Spirituality in the New Space Age
Where Missions Meet Missionaries
Every night, the universe reveals itself in all its galactic glow. The light of astral bodies—suns, stars and moons—streak and stipple the night sky, expanding the margins of our world as the vast cosmos comes into view. We peer into the dark of the unknown, tracing light that warps and wefts from afar, launching telescopes, rovers and probes at the sky to better understand our place in the wider universe. The latest in our mission for greater understanding was the launch of the James Webb Space telescope. But as we beam signals of our curiosity to the farther corners of the galaxy, will we be ready for what we might find?
The successful launch of NASA’s $10 billion space telescope will see an ambitious 10-year mission to seek out planetary systems hospitable to life. Propelled nearly a million miles away from Earth, the telescope will analyse infrared light, observing some of the earliest galaxy formations in the universe. The hope to find evidence for extraterrestrial life, however, raises questions on how religions may react to the discoveries found in space — questions that the Centre for Theological Inquiry hopes to answer with the help of 24 theologians.
For example, did Jesus atone for the sins of different life forms across the universe? What if other life forms were found, would our relationship with God change? Ultimately, how might religion make sense of what is out there as we take our giant leaps for mankind across the galaxy?
At first glance, it may seem that religions would struggle with such questions, and that any reverence held for theology would become obsolete in this new space age. Islam however doesn’t need to grapple with these concepts — the Quran explicitly mentions alien life and its wider spiritual significance within its opening chapter no less.
“All praise belongs to Allah, Lord of all the worlds.” – Chapter 1, verse 2
The introduction of God as ‘Rabb Ul Alameen’ (Lord of all the worlds) establishes our relationship with Him. God is not for one people, but for all creation in every plane of existence. That He is ‘Lord of all the worlds’ also speaks to the universality of His Rule and Reach — something that is referred to later on more specifically.
At another place, the Quran strikingly refers to other life forms:
“And among His Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and of whatever living creatures (daabbah) He has spread forth in both. And He has the power to gather them together whenever He pleases.” – Chapter 42, verse 30
The Arabic word used for living creatures — daabah — has specific connotations to animals that are land-dwelling and move along the surface of the earth, thus indicating the existence of life beyond our planet. This verse continues on to claim that “He has the power to gather them together whenever He pleases”. The Arabic term for ‘gather’ جمع (jama’) can mean, among other things, gathering together physically or drawn closer in proximity, suggesting that we will make some form of contact with extraterrestrial life.
In another verse, the Quran mentions that there are other planets that are hospitable to life:
“Allah is He Who created seven heavens, and of the earth the like thereof…” – Chapter 65, verse 13
Here the Quran claims that just as there are ‘seven heavens’, there are also ‘seven earths’. The number seven is significant in Arabic because it symbolises repeating patterns, or multitudes of a thing. Taken together, the Quran explains that there are almost innumerable Earth-like planets that harbour life just like ours.
But this verse continues on to a more extraordinary claim:
“…The divine command comes down in their midst, that you may know that Allah has power over all things, and that Allah encompasses all things in His knowledge.”
The term ‘divine command’ can be taken to mean revelation. Thus, according to the Quran, there is life out in the cosmos that are aware of God’s existence through revelation that is sent down to them. This brings us back to the initial introduction of God in Islam as ‘Lord of all the worlds’ – all the worlds that have life and are made aware of their Creator.
Ultimately, Islamic theology is replete with references to the vastness of the cosmos and the various forms of life it holds. It speaks in unequivocal, unambiguous and unadaptable terms. Man is not the only creation of God. That God is also Al-Khalaq (the Creator), who ceaselessly creates and perfects His creation, also points to other forms of life existing beyond our own planet. Rather than ending spirituality, our cosmic discoveries can validate its true origins. So as we begin to extend our reach across the stars, we may find that in the dark expanse of the universe, our spirituality shine in a new light.
Al-Furqan FC: A formidable force to be reckoned with
The title to this article should actually read, ‘Al-Furqan FC: A formidable force to be reckoned with, unless of course, you are ze Germans’. However, due to publisher guidelines we had to settle for the former. Let me explain.
