Love for All, Hatred For None – Lessons on Acceptance & Community from an Ahmadi Muslim

I spoke with Adeel, the youngest Imaam in the country who studied 7 years to qualify for this role. He has dedicated his life to his religion, making a huge commitment at a very young age. I find that slightly intimidating, considering most teenagers I knew had no idea what career to pursue. They seemed more concerned with dating and wild parties. Perhaps it’s the removal of these distractions that provided Adeel clarity on what role he would play in this life. Perhaps it was fear of what his fate may be in the next.

The start of our zoom meeting was, typically, interrupted by a robotic echo, so we decided on a good old fashioned phone call instead. My chunky zoom friendly earrings, were suddenly less appropriate.

For the brief moments I saw Adeel face to face, he appeared humble and attentive, smiling in his checked blazer. He proceeds to tell me about the Amadiyyah Muslim faith and all the incredible work they do for the community, barely coming up for air. You can tell he spends a lot of time talking to the public, spreading his important message “Love for all, hatred for none” – educating others about the teachings of his faith. He has probably had this conversation a million times over yet speaks with the enthusiasm of a young entrepreneur.

I asked what he does to relax and stay grounded, how he keeps his strength and energy so high and how he looks after himself to ensure he can look after others. Adeel explained that it is his passion for serving the community and bridging the gap between the British public and his faith that keeps him going. It’s a desirable call to provide a better world for everyone. He finds his work so rewarding, he explains “you forget about yourself; you forget about the tiredness and hard work. The motivation, seeing results, keeps me going”.

He was assigned to go on a trip to Ghana for 5 weeks, to appreciate the culture, people, and atmosphere. He explained he met people who had little to nothing, but they were so thankful for everything they did have. Good, humble people. Adeel explained that “Upon my return home, I had an increased appreciation for everything I have in life. There is little to no room for complaint”. A sentiment we would all do well to remember before adding another pair of shoes we don’t need to our online shopping cart. “My work is never a task; never a chore.”

He tells a story of when he studied in a catholic secondary school and studied alongside peers of multiple faiths. He explained during lunchtimes they would have debates, not to induce conflict but to educate themselves. “Because of this, I’ve always had compassion for other religions.” My conversations with Adeel at no point felt that he was forcing his religion on to me. He was not trying to achieve anything other than to provide insight, and discuss peace, love and understanding. Traits we would all benefit from, now more than ever.

The Ahmadiyya Muslims work is not limited to UK borders. They spread their message of love and unity worldwide. Adeel spoke of a programme called Reach a Muslim Family, being held in Canada, New Zealand, and Australia where members of the public can reach out to the programme to connect with a Muslim family. They visit their homes, sit down to enjoy a meal, discuss politics, football etc. It is this openness, this level of communication and understanding that creates change. It’s about seeing that your neighbour may look and live a different life to you, however, you share many of the same views and experiences. I asked if he was planning to run a similar campaign in the UK, he paused (I feel he understood the UK may not quite be ready for that, even post covid) but explained that 500-600 Muslims would go into central London wearing blue t-shirts with “I am a Muslim, ask me anything” written on the front. By providing a space for open, honest communication, he is continuing to build bridges and tackle misconceptions, misunderstandings and misconstrued propaganda pushed out by mainstream media. “Without tolerance, we fail to stand as a united society.”

He told a story of a man who approached him on his campaign with a hostile attitude, asking “Why are you here?” However, the man was open to dialogue. Adeel explained the work they do for the community, explained the teachings of his faith, and had a 10-minute chat which resulted in the man giving him a hug and openly admitting that was the first time he had spoken with a Muslim, despite living in London for 10 years.

You can never get everyone to agree with each other, live the same way or practice the same faith but it is this tolerance and understanding which contributes to peace. It can help end suffering and violence fuelled by hatred and fear. Adeel’s call to action for everyone is to promote love for all, and hatred for none.

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How to Reverse Self-Deprecating Beliefs, Gain Confidence and Feel Better About Yourself

Whilst everyone experiences low self-esteem sometimes, a long-term lack of confidence is generally linked to deeper routed problems. In addition to being draining, it can hold you back from living the life you deserve. Below are some tips to help you identify and tackle self-deprecating beliefs, grow your confidence, and equip you to live a happier, more fulfilling life.

1. Write them down and cross a line through them

In a notepad, write down all the negative beliefs you have about yourself. Make it detailed and make it personal. For example, rather than writing “I’m not attractive”, write “I am not attractive because of [insert reason here]”. It’s important to take time with this and be specific about your insecurities. Once you’ve made your list, cross through each point with an individual line using a red pen.

2. Turn your insecurities into positive affirmations

For every point you’ve written, write down the opposite. Again, be specific e.g., if you wrote that you are not desirable because you don’t have a flat stomach, your positive affirmation could be “I am desirable. My body and it’s natural curves are beautiful, and I love my stomach”. Repeat each affirmation daily and watch how your mindset begins to shift!

3. Take care of your body

Respect yourself enough to take care of yourself. When you neglect your basic needs, it affects your mental state, and if your mental health deteriorates it can influence the negative beliefs you have about yourself causing you to fall down a rabbit hole of unhappiness.

