Al's Articles

Monday, July 17, 2006

Parenting: an Islamic Perspective

Having Children

The feeling of wanting a child is something that is natural, necessary and a very basic part of human life.
At a certain point of reaching adulthood, the desire to become a parent intensifies, and as the psyche develops, so does the physical body in preparation for this journey.


The desire often increases until an emptiness is felt, once a child is born this void is then filled. A new generation is born, and one of the the biggest responsibilities has then been taken upon by a person.

Unfortunately, not many people actually consider at a deeper level what it means to become a parent.

The Responsibility

The only reason by which a couple should embark upon the immense responsibility of having a child is if they can give the child a stable home. Life can change over time, but when considering whether to have a child or not this should be a minimum requirement.

Perhaps as importantly, no couple should have a child simply because they would like to have a baby, if someone wants to bring a pure soul into the world then the child should be given the respect it deserves by giving it due consideration. A couple should only have a child if they want to raise it for the sake of Allah, if they want this child to spread the name of our Lord to everyone it meets and die as one of the righteous.

It has become common place to have children to “fix” a marriage. Couples experiencing marital problems often believe that raising a child together will help bring them closer together. For those who have experienced the difficulties of pregnancy, labour and the intense trials of a newborn baby, will instantly recognise what a fallacy this idea is. For two people to become closer, they need time and good communication in order to deal with the issues at hand. Nine months of pregnancy and then the following years with a newborn baby will only create further pressure and distance between the couple. Parents need to be a strong unit from the beginning.

Parents who have children to fix their relationship usually go their separate ways at some stage, leaving a child without a stable home in which it had the right to be raised. Alternatively, the parents stay together for the sake of the child; the child is then raised in a home where there is usually little or no communication between the parents, let alone love. This is not an environment which is beneficial to the child. The child was not given the consideration and the respect it deserved from the beginning, and will now have to suffer, perhaps for life because of the irresponsible and selfish actions of the parents.

By having a child solely for the sake of Allah means the parent is mentally equipped to know what it means to conceive and raise the child in a manner which takes care to do justice to the child and to the ummah as a whole; to spread the name of our Lord, and to live and die as one of the righteous.

Spending time with the child

As the Prophet (Sallahu’alayhi wa sallam) illustrated “All of you are shepherds and each of you is responsible for his flock” [Agreed upon].

The shepherd does not merely push his flock to one side waiting for them to return at the end of the day, he does not hope that they will find their own way or look to anyone else to guide them. The shepherd accepts responsibility and constantly guides his own flock.

This is exactly what every parent should be doing with their child.

The parents should be involved in every aspect of a child’s life, concentrating on the child’s internal and external development. The parent needs to constantly refine the character of the child.

It should be known that parenting is a science, every interaction, recognition, praise, and discipline will combine to form a part of that child’s character. Therefore, it is imperative that parents reflect and ensure their interactions with the child result in positive characteristics developing in their children.

Many parents send their children to school, wait for them to arrive home and then hurry them back out to the madrassas. After which, they are left to roam the streets. Any other spare time is spent between relative’s houses and more time on the streets.

This is clearly not the way to raise a righteous child and this is not the time, love and respect that the child requires to develop into a healthy balanced person. In order to develop a deep love and friendship with the child, a parent must devote their time and attention towards the child.

The fundamental aim of every parent is built upon the same foundations; every parent must be the number one person in that child’s life. The person that the child looks up to and wants to be like. Every parent must ensure they are the child’s best friend.

Teaching children their deen

A certain mentality seems to have evolved regarding Madrassas; parents often feel as though they are fulfilling their Islamic obligations by sending a child to a Masjid. They feel that a child will learn and develop their religion by attending a madrassa for a couple of hours each day. This is the extent of the Islamic education that the children receive; nothing else is done at home.

What parents must realise is, the children will usually repeat the same verses again for that two hour period and then proceed to another set of verses the next day. The child is not being moulded around the deen, they are not developing the Islamic personality from reciting repeatedly.