Over the weekend of the 12th May 2023, the inaugural International Football Tournament organized by Majlis-E-Sehet was held in the UK. As the host country, the UK registers several teams and in previous years at similar tournaments have submitted a ‘UK A’ and ‘UK B’ team alongside others including, Fazl-e-Umar (formed of Jamaat workers), Jamia UK, and Spain. Yes, Spain. The majority (if not all) of the Spanish team was made up of British players. I’m putting it down to potential ‘ex-pat’ participation or issues with getting travel visas since Brexit*.
Due to what some people consider selection bias and the north-south divide**, this year’s tournament organizers approved the formation of a UK South and UK North teams instead of A and B. Quickly, some people attached a somewhat derogatory label of A and B to the South and North team which may have upset lesser individuals, but couldn’t shake the South team***. Foreseeing this, the organisers promoted both teams to rename and avoid connotations to the regional differences.
*a calamity for the British people in the UK and overseas.
**a variation of accents and local lexicon.
***DISCLAIMER: Yes, I played for the ‘North’ team this year but have played for the ‘South’ team in the past so I’m sure they won’t mind the jibe. Hopefully.
Shazil Lone – Manager – United Kingdom (previously UK South).
“We wanted to keep UK in the name as we felt without it, it would disregard UK’s history of reaching the European finals twice and winning it back in 2018. We kept it simple and stuck to United Kingdom.”
The UK team kept their name simple, but further north, things were going in a different direction. Head Coach of UK North, Waseem Hussain (or ‘Waz’ as he is lovingly referred to as), was instrumental in the northern outfits name change. After getting to know Waz over the past 3 months, I can confirm that this guy lives and breathes football. He’s the kind of guy you wouldn’t recognise if he wasn’t in a full tracksuit. When speaking to him about why the name change occurred, Waz said:
“When I suggested Al-Furqan, I did so because it was never about just naming a football team. It had to be special and make a difference. Something long lasting. The Furqan Force has always resonated with me as they were few in numbers. Self-funded. Small but tough group. That’s what I wanted our squad to be, an army. It was meant to be. I believe this was the way forward. This was so much bigger than football, it needed that spiritual and historical context. From the organisation sides of things, the management team threw a few names into the hat. Murabbi Sahib was intent on the name having an Arabic and Islamic context. He made the final call – he was the main man and everyone accepted that from bottom to top.”
Conversations with the Murabbi Kurshid Sahib, manager of UK North, confirmed Waz’s vision for the team.
Muhummad Kurshid Sahib – Manager – Al-Furqan FC:
“I loved the name straight away, as a tribute to the Furqan force. The youth should know about the sacrifices they made. A team talk was specifically planned in regards to what it means. To be able to differentiate between right and wrong. After this tournament ends, we will form our own team in a local league and so it will be an avenue for tabligh. As well as this, I felt the tournament would be an avenue to connect the northern boys to Marqaz. That was one of our goals.”
So it began. The UK North team was renamed after the Furqan Force; a volunteer corps established by the Jamaat that fought in Kashmir alongside the Pakistan army during the partition of Pakistan and India. ‘Al-Furqan’ itself derives from the Quran (Chapter 25: Surah Al-Furqan), meaning those who can distinguish between right and wrong.
Al-Furqan’s Team Badge
The team was founded, but now the players had to be selected. A rigorous process of multiple trials held in various corners of the north, followed by weekly squad training (even through Ramadan), meaning players had to travel hundreds if not thousands of miles in the 3-month period to get ready for the tournament. Although it seems far, it was no further than one particular player, Jahja, our 36-year-old semi-professional footballer from Pakistan. A week before the northern trials took place, he had arrived in the UK on asylum due to persecution for being an Ahmadi Muslim in his home country. In fact, he was representing the Pakistan National Football team until they found out about his faith. In our eyes this was a huge loss for Pakistan but a massive gain for Al-Furqan! Alongside him, players from Manchester, Bradford, Birmingham, Leicester, Stoke, Hartlepool, Sheffield and Glasgow made the final squad. Distances stretched, but players united over this unique period of time.
