Muslim Women and Their Identity

Identity Muslim Woman Blog

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Identity As A Muslim Woman

Identity Muslim Woman 2 Perspectives

                                                      Aneela Mahmood, London

Freedom is the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants. Then why today do I receive sympathetic stares or judgmental glares when I walk out with my head and body covered? Why must freedom be defined by how little one wears and oppression be judged against how much one wears? In the name of freedom, women are pressured into wearing little to no clothes- because how little you wear defines how free you are. These are nothing but sexist ideologies conformed by misogynists to benefit their own desires. I, as a Muslim woman can proudly say that I have not allowed myself to become victimised by these misogynistic views on what defines a free and liberal woman. To me a free woman, is one who doesn’t allow others to dictate her freedom; one who doesn’t allow herself to feel undermined by pejorative views of those around her; and one who strives to amplify her own peace rather than seeking to advance that of others. Hence, I can proudly define myself as a free Muslim woman.

My identity as a Muslim woman may be questioned and mocked. However, nothing can change what I as Muslim woman harbour within me. Protection of my chastity, dignity and honour through the perseverance of my hijab and humble demeanour is what defines me.

The devotion to seek and discover my happiness through prayer is what defines me. The desire to please Allah above all others, is what defines me.

Thus, whilst the so-called ‘progressive’ women of the developed world desperately endeavour for acceptance in the contemporary society, I as a Muslim woman, primarily strive for the acceptance of Allah Almighty; and that is what defines me.

 

                                                          Bareya Khan, Thornton Heath

A Muslim woman is not only a blessing for herself but for the entire world. The birth of a young Muslim girl allows her parents to open the doors of paradise unto themselves. The marriage of a Muslim woman allows her and her spouse to have completed half of their faith and the role of a Muslim mother allows her children to find paradise under her feet. Thus the identity of a Muslim woman is that of a blessing. Her identity is in what she is able to give to the world through her being; to her parents, to her life partner and to her future generation as well as herself. She grows in all aspects of life and every aspect of her speaks for her faith and her love of God. She uses her lips for truth rather than lies. She uses her voice to spread kindness rather than hate. She uses her ears to listen rather than to ignore. She uses her hands for charity rather than for spreading hurt. She uses her faith for prayers rather than to curse. That is the identity of a Muslim woman.

As a Muslim woman, I’ve been liberated from a silent form of subjection. My value is not determined by my looks and my natural beauty, but my worth is determined by what I aspire to offer to this world on a much higher scale; a scale of righteousness, a scale of piety. I don’t need society’s standards of what is beautiful to define my worth and my identity. My worth and my salvation lies not in this world, but the Creator of this world.

I am honoured, and I stand strong as ever, because I am a Muslim woman. I do not adorn myself with diamonds and pearls, but with the values of a Muslimah, a believing woman. Patience. Compassion. Strength. Righteousness. Tolerance. Modesty. Humility. Honesty. Love. These are my values, and this is my identity. I am proud to be a Muslim woman.

 

 

 

 

‘Daily Routine to Seek Divine Forgiveness’

daily routine to seek...

Rabia Salim, Manchester

In Islam the topic of asking for daily forgiveness is a vast one.  Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Promised Messiah, (peace be upon him) stated the purpose of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community as a revival of Islam, and said: “Rather, a community is worthy of being called a true community when it puts the reality of Bai’it in practice.”  Bai’it is the pledge of allegiance that Ahmadi Muslims take when they enter the Ahmadi Muslim Community, and they aspire to live by it.

Our daily routine to ask for forgiveness is one of the practices of our faith.  The third condition of Bai’it gives an Ahmadi Muslim the reminder to ask for forgiveness.  This condition is “That he/she shall regularly offer the five daily Prayers in accordance with the commandments of God and the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa) and shall try his/her best to be regular in offering the tahajjud and invoking durud on the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa). That he/she shall make it his/her daily routine to ask forgiveness for his/her sins, to remember the bounties of God and to praise and glorify Him.”

Namely, where it says “that he/she shall make it his/her daily routine to ask forgiveness for his/her sins”, is the prescription for a Muslim to make asking forgiveness of God a daily part of life.  In Arabic seeking forgiveness of God is called istighfar.  Literally, this is a concept taught to us by the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of God be upon him) and it is very crucial to all Muslims.  The fact that it is in one of conditions of Bai’it is a reminder to Ahmadi Muslims to include it into our daily routine.  Personally I find it therapeutic to recite istighfar in the morning.  In the evening, I find it useful to think of areas in the day that could be improved.

