The Significance of Gender Segregation at Jalsa Salana

Screenshot (506).png

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.

 

Kalima-e-Shahadah, The Declaration of Islamic Faith

arabic-islamic-tattoo-calligraphy-i-fancytattoo-blogspot-com

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

al-quran-dan-tasbih.jpg

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

Ramadhan and Me

unnamed (2).png

Mishal Aziz, Raynes Park

Ramadhan comes and goes every year and by the time we are fully able to welcome this precious month, it is time to say goodbye to it with the hope that we would be able to see it next year. As an Ahmadi Muslim girl, Ramadhan holds a very special place in my life. It gives me an opportunity to create a stronger bond with Allah, the Almighty. It gives me an opportunity to pray more optional Prayers, early in the morning and late at night, and recite the Holy Qur’an much more than I do in ordinary days.

I am a student and I fast during my college hours, like many other Ahmadi Muslim girls. My friends find it really hard to connect with me on this aspect, that how not eating or drinking gives a person more happiness and satisfaction. They often ask me “Are you forced to fast?”

My reply is always ‘No’ because in Islam you are not forced to do anything, Allah has commanded you to do certain things but He has given you free will as well so it is an individual choice to follow the commandments, to gain blessings, or go on the opposite path.

As I am studying Education and the number of children who come fasting to school make the educators assume that Muslim children have an obligation to fast from an early age however that is not true, children themselves want to fast and nowhere according to my knowledge does it say that children should be forced to fast. I remember when I was young I used to wait impatiently for Ramadhan but my mum would not let me fast because I was too young however when I turned 14, my mum gave me permission to fast over the weekend; the happiness I felt on that day was out of the world because I felt like I had accomplished something big in my life.

Another friend asked me “you claim that Allah loves you, what kind of love is that when He is asking you to starve?” I believe that Allah does not want us to merely abstain from food or drink because what benefit will He get from making us hungry and thirsty; He wants our spiritual status to improve so He wants us to refrain from falsehood, fights, wrong doings, back-biting, illegal activities, etc. I can focus on refraining from these activities while I am fasting because the hunger and thirst is a constant reminder for me that I am fasting and I have to carry out right actions.

Islam is a very considerate religion. It always has an easier way for the people who are vulnerable or caught in a situation. In the Holy Qur’an Allah says:

 “…. whoso among you is sick or on a journey, shall fast the same number of other days; and for those who are able to fast only with great difficulty, is an expiation – the feeding of a poor man….” (2:185)

This verse shows that Allah is OmniBenevolent and He cares for all His beings, He knows that some people are not able to fast because of their health, He does not force them to fast but shows an easier way which is feeding a poor person.

Every year I try to start a new good habit that I can continue even after Ramadhan. This year my goal is to start reading the translation of the Holy Qur’an so I can learn more about my religion and scale spiritual heights. (InshAllah)

May Allah shower lots of blessings in the Holy month of Ramadhan.

Ramadhan Mubarak to everyone!

The True Khalifa of Islam

untitled (10)

By Navida Sayed

Khilafat is a very important concept in Islam which safeguards permanence of religion. Khilafat, which is also referred to as Caliphate in the western world, began in Islam with the four consecutive Rightly-Guided Khalifas who led Muslims after the Holy Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be on him) death. However Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) prophesied about Khilafat during his lifetime. He said:

“Prophethood shall remain among you as long as Allah shall will. He will bring about its end and follow it with Khilafat on the precepts of Prophethood for as long as He shall will and then bring about its end. A tyrannical monarchy will then follow and will remain as long as Allah shall will and then come to an end. There will follow thereafter-monarchical despotism to last as long as Allah shall will and come to an end upon His decree. There will then emerge Khilafat on precept of Prophethood.” The Holy Prophet said no more
(Masnad Ahmad)

 In the current times, in search of a meaningful and authoritative leadership with a vast desire for caliphate some Muslims around the world have fallen prey to and are being exploited by extremists. The media has provided huge coverage to the self-constructed IS caliphate in the Middle East since its inception, resulting in an extreme misrepresentation of Islam by the political and militant Caliph of IS directing Muslims to fight and wipe out the non-Muslim world.

The IS caliphate is an ideology borne of geo-political and economic reasons and extremely misconstrued distortions of Islam to satiate their own desire. The leader of the IS has misled and lured many Muslims merely by his own self-proclaimed title as a Caliph. Many misguided Muslims especially disaffected youth believe that the IS leader is a true caliph enabling IS to successfully recruit Jihadi brides and suicide bombers.

