Features · Islam

The Animal Kingdom

animalkingdom.png

Zujaja Khan, London

In His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad’s Friday Sermon on 18 March 2016, he related a story from the childhood of His Holiness Musleh Maud (may Allah be pleased with him), Second Caliph and son of the Promised Messiah (peace be on him). His Holiness Musleh Maud recounted that when he was a young boy, he hunted a parrot and brought this home to his father, who said:

“Mahmood, eating of its flesh is not forbidden but every animal is not for [human] consumption.” The Promised Messiah (peace be on him) explained that some animals are pleasing to look at while others have fine voices which are pleasurable to listen [to]. Thus different animals please different senses and all animals should not be used simply for the sense of taste.i

His Holiness Musleh Maud (may Allah be pleased with him)’s memory of his father’s words left an impression on him, and taught him that all of Allah’s creatures have their own purpose to serve. The treatment of animals and the appreciation of their unique qualities are mentioned many times in the Holy Qur’an, and thus it is our duty as Muslims to ensure we follow these teachings and are kind to all creatures, humans and animals alike. One example of this in the Holy Qur’an is:

“And in your own creation and in that of all the creatures which He scatters in the earth are Signs for a people who possess firm faith.” (45:5)

Discoveries about the capacity of the human body continue to amaze scientists around the world, and prove time and again that Allah’s creations are so intricately and purposefully designed. The same can be said for the boundless information we uncover about animals each day. Only a few weeks ago a study confirmed that honey bees are capable of understanding arithmetic. Now, the benefit or need for this is disputable, but what is clear is that in every new piece of information we discover about animals, the signs of Allah’s omnipotence are irrefutable.

As a young girl, I was equal parts terrified of and fascinated by animals. I watched countless documentaries about dolphins and whales with my parents, scribbling down every little detail that came up so that I could tell my teachers. When I was 10 years old, I wrote a letter to the Canadian Prime Minister to protest the treatment of baby harp seals (this letter, I later discovered, was never posted). At primary school I started a petition to close all zoos in the UK, and asked for donations for a wildlife reserve. And through all of this, I would still run as far from a wandering dog in the park as my legs could carry me (sometimes I’m still tempted).

I don’t know where this love for animals came from, but I always felt a deep connection to the wider world through them. I still can’t quite explain my intense feelings of awe and kinship when I listen to the sounds of whales underwater, or watch polar bear cubs emerge from their snow dens for the first time. We are reminded through the acute adaptations of each animal that Allah’s designs are flawless, and heed our respect. Indeed, was it not a spider’s web that lay across the entrance to the Cave Thaur that protected the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) from being seen by his enemies?

The beauty and breadth of Allah’s creations are a wonderful reminder of the Almighty’s sublime creativity. In the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him)’s own life, he was known to be a champion for the kind treatment of animals. It is related by Abdullah bin Mas‘udra that on a journey with the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him), the group saw two young doves in a nest. The group caught the small doves, but when the mother of the doves returned she was distressed to not find her little ones. The dove flew wildly, and when the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) saw this, he said “If any one of you has caught its young ones he must release them at once to comfort it.”ii

The examples of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) and the teachings of the Holy Qur’an show us that kindness to Allah’s creations should be a steadfast notion in the hearts of Muslims. We live during an age in which climate change and corporate interference has damaged the biodiversity of our planet, and animal safeguards are waning. Species across the world are becoming increasingly vulnerable and even dying out. As Muslims, we should be making an active effort to ensure the vitality of the animal kingdom is maintained and treated with compassion, as said best by the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him): “All the creatures are the children of God and the best among you is he who treats His creatures well.”iii

 

i https://www.alislam.org/friday-sermon/printer-friendly-summary-2016-03-18.html
ii http://www.reviewofreligions.org/13243/a-glimpse-into-the-life-of-the-holy-prophet-muhammadsa-9/
iii https://www.alislam.org/library/question/islam-how-animals-be-treated/

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Holy Quran

Prophet Ibrahim – Ever Inclined to God

Prophet Ibrahim blog

Arfa Yassir, Swindon

History has seen many successful people, from leaders to conquerors of large territories to the ones making ground breaking discoveries and inventions to the ones who have reached out to masses through their intellectual abilities. If we carefully examine their lives we find one thing in common i.e. all of them were focused on their aim. All other aspects of their lives were secondary to their goal. As a person of faith I believe when the focus of a person is God and His Unity then such a person cannot be removed from the pages of history and is bound to impact hearts.

