Muslim Youth USA

by Dhul Waqar Alhaj Yaqub

As an Ahmadi Muslim I can say, “Happy Independence Day America” and really mean it. My patriotic realization wasn’t something that happened suddenly, but was gradual with deliberate reservations.

We grew up celebrating the 4th of July like everyone else in the neighborhood. It was the barbecue, homemade ice cream, fireworks, family get together and a day off work. If we were lucky, we would go to the amusement park. I vaguely remember the 4th of July as a holiday relating to America’s independence. At the most, perhaps on a test in school, we had to recall “July 4, 1776” as an important date concerning the adoption of a “Declaration of Independence” document. The long and short of the 4th of July was this: fireworks yes, but singing the Star-Spangled Banner “no way”, a common sentiment in the African-American community.

During my service in the military, the 4th of July wasn’t much different. Saluting the flag was a daily routine, but not associated with celebrating Independence Day…even on the 4th of July. The “4th” was a day off work and an all day round robin of Bid Whist.

After accepting Islam, as my religion and way of life, celebrating the “4th of July” became questionable: Is it Islamic? As a Muslim I’m also an American? Is America my country? However, the most compelling question was: Can I be a Muslim and be patriotic to the United States of America?

National events brought me face to face with my own patriotism as a Muslim in 1970. I worked with an all white staff during the period when Cassius Clay changed his name to Muhammad Ali and refused induction into the military because of his religious convictions. Muhammad Ali angered these white conservative, patriotic veterans and he had a “big mouth”, too. My name was Dhul-Waqar Yaqub and I was “one of them” as far as they were concerned. I was their scapegoat.

Being “one of them” meant being a “black Muslim racist” regardless of how many times I conveyed to them that I belong to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and I don’t hate white folks. One day a co-worker, Woody by name, started talking to me about his military service during World War II. He took this opportunity to inform me that he could think differently about me if I had served in the military.

I was shocked and stunned by his remark. Realizing I never shared the fact that military service was a part of my past, I responded, “You’ve got me all wrong, Woody. I served in the military and was honorably discharged, my father served during World War II and my grandfather served during World War I. Both my father and grandfather received honorable discharges.”

Woody, by the look on his face, was equally stunned. He remarked, “I didn’t know that.” As he tried to compose himself he blurted out, “Well, why are you in that religion?” At that time the buzzer sounded signaling clean-up time so I asked him, “Woody, can we talk about this tomorrow?” He agreed.

Subsequently, I started going through the Holy Qur’an and the writings of the Promised Messiah, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (upon him be peace), and writings of the Ahmadiyya Caliphs/Khulafa looking for answers about where my patriotism should be as an Ahmadi Muslim. I stumbled upon a booklet titled, “The Question of Divided Loyalty: Some Parallels From History” by Mirza Bashir Ahmad.  In that booklet, the author pointed to the relevant Qur’anic verse, which says, “O ye who believe obey God and obey the Prophet and obey those in authority from among you” (4:60).

Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Community, writing about the above-quoted verse specified very clearly what Islam commands:

“The Holy Qur’an commands, ‘Obey Allah and obey His Prophet and obey those in authority among you.’ Believers are to obey those in authority, besides God and His Prophets. To say that ‘those in authority’ does not include a non-Muslim Government would be a manifest error. For, a government or authority whose ordinances are in accordance with the Shariah (that is, they are not in conflict with it) is ‘authority from among you.’ Those who are not against us are among us. The Qur’an, therefore, is unequivocal on the point. Obedience to government authority is one of its imperatives” (Works and Speeches, Vol. 1, p. 261).

The Holy Prophet Muhammad (May peace be upon him) is reported to have said:

“He who obeys me obeys God; he who disobeys me disobeys God. He who obeys his authority obeys me; he who disobeys his authority disobeys me” (Muslim, Kitab al Imarah).

In this Hadith the whole subject of loyalty and patriotism to one’s country became illuminating. Loyalty and patriotism belong by right only to God, Creator, Master, Lord of Men and Nations. Others have authority derived from Him. This would include the United States of America, which reflect the Authority of God.

In accordance with all this the remarks of the second Head of the Ahmadiyya Movement, Hadrat Mirza Bashir-ud-Din Mahmud Ahmad, impress upon my mind loyalty and patriotism to one’s Nation by clearly stating:

“Our belief is that Islam requires everyone to be loyal to the state under which he lives…Loyalty to a Government or State, according to us, is ordained by the Holy Qur’an and the Qur’an is the Book of God…The Ahmadiyya Head or Khalifa has no right to alter an ordinance contained in the Holy Book. The Khalifa is a deputy, not a dictator. A deputy is bound to authority in the same way as are all others” (Al-Fazl, April 5, 1949).

After several months of study, I felt ready for the Woodys of the world. However, more importantly, I was beginning to comprehend the concepts of patriotism from an Islamic perspective. For the first time in my life, I had a desire to learn about the principles my country stood upon. I started studying the United States Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, it amendments including the Bill of Rights, and of special importance, the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolishes slavery and authorizes Congress to enforce abolition. I didn’t find any of these documents to be in conflict with the Holy Qur’an.