There is absolutely nothing Islamic about the leader of IS or his followers, they follow their own path of exploitation, bloodshed, brutality and murder. They are vagabonds in the guise of Muslims without true Islamic or Godly values. The crimes of IS and their brainwashing of suicide bombers clearly reflects how IS followers have forgotten their Creator and become steeped into barbarity in their ruthlessness.

The entire world is in a state of turmoil, and Muslims in particular are facing astounding difficulties, both as a result of their own wrong actions and as a result of their own failure to accept the signs and guidance contained in the Holy Qur’an and the Hadith. Consequently, Muslims are in a state of loss and endeavour to find peace in the world. The Muslim Ummah desperately yearns for unity, and true Khilafat is the quintessence of this unity.

The Khalifa of Islam, the spiritual leader of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, is the only solution for the problems that the Muslim world faces. The Holy Quran tells us,

‘Allah has promised to those among you who believe and do good works that He will surely make them Successors in the earth, as He made Successors from among those who were before them; and that He will surely establish for them their religion which He has chosen for them; and that He will surely give them in exchange security and peace after their fear: They will worship Me, and they will not associate anything with Me. Then whoso is ungrateful after that, they will be the rebellious.’
[24:56]

Khilafat is a divine blessing and without it there can be no solidarity, cohesion and unity amongst Muslims. No one other than Allah can guide individuals towards true Khilafat

Today the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is the only Muslim community in the world that is united at the hand of one leader, who is known as Khalifatul Masih. He is the successor to the Promised Messiah, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian (peace be upon him). After his demise in 1908, critics awaited the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community to fall apart bringing an end to Islam’s revival. However, God so decreed that the institution of Khilafat was re-established in Islam on 27 May 1908. Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be on him) prophecy was fulfilled, and the rest as they say is history; community of Muslims who accepted the Khalifa has grown remarkably since.

The Ahmadiyya Community stands witness to the fact that when a Khalifa passes away, his death brings a great shock to the Community of believers. Everyone becomes fearful and apprehensive and turns to Allah fervently praying. In this process of repentance of sins through prayers every individual seeks Allah’s guidance and prays for a rightly-guided Khalifa who is elected by the community.

The Ahmadiyya Khilafat is spiritual and religious in nature primarily focusing on moral and spiritual matters but also giving words of advice to worldwide political leaders through correspondence to uphold justice and social harmony. The Ahmadiyya Khilafat holds the motto of ‘Love for all, hatred for none.’ Following the teachings of its founder, it believes and practices the Jihad of the pen. It categorically condemns terrorism, and rejects violent extremism. It teaches loyalty to one’s nation and obedience to the law of the land where one resides.

The fifth and current Khalifa of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (may Allah be his Helper) serves as the worldwide spiritual and administrative head of millions of Ahmadi Muslims spread across 206 countries. Hazrat Khalifatul Masih V (may Allah be his Helper) is a world leader like no other, connected with members of his community through written correspondence as well as meeting many of them on a daily basis. Every Friday he gives a Friday sermon simultaneously translated in up to six languages addressing Ahmadi Muslims worldwide.

The Ahmadi Muslim community feels a sense of security and peace under the rightly- guided Khalifa to such an extent, that parents of Ahmadi children have been dedicating their child for the service of Islam before their birth in a scheme called Waqfe Nau. The Ahmadi Waqfe Nau grow up and renew their pledge for the sake of faith at the age of 18. Today there are over 68000 Waqfe Nau children around the world. Most of the boys are young missionaries but overall both the girls and boys excel in academic qualifications and careers in medicine, engineering, science, languages, teaching and many other careers. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is very aware that the only way to true salvation is by worshiping One God and serving humanity and working towards peace. Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (may Allah be his Helper) is the world’s leading Muslim figure promoting peace and inter-religious harmony and the true Khalifa of Islam.

 

 

 

A True Khalifa And His People

300px-IntlBaiat

Maleeha Mansur, Hayes, UK

Turning fear into peace

Every evening in the suburbs of Surrey, two to three dozen families emerge from a humble office – some with tears of joy flowing down their faces, others mesmerised and still absorbing the moments they have just had the fortune to witness. Whilst this incredibly special and faith-inspiring experience lasts only a few minutes, yet it leaves a deep and lasting impression on them. Whether it be a child, a man, woman, academic, professional or a retired elder – all unanimously vow to strive to surrender worldly pursuits, for a most noble cause – to attach themselves with God and to serve His Creation. What could bring about such a revolution within a few moments? What lies behind the doors of this humble office? A Man of God – the fifth Khalifa and supreme head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (may Allah be his Helper).

