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Bai’at: The Guardian of Our Identity in the West

by Rasheed Reno (Portland) at Jalsa Salana USA West Coast, 2018.

You are the best people raised for the good of mankind; you enjoin good and forbid evil and believe in Allah. (3:111)

A distinguishing feature of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is the bai’at we take signifying our acceptance of the Promised Messiah (AS) as the imam of the age and our acceptance of his Khalifa as the rightly guided leader of our community commissioned by Allah.  The Promised Messiah was bestowed by Allah with great knowledge of Islam and the Holy Qur’an and with this knowledge brought forward many insights that were previously unknown and cleared many misconceptions about Islam.  Whether it was the death of Jesus (AS), the universality of religion and acceptance of the founders of non-Abrahamic faiths, refuting the doctrine of abrogation, or refuting the incorrect understanding of Jihad, the impact of the Promised Messiah on Islamic theology and doctrine was great and has brought many a soul into the fold of Islam.  However, when we read the ten conditions of bai’at we see that the expectation of the Promised Messiah of his followers was much more than the mere acceptance of his theology.

The Promised Messiah said, “I have repeatedly told my Jama’at that you should not merely rely on this Bai’at. You will not attain salvation until you reach the true essence of the Bai’at.”

When reading the conditions, which are a true reflection of Islamic teaching based on the Holy Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW), we see that the Promised Messiah’s desire was to create a community of believers who would be the “best people raised for the good of mankind”, who “enjoin good and forbid evil” as mentioned in the verse I recited at the beginning.

There are many challenges that we face as Ahmadi Muslims living in Western nations.  We have many advantages that are not available to Ahmadis in other parts of the world, such as the freedom to practice and propagate our faith with little to no deterrence, as well educational and economic opportunities, for all of which we should be very grateful, alhamdulillah!  But along with those advantages come many challenges in the great number of things that can lead us away from our faith and into darkness of disbelief and immorality.  The Ten conditions of Baiat provide us with a protection and the guidance to lead us through these pitfalls and keep us on the path to Allah and preserve our identity as Ahmadi Muslims.

I will step through conditions and discuss how they apply to us here in America.  The first condition of baiat is:

1- The initiate shall solemnly promise that he/she shall abstain from shirk (associating any partner with God) right up to the day of his/her death.

Shirk has been historically thought of in terms of idolatry.  However, the Promised Messiah (AS) clarified that shirk goes beyond just the worshipping of idols.  He stated, “Every object, word or deed, which is given the same grandeur as is the due right of God the Exalted, is an idol in the sight of God.”  With this expanded understanding of shirk we can see that there are many forms of shirk that are prevalent around us such as an overemphasis on wealth, political philosophies, children, and even one’s own self.

The Promised Messiah (as) states “… worshipping resources and revering worldly gods are also forms of Shirk. What is meant by worldly gods? These are worldly benefits, for which a person neglects and discards the commandments of faith and God Almighty.  If a person discards a religious command to fulfil a worldly desire, he becomes guilty of Shirk….”  With the abundance of wealth and opportunity available to us here in America, it is easy to neglect our obligations to Allah the Almighty.  While it is a religious obligation for us to work and provide for our families, we must ensure that these obligations do not supersede other obligations such as prayer, the tarbiyyat of our families, and obligations to those around us, such as charity and the propagation of the message of Islam.  Furthermore, this condition should serve as a reminder that ultimately it is Allah who is our provider and we should put our trust in Him and not in worldly means.

2 – That he/she shall keep away from falsehood, fornication/adultery, trespasses of the eye, debauchery, dissipation, cruelty, dishonesty, mischief and rebellion; and that he/she will not permit himself/herself to be carried away by passions, however strong they might be.

This condition is perfectly addressed towards us living in the West.  It is no secret that adultery, trespasses of the eye, and debauchery are widely practiced, openly, to the extent that they are glorified with vast industries supporting them.

In his sermon on November 2nd, the last Friday of his visit to the US, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih addressed this issue very clearly.  He cited the Qur’anic verse:

‘And come not near unto adultery;’

And then stated, “this means that one should avoid gatherings and occasions in which these thoughts may come to mind. Currently, TV and internet show such indecent films which openly incite one to adultery. Thus, it is the duty of every Ahmadi to avoid all this. These indecent media products lead to adultery, domestic violence, unlawful relationships and even the mistreatment of children. The Promised Messiah (as) has advised us to not even think about adultery, every single Ahmadi must especially avoid all media that promotes adultery.”

