Pope Francis strongly defended immigrants at his Christmas Eve Mass on Sunday, comparing them to Mary and Joseph finding no place to stay in Bethlehem and saying faith demands that foreigners be welcomed.
Francis, celebrating his fifth Christmas as leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, led a solemn Mass for about 10,000 people in St. Peter’s Basilica while many others followed the service from the square outside.
Security was stepped up, with participants checked as they approached St. Peter’s Square even before going through metal detectors to enter the basilica. The square had been cleared out hours earlier so security procedures could be put in place.
The Gospel reading at the Mass in Christendom’s largest church recounted the Biblical story of how Mary and Jesus had to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem to be registered for a census ordered by Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus.
“So many other footsteps are hidden in the footsteps of Joseph and Mary. We see the tracks of entire families forced to set out in our own day. We see the tracks of millions of persons who do not choose to go away, but driven from their land, leave behind their dear ones,” Francis said.
Even the shepherds who the Bible says were the first to see the child Jesus were “forced to live on the edges of society” and considered dirty, smelly foreigners, he said. “Everything about them generated mistrust. They were men and women to be kept at a distance, to be feared.”
“NEW SOCIAL IMAGINATION”
Wearing white vestments in the flower-bedecked church, Francis called for a “new social imagination … in which none have to feel that there is no room for them on this earth.”
The 81-year-old pope, who was born of Italian immigrant stock in Argentina, has made defense of migrants a major plank of his papacy, often putting him at odds with politicians.
Austria’s new chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, has aligned himself with central European neighbors like Hungary and the Czech Republic in opposing German-backed proposals to distribute asylum seekers around EU member states.
In elections in Germany in September, the far-right and anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party made significant gains, with electors punishing Chancellor Angela Merkel for her open-door policy and pushing migration policy to the top of the agenda in talks to form a coalition government.
Italy’s anti-immigrant Northern League, whose leader Matteo Salvini often gives fiery speeches against migrants, is expected to make gains in national elections next year. A law that would give citizenship to children born in Italy to migrant parents is stalled in parliament.
In his homily, Francis said, “Our document of citizenship” comes from God, making respect of migrants an integral part of Christianity.
“This is the joy that we tonight are called to share, to celebrate and to proclaim. The joy with which God, in his infinite mercy, has embraced us pagans, sinners and foreigners, and demands that we do the same,” Francis said.
Francis also condemned human traffickers who make money off desperate migrants as the “Herods of today” with blood on their hands, a reference to the Biblical story of the king who ordered the killing of all newborn male children near Bethlehem because he feared Jesus would one day displace him.
More than 14,000 people have died trying to make the perilous crossing of the Mediterranean to Europe in the past four years.
On Christmas Day, Francis will deliver his twice-yearly “Urbi et Orbi” (To the City and to the World) blessing and message from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica.
GHAUS-A-AZAM SHAYKH ABDUL QADIR JILANI R.A
One day a very pious and humble man was making Ibaadat by a river. He was very hungry, as he had not eaten for three days and three nights. Just then he noticed an apple floating in the river, in his direction. He reached out and took this apple and ate it. After he had eaten the apple, this pious man whose name was Sayyidi Abu Saaleh, realised that he had ate someone else’s apple for it did not belong to him. He decided to go in search of the owner of this apple. He walked alongside the river for a long time until he reached an orchard that had an apple tree. He immediately knew that the apple had come from this orchard.
Sayyidi Abu Saaleh asked to see the owner. He explained what had happened and asked him for forgiveness for eating his apple without permission. The owner listened and realised that this was a chosen servant of Allah. The owner agreed to forgive Sayyidi Abu Saaleh under one condition – that he must work in the orchard for ten years. Sayyidi Abu Saaleh agreed to this and after ten years had passed he went to the owner and asked to be excused but the owner asked him to work for another two years. Sayyidi Abu Saaleh agreed to do this without complaint. After two years had passed, the owner had agreed to let Sayyidi Abu Saaleh leave under one final condition – that he must marry his daughter.
Sayyidi Abu Saaleh married the owner’s daughter, Sayyida Ummul Khair Faathima and they bore a son by the name of Sayyiduna Sheikh Abdul Qaadir Jilaani (radi Allahu anhu) who is most commonly referred to as Huzoor Ghaus-e-Azam.
Huzoor Ghaus-e-Azam was indeed a blessed child. He was born when his mother was sixty years old. Many miracles surrounded his birth.
On the eve of his birth, his father saw the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) who told him: “O Abu Saaleh! Almighty Allah has blessed you with a pious son. He is my beloved and the beloved of Almighty Allah. He is the most exalted amongst the Awliya and Aqtaab”.
When he was born, Huzoor Ghaus-e-Azam had the impression of the footprint of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) on his shoulder.
Also on the eve of his birth, approximately eleven hundred males were born in the city of Jilaan and every one of them was a Wali Allah (a saint).
