Service To Humanity

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Luton & Bedford Poppy Appeal Fundraising 2016

by Mrs Hamida Iqbal, Luton, UK

God says in the Holy Qur’an, chapter 2, verse 198.

“.. And whatever good you do, Allah knows it…”

And in a tradition of the Holy Prophet, peace be upon him,

Abu Musa Ash’ari relates that the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Charity is incumbent upon every Muslim. He was asked: If a person should have nothing?’ He answered: He should work with his hands to his own benefit and also give alms. If he is not able to work?   He should help a needy helpless one.   If he cannot do even that? He should urge others to goodness. If he lacks that also? He should restrain himself from doing evil. That too is charity.”
(Riyadh As-Salihin, Muhammad Zafrulla Khan, p.36)

Below are some words quoted from the writings of the Promised Messiah (peace be on him) as related by Hazrat Khalifatul Masih V at the International Conference of the charity Humanity First on Saturday, 24th January 2015 at Baitul Futuh Mosque.

“There are only two complete parts of faith. One is to love God and the other is to love mankind to such a degree that you consider the suffering and the trials and tribulations of others as your own and that you pray for them.”

“Ahmadi Muslims bow down in sincere prayer praying that Allah enables them to serve with a true spirit of sympathy, compassion and love for mankind. They seek Allah’s Help to develop a truly selfless spirit whereby they consider the pain and desperation of others as their own pain and desperation. They pray that they are able to remove the tribulations and suffering of other people.”

At another occasion he said:

“To truly love God and Islam requires a person to love his nation. It is clear, therefore, that there can be no conflict of interest between a person’s love for God, and love for his country.”
(Speech delivered at the Military Headquarters in Koblenz, Germany, 30th May 2012)

Hazrat Khalifatul Masih V’s guidance resonates the hearts of millions of Ahmadi Muslims the world over.   And for this reason, whenever there is a need to raise money at charity events, the Lajna (Ahmadiyya Muslim Women’s Association) from Luton and Bedford, like any other Lajna members elsewhere, are always ready to sacrifice their time and money to put into practice the advice of our beloved Caliph and they do this with much dedication and passion.

So, this year when local president, Mrs Huma Qadeer announced that she would like to once again help collect money for the Royal British Legion’s (RBL) Poppy Appeal, many came forward to volunteer.

From 31st October to 10th November 2016 smiling volunteers took turns to sell poppies throughout the day at supermarkets in Luton and Bedford. Included were poppies hand knitted by Lajna which later became a sell-out item. Many customers were amazed to see hijab-wearing Muslim ladies manning the poppy stalls. When asked, Mrs Qadeer explained the importance of being an integral part of society how their involvement highlighted the desire for peace and unity between all peoples, nations and religions.

Indeed, we take our guidance from Hazrat Khalifatul Masih V who has previously commented on the Poppy Appeal:

“Muslims are obliged to be loyal to the country in which they live. Honouring those who fought to defend and safeguard one’s country is an important principle of Islam and in fact is an important principle of peace – especially when it is carried out with a sincere heart and for the sake of winning God’s pleasure.”

Mr Colin Woods, who has been a member of the Royal British Legion (RBL) for 19 years, said:

“I am truly moved by the commitment shown by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Women Association in helping to sell poppies and have received excellent feedback from members of the public who have nothing but praise for the efforts of the ladies, some even said that they never thought they would ever see Muslims selling poppies. Unfortunately there is so much bad press about Muslims today, but I have been enlightened and proud to have met and worked alongside the ladies of the AMWA and have a genuine respect for the work they do.”

As a mark of gratitude, Mr Woods extended an invitation to Mrs Qadeer to lay a wreath of poppies on Remembrance Sunday, 13th November in Luton.

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Speaking after the service, Mrs Huma Qadeer said Remembrance Sunday gives us the opportunity to express our sincere gratitude to the many brave men and women of the armed services who had sacrificed their lives to defend and safeguard our country and it also gives us the opportunity to build relationships within our diverse community to promote peace, tolerance and humanitarian support.

Later on the same day Mrs Qadeer was interviewed by Ms Yasmeen Khan of BBC Three Counties Radio.   Ms Khan congratulated her for the huge amount of money collected. When asked what reactions she received while out and about. Mrs Qadeer responded by saying, the public had been absolutely fantastic. They had been so generous in giving and they really appreciated that Muslim women were here to help in such a wonderful cause.

