Education · Hijab · Islam · Women

The Educational Potential of the Hijab: A cloth which can tie us together

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Yusra Dahri, London

Recently in the news, Amanda Spielman, Ofsted chief inspector, has progressed with her previous comments about the hijab. It’s true that there is no necessity in primary school for a Muslim girl to wear the hijab. I didn’t wear a headscarf in primary school, but I don’t see the harm in wearing it either.

My classmates, genuinely curious, would have asked me why I wore it, and I would have explained to them why I liked wearing it and why my mother wore it. It could open up pathways for interfaith discussion and be an interesting supplement to RE, opening up the world for everyone present which is arguably, the purpose of school. Fast forward five or six years, when the hijab has been heavily politicised, perhaps my classmates would remember our discussions over what has been filtered down to them through the media.

Now, I try imagining what it would be like to be a little Muslim girl today. If I wanted to wear my headscarf, I would be questioned. Not by my friends, but by adults. I would be asked why I got in trouble by my friends and if I told them it was because of my headscarf, they would undoubtedly think it was something bad. By the time we reached secondary school, it would be a taboo topic. Instead of building a bridge between two parts of my life, I would begin to disrespect either religion or the establishment of education. Either would detract from my quality of life and personal enrichment.

I just have to wonder if this Ofsted policy would end up doing more harm than good. What’s the point in trying to relieve a child of family pressures when it is swiftly replaced by those of society and politics? School lays more and more pressure on children, year after year. As a student myself, I would say that my religion and prayer helped me more than anything my school could provide pastorally during my GCSEs. If I wanted children to fully succeed and enjoy their education, I would at least give them the freedom to think for themselves.

Personally, I feel the education sector has more to reconsider in regards to the restrictions placed on pupils propagated by the education system itself rather than diverting attention to the religion some students happen to follow.

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Health and wellbeing · Islam

Keeping Physically Healthy

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Maleeha Mansur, Hayes

There is no doubt about the importance of physical health, not least to reduce the risk of developing various diseases. Keeping physically healthy is a means of enhancing one’s emotional well being, confidence, longevity and of course, fighting off illness. But, is there a role for religion in guiding us about physical health?

As described by Chaudhry Muhammad Zafrulla Khan sahib, ‘a beautiful body is a blessing from Allah (God) and the Holy Prophet of Islam (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) used to show his gratitude to Allah for giving him a beautiful and pleasing body. Whenever the Holy Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) saw his face in a mirror, he used to pray, “O Lord! Make my nature as pleasing as my body.” It shows that in religious matters, the human body is not an inferior thing. Without the body, you cannot have a spiritual life. It is true that the body is like a container and the soul is what is placed in that container. The body is only like a husk and the soul is a kernel. If we carefully analyse, we can see that if you break any container then the contents will spill. The soul and the body are also associated in this way and any damage to the body will affect the soul. According to the commandment of Allah the Almighty, whilst it is important to take care of your soul, it is equally important to look after your body. According to Islam, if a person deliberately adopts a lifestyle which results in his death, then he is a murderer and guilty of his own murder.’i

Physical health constitutes two predominant parts, diet and exercise.

For one’s diet, most people have come across the concept of the healthy diet plate as a guide for the proportion of fruit, vegetables, protein, dairy and carbohydrates we should be consuming. However, recent guidance has shifted to the importance also of quantity. An intuitive means of measuring proportions based on one’s hands has recently been proposed by the British Nutrition Foundation. The Holy Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), has so beautifully addressed this with great clarity 1400 years ago. He said, “no man fills a vessel worse than his stomach. A few mouthfuls that would suffice to keep his back upright are enough for a man, but if he must eat more, then he should fill one-third with food, one-third with drink and leave one-third for easy breathing.”ii

As women, when it come to a healthy diet, we have a crucial role. Not only do we decide the type of food our families eat, but the food tendencies and habits that we instil in our children will be with them for life. Thus, we hold a heavy responsibility in shaping the health of our future generations.

