Aqeela Shazay Zaffar, UK
Life is like a roller-coaster, with many ups and downs. Some people say they are blessed enough not to have gone through any life-changing experiences, whilst others have emerged through the darkest and deepest end of the tunnel of trials. During difficult and trying times, one becomes weak at heart and mind, and starts to question whether he can bear such a hardship or have enough strength to go through such an arduous trial.
God, the All-Knowing, is fully aware that human beings are weak and can easily fall into the trap of despair and lose hope. So God Almighty comforts us and tells us to trust Him and implore His Help in everything by instructing us in the Holy Qur’an: ‘Is not Allah sufficient for His servant?…’  verse reminds a true believer that no matter how difficult a situation gets, we should not lose hope, and trust God to guide us to the right path.
There were two periods in my family’s life when we had to overcome the greatest trial of our lives. The first instance was when my beloved brother Imam Mazhar Ahsan Ahmad was diagnosed with leukaemia, of which — by the grace of Allah — he was completely cured. The second instance was when my brother caught a deadly lung infection that the doctors failed to diagnose in time, almost a year after his diagnosis, leading to his demise on 24 September 2016.
‘And We will try you with something of fear and hunger, and loss of wealth and lives, and fruits; but give glad tidings to the patient, Who, when a misfortune overtakes them, say, ‘Surely, to Allah we belong and to Him shall we return.‘ 
There are no words to describe these difficult moments that transformed our lives forever. It felt as if someone had pulled out our beating hearts, and we were left with an empty shell. My family was anxious about my brother when he was diagnosed with leukaemia. Would he be able to go through these painful treatments? Would he be able to endure it mentally and physically? Even a mature man in his seventies would become scared when going through the door of life and death, then what about my brother who was just a young man in his twenties? Could he endure it? These questions just kept consuming our minds.
At that time, we didn’t know what to do. How could we stand up again after crumbling down? So, we just left everything to Allah and did the only thing that we could: pray to Allah the Almighty and implore His help.
When we were all at the edge of the cliff and about to fall, the hand of God Almighty saved us from destruction. That’s when we saw the Majestic Power of God.
What we experienced was out of this world. Allah the Almighty transformed my brother and infused him with extraordinary strength, courage, and patience. Throughout my brother’s illness and till his last breath, you could see from his eyes that he had ironclad belief in the One Powerful Allah. When my family witnessed this, how could we not turn to Allah and bow before His Majesty? Feeling Allah’s mercy, love and compassion made us extraordinarily grateful and strengthened our faith even more.
My brother studied theology in Jamia Ahmadiyya UK, in Hampshire, England, while my whole family lived in Scotland. Unknown to us, he had not been well for a while, but he didn’t tell us as he didn’t want us — especially my mother — to worry. However, he started to get extremely sick and was rushed to the hospital, where he went through several blood transfusions, IVs and tests. He bravely faced the doctor alone when he was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL), and he was told that he was lucky to even be alive. At that moment, he had only a few weeks left to live if his condition was left undiagnosed and untreated. Doctors told him that the only chance of survival was to go through high-intensity chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments that other cancer patients in their hospital don’t have to go through. My brother courageously told the doctor that he would go ahead with the high-intensity treatments as he believed that Allah the Almighty would cure him and protect him from all the side effects of the treatments. We weren’t aware of all this until quite late.
Once diagnosed, my brother called my sister and told her about it. He said that he couldn’t bear to hear our mother cry, so he requested my sister to break the news gently. My brother firmly instructed my sister to tell our mother to rest assured and trust Allah the Almighty as He would cure him and everything would be all right.
My brother loved us tremendously, especially my mom, and he couldn’t bear to see any of us suffer. When he was diagnosed with the illness, he was more worried about us than himself. He was heartbroken that his family had to suffer because of him, and he knew that the only way he could help his family was through prayers. So he prayed a lot for us and remained strong like a rock. After Allah the Almighty’s help, it was my brother’s immense strength during these difficult times which kept us under control. Taking my brother’s lead, we tried to stay strong for his sake as well. My mother would always say that if she broke down in pieces, that would hurt my brother, who showed extreme courage even during this life and death situation.
