What Does Peace Mean To Me?

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Zile Huma Ahmad, Southfields, London

As I sit here thinking about the upcoming International Day of Peace I ask myself: what does peace mean to me? Do we achieve peace by buying t-shirts, mugs and going to peace concerts? These actions no doubt have good and noble intentions but a real difference cannot be made without individual change and new attitudes.

Firstly, before one can begin to create peace in the world, they must be at peace with their own desires and ambitions. Inner peace can be defined as having a balance in one’s life and with the world around them. This includes having the correct balance between the material and spiritual aspects of life. When a person is sure that they pose no threat or danger to anyone they meet they can begin to create peace, even if it is only on a small scale.

However, in order for someone to create true, impactful and lasting peace from a religious perspective they require the help and guidance of the Creator. According to the Quranic concept of peace, no peace on earth can be conceived by human effort alone. So, in Islam, the journey to peace in the world begins with the attainment of peace with your Lord the Creator; for this we must understand His attributes. God is portrayed as the embodiment of perfect goodness in almost all religions. They all teach that God is: True, Compassionate, Just, Merciful, Loving and Forgiving. God has created human beings in accordance with His attributes and peace means a balance between God’s attributes and those of man albeit on a human level.

Truthfulness is the most important attribute in attaining peace with oneself. If you become true to yourself, only then can you be true to your children, your spouse, your relatives, your friends and the wider society. This single factor can make a huge difference on a wider scale as well. Nations becoming truthful and just towards each other is the only way to attain lasting peace.

I abide by the slogan of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, Love for All Hatred for None and aspire to practice it. If all of us follow these inspiring words in our day to day lives then world peace can be achieved once and for all.

 

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Islam Empowers Women

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Ayesha Mahmood Malik, Hampshire

Imagine it is the 7th century. Camels and horseback dot the Arabian sands that continue to sprawl endlessly into the horizon. Desert dwellers use basic oils or the friction from rubbing stones to light wood to warm themselves in the desert chill and also use these fires as stoves. Tales of lands far away abound, including China wherefrom come garments of silk to wear. Deep in the desert shrills of female infants being buried alive cloud the barren landscape. To be woman or cattle are one and the same. The society is not only starkly primitive but also the archetype of patriarchy.

Thus, for the 21st century scholar and thinker, it is an era that both captures the imagination with its mystic scents of Arabian ouds but also one that sends one gasping in so far as it belies any affiliation to modernity, human rights and importantly, women’s rights. Into this beleaguered state, dawns the advent of a man who brings the revolution of monotheism and women’s rights. Into this primeval and crude infrastructure, he introduces the notions of government, rules of war and principles of equality and non-discrimination. And into the incessant history of the persecution of Arabian women, he brings for women the right to marry freely, the right to seek education and the right to inherit and initiate divorce.

This radical new faith is called Islam. Its rules are universal, thereby bringing within its ambit all peoples’ who choose to take the oath of allegiance to its founder, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Its rules are also revolutionary in so far as they grant women the right to seek education, the right to initiate divorce and the right to inherit property. It also grants women full control over their own earnings. In other parts of the world, these rights remain largely unheard of, until many hundreds of years later. Paradoxically, when these rights begin to dawn in what is considered the modern world, Islam is castigated as being regressive, illiberal and oppressive to women.

In Britain, the right to divorce for example was up until 1857 largely open to men and required an Act of Parliament to be decreed. This being an onerous and expensive process, it also meant divorce was open largely to the wealthy. The 1857 Matrimonial Clauses Act granted ordinary people the right to divorce for the first time. Even then, women seeking divorce on grounds of adultery had to prove their husbands had been unfaithful along with proving additional faults such as rape and incest. In contrast, women were able to seek divorce without the burden of fulfilling arduous conditions by placing the merits of their case before a qadi (judge).

Similarly, it was not as late as 1870 when the Married Women’s Property Act was passed in England that women became legal owners of their income and were given the right to inherit. John Stuart Mill in his “The Subjection of Women” describes the predicament of women in the 19th century in these words, he writes:

“[T]he wife is the actual bond servant of her husband… She can acquire no property for herself: the instant something becomes hers, even if by inheritance, it automatically becomes his. In this respect the wife’s position under the common law of England is worse than that of slaves in the laws of many countries.”