Momentum gained in the build up to the tournament as the squad prepared, but in an unfortunate turn of events, the passing of Manager Kurshid’s father meant he had to leave northern UK for Pakistan. All of a sudden, the progress of the group under the guidance of the manager seemed to be coming to a halt.
“I left camp and went to Pakistan for 2 weeks. I was thinking of stepping back. But then in my mind I thought, if this is jamaat work, how can I say no? This became a personal journey for me. If it was just football, I would have dropped out immediately.”
In the intermediate, Waz would look after things with the help of his assistant coach and son, Amaar Hussain alongside captain Atta Khan and vice-captain Abdul Ghalib. The training continued and increased in intensity as players looked to get match fit. With multiple games being played across each day of the tournament, fitness was paramount to any success. Players were promoted to train multiple times a week together, take part in friendly matches and complete a minimum of 2km run everyday in the fortnight leading up to our first fixture. Upon Manager Kurshid’s return, the squad felt as ready as they could be.
Australia arrive in the UK for the tournament, met by tournament chairman, Nisar Orchard Sahib.
Ismail Ahmad – Central Midfielder and Captain – Team USA
“On arrival, I was shocked by how many teams there were. Previous tournaments have been on a much smaller scale but this was another level. Organisation was really well done. The way this tournament brought so many people from all parts of the world together with key common interests; Jamaat and football.”
At the outset of the tournament, a dinner was hosted at the new Baitul Fatuh complex where teams got to meet one another and eat together. This was the beginning of attaining one of the key purposes of this event, to develop bonds between Ahmadi brothers from far and wide. With teams arriving from as far as the USA, Canada, Australia and across Europe – this truly was an international tournament. The following morning, the group stage games began.
Teams gather for the tournaments opening session in Baitul Fatuh
FLYING START FOR AL-FURQAN
Al-Furqan vs Holland – Group Stage Game 1 – Friday 12th May
Al-Furqan announced themselves on the world stage with a solid performance against the resolute Netherlands. Led by the ‘Flying Dutchman’ Ibrahim Ahmad, Holland dominated the first 10 minutes of the game with the majority of possession and attempts at goal but with little fortune. Steadily, Al-Furqan grew into the game and after having shaken off some early nerves, showed Holland their quality with a quick breakaway play that lead them to a 2-0 lead at halftime. Late into the second half, Holland managed to pull one back through a superb penalty taken by their number 9 but the spark of hope was quickly diminished as Al-Furqan responded with attacking midfielder Rayyan Hussain grabbing a brace before the final whistle.
The final score was 4-1 to Al-Furqan.
AL-FURQAN TEACH JAMIA CANADA A LESSON
Al-Furqan vs Jamia Canada – Group Stage Game 2 – Friday 12th May
The final game of the first day for Al-Furqan was against underdogs Jamia Canada. In their first fixture, they challenged group favorites Canada A, only losing by a goal in a tightly contested match finishing 3-2. Al-Furqan took no chances and played strong starting eleven and soon found out why Jamia had put up such a good fight against their counterparts. Jamia’s central midfielders were quick and tricky, finding pockets of space to run into and doing so with confidence. Alongside this, they had a back four who put everything on the line not to concede. But unfortunately for them, neither of these strengths could stop a sublime freekick by set-piece specialist Jajha from looping over the keeper from 25 yards. The game then opened up and Al-Furqan sent wave after wave of attacks, breaking through the heart of defence to score a second with captain Atta adding another to his tournament tally.
The final score was 2-0 to Al-Furqan.