What’s noteworthy here is that the formal five daily Prayers have also been mentioned in this Bai’it Condition, the special pre-dawn prayer called ‘Tahajjud’ and the recitation of invoking salutations and blessings on the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings be on him) called ‘durud’.

I think the daily Prayers are also related to the topic of seeking forgiveness of Allah because the five daily Prayers are a disciplined, mindful and regular practice that keeps us tapped into the spiritual realm and the Almighty.  They give the worshipper an opportunity to bow down and ask sincere forgiveness for any wrongful acts.  They have been likened to washing yourself in clean water five times a day.  This reminds me of the Christian practice of baptism, which ‘washes away’ a person’s sins.

Tahajjud, or pre-dawn prayer, also allows us to ask for Divine forgiveness in perhaps a unique way.  The Promised Messiah (peace be on him) says one of the effects of offering this Prayer is it provides protection from commiting sin which,  is an added step to ward off sin.   Indeed, if everyday we repeated the same mistakes, without an effort to improve, it would be pointless.  When one starts offering Tahajjud, Allah grants one the yearning to get up, and in the quiet of pre-dawn, the prayers take on a different colour and give a worshipper increased spiritual strength to act mindfully in the upcoming day.

Of course durud is next, and it brings down Divine Grace in the form of light that lights up the supplicator, also warding off sin, because the more light exists in a person, the less room there is for dark, sinful acts.

Now, specifically for istighfar.  This supplication is two fold.  For a believer it is a prayer that asks God to pardon sins “I seek forgiveness of Allah”.  This prayer also protects the believer from future sins because it strengthens the love of God in our hearts, and it helps to ward off sins that arise within us in our private thoughts.  Eventually, a believer will be immersed in the love of God through istighfar.  It is also a spiritual exercise, like a physical exercise such as planks will strengthen someone physically, this prayer strengthens one spiritually.  Amazingly, it is an antidote against the poison of sin as our remedial side kicks in when the poisonous side tries to take over.  The current head of the Ahmadiyya Community, Mirza Masroor Ahmad (may Allah be his Helper) has said in his Friday Sermon of December 29th 2017, “man is weak and without the blessings of Allah can never become pure. Until man receives the help and succour of Allah he or she cannot progress in piety.”

It might seem like these things are understood by all Ahmadi Muslims but in practice, in our busy lives, it doesn’t always come to mind.  In fact reading the Bai’it Conditions often is crucial to remind us of our code of conduct.

In short, there are many tools given to us to achieve the different grades in nearness of God.  Indeed we have the opportunity between the five daily Prayers to keep communicating with God and ask for His forgiveness with the tools of Tahajjud and istighfar.  We have to ask God for forgiveness in order to stay near to Him.  A mother and her child go through cycles of displeasure and benevolence also, and in an ideal relationship, the mother forgives the child when the child shows remorse too. It is hoped that asking for God’s forgiveness gives us the status of His nearness.

Faith And World – A Balancing Act?

Zujajablog

Zujaja Khan, London

 

On Friday 8 December 2017, His Holiness Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih V, threw light on the impact of materialism on one’s relationship with Allah the Almighty. His Holiness spoke in detail about the meaning of Arabic term shahwat, an intense desire or yearning for something and a constant worry regarding it. It also denotes a thing or a goal, which is merely based on selfish desires. For example, His Holiness spoke about the wrongful prioritisation of wealth and power within governments, and how this has catalysed a culture of corruption within political regimes.

In this sermon on materialistic societies, His Holiness touched upon the subject of youth. He  relayed  guidance from the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace), who had emphasised the importance of using one’s youth as an opportunity to address one’s materialistic nature. As young people, we often find ourselves inundated by pressures to be successful as soon as possible, to make as much money as we can, to race through life climbing social ladders ahead of others. However, this kind of competitive attitude is diametrically opposed to the guidance given in the Holy Qur’an, and the teachings given by the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings be on him).

