim was self-education and training of women, both in spiritual and secular terms. For example, as is still the norm in rural parts of the East, women learn crafts such as sewing and embroidery. One of the first departments created within this auxiliary was that of Industry and Handicraft, after some ladies used their skills to make artefacts and hold an exhibition where they were sold. The proceeds went to good causes. And thus this department was born with its roots in the empowerment of women by encouraging them to learn and use their skills to eradicate unemployment.

In short, it allows them to pursue means by which they can improve their skills and earn their own money-an important feature for some women when claiming their independence. But crucially, it allows them to do it in a way that does not compromise any other aspect of themselves. So often women who have multiple roles face the harsh reality of having to put one role above the other: A working mother may feel the guilt of leaving her child whilst she goes to work sometimes out of financial necessity and sometimes out of having to make a financial contribution to her household as this is what her ‘equality’ entails. The Second Khalifa of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, with his amazing foresight, recognised the importance of making women independent and eradicating unemployment as a means to empower them, rather than empowering women because they needed to fill the shoes of men. Even today in many cultures financially independent women are still feared. But he encouraged them at a time when working women were scarce amongst those that were financially supported, by giving them a higher cause: to earn their own money and spend out of it for the cause of faith thereby raising their spiritual status as well.

For over 10 years now I have watched my mother serve in the capacity of Secretary for Industry and Handicraft for Lajna Ima’illah UK; watched all kinds of women work hard, to learn new skills, to set up their own businesses sometimes in the face of adversity. I have seen women take on their roles as women and entrepreneurs with dignity and grace, and above all, creating a work life balance where their womanhood is not compromised. Skills such as cooking, sewing and handicrafts may seem old fashioned and out dated. But only a look at some of the most popular TV programmes currently suggest otherwise. It is not only these skills that can be developed, but whatever you wish. The idea is to help all those who have not pursued other career routes to work for themselves, giving them true independence and the ability to answer to no one but themselves and God. Women have organised bazaars with a footfall of over 3,000 women, providing a platform for many business women to sell and advertise their products and services. They work in temporary industrial sized kitchens in the outdoors, and feed over 10,000 women every day for three days every year at the Annual Convention for the Ahmadiyya Community. It is not pretty or dainty work, and it is certainly not for the weak. The strength, stamina and resolve of such women is remarkable. And they are not alone. A huge voluntary task force of women work long hours providing security, shelter, food, and comfort of every kind to their guests during this time.

As India celebrates its all women flights, Lajna Ima’illah has been running its own organisation, own events and own programme of education and reform for all women and girls for decades upon decades. Indeed, it is now an organisation global in scope, working in over two hundred countries around the world. Perhaps here in the UK in the future Lajna Ima’illah can reach the level of holding exhibitions such as those in Earl’s Court and the Excel Centre, mirroring the humble efforts of those first pioneers back in the 1920s.

Features · Integration · Politics · Women

MUSLIM WOMEN’S GROUP SAY LOYALTY TO BRITAIN IS PART OF THE ISLAMIC FAITH

PRESS RELEASE

16 January 2017

Some 700 women attended a national Peace symposium titled “Faith and Loyalty to Britain: The Role of Women” on Saturday. The event was organised by women from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Women’s Association UK to dispel misconceptions about Islam and Muslim Women and demonstrate that loyalty to Britain is part of the practice of Islam.

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It was held at the largest Mosque in Western Europe, the Baitul Futuh Mosque in South London.

Keynote speakers were Baroness Williams of Trafford, Minister of State (Home Office), Ms. Patsy Robertson, Vice Chair of the Commonwealth Association, and Mrs Safiyya Salam, Vice President of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Women’s Association, UK. Distinguished speakers included the Rt. Hon Fiona MacTaggart MP and Siobhain McDonagh MP. The event was also attended by Councillors, Mayors, academics, NGOs and invitees from many faiths and beliefs.

The aim of the event was also to highlight the important contribution made by Ahmadi Muslim women who are dedicated to Islam and its peaceful teachings but are also able to contribute significantly to British society, its culture and its economy. A £5000 cheque was presented to Whizz-Kidz a British Charity which is working hard to transform the lives of disabled children.

Baroness Williams of Trafford, Minister of State (Home Office) said:

It’s so good to see so many women here to talk about the role we can play in promoting peace and integration. Whether we are mothers, religious leaders or politicians, we all have a role in establishing peace.” 

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Baroness Williams also commended the Ahmadiyya Muslim Women’s Association and said:

“Your dedication to your faith and your country is an inspiration for us all. Ahmadiyya Muslim Women demonstrate to me their importance to building strong communities. Thank You!”

Baroness Williams also outlined the Government’s commitment to tackling hate crime which includes action on racially and religiously aggravated hate crime and to protecting communities from hostility, violence and bigotry.