As for exercise, most people have had run-ins with some sort of gym membership, but mostly to temporary effect. With the example of the Holy Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) Islam has presented a beautiful model of how to incorporate exercise into one’s life sustainably. Firstly, with the five daily prayers, Muslims go through various postures giving effective physical exercise to many muscle groups. Secondly, from the example of the Holy Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), we know that he ‘used to work with his own hands and this was the practice of his companions as well.’iii This habit distances ones from laziness, making one alert and in the habit of hard work. Thirdly, we often hear that walking is the best exercise, in this regard, a companion of the Holy Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) related that ‘I have never seen anyone walk faster than the Holy Prophet Muhammad (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). It seemed as if the earth was folding underneath him. We would become tired when walking with him, but there would be no signs of fatigue on him. He did not walk with his head held high, and he would keep his gaze low.’iv

Within the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, a whole department is committed to looking after the physical health and well being of members. The community holds regular charity challenge marathons enabling us to raise funds for local charitable causes whilst maintaining our physical health. Islam truly is a universal religion that, not only caters for religious needs but provides guidance on every aspect of the life and society.

i Steps to Exercise by Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad (rh), page 12
ii Tirmidhī
iii Steps to Exercise by Hazrat Mirza Tahir A Steps to Exercise by Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad (rh), page 12 hmad (rh), page 32
iv Shuma’ile Tirmadhi Babma ja’ fi Mashiyyate Rasullullahsa, Muhammadsa the Perfect Man by Hafiz Muzaffar Ahmad, page 17

Health and wellbeing

A Peaceful Mind

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Dr Sarah Waseem, London

As we enter a new year, many of us set targets to improve our health. Usually this takes the form of signing up to gyms, weight loss programmes or giving up unhealthy eating habits; few of us however consider how we could improve our mental health.
Perhaps that’s understandable, given how much we hear about the consequences of poor physical health on our life and diseases that await us if we don’t take action! The list is extensive – diabetes, cancer, heart disease, strokes, arthritis… and so it goes on!

However, how many of us appreciate the relationship between mental health problems and the overall disease burden worldwide? The statistics are quite shocking.

Mental health and behavioural problems (e.g. depression, anxiety and drug use) are reported to be the primary drivers of disability worldwide. In the UK, these mental health problems are responsible for the largest burden of disease – 28% of the burden, compared to 16% each for cancer and heart disease. Major depression is thought to be the second leading cause of disability worldwide and a major contributor to the burden of suicide and ischemic heart disease.

The statistics for young people make grim reading. 20% of adolescents may experience a mental health problem in any given year. 50% of mental health problems are established by age 14 and 75% by age 24. 10% of children and young people (aged 5-16 years) have a clinically diagnosable mental health problem, yet 70% of children and adolescents who experience mental health problems have not had appropriate interventions at a sufficiently early age.

Mental health is thus closely linked to physical health, but what do we mean by the term ‘mental health’ and how do we improve it?

Good mental health can be characterised as having the ability to be able to feel, express and manage a range of emotions in a positive way. That means being able to feel anxious, sad, happy, or even angry, AND to be able to accept the feelings AND be able to speak about them AND deal with them in a healthy manner. So for instance, a healthy anxiety about sitting an exam might mean we study more than usual, talk to professors and friends to get their input on how we could do well, check out past papers , and write practice answers. We may still feel anxious, but we are trying to respond to it in a helpful way. An unhealthy response would be to just worry excessively, to stay up long hours revising, or to avoid talking about the exam. Other unhealthy responses might include self harm, panic attacks or avoidance.

Resilience and coping with uncertaintly are also very important for good mental health. Resilience helps us cope with setbacks. Resilience allows us to get through unpleasant life events such as losing loved ones, or jobs or experiencing changes in our roles, for example changing areas where we live, going to University, getting married, or divorced and starting new jobs.