Whilst these humble followers may have spent only a few minutes in the presence of the Khalifa, the personality they encounter is so overpowering with love and righteousness that it is able to transform them in extraordinary ways and turns their fears into peace.

Love like no other

This love certainly is a two-way phenomenon but it is ever so imbalanced. Despite, the pinnacle of love the Khalifa’s followers have for him, collectively it still only equates to a drop in the ocean as compared to the love of the Khalifa for his people. Certainly, this true Khalifat has no parallel. As so lovingly stated by the Khalifa,

‘there is no problem, be it of the Community or of someone’s private life of which the Khalifa of the time is not aware, for which he does not make practical efforts and does not turn to God to pray!’[i]

The Khalifa once humbly explained that

‘there is no country in the world that I do not go to in my imagination before falling asleep and for whom I do not pray while sleeping and while waking. I am not saying this to count favours, no, this is my duty and may Allah the Exalted make me perform my duty more than ever.’[ii]

Certainly, no other leader exhibits such concerns and love for each and every aspect of his following.

On his tours around the globe, the sentiments of love are repeated in each and every continent of the world. In Africa, women run along the car of the Khalifa with their young children in their arms, desperately drawing their child’s attention to the Khalifa so that they might see the Khalifa. In Canada, young boys choose to happily wait for hours in the freezing cold with their fathers that they may gain a glimpse of their beloved Khalifa, boldly stating “…we have to see Huzoor [the Khalifa] no matter cold, no matter rain, no matter anything”.

It is a peculiar love, with no resemblance or parallel. Certainly, this love cannot be instilled by people, it is God alone Who can create such love, as God Almighty says it is He who

“…has put affection between their hearts. If thou hadst expended all that is in the earth, thou couldst not have put affection between their hearts, but Allah has put affection between them.’[iii]

 Charismatic persona

One could say the love and awe-inspiring personality of the Khalifa conjures feelings which could be explained as addictive, once one experiences the company of the Khalifa, one yearns for more. Certainly this is true not only of his followers but of individuals unaware of the wonders they are to encounter when meeting the Khalifa. On his tour of Australia, a photographer of the Daily Telegraph happened to have the opportunity to photograph the Khalifa whilst covering an interview with His Holiness, but afterwards he asked to return and photograph the Khalifa further, for no reason other than that he found the blessed face of the Khalifa “extremely beautiful and radiant and so simply wished to take more photos of him.”[iv]

Time, and time again, we see academics and politicians giving advance notice that due to their prior commitments they will have to leave gatherings with the Khalifa early but are compelled to stay once in the company of the Khalifa due to the love and spirituality they experience. That is, despite the Khalifa himself reminding them of their other engagements. On his visit to the Canadian Parliament, two Parliamentary events due to take place that evening were cancelled because many MPs indicated they did not wish to miss the Khalifa’s address to Parliament.

Not a second unsacrificed

One may wonder, how does a person with followers in tens of millions, spread in over 200 countries, have such a deep and meaningful relationship with each and every one. This relationship and communication takes many forms. At a glimpse – the Khalifa delivers weekly Friday Sermons broadcast globally via the community’s 24 hour satellite channel, as well as multiple additional addresses each month at various occasions, such as religious celebrations, annual conventions of the community, mosque inaugurations and other ceremonies. The Khalifa holds classes with the youth of the community who openly enquire about matters of religion, academia and even those personal to the Khalifa which he graciously answers in depth. Daily, the Khalifa leads a congregation of followers in the five daily Prayers, responds to thousands of letter from his followers and holds family meetings open to all members of the community as well as office meetings to address various issues pertaining to the community and its mission. His tours around the globe enable distant followers to meet their beloved Khalifa, and so, despite being a worldwide leader, the Khalifa is in tune with his followers like no other. With such a packed schedule, one humbly observes that certainly this is a Divinely inspired individual, whose every iota is wholly dedicated to his mission.

Certainly, the Khalifa is an embodiment of unparalleled selfless leadership. Hence, it is no wonder that the Khalifa’s followers proudly announce their dedication to him; for they know with certainty that their dedication is to none other than the ‘rope of Allah’, a living epitome of fulfilment of one’s obligations to God and to Mankind.