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Mrs. Patsy Robertson, Vice Chair of the Commonwealth Association spoke of the advancement of women since the Beijing UN Conference for Women’s Rights, but said:

I have come to know that as a Community, you are accomplished and have done a great deal of work for your fellow citizens … I really do believe that it is incumbent on Muslim and non-Muslim women to end this idea that wearing the hijab is an oppressive tool. We are educated women, we have to speak up and challenge these societal beliefs.”

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The Rt. Hon Fiona MacTaggart MP said:

I want to congratulate you on leading this woman’s only event… Mum’s roles are not celebrated enough in government and the job they do in bringing up moral children and establishing peace within society… The All Party Parliamentary Group for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is I believe the only group in Parliament with a majority of female MPs”

Siobhain McDonagh MP said:

I want to thank you for your contributions. I want to thank you for showing loyalty without condition to your country.”

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Mrs. Nasira Rehman, National President of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Women’s Association UK said:

Islam is a religion of peace, tolerance and unity.  Ahmadi Muslim women have been in Britain since 1913 and adopting modest dress have been determinedly serving society ever since.  We will continue to do so building on our determination to show society that respect and tolerance for true peaceful Islam and responsibility to God and His creation is a source of unity and peace for all of us.

Mrs. Rehman also paid tribute to Councillor Maxi Martin, who passed away in 2016 and was a dear friend of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Women’s Association.

Mrs. Safiyya Salam, Vice President of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Women’s Association in the UK and daughter in law of Dr Abdus Salam, the first Muslim Nobel laureate in sciences said:

This Muslim Women’s Association was established in 1922 to encourage Muslim women to be improve knowledge, serve the community, and train and bring up children to be righteous and loyal citizens. As practising Muslims, we are instructed to love our country and act as an instrument of peace. Loyalty to one’s country is part of the Islamic faith and there is no conflict between this and our belief in Islam”.

Mrs. Farzana Yousuf, a lawyer and National Secretary for Community Outreach said:

Ahmadi Muslim women believe in loyalty to Britain, we believe in freedom, respect, tolerance and a shared responsibility for our world. In other words, we believe in true Islam.”

Alison Gordon O.B.E, Director and co Founder of Sister for Change, Mitty Tohma President of the Women’s Federation for World Peace, Margaret Ali, Director of the Universal Peace Federation, Councillor Brenda Fraser Mayor of Merton, Councillor Wendy Speck Deputy Mayor of Wandsworth and Deputy Mayor of Croydon Councillor Toni Letts were also distinguished guests who attended and spoke. Their thoughtful sentiments were well received by the Symposium.

 

 

 

Features

New Year, Old Me!

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Sameen R. Chaudhary, London

Time, and marks of time such as the New Year give us milestones and posts for us to measure our time on earth.  With such guideposts, we can see how much progress we have made, and how much we have lost over the past year.  There is criticism that the New Year as a modern tradition has been commercialised and spiralled out of control.  Perhaps the ways and methods we now use to mark this time has changed, but the marking of it itself is and always has been an important part of human development.  Not least because it is the time for reflection and for many resolving to do better, achieve more, and reach our own goals in the coming year.  But also as a collective mark, a mark of time that we all share and we live together.  We, all of us, may live vastly different days to each other.  From the moment we wake up, to when we rest our head at night, no two people in the world will have lived the exact same day.  The one common thing between us is the waxing and waning, and the rising and setting of the celestial bodies.  Time, days, months and years are what we all share at any given moment.  What we do with it is what sets us apart.

As time marches on some progress is made, some set back occur.  Some opportunities lost are lost forever.  That is the harsh reality of time, life and death.  When it has gone there is no bringing it back.  But there is a silver lining, and that is that some mistakes can be learnt from, avoided in the future, perhaps even made better.  God gives us some opportunities again, and this time we may act differently.  That is just one aspect of the merciful nature of our God, that He allows His creation to go through the same patterns and seasons so that we can take the opportunity to do better the next time. Perhaps that is one of the underlying points of New Year resolutions, to resolve to make better use of our time, and to take those opportunities that we missed in the last year.

I have always found New Year resolutions difficult to keep.  The whole idea of making myself new is nice for the first few days.  Invigorating and exciting even.  A new start, the possibilities are endless.  But after the initial few days, perhaps even a month, as the winter drags on it becomes increasingly difficult to hold on to that motivation.  It’s not only me I have been told.  It’s called the January Blues.  Why so Blue if it is all new?  Perhaps I have resolved to change or do too much in the coming year, as my quest to create a ‘New Me’ fizzles out.  That is a tall order, especially when I am in the same body, same place and same routine.  Perhaps it is because New Me has pushed aside certain things rather than acknowledging them as the first step for change /improvement. Change does not come overnight, it is a continual gradual process that needs constant work and attention.  Change is something that happens over the years.  At the end, we stop, think, take stock of our progress and put in place goals for the future. Rather than starting again this year, I have heeded the advice of beloved Huzoor, His Holiness Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, and asked myself a series of soul searching questions.  Questions to do with the Old Me of this year gone by.  Only by taking a deep look at it, can I think about what needs to change, and to what degree. That way I can accept the Old Me and look to improve, bringing about small changes step by step.  Of course this may not work for everybody, and those that can start afresh as the clock strikes midnight on the 1st January, good for them.  But our Old Me’s have gone through a lifetime of experience and learnt many lessons, all of which can help rather than hinder progress.

