Westminster Reflections

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Sameea Jonnud, Aldershot

The Metro newspaper had a story a couple of days ago about a terror response exercise on the river Thames; as events unfolded in Westminster yesterday afternoon it felt surreal as if reality and training were merging. Three members of the public died and dozens are being treated for extensive injuries after a car was driven into a crowd on Westminster Bridge. PC Keith Palmer was stabbed and died after confronting a man who ran towards the entrance and tried to gain access to Parliament; this man was shot dead by police. Parliament and the surrounding area remained under lockdown for several hours and now, on the morning after, the country is left reflecting on what happened.

For me seeing these events happening in the city of my birth is devastating. The beautiful sights of London under lockdown and once more filled with the sound of sirens and the sight of blood because of an act of hatred. We experienced it with IRA bombings in the past as well as the 7th July attack.

Events of horror such as this one affect us all and we react in different ways; until the police actually tell us details of what happened and until we can see into the hearts of our fellow people speculation is futile.

However speculation began immediately and in this age of social media it doesn’t take long for information, both fact and fiction, to spread. Matters were made worse when the usually more reliable Channel 4 News named the suspect only for it to emerge that the man in question is actually serving a jail sentence. Many people began to blame Islam and Muslims, for carrying out and condoning terrorism; so once again and despite their open condemnation, peaceful, ordinary Muslims were blamed for ‘not doing enough’. As if reasonable people could really believe ordinary Muslims are not shocked and saddened; the fact that the great majority of devout Muslims are against terrorism should be enough to show that Islam itself does not allow for terrorism.

A couple of other things struck me as really unsavoury; first was the way former EDL leader Tommy Robinson rushed to the scene and the media interviewed him. Why should importance be given to a man who wasn’t present during the incident and is only known for stirring up hatred against Muslims? Once again the media’s need for shock value prevailed.

Another thing was that despite advice from the Police that people should contact them with information and not circulate photographs and speculation, many were shared. One showing a man in a crowd taking a selfie in front of ambulances produced immediate outrage; however the people circulating the photo didn’t maybe stop and think they were complicit just by sharing. A second photo showed a Muslim woman walking past an injured person on the pavement while speaking on a mobile phone. This led to many comments condemning “the uncaring Muslim rushing by”. But who knows the situation? She could have been contacting relatives to tell them she was safe, she could have been pacing unable to help and if she was merely walking past chatting what makes this action an illustration of an uncaring Muslim rather than the actions of any other uncaring young person these days?

Divisions and hatred may have been shouted out but the images and words that should stay in our minds are rather different. The image of MP Tobias Ellwod was all over the media as he desperately tried to save the life of the fallen police officer. The many medics rushing out from St Thomas hospital disregarding the fact the area may not yet have been secure. Passers-by helping the injured, something which has been shown again and again at times of crisis.

Hatred and pointing fingers will get us nowhere; to defeat attempts to terrorise us we must unite and show tolerance towards one another as fellow human beings. As Brendan Cox pointed out this morning, there was one act of evil but thousands of acts of kindness and bravery. This is something that what we should focus on as more details emerge in the coming days when the need for unity will be great.

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Empowerment of Women in the 1920s: The story of Lajna Ima’illah

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Sameen R. Chaudhary, London

It is generally acknowledged that the role of women changed during and after the World Wars. With the men away on the battle field, it was up to women to hold down the fort at home, taking on war jobs that went beyond their traditional roles. Mechanics, factory workers, farmers; jobs that before were ‘men’s jobs’ were now being done by women. Posters of strong women and propaganda challenged the stereotypes and encouraged women to work, because the nation demanded, nay, depended on it for their survival. It was perhaps intended to be a temporary break from the norm until the men returned. Once begun however, many of these women found it difficult to go back to their roles pre-war. They had come to a realisation almost by default; that they were capable and intelligent enough to do a man’s job and for them that meant that they were now equal.

There was a quiet revolution for women happening elsewhere in the world around the same time, 1922 to be precise. There were no posters, and no propaganda. And women were not being told to leave their traditional roles temporarily. These women had already been given an equal status by their faith, Islam, more than a thousand years earlier, but they did not have to act like men to prove it. This revolution recognised the uniqueness of women and the contributions they could make to further a nation, as women in their own right. This revolution occurred in India. Here, even though approximately 1.3 million men had gone off the fight the war, still women did not have to take on the role of men. Instead they were taught how to flourish in their own role as women. When a woman is allowed to achieve everything on par with men, but in her own way, without having to prove that she can act like a man- that is not just equality. It is freedom. Freedom to be a woman, and freedom to be equal in the true sense of the word.

