My Jalsa Salana Down the Years

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Sameea Jonnud, Aldershot, UK

As long as I can remember there have been three occasions every year that I have almost always attended; there are the two Eid days which our UK community used to celebrate together and there is Jalsa Salana, the Annual Convention. Eid now takes place regionally or locally but Jalsa has not only remained as one national event, it has grown over the years until now a mini town springs up in the Hampshire countryside to accommodate 35,000 plus attendees.

Before Hadeeqatul Mahdi became its home, Jalsa took place for many years at Islamabad in Tilford, near Farnham. I would travel there with my family by coach or car and if we were late and had to park near the gate we’d lament the ‘long’ walk to the marquee; now the memory makes us laugh as the current marquee area, the Jalsa arena, is bigger than the whole of Islamabad and transport is a park and ride system from a different site!

Jalsa has always been an event which, due to its three full days of speeches, congregational Prayers and a sense of separation from the world, has an intense effect of spiritual rejuvenation and reaffirmation of one’s faith. The congregational pledge taken at the hand of His Holiness the Khalifa is an annual experience that shakes one to the core.

One bonus of Jalsa is meeting up with family and friends you would not otherwise see regularly from different parts of the country and the world. There have been years when every single room in our house, except the bathroom, had guests sleeping in it, including a line of mattresses set up in the front room for all the male guests, a line I have had to tiptoe across just to reach the fridge when returning in the early hours from working at Jalsa! It is hectic but the year Jalsa was cancelled due to the outbreak of foot and mouth disease felt so lonesome as if we were missing out on a part of our life.

Other than family we have had guests that we didn’t know; one year a mother and daughter from Kababir stayed with us. Many years later the youngest daughter married and came to live in the area leading to an emotional reunion despite the fact she herself hadn’t been on that Jalsa trip with the rest of her family. It is a wonderful feeling that Jalsa brings you together with people you would not otherwise meet.

Another bonus of Jalsa is the opportunity to become part of the vast team of volunteers that help to run such a large event. Whether it is jobs such as stage design, camera work, hospitality, car park attendant or cooking, it is volunteers who carry out the work. Imagine cooking lunch and dinner for 30,000 people – all those onions and potatoes to chop and fresh roti (flatbreads) to make in hot kitchens in the middle of summer! Like all the other volunteers they receive no monetary reward but do this work purely to gain the pleasure of God.

It is the same for the army of children who cheerfully patrol the marquees with fresh water to quench the thirst of guests; their eagerness and smiles make one take a cup of water with or without thirst which leaves the children happy.

I’ve never worked in the kitchens at Jalsa but I have worked in a variety of other jobs, for example cleaning, setting up guest accommodation areas, hospitality and food stalls. I drove golf buggies transporting guests for three years in weather ranging from hot sunshine resulting in strange tan lines on my feet, to wet mud and freezing nights with the cold wind rushing through the open buggy leaving me chilled to the bone.

One particular Monday I was driving guests to catch their coaches to London after the Jalsa; it was my fifth day of working long hours and exhaustion was threatening to make an appearance. One family from USA asked me who our Lajna (women’s association) president was and when I told them they said they wanted to write to her to say thank you for the Lajna members working tirelessly and cheerfully to look after them. My exhaustion receded and I was thankful to be among those that had cared for Jalsa guests and sent them home happy.

This year my Jalsa has already begun by sending invitations to non-Muslim friends and contacts to join us and experience Jalsa. As well as that I have been planning for the Jalsa days, both the work I’ll be doing, guests that will stay with me and shopping. Supplies including sunscreen, wellies in case of rain and crisps have become family necessities!

However this Jalsa turns out I know I will be storing up more memories of my Jalsa experience.

The Significance of Gender Segregation at Jalsa Salana

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By Navida Sayed, Hounslow, UK

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

My Jalsa Memories

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by Mishal Aziz, Raynes Park, UK

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jalsa Salana Mubarak!

