Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association Podcasts

Interview with Imam Abdul Quddus Arif, President of Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association UK

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Established since 1938, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association (AMYA) is one of the most unique and dynamic youth organisations in the world. Founded by the Second Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad (ra), the organisation focuses on providing the moral and spiritual training of its youth. Throughout its history, AMYA has always been at the forefront in rendering its services to the wider communities. Since the outbreak of the global pandemic, AMYA UK has been actively working throughout the country to help and assist charities, NHS frontline staff, councils and members of the public. In this fascinating and in-depth interview, The Review of Religions spoke to Abdul Quddus Arif, President of the AMYA UK, in which he talks about the history of the organisation, its lofty objectives and its current efforts during these unprecedented times. 

(Interview conducted by Ahmed Danyal Arif, UK Co-ordinator for The Review of Religions)

AD: The first question I would like to ask you is regarding the movement in itself (AMYA). Its slogan is a very profound saying of the second caliph of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazrat Mirza Bashir-ud-Din Mahmood Ahmad (ra). He said that: “Nations cannot be reformed without the reformation of the youth.” What is, in your view, the philosophy behind these wise words?

AQ: Khuddamul Ahmadiyya (AMYA) serves the main purpose of protecting Khilafat through complete obedience to Hazrat Khalifatul Masih’s every instruction and the organisation nurtures the youth to enable them to fulfil this purpose. Whilst doing so, it trains the youth and seeks to reform them spiritually but also through teaching them key skills of life and through attaching them to a movement that looks after them from a very young age. This system was very eloquently explained by the fifth and current Worldwide Head of the Community, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih V (aba) when he said: 

“The system within the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is such that it ties every Ahmadi into a beautiful bond of love and compassion. When a child reaches the age of seven, he becomes attached to an organised structure and he becomes part of Atfalul Ahmadiyya…where they are trained in working as a team. 

“Then from amongst the children, a system of Saiqeen [sub-leaders] is created so they learn the value of obedience. 

“Then when they reach the age of fifteen, boys enter into Majlis Khuddamul Ahmadiyya and girls become a part of Lajna Ima’illah. Thus, those children who have received training from a young age as part of an organisation, when they become young adults they go on to join the virtuous organisations (Khuddamul Ahmadiyya and Lajna Ima’illah) and become more aware of organisational matters of the Jamaat. Due to the fact that with age comes maturity, therefore from the age of fifteen onwards they elect their own leaders from amongst themselves and thus they receive training and manage to run their own affairs.

“…From childhood, due to receiving moral training through this means [of the organisational structure of the Jamaat], due to their participation in youth events they become trained and once these very children grow older, they go onto become fully absorbed within the Jamaat structure and become beneficial individuals.

“…Although foremost is the Jamaat level structure [as compared to auxiliary structure within the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community], the children and youngsters are often not fully involved within the Jamaat level structure as compared to the auxiliary structure from a young age; it is in fact not even possible for children and youngsters to be as involved in the Jamaat level organisational structure, therefore the far-sightedness of Hazrat Musleh Maud (ra) [Second Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community] formed these auxiliary organisations. It is a great favour of Hazrat Musleh Maud (ra) upon the Jamaat. It creates within children the sense of dignity of the Jamaat and respect towards it and it is this respect through which they grow and prosper.” [1]

At last year’s MKA UK Qaideen [head of the local branches] Forum, His Holiness (aba) stated that the principal objective and task of Majlis Khuddamul Ahmadiyya was to stand on the frontlines protecting and guarding the institution of Khilafat-e-Ahmadiyya. And the best way to do this was by listening to and acting upon the words of the Khalifah of the time and to be completely loyal and obedient to Khilafat at all times and in all circumstances.