These women I speak of, Ahmadi Muslim women were relatively financially poor but rich with enthusiasm and love for Islam and even managed to wholly finance the first mosque in London while living in 1920s India. The Second Khalifa, the spiritual head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community set up an auxiliary women’s organisation called Lajna Ima’illah in December 1922. Its aim was self-education and training of women, both in spiritual and secular terms. For example, as is still the norm in rural parts of the East, women learn crafts such as sewing and embroidery. One of the first departments created within this auxiliary was that of Industry and Handicraft, after some ladies used their skills to make artefacts and hold an exhibition where they were sold. The proceeds went to good causes. And thus this department was born with its roots in the empowerment of women by encouraging them to learn and use their skills to eradicate unemployment.

In short, it allows them to pursue means by which they can improve their skills and earn their own money-an important feature for some women when claiming their independence. But crucially, it allows them to do it in a way that does not compromise any other aspect of themselves. So often women who have multiple roles face the harsh reality of having to put one role above the other: A working mother may feel the guilt of leaving her child whilst she goes to work sometimes out of financial necessity and sometimes out of having to make a financial contribution to her household as this is what her ‘equality’ entails. The Second Khalifa of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, with his amazing foresight, recognised the importance of making women independent and eradicating unemployment as a means to empower them, rather than empowering women because they needed to fill the shoes of men. Even today in many cultures financially independent women are still feared. But he encouraged them at a time when working women were scarce amongst those that were financially supported, by giving them a higher cause: to earn their own money and spend out of it for the cause of faith thereby raising their spiritual status as well.

For over 10 years now I have watched my mother serve in the capacity of Secretary for Industry and Handicraft for Lajna Ima’illah UK; watched all kinds of women work hard, to learn new skills, to set up their own businesses sometimes in the face of adversity. I have seen women take on their roles as women and entrepreneurs with dignity and grace, and above all, creating a work life balance where their womanhood is not compromised. Skills such as cooking, sewing and handicrafts may seem old fashioned and out dated. But only a look at some of the most popular TV programmes currently suggest otherwise. It is not only these skills that can be developed, but whatever you wish. The idea is to help all those who have not pursued other career routes to work for themselves, giving them true independence and the ability to answer to no one but themselves and God. Women have organised bazaars with a footfall of over 3,000 women, providing a platform for many business women to sell and advertise their products and services. They work in temporary industrial sized kitchens in the outdoors, and feed over 10,000 women every day for three days every year at the Annual Convention for the Ahmadiyya Community. It is not pretty or dainty work, and it is certainly not for the weak. The strength, stamina and resolve of such women is remarkable. And they are not alone. A huge voluntary task force of women work long hours providing security, shelter, food, and comfort of every kind to their guests during this time.

As India celebrates its all women flights, Lajna Ima’illah has been running its own organisation, own events and own programme of education and reform for all women and girls for decades upon decades. Indeed, it is now an organisation global in scope, working in over two hundred countries around the world. Perhaps here in the UK in the future Lajna Ima’illah can reach the level of holding exhibitions such as those in Earl’s Court and the Excel Centre, mirroring the humble efforts of those first pioneers back in the 1920s.

MUSLIM WOMEN’S GROUP SAY LOYALTY TO BRITAIN IS PART OF THE ISLAMIC FAITH

PRESS RELEASE

16 January 2017

Some 700 women attended a national Peace symposium titled “Faith and Loyalty to Britain: The Role of Women” on Saturday. The event was organised by women from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Women’s Association UK to dispel misconceptions about Islam and Muslim Women and demonstrate that loyalty to Britain is part of the practice of Islam.

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It was held at the largest Mosque in Western Europe, the Baitul Futuh Mosque in South London.

Keynote speakers were Baroness Williams of Trafford, Minister of State (Home Office), Ms. Patsy Robertson, Vice Chair of the Commonwealth Association, and Mrs Safiyya Salam, Vice President of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Women’s Association, UK. Distinguished speakers included the Rt. Hon Fiona MacTaggart MP and Siobhain McDonagh MP. The event was also attended by Councillors, Mayors, academics, NGOs and invitees from many faiths and beliefs.

