Halloween: Trick more than Treat

Halloween

By Ayza Mahmood, age 14, Roehampton, London

It is the month of October and Halloween, the festival widely celebrated around the globe is a few days away. Halloween is based on ancient traditions that on the day the boundary between the living and the dead is removed and the dead come back to ‘haunt the living’. Halloween is a celebration of dressing up in frightening masks and costumes and going around knocking on doors and asking for sweets.

The concept behind giving sweets to children at the door is a way of protecting your household from the evil and the dead according to Halloween participants. In Islam this would be called ‘shirk’, which means association of anything with God. For example, the worship of idols would be classed as shirk because the idea behind it is that the idol is the worshipper’s god. So, to think that giving sweets on Halloween day is protecting one’s household from the dead is merely shirk because God is Omnipotent (All- Powerful) which means it is only He Who can protect a household or anything for that matter.

The Prophet Muhammad (may peace and blessings of Allah be on him) said that ‘avoid shirk, it is more subtle than footprints [on soft soil]. The Imam of the age, the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) said that even a ‘hint of shirk is unacceptable to God’.

Hazrat Khalifatul Masih V (may Allah be his Helper) gave us the background of Halloween and explained how wrong the practice was in his Friday sermon of 29 October 2010. Huzoor said Halloween is generally regarded as fun. Huzoor said it should always be remembered that any ‘fun’ that is based on shirk or any harmful way is to be avoided. Huzoor said it was a ‘wrong and displeasing practice’ which was ‘a hidden evil’.

It is undignified for a child to dress up in an absurd manner and go knocking from door to door begging for sweets. And allowing a child to roam the streets at night is prone to harm and danger and a major cause for concern. Is it not a basic moral principle to give instead of take? And allowing one’s child to throw eggs on houses simply because they were not given sweets makes one wonder as to why this practice is even allowed.

As an Ahmadi Muslim girl living in the 21st century I have become used to the common question asked of me as to why I do not take part in Halloween. I stay firm in my faith and say there is no need to go around begging for sweets. Halloween mocks the dead including all our ancestors. And anyway God has given us all beautiful faces and why should we spoil them by painting them to make us look like the dead. Life is a blessing that God has bestowed upon us all so why would we ever want to dress up to look like we are not living but rather dead?

Fortunately most people in today’s society are accepting and when I say to people that I do not take part in something they might take part in, the response is usually always reassuring. For example, my neighbour once knocked on my door on Halloween day. She asked my mum if I could go trick or treating with her. My mum gave her sweets and told her politely that we do not celebrate Halloween. She understood and never knocked on our door for Halloween again.

To finish I would like to say that we should try and make positive changes to our society but I find Halloween is a way of dehumanizing everyone. We should be taking steps to better our society instead of disguising as macabre creatures. Life is far too precious to be taken for granted and for us to dress up looking like the dead.

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Grandparents

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 Zujaja Khan, London

In his book ‘Islam’s Response to Contemporary Issues’, His Holiness Mirza Tahir Ahmad (may Allah have mercy on him) expounds on a verse from the Holy Quran, in which Allah states:

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 always address them with kind word. ‘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)

His Holiness explains that the teachings in this verse should not be strictly limited to treatment of our parents, drawing attention to the significance our grandparents as sources of wisdom.

Indeed, our lives are affected and influenced by an ever-expanding network of people in an age when communication is constantly evolving. But it is important not to neglect the ties we have closer to home. His Holiness wrote that nurturing the bonds between different generations would ensure the transmission of good Islamic moral values for many years to come. In my experience, this has come to fruition most powerfully in the last year, since the passing of my beloved grandfather.

Many long years have passed since the days when we would spend the weekend with my grandparents, when they would serve us warm honey toast in the morning, or when my grandfather would whip out his walking stick and take us to the library. 12 months after his passing, I still desperately miss his scratchy brown hat, his woollen sweaters with pockets full of sweets, and his soothing voice reciting the Holy Quran every time I visited.

Now I feel a lingering and deep-seated sadness when I step into his study and see the walls lined with his abundant book collection. I am sure that any person who has lost a beloved family member understands the depths of that grief, and its formative influence on the rest of one’s life.

But it is ultimately through Allah’s mercy and guidance that I have been able overcome the worst of this grief, and have been able to rekindle my closeness to my grandfather in the past year. After his passing, I learned more about the dignity and humility with which my grandfather prevailed over the obstacles he faced as an Imam, and in his personal life.

