Islam

Finding God

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Laiqa Bhatti, Egham

What is the purpose of life? It is an age-old question that is pondered over, from a fleeting thought in the ordinary man to the continually debating philosopher. It is a question that leads many on the journey to question the existence of God, to find Him and after having found Him and His true beauty, to earn His love. For this is the sole purpose of our life; it is something that requires patience as well as guidance on how to find God. For that reason, God sent religion. The purpose of all true religions was always to facilitate and guide its followers closer to God.

The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace), the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, has explained that in order to find and nurture a relationship with God, one must first recognise Him, understand His beneficence and His perfect beauty before nearness to God can be achieved [1]. There are countless examples of God’s perfect beauty all around us, from the microscopic wonders of the world to the macroscopic vastness of the universe. In the Holy Qur’an, God says:

‘Verily, in the creation of the heavens and the earth and in the alternation of night and day, and in the ships which sail in the sea with that which profits men, and in the water which Allah sends down from the sky and quickens therewith the earth after its death and scatters therein all kinds of beasts, and in the change of the winds and the clouds pressed into service between the heaven and the earth are indeed Signs for the people who understand.’ Holy Qur’an (2:165)

So for the seeker, seeing the world around us from the perspective of a perfect Creator, God’s beauty is easily visible, and if the seeker continues to look, the beauty becomes spell-binding. This realisation should invoke a fervent need to find this Creator, for which, again, God sent religion containing myriad ways in which one can become closer to God. Prayers and worship of God serve a single purpose; bringing man closer to God. Earnest prayers, seeking God’s help and guidance are the foundations in this journey because it is only God who can guide us. This again makes us reflect on the omnipotence of God and His love and how insignificant we and our efforts are in comparison. Then God instructs us to extend this worship to the world around us and strive in His cause and serve others. From the sacrifice of wealth to a mere smile for another human being, all acts for others are also considered worship.

‘And worship Allah and associate naught with Him, and show kindness to parents, and to kindred, and orphans, and the needy, and to the neighbour that is a kinsman and the neighbour that is a stranger, and the companion by your side, and the wayfarer, and those whom your right hands possess. Surely, Allah loves not the proud and the boastful,’ Holy Qur’an (4:37)

Each act of worship for the sake of God brings us closer to Him, yet much like the physical nourishment is continuous, the spiritual also is continuous and requires time. Therefore finding God, developing a loving relationship with God requires steadfastness and that steadfastness must remain under trials and tribulations, in both adversity and prosperity. This quality of steadfastness is of such significance that the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said:

‘…he who seeks steadfastness Allah bestows steadfastness upon him. Upon no one has been bestowed a bounty better and more comprehensive than steadfastness.’ Bukhari [2]

Keeping company with the righteous is another way of establishing a meaningful relationship with God as people who have experience with God allow us to observe their perfect example and their personal experience and relationship reminds us of the perfect beauty of God. The believers that have found God are bonded to Him in a way that is inspiring and calls on us to continue fervently searching for God. When the efforts of the seeker are answered, God starts to manifest Himself through true dreams, visions and revelation. The seeker has found God and becomes so intoxicated in His love that nothing in this world any longer matters. The temporary, materialistic things become insignificant because an everlasting bond with the benevolent God has been established.

The beauty of the search for God is that He can be found, if the seeker would like to, in whatever we do. Even when a seeker makes a mistake and commits a sin, repentance of that sin brings him nearer to God. It is a journey that can last a lifetime and those who reach the pinnacle of this journey are the fortunate ones. Because when you truly find God, God becomes a part of you.

God says that: ‘When I love him I become his ears by which he hears, and his eyes with which he sees, and his hands with which he grasps, and his feet with which he walks. When he asks Me I bestow upon him and when he seeks My protection I protect him.’ [3] And of those who believe in God, is there anyone not yearning for His love and protection?