The hard work for the poppy appeal fund raising paid off with Luton and Bedford lajna raising over £11,500 which surpassed previous collections.

We are blessed as members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community that we have our beloved Khalifa to guide us – in this case, towards fulfilling the ninth condition of Bai’at (pledge as an Ahmadi):

‘That he/she shall keep himself/herself occupied in the service of God’s creatures for His sake only and shall endeavour towards the beneficence of mankind to the best of his/her God-given abilities and powers.’

I end with these words of The Promised Messiah (peace be on him) and prayers that we are able to live up to them.

“My countrymen, a religion which does not inculcate universal compassion is no religion at all. Similarly, a human being without the faculty of compassion is no human at all. Our God has never discriminated between one people and another…”
(Paigham e Sulh, Message of Peace.)

Love Thy Neighbour

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Rubina Ahmedi, Manchester, UK

Do you know who lives next door to you? Above you or they may live on the floor below?

When I was a young girl we all had street parties, we knew everyone in our street. If my mum was baking a cake and we ran out of eggs or sugar we popped over to one of the neighbours and borrowed some, we didn’t think twice and they often did the same. It saved you going out to the shops and more importantly there was a feeling of unity in the neighbourhood.

Let’s face it these days many of us don’t know the people who live next door let alone in our street. Sometimes we are so busy in our “rat race” that we forget to smile or share things with the people who often live closer to us than our own family and relatives.

Just think for a moment’; do you have an elderly neighbour who is sat alone for most of the day and doesn’t have any visitors?  Or maybe your neighbour is a young family that have small children and frequently visit your local food bank for essentials. Can we spare a few minutes to say hello and have a chat, offer to go to the shops or share some soup or a cake?

The Holy Founder of Islam (peace and blessings of Allah be on him ) often advised his Companions and said:

“O Abu Dharr! Whenever you prepare a broth, put plenty of water in it and give some of it to your neighbours,”

We shouldn’t feel shy to be the first to put out our hand of friendship as this is the way to reach people’s hearts.

In Islam, as in all faiths, we are taught to share and be big hearted. You might welcome a new neighbour, lend one of your gardening tools or offer to sweep the path.

The Holy Quran teaches us to love our neighbours. In Chapter 4 verse 37 we read:

 “…do good to your neighbours who are near and neighbours who are unknown to you.”

‘…show kindness…to the neighbour that is a kinsman and the neighbour that is a stranger…’

The Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) taught us that a “neighbour” is not just the one next door but includes all those up to forty houses in all directions – effectively a whole neighbourhood.

Life is full of uncertainty and risky situations can arise any time. If a problem arises in our house then the most reachable person indeed is our neighbour. And they will help us but only if we are good to them.

So let’s make a prayer for all our neighbours be they of any race, faith or no faith, be they known to us or strangers better off than us or worse off, be they locals or migrants, male or female, young or old.

May God enable us to fulfil the rights of our neighbours.

To Volunteer Is A Part Of Life

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Sameea Jonnud, Aldershot, UK

I noticed #volunteersweek trending on Twitter and the messages people were posting about the volunteers that are so important to so many charitable groups. It made me think about how important volunteering is to members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community here in the UK and around the world. In fact volunteering is so much a part of being an Ahmadi Muslim that most of the time we do not even realise that is what we are doing.

From an early age our youth are encouraged to volunteer at events; in fact this process begins with children who are encouraged to help out when they see adults doing so.

Jalsa UK, an annual convention, every summer is a prime example of this; the bulk of the event, hosting over 30,000 people, is set up and run by a team of 5000 volunteers. From installing a water supply system, directing traffic, cooking and serving three meals a day to children keeping guests supplied with water, the event would not be possible without these volunteers. And most of the time you will find these people working long hours with smiles on their faces.

In the parts of Jalsa run by the women’s auxiliary it is the same; teams of women are enabled to work five days accommodating guests from around the world, driving buggies to transport guests and luggage and ensuring toilets and showers are kept clean and well stocked. During the time of the Jalsa programme itself teams are present to direct and assist guests, keep them fed and hydrated, provide first aid and pick up litter.