Our faith Islam recognises the Day of Judgment, and the fleetingness of this world. Therefore, it is our duty to prepare ourselves for the afterlife. It is related that the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings be on him) said: “you should live in the world as if you are a visitor or a passer-by.”[1] This is corroborated by the verse in the Holy Qur’an that His Holiness quoted in his aforementioned Friday sermon:

‘Know that the life of this world is only a sport and a pastime, and an adornment, and a source of boasting among yourselves, and of rivalry in multiplying riches and children. This life is like the rain the vegetation produced whereby rejoices the tillers. Then it dries up and thou seest it turn yellow; then it becomes broken pieces of straw. And in the Hereafter there is severe punishment, and also forgiveness from Allah, and His pleasure. And the life of this world is nothing but temporary enjoyment of deceitful things.’ (57:21).

Thus, it is definitively clear through this guidance that no material objectives should come before the remembrance of Allah.

Sermons of His Holiness are excellent sources of wisdom, and as always, I was struck by the timeliness of his words. Not only do they speak to the current political climate in the world, but they also resonated with my personal life. I admit I am very much a perfectionist (and not in a good way). Over the past few weeks, I know I have been guilty of investing too much of my life in my work: focussing too intensely on excelling at my job and stressing when the smallest thing goes wrong.

In his book ‘Islam’s Response to Contemporary Issues’, Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih IV touched upon the features of a materialistic society, noting that “[Islam] advocates an ideology which declares that life on this earth is not the be-all and end-all of things but that there is a life to come hereafter.” However, if one obsesses over material objectives in this life, then surely this would mean that they have lost sight of the temporary nature of this world.

Rather than indulging in my worries, my priority should always be my service to Allah the Almighty- no objective can be successful, no real contentment can be achieved, without the will of Allah. Striving for success cannot come before striving for Allah’s blessings. It is at this crucial stage in our lives that we young people should do our utmost to address our negative behaviour, and improve our relationship with Allah.

InshaAllah with His Holiness’s guidance, we young Ahmadi Muslims should treat our youth as a treasure, cultivating the best means of spirituality we can with Allah to ensure lifelong fulfilment. May we all strive to follow the guidance given to us by Allah in the Holy Qur’an, teachings of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings be on him) and what the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) told us which His Holiness constantly reminds us of. Ameen.

 

 

[1] Words of Wisdom: Sayings and Traditions of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, Dr Karimullah Zirvi, Majeed A. Mian, Syed Sajid Ahmad (Majlis Ansarullah: Maryland), 2000, p. 252.

 

The New Year—an Opportunity to Mould a New and Reformed Self

New Year Picture (1)

Basira Ajmal, Bournemouth

Once again, a New Year is just around the corner—a time when words like resolution, goals, change, plan etc. echo the planet Earth. A new year marks the time when our beloved home planet has travelled one whole orbit around the Sun. But what’s so special and ‘NEW’ in it for us—the ones inhabiting the Earth? Does something new per se happens in our life? Not really, but what we do get is a chance, a plausibility and above all, a motivation to try and achieve a new, better and reformed version of ourselves. It gives us a break in the continuous routine of life running on autopilot.

Surprisingly, it’s a time when a huge section of the society consciously engages in pondering over their lives in a fashion that they usually don’t. They set themselves resolutions. They take vows to ameliorate themselves, to make positive amendments and improvements. Everyone makes a different and distinctive set of goals, however, while reading through many peoples’ resolutions posted on social media every New Year, I notice that the one thing common among all these plans and resolutions is their key objective and target which is to achieve more happiness, more meaningfulness and more satisfaction in life whether it is through an improved physique, a better job, better grades, voluntary work etc.

Science tells us satisfaction and gratification is closely connected to religion and spirituality. Scientists have repeatedly demonstrated through their research and investigation that those with a spiritual practice or who follow religious beliefs tend to be happier than those who don’t. Study after study has found that religious people tend to be less depressed and less anxious than non-believers. A 2015 survey found that participating in a religious organization was the only social activity associated with sustained happiness—even more than volunteering for a charity. It’s as if a sense of spirituality and an active, social religious practice were an effective vaccine against the virus of unhappiness.[i] Thus religious people have higher level of life satisfaction but more interestingly a study also says that simply having a religious identity without any spirituality will not make one feel more meaningful or satisfied.[ii]

