Holy Quran · Islam

Poem: ‘The Holy Qur’an’

Holy Quran Poem

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Hijab

Hijab: A Challenge in Today’s World

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Baaria Basit, London

Hijab is such an important part of my life now, that the thought of stepping outside my house without a headscarf and a decent coat is utterly unthinkable. In fact hijab is what makes me, me. Most girls my age want their eyelashes done, their nails done, their eyebrows done. They want clothes that show as much skin as possible. They want anything that says “look at me!”. However I could spend hours looking at abayahs and crinkle scarves and hijab tutorials. I believe in wearing hijab in a way that is modest and acceptable, but also in a way that makes me feel good. After all we wear hijab for ourselves, so what is the point in it if we are not happy about it and are not doing it out of our own will?

Although most girls start proper hijab once beginning high school, the Quran states no age as to when we should start. A girl should start wearing hijab once she is educated to the reason behind it. Putting a scarf on your head and not being able to explain why you are wearing it is pointless. Wearing hijab in the western society is difficult and challenging, as women are starting to wear less and less. My dad has always told me that girls are like pearls. The beauty of a pearl is protected and covered by a shell. This protects it and stops any harm from happening to it. In the same way the hijab/headscarf/niqab is a girls shell. It keeps her away from any evil.

Instead of forcing hijab onto girls, parents should educate them about the reason behind it. They should also pray their daughters develop the passion to observe it.

Although I am passionate about hijab now, this was not always the case, so I can understand why some girls struggle to observe it in this society. It is hard, and sometimes the way society views you matters, but when it comes to your faith, pressure from society shouldn’t bother you. But we’re human, and we can be intimidated by it. I was. I had planned to go to high school with a headscarf. It was a fresh start and conveniently no one from my primary school was going to my high school, so no one would question me.

I owned only one plain black scarf, which I wore loosely around my head when going out with my family, not really caring if it slipped. My dad always had to tell me my scarf was off my head, yet I was aware. I would dread my classmates seeing me, scared they would judge or ask in front of my parents why I was wearing a scarf. In fact this scared me the most. My parents finding out. I would think about this all the time, and realised it lined up. My parents would see me without my scarf and ask me about it. I would have to lie. Then the fact that Allah sees everything, even if your parents don’t, scared me even more. This was never my plan. What was I doing?

One boring Sunday afternoon I was watching some videos on YouTube. I came across a video of some hijabi vloggers. This intrigued me, and I watched many of their videos. I was in awe of their confidence and courage. They wore a hijab in front of the world, with such confidence, regardless of how people view them. This made me question myself. Why was I afraid to wear a hijab in front of a few students? They can hate on me. They can judge. They can jeer and mock. But at the end of the day, Allah is pleased with me, my parents are pleased with me and I no longer need to worry and will feel initially proud of myself. These people are not going to be important to me in 20 years from now. Yet Allah will be. So will my parents. So I made my decision. In Year Ten I am going to observe hijab.

So I got a new black crinkle scarf for Year Ten and chucked away the other one that had for so long lived at the bottom of my bag. Allah had given me a second chance at a fresh start, and I was for sure going to take it. My first day wearing a hijab to school was my best day of high school. So many people told me I looked beautiful, and how the hijab really suited me. I was surprised! All this worrying and stressing was for nothing. My prayers had been answered. Alhamdulillah from that day my faith in Allah has only gotten stronger and stronger.

Praying to Allah for the strength and confidence to wear hijab in our society is so important. May Allah give every girl, that struggles to observe hijab, courage. May Allah make us all strong Ahmadi Muslim girls that can be role models.

Islam

A Burning Scintilla of a Spark

A Burning Scintilla of a Spark

Iffat Mirza, Raynes Park

Within each of us, a belief of God lives. For some it burns brighter. For others it may only be in the form of latent heat not quite a spark yet. Even the most adamant of atheists must have pondered over the possibility, however small they may perceive it to be, that there is something larger than us. Something stronger.

One only needs to look around themselves to consider the ways in which God has manifested Himself. God has testified Himself, in the Holy Qur’an, “He is the Mighty, the Most Forgiving; Who has created seven heavens in harmony. No incongruity canst thou see in the creation of the Gracious God. Then look again. Seest thou any flaw? Aye, look again, and yet again, thy sight will only return to thee confused and fatigued, having seen no incongruity.”

Nature holds all the secrets of the universe that the human mind cannot comprehend. Whether it is the glimmer of the guiding stars or the vast ocean, there still remains an infinite amount to be discovered. It is an undeniable fact that the human race has not yet even understood an iota of this universe. Yet we are brazen enough to consider it a coincidence. The universe has become a creation with no creator.

