Successfully reported this slideshow.
We use your LinkedIn profile and activity data to personalize ads and to show you more relevant ads. You can change your ad preferences anytime.

The Review of Religions December 2017

88 views

Published on

The Review of Religions December 2017

Published in: Spiritual
  • I recovered from bulimia. You can too! learn more... ■■■ http://tinyurl.com/yxcx7mgo
       Reply 
    Are you sure you want to  Yes  No
    Your message goes here
  • I recovered from bulimia. You can too! learn more... ★★★ http://scamcb.com/bulimiarec/pdf
       Reply 
    Are you sure you want to  Yes  No
    Your message goes here
  • The 3 Secrets To Your Bulimia Recovery ➤➤ http://scamcb.com/bulimiarec/pdf
       Reply 
    Are you sure you want to  Yes  No
    Your message goes here
  • Be the first to like this

The Review of Religions December 2017

  1. 1. Christmas and Jesusas : What's The Connection? 12 Exclusive Interview:The Man Behind Al-Qalam 48 What True Islam Is Really All About 68 Effort vs Natural Aptittude 82 VOL. 112 - ISSUE TWELVEDECEMBER 2017 WWW.REVIEWOFRELIGIONS.ORG Imagining The Divine - Art & The Rise Of World Religions BEHIND the SCENES at OXFORD UNIVERSITY'S ASHMOLEAN MUSEUM
  2. 2. The Holy Prophet Muhammadsa prophesied that the Promised Messiahas would be raised near a white minaret, east of Damascus. This prophecy was fulfilled with the advent of the Promised Messiahas from Qadian, India, a city directly east of Damascus. The Promised Messiahas & imam mahdi ©makhzan-e-tasaweer founder of the review of religions Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas , the Promised Messiah and Mahdi was born to a noble family in Qadian, India. From an early age he had a keen interest in religion and developed a love for the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa . He was also known for his honesty, friendliness and resolve. Over time his knowledge and understanding of religion and its application to society deepened. Being a Muslim it was his firm belief that all religions were true at their source but with the passage of time had drifted away from their original teachings; he upheld the dignity of religion and demonstrated its relevance to everyone. His earnest defence of religion was ultimately blessed when he started to receive direct revelation from Allah – a blessing that he continued for the rest of his life. His mission was to revitalise the truth that all religions held within them and to revive the teachings of Islam. It was through this that he would bring mankind together and establish everlasting peace. In 1889, under Divine Guidance, Hazrat Ahmadas founded the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community – a community that has since grown in its stature and strength and has remained active in conveying the message of Islam to the ends of the earth. Hazrat Ahmadas had established himself as a respected writer and had written over 80 books. His writings have been translated into more than 60 languages and continue to inspire readers to this day. One of his greatest scholarly works was The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam, prepared as a paper and read out at the Conference of Great Religions in 1896. He also wrote a fascinating treatise in 1899 entitled Jesus in India, a book that uncovered remarkable evidence of Jesus’sas journey to India. In 1902, the Promised Messiahas initiated The Review of Religions which has covered a vast array of topics on religion, philosophy and contemporary issues of the day. It is the longest running English magazine in defence of Islam and the values it teaches. From 1889 until the time of his demise in 1908 tens of thousands of people accepted him. This blessing has continued and will continue through his Khulafa (successors). Currently under the fifth successor, we are seeing that the tide of acceptance is worldwide and that the message of Prophet Ahmadas has really reached the ends of the earth. WORLD FAITHS Brotherhood And hold fast, all together, by the rope of Allah and be not divided; and remember the favour of Allah which He bestowed upon you when you were enemies and He united your hearts in love, so that by His grace you became brothers; and you were on the brink of a pit of fire and He saved you from it.Thus does Allah explain to you His commandments that you may be guided. ISLAM, THE HOLY QUR’AN, 3:104 Do not hate each other, do not envy each other, do not turn away from each other, but rather be sevants of Allah as brothers. It is not lawful for a Muslim to boycott his brother for more than three days. ISLAM, SAHIH BUKHARI, HADITH 5718 You should bear the burden of your weak brothers. You should know their deficiencies in faith and lack of means and share them by removing these things. You should treat their physical ailments, too. No Jama’at [Community] is worth its name unless the strong support the weak and the only way of doing it is that shortcomings should be covered. ISLAM, HAZRAT MIRZA GHULAM AHMADAS , MALFUZAT, VOL.3, 347 Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! JUDAISM, TORAH, PSALMS 133:1 If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?’ CHRISTIANITY, THE BIBLE, JOHN 4:20 One is my brother and the other is not - is the thinking of a narrow minded person. For those who are broad-minded, liberals, or noble people, the entire world is one big family. HINDUISM, UPANISHAD 6.72 There is only one breath; all are made of the same clay; the light within all is the same. SIKHISM, GURU GRANTH SAHIB, ANG 96
  3. 3. 8 Never Tire of Supplication HAZRAT MIRZA GHULAM AHMADAS , THE PROMISED MESSIAH AND IMAM MAHDI 12 Notes and Comments | Christmas and Jesusas : What's The Connection? It's Christmas time, and the streets are filled with glittering gold decorations, sparkly lights, and beautifully decorated Christmas trees. But what is the real connection between the festive celebrations of Christmas and the birth of Jesusas ? NAVIDA SAYED, UK 22 Fatima Al-Fihri:Pioneering Education for Muslim Women Visiting one of the oldest universities in the world, one educator ponders the legacy of Fatima Al-Fihri, and Islam's emphasis on education. SAMANTHA ISSAM, CHICAGO, USA 30 Imagining the Divine - Art & the Rise of World Religions The Ashmolean Museum at Oxford University debuts a new exhibit focusing on iconography across world religions - join us for a behind-the- scenes look at the exhibit. RIZWAN SAFIR, LONDON, UK 44 A Glimpse into the Life of the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa 48 Exclusive Interview:The Man Behind the Al-Qalam Project Founder Razwan Baig gives us an insight into the inspiration behind this truly historic project in which people from around the world unite, irrespective of caste, creed or religion, to write a verse of the Holy Qu'ran. Front cover picture: The Bowl with Kufic Script, Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford CONTENTS DECEMBER 2017 VOL.112 - ISSUE TWELVE 22 30 58 The Al-Qalam Project Islamic calligraphy is on of the most venerated forms of calligraphy and is considered to be the pinnacle of Islamic art.The Al-Qalam Project reignites this ancient art form in today's generation. SHAHZAD AHMAD, LONDON, UK 64 What Does the Minaret Symbolise HAZRAT MIRZA GHULAM AHMADAS , THE PROMISED MESSIAH AND IMAM MAHDI 68 What True Islam Is Really All About: Women Speak Out Freelance journalist Sarah Linney had the opportunity to visit the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community's Annual Convention in Alton, Hampshire. After spending a whole day with over 35,000 Muslims, she reflects on her experiences and what the true teachings of Islam are really about. SARAH LINNEY, UK 82 Effort vs Natural Aptitude Salvation: achieved through one's own effort or natural ability, or both? HAZRAT MIRZA GHULAM AHMADAS , THE PROMISED MESSIAH AND IMAM MAHDI 88 Calendar of Religious Events
  4. 4. MANAGEMENT BOARD Munir-Ud-Din Shams (Chairman), Syed Amer Safir (Secretary), Mubarak Ahmad Zaffar, Abdul Baqi Arshad, Ataul Mujeeb Rashed, Naseer Qamar, Abid Waheed Ahmad Khan, Aziz Ahmad Bilal WORLD CRISIS M I R Z A M A S R O O R A H M A D PEACE andthePathwaytoThe world is passing through very turbulent times.The global economic crisis continues to manifest newer and graver dangers almost every week. The similarities to the period just before the Second World War continue to be cited and it seems clear that events are moving the world at an unprecedented pace towards a horrific Third World War. In this book, His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the Head of the worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community warns the world of the fast approaching dangers and how it can avert disaster and chart a course to peace. WORLD CRISIS PEACE andthePathwayto 9 781848 808584 ISBN 184880858-5 9 781848 808577 ISBN 184880857-7 WORLDCRISISandthePathwaytoPEACEMIRZAMASROORAHMAD Please Note. Background colour: C=10 M=10 Y=0 K=100 From His Holiness – Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmadaba – comes a groundbreaking vision for how to estab- lish long-lasting peace in a world fraught with rapidly increasing disorder and unrest. His Holiness reminds world leaders that the flames of war are already burn- ing through local and regional conflicts and we stand at the precipice of another world war. If these sparks were to truly ignite we could witness the horrific reality of a nuclear war, whose consequences are unimaginable. His Holiness is the Worldwide Head and Caliph of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community – which has tens of millions of followers in over 200 countries. World Crisis and the Pathway to Peace is a collection of the historic addresses and letters by His Holiness to world leaders and influential figures. In this book, His Holiness offers consummate analysis on all aspects of the global crisis; political, economic, social and spiritual and provides the golden keys to resolving the critical problems the world faces. In a world where existing strategies for peace have failed and peo- ple are desperately looking for a new direction, His Holiness presents fresh and practical solutions, giving hope that we can still prevent a global catastrophe. (continued on back flap) s, d y, n e - t e r c - e m f - f n s s o ., e s d a f e y d r- ll s d r- The world is passing through turbulent times.The global economic crisis continues to manifest new and grave dangers at every juncture.The similarities of the current circumstances to the build-up of the Second WorldWar are stark. Events appear to be moving us rapidly towards a ThirdWorldWar.The consequences of a nuclear war are beyond our imagination. In this book, the historic addresses of Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmadaba , Fifth Khalifah of the Promised Messiahas and Supreme Head of the worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, to prominent dignitaries at Capitol Hill, the House of Commons, the European Parliament and other notable locations around the world have been collated.The book also includes the momentous letters sent by His Holiness to the numerous world leaders. Over and over again, His Holiness has reminded all that the only means of averting a global catastrophe is for nations to establish justice as an absolute requirement of their dealings with others. Even if mutual enmity exists, impartiality must be observed at all times, because history has taught us that this alone is the way to eliminate all traces of hatred and to build everlasting peace. Read online at: www.alislam.org Purchase the book here: http://store.alislam.org/ CHIEF EDITOR & MANAGER Syed Amer Safir ASSOCIATE EDITOR Nakasha Ahmad ASSISTANT MANAGER Tazeen Ahmad NORTH & SOUTH AMERICAN COORDINATOR Tariq Haroon Malik ISLAM & CONTEMPORARY ISSUES Editor: Shahzad Ahmad Deputy: Zafir Malik RELIGION & SCIENCE Editor: Dr. Syed Muhammad Tahir Nasser Deputy: Dr.Tauseef Khan LAW & HUMAN RIGHTS Editor: Ayesha Mahmood Malik ANCIENT RELIGIONS & ARCHAEOLOGY Editor: Fazal Ahmad Deputy: Rizwan Safir CHRISTIANITY Editor: Navida Sayed Deputy: Arif Khan WOMEN’S SECTION Editor: Aliya Latif Deputy: Meliha Hayat RACE & EQUALITY Editor: Hassan Wahab BOOK REVIEWS Editor: Dr. Sarah Waseem WEB TEAM Mubashra Ahmad, Hibba Turrauf SPECIAL COLLECTIONS Head: Razwan Baig EDITORIAL BOARD Sayed Mubashir Ahmad Ayaz, Mansoor Saqi, Bockarie Tommy Kallon, Professor Amtul Razzaq Carmichael, Mansoor Zia, Jonathan Butterworth,Tamim Abodaqa, Murtaza Ahmad, Qudsi Rasheed, Fiona O’Keeffe, Waqar Ahmedi ART & DESIGN Art Editor: Ahsan Khan Deputy Art Editor & YouTube Coordinator: Zubair Hayat Design & YouTube Assistants: Musawer Din, Usman Shahzad Butt INTERNATIONAL SUBSCRIPTION & DISTRIBUTION Muhammad Hanif ACCOUNTS & MARKETING Musa Sattar SUB-EDITORS Munawara Ghauri (Head), Maryam Malik, Nusrat Haq, PROOFREADERS Farhana Dar (Head), Hina Ahmedi, Amina Abbasi, Aisha Patel Mzien HOUSE STYLE GUIDE Maleeha Ahmad (Head), Sadia Shah EDITORIAL ASSISTANTS Mariam Rahman, Mahida Javed, Munazza Khan SOCIAL MEDIA Mala Khan (Head), Hajra Ahmad (Deputy), Mishall Rehman (Deputy), Nudrat Ahmad, Shumaila Ahmad, Saniya Ahmad, Adeeba Tahir INDEXING,TAGGING & ARCHIVING Mirza Krishan Ahmad (Head). Amtus Shakoor Tayyaba Ahmed (Deputy). Humaira Omer, Humda Sohail, Shahid Malik, Ruhana Hamood, Mubahil Shakir, Adila Bari, Hassan Raza Ahmad
