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The Independence of God

In order for God to manifest Himself, He requires His creation. Does this not contradict His attribute of Independence?

Published on February 23, 2021 at 6:37 pm

Allah. God. Lord of all the worlds. What does God’s name and His attributes signify? Do God’s attributes indicate that His Majesty is confined to our own realm of being? Or, perhaps that His Worship extends beyond the limits of existence as we know it? How can we say that God is Limitless when the Holy Qur’an specifically mentions one hundred and one attributes?

These are some of the questions upon which this article hopes to shed a slim ray of light for the benefit of our readers in response to the proposition that shapes our title, as well as to perhaps prompt a latent disposition for developing a deeper and more meaningful understanding of the Beloved.

The outline of the concept put forward by Islam concerning the relation between God’s attributes and His Being can be derived from the opening two verses of the first chapter of the Holy Qur’an.

بِسۡمِ اللّٰہِ الرَّحۡمٰنِ الرَّحِیۡمِ
“In the name of Allah, the Most-Gracious, Ever-Merciful.” [1:1]

Here, in the first verse, the Arabic word used for “name” is ism. In fact, ‘name’ is a loose translation of the Arabic. Ism draws on two fundamental sources, which in Arabic are wasm and samud. Wasm connotes a mark or a label, so name in relation to wasm derives an arbitrary nature, for example, ilāh in Arabic is used for any concept of a god or gods, but the proper noun by which God refers to Himself in the Holy Qur’an is Allah. This is the personal name of God, the closest English translation of which is ‘God’. Samud however, derives a meaningful nature and connotes height. This accounts for the qualities attributed to one’s name, hence, we recognise God’s attributes as His names. Accordingly, when Allah is used in view of this understanding of ism, we recognise His personal name as well as all of His qualities which are described in the Holy Qur’an and also observed by human beings. For this reason, to a Muslim, the name Allah brings with it an immense feeling of love.

Reflecting on the title of this article, the question is proposed with consideration to the Islamic concept of the operation of God’s attributes in their totality, essentially putting forward the question: if God’s attributes as described in the Holy Qur’an, are the means through which He is meant to be recognised, how then could He exercise His Godliness (i.e. be God) without His creation? This question takes root in a misunderstanding of the concomitance of God’s attributes. Islam holds that God’s Perfection is demonstrated by the harmonious operation of His attributes, and directs our focus, for example, to the first four attributes mentioned in the Holy Qur’an, which are appreciated as encompassing the essence of them all.

Both the Bible and Holy Qur’an talk about man being made in God’s likeness or His image. Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad Khalifatul-Masih IVrh, on numerous occasions, has explained that the only appropriate understanding of this is that the human psyche is the best reference for reaching an understanding of God, but that this is the extent of our reach on this matter. The way that a piece of art, while it cannot be recognised as being wholly equal to the artist himself, is infused with their impression. In light of this, when we examine how the Holy Qur’an proposes that one fulfils the purpose of their existence, we learn that it is to imitate God by nurturing and practising His known attributes so far as is within our capacity. The Promised Messiahas in The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam, dedicates some fifty-five pages to explaining that moral values being exercised on their proper occasions is the path to becoming a godly person. This can only point to the understanding that God’s perfection is not in exhibiting all of His attributes concurrently for each and every cause, rather that each attribute at the time of their operation, is manifested perfectly.

The misunderstanding demonstrated by the question at hand, however, indicates that God must always be exercising all of His attributes simultaneously. This is dismissible as a useless and superficial understanding of God. For example, it would be impossible to reconcile the idea that God may exact vengeance on any creation of His whilst also granting forgiveness for the same cause. To take on this perspective would be to completely undermine the principle attributes of God recognised across all worldviews, for example His Justice and Wisdom. One of these is encompassed in the second verse of the Holy Qur’an:

اَلۡحَمۡدُ لِلّٰہِ رَبِّ الۡعٰلَمِیۡنَ
“All Praise belongs to Allah, Lord of all the worlds,” [1:2]

Rabbul-‘Alamin, which is rendered into English as “Lord of all the worlds”, in its true essence means the Developer of all spheres of existence. With the claim that God has the power and freedom to create universes beyond the one to which we belong, it would be entirely inconsistent to limit God’s attributes to those which are applicable to our existence or are perceptible to our limited faculties. If one recognises that those spheres of existence subsumes the minuteness of atoms, whose complexity is likened to a universe in and of itself, why can they not then also extend beyond the farthest reaches of existence as we know it? In the Holy Qur’an, God is described as being the Incomprehensible, or the Subtle, pointing to the Power and Will of God beyond detection by human senses or consciousness.

