Jalsa Salana/Annual Conventions

Self Reformation

Concluding address delivered by Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih V, Head of the worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim community, on 19th April 2008 at the Ghana Jalsa.

By the grace of Allah, having spread its many blessings, Jama’at Ahmadiyya Ghana’s Jalsa Salana 2008, which is 78th Jalsa Salana, is coming to an end.  In view of the significance of this Jalsa, many people from neighbouring African and overseas countries have come to take part in this year’s Jalsa because it sees the completion of the first 100 years of Khilafat in the Ahmadiyya Jama’at; it is the first Jalsa in any country [this year] that has my direct participation; I was told that today we have representation from almost 33 countries of Africa and the world over.

In a way, it is not just the Jalsa of Jama’at Ahmadiyya Ghana; but, because of my presence, and because of the coming of guests from the different countries, as I said, this Jalsa has become an international one, transmitted live throughout the world by MTA. It is also your second Jalsa, as you all know, in my presence that is being seen and heard in all countries of the world. So this is an honour that has been bestowed on the Jama’at in Ghana, and it is not an honour solely for your happiness but imposes upon you additional responsibilities. These responsibilities are that you should reinforce the covenants you made with the Promised Messiah(as).

I drew your attention in my opening address to the three days of the Jalsa that grant you an opportunity to make changes within yourselves. Make the pure, chaste and holy changes that occurred in you during these three days, an integral part of your lives. These three days were such in which everyone would have endeavoured to the best of one’s abilities to acquire noble values and perform good works.

The programme prepared by the organisers was very comprehensive. By the grace of Allah, all the topics for the speeches were excellent and I hope that the speakers tried their best to convey to you their thoughts in a good and convincing manner.

Anyhow, on the first day of the Jalsa, I quoted, with reference to the Promised Messiah(as)that this Jalsa is not a worldly fair, or show, but the purpose of participating in the Jalsa is to make virtuous changes within yourselves and sow the seeds and plant fresh orchards of goodness and good works in your hearts. If weeds have begun to overrun the previous good works, then such weeds that had begun to overpower your crop of goodness will have to be uprooted and eradicated.

The purpose of this Jalsa, therefore, is to learn the ways of working hard at growing fresh good works and eradicating the weeds that had begun to prevail over the previous deeds. So, if you are taking with you the seeds and plantation of good works well-protected deep down in your hearts, then you are indeed worthy of congratulations because you have attained the objective of this Jalsa.

I do not think that there is any good-natured person – be it a man or woman, young or old, whether he or she accepted Ahmadiyyat or inherited it and still maintains the faith – who does not want to hold this bounty that Allah has bestowed on him or her in high regard. Indeed, an Ahmadi has and wants to have a high regard for this bounty. But remember that there is a procedure and certain way to assess and test a thing and to derive the maximum benefit from it. If one follows such methods, one can acquire that thing in an excellent manner. But it is necessary to find these ways and adopt them.

Most of you coming from an agricultural country know how to cultivate different types of crops; the majority amongst you originates from rural areas. Because of this rural connection and being an agricultural nation, almost all of you, even those who dwell in towns, know reasonably well how to look after plants.

So remember how different types of crops are protected: after cultivating the crop, each farmer finds, within his means, the best possible conditions for growth of the crop.

Before cultivating the crop, you soften and till the soil reducing it almost to a powder, taking great care about it. For instance, those who grow yam or cassava make small mounds of soil or dig up ridges as part of the cultivation process. Similarly, those who grow pineapples put a lot of effort in tilling the soil and then sow the pineapples at equal distance in a row. Likewise, palm nut growers have to work really hard for their crop; all this effort is made to achieve some purpose.

Once the crop grows, the farmer goes out in the field everyday to remove the weeds so that they cause no harm to the crop. Then, since agriculture is dependent upon water, to obtain it, he looks towards the skies. If it does not rain, the crop is ruined and all the effort goes to waste. The farmer also prays that it rains on time and when it is needed most. Some people even write to me for prayers saying that if it does not rain, not only will their effort go waste, but also, there is the real danger of drought.

Then when the crop ripens, they toil and work hard to protect it from birds and animals. In short, a farmer puts in a continuous amount of hard work to get the yield from the crop.

The heart of a man is somewhat like these fields of crops: we have to nurture and take care of worship and good works in our hearts. For this purpose, we have to make our hearts better and refine ourselves so that the seedling of good works may sprout and be nourished properly. So the more effort you put in to prepare your hearts, the more you become refined and the more opportunity there will be for good works to multiply within you.