Whenever God’s Unity or Tauhid, as it is called in Arabic, is mentioned, Prophet Ibrahim (on whom be peace) is bound to be mentioned.  Prophet Ibrahim or Abraham is accepted and held in high esteem in Judaism, Christianity and Islam.  The firm belief of a single All-Powerful Creator was engraved on his heart which made him fearless and brave. Even the strongest opposition, tribulation or trial could not shake his resolve. This is the reason why Prophet Ibrahim (on whom be peace) has set such a high standard of sacrifice for God’s cause in the well-known account of his willingness to sacrifice his beloved son for God. The focus of his life was Allah the Exalted!

Though Prophet Ibrahim (on whom be peace) has been mentioned in other Scriptures, the Holy Qur’an being the final and glorious Word of Allah takes the lead by awarding this Prophet of God with a very meaningful attribute. The word ‘hanif’ (حنیف) has been used for Prophet Ibrahim (on whom be peace) in the Holy Qur’an. I found six verses in total wherein Allah mentions this word as an attribute of Prophet Ibrahim (on whom be peace).

Consider the following verses with English translation where the word hanif has been translated as one who is ‘ever inclined to God’:

وَ قَالُوۡا کُوۡنُوۡا ہُوۡدًا اَوۡ نَصٰرٰی تَہۡتَدُوۡا ؕ قُلۡ بَلۡ مِلَّۃَ اِبۡرٰہٖمَ حَنِیۡفًا ؕ وَ مَا کَانَ مِنَ الۡمُشۡرِکِیۡنَ

And they say, ‘Be ye Jews or Christians that you may be rightly guided.’ Say: ‘Nay, follow ye the religion of Abraham who was ever inclined to God; he was not of those who set up gods with God.’ (2:136)

مَا کَانَ اِبۡرٰہِیۡمُ یَہُوۡدِیًّا وَّ لَا نَصۡرَانِیًّا وَّ لٰکِنۡ کَانَ حَنِیۡفًا مُّسۡلِمًا ؕ وَ مَا کَانَ مِنَ الۡمُشۡرِکِیۡنَ

Abraham was neither a Jew nor a Christian, but he was ever inclined to God and obedient to Him, and he was not of those who associate gods with God. (3:68)

قُلۡ صَدَقَ اللّٰہُ ۟ فَاتَّبِعُوۡا مِلَّۃَ اِبۡرٰہِیۡمَ حَنِیۡفًا ؕ وَ مَا کَانَ مِنَ الۡمُشۡرِکِیۡنَ

Say, ‘Allah has spoken the truth: follow, therefore, the religion of Abraham, who was ever inclined to God; and he was not of those who associate gods with God. (3:96)

As every word of the Holy Qur’an is significant and as His Holiness Mirza Bashir-ud-din Mahmood Ahmad, second Caliph of the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) emphasized that we must ponder over words and their sequence also, that is why a specific word is used instead of another word. When I started exploring the word hanif I found out for myself that the life of Prophet Ibrahim (on whom be peace) was indeed a living example of this attribute referred to him. The way he was ready to be thrown into fire or leave his hometown and his father but not let go of his faith in the Oneness of God tells us why he actually was ever inclined to God.

The word hanif can also means upright, one with pure faith, the focused. A Quranic dictionary[i] gives the following meanings for the Arabic root word for hanif:

“One on the right path; one who adheres firmly to Islam; one who is of religion of Abraham; who believes in One God; one inclining to or having a right state or tendency; one who turns or inclines from error to guidance”

This word hanif is also included in the niyyah, a brief Quranic prayer which Muslims say before offering Salat (Holy Quran 6:80) and it is interesting to note that this verse is also a statement of Prophet Ibrahim (on whom be peace).