 

[1] https://www.alislam.org/library/links/00000149.html

[2] https://www.alislam.org/library/hadith/on-steadfastness/

[3] https://www.alislam.org/library/hadith/on-approaching-towards-god/

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Islam

The Islamic Economic System

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Arfa Yassir, Swindon

Early humans experienced the unpredictability of life in the form of earthquakes, storms and floods, but even so they were naturally led to ‘gathering’ i.e. to save for rainy days; that’s how early competition over the ownership of resources started. In the modern world more resources mean more power and hence individuals and nations want to secure their future by retaining the ‘power’.

An economic system handles production, distribution and allocation of resources i.e. goods and services of a society or a geographic area.
Leading economies of the world today are mostly capitalist while some are mixed economies. Many systems have failed due to certain flaws. Socialism and Communism for instance equally distribute the reward of efforts among the population which hinders growth of the individual.

It is great for both individuals and nations when faith gives clear principles for an economic system, as our moral values are directly affected by our tilt towards the world and its luxuries; on top of it world peace greatly depends on it.

Islam clarifies that the objective of our life is to recognise our Creator and establish a firm relationship with Him rather than indulging in worthless pursuit of accumulating wealth. Also real and lasting safety and security lies in righteousness rather than financial well-being.

An Islamic perspective of some aspects of an economic system is being presented here as understood from a book by His Holiness Mirza Bashir-ud-din Mahmood Ahmad, second Caliph of the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) “The Economic System of Islam”:

1. How ‘Power/Authority’ is Perceived?
Lord Acton, a British historian of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century said: Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Of course this isn’t so if you believe and acknowledge that absolute power belongs to Allah alone. As humans we are subordinate and answerable to Allah. Hence if you gain authority you are a trustee of God Almighty and one would discharge one’s duties justly rather than being intoxicated by power.

2. How to Govern?
Once you gain authority, Islam has laid down principles on how to exercise authority and how to rule i.e. with justice and under Allah’s subordination.

3. How to Handle Wealth?
Islam is a complete religion that not only guides nations on how to deal with wealth but also guides about spending on a personal level, which impacts the economy. Surah Al-Balad, chapter 90 of the Holy Quran for instance tells about an unmindful accumulator of wealth and explains how his endeavours are useless and bring him no ‘honour’. This has been explained most eloquently on pages 23 – 27 of the aforementioned book. Islam promotes sensitivity in our hearts towards the sufferings of fellow beings and encourages us to spend for their uplift. Even European authors acknowledge that the second Caliph of Islam Hazrat Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) was the first one to hold a census and register people so that the state could take care of the vulnerable properly.

Islam applies barriers to illegitimate accumulation of wealth by:
* Prohibiting Interest/usury as due to that wealth keeps circulating among the rich.
* Introducing Zakat, an annual tax on those with disposable wealth, for the welfare of the poor.
* Not allowing artificial lowering of prices in the market.
* Forbidding withholding supplies from the market.
* Not allowing wealth to be given to a single heir rather be distributed to all legal heirs according to Islamic inheritance laws.
* Promoting voluntary charity.

4. How to Reduce Burdens on Economy?
In the event of wars and other disasters orphans, prisoners and other vulnerable members of the society can burden the economy. People in prisons have to go back into society and their mental well-being is very important to keep them a functional part of society and the economy.

Modern slavery notwithstanding the practice mercifully doesn’t exist today as it did in the past and Islam prohibited it in its early days inviting the wrath of pagan tribal chiefs. The developed world, in particular the United States has a sad history of slavery. Slaves from the African continent were exploited to uplift large scale economic gains up until the eighteenth century.

Islam allows to take prisoners in war for the purpose of suppressing the enemy and no one among the enemy who is not in the attacking army should be held captive. In Islam no civilian can be imprisoned from any country where war has not been declared as stated in the Holy Quran 8:68.

Islam also protects orphans emotionally as well as financially by not allowing their guardians to usurp their wealth. The Holy Qur’an has explained this in great detail, especially in Surah Al Nisa, chapter 4.

