Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Mission Ramadhan 22 - Reawakening

Within the Muslim world also there are signs of awakening. Muslims are coming back to Islam after having toyed with one false ideology after another. Colonialism had hit them hard. It subjugated them physically, politically, economically, culturally, and mentally. An education system that they embraced as a ticket out of their miseries during that period of oppression compounded their problems by producing self-doubt and self-hate. It produced generations of perfect strangers within the house of Islam, who were then --- for this 'achievement' --- given leadership roles in all areas of Muslim societies. They hated their languages, their culture, and their religion. It is such people who rule the Muslim world today.

Our renewed interest in our religion is great but it is good to remember that Islamic revival will not take place through the blind leading the blind. All Islamic work --- whether Dawah, or Jihad, or relief work or political or media activism --- requires guidance from the Shariah, which in turn requires knowledge and understanding. Recognizing the need for such guidance from true scholars is the first step in getting it. The questions we need to ask may not have ready-made answers but that does not justify not asking them or accepting answers from unqualified sources. There is a very good example in the work done in the field of Islamic finance during the last decades. It was the collaboration of religious scholars with experts in economics and finance that produced the body of knowledge today that did not exist before. A similar effort is needed in other fields. Muslim journalists working with scholars can help evolve an Islamic protocol for Journalism. Muslim activists working with scholars can help evolve Islamic protocol for media and political activism. Relief organizations can establish Shariah advisory boards to ensure their operations are within the bounds of Shariah.

Bringing our own house in order is the only response we can and must have to the threats, challenges, and fears we face today.

Mission Ramadhan 21 - Balanced Society

Extremism is a product of ignorance.

Given two extreme points on a straight line, anyone can point out where the middle point lies. But a person that cannot see the entire line will also miss the middle point. He may be sitting on an extreme edge, yet congratulate himself for being in the middle.Our own instruments of observation and intellect, wonderful as they are, are simply not up to the task of finding the proper course in this complex, ever-changing, multidimensional maze. There are no satellite observatories, no imaging systems, no super computers that can help us find a solution. Yet we know that we do need to find it. Our physical well-being requires that we eat a well balanced diet and follow the course of moderation. Our economic, social, and spiritual well-being similarly demands finding the balanced approach and the moderate course in all these spheres. Our total well-being requires finding the path of moderation for our entire life.

For this we need Divine Guidance. No one is more conscious of this than the believer who turns to Allah five times a day with this supplication: "Show us the Straight Path." The Path that avoids the extremes of Ifraat (excess) and Tafreet (insufficient action). Is there another group that seeks the path of rectitude and moderation with the same fervor?

That this is the Ummah justly balanced can be seen by looking at its beliefs and practices.

Mission Ramadhan 20 - Decency & Dignity

It is true that Islam teaches decency and prohibits provoking followers of other religions. It teaches that we are responsible for every word we utter and will have to account for it in the Hereafter (Al-Qur'an, 50:18). The prophet Muhammad SAWS said: "Anyone who believes in Allah and the Last Day should either say something good or keep quiet." Muslims revere all the Prophets of God, from Adam to Noah, to Abraham to Moses and Jesus (peace and blessing on them all), and finally, Prophet Muhammad SAWS. While Muslims welcome debates with other religions, they want to make sure it is a civilized debate. No ridicule, no insults. They are even prohibited from using bad words about the false gods of other religions, meant only to hurt the feelings of their followers. (Al-Qur'an, 6:108). Obviously it does not recognize the endless freedom to insult.

Mission Ramadhan 19 - Mercy Me

"Let Them Forgive and Overlook" By Sumayya Binti Khalid

MADINAH-AL-MUNAWARRA, THE CITY OF THE PROPHET Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, IS ABUZZ with rumors. Ever since the Muslims returned from the battle of Bani al-Mustaliq the hypocrites have been busy spreading lies against Aisha radi-Allahu anha. These stories have become the topic of every gathering, the subject of discussion in every household in Madinah. Though most of the sincere Muslims are confident in the innocence of Aisha radi-Allahu anha, they are still quiet, waiting for this to be ascertained by the ProphetSall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam. The ProphetSall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam is also quiet, waiting for Allah to inspire him towards the truth. Thus, the hypocrites led by Abdullah bin Ubayy bin Salool have advantage over the seemingly confusing situation and gear all their energies in spreading the lies. Unsuspectingly influenced by the hypocrites' rampage, a few Muslim thus begin to believe this false story. Some of these Muslims even actively help propagate it.

Among them is Mistah bin Uthatha radi-Allahu anhu, a cousin of Abu Bakr radi-Allahu anhu. He is an extremely poor man with no money except that which Abu Bakr radi-Allahu anhu regularly gives him. Mistah's endorsement of the hypocrites' story adds somewhat more weight to it, as he is a man with a fine reputation. It can be no longer said that belief in this story is limited to the circle of hypocrites.

And so a trying and gruesome month passes before Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala reveals the innocence of Aisha radi-Allahu anha. The Muslims finally exhale a sigh of relief and a sense of normalcy returns to Madinah.

Hurt and angered by Mistah's previous allegations, Abu Bakr takes an oath that he will never spend on Mistah again. Considering Abu Bakr's perspective, this is a perfectly justifiable, even expected, position. Here is a person wholly dependant on Abu Bakr and yet is willfully spreading and endorsing wild, enormous rumors about Abu Bakr's beloved daughter. How else could Abu Bakr react in such an ironic situation? How else can he treat a person who slandered his daughter, the Mother of the Believers, with the worst of slander?

And then Allah reveals: And let not those who are good and wealthy among you swear not to help their kinsmen, those in need and those who left their homes in Allah's Cause. Let them forgive and overlook. Do you not wish that Allah should forgive you? Verily! Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful." (24.22)

Abu Bakr radi-Allahu anhu, despite his anguish and hurt feelings, immediately responds by exclaiming, "By Allah, I would love it that Allah forgives me!" He promptly returns to his previous habit, and swears that he will never cease spending on Mistah.

This was the mercy and forgiveness the Qur'an teaches, the mercy and ties of kinship that Allah is pleased to see in His servants.

Mission Ramadhan 18 - Hate For All The Right Reasons

"I Hate It.." By James Martindale

I have enjoyed our on-line discussion in recent weeks, although I am sorry that it took such tragic events to initiate our conversation. I thought perhaps you would be interested in other points of view that some people are expressing. The following was written by my brother Jamie:

I absolutely hate what these terrorists have done, and not just for the obvious reasons. I hate it, hate it, hate it in so many ways! Premeditated violence against random people is absolutely odious. There is no way to justify it, ever. And, what I hate almost as much is what these acts have also done to our national psyche. One day of tragedy is spreading out into weeks of anger, resentment, fear, bluster and righteousness.

I hate that a climate of conservative militarism has been spawned across the USA.

I hate that citizens now seem willing to swap civil liberties for the illusion of control.

I hate that diatribes against pacifism, forgiveness, "liberals," historical context, balance, empathy, and tolerance are now racing around the internet.

I hate that anyone who questions authority, embraces multiculturalism, or seeks to reduce military spending now has his/her patriotism questioned.

I hate that any show of patriotic spirit is now in fashion, whether well-thought out or blindly chauvanistic.

I hate that we are now apparently negotiating away our support for human rights around the world in exchange for promised support of planned counterattacks.

I hate that our interest in rooting out deeper causes of hatred seems to have faded.

I hate that other vital issues like poverty relief, educational quality, health care reform, civil rights, and alternative energy now are pushed to the back burner.

I hate that hatemongers like Jerry Falwell and others are using this series of events as an excuse for bigotry and oppression.

And I hate to hear myself using the word "hate" so much.

"As I walk through this wicked world
Searching for light in the darkness of insanity
I ask myself 'Is all hope lost?
Is there only pain and hatred and misery?'
But each time I feel like this inside
There's one thing I want to know
What's so funny 'bout peace, love, and understanding?"
~ Nick Lowe (and Elvis Costello)

Mission Ramadhan 17 - The Economic Challenge

"The Economic Challenge" By Justice Mufti Taqi Usmani

The world, therefore, is badly in need of a Third Economic System. The Muslim Ummah can work out this system based on the Islamic norms. The economic principles taught by the Quran and Sunnah of the Prophet (Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam) are quite capable of solving the major economic problems faced by the world today.