So the word hanif refers to one who gets rid of other distractions and sticks steadfastly to one well-chosen direction. That is what Allah demands from us when He asks us to be one of the followers of Prophet Ibrahim (on whom be peace). At this point we must question ourselves that when life presents us with fire, as it did Prophet Ibrahim (Holy Qur’an 21:69), wherein we have to throw our soul and  let go of our desires; do we have a faith strong enough to make us fall into it fearlessly? What is our focus in life? Is our focus this world? Or are we striving for Divine love? Are we ready to prove ourselves in tough situations that all we need is God’s love? This is only possible when the fire of Allah’s love being kindled within the heart is stronger than fires of worldly ambitions! Let’s fall into the fire of God’s love like Prophet Ibrahim (on whom be peace) did and see how it turns into flowers!

 

 

[i] Dictionary of The Holy Qur’an By: Malik Ghulam Farid M.A. (2009) page 206

Features · Science

Climate Change and Responsibility

Climate Change.png

Bareya Khan, Thornton Heath

Climate change is an ever-growing threat with its effects more visible than ever in the current world. 2018 was ranked the fourth warmest year on record, and the past five years have been the five warmest years since scientists started keeping record in the late-1880s. We don’t even have to look at icebergs, sea levels and corals, because we can see the effects of climate change where we are right now. The seasons don’t stay in their lanes anymore, the air is getting thicker day by day, and the stars barely make an appearance in the city skies at night.

Climate change isn’t just a threat to ourselves, but is a threat to the other creations of God that we live with. Plants and animals suffer too, and whilst these have direct effects on us, the damage done to plants and the pain endured by animals is in itself simply unacceptable. In Islam, animals must be treated with respect and compassion. Allah tells us in the Holy Qur’an [6:39] that “There is not an animal that crawls in the earth, nor a bird that flies on its two wings, but they are communities like you.” As illustrated by this, we are most certainly required to work towards their betterment. We must treat them as our fellow communities since it is solely because of human activity that they are suffering.

The 5th Caliph of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad, has also raised his concerns about climate change, specifically the effect climate change has on food and water security in the world. The damage being done by humans to Allah’s creations (including ourselves) is one which will soon become near irreversible if we do not do something quickly. Something meaning every step we can take to limit carbon emissions; recycling, reusing, and purchasing environmentally friendly products. And us meaning every single person in this world who has the means to cut down and turn to more sustainable alternatives. That includes you, the person reading this – you, as well as everyone else; we all have a moral responsibility to take care of the world that we live in, and tackle climate change together.

But the question that poses is, why? There are many people who are choosing to ignore climate change, who are neither doing anything to alleviate it or prepare for its effects. And this could be anyone. However, as a Muslim my religion demands otherwise.

Allah makes it very clear in the Holy Qur’an [33:73] that He has made us stewards on this earth to care and protect it. “Verily we offered the Trust to the heavens and the earth and the mountains, but they refused to bear it and were afraid of it. But the man bore it.” So far, as we can see through the devastating effects of climate change, humans have not been very successful at adhering to this Quranic verse, and we have not honoured the “Trust” that Allah has bestowed upon us to the best of our ability.

Allah foretells in the Holy Qur’an [30.42], “Corruption has appeared on land and sea because of what men’s hands have wrought, that He may make them taste the fruit of some of their doings, so that they may turn back from evil.” Through this verse we can see that, unless we find a balance once again, and undo the “corruption” we have caused, we will have to bear the consequences. In this case, those consequences are the devastatingly dangerous effects of climate change. Allah has warned us and we can see the consequences, so now we must change, for the preservation of future generations.

The effects of climate change are getting worse every day, and the responsibility that we have, as people who live on this earth, will get tougher. We have been bestowed with a great duty and it is our job to carry it out the best we can. May Allah enable us to do so. Ameen.

References
https://www.worldwildlife.org/stories/2018-was-the-fourth-hottest-year-on-record

https://www.unenvironment.org/news-and-stories/story/how-islam-can-represent-model-environmental-stewardship

https://greenfitree.wordpress.com/2013/06/17/10-quran-verses-on-the-environment-and-do-able-action-plans/
https://www.alislam.org/library/press-release/muslim-leader-warns-of-devastating-consequences-of-nuclear-war/

https://www.alislam.org/quran/

Features

The Musleh Maud Prophecy Fulfilled

Prophecy of the Promised Reformer Fulfilled Blog

By Navida Sayed, Hounslow

After spending forty days in chilla (spiritual retreat in solitude) on 20 February 1886, the Promised Messiah (peace be on him) received a divine revelation of a grand prophecy informing him that an illustrious son would be born to him. This prophecy was fulfilled, on 12 January 1889, when Mirza Bashir-ud-Din Mahmood Ahmad was born. This prophecy came to be known as the prophecy of ‘Musleh Maud’, meaning the ‘Promised Reformer’ extraordinarily pious, righteous son and the Promised Reformer.