So the question arises how do we enhance or get a deeper sense of spirituality? What are the spiritual standards that we need to strive for and against which we need to evaluate ourselves? Fortunately, having accepted Imam of the age, the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) and as followers of true Islam the answer for us Ahmadi Muslims is quite easy to find. Shedding light to this matter and guiding us on how to enhance our spirituality, His Holiness, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, says that we Ahmadis are very fortunate that Allah has given us the instruction of the following of the Promised Messiah (peace be on Him) who presented to us the summary of the teachings of Allah and His Prophet (peace be Upon Him) and also showed us the high standards to evaluate our deeds and spiritualty. If this standard is kept in assessment then we can surely achieve the standards of true believers. These are the conditions to rightly judge your standards of good deeds. Every Ahmadi undertook the Bai’at and thus through this the Promised Messiah (peace be on Him) gave us the instructions to follow and thus also expected from every Ahmadi to self-evaluate themselves every day, every week, every month and every year. Thus, if we spend the last night of the previous year and the new day of the New Year pondering over our spiritual conditions and by spending time supplicating towards Allah then we will be the ones who will be working towards a good life hereafter. And if we also indulge in worldly wishes and affairs, then we will lose a lot and gain nothing. If the weaknesses still prevail and the self-evaluation does not give us peace then we should pray to Allah that the coming year may not be the one that would show us a reduction in spiritual enhancement. [iii]

Therefore being Ahmadi Muslims, our standard of spirituality is fully clarified in the ten conditions of Bai’at. In order to gain true happiness and contentment in this life and the hereafter, we need to act in accordance to these conditions which we have pledged to obey. If we look into these conditions, they tell us nothing but to restrain ourselves from all kind of evils; idolatry, falsehood, fornication, adultery, cruelty, dishonesty, mischief etc., and practice virtue; humbleness, cheerfulness, forbearance, benefiting mankind, patience, tolerance etc. They tell us to fulfil rights of God Almighty and His Creation, to supplicate towards Allah alone and be always grateful and faithful to Him. Thus, we need to assess and analyze our past year against these standards and as Muslims, our resolution and goal for the New Year should be to elevate our levels of spirituality to the ones told to us by the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) so that we can have a life full of true satisfaction and gratification.

 

 

[i] http://time.com/4856978/spirituality-religion-happiness/

[ii] http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/american-spirituality-survey-life-satisfaction_us_59fcd75be4b0baea2631c34e

[iii] https://www.alislam.org/friday-sermon/2016-12-30.html

 

Celebrating the Messiah

sameen blog pic

Sameen R Chaudhary, London

The month of December, cold and dark as it is, for many is a celebration of light over darkness. For them it is a time to be with family and friends, worship, giving, joy and singing, embracing and focusing on the good. For Christians in many parts of the world, December brings with it the celebration of the birth of the Messiah, even though it has been established that the actual birth of Jesus did not take place in December at all. Indeed it was a birth that was miraculous, and a death even more puzzling as different theories emerged over time. For a man who has faced much controversy in his birth and death, Jesus is a worldwide figure, and not exclusive to any one group.

This time of year is wonderful for some, stressful for others, and too commercial for many. It is a time of year when streets are decorated, people are in a festive happy mood, and the shops are filled with all things sparkly. 2017 has been a little different as I have never had to think about, justify or explain my position on Christmas the way I have this year. Perhaps it is a sign of the times we live in when Muslims are being scrutinised and discussed all the time. No doubt the whole debate around the Tesco Christmas advert got many people thinking about who was entitled to celebrate Christmas and how. Social media, radio debates and the like were ablaze with commentators on all sides of the argument. From this emerged some reoccurring patterns one of which was that it is OK for people who do not wish to abide by the basic tenets of the Christian faith, (or the basic tenets of all the major world faiths including Islam, as they are all the same at their core, because they are all from the One God), to celebrate Christmas. But it is not ok for a Muslim, who actually not only believes in Jesus (on whom be peace) but has much respect and love for him as a Prophet of God, a noble and pious man born to a woman who was the epitome of piety as mentioned in the Holy Qur’an. A man who Muslims believe was the Messiah. We may not agree on the way he died, but at least we agree how he was born and that he was sent from God for the benefit of people.

On the other hand there was the recognition that many people celebrate Christmas without believing in Jesus, and therefore it has become part and parcel of British culture, which all who live here should be part of anyway. Many people go back to pre-Christian England where festivities around the winter solstice celebrated the shortening of nights and lengthening of days, and where many practices have found their way into a ‘traditional Christmas’. On this side, there is also the expectation to join in. Those who do not are seen as on the periphery of society, not assimilated or integrated. Here too there is a flaw, as it takes away the meaning of Christmas for those who do celebrate it as a religious festival.