Under Islamic law on the other hand, women enjoyed the right to inherit 1200 years before Mill put ink to paper. Even today, a Muslim woman is the sole master of her own earnings and is not obliged to spend any of her personal income towards the upkeep of her household, the entire responsibility whereof rests on the man.

Perhaps the greatest testament to the empowerment of women in Islam is the emphasis it places on their right to seek education. This commandment encouraging the pursuit of knowledge is 1400 years old and entirely gender neutral. It was a Muslim woman, Fatimah al-Fihri, who founded one of the world’s oldest universities in 859 CE. In contrast, British universities opened their doors to women as late as 1876. Women have played key roles in various capacities throughout Islamic history, from the women who partook in battle in the 7th century by tending to wounded soldiers to the Prophet (peace be upon him)’s wife Hazrat Khadija who was a successful tradeswoman.

Today, the question of empowerment of Muslim women is largely seen as an oxymoron owing to the misplaced practices in the Muslim-majority world that have chosen to use the Islamic faith as a political tool and fashioned their own virulent interpretation of the religion that has no bearing to its original form. As a hijab-wearing Muslim woman I find no contradiction between the question of my empowerment and my identity as a Muslim. By recognising and appreciating the differences between men and women as unique, women are not measured against men as standard bearers but rather celebrated for their own inimitable contributions to society. This distinctive point of view provides the single most powerful means of making a woman feel empowered and is exclusive to the Islamic faith.

 

Ofsted and Hijabs: Truth Unveiled

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Sarah Waseem, London

I read with some surprise and concern that a group headed by former Parliamentary candidate Amina Lone, is planning to meet with Amanda Spielman, the chief inspector of Schools to discuss the “unacceptable rise of the hijab in state funded primary schools”.

In a rather convoluted letter, the group argue that primary schools, by allowing young girls to wear the hijab are in some way sexualising them and denying them gender equality. Interestingly, they seem not to have any concerns about the sexualising of young Jewish boys wearing the kippah, or young Sikh boys wearing the patka. Also, the fact that most primary school do not include dresses or skirts for boys in their uniform policy does not seem to present concerns for them regarding the ‘sexualising’ of boys.

It is correct that Islamic teachings do not require young girls to wear a head covering until they reach puberty, apart from when they are performing Prayers. However, the reality is that girls mature at different rates, with some starting menarche at primary school. Therefore, a general ban on hijabs in Primary School would hinder these girls from practicing their faith.

The covering of the head by adult Muslim women is clearly mandated in the Holy Qur’an, in chapter 24 verse 32 or in some editions verse 31. The group argue that some Muslim countries pressurise women to “cover up”. However, many of these countries have also allowed extremist versions of Islam to flourish. They have appalling human rights records including religious discrimination against other faiths, AND other sects of Islam, notably Shias and Ahmadi Muslims. This is nothing to do with the hijab or the suppression of women’s rights but is politically motivated to achieve the dominance of one group over another.

For the authors to refer to the horrific treatment of Yazidis by so called Islamic State, in the context of Primary Schools allowing the hijab as part of their uniform policy is just inexcusable. The majority of the Muslim world has repeatedly condemned the actions of so called Islamic State and distanced themselves from them. For example, the Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community His Holiness, Mirza Masroor Ahmad has repeatedly warned about the dangers of international governments supporting extremist groups through their funding of weapons.  Wearing a hijab does not turn Muslims into terrorists and murderers!

The authors disingenuously link FGM to Islam when the overwhelming evidence shows that this practice is not permitted according to the teachings of Islam. Moreover, FGM is a terrible practice that is also prevalent in certain Christian and pagan societies.   The authors also disingenuously allude to an association between Islam, child sexual exploitation and forced marriages. I challenge them to produce references from the Holy Qur’an  to support any of these allegations.

I find it sad that once again, Islamic practises are being attacked in such a sensationalist way by focusing on women, the very section of society that the authors seem to want to ‘empower’.

Wearing the hijab does not disadvantage girls and women in any way. I invite the authors of this letter to meet with ladies from our Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, doctors, teachers, business women, health professionals, lawyers, all of whom lead fully integrated lives in society and wear the hijab.

