Uncategorized

Come Share the Evening Tea

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Salima Alouache Bhunnoo, London

I send you my Salam, just so you can face your fears.

On the carpet of our mosques, come with us, discuss and exchange, witness a little humanity.

Come and see the love and faith,

We are called brothers and sisters our voices blend in prayer,

In moments of grace and light.

Aren’t these millennium-old acts of worship that we repeat in unison the height of most eloquent devotion?

Cross the threshold of our homes and share the evening tea.

Shatter the very foundation of myths and together we can write history.

 

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Charity · Islam · Uncategorized

Sacrifice and Loyalty

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Sameea Jonnud, Aldershot, UK

The concept of loyalty and obedience is one that is of the utmost importance to followers of Islam; Muslims follow the teachings of God but also show loyalty to their nation. While there are times when Muslims have been disloyal to their nation, as illustrated by terrorist attacks and occasions of poppy burning, these are in no way indicative of the teachings of Islam.

The Promised Messiah and founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad stated:

“To entertain ill-will against a government under whom life is lived in freedom and there is complete security and religious obligations can be discharged to the full is a criminal step and not Jihad” (Tohfah Qaisariyya)

As the second half of October begins the red poppy makes its annual appearance sold to raise funds for the Royal British Legion. In town centres, supermarkets and sports stadiums across the country former soldiers and volunteers brave the chilly autumnal weather to sell poppies, wristbands and pins. With this symbol money is collected for ex-service personnel and the sacrifices made by those serving their country in The Great War and also subsequent wars is commemorated.

Serving one’s country is an act of loyalty and volunteering for the Poppy Appeal is similarly an act of loyalty to our country and each year members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community across the country are able to show love for their nation by volunteering to sell poppies.

In an address at the German Military Headquarters in Koblenz on 30th May 2012, Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, worldwide spiritual head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community said:

“The Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) himself taught that the ‘love for one’s nation is a part of faith.’ Thus, sincere patriotism is a requirement in Islam. To truly love God and Islam requires a person to love his nation.”

And so we find teams from the Youth Association out in force at Underground stations and major sporting venues raising hundreds of thousands of pounds. The Elders and Women’s Associations are close behind and collect at various locations such as supermarkets and schools across the country. Hundreds of pounds are raised, as well as awareness, at special poppy tea events and with sales of cakes and knitted poppies; this year Aldershot girls have been busy making felt poppies and crocheted wristbands to sell in their schools. Last year Luton and Bedfordshire branch of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Women’s Association alone raised over £13,000 showing that women can also be at the forefront.

Ahmadi men and women also represent their local branches by attending and laying wreathes at Remembrance Sunday services across the country. As well as raising money they have become a very visible example of Muslims loyal to their nation.

A visit with our children to the Poppy Factory in Richmond revealed the origins and history of the poppy symbol after the First World War and how it now encompasses different religions with Jewish stars and Muslim crescents produced along with poppy crosses and wreathes. The children were able to speak with volunteers, many of whom were ex service personnel, and ended the day making traditional poppies which left them with an enthusiasm for the cause.

Wars involve nations around the world and sadly take place with bleak regularity. The soldiers who fight in them do so on behalf of their nation and as Remembrance Sunday approaches every year it is these soldiers we think of. I remember my relatives, one who fought in Burma during World War II, another who is still always affectionately referred to by his rank of Colonel rather than Uncle.

As they made sacrifices for their nation so too, in their own small way, do Ahmadi Muslims by raising money and commemorating those who served their nation; with this small act of loyalty they know that they are being obedient to their faith.

Uncategorized · Women

Lower Your Gaze

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Sameea Jonnud, Aldershot, UK

One of the questions that most often get asked of Muslim women is why they wear the headscarf; those who disagree with it claim it is forced on women and unnecessary in the modern world. Another is why in Islam women can’t shake the hand of men in greeting; here accusations of disrespecting Western culture are laid. Similarly segregation is a topic that often arises with claims that Muslim women are shut away and Islam is a backward religion for enforcing it. Many a time just because women are not shown in photographs with men, reports of segregated events have been greeted with the demand “where are the women?” as if women are locked away at home not allowed to venture forth into the world.

