After reciting the Tashahhud, Ta‘awwuz, and Surah Al-Fatihah, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih V(aba) recited verses 184 to 186 from chapter 2 of the Holy Qur’an, the translation of which is as follows:
‘O ye who believe! fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may become righteous.
The prescribed fasting is for a fixed number of days, but whoso among you is sick or is on a journey shall fast the same number of other days; and for those who are able to fast only with great difficulty is an expiation — the feeding of a poor man. And whoso performs a good work with willing obedience, it is better for him. And fasting is good for you, if you only knew.
The month of Ramadan is that in which the Qur’an was sent down as a guidance for mankind with clear proofs of guidance and discrimination. Therefore, whosoever of you is present at home in this month, let him fast therein. But whoso is sick or is on a journey, shall fast the same number of other days. Allah desires to give you facility and He desires not hardship for you, and that you may complete the number, and that you may exalt Allah for His having guided you and that you may be grateful.’
His Holiness(aba) said that by the Grace of Allah, Ramadan is starting in the UK tomorrow. This month has been established for our spiritual progress. God Almighty says that fasting is prescribed for you that you may attain Taqwa (righteousness). What is righteousness? The Promised Messiah(as) states that it is the recognition and fulfilment of one’s rights to God, and one’s rights to humanity.
His Holiness(aba) said that if one tries making a list of the rights owed to God and humanity, the list becomes endless. When one analyses themselves, they will find that in its true essence, it is not possible for one to truly fulfil their duties of worship to God, nor does one thank Him as much as one should. The same occurs for one’s duties towards humanity, which includes duties owed to parents, neighbours and society at large.
His Holiness(aba) said that true righteousness is to fulfil the oaths made to God Almighty to the minutest detail and fulfil the trusts He has bestowed upon mankind, and likewise in the service to humanity. Only then can one say that they have attained righteousness. Thus, God Almighty states that the month of fasting has been prescribed so that by abstaining from even that which is permissible in normal circumstances, one can increase in worship and pay closer attention to fulfilling the rights to humanity. It is only then that one can attain righteousness, and this is the very purpose of Ramadan. Observing Ramadan in this way ensures that the changes brought about in this month will not be temporary, but will remain for a lifetime. The allures of this world will not prevail over such people but their attention will always remain towards God, nor will the rights of others be usurped. If one does enter Ramadan with this intention then Ramadan will be of no benefit.
His Holiness(aba) related that the Holy Prophet(sa) once said that one who fasts for the sake of Allah, Allah establishes the distance of 70 seasons between him and the Fire. Thus, fasting does not simply establish righteousness for a month, it establishes righteousness for 70 years. Meaning that by understanding the true essence of Ramadan, a change can be brought about for a lifetime.
His Holiness(aba) said that imagine how beautiful society would become if people fasted with this spirit; a society where the rights of God would be fulfilled and the rights of humanity would also be fulfilled. Islam says that do not merely seek your own benefits and rights but also consider those of others.
His Holiness(aba) said that the current pandemic is confining people to their homes by law. An example of service to humanity has been set by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community throughout the world under its auxiliary organisation of Khuddamul Ahmadiyya [the youth of the community]; who are helping provide for those in need. This spirit which has come about should not be limited to times of emergency but should remain at all times
His Holiness(aba) said that many have been writing to him, saying that during these days, a new change has come about in their homes, through offering congregational prayers, giving dars, watching the Friday Sermon as a family and various other programmes on MTA. We should take full advantage of this opportunity that God has given us. The atmosphere which has come about in our homes should increase, as opposed to the state of worldly households wherein arguments and discontent have increased.
His Holiness(aba) then presented various quotations of the Promised Messiah(as), on the subject of attaining true Taqwa. The Promised Messiah(as) explained that true righteousness is to abstain from all evils, in fact not even drawing near to them. Not only must one strive with their efforts in this cause, but these efforts must also be accompanied by prayers. Mere efforts or mere prayer are not enough, both must join together. This is the same philosophy presented at the very beginning of the Holy Qur’an, ‘Thee Alone do we worship and Thee Alone do we implore for help.’ Thus, utilising the faculties given to us by God, one must strive to make every effort. Then after having done so, one must pray to God, that they have done all they could and now turn to Him for His Divine help.
His Holiness(aba) quoted the Qur’anic verse ‘And as for those who strive in Our path — We will surely guide them in Our ways. And verily Allah is with those who do good,’ (29:70) which shows that one must strive and make efforts in the way of Allah. He then presented the verse ‘Pray unto Me; I will answer your prayer’ (40:61) showing that one must also employ the use of prayer alongside their efforts. This is the way in which righteousness can be attained. Taqwa beautifies one’s deeds and enables them to attain the pleasure of Allah.
His Holiness(aba) presented another instance where the Promised Messiah(as) said that Taqwa is to bring a death upon one’s self. One is naturally attracted to apparent worldly desires, whereas the fruits of spirituality are hidden. First one must bring a death upon the physical desires, then will the hidden pleasures of spirituality become apparent. Thus the Promised Messiah(as) urged the entire community to extinguish their love for worldly desires, and work towards attaining righteousness, just as children practice writing. First they write crooked but keep practicing and eventually their writing becomes neat and clear. So too should one strive in improving in righteousness. When Allah sees that that effort is being made in this regard, He then makes them fruitful. Then do one’s desires subside, like the throwing of water upon a fire.
