Divine Attributes: Al Wadud, The Loving

Voice of British Muslim Women

Al Wadud

Tooba Khokhar, Cambridge

He who would know the secret of both worlds,
Will find the secret of them both, is Love.

—Fariduddin Attar

The belief that love is the cornerstone of the universe is a thing embedded deep in the human essence. Love, we are told, is our polestar as essential to our spirits as air and water is to our bodies. English Romantic poet William Blake went so far as to say that “…we are put on earth a little space/ that we may learn to bear the beams of love” while two centuries before him Shakespeare declared love “the star to every wand’ring bark”.

In the Islamic tradition, the earth and all its dwellers are said to be in a state of perpetual yearning for the Beloved. The ocean waves are restless and the nightingale’s song is sorrowful because of the separation from their true Beloved. Likewise, the heart…

View original post 665 more words

Advertisements

The flower of sweetest smell is shy and lowly

cherry-blossom-1260641_1920

Once upon a time, a poet of the British Isles remarked “the flower of sweetest smell is shy and lowly”. He wrote in praise of a beauty that was hidden, a charm that was veiled and a loveliness that sought no advertisement. A flower whose fragrance was all the more sweeter and lush for its lowliness and modesty.

Such a reverence for the modest has sadly dwindled from among us. Somewhere in the tumult of history, the shy, lowly flower has been swept away by the winds of modernity. Winds that feed and nurture only the bright, the brilliant and the bold.

So it is that modesty has become a relic of a bygone era. Those who still cling onto antiquated notions like it are told they are like birds, whose unseeing eyes are unaware of the bars of their own cage. We, they instruct us, need only shed our chains and be released from our prison.

There is a kind of humour in this. As Muslim women, our worldview, like that of our sisters of other faiths, is centred not on gaining some token of liberation or trophy of empowerment but on being submissive to the will of God. For it is our conviction that true happiness lies in striving to establish a connection with the Divine and in living life according to the principles He has laid out, principles which if followed bring peace to the heart and contentment to the spirit for they are so perfectly in tune with our natures.

As Muslim women, feminist icons will never be our role models. Instead, we look to the example of the one saintly woman whose praises were extolled in our scripture, a holy personage revered and loved by Christians and Muslims alike, Hadhrat Maryam (peace be upon her) otherwise known as Mary.

Mary is addressed in chapter three, verses 43-4 of the Qur’an which state.

And remember when the angels said, ‘O Mary, Allah has chosen thee and purified thee and chosen thee above the women of all peoples.

‘O Mary, be obedient to thy Lord and prostrate thyself and worship God alone with those who worship.’

These verses enjoin purity, piety and complete devotion. Mary (peace be upon her) exemplified all of these virtues. And as we know, one of the most iconic aspects of Mary’s image was of course her veil.

Islam, being a complete system of life, for every moral exercise or virtue it seeks to inculcate has an ‘outward form’ or practical step. To build a connection with the Divine, we pray. To be compassionate, we give alms. To learn sacrifice and suffering, we fast. And to increase in modesty and inner light, we cover ourselves and conduct ourselves accordingly.

In this connection, the Qur’an enjoys women to ‘show not of their beauty’ and to “draw their head-coverings over their bosoms” for that is closer to modesty[1]. As with all things, the choice lies with the woman whether or not she wishes to act upon this teaching.

The Qur’an is a scripture that encourages this attitude in its followers, “Say, ‘My Prayer and my sacrifice and my life and my death are all for Allah, the Lord of the worlds”. (6: 163)

Love and devotion of this degree must always come from the heart. And if we truly do see the headscarf as a garment of devotion, then we must allow women the agency to enter into this bond of devotion themselves out of love and love alone.

So, the philosophy behind veiling is simple. It is an attitude to life that places at its centre devotion to God and that does away with the objectification of the female form that consumerism encourages and engenders. It is freedom itself. Well a kind of freedom rooted in submission.