  5. 5. The Promised Messiahas & imam mahdi ( g u i d e d o n e ) founder of the review of religions Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas B lessed are the prisoners who never tire of supplication, for they shall one day be freed.Blessed are the blind who are not listless in their prayers,for they shall one day see. Blessed are those lying in graves who supplicate to God for help and succour,for one day they shall be taken out of their graves. Blessed are you who never tire of supplication,your soul melts in prayer, your eyes shed tears, and a fire kindles in your breast which takes you to dark closets and wildernesses so that you may taste solitude and drives you to restlessness and near mad- ness, for you shall finally receive Divine bounties.The God to Whom I invite is very Gracious, Merciful, Modest, True and Faithful. He bestows His mercy on the humble ones. You too should be faithful and pray with all sincerity and faith so that He may bestow His mercy on you. Dissociate yourselves from the commotion of the world and do not give religious com- plexion to your egoistic disputes. Accept defeat for the sake of God so that you may become heirs to great victories.God will show miracles to those who supplicate and those who ask will be blessed with extraordinary grace. Prayer comes from God and to Him it returns.Through prayer God becomes as close to you as your very life.The first blessing of prayer is that it brings about a holy change in a person, as a consequence of which Never Tire of Supplication
  6. 6. God also brings about a transformation in His attributes. His attributes are indeed immutable, but for such a transformed person He shows a different manifestation of which the world knows nothing. It would seem as if He had become another God, whereas, in fact, there is no other God.The truth is that it is a new manifestation of His which portrays Him in an altogether different light.It is then that God,in honour of this special manifestation, does for the transformed one what He does not do for others.These are what are known as miracles.1 endnotes 1. Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas , Lecture Sialkot, (Tilford, Surrey: Islam International Publications, 2007), 32-33. TRUE ISLAM finding the spiritual path will God respond to my call? Find it at the 3-day True Islam Spiritual Retreat VENUE: BRANKSOME PLACE, HASLEMERE, SURREY, GU27 3PN NATURE WALKS SPIRITUAL TALKS MEDITATION & PRAYER WORKSHOPS FIND OUT MORE & BOOK ONLINE: WWW.TRUE-ISLAM.UK 22-24 DECEMBER 2017 www.True-Islam.uk @True_IslamUK www.reviewofreligions.org
  7. 7. people know what the true meaning of Christmas actually is, this is a time for giving and sharing. There sure is a lot going on at Christmas; however a pause for thought and one wonders what is Christmas really about? The first thing people associate with Christmas is the birthday of Jesusas . However,the topic of the exact birthday of Jesusas has been debated for decades. Scholars and theologians,including Pope Benedict XVI, agree that Jesusas was not born on the 25th of December.1 One would naturally turn to the scriptures as an authoritative document but the prob- lem we face is that there is no mention of Jesus’as birthdate on December the 25th or any other date in the New Testament. What we do find in the New Testament W alk into any shopping mall this season and you are sure to come across the famous song ‘I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas’ playing somewhere in the background. As temperatures plummet, in some places people eagerly anticipate at white Christmas – the perfect scene for Santa and his sleigh.But Santa isn’t only confined to the snowy parts of the world. He also makes his way to Christmas par- ties on the beach with barbeques in the heat of Australia on 25th of December. The season is also peak time for the entertainment world with blockbuster movies about the nativity or Santa,theat- rical plays and pantomimes.In the midst of all the hustle and bustle of Christmas preparations, this is the busiest time for charities around the world feeding the homeless and providing shelter. Charities play a pivotal role in ensuring that no one is left out of Christmas fes- tivities by providing presents, food and shelter for the homeless, and this chari- table effort extends to poverty-stricken countries to raise funds for them too. By far the most important aspect of Christmas is that it unites family and friends, even if it means travelling from the other side of the world to be with their nearest and dearest. Regardless of any family disputes or disagreements,the goodwill of the Christmas celebration unites loved ones and enables every- one to gather in one room at the same time to enjoy a traditional Christmas dinner. Regardless of whether or not Christmas and Jesusas : What's the Connection? The shepherds were watching their sheep at the time of Jesus’as birth. It is highly unlikely that the shepherds would have been watching over their flock at night in the cold month of December, so this indicates that the spring lambing season was probably in a warmer season, not in the month of December. Many Christian scholars are of the opinion that Jesusas was not born on the 25th of December as is commonly believed. His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI has also agreed with this point. Frippitaun | Shutterstock BY NAVIDA SAYED, UK NOTES & COMMENTS 12 THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS | DECEMBER 2017 DECEMBER 2017 | THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 13
  8. 8. high and mountainous regions about Bethlehem. But the exact time of his birth is unknown; there is no way to ascertain it.’3 Many other biblical commentators sug- gest that the birth of Jesusas took place in the warm season. The Holy Qur’an also sheds light on this: ‘...the angel called her from beneath her, saying, “grieve not. Thy lord has placed a rivulet below thee; and shake towards thyself the trunk of the palm-tree; it will drop upon thee fresh ripe dates; so eat and drink and cool thine eye.”’4 These verses about the birth of Jesusas mention how Mary took advantage of the shade under a date tree during labour and God provided her with the dates to eat; yet this would not be possible in December, when dates are not ripe. The question arises, then, that if December 25th is not the birthdate of Jesusas then how and when did Christmas celebrations and traditions enter the folds of Christianity? Historical evidence informs us ‘the rea- son why Christmas came to be celebrated on December 25th remains uncertain,but most probably the reason is that early Christians wished the date to coincide with the pagan Roman festival mark- ing the “birthday of the unconquered sun” (natalis solis invicti); this festival celebrated the winter solstice, when the days again begin to lengthen and the sun begins to climb higher in the sky.’5 As researcher David Ingraham writes,‘In A.D. 375, the Church announced that Christ’s date of birth had been discov- ered to be December 25th . This date was without biblical or historical grounds, however and became official for the sake of convenience so that the celebration of the birth of Christ could be merged with are clues as to when the birth of Jesusas may have occurred; the gospel of Luke sheds some light on this: ‘And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.’2 According to the above verse, the shepherds were watching their sheep at the time of Jesus’as birth. It is highly unlikely that the shepherds would have been watching over their flock at night in the cold month of December, so this indicates that the spring lambing season was probably in a warmer season, not in the month of December. In relation to this, Albert Barnes, an American theo- logian of the 19th century, writes in his commentary, ‘It is probable from this that our Saviour was born before the 25th December, or before what we call “Christmas.” At that time it is cold, and especially in the The Qur'an mentions the miraculous birth of Jesusas and states that under divine command, Mary, the mother of Jesusas , took shelter under a ripe date tree, indicating that the time of birth was summer, rather than December as popularly believed. Rahhai | Shutterstock Historical evidence informs us ‘the reason why Christmas came to be celebrated on December 25th remains uncertain, but most probably the reason is that early Christians wished the date to coincide with the pagan Roman festival marking the “birthday of the unconquered sun” (natalis solis invicti)' christmas and jesusas : what's the connection? 14 THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS | DECEMBER 2017 DECEMBER 2017 | THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 15
  9. 9. pagan festivities of the season.’6 The festival of Christmas was simply assimilated by the church via a process of syncretism solely for their purposes claiming it as the time of the Jesus’as birth and celebrating it accordingly. The New Catholic Encyclopedia states, ‘Christmas originated at a time when the cult of the sun was particularly strong at Rome.This theory finds support in some of the Church Fathers’ contrasting the birth of Christ and the winter solstice. Though the substitution of Christmas for the pagan festival cannot be proved with certainty, it remains the most plausible explanation for the dating of Christmas.’7 Christmas began in Rome with a birth- date for Jesusas and the traditions of Saturnalia and Yule festivities morphed and gradually spread across the globe.All popular forms of Christmas traditions such as the Christmas tree, mistletoe, gift-giving and Santa Claus all have a historical background in pagan customs.8 Many individuals see Christmas as a religious festival where families come together and celebrate, but there is no real connection between Christmas and Jesusas at all. Christmas, however, having been established for centuries, is exceedingly popular, fun and such a deeply-rooted tradition for people that it would be difficult for them to abandon or stop celebrating it. Even the story of Santa has been debated, particularly as to whether or not lying to children about Santa Claus is dam- aging. Writing in The Lancet Psychiatry, psychologist Christopher Boyle and researcher Kathy McKay state that the story may lead to distrust: 'If they are capable of lying about something so spe- cial and magical,can they be relied upon to continue as the guardians of wisdom and truth?'.9 Whilst there are differing parental views when it comes to explaining the origins of Christmas to children,the majority of parents may overlook things. The point is that if everything about Christmas including Jesus’as birthdate is not accurate then children may grow up to have doubt in their faith,questioning what the truth is.From a religious perspective this could be seen as a tough test of faith especially because celebrations such as Christmas don’t match up with the Biblical accounts and cannot be perceived as reality. Regardless of the popularity of Christmas celebrations on 25th December, the In 375 CE Church elders declared 25th December to be the official birthdate of Jesusas . It seems that this was intended to coincide with the pagan festival of the sun called natalis solis invicti. Mountainpix | Shutterstock Despite the enigma surrounding the birth of Jesusas , his mission was clear: to gather the lost tribes that had been exiled from Jerusalem, first by the Assyrians and then the Babylonians. As the Promised Messiahas has revealed, they travelled along the silk route, some settling in Afghanistan and others at Kashmir. Thoom | Shutterstock Even the story of Santa has been debated, particularly as to whether or not lying to children about Santa Claus is damaging. Writing in The Lancet Psychiatry, psychologist Christopher Boyle and researcher Kathy McKay state that the story may lead to distrust. 16 THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS | DECEMBER 2017 DECEMBER 2017 | THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 17
