Queen Elizabeth I and Sir Walter Raleigh: A reflection

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Ataul Fatir Tahir, Al Hakam

Black Friday and Cyber Monday saw online retail, shopping centres and billboards flooded with adverts of consumerism that aimed to cling onto the ever-growing acquisitiveness of modern-day society.

Pope Francis, between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, warned of the “virus” of consumerism “that corrodes faith” and which will “shine everywhere this month” leading up to Christmas.

For believers, the world around us is increasingly antagonistic towards the ultimate goal of pleasing God and serving humanity properly. At times, we need to question whether our ship is sailing towards a harbour or drifting aimlessly into an abyss – are we ready to sacrifice our faith over the spectacle the world has to offer?

Since the very inception of Islam Ahmadiyyat, a constant and recurring theme by the Promised Messiah, peace be upon him, and that of his Khulafa has been to give precedence to faith whenever the hindering extravagance of materialism comes knocking at our door and diverts us away from the objectives Allah has set.

An interesting story to reflect upon regarding this topic was related by Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Vaa during a Friday Sermon on 17 October 2014, who narrated it from a sermon by Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra.

Sir Walter Raleigh \ Wiki Commons

The incident was a story of sacrifice between Queen Elizabeth I and the influential statesman, Sir Walter Raleigh. Queen Elizabeth I acceded to throne in 1558 and reigned over England for 45 years. She was a famous queen and it was during her reign that England gained power and prominence. The Queen was famously known to have well-dressed, elegant and joyful courtiers around her, and anyone who did not wear expensive and luxurious clothes was not allowed in her court. That is why it is said that youngsters who were very well dressed and of jubilant temperament would surround the Queen.

Once, she was going somewhere on foot with her close acquaintances when they reached a muddy spot that was a minor hindrance in their path. Present with the Queen was also Sir Walter Raleigh, who was very close and faithful to the Queen. Raleigh was known to be a man of class and would dress very well. When he saw the mud that stood in the way of the Queen, he immediately took off the valuable and expensive cloak he was wearing and lay it down on the mud, even though the spot was of insignificance.

Huzooraa narrated that the Queen was astonished and asked with great surprise as to why Raleigh had placed such a valuable cloak above the muddy spot. Sir Walter Raleigh responded by saying that “it is better for Raleigh’s coat to be spoiled than the Queen’s shoes to get dirty”.

From that time onwards, he was shown special favour at court and was granted great trusts. Later, during the reign of King James I, he was charged with treason and later executed although he had made many expeditions to North America during the reign of King James I.

Huzooraa explained that the moral of this story is that despite being a man of elegance and fashion, Walter Raleigh forfeited his own looks and fashion for the Queen. Thus, if a worldly person can sacrifice his valuable coat and give up his flair as he did, Huzooraa said, “We should ponder over how much we need to do for the advancement and propagation of Islam, to strengthen and maintain it and to attain the pleasure of our Creator. Is our objective not even as dear to us as Raleigh’s love for the Queen’s pleasure?”

Despite his service, Sir Walter Raleigh’s end was painful. “But when one seeks God’s pleasure, one becomes the recipient of divine blessings and also has an excellent ending. We should always remember that it is not enough to simply have incredible great objectives, until one also has the same level of sacrifice and passion. God’s pleasure can be attained when the world does not precede our faith, rather, our faith precedes the world.”

Hazrat Amirul Momineenaa explained that God has not forbidden us to earn a living in the world. It is indeed warrantable to wear elegant, valuable clothes, and eat fine foods, however all this would be unwarrantable if it became a hindrance in the advancement of Islam. It is certainly not forbidden to wear fine clothes, however restraint is enjoined to not absorb oneself so much in fashion and trends that one loses their sense of religious tasks. Owing to their fineness, one’s clothes should not become an impediment in the service of faith. Rather than pay attention to Salat, one should not be worried about getting their clothes creased or ruined.

Islam teaches not to be negligent about religious work and in this way, one can pay the dues of giving precedence to faith over worldly matters.

Huzooraa quoted the Promised Messiahas in this regard:

“Look, there are two types of people: firstly, those who accept Islam and then become engrossed in worldly business and trade and Satan overcomes them. I do not mean here that trade is forbidden. The Companionsra were also traders, but they gave precedence to faith over worldly matters. When they accepted Islam, they attained true knowledge which filled their hearts with conviction about Islam. This is the reason why they did not falter in any field in facing Satan’s attacks. Nothing stopped them from expressing the truth.

“Those who become slaves of the world become adherents of the world and Satan overcomes and vanquishes such people. The other type of people are those who are concerned about the advancement of faith. This is the group which is referred to as ‘Hizbullah’ [the party of Allah]. They triumph over Satan and his hosts.” (Malfuzat, Vol.3, pp.193-194)

This sermon of Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Vaa – 17 October 2014 – is a stark reminder of our responsibilities and a point of reflection for all Muslims living in the current climate of materialism and atheism.

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