The aim of the event was also to highlight the important contribution made by Ahmadi Muslim women who are dedicated to Islam and its peaceful teachings but are also able to contribute significantly to British society, its culture and its economy. A £5000 cheque was presented to Whizz-Kidz a British Charity which is working hard to transform the lives of disabled children.

Baroness Williams of Trafford, Minister of State (Home Office) said:

It’s so good to see so many women here to talk about the role we can play in promoting peace and integration. Whether we are mothers, religious leaders or politicians, we all have a role in establishing peace.” 

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Baroness Williams also commended the Ahmadiyya Muslim Women’s Association and said:

“Your dedication to your faith and your country is an inspiration for us all. Ahmadiyya Muslim Women demonstrate to me their importance to building strong communities. Thank You!”

Baroness Williams also outlined the Government’s commitment to tackling hate crime which includes action on racially and religiously aggravated hate crime and to protecting communities from hostility, violence and bigotry.

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Mrs. Patsy Robertson, Vice Chair of the Commonwealth Association spoke of the advancement of women since the Beijing UN Conference for Women’s Rights, but said:

I have come to know that as a Community, you are accomplished and have done a great deal of work for your fellow citizens … I really do believe that it is incumbent on Muslim and non-Muslim women to end this idea that wearing the hijab is an oppressive tool. We are educated women, we have to speak up and challenge these societal beliefs.”

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The Rt. Hon Fiona MacTaggart MP said:

I want to congratulate you on leading this woman’s only event… Mum’s roles are not celebrated enough in government and the job they do in bringing up moral children and establishing peace within society… The All Party Parliamentary Group for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is I believe the only group in Parliament with a majority of female MPs”

Siobhain McDonagh MP said:

I want to thank you for your contributions. I want to thank you for showing loyalty without condition to your country.”

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Mrs. Nasira Rehman, National President of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Women’s Association UK said:

Islam is a religion of peace, tolerance and unity.  Ahmadi Muslim women have been in Britain since 1913 and adopting modest dress have been determinedly serving society ever since.  We will continue to do so building on our determination to show society that respect and tolerance for true peaceful Islam and responsibility to God and His creation is a source of unity and peace for all of us.

Mrs. Rehman also paid tribute to Councillor Maxi Martin, who passed away in 2016 and was a dear friend of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Women’s Association.

Mrs. Safiyya Salam, Vice President of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Women’s Association in the UK and daughter in law of Dr Abdus Salam, the first Muslim Nobel laureate in sciences said:

This Muslim Women’s Association was established in 1922 to encourage Muslim women to be improve knowledge, serve the community, and train and bring up children to be righteous and loyal citizens. As practising Muslims, we are instructed to love our country and act as an instrument of peace. Loyalty to one’s country is part of the Islamic faith and there is no conflict between this and our belief in Islam”.

Mrs. Farzana Yousuf, a lawyer and National Secretary for Community Outreach said:

Ahmadi Muslim women believe in loyalty to Britain, we believe in freedom, respect, tolerance and a shared responsibility for our world. In other words, we believe in true Islam.”

Alison Gordon O.B.E, Director and co Founder of Sister for Change, Mitty Tohma President of the Women’s Federation for World Peace, Margaret Ali, Director of the Universal Peace Federation, Councillor Brenda Fraser Mayor of Merton, Councillor Wendy Speck Deputy Mayor of Wandsworth and Deputy Mayor of Croydon Councillor Toni Letts were also distinguished guests who attended and spoke. Their thoughtful sentiments were well received by the Symposium.

 

 

 

New Year, Old Me!

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Sameen R. Chaudhary, London

Time, and marks of time such as the New Year give us milestones and posts for us to measure our time on earth.  With such guideposts, we can see how much progress we have made, and how much we have lost over the past year.  There is criticism that the New Year as a modern tradition has been commercialised and spiralled out of control.  Perhaps the ways and methods we now use to mark this time has changed, but the marking of it itself is and always has been an important part of human development.  Not least because it is the time for reflection and for many resolving to do better, achieve more, and reach our own goals in the coming year.  But also as a collective mark, a mark of time that we all share and we live together.  We, all of us, may live vastly different days to each other.  From the moment we wake up, to when we rest our head at night, no two people in the world will have lived the exact same day.  The one common thing between us is the waxing and waning, and the rising and setting of the celestial bodies.  Time, days, months and years are what we all share at any given moment.  What we do with it is what sets us apart.

