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My Faith

Review of Religions: September 200124 Faith is unyielding conviction. It is the absence of fear and doubts. In its purest form there is no deterrence or persuasion that can corrupt it. In effect, Faith is belief. The successful student cannot be deterred. When an exam is looming, suddenly social functions lose their appeal. She is willing to forgo sleep, food, and relationships to achieve the desired result. What keeps the student so focused? No one has promised her success. But she visualizes her future, and with that vision comes the deep seeded desire to attain it. She has faith in what the future will give and knowledge of what her purpose as student is. And with this desire and the attributes of hard work and perseverance, worldly pursuits lose their appeal and challenges in her path do not spell defeat. Just like this dedicated student, Believers must strive towards excellence and have a clear under- standing of the purpose of their life. With this understanding AND the required action, they can attain true success. However, unlike the student, we have a guarantee and a promise from our Lord. For believers, there won’t be the unlucky twist of fate that finds the student in a recession or a poor job market. Instead, Allah promises us paradise in this world and the next that is far greater and more lasting than our humble imaginations can conceive. In Surah Al-Dhariyat Verse 57-59, Allah says: And I have not created the Jinn and the men but that they may worship Me. I desire no sustenance from them nor do I desire that they should feed Me. Surely, it is Allah Himself who is the Great Sustainer, the Powerful, The Strong. These verses explain exactly why we must give precedence to our faith above any and everything else. Who else is as deserving? At one time or another every creature is in need of My Faith (Ths is a shortened version of a speech presented to the 2001 USAAnnual Convention of Ahmadiyyat at Maryland). By Aliya A Latif – USA Review of Religions: September 2001 My Faith 25 help. Only God requires nothing from us, while we simultaneously require everything from him. As Muslims we constantly affirm the oneness of God, and know that the most heinous of sins is to associate any other power with the likeness of Him. However, idolatry takes the deceptive form of many different evils. Today the threat does not lie in the idols of wood and clay that one time filled the sacred precincts of the Ka’aba. Instead, idols of the heart work to take believers away from the remembrance of Allah, and cast them into the clutches of worldly desires and passions. These idols are far more dangerous then those physical ones of the past because these are the idols that, without constant self-evaluation and prayer, can creep into the heart and mind of a person almost instantly. These hurdles that hinder our achieving the objective set forth by Islam and Ahmadiyyat such as pride, greed, power and prestige can be overcome. What is required is a burning desire to be near Allah, a desire so strong, that in comparison, the world appears a mere diversion. If this desire does not exist in our hearts presently, there are ways to foster and strengthen the inclination to be counted among the believers. Allah has given us Salat, Fasting, the ability to Sacrifice, Zikre Ilahee (Remembrance of Allah), and a multitude of divine writings and human examples to fortify us. In our quest to strengthen our faith, there are worldly challenges that continually present themselves. These are the pursuits that take us away from emulating Allah’s divine attributes and winning His pleasure, and can be found in all spheres of our lives. The Encounter in the School The obstacles lying in wait in our schools are too many to mention. While education is noble and learning, promoted, we must not forget the reality of our lives. There is no guarantee that we will all see old age. Adequate time must be given to secular studies but limitless success is found serving God and studying his divinely inspired works. The Promised Messiah(as) said, ‘Who told our brethren that life is long? There is no season for death. It may overtake you at any time, so we must value whatever time we have. We will not have these times again’. (A Life Supreme, p.103). My Faith Review of Religions: September 200126 Despite acknowledging the stresses and struggles of academic life, still we must fast, pray, and read for the betterment of our souls. The Holy Qur’an (Ch.3:v.103) states, …O ye who believe! Fear Allah as He should be feared; and let not death overtake you except when you are in a state of submission.” Let all students vow to not only give precedence, but DESIRE to show preference to Faith. In the end, it is the grace of God alone that allows for success both academic and spiritual. The Encounter in the Workplace No one would continually arrive late to their job, or neglect important assignments and projects. They would not because they fear their livelihood and physical well being depends on it. However, when we continually choose worldly endeavors of the workplace over our faith, we are willing to risk a spiritual death, in hopes of an unpromised, secure physical life. Now, more than ever, individuals must trust in the All Encompassing Power of God. The reality is that the most secure and accomplished