It is not only during Jalsa that we see volunteers appear; any event during the year is the same with teams of volunteers on standby to make these smaller events successful. The recent Lajna UK meena bazaar, a traditional ladies only fete, was awash with colour and a display of skills in arts and craft as well as home cooked food. The reason it was successful was, of course, the teams of dedicated women creating the beautiful displays, running various stands and cleaning up afterwards.

The numerous fundraising events held by the youth and men’s auxiliaries as well as members of Lajna are so successful because participants and organisers volunteer their time and efforts. Hundreds of thousands of pounds are raised in this way through events at local as well as national level.

So after being given the opportunity and ability to participate in all this volunteering what do the volunteers actually get out of it that keeps them continuing to volunteer? They get to learn skills they would not otherwise learn, the satisfaction of helping others and the ultimate goal, to win the pleasure of God. And, incidentally, as the young are kept busy and given responsibilities in helping others they don’t have the inclination to get involved in any antisocial, misguided activities which is an added by-product.

I have to say though, for most of us we don’t even think that we are specifically volunteering anymore because it has become so much a part of our lives and without it we feel like we’re missing out somehow.

During the time I have been enabled to volunteer at events, I have served water, cleaned toilets, picked up litter, arranged duty rotas, driven golf buggies and served meals to a couple of thousand people at a time. I’ve picked up many skills, enjoyed working with lots of different people and loved all of it. I thank God for giving me the opportunity to serve and after all this I can really appreciate all of the people who sacrifice their time to help others.

So finally a big thank you to all volunteers everywhere, without whom the world would not be the same!

Humanity First – Ladies Fundraising Dinner

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Sadia Sami, London, UK

On April 20th, Humanity First organized their second annual charity dinner for ladies only which I had the good fortune to attend. Before jumping into the details of this great charity event, let’s focus on what exactly Humanity First is. Humanity First is a charity organization that first began in the UK during 1994. Since then, Humanity First has responded to thousands of victims in any sort of affected community and since 2000, HF has expanded to international disasters and programmes such as education, healthcare and orphans. Today, Humanity First is established in over 43 countries and across 6 continents with funding coming mainly from donations.

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The night started off with an address from National UK Humanity First Representative, Mansoora Nasir, who highlighted the main purpose of the Humanity First Charity Dinner—a night to raise awareness and donations for schools and students in Gambia. The speech really touched me as the speaker pointed out how underdeveloped the school many of these children attend is. The children do not have a proper area to play sports or play with each other. If they desire to play football, they make lines on the rocky floors with stones and play football but they would also not have proper sports equipment like a ball or even run. The money that would have been raised by the Humanity First dinner would be used to renovate the sports area, school and establish swimming facilities for the children.

Many people rightfully question charities as there have been many cases where donations go towards the charity rather than the cause the money was raised for. However, the charity dinner was almost completely done upon donations. The delicious dinner which consisted of our favourite ‘chaat papadi’, Chinese rice and sweet and sour chicken was given by two anonymous donors and the hall had been given to Humanity First free of charge.

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In order to make the night go smoothly, there were many lady volunteers that were at the hall from 10am till midnight helping with setting up, guiding guests, organizing the auction and cleaning up. The auction was energetic and various items were up for bid from a Prada bag to beauty packages and even driving lessons. Almost all items were sold and many ladies donated towards the Gambia cause.

Overall, the night went very smoothly and was a great success due to the efforts made by the Humanity First team and also by the donations given so selflessly.

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Love for All, Hatred for None – The Power Of Words

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Sarah Khan, London

Everyone loves a good slogan. The holy grail of all marketing and advertising executives, a short phrase that will stick in the mind and be associated with their product or association. Some slogans are amusing little word plays, others become memorable for decades. Simply think ‘Just do it’ by Nike or ‘I’m lovin’ it’ by McDonalds. These are simple, effective messages that translate across cultures and languages becoming truly global in their reach. The key requirements of a good slogan are that they should be memorable, should send a positive message and should distinguish your ‘brand’ from others in the same field. But just sometimes, slogans come to mean something more, conveying something beyond the simple words they contain.

The growth of Twitter and social media has seen the rising power of the hashtag. Thousands, sometimes millions of people, rally behind a cause and show their solidarity through a shared expression. In recent years we have seen how hashtags have the power to fuel social change. #Icantbreath or #bringbackourgirls for example caught the attention of world leaders although they started from a grass roots level.