Furthermore, the following prayer of His Holiness (aba) at the Qaideen forum really shows the purpose of Majlis Khuddamul Ahmadiyya and also the desire and vision His Holiness (aba) has for this organisation and the youth:  

“May we train our future generations in such a manner that they too go onto establish the highest standards of righteousness. May we, nor out children drift away from the instructions of Allah the Almighty.” [2]

With regards to this very slogan of “Nations cannot be reformed without the reformation of the youth”, His Holiness, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba) has stated:

“These enlightened words have not only become the main slogan of Majlis Khuddamul Ahmadiyya, but have also become the basis of its activities and schemes. However, it is not enough to merely repeat this slogan or to have it printed on posters or badges; rather you must understand its true meaning and the underlying philosophy behind these profound words.

“The reason Hazrat Musleh Maud (ra) assigned this slogan to Majlis Khuddamul Ahmadiyya was to emphasise how important it was for the youth to not only gain secular education, but above and beyond this, to constantly develop their relationship with Allah the Almighty. Those words of Hazrat Musleh Maud (ra) also demand that the members of Khuddamul Ahmadiyya strive to increase their religious knowledge, because having knowledge of Islam’s teachings will automatically increase a person’s spirituality and bring them closer to Allah the Almighty.

“Thus, it is very important that every Khadim [member of AMYA] does not simply repeat this slogan, but also ponders over its meaning and grasps what it personally requires of them. You should appreciate that it is no ordinary slogan, but is actually the guarantor of the success and continued prosperity of our Jama’at and indeed the pathway leading to the salvation and advancement of our nations.” [3]

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AD: What is it that sets apart the AMYA (Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association) from other youth organizations?

AQ: It is a movement that was initiated to fulfil the purpose of the coming of the Messiah of the age and to instil those values within the youth that the Promised Messiah (as) came to establish and so there really can be no other movement or organisation that is like it in the world just as there is no community that is like the community established by the Promised Messiah (as). So right from its very purpose it is unique and most noble. 

It has the blessing of attaining direct guidance from the Chosen One of God in this era, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih (aba) and at every juncture we receive guidance from Huzoor. 

One thing that most surely sets it apart from any other youth organisation is that its main objective is based on servitude to Allah and Allah’s creation. We aim to achieve this by arranging an array of activities throughout the year. However, with the current social distancing restrictions, we have arranged all these activities on virtual platforms. By the grace of Almighty Allah, conservatively speaking, during the Lockdown period Majlis Khuddamul Ahmadiyya UK has had the opportunity to gain 1,200 new subscribers across its online platforms, taking its total subscribership to in excess of 25,000 online users. MKA’s content has generated more than 10,000 hours of watch time, 100,000 views, and close to a million impressions. And although the UK Majlis stands at around 8,000 members strong, our content has reached well in excess of 30,000 unique people across 38 countries.

Some of these events are as follows: Live Workouts, Let’s Talk Session (Q&A on social issues), Talim Classes, Atfal Show (interactive program for Atfal), quizzes, Friday Sermon Discussions, Yawm e Masih e Maud, Live Webinars, Talimul Qur’an classes, Islamic history talks, Life of Holy Prophet (sa), Photography Classes, Book Clubs, live religious discussions, Ask an Imam session, healthy living webinars, Sanat o Tijarat Employment clinic, Coding tutorial, Tajweed ul Quran Classes, Daily Quran Duroos, Quran Recitation Classes, Big Virtal Iftars, Tabligh Talks, Arabic Lessons, etc.

AD: During these challenging times, members of the community throughout the entire country have been reached out to and contacted by AMYA UK. What was the inspiration behind this initiative and what was the response like from community members?

AQ: The Nizam-e-Jamaat, an administration system continuously guided by the Khalifah of the time is such a magnificent, beautiful, and perfect administration system, that anyone who ponders upon it cannot help but praise its creator.

The Jamaat acts as a nurturing mother. It supports its members as children. It looks after their spiritual and physical wellbeing. And when times are tough, it looks after its members just like a mother. Every action the Jamaat takes is devised from the instructions of Khalifatul Masih.