 

* Edited for correction on 11/09/2017

 

Women In Islam: A Twenty-first Century Perspective

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 Munazzah Chou, Farnham

With the advent of Islam, the status of women in Arabia was raised from that of objects deserving of live burial, or as commodity to be treated or even traded as desired. Their rightful status was restored to the religious equal to their male counterparts and Islamic law made the education of girls a sacred duty and gave women amongst other rights the right to own and inherit property and wealth.

The status of Muslim women in the 21st century has not changed since the advent of Islam in the 7th century. God has pronounced in the Holy Qur’an,

‘But whoso does good works, whether male or female, and is a believer, shall enter Heaven, and shall not be wronged even as much as the little hollow in the back of a date-stone.’ (4:125)

Numerous other Quranic verses leave no ambiguity of the equal spiritual status of the sexes.

The spiritual status is the most important indicator of parity between sexes for Muslims as the Quran states that though different people appoint various objectives for their lives, the purpose that God Almighty has specified in His Holy Word is

‘…that they may worship Me.’ (51: 57).

According to this verse the true purpose of human life is the worship and understanding of God Almighty and devotion to Him.

21st century Muslim women cannot be considered a single entity. The Muslim woman is characterised by many as an oppressed victim deprived of the most basic rights. This might be the obvious conclusion on observing the treatment of women by ISIS, Boko Haram and some courts in Muslim countries. Yet at the opposite end of the spectrum, Muslim women have reached the pinnacle of political participation in countries such as Pakistan and Bangladesh.

The realities of Muslim women’s lives range from being powerless and deprived of human and religious rights, to enjoying equal and sometimes more freedom and legal protection than non-Muslim women in the developed world. The contradictory developments and diversity in practices among Muslim societies, must urge one to question the assumption that Islam is the source of oppression.

The spectrum of the condition of Muslim women in the 21st century mirrors the continuum found within and between all society. The universal reality is that women face a gender gap. The World Economic Forum’s 2016 Global Gender Gap Index assessing health, education, economy and politics disparities has revealed that progress is ‘still too slow for realising the full potential of one half of humanity within our lifetimes.’

Unfortunately, Muslim women seem to be worst affected as Muslim countries make up 23 of the bottom 25 countries with the widest gender gaps. The challenges women face in the Muslim world are often enshrined in archaic laws and practices on ownership, education, healthcare, job opportunities and wages which are ironically in violation of Islamic teachings on women’s rights.

In education the gender gap remains large, relative to most other major religious groups, although some progress has meant it has narrowed in recent generations. Muslim women have made greater educational gains than Muslim men in most regions of the world, according to the Pew Research Centre. Illustrative cases include United Arab Emirates, where women enrol in university at three times the rate of men and Saudi Arabia, where the university gender gap was closed ten years ago, and university enrolment rate is higher than in China, India, or Mexico.

Studies to understand the gap in political participation in Muslim-majority countries show that major cross-national differences in the extent of the gender gap cannot be explained by levels of ‘state Islamisation’, modernisation or societal gender equality. We are well aware that even in developed countries such as the UK, there are many barriers preventing women from entering politics unrelated to faith.

Nevertheless leaders in Muslim countries might wish to remind themselves of the dictates of Islam prescribed to ensure equity for Muslim women. Just as in the 7th Century, modern day women have the right to and are expected to pursue education. As evidenced in hadith, the pursuit of knowledge is a duty on every Muslim, male and female and the contribution of women in theological learning was affirmed when the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) said that half of faith can be learned from his wife Ayesha (may Allah be pleased with Her)

Fathers and husbands have been charged with responsibility for the adequate provision for females to a standard which is equal to their own. It ought to follow then that in patriarchal societies in particular, there is no scope for suboptimal provision of services for women. The Holy Prophet (peace be on him) said that the best amongst the believers are those who are best in morals, and the best in morals are those who are best in treatment of their wives. He has also said that taking good care of a daughter opens the door to Paradise for a Muslim. In his final sermon, he counselled

“O people, you have rights over your wives and your wives have rights over you. Remember, you must always treat your wives with kindness. Woman is weak and cannot protect her own rights. When you married, God appointed you the trustees of those rights. You brought your wives to your homes under the Law of God. You must not, therefore, insult the trust which God has placed in your hands.”

The 21st century reality is that Muslim women are fighting to overcome inherent, discriminatory attitudes prevalent in all levels of society just as all women are, within the cultural context they find themselves. Muslim women are doing this not on the grounds of the secular rally for women’s equality but based on a right Islam has given.