One is deeply pained by the fact that Islam is such a perfect religion and gives an economic system that can change the fate of the Muslim world, yet the Muslim countries fail to adopt these teachings of Islam and hence continue to suffer!

Holy Quran · Islam

The Beauty of The Holy Qur’an

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By Navida Sayed, London

The Holy Qur’an is a unique living book like no other conveying a timeless and universal message relevant for all times. What makes the Qur’an unique and distinct is that it can be referred to as a life manual, a study guide and an amazing book of knowledge about the entire universe. There is not a single aspect the Qur’an does not cover relating to the development of humans and social behaviour, foresight about archaeological and scientific discoveries or inventions or prophecies of the past, present, or future. The beauty and wisdom of the Qur’an also provides a source of spiritual healing and is a guiding light for the entire mankind; in relation to this the Holy Qur’an says:

‘…There has come to you indeed from Allah a Light and a clear Book.

Thereby does Allah guide those who seek His pleasure on the paths of peace, and leads them out of every kind of darkness into light by His will, and guides them to the right path.’ (Al Maidah 5:16-17)

Many critics challenge the authorship of the Qur’an and the knowledge of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) who was unlettered and dwelling in the Arabian Peninsula 1,400 years ago. Every critical mind boggles at how the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) could have produced a magnificent, deeply insightful book reflecting on every concept, problem and solution and knowledge about the universe?

The truth is that the Holy Qur’an in its entirety is the Word of God revealed to the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him). It is a miraculous inspirational book because of it eloquence and splendour. The text of the Qur’an has been preserved intact and every word of it has come down to us as free from interference and interpolation exactly in the same original Arabic as it was revealed to the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him). The Qur’an is the final law-bearing religious scripture revealed by God and what sets it apart from other holy scriptures is that since its revelation, no individual has ever been able to reproduce a single chapter like that of the Qur’an which is clearly foretold in this Quranic verse:

‘And if you are in doubt as to what We have sent down to Our servant, then produce a Chapter like it, and call upon your helpers beside Allah, if you are truthful.’ (Al Baqarah 2:24)

This challenge remains unanswered to this very day.

The Holy Qur’an outlines a golden principle for establishment of world peace. Regardless of theological differences the Qur’an instructs us to promote unity and cohesion by having respect for all religions, their founders and their scriptures. This beautiful teaching of social integration results in mutual respect and understanding between the followers of all faiths.

The intriguing and most fascinating fact about the Holy Qur’an is that it does not contradict modern science but rather supports it. The Qur’an encompasses and encapsulates every scientific phenomenon known to the world, which has been discovered only recently, through the modern advancement of technological equipment. The Holy Qur’an gives foresight into facts relating to the developmental stages of the human embryo. The Qur’an also mentions astronomical facts about stars, planets, moons and the creation of the world in different stages. Modern science has also discovered what the Qur’an told us about the existence of barriers that allow two seas to merge yet maintain their own temperature, density and salinity, for example as is the case of the Panama Canal

There are absolutely no contradictions in the Holy Qur’an whatsoever relating to science, astronomy, geology, archaeology or even history. The Qur’an highlights the true stories of previous Prophets, Adam, Noah, Abraham, Jesus and Moses and in relation to this the Holy Qur’an says:

‘Assuredly, in their narrative is a lesson for men of understanding. It is not a thing that has been forged, but a fulfilment of that which is before it and a detailed exposition of all things, and a guidance and a mercy to a people who believe.’ (12:112)

Emphasising on world peace the Holy Qur’an teaches us that this journey begins with an individual, extending to his family and then to the wider society. Once a nation achieves peace, this can contribute to international peace. Every step of this journey has been dealt with comprehensively in the Holy Qur’an in relation to human rights, women’s rights, matrimonial relationships, rights of children and parents, rights of the orphan, rights of neighbour’s and other individuals in society.

Most importantly, the Qur’an teaches that the purpose of life is to worship God alone, and live one’s life according to the way of life prescribed by Him this also includes to live honestly, humbly and modestly. The Holy Qur’an teaches us to be thankful, just, patient and charitable hence fulfilling our true purpose in life, and attaining success in both this world and the next.

