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Becoming an Abode of Comfort During Crises

As the world fights its way through a global pandemic, it is vital to address mental health more so than usual. Being a universal religion for all people of all times, Islam provides beautiful solutions to this illness.

By Sharjeel Ahmad
Image by: Wokandapix

During one of the last major pandemics, the SARS outbreak of 2003, it was noted that there was a 30% increase in suicides in those aged 65 years and older. Clearly, the time we are going through currently is proving to be far more severe in its impact on our lives than the SARS outbreak which affected almost 8000 people and took the lives of 774 individuals.

Resilience, fortitude and patience are key characteristics of people who can soldier through times like the coronavirus pandemic; however various groups of people are at a risk of a dangerous decline in their mental health. Suicides, family break ups, addictions etc… can be amongst the consequences if left unattended. During the SARS outbreak, those patients who recovered from the deadly disease were at an increased risk of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Thus, in the present climate the combined effects of quarantine and coronavirus itself can become risk factors for mental health issues. Inauspiciously, the lockdown on its own is expected to increase loneliness as well as social isolation as shown by the surveys conducted by Holmes et al. As laid out by the medical journal, The Lancet, there needs to be a response on an individual basis but also a wider effort is required from us as a society. The study published in the journal suggested that whilst individually, the care for people with mental health difficulties can be provided in a virtual manner along with interventions for people who may be feeling suicidal, however wider solutions are also needed, including financial support, housing for domestic violence victims and regulated media reporting.

Given these difficult circumstances, we must seek to support those around us. It is comforting to know that the Holy Qur’an states that at no phase of our life are we burdened beyond what our souls can bear [Holy Qur’an 2:287]. For us to comprehend this concept, we can turn to the explanation given by the Caliph of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba) in his Friday sermon, delivered on 29 May 2020.

His Holiness explained that the application of the verse “Allah does not burden any soul beyond its capacity” [Holy Qur’an 2:287], requires one to expand their knowledge and thus have we been taught to supplicate with the following prayer; ‘O my Lord increase my knowledge.’ [Holy Qur’an 20:115] This is because a person is made responsible for utilising the faculties he has been provided to gain the pleasure of Allah. This in turn benefits a person in times of peril, because they go on to enhance their perception of God through the capabilities they have been provided by God and through prayer. Thus, in times of hardship this heightened perception and mental capacity to bear hardships proves vital for turning to God and facing difficulties head on. The Merciful and Benevolent Creator has provided us with grounds to gain knowledge of His bounty and to increase our capacities so that we can turn to Him in all times, including during times of trial.

Further to increasing our capacities, we must help those who are weak around us. We must seek to inculcate an exemplary model in our homes so that we can provide support to our loved ones when they need it most. Meaning that only when we attempt to embody and adopt the attributes of our Creator, can we develop the patience to listen attentively to the hardships of our loved ones as one of the attributes of Allah the Almighty is also As-Samee’ – the Most Hearing. A loved one cannot feel comfortable sharing a deep part of their soul if we do not first gain their trust by showing them that we can provide a place for their thoughts to reside.

An excellent example of this characteristic is found in the Caliphs of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community who listen with great love and care to the hardships Ahmadi Muslims are facing and share in their grief. This was defined very beautifully by the fourth Caliph, Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad (rh), when he was speaking about the people of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community opening up to the Caliph. He wrote in a poem “O my Lord, is this a heart or a place for guests to stay?” This shows the deep affection one can have for a loved one, by listening to someone with the intent only to provide comfort and rest.

This is something that we can look up to the Caliphs to understand how much love and affection they have for humanity which helps ease the hardships of those in need. Indeed, serving humanity and caring for others is a great virtue. Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba) explained how much love one should have for others when he gave a small glimpse into his love for Ahmadi Muslims, when he said:

“Before sleeping at night there is no country of the world that I do not visit in my imagination and no Ahmadi for whom I do not pray whilst sleeping and whilst awake. I am not doing any favour because this is my duty and may Allah enable me to ever increase in assuming my responsibilities.

Furthermore, the fourth Caliph, Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad (rh), after the couplet mentioned above goes on to write in the next verse, “If I cannot ask from You [God] then who can I ask from? I am Yours and You are my God, You are my God.”

From this we learn that albeit the pious and righteous people of God provide a place for people to rest their emotions, they still themselves depend upon the Master, the Creator; Allah the Exalted.

