Friday Sermon: Nur (Light) of God, bad rituals at weddings and deaths, and raising standards of modesty

January 15th, 2010

Huzur recited the following verse at the start of today’s Friday Sermon:

‘Believe, therefore, in Allah and His Messenger, and in the Light which We have sent down. And Allah is Well-Aware of all that you do.’ (64:9).

Huzur remarked at the tremendous favour of God on mankind for bestowing it with brain-power which enables it to traverse scientific and technological inventions at an astonishing speed. However, is this progress of material nature the objective of man’s life? Man of each age and era has been assuming that his wealth and power is everything. In today’s age, younger people who are not inclined to religion consider the medium of TV and internet a source of their progress which of course is an extremely erroneous concept. This concept has gone on to give rise to many a great oppressor; many Pharaoh-like individuals. God, Who is the Lord of all the worlds has rejected this concept in very strong terms. This indeed is not the objective of man’s life. For God states in the Holy Qur’an: ‘And I have not created the Jinn and the men but that they may worship Me.’ (51:57).

The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) wrote that it is a great pity that upon entering adulthood many people leave God and are inclined to worldliness in which some have only a small portion for God, while others have none, and they are wholly taken in by the world. God has been sending His Prophets in order to guide people away from this mistaken notion and to make them understand the real objective of their creation. When mankind had reached a steady stage of spiritual and temporal development, God sent the perfect man, the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) with the final Shariah and announced ‘ … This day have I perfected your religion for you and completed My favour upon you and have chosen for you Islam as religion…’ (5:4). The Holy Qur’an, through which this final Shariah was revealed elucidates the ways to attain nearness of God, ways of touching higher standards of worship, ways of fulfilling social commitments, ways of treating one’s enemy, ways of honouring rights of the under-privileged in society, ways of rights of women, ways of benefitting from future inventions and guidance for understanding all that there is in the heavens and the earth. The Qur’an mentions everything; some of which man did not understand 1400 years ago and some of which man is still endeavouring to understand. Although the Qur’an mentions matters that the believer of 1400 years ago did not understand, however, the perception and insight of the perfect man, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) understood it. He was endowed by God with the perfect light (nur) and in turn, his Companions had a share of this light in accordance with their capacities. The Companions then went on to spread this light in the world and thus the light was transmitted. Regarding the matters of which man of that age did not have an insight, it was stated that this perfect Book will continue to illuminate till the Day of Judgement.

A believer’s sight is not limited to the material benefit of worldly inventions. Having understood the objective of his creation, he tries to benefit from the true light (nur) that the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings be on him) brought. Just as, having found the light, the lost people of 1400 years ago touched the heights in every field, similarly until the Day of Judgement whoever will form a true connection with the Holy Prophet (peace and blessing of Allah be on him) will continue to come out of darkness and into light and will be a recipient of God’s Light in this world and the Hereafter.

God states in the Qur’an, ‘A Messenger, who recites unto you the clear Signs of Allah, that he may bring those who believe and do good deeds out of every kind of darkness into light. And whoso believes in Allah and does good deeds — He will make him enter Gardens, through which rivers flow, to abide therein for ever. Allah has indeed made excellent provision for him.’ (65:12) Attainment of God’s pleasure is subject to adherence to the blessed model and teachings of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him). In order to partake of the light of God, in addition to belief, attention needs to be drawn to good works and to protect oneself against sin. The verse recited at the beginning [of the Sermon] makes it clear that belief would give one a portion of all kinds of light (nur). God is aware of everything, it is in His knowledge who is doing what to please Him and how much is one following the blessed model of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) and whether it is all sincere or merely verbal professing.

It is God’s favour on us that He sent the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) in whose teaching is the permanence of this world and the Hereafter. It is, therefore, hugely important that we practise his teachings. Then there is the continuing favour rooted in the Quranic solace of ‘And among others from among them…’ (62:4) [mentioning the people of the latter days] that the beneficence of the Prophet (peace and blessings on him) and the Qur’an is continual. After a long period of spiritual darkness God sent the true and ardent devotee of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him), the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) who took the greatest portion of the light of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) and who once again guided the world to light. While the glad-tidings of Paradise in following the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) is solace for Ahmadis, it is also a matter to reflect on, to always self-examine. The benefit of this light is conditional to belief but along with belief good works are also essential.

Which works are good and which not good? For instance, in life there are happy occasions as well as sad occasions. What are our limitations to celebrate happy occasions and what are our limits to commemorate sad occasions? Influenced by the world, Muslims have included bad innovations and idle practices to their happy occasions as well as sad occasions. Ahmadis need to reflect that whatever they do is within the limitations. One happy occasion is that of marriage. It is an obligation. When the Companions suggested spending their lives solely in worship of God, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) told them that virtue is in following his practice and his practice was to marry as well as worship God. In the sub-continental culture some practices have found way in marriage celebrations which have nothing to do with the teaching of Islam. So much money is spent on marriage celebrations that in places where these rituals are followed people have assumed that these are among the obligations of marriage. For example, there is the Mehndi (Hina) ceremony. It is given the same significance as the wedding day. Invitation cards are printed, stages are prepared and series of parties continue for many days prior to the wedding. Each day a new stage/dais is set up, the lavish meals are discussed and reviewed. This ritual has also grabbed hold of those who do not have the means to afford it and as a result they have to endure debt.

Non-Ahmadis have been following these rituals but now some Ahmadi households are also practising some of these idle matters. Huzur said he had recently drawn attention that we should desist from extravagance and lavish dinners at the Mehndi ceremony. On the day [of the earlier sermon] a family from London were holding a Mehndi reception. Upon listening to Huzur’s sermon, they cancelled the reception and instead invited a few friends of the bride to dinner. They sent the food which was prepared for the reception to a function that was being held at Baitul Futuh. Such are the Ahmadis who act immediately upon being reminded and also write in letters of apology. However, Huzur said, he has received some complaints from Pakistan and also from Rabwah. Some people are getting involved in these rituals a little too much. Rabwah is a small town, so everything is noted quite quickly there. Therefore, Huzur said, he was saying it openly that these idle rituals and ceremonies should not be followed and should be brought to an end.