So the dilemma of celebrating this time of year, how much or how little to celebrate continues in fear of offending anyone. But celebrating someone does not only have to be about their birth. It can also be a celebration of their purpose and message and to honour these. And there are many ways. If I was to celebrate the coming of Jesus (on whom be peace), rather than his birth, it would be first and foremost to recognise the God who sent him. It would be to believe in the Prophets who came before him, and those who came after. It would be in showing respect to his teachings, his people, and those who believe in him. Perhaps it would even be learning more about him and his message. It would be understanding the miracle of his birth and the truth of his death. As a woman, it would be to follow the role model of his mother especially, to perhaps adorn myself with a veil the way she is depicted, or to dedicate my child the way she was dedicated to the service of God. If I was to celebrate the coming of Jesus (on whom be peace), or other Prophets of God for that matter, it would most definitely be to accept him as the Messiah of his time. But also to accept the Second Coming, the Messiah for the latter days. That would be the real celebration. So if I was to celebrate, it would be every day and not at any specific time; marked by learning, remembering, understanding, and the struggle to follow teachings today and every day.

As an Ahmadi Muslim and follower of the Messiah who was promised to humankind in the latter days, and who came in the person of the Promised Messiah Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian (on whom be peace) I believe in his teachings of the Loving God and service to humankind. Members of the Ahmadiyya Community, his followers, are spending these holidays visiting the sick, distributing gifts, giving company to the lonely, helping the elderly, and much else. These are also ways of celebrating the Messiah. And they are in keeping with the teachings of Prophet Jesus (on whom be peace) ‘Do unto others as you would have done to you’ and the Promised Messiah’s principles ‘that we have kindness at heart for the whole of mankind’.

So to everyone today celebrating in their own ways, (or not); I wish a peaceful day, today and all days.

 

Speaking The Truth

just and peaceful

Basira Ajmal, Bournemouth

Unfortunately we are living in a world full of fake personalities, fake standards, fake reputations, fake accounts and even fake calls—that’s a lot of fakes, and oh! I nearly missed fake news. No wonder we find it hard to trust people, organizations and even governments. We have all heard of the boy who cried wolf but did we learn anything from him? He lost his business, his living, his trust. The cattle lost their lives. The society lost their confidence to trust people.

Truth is the foundation stone for a fair and harmonious world. All the religions and even secular societies place a high value on truth. The Holy Qur’an mentions about the ineradicable connection between truth and justice in the following words:

‘O ye who believe! be strict in observing justice, being witnesses for the sake of Allah, even though it be against yourselves or against parents and kindred…And if you conceal the truth or evade it, then remember that Allah is well aware of what you do.’ (Holy Qur’an 4:136)

In exact accordance to Quran, all the courts of the worldly societies require the witnesses to tell “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but truth.” Thus proving that justice can indeed not be established without truth. The inability to deliver justice leads to an unpeaceful society due to the discomfort and agitation among the victims of injustice.

Society most certainly puts a great value on truth but do the ones who form society, the ones who govern society actually speak the truth? Probably not. We are fed with sweetened lies and digestible untruths every day and every moment by politicians, companies and governments through the media to manipulate us emotionally rather than telling us the realities. For instance, just hours after the results of the Brexit referendum, Nigel Farage, UKIP leader revealed in an interview that a post Brexit UK would not in fact have £350m a week to pour into the NHS—a key promise of the Brexiteers which I believe would have been a key decider for most of those who voted to leave. We all become victims of such lies and the injustices caused by them.