As individuals we must instil the love of Allah within ourselves through His remembrance, so that if a trial or a difficulty may come, it will come with His pleasure, with His special care. Thus we will be able to turn to Him and create the opportunity for any of our struggling loved ones to do so too.

‘…Aye! it is in the remembrance of Allah that hearts can find comfort;’ [Holy Qur’an 13:29]

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Hatred Towards Ahmadi Muslims Permeates More Spheres Than We Think About

A Regional Nazim Tabligh posted a message condemning the terror attacks in Paris and promoting the peaceful teachings of Islam. However, hatred towards the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community meant that such a message of peace was not well received by some.

I posted something on my social media accounts recently regarding the incidents in France; these were quotes of Hazrat Khalifatul-Masih Vaba condemning terrorism and stating that Islam is a religion of peace. To my surprise, my post went viral, but not exactly in the way one would hope. I woke up to an astounding amount of abuse on Linkedin. Being an Ahmadi Muslim, it was, of course, the usual group of individuals declaring me to be well on my “way to hell”, and that I would partake in “curses of all 1.2 billion other Muslims” (I’m quite sure the guy who said that didn’t ask all of them).

It’s very difficult reasoning with such people. As Ahmadi Muslims we do, as always, try to prove through our conduct that Islam is a religion of peace, not hate. But examples of such practice fall upon deaf ears.

What’s worse is that my post was literally defending Islam. The French President labeled Islam as a “religion in crisis”. My post merely pointed out that, in reality, that was not the case and that it was those identifying as Christian, whose numbers are dwindling. My post was nothing but condemning the recent attacks while defending the beautiful teachings of Islam. However, I was shocked with the hate I received, from those identifying as Muslim. I am sure they do not know what Islam truly means.

Yet on the other hand, I was very much moved by the messages of love that were directed my way. U nderstandably, there were people that were genuinely confused about what was wrong with what I had said; they were unaware of the prejudice that many Muslims harbour against the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. Here are some of the messages of support I received:

One non-Muslim gentlemen posted a comment saying: “I’m struggling to understand some of the horrendous and vitriolic comments that I’ve read in response to this post.”

Another message read: “The people commenting frivolously on a post related to condemning a horrid attack on a religion is being condemned by the believers, why are you guys even commenting on something you do not agree with. You can choose to ignore instead of hurling abuses or simply get yourself excused from Mr. Farasat’s professional network.”

A lady posted a comment which read: “Just fallen upon this post. I am of no religion. When I read the post I thought how good that someone is condemning the acts of violence that have been committed. When reading the comments WOW, some of you guys putting curses on the person who has written this post, being so hateful and saying that if he doesn’t follow the last prophet and those teachings that he can’t be a Muslim. I think whatever religion you follow you should advocate peace, however many of the comments on this post are completely awful and just go to show that if people are not following your teachings you hate them, you truly hate them… what a very sad state of affairs.”

Nevertheless, I feel sorry for all those who misunderstood the whole context of the post and were attacking me personally. But this demonstrates that if such hate can occur on a professional platform, one that has nothing to do with religion per se, then imagine how deeply the hatred of Ahmadi Muslims permeates those societies where persecution is backed by law.  We need to educate people including ourselves more than ever.

My post reached over 81,000 views (growing still). I urge all Khuddam to use social media as a tool to spread the message of love and peace as much as possible. Just imagine if a single effort can make such a big difference, then what can the collective achieve? Honestly, I am not an Imam but a normal Ahmadi Muslim who just loves his faith, his Khalifah and his religion. The abuse I received did move me quite a bit.  After hours in a state of disturbance, a light from within me boosted my faith and gave me so many reasons to keep continuing to spread the Islamic message of peace and love between all people.

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Amoomi Duties At Islamabad: Blessings To Remember

Khuddam reflect on moments during duties which they will hold onto forever.

  1. March 2020 announced the start of national lockdown in the UK and various other countries. With it brought great sorrow to Ahmadis around the world due to them not being able to meet Hazrat Khalifatul-Masih Vaba anymore. The Khuddam from Muqami region, who had recently been bestowed the privilege of doing regular duties since Huzooraba had shifted to Islamabad, were brought even more sorrow. They were informed that they would not be able to conduct duties in Masjid Mubarak. Nevertheless, whilst adhering to government guidelines Islamabad was closed to visitors. However, since the protection of the residence of the Khalifa-e-Waqt is still the responsibility of Khuddamul Ahmadiyya, by adhering to social distancing guidelines, duties were conducted during the lockdown. What is unique about these duties is that many of our Khuddam experienced numerous blessed and joyful encounters. Here are a few of the incidents Khuddam from Muqami region have experienced. I should point out that, in order to demonstrate the love that Khuddam have for our beloved Huzooraba, I have passed on these occurrences to be published as were received.