To me he was always just my grandfather– kind, witty and generous. But in the weeks and months that passed, I was brought closer to the person that everyone else knew him as. I heard countless stories that I had never known before: about his childhood, his Waqf, his services to our Ahmadiyya Muslim community, and even his poetry! Deprived of my grandfather in one way, Allah blessed me with the opportunity to connect with him in an unpredictable way.

I came to realise that his shining example of humility and devotion to the community would outlive any memory that I had of him. Equally, I came to see that his loss would not create a void between generations; in fact, it would strengthen our ties. Allah creates and nurtures love between His people, even in the absence of those loved ones.

For example, apart from the first few years of his life, the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) grew up without his parents or grandparents however, this did not prevent him from showing the utmost respect for the parents of his wives, and indeed advocating vehemently for kindness towards our elders and parents. The Holy Prophet’s (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) pious example is a testament to the vital importance of sustaining our family networks. Each of our elders has the potential to pass on their wisdom and religious knowledge, transmitting and reproducing good morals through every generation.

It is important that one does not allow the materialism of this world to impede one’s ability to nurture real relationships with one’s grandparents. Through the newly-made bonds I have found with family, through the testimonies given by all those who held him dear, through the heartfelt messages received from his friends across the world, I was introduced to a different side of my grandfather. I finally came to understand the true beauty of his heart, the conviction of his faith, and the lasting example he set for all those who knew him. Striving to emulate those characteristics is the least I can do for the man who nourished my faith, my curiosity and my love for honey toast.

Young Muslim Woman’s Outlook

 

Khulat

                                                         Khulat Saqi, London

Having recently started at university, I reflected on how privileged I was to be able to have the freedom to study my chosen subject in a higher education institute. The right for women to study at a university in Britain was only granted after many years of protests by women, finally resulting in a change in legislation ensuring women a university education in 1877.

In today’s society the view of women in Islam is often misunderstood, with many western democracies still believing Muslim women are being repressed and deprived of their rights, especially in terms of education. In fact, since the advent of Islam, the importance of seeking an education for women was afforded to all Muslim women. The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) emphasised this when he said:

 “It is the duty of every Muslim man and every Muslim woman to acquire knowledge.”

And to the extent to “seek knowledge even if you have to go to China,” and to “seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave.”

 The Holy Qur’an also teaches us a short prayer, which says:

“O my Lord, increase me in knowledge.” (20:115)

Not only does this show that Islam supports women’s rights in education but women are actively encouraged to seek a good education. Furthermore, the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) encouraged his wives also to obtain knowledge, saying that “half the religion of Islam could be learned from his wife Hadhrat Ayesha (Allah be pleased with her)”. This clearly demonstrates the importance Islam lays on women’s education.

Like any new student starting university, I was unsure what to expect and anxious about making new friends and adapting to the new environment. I have noticed that a large part of university culture is centered around drinking but I haven’t felt that by not partaking in this, it has impacted my ability to make friends and experience other aspects of university life. I feel confident to dress how I choose to, including wearing a hijab without feeling this is inhibiting me in any way. In fact I feel empowered, whilst I may be covering myself, I am not covering my capabilities or character and it has never been a hindrance for me. I have been able to achieve and experience the same opportunities as other students, whilst preserving my dignity and demonstrating devotion to my faith.

I feel fortunate to be studying in London, a metropolitan city, a hub of different cultures and faiths where I feel difference is not only accepted but also appreciated and even encouraged. At university, there is a diverse student population with diverse needs however I feel represented amongst the student body, for example there are separate faith prayer rooms and also the option of ‘girls only’ sports activities.  I feel empowered to practice my faith whilst being an active member of the student community. As a Muslim I should not, and thankfully do not feel the need to compromise my values to fit into and be part of such a community.

Facts Behind The Hijab

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Maleeha Mansur, Hayes, London

The hijab is a garment that bestows its wearers wings of liberation. However, for those who fail to understand it, it is unjustly labelled a cage of oppression. In order to bring some clarity to this heavily misunderstood garment, a review of some facts is in order.

A Divine Commandment

Not uncommonly these days, one hears of the odd individual boldly announcing that the hijab is not a Divine commandment but a cultural tradition. A rather absurd notion when we observe that the hijab is universally adhered to across all cultural and geographical boundaries; from the Arabian deserts, to African villages and the suburbs of London and New York. So the hijab belongs to no-one culture, it is a practice of faith.