FURQAN FORCE THEIR WAY INTO THE QUARTER-FINALS
Al-Furqan vs Canada A – Group Stage Game 3 – Saturday 13th May
The match against Canada A was arguably one of the most entertaining matches of the tournament and the biggest threat Al-Furqan had faced so far. With the match taking center stage at the Xcel stadium, a crowd of several hundred spectators took to the stands to cheer on the teams. A chorus of narays echoed around the pitch throughout the match as the ebbs and flows of the game took the audience on a thrilling ride. Some dubious defending (not naming any names but it starts with M and ends in E) led to Canada taking the lead as the left winger beat the offside trap to slot it home. This got the Canadian management team and bench off in a frenzy which only added to the exhilarating atmosphere. Al-Furqan pulled one back with a penalty as our right winger, Bash, was too skillful for the fullback and was taken down in the box. Cool-headed Jajha converted from the spot. At the beginning of the second half, Canada’s striker was fouled on the edge of the box. He then went on to perfectly place the ball into the top corner just out of the reach of goalkeeper Haris. With the wind in their sails, Canada held onto possession, playing the better football out of the two teams, and pushed for a third. Haris was once again called into action on a couple of occasions but Al-Furqan weathered the storm and pushed on the counter. As the intensity of the atmosphere around the ground increased, Al-Furqan did what they could to break down a solid Canadian defense. With not long left in the game, Al-Furqan settled for a corner which was whipped in, and with Canadian bodies doing everything to dampen any attempt at goal, a wayward shot hit the hand of a player in the box, and another penalty was awarded to Al-Furqan. Tempers flared on and off the pitch at the decision but this didn’t hinder Jajha, as once again, he stepped up and hammered it home. A rapturous crowd responded, expecting the last few minutes of the game to be nothing less than end-to-end action – and both teams delivered but to no avail.
Final score, was 2-2.
Al-Furqan vs France – Quarter Final – Saturday 13th May
France’s team included the tournament’s top goal scorer and were a team to watch according to many spectators who had been keeping a close eye on them. Al-Furqan started the game strong, as did France who were keen to prove to people they were not to be underestimated. As the first half ended at 0-0, you couldn’t pick a favourite between the two. However, in the second half, Al-Furqan took it up a gear and showed their quality by taking a hold of the game. Two goals including Atta’s audacious chip on the half volley over the keeper followed by winger Toyyub’s pop from close range that crepe-d into the far corner put the game to bed. Hopefully our paths will croissant again. In the meantime, Al-Furqan had baguette-d themselves a place in the semis. Ok, I’ll stop now. Apologies.
Final score, 2-0 to Al-Furqan
Al-Furqan huddle prior to kick off
Muhummad Ehsan Ahmad – Right Back/Captain – Jamia UK
“This was the first time that Jamia had taken a team to a tournament since corona. The highlight for us was playing Germany A who went onto win. We didn’t get much prep time. We were a small team playing the favourites. We were winning 1-0 and looking on the side-lines we had all of the other teams supporting the underdogs! They scored in the last kick of the game. What a match.”
DEUTSCHLAND DISMANTLE AL-FURQAN
Al-Furqan vs Germany A – Semi-Final – Saturday 13th May
With only a half an hour break between the quarters and semis for Al-Furqan, the players were straight back in at the deep end. This time against the reigning champions. We knew they had been pushed to the brink by Jamia UK in the group stages – which gave us motivation that we could go one further. The magnanimity of the occasion gave Al-Furqan the adrenaline they needed to be the better of the two sides in the first half, playing some high tempo football and creating a couple of chances. With the scores level going into the break, key players and management motivated players with inspiring team talks to get them towards a potential illustrious final against the UK held in Islamabad the following day. However, fatigue had started to set in. Al-Furqan became sluggish and struggled to keep up with the pace of the game. Smelling blood, Germany took advantage and started to play a more fluid and attacking style, finally getting on the scoresheet with 10 minutes to play. Germany added two more before the final whistle as Al-Furqan struggled to break their back line and conjure up anything special to test the German keeper. A flat finish to what had otherwise been an exceptional first tournament for the newly founded team.
Final score, 3-0 to Germany A.
Abdul Lohdi, Attacking Midfielder – Al-Furqan FC
“I was so exhausted in that last game. For most of it I was just thinking… I can’t wait to get into bed.”