In order to develop the Islamic personality, children need to know and understand what Allah has said to them, they need to know and love the Prophet (sallallahu’alayhi wa sallam) and see the sacrifices that he made to bring this deen to the world.

It should be clear to any parent that this is not taught in a madrassa and it is not the job of the madrassas to teach and mould the children into pious Muslims- this is the job of each and every parent. The parents should be teaching the children daily, both in a literal sense and in terms of their character. Teaching does not infer the basic verbal explanations that most parents give to their children, this should be a full, comprehensive and progressive study taught by the parents.

Having to teach the children should be a drive in of itself; in order to teach, the parent themselves must have the required knowledge and indeed this is a pre-requisite of this religion. The parents need to be actively involved in studying the deen in order to be able to teach their children.

Relatives

Children often seem to spend more time with relatives than the parents themselves. Due to the minimal involvement of the parents in their lives, a weak bond is often formed with the children.

The children grow up lost, without that natural bond to the parents that they so desperately require. And it is only the parents that can give them this bond. This is the job that they took upon themselves the day they conceived that child and one that they must take responsibility for.

Other relatives assume the roles of parents and relationships become diluted, the difference between the relatives and the parents becomes minimal. Relatives assume roles that are not naturally theirs, they lose their place in the family structure and conflicts occur.

Children are often mirrors of their own parents and environments. They absorb their surroundings and become a product of their experiences. The parents have the right and indeed must exercise the right of controlling and filtering continuously this environment and ensure they keep their children close.

The children can then enjoy family and friends from a healthy distance; with everyone in their own place, the parent’s role is preserved in its correct place.

Discipline

If children are exhibiting bad characteristics such as arrogance, disobedience, showing off and aggression then it is imperative these traits are recognised and removed from a child before it’s too late. Once a child is formed, these characteristics will become a core part of their character, and then it may be too late.

Children have been created pure and upon the fitrah, therefore they should not be exhibiting negative behavioural traits. Parents often speak of how a child has had certain negative characteristics since they were a child; however this is down to the parenting as opposed to any innate disposition towards certain behaviour that the child was born with.

These negative characteristics usually arise as a result of spoiling the children, or allowing others to do the same. Love needs to be shown to children in a beneficial manner, one that encourages love and appreciation. Spoiling children encourages arrogance and other negative traits such as anger and showing off.

When children require discipline it must be done consistently and fairly. It is unjust upon a child to allow them to do something one day and then to discipline them for the same thing another day. Parents must set clear and consistent boundaries.

Disciplining a child does not necessitate making life dull and without fun for the child. Parents and children can enjoy their interactions in ways which strengthen bonds, create love and most importantly harmony and a healthy understanding of boundaries and goals.

Adults

Many adults seem to have character issues, usually arrogance, insecurity and showing off. These traits seem to be prevalent in most people. If an analysis into the root cause of these issues was conducted, it would be found that in almost every instance these issues began in childhood and have become engrained into some aspect of the person’s character.

Those small children who need the time and attention will at some point become adults. The job of every parent is to ensure that these children carry the light of this deen wherever they go as responsible muslims of this world.

As the Prophet (sallahu’alayhi wa sallam) said “whoever starts a good thing and is followed by others, will have his own reward and a reward equal to that of those who follow him, without it detracting from their reward in any way. Whoever starts a bad thing and is followed by others, will bear the burden of his own sin and a burden equal to that of those who follow him, without it detracting from their burden in any way” (Reported by at Tirmidhi who said it was a saheeh hasan hadeeth)

If children are roaming the streets and grow into people who commit crime or other bad deeds, then a parent should know that if they have not fulfilled their obligations in parenting then they may carry the burden of the bad actions of their children.

Baring the burden of personal actions will be more than enough on a day when all people will be confronted by their deeds, having to bare the burden of others deeds should be something every parent desperately wants to avoid. The gathering of bad deeds would be combined with the abject misery of failure as a parent, knowing that the child has turned out to be a spreader of corruption, rather than goodness.

