Safeguarding Yourself From the Toxic Glamour of the World

Official transcript of address by the Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community at the concluding session of the Lajna Ima’illah UK National Ijtema 2021

On 26th September 2021, the Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, the Fifth Khalifa (Caliph), His Holiness, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba) delivered an address from the MTA studios in Islamabad, Tilford, UK to conclude the National Ijtema (annual gathering) of Lajna Ima’illah UK, the ladies auxiliary organisation of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. The two day event took place at the Baitul Futuh Mosque in London and was attended physically by just under 3800 women and girls from across the UK. The official transcript of the address delivered by His Holiness on this occasion is presented below.

After reciting TashahhudTa`awwuz and Surah al-Fatihah, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih V (aba) said:

Alhamdulillah [all praise belongs to Allah], after two years, Lajna Ima’illah UK has once again had the opportunity to hold its National Ijtema. As every Ahmadi knows, the primary purpose of our Jalsas and Ijtemas is to better the spiritual and moral standards of the participants, to increase their religious knowledge and strengthen their faith. If these are not the objectives, there is no point in holding Ijtemas and similar events. 

In today’s world, human knowledge and understanding has rapidly progressed in all secular fields and, as a result, communication is now extremely advanced and easy in comparison to previous eras. Distances have eroded through modern means of travel, and through the various means of electronic and digital communication, such as the telephone, radio, television, and the internet. This technological revolution that has taken place would not have seemed plausible even half a century ago. Indeed, the rapid advance of communication, through the development of the smartphone and other smart technologies, could not have been envisaged even ten or fifteen years ago. The entire world has become inextricably linked in a way that has never been seen before in the history of mankind. For instance, it is now possible to see and talk to people living in the far corners of the world, thousands of miles away, in the blink of an eye. 

Technological advancement has also enabled people to exhibit and promote their beliefs, values and culture to people across the world. It has enabled those people living in rich, developed nations to showcase their way of living to people living thousands of miles away, in remote villages and towns in the developing world. It has enabled Western countries to promote and export the freedoms and values they proudly espouse as their culture, to the extent that even the poorest and most underprivileged people in the world are now well-versed in how people in rich countries live. When they, who are living the most impoverished of lives, see the precipitous development and the luxuries afforded to those living in other parts of the world, it naturally leads to feelings of restlessness and grief at their own desperate plight. Therefore, where satellite technology and the internet has turned the world into a global village, it cannot be said that it has only proven a force for good. 

At a time when mankind considers itself more civilised and developed than ever before, the reality is that the majority of people in the world are continuing to live at the base poverty level or even below it. Adding petrol to the fire of their torment is the fact that they are now constantly exposed to images of the affluent lifestyles and immense purchasing power of people in developed countries, whilst buying even the most basic essentials for their families remains a daily struggle for them. Thus, instead of bridging the gaps that exist in society, modern technology has served only to shine a glaring light on the inequalities and injustices that exist. In turn, this has naturally fermented feelings of anguish, anxiety and discontent amongst those who are forced to endure great adversity. 

So, where on the one hand, rich governments and their people reassure themselves that satellite television and the internet is providing people living in poor countries with entertainment, the reality is that the technology has served to drive an even greater wedge between the haves and have nots. Whilst many living in the developed world may prefer to turn a blind eye to this inequality, they should realise that there is also a grave crisis taking place here on their doorsteps and its potential ramifications are no less destructive. 

We are living in a time of ever-rising materialism and worldliness where, despite being intelligent, and despite having eyes to see with, most people are living a life of spiritual and moral blindness, in which they consider anything that shimmers or glistens to be made of gold. They fail to realise how superficial they have become and remain ignorant of the far-reaching consequences and harm caused by rampant materialism. I am sure there will come a time when they will recognise that constant exposure to material things on TV, on the internet and on social media, and the pursuit of vain desires, has been to their profound detriment. They will see how all that they have considered as good and progressive has actually triggered a spiritual and moral malice, the like of which perhaps the world has never seen before. They will be forced to admit that the riches of the world have left them spiritually penniless and morally bankrupt. Although we are seeing evidence of this, as increasingly, people are suffering from anxiety, depression and other mental health issues on a far greater scale than ever before; it is my firm belief that the root cause of this is that they have been trapped by their materialistic pursuits and cravings, and above all, because they have abandoned faith in God Almighty. 