His Holiness(aba) stated that another point of emphasis is the community’s dealings with one another. Members must abstain from quarrelling over small disputes, which lead to the open spreading of one another’s weaknesses and faults.
His Holiness(aba) stated that the root of every good is belief in Allah. If one’s belief is weak, so too will his deeds. When one has firm faith in Allah, then his deeds will also be pure and good. One who has firm belief in Allah cannot be inclined to doing evil. When one falls upon God’s threshold with complete humility and meekness then will his prayers be heard and righteousness be attained. This is the level of righteousness which the Promised Messiah(as) has drawn our attention toward and we should strive to attain. We should pray to God to attain this level, and pray to fulfil the expectations of the Promised Messiah(as).
His Holiness(aba) then commented on the Qur’anic verses which excuse one from fasting under certain circumstances, saying that true righteousness necessitates complete obedience. Thus, where there are genuine reasons then these injunctions can be taken advantage of, but excuses for not fasting should not pointedly be sought out. This is a matter for which one must take fatwa (decision) from one’s self. The Promised Messiah(as) says that one who is happy upon the arrival of Ramadan and was looking forward to it, but due to some illness cannot observe the fasts, his intention however will still be accepted in the heavens. But there are those who create excuses which they convince themselves are good enough reasons to excuse them of fasting. It is easy to come up with excuses. But God knows a person’s true intentions, He is the Knower of the Unseen. God knows who is sincere and who merely makes excuses and thus deals with them accordingly.
His Holiness(aba) said that these days, people have been asking as to whether fasting is still incumbent in light of the circumstances and the increased risk of illness. His Holiness(aba) said that everyone should analyse their own condition and make their own judgement. He said that he has consulted various doctors around the world on the matter, and their opinion is divided. They say that there is no specific evidence to suggest that fasting would make one more prone to illness, however if there are any indications or symptoms of illness, then one should stop fasting right away. His Holiness(aba) advised to drink lots of water at the closing and opening of the fast, and if possible eat such foods that help retain water.
His Holiness(aba) said Pray to Allah for the ability to fast and may Allah enable people to recognise Him. May Allah eradicate this pandemic quickly and have mercy on the world. May Ahmadis fulfil the rights of God and humanity and benefit from the blessings of Ramadan.
His Holiness(aba) said that in such straitened and challenging circumstances, the possibility for war increases as well. Worldly governments seek to divert the attention of the masses through various means which cause even more detriment.
His Holiness(aba) at the end prayed that may Allah give wisdom to the governments of the world and may they not make any decision that leads the world to further destruction. May they make their policies with wisdom, and may God help those scientists who are searching for a cure to this pandemic.
Summary prepared by The Review of Religions.
After reciting the Tashahud, Ta‘awuz, and Surah al-Fatihah, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih V(aa) recited verses 184-186 of Surah al-Baqarah and commenced with the Friday Sermon:
یٰاَیُّہَا الَّذِینَ اٰمَنُوۡا کُتِبَ عَلَیکُمُ الصِّیَامُ کَمَا کُتِبَ عَلَی الَّذِیۡنَ مِنۡ قَبلِکُمۡ لَعَلَّکُمۡ تَتَّقُوۡنَ
اَیَّامًا مَّعدُوۡدٰتٍ ؕ فَمَنۡ کَانَ مِنکُمۡ مَّرِیضًا اَوۡ عَلٰی سَفَرٍ فَعِدَّۃٌ مِّنۡ اَیَّامٍ اُخَرَ ؕ وَ عَلَی الَّذِینَ یُطِیقُوۡنَہٗ فِدۡیَۃٌ طَعَامُ مِسکِینٍ ؕ فَمَنۡ تَطَوَّعَ خَیرًا فَہُوَ خَیرٌ لَّہٗ ؕ وَ اَنۡ تَصُوۡمُوۡا خَیرٌ لَّکُمۡ اِنۡ کُنتُمۡ تَعلَمُوۡنَ
شَہرُ رَمَضَانَ الَّذِیۡۤ اُنزِلَ فِیہِ القُرۡاٰنُ ہُدًی لِّلنَّاسِ وَ بَیِّنٰتٍ مِّنَ الۡہُدٰی وَ الۡفُرۡقَانِ ۚ فَمَنۡ شَہِدَ مِنکُمُ الشَّہرَ فَلیَصُمۡہُ ؕ وَ مَنۡ کَانَ مَرِیضًا اَوۡ عَلٰی سَفَرٍ فَعِدَّۃٌ مِّنۡ اَیَّامٍ اُخَرَ ؕ یُرِیدُ اللّٰہُ بِکُمُ الیُسرَ وَ لَا یُرِیدُ بِکُمُ العُسرَ ۫ وَ لِتُکمِلُوا العِدَّۃَ وَ لِتُکَبِّرُوا اللّٰہَ عَلٰی مَا ہَدٰکُمۡ وَ لَعَلَّکُمۡ تَشکُرُوۡنَ
The translation of these verses is as follows:
“O ye who believe! fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may become righteous.”
The translation of the next verse is as follows:
“The prescribed fasting is for a fixed number of days, but whoso among you is sick or is on a journey shall fast the same number of other days; and for those who are able to fast only with great difficulty is an expiation – the feeding of a poor man. And whoso performs a good work with willing obedience, it is better for him. And fasting is good for you, if you only knew.