As time marches on some progress is made, some set back occur.  Some opportunities lost are lost forever.  That is the harsh reality of time, life and death.  When it has gone there is no bringing it back.  But there is a silver lining, and that is that some mistakes can be learnt from, avoided in the future, perhaps even made better.  God gives us some opportunities again, and this time we may act differently.  That is just one aspect of the merciful nature of our God, that He allows His creation to go through the same patterns and seasons so that we can take the opportunity to do better the next time. Perhaps that is one of the underlying points of New Year resolutions, to resolve to make better use of our time, and to take those opportunities that we missed in the last year.

I have always found New Year resolutions difficult to keep.  The whole idea of making myself new is nice for the first few days.  Invigorating and exciting even.  A new start, the possibilities are endless.  But after the initial few days, perhaps even a month, as the winter drags on it becomes increasingly difficult to hold on to that motivation.  It’s not only me I have been told.  It’s called the January Blues.  Why so Blue if it is all new?  Perhaps I have resolved to change or do too much in the coming year, as my quest to create a ‘New Me’ fizzles out.  That is a tall order, especially when I am in the same body, same place and same routine.  Perhaps it is because New Me has pushed aside certain things rather than acknowledging them as the first step for change /improvement. Change does not come overnight, it is a continual gradual process that needs constant work and attention.  Change is something that happens over the years.  At the end, we stop, think, take stock of our progress and put in place goals for the future. Rather than starting again this year, I have heeded the advice of beloved Huzoor, His Holiness Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, and asked myself a series of soul searching questions.  Questions to do with the Old Me of this year gone by.  Only by taking a deep look at it, can I think about what needs to change, and to what degree. That way I can accept the Old Me and look to improve, bringing about small changes step by step.  Of course this may not work for everybody, and those that can start afresh as the clock strikes midnight on the 1st January, good for them.  But our Old Me’s have gone through a lifetime of experience and learnt many lessons, all of which can help rather than hinder progress.

Resolutions have, and perhaps always will be a feature of the New Year.  There is nothing wrong with resolving to improve oneself, whatever that may look like for the individual.  But perhaps this year, when I know that I will have to ask myself again those questions at the end, I will be more inclined (hopefully!) to stay on track and make more progress.  A New Me means that I can forget the past and start over.  In that case there is no need for me to change much.  My intention may be good, but it lacks the drive to make sure that I carry it on throughout the year.  And I may end up repeating the same cycle over and over.  So next year, I am looking forward to an improved Old Me, however small that improvement may be. InshaAllah.

New Year Reflections

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Sameea Jonnud, Aldershot, UK

Often as the New Year counts down I will say a prayer; this year I raised my hands in silent prayer a couple of minutes before midnight. It was silent around me and I thanked God for the blessings He had given me and prayed for my family. No one was close but I knew the moment the clock struck midnight because immediately the stillness of the night was broken by a series of bangs and whistled as the now traditional New Year fireworks exploded into my awareness. I ignored the noise as best I could and continued my prayers.

On completing a couple of minutes after midnight I glanced outside and saw the loudest bangs I had been hearing were appearing from a near neighbour’s garden. Looking out from the front and back windows  I noticed dozens of different sets of fireworks going on; the New Year was truly being ushered in with a bang.

In childhood, when fireworks were an occasional Bonfire night occurrence, I would have been fascinated with the spectacular colours, lights and noise; this time my thoughts went to Yemen. Were people there hearing bangs such as these? What about Syria and all the other places around the world where bombs fall?

A close relative on a recent visit from Yemen told me how they and their neighbours would move to the inside rooms of their houses to be a little more protected when reports of an attack were made. She said how this had become a part of life for them so when our Government admitted British bombs were being dropped in Yemen I felt even more sick at the thought.

Yet all around the world throughout New Year’s Eve from the first midnight onwards the New Year was celebrated with the loud bang of fireworks which were reported every hour on UK news in a countdown until our midnight. Where previously people would hold New Year parties with music and drink now additional New Year firework parties have become the norm.

The sense of unease that hit me, the thoughts of conflict around the world, fits in with the kind of year that has just ended. When 2016 began (in the same explosive way) the world seemed a different place. My daughter was studying in The Netherlands, travelling easily through Germany, Belgium and France to reach there. The shockwaves of 2016 had not yet hit – the vote to leave the EU, Donald Trump being elected president, the murder of a British MP, the rise in hatred and intolerance in many countries of the world, worsening effects of climate change, even the deaths of so many people in the public eye – all of this has resulted in 2016 leaving us with a sense of shock, of unease and of bewilderment at what the future holds. Events we previously thought of as a surreal possibility have come to pass and are reality and now we must see what the future holds and face it.

