Saturday, June 27, 2009

Yusef Lateef: Ahmadi Muslim

Yusef Lateef is a Grammy Award-winning composer, performer, recording artist, author, visual artist, educator and philosopher who has been a major force on the international musical scene for more than six decades. In recognition of his many contributions to the world of music, he has been named an American Jazz Master for the year 2010 by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Still very much active as a touring and recording artist, Yusef Lateef is universally acknowledged as one of the great living masters and innovators in the African American tradition of autophysiopsychic music — that which comes from one’s spiritual, physical and emotional self.

As a virtuoso on a broad spectrum of reed instruments -- tenor saxophone, flute, oboe, bamboo flute, shanai, shofar, argol, sarewa, and taiwan koto — Yusef Lateef has introduced delightful new sounds and blends of tone colors to audiences all over the world, and he has incorporated the sounds of many countries into his own music. As a result, he is considered a pioneer in what is known today as “world music.”

As a composer, Yusef Lateef has compiled a catalogue of works not only for the quartets and quintets he has led, but for symphony and chamber orchestras, stage bands, small ensembles, vocalists, choruses and solo pianists. His extended works have been performed by the WDR (Cologne), NDR (Hamburg), Atlanta, Augusta and Detroit Symphony Orchestras, the Symphony of the New World, Eternal Wind, the GO Organic Orchestra, and the New Century Players from California Insitute of the Arts. In 1987 he won a Grammy Award for his recording of “Yusef Lateef’s Little Symphony,” on which he performed all the parts. His latest extended works include a woodwind quintet, his Symphony No.2, and a concerto for piano and orchestra.

As an educator, Yusef has devoted much of his life to exploring the methodology of autophysiopsychic music in various cultures and passing what he has learned on to new generations of students. He is an emeritus Five Colleges professor at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, MA, from which he was awarded a Ph.D. in Education in 1975. His doctoral dissertation was entitled “An Overview of Western and Islamic Education.” In 2007 he was named University of Massachusetts’ “Artist of the Year.”

As an author, Yusef Lateef has published two novellas, “A Night in the Garden of Love” and “Another Avenue;” two collections of short stories, “Spheres” and “Rain Shapes;” and his autobiography, “The Gentle Giant,” written in collaboration with Herb Boyd. In recent years he has also exhibited his paintings at various art galleries.

Yusef A. Lateef was born William Emanuel Huddleston on October 9, 1920 in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and moved with his family to Detroit in 1925. In Detroit’s fertile musical environment, Yusef soon established long-standing friendships with such masters of American music as Milt Jackson, Tommy Flanagan, Barry Harris, Paul Chambers, Donald Byrd, the Jones brothers (Hank, Thad and Elvin), Curtis Fuller, Kenny Burrell, Lucky Thompson and Matthew Rucker. He was already proficient on tenor saxophone while in high school, and at the age of 18 began touring professionally with swing bands led by Hartley Toots, Hot Lips Page, Roy Eldridge, Herbie Fields and eventually Lucky Millender. In 1949 he was invited to join the Dizzy Gillespie Orchestra.

In 1950 he returned to Detroit, where he began to study composition and flute at Wayne State University, receiving his early training in flute from Larry Teal. He also converted to Islam in the Ahmadiyya movement and took the name Yusef Lateef. From 1955–1959 he led a quintet including Curtis Fuller, Hugh Lawson, Louis Hayes and Ernie Farrell. In 1958 he began studying oboe with Ronald Odemark of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

Returning to New York in 1960, Yusef undertook further studies in flute with Harold Jones and John Wummer at the Manhattan School of Music, from which he received his Bachelor’s Degree in Music in 1969 and his Master’s Degree in Music Education in 1970. Later, as a member of the school’s theory department in 1971, he taught courses in autophysiopsychic music. From 1972–1976, he was an associate professor of music at the Borough of Manhattan Community College.

Yusef first began recording under his own name in 1956 for Savoy Records, and has since made more than 100 recordings as a leader for the Savoy, Prestige, Contemporary, Impulse, Atlantic and YAL labels. His early recordings of such songs as “Love Theme from Spartacus” and “Morning” continue to receive extensive airplay even today. He also toured and recorded with the ensembles of Charles Mingus, Cannonball Adderley, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie and Babatunde Olatunji in the 1960s.

As an instrumentalist with his own ensemble, Yusef Lateef has performed extensively in concert halls and at colleges and music festivals throughout the United States, Europe, the Middle East, Russia, Japan and Africa, often conducting master classes and symposia in conjunction with his performances. Dating from the release of the double CD “Influence” with the Belmondo Brothers in 2005, his engagements at international music festivals have increased significantly. Over the years his touring ensembles have included such master musicians as Barry Harris, Kenny Barron, Hugh Lawson, Albert Heath, Roy Brooks, Ernie Farrell, Cecil McBee, Bob Cunningham, Adam Rudolph, Charles Moore, Ralph Jones and Frederico Ramos as well as the Lionel and St├ęphane Belmondo.

Dr. Lateef’s first major work for large orchestra was his Blues Suite, also known as “Suite 16,” premiered in 1969 by the Augusta, GA Symphony Orchestra, performed in 1970 with his hometown Detroit Symphony Orchestra at the Meadowbrook Music Festival, and recorded by the WDR Orchestra in Cologne. In 1974 the NDR Radio Orchestra of Hamburg commissioned him to compose and perform the tone poem “Lalit,” and he later premiered and recorded his Symphony No.1 (Tahira) with the same orchestra.

From August 1981 until August 1985, Dr. Lateef was a senior research Fellow at the Center for Nigerian Cultural Studies at Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, Nigeria, where he did research into the Fulani flute. Sarewa is the generic name for the Fulani flute.

In 1992 Yusef Lateef formed his own label, YAL Records, to record and distribute his works and those of other artists including the Eternal Wind Quintet. One of his first recordings on the label, co-composed with percussionist Adam Rudolph, was “The World at Peace,” an extended suite requiring 12 musicians including Eternal Wind, which has received repeated performances throughout the United States.

In 1993 the WDR Orchestra producer Ulrich Kurtz commissioned Yusef Lateef’s most ambitious work to date, The African American Epic Suite, a four-movement work for quintet and orchestra representing 400 years of slavery and disfranchisement of African Americans in America. David de Villiers conducted the premiere performance and recording with the WDR Orchestra. The suite has also been performed by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra under Yoel Levi as a centerpiece of the National Black Arts Festival in 1998 and by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra under Thomas Wilkins in 2001.

Through his publishing company, Fana Music, Yusef Lateef has contributed extensively to the lexicon of performance and improvisational methodology with such works as “Yusef Lateef’s Flute Book of the Blues,” “A Repository of Melodic Scales and Patterns,” and “123 Duets for Treble Clef Instruments.” Fana has also published numerous works for chamber ensembles, stage bands, duos and wind ensemble or symphony orchestra.

Rashid Ahmad American: Mufti Muhammad Sadiq Lifetime Commitment Award 2007

Alhaji Rashid Ahmad American is a formidable opponent when it comes to defending the honorable name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) and preaching the message of Islam wherever he goes in this world.

In America, we owe a dept of gratitude to Bro. Rashid, as he is affectionately known in the African American community, for his leadership, wisdom and spiritual guidance for the thousands of converts who have come in contact with him. He has always been a humble man with a love for Islam/Ahmadiyyat. From his humble beginnings in St. Louis, Bro. Rashid's personal journey has taken him from American ghettos to an emerging nation, Pakistan, in 1945.

Bro. Rashid is a unique and self-made man, who loves the Holy Qur'an. Bro. Rashid's love for Allah and His creations is characterized by the many, many years of dedication and sacrifice by one man, who has served our community in so many leadership positions.

But for Bro. Rashid, all of his life has been for the sake of Islam. He simply says: "I'm a lover of Tabligh. If you love Islam, you must spread the message of Islam."