So how do go about developing good ‘mental health’? Interestingly some of the strategies that work with physical health are also helpful. These include having a good diet and engaging in exercise. There is a lot of evidence demonstrating the positive effects of physical exercise on our brains and how exercise enables the release of ‘feel good’ neuro-transmitters like dopamine. Getting physically active is often an initial treatment for depression and of course we can exercise the brain in other ways such as learning new languages, doing puzzles, reading, crosswords, and problem solving activities.

Relationships with others are important. Social contact helps us to feel connected and this is especially so for young people. Sharing our achievements, our joys and our difficulties means that we get other perspectives on what may seem at the time to be an insurmountable problem. However it is important that we have healthy relationships, with individuals who support us, who care about us and who also have a positive outlook on life. It’s rather like having our own personal football team. We need the players to support and score goals for us not for the other side! Again for younger people, this is especially important. Being part of a social network where one is being bullied or criticised or abused in some way, is very destructive and can have serious consequences for one’s self esteem.

We develop resilience by being able to use positive coping skills to deal with setbacks. These skills can include getting perspective on a difficult event, seeing it for what it is rather than catastrophising about it. So setbacks are just that – they may push us further away from our goals, but they don’t remove the goals. Parents have a huge role here in helping young children develop good mental health, and much of this will come through their own ability to model coping strategies.

Mental health, like physical health, doesn’t always stay the same. It can change as circumstances change and as one moves through different stages of life. However, we need to value it and accord it the same care that we do for physical health.

Ref:
https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/statistics/mental-health-statistics-uk-and-worldwide

Features · Health and wellbeing

Eat to Live or Live to Eat?

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By Rabia Salim, Manchester

I am a mother of three fairly young children, and after I had the kids, I realised how great fasting was for setting a routine, getting healthy and simplifying my life. Also there are many Islamic etiquettes of eating that I have passed on to my children. When my oldest would try to eat on the go, my aim was to get her to sit down at a fixed time, eat with her right hand, eat what was in front of her and try everything on her plate (1). These things are in Islam because it affects spirituality and our morals (2). What also changed in our lives is my husband developed a disease of the colon, ulcerative colitis, which is the inflammation of digestive body cells. It is also related to the immune system, but I learnt it is largely connected to the food he ate. I knew we needed to focus more on the effect of food and eating.

Diligently my neighbour and I read up on conditions that bothered my family and hers such as asthma, eczema and the major things that were affecting our home, diseases called auto immune diseases. Her husband has Multiple Sclerosis and mine had Ulcerative Colitis. I say it in the past tense, as we had to get his colon removed ultimately, it was so severe.

Seeing as we were the gatekeepers of our kitchens, we both tried to cook differently. This meant foods low in sugar and carbs. And less processed. We could do this! She exclaimed to me one day that her son’s eczema had really cleared up. She also was amazed as her holistic doctor had prescribed a gluten and lactose free diet to achieve this! Which made me wonder; was my husband’s condition afflicted by common foods? It was too late to reverse the disease. Her son’s eczema was gone, our husbands still had a way to go.

8 years on we eat differently and my husband has improved. His colon had to go but would his body adapt? Spice and fat levels need to be constantly controlled. I learnt about eating to live, as we were doing a kitchen science on how food affected our energy levels, health and even mood.

At the same time I was realising how Ramadan was detoxing my poor gut from all that work. My body was healing and my time management improved when I fasted in this month from focusing on spirituality and those less fortunate than me. So this is how food affects our morals and empathy for others.

Our lives have changed but my husband can still eat; with embracing food that doesn’t stress his body out, with health benefits for me and the children too. I felt like chocolate bingeing today but we went for a smaller dose of chocolate, an avocado salad, vegetable rice, a protein, a fruit salad, banana pancakes, a smoothie, an omelette, homemade bread and nuts and milk for snack, and one sweet. None of it sounds that bad and it sure didn’t taste bad. I feel our approach fits in with Islamic guidelines as well of eating food that is pure (‘tayyeb’) and halal. My neighbour and I have many life changing, healthy, delicious recipes, shared by that holistic doctor who understood the link between food and health.