We can see how truth is the key to justice on a level as basic as individual families to a level as high as governments and international relations. Putting light to this matter, the Khalifa of Islam, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (may Allah be his Helper) said in one of his Friday sermons that truthfulness is a quality that is not only promoted by those who are religious; rather it is universally endorsed by both the religious and the irreligious. Yet, the due of expressing truth is not fulfilled. Wherever the opportunity arises, falsity is used for personal gain. Thus, from individual to international level, truthfulness is negated with the same intensity with which it is verbally promoted. A large majority of people use falsehood in business. In social as well as political matters, be they national or international, truth is trampled over.  [i]

Blessed are we to have a Divinely guided Khalifa who constantly reminds us of what we need to do in order to deliver justice so that we can make our homes, our society and our world a peaceful place. He tells us that one should firmly be established on the fact that regardless of the circumstances that might befall me, I will always remain firmly established on justice. This can only be achieved and manifested when a person is willing to testify against himself and close relatives. He tells us, ‘Ahmadis must bear worldly losses and not hide the truth’. [ii] Stressing on the importance of truth His Holiness (may Allah be his Helper) has also said that from our family life to our social circle, our truthfulness should be exemplary, then alone will our efforts be blessed and will impress others and bring them closer to Ahmadiyyat and Islam. We have to endeavour for this. If we use falsehood for trivial financial gains, our words will be ineffectual.[iii]

Therefore, to make this world a better place for all of us, what we direly need is ‘Qaul-e-Sadeed’ an Arabic term mentioned in the Holy Qur’an which means the right word, the unambiguous truth. Truth comes naturally, however, lying needs conscious effort. So let’s save ourselves the hard work and make justice less hard to establish. Let’s start speaking the truth.

 

 

[i] Friday Sermon 9 Sept 2011 https://www.alislam.org/friday-sermon/2011-09-09.html#summary-tab

[ii] Friday Sermon 10 Nov 2017 https://www.alislam.org/friday-sermon/2017-11-10.html#summary-tab

[iii] Friday Sermon 9 Set 2011 https://www.alislam.org/friday-sermon/2011-09-09.html#summary-tab

 

A Muslim’s Thoughts on Christmas

Iffat's blog

Iffat Mirza, London

In the western world, Christmas is simply one of those things that just cannot be escaped. When you step out into the cold air from October onward, the smell of fir trees greets you, tinsel sparkles and the shops are constantly advertising the best presents that your grandchildren will eternally love you for. Schools begin performing their nativities, Christmas cards are made and Christmas parties celebrated. Not to mention the long awaited visit from Santa Claus. How does a Muslim navigate this? How do we explain to our little ones that Santa will not be visiting them and sit them down to separate the myth from the reality? The truth is, this is something that all parents should be doing.

Yes, Christmas is a momentous occasion in the western world but that is when the Islamic views and principles must be remembered. Quite frankly, the root of the celebration of Christmas is almost null and void; it has become nothing more than one big commercialised narrative, built on the idea that Jesus was born on December 25th. Here’s the thing; that’s not true. Both Islamic and Christian scripture suggest that Jesus was born in the summer time; after all, aren’t lambs featured in the nativity story? It is fundamentally true that lambs are born in the spring and summer time.

It has been noted by Christian Scholars themselves that “It was a custom of the Pagans to celebrate on the same 25th December the birthday of the Sun, at which they kindled lights in token of festivity. In these solemnities and revelries, the Christians also took part. Accordingly, when the doctors of the Church perceived that the Christians had a leaning to this festival, they took counsel and resolved that the true Nativity should be solemnised on that day.”[1]

In short, the true reason for Christmas to be celebrated in December was to convince the Christians that the Pagans’ own traditions weren’t being celebrated, rather it was the birth of Jesus (on whom be peace).

The celebration of a birthday particularly that of a Prophet of God, has never been prescribed in any Abrahamic religion. The decision to celebrate the birth of Jesus came from the Roman and Greek traditions to celebrate the birthdays of their gods. As the Roman Empire fell and Christianity quickly covered Europe, the tradition of celebrating the gods’ birthdays was replaced by celebrating Jesus’ birthday.

As a religious event, it must be respected as we would expect any other religion to respect Eid and the traditions that follow our religious celebrations. However, the issue arises that it is quite true Christmas has lost its religious significance. Muslims accept Jesus as a true Prophet of Allah, as exemplified by this verse of the Qur’an “…Verily, the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, was only a Messenger of Allah…” Qur’an 4:172, yet we cannot allow this to be a reason for us to be involved in traditions of dubious origins.  Atheists, Hindus, and even Muslims are all celebrating Christmas; why would those who don’t even believe in the existence of Jesus, celebrate his birth?

In the western World it is seen as a necessary event that is integral to the growth of families and the bonding of relationships. It is a time where friends and family gather, exchange presents and over a big feast celebrate absolutely nothing. Where it is a celebration of the birth of Jesus (on whom be peace), whilst debateable for Muslims, it is understandable and must be respected on the precept that we want our celebrations to be respected also.