Yet her greater fight is the 14 century-old struggle to achieve her life’s purpose through the recognition of God. Every individual continues this struggle within the constraints of her society, financial situation, family and personal capabilities. As God has comforted –

‘Allah burdens not any soul beyond its capacity…’ (2:287)

Her definition of success is her personal relationship with God – she may achieve this whilst serving as a leader wielding immense political power, but equally as a daughter who discharges her obligations to her parents, or as mother who fulfils the dues of her children.

Motherhood is a relevant subject of discussion for women in every century. In the UK while 74% of women recognise motherhood as a full time career, over 70% of mothers work. The factors driving this picture are many of which economic reasons are foremost. The drive to get women in to work waxes and wanes in sync with perceived economic need by governments. But Islam assigns a position of great honour to a mother which is unchanging. The love and devotion due to parents, and especially to the mother, are repeatedly stressed in the Holy Quran:

“We have enjoined on man kindness towards his parents…” (29:9)

and by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him):

“Paradise lies at the feet of your mothers.”

The paradise mentioned refers to both the societal paradise that can be achieved and the heavenly Paradise. Islam recognises the unique position of women in their ability to nurture valuable future denizens of the world and in this recognition has placed mothers above fathers.

 

References

http://reports.weforum.org/global-gender-gap-report-2016/

http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/12/27/the-muslim-gender-gap-in-educational-attainment-is-shrinking/

Hilde Coffé, Selin Dill, The gender gap in political participation in Muslim-majority countries. International Political Science Review Vol 36, Issue 5, 2015

 

My Jalsa Salana Down the Years

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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.

The Significance of Gender Segregation at Jalsa Salana

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By Navida Sayed, Hounslow, UK

Every year thousands of Ahmadi Muslims flock to Jalsa Salana UK (the Annual Convention) in Alton, Hampshire. The aim of the event for the members of the community is to attain spiritual advancement, unite in universal brotherhood and promote peace. Many guests attend for whom a salient feature of the convention is the segregation of the sexes. The separation of Muslim men and women at religious gatherings can be perplexing, misunderstood and sometimes difficult to accept especially in Western society.

Segregation of the sexes exists in all spheres of society including schools, hospitals, prisons, members clubs, workplaces and gyms. Yet when Muslims uphold the same principle it is seen as a medieval sign of the oppression and subjugation of women. Unfortunately some misconceptions are due to atrocities and injustices against women inflicted by bigoted extremists. To make matters worse, the negative biased and sensationalised stories about women in Islam plague the media. Taken together this creates a public narrative that there is a need to rescue and liberate Muslim women from the clutches of the faith of Islam.

In any workforce employees happily comply with company regulations in order to keep safe and protect their rights. Disregard or disobedience could result in disciplinary action or even termination of employment. Likewise practicing Muslims are expected to understand and obey the teachings of Islam, which is the faith of their choice. The commandments of Islam for both men and women to observe Purdah (veiling as a mindset) are for the betterment of society. This does not necessitate that teachings of Islam are out-dated and in need of reform.

For Ahmadi Muslims the separation of men and women during prayers and religious events has always been the norm and stems from Islamic teachings relating to Purdah. Many individuals may be completely unaware that males were the first to be instructed in the Qur’an to lower their gaze. Being aware of men’s weak innate nature, God also commanded women to cover themselves as a preventative measure. In Islam a woman is not regarded as a sex object and is free from exploitation and harassment.

Those who strongly oppose gender segregation on the grounds that both genders are being deprived of each other’s company are not aware Islam upholds the belief that intimate relationships should be confined to the private domain of marriage only. The separation of the sexes in mosques and religious gatherings is a preventive measure both for men and women to maintain the highest standards of good behaviour, dignity, self-restraint, modesty and purity.

The separate spaces are for their own comfort and ease where they do not have to cover up and where they can relax and reap the benefits of attending religious gatherings. Religious settings and gatherings such as the Jalsa Salana are not places of social hangout rather the prime focus is to reap spiritual benefits through prayers and listening to the speeches.