  10. 10. are at liberty to conclude that I have not come from God Almighty. However, if this wisdom and understanding – which serves as the water of life for those whose hearts are dead – is not procurable from any other source,then you have no excuse for the crime of having rejected the foun- tain that has been opened from heaven. No one on earth can stop it.’12 ............................................................... About the Author:Navida Sayed is a long serving member on the Editorial Board of The Review of Religions and is currently Editor of the Christianity Section. She has been the Coordinator of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community’s Women’s Research Team UK since 1992, whose work has predominantly revolved around Biblical studies. ............................................................... endnotes 1. Pollak, S. (2017). Pope Benedict Disputes Jesus’Date of Birth | TIME. com. [online] TIME.com. Available at: http://newsfeed.time.com/2012/11/22/ pope-benedict-disputes-jesus-date-of-birth/ 2.The Bible, Luke 2:8. 3. Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Luke 2:8". "Barnes' Notes on the New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/ commentaries/bnb/luke-2.html. 1870. 4.The Holy Qur’an, 19:25-27. 5. POSS, J. (2017). Articles by Subject. [online] Graceandtruthministries.org. Available at: https://graceandtruthministries.org/why_ december_25th.html 6. Ingraham, D. (2000). Pagan traditions of the holidays. Oklahoma City, Okla.: Hearthstone Pub. pg.102 7.The New Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. 3 (New York: McGraw Hill, 1967), 656. 8. Rätsch, C. and Müller-Ebeling, C. (2006). Pagan Christmas. Rochester, Vt.: Inner Traditions. 9. Boyle, Christopher & McKay, Kathy. (2016). A wonderful lie.The Lancet Psychiatry. 3. 1110- 1111. 10.1016/S2215-0366(16)30363-7. 10.The Bible, Matthew 5:17. 11.The Bible, Deuteronomy 12:29-32. 12. https://www.alislam.org/library/books/ Barahin-e-Ahmadiyya-Parts1-2.pdf problem is that there is no theologi- cal evidence in any Biblical ancient documents or scriptures to support its connection with Jesusas . Jesusas neither observed Christmas nor taught others to observe it. Jesusas was definitely born to his pious mother Mary of a miraculous virgin birth and came to earth for a purpose. Reflecting on the purpose of Jesusas com- ing to earth and his mission, we learn from the New Testament that Jesusas was a devout follower of the Old Testament which taught against idol worship,there- fore it seems highly unlikely that Jesusas would ever wish for his followers to wor- ship him as an idol after his death. ‘Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill.’10 This verse in the Gospel of Matthew tells us how Jesusas was a devout follower of the Old Testament law, which warned against adopting pagan worship customs to honor Him.11 The celebrations of Christmas in some parts of the world such as partying or merry making and excessive indulgence are certainly not what Jesusas may have guided his followers to do. Christmas has probably continued to be celebrated without a pause for thought about its exact origins or true meaning. However, there are good things that occur during the festive season in many countries such as charitable efforts to feed and support the homeless and acts of kindness,which Jesusas humbly taught. This festive season is a good time to reflect on the true purpose and life of Jesus’as true mission on earth to fulfill and guide people to follow the Mosaic Law, and to gather the lost sheep of Israel. At the same time Jesusas also guided peo- ple about the prophecies for the future especially relating to his second coming. As followers of the true Promised Messiahas , we feel it is incumbent upon us to disseminate the message that the Promised Messiahas has come. The Promised Messiahas says: ‘I tell you truly that those who were revived by the Messiahas [Jesus] are dead, but he who will drink of the cup that has been bestowed upon me will never die. If there is anyone else who can also utter the life-giving words that I speak and proclaim such wisdom as I do, then you christmas and jesusas : what's the connection? 18 THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS | DECEMBER 2017 DECEMBER 2017 | THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 19
  11. 11. TheHONOURofPROPHETS another. The s of religion. hless, yet the alvation. So e Promised ure is weak, o, owing to or humanity, ra, God has ts, but none of Islam in present age, ercessor that ree mankind hilosophy of ilty and his HAZRAT MIRZA GHULAM AHMAD The Promised Messiah and Mahdi Founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community HAZRATMIRZAGHULAMAHMAD The HONOUR of PROPHETS E very human being seeks salvation in some form or another. The concept of salvation holds pivotal importance in matters of religion. A faith unable to deliver its followers from sin is worthless, yet the progress and benefit of society depends on this very salvation. So where should one turn to attain it? In this work, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian, the Promised Messiah and Mahdi, explains that since human nature is weak, salvation can only be attained through a mediator who, owing to their perfect relationship with God and deep sympathy for humanity, can serve as a link between God and man. In every era, God has conferred salvation upon humanity through His prophets, but none can match the unparalleled status held by the Prophet of Islam in this respect, who was the paragon of perfection. In the present age, it is this pure and blessed prophet who is the only intercessor that can grant humanity a living relationship with God and free mankind from the shackles of sin. The author presents an exquisite exposition on the philosophy of divine intercession, sinlessness, forgiveness, human frailty and his advent as the Promised Messiah. NEW BOOK The HONOUR of PROPHETS
  12. 12. A teacher reflects on the legacy of Islam’s strong emphasis on education while visit- ing a university founded by Muslim woman Fatima Al-Fihri. __________________________ R ecently, I was blessed with the opportunity to visit Fez in Morocco. I walked through slender maze-like alleyways filled with tourists and local residents, selling eve- rything from fruits to leather shoes. My husband and I were deep inside the exu- berant and colourful medina when we arrived at our destination,a truly histori- cal site.We could have missed it if it were not for the signs. Tucked away behind a small door and the towering walls of the medina was the entry to the oldest degree-granting university in the world, which is still in operation today.Hidden Of course, as someone who knows Islam’s stance on the empowerment and education of women, I was less surprised and more inspired by this woman who was undoubtedly driven by the true teachings of Islam. The University of Al Quaraouiyine is the oldest continuously-operating university in the world. It is commonly alleged that women in Islam are inferior to men, yet this ancient university was founded by a Muslim woman named Fatima Al-Fihri in 859 CE. Maurizio de Mattei | Shutterstock Fatima Al-Fihri: Pioneering Education for Muslim Women SAMANTHA ISSAM, CHICAGO, USA POINT OF VIEW Saiko3p | Shutterstock DECEMBER 2017 | THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 23
  13. 13. behind the small doors and narrow alley- ways was an impressive courtyard with beautiful fountains and stairs to vast prayer halls. Universities date back to medieval Europe, specifically the Universities of Bologna, Paris, Oxford and Cambridge. However, I visited and learned about an institution of higher learning that pre- dates even these storied institutions. The University and Mosque of Al Quaraouiyine, founded in 859 CE, was the largest mosque in the entirety of North Africa at the time of its construc- tion.Not only is it inspirational to know that the oldest degree-granting university was founded by a Muslim, it may shock some to know it was initiated, planned and funded by a Muslim woman, over 1100 years ago. Of course,as someone who knows Islam’s stance on the empowerment and educa- tion of women, I was less surprised and more inspired by this woman who was undoubtedly driven by the true teach- ings of Islam. Fatima Al-Fihri was the daughter of a wealthy merchant and is defined in his- tory as a pious Muslim woman. When she inherited a large sum of money from her father, instead of squandering it on herself, she made the selfless choice to use it to advance her community by fund- ing and building a mosque and madrassa (school). Her financial sacrifice is the perfect example of putting one’s faith over all worldly things and the emphasis she put on education and religion show how devoted she was to the teachings of Islam. Personally, as an elementary school teacher and a lifelong student, I have Courtyard of the University of Quaraouiyine, Fez, Morocco. Fatima Al-Fihri was the daughter of a wealthy merchant and inherited a large sum of money, which she used to promote education by building and maintaining the university. Milosk50 | Shutterstock Islam places great emphasis on education. The founder of Islam, the Holy Prophetsa stated that seeking knowledge is incumbent upon every Muslim man and woman. Islam ensured that women had the right to education from the very outset. Fongbeerredhot | Shutterstock DECEMBER 2017 | THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 25