In the sphere of my life I have grown up with a slogan that was coined before the internet age; a simple message with a deep meaning and one which I hope translates into concrete behaviour and is not just words. The slogan ‘Love for All, Hatred for None’ was coined by the third head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazrat Mirza Nasir Ahmad, while in Spain for the laying of the foundation stone of the Basharat Mosque. It was in response to concerns of the people there but also came at a time when the Community was facing severe persecution. Homes and businesses had been looted within Pakistan and the situation was dire with riots being held in many places and some Ahmadi Muslims losing their life in the calamities. Instead of taking forceful action or reacting to violence with physical force the then Khalifah urged all Ahmadi people to turn to prayer and it was in this atmosphere that the slogan took hold. During a need to find peace, to find spiritual strength at a time of trial, it was a unifying and beautiful beacon of hope shining in a time of fear and concern.

Since that time more than 40 years ago, the slogan has been adopted into the hearts of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. It is displayed on banners and posters at all of our events whether they be in rural Africa or Urban America. It is emblazoned on badges, t-shirts, bumper stickers and much more. This slogan has come to serve two main purposes; it reminds Ahmadi Muslims to be correct in their approach to everyone and it serves to tell guests in a quick and digestible manner a fundamental core principle of our faith.

With the growth of extremism and terrorism, the impact of this slogan has become more pronounced upon visitors and guests who come across our Community. At peace forums and annual gatherings, the message makes a deep impression on people’s hearts and immediately indicates to them that the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is not of those creating unrest and violence in the world.   I have even seen this impact first hand.

A couple of years ago I was travelling to our annual convention in Hampshire by train from London. A man boarded the train along the route with his teenage companion. As he entered the carriage he looked around at the veiled women and Muslim men, many of whom sported beards. He swore loudly, claiming this wasn’t Iraq, and then continued down the train to another section. Within a few minutes he returned, face slightly downcast. He hadn’t realised that the train was full of similar people and he had nowhere to escape from them. He stood in front of me and my young children for several stops, looking uncomfortable. I wasn’t sure how volatile he was and I did not want to provoke any disturbance so I kept quiet and he for his part uttered no further abuse. However, during that journey my children and I were wearing our I.D. badges with a neck chain emblazoned with the phrase ‘Love for All, Hatred for None’ and I noticed this man observing people all around him sported these words in one form or the other. I don’t know what impact this slogan had upon that particular man but I know I felt relief and humble pride that I was wearing my badge that day. The slogan spoke for me and indicated my beliefs far better than any argument or confrontation could ever have done. I realised then the power of words to convey beauty through silence.

This is why you may see this slogan emblazoned on buses across the UK from time to time and from tomorrow on buses in Glasgow and other Scottish cities. The campaign focus is ‘United Against Extremism’ and it has been undertaken to publically declare our stand as Muslims against violence or extremism of any nature. In the wake of the tragic murder of Asad Shah last month, Scotland showed that it is indeed a place where communities can stand united against intolerance. The support of locals for the family and the neighbouring Ahmadi Community was heart-warming for those of us even in far-flung places of the globe to witness. When so many members of our Community live in fear of physical and verbal attacks due to their faith, the solidarity shown by the locals is an act of kindness which touches the hearts of many.

However, while the bus banners will only be around for a few weeks, we, as Ahmadi Muslims, hope that the true meaning of our slogan will continue long after the campaign. Speaking in 2014, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community said that the slogan ‘Love for All, Hatred for None’ could ‘make it clear to the world that Islam teaches love, peace and kindness and it is not correct to associate cruelty and viciousness with the faith of Islam. We employ this slogan to signify that we wish to live together by breaking down walls of hatred. When we serve humanity in any way at all or when we disseminate the message of Islam we do so because we have love for every person in the world and we wish to remove hatred from each heart and instead sow the seeds of love[1]’.

With such a lofty ideal, and such a memorable slogan, backed by concrete actions there is a hope that Muslims and non-Muslims can indeed unite and put out the fires of extremism with the compassion of love.

[1] https://www.alislam.org/friday-sermon/printer-friendly-summary-2014-05-09.html