For those who believe it is was scientific discoveries which made God’s existence redundant are ignorant to the fact that it is God Himself Who encourages man to use logic, reason, and rationality to justify His existence. The rise of scientific understanding has led man to question the necessity of God yet it needn’t be as such. In fact, the compatibility of science and religion is undeniable for those who wish to understand both. Certainly, the Muslim physicist Dr Abdus Salam extracted his hypotheses from the verses of the Holy Qur’an. His discovery merited him a Nobel Prize.

Though Atheism is nothing new, it has certainly increased rapidly which one may attribute to our increasingly materialistic and fast paced world. We simply no longer have the patience to pray, to sacrifice, or even to hope any more. It is no coincidence that it was during the 1960s, with the rapid increase of the technological world that TIME Magazine published the controversial issue with the cover reading in bold red letters ‘IS GOD DEAD?’

Which prompts me, as a practicing Muslim, to ponder over the signs of a living God. Surrounded by mainly atheist friends, many have tried to convince me of what they see as the flaws of God’s existence – yet to me not only His existence, but His Being, has been so glaringly obvious. God never abandoned us. Rather it is us who have abandoned Him. We dived into a world that is radically different from any world our ancestors may have witnessed. Consequently, we put our faith in the seen, the tangible, the man-made, and as a result we have forgotten God. We have led ourselves to believe that He has died. But it is of course in our intrinsic nature to remember God.

Amongst God’s numerous attributes, a most beautiful and, indeed, relevant one is ‘Al-Hayy’. That is ‘The Living’. God knew that one day man would try to kill Him. But if we were to only want to pause this world for a second we would realise that this is not possible. At the core of human nature is the need to feel peace and security. Is it any coincidence that today that the wellness industry is worth up to £2.8 trillion worldwide? Mindfulness and mediation are both common across the world as the human race has recognised the need to pause and reflect. Considering this is exactly what prayer teaches us, it is my humble opinion that these are the burning scintillas of sparks of our faith in God, buried deep within us, that refuse to be snuffed out.

God lives on and He will continue to do so. Al-Hayy cannot die, despite what TIME Magazine publishes. Nor has He abandoned us. Indeed, the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings be on him) has stated it is God’s promise that “when a servant of Mine advances towards Me a foot, I advance towards him a yard, and when he advances towards Me a yard, I advance toward him the length of his arms spread out. When he comes to Me walking, I go to him running.”

It is upon us to find God, to rediscover Him. The human race has a clear necessity for God, and it has tried to replace Him, be it with nationhood, or wealth, or science. The need to humble ourselves in front of a greater being or idea has remained consistent. This is the essence of recognising God within us. The glowing scintilla of a spark that defies and continues to burn brighter. We only need to provide it a spiritual fuel.

 

The Holy Qur’an, translated by Maulvi Sher Ali (ra) Chapter 67, Verses 3-5.
https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/physics/1979/salam/facts/
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/tips-for-the-future/future-of-health-wellbeing-beauty/

Islam

Eid – Strengthening the Ties of Sisterhood Through Faith, Love and Harmony

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Sadiya Ayaz, London

Celebrations and festivities are an integral part of human life in every society and at every level, regardless of one’s culture, race or belief. In most cases their origin can be traced to ancient rites or religious practices. However, they also play an important role in bringing together people of different cultures and communities belonging to one faith to share in occasions of happiness and joy, thereby strengthening the ties of sisterhood and providing a sense of belonging and security as well as the opportunity to share of what we have been blessed with. This helps form the basis of religious harmony and peace within societies.

We must remember however that festivals and celebrations are not merely moments of happiness and cheer. At an individual level, their purpose is to help promote spiritual reformation, encouraging a fresh start by leaving behind one’s past mistakes and bringing new hope and vigour for further advancement in faith and practice. These celebrations are in fact a form of worship in themselves as Islam incorporates the remembrance of God with each and every act of a Muslim. For a Muslim therefore, a day of festivity is not merely a day of feasting and merry-making, but rather it is spent in praising God, remembering His attributes and thanking Him for His countless blessings and favours upon us.

Today Muslims throughout the world rejoice in the festival of Eid-ul-Fitr. It is a day of happiness for those fortunate to have observed the fasts of Ramadan and reaped the spiritual rewards of this holy month. No doubt much pleasure is derived from wearing new clothes, meeting friends and relatives and eating specially prepared food. These are all ways of celebrating the occasion. However, the main purpose of fasting for Muslims is to develop righteousness and self-purification. The month of fasting in Islam is a month of worship which Muslims welcome with renewed energy and zeal. Thus, on Eid-ul-Fitr Muslims are reminded to reflect on the condition of their spiritual improvement and resolve not to lose what has been gained by not only maintaining it, but by pressing forward to reach greater spiritual advancement through righteous conduct, prayers and seeking the Grace of God.