 

[i] Friday Sermon delivered by Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad on 6th June 2014

[ii] Friday Sermon delivered by Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad on 6th June 2014

[iii] The Holy Qur’an Chapter 8: Verse 64

[iv] Huzoor’s Tour of Australia 2013 A Personal Account Part 1, by Abid Khan, pp. 21-22

Caliphate or Khilafat?

Caliphate or Khilafat.png

 Munazzah Chou, UK

The concept of caliphate is the idea of leadership of Muslim society according to the will of God. Many Muslims have embraced the argument that such an institution is the best way of ordering society but the form it should take has been interpreted in many ways. Western writers have referred to caliphate as a ‘many-splendored’ concept, about which ‘there is no one way, no single template or legal framework’ by which to define it. They cite caliphs through history of many different sorts; warrior caliphs, pious caliphs, intellectual caliphs, pleasure-loving caliphs, incompetent caliphs, cruel and tyrannical caliphs. Some suggest that the ‘interpretations of what constitutes a legitimate caliph are so loose that it’s surprising how few caliphates have been declared…’ They suggest that this can be explained by the fact that any declaration would have been ‘Pythonesque in its deluded grandeur.’ That ISIS held control of as much territory as Hadhrat Abu Bakr, the first Rightly-Guided Caliph—the claim to Caliphate made by Baghdadi looks far more credible and the ‘mass executions and public crucifixions have also done much to erase any lingering aura of comedy.’

Caliphate is an English term which may well be nebular or ambiguous but the concept of khilafat, the original Arabic word, in the true Islamic sense has specific application. The Holy Quran refers to khilafat as a favour from God. The Holy Quran lays emphasis on the moral and spiritual requirement for the believers to receive the favour of khilafat. Much of our understanding of khilafat is based on the following Quranic verse:

‘Allah had promised to those among you who believe and do good works that He will surely make them Successors in the earth [khalifas], as He made Successors from among those who were before them; and that He will surely establish for them their religion which He has chosen for them; and that He will surely give them in exchange security and peace after their fear: They will worship Me, and they will not associate anything with Me. Then whoso is ungrateful after that, they will be the rebellious.’ (Surah Al-Nur, Verse 56)

In this verse, the Holy Quran presents the institution of khilafat as a reward for collective piety, i.e. to ‘those who believe and do good works’. Thus God’s promise to establish khilafat as a blessing for mankind is firmly rooted in the moral and spiritual condition of sincere believers. When these conditions are fulfilled they will be made the leaders of nations; their state of fear will give place to a condition of safety and security, Islam will reign supreme in the world, and above all the unity of God will become firmly established.

In the book of Ahadith, Musnad Ahmad by Imam Ahmad bin Hambal, there is a Hadith narrated by Hadhrat Huzaifa (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) said:

‘Prophethood shall remain among you as long as God wills. Then khilafat on the pattern of prophethood will commence and remain as long as He wills. A corrupt monarchy shall then follow and it shall remain as long as God wills. There shall then be a tyrannical despotism which shall remain as long as God wills. Then once again khilafat will emerge on the precept of prophethood.’
[Masnad-­Ahmad, Mishkat, Chapter Al-Anzar Wal Tahzir].

In this Hadith, the promise of khilafat is connected with Prophethood on two separate occasions. In between the two eras of khilafat, the reference to “the corrupt/erosive monarchy” and “despotic kingship” is what we could term “caliphate” but not khilafat. The Arabic words showing the relationship between khilafat and Prophethood are “khilafat -ala- minhaj-e-nabuwwat”, that is, khilafat on the lines of Prophethood. This explains the principle of khilafat as a continuation of the mission of the Prophet i.e the objectives of khilafat and Prophethood remain the same; moral and spiritual development of mankind.

There is therefore, a clear distinction between khilafat and caliphate. Caliphate deals with civil and political domain of the rulers in Islamic history, but khilafat deals with moral, religious and spiritual leadership of mankind. Therefore, a political ruler who might be called “caliph” may not be a khalifa in the Quranic sense of the word.

Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Messiah and Mahdi (on whom be peace), described khilafat as a second manifestation of God’s power – the advent of Prophets being the first manifestation. This second manifestation is the time of the demise of Prophets of God when the enemy thinks that the followers of a Prophet are in disarray and the community will be destroyed, ‘then God manifests His strong hand of might and sustains the collapsing community.’