While they allow private ownership and market economy, they also provide a well considered system of distributive justice, which may eliminate the inequities and bring about a system in which profit motive works with the collective interest of the society. The basic fault of communism was that, frustrated with the inequity of capitalism, it assailed the very institutions of private ownership and market forces and developed a utopian idea of planned economy which was unnatural, artificial and oppressive. The denial of individual liberty curtailed the zeal for production and the wide powers of the state left the destiny of the people in the hands of the ruling class.

It was neither private ownership nor the institution of market forces that was the basic cause of injustice in the capitalist system. The basic factor for creating inequities in the capitalist countries was the absence of a criterion to differentiate between just and unjust earnings. The instruments of interest, gambling, speculative transactions and the tools of exploiting immoral desires of the consumers to secure huge profits were allowed, which tend to create monopolies and in turn paralyze the forces of demand and supply or at least obstruct their operation. It is thus ironical that the capitalist theory on the one hand asserts the principles of lassiez-faire but, on the other, by allowing the aforesaid instruments, interferes with their natural function and stops the market forces from playing their due role by creating monopolies that impose their arbitrary decisions on the bulk of the common people.

The system of interest favors the rich industrialists who benefit from the wealth of the common people who deposit their savings in the bank, and after making huge profits do not allow the common people to share these profits except to the extent of a fixed rate of interest that is again taken back by them as it is charged to the cost of production. At macro level, it means that these rich people always use the money of depositors for their own benefit and in reality pay nothing to them because the interest payments are always added to the cost of production. Similarly, gambling is a major instrument for concentrating the wealth of thousands of men in a few hands and for promoting the disastrous motive of greed for the unearned income. The speculative transactions are also a major source of disturbing the natural market operations and contribute to the inequities in the distribution of wealth.

Islam not only allows the market forces but also provides mechanism to keep them operative with their natural force without their being hindered by monopolies. It applies two types of controls on the economic activities.

First, it subjects the process of earning to certain divine injunctions, which clearly define the limits of halal and haram. These injunctions tend to prevent monopolies and curb the unjust and immoral earnings and commercial activities detrimental to the collective interest of the society. In the context of modern economic needs where the savings of the common people are activated to boost development, the use of the Islamic instruments like musharakah and mudarabah, instead of interest, may make the common people directly share the fruits of development which may bring prosperity in a balanced manner reducing the gap between the rich and the poor.

Second, the institution of zakat, sadaqat, and certain other financial obligations provide that even the halal income is again distributed to the persons who could not earn enough due to insufficient market opportunities. Through the twin controls, the wealth is kept under constant circulation and the chances of its concentration are almost eliminated.

But our main tragedy is that the principles of Islamic economy are still in theoretical form for which no living example is available. The Muslim countries have not tried to structure their economy on Islamic basis. Most of them are still following the capitalist system and that too in a half-baked manner, which has made the economic atmosphere much worse than that of the developed capitalist countries. Unfortunately, despite having the clear cut Islamic injunctions, the inequities existing in Muslim countries are far more severe than in the Western world.

This tragic situation cannot last forever. If we are not prepared to mend our ways, some natural process of revolution is bound to find its way. If we want to avoid disastrous consequences of such revolution, we'll have to restructure our economic system on the basis of clear guidance provided by the Qur'an and Sunnah. Our success in setting an example for implementing the Islamic principles will be our best gift to the human fraternity at the advent of the new century. I hope that if the principles of Islamic economy are implemented sincerely, we'll find the world more receptive to them today than we experienced it in the past.

Merdeka - It's In Our Heart and Our Action

"No man can put a chain about the ankle of his fellow man without at last finding the other end fastened about his own neck"
~ Frederick Douglass, speech, Civil Rights Mass Meeting, Washington, D.C., 1883

"We must be free not because we claim freedom, but because we practice it"
~ William Faulkner

"Freedom has its life in the hearts, the actions, the spirit of men and so it must be daily earned and refreshed - else like a flower cut from its life-giving roots, it will wither and die"
~ Dwight D. Eisenhower

"In the truest sense, freedom cannot be bestowed; it must be achieved"
~ Franklin D. Roosevelt

"There are two freedoms - the false, where a man is free to do what he likes; the true, where he is free to do what he ought"
~ Charles Kingsley

The best song to express my feelings on this 53rd Merdeka would be Whitney Houston's "One Moment in Time", the official song for Seoul '88 Olympic Game.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Mission Ramadhan 16 - Equity, Not Equality

Some people in the societies that for centuries refused to consider women as human beings or to give them any rights have gone to one extreme from the other. Islam has nothing to do with such nonsense. When women had no rights in the world, it declared: "And women shall have rights, similar to the rights against them, according to what is equitable." [Al-Baqarah 2:228]. That remains its Command today and forever. Similar rights, not same rights. Equity, not a blind equality. Both men and women are equal in their humanity, in their accountability before Allah, in their responsibility to perform their assigned tasks and be judged based on their performance. But their assigned tasks are not the same. They have been given different capabilities by their Creator and the tasks based on those capabilities. This differentiation is not an error that needs to be corrected. It is the only basis for building a healthy and prosperous society. Islam liberates a woman from the modern tyranny of having to become a man in order to get a sense of self worth and achievement.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Rich Experience from Danone Grameen

Reading Danone’s Cheap Trick” on TIME’s 23 August 2010 brings me back to my primary school days where free chocolate milks were distributed to all students. I hate drinking chocolate milk (I like mine simply plain) so I would freeze my milk cartoon in the afternoon and a few hours later, I would be seen spooning my chocolate ice cream – much to the envy of my younger sis :)

Projek Susu Sekolah was launched by Tun Siti Hasmah in September 1983 under collaboration between Education Ministry and Syarikat Nutri-tional Products Sdn Bhd because she believed “Rakyat Sihat, Negara Maju”.

Over the years, such program no longer ran for free as students had to pay 30cents per cartoon and it was then solely distributed to poor students for free. And over the years, the quality and the quantity distributed yo-yoed, where there were reports of en masse food poisoning amongst students drinking the milk while some did not receive their ration as scheduled. Untimely, such thoughtful program was stopped in August 2007.

However, in May this year, Education Ministry had to come up with an explanation as of to why the Ministry is yet to revive the said program. The Ministry reasoned that their distributors are yet to be HACCP-certified, which is made compulsory by Health Ministry.

That is mind-boggling to me – is it that difficult to be HACCP-certified these days when we have reliable brand names to tap from and for RM25.0 M contract per year, I don’t think it is costly for such a newly-minted distributor to procure such important certification in F&B industry?

Anyway, reading the article also invigorate my hopes for this Ibu Pertiwi.

Here’s why.

Economics and Social Responsibility work!

Grameen Danone is an example of successful social businesses, by using corporate infrastructure to reach less privileged consumers, leveraging on local source of raw materials and local manpower (paid at local wages) to manufacture products that are direly needed by the surrounding community.

Multiplier effects of such business establishment are tremendous in any given society as

Innovation is a way forward

Instead of complaining that manufacturing costs keep skyrocketing, Grameen Danone incorporates innovations to keep the costs at reasonable level and their innovations surprisingly come from NGO and normal people that care for the poor. Such thinking-outside-the-box coupled to liberal business policies open many doors to future business opportunities for Danone and foster positive development of conscientious R&D generation that would contribute towards doing business friendly, holistically.

A good intention goes a long way

When we put our mind and soul into something that is beyond any benefits to ourselves, out of empathy, God, the Most Gracious and Merciful, will reward us in many ways and most of the time those kindness God bestowed upon us are being paid forward to others that deserve the most, even not in our short time on this beautiful world.