With this in mind, it is important to point out that the beginning of mankind’s capacity for, and guidance towards, the recognition of God does not signify the beginning of His existence. This would be like claiming that atomic particles were non-existent before 1897, simply because men did not possess adequate instrumentation or understanding for acknowledging them before that time.

The Holy Qur’an was bestowed on mankind to teach the fullest means by which man may meet his Creator through the use of the faculties granted to him in this life. Therefore, it must be in this light that the attributes of God presented therewith, are to be appreciated. In fact, God Almighty unmistakably tells us in the Holy Qur’an that the reality of His attributes far outreaches human conception. He states:

قُلۡ لَّوۡ کَانَ الۡبَحۡرُ مِدَادًا لِّکَلِمٰتِ رَبِّیۡ لَنَفِدَ الۡبَحۡرُ قَبۡلَ اَنۡ تَنۡفَدَ کَلِمٰتُ رَبِّیۡ وَ لَوۡ جِئۡنَا بِمِثۡلِہٖ مَدَدًا
“Say, ‘If the ocean became ink for the words of my Lord, surely, the ocean would be exhausted before the words of my Lord came to an end, even though We brought the like thereof as further help.’” [18:110]

 

So, what can we take away from all of this? For one, the Holy Qur’an reveals one hundred and one attributes of God in relation to the human capacity to understand them. The verse quoted makes it clear, however, that there are more. Many more. This takes us back to the word ism. When used in the context of Allah, it indicates a mark or loftiness. Undeniably, there is no other being to whom this can be applied so truthfully or comprehensively. Secondly, it is incoherent to hold both beliefs, that God is the Lord of all the worlds but that this is the only world to have ever existed, as this would rely on upholding the application of some attributes of God at the cost of others. Therefore, this could in no way be a position held in view of God’s attributes being in perfect agreement, as they are so incontrovertibly described to be in the Holy Qur’an and demonstrably manifested in every aspect of being. Hence, there is no reason to believe that God, as understood in Islam, is reliant on His creation as the means of His Sovereignty or Being.

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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.

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Qaid: A Leader, Brother, Khadim.

Qaideen Forum 2021

The word Qaid means leader. Throughout Islamic history the term has been used for leaders within Islamic communities, in fact, it has even entered Latin in the form of Alcayde.

But cutting across the fabric of time and the worldly connotations of the past, today it refers to a Muslim youth leader who guides and leads others in the spiritual sense. It is upon discussion of this that local Qaideen from across the UK have met in Baitul Futuh and Darul-Aman at the Qaideen Forum of Majlis Khuddamul Ahmadiyya UK.

The point of this gathering is to discuss and contemplate how to further the spirituality of thousands of Khuddam across the country. Sitting at the back and observing this event one would find something that is perhaps not mirrored in other. Most of the Qaideen are young, they’re eager to discuss how to further the Talim and Tarbiyyat of their fellow Khuddam.

The event starts off, in the opening session, with a video being played of Hazrat Khalifatul-Masih Vaba addressing a Khuddam gathering. Huzooraba explains that the role of Khuddamul Ahmadiyya is to protect Khilafat. This goes above and beyond Amoomi duties or any physical protection: true protection is to act upon the words of the Khalifah, to spread them and to get people to follow them. Merely promising that we shall fight left and right is not the actual Jihad, the true Jihad is the acting upon Huzoor’s instructions. Khuddam should look towards the Khalifah’s words, it is the specific task of Khuddam to imbue the youngsters with this spirit.

This year’s Qaideen Forum (12 December for the southern Regions at Baitul Futuh and 18th December for northern regions at Darul-Aman) is split into 2 main workshops: a discussion on the Lahe-Amal (Conduct Manual) and a interactive session on true leadership.

The interactive workshop is very enjoyable, videos of Huzoor addressing various issues that Khuddam face are continuously played. For example in one video Huzoor advises that if something is not working, Khuddam office bearers should change strategy and that Khuddamul Ahmadiyya should work according to the temperaments of people.

The discussion in the second workshop which runs simultaneously is equally important and beneficial. The Lahe-Amal (conduct manual) is discussed and the nature of Khuddamul Ahmadiyya along with its setup is explained. This workshop is delivered by 3 Naib Sadrs (Usman Ahmad Sahib, Tariq Hayat Sahib and Dr Anas Rana Sahib) all of whom have extensive experience in Khuddamul Ahmadiyya. Perhaps the most important part of the presentation, and one that captures everyone’s attention immediately is how Khuddamul Ahmadiyya began: the actual incident that led to it being established—how Hazrat Khalifatul-Masih IIra asked a group of Khuddam who were not scholars to form a board which was named Khuddamul Ahmadiyya a few days later.

Khuddam are given the opportunity to mix and socialise (with social distancing in place!) so they can learn from each other and a lot of interesting conversations take place.