One Khadim narrates, “I am a Pharmacist by profession, and sometimes I travel further away from home to work in different pharmacies. One day after travelling a long distance, I came straight to Islamabad for my four-hour shift in the evening. When I arrived, I was famished and was shy to ask for any food from my shift in-charge. I prayed to Allah that I am in your holy land, so please relieve me from my hunger. After a short moment, I noticed that a Khadim was approaching my car. When I looked out, he answered: “Huzooraba has sent some refreshments for Khuddam, and this refreshment is for you, so please take some.” For a moment, there were tears in my eyes as I had just observed Allah’s love. There and then, I was convinced that this is purely the work of Allah who blessed and rewarded me for coming here to do duty.”

Another Khadim narrates, “I remember Jamia Ahmadiyya UK had the blessed opportunity of offering duties as soon as Huzoor-e-Aqdasaba had moved to Islamabad. It was Ramadan – a blessed and holy time and it was a Friday. Myself and my classmate were doing duty from 11am to 10pm at Qitta-e-Khas [inner compound]. I remember finding it particularly difficult to fast whilst offering duties; and every hour we would countdown to the moment of Iftar.

There was around an hour until Iftar, and we were particularly struggling at this point but all of a sudden, another Jamia student – who was offering his duty at scanning – needed a replacement so that he could offer his prayers. I volunteered, and walked to scanning whilst he went and offered his prayers.

I was only at scanning for a few minutes, and I knew I had to get back to Qitta-e-Khas soon; but right then and there, lo and behold, Huzoor-e-Aqdasaba opened the door of the Private Secretary’s office and looked outside. In that surreal moment, it felt like it was just me and my Khalifah. I hesitantly waved, not knowing that Huzooraba had even seen me. However, I saw my Beloved Khalifah smile at me, and wave at me before heading back inside his office. At that moment I realised the immense blessing of not only being in Islamabad offering duties for Huzooraba, but the sheer blessings of fasting during the holy month of Ramadan.”

Another Khadim narrates, “once Hazrat Ameerul Mumineenaba  came to inspect the field of Islamabad and to my good fortune I was outside having a drink of water. I was very fortunate to be one of the few that were accompanying His Holinessaba through the grass. During this 10-15 minute walk he turned towards me and asked whether my wife and daughter had arrived in the UK. To this I replied as of yet they have not but InshaAllah they would be joining me soon. It was a surprise for me as Huzooraba was very busy and interested in this inspection and the fact that he took time to ask about my family personally left me speechless and ever more thankful at  having the opportunity to serve so close to Huzooraba.”

Another Khadim narrates, “After Eid Prayers Huzooraba came out of the mosque and walked over to my class fellows and inquired about each of them, I was one of the few that were not there as I was on duty around the perimeter of Islamabad. When I found out Huzooraba had come to see our class, I was happy for those who were present there, however, a slight part of me wished I had been there as well. Soon after I saw a car approaching from which a young man came out and said Huzooraba has sent this for those who are on duty. It was Huzoor’saba Kahwah [traditional green tea] that Huzooraba had drank after the Eid Sermon and was a source of blessing for me and my colleagues. This reminded me straight away that however far I or anyone maybe, we are always in Huzoor’saba thoughts and prayers.”

Eid-ul-Adha was one of the most joyful days for Khuddam conducting duties in Islamabad. Not only because it was Eid, but that each Khadim received a precious gift from beloved Huzooraba that they will never forget. The gift bags had the Khadim’s name written on them and they contained various different items such as a tie, toppi, pair of socks and scarves.

One Khadim, upon picking up the gift pack from myself, became very emotional and could not express his gratitude. He said this motivated him even more to come and do Amoomi duties.

Another Khadim, when receiving the gift, excitedly sent an audio message to his Qiadat group, expressing his emotions and how blessed he was feeling. He said he wanted to share his feelings with his fellow Khuddam in the Qiadat so that those who are not taking part in the duties may listen and come forward.

In June and July 2020, I learnt that Huzooraba had graciously sent mangoes for all Khuddam who have been conducting duties in Islamabad. Sadr sahib instructed that they must be distributed immediately. As a result, a list of Khuddam was made and each one was contacted so they could collect the mangoes. Within the same day, almost all Khuddam on the list came delightfully and collected the Tabaruk [blessing]. I could personally see the joy on everyone’s faces when they came to collect the mangoes that Huzooraba had graciously sent for them. All were excited to go home and share this blessing with their families.

