By Asif Arif
Today is Father’s Day. An important day for so many, today memorialises a day, a moment, shared with loved ones but especially with the head of the family. Fathers are the pillars of their families, their providers and instillers of values, and offer support when it comes to making important life decisions. However, not everyone experiences fatherhood the same way and I cannot speak for everyone, but there are some whose fathers are deliberately absent from their lives. For those who have lost their fathers, this day brings fresh heartache and memories of moments that can never be recreated.
Even though I do not express it much, I deeply admire my father. Barely educated, my father is a gentle and simple soul who spent almost half of his life working around the clock so that we could obtain the education he never had, but not once did he ever complain about it. His simple demeanour and humble nature have been mocked and belittled by some people, but never once has he retaliated. His silence and patience have always been a blessing for our family through many trying times.
Today, however, I want to dedicate this day to someone else. In the suburbs of London, far from all the hustle and bustle of the large city, there is a small town known by the name of Islamabad. The man who lives there leads a community of several millions of people around the world. He does not have days off, he meets with people on a daily basis, inaugurates mosques all around the world, conducts Ameen ceremonies (a short reading of the Qur’an) with children who complete their first full round of the Holy Qur’an, announces marriages, and reads reports throughout the day. While working continuously, he also leads the five daily prayers at the mosque and whatever time is left after all his obligations for the day have been met, he spends with his family. His name is Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba), the Fifth Caliph and Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.
This same man who has sacrificed his entire life for God and his chosen community, has the hearts of millions. I don’t think I am only speaking for myself here, but I feel like he is more than a father to me.
Before I touch on everything he taught me from a spiritual perspective, let me start by telling you how he has influenced me professionally. When I was barely 19 years old and starting to study law, His Holiness (aba) came to France and asked to meet all the Waqf-e-Nau children (those dedicated before birth for future service of Islam Ahmadiyyat) of the community in France. At the end of this meeting, as he was walking towards the exit, he asked me, ‘Mr Arif, what do you want to be later?’, to which I replied spontaneously, ‘I want to study law.’ Just as immediately, he replied, ‘Do international law in that case.’ At this particular time in my life, I wasn’t interested in international law and throughout my studies, I pursued a career in what I liked the most; business law. However, I realise today what a huge mistake this was. Many times in my career, I have had to practice international law and there is not a single moment when I do not remember what His Holiness (aba) said to me at that time. His words resonate in my ears, ‘Do international law in this case.’ This was one of the biggest lessons I have come to learn from life; always follow and obey the advice of HIs Holiness (aba) because it is like seeds that are sown and that grow in the long term.
He was also there when I was anxious. As the Paris Bar exam quickly approached, I went to meet him. During this brief meeting, His Holiness (aba) asked me, ‘What do you want to do later?’ I told him that my bar exam was approaching in a few months and that I felt pretty confident about it. He simply smiled and said, ‘Let me know about your results.’ After writing the exam, my confidence was largely shaken when I read that I had to retake my oral exam. I went to see His Holiness (aba) again to inform him of my failure. I was ashamed because I was the one who had previously boasted how confident I was. Surprisingly, His Holiness (aba) even remembered what I said and as soon as I informed him of the result he replied with a smile saying, ‘But you were the one telling me you felt confident!’ Upon this, seeing my somewhat ashamed and disheartened face, His Holiness (aba) looked at me for a few seconds, opened his drawer and took out a pen. He gently handed it to me and said, ‘Next time, when you become a lawyer and you sign your first contract, sign it with this pen.’ On my next attempt, I passed the exam and graduated at the top of my class.
He was there when I was sick. One day I had a meeting with His Holiness (aba) in his office. Before going there, I caught a bad cold that would repeatedly make me cough. As I arrived in his office and began to explain the reasons for my presence, His Holiness (aba) noticed that I was coughing a lot. I continued reading my papers to him and giving him the important information. At one point, I got the impression that His Holiness (aba) was occupied with something else so I lifted my head and looked at him. After a few seconds, His Holiness (aba) looked at me and said, ‘Why did you stop? Keep going.’ indicating to me that he was still very much listening to me. When I finished my sentence, he stopped me for a moment and handed me some homoeopathic medicine saying, ‘I noticed you were coughing. You know, I cough too. You must have seen it sometimes when I present my Friday sermon. Take this, it should really help with the cough.’ Thanking His Holiness (aba) for this tender and caring gesture, I immediately took the medicine and was left in awe once again.
He was there when I needed confidence. Once, I found myself facing a Sunni Imam who spoke very vocally against Ahmadis and I sought His Holiness’ (aba) permission to debate him. At that moment, His Holiness (aba) looked me straight in the eyes and without hesitation, said, ‘Of course you will go to this debate, and you are going to show him the Ahmadi that you are.’ I have never been seized by so much determination as I was when His Holiness (aba) said those words to me.
These are just a few of the many memories this person who I proudly call my father has given me to treasure. Because, just like my biological father, he was there when I needed him, he comforted me when I was sad and he brought determination when I felt helpless. His Holiness (aba) does not only heal you physically by giving you medicine for your cough; he heals you spiritually as well. He shows you the map to reach the Ultimate Provider and gives you the courage to face the modern world of today. He has been there for me during my sufferings, my failures and my victories. Words aren’t powerful enough to express the grandeur of the man who not only shares all this with me, but with a whole community of millions of Ahmadis living around the globe.
So I would like to share this with you, dear reader; I celebrate Father’s Day every day since God blessed us with Khilafat.