Therefore, the most attractive garment one should be wearing on this day is the one mentioned by God in the Holy Qur’an, ‘the raiment of righteousness’ (7:27) and the real food one should be enjoying is the spiritual nourishment acquired during the month of fasting.

On Eid there is greater focus on bringing together communities and giving alms and as such Muslims will share sweets with their neighbours whilst children are especially encouraged to participate in this activity of offering gifts so that the act of giving alms and sharing one’s happiness with others, regardless of race, religion or creed, becomes inculcated within them from a young age. However, Eid should not be celebrated with the intention of showing off one’s wealth or spending extravagantly, for Islam strongly forbids any ostentatious display of one’s assets. Rather, the sharing of sweets and gifts is an expression of accepting and sharing the bounties given by God with those around us, our friends, families, neighbours and most importantly those in our communities who are in need and less well off. This is because charity is central to the Muslim faith, as represented by its inclusion in the Five Pillars of Islam. In Islam, charity is not about giving because of feeling sorry for a person or because of a catastrophe. Rather, it is a regular, sacrificial giving that, in addition to helping the needy, reaffirms the Islamic ideology that everything belongs to God and by sacrificing these things for the sake of God, one is simply giving something back to its rightful owner. On Eid this concept is heightened even more for the focus of celebration comes from a renewed zeal to do greater good.

Explaining the blessings of fasting and its importance to the welfare of society, His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community states:

“When fasting is based on righteousness, it produces a beautiful society, creating a spirit of sacrifice for each other. One is drawn to the needs of one’s under-privileged brothers … This becomes a source of removing anxiety from society and creates feelings of empathy for the less fortunate among those who are well-off.”

So, as Muslims around the world celebrate the festival of Eid ul Fitr today, we must keep our focus on the real purpose of this celebration which is not only the reformation of one’s self but of society as a whole through strengthening the ties of kinship and sisterhood by uniting members of our communities under one banner of faith, love and harmony – a message not just for today, but for every day.

Ramadan

Ramadan: The Third Ten Days of Salvation

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Munazzah Chou, Farnham

‘Vices, evils and sins are rampant among the people;
The clouds of despair are above
the night is dark and gloomy.
For lack of Thy watering, an entire world has dried up;
Pray turn the course of the river to this side, my Master.
Our wits are not with us during these calamities;
Pray take mercy on Thy people so they obtain salvation.’ (1)

Salvation can only be attained through ‘the mercy of God that encompasses all things,’ and the forgiveness of God that we must exert ourselves for. The foundations are thus laid for the attainment of the pinnacle of spiritual life in the first 20 days of Ramadan.

The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) has told us that the last ten days of Ramadan are salvation from the fire of Hell and the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) has explained that when we strive to do good for the sake of God, God does not simply save us from the fire of hell but gives glad-tidings of paradise. ‘A person develops in faithfulness and turns to God which grants him delight and rapture and thus paradisiacal life starts for him in this world…(2)

During Ramadan our awareness of the requirements of faith is heightened; we increase our spiritual activity and forsake even legitimate desires for the pleasure of Allah. Our attention is diverted away from the world towards praying, recitation of the Holy Quran, charity and improving our character.

There is an intimate relationship between the Holy Quran, Ramadan and salvation. “‘The month of Ramadan is that in which the Qur’an was sent down…’ A person wishing to progress in faith, … and hear the sound of: ‘…I am near…’ (2:187), should pay the dues of Ramadan and the Holy Qur’an and understand their mutual connection…” The dues as described by Hazrat Khalifatiul Masih V are to read the Holy Qur’an while fasting, to reflect over it, to listen to or read its commentaries. (3) ‘It is the experience of hundreds of thousands of holy people that after following the Holy Qur’an Divine blessings descend on heart … If their beings were to be pounded in severe misfortunes and were wrung through tough clamps, their sap extracted would be nothing but Divine love.’ (4)

The Holy Qur’an is thus key to salvation The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) has explained the approach to take when reading the Quran, ‘Man should read the Holy Qur’an abundantly and when reading it he comes across a prayer, he should also pray and seek the same from God which is sought in the prayer. If he comes across citation of chastisement, he should seek refuge from … The Holy Qur’an can be likened to a garden. Man picks a certain kind of flower from one place and further ahead picks another kind of flower. He should garner benefit according to the situation.’ (3)

The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) writes, ‘…that anyone who evades the least one of the 700 commandments of the Qur’an, shuts upon himself the door of salvation. The ways of true and perfect salvation have been opened by the Qur’an and all the rest is its reflection…There is no religious need of yours which is not filled by the Qur’an…’

Hazrat Khalifatul Masih V has reminded us that if there were any inadequacies in the early days of Ramadan, if we feel we haven’t taken advantage of the periods of mercy and forgiveness, efforts should be made in latter days to make good those shortcomings.