Avoiding these is no easy task and requires careful vigilance.  Most important is that we set a good example for our children.  Children are very perceptive and will pick up on our shortcomings, repeat them, then ignore our admonitions if we show any sign of hypocrisy.

Likewise, is the case with falsehood, if we lie or are dishonest in our dealings, not only will our children be more likely to imitate our shortcomings, but they will lose their trust in us if they do not believe we are honest.  We must not become like the political spin doctors who try to squeeze truth out of lies, rather we should speak the straightforward truth as commanded in the Holy Qur’an.  We should rely on Allah and truth for our success, not on skillful deception because we think ourselves to be clever.

3 – That he/she shall regularly offer the five daily prayers in accordance with the commandments of God and the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and shall try his/her best to be regular in offering the tahajjud and invoking durud on the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW).  That he/she shall make it his/her daily routine to ask forgiveness for his/her sins, to remember the bounties of God and to praise and glorify Him.

For many years one of the primary points of emphasis of Hazrat Khalifatul Masih has been the observance of Salaat.  Hazoor frequently cites the following hadith:

“The first thing for which a person would be called to account for on the Day of Judgement is Salaat. If he succeeds in this account, he would be successful and will attain salvation. If that account is deficient, he will be ruined and will be a loser.”

Living in the West there is not much accommodation for salaat in public life as we may find in a Muslim nation.  Whether at work, school or in public in general there is typically far less to facilitate the observance of prayer and sometimes even hostile attitudes towards it.  However, this does not excuse us from observing prayer.  We are still expected to observe prayers regardless, instead we should look at these impediments as opportunities for more blessings.  We must show strong determination and fight through any hindrances.

The fact is this condition is our primary means of protection against the challenges that we face here.  Our prayers and reliance on Allah is what protects us and brings us success.

The Promised Messiah (as) said: ‘So listen all you who consider yourselves to be of my community. When you truly tread the path of righteousness, only then will you be counted in heaven as my community. So, perform your prayers five times a day inspired by such awe and awareness of the presence of Almighty God as if you were seeing Him with your own eyes.’ 

4 – That under the impulse of any passions, he/she shall cause no harm whatsoever to the creatures of God in general and Muslims in particular, neither by his/her tongue, hands, nor any other means.

This condition of bai’at is universal in its application regardless of where you live, and the Promised Messiah strongly emphasized this throughout his mission.  We should reflect on whether we are following this guidance in relation to our wives, our children, our fellow jamaat members, and our neighbors.  Are we showing them kindness or are we causing them physical or mental anguish?  Are we letting the stresses of life affect how we behave towards others?

Likewise, we should apply this principle to our opponents.  This is no simple task, when we see the persecution that our brothers and sisters face in Pakistan or other parts of the world, primarily at the hands of those who profess to be Muslims, it is only a natural impulse to respond with anger and resentment.  However, the Promised Messiah guided us in a different direction:

“Hold fast to this rule: deal with all people with kindness.  Kindness increases intelligence, and forbearance promotes deeper thinking.  Anyone who does not adopt this way is not of us.  Anyone from our Jamaat who cannot tolerate the abuse and harshness of our opponents is permitted to have recourse to the courts, but it is not appropriate that he should counter harshness with harshness and create a dispute.  This is the admonishment we have given our jamaat, and we express our displeasure and declare that the one who does not act upon it is not of our Jama’at.” (Tabligh-e-Risalat, Majmu’ah Ishtiharat)

Thus, it is important that we show perseverance in the face of hostility and avoid responding in kind.  The same applies to those non-Muslims who are outspoken in their hostility towards Islam.  Calm, rational discussion based on truth is far more effective than an angry response.

5 – That he/she shall remain faithful to God in all circumstances of life, in sorrow and in happiness, in adversity and in prosperity, in felicity and in trial; and the he/she shall in all conditions remain resigned to the decree of God and keep himself/herself ready to face all kinds of indignities and sufferings in His way and shall never turn away from Him at the onslaught of any misfortune; on the contrary, he/she shall march forward.