  14. 14. always found solace in and appreciation for the emphasis on education within Islam.With my experience of teaching in low-income neighbourhoods,I can easily recognise the impact a quality education, or the lack thereof,can have on a person’s life. Proper schooling is a blessing that most of us have been given, but all too many people go without. Education is the key to moving human- ity forward.Making schools and teachers available to all, allows for more equal opportunities for every person and will provide us with the cures to today’s world’s problems. Whether it is the earth’s climate crisis or making peace between nations, education lights the path to the solution. That is why I am grateful to be a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, which has invested in education and built schools worldwide, hoping to eliminate disparities in schooling based on gender and economic status. This community recognises the essential role of educa- tion in Islam,just as earlier Muslims did as well. It is no coincidence that many of the Muslim men and women I have met since my conversion in 2014 are among the most educated people I know. Our faith clearly encourages, nay, obliges us to seek education. 'It is the duty of every Muslim man and every Muslim woman to acquire knowl- edge.' With this Hadith (oral tradition), the Prophet Muhammadsa makes it known that all of humanity should take full advantage of every opportunity for learning. He was also known to have said that one must search for education from the cradle until death, even if it meant travelling to China.The scholarly Fatima Al-Fihri enabled her community to be successful servants of God by pro- viding them with resources for greater fatima al-fihri: pioneering education for muslim women Muslims following the instructions of Prophet Muhammadsa understand the importance placed on education, especially for girls. As a result, we have countless examples of historical Muslim women who have been excellent contributors to society at large, like Fatima Al-Fihri. knowledge. Nevertheless, it is undeniable that today there are many people who misunder- stand the teachings of the true Islam. Many believe that Islam teaches the oppression of women, whereas that is completely contrary to the Islam that we find in the Qur’an and Ahadith. Before the advent of Prophet Muhammadsa , families would bury their infant daugh- ters out of shame. But when he came, he outlawed this horrendous practice in Arabia and transformed the people by teaching men to respect women and value their daughters.The Holy Prophetsa said, 'He who gives the best upbringing and education to his daughters shall enter Paradise.' Here, again, he encouraged to spend their resources not only on their sons, but also on their daughters. Some see men as oppressors of Muslim women,when in fact they are asked to be a source of empowerment and education for their daughters.While some Muslims are plainly going against the teachings of the Holy Prophetsa , oppressing women or depriving them of an education, the difference between them and Muslims adhering to true Islamic teachings is striking. Muslims following the instructions of Prophet Muhammadsa understand the importance placed on education, espe- cially for girls. As a result, we have countless examples of historical Muslim women who have been excellent con- tributors to society at large, like Fatima Al-Fihri. This woman made an enormous sacrifice and founded a religious and educational establishment that changed history, and she is not alone. Empowered and edu- cated Muslim women around the world are doctors,lawyers,educators,politicians and are successful in other fields as well. They are persevering high-achievers who are staying true to their faith. In the centre of this stunning mosque and madrassa stands an elegant fountain. Created in honour of Fatima Al-Fihri,it is a reminder to us all. Never forget the lessons that can be learnt from such a pious woman. She made immense sac- rifices by staying true to the teachings of Islam and valuing education for all in her community. Let us pray to be among the true follow- ers of Islam, who, like Fatima Al-Fihri, set an example for other Muslims. We must recognise that education is a wealth 26 THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS | DECEMBER 2017 DECEMBER 2017 | THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 27
  15. 15. Let us pray to be among the true followers of Islam, who, like Fatima Al-Fihri, set an example for other Muslims. We must recognise that education is a wealth that cannot be taken from us. that cannot be taken from us. 'He grants wisdom to whom He pleases, and whoever is granted wisdom has indeed been granted abundant good; and none would take heed except those endowed with understanding.'1 Let us always show gratitude to God for the knowledge He has blessed us with, continue striving for self-improvement and be advocates for equal education around the world. ............................................................... About the Author: Samantha Issam is a preschool teacher in Chicago, Illinois.  She has traveled extensively in Morocco, speaks French and is studying Arabic. She accepted Islam in 2014 after her own independent study and joined Islam Ahmadiyyat in 2015. ................................................................. endnotes 1.The Holy Qur’an 2:270. Saiko3p | Shutterstock YOUR FEEDBACK IS IMPORTANT TO US Write to us with comments, feedback and suggestions at info@Reviewof Religions.org DECEMBER 2017 | THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 29
  16. 16. Imagining The Divine - Art & The Rise of World Religions Behind the scenes at Oxford University's Ashmolean Museum EXCLUSIVE Base of an oval, gold-glass serving dish: a married couple surrounded by Biblical scenes of salvation. Italy, 3rd-4th century Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford
  17. 17. critical point.In March 2001,the Taliban destroyed two monumental statues of Buddhaas in the Hazarajat region of Afghanistan. The statues had stood for almost 1500 years, each over 100 feet tall and carefully carved into sandstone cliffs, before the Taliban government ordered their destruction (incidentally, by dynamite). 'To associate the entire history of Islam with that act is as absurd as the act of destroying it' Elsner’s reminder was timely, given the current context of the destruction of religious iconography in the Islamic world.Thousands of years and hundreds of Muslim rulers came and passed, yet the Bamiyan Buddhas, along with O n October 18th 2017, The Review of Religions were invited to a press preview of the Ashmolean Museum’s new exhibition entitled ‘Imagining the Divine: A journey through the art of religions from India to Ireland’. The BBC, various newspapers and maga- zines as well as foreign media were present for the exclusive guided tour by the exhibi- tion curators in Oxford, UK. The exhibition was born out of the Empires of Faith research project, a joint collabora- tion between Oxford University and the British Museum, with funding from the Leverhulme Trust. Three curators accom- panied the delegation on the tour: Professor Jas Elsner: A professor in Classical Art at Oxford University, holding previous prestigious positions in France, Germany and the USA. Dr Stefanie Lenk: A DPhil candidate at Oxford University in Art History specialis- ing in pre-Christian imagery. Dr Robert Bracey: A numismatics (coins) specialist and curator at the British Museum responsible for south and central Asian collections. ________________________ 'For a thousand years,Islam tolerated the [Bamiyan Buddhas].What happened is a one-off.Unfortunately,it’s a very destruc- tive one-off.' It appeared somewhat of a tangent, but Professor Jas Elsner was making a Imagining the Divine - Art & The Rise of World Religions The world of religious iconography is a complex one. Islam’s position is clear. Images and objects used to depict God, or used to intercede in contact with God, are avoided. Instead, prayer and scripture occupy the central fabric of religious worship. The Bamiyan Buddhas stood for hundreds of years in Afghanistan, carved into the side of a cliff in the Bamiyan valley (above left). Yet the Taliban used dynamite to destroy them in 2008, shown above right. Carl Montgomery | Wikimedia Commons | Released under CC BY-SA 3.0 RIZWAN SAFIR, LONDON, UK
  18. 18. which preceded them. The world of religious iconography is a complex one. Islam’s position is clear. Images and objects used to depict God, or used to intercede in contact with God, are avoided. However, intolerance towards other faiths and their religious emblems is equally discouraged. In this matter,the Taliban and other such groups should look no further than the words of the founder of Islam, the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa : 'You will meet those who remem- ber Almighty Allah in their houses of worship.Have no dispute with them,and give no trouble to them. In the enemy country, do not kill any women or chil- dren,or the blind,or the old.Do not pull down any tree; nor pull down any build- ing' (Quoted from Halbiyyah, Vol. 3) Prayer and scripture occupy the cen- tral fabric of religious worship in Islam. Other religions, indeed even a few sects of Islam, hold religious ico- nography as fundamental to worship. The Ashmolean Museum’s exhibition countless statues and iconography of var- ious religions,remained unmolested and survived, only for exceptionally rare acts of demolition to remove them entirely. Unfortunately,it is such exceptional acts that occupy historical memories, rather than the extensive periods of preservation Footprints of the Buddha - Slab sculpture carved on the front with Buddhapada (footprints of the Buddha), each foot bearing a dharmacakra (wheel of the law) and lotuses. Deccan, India, 2nd Century. Trustees of the British Museum Central art and the rise of world religions Central roundel from the Hinton St Mary Mosaic, Dorset, early 4th Century. Trustees of the British Museum
  19. 19. remarkably well,but the broader mosaic, which is somewhat damaged, included a depiction of a typical Roman pagan scene.It provides a clear reminder of how pagan myths, adopted from the Roman Empire,permeated into Christian theol- ogy and iconography. Elsewhere in the Christianity section, iconography on display show how early images of Jesusas alternate between bearded and non-bearded, as Christians grappled with what image of Jesusas to settle on. Professor Elsner noted, ‘As Christianity develops, it takes about delves into this complex discussion by showcasing incredible objects from around the world, but centring on the world’s five major religions; Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam. Guided by Professor Jas Elsner, Dr Stefanie Lenk (both of Oxford University) and Dr Robert Bracey (from the British Museum), the exhibi- tion negotiates several centuries and vast geographic lands,drawing together care- fully selected objects relating to religious worship. In one space, visitors are able to observe and explore the importance of iconogra- phy which has, and continues to, relate to billions across the globe. One exam- ple which stood out – admittedly,due to it being used in most of the exhibitions promotional material – was a vast set of footprints,presenting an incredible story. ‘For the first 300 years of Buddhism, people extensively make images,but they do not depict the Buddha. Only around 100 AD…people suddenly start to make images of Buddha’. Dr Bracey focuses our attention on enor- mous stone feet placed on a low plinth, apparently one of only two early pieces of Buddhist art in Europe. European collectors of the 18th and 19th centuries favoured the later image of Buddhaas – one of the famed seated figure in a meditative or trance-like state, now ubiquitous in modern Buddhist culture. The assumption was that such Buddhist statues were traceable to the time of Buddhaas himself, but for the first three centuries after his demise only wheels, footprints, motifs (such as the swastika symbol, later maladapted for use by the Nazi’s) or even void spaces were used as representations. Why was this the case? The curators say this remains debated.But it appears some instruction would have prevented early Buddhists from creating images of this sacred individual. Continuing through the exhibition,now in the Christianity section, we are pre- sented with the oldest image of Christas known in northern Europe,certainly the oldest in the UK. Found in Hinton St. Mary’s Church in Dorset (UK), it was part of a larger, truly astonishing mosaic floor. The Greco-Roman influences on this image are striking. In the background, circling the image of Christ is the ‘chi-ro’ symbol, refer- ring to the first letters of Jesus Christ’sas name in Greek.The image has preserved Bowl with Kufic script - Eastern Iran 10th Century. Victoria and Albert Museum art and the rise of world religions