Explaining the futility of wasteful expenses on such occasions through the august writings of the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) Huzur remarked that in Pakistan on one hand there is an upheaval about lack of electric power, everyone mentions it and there is also regular electrical load-shedding. On the other hand, some households are extremely extravagant in displaying outlandish lights at marriage ceremonies. Not only do they incur loss to the nation, they are also being sinful. Therefore, Ahmadis in Pakistan should take care that there is no overspending and in Rabwah particularly this matter should be paid attention to. It is the responsibility of Sadr Amoomi (head of all the saadran of Rabwah) to keep in view that there is no unnecessary spending and ostentation at marriages.

Huzur said it is with the grace of God that Ahmadis are not involved in bad rituals at sad occasions which non-Ahmadis follow and more than often which are a burden on families. If, influenced by society, one kind of bad rituals are followed, then there is a possibility that the other kind will also set in. This is why Ahmadis should reflect on the favour on them that they are in the Community of the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) and only follow the true teaching of Islam. In Islam marriage is an obligation and a wedding reception may be held if it can be afforded. Meal can be served at the reception although it is not essential that all the guests are served a meal. If the wedding party is travelling from a long distance, then maybe just they can be served a meal. However, if the law of the land does not permit serving a meal then it should be avoided. At one time serving a meal at weddings was legislated against in Pakistan. Huzur said he was not aware of the exact current restrictions but some restrictions still apply. The authentic commandment in Islam is that of holding a reception for Walima, that too in accordance to one’s means. God has told us the objective of our creation and any good work that is done to please God becomes [a form of] worship.

Huzur said, today it is Ahmadis who stand for a society to establish pleasure of God and rights of others. Who else but Ahmadis have pledged that they will give up following idle rituals and greediness, who else but Ahmadis have pledged that they will totally accept the kingdom of the Holy Qur’an, who else but Ahmadis have pledged that they will make the Word of God and the word of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) their modus operandi. It is therefore required of them that they honour these pledges. By doing so they are not restricting themselves, rather they are safeguarding against the entrapment of Satan. They are trying to burnish their perception and insight, preserving their chastity and purity, are raising the standards of modesty/decency, are trying to instil patience and contentment, inculcate piety and taqwa, are trying to fulfil the dues of their trusts and are trying to attain high standards of worship of God by turning to Him out of His love and with sincerity, so that they may attain the objective of their creation.

Huzur said he just referred to raising standards of modesty/decency; modesty is indeed part of faith. The inventions of TV and the Internet have redefined modesty/decency, where blatant indecency is not considered so anymore. The standard of the modesty/decency of an Ahmadi is not what can be viewed on TV and the Internet. This prevalent indecency has also turned around the standards of modesty in some apparently decent Ahmadi household. In the name of progress some matters are adopted which are intolerable for any decent person even if it is [between] husband and wife. Some matters are such that when they are done in front of others, not only are they unwarrantable, they become sin. If Ahmadi families do not clean themselves of such vulgarities, then they have not honoured their pledge and have wasted their belief. The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) clearly said that modesty is part of faith. Each Ahmadi young person should particularly keep in mind not to be entrapped by the media and its prevalent indecency or they may lose their faith. It is due to these indecencies that some individuals exceed all limits and as a result have to be ex-communicated. A Hadith relates that indecency makes the perpetrator unsightly and modesty gives a modest and bashful person inner and outer beauty.

Another Hadith relates, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him said), ‘Be shy of God as much as is His due.' The Companions present said, 'All praise to Allah, we are shy of Him.' The Prophet said, 'That is not the point. Whoever is shy of Allah should protect his head and the thoughts that enter it, protect his stomach and the food that he puts in it. He who remembers death and trials abandons the adornments of this world. Whoever fulfils these duties has been shy of Allah as much as is His due.’ Huzur said this is the admonishment. If certain thoughts come they should be shirked off through Istaghfar (asking forgiveness of Allah). Similarly one’s earning should be pure and through lawful means. Huzur cited the example of the practice of bribery in Pakistan which constitutes earning of forbidden means.

Huzur cited a prayer of the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) to seek God. ‘O my Powerful God, O my Beloved Guide, show us those paths through which the truthful and pure find You. Save us from those paths which only lead to lust, malice, rancour or worldly customs and rituals.’

Stressing the need to follow these teachings and rejecting materialistic tendencies Huzur cited the following verse, ‘…He enjoins on them good and forbids them evil, and makes lawful for them the good things and forbids them the bad, and removes from them their burden and the shackles that were upon them…’ (7:158). Huzur said in order to fulfil our obligation to take the message of Islam to the world we need to cast off the shackles of this world. We need to be mindful that we are the followers of that Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) who taught what was permissible and what was forbidden and thus removed the shackles of erroneous concepts. Unfortunately, Muslims are putting on some of these shackles back on. After coming into the bai’at of the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) Ahmadis once again came to understand how to remove these shackles. In order to avoid putting them back on we need to exercise caution and be mindful of disregard.

There is need to constantly self-examine. The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) who was nur-personified would pray, ‘O Allah, place nur in my heart and various parts of my body’. Huzur explained this prayer was actually to teach us how to use our faculties according to the teachings of God. May God enable us to strengthen our faith, to practise the Word of God and His Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him), to avoid bad customs, to avoid the sins of this world and may we always partake of God’s Nur. May any wretchedness of ours never deprive us of this Nur.