We are living in a world where no matter how rich someone is, they always want more. Instead of being grateful for what they have, they are preoccupied with what they do not. Where men have been corrupted by extreme desire for wealth, women are also certainly involved in this unholy race. These vain pursuits serve only to increase frustration and anxiety and is leading mankind towards darkness, rather than to enlightenment. If people living in the underdeveloped world are being adversely affected by what they see on TV or the internet, we can only imagine how much harm is being inflicted on people living here at the very epicenter of materialism, greed and consumer culture. 

In the past, I have advised Ahmadi parents that they should be mindful of what they and their children view on television and should make sure they limit the amount of time they spend watching it. However, the world has now moved far beyond just the risk of seeing inappropriate content on television; rather, children are being exposed to masses of content on the internet, on YouTube and on the various social media platforms. Children are viewing content on their phones, laptops and tablets, often hidden from their parents’ view and they themselves are not in control of what they are seeing. For example, if they are streaming a video, or playing an online game, pop-up adverts will frequently appear, often promoting harmful products, or showing lewd content, that is morally destructive and not age appropriate at all. It is an extremely harrowing state of affairs. 

There have been reports of children viewing inappropriate content, which they can instantly divert to a child-friendly programme when an adult enters, so the adults are left none the wiser. It is for these very reasons that I have repeatedly warned about the dangers of the internet and social media. 

I have been saying for years that anyone using Facebook, Twitter or other similar platforms must exercise a great deal of caution, and since then, many studies and investigations have proven the grievous harm being inflicted upon children and society by social media. They have shown that hundreds of thousands, if not millions of children globally have suffered serious harm through their use of the internet and social media. It is common knowledge that these platforms are constructed in a way that makes them addictive and just like any addiction, the results are often horrific. For example, very recently, a report by the Wall Street Journal found that Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, tried to cover up its own internal study, because it proved that access to its platform was causing huge levels of anxiety and other dangerous mental health issues, amongst children and teenagers. It found that amongst those children in the UK who had suicidal thoughts, 13% admitted that it was their use of Instagram that had driven them to consider taking their own life. 

Now, other people and prominent organisations, have finally started to wake up to the dangers of social media. For example, in response to the report I just mentioned, the 5Rights Foundation, which campaigned for reform of social media stated, “Facebook’s own research is a devastating indictment of the carelessness with which it and the technical sector more broadly treats children. In pursuit of profit, these companies are stealing children’s time, self-esteem and mental health, and sometimes tragically, their lives.” 

Thus, Ahmadi parents should closely monitor what their children are viewing and guide them about what is, and is not appropriate, so that their children are not, God-forbid, included in the horrifying statistics of lives that are being lost or ruined due to social media. 

Moving on, I also wish to remind all of you that, even whilst living in the comfort of the West, you must never forget your roots and your true objectives. Certainly, most Ahmadis living in the Western world, especially those who originate from Pakistan, came here to escape religious persecution. Irrespective of their place in society, whether working as businessmen, professionals, labourers, or if they are in education, Ahmadis in Pakistan continue to be the victims of grave persecution and injustice. Even very small Ahmadi children, in year one or two are being harassed by other children or their teachers, and this is having a damaging effect on them. In terms of higher education, certain professors and members of faculty at Pakistani universities, are filled with venomous anti-Ahmadi prejudice and bigotry. 

Thus, where there is an ever-present fear of physical terrorist and extremist attacks targeting Ahmadis in Pakistan, at the same time, there is a constant stream of psychological terrorism and extremism that is being waged against our members. As a result, many Ahmadis have been forced to leave Pakistan and seek a better future abroad. Often, their journeys are arduous and involve dangerous travel, which they endure in the hope of eventually living a normal and peaceful life. Indeed, many Ahmadis are stranded in extremely inhospitable conditions for years on end, but they endure the extremely tough conditions in the hope of finding a better life for their children in which they are free to openly practice their religion. 

Accordingly, all Ahmadis living in the comfort of the West, should recognise their good fortune and realise that a great religious responsibility lies upon their shoulders. The very reason for your coming here, or your parents or grandparents, was so you would be able to practice your religion freely. And so it is incumbent upon you to strive to fulfil this objective, rather than becoming immersed in the material ways of Western nations. Appreciate all the opportunities you have here. For example, Ahmadi girls in the UK are studying in very good schools, colleges and universities, and have the opportunity to advance and progress. All the while, Ahmadi girls in Pakistan are either denied such opportunities, or face daily discrimination and intimidation whist in education. 