After the death of Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (on whom be peace) in 1908, after a hiatus of 13 hundred years, the divinely-guided Khilafat in Islam re-emerged in accordance with the prophecies of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) and of Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam AhmadAS. This, the Ahmadiyya Khilafat differs significantly from the ideas of some Muslim groups with misplaced aspirations of political dominance. The Ahmadiyya Khilafat is apolitical; purely spiritual and religious in nature. While other Muslims wait for a Mahdi who would wage a “bloody” Jihad against the infidels, the Ahmadiyya Khilafat upholds the motto of “Love for all, hatred for none” and expounds the true greater Jihad as that which entails overcoming sinful and immoral temptations of the self.

The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) has reassured us of the unending blessings of this divine institution,

‘You should therefore, neither grieve over what I have told you (that the hour of my demise is nigh) nor should you be heart-broken for it is mandatory that you see God’s second manifestation. The coming of that manifestation is a lot better for you because it is eternal whose succession will not terminate till the end of days. When I go, Allah will send to you the second manifestation and it will stay with you forever.’
(Al-Wassiyat, pp. 6-7)

May Allah enable us to continue with our endeavours to become deserving of this divine blessing. Ameen

 

References

Graeme Wood, What ISIS’s Leader Really Wants, https://newrepublic.com/article/119259/isis-history-islamic-states-new-caliphate-syria-and-iraq

The Holy Quran with English Translation and Commentary, Vol. 4, pp. 1869-1870.

Khilafat and Caliphate, Mubasher Ahmad, M.A., LL.B. https://www.alislam.org/topics/khilafat/khilafat-and-caliphate.pdf

 

With Love From A Mother To A Mother

Henan-by-Khadija-on-Shazia-1-1024x683

For Islam Awareness Week a post featuring the perspective of a mother

Sibgha Salim, Raynes Park

Each year as Mother’s day approaches, shops begin selling cards, flowers, chocolates and a huge variety of presents. Prices are hiked and businesses make money as usual, ‘Do all these things make a Mum happy?’ I began to wonder.

To be a mother, calls for an immense responsibility and sacrifice. The essence of it was beyond my understanding as a girl. Despite the tonne of responsibilities that lie on my mother’s shoulders nothing has made her falter and she remains undeterred in her duties. Her dignified character, calm demeanour and poised personality whilst juggling all her responsibilities, amazes me until today. It also made me understand the status of a mother my religion teaches.

Being a Muslim, I follow the teachings of the Holy Quran to pray for my parents as commanded by Allah in the verse below:

“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.’” (17:25)

Islam places both man and woman spiritually equal in the sight of Allah. But in her role as a mother, a woman is given an even higher status than a man, so much so that a mother has three times more rights than a father, as said by Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be on him). He emphasised the love and respect due to the mother by saying:

“Paradise lies at the feet of the mother”

For this much esteemed position given to her by Islam, a mother has a huge responsibility of good moral upbringing of her children and future generation.

At another place the Holy Qur’an repeatedly directs Muslims to care for their parents, especially the mother.

And We have enjoined on man concerning his parents —his mother bears him in weakness upon weakness, and his weaning takes two years —‘Give thanks to Me and to thy parents. Unto Me is the final return.” (31:15)

“…and show kindness to parents. If one of them or both of them attain old age with thee, never say unto them any word expressive of disgust nor reproach them, but address them with kind words” (17:24)

This year I got the opportunity to spend some time with the residents of Carter House, a care home in Raynes Park, Surrey that provides nursing and dementia care for the elderly.

With the help of the staff of Carter House, the Ahmadiyya Muslim ladies of Raynes Park have been visiting them at least once every week, arranging coffee mornings and pampering sessions for the female residents and much more. Each one of them invites me to sit with them and listen to what they have to say.

Therefore, when I expressed my offer and wish to celebrate Mother’s Day at Carter House the staff accepted it happily.

My intention was to celebrate with a wish of love from one mother to another mother and I offered the female residents and staff of Carter House free session of ‘Henna-hand painting’. An elderly resident was so overjoyed with the love and care, after seeing the beautiful Henna on her hand she said,

‘Thank you so much for doing this for me, all my life I never thought, I would ever have Henna done. You have made my day! I surely, will send my photo to my grandchildren and they will be very delighted to see this’.

Her response, for me as a mother of 4 children, was the best present that no money could ever buy; a present of love, respect and care which every mother deserves.

Due to other commitments, I had to leave but with the promise to return again within a few days. Most of them asked me how much they owed me. My reply was, ‘your love’ – a love from one mother to another mother.