The coming together of all of you in this Jalsa is, in fact, to prepare your hearts in a better manner. Through the speeches in the Jalsa, you are taught skills and methods for preparing the ground well. By gathering in a spiritual environment, by helping each other with prayers and supplications, opportunities are found of rendering the heart suitable for good works.

By seeking forgiveness, one gets the opportunity to remove the harmful weeds from within oneself so that those good works that took root as a bounty of this Jalsa may grow and flourish in a much better manner.

What is meant by asking forgiveness? Is just asking forgiveness and repeating ‘I seek forgiveness’ enough to have pardon from Allah? Can a person’s heart be cleansed by uttering merely these two words so much so as to cause a complete change in him or her? No! Most certainly not!

Forgiveness is not only the uttering of these two simple words, but is the firm determination and resolve to make pure and virtuous changes in the heart; seeking the help of Allah; asking for His forgiveness for past transgressions and sins; pledging to spend one’s life henceforth free from sin; and, seeking the ability to do so from Allah.

If asking for forgiveness is not accompanied by determination and resolve, then evils that cling to one at every step, will prevail like the weeds over one’s good works. Therefore, if good changes are always to be established and maintained in one’s heart, then there is a need for such a forgiveness in the same manner as the farmer who goes forth daily into his field to tend the crop. Istighfar or forgiveness should always be understood and sought in that spirit.

And that spirit, as I have stated before, is the asking for forgiveness of past sins and at the same time resolving to protect one’s self from all kinds of sins in the future. Human nature is quickly inclined towards sin. This is why a lot of effort is required to protect one from sin. Thus, when a believer seeks Istighfar or asks for forgiveness accompanied by a lot of effort on his part, Allah the Almighty turns towards him and accepts his forgiveness and he begins to be saved from sin.

Now, it is the duty of every Ahmadi that he should seek such a forgiveness from Allah the Exalted that while accepting such forgiveness, Allah turns with grace towards His servant.

As to what should be the nature of forgiveness and repentance, the Promised Messiah(as)has guided us and I will briefly mention it.

The Promised Messiah(as) has told us that there are three conditions for repentance:

‘The first condition is that one should shun and distance oneself from the foul and corrupt thoughts that arise in one’s heart. Whenever one begins to do some work, its image is first conceived in one’s mind. In the same way, when a person is about to commit a sin, the pleasure of that sin is conceived in one’s mind. So the first condition of true forgiveness and acceptance of repentance is that such a thought should be rejected from the mind.’

The Promised Messiah(as) illustrates this by saying that supposing a man has some improper relation with a woman, then before his repentance, it is necessary for him to consider her face ugly and remember all her poor features. When these views are held, then a dislike and hatred for such improper relations will be created in the mind. [When there is a legitimate way of getting a spouse, why choose the wrong path and become a sinner in the process?]

The second condition for achieving salvation from sin is to inculcate a feeling of shame and regret in one’s heart for such deeds. Each person’s conscience has the power to alert and forewarn before every evil deed but the misfortunate one lets such power go to waste. Therefore, he should show regret and repentance when a sin or evil deed is committed and should think that its pleasures are temporary and only short-term and then consider that such pleasures will diminish day by day so much so that in old age when there is no strength, they will have to be abandoned. Then why should we do something that one day will have to be abandoned and does not please God?

God Almighty has already told us the permissible ways of obtaining pleasure in the world. A person should understand the meaning of true repentance. It means that when the thought of a sin crosses one’s mind, one feels penitence and regret; and seeks forgiveness from Almighty Allah for it.

The third condition for repentance is firm resolve. When one repents, begs for Allah’s forgiveness and bows down in repentance before Him, one should firmly resolve never to commit that sin again in the future and when one remains steadfast on this, Allah the Almighty enables the opportunity for salvation and repentance.

Gradually a person begins to desist from evil deeds and these evils are then replaced with good, high moral values. A person triumphs over immorality and after continuous attention, Istighfar or seeking forgiveness, and complying with these three conditions, Allah the Exalted also helps. Just as it is important for man to toil and sweat for a good crop and leave the rest to Allah to give the fruit of his labour, similarly when Allah sees the good intentions of man that in order to acquire His love, he is trying to safeguard himself from evil deeds and is asking forgiveness and is purging the heart of the weeds and poison ivy, then accepting such forgiveness, Allah takes the man under His protection and gives fruit to his forgiveness (Istighfar).