Grameen Danone isn’t supposed to bring in any money from their investment in Bangladesh, selling their products to the ultra-poors in the world so they could have sufficient nutrition. Still, they went ahead. The world’s largest yogurt maker is now eyeing the possibility of African markets and working along with many more innovators that would make healthy food affordable to all.

And for me, that’s the most beautiful thing one can do in life.

Mission Ramadhan 15 - Real Purpose of Education

In the "first" world, education has become an extension of the capitalist system. Its purpose is to provide qualified workforce for its machinery of production and eager consumers for its products. Stated in a more polished form, the purpose of education is to provide for the economic prosperity of a country. Similarly on a personal level today the purpose of education is to be able to earn a respectable living.

While earning halal living and providing for the economic well being of a country are certainly important Islamic goals as well, the linking of education to financial goals is extremely unfortunate. It turns the centers of learning into mere vocational centers in their outlook and spirit. It degrades education and through it the society.

To bring home the pivotal but forgotten role of education we need to recall that there is a fundamental difference between human beings and animals. Instincts and physical needs alone can bring ants, bees, or herds of beasts together to live in a perfectly functioning animal society. Human beings do not function that way. They are not constrained by nature to follow only those ways that are necessary for the harmonious operation of their society. If they are to form a viable, thriving society, they must chose to do so. What drives that choice is the sharing of common goals, beliefs, values and outlook on life. Without a common framework binding its members, a human society cannot continue to exist; it will disintegrate and be absorbed by other societies. Further, the society must ensure that the common ground will continue to hold from generation to generation. This is the real purpose of education. The education system of a society produces the citizens and leaders needed for the smooth operation of that society, now and into the future. Its state of health or sickness translates directly into the health or sickness of the society that it is meant to serve.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Mission Ramadhan 14 - Reason & Revelation

Normally it is difficult for us to say "I don't know." It is even more difficult for nations to admit a weakness in their celebrated tools of inquiry. That is the dilemma of the modern world, which sees so much wrong with itself but cannot bring itself to admitting the problem with its basic approach. But a Muslim is the person who has both the wisdom and the courage to surrender before the higher source of knowledge and guidance. For him Revelation informs his reason and his reason controls his emotions. Such is the person who is blessed, but not burdened, by his beliefs.

Personal Calling

Not that I haven't got a new book to read (yet to collect Nelson Mandela's bio from En Nordin downstairs) but I grabbed Paulo Coelho's "The Alchemist", once again last night.

I read the introduction and there they were - the right words for me to tell someone who's fighting a war out there.

Here's the excerpt from the said introduction, which I wish to share with him and so many people out there who are on path to their personal calling ( I guess we are all on this journey): -

"The book has been translated into 56 languages, has sold more than 20 million copies and people are beginning to ask, "Whats the secret behind such a huge success?"

The only honest response is: I don't know. All I know is that, like Santiago the shepherd boy, we all need to be aware of our personal calling. What is a personal calling? It is God's blessing, it is the path God chose for you here on Earth. Whenever we do something that fills us with enthusiasm, we are following our legend. However, we don't all have the courage to confront our own dream.

Why? There are 4 obstacles.

First, we are told from childhood onward that everything we want to do is impossible. We grow up with this ideas and as the years accumulate, so too do the layers of prejudice, fear and guilt. There comes a time when our personal calling is so deeply buried in our soul as to be invisible. But it is still there.

If we have the courage to disinter dream we are then faced by the second obstacle: Love. We know what we want to do but are afraid of hurting those around us by abandoning everything in order to pursue our dream. We do not realise that love is just a further impetus, not something that will prevent us from going forward. We do not realise that those who genuinely wish us well want us to be happy and are prepared to accompany us on that journey.

Once we have accepted that love is a stimulus, we come up against the third obstacle: fear of the defeats we will meet on the path. We who fight for our dream suffer far more when it doesn't work out because we cannot fall back on the old excuse, "Oh well, I didn't really want it anyway". We do want it, and know that we have staked everything on it and that the path of the personal calling is no easier than any other path, except that our whole heart is in this journey. Then we warriors of light must be prepared to have patience in difficult time and to know that the Universe is conspiring in our favour, even though we may not understand how.

I ask myself: are defeats necessary?

Well, necessary or not, they happen. When we first begin fighting our dream, we have no experience and make many mistakes. The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and to get up eight times.

So, why is it so important to live our personal calling if we are only going to suffer more than other people?

Because, once we have overcome the defeats - and we always do - we are filled by a greater sense of euphoria and confidence. In the silence of our hearts, we know that we are proving ourselves worthy of the miracle of life. Each day, each hours, is part of the good fight.

Having disinterred our dream, having used the power of love to nurture it and spent many years living with the scars, we suddenly notice that what we always wanted is there, waiting for us, perhaps, the very next day. Then comes the fourth obstacle: the fear of realising the dream for which we fought all our lives.

Oscar Wilde said, "Each man kills the thing he loves". And it's true. The mere possibility of getting what we want fills the soul of the ordinary person with guilt.We look around at all those who have failed to get what they want and feel that we do not deserve to get what we want either.

We forget about all the obstacles we overcame, all the sufferings we endured, all things we had to give up in order to get this far.

This is the most dangerous of the obstacles because it has a kind of saintly aura about it; renouncing joy and conquest. But if you believe yourself worthy of the things you fought so hard to get, then you become and instrument of God, you help the Soul of the World, and you understand why you are here".

Monday, August 23, 2010

Mission Ramadhan 13 - Mind Our Language

"Every religion has a distinct moral call and the moral call of Islam is haya." [Hadith Bayhaqi]

Haya is an all-encompassing Islamic concept that includes modesty, decency, and inhibition against sin. It is an inner feeling. A state of mind that reflects itself in myriad ways. Among other things, it shows itself in the language one uses.

How should one communicate about morally sensitive and delicate subjects? Anyone can be crude, explicit, and vulgar. But Islam civilizes this aspect of our life also and teaches us to be refined, subtle, and indirect. As a result, the language of Islamic societies has been the language of haya. They do not talk about some subjects, (not publicly at least), not because of ignorance, but because they know. When there is need to talk about sensitive subjects, they are mentioned in a language that is as fully clothed as decent men and women should be.

Mission Ramadhan 12 - Character

The essential idea of tahzeebe akhlaq is to bring our natural faculties in a state of balance. The three basic faculties are anger, desires, and intelligence.


When in equilibrium it results in valor, forbearance, steadfastness, the ability to restrain anger, and dignity. Excess will result in rashness, boastfulness, pride, inability to restrain anger, and vanity. A deficiency will result in cowardice, disgrace, and feeling of inferiority.


Equilibrium here results in chastity, generosity, haya (decency), patience, and contentment. Its excess leads to greed and lust. The other extreme results in narrow-mindedness, and impotence, etc.


Equilibrium here makes man wise, sharp-witted and one with great insights. Excess here makes one deceptive, fraudulent and imposture. Its lack results in ignorance and stupidity with the consequence that such a person is quickly misled.

A person will be considered as having a beautiful seerah (character) only when these faculties are in the state of balance and equilibrium. Internal beauty varies with people just as external beauty does. The possessor of the most beautiful seerah was Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam. The beauty of our seerah is based on its closeness to his seerah.

[Condensed from writings of Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi]

Note: Extracted from Khalid Baig's "What is Tasawwuf?"

Mission Ramadhan 11 - Righteousness

"Taqwa is for everyone" By Khalid Baig

"Be quick in the race for forgiveness from your Lord and for a Garden whose width is that of the whole of the heavens and the earth, prepared for the muttaqeen."[Aal-e-Imran, 3:133]

Of course in every race some people get ahead while others lag behind. So with the race for taqwa. Obviously some people will develop more taqwa than others. Though taqwa is also a state of the heart [Al-Hajj, 22:32], and we cannot judge the taqwa of others, many aspects of taqwa have a reflection in our behavior. So it is natural and normal for us to recognize the differences in achievement of those in the race. But those of us lagging behind cannot pretend that we are not in the race at all. For there is no other race!