Features · Islam

Violence is Antithetical to Islam

Islam Is Peace Blog

Zujaja Khan, London

As Britain and the Commonwealth mark 100 years since the end of the First World War this month, we take time to reflect on the sacrifices made, and the mistakes that led our countries down a deadly path a century ago. But despite our yearly contemplation and promises not to forget, we live in increasingly disturbing times. Not unlike the century before us, we live in times of international distrust, abandoned disarmament talks, assassinations, aborted peace resolutions, and proxy wars.

It is difficult to discuss the social and political chaos in the world now without being inundated by hysteria regarding Islam. Edward Saïd, the Palestinian American academic, once wrote that almost ‘nothing about the study of Islam today is “free” and undetermined by urgent contemporary pressures.’1 He recognised the prevailing disconnect between what Islam is and what ‘prominent sectors of a particular society take it to be’ . Yes, at times it can be complex to defend our corner when so many sectors of society seek to discredit Islam; who use the actions of minorities as a barometer of that community’s overall humanity.

During his Friday Sermon on 11th December 2015, His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad elucidated upon the climate of Islamic extremism, and the dire situation that the Muslim world finds itself in.2 He stated that the world is ‘teetering on the edge of a fire pit,’, and that it is the responsibility of Ahmadis to try to save the world from falling in fire. His Holiness explained that the best way to achieve this goal is to cultivate a special connection with Allah the Almighty, thereby advancing a mission of peace and harmony. His Holiness’s acute understanding of the global situation we find ourselves in has enabled him to provide crucial guidance in these trying times. His advocating of peace and harmony is demonstrated throughout his sermons, and especially through his addresses at our annual National Peace Symposium and his addresses around the globe.

Opponents of Islam tend to focus their criticisms on two central areas: the Holy Quran, and the life history of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). Ignorance surrounds these two important parts of Islamic teachings, particularly the notion that Islam propagates violence and creates a deep distrust between Muslims and non-Muslims. The Holy Quran itself makes clear that ‘…in it there are verses that are decisive in meaning…and there are others that are susceptible of different interpretations…’ (3:8) Critics tend to fixate on Quranic verses that discuss violence, war or death, and promote these out of context. Contrary to these misreadings, verses regarding death and war are not all commandments to engage in violence. As His Holiness has explained countless times, the fundamental tenet of Islam is peace, and those who wish to delineate from this message do so because of their own ignorance:

If a person does not follow a particular teaching properly whilst claiming to subscribe to it, then it is he who is in error, not the teaching. The meaning of the word ‘Islam’ itself is peace, love and security.3

In addition, claims of a violent Islam are absolutely rebuked when, in the Holy Quran, it is written: ‘…create not disorder in the earth after it has been set in order. This is better for you, if you are believers’ (7:86). This guidance is indisputable; however affronts to the values of Islam are perpetrated and exacerbated across the world right now by Muslims and non-Muslims alike. As Ahmadi Muslims we must be more vigilant in our efforts to dispel and educate people about the true Islam.

Indeed, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) did not advocate violence, nor did he seek it. His life continues to be grossly misunderstood by groups of Muslims who use contorted histories to justify violence; and by non-Muslims to delegitimise our beliefs. Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) clearly forbade the urge to fight when he said: “Do not wish for battle with the enemy. Pray to Allah to grant you safety; (but) when you are obliged to face them in battle, show patience.”4

It is no surprise then that our Ahmadi community is always quick to publicly denounce terrorist acts and to help the communities in which we live. We must also understand our own history, found in the examples of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). As His Holiness mentioned in his 2015 sermon, we should make our own efforts to engage with the teachings of Islam and use the tools provided for us in the Holy Quran and in our Islamic history, to remind us what true Islam is.