In the last ten days of Ramadan we are given glad-tidings of unparalleled religious opportunity in a single night, that is, Lailatul Qadr or ‘The Night of Decree’ which we search for.

‘Surely, We sent it down on the Night of Destiny. And what should make thee know what the Night of Destiny is? The Night of Destiny is better than a thousand months. Therein descend angels and the Spirit by the command of their Lord — with every matter. It is all peace till the rising of the dawn. (97:1-6)

The Night of Decree is a time of purification for man so that he may become compliant to all God’s commandments. It has three forms: a night during Ramadan, time of a Prophet of God and Lailatul Qadr of an individual is also when he is purified and has firm faith and rids himself of all evil while holding himself accountable. His Holiness said the month of Ramadan comes so that we may bring about such a transformation. The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) made special effort during the last ten days of Ramadan and strove hard in worship of God. He would stay up at night and wake his family up. (5)

His Holiness said: ‘ We, the followers of the true and ardent devotee of the Holy Prophet, the Promised Messiah need to bring about a revolutionary change in ourselves and elevate our state of faith to the level where our each word and deed is to attain pleasure of God and where we spend our lives holding ourselves accountable. May the blessings of Ramadan always remain with us! May Allah make many of us experience the Lailatul Qadr which is a special instance of acceptance of prayer …. May experiencing it keep us on piety and righteousness and enhance us. May all our past sins be forgiven and may with His grace God grant us special power to avoid sin in future!’(6)

رَبَّنَا اصْرِفْ عَنَّا عَذَابَ جَهَنَّمَ إِنَّ عَذَابَهَا كَانَ غَرَامًا
“Our Lord, avert from us the punishment of Hell; for the punishment thereof is a lasting torment.” (Ch.25: V.66)

رَبَّنَا ظَلَمْنَآ اَنْفُسَنَا وَاِنْ لَّمْ تَغْفِرْلَنَا وَتَرْحَمْنَا لَنَكُوْنَنَّ مِنَ الْخٰسِرِيْنَ
“Our Lord, we have wronged ourselves; and if Thou forgive us not and have not mercy on us, we shall surely be of the lost.” (Ch.7: V.24)

References
(1) https://www.alislam.org/library/books/Durr-e-Sameen-English-Translation.pdf
HYMNS AND PREACHING OF TRUTH Munajaat aur Tableeghe Haq Braheene Ahmadiyya, part 5, page 97, 1908 (60)
(2) (Tafseer Hazrat Masih e Maud, Vol. IV, p. 300)
(3) Friday Sermon: Ramadan and The Holy Quran: The source of guidance and salvation
July 11th, 2014
(4) Surma Chashm Ariya, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 2, pp. 77-79)
(5) Friday Sermon: Laylatul Qadr – the Night of Destiny 27/8/10
(6) Friday Sermon: Allah’s Mercy, Forgiveness and Rewarding
July 10th, 2015

Ahmadiyya · Features

‘Enlarge Thy House’ – Blessings That Follow Khilafat

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Nooresahar Ahmad, Hartlepool

“Today with the Grace of Allah, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has spread to 206* countries of the world and rather than tiny wooden sheds, Allah has bestowed upon us very large buildings with solid foundations in all parts of the world. Thus, the prophecy within the revelation ‘Enlarge thy house’ has been fulfilled on countless occasions throughout the world, Alhamdolillah.” -Khalifatul Masih V, 2015

History can sometimes feel like nothing more than a random series of events. The history of Khilafat, however, is different. And why wouldn’t it be? When an institution is so Divinely guided, is it any wonder that every action is completed with thoughtfulness, that consequences are prophesised, and that each moment is blessed?

In the Holy Qur’an, Khalifas are described as ‘successors in the earth’ (24:56) . Khilafat is not a blessing destined for a single country, and Khalifas are not here to lead the inhabitants of one particular place. Rather, they are guidance for the whole earth, and blessings follow them wherever they are.

The history of the Ahmadiyya Khilafat begins in Qadian. In the early period of the Promised Messiah’s (peace be on him) life, Qadian was unknown and difficult to reach . Yet this place was granted the honour of being the birthplace and home of the Promised Messiah (peace be on him) and the centre of Khilafat for 40 years. The development of Qadian, began by the Promised Messiah (peace be on him) who built Mubarak Mosque and made accommodation and meals available to all guests, was continued during the Khilafat of His Holiness Hakim Maulvi Nooruddin (may Allah be pleased with him) – a new neighbourhood was added and Aqsa Mosque extended. When His Holiness Mirza Bashirudin Mahmood Ahmad (may Allah be pleased with him) became Khalifa in 1914, the construction of Minaratul Masih was completed by 1916.

The Community began to spread outwards – Ahmadi missionaries landed in America, Africa and Europe for the first time, and mosques were constructed in Washington, Zurich and London. Qadian remained the pulse of the community, and home to the Khalifa. Today, it is a well-established town – a world away from the unknown village it was, less than two centuries ago.