Hence parents need to genuinely reflect on what they are offering their children; it is not merely the childhood that is in the hands of the parent, possibly the child’s akhira which in turn could affect their own.

Parents in Old Age

The old age, “you reap what you sow” becomes ever more appropriate once the parents reach old age. Parents now after a long life rightfully expect the children to now take care of them and treat them with respect; this right is given to the parents by Allah:

And your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him. And that you be dutiful to your parents. If one of them or both of them attain old age in your life, say not to them a word of disrespect, nor shout at them but address them in terms of honour” (Al-Isra, 23)

And again Allah states:

And We have enjoined on man (to be dutiful and good) to his parents. His mother bore him in weakness and hardship upon weakness and hardship, and his weaning is in two years give thanks to Me and to your parents, unto Me is the final destination.” (Luqman, 14)

The thanks are given to Allah and then to the parents, this izzah given to the parents is something that only comes from the deen of Allah. Every parent should therefore know and understand that if their child is grateful to their Lord, the one who has Created them and Sustained them, then he will be grateful to them.

The parents will indeed reap what they sow, if they worked hard to bring this child close to their Lord, then they shall see the fruits of that work when they require it most.

Conclusion

Success and ultimate salvation only lies in following Allah’s commands, in fearing Him alone and raising our children to the best of our ability to be leaders of this Ummah, to be of those who are indeed mindful and thankful towards the Most High.

All parents must reflect on the way, in which they are raising their children, the state of Muslim children is indeed indicative upon the parenting they are receiving. Much time and effort is required in this area, and we beseech The Most High for ease.

May Allah forgive us all, and enable us to be the kind of parents this deen demands of us.

"Our Lord! Forgive me and my parents, and (all) the believers on the Day when the reckoning will be established" (Ibrahim, 41)

And Allah knows best


Friday, October 07, 2005

Has Fasting Ended?

This is an article that was written specifically for a Muslim audience- the only one of this nature. This was written straight after Ramadhan in 2004.


With the name Of Allah, The Most Merciful, The Bestower Of Mercy

Has Fasting Ended?

The word "Perfunctory" can be defined as "Doing something as a matter of duty or custom, without thought, attention, or genuine feeling"

Unfortunately, this definition is directly applicable to many who fast in this present day. As soon as the day of Eid is over, fasting is put aside for another year, Ramadhan is now over and the Muslims return back to their "normal" state.

During Ramadhan a mechanical act often takes place, very little is gained from the fast except for the virtues of physical hunger.

The Hikmah (Wisdom) behind fasting has been completely lost: as Allah says in the Qur’aan:

"O you who believe! Observing As-Sawm (the fasting) is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become Al-Muttaqoon (the pious)"

Fasting is a means of attaining Taqwa and this can be defined as doing that which Allah has enjoined and avoiding that which He has forbidden. If this Taqwa is truly achieved then the feeling and the drive will last beyond Ramadhan. If fasting becomes a habitual enactment then whatever is gained in this holy month does not last beyond Eid. The Fasts and Qiyaam would no longer continue, very little was gained.

One of the reasons for Ramadhan becoming this ritual is due to the wisdom, beauty and rewards of this blessed act becoming neglected. A critical mind will always examine the reasons and benefits of performing any act, thus achieving cognitive acceptance and striving to do an act in the best possible way. This has to be the starting point for any action.

The blessings of fasting have been illustrated by the Prophet (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) as stated in the Hadith Qudsi where Allah has said:

"Every good deed performed by son of Adam is a credit for him but fasting is exclusively Mine and I give reward for it. Fasting is a shield against sins. Therefore, when any of you is fasting he should neither indulge in obscene language nor raise the voice. If anyone abuses him or quarrels with him, he should say: I am fasting. By Him in those hand is Muhammad’s soul! The smell coming out of the mouth of a fasting person is more pleasant to Allah than the smell of musk. And he who fasts has two occasions of joy. One is when he breaks his fast, and the second is when he meets his Lord"

Fasting is a barrier between a person and their sins, we can see its value in front of Allah and how He wants us to be when we are fasting. This act is for Him alone and the reward will be attained when the slave meets Allah. This is indeed a beautiful act of worship, far from the mere abstaining from food that it has become.