The fact that there were inspirational people and events leaves us with light in the tunnel that is the future. Brendan Cox’s dignified and inspirational response to the murder of his wife with calls for tolerance was one which stands out;  the fact that Austria voted against the far-right candidate is also a spark of hope.

Breakthroughs in science including advances in research fighting diseases are a positive contribution to the year as was Tim Peake’s stay on the International Space Station. If Europe, Russia and the US can successfully partner on the ISS why can’t they find more common ground here on Earth? Even the fact the latest two Star Wars films have strong female leading characters is a positive and Leicester’s Premier League victory put a smile on most people’s faces!

Often we rely on the news media to tell us what is going on in the world but this can lead to an overdose of negativity as wars and terrorism are given so much coverage. Where there are beacons of hope we must grasp them and build on that hope to construct a better future.

Thus I began this New Year with prayers for my family, community and the world and I’ll continue to pray that God grant us this future with hope for peace and justice for all.

New Year Reflections

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Nazma Raichuri, Hounslow East

New Year’s Eve is always a display of global celebrations, with fireworks and other jubilations in many countries. Families and friends get together rounding up the year to celebrate the new hope and new dreams that the coming year will bring.

It is also another excuse for some to indulge in hedonistic and at times disruptive merry-making. But to true believers of Allah, it provides another opportunity to show gratitude for all they have received, which is what Ahmadi Muslims aim to achieve. Many Ahmadi Muslims across the world resolve through a day of fasting and all-night praying to begin the New Year by becoming more sincere in their devotion and more eager to renew their spirituality and their connection to God.

The beginning of each year reminds us that we are here only for a limited time and this should be a time for honest self-evaluation and setting personal goals. Whether, these are physical, emotional or spiritual. Prayer is a powerful weapon, so one must use this earnestly and abundantly to seek help and courage from Allah to achieve one’s goals.

The New Year will truly be happy, if we create within us the desire and effort to better ourselves through kindness, through wisdom, through generosity, and pray to seek Allah’s blessing and help for us all. Ameen.

A Glimpse of the Beloved

Tooba Khokhar, Cambridge

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Lovers share a sacred decree – to seek the Beloved

Rumi, ‘One Whisper of the Beloved’

Each man has his own Paradise, woven from dreams and fantasies personal to him. Each mind paints a different picture of the abode of bliss. Within the Islamic tradition however, the true ‘lover’ accepts no Paradise short of union with his ‘Beloved’ (God). Indeed, the very essence of the religion of Islam is to forego lesser loves and embark on the path of ‘Ishq or passionate, mystical love of a Divine Beloved. To be a Muslim is to be in submission to Him, seeking Him as our end and our true Paradise.

The founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmed (on whom be peace) beautifully articulated this sentiment in his book Kashti-e-Nuh (Noah’s Ark)

Our paradise is in our God. Our highest delight is in our God for we have seen Him and found every beauty in Him. This wealth is worth procuring even though one may have to lay down one’s life to procure it. This ruby is worth purchasing though one may have to lose oneself to acquire it. O ye, who are bereft, run to this fountain and it will save you.[1]

In our Beloved, we find the elixir of life and from Him is derived all the sweetness of this world and the next. Persian poet ‘Attar, himself a mystic devoted to pursuit of the Beloved, wrote of how

… He is always near to us, though we

Live far from His transcendent majesty.

A hundred thousand veils of dark and light

Withdraw His presence from our mortal sight

We learn from the Qur’an that our God is near. However, Attar alludes to a Prophetic tradition which states that 70,000 ‘veils’ withdraw man from Allah. These metaphorical veils hide His Being from us who, like the prisoners in Plato’s Cave, might not be able to behold with our limited gaze and weak, mortal eyes the full light of His Glory and Majesty.

But the world that is to come is a different case altogether. There we have been promised delights which “…no eye has seen, no ear has heard and no heart conceived”. And it is of this unknown world that the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings upon him), related the following episode:

When the dwellers of Paradise will have entered Paradise, Allah, the Blessed and the Exalted, will ask them, ‘Do you desire anything more that I should give you?’