Throughout his life Hazrat Mirza Bashir-ud-Din Mahmood Ahmad demonstrated great wisdom, courage, piety and remarkable leadership skills. His Khilafat testifies countless achievements and efforts he made to spread the true and peaceful message of Islam around the world.

The Promised Reformer or Musleh Maud Day commemorated on 20 February each year by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community marks a day when Ahmadi Muslims around the globe, do not commemorate a birthday but instead celebrate the fulfilment of the grand prophecy and achievements of Hazrat Mirza Bashir-ud-din Mahmood Ahmad (may Allah be pleased with him). In 1914 the ‘Promised Son’ was elected as the Second Khalifa of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and his period of spiritual leadership lasted for more than 52 years as the second successor to the Promised Messiah (peace be on him). This day is also celebrated in order to inspire, motivate and empower members of the community by remembering the towering efforts of Hazrat Mirza Bashir-ud-din Mahmood Ahmad (may Allah be pleased with him). He strove hard to maintain the aim of guiding individuals to self-reform and propagate the message of Islam.

Expounding on the works of the Promised Messiah (peace be on him) the second Khalifa provided the world with a magnificent source of true Islamic interpretation through his outstanding commentaries of the Holy Qur’an.

These commentaries have proved to be an invaluable source in this day and age when extremism is at its peak resulting in waves of suicide attacks wrongly in the name of Islam. The commentaries were written in light of the Promised Messiah (peace be on him) who recognised a dangerous trend that was entirely contrary to the teachings of the Holy Qur’an more than 100 years ago. The Qur’anic commentaries by the second Khalifa are a guiding light for the youth and Muslims of today saving them from the pitfall of possible radicalisation. Instead Ahmadi Muslims try to educate the world to show how a number of today’s Islamic scholars completely misunderstand the concept of Jihad and misrepresent it to

the general public, and that this type of Jihad is not of the Divine religious Law (Islamic Shari‘ah) instead it is a grievous sin and a violation of the clear instructions of God and His Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him).

Furthermore the comprehensive Qur’anic commentaries of the Holy Qur’an by the second Khalifa and his spiritual guidance outline golden principles for the establishment of world peace. In turn regardless of theological differences, as Ahmadi Muslims we are guided to promote unity and cohesion by having respect for all religions, their founders and their scriptures. As a result understanding the true underlying, beautiful teachings of Islam enables building bridges through mutual respect and understanding between the followers of all faiths.

As a worldwide spiritual leader and guide he worked tirelessly to extol mutual understanding, peace, love and tolerance as the foundations of Islamic teachings not only in the wider society but also within the community. The second Khalifa dealt with all family, societal, political and global matters comprehensively in his Qur’anic commentaries in relation to human rights, women’s rights, matrimonial relationships, rights of children and parents, rights of neighbours and individuals in society.

The second Khalifa took this a step further in a practical way by organising the Community into auxiliary departments. Men, women and children were to have their own association – Majlis Ansarullah for the elder male members, Lajna Ima’illah for the women, Majlis Khuddam-ul Ahmadiyya for the male youth members and Majlis Atfal-ul Ahmadiyya and Nasirat-ul Ahmadiyya for younger boys and girls. These bodies were not set up to divide the community rather to motivate, empower and instil life skills in individuals. These auxiliary departments of the Community can now be witnessed in all continents of the world and probably constitute the largest voluntary organisation in the world. Muslim girls and women excel higher in education and leadership roles in the Community and the wider society working side by side along their male counterparts. Yet the women enjoy their own equal mosque space and freedom to participate in their own auxiliary organisation without any interference or interruption from the men. The world can witness the members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community especially the youth, promoting peace, cleaning the streets, engaging in charitable work, feeding the homeless, donating blood, reaching out to areas stricken by natural disasters.