Essentially, fasting has lost its power for many people; One of the ways in which to strengthen any act is constancy; in this case, to fast throughout the year.

Any deed performed constantly is highly rewarded: As the Prophet (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was asked: "What is the most loved deed to Allah?" He answered: "One that is performed constantly even if it is a small deed."

The Taqwa achieved from fasting is kept and built upon; it is strengthened throughout the year culminating in the greatest of months: Ramadhan. The fasting person needs to be prepared for Ramadhan in order to reap from its numerous benefits.

This was the method of the Prophet (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) who used to fast throughout the year:

"Fasting for three days each month and Ramadhan each year is the fast of a lifetime." And he was asked about fasting on the Day of ‘Arafaah, and he said, "It expiates for the past year and the coming year," and he was asked about fasting on the Day of ‘Ashoora’, and he said, "It expiates for the past year."

Leaving a year in-between fasts would reduce the effect of fasts and cause it to become something which is forgotten after Ramadhan. Through fasting a couple of times a week throughout the year, your soul is being purified at a constant rate. The tongue will be guarded; the gaze will be lowered, resulting in less haraam activities and so on. It is not simply an abstention from food, the ears, eyes, tongue, and heart are also made to fast. This action starts complete submission to the One Creator

A person will find that same Taqwa travelling with them, strengthening them, even on those days when they are not fasting.

Everyone should be in a in a quest for repentance every day. In the months between each Ramadhan many of us become complacent and lose our motivation. Our Emaan wavers and the duniya with its superficialities takes priority in our lives. By keeping the fasts as a constant companion, it is a reminder of our obligations and a reality check on the falsities of this world.

Practised in moderation but with sincere regularity, the fast becomes more than a habit, more than a ritual and therefore no longer a perfunctory action.

It is something done solely for the sake of Allah, and the rewards are with Him alone

As-Sawm is a blessing and a mercy for us. It is an opportunity that most of us don't even realise exists. We live almost oblivious to the knowledge which we all have: We will die. The only guarantee each of one us carries is that his death is written. The only benefit to us are the deeds we perform for the sake of Allah.

Let’s seize this blessing before it is too late. Before we grow old, sick or die. Before we have to stand in front of our Lord with nothing but our deeds. Let your fasts be of those good deeds. Let your fasts act as a means of expiation and insha'Allah as salvation for your soul.

As ’Umar ibn al-Khattâb (radiallâhu ’anhu) said: "Take account of your own souls, before account is taken of you. Weigh your actions before they are weighed. Indeed, when you are brought to account tomorrow, it will be much easier if you have brought yourselves to account today. So do so, before there comes to you the great Judgement: "That day you will be brought to Judgement. Not a secret of yours will be hidden."

1.ENCARTA English Dictionary 2001: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc
2. al-Baqarah 2:183
3. Bukhari and Muslim
4. Bukhari and Muslim
5. Narrated by Muslim, 1162
6. Sûratul Hâqqah 69:18

Islam: A backward way of life?

Islam: A backward way of life?

The human race is within a midst of constant progression towards many worldly goals; the advancing succession in every field imaginable is staggering to say the least. The danger of becoming a by product of this advanced era is forever increasing.

As technology and society advances, inevitably an almost identical correlation of society’s issues and problems arise. A modern society must surely require modern jurisprudence, one that will evolve indefinitely for as long as mankind advances and continues to exist. Modern political rhetoric bases itself upon the principle that laws made and formed from previous centuries cannot possibly accommodate the current state of mankind.

Within any era where society has accelerated to the point where the pseudo superiority of man engulfs himself, the human mind has never failed to question the role of religion and its relevance towards their lives. Ironically, no matter how successful a society becomes, the core problems faced by people are still the same issues that the very essence of religion came to eradicate.