The Holy Qur’an is filled with wise guidelines for men and women, designed to lead to a pure and happy society. It says to men in Chapter 24, verse 31:

“Say to the believing men that they restrain their eyes and guard their private parts. That is purer for them. Surely, Allah is well aware of what they do.”

Islam advocates the separation of men and women outside immediate family members unless necessary, for example for education, medical attention or in the workplace etc; in these cases men are required to lower their gaze and women to dress modestly and cover their heads. While following these requirements women are able to excel in their studies and jobs as well as leading full lives. If women themselves are asked about sitting separately from men they will tell you they feel a sense of comfort, safety and freedom in an area men are restricted from entering and so can relax and enjoy time with other women.

On the topic of segregation Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, worldwide spiritual leader of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has said:

“If you do not wish to mingle freely with men or to sit alongside them it is your own choice, made of your own volition, in order to preserve your honour and dignity. If you do not choose to shake the hands of men, it is because your heart demands that you follow Islam’s teachings, which provide true dignity for women. Such conduct is not based on the demands of men but is the result of your freedom to make your own decisions and is a symbol of true independence.”
(Address at Lajna Ima’illah UK Ijtema, 24th September 2017)

Last year evidence emerged in the U.S. of allegations of assault and misogynistic behaviour in high political echelons including derogatory comments regarding women which were dismissed as “locker room banter”. In the past few weeks the media has been filled with new stories emerging regularly of assault and inappropriate behaviour by men. This torrent began with allegations concerning Hollywood figures and have quickly escalated to include many other men including politicians in the UK. What has become of respect and the dignity of women when men feel it acceptable to behave inappropriately towards women they mix with?

In the world today, as is currently being shown in recent news stories, it has become clear that women are often finding themselves in working or social situations ranging from uncomfortable to dangerous. Women need to feel safe which is not always the case. Does all this not illustrate that criticism of Islamic principles is wholly unfounded and that there is great wisdom behind the teachings of Islam?

 

Hijab · Islam · Uncategorized · Women

Facts Behind The Hijab

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Maleeha Mansur, Hayes, London

The hijab is a garment that bestows its wearers wings of liberation. However, for those who fail to understand it, it is unjustly labelled a cage of oppression. In order to bring some clarity to this heavily misunderstood garment, a review of some facts is in order.

A Divine Commandment

Not uncommonly these days, one hears of the odd individual boldly announcing that the hijab is not a Divine commandment but a cultural tradition. A rather absurd notion when we observe that the hijab is universally adhered to across all cultural and geographical boundaries; from the Arabian deserts, to African villages and the suburbs of London and New York. So the hijab belongs to no-one culture, it is a practice of faith.

Let us clarify this matter with the Divine authority of the Holy Qur’an.

In chapter 24, verse 32 it states

“And say to the believing women that they restrain their eyes and guard their private parts, and that they display not their beauty and embellishments except that which is apparent thereof, and that they draw their head covers over their bosoms…”

There is much to be learnt from this verse, Firstly, that the hijab is not just a headscarf. Certainly not; there is much greater depth and breadth to this topic. The concept of the hijab defines a standard of modesty. The eyes observe the hijab through restraint of one’s gaze. The tongue observes the hijab through use of appropriate language when speaking to the opposite gender. Indeed, every part of the body partakes in observing the hijab in its own way.

Free Choice

Over and over again, Muslim women are told their hijab has been forced upon them, that they are unable to make decisions for themselves, or that they are deprived of their freedom. In reality, the only force involved for the vast majority of Muslim women donning the hijab is the force of persuasion of a beautiful teaching. If the hijab was to be forcefully enforced on Muslim women, would not a punishment be prescribed for those who don’t wear it? However, there is none to be found, only the wonderful realisation that Islam is a religion of choice. Once one is convinced of the truth of Islam and chooses to come under its fold, naturally then such a person adheres to its teachings.

Crucial For Social Morality

Without the physical aspects of the hijab, the moral state of society enters a steep decline. Indeed, the Holy Qur’an clearly states that the physical hijab enables women to be “distinguished and not molested”[i]. Society today is testament to the need for such physical barriers. Take the music industry for example, sexual assaults have been recognised as a worldwide problem to such an extent that the Swedish Bråvalla Festival has been made female-only until, as Emma Knyckare, the Swedish comedian organising the event, tweeted, “…ALL men have learned how to behave themselves”[ii]

Certainly then, before the hijab is outlawed and brought to question attention needs to be brought to the moral training of men.