Making the smallest changes to your daily routine and eating habits can significantly alter how you feel in yourself. Build frequent exercise into your routine, eat more nourishing foods, drink plenty of water and ensure you’re getting enough rest. As boring and simple as this advice may be, it works.

Low self-esteem stems from our subconscious mind, which is also the part of our brain responsible for habits – Both good and bad. Often when we don’t respect ourselves, we can form habits of abusing our bodies. This may present itself in the form of overeating, restrictive eating, or frequent substance use, whether this be drugs or alcohol. If this resonates with you, seek help from a professional if you’re struggling to break these habits on your own. Prolonged substance abuse is proven to increases symptoms of depression and other mental health issues. Remember there is no shame in asking for help. By tackling any addictions or unhealthy habits, you are making a loving commitment to yourself.

You may be physically hurting yourself as a form of punishment – if you feel unable to break this habit, snapping an elastic band on your wrist when you have the urge to self-harm can help begin to break the habit, but you should seek professional help if things have progressed to this stage. Further guidance on seeking help with the issues raised here are listed below.

4. Communication and Distance

Anyone who speaks down to you or makes you feel some kind of way should be communicated with. Speaking up for yourself and commanding the respect you deserve, rather than internalising the negativity that others put on you will make you feel stronger and allow your confidence to rise. Your feelings are valid, and you deserve to be heard. You also have the right to communicate your feelings openly and honestly.

The person in question might not have realised how their words are affecting you because they are speaking from a place of personal insecurity or unresolved trauma. Approaching this conversation, no matter how respectfully, is likely to provoke a negative response from the person in question because toxic people don’t appreciate being told about their negative traits. It is important to be mentally prepared for this and respond calmly to avoid unnecessary escalation of the situation. If they persist to make you feel bad about yourself, politely tell them to exit stage door left. If this isn’t possible because you are living in the same house for example, try to distance yourself as much as possible and continue working on yourself, surround yourself with healthy minded friends and develop a plan to help you get out of this environment.

If you think your safety might be at risk from bringing these concerns up (in an abusive environment/relationship), flag the situation to someone you trust and seek help. I’ve provided some helpful links below.

5. Create a physical or digital support circle

Strengthen relationships with people who make you feel good about yourself! If you feel good around someone, the chances are they feel good around you too, even if you’re not currently close. Reach out and strengthen the relationships with positive people in your life. Remember that friendship should be about quality, not quantity. It’s better to have a few close friends that always have your back rather than being part of a larger circle that don’t show up for you in your hour of need.

In today’s digital age, there is a constant bombardment of unrealistic imagery being fed to us through social media. Remember that what you are seeing are only the best parts of people’s lives – Not their day-to-day reality. Influencers often put large amounts of time and money in to creating content, which is created in bulk sessions and regularly posted. They are not travelling or posing in beautiful outfits every single day.

Stay mindful of any specific accounts or friends whose posts result in you negatively comparing yourself and unfollow or hide their content whilst you take time to work on yourself. Never feel obligated to engage with anything online if it’s damaging to you, even if you know the person posting it.

Replace that content with accounts that represent you, affirm you and inspire you to embrace yourself positively.

6. Therapy

Therapy, in my opinion, should be mandatory for everyone as this is where the biggest breakthroughs are made. Don’t feel as though you need to fit a certain criteria or be severely mentally unwell to qualify for therapy. Many healthy, successful people regularly visit a therapist to understand themselves on a deeper level to grow in both their personal and professional life.

Without acknowledging the root of our pain and insecurities it can be hard to progress, because without taking the time to heal from these experiences we can fall into a trap of repeating the same behaviours which ultimately hold us back. Speaking with a therapist allows you to explore your thoughts and feelings with a non-judgemental person whose advice will have your best interests at heart and be unbiased.

It is important to remember that we all have different experiences that shape our belief systems, and nobody is perfect. If you feel your therapist isn’t quite right for you (perhaps they come from a different class or have little knowledge about your culture) then it doesn’t mean they are bad at their job, they’re just not right for you. Keep searching until you find someone who can understand you and makes you feel comfortable in their presence.

The biggest thing I hope you take away from this, is to understand that you are more than the limiting beliefs that you or others may have about you. You are beautiful because you are unique, with your own experiences and feelings that allow you to bring value to the lives of others. Implementing healthy practices and positive affirmations into your daily routine may feel uncomfortable at first, but with consistency comes ease. Remember that through this commitment you are giving yourself the love and respect you deserve. Let that be your motivation during the difficult moments when the voice in the back of your head tells you to give up or that you’re not good enough. Watch as your confidence grows big enough to drown that negative Nancy out. From this moment on, may you never stand in your own way again.

Drug and Alcohol Addiction

Overcoming Drug Addiction

Turning Point Drug and Alcohol Support

NHS Alcoholism Support

NHS Drug Addiction Support

Self-Harm

Self-Harm Helplines

NHS Support for Self-Harm

Young Minds – A Guide for Young People

Talk to Someone

Domestic Violence and Abuse

Helplines for All Types of Abuse

Mind.Org Recognising Trauma

Emotional and Psychological Trauma

Therapy

BetterHelp Guide to Therapy

Find a Therapist

Online Therapy

Free Therapy (UK)

Finding the Right Therapist

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