Post-game, our despondent team reflected upon their performance and overall weekend. Nothing but positives was to be taken home with the squad, considering how in many people’s opinions, we had overachieved. Nevertheless, as a defeated player, you can’t help but focus on the negatives. Things that could have gone better. No doubt some of the younger players in the squad who were competing in their first tournament, would feel this loss for a while. Some of the senior players in the dressing room told them that it would soon pass – you get used to it. These games come and go and you learn more from a loss than you do from a win. That kind of thing. Who knows how much of that advice they took on board. Either way, they’ll get over it. Especially when we come back and win it next time… InshAllah!
Zafir Malik, Central Defensive Midfielder – Fazl-e-Umar:
“The most memorable take away for me was getting to meet with my Khuddam brothers from all parts of the world. Winning and losing is one aspect of the game, but getting together to compete, or raise slogans, singing Durood and getting the crowd involved, that’s what it’s all about. You can’t put a price on that kind of atmosphere. The battle on the pitch and the love off the pitch. That’s the beauty of tournaments like this one. That’s how Ahmaddiyat works. The only thing that can bring people together like this is Khilafat.”
On exiting the venue, the pick-me-up that everyone needed was announced; Huzoor (aba) would be taking team photos in Islamabad after the final. All of a sudden, the pain of the loss was washed away with this wonderful news!
Al-Furqan FC Team Photo with Beloved Huzoor (aba)
Stood there with Huzoor (aba) sat alongside made us all feel like winners. The highs and lows of the weekend were superseded by this brief moment. The click of a lense, a quick Salam and JazakAllah. I’m sure I speak for everyone that was fortunate enough to be beside beloved Huzoor (aba) for their team photos; this was the real trophy.
Once the photo was taken, we were swiftly moved on by amoomi who directed us towards the masjid. We walked slowly, reflecting upon the awe of the moment that had just occurred. Members of the squad scuttled towards Manager Kurshid Sahib who spoke directly to Huzoor (aba) when he arrived.
“What did Huzoor say to you?”, we all gestured in our own ways as the entire squad huddled around him. He went on to eloquently repeat what Huzoor (aba) had said to him, including his own personal request of prayers for his late father.
“Weren’t we lucky to be the first team to have our picture taken! If it wasn’t for the name ‘Al-Furqan’, alphabetically we could have been anywhere on the list!”
If it hadn’t been for the name, we wouldn’t have been the first team stood ready when Huzoor initially arrived. He spoke with us for a slightly longer period of time than others as he walked over to take his seat at the centre of the team. Once again, the name of this team seemed to solidify itself as something that had brought us additional blessings.
Although the majority of us were huddled closely with a feeling of glee illustrated across our faces, near the back of the group was Jajha, tears streaming down his face, completely overcome with emotion. His first time seeing Khalifatul Masih in person, especially considering the journey he had been on to get here was reflected in his eyes. We all gathered around him to share one last hug before departing for the masjid.
Al-Furqan walk to namaz after having their team photo taken with Huzoor (aba)
There were many unique highlights at this tournament. If I wrote about them all they could easily fill an Al-Hakam newspaper front to back. I guess if I had to pick one, it would be the overhead kick to seal the win for Germany A against Jamia UK in the last second of the game. Or maybe it was Australia’s 40-yard screamer of a freekick against UK in the Quarter finals? But, then again, that did lead to the sudden death penalties where Australia had 4 separate match winning penalties that they missed or had saved by UK’s hero goalkeeper! No. No. Wait. PAAMA Stars walking out to their quarter final singing Durood. Actually, it could have been the pitch invasion after Germany beat UK in penalties (deja vu) in the final. Anyway, regardless of which highlight tips the others for top spot I don’t think any written word would do justice to these moments. You just had to be there.
In loving memory of the late, Maulana Munawwar Ahmad Khursheed Sahib, father of Murabbi Muhummad Kurshid – Manager of Al-Furqan. “…I told him that I had been appointed as manager of the UK northern team. He said ‘MashAllah, very good.’ with a beaming smile.”