So, remember why you have this chance and never forget who you are; rather, take pride in your faith and religion. Where you strive to excel in your studies, you must also remember that your faith should take precedence over all worldly and material matters. If your priorities are in order, you will live your lives in a way to be proud of, and you will also prove to be of benefit to this country. Strive to be good citizens, and to achieve this, you must utilise your capabilities, faculties, and skills for the benefit of others and play your role in building a better and more harmonious society. 

You should seek to integrate, but as I have said in the past, integrating and contributing to your country does not require you to violate your moral compass and forsake your religious values; rather, the way to successfully integrate into Western nations is to contribute to the success of the nation, whilst maintaining your religious identity. Indeed, this should be the hallmark and distinguishing feature of Ahmadi Muslims living in the West. Sacrificing your moral standards and values is not going to help your country in any way. Going to nightclubs where men and women mix and dance, whilst in a state of undress, is not going to benefit this country. Going to pubs and bars so you can get drunk and lose all your inhibition and senses is not service to the nation. There are many other immoral activities and harmful vices prevalent that are considered part of what makes this a so-called free society. 

Yet, let it be clear, that engaging in such vices and immoral behaviour does not make you free and nor does it raise the station and status of your nation. On the contrary, such activities take a person far away from God Almighty. And so, instead of benefiting humanity, immoral behaviour serves only to hurt the country and weaken the moral fabric of society. Hence, all Ahmadis, men, women and children, must understand that the way to serve their nation and to be loyal to it is by upholding the highest moral standards and acting upon the teachings of Islam by fulfilling the rights of God Almighty and His creation. 

The tragic reality is that those who consider themselves the most civilised and progressive people of the modern world fail to understand the immense harm and far-reaching consequences of the immodesty and vulgarity that pervades today’s society. God knows better when, but one day, they will surely realise the error of their ways and will admit the liberalism has gone too far, but by then it will be extremely difficult for them to establish higher morals in society. Thus, it is the duty of all Ahmadi Muslims to ensure that they stand up for what is right and to have the courage of their convictions. 

If we are successful in achieving this, then, when others come to realise their mistakes, we will be ready to guide them and present them with an alternative and better system of morals. Certainly, I hope and pray that our Jama’at will be there to protect society and to arrest moral decline before it reaches the point of no return. So, as Ahmadis living in the West, if you truly want to contribute to society and wish to manifest genuine gratitude to this country for letting you live here with freedom of religion, and for granting you opportunities to progress, the best way is to give priority to your faith over all worldly matters. True gratitude requires you to fulfil both the rights of God and mankind and save yourselves from all forms of vulgar and immoral behaviour that takes a person away from his faith. Where prioritising your faith will be your personal means of salvation, it will, Insha’Allah [God-willing], ensure that you have played your role in saving your nation from its moral decline. 

Certainly, we are passing through a time in which long standing traditions and values are being eroded piece by piece, and these changes are being forced on society in the name of freedom. Instead of strengthening society, such changes are triggering anxiety and confusion amongst the large segments of the population. Indeed, some good-natured people have started to speak out and question the directions of travel of society and ask why traditional moral values and standards are being discarded. Similarly, some fair-minded journalists and public figures have started to write columns focusing upon the moral decay in society and how quickly values are changing, not for the better, but for the worst. 

The reality is that good-natured and decent people, irrespective of their beliefs or religion, cannot tolerate a society that plummets to such an extent that it is sometimes difficult to differentiate between the acts and morals of humans and those of animals. So, as Ahmadi Muslim living here in the West, it is our paramount responsibility to protect our morals and to strive to ensure that the society in which we live uphold the highest moral standards and respective human values. Furthermore, it is our duty and obligation as member of the Jama’at of the Promised Messiah (as) to convey the message of true Islam to others, and it is my firm belief and conviction, that if we hold aloft the lantern of spiritual light entrusted to us by the Promised Messiah (as), we will find that the help of Allah the Almighty will be with us every step of the way, Insha’Allah. Only then will we be in a position to show the world the difference between those who worship the One and Everlasting God and act upon His commands and those whose only god is worldly attractions. Only then can we inform others about the true purpose of our creation, to worship God Almighty and to seek His nearness. Only when we are constantly seeking to elevate our religious and spiritual standards can we guide others and show the world that we are those who have achieved true peace of mind and contentment by firmly adhering to our religious beliefs and values.

