Dr Zaki Ahmad, UK
In his book, The Common Thread, John Sulston, a Nobel Prize-winning scientist, recalls the political and academic struggles of the Human Genome Project – a scientific endeavour aimed at determining the entire sequence of human DNA. This achievement has often been likened to sending a man to the moon. He chose to title his biographical account The Common Thread due to the fact that DNA is what unites us all. However, another thread exists that seeks to bind humanity together. In this article, I will describe how the blessings and prayers of Hazrat Amirul Momineenaa have tremendously helped me at every step. I cannot imagine my life without them.
The earliest indirect interaction I have on record with the Khalifa of the time dates back to 14 March 1998, when my father wrote to Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IVrh, informing Huzoorrh of my admission to primary school. My father specifically mentioned that upon finding out I had been accepted, the five-and-a-half-year-old me ran to my mother and said, “Look, Mum! I got in only because of Huzoor’saa prayers.” My father narrated this incident to Huzoorrh and further requested prayers for excelling in education.
At the time, I lived in Rabwah, and although I had never met Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IVrh – and never would – I remember writing to him on a regular basis, as other Ahmadi children in Rabwah (and across the world) did and still do.
Being below average in education, prayers and the blessings of Khilafat have been my only source of progress, despite my numerous failures and shortcomings. I previously wrote for Al-Hakam (www.alhakam.org/blessings-of-khilafat-from-blue-blood-cells-to-a-phd-in-biology/) in which I mentioned the series of events that led me to be a recipient of a prestigious scholarship to pursue a PhD in plant science. Starting a PhD is one thing; finishing it is another. Thousands of students start a PhD every year in the UK, but many, unfortunately, do not see it through to the end. I would have been one of them had it not been for the prayers of Huzooraa. On one occasion, I had firmly decided to quit my PhD on a Friday and had made up my mind to submit the relevant form on the following Monday. In this desperate situation, I wrote a letter to Huzooraa for prayers, and it so happened that I had a very uplifting meeting with my supervisor on Monday that rejuvenated my passion to complete the PhD project. It was only through Huzoor’saa prayers that Allah provided the means to save the PhD.
However, my renewed passion would later diminish. It was during this very low moment in my PhD years that I had an interaction with Huzooraa, which once again saved my PhD. I was at the Fazl Mosque, and it so happened that I was standing where Huzooraa was going to walk past. As Huzooraa was walking by, he looked at me and quietly inquired, “Has your research started?” I couldn’t hear what Huzooraa said and therefore couldn’t answer Huzoor’saa question. Someone later clarified it to me, but I believe that in Huzoor’saa inquiry, there was a prayer in itself that once again set me back on track.
But once again, I would slip!
It was again during one of these dark moments that I had a mulaqat with Huzooraa, during which Huzooraa gave me a pen and said, “Write Bismillah [with this pen] and start your thesis.” I must mention that I did not request a pen, nor did I mention my ongoing struggle to complete the PhD. I was also not at the planning stage to begin my thesis. It was solely by Allah’s grace that Huzooraa prayed for me and gifted me the pen. Through Huzoor’saa prayers, I successfully completed the thesis and passed my viva with minor corrections towards the end of 2020. Alhamdulillah.
As I have briefly described situations during my PhD when I found myself standing on the edge of a cliff due to my own faults and weaknesses, it was Huzoor’saa blessed and holy presence that saved my PhD. I am deeply convinced that it was solely the blessings of Khilafat, and nothing else that rescued me during those challenging years, and no one can persuade me otherwise.
There is nothing extraordinary about someone having a PhD, but what is extraordinary in my case is the fact that I never planned, prepared, or even thought of pursuing a PhD. I am the first in my extended family to complete a PhD, and while I personally feel extremely undeserving and undesiring of being called a doctor, it is also a fulfilment of Huzoor’saa blessed words.
Around 2010, my father and I had a mulaqat where Huzooraa asked me what I wanted to be, and I, like most Asian kids, said, “Doctor!” Huzooraa paused for several seconds and said, “It seems like you will become a doctor.” In one mulaqat, Huzooraa called me a “philosopher.” During a mulaqat in my high school years, Huzooraa gave me a pen and then took a second one from the drawer, saying, “Here, take a second one, as you write a lot.” Many of us have witnessed that whatever Huzooraa says, even sometimes light comments, are fulfilled to the letter. It is my belief that my PhD, which literally means Doctor of Philosophy and requires a lot of writing in the form of a thesis, was an amalgamation of all these blessed moments I had with Huzooraa.
As far as educational “degrees” are concerned, a PhD is the highest. In a mulaqat in the summer of 2012, I presented a gift to Huzooraa which he kindly accepted and read the following part of a couplet:
تو شاہیں ہے بسیرا کر پہاڑوں کى چٹانوں میں
It could be translated as “You are a falcon, so fly high above the rocks of mountaintops.” These words of Huzooraa once again formed a prayer for me. This line is from a poem called Aik Naujawan ke Naam, meaning To the Young Man by Allama Iqbal. Written in the early 20th century, the poet encourages Muslims to think beyond materialism and not limit themselves to small, easily achievable goals. As it is my strong belief that this couplet served as a prayer for me, through Allah’s grace during my PhD, I have had the chance to present my research on three different continents and interact with the inner circle of Nobel laureates, including a Nobel laureate. Something I had never imagined at the time, these interactions with pioneering scientists have also motivated me to aim high and move beyond goals that can be reached without struggle.
A PhD is all well and good, but the next step is securing employment.
Securing a research job offer is not straightforward because, over the past few decades, there have been many more PhDs produced every year than there are research jobs available, leading many to pursue non-research-related careers. The difficulty in finding employment has been further exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has sadly resulted in millions of people being made redundant. Amidst this crisis, my only hope lay in Huzoor’saa prayers and the accompanying grace from Allah. Alhamdulillah, I received a job offer within a few weeks of being awarded the PhD. Obtaining this particular job is also a fulfilment of Huzoor’saa blessed words.
Around three years ago, I happened to be in the right place at the right time. I was in one of the offices at the Fazl Mosque, where Huzooraa was going to walk past (although I was unaware of this). There was a flower bouquet in front of me. As Huzooraa walked past, he made a light comment and said, “Are you doing research on flowers?” At the time, I was pursuing my PhD and focused on roots, never considering working on flowers. In fact, I found the topic of flowering research rather uninteresting!
When it came to applying for different research positions, I submitted applications for many different projects. I came close to receiving a job offer for a biology-related project. However, when I applied for my current job, I had no expectations of even securing an interview, and the interview itself lasted for less than 10 minutes. After the interview, I once again had absolutely no thought of being offered the job, yet I was. My current project addresses the question, “Do plant organs and computers process information in the same way?” My experimental focus is on the control of flowering time. While I’m not directly involved in flower research per se, but rather in the series of events that lead to flower development, it is far closer to flower research than working on seeds or roots! This, once again, is a fulfilment of the blessed words of God’s chosen one. Alhamdulillah.
The truth is that God wishes to demonstrate to the world how His grace can elevate a humble individual. For the past four years or so, Huzooraa has been narrating the life stories of the Companions of the Battle of Badr, and we have been learning how, from a worldly perspective, many of the companions were considered weak. Yet, as a collective and through God’s Grace, these ordinary individuals achieved extraordinary things. It is my belief that God wishes to show the same in today’s age through the blessings of Hazrat Khalifatul Masih, may Allah always be his Helper.