My follow up dialogue concerning my new-found concepts of patriotism with Woody and others brought about an inconclusive reserve on their part. I tried to make it clear to them that I am an Ahmadi Muslim, I came from a family line with three generations of military service that invested my future generations and I with the free exercise of religion.

During the seven years of employment there and as a result of our many discussions, Woody secretly admitted that he listen to “negro” spirituals (gospel music) on Sunday morning radio. He claims that it was the only aspect of religion which gave him the “feeling”. Another co-worker shared with me that in his village, an “Underground Railroad” station operated there years ago. That seemed to be a source of pride for him. Anyway, people just don’t make this stuff up.

To all Americans, we wish you a Happy 4th of July!

by Nayyar Ahmad 

Almost all major religions and cultures around the world believe in fasting; Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism etc. Likewise, Islam also enjoins its followers to fast during the month of Ramadhan. Now a week into Ramadhan, Muslims are observing fast from sunup to sundown for 30 days.

Apart from abstaining from food and water, Muslims must exercise an extraordinary level of patience, humility, and kindness towards other human beings. There are no exceptions to this rule. Quoting a tradition of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) on the topic of Ramadhan he states, “If any one of you is fasting, let him not utter obscenities or act in an ignorant manner, and if anyone insults him or wants to fight him, let him say, I am fasting”. The Quran, unequivocally declares that killing a life is akin to killing of mankind. With such practice before us it is unbelievably sad to see the likes of ISIS push a violent narrative, creating resentment for Muslims and Islam in the West.

The bombing in Manchester, the van attack in London, the bomb explosion in Afghanistan, all of which killed dozens of innocent souls, goes against the very essence of Islamic teachings. As member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, I strongly condemn these grossly inhumane attacks and stand in solidarity with the victims.

What is propelling this ideology of hate among Muslim youth? Must we blame religion for the actions of a few lone wolves?

A common practice among terrorists is cherry-picking verses of the Quran and placing them out of context. By this deliberate act of distorting the teachings it is easy to manipulate young impressionable minds. For example, the word “Jihad” is now synonymously used with “holy war” which is completely wrong. The correct translation of the word “Jihad” is “struggle”. This struggle is precisely explained by the supreme head of the worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Mirza Masroor Ahmad, who says,

“Our Jihad is not a Jihad of swords, guns or bombs. Our Jihad is not a Jihad of cruelty, brutality and injustice. Rather, our Jihad is of love, mercy and compassion. Our Jihad is of tolerance, justice and human sympathy. Our Jihad is to fulfill the rights of God Almighty and of His Creation”.

In retrospect, no such violent act of so called ‘Jihad’ is evident in Islamic history. The Prophet Muhammad enjoined the highest level of kindness towards the creation of God so much so that it was even forbidden to treat animals with cruelty, let alone human beings. Often critics of Islam level allegations against the character of Holy Prophet Muhammad, and out of ignorance discredit his otherwise compassionate nature. For example, during the early days of Islam, Muslims were subject to severe persecution by leaders of Quraish, a ruling tribe of Mecca (now Saudi Arabia). The leaders, blinded by their hate, were so adamant on destroying Islam that they finally decided to slay the Holy Prophet. But Divine intervention saved his life and Muhammad (PBUH) finally migrated to Medina to escape this persecution. Post-migration to Medina, Prophet Muhammad and his companions penned ‘The charter of Medina’, a classic example of pluralism found in Islam. Believe it or not, even non-Muslims enjoyed a cordial protection under a secular rule of law which allowed them to freely practice their beliefs.

However, the Quraish tribe was not content with this migration and believed that Muhammad (PBUH) was still a threat to their regressive, pagan beliefs and customs. The ensuing years lead to battles and skirmishes that were waged against Muslims. It was only during this time that the Jihad of the sword became a necessary tool to defend the honor and rights of Muslims and non-Muslims alike! The distinction being, this Jihad was only for self-defense rather than the Jihad we see in the media today which only takes life and pushes humans to the last frontiers of uncivilized conduct.

While we acknowledge and condemn such acts of violence committed to defame Islam and promote a hateful ideology, it is equally important to understand the counter-narrative presented by peaceful Muslims, who by the way are the majority. ISIS, Taliban, Al Qaeda, and all terrorist networks can only be defeated if our youth fully comprehend the concepts and dispel any misconceptions.