We are all in it together. The rich and the poor, the educated and the un-educated, the leader and the follower, the writer and the reader, the preacher and the listener, the ruler and the ruled, the old and the young, the man and the woman, all must develop taqwa. The most honored, in the sight of Allah, is the believer with the mosttaqwa [Hujurat, 49:13]. The Islamic society is a taqwa- conscious society, conferring its highest respects on those considered to be highest in taqwa. Without it the best achievements in other areas of life mean nothing.

While all this is obvious in principle, in practice many of us seem to have accepted the idea that muttaqeen are a separate class of people, different from the rest of us, the ordinary Muslims. While Islamic Shariah has been one integral entity, this devious mechanism has allowed us to develop our own individual Shariahs by picking and choosing from the Shariah what we might think is appropriate for the "ordinary Muslim." Such reasoning provides a ready-made justification for our sins, shortcomings, and weaknesses. All of them end with: "After all I am not a muttaqi." Brother, is that a humble statement about achievements or a self-delusion about goals?

The flip side of taqwa is sin. And the mentality that made taqwa the burden of a small group of religious people has also imported another term into contemporary Islamic discourse: self-righteousness. These days this seems to be the most potent weapon of anyone being challenged for introducing a deviation in Shariah. Those challenging must be self-righteous. A most despised species!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Jack Johnson's Gone, Going...

"There is nothing worse than self-deception, where the deceiver is always with you " ~ Plato, Dialogues

Mission Ramadhan 10 - Family Matters

"Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him maintain the bonds of kinship" ~ Bukhari

The young man went to attend the weekly hadith lecture of Sayyidna Abu Huraira, Radi-Allahu anhu but the routine opening announcement stopped him. “If anyone sitting here has severed any ties of kinship (qata-ur-rahim), he should leave.” He recalled that an aunt lived in the town with whom he had not been on speaking terms. The young man quietly left the gathering and went straight to his aunt’s home. He asked for forgiveness for his past behavior and sought rapprochement. When the aunt inquired about the reason for this change of heart, he narrated the entire incident. She accepted the apology but asked him to inquire from Abu Huraira, Radi-Allahu anhu, the reason for this unusual announcement. Why did he leave all the other major sins and focus only on this? What was so special about ties of kinship? Sayyidna Abu Huraira replied that he had heard from the Prophet that our deeds are presented to Allah every Thursday night and anyone who has severed family ties has all his good deeds rejected. He did not want any such person sitting in his gathering, which was held on the same night, for fear that it could deprive the entire gathering of blessings. Another hadith explains further the reason for this fear: “Allah’s mercy will not descend on people among whom there is one who severs ties of kinship.” [Baihaqi, Shuab Al-Iman]

Maintaining the bonds of kinship (silatur-rahim) indeed enjoys extraordinary importance in Islam. Conversely, severing the ties (qata-ur-rahim), is very high on the list of enormities. At two places in the Qur’an, Allah has cursed the one severing family ties.

“And those who break the covenant of Allah, after its ratification, and sever that which Allah has commanded to be joined (i.e. they sever the bond of kinship and are not good to their relatives) and work mischief in the land, on them is the curse, and for them is the unhappy home (i.e. Hell)” [Ar-Rad 13:25. See also Muhammad, 47:22-23].

A cursed person is one who is deprived of the mercy of Allah. It is an indication of this deprivation that this sin is punished in this world as well as in the Hereafter. “There is no sin more deserving of having punishment meted out by Allah to its perpetrator in advance in this world along with what He stores up for him in the next world than oppression and severing ties of family.” [Tirmidhi].

Another hadith highlights the high stakes involved here in a compelling way: “Rahim (family ties) is a word derived from Ar-Rahman (The Compassionate One) And Allah says: ‘I shall keep connection with him who maintains you and sever connection with him who severs you.’” [Bukhari]

Silatur-rahim has been defined as politeness, kind treatment, and concern for all one’s relatives even if distantly related, corrupt, non-Muslim, or unappreciative. [Shaikh Abdul Wakil Durubi in Reliance of the Traveller]. While nearly every religion has emphasized good family relations, Islam has taken it to unprecedented heights. It is a duty to be discharged without an eye for reciprocity. A Muslim is required to be kind even to his non-Muslim relatives. Similarly he is required to be kind to even those relatives who are harsh to him.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Mission Ramadhan 9 - We are Friends, Indeed

The Qur'an does not say that non-Muslims cannot be Muslims' friends, nor does it forbid Muslims to be friendly to non-Muslims. There are many non-Muslims who are good friends of Muslim individuals and the Muslim community. There are also many good Muslims who truly and sincerely observe their faith and are very friendly to many non-Muslims at the same time.

Islam teaches us that we should be friendly to all people. Islam teaches us that we should deal even with our enemies with justice and fairness. Allah says in the Qur'an in the beginning of the same Surat Al-Ma’dah: [O you who believe! Stand out firmly for Allah as witnesses to fair dealings and let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just, that is next to piety. Fear Allah, indeed Allah is well-acquainted with all that you do.] (Al-Ma’dah 5 :8)

In another place in the Qur'an, Allah Almighty says:

[Allah forbids you not with regard to those who fight you not for your faith, nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them. For Allah loves those who are just. Allah only forbids you with regard to those who fight you for your faith, and drive you out of your homes and support others in driving you out, from turning to them for protection (or taking them as wali). Those who seek their protection they are indeed wrong- doers.] (Al-Mumtahinah 60: 8-9)

Moreover, Allah Almighty has described Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) as "a mercy" to the worlds. He was a sign of Allah's Mercy to all, Muslims as well as non-Muslims. In his kindness and fair treatment he did not make any difference between the believers and non-believers. He was kind to the pagans of Makkah and fought them only when they fought him. He made treaties with the Jews of Madinah and honored the treaties until they broke them.

He (peace and blessings be upon him) is reported to have received the Christians of Najran with kindness in his Masjid in Madinah. They argued with him about Islam, but he returned them with honor and respect. There are many examples from his life that show that he was the friendliest person to all people.

In the verse you quoted, the word "Awliya" is used. It is a plural and its singular is "wali". The correct translation of the word ""wali"" is not "friend" but it is someone who is very close and intimate. It is also used to mean "guardian, protector, patron, lord and master".

In the Qur'an this word is used for God, such as [Allah is the Protector (or Lord and Master) of those who believe. He takes them out from the depths of darkness to light…] (Al- Baqarah 2: 257)

There are many other references in the Qur'an that give this meaning. The same word is also sometimes used in the Qur'an for human beings, such as [And whosoever is killed unjustly, We have granted his next kin "wali" the authority (to seek judgement or punishment in this case)…] (Al-‘Isra' 17 :33)

The correct translation of the verse in Surat Al-Ma’idah is: [O you who believe! Do not take Jews and Christians as your patrons. They are patrons of their own people. He among you who will turn to them for patronage is one of them. Verily Allah guides not a people unjust.] (Al-Ma'dah 5: 51)

It is obvious that Jews patronize the Jews and Christians patronize the Christians, so why not Muslims patronize Muslims and support their own people. This verse is not telling us to be against Jews or Christians, but it is telling us that we should take care of our own people and we must support each other.