1. Edward Saïd, Covering Islam, London: Vintage (1997, p. 143).
2. https://www.alislam.org/friday-sermon/2015-12-11.html
3. https://www.alislam.org/library/books/Understanding-Islam.pdf p.12 National Peace Conference 2015, Baitul Futūh Mosque, London
4. https://www.alislam.org/library/books/Understanding-Islam.pdf p.15
Features · Islam

Speaking Without Thinking

Speaking Without Thinking blog

By Navida Sayed, London

Does this person sound like someone familiar? Someone who has to respond to everything regardless of thinking what he or she is saying as long as they answer, which is all that matters to them. Being around someone who got the wrong end of the stick and flew off his or her handle without pausing to think about the consequences of their words? Someone who tends to always instantaneously overreact? Only to later regret the negative impact of their words on their relatives, friends, colleagues or employees. In some situations this could result in the end of a relationship.

Speech and words can have the most powerful impact by reflecting signals about an individual’s intentions. In essence the way individuals speak can heal, soothe, comfort, hurt, offend or damage relationships. That’s why it is highly imperative that people think before they speak. Many people may not know, but the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) guided us on this matter 1400 years ago, one of his traditions mentions:

البلاء موکل بالمنطق

Meaning, speaking (without thinking) leads to trouble.

The beautiful wisdom and logical explanation behind this Islamic teaching is that, ‘one has no control over the good or bad effects of his words once these have been uttered. It is, therefore, advisable to think before speaking. Moreover, brief and gracious speech considerably covers the bad effects due to any shortcomings that may be present in the speech.’

Keeping this profound teaching in mind could prove to be a powerful and beneficial tool in practicing a difficult but useful life skill – pausing before speaking. Pausing and reflecting on the words of the hadith can naturally slow down a triggered response or outburst and a sense of empowerment by overcoming a thoughtless and reactive response.

In relation to the topic of thinking before speaking, Canadian psychologist Shirley Vandersteen, writes:

‘Speaking before you think is a bad habit that can get you into trouble and hurt you in the most important areas of your life. Relationships will suffer or end, your career will be stalled at a level far below your talents, and most importantly, you will have little confidence in yourself.’

People can become consumed by their surroundings and sometimes it’s difficult to escape the hustle and bustle of life. But that’s no excuse to react defensively by speaking instinctively without thinking. The majority of the time, those on the receiving end of harsh and thoughtless words can be close friends, family or colleagues. The consequences could result in axing ones own feet by becoming isolated from their most supportive dear and near ones.

Reflecting on the hadith when communicating with others can assist in enabling a peaceful and loving atmosphere around others. Abiding by the hadith may also assist in developing skills to consciously speak in a clear, constructive and respectable manner, which is less likely to cause offense. Individuals may also become more responsible by refraining from reacting negatively, mindlessly or angrily in specific situations. Practicing this hadith can go a long way in enabling individuals to naturally respond in a kind manner hopefully enabling similar responses in return.

The most important lesson from the hadith is to always remember that it’s important to think before we speak because we would like others to speak to us they way we speak with them. Even if others around us do not respond with kind words, it is good to put into practice the words of the hadith as a part of our daily routine to ensure that we are not responsible for creating negativity around us. As individuals our significance is that of drops in the ocean but hopefully the more mindful and thoughtful we are as individuals the more we can truly contribute to projecting positivity, love and respect in the wider society at large.

Islam

A Peaceful Home

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Maha Khan, London

With the world becoming devastatingly divided and fuelled by xenophobia, one becomes fearful of raising a family in such environments and wishes to instil peace in the world, little by little.

We wonder how and where to begin, searching for answers as to why the world is this way. Like many things in life we should begin by tracing the root of the matter, the source of hatred and absence of peace witnessed these days. We must look deeply into the psyche of the human race beginning with childhood. When ‘childhood’ is mentioned, many emotions spring to mind, however one factor shared amongst all children is the memories attached to the childhood home – and peace arguably starts at home.