  20. 20. the time – decorate objects such as pot- tery.Literature and writing dominate this section. ‘The materiality of the written word plays an enormously central part in the very earliest spread of Islam.’ Dr Bracey stressed the above as we filtered through this segment of the exhi- bition.It was through the dissemination of manuscripts and leafs of the Qur’an, believed by Muslims to be the Word of God,that Islam was able to briskly spread in the century following the Prophet Muhammadsa .However,one aspect of the written word spread through a medium that is often overlooked; Islamic coin- age heralded somewhat of a revolution in how coins were meant to appear. At this point,Dr Bracey – a numismatics (coins) specialist – naturally grew in excitement 400-500 years before they really deter- mine that they’re going to have a bearded Christ.’ It was impossible not to pause at this point. The image and sanctification of Christas through visual means had appeared to become the forefront of debate, rather than his teachings. Jesusas , the man who endeavoured so valiantly to remove pagan traditions and foster a spiritual community, was instead the centre of a deliberation over his beard! That said, it is safe to assume he was bearded, given the traditions of Jewish men around 2000 years ago. Moving into Judaism,emphasis on scrip- ture was apparent. Known as from the People of the Book,Jewish communities experimented in numerous formats with presentations of the Torah. On display are early manuscripts from a synagogue in Cairo,including lengthy scrolls,a tra- dition which has persisted into modern Judaic culture.Transmission of text, and indeed movement of text,was considered critical. A remarkable piece is a 1000 year old Karaite Book of Exodus, stunningly endowed with ornate flowers and gilded geometric borders – influenced by Islamic manuscript illumination. This Hebrew Biblical scripture is written in Arabic, with the vowels and diacritics delicately penned in red and green ink.The Karaites were a Jewish sect who often used Arabic to translate the Hebrew Bible. They broke away from conventional Judaism and regarded the Hebrew Bible as their only authority.Such manuscripts empha- sise the distinction they afforded to this Holy Book. Entering the Islamic section, a sud- den lack of figurative imagery contrasts strikingly with the preceding segments. Incredibly rare and early Qur’anic leafs and manuscripts furnish the showcases, whilst perfectly proportioned Kufic Arabic script - unreadable to many at art and the rise of world religions Jesusas , the man who endeavoured so valiantly to remove pagan traditions and foster a spiritual community, was instead the centre of a debate over his beard! That said, it is safe to assume he was bearded, given the traditions of Jewish men around 2000 years ago. Karaite Book of Exodus - Egypt 10th Century to 11th Century CE. Ink on paper with gold. The British Library Board
  21. 21. and enthusiasm, ‘The moment when they [the Muslims] make a new type of coin, they do some- thing incredibly radical.Previously,coins had a picture of a ruler on one side and a religious image on the other.That had been the way coins have looked from Western Europe to Northern India for a thousand years at this point. All coins had looked like that. Here, the radical thing they [the Muslims] do is to get rid of the images and replace them with text.’ It was an incredible insight. But, the Muslims went further in this coinage revolution. ‘…then they do something even more radical.In these very first coins,they don’t mention the ruler. The coins only men- tion the Kalima (proclamation of faith).’ It may appear trivial but this was a funda- mental shift in the way people consumed media.In antiquity,well before the print- ing press or other such mechanisms had developed, visual imagery was used to convey a message much like media today, and coins were perhaps the most common and widespread image avail- able. Every individual carries currency, even today almost all currency bears the image of a monarch, ruler, or historical figure. Indeed, most Muslim countries have returned to this concept. But early Hajj Pilgrimage Certificate - Ink and gold on paper. The British Library, London Muslims,emphasising the importance of the Creator above all else, were at pains to ensure the word of God, rather than any image,remained the most prominent concept. Professor Elsner drew interesting paral- lels with the modern day to this episode of the past: ‘The kinds of questions and problems that we face with modern media, with the move from the book to the tablet or iPad and how text is digitised – these are parallels with the past.The effects are as great, because these religions would not have crossed Eurasia without being in such [portable] forms.’ This historical comparison was refresh- ing. Indeed, the establishment of this magazine immediately came to mind. Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas ,believed by Ahmadi Muslims to be the Messiah and Mehdi of the latter days, founded The Review of Religions in 1902 with the intent to spread his teachings across the world. Since then, past and future editions of The Review of Religions are digitised and published online,pushing the availability of such literature to millions instantly. Similarly, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has translated the Qur’an in over 70 languages, utilised all forms of print and digital media and continues to explore the boundaries of the com- ing digital age. Early Muslims equally experimented with forms of literature consumption, allowing the Word of God to reach distant lands in a very short space of time. Hinduism remained on the tour. Vishnuism, as Dr Bracey explained, was the aspect of Hinduism the cura- tors chose to focus on in this part of the exhibition. Elaborate statues of gods, often a mixture between zoomorphic and anthropomorphic, cascaded the shelves whilst images of avatars (a manifestation of a deity or released soul in bodily form on earth) were abundant.
  22. 22. ‘We focused on one set of images asso- ciated with the god Vishnu. Vishnu incarnates himself in many forms that allow him to restore order and balance to the world.’ It was, again, a movement through con- trasts as a dearth in iconography from the Islamic section unfolded into an explo- sion of imagery here. Elaborate statues of gods, often a mixture between zoo- morphic and anthropomorphic,cascaded the shelves whilst images of avatars (a manifestation of a deity or released soul in bodily form on earth) were abundant. It was interesting to see how little text was visible in this section of the exhibi- tion. Imagery, or ‘visual language’ as the curators referred to it,was the overriding focus in Vishnuism. As the tour concluded, the curators were keen to emphasise the importance of influence and interaction between the religions featured. This influence is undeniable,the infiltration of Greek and Roman mythology into Christianity is one example of this. However, what is also apparent is the abrupt stoppage or movement away from using iconography for worship in the immediate years after many of the religions of this exhibition are founded. Thus, Judaism emphasises the scripture, Buddhists do not depict Buddhaas for several hundred years, the first image of Jesusas does not surface until the 2nd cen- tury AD, and Islam shifts all emphasis from the visual to the written. That said, the legacy of the Bamiyan Buddhas seems to linger. Whilst this exhibition presents the visitor with an opportunity to view objects collected from around the world, many places are not so fortunate – under threat by extremist groups proclaiming destruction in the name of God. If only they realised how hundreds of Muslims leaders before them left these aspects of history unharmed, encour- aged to do so by their belief. Should the Taliban,ISIS or any other such group do so much as read the book they proclaim to be their guide, they would realise that far from destroying and causing pain to non-believers, their duty is to protect them: art and the rise of world religions ‘And if anyone of the idolaters ask pro- tection of thee, grant him protection so that he may hear the word of Allah: then convey him to his place of security…’ (The Holy Qur’an 9:6) The Imagining the Divine Exhibition is a joint project between the Ashmolean Museum and the University of Oxford’s Empires of Faith research project. It runs from 19 October 2017 – 18 February 2018, open 10am to 5pmTuesday to Sunday, and Bank Holidays. To find out more, visit www.ashmolean.org Interested in learning more about the destruction of cultural heritage and Islam’s perspective on this issue? Read this article from our archives http:// www.reviewofreligions.org/12238/ islams-response-to-the-destruction-of- cultural-heritage/ About the Author: Rizwan Safir is an archaeologist specialising in the Middle East. Over the past decade, he has extensively researched and excavated across the Middle East for institutions such as the British Museum, Humboldt University Berlin, Copenhagen University and others, whilst completing a masters in archaeology from the University of Leiden. He is the Deputy Section Editor of the Ancient Religions and Archaeology Section at The Review of Religions. Chinese translation of the Heart Sutra (Buddhist scripture). Dunhuang, China c. 9th century, ink on paper. The British Library Board If only they realised how thousands of religious leaders and civilisations before them left these aspects of history unharmed.
  23. 23. A Glimpse into the Life of the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa The Prophet’ssa Purity of Mind and Cleanliness of Body It is related of the Holy Prophetsa that his speech was always pure and that he was (unlike most of his contemporaries) not given to the use of oaths (Tirmidhi). This was something exceptional for an Arab.We do not imply that the Arabs at the time of the Holy Prophetsa habitually indulged in foul language, but there is no doubt that they were in the habit of punctuating their speech with a gener- ous measure of oaths,a habit that persists among them even to this day. The Holy Prophetsa ,however,held the name of God in such reverence that he never uttered it without full justification. He was very particular, even punctilious, with regard to physical cleanliness. He used to brush his teeth several times a day and was so keen on the practice that he used to say that were he not afraid that the ordinance might prove onerous, he would make it obligatory upon every Muslim to brush his teeth before every one of the five daily prayers. He always washed his hands before and after each meal and after eating anything that had been cooked,he always rinsed his mouth and considered it desirable that every person who had eaten anything cooked should rinse his mouth before joining in any of the prayers (Bukhari). In the polity of Islam, a mosque is the only place of gathering prescribed for the Muslims. The Holy Prophetsa , therefore, laid particular stress upon the cleanliness of mosques,especially on occasions when people were expected to collect in them. He had directed that on such occasions incense should be burnt in the mosques to purify the air (Abu Dawud). He also gave directions that nobody should go to a mosque on the occasion of a congrega- tion or gathering after eating anything that was likely to exhale an offensive odour (Bukhari). He insisted upon streets being kept clean and clear of twigs, stones, and all arti- cles or matter which was likely either to obstruct or to prove offensive.Whenever he himself found any such matter or arti- cle lying in a street he would remove it, and he used to say that a person who helps to keep streets and roads clean and clear, earns spiritual merit in the sight of God.He is also reported to have enjoined that public thoroughfares should not be so used as to cause obstruction nor should any unclean or undesirable matter or arti- cle be thrown on to a public street, nor should a street be defiled in any other way, as all such acts are displeasing to God. He was very keen that all supply of water conserved for human use should be kept clean and pure. For instance, he prohib- ited anything being thrown into standing water which might befoul it and any res- ervoir of water being used in a manner which would render it impure (Bukhari and Muslim, Kitab al-Birr Wassila).1 endnotes 1. Hazrat Mirza Bashir-ud-din Mahmud Ah- madra , Life of Muḥammad (Tilford, Surrey, U.K.: Islam International Publications Limited, 2013), 196-197.
  24. 24. One person, one verse. A Qur'an that recreates the ancient art of Islamic Calligraphy while highlighting the modern-day diversity of Islam.