Let us clarify this matter with the Divine authority of the Holy Qur’an.

In chapter 24, verse 32 it states

“And say to the believing women that they restrain their eyes and guard their private parts, and that they display not their beauty and embellishments except that which is apparent thereof, and that they draw their head covers over their bosoms…”

There is much to be learnt from this verse, Firstly, that the hijab is not just a headscarf. Certainly not; there is much greater depth and breadth to this topic. The concept of the hijab defines a standard of modesty. The eyes observe the hijab through restraint of one’s gaze. The tongue observes the hijab through use of appropriate language when speaking to the opposite gender. Indeed, every part of the body partakes in observing the hijab in its own way.

Free Choice

Over and over again, Muslim women are told their hijab has been forced upon them, that they are unable to make decisions for themselves, or that they are deprived of their freedom. In reality, the only force involved for the vast majority of Muslim women donning the hijab is the force of persuasion of a beautiful teaching. If the hijab was to be forcefully enforced on Muslim women, would not a punishment be prescribed for those who don’t wear it? However, there is none to be found, only the wonderful realisation that Islam is a religion of choice. Once one is convinced of the truth of Islam and chooses to come under its fold, naturally then such a person adheres to its teachings.

Crucial For Social Morality

Without the physical aspects of the hijab, the moral state of society enters a steep decline. Indeed, the Holy Qur’an clearly states that the physical hijab enables women to be “distinguished and not molested”[i]. Society today is testament to the need for such physical barriers. Take the music industry for example, sexual assaults have been recognised as a worldwide problem to such an extent that the Swedish Bråvalla Festival has been made female-only until, as Emma Knyckare, the Swedish comedian organising the event, tweeted, “…ALL men have learned how to behave themselves”[ii]

Certainly then, before the hijab is outlawed and brought to question attention needs to be brought to the moral training of men.

Modesty is First Prescribed for Men

Prior to the verse cited above, the Holy Qur’an instructs the following, to men.

“Say to the believing men that they restrain their eyes and guard their private parts. That is purer for them. Surely, Allah is well aware of what they do.” (Chapter 24: Verse 31)

So in fact, the concept of hijab is first prescribed for men. A certain standard of modesty is expected of Muslim men. Islam recognises the inherent differences between men and women, hence, it prescribes an additional physical covering for women. It places women in the driving seat, letting them decide who they wish to reveal their beauty to. Indeed, modern day advertisement testifies to the power of female beauty, wherever attention needs to be drawn, it is done so with women.

A Means of Liberation – Ask those Who Don it!

Sadly, the words ‘oppression’ and ‘hijab’ are often found in the same sentence. Would the world dare to ask those who don the hijab if they are oppressed or liberated. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t make for much of a headline as it would elicit only the resounding chorus of ‘We are independent, free and liberated women. This is our choice, the wisdom of which we see and experience daily. Just as no individual should to be stripped of their clothing, we should also not be stripped to what is akin to nudity to us, under the false pretext of liberation. If there is wisdom greater than Islam’s then show it to us, persuade our hearts and minds with arguments and reasoning as Islam has done.’

[i] Chapter 33:Verse 60
[ii] Swedish music festival to be female-only ‘until all men learn how to behave themselves’, Christopher Hooton, The Independent, Wednesday 5 July 2017
http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/news/sweden-music-festival-men-female-only-bravalla-rape-sexual-assault-emma-knyckare-a7824366.html

Why Islam Ahmadiyyat?

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Why Islam Ahmadiyyat?

By Samina Silver, Redbridge North

Yes, I was a Zionist Jew

And I hated Muslims just like you

A Muslim man fell in the street

So I helped him to his feet

I picked up the Quran, his holy Book

Ask me why, I would never look

Some Israelis were offended and said I was bad

No, the hate you have is very sad

 

I decided that day this was not for me

Leave me alone now, let me be

I met an Ahmadi lady in the street

She asked me to come for something to eat

On that day Islam became the debate

Everyone is equal – was this my fate?

Islam Ahmadiyyat is so true

The Promised Messiah has come for me and you

 

I became an Ahmadi because it is true

And for my heart and soul nothing else will do

And who would have ever thought that this hateful Jew

Would one day go and become one of you

 

I wanted a sister and now I have one true

Samina Siddiqi, I love you

You’re honest, faithful and always true

And I strive to be a Muslim just like you

And all the Jamaat you are special too

I am proud to be among all of you

Beautiful, of the Creation of Allah

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By Qudsia Ward, Cornwall, UK

Beautiful, of the creation of Allah, are diamonds.