The inspiration behind making the welfare calls to every household of the Majlis was the instruction of Hazrat Khalifatul Masih V (aba) to the National President of MKA UK that the Majlis [organisation] should ensure every household receives the Homeopathic medicine. This instruction by our beloved Caliph (aba) to reach out to every household, ensuring that they are well and have the medication to support them in this difficult time held very deep meaning as it showed the love and care His Holiness (aba) has for the entire Community.

Whilst the Majlis was reaching out to many external organisations and the general public to support them, it was felt that we must also support internal members of the Majlis. When we were making calls, every member of the team had set himself the goal that we must reach out to every household in the Majlis and ensure they have received the medicine and that they are generally well. If any member requested any support, then that support had to be organised immediately with the help of the local region.

On the very first day of this endeavour we managed to call just 20 households. Then, the day after we called 249. The day after that, 451 households were contacted and the numbers kept increasing thereafter. These initial calls set the expectations for those still to come. At one time we made more than 1,000 calls in a single day. Members appreciated the calls, and continued positive feedback inspired the callers to an extent that they took a personal responsibility in completing the calls to their allocated households.

With all praise to Allah, within just eight days we were able to call 100% of the households and spoke to 52% of the Tajneed [membership]. We then continued to make calls using various strategies to reach out to those whom we had not yet spoken to. By the grace of Allah Almighty we have now spoken to 76% of households and have ascertained the welfare status of 95% of the households. The process also presented us with the opportunity to correct some of the Tajneed data of the Majlis.

Some of the feedback received from members of the Majlis during the calls:

“One mother in West Midlands started crying on the phone. She was a single mother living with her young son (Tifl). She was extremely grateful and surprised that National Team remembered her household and took the effort to reach out to ask for their wellbeing. Our team member gave re-assurance and explained that the National team is there to support.”

Another member of the community said: 

“I am Khadim’s dad, what you guys are doing was not possible if it was not a divine community. You guys are doing Sadqa e Jaaria [charitable act]. May Allah give all of you a long and healthy life… amazing work in progress by all of you. Jazak’Allah.”

Another member said:

“I spoke to a Khadim [member of the organisation] who left his family due to various issues. He was so much moved that the Jamaat called him to check on his health and he did talk to me about his issues. He wanted to be connected and be able to talk to someone.”

These calls were also inadvertently having a positive effect on the members who were making them. Some members shared their thoughts:

“One of the conversations I had very recently with one mother whose son caught the virus and was so thankful of the efforts we were making, and she mentioned that within couple of minutes her son was diagnosed, local Sadr, Sadr Lajna, Qaid [local presidents of the auxiliaries] everyone responded and offered her the helping hand.”  – Aqeel Mushtaq

“In the last couple of weeks, a substantial number of welfare calls were made to households across the country. This initiative gives MKA its meaning, and what allows the true purpose of the Jamaat to come to light i.e service to humanity.

During such challenging times, when people’s daily routines have ground to a halt, and interactions with their loved ones have been interrupted, MKA has become the embodiment of the spirit of the community that looks after its members old and young, independent and vulnerable. The welfare calls initiative is part of this community spirit that keeps its members in check.

The response has been positive, and one of overwhelming gratitude. All members who were contacted appreciated the concern shown by MKA for its members. An important point I noticed was that this system of welfare calls is everything our Jamaat is all about being a community and looking after others. Evidently, some were motivated to also partake in what we were doing service to humanity.” – Anas Mahmood

“It was an experience of its own kind and it was yet another evidence that this Jamaat is created by Allah Who is helping and supporting this Jamaat in every single moment. Even in today’s times; the largest communities, organisations and Governments failed to reach out to their people and look after every single individual. It was only this Jamaat with the help that we not only reached out to every single member of the Jamaat but also helped them with their urgent needs such as medicine and grocery.” – Abdul Nasir Inam

“I never use to be a part of any campaign where I had to call people I don’t know personally but after this amazing experience I am convinced that I was wrong, the amount of love and prayers received from Khuddam brothers truly reflected that our whole Jamaat is like a family. Parents and Khuddam were so thankful that Jamaat remembered them during these times.” – Adeel Tahir Butt

“I spoke to a father of a young Tifl. The father was over the moon to receive such a call, enquiring about the health of his family. He expressed to me that his only concern was the challenge in trying to keep the children occupied during this lock down. I informed him about the various Atfal online classes being organised by the Majlis.