In 1947, during the turbulent Partition of India and Pakistan, under the guidance of the Second Khalifa, the Community migrated to Pakistan – specifically, to 1500 acres of barren land we now know as Rabwah. Quickly, however, the town began to grow: the foundation for Fazl-e-Omar Hospital was laid by the hand of the second Khalifa, offices were set up and electricity connections made by 1956 . In less than 10 years Rabwah was unrecognisable, and from 1965 the third Khalifa, His Holiness Mirza Nasir Ahmad (may Allah have mercy on him) continued the abundant work of the Jamaat. The Khilafat Library was inaugurated, Fazle Omar Foundation established, and His Holiness guided the Ahmadi Muslim Community as they suffered severe persecution for their faith.

Whilst the blessings of Khilafat had turned an empty, insignificant patch of land, into a thriving historical site, this persecution meant that the ‘Markaz’ (Centre) would move in 1984. His Holiness Mirza Tahir Ahmad (may Allah have mercy on him) moved to London, England in order to safeguard the institution of Khilafat. The rest of his Khilafat was led from Fazl Mosque. MTA, Muslim Television Ahmadiyya, was set up in 1992, and the largest mosque in Western Europe at the time- Baitul Futuh- was built in London in 2003. London remained the centre for the fifth and current Khalifatul Masih, His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad (may Allah be his Helper), who continues to propagate the message of ‘Love for All, Hatred for None’ not only in halls of Westminster, the Parliament of Europe or Capitol Hill USA, but in Africa, the Far East and recently in Guatemala, South America.

The reason I wanted to highlight the changes in the centres of Khilafat over the years, is partly because of how relevant it feels for us Ahmadi Muslims today. In the last month, we have seen our beloved Khalifa move from Masjid Fazl, London to Islamabad, Tilford Surrey. The creation of a new Markaz, a mini village in the rural farmlands of Tilford, Surrey, complete with its’ own Masjid Mubarak, hails a new blessed chapter in the history of the illustrious Khilafat of the Promised Messiah (peace be on him).

Since 1908, our community’s history has been defined by our Khalifas sacrificing their personal comfort for the sake of the propagation of Islam Ahmadiyyat. They have built upon empty land, left their homes without complaint, and unified the Community over and over.

‘Successors in the earth’- and may the earth and its’ inhabitants continue to flourish around them.

REFERENCES
*This figure now stands at 212, https://www.alislam.org/tj/sermons/FSJ20190322-EN.pdf.
1 https://www.alislam.org/library/press-release/head-of-ahmadiyya-muslim-community-inaugurates-baitul-aafiyyat-in-frankfurt/
2 https://www.alislam.org/library/articles/passage-quran-khilafat/
3 https://www.alislam.org/library/books/Ahmad-The-Guided-One.pdf
4 https://www.alislam.org/library/book/brief-history-ahmadiyya-muslim/milestones-of-his-caliphate/
5 https://www.alislam.org/library/ahmadiyya-history/construction-minara-tul-masih-qadian/
6 https://www.alislam.org/library/book/brief-history-ahmadiyya-muslim/establishment-of-rabwah/
7 http://www.irabwah.com/history-of-rabwah/

Islam · Ramadan

Ramadan: The Second Ten Days of ‘Istighfar’

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Tooba Khokhar, Cambridge

Water is the great sustainer of life – whether in the vast oceans or in a glistening drop of dew. It is little wonder that our ancestors, men and women who found holiness in the forests and boughs, built temples to invoke rain from the Divine so that the earth around them would blossom and bear fruit and be ever fresh.

In the spiritual landscape of the Holy Qur’an, our guidebook for life, rain signifies boundless mercy and grace from the Most Gracious, Ever Merciful. In chapter 71, verses 11-12, we read

And I said, ‘Seek forgiveness of your Lord; for He is exceedingly Forgiving.

‘He will send down rain for you in abundance,’

So, we are told to follow a different path in seeking the bounties of the Divine. The key to attaining the showers of Divine blessing is not in constructing temples of stone, but in building a shrine in the heart. A shrine of istighfar.

We are now in the holy month of Ramadan, traditionally divided into three parts. The second of which is devoted to istighfar. What is istighfar? This word is often translated as forgiveness, or as the act of seeking it. However, this rendering does little to convey the full depth and breadth and richness of meaning contained in this Arabic term.

One aspect of istighfar is certainly seeking forgiveness for the little and not so little wrongs we do, the countless ways in which we err; for the sins we are scarcely even aware of and for those whose memory overwhelms us. The Qur’an in this respect has a clear message. God addresses His Servants in chapter 39, verse 54, stating

Say, “O My servants who have committed excesses against their own souls! despair not of the mercy of Allah, surely Allah forgives all sins. Verily He is Most Forgiving, Merciful.