An investigation into the Arab world before the onset of the Islamic era would reveal a people who were immersed in dilemmas; the list of social, moral, political and family issues are endless. In reality, it was a civilisation which was no different to this present day; where crime rates, killings, sexual offences and divorces to name a few are constantly rising. Wealth is amassed and hoarded by the few, whilst others are left struggling to earn a living with homeless rates continually rising.

These very issues are a mirror of the pre-Islamic Arabs, the revelation of the Qur’an presented guidance in every situation; laws for the protection and development of the family were introduced. This included marriage, divorce and inheritance. Trade laws governing business transactions, rental contracts amongst others were established. Criminal laws specifying punishments and/or compensations for various crimes were set. A form of guidance for every situation in life was established; general conduct; manners and etiquette emphasising honesty, good character and humility were at the forefront of these teachings. Along with this guidance there was sent a practical example, the best of examples; the Prophet Muhammad (On whom be peace).

Islam came to improve and maintain human welfare. Everything that was harmful to man was removed, whilst what was beneficial was confirmed.

"It commands them to do righteousness and prohibits them from evil, and it makes allowable to them the good things and makes forbidden to them all filth." (7:157)

The divine revelation moulded a society who became not only the best of people, but also the most advanced. A civilization whose language became the universal language of much of the world; whose multicultural armies enabled peace and prosperity; whose commerce extended from the Americas to China and who, driven by invention, gave humanity the gifts of algebra and algorithms. The society cured disease, carried out complicated surgical operations such as the removal of cataracts, and laid the foundations for modern medicine and physiology.

While most of the world was steeped in ignorance and fearful of ideas, this civilization kept knowledge alive and passed it on to others. That civilization, was the Islamic civilization up until the 17th century.

It's a civilization that is a long way from the corrupt, despotic regimes that rule over the Muslim societies of today; societies steeped in intellectual stagnation and underdevelopment. After leading the world for a thousand years in the arts and sciences, the Muslim world finds itself languishing at the bottom of world literacy rates.

There has become a trend to blame the decline of these Muslim countries upon Islam itself, the Muslim decline coincides with the abandonment of religion in their daily lives, the decline began with the massive surge of colonialism in the Muslim world.

The statement that Islam is a backward way of life is simply paradoxical; this is something which both the Muslims and the non Muslims need to realise. Islam is a revelation that changed a society which was in more turmoil than even this present day one, into a society of good character, and excellent economic, intellectual, social, moral and political standing. Everyone is looking for answers, rather than to look away from the religion and aim for advancement, one needs to look towards Islam.

The code to live by is contained within the Qur’an. It was, as it still is now, an act of divine mercy for mankind to live in peace with each other

"We have sent down the Qur'an as a healing and a mercy to mankind" (17:82)

In short, to use an old adage "Somestimes you need to look backwards in order to move forwards"

The Hijab: Liberation or Oppression?

The Hijab: Liberation or Oppression?

The Hijab. This is the outer cloak worn by a Muslim woman to cover her beauty; it includes her hair and her body.

For years there has been this common perception in the West that the Hijab symbolises a woman who is oppressed, a woman without a voice that needs liberating by removing her veil and giving her due rights.

However, perceptions are changing; the women in the Hijab now are quite often the women who previously frequented the clubs or pubs. Women regardless of colour, race or age are often reduced to a face or a couple of eyes. In a society where beauty is determined by what can be seen rather than what cannot, this must be an extremely difficult change to make and one that should be noticed.

The Hijab has been noticed, and it has made a significant impression upon the media. We’ve all seen on the news what a contentious issue the Hijab has become. France has become the Hijab focal-point of recent times. What people don’t realise is that France is not alone in their stance against the Hijab. In Turkey, the secular republic has banned headscarves in public institutions; in some German states, laws have been approved to stop teachers from wearing veils. Then we have Singapore; incidents in Egypt; Belgium; Russia, and even Denmark where the Hijab has become a major talking point and a source of controversy.