“The month of Ramadan is that in which the Quran was sent down as a guidance for mankind with clear proofs of guidance and discrimination. Therefore, whosoever of you is present at home in this month, let him fast therein. But whoso is sick or is on a journey, shall fast the same number of other days. Allah desires to give you facility and He desires not hardship for you, and that you may complete the number, and that you may exalt Allah for His having guided you and that you may be grateful.” (The Holy Quran, 2:184-186)
By the grace of Allah the Almighty, Ramadan will commence here [in the UK] tomorrow. Allah the Almighty has prescribed fasting in Ramadan for our spiritual progress. The first verse of the Holy Quran which I recited states, “Fasting is prescribed for you ... so that you may become righteous.”
What is taqwa (righteousness)? Whilst expounding upon this, the Promised Messiah(as) stated on one occasion:
“Taqwa is that a person upholds and fulfils every trust of God and spiritual covenant made with Him, as well as the trusts and covenants made with His creation to the best of one’s abilities. In other words, he should uphold and fulfil even the minutest aspects of it to the best of his abilities.” (Barahin-e-Ahmadiyya, Part 5, Vol. 21, p. 210, Appendix)
Thus, this is not an easy task. What are the rights of Allah? What are the rights of people? If one was to list all of them, one would become greatly worried. We are not even able to fulfil the rights of Allah’s worship.
All the favours which Allah the Almighty has bestowed upon us make it incumbent for us to be grateful to Him. However, not only do we not fulfil this obligation of expressing our gratitude, but we do not even possess the ability to do this.
There are many people who continue to benefit from the blessings of Allah the Almighty without expressing any gratitude, thinking as if it is their right. In fact, it is a great favour of Allah the Almighty that He continues to bless us despite our conditions and our ungratefulness. We fail to honour the pledges we have made to God Almighty.
Then there are the rights of [God’s] creation, rights of parents, rights of neighbours, rights of travellers and other general rights within society that we do not fulfil. We have been commanded to fulfil them, but we do not do justice to them. Thus, if we analyse minutely, we are neither fulfilling the rights of Allah the Almighty, nor the rights of people.
Once I had a general list made, which only included some of the main obligations we owe to fellow mankind and the creation of Allah. Even they came up to 28 or 29. In any case, the Promised Messiah(as) states that true faith and true righteousness require one to fulfil their oaths made with Allah the Almighty and to do so by delving into the finer details of these oaths. Similarly, one should fulfil His trusts. Likewise, one must delve into the depths of fulfilling the rights of His creation and also fulfil their trusts with a sense of deep concern. At that point can it be said that one has adopted taqwa.
Allah the Almighty says that the reason why the month of Ramadan has arrived and your attention has been drawn towards fasting is so that you may make up and fulfil any of your shortcomings and weaknesses of the past 11 months. And this is to be done whilst turning your attention purely towards Allah the Almighty, abstaining from even the lawful things purely for His sake, tolerating hunger and thirst for His sake, paying greater attention towards the worship of Allah the Almighty than before and whilst paying particular attention towards fulfilling the rights of His creation.
When one fulfils these injunctions, this in essence is true taqwa and this is the very purpose of Ramadan and fasting. When a person observes the fast and passes through the month of Ramadan with this objective and for this purpose and does so with pure intentions then this will not bring about a temporary transformation, rather it will be a permanent change. Furthermore, one’s attention will constantly be turned toward fulfilling the rights of Allah and towards fulfilling the rights of His worship.
Such an individual will not be overcome by worldly endeavours and vain pursuits and he will also pay attention towards fulfilling the rights of mankind. Such an individual will not usurp the rights of people for his personal interests. Thus, if we are not entering the month of fasting with this intention and objective then this month of Ramadan will be of no benefit.
The Holy Prophet(sa) stated on one occasion that the person who observes the fast for the sake of Allah the Almighty and in order to seek His grace, Allah the Almighty places a gap of 70 seasons between his face and the hellfire. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab-ul-Jihad Wa Al-Siyar, Hadith no. 2840)
The difference between one season and the following season is an entire year, thus Allah the Almighty creates a distance of 70 years. Hence, these are the blessings of fasting and this is the taqwa that is developed within a person as a result.
The observation of fasts does not create taqwa for merely 30 days, rather a true fast leaves its impact for 70 years. Furthermore, if we look at it from this perspective, that if a Muslim, who has reached the age of maturity and upon whom fasting is obligatory, truly derives benefit from fasting and understands its true spirit and observes it accordingly, then they will continue to benefit for the rest of their lives from the blessings which Allah the Almighty has placed in fasting. Moreover, such an individual will continue to search for the different avenues of attaining taqwa.
In this manner, one will be protected from incurring the displeasure of Allah the Almighty and will instead continue to attain His pleasure.
If, in our society, people observe the fasts in this manner, then what a beautiful society that would be, wherein the rights of Allah the Almighty are fulfilled as well as those of His creation. This is the very ideal society, which every believer desires to establish. As a matter of fact, every human desires to establish and uphold such a society, as far as his own rights are concerned.
As I have mentioned, in relation to the fulfilling of one’s right, one generally desires this for themselves, irrespective of whether they are mindful of fulfilling the rights of others. However, Islam says that you must establish this society for others as well. You should not merely look at your personal conveniences, interests and rights, rather you must protect and care for the rights of others as well.