We were fortunate to have the precious prayers of the Fifth Caliph, His Holiness, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba), which were like a shield of protection for my brother and my family. During that time, we felt very vulnerable, sad, and anxious. However, His Holiness’s (aba) constant love and affection enveloped us like a big warm hug. In every single detail related to my brother, from his diagnosis to his treatments and even after my brother’s demise, beloved Huzoor’s (aba) guidance, care, and supervision was amazing.
My brother Mazhar was blessed to be able to have telephone conversations with His Holiness (aba) a couple of times during the duration of his treatment. One such conversation took place while my brother was admitted in the hospital.
His Holiness (aba) asked my brother about his condition, treatment schedule, and what the doctors were saying. My brother had difficulty speaking as he was suffering from mouth and stomach ulcers that developed due to the treatments’ side effects. His Holiness (aba) knew about the ulcers as my mom sent regular updates about my brother. So, after speaking for a while, His Holiness (aba) gently said to my brother that he would now put the phone down as he needed to rest. But my brother shyly said that the ulcers do not hurt anymore, and he would like to continue speaking with Huzoor [His Holiness] (aba). Hearing this, His Holiness (aba) softly chuckled and replied: ‘Okay, what would you like to say?’
At that time, my family and I had come to visit my brother in the hospital, and when I heard about this, I became very overwhelmed. You could feel from the conversation that His Holiness’s (aba) attention, care and love for my brother was extraordinary, just like a father’s affection for his son. His Holiness (aba) even asked about the little things we had never thought of from my brother. Before ending the call, His Holiness (aba) reminded my brother that during any hardship, nothing can give you comfort except your trust in Allah and prayers.
Taking on His Holiness’s (aba) advice, my brother moulded his pain into prayers. Even during the most challenging trials, my brother stayed strong and steadfast. Not even once did he cry or complain about his pain and hardships; instead, he spent all his time in contentment and prayers. My brother had firm trust that the help of Allah would always be by his side. He was never worried or fearful, rather, he had a burning desire to please Allah the Almighty till the end.
My brother went through intensive chemotherapy and radiotherapy. And by a miracle of Allah’s blessings, he received a perfect match for his bone marrow transplant and was cured. By the Grace of Allah, my brother then got an all-clear from the doctors. After seeing Allah the Almighty’s miracles, we spent each day being extremely grateful to Allah, while serving the community and spending precious moments together as a family.
Some months later, on the day of Eidul Adha, as we were happily getting ready to go to the mosque for Eid prayers, my brother felt really unwell and had an extremely high fever, and so we had to call the ambulance. My brother said no one should go to the hospital with him as everyone should head to the mosque for Eid prayers. He would listen to the Eid Sermon on his phone in the hospital. So, the rest of us went to the mosque while my brother went to the hospital alone to get treated for his fever. My brother called us from the hospital to let us know that he was being seen by the doctors and was given antibiotics and fever reducers via IV.
After the Eid prayers, we went to the hospital emergency section to visit my brother and got the most shocking news of our lives. The hospital staff told us that he had been transferred to the ICU department instead. Our hearts sank. Running towards the other hospital building, we prayed to Allah the Almighty desperately. Once there, an ICU consultant informed us that our brother was dying, and he had been induced into a coma and put on a ventilator. There are no words to describe that horrific moment. We couldn’t believe that our brother — who we saw just this morning all strong and brave leaving home on his own feet while chatting away with the paramedics — was lying on a hospital bed, looking completely lifeless attached to several machines and hooked up to a ventilator. The consultant told us that my brother only had 24 hours to live. He also remarked at my brother’s bravery and strength as he had never seen such a strong and courageous person who remained calm throughout the commotion while the doctors were running around in panic mode trying to administer lifesaving first aid. My brother had caught a deadly infection, but the doctors were unable to identify its type.
We left everything up to Allah, praying with all our might. My brother peacefully passed away ten days later. We were there during his last moments and could feel the powerful presence of the Living God enveloping our brother in a warm embrace of love. The peace and serenity radiating during that time kept us calm and composed in that heart-breaking situation.