All praise belongs to God, gone are the pre operation, helpless days when the disease took over and my husband was eating boiled rice and steamed chicken just so he had enough energy to get up and gradually to get moving and back to work.

Sometimes if I get too conscious about what we’re eating, Chapter Al-Nahl of the Holy Qur’an really heartens me. It states God’s bounties for humans for example in verse 12, “Therewith He grows corn for you, and the olive and the date-palm, and the grapes, and all manner of fruit. Surely, in that is a Sign for a people who reflect”. (3) There is a mention of land animals and seafood too. (4) Sounds delicious to me, and it’s about eating balanced, and more of the good things, rather than overindulging in detrimental things. It depends on individuals lifestyles. My neighbour and I didn’t completely clear out our old foods, but only small changes made a difference. Some patients with major diseases have to completely transform their diets. Anyway our changes were worth my time, and money. As for people that can’t afford to go with cleaner ingredients, some recipes only require 3 basic items many of us have at home. It’s just getting the best you can afford and cooking it. May God bless us with brilliant health.

(1) Nasir, Syed Mahmood Nasir (1988). Selected Sayings of the Holy Prophet. Islam International Publications Ltd, Tilford.
(2) Ahmad, Bashir-ud-Din Mahmood Khalifatul Masih II, (1926). Way of the Seekers. Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam, Silver Spring, 2002 Edition
(3) The Holy Quran 16:12
(4) The Holy Quran 16 : 6, 15

Charity · Holy Quran · Islam

Spending in the Way of Allah Secretly and Openly

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Reem Shraiky, London

Islam, in its comprehensive teachings, makes provisions for the welfare of every individual, society and the world as a whole. Among these teachings is the injunction to spend in the way of Allah that is to say to help the poor and needy out of love of God.

Spending in the cause of Allah benefits not only those who receive alms, but those who give them: ‘If you give alms openly, it is well and good; but if you conceal them and give them to the poor, it is better for you; and He will remove from you many of your sins…’ 2:272)

Social welfare in fact leads to the prosperity of the nation which leads in turn to the prosperity of the individual, but this is not the first purpose of spending, rather the goal is purely seeking Allah’s pleasure.

The Qur’an permits Muslims to spend in Allah’s way either secretly or publicly as both have their benefits and drawbacks, and both merit reward: ‘Those who spend their wealth by night and day, secretly and openly, have their reward with their Lord; on them shall come no fear, nor shall they grieve.’(2:275)

Therefore, a Muslim must assess the circumstance and situation to see which way of spending will attract Allah’s pleasure, and achieve the maximum benefit. On the other hand, showing off and bragging is categorically forbidden: ‘…render not vain your alms by taunt and injury, like him who spends his wealth to be seen of men, and he believes not in Allah and the Last Day. His case is like the case of a smooth rock covered with earth, on which heavy rain falls, leaving it bare, smooth and hard…’(2:265)

So when a Muslim spends in front of others, it must be purely to encourage them to spend in the cause of Allah and to do good, but if the intention is to show off one’s wealth in front of others, it will be as if one’s good works never were.

However, speaking of favours Allah has bestowed upon oneself monetary or otherwise, is acceptable if the aim is solely to encourage others to seek these bounties: ‘And as for the bounty of your Lord do relate it to others.’(93:12). So, giving is the noblest of acts, so long as the giver has no atom of hypocrisy, nor is led by the desire to show off or demean others.

It is preferable to hide charity when it is given particularly to the poor and needy out of respect to their feelings and dignity, but it is better to do other good deeds openly in order to inspire others to follow suit, for example, when people are called upon to openly support a humanitarian cause, we see a very high turnout. ‘Say to My servants who have believed, that they should observe Prayer and spend out of what We have given them, secretly and openly…’(14:32)

While all religions call for doing good, Islam stands alone in calling for vying with one another in this, the word vying in Arabic ‘تسابق’ means to speed up to the maximum degree, as in a race where each person competes with others. In this context, the best and most charitable person will do more good and others will try to catch up to him or her, so the race of millions vying with millions in doing good will continue with all speed and full strength and energy.

