Islam · Women

Day of the Girl Child

Sameea Blog DayOfTheGirl

Sameea Jonnud, Aldershot

I grew up as a Muslim in Britain, was educated here and, in fact, teachers told girls at my school they should strive to be whatever they wanted in their lives, regardless of whether the profession was traditionally thought of as a ‘boy’s’ job. In history, however, it was a different story as the treatment of girls was not equal to that of boys. When we studied kings and queens the women were usually pawns in a political game; in day to day life they weren’t educated, got married and had children. It was men who were doctors, men who were engineers, men who were learned in all professions.

At the same time I grew up learning about Islam and the rights granted to women. Girls were sometimes considered a nuisance in pre-Islamic Arabia which led to many instances of baby girls being buried alive at birth. This was one of the countless atrocities stopped by the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be on him, and indeed he showed by example that girls were as valuable as boys through his love and pride for his four daughters.

Over 1500 years ago it was Islam that encouraged girls to be educated as well as boys. It was Islam that gave women the right to own property and Islam that allowed women to work in various professions.

Rufaida Al- Aslamia is known as an early Islamic medical practitioner, Zubaidah bint Ja’far was responsible for the construction of water wells on the pilgrims route to Mecca, Fatima Al Fihri founded the earliest existing university in the world in 859. Hazrat Ayesha, honourable wife of the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be on him, is well known as an exceptionally learned scholar from a young age.

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Recently I attended the annual gathering of the UK Ahmadiyya Muslim Women’s Association – Lajna Ijtema. It was full of examples of empowered girls taking part in spiritual academic research and presentations, lectures in many subjects and scientific exhibitions.

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We could make smoothies with the power of a bicycle, learn about and grow healing plants of many different types, experiment with an invisibility device and study archaeology. A lecture taught us about the meat industry so we could find ways to ethically feed our families. A stargazing session was also arranged. The significance of all these were that they were organised, researched and presented by women and girls, many of whom had studied in those fields. How inspirational for all the young girls attending!

On International Day of the Girl Child it is sad we need to remember to promote the human rights of girls and sad that girls may not feel empowered in themselves. This is a reality of life even in these modern times.

That’s why Islamic rights granted to women and the encouragement given to girls’ education is an inspiration even in the modern world and shows that girls can grow up to become confident, educated, productive members of society achieving their full potential in whichever field they choose.

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Islam · Women

Why I Look Forward to the Ijtema Each Year!

Ijtema blog by Sarah Ward.png

Sarah Ward Khan, London                    

As I get older, as yes I must face the inevitable, Ijtema* has taken on new shades of meaning for me.  In my younger days as a Nasirat* it was all about meeting friends and not forgetting the words I had memorised for the speech competitions.  As someone who’d newly joined Lajna*, it was about transitioning from a youngster into a mature woman and listening carefully to information and evaluating its place in my own life.  As a new mother it was about finding a pattern that would fit in with me and my child’s needs.  This might mean coming late or leaving early but always trying to get the best out of each attendance. Now my children are grown and Ijtema has a new meaning. 

Of course, the highlight of any Ijtema is the address of His Holiness the Caliph, and being blessed to live in Britain where the Caliph resides and attends most national Ijtemas, I have many gems to treasure. But more recently I have attended the ijtema not as a participant or a mother but as a volunteer worker and this has by far been the most rewarding role I have held.

In my first year working with the Nasirat team I did not know my fellow team members very well.  It was daunting to work with new people in a new role and I was very much learning the ropes and watching the routines.  But one thing sticks in my memory from that first year as a volunteer: loneliness.  Sometime people cannot tell that behind the smile lies sadness but that year as I watched the other team members meet their sisters, aunties and cousins, I felt what I have felt before – an aching gap where my family should be.  Being a child of converts, or having your family live far away, it’s easy to forget amidst the hustle and bustle of life that loneliness can creep into even the happiest of places.  So that first year I was a volunteer I left with bittersweet emotions.  Happiness for an enjoyable time with friends and loneliness for a family not present.