Duties in Islamabad have been blessed for every Khadim who participated. We hope and pray that this pandemic ends quickly so Khuddam can continue serving the Jama’at.

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The Power of Durood Shareef

Understanding the Need for Durood Shareef in Today’s World.

The Promised Messiahas says that there is now one way for us to seek salvation and the love of Allah. That is through complete devotion and obedience to the Prophetsa. As Allah the Almighty says to the Holy Prophetsa :

Say, If you love Allah, follow me: then will Allah love you and forgive you your faults. And Allah is Most Forgiving, Merciful. (3:32)

This year’s theme approved by Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Khalifatul-Masih Vaba is: The Power of Durood Shareef.

The importance of such a theme cannot be taken lightly. Rather it is a theme that should be part and parcel of our entire lives. The love of the Holy Prophetsa should be infused within us with such vigour that we, as Ahamdi Muslim youth, are always ready to sacrifice ourselves to defend the honour of the Holy Prophetsa and seek to obtain the blessings of Allah the Almighty by invoking Durood on His beloved Messengersa.

The importance of loving the Holy Prophetsa was once explained by the Prophetsa himself. Hazrat Anasra narrates that Prophetsa said:

“None of you will have faith till he loves me more than his father, his children and all mankind.”

It is only by increasing our knowledge about the life of the Holy Prophetsa that we can truly love him and understand his exalted station. We should inculcate in ourselves, based on that knowledge, love, honour, and respect for the Holy Prophetsa; which is a requirement of our faith.

To truly send Durood, we must be conscious of the rank and honour that Allah the Almighty granted the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa.

The Promised Messiahas stated:

“I always wonder how high was the status of this Arabian Prophet, whose name was Muhammad, (thousands of blessings and peace be upon him). One cannot reach the limit of his high status and it is not given to man to estimate correctly his spiritual effectiveness. It is a pity that his rank has not been recognised, as it should have been. He was the champion who restored to the world the Unity of God which had disappeared from the world; he loved God in the extreme and his soul melted out of sympathy for mankind. Therefore, God, Who knew the secret of his heart, exalted him above all the Prophets and all the first ones and the last ones and bestowed upon him in his lifetime all that he desired.

He is the fountainhead of every grace and a person who claims any superiority without acknowledging his grace is not a man but is the spawn of Satan, because the Holy Prophetsa has been bestowed the key to every exaltation and he has been given the treasury of every understanding. He who does not receive through him is deprived forever. I am nothing and possess nothing. I would be most ungrateful if I were not to confess that I have learnt of the true Unity of God through this Prophet. The recognition of the Living God we have achieved through this perfect Prophet and through his light. The honour of converse with God, through which we behold His countenance, has been bestowed upon me through this great Prophet.”

Allah and His angels send blessings on the Prophet. O ye who believe! You also should invoke blessings on him and salute him with the salutation of peace. (33:57)

We should send blessings upon him, keeping in mind his high status and the great pains and lengths he went to  so that we could learn Islam, and with a realisation that even now it is only possible to come closer to Allah if we have love for him in our heart and follow his footsteps.

The Durood that we send upon the Prophet Muhammadsa should be heart-felt. The Promised Messiahas stated in a letter to one of his companions:

“Stay intensely focused in invoking Durood and seek blessings for the Holy Prophetsa with the same sincerity and discernment with which one seeks blessings for a dear one.”

Durood Shareef is a way to gain blessings, wipe out our faults and elevate our spiritual rank. Hazrat Anas bin Malikra narrated that the Holy Prophetsa said:

“Whoever sends salutations upon me once, Allah will send peace upon him tenfold, and will erase ten sins from him, and will raise him ten degrees in status.”

Durood Shareef is thus an essential part of the life of a Muslim. There is no other person upon whom so many blessings are sought, and in consequence of which so many blessings are reaped.

In today’s world where the blessed and noble character of the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa is deliberately mischaracterised in the media, it is essential for us to not only counter such negativity by manifesting his exalted status, but it is equally important for us to always invoke salutations upon him.

It is only when we truly begin to love our beloved Prophetsa that we can truly be counted as Muslims, this is because it is in his practice that we find perfection, and it is by emulating his example that we can come to understand the significance and value of the teachings of Islam.

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