The trials that we face in the cause of faith here in America are minor in comparison to what is faced by brother and sisters who face persecution in other nations.  Nevertheless, we are not exempt to the rise in Anti Muslim sentiment that has increased over the last decade.  We haven’t seen any serious effort from anyone to impede our ability to practice our faith freely, but there are still those who mock and attack our faith and our Prophet (SAW) and single us out, portraying us as threat to our nation.  When faced with this situation we must stand firm and defend our faith and prophet with dignity and not respond in kind.  The Promised Messiah wrote:

“It is inevitable that you be persecuted and suffer many disappointments, but do not lose heart, for it is Allah who tests you whether you are steadfast in His cause or not.  If you desire that angels should praise you in heaven, then endure beating and be joyful, hear abuse and be grateful, experience failure and do not cut your relationship with Allah.” (Kashti Nuh)

We should also know that just because we live in the wealthiest nation in the world that we will not be exempt to adversity.  We will suffer loss and hardship just like anywhere else in the world.  We need to look no further than the recent wildfires that ravaged this area to know that our lives can change dramatically in an instant.

We should remember the words of the Holy Qur’an:

“And we will try you with something of fear and hunger, and loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give glad tidings to those who patiently persevere.  Who, when a misfortune overtakes them, say, Surely, to Allah we belong and to him shall we return.  It is these on whom descend blessings from their Lord and mercy, and it is these who are rightly guided.” (2:156-158)

Facing hardship can help us to build humbleness and shed arrogance as we realize how little control we have over our destiny and that we are truly dependent on Allah’s grace and mercy.  Rather than letting hardships shake our faith, we should accept the decree of Allah, and see them as opportunities to establish a connection with Him and earn his reward.  

6 – That he/she shall refrain from following un-Islamic customs and lustful inclinations and shall completely submit himself/herself to the authority of the Holy Qur’an; and that he/she shall make the Word of God and the sayings of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW) his/her guiding principles in every walk of his/her life.

There’s no shortage of un-Islamic customs practiced here that we must refrain from.  Alcohol is used so widely that there are very few occasions where drinking does not take place in American society.  We should avoid such gatherings where alcohol or other drugs are used as much as possible.  We should also avoid adding frivolous practices to our religious gatherings.  Hazoor has spoken on many occasions about the un-Islamic practices added to wedding ceremonies and other gatherings.  He has also spoken against adopting the religious holidays and practices of others, instead we should focus on following the guidance of the Holy Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and avoid adding innovations to our practice.  One of the primary objectives of the mission of the Promised Messiah (AS) was to do away with harmful innovations that had crept into the beliefs and practice of Muslims over the years.  We must be careful not to inject our own innovations, whether in belief, or in cultural practices, thereby counteracting the work of the Promised Messiah, instead we, as his followers, should be on guard against this above all others.

7 – That he/she shall entirely give up pride and vanity and shall pass all his/her life in humbleness, cheerfulness, forbearance and meekness

Pride, vanity, and arrogance are easy traps to fall into and difficult to address as one’s ego tends to justify these vices.  Furthermore, these behaviors are promoted shamelessly in the entertainment industry and throughout society.  The Holy Qur’an tells us:

And do not puff up your cheeks before men in pride nor walk in the earth haughtily; surely, Allah loves not any arrogant boaster. (31:19)

The Promised Messiah said:

Indeed, there are people who, although hundreds of thousands of ranks below those of Prophets of God grow arrogant when they have offered the Salat for a couple of days. Similarly, rather than be purified by fasting and performing Hajj, they develop conceit and arrogance. Remember, arrogance comes from Satan and makes one satanic. Until man keeps away from it, it becomes an impediment in the acceptance of truth and beneficence of the Divine. Arrogance should not be adopted in any way at all, not with regard to knowledge, not with regard to wealth, not with regard to high rank, not due to caste, ancestry and lineage; for it is mostly due to these things that arrogance develops. Unless one purifies oneself from these conceits one cannot be esteemed in the sight of Allah the Almighty.

Arrogance is destructive to our spirituality and destroys our relationships with one another creating jealously and envy.  It also fuels the racism and preudices that have destroyed the lives of many over the last few centuries in America.  In its place we should adopt humility and come to the realization that it is Allah who is great and that our accomplishments are nothing compared to his greatness.  When we are humble it helps to foster good relationships by demonstrating an attitude of acceptance and service.

The Holy Prophet said, ‘Allah has revealed to me that you should adopt humbleness to the extent that no one shows his pride to others and no one commits any act of aggression against another.’ (Muslim)

8 – That he/she shall hold faith, the honor of faith and the cause of Islam dearer than his/her life, wealth, honor, children, and all loved ones.

In this condition of bai’at we find the essence of all the conditions.  The Promised Messiah (AS) said, “To take Bai’at means handing over your life to Almighty Allah.”