Unfortunately, the popularity and cultural significance of Christmas has brought about the side effect of selfishness, not only in the very idea of a child writing a list of gifts that they want from an imaginary man, but also within governmental powers. It pains me to say that even in Muslim countries, commercial celebrations are given preference over practicing the true teachings of Islam. His Holiness Hazrat Khalifatul Masih V mentioned in his Friday Sermon of 1st January 2016 that despite the burning of a 63-storey building in Dubai the planned firework display would go ahead.

“Most Muslim countries are in a bad way these days but it is the way the wealthy show their materialism. Even if there had been no fire, it was the need of the time for wealthy Muslim countries to state that rather than spend on wasteful matters they would help the affected Muslims. But such is the state of affairs that a few days ago it was in the news that the most exclusive hotel in Dubai had the most expensive Christmas tree in the world at a cost of $11 million. These are now the preferences of wealthy Muslims.”’[2]

There is nothing religious about the desire to spend $11 million on a Christmas tree, rather it is merely for show, and it greatly pains our beloved Khalifah that there are Muslims in the world that would dedicate more time and money in ensuring that their materialistic pleasures are fulfilled and shown off, rather than participate in the good and charitable deeds that our beloved Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) taught us.

However, when it is merely a celebration for the sake of celebration. A mere business tactic to boost profits, it loses not only its religious meaning it turns our society into a consumerist and materially hungry community; one where children are actively encouraged to write lists of everything they want to a man who lives thousands of miles away. Christmas, in its true essence is sadly dying and it has become like Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day,  a ploy to increase sales.

[1] (cited in Christianity and Paganism in the Fourth to Eighth CenturiesRamsay MacMullen. Yale:1997, p. 155)

[2] https://www.alislam.org/friday-sermon/2016-01-01.html

The Story of Mary, a Pure and Noble Example

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Sameea Jonnud, Aldershot

Mary, mother of Jesus, can often be seen portrayed in paintings as a serene figure with her head always covered and has always been a revered figure for Christians, to such an extent that in some denominations her figure can be found in churches and even prayers are said to her. Children in the West are taught the Nativity story in primary school, how Joseph and the heavily pregnant Mary were turned away from inn after inn until they found shelter in a stable where Jesus was born; among young primary school girls the role of Mary in the Nativity is a coveted one.

Along with Christians it is Muslims who also hold Mary in high regard and we can read about her in several places in The Holy Qur’an, about her own birth, her pious youth and the birth of Jesus and in fact chapter 19 of the Holy Qur’an, Surah Maryam, is named after her.

Before her birth Mary’s mother had promised to dedicate her to God. In chapter 3, verse 36 of the Holy Qur’an, the mother of Mary makes a vow to God,

“‘My lord, I have vowed to Thee what is in my womb to be dedicated to Thy service. So do accept it of me…”

The fact the new child was a girl was at first perplexing until the realisation came that God intended something special of her. She grew up a model of piety and complete trust in God which was to prove a great support to her in subsequent events.

In 2014 the first mosque built by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Ireland was opened in Galway and it was named Maryam Mosque (Masjid Maryam) after Mary, because of the fact she is a figure revered by Catholics, who are the majority in Ireland, and Muslims alike. At the reception held for the opening Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih V stated:

Maryam, or Mary as known to you, is as greatly revered by Muslims as she is by Christians. In fact, in the Holy Qur’an, Allah has mentioned Mary at many instances and highlighted her esteemed status. Mary was the name of that pure and pious woman who is honoured by Islam so much that the Qur’an has said that all true believers are like Mary. This is because Mary established a very special relationship with God and she upheld her virtue and chastity at all times. She developed a special bond of love with God, whereby Allah conversed directly with Mary and He Himself attested to her truth. Mary believed in the Books of God, she was righteous and attained a special rank in terms of her obedience to God.“

The Holy Qur’an tells us of the moment when Mary found that God had chosen her:

“And remember when the angels said, ‘O Mary, Allah has chosen thee and purified thee and chosen thee above the women of all peoples.”
Chapter 3, verse 43

The true story of the birth of Jesus is even more extraordinary than that portrayed in the Nativity because Mary actually found herself near to giving birth seemingly completely alone. There was no inn and no stable in which to take shelter; instead Mary found herself in pain lying outside under a tree. Imagine the situation and how terrifying it would be.