One should not understand by this that Islam creates envy and greed in the hearts of its followers, rather it only shows that the believers’ duty is to help their brothers and sisters advance because the ultimate purpose is benefiting others “And let there be among you a body of men who should invite to goodness, and enjoin equity and forbid evil…’(3:105) Thus, when the believers attain good, they invite others to hurry and partake of the same blessings.

When the believers race in the act of good deeds, they take with them those who are behind and help others to catch up with them. This is in fact the greatest race of goodness and embodies the true spirit of humanity.

We have to remember the guiding principle which the Holy Qur’an taught us regarding drawing the most benefit out of giving, that is: “Never shall you attain to righteousness unless you spend out of that which you love…” (3:93). So, everything, which you love most, whether it is money, sleep, children, time, etc.., if you are ready to sacrifice it for the sake of Allah, that act would become righteousness. May Allah enable us to act upon these great teachings, Ameen.

Islam

Examining the Benefits of Prayer

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Dr Munazzah Chou, Farnham

Salat (Prayer) is one of the five fundamentals that a Muslim is obligated to perform. Salat is given the highest priority in the Holy Qur’an.

‘…observe Prayer. Surely, Prayer restrains one from indecency and manifest evil, and remembrance of Allah indeed is the greatest virtue… (29:46)

The Quranic verse shows Prayer has both a safeguarding function and an elevating effect, both essential for cultivating ideal human conduct. It first protects the worshipper by liberating them from sins of all types and then refines character and cultivates qualities to make one worthy of communion with God.

According to Islam, each human soul in relation to the human body can be likened to a foetus in utero. Maternal influences are constantly transferred to the developing foetus. Of all the influences that work towards the development of the human soul, Prayer is the most important single factor.

The Holy Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) drew the comparison of the effect of 5 daily Prayers on our soul with the taking of 5 daily baths and asked whether there could be any dirt left on our bodies after such regular washing.

The frequency of the Prayers is a constant reminder of a Muslim’s purpose in life which is the worship of Allah, as is clear from the Quranic verse, ‘And I have not created the Jinn and the men but that they may worship Me’. (51:57) Remembrance of God and pondering over His attributes during the Prayer helps man in refining his spirit, bringing it more into harmony with the nature of God.

Does God require our Prayers? His Holiness Khalifatul Masih V explained in one of his Friday sermons that these days, due to the influence of atheism people have certain questions on their minds, such as why one should pray or whether God is in need of our prayers. Elaborating on these the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) states: ‘God Almighty is Self Sufficient and is in no need for our prayers, rather, we are the ones who require prayer.’

Indeed, the commandment for Prayer is for our good. The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) said:

‘I do not find adequate words to express the faith that I have in recovery of the sick through the prayer. The Physician goes up to a certain stage and he stops there and loses hope. Further to that, it is God who opens up the way through the prayers. The understanding of the prayers is the real comprehension of the Divine and trust in God the Almighty. One should go beyond the limits that the people have fixed and he should be full of hope…It is at this stage that a man begins to recognise God.’

As well as spiritual benefits, the physical and psychological benefits of Islamic Prayer are increasingly understood. Salat can be seen as a form of regular exercise involving the whole body with benefits to cardiovascular, musculoskeletal and mental health. Most of the body muscles and joints are exercised during Salat; and Sajdah (prostration) is the only position in which the head is lower than the heart and therefore, receives increased blood supply. This is said to have a positive effect on memory, concentration, and other cognitive abilities.