  25. 25. practice. It so happened that one day I woke up for Fajr (the pre-dawn morning prayer) and I thought to myself,how can I involve dev- otees of the Holy Qur’an in this sacred art of calligraphy? I was inspired by a Hadith of Hazrat Aishahra , the blessed wife of the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa , in which she narrated that there are 6666* verses in the Qur’an. I thought of the history behind Qur’anic revela- tion and compilation and how earlier companions of the Holy Prophetsa con- tributed to this journey.Through Allah’s Grace this thought was converted into a noble idea: why not produce a Qur’an which would be written by more than 6000 people, who would not only be non-calligraphers but also followers of the Qur’an? What are the unique aspects of this pro- ject and why is it significant? The Al-Qalam Project is penning the first Qur’an that will be collaboratively penned by over 6000 people. Founder Razwan Baig talks about project’s past, present and future and his inspiration for this incredible endeavour. How did the Al-Qalam Project first come about and what was the inspira- tion for it? Many years ago, I read a fascinating Hadith (oral traditions of the Holy Prophetsa handed down over the centu- ries) related to Islamic calligraphy that stated whoever writes bismillah with the intention of glorifying God Almighty it will be mandatory for him to 'enter paradise',1 be forgiven their sins, espe- cially if they write it with the 'intention of praising God'.2 My journey to writing my first Qur’an started at the age of 12. At the time I was neither a calligrapher nor a collec- tor. It took several years to develop and mature my love for the Qur’an through consistent and intensive practice. Now as a khataat [calligrapher] in the dis- cipline of Islamic calligraphy, my life has changed completely. The content- ment and blessings that I have received through the Greatest Book – the Holy Qur’an – are beyond my wildest imagi- nation. I am truly humbled before my Lord that He gave me the perception of understanding life through this practice. In fact, for many years I have held free workshops and presentations to try and inspire people with knowledge of this Razwan Baig: The Man Behind the Al-Qalam Project It so happened that one day I woke up for Fajr (the pre- dawn morning prayer) and I thought to myself, how can I involve devotees of the Holy Qur’an in this sacred art of calligraphy? EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW Al-Qalam Project founder Razwan Baig is also a calligrapher in his own right, having practised the art of calligraphy from a young age. The Review of Religions 48 THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS | DECEMBER 2017 DECEMBER 2017 | THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 49
  26. 26. Furthermore, another unique aspect of this project is that women will also have an equal opportunity to take part in writ- ing verses from the Qur’an. Thus, this is the first Qur’an of its kind where people from all continents of the world will unite together without any distinction of race, gender, colour, reli- gion or culture. In addition, both Muslims and non- Muslims will be able to participate in this project.When the Al-Qalam visited the Jalsa Salana Germany 2016,the national president of the Ahmadiyya Community Germany, Abdullah Wagishauser, asked His Holiness, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmadaba , worldwide head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, about non-Muslims contributing to the Al-Qalam project. His Holiness replied that the Qur’an is for all people and religions, not just for Muslims, and therefore anyone could contribute.Many non-Muslims have therefore taken part in this blessed project since then. This is a unique moment in history whereby people from different faiths will unite under one umbrella to acknowledge that God is One and He is the Creator of the Universe and the Qur’an, the Word of God, is not for solely one religion or sect, rather it is for the benefit of all mankind. Another distinctive aspect of this Qur’an has been written on handmade acid free paper,which can last for many hundreds of years without any special preservation. Those people participating in in will have their writing and names preserved in history, so people will always remember them in the future. You mentioned that the idea for this project came about four or five years ago.Why was it only officially launched last year? During the first two and a half years when this Qur’an project first started, I used to invite people to my humble home. I would conduct calligraphy workshops and give presentations with different groups and invite people to write a verse of the Qur’an, but I was unable to even complete the first two parts. During that time, I was fully supported by Hafiz Fazal-e-Rabbi (In-Charge of the Hafizoon school,Ahmadiyya Muslim Community UK, which trains youth to memorise the Holy Qur’an) dur- ing monthly Qur’an classes within the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, where In the past all written Qur’ans have been written by calligraphers – normally by two or three different master calligraphers. With the invention of mass printing this art of calligraphy and writing Qur’ans by hand was largely lost as Qur’ans are now printed en masse.To restore this forgotten Islamic practice, the Al-Qalam Project was launched to have individual people each write one verse of the Qur’an. The beauty of this project is that people do not need to be calligraphers.Rather,each verse will be written by a different person, even one who may not have ever written Arabic before. To my knowledge, not a single Qur’an has been written in this way in the past fourteen hundred years. With each verse penned by a different person, the Al-Qalam Project will produce a unique copy of the Qur'an that highlights the diversity of Islam and Muslims. The Review of Religions exclusive interview: the man behind the al-qalam project 50 THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS | DECEMBER 2017 DECEMBER 2017 | THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 51
  27. 27. His Holiness then enquired how long it would take to for the Qur’an project to reach completion.Whilst replying to His Holiness, I was overcome with emotion and had tears in my eyes. I said that if one verse was written every day,it would take approximately another 14 years to finish, but that I would love to complete this endeavour during my lifetime! His Holiness smiled and said that he could give me 30,000 people to write this Qur’an. Overcome with joy I asked how that would be possible,and His Holiness then instructed The Review of Religions to launch the Qur’an writing project at their exhibition at Jalsa Salana UK [annual convention of the Ahmadiyya Community,held in Alton,Hampshire]. Thus, with the blessing and guidance of His Holiness this project was launched in collaboration with The Review of Religions. Their efforts in this regard are commendable and they have imple- mented a structure whereby this project can run smoothly anywhere in the world. Without every single individual,this pro- ject would not be possible to achieve at this scale. One point also worth mentioning is that the name ‘Al Qalam’, given to this pro- ject, was initially proposed by Shahzad Ahmad (The Review of Religions Islam Section Editor) and finally chosen and approved by His Holiness. After its initial debut in the UK, the Al-Qalam Project has travelled the world. Could you describe its recep- tion worldwide and what is next for the project? I am very fortunate that His Holiness graciously approved this project to be launched at Jalsa Salana UK 2016,where for the first time in history, people from all around the world participated during an annual convention. It was so popular that in that first year, 900 people par- ticipated. Then 1500 at Germany’s Jalsa Salana, 200 people participated in the Middle East, and 1500 in India at their Jalsa Salana that same year. Many non- Muslims from all over the world joined in writing one verse of the Qur’an in their own writing and became part I would carry out workshops to present the idea for this unique Qur’an project. At the same time, I started exhibiting my ancient Qur’an collection at the Jalsa Salana UK with The Review of Religions team. Around this time, I discussed this pro- ject with Amer Safir (Chief Editor of The Review of Religions) and the idea of launching it on a large scale. He suggested that we present the idea to His Holiness, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmadaba , worldwide head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community for guidance and subsequently he arranged an audience with His Holiness. Hence, in February 2016,The Review of Religions team and I met His Holiness.My initial consideration was that with his blessing, if His Holiness participated in writing even one word in this Qur’an, the pro- ject would be immensely blessed.During this meeting, the complete proposal for the Qur’an writing project was discussed with His Holiness. Could you speak more about His Holiness’ support for the Al-Qalam Project? His Holiness liked the concept of the Al-Qalam Project and expressed his support for it. I humbly asked him if he would be willing to contribute to it by handwriting a verse of the Qur’an him- self. After a few seconds’ deliberation, His Holiness replied by saying that he would Inshallah [God Willing] take part in this project at a later date and that he would write Surah Al-Fatihah,the open- ing chapter of the Holy Qur’an. It was one of the greatest moments of my life when His Holiness blessed this project by giving it so much support. exclusive interview: the man behind the al-qalam project I said that if one verse was written every day, it would take approximately another 14 years to finish, but that I would love to complete this endeavour during my lifetime! Razwan Baig is blessed with the company of His Holiness, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmadaba , at the annual youth convention of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in UK. On display was Baig’s collection of rare and ancient Qur’anic manuscripts. The Review of Religions 52 THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS | DECEMBER 2017 DECEMBER 2017 | THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 53
  28. 28. simply phenomenal.During the Annual Convention, there was an unbelievable line of people waiting to participate. At times people waited until midnight in order to try and pen a verse.This is such an inspirational project that people queue for hours on end just to get the opportu- nity to take part.The dedicated Review of Religions team used all their resources to ensure the maximum number of people were accomodated. In the first year the Al-Qalam Project was open at Jalsa Salana UK, His Holiness very graciously made an unexpected visit to The Review of Religions exhibition marquee,during the time designated for women to participate (men and women had access to the tent at different times). His Holiness walked right into the heart of the Al-Qalam section and commented to one lady who was writing her verse that perhaps she was a calligrapher,since her handwriting was so good. Every person who writes a verse in the Al-Qalam Project is also encouraged to write a guestbook entry afterwards with their name, place of residence and their thoughts about participating. I read one such entry from a lady who was present when His Holiness visited, as described earlier.This lady wrote that she had been waiting hours and hours for her turn for Al-Qalam, when all of a sudden His Holiness arrived in the mar- quee and came to the Al-Qalam section where she was and in one instance all her exhaustion and tiredness completely disappeared and all the waiting became completely worth it. During Jalsa Salana Germany,one person made a poignant point that it is only the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at who have this special position in relation to the Qur’an today.He was explaining that the Qur’an has mentioned how the ‘earlier ones’ met with the ‘later ones’, which is through the Qur’an.The companions of of this unique project. Indeed, at Jalsa Salana UK 2017,His Holiness graciously mentioned the Al-Qalam project in his Friday Sermon on the very first day! I was completely humbled and thanked Allah the Almighty for His immense grace and favour. Due to the huge popularity of the Al-Qalam Project,His Holiness has also recently directed The Review of Religions to arrange a permanent section at the Baitul Futuh Mosque, London, where people, especially women, can come and write a verse of the Qur’an during assigned timings. I am currently col- laborating with The Review of Religions so people can easily participate in the Al-Qalam Project. Can you describe the emotions of those who have taken part in this project? Whydoesthismeansomuch,especially to Ahmadi Muslims? History will remember the participants of this project and Allah the Almighty will shower His blessings upon those who participated. As Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas ,the Promised Messiah,has said, those who honour the Holy Qur’an will be honoured in heaven. I have countless memories of people who have taken part in this project. Sekiguchi Mansoor San, travelled from Japan solely to take part in this project. Her love for the Qur’an compelled her to travel thousands of miles to share in these blessings. The late Imam B.A. Rafiq, formerly Imam of the London Mosque, UK, was one of those initial people who encour- aged and supported me in this project. I will never forget the tears in his eyes while he wrote a verse in this Qur’an and his saying that his future genera- tions would remember the way Allah the Almighty had blessed him with this opportunity. The overall response has been exclusive interview: the man behind the al-qalam project Over three days of Jalsa Salana (annual convention of the Ahmadiyya Community), the Al-Qalam Project allows over 900 people to pen a verse of the Holy Qur'an, an undertaking that involves months of planning and organisation and dozens of volunteers. The Review of Religions The overall response has been simply phenomenal. During the annual convention, there was an unbelievable line of people waiting to participate. At times people waited until midnight in order to try and pen a verse. 54 THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS | DECEMBER 2017 DECEMBER 2017 | THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 55