The current widespread pandemic has bound most people to staying in their homes under government regulations. A good thing that has generally developed amongst people here, and especially within the Jamaat in various countries through Khuddam-ul-Ahmadiyya and volunteers, is that they are giving greater attention to providing help, support, medical aid or other facilities to people. Through these actions, where we benefit ourselves, we are also benefitting others from outside the community who are impressed by this.
Therefore, this increased vigour to serve humanity should not just be temporary during these unprecedented times, rather we should make this a permanent feature of our lives.
In any case, additionally, what are the spiritual benefits from remaining at home? People write to me that a new environment has been formed in their homes by praying in congregation, delivering religious talks after the prayers and by listening or watching the Friday Sermon and other MTA programmes together. This lockdown may extend further and even cover the whole Ramadan period. In any case we should strive to make the aforementioned habits a permanent part of our lives.
Further, we should give children small lessons and teach them. As I said in a previous sermon that through this, you can increase your and your children’s knowledge. Pay special heed to praying and beseech Allah the Almighty for His mercy for both yourself and the world in general. So, from these days that Allah that Almighty has provided us, we should derive maximum benefit.
As I have said, a new atmosphere has developed in people’s homes owing to this pandemic, but we should try and improve this even further. Our homes should not become like those of many worldly people where it is often reported that domestic quarrels and disputes have increased leading to further anxiety and restlessness.
Through giving attention to those righteous acts, we have been reminded that we should constantly improve the environment of our homes.
Sometimes, there are men who do not properly play a part in the righteous household atmosphere that is being formed, whereas there are also some women who have other priorities and preferences. People who act in this manner are completely unaware of just how much, in these circumstances, we need to be praying and bowing down to God the Almighty and seeking His pleasure. This is also a time when we can bring our children closer to Allah the Almighty.
Therefore, every one of our Ahmadi homes should pay special attention to this during these days so that we can attain the love of Allah the Almighty and a prosperous end. May Allah the Almighty enable us to attain and remain established upon taqwa.
On different occasions the Promised Messiah(as) has explained taqwa from various perspectives. The Promised Messiah(as) is the most secure fortress of this era. He is that strong fortress and refuge who having received guidance from Allah the Almighty, explained to us the true teachings of Islam. With great pain and passion, he has shown us the ways of Allah the Almighty and His Messenger(sa) and drawn our attention to entering that sanctuary. It therefore behoves us having pledged allegiance to him and joining his community to act upon his teachings and fulfil our pledge.
We should reflect upon the Promised Messiah’s(as) heartfelt words and then implement them. When we come to fulfil our pledges, we will adorn our lives in this world and the hereafter.
At present, I shall read out some extracts of the Promised Messiah(as) where he addressed members of the Jamaat in various gatherings to help improve their level of spirituality and taqwa. In one gathering, explaining the true meaning of taqwa and how it can be attained, the Promised Messiah(as) says:
“First and foremost, one should understand the true meaning of taqwa and how one can attain it. Taqwa means to desist from even the most nominal and smallest elements of immorality and impurity. This can be achieved by devising such robust and complete strategies and efforts through which you avoid crossing paths with sin altogether. However, it is insufficient to only make efforts. In fact, one also needs to fulfil the right of prayers and pray in a way that melts the heart.
“Whist sitting, standing, bowing and prostrating in prayer, in Tahajjud, in fact at all times, one should constantly pray for Allah the Almighty to deliver him from the depravity of sin and transgression. There is no greater blessing than gaining salvation from sin and becoming an innocent individual, where Allah the Almighty considers him as righteous and truthful.” However, the Promised Messiah(as) says, “this blessing is not attained through efforts alone, nor is it attained through solely prayers.” It is insufficient to only make efforts and it is also not enough to only pray. “In fact, this is achieved through the combination of prayers and efforts.”
Unless you take efforts and prayers to their highest point, you will not be able to attain this. The Promised Messiah(as) says:
“One who only prays and fails to make efforts is guilty of sin and is putting God Almighty on trial. Similarly, one who makes efforts alone and abandons prayer acts with insolence is indifferent to God Almighty and believes that they can carry out righteous deeds through personal efforts and plans.”
One cannot become pious through mere efforts alone. The Promised Messiah(as) then says:
“However, this is not the way of a true Muslim and believer; he, in fact, utilises both prayer and efforts. He makes full efforts and planning and recourses to the resources and means available to him. Then he leaves the matter to God the Almighty and prays to Him. Indeed, this is the teaching we have been given in the very first chapter of the Holy Quran, where God Almighty says:
اِیَّاکَ نَعْبُدُ وَاِیَّاکَ نَسْتَعِیْنُ
“‘Thee Alone do We Worship and Thee Alone do We Implore for Help.’ One who does not use his faculties appropriately not only dishonours them but is also guilty of sin.” (Malfuzat, Vol. 6, pp. 337-338)
Then, whilst further elaborating on this, the Promised Messiah(as) states:
“Man should fully avail the faculties granted to him by God Almighty and then entrust Him with the outcome. He should plead to God by saying, ‘I have made use of these faculties to the extent of which You have granted me.’ This is the meaning of اِیَّاکَ نَعْبُدُ [Thee alone do we worship]. Then he says وَاِیَّاکَ نَسْتَعِیْنُ [Thee alone do we implore for help] and seeks help of God Almighty whilst saying ‘I seek Your support in the remaining stages.’” (Malfuzat, Vol. 6, pp. 338-339, footnote)
However, we should always bear in mind that God Almighty is aware of our inner state and of all our actions. Therefore, one should make maximum effort to the best of one’s abilities, as only then will one be able to seek the help of God Almighty. Hence, one must fully assess themselves in this matter and always consider whether or not they are acting with taqwa.