Sitting separately from men at community events or wearing the Hijab, does not restrict a Muslim woman’s role. She is encouraged to seek education and is not restricted to pursue a professional career. Ahmadi Muslim women excelling in highest standards of academic achievement can be witnessed in the award ceremony on the second day of Jalsa. Muslim women have all the rights that Muslim men enjoy, and in some ways, have certain privileges, which men do not enjoy. In a recent survey amongst 323,500 American adults, 56% of working mothers with children under the age of 18 said they would prefer to stay at home and take care of their house and family. A Muslim woman has the right and choice to stay at home and raise the children and for her husband to shoulder the financial responsibility for family. Another privilege is that a Muslim man has absolutely no right to demand anything from his wife’s income, property or wealth and Islam gives her the right to spend it as she wishes.

At the Jalsa Salana we welcome all interested in discovering the true teachings of Islam including the treatment and rights of women. Islam has granted women a position of dignity and honour and was the first religion to formally grant women a status never known before. The moral, spiritual and economic equality of men and women as propagated by Islam is unquestionable.

At Jalsa special guided tours are offered and female guests have the option of visiting the women’s area too. Leading some of the tours over the years, I found the reactions of the female guests were always the same. Whilst walking across there would be an air of silence, suspense and a few questions amongst the groups. Upon entering the ladies arena the guests were astounded, some politely commenting that they expected to see only be a few women behind a curtain in a small space. Of course the prime question always arises, why do we sit separately?

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community made life easier for its members especially for women to enable them to have recognition through their own women’s organisation known as the Lajna Ima’illah. Ahmadi Muslim women around the world have their own mosque areas, offices and at Jalsa Salana an entire ladies arena to themselves.

The women’s organisation works alongside their male counterparts under the direct guidance of the worldwide head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (may Allah be his helper and guide).

If anyone still considers that Ahmadi Muslim women are regarded inferior to men because of the segregation all they need to ask is who does the cooking? The answer people maybe expect is the women as there certainly would be no shortage of female participants at the Jalsa. In reality meals cooked over the course of the three day event for thousands of guests attending the Jalsa are all prepared by men, including peeling hundreds of bags of onions and potatoes, cooking and washing the gigantic pots and pans in very hot working conditions. Men could say that this is unfair on them, but they never complain and take on the task voluntarily and happily to serve the guests of Jalsa Salana. Likewise the men do all the cleaning and all of the heavy work.

At Jalsa the women also have the privilege of being addressed by the spiritual Head of the community Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahamd directly in their own gathering on the second day of the convention when he also awards female students for their academic achievements. The Lajna Ima’illah (women) have office bearers and teams of women in all departments such as health & safety, security, registration, administration, press & media, audio visual, camera crew, Voice of Islam radio, hospitality, Humanity First, discipline, first aid, exhibitions and much more. All the women are volunteers and at Jalsa Salana the volunteers comprise academics, professionals and housewives working in unison with the men all united as one. As Ahmadi Muslim women, we have absolutely no problem with the segregation, rather it is a source of great freedom and success for us. Furthermore segregation applies equally to men as it does to women, so any question of inferiority cannot apply for both are bound by this rule in equal measure.

We invite all female guests attending the convention to visit us on the ladies side and witness for themselves women leading women. Within the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, we are well aware and educated about our rights in Islam. The men in the community are also reminded about their womenfolk’s rights. One of the beautiful aspects of Islamic teaching is that by defining the role of women in society, and then by giving dignity to that role, it makes women feel fulfilled, empowered, respected and liberated. As Ahmadi Muslim women who experience this at first hand we can vouch for the wisdom and benefits of this teaching, as the independence we gain from segregation is a source of great strength.

 

My Jalsa Memories

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by Mishal Aziz, Raynes Park, UK

As the summer term is coming to an end, many children and students are anticipating the holidays that they have planned so they can relax and regain the energy for the next school year. However, Ahmadiyya Muslim children and students have started to count the days for Jalsa Salana 2017. Every Ahmadi waits for these blessed days year after year; it is a time to get together and gain religious knowledge and develop a stronger bond among ourselves.

In my house, the Jalsa preparation started few weeks ago when me and my mum went for duty training at the mosque and my dad started visiting Hadeeqa tul Mahdi (Jalsa venue); it felt like Jalsa was just around the corner.

When I invited my friends who are not Ahmadi Muslims to Jalsa, they were quite confused as they had never heard of something like this before. I explained to them that the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community holds an annual convention over of three days in which all people get together and enhance their religious knowledge. I showed them videos of Jalsa and they were astonished to see such a number of people attending the event. They also asked me if we hired any people to help us such as in serving food, but when I told them that thousands of people volunteer to give duties, they were quite stunned.