However, we aspire to no more. For it is as Wordsworth said in a moving poem dedicated to his wife

True beauty dwells in deep retreats,

Whose veil is unremoved

[1] See Quran 24: 32

Note: Written upon hearing of the ECJ rulings of the 14th of March

A Glimpse of the Beloved

Shiraz.jpg

Lovers share a sacred decree –
to seek the Beloved

Rumi, ‘One Whisper of the Beloved’

Each man has his own Paradise, woven from dreams and fantasies personal to him. Each mind paints a different picture of the abode of bliss. Within the Islamic tradition however, the true ‘lover’ accepts no Paradise short of union with his ‘Beloved’ (God). Indeed, the very essence of the religion of Islam is to forego lesser loves and embark on the path of ‘Ishq or passionate, mystical love of a Divine Beloved. To be a Muslim is to be in submission to Him, seeking Him as our end and our true Paradise.

The founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmed (on whom be peace) beautifully articulated this sentiment in his book Kashti-e-Nuh (Noah’s Ark)

Our paradise is in our God. Our highest delight is in our God for we have seen Him and found every beauty in Him. This wealth is worth procuring even though one may have to lay down one’s life to procure it. This ruby is worth purchasing though one may have to lose oneself to acquire it. O ye, who are bereft, run to this fountain and it will save you.[1]

In our Beloved, we find the elixir of life and from Him is derived all the sweetness of this world and the next. Persian poet ‘Attar, himself a mystic devoted to pursuit of the Beloved, wrote of how

… He is always near to us, though we

Live far from His transcendent majesty.

A hundred thousand veils of dark and light

Withdraw His presence from our mortal sight,

We learn from the Qur’an that our God is near. However, Attar alludes to a Prophetic tradition which states that 70,000 ‘veils’ withdraw man from Allah. These metaphorical veils hide His Being from us who, like the prisoners in Plato’s Cave, might not be able to behold with our limited gaze and weak, mortal eyes the full light of His Glory and Majesty.

But the world that is to come is a different case altogether. There we have been promised delights which “…no eye has seen, no ear has heard and no heart conceived”. And it is of this unknown world that the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings upon him), related the following episode:

When the dwellers of Paradise will have entered Paradise, Allah, the Blessed and the Exalted, will ask them, ‘Do you desire anything more that I should give you?’

They will answer, ‘Have you not made our countenances bright? Have you not admitted us to Paradise and delivered us from the Fire?’

Thereupon, Allah will lift the veil from His countenance and the dwellers of Paradise will not have known anything dearer to them than looking at their Lord. (Muslim)

So from within one Paradise, we will gain another. In exchange for devotion in this life, the lover will receive a treasure unrivalled in the whole of the universe: the lifting of the veil and a glimpse of the Beloved.

[1] Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, Roohani Khazain Vol. 19: Kashti Nuh, pp. 21-22

Where is the Beloved? On Finding God in a Godless Age

8110105121_d8d5931d20_k

We search for Him here and there
while looking right at Him.
Sitting by His side we ask
“O Beloved, where is the Beloved?”

-Rumi, ‘One Whisper of the Beloved’

The children’s class at our local mosque was as usual, equal parts bizarre and delightful. I sat in a circle of young Muslim girls aged between 2 and 10, their colourful dupattas framing their eager and lively faces.  Our conversation had fallen on to the topic of atheism which one 7 year old couldn’t quite comprehend. She asked me, her little brows rather adorably furrowed in thought, if there are people around who “don’t think that God’s there”, “why doesn’t God just show Himself to them?”