person can lose everything. By some simple twist of fate all they’ve worked for, all they’ have saved can be gone. The only protection is to maintain a level of detachment from the world; realizing gracious gifts are not permanent possessions and can be removed whenever God wills. The Promised Messiah(as), writes in Our Teachings: ‘I do not forbid you to think of material means within proper limits: what I forbid is that like other nations you become wholly the slaves of material means, altogether forgetting God W h o controls material means as well. Only if you had eyes to see, you would find there is only God and God alone, everything else being worthless. You can neither stretch out your arm nor fold it except with His permission. A p e r s o n spiritually dead would laugh at this, but it would be better for him if he died before he indulged in this laughter.’ An excellent way to achieve this level of detachment is through financial sacrifice. We have inspiring examples of such sacrifice in the lives of the Holy Prophet(sa), Hadhrat Abu Bakr(ra), and Hadhrat Maulvi Nurriddin(ra) to name a few. S i m i l a r l y, our Lajna (ladies organisation) also has a long history of financial sacrifice. Lajna members were ready and willing to part with j e w e l r y, money, and property to Review of Religions: September 2001 My Faith 27 support noble ventures such as the construction of Fazl Mosque in London and the Nusrat Jehan mosque in Denmark. And the opportunity is still available today to contribute to noble schemes. The Encounter in the Home The character of a believer is comparable to none. In sorrow and joy, trials and comfort, we are to remain peaceful, and humble, reserved and cheerful. In our homes, challenges that arise can be looked at as ways to develop self-control. It is the absence of self-control that opens the floodgates for all types of evils and moral lapses by welcoming unrest, bitterness, and resentment, which destroy peace in both the home and the spirit. Patience when dealing with the elderly, parents, spouses, siblings and especially young children are invaluable characteristics that can go a long way in preserving Ta q w a (righteousness). A wonderful lesson in patience can be found in the example of the Promised Messiah(sa) and his son Hadhrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmood Ahmad(ra). It has been related that the Promised M e s s i a h(as) used to be frequently interrupted by young children when deeply engrossed in writing his literary gems. Time and time again they would knock on the door of his room demanding that he open the door and let them in. The Promised Messiah(as) would quietly rise from his seat and without a word or expression of annoyance, open the door. On one occasion while he was engaged in writing a book, his young son, (second Khalifa) set fire to the completed manuscript papers, which the Promised Messiah(as) had placed to one side. On turning to them for reference he found them burnt to ashes. A smile spread across his face as he mused that perhaps God desired that he should write something better in it’s place. (A Life Supreme, pp.45-46). Encounter in the Jama’at Even in our Jama’ats we find worldly challenges and obstacles to overcome. Hadhrat Ali is reported to have said, ‘Your vices of which you are ashamed of are better than your virtues of which you are proud’ (A Life Supreme, p.56). Prestigious degrees, wealth, children, and beauty are examples of God’s grace and mercy. How can we be so proud of something we ultimately had no real control over creating? T h e Promised Messiah(as) warns: ‘Take care that on the basis of a thing or two which you think you’ve accomplished, you do not fall into the delusion that you have My Faith Review of Religions: September 200128 done all that is needed to be done. For God desires that your entire life, your whole being should u n d e rgo a deep and thorough revolution’. (Our Teachings, pp.3-4). We can humble ourselves by studying the life of the Prophet Muhammad(sa). He, without sin, spent his nights in deep devotion, served humanity, and risked his own life for the spread of Islam and peace. He prayed constantly for the fate of the world and Muslims, begging that God grant us mercy and understanding, as well as the desire to strive for His Sake. He was not satisfied with the blessed advancements he had made during his life. And his last days still found him in heartfelt supplication to his Lord. We must humble ourselves, and strive to make our communities a place of learning, advancement, self- sufficiency and of course, Taqwa. In Lajna, every Ahmadi woman is a member. We must not abandon it, be too proud to serve it, or too arrogant to remember that we are mirror to each o t h e r. Not alike physically, but spiritually we must be a reflection and recognise what’s truly important – our modesty, our Taqwa (righteousness), our will to please Allah. We must desire to see this Jama’at of Allah’s own divine creation, succeed over any pettiness, pride, or complacency. We are a multitude of races, talents, and ideas that can change the world. The Encounter Living in an Amoral Society Living in an amoral society, there is no focus on God, therefore we must constantly remind ourselves. Reading our Qur’an, Hadith, religious works and writings of the Promised Messiah and Khalifahs will arm us against