In a world where poverty is rampant, deaths are daily and the "war on terror" is ongoing it is ironic to see the Hijab dominating the front pages. Why is the Hijab sending ripples through so many governments? If someone wants to cover up then is it really a problem?

The general perception of Islam is not a positive one at present, especially through recent media attention with terms like "Islamophobia" being rampant throughout the front pages. Any form of openly displayed Islam must be "fundamental" or "extremist". Maybe the people who fear these terms; mainly the governments, are hoping that if they suppress Islam, then the "fanatics" will die away. If this is the strategy then it’s not very well thought out to say the least, oppression in any form only leads to a reaction; generally a rash one. Publicly the countries cite their various reasons for their stance against the Hijab; France’s whole argument is based on secularism:

President Jacques Chirac said this year: "Secularity is one of the republic's great achievements. It plays a crucial role in social harmony and national cohesion. We must not allow it to be weakened."

It’s extremely ironic that Chirac maintains that secularism upholds "social harmony" when its very ideals take away the basic rights of people to wear religious symbols. Secularism is outside of religion by its most basic principles. If secularism is not accepting religions, it is itself becoming a religion or an ideology, and a "fundamentalist" one. Secularists then judge religions on whether they are compatible with the secularist religion. People should have the right to express themselves with whatever symbols they are comfortable with.

Making these symbols something to hide can only fuel ignorance for generations to come. Will this lead to an increase in private schools which will form and regulate their own cultures behind closed doors? This is not the way to integrate the diversity of different faiths and cultures- which ironically the secularists argue is their whole reason for banning religious symbols. This will only teach our children the ‘us against them’ theory. This should not be the way for the future, yet somehow this is the road we are all unwittingly being led upon.

People innately have different perceptions, different ideas and ways. Diverse levels of intellect, foresight, education and environment are all among the factors which make us interestingly different. To put it simply; it's the way in which we have been created; as stated in the Qur'an:

"O mankind! We created you from a male and female, and made you into peoples and tribes so that you might come to know each other." (49:13)

Our differences should lead us to learn and experience , to absorb and to give some of our ownselves to others. The fact that a woman may want to cover herself should not lead to political and social dialectic in what is becoming an increasingly pragmatic world. Surprisingly, the move to wear the Hijab is not something which is done on a whim, imagine a change that will affect your every interaction with society, it will lead you to be steteotyped and quite often looked down upon; to cover yourself in such a fashion is not to be underestimated. Such a life altering change has to be driven by powerful cognition, by analysing and criticising until firm conviction reaches the mind and heart, firm knowledge that this is indeed the truthcoming from an All-Wise Creator.

Such certainty comes from studying verses like the following:

"O Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks (veils) all over their bodies. That will be better, that they should be known (as free respectable women) so as not to be annoyed. And God is Ever Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful"
[al-Ahzaab 33:59]


Think about this verse; to be known as respectable, and not to be harassed and made into an object of desire. When a woman is not covered she is attractive to others simply because a woman is naturally an object of beauty. By wearing tight fitting clothing, make up and perfume, a woman accentuates her beauty, making her desirable. The whole reasoning behind the Hijab is that the woman does this for her husband only. To be attractive for the only man who should be attracted to her, the only man that has access to her beauty; both inner and outer.

A society where less and less is being worn each day can only lead to problems, the increasing rates of broken families, rape, divorce, sexually related diseases and so on, are causing society to fragment piece by piece over time. By covering up and guarding our modesty we can safeguard society, the dignity of our mothers, daughters, and sisters, and most importantly the sanctity of our own homes.

Ironically, stripping the women of their veil can only increase these problems, fuel dangerous ignorance and cause the opposite of what we human beings need to achieve; peaceful unity.

The Great Escape-Ism?

It’s Friday night ! Looks like time to hit town for one almighty pub crawl! Time to forget life and jump into a different reality. A world where the effects of alcohol can magically transform someone into whatever their imagination can conceive. The excitement of being able to wake up anywhere, and with anyone; to leave life and enter another dimension, to become somebody else. To forget this life if only just for a moment or two.