In his Tafsir, (Qur’an exegesis) Imam Ibn Kathir has mentioned that some scholars say that this verse (i.e. the one you referred to) was revealed after the Battle of Uhud when Muslims had a set back. At that time, a Muslim from Madinah said, "I am going to live with Jews so I shall be safe in case another attack comes on Madinah." And another person said, "I am going to live with Christians so I shall be safe in case another attack comes on Madinah." So Allah revealed this verse reminding the believers that they should not seek the protection from others, but should protect each other. (See Ibn Kathir, Al-Tafsir, vol. 2, p. 68)

Muslims are allowed to have non-Muslims as friends as long as they keep their own faith and commitment to Islam pure and strong. You are correct in pointing out that a Muslim man is also allowed to marry a Jewish or Christian woman. It is obvious that one marries someone for love and friendship. If friendship between Muslims and Jews or Christians was forbidden, then why would Islam allow a Muslim man to marry a Jew or Christian woman? It is the duty of Muslims to patronize Muslims. They should not patronize any one who is against their faith or who fights their faith, even if they were their fathers and brothers. Allah says: [O you who believe! Take not for protectors (awliya') your fathers and your brothers if they love unbelief above faith. If any of you do so, they are indeed wrong-doers.] (Al-Tawbah 9: 23)

In a similar way, the Qur'an also tells Muslims that they should never patronize the non-Muslims against other Muslims. However, if some Muslims do wrong to some non-Muslims, it is Muslims' duty to help the non-Muslims and save them from oppression. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said that he himself will defend a Dhimmi living among Muslims to whom injustice is done by Muslims. But Islam also teaches that Muslims should not seek the patronage of non-Muslims against other Muslims. They should try to solve their problems among themselves. Allah Almighty says, [Let not the Believers take the unbelievers as their patrons over against the Believers…] (Aal-'Imran 3: 28)

He Almighty also says: [O you who believe! Take not for patrons unbelievers rather than Believers. Do you wish to offer Allah an open proof against yourselves?] (An-Nisaa’ 4:144)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Mission Ramadhan 8 - Education

Education---like democracy, free markets, freedom of the press, and "universal human rights" --- is one of those subjects whose virtue is considered self-evident. So is the superiority of the industrially advanced countries in attaining them. Consequently, any package that arrives with one of these magic labels on it, automatically qualifies for the "green channel" at our entry ports. No questions asked. This uncritical acceptance has severely crippled our discussion of all these vital topics. For example in education most of our discussion centers around literacy statistics and the need to have so many graduates, masters, Phd’s, and so many professionals --- engineers, doctors, etc.--- in a given country based on the standards in the industrially advanced countries. The central issue of curriculum, and even more fundamental issue of the purpose of education normally do not attract our attention; they have already been decided by the "advanced’ countries for us and our job is only to follow in their footsteps to achieve their level of progress.

Indeed they have. In the "first" world, education has become an extension of the capitalist system. Its purpose is to provide qualified workforce for its machinery of production and eager consumers for its products. Stated in a more polished form, the purpose of education is to provide for the economic prosperity of a country. Similarly on a personal level today the purpose of education is to be able to earn a respectable living.

While earning halal living and providing for the economic well being of a country are certainly important Islamic goals as well, the linking of education to financial goals is extremely unfortunate. It turns the centers of learning into mere vocational centers in their outlook and spirit. It degrades education and through it the society.

To bring home the pivotal but forgotten role of education we need to recall that there is a fundamental difference between human beings and animals. Instincts and physical needs alone can bring ants, bees, or herds of beasts together to live in a perfectly functioning animal society. Human beings do not function that way. They are not constrained by nature to follow only those ways that are necessary for the harmonious operation of their society. If they are to form a viable, thriving society, they must chose to do so. What drives that choice is the sharing of common goals, beliefs, values and outlook on life. Without a common framework binding its members, a human society cannot continue to exist; it will disintegrate and be absorbed by other societies. Further, the society must ensure that the common ground will continue to hold from generation to generation. This is the real purpose of education. The education system of a society produces the citizens and leaders needed for the smooth operation of that society, now and into the future. Its state of health or sickness translates directly into the health or sickness of the society that it is meant to serve.

Today we find many internal problems --- corruption, injustice, oppression, crippling poverty --- everywhere we turn in the Muslim world. If we think about it, we may realize that most of these problems are man-made. Which is another way of saying that they are largely traceable, directly or indirectly, to the education system that produced the people who perpetuate the problems. The rulers who sell out to foreign powers and subjugate their people; the bureaucrats who enforce laws based on injustice; the generals who wage war against their own people; the businessmen who exploit and cheat; the journalists who lie, sensationalize, and promote indecencies, they are all educated people, in many cases "highly" educated people. Their education was meant to prepare them for the roles they are playing in real life. And it has, although in a very unexpected way!

The problem plagues all layers of society. Why are Muslim communities in the grip of so much materialism today? What should we expect when our entire education system is preaching the gospel of materialism? Why have we effectively relegated Islam to a small inconsequential quarter in our public life? Because that is precisely where our secular education system has put it. Why in our behavior toward each other we see so little display of Islamic manners and morals? Because our imported education system is devoid of all moral training. Why our societies are sick? Because our education system is sick.

This is the real crisis of education. Before we got into this mess by importing from the Colonial powers what was current and popular, education in our societies was always the means of nurturing the human being. Moral training, tarbiya, was always an inalienable part of it. The ustaz,(teacher), was not just a lecturer or mere professional, but a mentor and moral guide. We remembered the hadith then, "No father has given a greater gift to his children than good moral training." [Tirmidhi]. Our education system was informed by this hadith. Our darul-ulooms still maintain that tradition but the number of students who pass through their gates is minuscule compared to the secular schools.

In the U.S. and Europe, the schools were started by the church. Later as forces of capitalism overtook them, they molded them into their image. Moral training was a casualty of that takeover. But capitalism and their political economy did need people trained to work under these systems. So citizenship training was retained as an important, though diminishing, component of the curriculum--- a religion-free subset of the moral training it displaced. Whatever civility we see here is largely a result of that leftover component. The imported versions in the Muslim countries, though, had even that component filtered out. And the results are visible.

We can solve our problem once we realize our mistakes. The first purpose of our education system must be to produce qualified citizens and leaders for the Islamic society. Tarbiya, real Islamic moral training, must be an integral part of it. This must be the soul of our education, not a ceremonial husk. All plans for improving our education will be totally useless unless they are based on a full understanding of this key fact. This requires revamping our curricula, rewriting our textbooks, retraining our teachers, and realizing that we must do all this ourselves. We do have a rich history of doing it. Are we finally willing to turn to our own in-house treasures to redo education the way it should always have been?

Will Love Find A Way?

"Love is where we belong" ~ Fi-sha

On Monday morning, Mr. Lau, our next door neighbour, approached Ayah and asked if any of our cats had just delivered kittens. Since Bongo and Mulan have been spayed years ago, Ayah asked him why. Apparently, he found 3 kittens in his kitchen (which is really weird because Mr. Lau, my Enemy No. 1 (he hates cats), rarely leaves his doors or windows opened). He told Ayah he wanted to relocate them somewhere else so Ayah advised him to wait for the mother and then relocate them all together. But Mr. Lau couldn’t wait. He walked to our neighbour’s house across the road and called up their Indonesian maid. A few minutes later, the lady maid walked into his house and brought out 3 kittens in a box. Before Ayah could ask more, Mr. Lau drove away in his car to work. Ayah wonders how the kittens would survive, without the mother.

As Ayah related that story to me this morning, I was devastated, utterly speechless for such inhumane act of Mr. Lau. Kittens, unlike human babies, could hardly survive even if they are bottle-fed.

How could Mr. Lau do that, I asked myself. How could one educated, good mannered, financially sufficient and civil-looking member of the society be so inhumane?

Unfortunately, we have so many of him (ones with no iota of compassion and conscious mind) out there and that is worrying, especially at this make-or-break point of our nation. The ones that contribute towards economic development of this nation. The ones that go out to vote. The ones that complain a lot about everything and anything. The ones that appreciate nature and the beauty of its flora and fauna. Sadly, they are also the ones that have no second thought to act cruelly out of hatred and disgust.

For that, I blame men for continuing dumping of innocent babies in various heinous ways, when all this while, society has been beating their moral drums asking the girls not to fall easily into the men’s sweet-talking traps. We have asked these girls to seek help but we suspiciously forget that the real root cause of this social problem is growing number of irresponsible men that permeate every single class in our society – poor or rich, educated or stupid. These are lost men because they never found love – to have respect and affection for themselves and others.

Instead of sex class, all we need to have is Love Class so that our children will learn to respect and understand others, have mercy on the helpless, to act selflessly out of love, nothing more nothing less.

Like Blessid Union of Souls, I believe love is the answer to our problems and love will find a way to save us.

Help love grows and flows...