Your first experience of peace, love, and patience starts from your parents who teach you by being the best possible examples. Muslims teach their children that the definition of peace requires having harmony between one’s desires and God’s commandments and exhibiting this harmony to others. For example, Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) declared, ‘A Muslim is the one from whose hands and tongue other Muslims are safe.’ (Tirmidhi). Commenting on the Holy Qur’an (5:33), Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace), stated, ‘He who abandons kindness abandons religion. The Holy Qur’an teaches that whoever kills a person without justifiable cause will be as if he has killed the whole world. In the same way, I say that if someone is not kind unto his brother, it is like he has been unkind to the whole world.’ i

Echoing this, His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the 5th and current Khalifa of the Promised Messiah stated during his 2004 tour of Benin, ‘The taking of a single life is like the massacre of thousands of innocent lives.; ii These teachings instil within children an empathy and sincere desire for the welfare of others. The ideal society, according to the Holy Qur’an, is Dar as-Salam (6:128 10:26), literally meaning, ‘house or abode of peace. Establishing this peace on earth establishes peace in everyday life at all levels, including personal, social, state and international. We can achieve peace within our households by practising simple tasks that help with the maintenance of harmony.

Keeping peace between husband and wife:

Husband and wife as life partners have great responsibilities and obligations. Both must have concern, love and compassion for each other. The Holy Qur’ān has given an excellent example of husband and wife in the following verse:

‘…They are a garment for you, and you are a garment for them…’ (2:188)

Garments are used for three main purposes which echo the relationship between husband and wife. 1. To cover and protect oneself from extreme climatic conditions, etc. 2. To look civilised, nice and elegant. 3. To cover weaknesses, faults and blemishes.

Supplication:

The Holy Qur’an teaches us to make every effort in creating a happy environment at home and teaches prayers for the same:

‘…Our Lord, grant us of our wives and children the delight of our eyes and make each of us a leader of the righteous.’ (25: 75)

Those who are sincere in their prayers, and show exemplary behaviour, Allah answers their prayers and helps them to have a happy atmosphere at home.

Advice for men and women:

Ḥazrat Sayyidah Nusrat Jahan Begum (Ḥazrat Amman Jan), wife of, the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) gave the following advice to her daughter, Ḥazrat Sayyidah Nawab Mubarakah Begum, at the time of her wedding.

• Never do a thing keeping it secret from your husband. Never do anything that you feel the need to hide from your husband! Even if the husband may not be observing, but God does see, and the wife loses her respect when the matter is disclosed at the end.

• If a thing is done against his wishes, never try to hide it. Inform him clearly, as that is the way to retain respect. To hide it leads to disgrace and disrespect.

• Do not argue with him when he is angry! If he is angry with you or a child or a servant, and you know that he is at fault, even then do not respond to him. When he calms down, then gently let him know the truth and make him realise his error. The woman who argues with her husband when he is angry loses her respect. It will be a great disgrace if he uses harsh words to her in his anger.

• Consider his dear ones and their children as your own dear ones. Never think of harming anyone even if he is doing wrong to you. You should have good will in your heart for all, and do not take any action in revenge against anyone. Then you will always behold God doing good to you. iii

Of course the husband should also observe these esteemed instructions for promotion of peace and harmony at home.

Attaining peace with oneself by being true:

I end with a quote by His Holiness Mirza Tahir Ahmad, fourth spiritual head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community:

“Only when man becomes true can he find peace with himself… Truth is the most important fundamental first step towards peace and this is the meaning of becoming like God… Again, I will emphasise that this is the only formula for creating universality in man. Without creating universality in man it is impossible to dream of peace and this universality can only be achieved through the image of God which is universal. Through Him, man can achieve such characteristics as are universally loved so that the human community, the human race, can become a single species if the human race submits to the will of God and becomes or attempts to become like God. Herein meet the two different meanings of peace, that is, peace in the ordinary sense, and peace in the sense of submission.” iv

i https://www.alislam.org/islam/islam-peaceful-religion.pdf (page 4)
ii https://www.alislam.org/islam/islam-peaceful-religion.pdf (page 3)
iii https://www.alislam.org/library/books/Islamic-Teachings-on-Ideal-Family-Life.pdf (page 37)
iv https://www.alislam.org/library/q-and-a/attainment-of-inner-peace/

