Ayesha Naseem, UK
Humans are humans, after all. Sometimes, no matter how much one tries, it can be difficult to maintain hope and to keep searching for the silver lining, as they say. These days are being spent trying to comprehend the gravity of what is happening in the Gaza Strip; each day brings more disbelief than the last. The aggression is crossing all the limits a human brain could envisage. Yet, three months later, there is still no end in sight.
Indeed, it is times like these where faith can keep one standing, where it can keep one to continue to look out for a silver lining. When it feels that all possible means have been exhausted and it reaches a point where one feels powerless at the unfolding oppression and barbarity and how no one in power is trying to stop it, it is then that one’s faith directs a person to remember and realise that there is one thing that will eternally stay useful and will produce results. One method that can never be enough and can never be exhausted. That is prayer.
In the Holy Quran, it is said:
الَّذِيۡنَ اٰمَنُوۡا وَتَطۡمَئِنُّ قُلُوۡبُہُمۡ بِذِکۡرِ اللّٰہِ ؕ اَلَا بِذِکۡرِ اللّٰہِ تَطۡمَئِنُّ الۡقُلُوۡبُ
“‘Those who believe, and whose hearts find comfort in the remembrance of Allah. Aye! it is in the remembrance of Allah that hearts can find comfort.” (Surah ar-Ra‘d, Ch.13: V.29)
Belief in Allah the Almighty and the facility that a believer has in the form of a prayer are enormous blessings. These past few weeks and months are enough to leave one wondering if the absolute significance of this blessing is ever truly recognised by us.
Optimism in light of the situation in Gaza
Looking around at the world and not being able to fathom the sheer evil being inflicted on innocents, where families per family are being buried in mass graves, where children are having to console other children over the loss of their parents and homes, and then seeing that the so-called “powerful” and “civilised side” of the world is doing nothing but silently watching over as if it were something normal.
One really and truly begins to question: Where does one go after witnessing all this? What became of this world that enabled this? How do you go back to making things “okay” again?
The immediate answer would be that you can’t or that it’s naïve to still be optimistic.
But Islam teaches us that optimism is a strength. Even at the point of extreme hardship, showing patience and keeping hope for relief is a strength. Because in doing so, an oppressed person or those trying to be the voice of the oppressed undermine an oppressor’s ability to exhaust their efforts in stopping them. Instead, the voice of the oppressed and those siding with the oppressed only gain more momentum.
Nevertheless, prayer remains the most pivotal. After all, fervent prayers and staunch faith in Allah the Almighty can move mountains; they can bring about miracles. For Allah the Almighty, nothing is impossible and never is too late or too early.
Allah’s omnipotence and the Holy Quran on hope and suffering
Allah the Almighty is مقتدر al-Muqtadir, that is, Omnipotent. When we say Ya Qadir (O Possessor of Power!), we ask Allah the Almighty for a special manifestation of His power. When we say Ya Muqtadir (O Omnipotent!), we pray that Allah Almighty manifests His power in support of His servants and against His enemies. (“Names of Allah: ar-Rabb, as-Samad, al-Ghaniyy, al-Wājid, al-Mughnī, ar-Razzāq, al-Muqīt, al-Qādir, al-Qadīr, al-Muqtadir, ad-Dārr, an-Nāfi’, al-Qawiyy, Dhul Quwwah, al-Matīn”, www.alhakam.org)
Furthermore, in the Holy Quran, one finds a promise of ease for those who stay steadfast. Allah the Almighty states:
فَاِنَّ مَعَ الۡعُسۡرِ يُسۡرًا اِنَّ مَعَ الۡعُسۡرِ يُسۡرًا
“Surely there is ease after hardship. [Aye], surely there is ease after hardship.” (Surah al-Inshirah, Ch.94: V.6-7)
Elsewhere, Allah the Almighty states:
وَلَا تَهِنُوۡا وَلَا تَحۡزَنُوۡا وَاَنۡتُمُ الۡاَعۡلَوۡنَ اِنۡ كُنۡتُمۡ مُّؤۡمِنِيۡنَ
“Slacken not, nor grieve; and you shall certainly have the upper hand, if you are believers.” (Surah Aal-e-Imran, Ch.3: V.140)
In terms of trials and suffering, the Promised Messiahas states:
“Allah the Exalted, however, is not cruel. When one shows patience in the face of severe hardship—the greater the hardship, the greater is His reward. God Almighty is Rahim [Merciful], Ghafur [Forgiver], and Sattar [Concealer of weaknesses]. He does not inflict hardship on Man so that he would disassociate from the Faith upon suffering the hardship. Rather, the hardships come to spur him forward [toward God]. There is a saying among the mystics that in times of trial, a sinner pulls back, but a righteous person pushes forward all the more.” (Malfuzat [English], Vol. 10, p. 102)
Maybe that’s why, sitting so far away, watching this horror happen at times feels very disheartening, and maybe despite this very horror, Palestinians in Gaza remain as resilient and as firm as ever. Despite all the pain, grief, and destruction they have to face and the conditions in which they are living with no access to necessities like food, water, electricity, or medicine, they won’t lose hope, nor are they losing faith. It’s because if they give up, then the entire world will too and with that, their whole struggle and sacrifice will also be exhausted.