But the next year, and every year after that has been a different story completely, I worked again with the team and we were now familiar friends who had met and communicated throughout the year.  Where before there was something missing, now lay deep friendships and sisterhood.  We met each other as old friends and laughed and joked.  I was so busy I didn’t have time to feel lonely.

The Holy Qur’an states:

And know that this community of yours is one community, and I am your Lord. So take Me as your Protector (25:53)

For me, this is the blessing of Ijtema and the abiding blessing of being an Ahmadi Muslim.  We make our own family in Lajna Ima’illah and for every lonely moment I now have a thousand bonds of friendship to bind me to my sisters in faith.  Ijtema is one point in the year but it is the culmination of work done by Lajna every month. Ijtema is not simply the competitions, bazaar and food, it is also about meeting as a community and building friendships that cross divides of language, race and age.  So, my advice would be to build your own sisterhood and Lajna family, keep in touch on a regular basis and then the Ijtema will feel like a family celebration for you too.

Ijtema is an annual spiritual and academic gathering. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Women’s Association has their Ijtema coming up this year with the theme ‘The Existence of God’.

Nasirat ul Ahmadiyya is an auxiliary of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community for young girls between the ages of 7 and 14. Literally, ‘Helpers of Ahmadiyyat’.

Lajna Ima’illah is the women’s auxiliary of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. Literally, ‘Group of the Handmaidens of Allah’.

Holy Quran · Islam

Freedom of Speech & Its Limits – Finding the Middle Path

Freedom of Speech & its limits.png

Iffat Mirza, London

The development of the notion of freedom of speech in the West has run parallel to the construction of democracy in its states. Looking at British history, we see that the 18th and 19th centuries were ridden with laws that suppressed any organisation, literature, or activity that was seen as a threat to the ruling order. With laws such as the 1795 Treasonable Practices Act and Prevention of Seditious Meetings Act, the government was able to establish its dominance over the country and limit the consciences of those who dared question their rule. Ideals of freedom of speech were reactions to these laws. Freedom of speech was created in order to facilitate a true democracy, and we can see the direct correlation between the increase in freedom of speech and the progress of democracy.

Now we must ask the question why this has once again become a big issue now? Well, the idea of political correctness has taken hold, which many see as an attack on freedom of speech. We have seen recent examples of Boris Johnson’s controversial statements on the burka and Geert Wilders’ proposed Muhammad (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) ‘drawing contest’ (now thankfully cancelled), and once again the debate over freedom of speech has risen again. However, I would argue that both stunts were nothing more than political charades and had very little to do with protecting freedom of speech. It must be clarified to all that freedom of speech is not synonymous with right to hurt. Freedom of speech is a tool that helps us grow as individuals and societies. We must set ourselves boundaries to distinguish what is acceptable and constructive dialogue, and what is simply an excuse to tyrannise.

In any case of conflict or difference of opinions, dialogue is essential to advance as a society, therefore we must welcome an atmosphere of trust and respect where each and every member can share their opinion and worries over any topic, regardless of how sensitive it may be. Yes, freedom of speech is our right, and indeed, a right that must be exercised to ensure true democratic rule.

However, it is also a responsibility that must be taken seriously. We can vocalise our opinions without dehumanising and hurting people. Freedom of speech is not being threatened by those who take offence at hurtful words. It is being threatened by those who defend their bigotry under the shield of freedom of speech. A shield that is increasingly being worn thin. By stubbornly using the guise of freedom of speech to offend others, we are limiting constructive dialogue as we are focussing more on our right to speak rather than our need to speak.