After two months, my family met His Holiness (aba) for the first time since my brother passed away. We were all feeling anxious and nervous but, as soon as we entered the door and saw the glowing face of His Holiness (aba), all our anxiety vanished away. We sat down and after speaking for a while, His Holiness (aba) looked at my mother and said: ‘Do you cry? It’s okay to cry but not in front of people but only in front of God.’
His Holiness (aba) knew how precious my brother Mazhar was to my family. He wasn’t just a son or a brother to us but the heart and soul of our family. And His Holiness (aba) knew that we were going through a painful and difficult time. His Holiness (aba) was comforting us, saying that it’s okay to be weak, it’s okay to cry, but only in front of God Almighty.
His Holiness’s (aba) advice was the very essence of verse 29 mentioned in Chapter 13 of the Holy Qur’an, ‘It is in the remembrance of Allah that hearts can find comfort.’ 
Indeed, this was the key for my family that helped us overcome the grief of losing my brother. You might think that after months and years it becomes easier to deal with the loss of your loved one. After all, it’s often said that time heals all wounds. But actually, it’s quite the opposite. As time passes, the more painful it becomes; the more your heart breaks; the wound becomes deeper; the emptiness of your loved one just swallows you up.
So, to this day, we have embedded this valuable advice of His Holiness (aba) into our hearts. Whenever our dear brother’s memories engulf us so much so that we feel we will break down, we take out our praying mats and bow down in prayer before Allah the Almighty. We cry our hearts out, let all our anxieties, feelings and worries out and pray for my brother’s status to be raised in paradise. And just like magic, this instantly makes us feel lighter and stronger, and deepens our faith and keeps us steadfast. It’s like Allah the Almighty has removed all of our anxieties and filled our hearts with peace and tranquillity.
Now, when I look back, a person cannot stay composed at a time when he has lost his loved one, however, for us this miracle was only possible due to the help of God Almighty. I have come to realise that fortitude or patience is not something a person achieves himself, but is a gift and blessing of God. Only if God Almighty wills can a person can have the strength and patience to overcome a trial.
Prayer is the key to fortitude! Those precious prayers of His Holiness (aba), and the prayers my brother left behind were the key to our fortitude and solace.
His Holiness (aba) once said: ‘The strongest proof of the existence of God for a person of faith is their own example and experience.’ 
My brother Mazhar was indeed a proof of the existence of God. We saw with our own eyes how Allah the Almighty transformed my brother into a new person. The steadfastness, patience, and courage that illuminated from him was a sign of the Majesty of the Living God. From being diagnosed with the illness, during his treatments, and till his last breath, my brother had a blind trust in Allah, so much so that my family learned from him how to establish a true relationship with Allah the Almighty. Even standing at the door of immense pain, suffering and death, he never lost hope and left everything in Allah’s Hands.
When we sincerely trust God and pray to Him with all our might, it is then that He accepts our prayers in the manner which is best for us according to His perfect knowledge. Sometimes our prayers will be accepted differently because God Almighty has a different and much grander plan for us. However, we humans forget to understand the Wisdom behind God Almighty’s plan and start to lose hope.
‘They planned and Allah also planned, and Allah is the Best of planners.‘ 
I strongly believe that God Almighty accepted those precious prayers of His Holiness (aba) and my brother in a different manner, which the human mind cannot comprehend. Why do I have that belief? Because if you feel God Almighty’s powerful presence and you have become closer to Him and witnessed His Majesty and Power, then that itself is proof of the acceptance of your prayers. And my brother was a witness to the proof of the existence of a Living God.
 The Holy Quran with English Translation by Maulawi Sher Ali (ra), Chapter 39, Verse 37
 The Holy Quran with English Translation by Maulawi Sher Ali (ra), Chapter 2, Verses 156 & 157
 The Holy Quran with English Translation by Maulawi Sher Ali (ra), Chapter 13, Verses 29
 Head of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community holds Historic Class with Jamia Ahmadiyya International in Ghana (khalifatulmasih.org)
 The Holy Quran with English Translation by Maulawi Sher Ali (ra), Chapter 8, Verses 31