Huzoor Ghaus-e-Azam was born in Ramadaan and during the entire month, he never drank milk after Sehri and before Ifthaar. His mother said that he would not even cry for milk during the entire day and would only drink after Ifthaar. The blessed saint kept fast from the day he was born!
Huzoor Ghaus-e-Azam had lost his father when he was very young. He was not like other children who would choose to play instead of remembering Allah. He would spend him time remembering Allah. From a young age, when he wanted to join the other children to play, he would hear an unseen voice tell him, “Come towards Me O’ Blessed one”. This unseen voice frightened Huzoor Ghaus-e-Azam at first but he began to get used to it and instead of playing, he would remember Allah.
Huzoor Ghaus-e-Azam was five years old when he first attended a madressah in Jilaan. He spent five years in this madressah in which an amazing incident occurred. Every day whenever Huzoor Ghaus-e-Azam would enter the madressah, he would see bright figures walking before him saying, “Give way to the friend of Allah”.
When Huzoor Ghaus-e-Azam was eighteen years old, his mother sewed forty dinars under the arm of his coat before he left to study in Baghdad, a city in Iraq. She bid him farewell and advised him to always speak the truth in his life, no matter what happens. He promised her that he would do exactly that. Then he set off for Baghdad.
Now in those days, people used to travel in caravans by camels. The roads were dangerous and people were always getting robbed and killed. People travelled in groups so that they were safer. Huzoor Ghaus-e-Azam’s caravan reached the city of Hamdaan safely but when they left Hamdaan and passed through the forest, they were attacked by a band of robbers. The leader of this band was a well-known robber, Ahmad Badwi.
The travellers were forced to give up all their belongings to the robbers, who shared it amongst each other. One of the robbers came to Huzoor Ghaus-e-Azam and asked him if he had any valuables on him. Huzoor Ghaus-e-Azam replied that he had forty dinars with him. The robbers did not believe him but the leader Ahmad Badwi asked to see Huzoor Ghaus-e-Azam.
When Ahmad Badwi asked Huzoor Ghaus-e-Azam if he had any valuables on him, he gave the same answer he gave before, that he had forty dinars on him. The leader of the band of robbers asked for the forty dinars. Huzoor Ghaus-e-Azam calmly showed him where his mother had hidden the money for him. Ahmad Badwi and his robbers were shocked at Huzoor Ghaus-e-Azam. Ahmad Badwi asked him, “If none of us knew you had the money, why did you show us where it was hidden?” Huzoor Ghaus-e-Azam replied, “When I left for Baghdad, I promised my mother that I will never speak a lie under any circumstance so I could not break my promise to my mother.”
Upon hearing this, Ahmad Badwi felt extreme shame and began to weep. He asked for forgiveness from Allah immediately and returned all the belongings to the people. The rest of his gang did the same.
When Huzoor Ghaus-e-Azam reached Baghdad, he enrolled at the Jaamia Nizaamia. At the Jaamia Nizaamia, there were many pious and learned teachers. Huzoor Ghaus-e-Azam learned Qirat, Tafseer, Hadith, Fiqh, Shariah and Tareeqat amongst other subjects. He excelled in every single subject that he studied. When Huzoor Ghaus-e-Azam qualified from Jaamia Nizaamia, he was the most knowledgeable and pious Aalim present in his time.
Allah had tested Huzoor Ghaus-e-Azam during his stay in Baghdad. He went for days without food or water. After classes everyday, he used to go into the jungles and forests of Baghdad where he used to spend the entire night making Zikr of Almighty Allah. He did this even if the weather was bad. When he used to make Zikr, he would become hungry so he used to go to the river Euphrates and eat whatever vegetables he could find beside the river. Huzoor Ghaus-e-Azam got closer to Almighty Allah during these difficult times.
After Huzoor Ghaus-e-Azam completed his studies he learnt from very pious and spiritual leaders, Sheikh Ham’maad bin Muslim Ad Dab’baas (radi Allahu anhu) and Sheikh Abu Saeed Mubaarak Makhzoomi (radi Allahu anhu). Thereafter for twenty five years of his life, he used to go to the jungles of Iraq. For forty years Huzoor Ghaus-e-Azam performed his Fajr Salaah with his Wudhu from his Esha Salaah and for fifteen years he used to read the entire Qur’an, standing on one foot right until Fajr. He used to go without even eating a crumb of food for three to forty days.
One day Huzoor Ghaus-e-Azam was remembering Allah in the jungles of Iraq when he met a man with a very bright and pious face. The person asked him if he would like to stay with him. Huzoor Ghaus-e-Azam said that he would. The person then told him that he could stay with him only if he promises to be obedient to his commands, and to never question his sayings or actions. Huzoor Ghaus-e-Azam immediately agreed to this.
The man then asked Huzoor Ghaus-e-Azam to sit in one spot and not to move from there until he returned. Huzoor Ghaus-e-Azam did exactly this and only one year later did the man return. He spent a few moments with Huzoor Ghaus-e-Azam and then left again before asking him not to move from that same spot again. One year later, the man returned once again and did the exact same thing for the third time, leaving Huzoor Ghaus-e-Azam in that spot until he returned.