The Holy Qur’an captures the essence of how freedom of speech should be approached by encouraging an attitude of moderation. In Chapter 2, Verse 144, which can be understood as ‘We have made you into a nation which adheres to the middle path…’, God has taught us to strike a balance in all that we do and this will most definitely ensure a peaceful and harmonious society. If this teaching were to be applied to freedom of speech we would learn that freedom of speech is necessary to challenge us and to help us grow. We would learn to see the world from other perspectives and in doing so learn more about our own perspective. But neither would we take it to such an extreme that we are not facilitating conversation, but are instead screaming over each other, resulting in a lot of words with very little meaning. So, it is in treading the middle path that we can do justice to freedom of speech.

Holy Quran · Islam

A Colour That Never Fades

Arfa Blog

 

Arfa Niswan Yassir, Swindon

It is stated in the Holy Qur’an:

 صِبْغَةَ اللَّهِ ۖ وَمَنْ أَحْسَنُ مِنَ اللَّهِ صِبْغَةً ۖ وَنَحْنُ لَهُ عَابِدُونَ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May Allah deepen HIS colour in our souls! AMEEN

 

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

Features · 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

Islam · Politics

Response to Anti-Islam Sentiment

Graphic-Navida blog on Wilders

Navida Sayed, London

There was widespread disquiet following Dutch politician Geert Wilder coming back on the scene yesterday announcing to hold a cartoon competition of our beloved Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him).

The impact of Mr Wilders’ announcement has somewhat spiralled out of control among people from all walks of life on social media resulting in individuals instantaneously reacting without a pause for thought. Social media platforms were laden with hundreds of concoctions offensive, abusive, derogatory comments against Islam and our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). Enraged individuals who clearly don’t know the basics about Islam were exchanging deluded and distorted comments. Existing negative media content about Islam already drives such individuals and Wilders’ announcement gives it a big boost.

Surely freedom of speech does not mean creating disorder and chaos in the world. The antagonism Mr Wilders is breeding and expanding will harm peace of society by creating further divisions and barriers. Wilders’ interpretation of freedom of speech will open a gateway for further bigotry.

Prevention remains better than cure we can only pray and hope the relevant authorities will rethink and take responsibility.

Producing and publishing cartoons may be the asserted right of individuals wishing to express freedom of speech, however is it necessary at the expense of hurting the sentiments of others and jeopardizing peace in society? Will posting cartoons of our beloved Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings be upon him) enable the world to become a better and peaceful place?  Surely this cannot be deemed as freedom of speech especially if it leads to strife.

As for our response, regardless of the surge of hatred against Islam, in these last ten days of the blessed and holy month of Ramadhan, we will continue to pray and won’t give up advocating peace, tolerance, love and understanding among followers of all faiths.

A humble message to all fellow Muslims in the world, let us all endeavour to put into practice the goodwill, piety and self-discipline acquired during Ramadhan, and  not be provoked by  Wilders of the world. Pray for unity among the Muslim Ummah and understand the Need for the Imam. I end with the words of the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace):

‘Alas! Heaven is bearing witness and you do not hear; the earth is crying out: One is needed, one is needed, and you pay no attention! O unfortunate people! arise and see that in this time of distress, Islam has been trodden underfoot and has been maligned like criminals. It has been counted among liars and has been written down among unholy ones. Then would not God’s jealousy be aroused at such at time? Understand then that heaven is drawing close and the days are near when every ear shall hear the affirmation: ‘I am present’.

(Kitab-ul-Bariyyah, Ruhani Khaza’in, Vol. 13, pp. 228 -330 – Essence of Islam, Vol. IV, pp. )

 

Freedom and Responsibility · Islam

Rights and Responsibilities of Free Speech

Iffat Mirza Blog-Free Speech

Iffat Mirza, London

In every walk of life, freedom and responsibility go hand in hand. The two are inseparable. However, when it comes to freedom of speech people can be quick to forget this. Perhaps it is that they feel protected by the law or bolstered by their own convictions that they forget that actions have consequences. Freedom of speech seems to have become an increasingly complex concept in modern society. When it comes to attacking religion, it is easy to do so in the name of freedom of speech and often go overboard in patronising, and even abusive, terms, all whilst having no regard for the sentiments of millions of people across the globe.