Etiquette of prayer in the words of the Promised Messiahas
The Promised Messiahas has explained something similar while explaining the decorum of prayer. He writes:
“The first condition for prayer is that a supplicant should not get tired and become a prey to despair that nothing will happen. Sometimes it is seen that a prayer is carried on till it is about to be accepted and then the supplicant gets tired, and the result is failure and frustration. Frustration results in the denial and effectiveness of prayer and gradually culminates in the denial of God. […] So one should never get tired.” (Essence of Islam, Vol.II, pp. 199-200; Al Hakam, 28 February 1903, pp. 1-3)
Khilafat-e-Ahmadiyya: Guiding light and a source of hope
In recent weeks and months, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Vaa has also been guiding Ahmadi Muslims to fervently pray for the Palestinians and their freedom from the oppression they are facing. While highlighting the unjust and underwhelming response of the world powers to the situation in Gaza and the vulnerability of the United Nations in failing to preserve peace in Palestine and the wider world, Hazrat Khalifatul Masihaa still urged Ahmadis that our duty is to continue focusing on prayer.
The institution of Khilafat is indeed a blessing like no other. The constant reminder from Hazrat Khalifatul Masihaa to pray and pray fervently for the oppressed Palestinians, the peace and security of the region and the wider world is in itself a rejuvenation of one’s faith.
When repeatedly looking for updates and coming across one heinous atrocity after another, it is very easy to feel rage and helplessness before concern and fear. But it is indeed this rope of Allah, the guiding light in the form of Khilafat, that constantly gives us direction and points us to avenues where our efforts are most needed. Prayer, of course, is the most important one.
In one of his Friday Sermons, Huzooraa emphasised the importance of prayer in these difficult times and urged Ahmadi Muslims to “all we have is the weapon of prayer, which every Ahmadi should use now, more than ever before.” (Friday Sermon, 13 October 2023, “Muhammad (sa): The Great Exemplar”, www.alhakam.org)
During another Friday Sermon in subsequent weeks, Hazrat Khalifatul Masihaa said:
“We must focus a great deal on prayers. We should strive to end injustices within our own circles along with prayers. We should pray for the oppressed Muslims, and that Muslim governments are able to come up with a comprehensive and lasting plan.” (Friday Sermon, 13 October 2023, “Muhammad (sa): The Great Exemplar”, www.alhakam.org)
Indeed, making efforts to stop oppression and injustice by whatever means possible is a teaching of the Holy Quran and the Holy Prophetsa. In a recent Friday Sermon, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Vaa referred to a saying of the Holy Prophetsa which said:
“Help your brother, whether he is an oppressor or he is an oppressed one.” People asked, “O Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him)! We understand helping a person if he is oppressed, but how should we help him if he is an oppressor?” The Holy Prophetsa said, “By preventing him from oppressing others.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab al-Muzalim, Hadith 2444)
Based on this injunction and the principle of siding with justice, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Vaa also guided and instructed members of the Jamaat to write to their local politicians and government officials to pressure them to side with justice and to back a ceasefire.
Despite the majority of Western politicians initially not showing much acknowledgement or compassion for the situation in Gaza in response, the tide has started to turn. Slowly and subtly, but it has. This proves yet again that not only the instructions of Huzooraa prove to be blessed and beneficial, but with his prayers and guidance, the actions taken by the Community in obedience to his instructions bring immense blessings and results.
The extent of oppression and hardship that the Palestinians currently face in Gaza is beyond what any words could ever explain. Families are being wiped out; thousands are not getting a proper burial because either they are still under the rubble or because less and less space is available to individually bury them all; and over a million more are currently displaced within the Strip with not a single safe corner to seek refuge. Disease due to a lack of hygiene facilities and starvation due to inadequate amounts of food for a starving and desperate population are added consequences of this aggression. Totally man-made at that and easily preventable too.
Yet, despite all this and much more than words can ever put together, Palestinians won’t give up on survival. Children still play where they get a moment to; families show gratitude to sit together to eat even if it’s a piece of bread – their only meal for the day; and people still assemble at the sea when they can or capture the orange sky at sunset to appreciate whatever little nature has survived.
These are all acts of hope. This is the silver lining that they are holding on to. So, if Palestinians haven’t given up, so shouldn’t we. If Allah the Almighty rewards hope and perseverance with goodness and ease, then we must pray for that ease to come very quickly.
For those feeling powerless on how to help the Palestinians, pray. Our prayers are our hope. When it comes to answering the prayer of those who make it sincerely with a compassionate heart, the Supreme One, the Lord of All the Worlds, listens.
May Allah enable us to pray fervently for the Palestinians. May Allah accept our prayers. Amin.
I end this article with the blessed words of the prayer of Hazrat Khalifatul Masihaa:
“May Allah Almighty create the means to stop the oppression and bring relief to the oppressed Palestinians.” Amin. (Friday Sermon, 15 December 2023)