"Love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence"~ Eric Fromm

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Depression - Let Me Help You Help Him

There are so many people out there who think they suffer from depression, when the cures to it are simple - noble deeds and hot baths (Dodie Smith, I Capture The Castle). Dodie's advise works well with me.

Still, I don't think it is that simple. If not, why we still have to read heartbreaking news on another baby being found dumped.

Let's do our part in helping them.

Jungle Bathing - Seriously

p.s. My bro's kampung halaman - Taiping Lake Garden

I am supposed to help my bro, The Corporate Athelete, to promote "Farm Fitness" but I was busy planting our vegetable seeds, weeding and pruning my garden instead. What a lousy marketeer I am indeed. My 'pokok bayam' are growing well, chillies are flowering, papaya seeds sprouting so green and light yellow bell-shaped flowers are taking turns greeting me back from work every day :) My garden is indeed my heaven on earth - it's stimulating, invigorating and comforting.

Tak percaya? Try reading this article from NY Times' "The Claim: Exposure to Plants and Parks Can Boost Immunity".

p.s. Penang's Tropical Spice Garden - my heaven away from home :)

This time of year, allergies and the promise of air-conditioning tend to drive people indoors.

But for those who can take the heat and cope with the pollen, spending more time in nature might have some surprising health benefits. In a series of studies, scientists found that when people swap their concrete confines for a few hours in more natural surroundings — forests, parks and other places with plenty of trees — they experience increased immune function.

Stress reduction is one factor. But scientists also chalk it up to phytoncides, the airborne chemicals that plants emit to protect them from rotting and insects and which also seem to benefit humans.

One study published in January included data on 280 healthy people in Japan, where visiting nature parks for therapeutic effect has become a popular practice called “Shinrin-yoku,” or “forest bathing.” On one day, some people were instructed to walk through a forest or wooded area for a few hours, while others walked through a city area. On the second day, they traded places. The scientists found that being among plants produced “lower concentrations of cortisol, lower pulse rate, and lower blood pressure,” among other things.

A number of other studies have shown that visiting parks and forests seems to raise levels of white blood cells, including one in 2007 in which men who took two-hour walks in a forest over two days had a 50-percent spike in levels of natural killer cells. And another found an increase in white blood cells that lasted a week in women exposed to phytoncides in forest air.


According to studies, exposure to plants and trees seems to benefit health.

p.s. This article perfectly explains the rise of Hand, Foot, Mouth Disease and other suspicious diseases that plague our modern society as a result of Bakun Dam.

Mission Ramadhan 7 - Words

"The Value of Words" By Khalid Baig

"Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should say something good or keep quiet." [Bukhari]

Famous companion, Sayyidna Muaz ibn Jabal, Radi-Allahu anhu, once asked the Prophet Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, "Tell me about an act that will cause me to enter Paradise and be protected from the Fire." "You have indeed asked something profound," responded the Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, "But it will be easy on whom Allah makes it easy. Worship Allah and do not associate any partners with Him. Establish regular Salat, pay Zakat, fast during Ramadan, and perform Hajj." Then he asked "Shall I not tell you about the doors of good: fast is a shield (against sins and against Hell-fire), charity extinguishes sins like water extinguishes fire; and the midnight Salat (the voluntary Tahajjud Salat)." Then he recited this verse: "Their limbs do forsake their beds of sleep, while they call on their Lord, in Fear and Hope: and they spend (in charity) out of the sustenance which We have bestowed on them." [As-Sajda 32:16]

Then he continued: "Shall I tell you about the beginning, the mainstay and the high point of this? The beginning is (acceptance of) Islam; It's mainstay is Salat; it's highest point is Jihad."

Then the Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, asked: "Shall I tell you about the thing on which all this depends?" He, then held his tongue and said "Guard this." Sayyidna Muaz ibn Jabal, Radi-Allahu anhu, asked: "Shall we be questioned about our utterances?" On this the Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, said, "Most people will be thrown into Hell---face down---because of the transgressions of their tongues."

The ability to speak and express themselves separates human beings from animals. The proper use of this great gift---or its absence---separates the good and successful people from the bad and unsuccessful ones.

Sayyidna Mu'adh's question was about eternal success. In response, the hadith mentions both mandatory and voluntary good deeds that cover a person's entire life. But then we are reminded that the outcome of all these depends upon guarding our tongue. In other words carelessness with the tongue can poke holes in all of our good deeds.

Another hadith highlights the same issue in a different way: "Every morning all the limbs of a person plead with his tongue: 'Fear Allah for our sake, for our fate is tied to yours. If you follow the straight path so shall we. And if you go astray so shall we.'"

Yet another hadith reminds us about the far reaching consequences of the words we utter. "Sometimes a person says something good but he does not realize how far will his words go. Yet it earns him the pleasure of Allah till the day he will meet Him. On the other hand sometimes a person says something bad, although he does not realize how far his words will go. Yet it earns him the wrath of Allah till the day he will meet Him." [Tirmizi, Ibn Maja, Muwwata Imam Malik].

The pre-Islamic Arab society was a very vocal society. While reading and writing were not that common, people did pride themselves in their facility with words---both prose and poetry. A person commanded respect based on his command over words. Using power of words only, they could sink reputations, start wars, and impact life in a similar fashion as modern media has come to demonstrate on a much larger scale. Then, as now, it was raw power like the power of the beasts of the Jungle.

Islam tamed this beast. It reminded us that each and every word we utter is being recorded by the angels and one day we will have to stand accountable for all this record. It reminded that a person's greatness lies not in how powerful he is with words but in how careful is he with them. It reminded that it is better to keep silent than to say something bad. And it is better to say something good than to keep quiet.

The social revolution it engendered was unprecedented. It produced a people who truly understood the value of words and who were as pious with them as they had been powerful. Their silence was the silence of quiet reflection. And they spoke only when they could improve the silence. Is it any wonder that even their extempore statements were pearls of wisdom.

Today, everywhere there are schools that can teach one how to read, write, and speak a language. But their students would never learn how to civilize this raw power; to use it only in promoting truth and spreading virtue; to never use it for promoting falsehood or spreading evil.

There is a lot of unlearning we have to do if we want to get out of this. It is a costly mistake for a believer to think that talk is cheap; that you can say whatever is expedient without any concern for any consequences beyond the immediate ones.

Such attitudes, prevalent today, lead to all kinds of sins: vain pursuits, gossip, dishonesty, insincerity, arrogance, belittling others, backbiting, spreading scandals and corruption, telling lies. Each of these has been clearly defined as a deadly sin by the Qur'an and Hadith. The treatment for each of these sins begins with learning the Islamically responsible use of the tongue. Then there are secondary problems caused in turn by these. In fact most of the problems in the family, in the society, and even between countries are either created or augmented by the irresponsible use of the tongue.

Modern communication technologies have made it possible for messages to be transmitted instantaneously all over the globe. But as the world marvels at these achievements, it continues to confuse the speed of a message with its quality and value. We pride ourselves on the ability to spread trash around the world at the speed of light. Witness the rubbish that continues to dominate the Internet alone. We are amazed by the sophisticated techniques of telling lies in a convincing manner. Witness the modern mainstream media machine and its hold on our thoughts and actions.

The "information age" is begging for the moral guidance of Islam.

Monday, August 16, 2010

And The Wonder Is....Home Science!

I was deep in my 'adventure' (Read: reading me book) when someone tapped my shoulder. As I looked back, I saw a crumple of white shirt in my housemate's hand. "What's wrong?", I asked her, praying hard not to be asked to teach her how to iron that 'kedut-sejuta' shirt (I'm forever novice at ironing). "Fi-sha, you got to help me. I'm in deep shit lah!".

She pointed at a 50-cent size burn mark right smack on the shoulder. "Help me get rid of this, Fi-sha!". She was fidgety, telling me at the same time that someone lend her that shirt for her date tonight. Wooo. That's surely a clarion call for a 18-year old girl, whom at point of time was deeply in crushed with Jordan Knight of New Kids on the Block and Yusri of KRU - boy-meets-girl thingy is holy!