The Promised Messiah(as) then states:
“There is no doubt that at times, man derives benefit by means of his planning. However, to place full trust in one’s own plans is the height of foolishness and ignorance. Planning without prayer is futile and prayer without planning is of no benefit. It is necessary that one first closes the window through which sin can pass.”
In other words, one should get rid of the hole through which sin can enter and eliminate whatever factor may cause sin to be committed, be it disobedience or swaying away from religion. The Promised Messiah(as) states that one should first close this window and continue praying for the constant inner struggle. This is why it is stated:
وَالَّذِیْنَ جَاہَدُوْا فِیْنَا لَنَہْدِیَنَّہُمْ سُبُلَنَا
[‘And as for those who strive in Our path — We will surely guide them in Our ways.’ (Ch.29: V.70)]
“How wonderfully has the guidance to act upon one’s planning been mentioned in this. Even in planning, one should not forsake God Almighty. On the other hand, it is stated:
اُدْعُوْنِیْٓ اَسْتَجِبْ لَکُمْ
[‘Pray unto Me; I will answer (your prayer).’ (Ch.40: V.61)]
Therefore, if man truly desires to attain taqwa, he should plan and supplicate and fulfil the rights of both aspects. In such circumstances will God Almighty have mercy. However, if one were to act upon one and abandon the other, he would remain deprived.” (Malfuzat, Vol. 6, pp. 338-339)
Whilst further expounding upon this, the Promised Messiah(as) states:
“This is how one remains firmly established upon taqwa”, i.e. through planning and prayer “and Taqwa is the root of all deeds.”
The Promised Messiah(as) states that man remains firmly rooted in righteousness through this, i.e. the means which have been previously mentioned i.e. planning and prayer.
“One remains firmly established in righteousness through this and the root of all deeds is taqwa. Whoever is void of this is a sinner. The beauty in one’s actions is brought about through taqwa”, that is the beauty of one’s deeds is created by means of righteousness; “by means of this can one attain nearness to God Almighty and through this does one become a friend of God. God Almighty states:
اِنْ اَوْلِیَآؤُہٗٓ اِلَّا الْمُتَّقُوْنَ
[‘Its (true) guardians are only those who are righteous.’ (Ch.8: V.35)]”
Whilst expounding upon this verse, اِنْ اَوْلِیَآؤُہٗٓ اِلَّا الْمُتَّقُوْنَ i.e. ‘Its [true] guardians are only those who are righteous’, the Promised Messiah(as) states:
“To attain this friendship, one must possess taqwa. If one were to attain this whilst remaining fearful of God, then he would surely attain excellence.” (Malfuzat, Vol. 6, p. 340, footnote)
If one desires to be a friend of God, he must remember that it can only be attained through righteousness and if he has the fear of God in his heart, then he will be able reach the stage of excellence.
“When there remain absolutely no further stages of taqwa, one will then be counted amongst the ‘friends of Allah’. In reality, the final stage of taqwa is a sort of death because when one contests all the sides of the inner self, it will cease to exist. This is why it is said:
مُوْتُوْا قَبْلَ اَنْ تَمُوْتُوْا
[‘Bring about a death (of your inner self) before death overtakes you’.]
The inner-self desires worldly pleasures and is completely unaware of the hidden pleasures (i.e. it does not know of the pleasures of God Almighty and the spiritual pleasures which are hidden). Man only knows the apparent attractions of the world and that is all that the inner-self desires.”
“In order to make the inner self aware of this, it is necessary for one to firstly bring about a death upon the worldly and physical pleasures and make the inner self aware of the hidden pleasures”; worldly desires should be eradicated and only then will the self become aware of the hidden pleasures. “It is at this point that the divine pleasures, which are a manifestation of the heavenly life, shall begin.”
When one begins to learn of the hidden pleasures, then the manifestation of the heavenly life will also begin. Whilst advising his community in this regard, the Promised Messiah(as) states:
“The members of our Jamaat should bring about a death upon themselves.”
This was not just his advice to those who have attained great spiritual heights and people of greater esteem, rather it was generally to each and every member of the Jamaat. Do not be under the impression that one must hold a special rank to reach God Almighty and that not every person can attain this. The Promised Messiah(as) gave general advice and said to his Community. He states:
“In order for the members of my Jamaat to bring about a death upon their inner self and to attain righteousness, they must first strive in this regard, just as when children who learn fine-writing at first, write letters rather sloppily, but in the end, after much practice, the letters become neat and orderly. Likewise, they are also in need of striving. When God Almighty sees their efforts, He Himself will show mercy.”
It was previously mentioned:
وَالَّذِیْنَ جَاہَدُوْا فِیْنَا
[‘And (as for) those who strive in Our path’]
Whilst elaborating on this further, the Promised Messiah(as) states:
“The meaning of ‘striving’ in the verse وَالَّذِیْنَ جَاہَدُوْا فِیْنَا [‘And (as for) those who strive in Our path’] is that man must practice and strive in this manner and pray to God.”
That is when God Almighty will show mercy and grant the fruits of their labour. The Promised Messiah(as) states further:
“The meaning of striving is that man must practice and strive” in the same manner that a child does, “and so, on the one hand he prays, but on the other, he makes full planning and preparation. In the end, God Almighty sends down His grace and the passion of the inner-self will start to fade away and diminish. Thereafter, such a state is brought about just as water is thrown on fire. There are many who are engulfed in the affliction of the nafs-e-ammarah [the self inclined to evil].”