un- Islamic practices and beliefs, as well as helping us to present Ahmadiyyat to the world. There is a constant pressure to assimilate and adopt the habits and practices that are foreign to the true teachings of Islam. If words of Islam and Ahmadiyyat never leave our lips we must analyze what is being said in their place. What is the image of Islam that we are responsible for portraying? Am I the Muslim who adds to the confusion or do I clarify miscon- ceptions? The mistakes of an unaware person differ greatly from the acts of someone who has the truth and then chooses to disregard it. The fundamental way to achieve closeness to Allah and ward off evil is through prayer. We are given a direct Review of Religions: September 2001 My Faith 29 means to contact God throughout the d a y, each day of the week. T h e importance of prayer can be seen throughout Islamic history and even presently in the example of the Ahmadis who were martyred this past fall. Ahmadis living bravely in not just amoral, but life threatening situations, still hold firm to the rope of Allah, and not only pray in private but come together to make congregational prayers in the mosque. This is truly putting your faith above any punishment the world might offer. In America, a life of comparative ease, we must give Salat precedence in our daily lives. This means we abide by correct prayer times, proper prayer etiquette, and acknowledge the importance of filling our mosques in congregational prayer. Similarly, believers must be aware of where they place their trust. Seeking the advice and counsel of others over seeking Allah’s help first, or relying on crutches such as alcohol, drugs and other means of escapism do not bring us closer to happiness in this world or the next. In the Holy Qur’an, Ch.3: v.161, it states: If Allah helps you, none can overcome you; but if He forsake you, then who is there that can help you besides Him? In Allah, then, let the believers put their trust. Conclusions The Believer enters new realms of paradise on earth as she continues to overcome worldly obstacles. Soon she reaches a level where hardships are regarded as blessings because they are opportunities to show her undying love and devotion to Allah. By accepting these trials patiently and courageously she will not only win the approval of God, but will grow in spiritual stature. The fact that we live in an amoral society makes it at times difficult to live a righteous life, but as the 2nd Khalifa writes in his commentary of Surah Al-Zilzal, no action of man, good or bad is wasted. It must, and does, produce its result. Therefore, struggling to do what’s right has a definite reward in this world and in the next. By giving up the mad pursuit of worldly pleasures, you are never left empty handed. Yo u acquire the love of God, while superficial desires appear low and basic. You are rewarded with equanimity of the mind, tranquility of the heart and contentment of the soul. And in terms of rewards, what could be more noble than peace? My Faith Review of Religions: September 200130 Those who devote their time to the service of the Jamaat and their faith are rewarded beyond conception. He provides for their welfare, protection, and prosperity. He answers their prayers even before they supplicate. The reality is that we are all on a continuous journey toward spiritual progress. And none are exempt. Some may seem stagnant at the moment while others rush ahead. But there is hope for everyone. Each new day Allah gives provides the opportunity to change and grow. In the Holy Qur’an Ch.39:v.54 we read: O My servants who have committed excesses against their own souls! Despair not of the M e rcy of Allah. Surely A l l a h forgives all sins. Verily He is Most Forgiving, Merciful. Seek forgiveness for past behavior and look ahead to future success. Let us desire to show our devotion to God first, for our time here is short. Feel the urgency to win Allah’s pleasure by being the best mother, daughter, sister, neighbor, friend, and above all else, believer possible. And enjoining our Jamaat and surrounding community to follow suit. We are here to provide proof through example that Islam is a living religion and the only solution. Let us refuse to fear the response others may have to our faith or our ideals. We are not here to please them. We are not here to cater to them. F i n a l l y, in the words of the third Khalifah, Hadhrat Mirza Nasir Ahmad(ra) during his opening address in 1967, Rabwah, Pakistan; May you continue the habit of humble supplications and may your souls be ever prostrate at the threshold of Allah, the Lord of the worlds, and may the seeking of His pleasure and the carrying out of His commandments always have priority over your worldly affairs. You are the party of the Lord, which has been set up for the overall triumph of Islam. In carrying out this project to its successful conclusion you will have to endure a thousand hardships and persecutions and you will be exposed to every type of trial and tribulation. I pray that you may stand every test successfully and that you may be bestowed steadfastness by your noble Lord at the time of every trial. Devote yourselves wholly to Him and may that Compassionate Master Cleanse and purify you and lift you up into His lap like dear children and open the gates of every bounty for you and make you the heirs of all good.