Who was Mufti Muhammad Sadiq?

muftisadiq.jpgHadhrat Mufti Muhammad Sadiq was an early companion of the Promised Messiah, Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as). He converted to Ahmadiyyat at an early age and dedicated the rest of his life to the service of Islam in India, USA, and Pakistan. In 1920 at the instruction of Hazrat Musleh Maud (ra), the then head of the Ahmadiyya community, Hadhrat Mufti Sadiq left India by ship to travel to the US as a missionary.

The story of his travel to the US, and subsequent stay is remarkable by any standard. He entered the US without any financial resources, and embarked upon spreading the message of Islam in an area that was completely alien to his native culture. Consequently he faced many difficulties, trials, and tribulations.

Despite the difficulties, Mufti Sadiq Sahib remained steadfast to his objective. In a span of few years, he succeeded in winning the hearts of almost 700 Americans towards Islam. He thus single-handedly initiated the Ahmadiyya Community in the US. His other achievements include starting a religious magazine, The Muslim Sunrise, for the American audience, and setting up the first missionary mosque in the US in Chicago in 1921. These efforts have borne much fruit since then. Muslim Sunrise continues its quarterly publication to this date, and can be read online at The first Ahmadi mosque in the US has been rebuilt and named Al Sadiq mosque after its founder.

What is Mufti Muhammad Sadiq Lifetime Commitment Award?

The award is given on behalf of MKA (USA) to honor individuals who symbolize the spirit of Hadhrat Mufti Muhammad Sadiq (ra). These are individuals who entered the fold of Ahmadiyyat at a time when the Ahmadiyya community was still in its infancy in the US in many respects. They are therefore, like Mufti Sadiq Sahib, the pioneers of Ahmadiyyat in the US. The award recipients also, like Mufti Sadiq sahib, faced tremendous difficulties. Yet they sacrificed their time, energy, wealth, and indeed their entire lives so that they could withhold and spread the message of Islam in the US.

What is the relationship of this award with MKA USA?

It was during their khuddam years that most of the recepients of this award entered into Islam/Ahmadiyyat. The Ahmadi youth in the US owes a great debt of gratitude to the noble souls who sacrificed so much for the sake of community. They symbolize what Khuddam ul Ahmadiyya strives for - service and sacrifice. In doing so they have created shining examples for our youth to gain inspiration from.

Who are the recipients of this award?

Rasheed Ahmad Sahib (Milwaukee) - award given at 2007 QRC in Houston.

Abid Haneef Sahib (Boston) - award given at 2007 QRC in Houston.

Sister Aliyyah Sahaheed Sahiba (Pittsburgh) - award given at 2008 Ijtema in New York.

Abdur Rahman Sahib (Baltimore) - award given at 2008 Ijtema in New York.

Yousef Abdul Lateef Sahib (Boston) - award given at 2008 Ijtema in New York.

Bilal Abdus Salaam Sahib (Philadelphia) - award given at 2008 Ijtema in New York.

Alhaj Aminullah Ahmad Sahib (Dayton) - award given at 2008 QRC in Detroit.

Dr. Bashiruddin Usama Sahib (Cleveland) - award given at 2008 QRC in Detroit.

A Milwaukee newspaper article captures the essence of Bro. Rashid:

Lecture about Islamic culture takes turn

By Gabriel Spangler

Muslims recognize Muhammad as the first prophet of Allah, but whether or not he had a legitimate successor has been a source of debate around the globe for hundreds of years. This debate, among others, recently played out at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

The short version of the story of Muhammad begins around 610 A.D., when Muhammad was on a spiritual retreat in the mountains outside Mecca and the Angel Gabriel appeared to him.

Over the next 23 years, the Angel Gabriel relayed the word of God to him. Muhammad ultimately collected these verses to form Islam’s holy document, the Quran.

When Muhammad died in 632, the religion of Islam was born. But its birth also hatched many different Islamic sects. The Sunnis, the largest sect, believe Muhammad does not have a successor. The second-largest sect, the Shiites, along with many other sects, believe Muhammad does have a successor.

On Feb. 26, the Muslim Student Association, headed by Tahir Khan, sponsored a lecture in the Union Ballroom featuring three speakers who covered the areas of Arab, Asian and African contributions to Islam in America.

This lecture was not intended to cover current Islamic conflicts, but they were unavoidable.

Caroline Seymour-Jorn, an assistant professor in foreign languages and linguistics at UWM, spoke about Arab Muslims in America. Maudood Ahmad, a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community and graduate of UWM, covered Asian Muslims. And Rashid Ahmad, a long-time pillar for the Milwaukee Chapter of the Ahmadiyya movement and regular guest on the TV show “Islam Live,” covered African Muslims.

They each spoke for about 15 to 20 minutes, giving an informative history of how the Muslims of these three ethnic regions became entrenched in American society.

Given the Bush administration’s predicament in Iraq over the past three years, the topic of Islamic strife was bound to come up. It was not long into the question-and-answer section that the word “jihad”— the term for struggle or, more commonly, holy war — came up.

A younger, devout-looking man walked up to the mike holding a copy of the Quran that had gold leaf designs on the cover. He was mumbling, and carried on about sects, jihads, and other inaudible things. No response from the guest speakers satisfied him. He eventually said, “It’s a waste of time to stay here,” then walked out.

Tension oozed into the air, and the discussion started to heat up. The guest speakers could not avoid the Iraq situation any longer.

Many audience members had baffled or stiff expressions on their faces. No one else walked out — the new subject matter was too interesting.

“Because somebody says something, you are gonna kill them?” said Rashid Ahmad. “That authority is given to no man.”

Maudood Ahmad was on the same page as his colleague.

“If you wanna fight for a piece of land, that is not a jihad,” said Maudood Ahmad. “The wars going on have nothing to do with religion.”

Maudood Ahmad would also suggest an alternative to a jihad.

“You can do with the pen what we used to do with the sword,” Maudood Ahmad said. “This is the literary age.”

The U.S. plan to democratize Iraq has led to increased terrorist attacks in that region. Car explosions, gunfire and suicide bomber attacks are daily occurrences in a country submerged in war and death.

The recent bombing of a major Shiite mosque in Samarra led to an eruption of counter attacks that spilled onto the streets of Baghdad. Many fear this new attack on one of Iraq’s oldest and most revered shrines could be a catalyst to future civil war.

“What’s going on is a lot of politics. It has nothing to do with Islam,” Kahn said. “Sunnis had a monopoly for a long time. Now they have to share the government. Everybody wants to be president.”

Back in America, Ahmadiyya Muslims — a large worldwide sect of Islam — strive for peace and unity.

“Love for all, hatred for none. That is what we strive for,” said Maudood Ahmad. “All religions come from the same God.”


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Why We Don't Eat Pork, Pig, Khinzeer, Sow

This is the poignant account of one of Dr. John Alexander Dowie's followers, WYATT B. ELDRED from the Zion Publication, Leaves of Healing April 21, 1900

This Witness was for two-score years a slave to the tobacco habit. For thirty years he was destroying his body with alcohol. For many years he not only defiled himself with swine’s flesh, but was guilty of selling it to his neighbors. He was attacked by cancer, that deadly disease which so often comes with its almost unendurable torture to complete the destruction of the body begun with tobacco and swine’s flesh. The lower part of his face was literally rotting away….

Delton, Berry County, Michigan, March 28, 1900

Dear General Overseer: At the earnest request of J. W. Briggs I went to see Elder Stevens on July 26, 1899, when he was here holding meetings. I was a sinner sixty-five years old, having never made a profession of faith in Christ.

About four years ago, a livid blue mark appeared on the point of my chin. It rapidly developed into an offensive cancer.

After talking with Elder Stevens, I repented of my sin and gave my heart to Christ.

I had used tobacco forty years and liquors thirty years.

When Elder Stevens laid hands upon me and prayed, I was immediately healed of the desire and appetite for both those poisons. I have had no desire for them since.