The Promised Messiah(as) then says to his community in regard to their internal reformation:
“I have observed that people among the Jamaat become involved in disputes”, i.e. there are mutual quarrels and disagreements, “and even the smallest of arguments can lead to one attacking the honour of his brother and quarrels with him. This behaviour is extremely inappropriate and this should not take place. In fact, what is the harm done if one admits to their mistakes.”
The Promised Messiah(as) states:
“Over the smallest of matters, some people do not rest until they have humiliated the other. It is vital for our Jamaat to abstain from all of this. One of the attributes of God Almighty is ‘Sattar’ [the One Who conceals faults]; why then do they not show mercy to their brothers and conceal their faults. One ought to conceal the shortcomings of their brethren and not attack their honour.”
The Promised Messiah(as) further says:
“There are still many people in the Jamaat, who, if they hear even a small point raised against them, become enraged. Whereas, it is vital to discard such emotions so that one develops meekness and forbearance in their disposition.” He further writes, “It is often observed that when two people quarrel over even the smallest of matters, they become intent on overcoming the other”, i.e. in order to win the argument over the other. “In such instances, one ought to forsake such emotions and in order to settle the dispute, one ought to willingly accept defeat. It should not be the case that in the dispute, one tries to humiliate their brother.” (Malfuzat, Vol. 6, pp. 341-342)
“To disclose the faults of others is the root of arrogance and a disease.”
As mentioned, the Promised Messiah(as) stated that to overcome one’s brother is the root of arrogance. Secondly, he mentioned about propagating someone else’s weakness. He further elaborated that if one has a desire to defeat their brother, it is the root of arrogance and if one propagates the fault of another, then this is a grave disease.
The Promised Messiah(as) says:
“These matters cause the soul to decay and therefore one ought to abstain from such practices. Thus, all of these matters are associated with righteousness. The one whose inner and outer traits are infused with righteousness is deemed amongst the angels because no form of rebellion is left within them. Adopt righteousness, for only after this can one receive the blessings from God Almighty. A righteous person is saved from the afflictions of this world as God Almighty covers their shortcomings. Until one adopts this method, all else will be in vain and such people are the ones who will derive no benefit from pledging allegiance to me.”
“Always remember that verbally pledging allegiance to me is of no use for God Almighty desires one to bring about a pious transformation within them.” He continues, “One will derive no benefit [from pledging allegiance] and how can one do so when injustices remain within one’s character. If one still has arrogance, conceit, vanity, pretentiousness and is easily overcome with rage, just like other people, then what is the difference between the two?”
The Promised Messiah(as) further elaborates on this by saying:
“Therefore, bring about a transformation within yourselves and adopt the most excellent virtues. If there is even one pious individual in the entire village, they will be astonished and influenced by him.”
If there is a pious person who has a virtuous disposition and grants benefit to others; if he is humble and controls his passions, then the Promised Messiah(as) has said that the people will turn to him owing to his beneficence. This is also a form of Tabligh [propagating the message of Islam]. A pious person who adopts piety owing to the fear of God Almighty is bestowed a spiritual awe from God Almighty, which impacts the hearts of others and they affirm that such a person is a man of God.
“No matter how much one opposes that individual, gradually they will become his followers, and instead of looking at him with contempt, they will attest to his grandeur.”
The Promised Messiah(as) further states:
“There is no doubt that the one who is sent by God Almighty is granted a part of divine majesty and this is the way of the righteous. Remember, to upset one’s brother over insignificant matters is wrong. The Holy Prophet(sa) was the embodiment of the most perfect morals, and God Almighty has declared that his example is the final model for mankind.”
“Today, if one still has traces of barbarity within them, then it will be truly regrettable and unfortunate. Thus, do not slander others because sometimes, when one slanders another person, they themselves become embroiled in that trait for which he accused the other person.” If he does not have the trait within him, then you will be guilty of defamation and become immersed in that very evil. “However, if the other person truly has the shortcoming, for which he is accused, then his matter is between him and God. Despite this, no one has a right to slander another.”
If one has an ill habit, then that is between that individual and God Almighty. However, if the other person does not have the trait which he is accused of, then that accusation can revert back onto him.
“Many people have the habit that they immediately raise sinful allegations against their brethren, this is something that ought to be avoided. Provide benefit for mankind and show sympathy to mankind … be kind towards your brethren and courteous to your neighbours; treat your wives with kindness and above all abstain from Shirk [associating partners with God] as this is the first step towards righteousness.” (Malfuzat, Vol. 6, pp. 340-344, footnote)
The Promised Messiah(as) then says:
“Righteousness means to abstain from even the smallest aspects of sin, but remember, piety is not that one declares themselves to be pious because they abstain from theft, usurping from others or avoids leering and adultery, as according to the wise, to call such deeds as an act of piety is worthy of amusement. The reason for this is if one commits these crimes such as theft or adultery, they will be punished for it.