  29. 29. the Holy Prophetsa devoted their lives to spreading the revolution of God through writing and memorising and preserving the Holy Qur’an for posterity. Ahmadi Muslims are repeating this during the era of the ‘later ones’. You are also a professional calligrapher; what has the response been from the people in the field of calligraphy and Islamic art who have come to learn of this project? The Islamic world of calligraphy has been so inspired by this project that I was invited by a Muslim group in the UK to present a major conference in Birmingham this year. I have also been approached by numerous Muslim and non-Muslim TV channels to introduce this project to their audience. Countless non-Ahmadis have visited my home and written in this sacred Qur’an. The great calligraphers Nassar Mansoor from Jordan,Taha Al-Hitti from Iraq and Abu Mustafa from Palestine deemed this project as an inspiration. Taha Al-Hitti even considered this project as the idea of the century in the history of writing the Qur’an. Since this Qur’an is being handwrit- ten by non-calligraphers, there is the possibility of mistakes while writing,so how do you correct it if someone makes a mistake? Humans are not perfect; only Allah is perfect, and therefore mistakes do occur in a process such as this one. However, we ensure that there is always a Hafizoon team (Hafizoon are those who have committed to memory the entire Holy Qur’an) during Jalsa as well as after com- pletion,who check and make corrections before this project is finalised. We have techniques that can be used to beautify the area where mistakes were made so that they do not stand out and are cov- ered nicely, whilst ensuring we identify any mistakes and correct them to ensure complete accuracy of this sacred text – the Holy Qur’an. endnotes 1. Maujibatul Jannah, Al-Asbihani, page 282. 2. Man Kataba bism-I ALLAH al-rah man al Rahim, Tafseer Al-Dur Al-Manthur, Imam Jalaluddin Suyutirh , Lahore page 24. * There is no disagreement on the actual text of the Holy Qur'an, however there is varying opinions on the numbering of the verses held by various scholars. The total number of verses in the Holy Qur'an officially published by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is 6348. exclusive interview: the man behind the al-qalam project The English Rendering of the 5 Volume Commentary of the Holy Qur’an One of the most comprehensive commentaries of the Holy Qur’an ever written. Commentary by Hadhrat Mirza Bashir-Ud-Din Mahmud Ahmad(ra) Read it online at: http://www.alislam.org/quran/ Or Purchase the print version at: http://store.alislam.org/ ©AMAGALLERYUK 56 THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS | DECEMBER 2017
  30. 30. The Al-Qalam Project was founded by Razwan Baig and officially launched by the worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community,the Fifth Khalifah (Caliph), His Holiness Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmadaba in 2016. Razwan Baig is a British Islamic calligrapher and a collector of Islamic manuscripts and Islamic art. His collections have been shown in over several major museums worldwide and has contributed to more than 20 international exhibitions. The Al-Qalam Project is the first of its kind in which each participant contributes a single verse and thus the complete text of the Holy Qur’an will be entirely handwritten by members of the public. Since its official launch, the Al-Qalam Project,in collaboration with Al-Qalam: Penning The Word of God SHAHZAD AHMED, LONDON, UK By the inkstand and the pen and by that which they write —The Holy Qur'an, 68:2 I slamic calligraphy is one of the most venerated forms of calligraphy and is considered to be the pinnacle of Islamic art. According to Muslims, the Holy Qur’an is the sacred word of God revealed to Prophet Muhammadsa and thus has been one of the major sources of inspiration for Islamic calligraphy since early Islam, as it represents a medium to convey the word of God. One of the most renowned artists of our modern times, Pablo Picasso, was so inspired by Islamic calligraphy that he said,‘If I had known there was such a thing as Islamic calligraphy, I would never have started to paint. I have strived to reach the highest levels of artistic mastery, but I found that Islamic calligraphy was there ages before I was.’1 Prior to the invention of the printing press, scribes bore the heavy responsibility for reproducing the scripture of the Holy Qur’an. They would often spend decades learning the craft and would spend many years on producing just a single copy of the Holy Qur’an. However, in the age of modern technology,print media rapidly replaced the traditional art forms and gradually the practice of learning this ancient art form also declined.Thus,this was one of the inspirations behind the Al-Qalam Project - to reinvigorate this ancient art form in today’s generation. Prior to the invention of the printing press, scribes bore the heavy responsibility of carefully copying down the words of the Holy Qur'an. The Review of Religions The Al-Qalam Project is the first of its kind in which each participant contributes a single verse and thus the complete text of the Holy Qur’an will be entirely handwritten by members of the public. 58 THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS | DECEMBER 2017 DECEMBER 2017 | THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 59
  31. 31. reasons, disappeared with the advent of printing but I hope and believe that this will inspire a lot of Muslims.’ Among the many participants of the Al- Qalam Project were those who had fled from countries where Ahmadis faced severe persecution and were not allowed to even call themselves Muslims, let alone be able to own and read the Holy Qur’an. However, through this project they were able to write the verse of the Holy Qur’an with their own hands which was a truly emotional experience for them. Abada Barbouche, who is originally from Tunisia, expressed his feelings after completing his verse, ‘As members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community we have felt an electric current going through us while we are writing the words of God with our hands. In this, there is a strong message to those forces who are trying to hold back the progress of the community. With conviction I can say there is no power on earth that can stop the progress of this community. Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and other countries, they cannot deprive our community from rendering services to the Holy Qur’an. God once again is honouring the community and the world is witnessing this special favour. And God bestows al-qalam: penning the word of god The Review of Religions, has travelled across the world, most recently to India, Canada and Germany. The unique and historic initiative returned to the UK in July 2017, at the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community’s UK Annual Convention, where the project was first introduced and where it is now in its final phases of completion. There are over 6000 verses of the Holy Qur’an and almost over 5000 verses have been written across the world by both men and women, young and old. Another unique aspect of this project is that it is open to Muslims and non- Muslims alike, since the Holy Qur’an is the word of God and revealed for the whole of mankind and calls for people to respect and love one another regardless of race, colour, religion or creed. The Al-Qalam Project has had a monumental impact and has achieved global recognition. Dr Kaleem Malik from the US took part in the Al-Qalam project for the first time this year at the UK annual convention and said, ‘This is a unique distinction that again proves the truth of the living text of the Holy Qur’an, that this is how it was compiled fourteen hundred years ago. And once again, Razwan Baig has now assembled and reproduced this history within the last 3 years and this time it has been blessed by Khalifah- tul-Masihaba [His Holiness Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad]. So I had an opportunity myself to write a verse of the Holy Qur’an in this project and I think it is now expanding to every country – Muslims, non-Muslims – in every continent of the world there are people who are taking part in this exhibition and putting together the copy of the Holy Qur’an, the first and only of its kind.’ Among the many guests who attended the annual convention was The Rt Hon Earl Howe. Describing this historic project, he said, ‘I think the Qur’an writing project is inspirational, the idea that after all this time we should celebrate the writing of the Qur’an by real people in real handwriting.Some skill that,for natural The Al-Qalam Project was founded by Razwan Baig, who owns of one of the largest collections of Islamic artefacts in Europe. The Review of Religions Among the many participants of the Al-Qalam Project were those who had fled from countries where Ahmadis faced severe persecution and were not allowed to even call themselves Muslims, let alone be able to own and read the Holy Qur’an. There are over 6000 verses of the Holy Qur’an and almost over 5000 verses have been written across the world by both men and women, young and old. 60 THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS | DECEMBER 2017 DECEMBER 2017 | THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 61
  32. 32. people of different countries and faith which in essence is the very purpose of this book. The historic script being compiled does not only demonstrate the great love Ahmadis have for this holy text but is also reintroducing the sacred art and inspiring the next generation of Islamic calligraphers. ........................................................ About the Author: Shahzad Ahmed is a staff member of The Review of Religions and is editor of the Islam & Contemporary Issues section. He is an Imam of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and also has a BA (Hons) in English Literature. He is a regular panelist on worldwide television channel MTA International. ............................................................... endnotes 1. Jurgen Wasim Fremgen, The Aura of Aliph: The Art of Writing in Islam, (New York: Prestel, 2010). His favours on whom He pleases.’ Serjeel Ahmad, a young Imam who recently graduated from Jamia Ahmadiyya, the training seminary for missionaries of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, also had the opportunity to take part in the Al-Qalam Project. Sharing his experience, he said, ‘I am a missionary from Canada and you know, going through the seven years [the length of the program at Jamia Ahmadiyya] you really get a good feel of what the Holy Qur’an is, of the translation and of the essence and how beautiful the commentary behind it is. Especially if you look at the commentary of Hazrat Musleh Maudra [Hazrat Mirza Bashir-ud-din Mahmud Ahmad, second worldwide head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community between 1914-1965] and you ponder over the Holy Qur’an and it really,really widens your mind. And pondering over the verse that I was writing today it felt as if those words were specifically meant for me and I think that is the beauty of theHolyQur’an.AndIthinkthisproject is amazing because Allah the Almighty has promised that He Himself is going to safeguard the Holy Qur’an and Alhamdulillah, we as Ahmadis, today we’re proud to be flag bearers of those who are defending the faith. And so it was a great feeling writing everything down and Alhamdulillah I’m very, very happy being part of this project.’ The Holy Qur’an is the sacred word of God revealed as the final law for all mankind and grants everlasting peace and security to all. The Al- Qalam project has proved to be a truly influential initiative, bringing together The Al-Qalam Project has attracted participants from all over the world, including Germany, Canada, the United States, and India. The Review of Religions The Review of Religions 62 THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS | DECEMBER 2017 DECEMBER 2017 | THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 63
  33. 33. The Promised Messiahas & imam mahdi ( g u i d e d o n e ) founder of the review of religions Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas D arkness has completely pervaded the world and the flickering lamp of righteousness is about to die out. Customary belief, traditional knowledge and super- ficial prayers can no longer bring back its faded light. Can the blind lead the blind? Can darkness dispel darkness? No! A new minaret has to be built on the earth which rises above the lowly dwellings,so that the heavenly lamp may be placed on it, and the whole world may be illuminated by its light.How can light reach distant places unless it is placed somewhere high? What does the minaret symbolise? It represents the holy, pure and resolute soul,which is given to that perfect man who is wor- thy of heavenly light,and this meaning is inherent in the word ‘minaret’ itself. The loftiness of the minaret signifies the high resolve of such a man,its strength signifies the fortitude which he shows at times of trial,and its pristine whiteness represents his innocence,which must ultimately be established.And when all this has taken place, i.e. when his truthfulness has been established with arguments, and his fortitude, steadfastness, patience and perseverance has become apparent like a shining minaret, the period of his first advent – which was marked by trials and tribulations – comes to an end, and the time is now What Does The Minaret Symbolise?
