Dr Fariha Khan, London

The end of the year is always about reflection on the year gone and about making resolutions, promises and plans for the coming year. This is a time honoured tradition and pretty much universal.

As we are drawing to the end of 2020 we can pretty much say that this year has been the most significant year of our lifetime. A year that affected all of humanity alike, east or west, rich or poor, black or white. You may not agree as the global pandemic affected some groups disproportionately, yes but overall it affected everyone’s life one way or another. A tiny sub microscopic creature brought the mightiest creation to its knees. If that doesn’t make you humble what can.

We made many sacrifices and compromises this year. We lost loved ones. We got separated from our loved ones. We could not hug our families. Our children missed out on education. We lost our jobs and livelihoods. It was hard to lose that social interaction, the very fabric of our society.

This is something that everyone faced to some degree and everyone’s faculties were tested but imagine the loneliness if you don’t have a Supreme Power to turn to. I think in times like these you realise the power of prayers and how comforting it is to turn to Allah the Almighty. Many around the world either by choice or through ignorance are deprived of that. Alhamdolilah, we are Ahmadi Muslims and the essence of prayers and what they mean has been explained to us by the founder of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, His Holiness Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (peace be on him) as he learnt from His Master the Holy Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings of Allah be on him). The fact that there is a Living God Who listens to our prayers is a huge source of comfort and strength to us. We see that power of prayer in the blessed face of our beloved Khalifa, His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, that tireless hardworking father of ours, embodiment of peace and courage. In the wake of this pandemic he was one constant in our lives that gave comfort to us and asked us to turn to our Creator and to seek mercy and forgiveness from Him. Not only us but our beloved Imam turned to the whole world making them realise and to reflect upon the fact that this pandemic is a reminder to turn towards Allah. The world’s materialistic pursuits have a lot to answer for in this pandemic. When there is no fear of Allah, but instead the driving force is just to protect our own selfish desires, then this results in the chaos we saw all over the world. It’s not just the virus, human behaviour and decisions made by people have a lot to answer for. Our Khalifa has reminded people and those in power to reflect upon the reasons behind this pandemic and turn towards One God and justice. We hope and we pray that they pay heed.

2020 was not all doom and gloom either. We saw compassion like no other. The spirit to serve humanity brought us all together. We saw that happening around us amongst individuals and communities. By the grace of Allah members of Ahmadiyya Muslim Women’s Association also tried their best to serve humanity in these testing times. Beautiful words by the founder of our community Promised Messiah (peace be on him) served as a guiding light “My purpose, yearning, and heartfelt desire is to serve humanity; This is my job, this is my faith, this is my habit and this is my way of life.[i]

The last few words of this inspirational quote always move me the most because for us it truly is a way of life. We don’t need a pandemic to think like that. Despite whatever hardships, insults and opposition our community faces, it continues to serve humanity as this is our job. Like our beloved Khalifa, His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad urged us “Be there to wipe away the tears of those who have been left bereft, heartbroken and vulnerable.[ii]

As the largest organised Muslim Community around the world our calendars are pretty full, our weekends fully taken and our mosques are our second homes. This all came to a halt in March and that was a shock to our systems. But we adapted and directed more of our time and energy towards humanitarian projects. We discovered the virtual worlds of communication. Who had heard of Zoom before??

Of course nothing can replace seeing our sisters in faith in real life and we all miss our meetings and gatherings but through the virtual means we came closer to individuals. We realised who is most vulnerable amongst us and looked after them. We cared more, we tolerated more and we prayed more. In my book that’s a result.

Personally this year has been a very testing year for me. It tested the limits of my physical and mental capacities. I think it’s beneficial to be tested like this as we realise how small we are and how much we need Allah’s mercy and blessings to go through difficult times. My role in both spheres of my life turned into that of an agony aunt. I held my patient’s hands virtually and I held my sisters’ hands virtually and all I did was to listen. I felt so helpless that couldn’t do more in many instances. Listening to people’s pain and suffering day in day out is not an easy job. Despite our medical training we were not prepared for this. The workload has been enormous in primary care and it almost always felt like you were there to pick up the pieces left by others. Helping my sisters in faith and trying my best to be there for them or visiting my palliative care patients at their homes, my role as a Sadr and a GP carried on side by side, many a times merging and overlapping but never stopping. In these exhausting times after turning to Allah I found comfort and guidance in the words of my beloved Khalifa. I looked at him and thought who am I and what am I to complain, or to get tired because he is working tirelessly day in and day out to serve Allah and to serve humanity. He is carrying the whole world’s pain and suffering on his shoulders yet he is always smiling. He is always praying and he is always there for us. If I have ever showed any despair on the current state of affairs our Khalifa has always guided me and pointed me towards the bright side of things, taking my worries away and making my heart lighter. Recently as we saw a campaign by non-Ahmadi Muslims on social media and the internet against our beloved Imam, our Khalifa, as much as it was hurtful for us, it always made me wonder… if only they knew, if only they knew how comforting this shade of Khilafat is on our heads. If only they knew how wonderful it is to have a spiritual father who stays awake for us when we are asleep, who worries about our health, our work, our children, their education, their training, their marriages and so much more… if only they knew they would walk over glaciers to embrace his Khilafat.

When an Ahmadi faces hardship he bows in front of Allah and writes to his Khalifa for prayers. That’s our way of life, and no one can take that away from us. As we enter the New Year full of uncertainties and with worries of not just a pandemic which is far from over but with fear of wars, we should keep these verses of the Holy Qur’an in front of us from chapter 94:

‘Surely there is ease after hardship.

Aye, surely there is ease after hardship.

So when thou art free, strive hard,

And to thy Lord do thou attend whole-heartedly.[iii]

And may all humanity turn towards their Lord whole heartedly. Ameen.

[i] Barahin e Ahmadiyya Parts I & II page xvii

[ii] Address at the Humanity First Conference 2018

[iii] Holy Qur’an Surah Al Inshirah, verses 6 – 9