The Promised Messiah(as) says in one place that the true and real meaning of asking for forgiveness is to request God that no human weakness should manifest itself and that God should lend support to one’s nature with His power and envelop it with His succour and help. Therefore, if we try our best, then Almighty Allah also lends support with His power. He is the One Who has given the commandment of Istighfar asking for forgiveness and He has also taught us the prayer so that He can lend support to His servants.

Allah says in the Holy Qur’an:

And ask forgiveness of Allah. Surely Allah is Most Forgiving, Merciful. (Ch.4: V.107)

So how unfortunate would it be not to ask for forgiveness of one’s sins from such a Merciful God. Yes, the Almighty Allah has taught us the ways of asking forgiveness and we should act on these methods. When treading along such ways where we come under the mercy of the Almighty Allah, then the bounties of good deeds and good works will always flourish within us and in accordance with the promise of Allah, we will always live under His Mercy. The one who comes under His Mercy will suffer no loss from the trials and tribulations of the world. The distinguishing hallmark of an Ahmadi should be that the crop of goodness always flourishes in his heart so that he can establish the true Kingdom of the Almighty Allah in the world, so that he can keep the flag of the Holy Prophet(saw) raised forever and can act on the teachings of the Promised Messiah(as).

It pleases me when some Ghanaians write to me and when I read their letters, including young men and girls, who have become inclined to good works, who write with deep anguish requesting prayers so that some conditions prevalent around them may not lead them away from goodness or motivate them to evil. They write that they have saved themselves so far by fighting those evils but are afraid that the evils may overwhelm them. As I have said, remember, if you seek forgiveness with a passion and bow before Allah for His protection, the Merciful God will take you under His shelter, Insha-Allah, and Satan will have to leave you and flee. Your duty is to try with honest intentions. Allah does not let hard work go to waste. He will certainly make it fruitful, Insha-Allah. Once you are established on goodness and good works and have grasped the teachings of the Promised Messiah(as) Satan will not be able to beguile you.

In this context I would like to add that, whereas many young men and girls request prayers that they may be saved from sin, some people write very painfully that their children are not established firmly on Ahmadiyyat in the way that they would like to see them. May Allah fulfil their good wishes and may their children progress in goodness and increase their good works. However, I would like to counsel such elders that they should change their own conditions as well. Render the rights of your wife and children and be mindful of the sentiments of your family.

The victory you can gain with love cannot be achieved with harshness. Harshness has never produced lasting results in any age, but in this age, education and media have joined the people together and enlightened them. Therefore, you cannot reform anybody by beating and bruising. The Promised Messiah(as)came to propagate love in the world. Therefore, harsh attitudes of his followers in particular will not avail them, either at home or in the surrounds. So let your households have the good essence of love, harmony and your good model. When you return home from work in the evening, you should enter with the face of a tender-hearted husband and father instead of one with horror written on it. You will be effective if you preach goodness setting your own good example. Therefore, pay attention to reforming your household with prayers and good example.

Likewise, I say to the women in the house that they have a big role to play in the tarbiyyat or spiritual reformation and training of their children. Remember, the survival of the next generation – rather that of the country and the nation – is in the hands of women. The nation whose women realise their responsibilities is never brought to ruin.

The Holy Prophet(saw)said that women are the shepherds of their homes. They should guard the honour of their husbands. They should guard the finances of their husbands. They should guard the children of their husbands. It is a big responsibility that has been assigned to the women. On the Day of Judgement, Allah will ask every shepherd: did you discharge your responsibilities properly? If you believe in Allah and the Day of Judgement, then you, particularly the women, will have to be very careful about your responsibilities.

According to one Hadith, paradise lies under the feet of the mother. If anything is handed down to us from the Holy Prophet(saw), it certainly comprises Divine Will. Thus a mother has a high status in the eyes of Allah.

That is why the Messenger of Allah(saw)gave a glad tiding of paradise under a mother’s feet. Common people think that merely respecting the mothers will take them to paradise. Yes, that is also implied, but in a wider sense, it means that a mother can lead her children to paradise and she can also lead them to hell. That is something for mothers to worry about and they should pay attention to it. The mothers can show their children paradise in this world and help them acquire it in the hereafter.