Islam: A Voice For The Unheard

Screenshot (5).png

For Islam Awareness Week a post featuring the perspective of a young person

Aalia Qureshi, London

For many of us, being assertive, confident and easy-going comes naturally, almost like an instinct. But today, I am writing for those of us who feel we do not have a voice. Those of us who have to put in 20 times as much effort (so it seems) to get our voice heard and put our influences and ideas out there in the wide world. Those of us who feel our voice is worthless and insignificant.

It is unnervingly easy to feel overwhelmed by authority and social dictations in this world, which seem to ingrain rules and limits on our youthful imaginations. And often, especially in Asian-majority communities, our true feelings can be involuntary suppressed to create the outward image of happiness and delight when in reality, there are many cracks in the system. It seems there is no platform available for those of us who are perhaps hindered by anxiety or a knack for social awkwardness, especially when those words have their own taboo around them in our own communities!

I know it seems there is no hope, but truly there is. There is always hope, and today it comes in the form of Islam. In Islam, our voices are not merely words and noises, but through our voices God hears our intentions, meanings and actions. Through Islam, God allows our voices to be universally understood, with far-reaching, physical repercussions rather than merely swallowing the words of another. Through the combination of our voices and the voice of Allah, we can educate others; we can cheer others up; we can do humanitarian works or give to charities; we can recite the Holy Quran and practise the Sunnah – and these actions are what will truly lead to our positive thoughts and ideas influencing the world that we live in.

So, let us take solace in the fact that through Islam, our voice has the power to not only talk and speak words, but in fact, to take action and cause change towards a more open-thinking and optimistic world. But also, let us take heed that this is our responsibility as a Muslim – to put our skills and talent to good use in order to help those who are less fortunate than us and ultimately contribute to world peace and harmony between all of mankind.

 

 

 

Time for a revival of Islam?

MasihMaudDay1

Maleeha Mansur, Hayes

With the Muslim world in such division and disarray, some would say that much like how Pope Francis has embarked on a project of ‘modernising’ the Catholic Church, perhaps Islam too is in need of a reformation. Many Muslims would indeed be furious at such a proposal, after all, Islam claims to be the last and most perfect religion. We read in the Holy Qur’an “This day have I perfected your religion for you and completed My favour upon you and have chosen for you Islam as religion” (Chapter 5: Verse 3). How can it be then that the followers of such a perfect faith are in the condition that we find the Muslims in today?

Let it be clear that, the state of the Muslim world today and indeed the Islamic revival I am alluding to were both prophesied by the Holy Founder of Islam 1400 years ago. He made it clear that there would come a time when the condition of his own followers would be that of a divided and unfortunately, a spiritually hollow community. However, he further foretold that at that time God Almighty would safeguard His religion by means of sending a reformer to the world to revive the Islam to its full glory.

However, was there a reformer? And how did he ‘revive’ Islam?

Ahmadi Muslims believe that in fulfilment of the prophecy, 128 years from today, in the remote town of Qadian in India, a humble Muslim by the name of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was Divinely appointed as that very reformer. What was the reformation he brought? Was it the warfare and bloodshed we see today? Quite the contrary. His community, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, now established in over 200 countries, is the most peaceful Muslim community and the sole to be united under one leader.

The crux of its objectives, in line with the message the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings be on him) brought, is to fulfil the rights of God and the rights of Mankind. The community’s motto is simple “Love for all, Hatred for None”, manifested in its actions from building hospitals, schools and water wells in the developing world to running blood bank drives and poppy appeals in the developed world. When it comes universal brotherhood, the Promised Reformer, wrote as follows:

“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. This is illustrated by the fact that all the potentials and capabilities which have been granted to the Aryans have also been granted to the races inhabiting Arabia, Persia, Syria, China, Japan, Europe and America. The earth created by God provides a common floor for all people alike, and His sun and moon and many stars are a source of radiance and provide many other benefits to all alike. Likewise, all peoples benefit from the elements created by Him, such as air, water, fire and earth, and similarly from other products created by Him like grain, fruit, and healing agents, etc. These attributes of God teach us the lesson that we, too, should behave magnanimously and kindly towards our fellow human beings and should not be petty of heart and illiberal.” (Message of Peace, Page 6)

What is the glory of Islam that the Promised Reformer has restored? He has taught us to prostrate our heads at the threshold of the Almighty and has tied our hands to the service of humanity. This is true Islam. This is the Islam that wins the hearts and minds of the world. This is the perfected religion which was revealed to Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be on him).