It seems that Geert Wilders is one of these people. Having recently declared a contest to draw the Holy Prophet Muhammad (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) he has made a calculated decision to offend the Muslim world. In Islam it is forbidden to draw the Holy Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). To justify this under the guise of ‘freedom of speech’ is a complete misunderstanding of the concept. To play with the sentiments of nearly 2 billion Muslims across the globe is to make mischief, not to protect the sacred rights of speech or expression. In fact, if Mr Wilders is so concerned with the freedom of speech, surely it makes no sense to then try to ban the Holy Qur’an as he famously alluded to in the past. Surely, to ban literature is the greatest violation of freedom of speech. In this Orwellian society that Mr Wilders is devising , the words ‘freedom is slavery’ are certainly beginning to seem increasingly true, as the state will inevitably believe that government approved religions and literature are ‘correct’ and anything else deserves silencing and banning. The hypocrisy of his ‘defence of freedom of speech is astounding’.

As a student of language and literature I am very passionate about the concept of freedom of speech.  I am even more so passionate about it because as a Muslim I believe that God has gifted us with the power to reason and therefore analyse situations and articulate them. The power that words and other art forms have is inspiring and it is for this reason that whilst freedom of speech must be defended, so must the sentiments of the populace.

John Stewart Mill, known to be one of the best thinkers of the 19th century, was a great pioneer of freedom of speech. In his 1859 work On Liberty, he writes:

He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them. But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion.

Mill explains the necessity to understand both sides of an argument in order to justify your beliefs. One must know the ins and outs of his opponents’ views to fully affirm why he is in opposition. It is not enough, in this right, to look towards the actions of a few so-called Muslims, nor is it enough to base his view on the stereotypes of Muslims.

Indeed, to criticise the teachings of Islam, as with any concept, one must first learn, and then understand the teachings of Islam. Perhaps then Mr Wilders would learn that he is not the first leader to defend freedom of speech, but in fact the Holy Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) stood for the populace, and not only encouraged the minorities to live and worship freely, but also instructed all Muslims to allow them to do so.

  1. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5836469/Anti-Islam-political-party-plans-hold-competition-drawing-cartoons-Mohammed.html
  2. https://www.alislam.org/library/books/Islam-and-Freedom-of-Conscience.pdf page 31
  3. John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 1859.
Islam

The Red Rag of Caricatures

 

durood

Sameea Jonnud, Aldershot

Things must have been a little too quiet for Dutch far-right politician Geert Wilders lately, after all US President Donald Trump has been more a public anti-Muslim irritant since he ran for President. Not one to be overshadowed where Islam and Muslims are concerned Wilders has once more decided to stir things up by holding a contest to draw the Holy Prophet of Islam, peace and blessings be on him. The fact that Wilders has been allowed to hold the caricature contest in the Parliamentary offices of his PVV party almost gives it a kind of validation when one would hope Parliament would try to diffuse any possible trouble before it can be triggered.

Wilders has shown his fanatical anti-Islam stance in the past by calling for bans on the Holy Qur’an and mosques explaining that away by claiming Islam is not a religion. However, encouraging the drawing of cartoons of the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, doesn’t support any arguments he may have, rather it is merely another way to offend Muslims by insulting their revered Prophet. This has happened in the past when Danish magazine Jyllands-Posten published caricatures and in another contest in Texas, USA which followed the Charlie Hebdo shootings; in all these cases cartoonists depicted the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, in an offensive way and claimed it was to protect their rights to free speech.

Muslims hold the love of God topmost but among humankind the love for the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, comes first. This is illustrated by the fact that any Muslim who writes or speaks his name will add ‘peace and blessings be upon him’ as a mark of respect. In actual fact Muslims believe in and respect all God’s Prophets and will also invoke peace on them when speaking their name. This love and respect will not be undone by offensive cartoon depictions and will not lead to ideological discussions; it will lead to sadness among the majority of Muslims who will find it offensive and yes, in reprisal there will potentially be violence among an extremist minority.