“Therefore, to declare this to be piety is of no value to the wise. True piety is that one ought to help others and strive in the way of God Almighty with complete sincerity and loyalty, to the extent that one becomes prepared to sacrifice their life in the way of God. For this reason, God Almighty states:
اِنَّ اللّٰہَ مَعَ الَّذِیْنَ اتَّقَوْا وَّالَّذِیْنَ ہُمْ مُّحْسِنُوْنَ
“‘Verily, Allah is with those who are righteous and those who do good.’ [Ch.16: V.129]
“It should be remembered that simply abstaining from sin is not a virtue, until one also performs virtuous deeds along with it.” (Malfuzat, Vol. 6, pp. 241-242)
“Let it be known that the root of every virtue and piety is belief in God Almighty. The more one’s belief in God Almighty diminishes, the more one becomes negligent towards performing virtuous deeds.
“On the contrary, when one’s belief in God Almighty is strengthened, their deeds will also be good. When one has firm faith and believes in all the perfect attributes of God Almighty, at the same time, astonishing transformations are witnessed in one’s deeds.” When one has full conviction of the attributes of God Almighty, they undergo an astonishing transformation in their deeds. “The one who truly believes in God Almighty does not have the ability to sin because this conviction cuts off all the limbs of one’s carnal desires and sin.”
“Observe, if one loses their sight, how would they be able to commit adultery or trespass of the eye? Similarly, if one’s hands are cut off, how can one commit sin by means of it?” He further writes, “In the same manner, if one reaches the stage of nafs-e-mutma‘innah [the soul at rest], this state makes one blind and the eye no longer has the ability to sin. Although he can see, but at the same time, he does not see.”
Although one in this state can see, however they no longer commit adultery of the eye because their ability to commit sin of the eye has been diminished.
“Although they possess ears, they are deaf. They can hear, but they do not hear any evil or sin. In this manner, all of one’s carnal passions and faculties as well as internal passions that drive one to sin are diminished. Every power that enables one to sin are destroyed and the individual becomes like a corpse. They only act in accordance with the will of God and do not move until and unless they are commanded by God Almighty. This stage is developed when one has true faith in God Almighty and in return one is bestowed complete conviction in Him.”
The Promised Messiah(as) further says, “This is the ultimate goal that one ought to strive to achieve.”
Then further elaborating on the real goal that one ought to achieve and advising the Jamaat, the Promised Messiah(as) states:
“This is vital for our Jamaat and in order to attain perfect conviction, one ought to have perfect faith. Therefore, the primary goal of our Jamaat is that we ought to have true belief in God Almighty.” (Malfuzat, Vol. 6, pp. 244-245)
“No one can be pure unless God Almighty Himself purifies them. When one’s soul falls at the threshold of God in complete humility and submission, God Almighty will then accept their prayers and they will be deemed a true righteous person. At such a stage, one will have the ability to understand the faith of the Holy Prophet(sa). Until such a stage is reached, everything that one knows about faith, including all worship etc., is merely a custom and a philosophy that one has inherited from their forefathers and having heard them, they adopted it”; in other words, they would have seen their forefathers perform the same rituals and thus, they would adopt it, “but it would be devoid of any essence or meaning.” (Malfuzat, Vol. 6, p. 228)
Thus, this is the standard of righteousness and the level of understanding and implementation of one’s faith which the Promised Messiah(as) has drawn our attention to so that we may strive and act in accordance. We must fall at the threshold of Almighty God with utmost humility and whilst performing good deeds, seek help from Him in order to attain these standards and fulfil the expectations of the Promised Messiah(as).
It is the acquisition of this very taqwa, which then enables one to properly utilise the exemptions which have been granted in the subsequent verses [which I recited earlier], which give further details of fasting.
God Almighty has left everyone to assess their own conditions, provided they do so with taqwa. If one is suffering from an illness, which does not allow them to fast or if the doctor has advised against fasting, then one should pay the fidya [expiation]. However, one should not search for excuses so that one can simply pay the fidya and exempt themselves from fasting.
The Promised Messiah(as) states that one ought to demonstrate obedience when doing good deeds. One should reflect as to what instruction God Almighty has given for carrying out the particular deed. Therefore, if one deeply ponders over the actual commandment whilst adhering to taqwa, one will know if it is better for them to fast or then to pay the fidya temporarily.
Furthermore, God Almighty has expounded in more detail that if one is sick or on a journey, then they should not fast because God Almighty does not desire hardship. However, when one recovers from their sickness, then one should make up for the missed fasts. Likewise, one should make up for the fasts that were missed whilst on journey, even if they have paid the fidya.
Thus, whatever the case, it always comes down to the fact that one ought to adopt taqwa, instil the fear of God and know that He has full knowledge of our conditions, and then take any decision and God Almighty will grant the best results and outcome.
“He whose heart is filled with joy at the arrival of Ramadan and was eagerly awaiting it so that he could partake in the observing of fasts, but owing to an illness, is not able to, is not deprived of his fasting in the heavens.”
“Many in this world are prone to a habit of offering excuses. They assume that just as they are able to deceive the world, they can also attempt to deceive God Almighty.” They feel that since they have deceived the world, they can do the same with God. “Such people think of justifications from themselves and then exacerbate it further that such and such thing happened to them and thus feel that they have presented a legitimate reason to exempt themselves from fasting.”
“However, this is not permissible in the sight of God Almighty. The scope of presenting excuses is limitless”; if one wishes to offer excuses, they can endlessly continue doing so. “If one were to adopt such an attitude, they could go on to offer their prayers whilst sitting and also exempt themselves from fasting in Ramadan for the rest of their life.”