In his Friday Sermon of February 18 2011 Hazrat Khalifatul Masih V reminded us of our responsibilities in this regard. It is our task to try and be ‘Musleh’ in our own spheres and spread Islam with our knowledge, our word and our deed. We should pay attention towards reformation of the self, reformation of our children and reformation of society. If we spend our lives with this consideration, we will be honouring the dues of Musleh Maud Day, otherwise ours will be hollow speeches. May God enable us to do so.

Features · Holy Quran

Explaining the Inexplicable: Science, Faith and Miraculous Events

Explaining the Inexplicable.png

Nabila Khalid, Bolton

I have come across atheists that fall into 2 categories –

– Those that dismiss miracles as fictitious fairy tales because they believe they go against the laws of nature.
– Those that are aware that the miracles referred to in religious scriptures can be proved through science and mathematics and can therefore not be classed as miracles at all.

I remember at the end of one of my lectures whilst studying Biomedical Sciences, the professor raving on about Richard Dawkins and how amazing his work is. How he proves that in a world of science – God is not only unnecessary but a delusion of the believers.

Am I the only one who is totally amazed by people who come to the conclusion that, because science can explain everything, it proves that there is no God? I wonder if my professor was aware that Dawkins himself stated “One can’t prove that God doesn’t exist.”

Naturally one must look at the definition of miracles – there are so many variations and interpretations. The Oxford Living Dictionaries defines a miracle as:

1. An extraordinary and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore attributed to a divine agency.
1.1 A remarkable event or development that brings very welcome consequences.

Ahmadi Muslims do not believe in the 1st definition. As His Holiness Mirza Tahir Ahmad (may Allah have mercy on him), the fouth Khalifa/Caliph of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community explains:

“Miracles are not seen in Islam as unnatural occurrences, but as natural phenomena that are concealed from human knowledge at that period of time. Otherwise, there would be many questions raised against the wisdom of God. If God created the laws of nature Himself, He should have made some provisions whereby without breaking them, He could bring about desired solutions to a problem.”

We can all agree that the human knowledge of the laws of nature is incomplete, if it was complete we would not be making new scientific discoveries all the time. It is due to this lack of knowledge that miracles such as those that occurred in the lifetime of Prophet Moses (peace be on him) as believed by not only Muslims but also Jews and Christians were ruled out by many as fictitious stories (some even go to the extreme that they deny Israelites ever lived in Egypt.) But both scientific and archaeological evidence is continuously emerging that give testament to the reality of the stories found in the scriptures.

“Then We sent upon them the storm and the locusts, and the lice, and the frogs, and the blood — clear Signs; but they behaved proudly and were a sinful people.” [Holy Qur’an 7:134]

This verse refers to the 10 plagues mentioned in the Bible (Exod. Chaps. 7-11) All of these can be explained scientifically. If we look at the sign of the blood which is referring to the water turning red when Moses (peace be on him) struck the river Nile with his staff, this can be explained by a phenomenon known as “red tide” in oceans which is when it suddenly appears red in colour due to a sudden red algae bloom. Red algae can be found in freshwater ecosystems and can be harmful to wildlife.

“Then We revealed to Moses, saying, ‘Strike the sea with thy rod.’ Thereupon it parted, and every part looked like a huge mountain. And We let others approach that place.
And We saved Moses and those who were with him. Then We drowned the others.” [Holy Qur’an 26: 64-67]

The splitting of the sea is another example of a miracle that has scientific explanations to it. Russian researchers have calculated that if there were strong winds of 67miles per hour overnight, in the time of Moses when the Red Sea would have been much shallower, it could have exposed the seabed. A Russian mathematician admits that there was still some miraculous intervention occurring adding “I am convinced that God rules the Earth through the laws of physics.”
It is evident from both the Biblical account of the event as well as the Quranic account that when Moses and his followers reached the sea, it was time for the ebb-tide and the sea was receding, leaving a dry bed. Following the command of God, Moses and his people crossed it quickly. There is evidence that the part of the sea they crossed was only 2/3-mile-wide so the Israelites would have made it across during the low tide. When Pharaoh’s people reached they did not notice that it was almost time for high tide again. It appeared that Pharaoh’s people were heavily equipped with big chariots and heavy weapons, slowing them down so that they were still in the middle of the sea when high tide returned and drowned them all.