The Qur’an highlights how in doing wrong it is not the Divine we are wronging but our own heart and soul we are discomfiting. However, our feebleness is contrasted with the infinite mercy of the Divine, a message expressed beautifully by the Holy Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be on him) who is reported to have said:

Allah, the Exalted, has said: ‘O son of Adam! I shall continue to forgive you so long as you call on Me and hope for My forgiveness whatever your faults may be. I care not, son of Adam, even if your sins should pile up to the sky and you should supplicate Me for forgiveness, I would forgive you. Son of Adam! If you come to Me with an earthful of sins and meet Me, not associating anything with Me, I will certainly grant you as much pardon as will fill the earth.’i

It is this immense and infinite mercy we invoke. The Promised Messiah and Imam of this Age (on whom be peace), wrote how “ghafara, from which [the word] istighfar has been derived, means ‘covering’ or ‘suppressing.’ In other words, istighfar means that Allah may suppress the sins of someone who has immersed himself in His love and may not permit the roots of humanness from being exposed”.ii

Indeed, istighfar is not just about seeking forgiveness from God, rather it is an attitude to the Divine, a way of understanding our place in the grand scheme of the cosmos. The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) further wrote that

…the meaning of Istighfar is that God should cover up the natural weakness of the supplicant with His power. This meaning is then enlarged to include the covering up of a sin that has been committed, but the true meaning is that God should safeguard the supplicant against his natural weakness and should bestow upon him power from His power, and knowledge from His knowledge, and light from His light.

Having created man, God has not become separated from him, but as He is man’s Creator and the Creator of all his external and internal faculties, He is also All-Sustaining, that is to say, He safeguards with His support everything that He has creatediii

So, istighfar is not an individual act of repentance, rather an acknowledgement of our intrinsic need for God and our desire to draw our strength from Him. “As God has bestowed upon man from the beginning, tongue, eyes, heart, and ears, etc.” writes the Promised Messiah, “so He has bestowed upon him from the beginning the desire for Istighfar and has made him feel that he is dependent upon God for help”.iv

Elsewhere, he describes istighfar as a kind of medicine, explaining that it is an ‘elixir’ that counters the ‘poison’ of negative impulses that arise from our baser selves. So, istighfar is both prevention and cure – working to wipe out the stains of past errors and to guard against future ones, by illumining our souls with Divine Light.

This is why istighfar is the key to bringing down rain that both purifies our souls and makes our hearts’ desires appear before our eyes in the form of endless blessings. For it is a comprehensive philosophy of both repentance and acknowledgment of our need for the Divine, and our nothingness before His Grace. It is this which brings about the rain that means the garden of faith is never barren, rather ever more verdant and filled with the sweetest, most colourful, and most comforting fruits.

i Gardens of the Righteous, p. 320. URL: https://www.alislam.org/library/books/GardensRighteous.pdf

ii Essence of Islam, Vol. II. p. 242 URL: https://www.alislam.org/books/Essence-2.pdf

iii Ibid, p. 242 iv Ibid, p. 243

Islam · Ramadan

Ramadan: The First Ten Days Of Mercy

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By Navida Sayed

Life is full of opportunities, sometimes we take advantage of them and sometimes we don’t, later wishing for another chance. One amazing opportunity never to be missed, which comes knocking at every Muslim individual’s door, is when Allah the Almighty opens His doors of mercy, forgiveness and salvation in the blessed month of Ramadan.

The first ten days of Ramadan are recognised as the days of mercy, because Muslims enter a phase of sacrifice by performing an act of worship in the form of fasting from dawn to dusk. This enables Muslims to understand how the hungry and poor people in the world feel and in return to pray for them, as well as thank Allah for the sustenance they have. From a medical perspective ‘Research shows fasting is a powerful lifestyle tool for combating obesity, insulin resistance and related health problems.’i

Over the course of the thirty days, fasting is a time for self-improvement and self-development; overall the most rewarding and rejuvenating experience during the month of Ramadan is spiritual reflection and reformation of man through prayers, seeking Allah’s mercy and forgiveness.

The Holy Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be on him) said: He who observes the fast during Ramadan out of sincerity of faith and in hope of earning merit will have his past sins forgiven him. (Bokhari and Muslim)

Ramadan is the most opportunistic time in the year when Allah enables man to reach out to Him when He opens the gates of Paradise. In relation to this there is the following tradition of the Holy Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him):

When Ramadan arrives the gates of Paradise are opened and the gates of hell are locked up and satans are put in chains. (Bukhari and Muslim).