I shared my last Jalsa memories with them. I told them that I went to the venue a day before the Jalsa starts, I participated in duty and spent quality time with all my relatives that came from different cities. During the three blessed days of Jalsa, I put extra effort into performing Tahujjud Prayer (a voluntary Prayer offered in the night), tried to be extra nice and kind to everyone and listened to and followed the beautiful guidance given by the Khalifa (fifth successor of Promised Messiah).

My most special memory from last Jalsa was when I was standing on duty and His Holiness, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the head of worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community passed just behind me. That feeling is something that will stay with me forever; just the feeling that he was few steps away from me was the best part of my whole Jalsa memories. I still remember, I was shivering with delight and I had tears in my eyes and the most beautiful and satisfactory smile that I could ever have.

My favourite part of Jalsa is when we do Bai’at (Pledge of Allegiance) on the 3rd day, at the hand of the Khalifa. Such a large number of people connected physically and emotionally is not a sight that you see every day; you feel special that you are connected to such a blessed community. That few minutes are something that I always look forward to every year because they give me a chance to seek forgiveness of Allah and become a better person.

After relishing the memories through this article, I am quite excited and looking forward to this Jalsa.

Jalsa Salana Mubarak!

Kalima-e-Shahadah, The Declaration of Islamic Faith

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by Ayesha Mahmood Malik, Surrey

 Your soul is oftentimes a battlefield, upon which your reason and your judgment wage war against your passion and your appetite.

Would that I could be the peacemaker in your soul, that I might turn the discord and the rivalry of your elements into oneness and melody.

But how shall I, unless you yourselves be also the peacemakers, nay, the lovers of all your elements?[1]

These words are a nostalgic poetic rendering of the deeper subtleties of the soul that manifest themselves as the spiritual challenges that man must overcome before he may reach that exalted station wherefrom a spring of spiritual blessings flow. The epitome of this spiritual station was the life and character of the Prophet Muhammad (saw) – who descended into this world when humankind’s spiritual cup had run dry, and the barren fields of man’s soul craved the water of true salvation. A spiritual draught of alarming magnitude had enveloped Arabian lands, such that an uncanny darkness prevailed over everything. Man was akin to a barbaric existence, with all propensities for morality and spirituality having been buried.

Perhaps the gravest of sins plaguing mankind in the pre-Muhammadan period was the ritual of idol worship and polytheism that had rendered the notion of the Unity of God as something fanciful or illusory. To profess in those pre-Islamic times that God was one and had no partner was analogous to blasphemy or even apostasy of the modern day. It was considered to be sacrilegious if not a complete renouncement of one’s faith. Thus, it was within this polytheist fabric of Arabian society that Muhammad (saw) the Servant and Messenger of Allah was sent to light the world with the spirit of Tauhid (Oneness of God) and God’s final teachings in the form of the Holy Quran.

Juxtaposed against this backdrop of spiritual annihilation and moral impotency, the significance of the words of the Kalima-e-Shahadah, which read, I bear witness that (there is) no god except Allah; One is He, no partner hath He, and I bear witness that Muhammad (saw) is His Servant and Messenger are profound and powerful. They epitomise the spiritual awakening and rebirth of mankind at the hand of God’s chosen one, the Seal of the Prophets (saw). Writing in his treatise, “Barahin-e-Ahmadiyya”, the Promised Messiah (as) succinctly portrays the advent of the Holy Prophet (saw) in the following words,

“…the age in which the Holy Prophet (sa) appeared stood in dire need of a great heavenly reformer and spiritual guide, and that the teachings he brought were certainly true and met all the needs of the time and encompassed all the requirements of the age. So effective and forceful was his teaching that thousands were drawn towards the truth, and the words [There is none worthy of worship but Allah] were engraved upon their hearts. The ultimate purpose of Prophethood – which is to impart teachings that lead to salvation – was accomplished to perfection [by the Holy Prophet (sa)][2].”