Instantly, like a Guru, who just came down from Himalaya (Read: I was so very calm and confident), I told her to run to the cafetaria and ask for a lime. Huffing and puffing from the running, she handed me the lime and with a butter knife in my hand, I sliced it open, squeezed a dripping dose of its juice on the burn marks, rubbed a little and walla, it just went brilliantly white! And I must tell you I never did that before - that idea just came out of nowhere!

Ecstatic, she hugged me and we did kind of Scottish Step Dance in our living room (that's a better alternative than doing some zapin or joget steps, kan?)

That, my friends, was the start of me fool-proofing every single home science tip that crossed my mind. Apart from saving me from the bell, I was rewarded with stuffs from women's magazines. So, where did I get those tips from?

The Wonder of Home Science! Thank you Mak and Cikgu Aw for your impeccable chemistry classes :)

As a result, I am a self-taught DIY gal! Like Manny the Handyman, I also would like to say this to you, "You break/ruin it, I fix it!"
p.s. I will take time to write down those tips and share with you all out there

Mission Ramadhan 6 - The Power of Prayers

"The Power of Dua" By Khalid Baig

The dua can change our life, our outlook, and our fate. It is the most potent weapon of a believer.

Once Prophet Muhammad Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam passed by a people who were suffering from some affliction. "Why don't they make dua (pray ) to Allah for protection," he said. With all the suffering and disasters Muslims are facing in various parts of the world, the question can be directed to all of us today.

It is not that we have forgotten dua completely; we refer to it regularly. But, our ideas and practice regarding dua have become distorted. Often it is reduced to the level of a ritual. Generally it is considered when all our efforts have failed --- an act of last resort. It is belittled through actions and sometimes even with words. Is it any wonder that today mostly a mention of dua is meant to indicate the hopelessness of a situation.

What a tragedy, for dua is the most potent weapon of a believer. It can change fate, while no action of ours ever can. It is the essence of ibadah or worship. With it we can never fail; without it we can never succeed. In the proper scheme of things, dua should be the first and the last resort of the believer, with all his plans and actions coming in between.

Dua is conversation with Allah, out Creator, our Lord and Master, the All Knowing, the All Powerful. This act in itself is of extraordinary significance. It is the most uplifting, liberating, empowering, and transforming conversation a person can ever have. We turn to Him because we know that He alone can lift our sufferings and solve our problems. We feel relieved after describing our difficulties to our Creator. We feel empowered after having communicated with the All Mighty. We sense His mercy all around us after talking to the Most Merciful. We get a new commitment to follow His path for that is the only path for success. We feel blessed with each such commitment

In every difficulty our first action is dua, as is our last. We ask Allah to show us the way to handle that difficulty; we seek His help in following the path He shows to us; we seek His aid in making our efforts successful. When we fall sick, we know that we cannot find the right doctor without His Will; that the best doctor may not be able to diagnose our condition without His Command; that the best treatment plan will not succeed without His Permission. We make dua for all of these. We make dua before we seek medical help, while we are receiving it and after it has been delivered. The same is true of all other difficulties we may encounter.

Dua is the essence of ibadah. A person engaged in dua affirms his belief in Tawheed (monotheism) and shuns belief in all false gods. With each dua his belief in Allah grows. He beseeches Him, affirming his own powerlessness. A person seriously and sincerely engaged in dua understands exactly the relationship between himself and the Creator and affirms it through his actions. That is the essence of worship! Additionally, such a person can never become arrogant or proud, a logical result of true worship.

Dua is conversation with Allah … It is the most uplifting, liberating, empowering, and transforming conversation a person can ever have.

Dua is our most potent weapon in all struggles of life as well as in jihad in the battlefield. During the battle of Badr, the Prophet Muhammad Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam stood up all night in prayer seeking Allah's help in the battle between unequal armies that would follow the next day. In the decisive battles against the crusaders, Sultan Salatuddin Ayyubi was busy day and night. His days were devoted to Jihad. His nights were spent making dua, crying, seeking Allah's help. This has been the practice of all true mujahideen.

We should make it a point to make dua for all things big and small. It is the beginning of wisdom to realize that big and small are arbitrary labels that are totally irrelevant in this context. Nothing is too big for Whom we are asking from; nothing is too small for the one who is asking. That is why we have been taught to ask Allah when we need something as small as shoelaces. We should ask as a beggar, as a destitute person, for that is what we in reality are in relationship to Allah. At the same time we should ask with great hope and conviction that we shall be granted our prayers. We should remember the Hadith: "There is nothing more dear to Allah than a servant making dua to Him." On the other hand, a prayer lacking concentration and conviction is no prayer at all.

We should make dua at all times, not only during times of distress. The Prophet Muhammad Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam said: "Whosoever desires that Allah answers his duas in unfavorable and difficult conditions, he should make plentiful dua in days of ease and comfort." Also he said: "The person who does not ask from Allah, Allah becomes angry with him."

We should ask for all of our needs: those related to this world as well as those related to the Hereafter. Those who only concentrate on the former are, in effect, announcing that they don't care for their life in the permanent abode. They should blame no body but themselves for the total ruin in that world that Qur'an assures us awaits them. Those who only concentrate on the later are also showing lack of balance, for we need Allah's help to lead a good life here as well.

We should make dua not only for ourselves but also for our parents, brothers and sisters, spouses and children, relatives and friends, teachers and other benefactors, and destitute and struggling Muslims everywhere. We should pray for them for the good in this world as well as in the Hereafter. The Prophet Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam said: "The dua of a Muslim for his brother (in Islam) in his absence is readily accepted. An angel is appointed to his side. Whenever he makes a beneficial dua for his brother the appointed angel says, 'Aameen. And may you also be blessed with the same.'" [Sahih Muslim]

In the dark ages that we are living in today, everyday brings fresh news about atrocities committed against our brothers in Palestine, Kashmir, India, Afghanistan, Iraq, Chechnya, and the list goes on. And what do we do? We can continue to just feel frustrated and depressed. We can petition the determined perpetrators or a fictional "International Community". We can just forget all this and move on to some other subject. Or we can stand up before Allah and pray for His help, who alone can help. The dua can change our life, our outlook, and our fate. It is the most potent weapon. But it works only for those who try sincerely and seriously to use it.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sunshine On my Shoulders

I wasn't supposed to attend "Seminar Ekonomi Perspektif Muda" yesterday but my sister decided to change her plan (without me saying anything to change her mind) and the rest is history. Thank you sis. I love you to bits :)

Frankly, I was rather nervous meeting young intelligent people but I convinced myself that these people are those with a great mind and a beautiful heart, because they turned up early (7.45 am on saturday morning in Ramadhan - that's challenging enough) at Dewan Bankuet, Wisma MBSA. So, I wasn't scared anymore.

I was really glad how things worked that day. First, I was seated at table 1-D, where Zamir, and engineer, and Suffian, a budding entrepreneur, 2 MCOB, had warmed up their seats. Later, Zairil, Chocolate Eating Officer to Chocolab came along. Cikgu Amin, a Political Science post-grad student, asked if he could sit at our table first while waiting for his members, in the table next to us, to come. But, cordiality between us had grown (or perhaps we were just too consumed in our own discussion) that we stayed together till the end. Later of the day, Medecci, a young Sarawakian I personally feel proud of what he does and the kind ethic and spirit he portrayed, stick around with us.

I won't go into details of what we had shared, discussed and mulled over but I must say we all were exhausted, mentally, by the time the seminar ended. Still, it was worth all the time spent, words spoken and exasperation felt.

Someone told me before how great a slow-cooked pot roast taste like. For western part of the world, that is how they make even the toughest meat tender and makes the whole dish tasted flavourful, rich and comforting.

I wish I shared that with our group yesterday so that we would never stop believing that changes are imminent and even if they took a lot of time to materialise, we shall not give up. When they happen, rest assured they will be sweeter and last longer.

As I make my way out of the hall, I had throbbing headache - yes, that's the sign of me trying really hard not to cry. This seminar makes us feel humble, not boastful, clear, not confused, hopeful, not defeated, and we are never alone. We are in this together and together, we will work things out.