An incident is mentioned that once there was a notorious robber and murderer who had terrorised a whole region. He had murdered many people.  The police and the government officials could not arrest him. The Almighty Allah sometimes leaves such people on a loose lead. At last he was arrested. He was proven guilty of all the murders and other crimes. After going through all the appeals, it was decided that a person who had destroyed the peace of the society, had made many women widows and many children orphans deserved no mercy and should be hanged to death.

On the appointed day, as he was being taken to the gallows, he was asked if he had a last wish. He wished that his mother be brought to see him with no one else close by. When the mother arrived, he said to her, ‘O Mother! I am going to die and my last wish is that I should kiss your tongue.’ The mother stuck her tongue out, and the vicious man bit her tongue into two pieces. The mother screamed and people rushed to that place and cursed the man saying, ‘O savage! You have committed atrocities all your life. Now that you are about to be hanged, instead of fearing God and seeking forgiveness for your sins you have deprived your mother of her tongue.’

The criminal replied that it was because of his realisation of lifelong wickedness that he bit his mother’s tongue. He said, ‘When I was young, I used to commit petty thefts, got caught and was beaten up. My mother used to defend me and encourage me. By and by, I was spurred on to bigger thefts, then robberies and then to murders. Had my mother reformed me from the very beginning, brought me up properly, and apprised me of good and evil, I would not have committed such serious crimes and would not have mounted the gallows today and be hell-bound. Therefore, as I am going to be punished for my sins, I am punishing my mother’s tongue that encouraged me on to evil instead of good.’

You see, the mother under whose feet we are told of paradise, became a source of hell for her son. Remember, good upbringing by a mother not only guarantees her child the paradise in the hereafter but also makes his life heavenly in this world. Remember always that Ahmadi women have a very high status. They have to raise children who will set high standards of morality. They have to produce servants of Ahmadiyyat. They have to produce children who will build the nation and the country.

The future of the nation and the country is in your hands. Therefore, bring up your children according to such high standards that the others learn the art of bringing up children from you. Create this realisation in the hearts of the children right from the very childhood that they have a God and that they are obliged to be grateful to Him. That can only be achieved when they worship Him and implant virtuousness in their hearts, in their children’s hearts. This kind of upbringing will take place only when you will realise your responsibilities with a passion. Therefore rise up with a new zeal, purifying yourselves, to guard your children and to guard your country.

As I mentioned on the first day, Africa appears to have a bright future. Advance rapidly towards this brightness. That future will only be achieved when the men and the women, the young and the old will light up the lamps of goodness in themselves.

I repeat, it is time for Africa to show the world that they have the competence to stand neck and neck with the developed countries of the world. In this age of selfishness, the way people are killing each other, forgetting their Creator and heading towards disaster, it is not unlikely that this world which you call ‘developed’ today, may be reduced to rubble tomorrow. May Allah have mercy on mankind and give everyone the ability to understand one’s responsibility.

It is only one constantly devoted to the One and Omnipotent God who can save mankind today. Remember this important point and produce such revolutionary change in yourselves that will bring you closer to God. Breathe such spirit into your children that they establish a relationship greater than ever before with God. That will make you the guide and leader of the world.

I hope that just as the Ghanaian Ahmadis have always expressed love for Khilafat and have not only promised but also exhibited sincerity, loyalty and fidelity and made sacrifices for it, may they try their utmost to act upon my words. As always, may they determine new ways of expressing their love for Khilafat today. Khilafat centenary should not only result in mere oral slogans but may it bring about a real revolutionary change within you. Amin!

May Allah enable me to love you more than ever before!

May Allah keep you under His Mercy and Grace!

May He always protect you!

May He make you the most loyal citizens of your country!

May He enable you to enhance the fame and glory of Ghana for always! May Allah also enable the leaders of this country to fulfil the peoples’ trust committed to them! May Allah enable them to rise above their personal vested interests when planning for the betterment of the country! May Allah continue to provide Ghana with leadership that has the progress of the country as its sole object! May we see Ghana among the topmost countries in the world! May Ahmadis excel others in contributing to the progress of the country!

May Allah take you back to your homes safely! May He take those who have come from other countries safely to their respective countries and homes!

May all the participants in this Jalsa merit the prayers of the Promised Messiah(as) for such participants! Amin!

I thank all the guests who, though not members of the Jama’at, attended our programmes and observed and listened with interest. That certainly shows their good nature and high morals. May Allah reward them for that! Amin!

May Allah bless you all.