The third time, when the man returned, he came with milk and bread and told Huzoor Ghaus-e-Azam, “I am Hadrat Khidr (alaihis salaam) and I have been asked to share this meal with you.” Huzoor Ghaus-e-Azam and Hazrat Khidr (alaihis salaam) sat and ate together. Then Hazrat Khidr (alaihis salaam) asked Huzoor Ghaus-e-Azam, “O Abdul Qadir, what did you eat for three years while you sat at this one spot?” Huzoor Ghaus-e-Azam replied, “I ate whatever the people had thrown away.”
Huzoor Ghaus-e-Azam managed to fight the Shaitaan during his life and always won. The first time that Shaitaan came to Huzoor Ghaus-e-Azam, he came in a very ugly form and he had an extremely bad smell on him. Shaitaan told Huzoor Ghaus-e-Azam that he wants to become his servant as he can no longer try and mislead Huzoor Ghaus-e-Azam for it never worked. Huzoor Ghaus-e-Azam told Shaitaan to leave him at once but Shaitaan refused to leave. Then suddenly, an unseen hand came and hit Shaitaan so hard that it caused him to fall and sink to the ground.
Huzoor Ghaus-e-Azam became the mureed of the pious Sheikh Abu Saeed Mubaarak Makhzoomi (radi Allahu anhu). His Peer taught him everything he knew with love and care. One day, his Peer asked him to fetch something for him. When Huzoor Ghaus-e-Azam had left the room, his Peer told the rest of the students in the class, “One day, the foot of that young man will be on the shoulders of all the Awliya Allah and all the Awliya of his time will humble themselves before him”.
At that time in the city of Baghdad, the people were very mislead and corrupt. Huzoor Ghaus-e-Azam lectured the people and managed to change them, making them better Muslims. Huzoor Ghaus-e-Azam performed numerous miracles too. Once a thief came to steal from his house. When the thief entered Huzoor Ghaus-e-Azam’s house, he became blind. He could not see anything and therefore could not even find his way out of the house. So he sat in one corner of the house. In the morning, he was caught and brought before Huzoor Ghaus-e-Azam. He placed his blessed hands on the thief’s eyes and the thief got back his eyesight. Huzoor Ghaus-e-Azam then said, “He came to steal worldly wealth but I will bless him with such a treasure that it will remain with him forever.”
Huzoor Ghaus-e-Azam had to just look at the thief once and this caused the thief to become a Wali!
Huzoor Ghaus-e-Azam married for the first time when he was fifty-one years old. He had married four wives who bore him forty-nine children – twenty seven sons and twenty two daughters. His eldest son’s name was Sayyidi Sheikh Abdul Wahab (radi Allahu anhu) and he was also very pious. Huzoor Ghaus-e-Azam always advised his children to fear no one but Almighty Allah and not to turn to anyone accept Allah.
Huzoor Ghaus-e-Azam delivered thousands of lectures in his lifetime to ordinary people, learned scholars and great saints. People enjoyed his lectures very much and some people even recorded his lectures down. Huzoor Ghaus-e-Azam also wrote many books in his life. He was like a father to his thousands of followers. He knew each of them by name and cared for them. He helped them and saved them from disasters, even if they were at the other end of the world.
One day, in a city called Ceylon, a man went to attack a young girl who was all alone. She was a follower of Huzoor Ghaus-e-Azam. She shouted, “Save me, O my sheikh Abdul Qadir!”At that moment, Huzoor Ghaus-e-Azam was making ablution in the city of Baghdad. The people around him noticed that he stopped angrily and removed his wooden shoe and threw it in the air. They did not see the shoe fall down. The shoe fell on the head of the man in Ceylon who was attacking the young girl, and killed him. Huzoor Ghaus-e-Azam performed hundreds of miracles in his lifetime.
Huzoor Ghaus-e-Azam was ninety-one years old when he passed away. Just before he could leave this world, he raised his hands and said, “There is no god but Allah and Muhammad (sallahu alaihi wa salam) is his Prophet. Glory be to Allah, the Exalted, the Ever-living, glory be to him, the All-Powerful, Who overpowers His servants by death.”
He had given all of himself to Allah. He did not care for worldly things at all. His nights passed with little or no sleep at all but constant prayer. He spent his life following the Beloved Prophet Muhammad (sallahu alaihi wasalam) truly and served humanity. Three times a week he would lecture thousands of people. He gave lessons in various subjects every morning and afternoon. After Zuhr salaah, he would spend his time giving advice to all those who came to him whether they were beggars of kings. Before Maghrib salaah, he would distribute food to the poor every day regardless of the weather conditions.
His blessed tomb lies at the madressah of Baab al-Daraja in Baghdad and is visited by thousands of Sufis and Muslims. May Almighty Allah’s pleasure be upon his soul.
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