Beliefnet
Muslim Youth USA

by Ahtesham Chaudhry

Ramadan is in its essence a month of physical deprivation. Muslims withhold themselves from eating and drinking from sunrise to sunset for this extended period of time. But, what is interesting about this month is that 1.8 billion Muslims around the world are fervently anticipating its arrival. They celebrate the coming of the month in a way that may seem odd or even somewhat irrational to onlookers. So why do the followers of Islam celebrate this month and eagerly await their 18 hour fasts? According to Islamic history, the month of Ramadan is the period of time in which God began revealing the Holy Quran to Prophet Muhammad (may peace be on him) in the year 609 CE. Thus, it is believed that this month is one where God listens and accepts prayers in a way that is unavailable throughout the rest of the year. The philosophy of Islam figuratively understands Ramadan as a month in which the devil is chained up in hell so as to make it easier for those who hold faith to attain closeness to God. It is for this reason that Muslims shift their focus from materialistic or worldly interests to those things that enhance their spiritual being. In addition to the five mandatory daily prayers, Muslims spend much of the night and early morning hours in supplication. For many non-Muslims, Ramadan is yet another month on the calendar. The purpose and benefit of the zealous prayers and fasts are simply difficult to understand. But, those non-Muslim individuals around the world can and should see the effects of this holy month if they look at the actions of, and their interaction with, their Muslims peers. The followers of Islam are commanded to hold their tongue and remain calm, speak and deal with others with kindness and forgiveness, and give copiously to charity. It would be undoubtedly beneficial to look and analyze the behavior of an individual’s Muslim friends, neighbors, and coworkers on a day to day basis. Those individuals that are described as hot headed can often be seen keeping their cool, those who often fall victim to speaking with a vulgar nature are often seen holding their tongue, and the average man seems to be increasingly interested with the financial state of the less fortunate individuals around them. Muslim individuals who cannot fast due health issues can be seen providing food for entire families. If the month is then reflected on, it becomes apparent that there are changes a person must make to themselves to adhere to the guidelines of the month of Ramadan.

It is with this in mind that Muslims consider Ramadan as a month of spiritual opportunity, a month where the soul can feast and a person can improve themselves. Yet, the only way to benefit from Ramadan is by making positive, lasting changes in oneself beyond the month and into the rest of the year. For those who are not observing Ramadan, this month can be a chance to join Muslim peers in personal reflection and acts of kindness or charity.

by Ijaz Ahmed
As an American-born Muslim, I wish to extend all Americans a happy and safe 4th of July. As we celebrate this wonderful day with fireworks and barbecues, we reflect on the freedoms and rights this great country affords us all. We should also reflect on the countless service men and women who sacrifice their lives every day so we can enjoy these freedoms. I pray that may God bless them and their families.

As an Ahmadi Muslim, I understand the value of these freedoms. My parents migrated from the country of Pakistan before I was born. They sought a better life for me and my siblings, and thus migrated to this country where we had the freedom to practice our faith.

The country of Pakistan had taken a turn for the worst in 1974, when it was declared in the Pakistani Constitution that Ahmadi Muslims were not Muslim. Nearly a decade later, Ordinance XX was put into effect that punished Ahmadi Muslims for posing as Muslim, opening Pandora’s box for religious clerics to persecute minorities.

The constitutional amendment, followed by the law in 1984, put my life and the lives of every Ahmadi Muslim in jeopardy. Hundreds, if not thousands, of Ahmadi Muslims have been killed in the Muslim world, including but not limited to, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Algeria, and others. Ahmadi Muslims face continuous persecution every day in these countries, all because of their beliefs. My own family members spent time in jail solely because of what they believed.

The freedom of religion that is available here in this country has more value than we can think of. This makes it even more important for every citizen in this country to stand up to injustices against any and all people.

Our elected officials need to be mindful of the actions and laws that they support. Regrettably, the recent “Travel Ban” on majority Muslim nations does a disservice to America’s image as a beacon of hope and only further fuels the islamaphobia and xenophobia that plague the nation. I am a huge supporter of securing our nation from threats and believe that proper vetting of individuals entering our country is vital. How could anyone want to raise a family knowing that a terrorist lives next door?