Kalima-e-Shahadah, The Declaration of Islamic Faith

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by Ayesha Mahmood Malik, Surrey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Muhammad is the most magnificent imprint of the divine light;

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

God sent him and spread the truth;

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

[3] Al Quran, Chapter 16, Verse 66

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

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

[6] See supra note 4

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

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

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

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

My First Fast

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by Riyya Ahmad, Aldershot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ameen

London’s Pain

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Sameea Jonnud, Aldershot, UK

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today London is in pain and so am I.

Ramadhan and Me

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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!

Ramadan, the blessed month

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Sarah Waseem, London

 

‘And when My servants ask thee about Me, say: ‘I am near. I answer the prayer of the supplicant when he prays to Me. So they should hearken to Me and believe in Me, that they may follow the right way.’  (2:187)

The blessed month of Ramadan is here once again. Millions of Muslims around the world will be abstaining from food and drink from dawn to sunset as an act of worship. They do so because fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam. The Holy Qur’an states:

O ye who believe! fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may become righteous. (2:184)

Fasting is not unique to Islam. All the other major faiths practice fasting to varying degrees. Fasting is an integral part of the Hindu faith, but can take many forms.  This is similar for Buddhism and in both faiths, there is flexibility in the length of fasts – some being for 24 hours , while others may be shorter. Some will abstain from food and water, while others will abstain from certain foods only.

The teachings of the Judaism also incorporate fasting, both obligatory and voluntary, the most significant being the day of Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement. This is a 25 hour fast to seek forgiveness from sins and to cleanse the soul.

In Christianity too, the major fasting period consists of the 40 days of Lent. Again, how this is observed, may be interpreted differently by people, some choosing to abstain from foods, and others depriving themselves of various luxuries.

This commonality of fasting across the major faiths is not surprising given that God has been sending His Prophets to mankind since the time of Adam. In Islam, we see the practice of fasting at its most detailed.  All healthy men and women who can fast are required to do so. However exempt from this are pregnant and breast feeding mothers, menstruating women,  those who are ill, on a journey, and children and teenagers who are still growing.  Islam is a religion of ease and there are also some exemptions for those who find the fast too hard to bear. Instead they are asked to make an expiation in lieu of their inability to fast this.

There is a hadith (saying of the Holy Prophet Muhammad peace and blessings be upon him) that God states every deed of son of man is for himself apart from fasting. God states, ‘fasting is for Me’.

The fast provides a special opportunity to gain nearness to God, to improve one’s standards of worship and to seek His forgiveness for our sins. To help us in that task, another Hadith relates that during Ramadan, God opens the door to Paradise and shuts down the doors leading to Hell and restrains Satan.

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So, the fast is seen to be of benefit to the one fasting, and not an act of deprivation.  Equally important is how we conduct ourselves during this month.  Another hadith relates that fasting is like a shield.  If someone tries to quarrel with one who is fasting, his response should be simply; ‘I am fasting’.

The month of Ramadan is part of lunar calendar and its date changes every year on the Gregorian calendar. Lunar months last between 29 to 30 days depending on sighting of the moon. Ramadan is construed as consisting of 3 parts or Ashras. The word Ashra is an Arabic word which means ten. The first Ashra: (First ten days of Ramadan) are days of Mercy, the second ten days are the days of Forgiveness, and the last ten days, those of seeking refuge from Hellfire.

For Muslims then, we have been given  an opportunity to benefit from the spirituality of this month and enter Paradise from as many doors as we can.  It is a month to increase the standard of our worship, our reading of the Holy Qur’an and alms-giving.

It is reported of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) that spending in the cause of the poor was a routine daily practice with him which has been likened unto a breeze, never ceasing to bring comfort and solace to the needy. However, during Ramadan, that the breeze seemed to pick up speed and blow like strong winds.

Ramadan then is a means to attain the high standards of spirituality  This is a most special month of acceptance of prayer and the greatest prayer is when God’s nearness is sought, and communion with Him is prayed for. And the greatest joy for the believer is when he or she finds that and then all of one’s other wishes and desires are taken care of.

May this month of Ramadan be very blessed for all!

The True Khalifa of Islam

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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

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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