The father wanted me to speak directly to his son too. The Tifl was 10 years of age, whilst speaking to him I got him excited about the exercise classes and other various online classes.

Father then mentioned to me, as I was calling on behalf of Sadr Majlis, that I encourage his child to offer Namaz. Therefore, I explained to the Tifl what Namaz is and its importance. Following this, the Tifl’s father wanted me to talk to his 5 years old son as it is the father’s wish that this child of his becomes a Murabbi [missionary] and serves Khilafat e Ahmadiyya.” – Jaffar Ali

AD: The AMYA has been very active in serving humanity during this very difficult time of COVID-19 pandemic. Can you tell us what are the different activities its members have been involved in order to help the wider society?

AQ: We have been trying to help the vulnerable, the elderly, or anyone in need of self isolation. We have been working together with multiple councils across the country (13 councils directly). We have partnered up with several charities and food banks to provide our support including Age UK, and Humanity First. Age UK is a charity serving the elderly and we have been working with them to provide either food donations or food deliveries for food bank donations. (In seven regions, Khuddam responded to requests from Age UK or dropped off food, or helped preparing food packages).

With Humanity First we partnered up on a national helpline where AMYA is the responding partner. When calls come in to the helpline and they need physical support, AMYA responds. (232 requests received from HF). We have partnered up with many pharmacies where we deliver medication to people in self isolation. (This was done by Khuddam in five regions, part of the main households’ statistic).

We have been donating hot meals to NHS hospitals to show our support for the frontline staff (doctors, nurses, pharmacists, etc.) who have been helping those affected by the virus putting their own health in danger. (Over 10,266 reported meals were made and delivered to frontline staff at various health care sites such as hospitals, GP surgeries, care homes and pharmacies with various other meals donated throughout the region. Some of these included water and other drinks with the meal. Additionally, over 1,200 cartons of drinks and snacks were donated to NHS staff through the regions as well). We have donated PPE to frontline staff. (4,600 items of PPE donated). We also have helped an LRF in the delivery of PPE to frontline staff. (673,000 PPE deliveries to-date)

Furthermore, we have tried to help the homeless who are very vulnerable in the current crisis by delivering food and supplies in major cities. A total reported value of 1,066 meals were donated to the homeless with various and substantially more donations and food drives taking place throughout the UK.

We have partnered up with catering company to provide food for children who normally get their main meal at school. To date we have delivered 470 meals. This is done weekly. Khuddam have also volunteered their time with councils and the NHS. A total of 16,184 households have been assisted throughout the UK.

In short, AMYA as well as individual Khuddam have tried to provide assistance wherever we could. 

AD: Just days before Ramadan, the AMYA launched a large campaign called “Pray4Heroes”. What is the purpose of this and has it been a success?

AQ: The purpose of the Twitter campaign was to emphasise the need for prayers during this current crisis as per advice by our beloved Caliph (aba) from the last few Friday Sermons prior to the campaign. The Majlis also wanted to highlight that for us the most noble way of showing our appreciation for all the key workers in the frontline of the Coronavirus crisis was to pray for them and their families. Content was shared by hundreds of Ahmadis in the form of videos and pictures where children were promoting the campaign hashtag and thanking all key workers. 

In the build up to this campaign we saw national press coverage online as well as on TV (BBC News). By the Grace of Allah, our #prayforheroes campaign stayed at position six on national Twitter trending for over 50 minutes with almost 43,000 Tweets. This is very unusual as the non-organic trends don’t usually last this long and don’t see such a large number of Tweets generated within an hour of trending. This effort truly demonstrates our strength as a community which is the unity under one spiritual leader, our beloved Khalifa, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba). The campaign was a great success as the media total reach was over 60 million with 59 articles published. They include BBC News on TV, BBC Radio London, Wales Online, Belfast Telegraph, BBC The One Show, BBC News England Live, Yahoo News, ITV News, BBC News Scotland, Birmingham Mail, News 24 and many more. 