But Mary was not alone as God was with her and she was told;

“Grieve not. Thy Lord has placed a rivulet below thee; And shake towards thyself the trunk of the palm-tree; it will cause fresh ripe dates to fall upon thee.“
Holy Qur’an chapter 19, verses 25-26

The tree provided sustenance in the form of fresh dates, a nearby stream provided fresh water to drink and wash and God gave her the strength to endure the birth. This complete trust in God and strength of character she displayed throughout her life makes Mary an extraordinary and inspiring role model for all women whatever their faith. This unique position of being held in such high regard by people of different faiths makes her a uniting force.

As Hazrat Khalifatul Masih V further said in Galway:

“She was most certainly an example for all true believers. Her elevated status is reflected by the fact that the Qur’an says that true Muslims should develop the qualities of Mary and if they do so then they will be those who never cause harm or suffering to anyone. Every Ahmadi Muslim therefore seeks to instil within themselves the purity, nobility and piety of Mary herself.”

What an extraordinary woman Mary was that she has become a role model for people down the ages and remains so to this day.

 

The Benefits of the Hijab

hijab

Yusra Dahri, London

Introduction

Recently, a lot of controversy arose from Ofsted’s (Amanda Spielman) fear of the hijab ‘sexualising’ young girls, aged 4 to 5, who may wear headscarves in primary school.

There is no Islamic requirement for girls to wear a headscarf until they have reached full physical maturity, so it’s perfectly acceptable for a primary school child not to wear it. However, a young girl may want to wear it out of pride or love of her religion, or because she wants to emulate her female relatives out of admiration.

Isn’t it better for girls to have their mothers as role models, than the public figures who are arguably more ‘sexualised’ than anyone else? In fact one of the purposes of the hijab is to prevent the sexualisation of young women, which is only one of its benefits.

The Benefits of Wearing the Hijab

First and foremost, dressing modestly and wearing the headscarf allows you to please Allah, as you are fulfilling the commandment set by Allah in chapter 24 verse 32 of the Holy Quran for women to , “…restrain their looks and guard their private parts, and that they display not their beauty or embellishment except that which is apparent thereof and that they draw their head-covering over their bosoms…”  Ultimately, it should be our goal to please Allah.

One allegation often thrown at the way Muslim women dress is that it hides them, allowing them to be ignored by society. This is simply not true, as many Muslim girls I know would agree. The verse above is aimed specifically at women, giving them a unique role and also a great responsibility. Nowadays, the most common image of an ordinary Muslim is a girl in a headscarf, as it’s a well known Islamic symbol. By being outwardly Muslim we can shape the way people view Islam by simply carrying out the daily tasks of our dynamic lives.

The hijab is our statement to the world. It shows we are not afraid and we have no ‘inferiority complex’ of how we are viewed from a western perspective because our first priority is our religion. This not only protects us from unsavoury situations because we raise our modesty as our highest virtue, but it also shows us who our true friends are. No girl in secondary school wants to learn later on that her classmates ridicule her religion, but by wearing a headscarf you can see who would naturally approach you anyway.

This also creates interest as it’s very possible, even likely, that your classmates have never really encountered anyone who has worn a headscarf before, and would like to learn more about it. This creates a source of tabligh. I know that my own classmates were curious as to why I dressed modestly and had plenty of questions!

Sometimes we can be afraid of this type of confrontation, because we are not used to having things that are normal to us being questioned. However, it is nothing to be scared of, as it’s perfectly natural human curiosity and completely harmless. Instead we should be confident about the reasons why we wear the headscarf, and try to learn as much about it as possible, so we can genuinely answer anyone’s questions to the best of our ability.

It is also a constant reminder to us who we are. As Muslim girls, our outward modesty can remind us of the inward modesty that we need to maintain. Sometimes it can be very tempting to act in a certain way in order to ‘fit in’ but later on we realise that the school setting, which is our whole world right now, is only temporary.

Later on, you will be glad that through the hijab you were able to develop character, make decisions for yourself and stand your own ground. Personally these are things I learned from wearing a headscarf, but it can mean something different to everyone who wears it, even though we all wear it for our faith in Allah the Almighty, which shows how unique it really is.

There are many benefits to wearing the hijab, and I hope they prove invaluable to you too, Insha’Allah.