So knowing all this it is evident that Wilders is supporting a caricature contest such as this only to insult and offend Muslims despite also knowing that, as with a red rag in front of a bull, it can trigger extremists to retaliate violently and in an un-Islamic way, as in the Charlie Hebdo killings. But it seems that to someone like Geert Wilders, who seems to want to cause trouble, any resulting offence and even violence must be worthwhile. What instead should be the reaction of peaceful Muslims to this provocation? Invoking ‘Durood’ (salutations) on the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him:

“Bless, O Allah, Muhammad and the people of Muhammad, as You did bless Abraham and the people of Abraham, You are indeed the Praiseworthy, the Glorious.

Prosper, O Allah, Muhammad and the people of Muhammad, as You did prosper Abraham and the people of Abraham, You are indeed the Praiseworthy, the Glorious.”

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

Hijab · Islam

Dignity of Hijab and Ill-Advised Solidarity Against it

Hijab, Solidarity_.png

by Navida Sayed, London.

In Islam, modesty and chastity are very important tenets of faith, and are achieved through establishing certain codes of behaviour and dress. However over the last decade the hijab has not only become one of the most widely discussed controversial topics but has resulted in Muslim women dealing with endless challenges and negativity.

In pursuit of their own political agendas repeated stabs by some to intervene and attempt imposing a dress code on how Muslim women should /should not dress has divided society. The publicity surrounding such attempts has led to backlashes against Muslim women in hijab and has also resulted in some women abandoning the hijab to fit into society.

Social media platforms can be dynamic catalysts of global public opinion, especially responsible for generating popular beliefs and attitudes about most things, including discussion on Muslim women.  This has resulted in many with little awareness of Islam to identify Muslim women in hijab either with terrorism or as oppressed women in desperate need of liberation from their hijab.

Recently some non-Muslim women decided to wear hijab in solidarity with Muslim women, a personal choice and a nice gesture to support Muslim women already facing antagonism. To make matters worse social media then became a platform for ridicule suggesting ‘take off your hijab in solidarity’ with feminists and ex-Muslims.

Women choosing to walk away from the hijab as feminists or activists are taking the removal of the hijab to a whole new level, from videos and blogs on how to remove the headscarf to linking the headscarf as an out dated cultural practice or view it merely as a piece of cloth. If any women removed their hijab out of defiance, because it was enforced on them, this enforcement is clearly against the teachings of Islam. It is not for man to either impose or enforce the hijab on women, nor punish them for not observing it.

Muslim women who choose to wear the hijab do not struggle with any kind of inferiority complex or dilemma about whether or not they should wear the hijab. They do not feel constricted or objectified, instead they feel confident and empowered. Hijab establishes dignity and respect for women, so that they are recognised in society as individuals who are respected for their intelligence, personality and academic achievement, rather than for their physical appearance. For Muslim women having the right to choose what to wear, including the hijab, is the most liberating and empowering choice of all.

Ironically whether it is a political figure or a journalist it’s men who always try and dictate the dress code for Muslim women. Yet they seem to be clearly unaware that men were the first to be instructed in the Qur’an to lower their gaze and not ogle women in society. Being aware of men’s weak innate nature, God further guided women to cover themselves as a preventative measure for their own protection.

Muslim women are granted the right to dress how they choose and will not remove their hijab in solidarity with anyone, because among other things it will not make the world a better place. If women were safe in a world where covering up was not a choice we would not see so many high profile sexual harassment cases. But it all comes down to choice in how a woman wishes to dress, Islamic dress code should not repeatedly be targeted.

Women in hijab will stand by in solidarity, which results in real support for the betterment of society. Women united in true solidarity can confront problems together, not with hatred or derision for one another’s beliefs and practices. Lets stand in solidarity and mutual respect for one another to counter all hurdles which threaten to divide us.