The cancer began to dry up. I continued selling pork in my market, and the cancer began to grow again. Elder Stevens told me I would not receive complete healing until I stopped handling pork. I finally gave up the market and am perfectly healed; no trace of the cancer can be seen.

I am going back to the farm, gloriously happy in Jesus and Zion, thanking God for it all.

Wyatt B. Eldred

The Holy Quran says, “So eat of the lawful and good food which Allah has provided for you, and thank the bounty of your Lord if it Him you serve. He has forbidden for you only carrion and blood and flesh of swine and that which has been immolated in the name of any other than Allah; but he who is driven thereto, neither craving nor transgressing, LO! Then Allah is forgiving, Merciful.” (16:114-115)

This is the order from the Creator of the Universe and Supreme Law-Maker. All Muslims are under obligation to obey it. This is a plain and straightforward answer to those, who usually ask why Muslims abstain from eating pork. Nevertheless, there is no sin, if a Muslim is forced by famine or starvation to eat pork in order to save his life.

Here follows a detailed answer:

Jews also are strictly prohibited from eating pork (Torah. In the book of Leviticus, Chapter 11, verses 7 & 8 it is recorded that God declares the pig to be unclean for believers. "You must not eat their meat nor touch their carcasses; they are unclean for you." The Bible has also forbidden swine-flesh, but Christians disregarded this order and started consuming it.

Modern science has revealed many scientific reasons for not eating pigs.

Pigs have no neck which makes it impossible to be slaughtered the Islamic way by the insertion of a knife in the neck and thus getting rid of the blood which contains an abundance of uric acid, a toxic chemical substance which can be injurious to human health.

The pig excretes only 2% of its total uric acid content, the remaining 98% remains an integral part of the body.

Pigs are perfect vessels for transporting diseases to humans. Influenza (flu) is one of the illnesses which pigs share with humans. This illness is harbored in the lungs of pigs during summer and tends to effect pigs and humans in the cooler months. Pork sausage contains bits of pig's lungs, so those who eat pork sausage tend to suffer more during the epidemics of influenza.

Eating pork can lead to different kinds of infections such as Trichinosis which causes diarrhea and other gastrointestinal symptoms as the worms multiply in the digestive tract. When the larvae circulate through the bloodstream, the patient experiences edema, irregular fever, profuse sweating, muscle soreness and pain. There is no specific treatment.

Those who consume pork are more prone to obesity because of the high fat content in pork. In this group, blood cholesterol level is frequently higher than normal; pork-eaters are more susceptible to arteriosclerosis, which may result in cardiovascular diseases, malfunction of the brain blood-circulation , vascular pathology of the lower limbs, etc.

The pig is the main carrier of the taenia solium worm which is found in the flesh. These tapeworms are found in human intestines with greater frequency among eaters if pig. This tapeworm can pass through the intestines and affect many other organs, and is incurable once it reaches beyond a certain stage. Researchers at the University of Ottawa have linked pork consumption with "cirrhosis", a chronic degeneration of the liver. In a study of 16 nations with readily available statistics for consumption of pork, beef, alcohol and fat, Dr Amin Nanji and Dr Samuel French found a correlation between eating pork and the incidents of cirrhosis of the liver - an even higher incidence when pork and alcohol were consumed. Pigs wallow in mud or water to cool their body as they are the only animals that don't have sweat glands. They live and thrive on muck, faeces and dirt. They eat almost everything and anything; garbage, carcasses, human and pig excreta.

The list of microbes and parasites found in pork is vast. Many of these diseases as yet remain incurable. They can cause appendicitis, dyspepsia, Tuberculosis small pox, bacterial diseases, viral infections, Erysipelas or St. Anthony's fire, Japanese encephalitis (B-type), Salmonella Cholera Suis (cholera), Protozoan infections,...etc.

Besides, lard contains 2800 units of vitamin D per 100 grams and no vitamin A at all. Lately vitamin D has been held responsible for atheroma, by causing increased absorption of calcium in the blood vessels. Animal fats contain saturated fatty acids which have been found to be one of the causes of atheroma in man. Medium bacon fat contains 25% proteins and 55% fat. Dr. Glen Shepherd wrote the following dangers of eating pork in the Washington Post.

"One in six people in USA and Canada have germs in their muscles - trichinosis 8 from eating pork infected with trichina worms. Many people so infected have no symptoms. Most of those, who do have, recover slowly. Some die and some are reduced to permanent invalids. All were careless pork eaters.

Schitosoma Japonica. This disease is manifested in hemorrhages and anemia. In the case of the ova infesting the brain or bone marrow, the disease may bring about paralysis or death.

Paragonimus Westermani. Infestation may result in haemoptysis, or the coughing up of blood, due to worm setting in the lungs.

Paciolepsis Buski. This parasite causes dyspepsia, severe diarrhea and general edema.

Both the Bible and the Qur’an prohibit the eating of pork. Muslims are aware of this prohibition and observe it strictly. However, most readers of the Bible say they do not know where they can find this in the Bible.

In the book of Leviticus, chapter 11, v. 7, it is recorded that God declares the pig to be unclean for believers. Then, in verse 8, God says: “You must not eat their meat or touch their carcasses; they are unclean for you”. This command is repeated in Deuteronomy 14:7-8. Then, in Isaiah 65:2-4, and 66:17, God issues a stern warning against those who eat pork.

Some people are aware of this prohibition from God, but they say that they can eat pork because St. Paul said that all food is clean in his letter to the Romans 14:20. St. Paul said this because he believed (as he wrote in his letter to the Ephesians 2:14-15) that Jesus had abolished the Law with all its commandments and regulations. He seems, however, to have misunderstood what he heard about Jesus. In the Gospel According to Matthew 5:17-20, Jesus is reported to have said quite the contrary, as follows: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law . . . ." Jesus then went on in that passage (in verse 19) to denounce anyone who would break the smallest commandment and teach others likewise. He also praised his true followers who will practice and teach even the smallest commandment. One of the commandments, as we have seen, is to stay away from pork.

This is why the true followers of Jesus, holding on to his teachings, did not let unclean food such as pork enter their mouths, so that Peter, the chief disciple, can say, “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean” (Acts of the Apostles, ch. 10, v. 14)

And Allah knows best.

Ahmadiyya Muslim Jail Ministry, USA

From the Ahmadiyya USA Blog authored by Alhaj Dhul-Waqar Yaqub

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Philadelphia was the scene of this photo, which was taken in the early to mid 1970s, in front of the Philadelphia, PA mission house. Bilal Abdus Salam (5th from the right) established himself as a Chaplin in a minimum security facility outside of Philadelphia. To my knowledge, Bilal's "jail ministry" was a first in the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA and it caught the attention of the Chief Missionary, Sharif Bajwa (picture with coat over his arm) and several Pakistani judges who were visiting the U.S. at the time. This group photo was taken before driving to tour the facility.

Bilal Abdus Salam tells the story of how he established himself as a Muslim Chaplin. He made an application to provide religious services to inmates, but was denied by the authorities because they thought the teachings of Islam would be a security risk. Bilal gave the application authority a copy of The Philosophy of the Teaching of Islam by Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, whom we believe to be the Promised Messiah and Mahdi (as). As a result of reading that book the application authorities were able to comprehend that Muslims were to submit to those who are in authority from among them and they therefore admitted Bilal as a Muslim Chaplin. From there Bilal Abdus Salam went on to secure the human/religious rights of the Muslim inmates.

Bilal wanted to relieve the suffering and provide moral/spiritual guidance to those inmates seeking to reform themselves. In collaboration with authorities he was able to excluded pork from being served to Muslim inmates, provide Islamic reading materials to those seeking knowledge, and established Jummah services into the conceptual framework of jail/prison ministry at that facility.