  34. 34. ripe for him to appear in glory. Spirituality, which is imbued with Divine glory, descends upon him who is like a minaret, and invests him with Divine powers by God’s permission. All this happens in his second advent, and this is exactly the man- ner in which the Promised Messiah was supposed to appear. The traditions prevalent among the Muslims which speak, for instance, of his descent near a minaret, are only meant to sig- nify that his advent will be a glorious one and that he will be accompanied by Divine power.Heaven holds him back until the time God has appointed for his advent,but this does not mean that he was not [physically] present on the earth before that.1 endnotes 1. Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas , How To Be Free From Sin (Tilford, Surrey: Islam International Publications, 2008), 6-7. Deep in the heart of the Arab Peninsula, amidst the desert and the valleys of Pharan, stands a modest bricked structure. This monument is undisputedly the single most sacred, revered and Holy Shrine of Islam; the compass point for which the Muslim world aligns itself on a daily basis in prostration to God. Its name is the Ka’bah, literally translating from Arabic as ‘the cube’, but is synonymously referred to as Baytul Haram or ‘the Sacred House’. It was established for the benefit of the whole of mankind, to act as a centre for the unification of humanity. Does its inception lie with the earliest human populations – viz-a- viz Adamas and his Community – or were Abrahamas and his son Ishmaelas the individuals responsible for its initial erection? And what purpose does the Ka’bah actually serve? Purchase print copy: http://store.alislam.org/englishbooks.html
  35. 35. And hardly without cause.Many Muslim countries have serious issues with wom- en’s rights – in Saudi Arabia,probably the most notable example, women are con- trolled by a male guardian, usually their father or their husband, for their whole lives.Until this year,when the rules were relaxed somewhat, they could not work, study or even see a doctor without his permission; in public, they must be cov- ered head-to-toe. The abuse of women’s rights under Islamist fundamentalist regimes like the Taliban and ISIS is well documented. And even in the UK,cases like the mur- ders of Celine Dookhran and Shafilea Ahmed, the latter by her own parents, certainly suggest that in some Muslim The annual convention ( Jalsa Salana) of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community UK is a unique event that brings more than 35,000 participants from more than 110 countries to increase religious knowledge and promote a sense of peace and brother- hood. While speakers discuss a range of religious topics and their relevance to contemporary society, the most distinguishing feature of this convention is that it is blessed by the presence of His Holiness Hazrat Mir- za Masroor Ahmadaba , the Head of the worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Com- munity, delivering four faith-inspiring addresses over three days. Journalist Sarah Linney attended Jalsa Salana for the first time in 2017 and pub- lished her thoughts on the event in our August 2017 issue – here, she returns to nar- rate her unique experience on the women’s only side of the convention and on being a Muslim woman in the west. __________________________ A s well as all being Britain-hating terrorists, Muslims are horren- dous misogynists too – the men sadistic oppressors, the women mousey nonentities too terrified to speak from behind their burqas. Sorry, sorry, I got confused there – that was meant to be the intro to my piece of Britain First propaganda. But seriously – bring up the subject of Islam with a few people you know and you’ll soon find many of them don’t consider it a religion that treats women well. What True Islam Is Really All About: Women Speak Out Many Muslim countries have serious issues with women’s rights – in Saudi Arabia, probably the most notable example, women are controlled by a male guardian, usually their father or their husband, for their whole lives. BY SARAH LINNEY, KENT, UK People often believe that Islam promotes sexism because of groups such as the Taliban in Afghanistan, who sought to confine women. However, true Islam encourages women to use their skills and talents. Above right, women from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community participate in a workshop on disseminating the truth about Islam and women’s rights. Travel Stock | Shutterstock Lajna Imaillah UK 68 THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS | DECEMBER 2017 DECEMBER 2017 | THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 69
  36. 36. institution, and was founded in 859 by Fatima Al-Fihri. ‘There was a whole culture before Islam where they believed that whereas a son would take care of your property and take your name forward,daughters were like a curse,’explained Zain, one of my guides around the site. ‘The Holy Prophetsa replaced this culture totally.’ Subby added:‘What has happened in the past 200 years is that some places have lost the Islamic spirit and gone back to what their culture was – so it does appear that the West has advanced but other countries are oppressing women.’ There was so much to see, do and read on the men’s side that it was around 6pm by the time I headed over to the women. As I slipped and slid through the mud (it had rained all day; the people who told me it was the ‘Muslim Glastonbury’ weren’t wrong), I was keen to see if the ladies would bear out the men’s words. I was welcomed by Samia Ahmad,a sci- ence teacher from Guildford, and Sadia Khan,32,who is originally from Toronto but now lives in south London (Samia won’t tell me her age.) Sadia’s greeting - ‘I love your eyeshadow!’– got things off to a families,women and girls are still viewed as little more than chattels who only have the right to live as long as they surrender their independence. So is this actually how Islam is supposed to be – or is it a case of people misin- terpreting the teachings, accidentally or deliberately, for their own agenda? Because it doesn’t tally at all with the Muslim women I know,nor indeed with the men. The idea of anyone trying to oppress my friends Faiza and Jamila is less plausible than the idea of Donald Trump giving up Twitter – and many of the Muslim men I’ve met exude gen- tleness, kindness and attentiveness. Do Muslim women really feel like second- class citizens – or are those of us who think there’s only one, western way to be emancipated actually the unenlight- ened ones? This was one of the things I intended to find out at this year’s Jalsa Salana – the UK’s biggest Muslim convention, held on farmland in Hampshire in July and attended by almost 38,000 people from around the world. The site is divided into men’s and wom- en’s sections – you can read about my experiences of the men’s site here – and the men have already given me their take on the matter. Subby, who picked me up from the station, told me as we drove in: ‘Women in Islam have a lot of rights. They were given the right to own property and the right to vote by Mohammedsa , who made it very clear that daughters are just as important as sons. The first university was built by a Muslim lady.’ The University of Al Quaraouiyine in Fez, Morocco, is indeed the world’s old- est continuously operating educational The University of Al Quaraouiyine, shown above, is the world's oldest continuously operating educational institution – and was founded by a Muslim woman. Jose Ignacio Soto | Shutterstock So is this actually how Islam is supposed to be – or is it a case of people misinterpreting the teachings, accidentally or deliberately, for their own agenda? what true islam is really all about: women speak out In Islam, a woman's money is entirely her own. Nobody, including her husband, has a right to that money. This right was only established in the UK in the 1800s, while it has been established in Islam for over 1400 years. BigTunaOnline | Shutterstock 70 THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS | DECEMBER 2017 DECEMBER 2017 | THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 71
  37. 37. at women and not to be promiscuous, and to observe modesty.’Women are also told to do the same, of course – but the Qur’an mentions the requirements for men first. And yet. I like my hair, and I would not want to cover it routinely with a head- scarf. Do Muslim women not find such a requirement restrictive? Samia tells me she doesn’t – that it’s more about keeping a bit of mystery, some- thing special between herself and the man she’s married to that the rest of the world’s males don’t get to see. ‘If you are displaying your beauty to eve- ryone,there’s nothing special about it.A woman’s beauty is just for her husband and the people close to her – her father or her son,’she said. ‘Here there is a concept that if your body is beautiful,you must show it off.People do look at you and judge you – but if you look at the teachings of Christianity and Judaism, they teach modesty for women too. We’re told to follow the example of Mary,the mother of Jesus,and she always covered her hair.’ (Men are also told to look to Mary as an example of modest and pious behaviour.) ‘Women feel more secure when they are covered up.But we can dress up as much as we want.And you never have to worry about a bad hair day,’she added. good start: not only do I love makeup,I’m well disposed to anyone who tells me it still looks nice after I’ve spent four hours outside in the drizzle. Over the three days of the festival, there will be 10,000 women here – and just like on the men’s side,every aspect of the event is run by a team of around 2,000 volunteers.Women from all walks of life pile in to do everything from cleaning the toilets to security-checking everyone who comes onto the site.And a woman’s place is definitely not in the kitchen here – the one thing the men do for the women is the cooking, and with 30,000 meals a day to prepare, I didn’t see any women shedding any tears over renouncing that particular responsibility. There are tents for everything from wor- ship to clothes and jewellery shopping, three dining halls and a huge dormitory where up to 1,000 women can camp on- site, sleeping side by side on mattresses on the floor. After a quick tour of some of the tents, the three of us sit down to talk about their status as women in Islam. According to Sadia – the more vocal of the two - the subjugation of women that happens in some Muslim countries and communities doesn’t actually derive from what Islam says. ‘A lot of it has to do with culture,not the proper teachings of Islam,’she explains. ‘Islam was the first religion to give women the right to divorce and have an inheritance.It’s in the Quran: if a woman makes money it’s her own. Her husband has no right to that money. We’ve had those rights for 1,400 years; the Western world only got them within the last hun- dred years.’ But what about the hijab – the require- ment for Muslim women to cover their hair,and dress in a way that doesn’t reveal their bodies, every time they leave the house or are in the presence of a man outside their close family? In fact, although hijab has come to be shorthand for the headscarf Muslim women wear, it also has a much broader meaning: the Islamic requirement for both men and women to dress and behave modestly. Muslim scholar Qasim Rashid explains: ‘The primary responsibility of observing hijab is not on women – it is on men. Too many men forget it applies to us first. Men are commanded not to stare Mary, the mother of Jesusas , always covered her hair, showing that Christianity also has a strong tradition of modesty. i7do | Shutterstock In fact, although hijab has come to be shorthand for the headscarf Muslim women wear, it also has a much broader meaning: the Islamic requirement for both men and women to dress and behave modestly. what true islam is really all about: women speak out 72 THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS | DECEMBER 2017 DECEMBER 2017 | THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 73

×