Modesty is First Prescribed for Men

Prior to the verse cited above, the Holy Qur’an instructs the following, to men.

“Say to the believing men that they restrain their eyes and guard their private parts. That is purer for them. Surely, Allah is well aware of what they do.” (Chapter 24: Verse 31)

So in fact, the concept of hijab is first prescribed for men. A certain standard of modesty is expected of Muslim men. Islam recognises the inherent differences between men and women, hence, it prescribes an additional physical covering for women. It places women in the driving seat, letting them decide who they wish to reveal their beauty to. Indeed, modern day advertisement testifies to the power of female beauty, wherever attention needs to be drawn, it is done so with women.

A Means of Liberation – Ask those Who Don it!

Sadly, the words ‘oppression’ and ‘hijab’ are often found in the same sentence. Would the world dare to ask those who don the hijab if they are oppressed or liberated. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t make for much of a headline as it would elicit only the resounding chorus of ‘We are independent, free and liberated women. This is our choice, the wisdom of which we see and experience daily. Just as no individual should to be stripped of their clothing, we should also not be stripped to what is akin to nudity to us, under the false pretext of liberation. If there is wisdom greater than Islam’s then show it to us, persuade our hearts and minds with arguments and reasoning as Islam has done.’

[i] Chapter 33:Verse 60
[ii] Swedish music festival to be female-only ‘until all men learn how to behave themselves’, Christopher Hooton, The Independent, Wednesday 5 July 2017
http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/news/sweden-music-festival-men-female-only-bravalla-rape-sexual-assault-emma-knyckare-a7824366.html
Uncategorized

Why Islam Ahmadiyyat?

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Why Islam Ahmadiyyat?

By Samina Silver, Redbridge North

Yes, I was a Zionist Jew

And I hated Muslims just like you

A Muslim man fell in the street

So I helped him to his feet

I picked up the Quran, his holy Book

Ask me why, I would never look

Some Israelis were offended and said I was bad

No, the hate you have is very sad

 

I decided that day this was not for me

Leave me alone now, let me be

I met an Ahmadi lady in the street

She asked me to come for something to eat

On that day Islam became the debate

Everyone is equal – was this my fate?

Islam Ahmadiyyat is so true

The Promised Messiah has come for me and you

 

I became an Ahmadi because it is true

And for my heart and soul nothing else will do

And who would have ever thought that this hateful Jew

Would one day go and become one of you

 

I wanted a sister and now I have one true

Samina Siddiqi, I love you

You’re honest, faithful and always true

And I strive to be a Muslim just like you

And all the Jamaat you are special too

I am proud to be among all of you

Uncategorized · Women

Beautiful, of the Creation of Allah

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By Qudsia Ward, Cornwall, UK

Beautiful, of the creation of Allah, are diamonds.

Diamonds are carbon – carbon is in all life forms; essential!

Diamonds are transparent, crystal, bright and clear.

Diamonds are lustrous, reflecting and refracting light into a myriad colours.

Hard and strong, diamonds mark and shape materials around them.

Diamonds are beautiful; diamonds are valuable.

Beautiful among the servants of Allah are Lajna Ima’illah.

Lajna are women – essential for all Jamaat life.

Almighty Allah, the Effacer of sins, make each one of us clear, pure, transparent as crystal.

Make each Lajna member beautiful reflecting Your light, Your Magnificence, Your Beauty.

Almighty Allah, the Fashioner, enable Lajna together shape and mark our community in the best of ways.

Omnipotent Allah, the Protector, guard and protect all Lajna Ima’illah members and enable them to enhance their value and serve Thee, fulfilling the purpose of their creation.

Uncategorized · Women

A Diamond Permeating the Soul

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By Rashida Nasir, Aldershot, UK

Suffragettes and Amelia Hart
What is it that sets them apart?
Pioneers of their time
Raising the status of womankind.

No right to vote?
No equal pay?
How absurd
In the modern day!

Yet 1400 years ago
Islam emerged with an eternal light
Respecting women
And honouring their rights

While the world trudged on
With its ups and downs
Rays of peace
Began to spread around

Under the spiritual guidance
Of the Promised Messiah
The rope of Khilafat
A yearning, a desire

Uniting us all
To strive and deliver
The pledge of Lajna
To grow and empower

Gain knowledge and share
The treasures we find
The physical, the mental
The spiritual entwined

A diamond in the rough
But polish and behold
The strength and the brilliance
Permeating the soul

Lajna Ima’illah
A diamond jubilee
60 years’ blessings
May we continue to succeed!