Using this Ramadhan as a point of departure, we should all strive to learn about true Islam ( and fight the fallacies that have taken root in the hearts of our youth. A pragmatic approach is needed to deal with this conundrum whereby Muslims should take charge of their legacy and raise a voice which echoes a narrative of peace, not war!

by Zohaib Zafar 

On Monday, ISIL claimed responsibility for another terrorist attack, this time in the city of Manchester, England. We do not know for sure if so called Muslims committed this terrorist attack but we should condemn all terrorist attacks no matter who orchestrates them and those who believe in the power of prayer should pray for peace and justice. We must also pray for the victims and their families. Everyone though must also do their part to help stop these terrorist attacks from occurring in the first place. While terrorism has no religion, unfortunately, this past week has probably taken us in the opposite direction than the direction we intend to be taking in order to counter extremism. President Trump gave an important speech this past Sunday in Saudi Arabia. Although, many praised his speech, the speech will result in more harm than good. Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s leading sponsors of terrorism. Evidence suggests that oil money is used to finance hate filled madrasahs(Islamic schools) all across the Muslim world. Saudi Arabia is also committing what many believe amounts to a genocide in Yemen. Executions are regularly held to punish dissenters, atheists and other minorities. Furthermore, this speech took place at a summit where a historic $350b arms deal took place. America selling weapons to Saudi Arabia will only lead to more war in Yemen. Saudi Arabia has already killed thousands of innocent people in Yemen and because of this arms deal, it will only become worse. If this will not create resentment against America in the Middle East, I do not know what will.

His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the worldwide supreme head of the largest group of Muslims led by one leader, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has repeatedly raised the issue of ISIL and its creation and the supply of weapons originating from Western countries. As His Holiness points out, preventing ISIL from acquiring these weapons is the key to fighting them. According to the Amnesty International, ISIL uses weapons that come from over 25 countries including the United States. Perhaps the weapons we sell to Saudi Arabia will never reach ISIL’s hands but if history has shown us anything, it is that they will. And even if they do not, when Saudi Arabia kills the entire family of a 17 year old boy using weapons that were exclusively manufactured in the United States, it would not be all that surprising if that boy becomes resentful of our great country. The Trump administration is helping a vicious cycle of violence to continue that can be stopped if instead of investing in weapons, Trump invests in education in the Middle East. Trump conceded in his speech that terrorists “do not worship God, they worship death.” Trump also said that 95% of the victims of terrorism are Muslim. These are promising signs that the more Trump learns about terrorism, the more his policies will shift towards pluralism and acceptance of Islam as a peaceful religion.

by Haris Raja 
     In the first week of May 2017, nearly 300 young Muslim men from the US went to visit the Khalifa of Islam, His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad in London, UK. The event was organized by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association USA. Mirza Masroor Ahmad is the Head of the world wide Ahmadiyya Muslim community. For the members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, His Holiness is the spiritual leader and guide. The purpose of this visit was to inspire the young members of the community and provide them an opportunity to develop a strong bond with His Holiness.
     The group had an opportunity to offer congregational prayers behind His Holiness. Islamic daily prayers are obligatory on men to perform in congregation.  The three-day visit served as an excellent reminder for all group members to offer their prayers in congregation.  Islamic prayer is a way of meditation through which believers reflect on improving their spirituality. It teaches them self control, unity and discipline. Portions of the Holy Quran are also recited during the prayer to reflect on the teaching of the Holy book for Muslims. His Holiness’ marvelous recitation of the Holy Quran during the prayers penetrated the hearts of the followers and many shed tears in a highly charged spiritual environment.
     The group also had a blessed audience exclusively with His Holiness. This was a remarkable opportunity for the group to ask questions and seek guidance. During the session, His Holiness put a special emphasis on the daily recitation of the Holy Quran and admonished the attendees to reflect on the real meaning of the Quran. He encouraged the youth to acquire the true understanding of their faith and become adherents of the peaceful teachings of Islam.  His Holiness told the youth that they need to become model citizens of the their society and should attract others towards their faith through their strong and decent character.
     Finally the group had an opportunity to renew their pledge at the hands of His Holiness. This pledge of allegiance is to declare that the adherents will obey His Holiness in every thing good. There are ten conditions in the pledge of allegiance. All of these conditions are related to the spiritual well being of the adherent. For example, Believing in the Unity of God, offering daily prayers, understanding the true meaning of the Holy Quran, staying away from all kinds of vices and evils, serving humanity to one’s maximum ability, being gentle and kind to others, becoming a peaceful human being are among these conditions. The pledge of allegiance took place in the historical Fazal Mosque, the oldest Mosque in London. Although its not a very big mosque, it was overcrowded and group members were fervently waiting for the arrival of His Holiness to lead the pledge of allegiance. There were cries of repentance from sins and prayers to achieve the pleasure of God all over. It was an ecstatic atmosphere worth remembering for everyone who was taking part in the pledge.
     The hospitality shown by the host Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association UK was marvelous. They welcomed us with warm greetings, treated us with sumptuous meals and took great care of us for which we are grateful.
     This visit to see His Holiness was a life changing experience for many. In today’s political climate where young Muslim men are often portrayed in a bad light, young men of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community are proudly adhering to their faith. Their trip to London was an assurance that they are safeguarded from the wrong influences and are peaceful and law-abiding citizens of the country they live in.