I still remember what Paulo Coelho wrote in "The Alchemist" ~ “And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it”.

I guess the universe has conspired in helping me to experience one of the most beautiful Saturday I ever had. As I switched on the radio, John Denver's "Sunshine on my shoulders" filled my space and by then, my tears weren't that shy to wet my cheeks. At last, I feel relieved, truly, deeply.

Yes, if there are words to say to Zamir, Suffian, Zairil, Amin and Medecci, I wish I could share every single words in that song. The hopes we have so far are the sunshine that makes us look forward to the future, though there might be a drizzle or thunderstorm later in the day and even when the sunshine will make way for the dark sky of the night. Still, we will always know there will be sunshine on the next day. There will always be hopes.

Thank you Zamir, Suffian, Zairil, Amin and Medecci for being such a wonderful people I am thankful for the opportunity I was given.

Mission Ramadhan 5 - Our Children

"The Rights of Children in Islam" By Sheikh Al-Uthaymeen

Let us first establish that children in accordance with the Islamic concept means both male and female. Some Islamic opponents accuse Islam of differentiating between male and female children claiming that Islam prefers boys over girls in terms of inheritance, 'Aqeeqa (slaughter of two lambs upon the birth of a male baby, and one lamb only for a baby girl) and other matters. In accordance with the true Islamic teaching, both male and female are alike in the sight of Allah, the Almighty. Each, however, is physically prepared and equipped to perform certain tasks and duties that are suitable to his/her nature. All, again are equal in religious duties, except for certain exceptions that are defined and illustrated by Allah, the Almighty, in the Glorious Quran, or declared and specified by Allah’s Apostle, PBUH. Only these differences are to be acknowledged and honored and only in accordance with Islam and its teachings.

Children, according to Islam, are entitled to various rights. The first and foremost of these rights is the right to be properly brought up, raised and educated. This means that children should be given suitable, sufficient, sound and adequate religious, ethical and moral guidance to last them for their entire lives. They should be engraved with true values, the meaning of right and wrong, true and false, correct and incorrect, appropriate and inappropriate and so forth and so on. Allah, the Almighty stated in the Glorious Qur’an:

"O ye who believe! Save yourselves and your families from a Fire whose fuel is Men and Stones." (66:6)

Allah’s Apostle, PBUH also said: "Every one of you (people) is a shepherd. And every one is responsible for whatever falls under his responsibility. A man is like a shepherd of his own family, and he is responsible for them." This Hadith is reported by both Bukhari and Muslim.

Children, therefore are a trust given to the parents. Parents will be responsible for this trust on the Day of Judgement. Parents are essentially responsible for the moral, ethical and the basic and essential religious teachings of their children.

If parents fulfill this responsibility, they will be free of the consequences on the Day of Judgement. The children will become better citizens and a pleasure to the eyes of their parents, first in this life, and in the hereafter.

Allah, the Almighty stated in the Glorious Quran:

"And those who believe and whose families follow them in Faith, to them shall We join their families: Nor shall We deprive them (of the fruit) of aught of their works: (Yet) is each individual in pledge for his deeds." (52:21)

Moreover, Allah's Apostle, PBUH said: "Upon death, man's deeds will (definitely) stop except for three deeds, namely: a continuous charitable fund, endowment or goodwill; knowledge left for people to benefit from; and pious righteous and God-fearing child who continuously prays Allah, the Almighty, for the soul of his parents." This Hadith is reported by Muslim.

In fact, such a statement reflects the value of the proper upbringing of children. It has an everlasting effect, even after death.

Unfortunately, many parents from every walk of life, in every society, regardless of creed, origin, social and economical status, etc., have neglected this very important imposed right of their own children on them. Such individuals have indeed lost their children as a result of their own negligence. Such parents are so careless about the time their children spend with no benefit, the friends they associate with, the places they go to, etc. Such parents do not care, are totally indifferent about where their children go, when they come back and so forth and so on, causing the children to grow up without any responsible adult and without caring supervision. Such parents neglect even to instruct, direct or guide their children to the proper way of life, behaviour or even right attitudes towards others. Yet, you may find these parents are so careful about guarding their wealth. They are extremely concerned about their businesses, work and otherwise. They exert every possible effort to lead a very successful life in terms of materialistic gains, although all this wealth is not actually theirs. No one will take wealth to the grave.

Children are not only to be well-fed, well-groomed, properly dressed for the weather and for appearance, well-taken care of in terms of housing and utilities. It is more important to offer the child comparable care in terms of educational, religious training, and spiritual guidance. The heart of a child must be filled with faith. A child’s mind must be entertained with proper guidance, knowledge and wisdom. Clothes, food, housing, schooling are not, by any means, an indication of proper care of the child. Proper education and guidance is far more important to a child than this food, grooming and appearance.

One of the due rights of children upon their parents is their spending for their welfare and well-being moderately. Over-spending or negligence is not condoned, accepted or even tolerated in Islam. Such ways will have a negative effect on the child regardless of the social status. Men are urged not to be miserly to their children and households, who are their natural heirs in every religion and society. Why would one be miserly to those who are going to inherit his wealth? Children are entitled to such an important right. They are even permitted to take moderately from their parent's wealth to sustain themselves if the parent declines to give them proper funds for their living.

Children also have the right to be treated equally in terms of financial gifts. No one should be preferred over the others. All must be treated fairly and equally. None should be deprived his gift from the parents. Depriving, or banning the right of inheritance, or other financial gifts during the lifetime of the parents or the preference of a parent for one child over the other is considered according to Islam as an act of injustice. Injustice will definitely lead to an atmosphere of hatred, anger and dismay amongst the children in a household. In fact, such an act of injustice may, most likely, lead to animosity amongst the children, and consequently, this will affect the entire family environment. In certain cases a special child may show a tender care for his aging parent, for instance, causing the parent to grant such a child a special gift, or issue him the ownership of a house, a factory, a land, a farm, a car, or any other valuable items. Islam, however considers such a financial reward to such a caring, loving and perhaps obedient child, a wrong act. A caring child is entitled only to a reward from Allah, the Almighty. Although it is nice to grant such a child something in appreciation for his dedication and special efforts, this must not lead to an act of disobedience to Allah, the Almighty. It may be that the heart and feelings of such a loving and caring child may change, at one point in time, causing him to become a nasty and harmful child. By the same token, a nasty child may change, at any given time, as well, to become a very caring and kind child to the same parent. The hearts and feelings are, as we all know, in the hands of Allah, the Almighty, and can be turned in any direction at any given time and without any previous notice. This, indeed, is one of the reasons for preventing the act of financial preference of a child over another. On the other hand, there is also no assurance or guarantee that a caring child can handle the financial gift of his parent wisely.

It is narrated by Abu Bakr, RAA, who said that Allah's Apostle, PBUH, was approached by one of his companions, al-N'uman bin Basheer, who said: "O Prophet of Allah! I have granted a servant to one of my children (asking him to testify to that gift)." But Allah's PBUH asked him: "Did you grant the same to each and every child of yours?" When Allah's Apostle, PBUH was informed negatively about that, he said: "Fear Allah, the Almighty, and be fair and just to all your children. Seek the testimony of another person, other than me. I will not testify to an act of injustice." This Hadith is reported by both Bukhari and Muslim. Thus, Allah's Apostle, PBUH called such an act of preference of one child over the others an act of "injustice." Injustice is prohibited and forbidden in Islam.

But, if a parent granted one of his children financial help to fulfill a necessity, such as a medical treatment coverage, the cost of a marriage, the cost of initializing a business, etc., then such a grant would not be categorized an act of injustice and unfairness. Such a gift will fall under the right to spend in the essential needs of the children, which is a requirement that a parent must fulfill.

Islam sees that if parents fulfill their duties towards all their children in terms of providing them with necessary training, educational backing, moral, ethical and religious education, this will definitely lead to a more caring child, a better family atmosphere and a better social environment and awareness. On the other hand, any negligence in those parental duties can lead to the loss of a child or ill treatment of the parents at a later age.