At the end a collective concluding session takes place with many questions being asked by Qaideen. For the benefit of everyone some of these questions and the answers given are presented below:

1. I am a local Qaid, who can get Khuddam emails?

Answer: anyone who holds an office in Khuddamul Ahmadiyya should be conducting Khuddam activities on an official email address. For further information on this you can contact [email protected]

2. What if a Khadim says he cannot give time, do I block him out?

Answer: That would be damaging in the long run. Even if a Khadim can only give 1 hour a month, then that should be utilised and eventually when a relationship develops and the Khadim draws closer to you as a local qaid he may begin to dedicate more time

3. How can we engage with students?

Answer: There are a lot of AMSA engagements that take place over the year. Every university does have an AMSA body and they should plan their annual calendar of events accordingly. Sometimes getting students to do presentations about their own studies can help with engagement.

4. I’m concerned about the physical wellbeing of Khuddam, are there any individual resources that can used during lockdown?

Answer: the Sehat-e-Jismani department has been planning and holding events such as the Khuddam Football League. But as a local qaid if there are Khuddam who cannot participate in such group activities then you should look to arrange some other form of exercise plan which can benefit your Khuddam, this can be done in by working with the national Sehat-e-Jismani team.

5. Are events taking place, I have planned my local Ijtema but am uncertain about restrictions?

Answer: Every region has a Disaster Management Committee. Before planning any event or gathering you should present your plan to them, and they will be able to advise as to whether the event should take place based on whatever the current guidelines of Covid restrictions are. This should not dissuade you from planning events, you just need to ensure that the Regional Qaid is aware and that proper planning has gone into the Covid side of the event.

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Honouring our Pledge: What, Where, When and Why?

The theme for the Khuddam year beginning now is “Honouring our Pledge”. It’s time to start evaluating whether we’re fulfilling the promise we’ve been making.

Majlis Khuddamul Ahmadiyya UK is happy to announce the new theme approved by Hazrat Khalifatul-Masih Vaba as Honouring our Pledge. Here’s a quick read to get you thinking about the theme and what the focus will be for this Khuddam year.

Of course, we all know that Islam lays particular emphasis upon fulfilling one’s promises; whether they relate to everyday matters, one’s family, work or religion. But in this case the theme refers to our Khuddamul Ahmadiyya pledge: the one where we stand-up, place our right hand above our left, and recite in unison at the beginning of Khuddam gatherings. This year’s theme is not about a pledge, rather the pledge. (Download it here!)

 

 

The Khuddam pledge goes back to the inception of Khuddamul Ahmadiyya itself. All auxiliaries within the Jama’at have their pledges according to their aims and objectives. As part of the Khuddam pledge Tashahhud is recited and then the pledge reads:

“I bear witness that there is none worthy of worship except Allah and I bear witness that Muhammadsa is the servant and messenger of Allah. I solemnly pledge that I shall always be ready to sacrifice my life, wealth, time and honour for the sake of my faith, country and nation. Likewise, I shall be ready to offer any sacrifice for guarding the institution of Khilafat-e-Ahmadiyya. Moreover, I shall deem it essential to abide by any ‘maroof’ decision made by Khalifatul-Masih. Inshallah”.

This is what we pledge (and have been pledging since we were Atfal, though the Atfal pledge speaks about honesty and not using foul language instead).

Khuddam reciting the pledge before Hazrat Khalifatul-Masih V at National Ijtema 2021.

The Khuddam pledge can be traced back to 1938 where only the first part relating to sacrificing wealth, time and honour can be found. It was later that amendments were made by Hazrat Khalifatul-Masih IIra adding to the pledge.

The Khuddam pledge talks about sacrificing four things we hold dear:

  1. Life
  2. Wealth
  3. Time
  4. Honour

Though a true Khadim is always ready to sacrifice his life—as we saw in the recent example of Syed Taalay Ahmad Sahib Shaheed—in this day and age what we are asked of most frequently is to sacrifice our wealth and time. Wealth is sacrificed in the form of chandas and charity whereas time is sacrificed by committing a certain portion of it in pursuit of the Majlis’ activities. If we reflect upon the history of Islam, this is indeed a very small sacrifice that we are being asked to make. Today’s jihad is that of self-reformation and we are not burdened as Muslims were burdened in times of the past. Therefore, this makes it even more important to ensure we are living up to the little we are being asked to commit.

Hazrat Khalifatul-Masih III leading Khuddam in the pledge. The Khuddam pledge is as old as the organisation itself.

Undoubtedly, this new year will bring a revived focus around the pledge and what it means. But on an individual level we should begin contemplating and evaluating the extent to which we fulfil our pledge.

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