In view of the way Bilal carried out the Tabligh process...I'm reminded of "some home grown" wisdom, which was shared with me by a dear brother. He said, "Tabligh has become just a prophetic idea instead of being the force igniting processes that relieve the suffering amongst the most vulnerable".

From a historical perspective, a movement that began in the 1970s under the Nation of Islam to evangelize inmates has evolved into one of the most effective religious rehabilitation agendas in the U.S. Imams continue to draw converts, but most Muslims in prisons today are Sunnis, said Lawrence Mamiya, a professor at Vassar College who has studied Muslim prison ministries.

As far as the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA is concerned, Bilal may have been the first, but others members have followed his example. Currently, Al-Haj Abdur Raqib Rashid Wali is serving as Chaplin in a maximum security prison in California. I had the pleasure of meeting several of these unique individuals, who were converted to Islam by Imam Wali, as he is affectionately called by ex-inmates. I consider them to be unique because they had served their time and I met them not in prison, but outside the confines of their cell walls. They were on jobs living life as upright tax paying citizens. While inmates, they were serving long sentences, sometimes up to ten years or more. They credit Imam Wali for his guidance by saying, "...he would tell us that he was preparing us to leave this small prison to go into the big prison of life." I found them to be very focused, having an exceptional knowledge of themselves and their purpose in life, deeply spiritual and well connected with Allah, the Most-Merciful.

"Jail [/prison] is a tomb or a womb" as inmates under Chaplin Hakeem refer to their confinement. Hasan Hakeem, President of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Zion, is also a Chaplin of what may be termed a jail ministry, is untiring about his work. In an interview with Chaplin Hakeem I asked him what he considers his role as a Chaplin to be? He explained, "I minister to everybody. Regardless if they are Muslim or a Christian inmate, a family member visiting an inmate or a security guard, the message is the same...get your relationship with God together. When I council inmates about questionable behavior I asked them what would their mother think about what they are doing and they make positive adjustments." When I went to the Zion Mission House I found newly released inmates there for prayers and waiting on assignments for an upcoming event. I could see the tabligh process manifesting itself in a "new Muslim cool" kind of way i.e. reformation. "All of these brothers come from troubled backgrounds, they're African-American, European-American or Hispanic-American converts who have an opportunity in a wholesome environment to try to reflect and change their lives, " Chaplin Hakeem said. "The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community offers them that opportunity."

In today's Islamic phobic climate The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA still has an important role to play in Muslim Prison Ministry programs. It's motto "Love for All Hatred For None" signals its "moderate" stance toward that end.

Major James K. Dooghan, United States Army School of Advance Military Studies in his white paper titled Muslim Prison Ministry: Hindering the Spread of Radical, Violent and Irreconcilable Wing of Islam states the following: "Addressing the violent Islamic ideology at the grass roots level may decrease the number of terrorist recruitment and increase the number of Muslims appealing to a nonviolent interpretation of the Qur'an." Major Dooghan goes on to say, "The author recommends an anti-violent Islamic ministry program which educates detainees and prisoners through Muslim clerics...The U.S. Bureau of Prisons Muslim chaplaincy program offers a framework to select Muslim religious service providers for a Muslim prison ministry program. Sufficient legal, ethical and moral framework exist to argue for the availability of a ministry program to personnel in U.S. custody. This indirect appoach focuses on conflict resolution and relies on Muslims who reject the violent interpretation of the Qur'an, commentaries, the hadith, the fiqh and the law. The solution is not an ecumenical reconciliation of the various religions of the world but a peaceful coexistence beginning with an intellectual understanding of the ideologies and empathy for the Muslims caught in the war between terrorist and the coalition forces trying to defeat the terrorist networks."

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA has an inherent history of nonviolence and has always advocated true Islamic principles leading toward peace. The philosopy behind "Love For All Hatred For None" stands as a challenge to Muslims who are advocating a violent and radical approach of Islam.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Jalsa Salana (Annual Convention) USA, 2009

Objectives, Purposes & Blessings of the Jalsa Salana In the Words of the Promised Messiah (Peace be on him)

Purpose of Jalsa Salana

“ The primary purpose of this Convention is to enable every sincere individual to personally experience religious benefits; They may enhance their knowledge and –due to their being blessed and enabled by Allah, The Exalted- their perception [ of Allah ] may progress. Among its secondary benefits is that this congregational meeting together will promote mutual introduction among all brothers, and it will strengthen the fraternal ties within this Community..”
(Ishtihar 7 Dec. 1892, Majmoo`ah Ishtiharat Vol. I, Page 340).

Not an Ordinary Convention

“ It is essential for all those who can afford to undertake the journey, that they must come to attend this Convention which embodies many blessed objectives. They should disregard minor inconveniences in the cause of Allah and His prophet (peace be upon him.). Allah yields reward to the sincere persons at every step of their way, and no labour and hardship, undertaken in His way, ever goes to waste. I re-emphasize that you must not rank this convention in the same league as other, ordinary, human assemblies. This is a phenomenon that is based purely on the Divine Help, for propagation of Islam."
(Ishtihar 7 Dec. 1892, Majmoo`ah Ishtiharat Vol. I, Page 341)


“ I conclude with the prayer that everyone who travels for [attending] this Convention that is for the sake of Allah: May Allah, the Exalted, be with him, reward him in abundant measure, have mercy on him, ease up for him his circumstances of hardship and anxiety and eliminate his anguish and grief. May He grant him freedom from every single hardship and lay open for him the ways of [achieving] his cherished goals, and raise him up, on the day of Judgment, among those of His servants who are the recipients of His blessings and Mercy. May He be their Guardian in their absence until after their journey comes to an end. O Allah! O Sublime One and Bestower of bounties, the Ever Merciful and One Who Resolves all problems, do grant all these prayers, and grant us Victory over our opponents with scintillating signs, because You alone have all the prowess and power. Aameen! Aameen!!”

(Ishtihar 7 Dec. 1892, Majmoo`ah Ishtiharat Vol. I, Page 342)

The Outsider Looking In: My experience at the Ahmaddiyyah Jalsa Salana 2008

2008 June 23

by Robert Salaam

I openly wonder if I can still consider myself an outsider at this point? I consider myself a friend of the Ahmaddiyah community first and foremost. I have been friends with members of this community for a little over a year now and as such I have been to a Qur’an conference, an Itjema, and as of this weekend two Jalsa Salana’s, even tonight Insha’Allah I will attend a private dinner with Mirza Masroor Ahmad the current leader and 5th Khalifah of the movement.

I provide this disclaimer upfront to let it be known that my writing will be biased, but biased on the truth of what one can perceive and experience from their own eyes and ears versus that which is readily available as another’s personal opinion which often lacks personal experience.

This past weekend I had the esteemed honor to attend the 60th Jalsa Salana which celebrated the 100th year of Ahmaddiyah Khalifa, highlighted by the first ever visit to America of the current Khalifa.

I was treated and welcomed with dignity and respect as a fellow Muslim among many others who were non-Ahmadiyyah. This weekend was highlighted as a “Muslim Peace Conference” and although it wasn’t without it’s share of controversy, the group’s motto “Love for All, Hatred for None” was exemplified in the presentations, speeches, and in the actions of their members.

One can struggle for weeks to find the correct words to describe the immense joy I felt as I was escorted around the cavernous Pennsylvania conference center. Always being greeted courteously and with a smile reminded me of what I imagined Muslims to be like when I first converted. Without going into every detail let me at least say that I was quite impressed. For all that is said about this group, many have even commented on this blog, I can find no evidence that these brothers and sisters act contrary to the teachings we hold sacred.

It is one thing to have a motto, it is another thing to say that Islam means peace, but it is another thing to fully act on and embrace those very words and ideas and make them manifest for the world to see. I have to admit I wasn’t too concerned with how non-Ahmadiyyah Muslims were treated, I was really observing and questioning the non-Muslims in attendance. There were Mormons, Hindu’s, Shikhs, Christians, all in attendance along with us Sunni, Shia, Sufi, etc. Muslims. To see the expressions on their faces and after speaking with them and listening to how impressed they were, gave me a great sense of pride.