She captured in her innocence, one of the questions which has riddled mankind for centuries and mankind has for ever been so very close to reaching the answer. Why did the ancients worship the sun? Why do pagans bow before the moon? Why do poets write verse upon verse, ode upon ode in veneration of nature? Because in the words of Muslim poet Attar “His Essence all the world pervades” and in the heart-wrenching beauty of the natural world we truly do find traces of God’s own Essence. After all, how can we separate the art from the Artist? Persian poet Ahmad Jam captured it perfectly when he remarked

Wherever I see, I see the Beloved’s beauty;

Wherever I look I see His creation…

Every form that is beautiful in the world

Is only a sign to the Beloved’s beauty

-Ahmad Jam, ‘Wherever I Look’

The Holy Qur’an, itself the most dazzling jewel possessed by mankind, speaks of those “who remember Allah while standing, sitting, and lying on their sides, and ponder over the creation of the heavens and the earth”[1] for indeed the creation of this vast and intricate universe and the deep wisdom which underlies the laws of the natural world are Signs of Allah. Equally, so is the exquisite beauty with which He fashioned the universe a Mark of His handiwork. A garden of flowers in bloom, the vastness of the ocean, sunlight streaming through a forest- does all this not affirm the words of Sufi poet Mansur Hallaj

Which place on earth is devoid of Your presence

That they search for You in the skies?

-Mansur Hallaj, ‘Which Place on Earth?’

For indeed God does show Himself on this very earth. Since all Beauty is but His, forms which in this world are beautiful reflect in their purity the image of God. As Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as), the Promised Messiah and Imam of this age wrote “the God of Islam is the same God Who is visible in the mirror of the law of nature and is discernible in the book of nature. Islam has not presented a new God but has presented the same God Who is presented by the light of man’s heart, by the conscience of man, and by heaven and earth.”[2]

So God is not just to be found without as in amongst the wonders of the universe, but also within us, in “the light of man’s heart”. Indeed as God states of man in the Holy Qur’an, “We are nearer to him than even his jugular vein” (50:17). So the Lord of the Worlds is not simply to be found “in the skies”, sitting upon His heavenly throne, watching from above; no, instead we are told that He is nearer to us than even our jugular vein. His Presence is both within us and around us. Indeed as Islamic mystical poet Attar so perfectly put

All is God, and but a talisman are heaven and earth

To veil Divinity…

Thou all Creation art, all we behold, but Thou;

The soul within the body lies concealed,

And Thou dost hide Thyself within the soul,

O Soul in soul! Myst’ry in myst’ry hid!

-Fariduddin Attar, ‘All-pervading Consciousness’

So finding our Beloved is no Herculean task, it only asks that we open our eyes to the world He has created outside of us and to the world He has created within us. He is indeed not very far at all.

And when My servants ask thee about Me, say: ‘I am near’

-Holy Qur’an, 2:187

[1] The Holy Qur’an, 3:192

[2] Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, The Essence of Islam vol. I, p. 39

Also featured on The Viewpoint

The Ocean’s Generosity: the Muslim Council of Britain and Ahmadi Muslims

Ocean.jpg

If Islam means “peace”, how is it that some Muslims seem to possess so little of it? Islam is a religion which says that Paradise is not merely a remote station to be reached in the afterlife, but a state of mind. Paradise is a soul at peace with itself, its Maker and all around it.

And yet we see little evidence of very many believers at peace with anything. In the days following the murder of Ahmadi Muslim shopkeeper Asad Shah, the world has become privy to the fragmentations, divisions and insecurities of some among the broader Muslim community in Britain. As a member of a community which stands for ‘true Islam’, champions peace, raises the slogan of ‘Love for all, hatred for none’, favours secularism and has the avowed aim of drawing mankind closer to God and godliness, I welcomed the MCB’s statement of condolence on the murder. We should stand against violence everywhere.

But the condolence was followed swiftly by a ‘Position Statement’ clarifying that the MCB wishes no close association with Ahmadis and affirms that “Muslims should not be forced to class Ahmadis as Muslims if they do not wish to do so”. All the while they cut no ties with Khatmm-e-Nabuwwat, the controversial group which has come under fire for its violent and hateful approach towards the Ahmadiyya Community.

It made me think really. Spirituality is supposed to soften one’s heart, not harden it. As Islamic mystical poet Jalal-ud-din Rumi most eloquently wrote

Are you jealous of the ocean’s generosity?

Why would you refuse to give

This love to anyone?

Fish don’t hold the sacred liquid in cups!

They swim the huge fluid freedom.