What is important to notice in these incidents is timing. Is it nothing short of a miracle that at the exact time when Pharaoh demanded a Divine sign from God, the river turned red? When the escaping Israelites were blocked by the sea and nearly over taken by Pharaoh and his men and facing death started to lose hope – God instructed Moses to strike the sea with his rod. Is it nothing short of a Miracle or Divine intervention that it was the exact time when the water started to recede?

“In this, verily, there is a Sign; but most of these would not believe. And surely thy Lord — He is the Mighty, the Merciful.” (Holy Qur’an 26:68-69)

 

References:

i. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2018/03/14/im-not-afraid-what-stephen-hawking-said-about-god-his-atheism-and-his-own-death/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.02894d66b306

ii. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miracle

iii. https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/miracle

iv. https://www.alislam.org/library/books/christianity_facts_to_fiction/chapter_1.html#pgfId-1006068

v. https://www.alislam.org/quran/tafseer/?page=1646&region=E1&CR=E3%2CE2

vi. https://www.livescience.com/58638-science-of-the-10-plagues.html

vii. https://www.express.co.uk/news/science/759762/red-sea-moses-parted-bible-ancient-egypt

Exod. 14:21-28
Enc. Bib., col. 1437

Holy Quran · Islam

The Perfect Authority

The Perfect Authority Blog

Nooresahar Ahmad, Hartlepool

In a recent RE class we studied the authority of the Bible in Christianity. The Bible is undoubtedly a most interesting text; at 5 billion copies sold it is the bestselling book in the world1 and holds a lot of fascinating information and wisdom as well as songs, poetry and historical accounts. Yet, it did come as a shock to me that the Bible has in fact been mistranslated and edited over the years; to the point where there are errors and contradictions found within the book.

Perhaps this surprise was naïve of me. After all, I am used to the Holy Qur’an; a text which was revealed around 1400 years ago and remains as intact as if it had been revealed yesterday. A text which came to the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) through the angel Gabriel, from God Himself. A text which states, “Verily, We Ourselves have sent down this Exhortation, and most surely We will be its Guardian.” (Al-Hijr, 15:10).

The gradual corrosion of the Biblical text seems inevitable, when we think of how long ago it was first written, and the amount of translations required to provide copies in over 2000 languages. This prompted me to wonder- what were the means by which the Qur’an has remained so perfect, and completely avoided corruption?

Well, as it turns out, through a number of interesting methods: 2

  • The revelation of the Holy Qur’an to the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) took place over a period of 23 years, and was revealed in small segments by the Angel Gabriel. He then required the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) to recite the revealed verses in his presence to assure they had been heard and memorised correctly.
  • Upon receiving the revelation, Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) appointed four teachers, who he personally instructed in the memorisation of these revelations, thus ensuring the message was preserved- right down to the accuracy of the pronunciation.
  • Furthermore, the verses would promptly be read in Salat after their revelation. In this way, the main method of safeguarding the Quranic verses was via memorisation. By the time of the Holy Prophet’s (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) demise, there were over 100,000 Muslims and the memorising of the Holy Qur’an had become easy. [i]
  • On top of this, the verses were also recorded in written form; fifteen scribes were instructed by the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) to preserve the revelations in writing, to serve as a backup.
  • During the revelation of the Qur’an, each Ramadan, the Angel Gabriel would recite all of the verses which had been revealed up to that point to the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him)- and after the revelations completion, the angel recited the entire Qur’an to the Prophet twice. This served to arrange the revelations in their present order.
  • After the Holy Prophet’s (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) passing away, Hazrat Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) – the first Caliph of Islam- appointed a commission (largely consisting of the scribes previously employed by the Prophet) with the assignment of compiling the Quranic revelations into a single volume. The accuracy was checked by those Companions who had committed the whole Qur’an to memory. This was completed within two years of the Prophet’s (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) passing.
  • The third Caliph of Islam, Hazrat Uthman (may Allah be pleased with him), had the same group compile seven more copies which were checked for accuracy and distributed through the Muslim world. Those that were preserved have been used to check the accuracy of the current text.