They will answer, ‘Have you not made our countenances bright? Have you not admitted us to Paradise and delivered us from the Fire?’

Thereupon, Allah will lift the veil from His countenance and the dwellers of Paradise will not have known anything dearer to them than looking at their Lord. (Muslim)

So from within one Paradise, we will gain another. In exchange for devotion in this life, the lover will receive a treasure unrivalled in the whole of the universe: the lifting of the veil and a glimpse of the Beloved.

[1] Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, Roohani Khazain Vol. 19: Kashti Nuh, pp. 21-22

Source: https://closetothesourceblog.wordpress.com/2016/12/31/a-glimpse-of-the-beloved/

From a Stuffed Guy to Killer Clowns

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Sameea Jonnud, Aldershot, UK

Ever since shopping became so commercialised certain days are heavily promoted; Christmas, of course, because there are so many presents to buy, special days for mothers, fathers and grandparents, Valentine, and the list goes on. Most of these days are ostensibly for pleasant reasons, some religious in origin and some not.

At this time of year, Britain in the near past had bonfire night and a fireworks display on 5th November in the run up to which children would make a stuffed effigy of Guy Fawkes, and sit on street corners asking passers-by “penny for the Guy?” which they could then happily spend on sweets. Poor Guy would help raise this income for a few days before, on Bonfire Night, he would be burnt, albeit not alive, on the top of a bonfire.

This was all very strange but always seemed more as a remembrance of the Gunpowder Plot rather than a celebration. Halloween did make an appearance on 31st October but really only as an opportunity to giggle over scary stories in the dark.

Nowadays, however, Guy and scary stories have taken more of a back seat as the newer American customs have been added to the original European traditions of Halloween and invaded Britain. Halloween also seems to last longer and longer as weeks beforehand costumes, decorations and packs of themed sweets appear for sale in spookily decorated aisles of supermarkets. Costumed children and teenagers go trick or treating, knocking on strangers doors asking for sweets; in some cases refusal leads to pranks being played on the innocent householder. Anyone not wishing to participate is called a bit of a spoilsport as if it is their duty to go along with these strange growing traditions of Halloween.

This year Halloween has taken a more frightening turn in reality with the appearance of the “killer clowns” who have been scaring passers-by, in many cases young children. Again this began in the US in late summer before crossing the Atlantic. There have been reports of children afraid to walk to and from school on their own and even sleepless nights and nightmares about clowns. Much police time has been wasted in trying to catch these troublemakers and calm angry fathers who threaten to take the law into their own hands by beating up clowns who scare their children.

And all this is supposed to be a bit of a laugh? A bit of fun to spice up gloomy autumn days? It is well known the negative effects horror can have on young minds, yet the Halloween tradition grows year on year. Pressure also grows to spend more on costumes and sweets as parties are thrown and trick or treat groups arranged; with the current financial climate this is hardly easy for already cash-strapped families trying to please their children.

Halloween is widely associated with Christian traditions as being the eve of the two following Days, All Hallows and All Souls when saints and other dead are honoured. However as in so many other supposed Christian traditions Halloween is also of Pagan origin, celebrating the festival of Samhain, the Celtic New Year and was tied in by the Church to attract more worshippers.

However people don’t really think about what Halloween means any more as it is now a lucrative commercial opportunity as well as a ‘fun’ day of spooks and scares. With growing Halloween traditions, killer clowns and vigilantes becoming increasingly common this is all getting out of hand and the real frightening aspect is imagining how much further it can go.

Post Script:
What are the origins of Halloween and what does Islam say about such traditions? Lajna UK’s Navida Sayed explains in detail for The Review of the Religions.

Halloween: Harmless or harmful fun? http://www.reviewofreligions.org/5071/halloween-harmless-or-harmful-fun/

The Jalsa Experience

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 by Aalia Qureshi, London, UK

Thoughts of a Teenager

Once again, the dazzling, long-awaited season of summer among its incessant delights has at long last reached us.  Another year has passed us by in the blink of an  eye.  And this can mean only one thing for the Ahmadiyya Community; the blessed Jalsa Salana – Annual Convention – is finally upon us! The endless wait has finally come to an end! Along with the anticipation for the coming 3-day spiritual festivities comes an onslaught of charming childhood memories: from losing my family in the seemingly infinite, vast marquees to running gleefully on the enormous, green fields with friends and family.