However, as both a Muslim and an American, I cherish the values of honesty, integrity, and absolute justice. I believe that if we abandon these values to the sake of national security, we abandon everything that truly makes this country great. We need to reflect on the poor decisions of the past, from slavery to concentration camps, and we need to unify together to straighten the path we take forward.

The path I will continue to follow is the path of Love for All, and Hatred for None. This path has enabled me to work with others, understand their struggles, and strive for a better tomorrow. I believe that’s what the founders of this country wanted. That is what makes America great.

by Nayyar Ahmed Khokhar 

Some of the most persistent critics of Islam and Muslims in general are constantly on the move to find allegations that can be leveled against the teachings of this peaceful religion. One such allegation is the use of a concept known as “Taqiyya”, which in crude definition is one hiding in plain sight and masquerading as peaceful citizen while harboring malicious intent of harming the very fabric of their country of residence. Personally, I stumbled upon the concept of Taqiyya while having an argument on social media with one such critic. Being raised as an Ahmadi Muslim I had never even heard of such practice to be a part of Islamic teachings..

Many of my American friends are misled and misinformed by so called Muslim scholars and extremists who believe Taqiyya to be a real teaching practiced by Muslims, especially those who live in the West. Rest assured, Taqiyya has no roots or teachings in Islam as you will discover in this article. Islam is a religion that promotes the ideology of justice that can only be achieved by speaking the truth.

For a peaceful society to exist, it is essential for truth to prevail giving rise to a civil culture. Free exchange of ideas based on such truth becomes a hallmark of a civilized society. The Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) encouraged Muslims to speak the truth and to maintain honesty across all facets of life, whether personal, for business or on a state level. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) practised truth and honesty so much so that even before the advent of Islam, per Arab traditions, he was given the titles of “Al-Amin” and “Al-Sadiq” by the leaders of Mecca, which literally means the one who is Truthful and Trustworthy.

“Taqiyya” literally means prudence, fear or caution and to further elaborate this practice I will now quote an excerpt from the writing of Qasim Rashid, who is a human rights activist and advocate of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in the United States, “…the Quran requires a Muslim to obey and be loyal to those in his charge. Prophet Muhammad added, “You should listen to and obey your ruler, even if you [despise him].” While national loyalty does not forbid dissent, that dissent must be expressed legally and peacefully — never violently. Critics like Robert Spencer claim Islam allows Muslims to engage in Taqiyya, treachery against non-Muslims. However, the Quran unequivocally forbids lying or hiding the truth and Prophet Muhammad instructed, “It is obligatory for you to tell the truth.”

The Holy Quran emphatically rejects lying or practicing Taqiyya with the intent of causing harm to another human being. Islam explicitly upholds the sanctity of life and emphasizes to believers that to save one life is as if to save all mankind (Quran 5:33). Hence, such practice is rejected by the Quran and Hadith, and does not represent the overall sentiments of a billion Muslims who are law-abiding and peaceful citizens of their respective countries, and bear no such intent to cause harm to their country of residence.

by Zohaib Zafar

March 23rd marked 129 years since when the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community was founded. It has been a tumultuous journey for our community. Hundreds of Ahmadi Muslims have been killed by so called Muslims and many of us have been forced out of our homes into exile. All of this has happened because we accept Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian as the long awaited Messiah that the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad peace be upon him had foretold, which many extremists believe makes Ahmadi Muslims worthy of persecution.

This year on March 23, which fell on a Friday, many Ahmadi Muslims decided to take the day off from school and work. They were out on the streets trying to have dialogue about Islam and the challenges the world currently faces. It is no secret that terrorism in America done in the name of Islam has been steadily decreasing in the past couple of years. We can now completely eliminate what is left of both Islamophobia and extremism within the Muslim American community through more dialogue and acceptance of all Americans regardless of religion or race.