What I see quite a few Muslims of today do is precisely this. They try to measure the Infinite in cups, they seek to limit the ocean’s generosity to drops when it is quite beyond their power to do so. They become obsessed with setting limits to God’s Grace: one fatwa after another decrying this or that, calling outright for the killing of those who they see as outside the fold of their Islam, their man-made fold of salvation. When the whole point of Islam is to elevate the spirit from such thinking. As Rumi stated

If I pray

it’s so my heart might turn toward You

If I face the Ka’ba

it’s so my eyes might turn toward You

If this is not so,

My prayer is hot air,

The Ka’ba a pile of rocks.

What is religion if it does not bring us closer to our Maker? If it does not bring us peace? Ahmadi Muslims maintain belief in a Living God Who is Ever-Present, Ever Near. After all, in the Holy Qur’an God states of man that “We are nearer to him than even his jugular vein.” As Rumi remarked

They say love opens a door

from one heart to another

But if there is no wall

how can there be a door?

Too many today are fixated with building walls where they shouldn’t be. As the Khalifa of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community so put in a Friday Sermon of his last December “Islam is replete with the teaching of love and peace and today this teaching needs to be propagated. A true Muslim knows that God is Salam (the Source of Peace) and wishes security for His creation.” ‘Position statements’ and hate leaflets are symptoms of having disquiet and disturbed inner landscapes. For it is only such inner disquietude which leads to chaos in society. When the Source of Peace would as the Khalifa said wish only for there to be peace and security within people’s hearts as well as in wider society.

Muslim Women and the Narrative of Modernity

Hijabi_in_front_of_mosue_in_Cairo

Often when I tell someone that my Hijab liberates me, they’ll nod indulgently, their expression a little doubtful, whilst they kindly explain ‘no darling, liberation means beingfree!’ Our interactions, almost inevitably, drift towards an impassé. We might be saying the same word: ‘liberation’, but in my mind and theirs it means different things. To me, myHijab means liberation. To them, Islamic dress represents only patriarchal oppression. But this cultural misunderstanding sadly goes far beyond the Hijab.

In Britain today, Muslim women are free to wear the headscarf and observe Islamic dress. However while our Hijabs may be accepted, many of the practices and observances which often accompany the Hijab i.e. rules on modesty and mixing are still stigmatised. From David Cameron’s patronising comments on ‘Traditionally Submissive’ or his ill-thought polemic against segregation (never mind the plethora of gender-segregated institutions in Britain) to the new D&G Hijabi range, it is clear that Muslim women today are free to keep their Hijab on, but according to some they really ought leave ‘Islam’ to the Saudis. In other words, the Hijab can stay so long as every other aspect of how we live our lives is in line with the norm in Britain. We may differ from the norm in the way we dress, but not in the way we engage with society or order our homes.

I don’t want to put ‘Islam’ in one camp and ‘Britain’ in another. Many British Muslim women today do lead lifestyles which mirror point for point those of their non-Muslim peers save for an extra garment and five daily Prayers. Indeed Islam is not at all prescriptive when it comes to such matters.

But what about the women, Muslim or not, who of their own volition choose to take a different path? Are their personal definitions of ‘liberation’ accepted? If for instance they find liberation in their mosque, their church or their synagogue? If they find fulfilment in the domestic sphere? Or if perhaps they’re more for Yin and Yang than feminist gender theory? Or is it simply Cameron’s way or the high-way? This goes both ways- with those who would impose ‘traditional’ values (I use this term generally) on all. When some women simply cannot identify with such values.

It is important to stress above all that every woman is on her own personal journey in search of peace and fulfilment. Are we to block off all routes but one? Enshrining in law every freedom and liberty, but nevertheless creating a culture which expects women to conform to an increasingly narrow definition of what it means to be an empowered and liberated female. Telling all women, Muslim or otherwise, ‘be unique, but not too different!’ Thus Hijabi fashionistas or ballerinas are celebrated while their more ‘traditional’ sisters are looked down upon for not fitting into the general narrative of modernity. Surely we should celebrate choice, and accept the patchwork of diversity that is Britain; and not just simply laud conformity to the norm i.e. to standard practices in dress, thought and domestic arrangements.