And so, the authenticity, preciseness and preservation of the Holy Qur’an is something that has been greatly studied and accepted without a shadow of doubt. In a world of constant changes, shifts and development, there is something inherently comforting in always having an unchangeable constant to turn to for guidance; much like the One Whose Word it is.

1 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_best-selling_books

2 https://www.alislam.org/library/articles/quran-history-of-text/

[i] https://www.alislam.org/quran/tafseer/?page=-54&region=E1

 

Islam · Women

Evolution of Feminism in Relation to Islam

Evolution of Feminism in Relation to Islam.png

Wajeeha Rana, Slough

Feminism has become a widely circulated term in today’s media; it is a word loaded with meaning, yet difficult to define due to the emergence of several different branches of its kind. However, central to this movement is its purpose to advocate “equality of the sexes and the establishment of the political, social, and economic rights of the female sex” (1). Feminism has seen its evolution from roughly the 19th century to the present day, from its first-wave to its third. The question I raise is- how many more “waves” will be needed before women can truly be reassured that they have achieved equality? This further leads me to question what “equality” truly means. It would be far too naïve to assume that equality means “sameness”, because where men and women have equally multifaceted talents, they are by no means the same in their nature or their physicality. As an Ahmadi Muslim woman, I believe that for me this is where Islam comes in, because its principles work to consolidate these differences in the most dignified manner.

The rights of women outlined more than 1,400 years ago in the Holy Qur’an seem to me far more conducive to the feminist struggle for equality, than a model that continues to evolve to unsatisfactory effect. In actuality, it is with the advent of Islam that the issue of women’s rights was first raised, at a time when women were likened to slaves and in no position to campaign for themselves. If being a feminist simply means to support other women, then there can be no greater service to womankind than what the Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) carried out. He has said, “It is the duty of every Muslim man and every Muslim woman to acquire knowledge” (2), which shows that education is a fundamental right regardless of one’s gender. Regarding the economic security of women, in the Holy Qur’an it says “…Men shall have a share of that which they have earned, and women a share of that which they have earned…” (4:33) (3), and so it is very clear that women are free to regulate their own wealth and earnings. In Britain, it was not until the 19th century that women could be awarded degrees, vote equally to men or inherit property, yet all these rights and many more were part of Islam’s core teachings hundreds of years before.

With the politicising of the feminist movement, the question of women’s rights has also brought the hijab and Muslim women’s dress into this sphere. Instead of choosing to embrace immodesty to feel liberated as is often seen on social media, I make a different choice. I embrace modesty because Islam removes the pressure on women to adhere to impossible standards of outward beauty and focuses on a woman’s intellect as her biggest asset in society. In the Holy Qur’an it says: “…whoso does good works, whether male or female, and is a believer, such shall enter heaven, and shall not be wronged…” (4:125). I feel empowered knowing that my spirituality and morality being most important to me, is equally weighted to that of any man in the eyes of God.

Whether we tentatively support feminism or champion it enthusiastically, it is safe to assume that regardless of one’s gender, beliefs or other affiliations, we would all like to live in a world in which women, as integral members of our society, consider themselves to be respected. In one Friday Sermon, His Holiness Khalifatul Masih V (may Allah be his Helper) emphasised that “Muslims are those who are taking their countries to real higher levels of developments” (4) and in acknowledging women’s rights as Islam has done, a valuable contribution is made to that development. I argue that the rights of women presented in the Holy Qur’an 1,400 years ago require no amendment or evolution. This model is not regressive but rather quite the opposite; it is so far ahead of its time that our society has not yet caught up, and for those societies who claim to be based on Islamic principles and still oppress women, they must be called to urgently re-evaluate themselves.

Sources (for further information)
(1) Oxford English Dictionary, http://www.oed.com
(2) ‘Chapter 2: Women’s Issues’, in Pathway to Paradise A Guidebook to Islam
(3) The Holy Qur’an, English translation by Maulawi Sher Ali (ra)
(4) Friday Sermon, Striving for Moral Excellence: The Islamic Teachings (13th January 2017)

Education · Hijab · Islam · Women

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

educational potential of hijab (1)

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.

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