Rameen Masood, Leicester, UK
Three weeks into January. The world has returned to the hubbub of life, with schools and universities opening for work and regular routines resuming. The world continues to receive its share of positive and negative news. Where tunnels of darkness are emerging, the light of hope isn’t too distant. The law of nature has created everything in pairs, so where there are tragedies or problems, the keys to happiness and solutions follow suit.
As we continue treading the path of 2023, I thought I’d take this opportunity to reflect. So, when reflecting upon the nineteen years of my existence, I believe four points have become crystal clear to me.
The first one is: Prayer has power. Cosmic power.
And, to unleash its power, no magical spells or subtle use of alchemy is required. Instead, righteous intentions, humility and hope are the prerequisites.
Allah the Almighty is al-Mujeeb, the Answerer of Prayers. I’m sure we all have had those experiences where our prayers have been answered, and we have felt the force of His mercy unfurl from unexpected avenues. Personally speaking, Allah the Almighty has accepted so many of my prayers that it is impossible to brush off such incidents as mere coincidences. From prayers about educational pursuits to praying that a letter to Hazrat Amirul Momineenaa is successfully faxed in the first attempt – prayers which may seem trivial in the grand scheme of things, but to me, they serve as decisive proofs for the existence of the Almighty.
As humans, we cannot foretell the future, so we can never be sure what another year has in store for us. What treasure troves of joy await us, or what fringes of challenges we may have to overcome. Etymologically speaking, the term ‘year’ seems to loosely translate to ‘that which makes a complete cycle’. (www.etymonline.com/word/year)
So, through the four seasons of happiness and hardships, our lives complete an entire cycle.
This reminds me of the ‘Circle of Life’ from The Lion King, which is based on a similar principle of traversing the countless waves that come to subvert the ark of life. In a similar vein, Islam encourages us to continue striving and to remain resilient. It encapsulates how hope is always present around us. Our faith teaches us to hold fast to the mantle of prayer, as through its power, it is possible to achieve even that which may seem impossible. And I do not say this lightly.
The second lesson I have learnt is intrinsically linked to the first. The blessings of following the directives of the Holy Prophetsa and the Promised Messiahas. The essence of remaining obedient to Khilafat is a beacon of guidance for our spiritual and moral reformation. Whether that is encouraging us to excel in our studies or answering our everyday questions through mulaqats and letters, beloved Huzooraa has always guided us and continues to do so.
From the Friday sermons regarding the lives of the Companionsra to highlighting the example of righteous women of Islam, beloved Huzooraa has provided us with many qualities we can learn from. Whether that’s trying to learn from the Holy Prophet’ssa boundless love for the Holy Quran, or striving to inculcate the exceptional kindness and service of Hazrat Abu Bakrra towards the poor, where he would himself feed morsels of food to a lame and blind man. Or perhaps even aiming to experience the utmost joy that Hazrat Amma Janra, the blessed wife of the Promised Messiahas, found in her prayers, for every quality emulated from the chosen people of Allah is like ascending one rung higher on the ladder of righteousness.
In fact, on 25 December 2022, Lajna Imaillah, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Women’s Organisation celebrated its centenary. Amidst the omphalos of celebration, the event encouraged us to strive to follow in the footsteps of the inspiring role models whose indelible marks of sacrifice and righteousness have been etched in the archives of the past century; to follow with our souls embodying their zeal and fortitude so that we too can serve the faith and attain our Lord’s nearness, insha-Allah.
When we listen to such pious examples, many a time, it seems as if they are somewhat unachievable. But the start to everything hard is by making small changes within ourselves, which brings me to my third point: the importance of small steps and how even they can make a pronounceable difference.
In a figurative sense, the world stands on the unfortunate precipice of chaos and destruction. We are teetering on the edge. To prevent the world from plunging into the deep abyss, practical steps must be implemented where all of us can play a part.
As a 19-year-old, I doubt I could do something that would revolutionise the world overnight, and that’s a worthwhile lesson. It is essential to realise that we do not always have to try and shift boulders. Even picking the small pebbles in our paths could lead to lasting impacts. Even the smallest of our acts could make a difference. For instance, the small changes we create within ourselves. The small steps we take towards God, the small acts of voluntary service we do, also paint their unique strokes upon the canvas of our lives and form the nexus points of united communities and peaceful lands.
Lastly, I have learnt how reflection and self-reformation form the fulcrum of our lives and souls.
When looking back into the mirror of 2022 and observing the reflections of our actions and events, I don’t await a perfect reflection to look me in the eye. All interactions and events that become a part of us are like the jigsaw pieces of the puzzle of our life. They bring windows of opportunities and hurdles, moulding us all the time.
I believe that the essence of a new year is self-reflection and looking forward to implementing new habits in one’s life, while also ensuring that previous, good ones persist.
For a moment, imagine that no concept of a year had ever been invented. That would beget a string of questions: How would we have kept track of time? How would we have chronologically structured salient events from the past? How would months have existed? Would they have even existed in the first place?
Therefore, it is categorically established that the concept of a ‘year’ is fundamental to us physically. But, in my view, it extends further and helps us spiritually. Whilst a new year isn’t needed to bring changes within ourselves, I think its prospect certainly helps as it proffers a renewed sense of hope and an intense zeal for self-reformation. It offers an opportunity for us to cogitate, consider and change.
Islam champions the art of reflection, as the Holy Quran professes: “And He has subjected to you whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is in the earth: all [this is] from Him. In that surely are Signs for a people who reflect.” (Surah al-Jathiyah Ch.45: V.14)
So, the reflection I speak of is not confined just to our deeds but also to the universe around us. It is the reflection that helps us search for our God. If we were to sit down and contemplate the world around us, an avalanche of thoughts would fill our heads; from the design of the celestial bodies, and the fashioning of the intricate anatomy of the human body to the creation of water. It is an endless list.
And it is rightly so, as the treasures of Allah the Almighty are unceasing, the deeper we endeavour, the more we shall discover. In fact, this philosophy has been most eloquently described by the Promised Messiahas in the following words:
“Allah the Exalted has put before us a matchless and precious treasure that we can find and attain. […] In fact, each and every individual can have this treasure. Allah Almighty has no shortage. He has the power to give everyone these treasures, yet there would be no decrease in them.” (Malfuzat [English], Vol. II, p. 132)
To pursue those treasures, we must continue improving ourselves. Just like the four cardinal directions help us navigate, I believe that these four points can form the moral compass of our life’s course.
So, as we continue our journey in 2023, I see it as another year to polish our soul’s diamond, to continue refining it so that it scintillates brighter than before. For truly, no pious soul can ever return empty-handed from the Lord’s gracious court.
May Allah the Almighty enable us to become His righteous servants, and may we attain His love and special nearness. Amin.
یا رب ہے تیرا احساں میں تیرے در پہ قرباں
تو نے دیا ہے ایماں تو ہر زماں نگہباں
“O Lord, it is Thy grace – I offer myself at Thy door; Thou granted me the Faith; Thou’rt the Protector at all times.” (Durr-e-Sameen, English Translation, p. 43)