Certainly, the glitz and glamour of the world can never provide true and lasting contentment, no matter how attractive it appears at first sight. In chapter 13, verse 29 of the Holy Qur’an, Allah the Almighty says: 

اَلَا بِذِکۡرِ اللّٰہِ تَطۡمَئِنُّ الۡقُلُوۡبُ

Aye, it is in the remembrance of Allah that hearts can find comfort.” [13:29] 

As we ponder over this verse, we know that it is not just a claim of the Holy Qur’an; rather, the lived experience of the righteous and God-fearing members of our community testifies to the fact that true contentment and inner peace is attained through the worship and remembrance of Allah and not through worthless forms of recreation or superficial means of entertainment. Here, I shall clarify that there are some very good and beneficial forms of recreation that should be pursued. For example, regular exercise and physical activity are very important for a person’s physical and mental health. However, those forms of recreation or games that place a barrier between a person and God Almighty, and which increase a person’s lust for material things, must be avoided. Such activities are neither good for your health, nor your spirituality, and instead, increase a person’s anxieties. 

Indeed, superficial and ostentatious pursuits are akin to salty sea water, which, instead of quenching one’s thirst, serves only to increase it. A person lacking intelligence and wisdom will keep drinking from the cup of salt water expecting that it will eventually satiate his thirst. Needless to say, it can never quench a person’s thirst; rather, it will slowly poison him and ultimately cause his death. That salty water can never be life-giving; rather, it is the means of taking away one’s life. Alternatively, the best water is that which comes down from the heavens in the shape of rain and which is the means of our life and existence. That fresh water gives life to the soil beneath us and is the means of sustaining all forms of life. So, it is up to us to save ourselves from the toxic glamour of the world that is just like the salt water that hides its poison. Instead, we should seek to immerse ourselves in that spiritual water that is life-giving and which purifies our soul. It is that sweet water that will sustain us and grant us peace of mind and it can only be attained through the nearness of Allah and by following His commands. 

So, all Ahmadis living in the Western world should reflect upon their priorities, and consider whether some of the so-called freedoms that are afforded here are truly what they seem, or are they bitter pills coated in sugar. Certainly, those freedoms that encourage vice, immodesty and deception can lead to nothing good; rather, they cause only anxiety, suffering and the breakdown of families and communities. 

Some of our members, particularly those who are younger, express their opinion that any restrictions or limits placed by the Jama’at are a means of curtailing their freedoms. Yet, if they carefully analyse whatever limits are prescribed by the Jama’at, they will realise they are all entirely based upon true Islamic principles that do not diminish a person’s rights, but to the contrary, firmly entrench them and are the means of true freedom and liberation. 

There have been cases of a few Ahmadi youths, both male and female, who were extremely influenced by Western society and so, chose to discard their faith and beliefs. However, they came to regret their decision. They admit that they had, in the name of freedom, fallen blindly into a spiritual abyss. They express their sorrow and embarrassment, and some eventually return to the Jama’at. Remember, a wise person always evaluates the benefits and harms before undertaking any action or reaching a decision. Moreover, a true Mo’min or Mo’minah, a true believer, is he or she, who acts with wisdom and calculates not only the practical consequences of any action, but who focuses principally upon the religious benefits or harms. A believer ensures that any action he takes is according to Islam’s teachings and within its prescribed limits. 

So, returning to the television, the internet and social media that I mentioned earlier, if you wish to save yourselves and your families from their negative effects, you must act with wisdom. View content that increases your knowledge and understanding of the world and Allah’s creation. When you have free time, you can watch lighter content or comedies, but choose those programmes that are decent. Above all, do not view content that takes you away from God, as then, instead of bringing others towards Allah, you yourself will move away from Him. 

Similarly, Ahmadi women and girls should always remember that, in the name of fashion or following the latest trends, they should not sacrifice their modesty. Some Lajna members say they have covered part of their heads and consider that enough. Similarly, some ladies wear overcoats in the name of observing pardah [the veil] but with sleeves rolled all the way up their arms. Yet, Allah the Almighty has already stated that the hijab requires a woman to fully cover her hair in public and to wear loose fitting garments and ensure that her collar and chest area is not exposed. So, Ahmadi women should pay careful attention to protecting their modesty and chastity. Failing to do so is to violate the commands of Allah and those limits established by Islam for the sake of protecting the dignity and virtue of Muslim women. 