Therefore, to espouse upon the worshippers of idols and false deities of those times that their beliefs were inherently misguided and held no rational basis was a grievous calumny. It followed that the challenger of what he declared as the mother of all evils – idolatry – was to present himself as the greatest benefit to mankind, reinstating the providence of One God over His creation. Thus, it was also natural that this torchbearer of God Almighty would exhibit the most perfect qualities of truth and wisdom, such that man’s journey on earth would be forever transformed into a struggle to emulate this archetype of virtue. The Holy Quran itself testifies to having rejuvenated the earth with Divine Guidance and Wisdom at the hands of the Holy Prophet (saw), God states,

“And Allah has sent down water from the sky, and has quickened therewith the earth after its death. Surely, in that is a Sign for a people who would hear[3].”

 The Promised Messiah (as), writing in his seminal work, “The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam,” explains that God Almighty calls to witness the laws of nature to testify for the hidden law of Divine Revelation. In a beautiful narrative, the Promised Messiah (as) expounds that just as the vegetation on earth cannot survive without rain, human reason, which is akin to earthly water, cannot survive without the heavenly water of Divine Revelation[4]. God says in the Quran and the Promised Messiah (as) explains,

“We call to witness the heaven that sends down rain and the earth that sprouts diverse types of vegetation with the help of such rain, that the Quran is God’s word and His revelation, and that it decides between truth and falsehood and is not vain talk, that is to say, it has not been revealed out of time and has come like seasonable rain.[5]

Thus, since six hundred years had passed since the time of Jesus (as) and the advent of the Holy Prophet (saw), earthly water had become corrupted and dried up[6]. The Holy Prophet (saw) brought with him the heavenly water of Divine Revelation that was to provide sustenance to the earthly water of human reason such that with his coming the teachings of the Lord Almighty would be rendered complete for all times to come.

Therefore, just as God calls to witness the obvious law of nature for the hidden law that governs Divine Revelation[7], the pledge of oath taken at the recitation of the Kalima-e-Shahadah is a manifestation of the oath-taker being called to witness the Unity of God and the Holy Prophet (saw) as His Servant and Messenger. The word “shahādah” is a noun derived from the verb “shahada”, which means, “He observed, witnessed, or testified[8].” Within a legal context, the term “shahādah” connotes testifying to the occurrence of certain events such as debt, adultery or divorce[9]. Testifying in a court of law thereby entails validating the proof of claims being submitted as evidence during trial. The word of the witness who renders such testimony must conform to the highest standards of honesty and integrity. It follows, then that when a Muslim bears witness to Muhammad (saw) as Allah’s Servant and Messenger, the requirements of truth and sincerity need to fulfill the most stringent criteria since man is being called to witness God’s word.

The Kalima-e-Shahadah is then a profoundly symbolic testimony to the truth of the Unity of God and of his greatest and final law-bearing Prophet, Muhammad (saw). The recitation of the Kalima-e-Shahadah is thereby a powerful oath to the truth of the teachings of the Holy Quran and the Holy Prophet (saw) and a powerful pledge of allegiance to live one’s life in full conformity with them. In this latter sense, this testimony is unique, for not only Muslims are called to witness the truth of its claims but commands that they must surrender their lives with utmost sincerity to the Word of God and His Messenger. Thus, as we recite these words as Ahmadi Muslims, we must remain cognizant of the spiritual significance of this oath and pledge. As the Promised Messiah (as) illuminatingly writes:

Muhammad is the most magnificent imprint of the divine light;

None like him can ever be born on the face of the earth.

God sent him and spread the truth;

A new life was breathed into the earth by the advent of that leader.

He is a flourishing and productive tree of the garden of purity and perfection,

And all his progeny are like red roses[10].

Thus, we as roses of the Holy Prophet (saw’s) legacy must strive to discharge the burden of this example of pristine spirituality and war with our souls to crush its thorns. Our recitations of the Kalima-e-Shahadah must be an embodiment of this struggle such that we, too, may drink from that holy fountain that many go in search for, but only few find.