Resolutions have, and perhaps always will be a feature of the New Year.  There is nothing wrong with resolving to improve oneself, whatever that may look like for the individual.  But perhaps this year, when I know that I will have to ask myself again those questions at the end, I will be more inclined (hopefully!) to stay on track and make more progress.  A New Me means that I can forget the past and start over.  In that case there is no need for me to change much.  My intention may be good, but it lacks the drive to make sure that I carry it on throughout the year.  And I may end up repeating the same cycle over and over.  So next year, I am looking forward to an improved Old Me, however small that improvement may be. InshaAllah.

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New Year Reflections

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Sameea Jonnud, Aldershot, UK

Often as the New Year counts down I will say a prayer; this year I raised my hands in silent prayer a couple of minutes before midnight. It was silent around me and I thanked God for the blessings He had given me and prayed for my family. No one was close but I knew the moment the clock struck midnight because immediately the stillness of the night was broken by a series of bangs and whistled as the now traditional New Year fireworks exploded into my awareness. I ignored the noise as best I could and continued my prayers.

On completing a couple of minutes after midnight I glanced outside and saw the loudest bangs I had been hearing were appearing from a near neighbour’s garden. Looking out from the front and back windows  I noticed dozens of different sets of fireworks going on; the New Year was truly being ushered in with a bang.

In childhood, when fireworks were an occasional Bonfire night occurrence, I would have been fascinated with the spectacular colours, lights and noise; this time my thoughts went to Yemen. Were people there hearing bangs such as these? What about Syria and all the other places around the world where bombs fall?

A close relative on a recent visit from Yemen told me how they and their neighbours would move to the inside rooms of their houses to be a little more protected when reports of an attack were made. She said how this had become a part of life for them so when our Government admitted British bombs were being dropped in Yemen I felt even more sick at the thought.

Yet all around the world throughout New Year’s Eve from the first midnight onwards the New Year was celebrated with the loud bang of fireworks which were reported every hour on UK news in a countdown until our midnight. Where previously people would hold New Year parties with music and drink now additional New Year firework parties have become the norm.

The sense of unease that hit me, the thoughts of conflict around the world, fits in with the kind of year that has just ended. When 2016 began (in the same explosive way) the world seemed a different place. My daughter was studying in The Netherlands, travelling easily through Germany, Belgium and France to reach there. The shockwaves of 2016 had not yet hit – the vote to leave the EU, Donald Trump being elected president, the murder of a British MP, the rise in hatred and intolerance in many countries of the world, worsening effects of climate change, even the deaths of so many people in the public eye – all of this has resulted in 2016 leaving us with a sense of shock, of unease and of bewilderment at what the future holds. Events we previously thought of as a surreal possibility have come to pass and are reality and now we must see what the future holds and face it.

The fact that there were inspirational people and events leaves us with light in the tunnel that is the future. Brendan Cox’s dignified and inspirational response to the murder of his wife with calls for tolerance was one which stands out;  the fact that Austria voted against the far-right candidate is also a spark of hope.

Breakthroughs in science including advances in research fighting diseases are a positive contribution to the year as was Tim Peake’s stay on the International Space Station. If Europe, Russia and the US can successfully partner on the ISS why can’t they find more common ground here on Earth? Even the fact the latest two Star Wars films have strong female leading characters is a positive and Leicester’s Premier League victory put a smile on most people’s faces!

Often we rely on the news media to tell us what is going on in the world but this can lead to an overdose of negativity as wars and terrorism are given so much coverage. Where there are beacons of hope we must grasp them and build on that hope to construct a better future.

Thus I began this New Year with prayers for my family, community and the world and I’ll continue to pray that God grant us this future with hope for peace and justice for all.

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New Year Reflections

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Nazma Raichuri, Hounslow East

New Year’s Eve is always a display of global celebrations, with fireworks and other jubilations in many countries. Families and friends get together rounding up the year to celebrate the new hope and new dreams that the coming year will bring.

It is also another excuse for some to indulge in hedonistic and at times disruptive merry-making. But to true believers of Allah, it provides another opportunity to show gratitude for all they have received, which is what Ahmadi Muslims aim to achieve. Many Ahmadi Muslims across the world resolve through a day of fasting and all-night praying to begin the New Year by becoming more sincere in their devotion and more eager to renew their spirituality and their connection to God.

The beginning of each year reminds us that we are here only for a limited time and this should be a time for honest self-evaluation and setting personal goals. Whether, these are physical, emotional or spiritual. Prayer is a powerful weapon, so one must use this earnestly and abundantly to seek help and courage from Allah to achieve one’s goals.

The New Year will truly be happy, if we create within us the desire and effort to better ourselves through kindness, through wisdom, through generosity, and pray to seek Allah’s blessing and help for us all. Ameen.