From an engineering perspective an ergonomic study of body motions found that the repetitive physical movements of Salat can reduce chances of lower back pain and increase flexibilty. Interestingly an inverse relationship was seen between the time spent on each prayer posture and the back compression force affecting the person during that posture

Neuroimaging studies of Muslims whilst praying have demonstrated a decrease in activity in areas associated with depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, and post- traumatic stress disorder. Remarkably, the changes were only seen when the individual performed Prayer with concentration. In automatic/rote Prayer brain imaging showed no change from daily activity!

References

1. https://www.alislam.org/friday-sermon/printer-friendly-summary-2017-09-29.html 29 Sept 2017
2. https://www.alislam.org/friday-sermon/printer-friendly-summary-2017-01-20.html 20 Jan 2017
3. Zakariyya Virk,The Physical Benefits of Salat, Ahmadiyya Gazette, August 1993
4. Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, Malfoozat Vol. 7, pg. 386 https://www.alislam.org/library/malfoozat/efficacy-of-prayers/
5. Khasawneh et al, An ergonomic study of body motions during Muslim prayer using digital human modelling, International Journal of Industrial and Systems Engineering Volume 25, Issue 3
6. Andrew B. Newberg et al, A case series study of the neurophysiological effects of altered states of mind during intense Islamic prayer.Journal of Physiology-Paris Volume 109, Issues 4–6, December 2015, Pages 214-220

Features

A Positive Mindset

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Iffat Mirza, Raynes Park

In his address, at the inspection of this year’s Ahmadiyya Muslim UK Annual Convention, His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the worldwide head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, stated that he only had two pieces of advice to give the volunteers for the success of the event. One had a deeply profound effect on me. It was to ensure that while we served the Convention guests we always had a smile on our face.(1) It seemed too simple. How could we expect the success of an international event, with tens of thousands of expected guests, to be based on our countenance? Surely, there must be something else? However, the reality was that this convention was taking place during the hottest days of 2018, and suddenly it took every effort in me to smile. Why was it suddenly so difficult to smile? It was then that I genuinely forced a smile upon my face and not only did it lift my spirits, it made the heat seem easier to bear. It is truly a piece of advice that has stuck with me since then, and each time I remember these special words, I am encouraged to do better, to go further, and to enjoy whatever it is I am trying to do.

I think sometimes it’s easy for us to forget how beneficial a smile can be. It doesn’t take much for us to smile so we have ceased to give it any importance – that is, if we ever did give it importance. However, if we look at the social and scientific benefits of smiling and keeping a positive attitude, we must ask ourselves, why are we not doing this more often?

Indeed, the Holy Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) stated ‘be mindful of your duty to Allah and do not neglect the smallest good you can do, even if it should be no more than pouring water from your bucket into that of one who is thirsty, or meeting your brother with a smiling face.’(2) Therefore, it is incumbent on every Muslim to spread cheer, which can be done ever so simply, with just a smile. A peaceful and harmonious society starts with a smiling countenance.

Not only does smiling improve our societal relations, there is ample evidence to suggest that smiling improves our physical health. It increases the lifespan because it can increase our pain tolerance, improve our immune system, and keep our stress levels low, which ultimately reduces the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. It can also reduce our chances of developing depression and helps to keep our mental health in check. (3)

Furthermore, multiple studies have proven that keeping a positive mindset has similar effects for the body’s health, as smiling does. According to the Mayo Clinic, an organisation with over 4,500 physicians and scientists, and 58,400 administrative and allied health staff, keeping a positive attitude distances us from many physical and health dangers.(4) However, it is not only beneficial to our physical growth, but also in our maturity and ability to handle difficulties and negative situations. It seems that incorporating positive mindsets into one’s everyday personality actually proves to be valuable when faced with genuine issues. Positive thinking allows us to keep our heads clear and face situations for what they are and therefore find a potential solution. It stops us from acting rashly and only exacerbating the situation. Not only does it teach us the ability to look past a bad situation, but also how to overcome it.