Diamonds are carbon – carbon is in all life forms; essential!

Diamonds are transparent, crystal, bright and clear.

Diamonds are lustrous, reflecting and refracting light into a myriad colours.

Hard and strong, diamonds mark and shape materials around them.

Diamonds are beautiful; diamonds are valuable.

Beautiful among the servants of Allah are Lajna Ima’illah.

Lajna are women – essential for all Jamaat life.

Almighty Allah, the Effacer of sins, make each one of us clear, pure, transparent as crystal.

Make each Lajna member beautiful reflecting Your light, Your Magnificence, Your Beauty.

Almighty Allah, the Fashioner, enable Lajna together shape and mark our community in the best of ways.

Omnipotent Allah, the Protector, guard and protect all Lajna Ima’illah members and enable them to enhance their value and serve Thee, fulfilling the purpose of their creation.

A Diamond Permeating the Soul

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By Rashida Nasir, Aldershot, UK

Suffragettes and Amelia Hart
What is it that sets them apart?
Pioneers of their time
Raising the status of womankind.

No right to vote?
No equal pay?
How absurd
In the modern day!

Yet 1400 years ago
Islam emerged with an eternal light
Respecting women
And honouring their rights

While the world trudged on
With its ups and downs
Rays of peace
Began to spread around

Under the spiritual guidance
Of the Promised Messiah
The rope of Khilafat
A yearning, a desire

Uniting us all
To strive and deliver
The pledge of Lajna
To grow and empower

Gain knowledge and share
The treasures we find
The physical, the mental
The spiritual entwined

A diamond in the rough
But polish and behold
The strength and the brilliance
Permeating the soul

Lajna Ima’illah
A diamond jubilee
60 years’ blessings
May we continue to succeed!

Ameen

My Veil of Confidence

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By Riyya Ahmad, age 13, Aldershot, UK

Islam has suffered from false allegations about the veiling of Muslim women for centuries. The media portrays the veil, or hijab, to be a restriction on Muslim women when it is really an act of modesty.

It is one of the most misunderstood concepts of Islam. Society believes that women who cover their heads, and wear modest clothes somehow have little freedom and are not able to express who they are. In fact, the very opposite is true. My veil actually inspires me with confidence in my day to day life.

If one looks with a deeper gaze on this subject, it will be found that the veiling of women is not something that Islam has introduced. The previous revealed scriptures also contain traces of similar teachings and Islam came only to complete and perfect them. It is a complete honour to follow in the footsteps of such a pious lady, Mother Mary (Hazrat Maryam) who is always depicted as having her head covered.

The Holy Quran says:

“O children of Adam! We have indeed sent down to you raiment to cover your shame, and to be an elegant dress;…” (7:27)

Islam provides guidance for a peaceful, harmonious and logical way of life.  You will find that the hijab is a means of protecting women, and providing them with freedom from many social ills and it is a blessing for them. The word “purdah” is also used to describe the concept and the practice of hijab. The Holy Quran has laid down that, one of the methods men and women are to use to achieve that goal is hijab. It says in the Holy Quran:

“Say to the believing men that they restrain their eyes and guard their private parts…” (24:31)

And then women are addressed:

“And say to the believing women that they restrain their eyes and guard their private parts, and that they display not their beauty and embellishments except that which is apparent thereof, and that they draw their head covers over their bosoms…” (24:32)

Living in western society, it is inevitable to be asked why I wear my hijab and how my veil inspires me. And every time, my answer remains the same; it makes me who I am. It is a part of my identity. Without it I would not be as confident as I am today. It protects me, while still letting me do the daily tasks I desire to do. The veil is my spiritual way of gaining closeness to Allah the Almighty and my faith.

Thus the question follows: do you ever feel constrained by your veil? I reply, “If my hijab restricted me from being out and about like you, then yes my hijab would constrain me. If my hijab limited me from achieving the education we all have a right to, then yes my hijab would constrain me. But if I am out and about alongside you, and I am building an educational career to the same level as you, then you tell me, does my hijab constrain me?

My veil is not just an ordinary cloth draped around my head, it is my respect, my dignity, my honour, my faith and my blessing from Allah the Almighty, surrounding me as I go confidently in the direction I desire.

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.

 

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.