Islam

The Wing of Humility

Wing of Humility

Basira Ajmal, Bournemouth

We are living in the 21st century with a plethora of rights. Every day on social media, TV, or on the street we witness individuals, groups or organizations labelled as activists proclaiming and working for a different set of rights; women rights, children rights, employee rights, free speech rights, refugee rights and so on. Mesmerized by the chiming resonance of this r-word, we often neglect the other more important r-word i.e. responsibilities. We forget the fact that rights cannot be established without the fulfilment of responsibilities. This basic principal is however fully ingrained in the beautiful and universal Islamic teachings. Islam extraordinarily granted all these rights to us about one and a half millennia ago but at the same time, for the implementation of all these rights, Islam fervently emphasizes on discharging one’s responsibilities towards our fellow beings. So where does this network of rights and responsibilities begin from? Allah the Almighty says in the Qur’an:

Thy Lord has commanded, “Worship none but Him, and show kindness to parents. If one of them or both of them attain old age with thee, never say unto them any word expressive of disgust nor reproach them, but address them with kind words.” “And lower to them the wing of humility out of tenderness. And say, ‘My Lord, have mercy on them even as they nourished me in my childhood.’” (17:24-25)

These verses signify that after the duty towards God, our foremost and greatest responsibility is towards our parents—the first and the most important link of the network. It is incumbent upon children to love, obey and respect their parents. To provide an unambiguous criterion for the level of kindness we owe to our parents, the first verse elucidates with an example that when one or both of our parents reach an age of weakness and frailty while living with us, we should not spare them any act of kindness and we, must not despise or scorn them the least. At old age, when their behaviour sometimes gets challenging, we should not even utter the slightest expression of  disapproval. Instead, we should speak to them in a highly esteemed manner and treat them with reverent honour.

The expression, lower to them the wing of humility, reminds us of a bird which opens up its wings to provide shelter and protection to its offspring.  In the same way, Allah the Almighty has obligated us to cover our parents gently under our love, generosity and meekness by providing them with comfort and utmost care. Even after doing all this, we can still never fully repay the favours, love and sacrifices that our parents bore for us. Therefore, to make up the insufficiency, Allah instructs us to pray for them. The words of the prayer infer that in old age, parents need to be treated as obligingly and affectionately as children are looked after in their childhood. We are required to pray to Allah to bestow mercy and forgiveness on our parents. It is worth noting here that completely opposite to this before the advent of Islam, infanticide of female children was a common practice prevalent among Arabs. The birth of a daughter was considered a disrespect for the family and thus they were doomed to be buried alive. Islam, however, strongly condemned the killing of daughters as cited in the Holy Qur’an (81:9-10 & 16:59-60), and the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be on him) categorically adjured on good upbringing of daughters saying, ‘He who brings up two girls through their childhood will appear on the Day of Judgment attached to me like two fingers of a hand.’(Muslim). As Muslim women, we owe our lives and all our rights to Islam which admonished our parents against denying our rights. Thus, being daughters, we must also fulfill our duties towards our parents and show them gratitude as Allah the almighty says,

‘…Give thanks to Me and to thy parents. Unto Me is the final return.’ (31:15)

It is our task to cherish, obey and revere our parents with great forbearance. We need to lower our wing of humility onto them as they selflessly spent their lives bringing us up with care and compassion. If we love them, we will strive to please them and take delight to be in their company and find pleasure in spending time with them. We should consult them for advice on matters big and small and share with them our joys and blues. Having our parents with us is one of the greatest blessings of Allah, which we need to treasure and admire and we need to make them feel like a valuable part of our lives. We must never leave them helpless or God-forbid, abandoned. In fact we must practically manifest our commitment to them because nothing gives parents a feeling of higher content than an eminently dutiful child.

The system of rights and responsibilities is a reciprocal one. If we fully discharge our obligations towards our parents, only then can we expect our own children to fulfil our rights. Therefore, instead of focusing on attaining our rights, if we all start aiming to undertake and accomplish our responsibilities, the delivery of rights will become reflexive.

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My Jalsa Salana Down the Years

Screenshot (186)

Sameea Jonnud, Aldershot, UK

As long as I can remember there have been three occasions every year that I have almost always attended; there are the two Eid days which our UK community used to celebrate together and there is Jalsa Salana, the Annual Convention. Eid now takes place regionally or locally but Jalsa has not only remained as one national event, it has grown over the years until now a mini town springs up in the Hampshire countryside to accommodate 35,000 plus attendees.

Before Hadeeqatul Mahdi became its home, Jalsa took place for many years at Islamabad in Tilford, near Farnham. I would travel there with my family by coach or car and if we were late and had to park near the gate we’d lament the ‘long’ walk to the marquee; now the memory makes us laugh as the current marquee area, the Jalsa arena, is bigger than the whole of Islamabad and transport is a park and ride system from a different site!

Jalsa has always been an event which, due to its three full days of speeches, congregational Prayers and a sense of separation from the world, has an intense effect of spiritual rejuvenation and reaffirmation of one’s faith. The congregational pledge taken at the hand of His Holiness the Khalifa is an annual experience that shakes one to the core.

One bonus of Jalsa is meeting up with family and friends you would not otherwise see regularly from different parts of the country and the world. There have been years when every single room in our house, except the bathroom, had guests sleeping in it, including a line of mattresses set up in the front room for all the male guests, a line I have had to tiptoe across just to reach the fridge when returning in the early hours from working at Jalsa! It is hectic but the year Jalsa was cancelled due to the outbreak of foot and mouth disease felt so lonesome as if we were missing out on a part of our life.

Other than family we have had guests that we didn’t know; one year a mother and daughter from Kababir stayed with us. Many years later the youngest daughter married and came to live in the area leading to an emotional reunion despite the fact she herself hadn’t been on that Jalsa trip with the rest of her family. It is a wonderful feeling that Jalsa brings you together with people you would not otherwise meet.

Another bonus of Jalsa is the opportunity to become part of the vast team of volunteers that help to run such a large event. Whether it is jobs such as stage design, camera work, hospitality, car park attendant or cooking, it is volunteers who carry out the work. Imagine cooking lunch and dinner for 30,000 people – all those onions and potatoes to chop and fresh roti (flatbreads) to make in hot kitchens in the middle of summer! Like all the other volunteers they receive no monetary reward but do this work purely to gain the pleasure of God.

It is the same for the army of children who cheerfully patrol the marquees with fresh water to quench the thirst of guests; their eagerness and smiles make one take a cup of water with or without thirst which leaves the children happy.

I’ve never worked in the kitchens at Jalsa but I have worked in a variety of other jobs, for example cleaning, setting up guest accommodation areas, hospitality and food stalls. I drove golf buggies transporting guests for three years in weather ranging from hot sunshine resulting in strange tan lines on my feet, to wet mud and freezing nights with the cold wind rushing through the open buggy leaving me chilled to the bone.

One particular Monday I was driving guests to catch their coaches to London after the Jalsa; it was my fifth day of working long hours and exhaustion was threatening to make an appearance. One family from USA asked me who our Lajna (women’s association) president was and when I told them they said they wanted to write to her to say thank you for the Lajna members working tirelessly and cheerfully to look after them. My exhaustion receded and I was thankful to be among those that had cared for Jalsa guests and sent them home happy.

This year my Jalsa has already begun by sending invitations to non-Muslim friends and contacts to join us and experience Jalsa. As well as that I have been planning for the Jalsa days, both the work I’ll be doing, guests that will stay with me and shopping. Supplies including sunscreen, wellies in case of rain and crisps have become family necessities!

However this Jalsa turns out I know I will be storing up more memories of my Jalsa experience.