In the first poem of his Four Quartets, a long, jaggedly flowing piece entitled ‘Burnt Norton’, T.S. Eliot explores perception, time and forms. In this work, a wise little birdy chirps that “human kind cannot bear very much reality”. Alluding to this, to the limitations of human perception and to being open to different experiences, Eliot writes

Other echoes

Inhabit the garden. Shall we follow?

As featured on The Viewpoint and Personal Musings

I’m a Muslim Woman and yes I am #TraditionallySubmissive

I’m a Muslim. ‘Muslim’ literally means ‘one who submits’ so yes my every day is filled with a hundred different acts of submission. Islam is based on the foundation of submission and as one scholar commented it truly is remarkable how an entire religion with its own social patterns and legal framework has sprung from what is essentially “the inner spiritual posture” of a believer.

And what is this inner spiritual posture? Perhaps it is best captured in the moment of ‘Sajdah’ when a Muslim bows down in Prayer. The Islamic mystical poet Jalal-ud-din Rumi describes this inner posture, this state of utter submission in the most exquisite terms

My place is the placeless

My trace is the traceless

I have no body or soul,

‘Cause I belong to my Beloved

Entire whole.

-Rumi, ‘Who Am I?’

Like many other Eastern and mystical philosophies, Islam teaches that the foundation for inner peace is destruction of the ego and submission to God. However Muslims believe they have two purposes in life: to serve God and to serve His creation. And when it comes to serving God’s creation, again submission is generally the order of the day. All Muslims have responsibilities as fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, sons and daughters and most will at times lay aside their own desires for the happiness of their loved ones. Something which I’m sure all humans can identify with.

For “No man is an islande, entire of itselfe” and no man or woman can truly attain happiness and contentment simply through having their way all the time. As Rumi said “when one is united to the core of another…[one is] empty of self and filled with love”. Submission and selflessness are essential for one on the path of love, both human and Divine. Which is why we most definitely need to shift the paradigm from simple ‘submission’ vs. ‘defiance’ and instead engage in a more thoughtful consideration of how we can live our lives in the most meaningful and fulfilling way.

Education is an intrinsic part of this. Indeed Islam is totally unambiguous on this point. The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be on him) declared that “it is the duty of every Muslim man and every Muslim woman to acquire knowledge” and that “a believer never has his fill of knowledge”.

Most of the women posting on Twitter also seem to equate careers with liberation. My first thought was, reflecting on my own circle of friends: is a woman who is a doctor because her parents pressured her to go down the medical route more or less submissive than one who chose to be a stay-at-home mum of her own accord? The liberation, surely, lies in the choice, it cannot be measured in pennies and pounds or in worldly qualifications.

We seem to have this idea in our heads that anything resembling domesticity or homeliness is inherently submissive and backwards. When in fact the domestic sphere means different things in different cultures and faiths. In Islam, the domestic sphere is an almost sacred space. Women are guardians over it not because ‘that’s all they’re good for’ but because the home, and the institution of motherhood are venerated so very highly.

None of this I’d like to stress excludes women in the least from involvement in public life. Every woman should be free to create meaning in her life how she wishes.

And crucially despite laying all this emphasis on submission which is part of the ‘Greater Jihad’ of conquering ourselves, Muslims are also instructed to engage in another Jihad which is to struggle against all forms of oppression, injustice and cruelty. No Muslim woman can be at peace until her sisters around the world live free from injustice and oppression. As the Caliph of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, a tireless advocate of peace and champion of women’s rights unequivocally declared in a speech last year “the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community raises its voice loud and clear calling for justice at all levels so that the peace and security of the world may be secured and personal enmities, grievances and distances can all be transformed into a close bond of mutual love.”