The purposes for which our beloved Promised Messiah (as) asked us to hold an annual Jalsa Salana are indeed plentiful: they consist of social interaction – building ties of kinship and friendship with our fellow Ahmadi sisters and brothers; spiritual improvement – to better ourselves in terms of our closeness to God and dedication to our faith as well as intellect – to advance our knowledge of the morals, principles and reasoning surrounding not only Ahmadiyyat but the very world itself such as politics, environmental issues to name but a few.

Personally, my favourite part of this annual convention is the Pledge of Allegiance held at the very hand of our beloved Khalifa Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, on the third and final day. The sensation of being connected to the entire Community, hand to shoulder, is like no other; utterly extraordinary.   Moreover, the chorus of disparate languages unanimously translating our beloved Khalifa’s sacred words merges to form an otherworldly harmony and emanates an overwhelming sense of unity and devotion to Allah. Disparities overlooked, ethnicities disregarded, and hope of past sins forgiven we are all stripped down to our cores by his mere words: Ahmadi Muslims with one purpose – to worship Allah and lend a hand out to those in need of it for as long as we are on this Earth. The subsequent prostration following our renewal of faith is one of complete peace and harmony accompanied by a sense of rejuvenation and replenishment: a fresh start, a new beginning.

The notion that this entire convention is constructed with just the voluntary donations of us Ahmadis is absolutely astounding in view of the vast quantities of food prepared, the enormous amounts of provisions provided in addition to the intense manual labour put in for the ultimate Jalsa experience we all assuredly will receive. Even more so, the fact that our Jalsa Salanas are put together wholly by volunteers from the Community is outright phenomenal. Despite this, it would be naïve to lose sight of the fact that none of this would be feasible without the Grace and Help of Allah.   We should all be indebted to Allah for bequeathing upon us with all His Grace and Wisdom the power and strength to organise and carry out this wonderful Annual Convention.

A Guide To Ultimate Satisfaction

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Aalia Qureshi, London, UK

What is the meaning of travel? The urge to cross these colossal bodies of water into regions never before seen to us mere westerners; what precisely is the pin point motive behind it?  Perhaps it is a similar motive behind the continual pursuit for life beyond this planet: curiosity, an impeccably human feature or, perhaps, defect.   For the ordinary person, journeying into a new area that is completely foreign to their standard surroundings offers something almost identical to a challenge.  What can I find here? What varieties of hidden treasures lurk beyond these mystifying trees and vast fields of lush green? What secrets are encrusted in these ancient walls and caves?

The more places that a person has seen, the more learned they are allegedly.  However in effect, how much nearer are they to satisfaction than one who has remained enclosed within the same four walls their entire life? None is the correct answer.  One cannot comprehend something in its depths and entirety by simply observing it; one must understand its creator first.

The Earth is finite unlike a human’s curiosity and satisfaction.  Exploring a new point of latitude and longitude won’t hold one’s attention for a lifetime.  It is an eternal quest for something that a human has to this day never found; peace.  We are relentlessly on the look-out for something new that will carry something, anything, which is ultimate, be it a new adventure to a place afar, a quote that explains life perfectly or a new song that finally leaves us satisfied by its end.  We are on a quest for something that is perfect without flaw, a pencil that never runs out or a person who can unswervingly fulfil our every need.   But this will never be, in terms of materialistic views.  Give someone the latest iPhone, but as soon as the next model comes out, he will soon desire it.  Give someone a car, and he will ask for a house.  Give someone the entire world and everything it has to offer, and he will ask for more.

But, in fact, the answer is right in front of us.  It is an opportunity from the first time we are brought into this world to the last second we spend in it before leaving for our Creator.  It is Islam, a religion whose very name signifies peace. Only in Islam does one find true peace and satisfaction.  Do not seek satisfaction and peace in worldly pleasures; rather, invest your time in engaging with your Creator and the infinite knowledge only He can provide.

Look at a sunset from the peak of a mountain in Tanzania and rather than automatically taking out your camera and snapping a photo, consider how Allah has created such a breath-taking display so gratifying to our eyes.   Feel the prehistoric hieroglyphics encrusted into age-old caves in Egypt and reflect upon how only Allah has the supremacy and power to maintain ancient relics over millenniums of time in pristine condition given that He is the ultimate Creator of time itself.

Rather than go on infinitely without a legitimate goal, travel to seek and appreciate the pleasures that Allah has created for us to enjoy in the world and in that we can find true peace and satisfaction.