“However, God is aware of one’s intentions and plans; He is the Knower of the Unseen.” He knows every intricate detail and all of our intentions and plans. The Promised Messiah(as) states:
“Allah the Almighty knows who is loyal and sincere and who is simply offering excuses, thus He treats them accordingly. God Almighty knows that the one who is loyal and sincere has anguish and desire in his heart, whilst one who offers excuses is bereft of such a desire. Thus, God Almighty grants a greater share of reward to the former because having heartfelt desire is a truly admirable trait. Conversely, one who simply presents excuses and relies on offering interpretations, this is such an act that holds no worth in the sight of God.” (Malfuzat, Vol. 6, pp. 259-260)
Thus, these are the principals which we have to be mindful of. Allah the Almighty has clearly stated that there is no hardship for those on a journey and the sick and they can make up for the missed fasts later. However, the Promised Messiah(as) has also stated that despite this, one ought to pay the fidya as well because this grants one the ability to fast. (Malufzat, Vol. 6, p. 258)
Owing to the current pandemic, many people are asking that their throats will become dry and this could increase the chances of contracting the virus, therefore should they fast. In this regard, I will not give a general fatwa [edict] or decision, in fact I always reply that one should assess their own condition and make a decision for themselves with pure intentions of the heart and whilst adhering to taqwa.
The instruction of the Holy Quran is very clear that one who is sick should not fast, but to simply not fast because one could potentially become sick is not right. As mentioned earlier, that the Promised Messiah(as) has stated that in such an instance, one excuse would lead to another and thus, there will be an endless chain of excuses.
If someone claims that doctors have said that this could lead to problems, then I have sought the opinions of various medical experts and they also have varying opinions on this.
Some of the doctors have clearly stated that there is no evidence to suggest that fasting will definitely cause one to contract the virus. However, if someone develops symptoms such as a cough or a fever or any other symptoms, then they should not fast and if they have started the fast, they should break it. Those doctors who lean towards the opinion that one should not fast or they stipulate certain conditions which lead to the conclusion that it is better for one to not fast, even their opinion is not clear.
On the one hand, they caution from fasting and on the other hand, they say that one may keep them by taking care of their diet. However, those who are less affluent do not have the provisions to be so selective in relation to their diet.
In any case, taking into consideration the various opinions, it generally seems that there is no harm in fasting. But, if one has even the slightest doubt [in regard to developing the symptoms], they should immediately stop fasting.
Some are of the opinion that if a person himself is healthy, but a household member is ill, even then they should not fast. However, the opinion of other doctors is that there is no justification for this. Nevertheless, whilst breaking the fast and at the time of keeping the fast, one ought to drink plenty of water. Those who are more concerned and also have the provisions should try to eat such foods which help retain the water in the body.
Hence, since there are varying opinions of doctors – which includes doctors from the USA, Germany and here [in the UK] – therefore we should be mindful of not abstaining from the fasts without any reason, lest we become counted amongst those regarding whom the Promised Messiah(as) states that they rely on offering justifications and interpretations. Indeed, it is imperative that one takes all precautionary measures.
There are certain individuals who generally have a very low requirement of water and drink very little. They fast as well but even in normal circumstances, they drink very little water.
There was an elderly gentleman, Chaudhry Nazir Sahib and he would go about his work all day in the summer, while we, however, would immediately go towards the water. I asked him on many occasions as to why he would drink very little water or at times, not drink at all. He replied that he had a very low requirement of water. Therefore, everyone’s nature and conditions are different and so, in the current circumstances, everyone should assess their own conditions and their health and seek a decision based on their own conscience as to how they need to take care of their health.
One should pray to Allah the Almighty to be granted the ability to fast.
One should pray extensively in these days that Allah the Almighty guide mankind and they come to recognise Him. Pray that Allah the Almighty quickly rid the world of this pandemic and bestow His mercy upon the world. Pray that Allah the Almighty enables us Ahmadis to fulfil the rights owed to God Almighty and His creation whilst instilling taqwa within ourselves and partake of the blessings of Ramadan.
Also remember that whenever the world suffers from an economic downturn, just as it is experiencing nowadays owing to the current pandemic, then the possibility of wars also increases. Some of the analysts are also mentioning this.
In such conditions, various worldly governments seek different ways to fulfil their vested interests through different worldly ploys. In order to divert the attention of the public, they make such claims that can cause them to be engulfed in further difficulties and destruction. As I have mentioned that some of the analysts have also been mentioning this.
Thus, may Allah the Almighty grant wisdom to the powerful nations lest they take such an action which could lead the world into further disorder and destruction.
In fact, even the newspapers have widely published and also the political commentators have stated that the USA has threated Iran and is also levelling accusations against China that they did not disclose accurate information and that a lawsuit should be filed against them and other actions. Similarly, they have stated that they will take such and such action against Iran.
Therefore, the USA as well as the other governments should act with wisdom. In the current circumstances, instead of taking a wrong action and causing the world to be engulfed in further destruction, they should act with wisdom and careful planning. And also, whilst turning towards God Almighty and prostrating before Him, they should seek His help; they should pray to be protected from this pandemic and also strive in their efforts to find a cure and help and support the scientists who are working for this.
Pray that Allah the Almighty grant us the opportunity to pray and to improve our conditions. Pray that He may enable the powerful nations of the world to form their future policies and plans with wisdom.
(Original Urdu published in Al Fazl International, 15 May 2002, pp. 5-9. Translated by The Review of Religions.)