Many of them stated that they had no idea this is what Islam represents, I was even questioned why is it that the non-Muslim world isn’t privy to the peace in Islam, and many more questions like that.

You see brothers and sisters, these non-Muslims were not worried about doctrinal or theological points. These are the things that we so foolishly fight about. The non-Muslim can’t tell a Sunni from a Shia anymore than an Ahmaddiyyah from a non-Ahamadi. What they only saw was that almost 10 thousand people saying they believe in Islam, were being peaceful and teaching peace.

There are a great many lessons we non-Ahmadi’s can learn from this. Where are our peace conferences? Why aren’t we talking about things like freedom of religion, and teaching the highest virtues of Islam which compel us to safeguard all of humanity?

Now I know some have their stones ready, but I humbly submit to you, that is it not better to resolve our differences in peace as we are commanded? In the press conference I made sure to address a few things with their leaders:

I asked what is the Ahmadiyya opinion of non-Ahmadi’s? Are we considered Muslims in their eyes?

The response was absolutely. I was reminded of the census in Mecca when the Prophet (saw) was asked how to record who is Muslim and he responded that those who claim to be Muslim are Muslim.

I asked why is their no “intra-faith” between Ahmadi and non-Ahmaddiyah Muslims and was told that everytime they do an interfaith event no one shows up, wants to show up, and never invites them either, but the doors are always open.

There where many questions such as the idea of prophethood and theological points, but my stress in not on our differences in opinion on these matters, but our behavior towards one another.

Over the course of almost three days, all I saw and witnessed was hospitality, generosity, and messages of peace. How can we deny that?

No non-Ahmaddiyyah in attendance and there were hundreds of us from all walks of life can say that we witnessed anything non-Islamic. Unless of course being kind, courteous, and peaceful all the while proclaiming love for Prophet Muhammad (saw) and Allah (swt) are now non-Islamic behaviors.

One of the speakers on Saturday encouraged us to study the fruit and study the tree and come to our own conclusions.

I have to say and I must report that I witnessed 9,500 good fruit sprung forth from the tree of Islam.

I don’t claim to be a scholar, I don’t claim to know all the nuances of the varied Muslim understandings of things. However, I do know that when one bears witness to Allah (swt) and His Messenger (saw), enjoins prayer, fasting, charity, and pilgrimage, defends Islam against the false accusations of non-Muslims, and treats others with peace while loudly proclaiming it, I have to say it sure seems Muslim to me.

Sunday’s address by Mirza Masroor Ahmad included the commands to “to rely on God, do good works, seek educational progress”, “to march forward toward betterment”, and he reminded his followers and guests that Islam is in fact the religion of Peace.

It all seems at the very least, like the things Muslims should be enjoining others in right? Not once did I hear any rebuke or commentary against non-Ahmaddiyyah Muslims. Not once was the West, Jews, etc. were condemned. What I heard and witnessed were the words of a meek and humble leader with thousands in attendance preach a message of peace.

So maybe I am wrong. Maybe my lying eyes and ears deceive me. Maybe I can’t tell between who is Muslim and who is not, even though I thought that was Allah’s (swt) job. I guess I just don’t know, or least some of you will claim that.

But then again, I don’t have a problem with Sufi’s, Shia, or others who claim part of the fold. I just respectfully disagree on some points and understandings. What I do know is they are more of a brother and sister to me than those whom we often let speak at our functions and in our Mosques who don’t believe that Muhammad (saw) is the Messenger of Allah (swt).

Maybe it’s just me.

In the end, it was a great conference. I truly loved the idea that those who had never experienced Muslims or Islam outside of the mainstream media got to see almost 10K claimants of Islam boldly and loudly declare that Islam is a religion of Peace and Muhammad (saw) is the messenger of Islam.

I pray that one day we who are non-Ahmadi will be willing to focus on what unites and not that which divides. I pray that we all become ambassadors of peace and wage a war of Jihad of the pen. I pray that we remember that their is no compulsion in religion and that Allah (swt) loves not the oppressor. I pray that we have patience in all that we do.

Let us remember that a Muslim is one in whom all his neighbors regardless of belief feel safe and secure. If we are to fully realize that ideal, we must reconsider our behavior, especially against a group that does exactly what we claim to believe.

Like I said, maybe it’s just me.

Divine attribute Al Rafi (The Exalter)

Summary of Friday Sermon delivered by June 19 th, 2009Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad at, the Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community

Al Rafi (The Exalter) is one of the Divine attributes. Al Rafi is that Being Who exalts true believers. Exaltation is bestowed on believers because of good works and constant endeavour; it only comes to pass by the grace of God. However, at times God grants high status to believers merely through His grace in a way that is beyond human imagination.

He bestows further nearness to His chosen people thus enhancing their already exalted station. He grants some of these the exalted status of prophethood and sends His teachings through them. The Holy Qur’an states: ‘…To Him ascend good works, and righteous work helps them rise…’ (Surah Al Fatir, 35:11). Huzur explained that this signifies that God accepts good works; good works are a cause of praise and without good works man cannot gain acceptance.

Huzur said God is Al Rafi, but He is also Al Qadir (the Possessor of power and authority), He can bestow on whomsoever He wishes. However, the general principle to attain exaltation is through good works. The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) enjoined his Community that if anything gained acceptance with God, it is good works. The verse signifies that the ignorant and wrongdoing people of the pre-Islam Arabia were told that not only would they rid of all their vices under the influence of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) rather they would attain the highest standards of righteousness and dignity. This honour materialized as a result of their sincere belief, high moral values and good works. Huzur said then the world witnessed that the very same people who were branded ignorant, ruled the world. Thus a way was appointed that demonstrated that by adopting specific principles piety could be attained. However, the Muslim world turned materialistic and forgot the standards of its forefathers. Today the situation is such that Muslim is killing Muslim in the name of Islam. This is the reason that the non-Muslims can dictate their terms. The Muslims governments turn to non-Muslim powers for their problems. If a Muslim country is faced with disorder, rather than the other Muslim countries counsel them, USA and European countries force their will to solve the problem. The non-Muslim governments are extremely insulting in their attitude and this gives rise to protestation among the Muslims. Due to non-compliance of the teachings of Islam, rather than ascending to great heights the Muslims are plunging to a descent.

God has stated that the principle of adopting good works in following the blessed model of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) will alone be beneficial. Although the Muslims today do acknowledge that it is their actions that bring them disgrace they will not accept to adopt the ways to good works that have been stated regarding the current age.

God sent the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) as the Mahdi because of his deep and ardent love for the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him). Not only do they reject this ardent devotee of the Prophet, rather, today the very definition of a Muslims entails using abusive language for him.

Citing an example of the effusive honor the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) accorded to the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) in his Urdu poetry, Huzur said in this age none other had, or indeed can have, the correct insight of the spiritual luminosity of the Prophet apart from the Promised Messiah. The way he expounded the spiritual light of the Prophet is unique. Huzur read out an extract from his noble writings to elucidate the subject:

‘The Holy Qur’an has set this matter out in an excellent allegory as follows:

Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The similitude of His light is as a lustrous niche, wherein is a lamp. The lamp is in a glass. The glass is as it were a glittering star. It is lit from a blessed tree — an olive — neither of the east nor of the west, whose oil would well-nigh glow forth even though fire touched it not. Light upon light! Allah guides to His light whomsoever He will. And Allah sets forth parables to men, and Allah knows all things full well. (Surah Al Nur, 24:36).

