Muslim Youth USA

by Dr. Irtiza Sheikh

The Prophet Muhammad said, “Love of one’s country is a part of faith.” Throughout the many decades that the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has been a part of American society, it has embodied this principal of Islam.

This community believes that this love should be expressed by engaging in services to uplift our fellow Americans, such as blood and food drives, and help during disaster recoveries. It also emphasizes participation in community activites such as Independence Day Parades. While many may see this sort of thing as merely superficial displays, it is an important symbol of the love and loyalty the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community holds in its heart for this country we call home.

These activities also serve as a reminder regarding the freedoms and liberties that we have been bestowed as citizens of the United States. It is these same freedoms that, as Ahmadiyya Muslims, we are denied in much of the Muslim world. Presently in Algeria, Ahmadi-Muslims are being rounded up and imprisoned simply for the crime of practicing their faith. Over the years, hundreds of Muslims have been killed or imprisoned in countries including Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Indonesia.

The freedoms of this country are products of sacrifices that we hold close to our hearts. Keeping that in mind, we request our fellow Americans to remind our elected leaders and institutions of this closely held loyalty when they choose to vilify Muslims through their rhetoric. This sort of unreasonable fear mongering is based on a narrow sensationalized sample set and is far from reality. The reality is what the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community represents: love, loyalty and service.

Next time you see us in your local parade, your local blood drive, or your local food kitchen come join us and help celebrate this reality.

by Nayyar Khokhar

A few years ago, my parents decided to perform Umrah (a lesser pilgrimage) to the holy city of Makkah in Saudi Arabia. Carrying Pakistani passports and belonging to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, a reformist community labeled and marginalized by a majority of Muslims as heretics and enemies of Islam, it was no surprise that they were concerned about their status quo and whether Saudi authorities would even allow them to undertake this journey. Nevertheless, driven by their love of Islam and their spiritual master, Prophet Muhammad PBUH, they mustered the courage to complete the Umrah.

In anticipation of their travel, my mother had to make a quick visit to a local ministry in Abu Dhabi (place of residence) where an officer asked my mother, what is your sect in Islam? Are you a Sunni or a Shia? My mother, with a cracking voice responded by saying she was an Ahmadi Muslim. The officer was rather surprised by her response and asked her again, is that Sunni or Shia? Lost for words she remained quiet to which the officer quoted the words of the declaration of faith, do you believe there is No God but Allah, and Prophet Muhammad PBUH is his Messenger? My mother responded in the affirmative, to which the officer agreed and stamped her passport for travel. I cant imagine the excitement and happiness my mother experienced in that moment, the relentless anxiety and worry, all but evaporated in this moment. My mother, a devout follower and a patient woman, felt all her prayers throughout the years were finally heard by the Almighty God.

The miracles of their journey didnt end with this incident but it has a deep link to the infamous blasphemy laws of Pakistan that have disrupted and destroyed nations before. Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is not recognized as an Islamic sect and given the current political climate in Pakistan, the community members are worried about their status after Tehrike Insaaf (a political party) leader Imran Khan has become a likely candidate for Prime Minister of Pakistan. In his recent remarks, Imran Khan has promised to defend the blasphemy laws. Whether this was a political statement to appease his right-wing supporters, or a genuine feeling, only time will tell. However, one cannot consider such a statement as benign because all tumors, no matter how small, eventually grow into full-blown aggressive cancers.

To fully comprehend this problem, I will narrate a historical perspective on this issue. Saudi Arabia is on a positive trajectory for world recognition having lifted the driving ban on women, opening cinemas and as an emerging leader in the stock market.

Not very long ago, all was not well in the Saudi Kingdom with its strict Shariah Law and an aristrocratic establishment that believed in a totalatarian style leadership. In the 1970’s, Saudi Arabia was responsible for its political campaign against Muslim minorities such as Shia, Ahmadi Muslims, Hindus and Christians which led many other Muslim countries to hold similar beliefs or worse. Pakistan, being a young nation in the 70’s, passed the infamous blasphemy laws in 1974 which barred Ahmadi Muslims and other minorities from declaring or practising their faith openly. Those who did were charged with blasphemy under the penal code and some were even sentenced to death.

Putting all of this into perspective, my mother journeying to Saudi Arabia and to openly declare to authorities that she is an Ahmadi Muslim was a brave act, but some may paint it as borderline eccentric. What good is faith if you cant openly declare it? Belief in something or someone is a fundamental right of every human being whether Muslim or otherwise. The Quran states “There is no compulsion in matters of faith” (Chapter 2 verse?). The Quran offers a simple yet comprehensive solution to all religious conflicts and matters of jurisprudience. We cannot assert our authority or incite violence or hate against any minority just because we disagree with their faith or vice-versa.

Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founding father of Pakistan stated in his 14 points of constitution that “Full religious liberty i.e. liberty of belief, worship and observance, propaganda, association and education shall be guaranteed to all communities”. This clause says it all. Putting his faith into practice, his cabinet members comprised a devout Ahmadi Muslim, Sir Muhammad Zafrullah Khan and a Hindu, Jogendra Nath Mandal, as minister of law and labor.

All considered, Imran Khan may as well stand as a beacon of peace and reconciliation for our society, but I caution him and leaders alike. It is important to be versatile in approach and to prevent such laws from becoming the reason of a nation’s downfall. Let’s not forget that Achilles was only as strong as his heels.

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.