The Spiritual Aspect of Life

Cultivation of Islamic Values (Aftab Ahmad Khan) (The following speech was delivered by Mr. Aftab Ahmad Khan, Amir of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association, UK, on the occasion of the Annual Gathering held at Islamabad, Tilford, Surrey on 2.8.87) When I was asked to speak on the subject of “Cultivation ofIslamic Values in the New Generation”, I was inclined to make a submission to the respected Imam Sahib who organised the programme, to let me change the topic to “Cultivation of Islamic Values in the Older Generation”. As I tried to understand the implications of the need for Islamic guidelines, I became convinced that there is very little I can tell the new generations without assessing how far I have been able to help my own children in applying Islamic values to resolve the complex problems and pressures of the contemporary world. Secondly, I was not so sure how to define the term “New Generation”. If it means new converts, then I am afraid it will be presumptuous and irrelevant on my part to tell them how to cultivate Islamic values in their lives. Three days ago, I participated in the International Tabligh Seminar held in Islamabad and listened to new converts to Ahmadiyyat describing their spiritual experiences and I marvelled at the manner in which they succeeded in inviting Allah’s grace which led them to accept Islam and follow Islamic teachings. I truly felt very humble and incomplete as compared to the new generation of Ahmadis. I wished that God may have given me the opportunity of sharing their experience of making a conscious and exciting decision which would entirely change the course and pattern of one’s life. Nevertheless, it has been my good fortune to be born in an Ahmadi home and, thus, have been able to embrace new Ahmadis as brothers in a common faith. I propose to proceed on the basis that the term “new generation” means the “young generation”. Further I understand that special attention has to be paid to the Ahmadi youth living in the Western Society. Though the Eastern or Oriental societies are no longer immune from the corrupting influences of the West young men and women are particularly vulnerable in the West because of multi-dimensional pressures. Their greatest disadvantage is the lack of support and understanding from their parents and elders who for one reason or the other, cannot perceive the problems of the youth exposed to CULTIVATION OF ISLAMIC VALUES 17 alien cultural environments and hostile religious influences. So far as the Ahmadi Muslims are concerned, the gap between the two can be bridged only if the problem is approached on the basis of the teachings of Islam. Addressing the Annual Convention of Ahmadiyya J amaat in Rabwah in 1975, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih III mercy of Allah be upon him, made an important declaration. Referring to the training of new generations, he said, “We should first of all take care of ourselves and then take care of our ladies and the next generations. May we succeed in the effort to mould our individual and collective lives in a manner that these may truly reflect Islamic virtues.” The wisdom and farsightedness of the late Hazrat Khalifatul Masih III became evident from his instruction that Ansarullah and Lajna Imaillah should undertake the training of their members and the senior citizens of Ahmadiyyat. He was quite right in pointing out that the new generation can not learn the virtues of Islam unless its elders practised the teachings of Islam. The present is a difficult time for both generations. This is the time when the world is in a state of crisis and disorder described in Surah AI-Fajr of the Holy Quran: “who comitted excesses in the cities, and wrought much corruption therein. ” (89:12,13). Also, it is said by the Holy Prophet, (peace and blessing be upon him), that this will be the time when nothing of Islam will be left except its name. The social and economic order created after the Industrial Revolution of the eighteenth century and the political structures set up after the First and Second World Wars have started crumbling down. The Western societies which built up their wealth and power by exploiting the resources of Africa, Asia and Latin America now find themselves defeated by a monster of their own creation. Since their moral and social codes were also designed to promote and preserve their economic and political domination over the rest of the world, a moral crisis of unprecedented magnitude is confronting the Western people. This phenomenon has led to wide-spread disillusionment and dissatisfaction, particularly among the young people, who no longer possess any idealism or noble objective in their life. This frustration is reflected in the adoption of an escapist culture dominated by sex, violence and drugs. That the Western society is doomed to disaster should not be a source of any satisfaction to us because the people of the West are a part of humanity and their welfare is of utmost concern to us. Secondly, we have also been caught in the West’s cultural and dialogic net and unless a conscious effort is made to extricate ourselves from it, we too are likely to go down with them to the bottom of the sea of destruction. This is the situation which demands that we take care of ourselves as well as the next generation in. order to satisfy two basic human instincts: viz. self-survival and the advancement of the off- 18 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS spring. Our own survival depends on the depth and extent of our devotion to the principles and ideals that we profess and the advancement of our children will depend on how we guide and educate them. The Holy Quran has laid down the guidelines to help us in this matter. In Surah Bani Israel, we are told that it is a cardinal sin to destroy our children (17:32). We are also informed in Surah AI-Imran that the Prophet Zachariah made a fervent prayer to his Lord asking for a pure offspring: “Then and there did Zacharia pray to His Lord saying, ‘My Lord, grant me from Thyself pure offspring: Surely, thou art the Hearer of prayer.’ ” (3:39). This is the parameter within which a relationship between the two generations has to be established. In what form and with what result this relationship comes about will depend primarily upon the commitment and behaviour of the older generation. This is the reason why I had submitted, at the very outset, that it was of primary importance to inculcate Islamic values in the older generation. To begin with, the older generation has first to unlearn and then to learn a lot more about the younger generation in order to satisfy the requirements laid down by Islam. Many of them hold fast to certain cultural traditions and conventions which, though not un-Islamic, fail to carry any force of credibility or conviction with the younger members of the society. The older generation must, therefore, abandon preconceived notions and ideas and set aside complexes and prejudices against the youth. At the same time, it must try to understand the problems, difficulties and frustrations of the younger generation and try to share its ideals, interests and joys. Only then could the channels of communication be established which will lead to bridging the gap between the two. In my view it is absolutely essential that the parents and elders must find time for their children and give them trust and confidence; it is not enough to give love and affection in an irrational or emotional manner. Our love and care has to be translated into concrete, positive and purposeful action which may help young to become God-fearing Muslims as desired by Hazrat Zachariah in his prayer to God Almighty. We must therefore, share with our children common desires and aspirations, outlook on life, what should we ask in our prayers and what should we seek from our Allah when we find ourselves helpless. This is the only way to win their trust and confidence and to direct them to the path leading to God. Equally, if not more important, is the personal example that must be set before them in our daily lives. How can a child become truthful if his parents or elders tell lies on matters big or small? How can a home be a haven of peace if the parents go on squabbling and fighting all the time? How can it be a place of virtue if most of the time is spent in watching X-rated films and listening to pop music? How can one establish a link with God if prayers are not said and CULTIVATION OF ISLAMIC VALUES 19 the Holy Ouran is not read at home? The first lesson in Islamic values and virtues of truthfulness and piety, honesty, chastity, self sacrifice, forgiveness, frugality, moderation, humility and cleanliness must begin with personal demonstration and example by parents and elders at home. This is the reason why Hazrat Khalifatul III advised that a child should receive education and instruction at home during its first years. In his estimation, the parents and elders should possess the necessary qualities and virtues to be effective teachers. With the same objective in view, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih III instituted training programmes for the elders. While understanding and sympathy are the principal avenues of approach to the training of the young, the Holy Ouran also advises that it may sometimes be necessary to admonish the people: “So keep on admonishing people. Admonition is, indeed, profitable. He who fears will heed.” (87:10, 11). While not acting as censors over their children the parents must not give up their responsibility as guardians. They must know what their children do, where they go and whom they meet. The young should be urged to join the activities of the J amaat and have a sense of belonging to the Community. The children will accept the advice if given gently and in a friendly but firm manner. Earlier, I had mentioned the importance of having trust and confidence in the young generation. We should not forget that the young have their own personalities and preferences. They are able to notice and discern things and capable of making up their own minds. The Holy Quran tells us: “We will relate to thee their story with truth. They were young men who believed in their Lord and we increased them in guidance”. (18:14). In the early history of Islam, there are numerous examples of young men and women who abandoned their families in response to the message of Islam and in search of truth. It is, therefore, essential that the children are taught the principal doctrines of Islam and the teachings of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) from the very beginning. It is a most significant practice in Islam that Azan and Takbir prayers are pronounced in the ears of a new-born baby. This training will not end after the first five or seven years of a child’s life at home. It is a life-long and continuous process. The older generation will have to continue communicating with their children on all subjects and issues of personal or family interest. Exchange of ideas on career planning, education, marriages etc. will be necessary to build an edifice of mutual confidence. In addition, it will help to create greater understanding if the older generation can guide the youth on learning issues of the day which effect society such as Islamic fundamentalism, apartheid, abortion, surrogate motherhood etc. This means the upgrading and updating 20 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS of our knowledge all the time so that we can provide satisfactory answers to questions posed by our youth. We will not be able to help the new generation if we do not help them in understanding the values and priorities set forth by Islam. This, we will not be able to do unless we ourselves acquire knowledge of these values and priorities. The acquisition of knowledge is given the highest priority in Islam as a prerequisite for discovering and appreciating the beauties of God and His creation. We must, therefore, devote adequate time to seek and acquire knowledge and then pass it on to the\new generation. According to the Holy Prophet’s saying, quoted by Tirmizi, the disappearance of knowledge is one sign of the decay and decline of Islam in the later age. Hazrat AIi said: “An orphan is the one who is deprived of knowledge and culture.” There are innumerable references in the Holy Ouran underlining the necessity and importance of knowledge and education. The Islamic traditions and history are rich in examples demonstrating this quality. My respected friend Dr. Abdus Salam has frequently quoted the example of one of the most distinguished scholars of Islam, AI-Bairuni who was in the court of Ghazna. When AI-Bairuni lay on his death-bed, a contemporary scholar came to see him. AI-Bairuni asked him to explain some complicated problem of Islamic jurisprudence. The visitor gave the explanation