This means that God is the light of heaven and earth, that is to say, every light that is visible in the heights or in the depths, whether in souls or in bodies, whether personal or acquired, whether overt or covert, whether inner or external, is a bounty of His grace. This is an indication that the general grace of the Lord of the worlds encompasses everything and that nothing is without His grace. He is the source of all grace and the Cause of causes of all lights and the fountain-head of all mercies. His Being is the support of the whole universe and is the refuge of all high and low. He brought everything out of the darkness of nothingness and bestowed upon it the robe of existence. There is no other being who exists in his own right and is eternal, or is not the recipient of His grace. The earth and heaven and mankind and animals and stones and trees and souls and bodies, all owe their existence to His grace.

This is general grace which is mentioned in this verse; Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. This grace encompasses everything like a circle. For being the beneficiary of this grace, there is no condition attached. As compared with this there is a special grace which has conditions attached and which is bestowed only upon those individuals who have the ability and capacity to receive it, that is to say, on the perfect individuals who are Prophets, the best and highest of whom is Muhammad, the chosen one, [peace and blessings of Allah be on him]. As that grace is a fine verity, therefore, God Almighty, after mentioning the general grace, has described the special grace for the purpose of expounding the light of the Holy Prophet [peace and blessings of Allah be on him] in an allegory so that it should be easily understood.

The translation of the remaining part of the above verse is: That light is exemplified (by the perfect man, the Messenger) as if there were a lustrous niche (by which is meant the breast of the Holy Prophet, peace be on him). In the niche, there is a lamp (meaning Divine revelation). The lamp is contained in a crystal globe as bright as a glittering star, (meaning the pure and holy heart of the Holy Prophet – peace and blessings of Allah be on him - which in its nature is free from all dirt and opaqueness, like a clear mirror and has no relationship except with God.

That mirror is as bright as a glittering star, which shines in heaven with great glory, (meaning that the heart of the Holy Prophet – peace and blessings of Allah be on him - is so clear and bright that its inner light is displayed on its outer surface flowing like water). That lamp is lit with the oil of a blessed tree, (which is an olive tree). (By this is meant the being of the Holy Prophet – peace and blessings of Allah be on him - which is a collection of diverse types of blessings and the grace of which is not confined to any place or age or direction, but is everlastingly flowing and will never be cut off).

The blessed tree is neither of the east nor of the west, (that is to say, the nature of the Holy Prophet [peace and blessings of Allah be on him] suffers neither from excess nor from deficiency and has been created in the best mold). The oil of the blessed tree by which the lamp of revelation is lit, means the fine bright reason of the Holy Prophet [peace and blessings of Allah be on him] together with the natural high moral qualities which are nourished by the clear fountain of his perfect reason.

The meaning of the lamp of revelation being lit up by the high moral qualities of the Holy Prophet – peace and blessings of Allah be on him - is that the grace of revelation descended upon them and they were the cause of the descent of revelation. There is here also an indication that the grace of revelation was in accord with the nature of the Holy Prophet [peace and blessings of Allah be on him] the explanation of which is that revelation descends in accord with the nature of the Prophet to whom it is vouchsafed.

For instance, the temperament of Moses [peace be on him] was compounded of glory and wrath; so in accord with it the Torah was revealed in the framework of a majestic law. Jesus had a temperament which was meek and gentle and so the Gospel teaches meekness and gentleness. The Holy Prophet was by temperament extremely firm and steadfast. He disliked to be unduly lenient, nor did he like to be wrathful on every occasion.

Instead his was a sagacious temperament that paid due regard to the demands of the occasion. Therefore, the Holy Qur’an was also revealed in an appropriate and moderate mold which combines severity and kindness, awe and compassion, and hardness and softness. In this verse, God Almighty has disclosed that the lamp of the revelation of the Qur’an has been lit from the oil of a blessed tree which is neither of the east nor of the west, but is in accord with the moderate temperament of the Holy Prophet [peace and blessings of Allah be on him] which has neither the severity of the temperament of Moses, nor the softness of the temperament of Jesus but is a compound of hardness and softness and of wrath and compassion and displays perfect moderation and is a combination of majesty and beauty.

The high moral qualities of the Holy Prophet [peace and blessings of Allah be on him] are referred to in another place in the Holy Qur’an in the words: (O Prophet) You have been created blessed with high moral qualities (68:5). This means that the Holy Prophet [peace and blessings of Allah be on him] was created with such perfection of high moral qualities as could not be exceeded. The word azeem, which has been used in the verse, signifies in Arabic idiom, the highest perfection of the species. For instance, when it is said that a tree is azeem, it means that it possesses all the length and breadth which it is possible for a tree to possess. Some lexicologists have said that azeem signifies greatness which is beyond human ken.

The oil would well-nigh glow forth even though no fire were to touch it; (that is to say, the reason and all the high qualities of the Holy Prophet [peace and blessings of Allah be on him] were so perfect and appropriate and delicate and bright, that they were ready to be lit up even before the receipt of revelation). Light upon light; that is to say, that many lights were combined in the blessed being of the Holy Prophet [peace and blessings of Allah be on him] and on those lights descended the heavenly light of Divine revelation and thereby the being of the ‘Khatam-ul-Anbiya’ [peace and blessings of Allah be on him] became a combination of lights (Brahin-e-Ahmadiyya, Vol. I, pp. 191-195, footnote 11).

[Translation of the above passages taken from Essence of Islam, Vol. I, pp. 248 – 253)

Huzur said thus was the perfect light of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) which was a reflection of the God’s light. This is the light that alone will bestow beneficence till the Day of Judgment. In the current age the greatest portion of this light has been attained by his true and ardent devotee (on whom be peace) so that he could continue to spread the light in the world and the world could seek its beneficence. It is for the continuation of this mission that he was given the title of Khatam-ul-Khulafa (seal of all Khalifas). Those who came before him carried out their work in specific areas.

Today, through the Messiah of Muhammad (on whom be peace) the light of the lamp is to be diffused by placing it on a very high niche. Today this work is being carried out by the followers of the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) alone. After the Khatam-ul-Khulafa it is the institution of Khilafat alone that will fulfil these obligations with God’s help and assistance.

The verse following the above, ‘This light is now lit in houses with regard to which Allah has ordained that they be exalted and that His name be remembered in them. Glorify Him therein in the mornings and the evenings’ (24:37) cites those houses where God’s commandments are put in practice. Huzur said these houses will be exalted.

He said the first step in becoming a helper of faith is to remember God, to observe Prayer and to remember that the one who possessed the exalted light that we aspire to be a recipient of said ‘the coolness of my eyes is in Prayer.’ Huzur said often the Zuhr and Asr Salat are combined. This should not be practised apart from in exceptional circumstances. Huzur recounted a Hadith in which the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) said that he offered the four rakah of Salat before Zuhr because this was a time when the doors of the heavens were flung open and he wished for acceptance. Huzur said today the followers of the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) should aspire to maintain these standards.

The next verse states ‘Men whom neither trade nor commerce makes oblivious of the remembrance of Allah and the observance of Prayer, and the giving of the Zakat. They fear a day in which hearts and eyes will be agitated’ (24:38). Huzur said the Companions of the Holy Prophet attained this standard despite all their other obligations. They were never negligent of paying the dues of God and by paying Zakat they fulfilled the dues of mankind. The examples they set were by virtue of the embodiment of light (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) who is a blessed exemplar till today.

Explaining the difference between the Arabic words tijarat (trade) and bai’ (commerce) in the above verse Huzur said tijarat signifies buying and selling where as bai’ signifies only selling. The services are also included in this [bai’] category. In these countries [West] these are widespread. In order to finish one’s work on time one overlooks the real obligation. A true believer should not be distracted by the activities of the world and should be always heedful of the Hereafter.

Explaining the next verse, ‘So that Allah may give them the best reward of their deeds, and give them increase out of His bounty. And Allah does provide for whomsoever He pleases without measure’ (24:39) Huzur said the light that God created in the being of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) and the perfect teaching that He revealed through him became a source to exalt the believers’ houses. This is a matter that is continual and can prevail through good works. God thus states in this verse that if you do good works and establish them you will be rewarded excellently. With His grace alone He will bestow you more; your one step will be rewarded manifold.