The very purpose of our creation is to worship Allah the Almighty.  In order to meet that purpose, we must give the cause Allah the highest importance.  Matters of faith, such as salaat, doing of good deeds, and refraining from evil deeds must be given priority over worldly matters.

Allah says in the Holy Qur’an:

Nay, Whoever submits himself completely to Allah, while he is excellent in conduct, shall have his reward with his Lord.  No fear shall come upon such, nor shall they grieve. (98:6)

We should understand that when we devote ourselves to Allah the Almighty not only do we gain reward in the next world, but also in this world and it is the best chance we have for success in our worldly obligations.  Nothing brings more success than asking for and receiving Allah’s blessings.

Our faith, and religion in general, is under attack by those who seek to lead us away from Allah while slandering Our Prophet and the Holy Qur’an.  Responding to this was a primary objective of the Promised Messiah (AS).  He said:

The revival of Islam demands a sacrifice from us. What is that sacrifice? That sacrifice is our death in the cause of Islam. It is this death upon which depends the life of Islam, the life of the Muslims and the manifestation of the Living God.

The defense and revival of Islam is an enormous task that we must undertake with all sincerity and full devotion.

9 – That he/she shall keep himself/herself occupied in the service of God’s creatures for His sake only and shall endeavor towards the beneficence of mankind to the best of his/her God-given abilities and powers.

Whereas the fourth condition tells us not do to harm to others, this condition tells us that alone is not enough.  Not only are we to abstain from doing harm, but we must strive to do good to others.  One of the great blessings of our lives in America is the amount of wealth available to us.  But with this great blessing comes a great responsibility.  This condition makes it clear that we must spend some of that wealth in the Cause of Allah for the service of his creation.  The many projects that Humanity First has completed through our financial and physical sacrifices are a great example of this.  We should consider it incumbent upon ourselves to serve Allah’s creation indiscriminately, be it locally, nationally, or internationally through whatever means we have available to us.  The Promised Messiah said:

Remember that there are two commandments of Allah the Almighty.  First, associate no partner with Him, neither in His being and attributes, nor in His worship.  Second, be compassionate to the others.  Benevolence does not imply that it should only be for your brothers and relations, but it should be for anyone, any human, and any of God’s creation. 

Beyond charitable endeavors we should also seek to serve others in our everyday lives.  Following the Islamic teachings on hospitality, showing courtesy to others, and giving our neighbors their due as prescribed by Islam should be part of our everyday routine.  We should strive to embody this to the point that it becomes ingrained in our identity, so that when our families, colleagues, and neighbors see us the first thought that comes into their mind is that person is benevolent and kindhearted person.

10 – That he/she shall enter into a bond of brotherhood with this humble servant of God, pledging obedience to me in everything good for the sake of God, and remain faithful to it until the day of his/her death.  That he/she shall exert such a high devotion in the observance of this bond as is not to be found in any other worldly relationship and connection that demand devoted dutifulness.

In the first nine conditions the Promised Messiah sets his expectations of us in how we will conduct our lives.  It is clear from those conditions that he seeks people who strive to embody the teachings of Islam and reflect the teachings of the Holy Qur’an and the example of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW).

This final condition of bai’at is the one that ties us to the Promised Messiah and to his Khulafaa.  It acknowledges him as the Messiah, acknowledges Khilafat, and is what truly distinguishes us amongst Muslims.  It provides us with leadership and guidance to achieve what others find nearly impossible.  It is our acknowledgement that Allah has created this jamaat for a grand purpose and that we stand ready to serve.  It declares our dedication to the cause of the Promised Messiah and to the service of the Khalifa of the time.  Our obedience to the Khalifa of the time, is the key to our success both individually and as a jamaat.  The blessed institution of Khalifat is protected and guided by Allah as promised in the Holy Qur’an.  Our unity and identity are preserved in our loyalty to this blessed institution.   The Khalifa of the time provides us with guidance and leads us past the pitfalls that cause us to stumble and go astray.

The Holy Qur’an tells us “Hold tightly to the Rope of Allah and be not divided”.  The Rope of Allah here refers to the Holy Qur’an, His Prophets, and by extension his Khulafaa.  If we hold on tightly to Khilafat we will receive the guidance and blessings that is bestowed on Khilafat by Allah and we will remain a united jamaat.  This, along with firmly following the conditions of bai’at, is the means of preserving our identity in the West and any part of the world.  May Allah enable us to hold tightly to His rope of Khilafat, so that we may be pulled out of the stormy waters of the world into the ark of the Promised Messiah (AS).