but observed how AI-Bairuni could think of such a mundane thing at a crucial hour. AI-Bairuni replied, “Don’t you think it is better that I die knowing, rather than ignorant.” The Holy Ouran and the example of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), provide us all the knowledge that is needed for human progress and solution. The mission of conveying this knowledge to our contemporary world was entrusted by God to the Promised Messiah (peace be upon him). Therefore, the writings and speeches ofthe Promised Messiah form the most comprehensive encyclopaedia on Islam. His successors have, under divine guidance, added to our knowledge by offering explanations on the Promised Messiah’s commentaries on the Holy Ouran. Ahmadiyya literature is the most valuable storehouse of knowledge on Islam and provides logical and natural explanations for all the issues that could arise in the understanding and comprehension of Islam. One has only to read and listen to the sermons and speeches of Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IV to appreciate the good fortune and opportunity available to us in satisfying our thirst for knowledge. Another blessing of Ahmadiyyat, True Islam, is that the Promised Messiah brought about a qualitative improvement in the interpretation of the concept of Islamic virtues. Hitherto, Imam Ghazali’s interpretation was accepted widely and followed by the scholars of Islam. According to this interpretation, moral behaviour is to be guided by reason and laws of Sharia. This was a vast CULTIVATION OF ISLAMIC VALUES 21 improvement on the Western – which is often confused with Christian – interpretation that it should be guided by social and personal standards of ethics. An extension of this logic took the Western society to a point where virtue became synonomous with personal status and gain. As a result, adultery became unacceptable because, if exposed it could damage one’s reputation or career. In some Western countries, nationalism topped the list of acceptable virtues. At present, adultery is looked upon with disapproval because ofthe health hazards due to threat of AIDS. In these interpretations, spiritual considerations play no part at all. It goes to the credit of the Promised Messiah, peace be upon him, that he raised the threshold of our understanding and knowledge of moral guidelines for a true believer. He explained to us that good moral behaviour should not only be guided by reason and laws of Shariah but, more importantly, by a conscious and voluntary effort to do good in accord with the attributes of God. To lead a virtuous life and to adopt good behaviour is excellent but it does not constitute Sawab, i.e. high moral virtue unless and until it is guided by the desire to secure Allah’s favour and approval. In Islam, purity does not mean only purity of overt deed or word; it implies purity of the heart and mind so that both actions and intentions are directly related to God’s will. This is one of the remarkable contributions of the Promised Messiah towards our understanding in the depth and wealth of the ethical and moral aspects of the teachings of the Holy Prophet of Islam. Finally, God has warned us that nations and individuals will perish if they continue to defy the laws of nature and ignore the admonition against the violation of divine injunctions. As in the case of Prophet Noah, blood ties and high status will not save the defaulters. God says in the Holy Quran: “And build thou the Ark under our eyes and as commanded by Our revelation. And address Me not concerning the wrongdoers. They will surely perish by drowning.” (11:38). In this age and time, a new Ark has been constructed with greatest care under Allah’s guidance. Its skipper is Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Founder of the Ahmadiyyat Movement in Islam. As in Noah’s time, this Ark is buffeted by ferocious storms of spiritual decay and moral disintegration. Being true and loyal servants of the most beloved Messenger of God, Hazrat Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), it is our foremost duty and responsibility not only to preserve and safeguard this Ark, but also to ensure that all those who are near and dear to us and whose welfare, both physical and spiritual, is under our care, do not miss this boat and disappear into oblivion. This consideration should provide us the strongest possible motivation to take effective steps to save our offspring from utter destruction and ruin. The future of Ahmadiyyat remains bright because it is based on hope and anticipation. The Promised Messiah (peace be upon him) has been 22 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS given divine assurance that his followers will be kept free from the clutches of Dajjal- the anti-Christ, represented by the destructive forces of materialism which have spread their tentacles all over the world. To escape this disaster, we have to make a conscious and honest effort to take care of ourselves and our children and pray to God that He may show us mercy by forgiving our errors and omissions. May Allah also fulfil our desire and prayer as mentioned in the Quran: “Lord, grant us of our spouses and our offspring the delight of our eyes and make us a model for the righteous.” (25:75). Amen. Marriage The Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) said: Wedlock is my way. He who turns away from my way is not of me. When a man whose faith and morals you find pleasing makes a proposal of marriage, accept it. If you do not act thus there would be widespread mischief and disorder. Give women in marriage to men they approve of. The most blessed woman is one whose wedding does not involve too much expense. Do not fix women’s dowers too high. Three things should not be deferred: Prayer service when its prescribed hour arrives, funeral when it is ready, re-marriage of a widow when a suitable match is available. A marriage should be widely proclaimed. A wedding feast on the day after the marriage is most fitting, on the second day it is good, on the third day it is pretentiousness and display. The Holy Prophet (peace be on him) saidtoAbu Hurairah: Men seek a woman’s hand for four things – her wealth, her family, her beauty, her piety. But you should put her piety first. Mughirah son of Sha’bah sought a woman’s hand in marriage. The Holy Prophet (peace be on him) said to him: Arrange to see her first, this will help to establish accord between you.