Also featured in Personal Musings

 

An Open Letter To The Prime Minister

Voice of British Muslim Women

Tooba Khokhar, Cambridge

th23ORN8Z5

Assalamoalaikum to you, Sir

As a linguist and a lover of the English language (and its rich literary tradition), I applaud your efforts to better language learning amongst Muslim women. When I moved to Britain at the age of 11, I experienced first-hand how language truly is the key to integration. This key allowed me, a girl who had just flown in from the Middle East to quickly form friendships with my British class-mates and opened up a world of literature and poetry without which I would consider myself incomplete.

However, to your article published in The Times a few days ago entitled ‘We Won’t Let Women Be Second-Class Citizens’ as part of this campaign, I take great exception.

It perhaps unwittingly recycles the image of the poor, helpless Muslim woman imprisoned in her home, dejected and downtrodden, praying to be rescued by the egalitarian indigenous people…

View original post 1,035 more words

‘The ink of the scholar is more sacred than the blood of the martyr’

Quran2

O men! Seek ye knowledge. For verily God has a mantle of love which He casts upon him who seeks knowledge.

– Umar (r.a.), Second Caliph of Islam

‘Recite in the name of your Lord Who created’ with these words began the revelation of the Holy Book of Islam, the Qur’an, to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as he sat meditating in the cave of Hira, a place where he often sought refuge from the din of Meccan life. He came from an unlettered people; indeed according to tradition the Prophet (pbuh) himself could neither read nor write. Yet, the Book that was sent for their salvation began with the injunction ‘Iqra’ or ‘Recite!’ This reflects how the very foundation of Islam was on learning and studying.

As chapter 7, verse 53 of the Qur’an declares:

And surely We have brought them a Book which We have expounded with knowledge, a guidance and a mercy for a people who believe

Why this emphasis on knowledge? Well as the Qur’an elsewhere elucidates “…Say, ‘Can those who know and those who do not know be equal?’ Verily, only those endowed with understanding will take heed” (39: 10). Islam is a religion which values and honours learning and the final line of chapter 39 verse 10 goes so far as to say that to truly and fully take heed of the teachings of Islam, the believer must be “endowed with understanding”. Could such a religion possibly condone spreading its teachings by force? On the contrary, as Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as), the Divine Reformer of Islam put “the Qur’an clearly commands not to raise the sword in order to spread Islam and that the innate qualities of the religion should be presented and that others should be attracted through pious models”[1]

As such every Muslim has a duty to continually strive to increase in knowledge and learning. The Prophet (pbuh) is reported to have said that “he who issues forth in search of knowledge is busy in the cause of Allah till he returns from his quest” (Tirmidhi) and that “…the Prophets do not leave an inheritance of dirhems and dinars but only of knowledge. He who acquires knowledge acquires a vast portion.” (Abu Daud and Tirmidhi) Indeed one of the very first prayers I, like many other Muslims, was taught as a child was ‘O my Lord, increase me in knowledge’, a short but powerful Qur’anic prayer (20: 115).

Equally however, Islamic teachings continually emphasise the limits of human knowledge and understanding. In the words of Mevlana Jalal-ud-din Rumi

When the pen was busy writing it was fluent;

When it reached the word of Love, it broke down

– Rumi, ‘Break Your Chains, O Son’

Where faith and the higher mysteries of the universe are concerned, how far can our minds take us especially within the limits imposed by language? Indeed language is inadequate even for expressing mere human love, for the divine Love of which Rumi speaks, neither can our minds fathom nor our tongues ever express it.

How can sober Reason understand

The drunkenness of love?

How can Reason solve

The mystery of love?…

Since Love is the work of the heart

Open the eyes of your heart

– Attar, ‘How Can Sober Reason Understand?’

[1] Star of the Empress, p. 11

‘Love for all, hatred for none’: A Message of Peace

Along the way of life, someone must have sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate. This can only be done by projecting the ethic of love to the centre of our lives.