May God enable us to establish the light that we have attained through the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) in our hearts and in our homes as well as benefit from it. May He continue to confer His blessings on us and may we always do good works.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

I’m done with TV.

News Item from the New York Times:
If you wake up tomorrow morning and all your TV channels are gone, I probably know why. Saturday, June 13, is the first day that analog broadcast television is officially history, except for low-power stations. (Some stations have already converted, a few more are doing it Friday.) From now on, all over-the-air TV broadcasts — the channels you watch using an antenna — are sent out digitally. If this is all news to you, and you haven’t any idea what to do next, read on: Why Can’t I See Anything? If you can’t see any TV channels, the most likely reason is that you have been watching TV using an analog set coupled to an antenna. With the nationwide switch to digital broadcasting, you now have several options: 1) buy a digital converter box; 2) buy a digital-ready TV; 3) subscribe to cable or satellite TV and keep using your old set; 4) stop watching television.

I’m done with TV. This Digital High Definition business is the last straw for me. It is just another one of those things that clutter my already cluttered life. I’m tired of passwords, twitter, MySpace, Facebook, glitter and commercials that bring scantily clad women and men into my house.
So, it’s over. For entertainment, I’m going to use my Jadoo to connect me to the world. Jadoo is a cool little device that gives me selected internet programs like Muslim Television Ahmadiyya (MTA), Al-Jazeera (I’m listening to David Frost analyze and question some big shot world leader right now), BBC and some other stations that don’t mean a thing to me. My life has to become simple, so Digital TV in America doesn’t enhance my life.

Besides, we now have Hulu to provide television programs, contemporary and old school stuff like “Sanford and Son.” The best TV in America came at a time when folks didn’t jump in bed with women and men and children. In addition, I’m going to have fun exploring blog sites and good YouTube stuff.
These days I’m very happy serving Allah through my responsibilities and duties as a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, USA.

In addition, my job-related duty as a Chaplain for Kenosha County Jail in Wisconsin doesn’t leave me much external frivolous time to be mesmerized by TV programs.
This year, like any addict kicking the habit, I’m moving away from the “vast wasteland,” an apt description of TV land, gleaned from a famous speech by former Federal Communications Commission Chairman Newton N. Minow to national broadcasters, in 1961.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not venting in a self-righteous manner to pass judgment on the many fans of television. What would many families do without television? The TV is a primary point of focus in the contemporary family. Today’s dysfunctional family hovers around television as it influences our lives .

The longest running program on television today is a cartoon sitcom – The Simpsons. It is best described as the satiric adventures of a working class family in the misfit city of Springfield. Without a doubt, the Simpsons have been a favorite of mine on the “boob tube.” It is the religious commentary that is interesting, edgy and provocative.

Here’s a Wikipedia description: “Much of the humor satirizes aspects of Christianity. However, the series is not necessarily anti-religious, as some episodes (such as Bart Sells His Soul and Alone Again, Natura-Diddily) are actually quite spiritual (or at least philosophical) in nature and portray the importance of some spirituality in life. Most episodes call for a more sensible, tolerant and less fanatical, religious devotion. For example, the episode The Monkey Suit depicts Ned Flanders' campaign against evolution. This campaign is opposed by Lisa Simpson, who eventually explains that she respects his belief in creationism.”
We will continue to watch the Simpsons on Hulu or we can rent Simpson seasonal DVDs as a subscriber to Netflix. With a little creativity, I won’t miss an episode. So, my friends…I’m done. There are just too many better ways to use my time during the day.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Ahmadiyya Muslim Community: 3ON3 B-ball Tourney

In Zion, Illinois, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, plays host to a community-wide basketball tournament for children and young adults. The Three on Three Basketball Tournament is a summer treat in the community. The tournament attracts neighborhood kids and participants from three surrounding cities. Members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community are joined by parents and neighborhood folks as referees as the all-day tournament is held in a safe environment.

The rules are simple: No fighting and No cussing. At the end of the day, the participants walk away with special "Love For All. Hatred For None" T-shirts and a bunch of trophies that are presented by age and category.

If you have a good game and want to play some ball, join us this summer by calling 847.746.5585.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Ayatul Kursi (verse 256) from Surah Al Baqarahh

Summary of Friday Sermon

Delivered by Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad at, the Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community

June 5 th, 2009

Huzur recited Ayatul Kursi (verse 256) from Surah Al Baqarah. The translation reads:

‘Allah — there is no God but He, the Living, the Self-Subsisting and All-Sustaining. Slumber seizes Him not, nor sleep. To Him belongs whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is in the earth. Who is he that will intercede with Him except by His permission? He knows what is before them and what is behind them; and they encompass nothing of His knowledge except what He pleases. His throne extends over the heavens and the earth; and the care of them burdens Him not; and He is the High, the Great.’

Hadith relates that the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) said everything has a pinnacle and Surah Al Baqarah is the pinnacle of the Qur’an and it has a verse which is the chief of all verses; it is the Ayatul Kursi. Another Hadith relates that the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) said that if a person reads ten verses of Surah Al Baqarah before going to sleep Satan does not visit his house till morning and one of these verses is Ayatul Kursi.

Huzur explained that this does not entail a mere recitation of the ten verses is required. It means that one reads them carefully and thoughtfully, analyses one’s self, gauging how much does one put them in practice and then pledges to make pious changes in oneself. This is what would keep the Satan at bay. Huzur said the ten verses cited in the Hadith include the first four verses of Surah Al Baqarah. These verses illustrate the pious and practical life of a believer, then, there is Ayatul Kursi and two of its adjoining verses that cite Divine attributes and finally the last three verses of Surah Al Baqarah. Huzur said although his discourse in today’s Sermon would be on Ayatul Kursi he would read an extract of the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) expounding the first four verses of Surah Al Barqarah. [Below is the published translation of the extract Huzur read out].

‘One should ponder over the first verse, namely: I am Allah the All-Knowing. This is the Perfect Book. There is no doubt in it. It is guidance for the righteous. It will be observed how nicely and beautifully and succinctly God Almighty has furnished the answer to the objection raised.

First reference is made to the Author of the Holy Quran and His Grandeur and Majesty are indicated. It is said: I am Allah the All-Knowing; that is to say, I, Who Am All-Knowing and All-Wise, Whose knowledge is not matched by the knowledge of anyone else, am revealing this Book. Then the greatness of the Holy Quran is referred to and it is said: This is the Perfect Book; that is to say, this is a grand and sublime Book which derives from Divine knowledge. It is established with regard to it that its source and spring is the Eternal Being of the All-Wise. By referring to it as The Book, God Almighty has indicated that this Book derives from the knowledge of that Being with high attributes, Who is Matchless and Peerless and Whose perfect knowledge and minute mysteries are very far from the limits of human sight.

Then it is said that the body of the Quran is so well reasoned that there is no room left in it for any kind of doubt, meaning that like other books it is not a mere tale or story, but is comprehensive of conclusive arguments and reasoning, and sets forth clear proofs of its objects and purposes, and is in itself a miracle which operates like a sharp sword for the removal of doubts and suspicions, and does not leave the matter of the recognition of God at the conjectural stage of He should be, but carries the matter to the certainty of, He is.

Despite the grandeur of these purposes which are greatly concerned with effect and reform, it proceeds to define the fourth purpose which is its ultimate object, which is the provision of guidance for the righteous. It announces that this Book has been revealed for the guidance of those who, on account of their pure interiors, and sane reason, and firm intelligence, and eagerness for search of truth, and right motives, would, in the end, arrive at a high degree of faith and recognition of God and perfect righteousness.’ (Essence of Islam vol. I, pp. 397-399).

Huzur said if these four aspects are kept in view while reading the Holy Qur’an and while being in a state of sincere belief one is guided towards the insight and perception of God.