The Holy Prophet, (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), said that from the first night of the month of Ramadan, satanic forces are chained, rebellious elements are disciplined and the shutters of Hell are drawn without exception. All the gates of Paradise are opened and a crier shouts: ‘O the seeker of righteous deeds proceed, and O the recliner to evil intentions desist’. Many sinners are granted amnesty from Hell, and this occurs every night of the month. (Bukhari and Muslim)..

Ramadan is the special month of fasting, prayers, repentance and ‘Zikr Ilahi’ (remembrance of Allah), in relation to this the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) said,

‘It should be remembered that the fast does not mean merely that a person should abstain from food and drink over a certain period. During the fast one should be occupied greatly with the remembrance of God. The Holy Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be on him) occupied himself greatly with worship during the month of Ramadan. During that month one should discard one’s preoccupation with eating and drinking, and cutting asunder from these needs should address oneself wholly towards God. Unfortunate is the person who is bestowed material bread and pays no attention to spiritual bread. Material bread strengthens the body, and spiritual bread sustains the soul and sharpens the spiritual faculties. Seek the Grace of God, as all doors are opened by His Grace.’ (Essence of Islam, Vol. 2, p. 316)

During this blessed month we can ask ourselves, how are we going to avail this opportunity in the best way? In a Friday Sermon, Hazrat Khalīfatul-Masīh V (May Allāh be his Helper), worldwide head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, said ‘when Allah is so forgiving in ordinary times then during Ramadan His mercy must shower down. Fortunate are those who take advantage of His mercy and His forgiveness. There is still time to seek His mercy and forgiveness. When a person turns to Him in absolute humility then Allah states no one is as merciful as I am. In order to attain Divine mercy and forgiveness we need to look and search. Allah declares especially in these days that His door is open. Whoever will look for Him will find His door open. Allah has employed the words ‘I am near’ (2:187) in the Qur’an when citing Ramadan. Allah says come into the refuge of My forgiveness. Even in ordinary times My mercy is more and My chastisement is less but in the days of Ramadan further doors of mercy are opened.’

Hazrat Khalīfa-tul-Masīh V (May Allāh be his Helper) also said ‘whenever a person ‘walks’ towards Allah, Allah runs to him. As the Qur’an states: ‘And as for those who strive in Our path – We will, surely, guide them in Our ways. And, verily, Allah is with those who do good.’ (29:70).’ii

The main objective of the first ten days of Ramadan is to practice being merciful because it is only when the heart becomes merciful that it can be humbled to a state of compassion to seek forgiveness.

i Mercola.com. (2019). One of the Worst Intermittent Fasting Mistakes. [online] Available at: https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2018/07/02/intermittent-fasting-with-ketogenic-more-effective.aspx.

ii https://www.alislam.org/friday-sermon/printer-friendly-summary-2008-09-19.html

Islam

Most Excellent Exemplar: the Holy Prophet’s Influence in the Modern World

Most Excellent Exemplar blog

Nooresahar Ahmad, Hartlepool

The Holy Prophet’s (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) role in our day-to-day lives as Muslims is obvious and profound. But how often do we step back and consider his influence over the world at large – an influence still prevalent to this day? The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) is a figure unlike any other in history, who transformed its course forever; sent by God over 1400 years ago to teach mankind and to this day, we are still learning.

Prophet Muhammad’s (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) life has been a source of wonder and awe for billions throughout history, Muslim and non-Muslim alike. In his book ‘The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History’, Michael H Hart placed the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) as the most influential person in human history, describing him as, “the only man in history who was supremely successful on both the religious and secular level.”

Whilst this is a clear recognition of the impact the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) has had on this world, the truest and most honourable quote regarding him comes from the Quran itself: ‘Verily you have in the Prophet of Allah an excellent model, for him who fears Allah and the Last Day and who remembers Allah much.’ (33:22).

In an age which seems characterised by conflict, it perhaps is natural that upon contemplating the Holy Prophet’s (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) influence in the world today, I was most inclined to look at his unparalleled example in upholding justice and keeping the peace. Whilst the extent to which he would go to appease possible conflict is an example which remains unmatched, it is still possible to see its effect working on modern day institutions and laws.

For example, during war, the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) set out rules and regulations which bear a striking resemblance to modern laws of war which are internationally recognised. The Holy Prophet Muhammad’s (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) rules, which in fact were far better than anything the world has yet implemented, included: not striking fear into the general population or harming civilians; that the least possible harm should be done to the enemy; that prisoners of war should be kept in comfort and clothed and fed as well as the Muslims were themselves.

In modern day law, the principles of distinction (wherein belligerents must distinguish between combatants and civilians) and military necessity (making sure any attack is intended to help in the defeat of an enemy, and doesn’t cause excessive harm) are internationally recognised.

Furthermore, the Geneva Convention, established in 1929, outlines the rules regarding the fair treatment of prisoners of war . Once more, the influence of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) is potent, though his original example is even more distinguished. His laws further include the protection of all women, children and elderly, fruit-bearing trees, crops, public buildings and religious figures.