—Martin Luther King, ‘An Experiment in Love’

‘Love for all, hatred for none’ is a slogan I grew up hearing. It’s on a magnet on our fridge; it’s on a sticker on the back of our car. It’s the official motto of a community of Muslims worldwide known as the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. In a world so full of hate and bitter conflict, it gets lost that the word ‘Islam’ itself means ‘peace’. That Islam is a religion which seeks to establish spiritual, social and political peace. Its adherents greet each other with ‘Assalam-o-alaikum’ ‘Peace be upon you’ while the motto we Ahmadi Muslims carry in our hearts is ‘love for all, hatred for none’. The slogan of our Jihad.

Islam ordains two kinds of Jihad: the Greater Jihad is to master your own spirit. Islam teaches us that the biggest obstacle to spiritual growth is our ‘Self’ or Ego. Once we vanquish our Self we step into the true light of Islam and become ‘Muslim’ meaning those who submit to the will of Allah. However this doesn’t only mean accepting the will of a God Who may appear distant to some. It means clearing our hearts and souls of the taints and stains they accumulate so that goodness and godliness can flourish therein. For this Muslims turn to the Qur’an and Hadith for guidance on elevating ourselves morally and spiritually and purifying our hearts to such a degree that they become mirrors reflecting the Light of Allah. Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmed (as), founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community called this final stage of spiritual growth Nafse Mutmainnah or the ‘soul at rest’ in his monumental work The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam. Indeed this is what every Muslim ultimately aspires to: inner peace or contentment.

The Lesser Jihad is to fight against oppression and therefore establish social and global peace too.

Most of today’s self-proclaimed ‘Jihadis’ are totally blind to the reality of the teachings of Islam. They ignore the Quranic indictment that if an individual kills even one person “…it shall be as if he had killed all mankind…” (5:33). They ignore the Prophet (pbuh)’s words “that one will not enter Paradise whose neighbour is not safe against his mischief” (Bokhari and Muslim). They boast of Muslims being the ‘‘…best people…’’ (3:111) but overlook the multiple conditions the verse they quote lays down. Namely, that the high status of Muslims is conditional upon their serving towards “…the good of mankind…” and striving to “…enjoin good and forbid evil…”. Needless to say extremists and terrorists today do the very opposite.

Ahmadi Muslims however believe that the time for Jihad of the sword has ended (in fact it ended 200 years ago) and this age is an age of Jihad of the pen: intellectual, non-violent Jihad.

All around us however the sights we see are of violence and of unbridled greed for power and resources. It has become apparent that the global political, economic and military system is one far more conducive to war than peace. Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmed (aba), Caliph of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat whilst always being the first to point out how extremism runs contrary to the true teachings of Islam always draws attention to the material realities behind the current conflict too and asks some pressing questions. Who is funding ISIS? Who is pumping weapons into the Middle East? Who is destabilising the region financially and militarily and stands to profit? Along with questions however he always gives the clearest and simplest answers calling “for justice at all levels so that the peace and security of the world may be secured and personal enmities, grievances and distances can all be transformed into a close bond of mutual love”[1] and for Ahmadi Muslims to raise their voices “with justice against all forms of cruelty, corruption and disorder”[2]. His speeches, sermons and letters to various world leaders are an eye-opener into the realities of the world.

I am reminded of Martin Luther King, himself a passionate advocate for non-violence, who in an inspiring essay entitled ‘An Experiment in Love’ wrote:

Nonviolent resistance… avoids not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. The nonviolent resister not only refuses to shoot his opponent but he also refuses to hate him. At the centre of nonviolence stands the principle of love.

Islam too ordains exactly this. Keeping in mind the words ‘Love for all, hatred for none’ Ahmadi Muslims do not seek to fight against anyone but against evil, against injustice. It takes a strong person to repress all hate and to truly have only ‘love for all’. But we earnestly wish only to see love and reconciliation take the place of the grief and bitterness all too common today. And for Muslims and non-Muslims alike to find the inner peace that allows them to live in peace and brotherhood with one another.

 

[1] Nasir Mosque Opening, UK, 1 March 2014

[2] Khilafat Centenary Hall Opening, Australia, 20 October 2013