Reverting to the subject of Ayatul Kursi Huzur said it is based on the all-inclusive Divine attributes and begins with His Name, ‘Allah — there is no God but He.’ The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) said that Allah is the personal name of God and when one has full faith in His boundless powers then alone would one remember Him at all times. Huzur said one gets involved in many ills or is negligent of Divine commandments, is remiss in paying the dues of Allah and the dues of mankind because one does not remember God all the time and forgets that He watches over us all each moment.

The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) said that God has addressed and informed him to let his Community know that those whose faith is free from all worldly adulteration, is not dispossessed of any degree of obedience are the kind of people God likes and it is these who are the truthful. Huzur said this should be the very least we should aspire to. Huzur said this verse states that one should only turn to God, Who alone is worthy of worship, is the Master of all powers and thus worthy of worship. Turning to Him enables us to be the recipient of blessings in this world as well as the Hereafter.

Huzur said this world has a substitute for everything but there is no substitute for Him. Is it then not foolish to leave Him? An atheist may say that as he/she does not believe why he/she should turn to God, but it is a misfortune if a Muslim, having declared ‘there is no God except Allah’, gives precedent to worldly matters. The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) said God is without any partner because if this was not so the enemy would have the potential to overcome Him and in such a state the status and prominence of God would be in danger. None other than Him is worthy of worship signifies that He is a Perfect God Whose attributes are supremely excellent and lofty. If one was to imagine the most excellent attributes, then those belong to Him. He is Most High, and none can be higher and more excellent than Him.

Huzur said in our everyday life, we err inadvertently and unconsciously associate partners to God and thus forget that He alone is our Lord. May God cover us in His mercy and forgiveness. The prayer ‘There is no God but You, Holy are You. I have indeed been of the wrongdoers’ (21:88) is a most significant prayer to guide us towards understanding the concept of ‘Allah — there is no God but He’.

The Ayatul Kursi next states ‘the Living, the Self-Subsisting and All-Sustaining’. Huzur said the Living God also sustains all life around us. The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) said each and every single person that we see has been given life by God and every thing that we observe around us is being sustained by Him. This is an assurance for true believers that their permanence is in adherence to the Living God rather than relying on any worldly means in dire circumstances. It is stated in the Holy Qur’an: ‘And trust thou in the Living One, Who dies not, and glorify Him with His praise…’ (25:59). A true believer does not doubt any Divine attribute when faced with difficulties, rather adversity makes him turn further to ‘the Living, the Self-Subsisting and All-Sustaining’ God.

The verse proceeds to assert, ‘Slumber seizes Him not, nor sleep’. Huzur explained that a true believer could never envisage that God Whose attributes are boundless would ever tire or be inattentive. It is impossible for Him to be unmindful of the lives of His servants. Indeed, in accordance to the laws of nature and by virtue of His other attributes, He sometimes puts His servants through trials but He also declares that the true life is that of His servants.

Ayatul Kursi next asserts that ‘To Him belongs whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is in the earth’, Huzur explained that this signifies that no one should be in doubt that God and His Messenger will be triumphant. Huzur said from a worldly perspective this appears unlikely or in the far-removed and distant future. However, when He told His Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) Allah has decreed: ‘Most surely I will prevail, I and My Messengers…’ (58;22) He fulfilled it despite improbable circumstances. Similarly when He promised His Messiah (on whom be peace) He will fulfill His word, indeed, He is fulfilling it. Although one imagines that such a triumph is likely to take place in the distant future but God declares that whatever is in the heavens and the earth is in His possession and control, He is watching over everything, life and death are in His hands, the evident and the hidden treasures of this earth are in His hands. Once He has decided that His Messenger’s Community will triumph none can alter it; be it worldly powers or the so-called standard-bearers of religion. However, it has been made clear to believers from the onset that the triumph will be for those who have firm and complete faith in God Who is the Master of all attributes and those who worship Him. Huzur said it is essential that each Ahmadi fully understands this.

Ayatul Kursi goes on to state, ‘Who is he that will intercede with Him except by His permission?’ No intercession, without the authority of God, will avail in His presence. The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) will have God’s permission to intercede.

The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) said that the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) was the true intercessor who freed his people from all kind of vice and made them a nation of highest standard. One should never assume that intercession has no merit. Intercession is a verity; it enables the egotistic passions to cool off, eliminates a life of sin and initiates one on piety. Intercession does not make one’s deeds ineffective, rather it inspires good deeds. The intercession of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) starts in this life and is conditional to good works. It is not compatible with the philosophy of atonement; atonement promotes wrongdoing whereas intercession leads one to good works. The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) said that many noble members of his community were well aware that many were alleviated of their sufferings and difficulties with his intercession.

Huzur said with the citation of intercession, God has also made it clear that ‘He knows what is before them and what is behind them;’, so those who are openly embroiled in sins will not be blessed with intercession in this world or the Hereafter. Ayatul Kursi then states, ‘and they encompass nothing of His knowledge except what He pleases’. Huzur said the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) was the beloved of God and was given the most knowledge. He was given news of times to come, there were many things that he knew and his Companions were unaware of. However, even the knowledge given to him was incomplete and none can reach God’s knowledge. Huzur said the scientific developments are a testimony that God shows new ways to those who seek and search. Likewise there are spiritual stages encompassing boundless knowledge. None can comprehend the workings of the universe or the origin of the universe. When He wills, God imparts some knowledge to some people. This should inspire them to turn towards Him.

The verse then states, ‘His throne extends over the heavens and the earth;’ Huzur said God’s dominion is spread all over and He is the One Who has given life to everything and Who gives knowledge. He gives knowledge in accordance to progress and development made and as much as He wills. Therefore, He alone is worthy of worship. Not only His dominion spreads all over the heavens and the earth He has also taken responsibility of its safeguard and He never tires of this. Huzur said one may try and look far and wide looking for flaws in His creation, try again and again – one would exhaust one’s efforts but would not find a flaw in God’s creation. Huzur remarked does all this not lead us to turn to Him and not rebel against Him? Ayatul Kursi thus concludes ‘and He is the High, the Great’. He has been running this system of creation from the very beginning and does not need any helper for it. The God of Islam is the Master of all attributes and certainly alone worthy of worship. May God grant us the insight and perception to always turn to Him and be among His worshippers and continue to derive beneficence from the excellences of His attributes while having a good understanding of them.

Next Huzur said he would lead a few funerals in absentia after Jummah. Laeeq Ahmad Tariq sahib from Faisalabad, Pakistan was martyred by extremists on 28th May. He was 54 years old and was a moosi. One of his brothers who resides in UK told Huzur that when he called their mother he could not control his emotions but the elderly mother consoled him saying she was proud that she was now a mother of a martyr. Huzur said such are the mothers in the community of the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) whose faith is evocative of early Islam. Huzur prayed for the lofty station of the martyr and steadfastness for his family.

Ghulam Mustapha sahib from Lahore, Pakistan was an assistant sub-inspector in the police and was martyred in the bomb explosion in Lahore in which a police building was targeted. Mumtaz Begum sahiba passed away on 30th May in Chennai, India. There is mounting opposition against the Community here. During her burial in a cemetery that the Community has used for the past thirty years, some maulwis arrived and protested the burial could not go ahead as this was a Muslim cemetery. However, the burial took place, but afterwards the maulwis exhumed the body and put it on the side while the police simply looked on. Later the body was buried in another cemetery with the support of the police. Huzur said the maulwis of this area are the same as those who discredit Islam all over. Mubarika Begum sahiba of Kharian, Pakistan, recently passed away. She was the mother of Chaudhry Muneer Ahmad sahib who runs the MTA in USA. Finally Huzur mentioned Jaffar Ahmad Khan sahib, who although was physically disabled but was mentally alert. He was a moosi and the son of Huzur’s paternal aunt. He was the grandson of Sahibzadi Amtul Hafeez Begum sahiba as well as of Hadhrat Mirza Shareef Ahmad. May God grant him forgiveness and elevate his station in Paradise.