Today, these laws are perceived as modern and progressive – to think a leader would have established and upheld them 1400 years ago seems impossible. Yet the truth of the matter is that they are not an original creation – rather, they seem an imitation of the guidelines set out by Allah’s messenger centuries ago. Not only has the Holy Prophet’s (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) example stood the test of time, it continues to exert its influence over the modern world today.

References:
Features · Holy Quran

Prohibitions in Islam – Alcohol and Gambling

Prohibitions blog

Fezia Haq, Southfields

‘O ye who believe! intoxicants and games of chance… are only an abomination of Satan’s handiwork. So shun each one of them that you may prosper.’ [Chapter 5, Verse 91]

‘No alcohol safe to drink, global study confirms’ [1], read a BBC article in late 2018. Yet it is one of the intoxicants highly publicised in the media, with a study by Barker et al. (2018) finding that in the year 2015, over 50% of daytime UK television portrayed alcohol content [2]. Its detrimental impacts can be seen in statistics [3]: in the UK, there were over nine thousand alcohol-related deaths in 2016; in the same year, there were around 1.13 million hospital admissions due to alcohol consumption in England; finally, between 2014 and 2016, 67% of all violent incidents were related to alcohol use in England and Wales.

Regarding the ‘game of chance’, better known as gambling, we find that in the year 2018, the gambling or betting industries of the UK had a total of £14.4 billion in gross-gambling-yield. In the same year, 47% of online gamblers reported advertisements to have prompted them to bet [4]. A Guardian article of 2017 highlighted that a government commission found more than 2 million people in the UK to be addicted to gambling or at risk of developing a problem. The case studies mentioned in the article suggest that there is a direct link of gambling with crime, health issues and problems with money – including fraud and loss [5]. Certainly, there are better places such wealth can be spent on.

Even before such studies emerged, we were blessed to have the Holy Qur’an warn us of the use of all intoxicants, including alcohol and wine, as well as involvement in gambling. In the verse above, the Arabic word ‘Khamr’ is used to explain anything that causes drunkenness. The fourth Khalifa (Caliph) of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, His Holiness Mirza Tahir Ahmad (may Allah have mercy on him) eloquently explains this verse[6], stating that alcohol and gambling have ‘satanic elements’ to them. Gambling also impacts our consciousness, and is therefore a vice which must be avoided.

The verse that follows goes on to call out these two acts, and His Holiness’ commentary of it elucidates that these acts break society up, cause discontentment as well as grudges in life. They also hinder a person from following his or her religious duties and from carrying out good works. As we can see, God has placed much wisdom behind these prohibitions, since our involvement in them is not only dangerous to ourselves, but also to those around us, risking well-being, safety and wealth as well as our spiritual states.

Prohibitions may sound like limiting us in what we can do and achieve, but the wisdom of those in the Holy Qur’an are there for the benefit of communities. In the words of our beloved Khalifa His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad (may Allah be his Helper): “Sins like gambling and alcohol consumption are known as ‘ismul kabeer’ (great sin). Ismul kabeer is a sin that repeatedly incites one to commit sin.”[7]

When matters have been opened up so much, it only becomes incumbent upon us to stay away from these vices.

REFERENCES:

[1] Ives, L. (2018). No alcohol safe to drink, global study confirms. [online] BBC News. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-45283401.

[2] Barker, A. et al. (2018). A content analysis of alcohol content in UK television. [online] Oxford Academic Journal of Public Health. Available at:

https://academic.oup.com/jpubhealth/advance-article/doi/10.1093/pubmed/fdy142/5078451

[3] Alcohol Change UK. (n.d.). Alcohol statistics | Alcohol Change UK. [online] Available at: https://alcoholchange.org.uk/alcohol-facts/fact-sheets/alcohol-statistics.

[4] Gamblingcommission.gov.uk. (n.d.). Statistics and research. [online] Available at: https://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/news-action-and-statistics/Statistics-and-research/Statistics-and-research.aspx.

[5] Davies, R. (2017). Number of problem gamblers in the UK rises to more than 400,000. [online] The Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/aug/24/problem-gamblers-uk-gambling-commission-report.

[6] Tarjumatul Quran – Surah al-Maidah [The Banquet]: 84 – 96. (1995). London, UK: MTA International. Available at:

[7] Alislam.org. (2010). Friday Sermon: Jalsa Salana Spain. [online] Available at: https://www.alislam.org/friday-sermon/2010-04-02.html.

Khan, A. (2016). Why Alcohol is Prohibited in Islam. [online] Review of Religions. Available at: http://www.reviewofreligions.org/12519/why-alcohol-is-prohibited-in-islam/#.

Why Alcohol is Prohibited in Islam