Features · Islam

Finding Inner Peace

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Iffat Mirza, Raynes Park

Inner peace is not a destination. It is not as if we can find it one day and remain in the its bliss forevermore. No – reality likes to throw curveballs at us and keep us on our toes. It is important that we view inner peace as a state of mind that we can work towards and continue to work on. As we grow and acquire more experiences and world knowledge our definition of ‘inner peace’ will also change. In today’s hectic lifestyle it’s quite easy to forget to take care of oneself. Certainly, the self-care industry has made millions but is it possible to find inner peace without buying into large corporations? I certainly believe that Islam has the answer to this question.

Inner peace comes as a result of a personal relationship with oneself. This demands taking a step back and understanding who you are and what your priorities are. It is so easy to get lost in the world and forget what our ultimate goal is. As a Muslim, I believe that my purpose is to worship the Almighty. It is in His remembrance that we find peace as we are filled with a hope and a promise that here is indeed a Higher Power above us Who loves us at such an intensity that is unknown to human kind.

The Holy Qur’an states:
‘Those who believe, and whose hearts find comfort in the remembrance of Allah. Aye! it is in the remembrance of Allah that hearts can find comfort;’ [13:29]
In just these words so much love is expressed as we see a personal relationship between each individual and Allah the Almighty.

Further, considering prayer as a form of meditation, there is undeniable scientific evidence of the benefits to one’s mental wellbeing which come as a result of prayer.

A study has stated:
‘Several reports on the application of prayers in psychotherapy illustrate the positive outcome in the individuals exhibiting pathological symptoms such as tension, anxiety, depression and anti-social tendencies.’ 1

Therefore, not only are the words of the aforementioned verse exceedingly comforting, they are also supported by scientific fact.

Along with building a strong relationship with yourself through building one with Allah, it is also essential to build a strong bond with your wider community. Through serving others we are able to come to terms with our own woes and worries. Through serving others and doing good works we spread a positive energy with those that surround us and indeed not only does this positive energy affect our exterior but also extends to the interior. Living a selfless life alienates anger and arrogance.

The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) has stated:
The last and critical stage for great devout and truthful people is to avoid anger… Anger is generated when a person gives preference to his own self over the other. [Malfoozat vol.1 p.36]’
The importance of healthy societal relations is also emphasised in the Holy Qur’an:
‘A kind word and forgiveness are better than charity followed by injury…’ [2:264]’

Such amiability in society inevitably is reflected within us and allows us to find comfort within ourselves, knowing that we are contributing members of society. Inner peace and outer peace are directly related. By creating a harmonious environment around us, we are creating one within.

This also extends to living a pious life in general. In remembering our Creator and serving others we are building inner and outer peace. These acts avoid the creation of disorder and mayhem in our own lives as well as the lives of those around us.

The Holy Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) taught us:
“Verily, God looks not to your figures, nor to your bodies, but He looks into your hearts and to your works of piety.” Then pointing to his breast, the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, ‘Herein lies piety.’ This he repeated thrice.” (Bukhari, Muslim)

Living a pious life, which as the Holy Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) reminds us is a matter of the heart, keeps us away from chasing material happiness. Material happiness is fleeting; we are trying to apply a tangibility to an intangible concept. Therefore, to find happiness or inner peace we must approach it with a concept similar in tangibility – that being piety.

Finding inner peace is imperative. Finding it is not an objective, rather a lifestyle. This lifestyle can be adopted with little acts that we perform every day and transform our lives. In trusting the Almighty our burdens are relieved. In serving others we create harmony. In living in piety we understand that inner peace is not material. In this process and a combination of these three interlinked practices, we can achieve inner peace.

 

1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3705686/

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.

Islam · Women

Why I Look Forward to the Ijtema Each Year!

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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

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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.