Some comments from externals who joined our Twitter campaign with our unique hashtag: 

“It’s amazing to see that there are people in this world risking their lives for a better tomorrow. These real-life superheroes deserve all our prayers and support! Man superhero Woman superhero #PrayForHeroes @NHSuk @UKMuslimYouth”

Olivia Nasri

“It’s great to see the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association coming together for prayer on Thursday night at 7pm. The community have played a big role in the voluntary effort during this difficult time.”

Angela Richardson MP

AD: What impact the efforts of AMYA have had on others outside of the community? Are there any story you would like to share about any of the experience’s members have had while serving humanity?

AQ: The true source of motivation and inspiration for any Ahmadi is indeed the blessed and encouraging words of His Holiness (aba). We are immensely grateful to Allah the Almighty that we are constantly receiving guidance from His Holiness (aba) – and it has been no different during these unprecedented and challenging times. Thus, whilst highlighting the efforts of AMYA in his weekly Friday Sermon, His Holiness (aba) also reminded us that this increased attention towards serving the wider community must now become a perpetual feature of AMYA.

“The current widespread pandemic has bound most people to staying in their homes under government regulations. A good thing that has generally developed amongst people here, and especially within the Jamaat in various countries through Khuddam-ul-Ahmadiyya and volunteers, is that they are giving greater attention to providing help, support, medical aid or other facilities to people. Through these actions, where we benefit ourselves, we are also benefitting others from outside the community who are impressed by this.

Therefore, this increased vigour to serve humanity should not just be temporary during these unprecedented times, rather we should make this a permanent feature of our lives.”

Subsequently, right from the beginning we have had an amazing response from neighbours and organisations we reached out to. Some were just thankful for us to reach out to them to offer our help. The councils we have been assisting have been extremely thankful that we enabled them to support the vulnerable. The have tweeted our efforts and there have been several local and national news outlets who publicised our efforts:

Tweet by deputy head of council:

Tweet by Head of neighbourhood:

A really amazing story was where a Khadim went out to do a delivery for medication to an external called Mr. Derek. He asked him if he was from the pharmacy. He replied, “No, I am only a volunteer.” Then, Mr. Derek said, “Then definitely you are from Ahmadiyya?” The Khadim replied in the affirmative and he very warmly welcomed him and said he was very well aware of Ahmadiyya Association and all the volunteer work done by the community. Mr. Derek then asked him to pass his deepest gratitude to all his colleagues for the priceless volunteer work.

Also, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association (AMYA) has catered for the staff of Meadow Court Residential Home in Huddersfield, who have been described as ‘angels’ – after agreeing to live on site to help shield residents from coronavirus. 16 staff members and four directors at the residential home were living on the premises in caravans for three weeks.

We also have received direct messages from people we have been assisting. Some examples: 

“Thank you so much again for your wonderful act of selfless kindness which I will never forget. I have already sung your praises in a WhatsApp group of medic colleagues. I wanted to formally record my deep thanks to one of your volunteers, Mohammed Faatih, who very kindly collected and delivered groceries to my mother, Dorothy Moroney, 2 days ago (in Bramhall, Stockport). I am truly humbled by his kindness and selflessness. With very many thanks, John.”

“AMYA has been so supportive indeed but I have to add that the quality of the support has been excellent. Qasid in particular has bought items that need effort in finding in the supermarket aisles. Also I appreciate that he bought some food items that may not be part of his diet and I hope that was not a problem.”

AD: Thank you much for taking out time from your busy schedule to give our readers an insight into the wonderful work AMYA is doing. Thank you! 

ENDNOTES

  1. Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba), Mashale Rah, Vol 5, pp. 90-91
  2. Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba), Mashale Rah, Vol 5, p. 138
  3. Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba), National MKA UK Ijtema 2019, 8 Sep 2019 
  4. Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba), Friday Sermon, 24th April 2020.