On my 19th birthday, I consider how blessed I was to be born into an Ahmadi family, a family where I had excellent role models to follow. But, as every Ahmadi knows, we are also born into a much larger family: the family of the Jama’at.
To many of us, especially those living in non-Muslim countries, this provides us with a sense of community that the West has otherwise done away with in pursuit of individualism. Ironically, the pressure of conformity and culture of profit-profit-profit suggests not much value for human life, let alone the individual.
In reality, the focus on the ‘individual’ has created an epidemic of loneliness, even clearer within this pandemic. In the West, it has become a weakness to ask for help. Unless you can become fully detached from your parents at age 18, you are not truly an adult. I can’t help but think that all this really means is that by the time you’re at age 80, your children are fully detached from you.
At Jama’at functions and gatherings, such as the Ijtema and Jalsa, the atmosphere that imbues the air is extraordinary. The only way I can think of describing it is that we all acknowledge that we are imperfect beings, yet despite this, we all have the opportunity to improve. Ahmadis arrive with the spirit to help, learn, and serve each other. There is not just respect between the elderly and the young, there is genuine compassion. In the most humble of actions, such as litter-picking or cleaning the toilets, there is dignity. Dignity and humility can co-exist. Arrogance cannot with either, because ironically, it is arrogance that degrades an individual. Let us pray that we know the difference.
I believe that belonging to a community roots out arrogance and conceit, because a truly arrogant person cannot remain in a community for very long, or at least sincerely. They cannot bear not to be pampered and praised at every opportunity, nor can they stand for things not to go their way. If the world does not revolve around them, they constantly squawk about injustice and mistreatment. They flap their wings in fury, secretly enjoying the idea that they have created a storm, when in reality it is just a feeble gust of wind. When they fly away (of course, looking behind their shoulder to make sure everyone is watching) they are shocked to see that the world continues to spin, as it always has. In fact, the world is lighter, now that it no longer has to carry their bitter lead.
In comparison, you can often note that the people who remain steadfast to the community that they have committed to, are open-minded, modest, and strong individuals. Where they face personal difficulty or upset, they address the issue with grace, decorum, and dignity. They do not prioritise or use trivial, materialistic issues to justify their actions, especially not in front of the oath they took to serve God with humility and devotion. True Ahmadis do not expect the Jama’at to serve them: they are the ones who serve the Jama’at with grateful hearts.
And our Jama’at is no ordinary one. God has blessed us with Khilafat: the Khalifa of the time is the best human source of advice we can seek, and the one that God Almighty intended for us to accept and respect. The wisdom, advice and love of the Khalifa helps us to become a better community, better Muslims, and better human beings – because we are following the path that God set out for us.
Our promises are not empty, we are upholding them. Our Bai’at is not in name only. When we bow down to God in prayer, we know who we are.
We are Ahmadis.