Keep in mind that any limits placed upon you by Islam are a means of guarding your honour and protecting you from the everyday risks that exist in society, where women are constantly harassed, abused and exploited. In terms of your education, you should seek to excel and be the very best you can be, but at the same time, avoid inappropriate and unnecessary contact with boys and men on social media or otherwise. It has been witnessed how such improper relationships lead to great harm. Use your education and other opportunities to better yourself, but never let these freedoms become a curse for you and others. 

Most regrettably, there have been cases where Ahmadi men and women have not observed the appropriate limits and it has caused the breakdown of homes and families. Whereas free mixing is a normal part of society here, Ahmadi Muslim men and women must live according to the morals taught by Islam. Be mindful to protect your honour, that of your family, and community by acting with dignity and modesty. Appreciate the fact that your honour and that of your husband and family is a prized possession that you must always safeguard. 

Some women write that they or their daughters consider pardah to be a state of one’s heart and so query the need for actual, physical modesty in their clothing. This is entirely wrong and the result of satanic societal influences that seek to take a person away from God. What I am saying is not based on Pakistani or Asian culture, rather these are the universal teachings of Islam applicable to all Muslims, regardless of where they hail from. Thus, irrespective of whether she is from Pakistan, Asia, UK, Europe, America, Africa or any other part of the world, an Ahmadi Muslim woman should live according to Islamic teachings and protect and value her modesty at all times. Most Ahmadi women living here either came from Pakistan themselves or their elders migrated from there and so they must not abandon those religious principles which they or their elders were raised with; rather, you should set an example of modesty for others to learn from and demonstrate your power, confidence and self-worth through the manifestation of faith. Certainly, if you have self-confidence and are free from all complexes about your religion, it will cast wide open the doors to Tabligh [propagation] and the spread of Islam in this part of the world, Insha’Allah

It is important to mention that some English or European women have accepted Islam and become exemplary members of our Jama’at. They have brought about a revolutionary spiritual and moral change in their life and have established such high standards of modest dress that one is left amazed by them. This is something for the other Ahmadi women and girls to ponder over. If these English or European ladies who grew up in this society, and in non-Muslim homes, have reached the conclusion that the way to establish their dignity and honour is through modest dress and virtuous conduct, then what of those Ahmadi Muslim women and girls who originate from Muslim countries and who grow up in Muslim homes? Without a shadow of doubt, our Jama’at is destined to move forward and to progress Insha’Allah. However, if you do not protect your faith and live up to the expectations and teachings of the Promised Messiah (as), then people from other nations will join our community and will become the standard bearers for Islam in this era. They will be the ones to propagate its teachings, whilst those who come before will be left behind. As you have all accepted the Promised Messiah (as) and taken his Bai’at [oath of allegiance], you must strive to honour your pledge of Bai’at and ensure that worldly influences never take you away from it. 

I pray that may Allah grant all of you the ability to act upon all that I have said and may the members of Lajna Ima’illah truly become those who free themselves from sin and fulfil the rights of worship of Allah. I pray that you never become immersed in vain and material pursuits that take you away from the oath of allegiance you have made to the Promised Messiah (as). 

Finally, always remember that you must not only shield yourselves and your children, but you must also play a great and prominent role in conveying the message of Islam throughout the world. It should be your lifelong objective to win the hearts and minds of humanity so that one day, Insha’Allah, the people of the world will all join as one under the banner of the Holy Prophet (sa). This is the great task given to the Jama’at of the Promised Messiah (as) by Allah the Almighty and it is the foremost duty of Ahmadi men and women to serve wholeheartedly in this cause. If you want to rise to this challenge and to bring about a spiritual revolution in the world, we must first start by reforming ourselves. So, strive to increase your religious knowledge and endeavour to build your relationship with Allah. Bow down before Him and pray He guides you to the right path, so that you are counted amongst those who fulfil His commands. 

Never forget that Allah the Almighty has knowledge of both the seen and the unseen, and knows all that we do. So, even when there is no one else present to see or judge you, remember that Allah is watching over you, and for His sake alone, you must act upon His commands, protect your faith and fulfil your duties of nurturing the next generation in the best way. It is up to us to bring about a moral and spiritual revolution in the world, and so, train your children so that they grow to be ready to take up the mantle of serving the mission of the Promised Messiah (as). 

May Allah enable all of you to fulfil your duties in the best way and may you all prove to be shining stars of Ahmadiyyat. May Allah the Almighty continue to bless Lajna Ima’illah in all respects.’