Maulana Munawwar Ahmad Khursheed Sahib
Kicking Off the Year – Khadim Style
The National Ijtema Sports day for Northern Regions is currently underway in Bradford at Dixons Allerton Academy, and the Khuddam and Atfal present here are thoroughly enjoying all the activities and sessions that are taking place.
Majlis Khuddamul Ahmadiyya UK is holding this sports day on the instructions of Huzooraba after sports at the National Ijtema 2022 were cancelled due to the demise of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II as a mark of respect. Huzooraba instructed the Majlis that the sports that were due to take place at the Ijtema should be organised as soon as possible for the benefit of all Khuddam and Atfal that missed out. Subsequently, it was decided for the Majlis to hold 2 sports days – one for the northern regions (taking place today) and another for the southern regions (date to be announced).
Registration started at 8am with Khuddam and Atfal arriving from all around the northern parts of the UK with breakfast served in the marquees set up onsite. The event started at 10am with an opening session chaired by the Nazime Ala Sahib Ijtema, Tariq Hayat Sahib. The plan for the day was announced by Mohtamim Sahib Sehate-Jismani, Abdur Rauf Lodhi Sahib.
Football and Cricket for Khuddam and Atfal took place in grass fields and netball courts. Tarbiyyat ‘Chit Chat Chai’ were held at the auditorium, alongside outdoor and indoor sports, on topics such as relationships, the key to paradise, and working hard or hardly working. The first talk covered a wide range of questions in relation to how Khuddam should approach the idea of getting married, how to decide on the type of spouse that they desire, the qualities they should look for and the attitude they adopt going into the process.
After Namaz-e-Zuhr and Ask a short Talqeen-e-Amal session took place which was on the topic of Namaz. This was followed by a continuation of sports. So far Khuddam and Atfal are finding this it to be a good opportunity to begin the year with an activity that binds the Majlis together in a spirit of brotherhood. The final session is due to take place after Maghrib Namaz, where winning teams will be given prizes by Sadr Majlis Khuddamul Ahmadiyya. The Khuddam and Atfal attendance at the Sports Day is 780, Alhamdulillah.
Here is some of the feedback from the Khuddam on today’s event.
A Khadim form North West, Abdul Ghalib Sahib, said that “The event has been really good so far, I enjoyed coming together with Khuddam again after the sports were previously cancelled at the Ijtema due to the demise of the Queen”. Another khadim, Waheed Ahmad, said that “It was good that Majlis has found a window to hold such an important event of the Khuddam year”. Another khadim from Scotland said that “It is important for Ahmadi youth to come together, build a sense of togetherness and develop brotherhood.”
Hazrat Khalifatul-Masih V Inaugurates Islamabad Convenience Store
On the 1st of April 2022, after Asr Namaz, Hazrat Khalifatul-Masih V (aba) inaugurated the MKA Tuck Shop in Islamabad. Huzoor (aba) opened the Homeopathic Dispensary adjacent to the Tuck Shop before gracing the Khuddam store. Huzoor (aba) unveiled a plaque and led everyone in silent prayer after which Sadr Majlis Khuddamul Ahmadiyya UK, Abdul Quddus Arif, Mohtamim Sanat-o-Tijarat, Umar Hassan, and Motamid Khuddamul Ahmadiyya UK, Nassar Bhatti, had the opportunity to show Huzoor (aba) the store and its wares.
Huzoor (aba) graced Khuddam with his precious time and distributed sweets to children who had gathered outside.
Immediately after Huzoor (aba) stepped outside the store, Huzoor (aba) was informed by Sadr Sahib about the Khuddam present with Huzoor (aba) speaking to a few as well. All those who had gathered were greatly moved by Huzoor’s presence.
This tuck shop will Insha’Allah serve as a small convenience store for the residents of Islamabad and visitors. The Homeopathy Dispensary has also opened alongside the MKA Tuck Shop.
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