Ameen

Hijab · Islam · Uncategorized · Women

My Veil of Confidence

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By Riyya Ahmad, age 13, Aldershot, UK

Islam has suffered from false allegations about the veiling of Muslim women for centuries. The media portrays the veil, or hijab, to be a restriction on Muslim women when it is really an act of modesty.

It is one of the most misunderstood concepts of Islam. Society believes that women who cover their heads, and wear modest clothes somehow have little freedom and are not able to express who they are. In fact, the very opposite is true. My veil actually inspires me with confidence in my day to day life.

If one looks with a deeper gaze on this subject, it will be found that the veiling of women is not something that Islam has introduced. The previous revealed scriptures also contain traces of similar teachings and Islam came only to complete and perfect them. It is a complete honour to follow in the footsteps of such a pious lady, Mother Mary (Hazrat Maryam) who is always depicted as having her head covered.

The Holy Quran says:

“O children of Adam! We have indeed sent down to you raiment to cover your shame, and to be an elegant dress;…” (7:27)

Islam provides guidance for a peaceful, harmonious and logical way of life.  You will find that the hijab is a means of protecting women, and providing them with freedom from many social ills and it is a blessing for them. The word “purdah” is also used to describe the concept and the practice of hijab. The Holy Quran has laid down that, one of the methods men and women are to use to achieve that goal is hijab. It says in the Holy Quran:

“Say to the believing men that they restrain their eyes and guard their private parts…” (24:31)

And then women are addressed:

“And say to the believing women that they restrain their eyes and guard their private parts, and that they display not their beauty and embellishments except that which is apparent thereof, and that they draw their head covers over their bosoms…” (24:32)

Living in western society, it is inevitable to be asked why I wear my hijab and how my veil inspires me. And every time, my answer remains the same; it makes me who I am. It is a part of my identity. Without it I would not be as confident as I am today. It protects me, while still letting me do the daily tasks I desire to do. The veil is my spiritual way of gaining closeness to Allah the Almighty and my faith.

Thus the question follows: do you ever feel constrained by your veil? I reply, “If my hijab restricted me from being out and about like you, then yes my hijab would constrain me. If my hijab limited me from achieving the education we all have a right to, then yes my hijab would constrain me. But if I am out and about alongside you, and I am building an educational career to the same level as you, then you tell me, does my hijab constrain me?

My veil is not just an ordinary cloth draped around my head, it is my respect, my dignity, my honour, my faith and my blessing from Allah the Almighty, surrounding me as I go confidently in the direction I desire.

Islam · Uncategorized

What Does Peace Mean To Me?

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Zile Huma Ahmad, Southfields, London

As I sit here thinking about the upcoming International Day of Peace I ask myself: what does peace mean to me? Do we achieve peace by buying t-shirts, mugs and going to peace concerts? These actions no doubt have good and noble intentions but a real difference cannot be made without individual change and new attitudes.

Firstly, before one can begin to create peace in the world, they must be at peace with their own desires and ambitions. Inner peace can be defined as having a balance in one’s life and with the world around them. This includes having the correct balance between the material and spiritual aspects of life. When a person is sure that they pose no threat or danger to anyone they meet they can begin to create peace, even if it is only on a small scale.

However, in order for someone to create true, impactful and lasting peace from a religious perspective they require the help and guidance of the Creator. According to the Quranic concept of peace, no peace on earth can be conceived by human effort alone. So, in Islam, the journey to peace in the world begins with the attainment of peace with your Lord the Creator; for this we must understand His attributes. God is portrayed as the embodiment of perfect goodness in almost all religions. They all teach that God is: True, Compassionate, Just, Merciful, Loving and Forgiving. God has created human beings in accordance with His attributes and peace means a balance between God’s attributes and those of man albeit on a human level.

Truthfulness is the most important attribute in attaining peace with oneself. If you become true to yourself, only then can you be true to your children, your spouse, your relatives, your friends and the wider society. This single factor can make a huge difference on a wider scale as well. Nations becoming truthful and just towards each other is the only way to attain lasting peace.