 

[1] Kahlil Gibran, “The Prophet Collection,” Axiom Publishing (2001), p.46

[2] Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, “Barahin-e-Ahmadiyya,” Islam International Publications Ltd., (2012), pp. 131-6

[3] Al Quran, Chapter 16, Verse 66

[4] Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, “The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam,” Islam International Publications Ltd., (1996), p. 120

[5] Al Quran, Chapter 86, Verses 12-15 as explained in “The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam,” Islam International Publications Ltd., p.186

[6] See supra note 4

[7] See supra note 4, at p. 121

[8] See, generally, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shahada#cite_note-3

[9] The New Encyclopedia of Islam, Cyril hi tom Alta Mira Press, (2001), p.416, cited at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shahada#cite_note-NewEncycle-1

[10] See supra note 2, at p. 103

My First Fast

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by Riyya Ahmad, Aldershot

A Nasirat (girls group) member tells of her Ramadhan experience

This month is Ramadhan, the month of fasting for all Muslims world-wide, and in this blessed month I have kept, by the grace of Allah, my very first fast. This is how it went ….

I woke up at around three o clock in the morning to start my fast. The roads were silent and not a light to be seen apart from the glossy shine of the stars and moon. I ate and drank as much as I could and was able to. Then I prayed to God that He give me the stamina to uphold my long fast.

After I finished my Fajr Prayer I went back to bed with a feeling I had never felt before. I felt determined but I also felt a strange sort of excitement. I felt as if I couldn’t sleep.

During the day I tried to read as much Quran as I could and read all of my Prayers. But I also remembered those who were continuously fasting. Those who had no food in their homes or stomachs. Those who were less fortunate than me. I could finally sort of relate to the pain they felt.

Through the day I of course felt hungry, but whenever I thought of Allah and prayed, the hunger from my stomach would vanish and instead I felt quite full.

Then came the time to open my fast. I read my prayers and thanked Allah for enabling me to keep my very first fast. For me this was a milestone in my life, keeping an 18 hour fast. I pray in the future I will be able to keep many more fasts.

Ameen

London’s Pain

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Sameea Jonnud, Aldershot, UK

As it’s Ramadhan I was with my family preparing for the breaking of the fast at sunset, a few minutes after nine. Saturday night is family night for us and last night we were all together, parents, siblings and children, the Champions League final on the television, almost all of us rooting for Juventus so Buffon could lift the trophy. Around the London Bridge area there were also many people who had met up with friends in bars to watch the football.

Like all true Muslims up and down the country (and around the world) during the month of Ramadhan, we wait for the fast to open, before praying and eating dinner. As it was a family day we did this and then sat down to relax for a short time and catch up with one another before bed.

It was during this time I became aware of the events which had begun to unfold on the news; something was happening first on London Bridge, then Borough Market. A van had swerved into pedestrians and there were reports of knives and guns. London is the city of my birth, the city in which I grew up and despite moving away I’ve found that it’s true – you can take the girl out of London but you can’t take London out of the girl. To see the events unfolding felt personal, it hurts physically when my city is hurting.

Of course speculation started immediately that it was a terrorist attack and that it must be Muslims. Some  Muslims said on social media it can’t be Muslims, all real Muslims are breaking their fast and praying at that time. I thought of my family and all my fellow Muslim friends; it’s true, they would all be doing this.

The next fast began a few hours later; at this point the Metropolitan Police had confirmed six fatalities in addition to three attackers. Six innocent people out on a Saturday night caught up in the murderous rampage of hit and run, knife wielding madmen.

As a Muslim the thought of anyone claiming to carry out atrocities in the name of Islam is repugnant. Islam doesn’t condone the killing of innocent people, even in a state of war; the Holy Prophet (peace be on him) never condoned this either. So what is this version of Islam they claim to follow? That of Isis whose followers became famous for possessing “Islam for Dummies” rather than a copy of the Holy Qur’an? And if they justify their actions by saying they are killing unbelievers why are they setting off bombs in Muslim countries regularly killing Muslim men, women and children? This shows their murders are indiscriminate and it is innocent people in many countries who are suffering.

We are a week into the month of Ramadhan, a time when Muslims make extra efforts to please God by reading the Holy Qur’an, performing extra prayers and generally trying to be better human beings. An opportunity to feel the pain of those without food and give to charity to help the needy; Ramadhan is a time of self-reformation to make us better human beings.

What kind of Muslim would use Ramadhan to plan and carry out the murders of innocent people? How dare they hurt people in my beloved London and say it is in the name of my faith?

No, it is not Islam they are following and God does not ask for these actions which are those of criminals using the excuse of Isis inspiration as validation to carry out their murderous urges. Britain is suffering the effects as are so are many places around the world who are targets with such regularity.

Today London is in pain and so am I.