Positive thinking does not mean to close our eyes and refuse the existence of a bad circumstance. It merely means to know that there is a way out of that circumstance. Indeed, His Holiness Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmood Ahmad (may Allah be pleased with him) the son and second successor to the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) has written in his book ‘Way of the Seekers’ that to strengthen the will one must “Generate hope. Be ever hopeful. This also fosters self-respect. Continue to be optimistic. This promotes self-confidence.”(5)

I accept that it is true this is all easier said than done. One cannot wake up one day and banish all negative thoughts forevermore; however it is small changes in our ordinary lives that can make it possible, for example trying to smile more often or adapting our vocabulary to give a more hopeful outlook. Thinking positively isn’t something that you just ‘do’, it’s something that you continue to practice until it becomes a part of you. We need to remember that there is something that we can be sure of: there is no negative aspect to a positive mindset.

 

1 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kqqk4tkkaqs 35:09 – 35:40
2 https://www.alislam.org/library/books/Wisdom-of-Holy-Prophet.pdf page 28
3 https://benefitsbridge.unitedconcordia.com/top-7-health-benefits-smiling/
4 https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/positive-thinking/art-20043950
5 https://www.alislam.org/library/books/Way-of-Seekers.pdf page 104
Islam

Punishment for Apostasy In Islam and How Islam Teaches Tolerance

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Nazma Raichuri Bishop, Hounslow

In 2017, The Independent newspaper reported that there are over 13 countries that declare apostasy punishable by law; all except one of these are Muslim majority countries. This is not a surprising statistic from the view of the populist misguiding media about practices of Islam, but one that could not be further from the truth. The menacing practice of killing apostates (someone who has repudiated their faith) is based neither on the Holy Qur’an nor on the practice of the Holy Prophet of Islam, may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him.

The Holy Qur’an addresses disbelief more than 150 times, yet never gives authority to punish the disbelievers for their disbelief; Islam does not allow any worldly punishment, let alone death, for apostasy. There is no mention of any punishment for an apostate in this world which may be inflicted by human hands, politically or administratively.

The confrontations and disputes between Messengers of God and those who opposed them throughout the history of religion were caused when people rejected the message of the Prophets which they brought from God. The Holy Qur’an mentions this with reference to Abraham, Noah, Moses and Jesus (peace be on them all) and states:

‘He has prescribed for you the religion which He enjoined on Noah, and which We have revealed to thee, and which We enjoined on Abraham and Moses and Jesus, saying, ‘Remain steadfast in obedience, and be not divided therein Hard upon the idolaters is that to which thou callest them. Allah chooses for Himself whom He pleases, and guides to Himself him who turns to Him.’ (42:14)

There have been cases in Islamic history in which someone became an apostate, murdered Muslims and was guilty of armed rebellion. History tells us that the murderer has had to forfeit his life, and the armed rebellion is put down with the use of force. Anyone who took up the sword to kill people (in this case Muslims), was punished with death because of the murder and not because of his repudiation of Islam.

“Admonish, therefore, for thou art but an admonisher; You are not a warden over them.” (Holy Qur’an 88:22-23).

Islam has guaranteed freedom of conscience and freedom of belief, and has announced in the plainest terms that so far as faith is concerned everyone is answerable to Allah alone. The Prophet of Islam, may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, was commanded to proclaim that he had not been appointed a keeper over the people, nor had he been made responsible for them. No one has been made responsible for another’s faith; everyone is responsible for himself.

The punishment for apostasy in Islam lies with the One against whom the offence has been committed, i.e. Allah. In Islam apostasy which is not aggravated by some other crime is not punishable in this world.

The role of a true Muslim today is to spread the message of truth and is by no stretch of the imagination the role of an enforcer. We are entrusted to heal, help, and support the people of the world, and we do it through reasoning and tolerance, we respect others right to reject, and we always counsel with love and patience as guided by the Holy Qur’an and the Holy Prophet, may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him.

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/

Islam

The Islamic Economic System

IslamicFinancialSystem.png

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!