I abide by the slogan of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, Love for All Hatred for None and aspire to practice it. If all of us follow these inspiring words in our day to day lives then world peace can be achieved once and for all.

 

Islam · Uncategorized · Women

Islam Empowers Women

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Ayesha Mahmood Malik, Hampshire

Imagine it is the 7th century. Camels and horseback dot the Arabian sands that continue to sprawl endlessly into the horizon. Desert dwellers use basic oils or the friction from rubbing stones to light wood to warm themselves in the desert chill and also use these fires as stoves. Tales of lands far away abound, including China wherefrom come garments of silk to wear. Deep in the desert shrills of female infants being buried alive cloud the barren landscape. To be woman or cattle are one and the same. The society is not only starkly primitive but also the archetype of patriarchy.

Thus, for the 21st century scholar and thinker, it is an era that both captures the imagination with its mystic scents of Arabian ouds but also one that sends one gasping in so far as it belies any affiliation to modernity, human rights and importantly, women’s rights. Into this beleaguered state, dawns the advent of a man who brings the revolution of monotheism and women’s rights. Into this primeval and crude infrastructure, he introduces the notions of government, rules of war and principles of equality and non-discrimination. And into the incessant history of the persecution of Arabian women, he brings for women the right to marry freely, the right to seek education and the right to inherit and initiate divorce.

This radical new faith is called Islam. Its rules are universal, thereby bringing within its ambit all peoples’ who choose to take the oath of allegiance to its founder, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Its rules are also revolutionary in so far as they grant women the right to seek education, the right to initiate divorce and the right to inherit property. It also grants women full control over their own earnings. In other parts of the world, these rights remain largely unheard of, until many hundreds of years later. Paradoxically, when these rights begin to dawn in what is considered the modern world, Islam is castigated as being regressive, illiberal and oppressive to women.

In Britain, the right to divorce for example was up until 1857 largely open to men and required an Act of Parliament to be decreed. This being an onerous and expensive process, it also meant divorce was open largely to the wealthy. The 1857 Matrimonial Clauses Act granted ordinary people the right to divorce for the first time. Even then, women seeking divorce on grounds of adultery had to prove their husbands had been unfaithful along with proving additional faults such as rape and incest. In contrast, women were able to seek divorce without the burden of fulfilling arduous conditions by placing the merits of their case before a qadi (judge).

Similarly, it was not as late as 1870 when the Married Women’s Property Act was passed in England that women became legal owners of their income and were given the right to inherit. John Stuart Mill in his “The Subjection of Women” describes the predicament of women in the 19th century in these words, he writes:

“[T]he wife is the actual bond servant of her husband… She can acquire no property for herself: the instant something becomes hers, even if by inheritance, it automatically becomes his. In this respect the wife’s position under the common law of England is worse than that of slaves in the laws of many countries.”

Under Islamic law on the other hand, women enjoyed the right to inherit 1200 years before Mill put ink to paper. Even today, a Muslim woman is the sole master of her own earnings and is not obliged to spend any of her personal income towards the upkeep of her household, the entire responsibility whereof rests on the man.

Perhaps the greatest testament to the empowerment of women in Islam is the emphasis it places on their right to seek education. This commandment encouraging the pursuit of knowledge is 1400 years old and entirely gender neutral. It was a Muslim woman, Fatimah al-Fihri, who founded one of the world’s oldest universities in 859 CE. In contrast, British universities opened their doors to women as late as 1876. Women have played key roles in various capacities throughout Islamic history, from the women who partook in battle in the 7th century by tending to wounded soldiers to the Prophet (peace be upon him)’s wife Hazrat Khadija who was a successful tradeswoman.

Today, the question of empowerment of Muslim women is largely seen as an oxymoron owing to the misplaced practices in the Muslim-majority world that have chosen to use the Islamic faith as a political tool and fashioned their own virulent interpretation of the religion that has no bearing to its original form. As a hijab-wearing Muslim woman I find no contradiction between the question of my empowerment and my identity as a Muslim. By recognising and appreciating the differences between men and women as unique, women are not measured against men as standard bearers but rather celebrated for their own inimitable contributions to society. This distinctive point of view provides the single most powerful means of making a woman feel empowered and is exclusive to the Islamic faith.