According to the Beer and Pub Association, 10 Million pints of beer alone are sold in the UK each year. How could the economy survive without this mass revenue? In fact, if you think about it, the government needs people to drink. The best way to achieve this is through the media. The Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS) states that in the year 2000, the total promotional activity of alcohol was between £600 and £800 Million pounds. The studies suggest that the youth are a key target in advertising. I guess the younger you get them started the longer they have to consume your product.

The question is why are people so easily taken in by this fantasy lifestyle of consuming alcohol?
I mean have you ever seen a worse sight than someone drunk, falling around on the street? They always seem to come towards you, everything about them is revolting. Why would someone want to get in such a state? Let alone the fact that alcohol just tastes vulgar, you have to literally de-sensitise yourself in order to drink it on a regular basis. It’s almost like you have to destroy your taste buds in order to be able to consume this drink.

For those who want to argue the medical benefits of consumption in "moderation", I don’t have a problem with that, but tell me who can stop at a glass? The wisdom behind this has already been stated in the Qur’an:

"They ask you (O Muhammad) concerning alcoholic drink and gambling. Say: In them is a great sin, and (some) benefits for men, but the sin of them is greater than their benefit"
[al-Baqarah 2:219]


The sin is greater, but why? This fabulous night out starts out with one drink but before you know it, the shirts are blood stained, the women are throwing up and the police vans are full. According the Guardian alcohol misuse costs the economy £20 Billion a year! The NHS foots £1.7 Billion of this, at a time when there are not even enough beds for elderly people valuable NHS money is being spent helping people who couldn’t stop at one drink. Alcohol related crime accounts for £7.3 Billion, why? Because after a few drinks people tend to think they are invincible and can take on the world. That’s just crime. Have you considered the social implications? How many men come home after a few pints with the mates, who once inside closed doors need to beat and abuse their families. The sober man, who is normally Mr. Nice, now consumed with an irrational and uncontrollable rage.

How many extra marital affairs, one night stands and other ‘accidental’ flings are caused by people who are too intoxicated to know what they are doing? Unwanted babies, sexually transmitted diseases, and humiliation are just some of the by-products. This is why the sin far outweighs the benefit. A moment of pleasure can lead to a lifetime of grief.

The question remains why would people get themselves into such a state? If the truth be known, people just want to forget their lives, the illusion that alcohol gives is one of perfect escapism. The whole week is geared towards this night out, they manage to drag themselves through the week knowing that Friday night is near, when a person can forget everything about their life because in truth they are just not happy.

I would suggest that the fundamental reason why the people who find the need to do this are not happy is a spiritual one. If the inner self of a person is not content it will search for ways in which to fill this void. If this cannot be achieved then escapism is the only way, to try and forget that this void exists and take yourself into a new world where you can forget everything.

Generally most of us have our fair share of problems. You will find the people that pass you by in the street, will be going through their own battles; bereavement, unstable relationships, loneliness, and so on. Sometimes people don’t want to confront the issues. We all seek quick fixes, but the truth is, there is no quick fix, and if there is one, it is sure to be temporary at best.

Some say a healthy mind means a healthy body. So how do you achieve a healthy mind?? Surely it is through a healthy soul. What is the substance your soul seeks? It has got to be something far bigger and more overpowering than alcohol. The answers lie within, as stated in the Qur’an.

"Those who believed and whose hearts find rest in the remembrance of God: Verily in the remembrance of God do hearts find rest"
[Ar- Ra’d 13:28]

Lack of time?

Lack of time?

"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

I look around and the old adage becomes truer as time passes; everyday seems to have gone by that little bit quicker, every memory a little more distant. We’re all striving to reach our personal goals, be them social, academic, financial or any other. After all, we’re only on this planet for a short period of time and we need to achieve as much as we can.

Time is the most valuable commodity we possess. It’s almost tangible in that we can feel it slipping through our fingers, therefore surely the more we focus on this time the more successful we become. The more we achieve the happier we are….. well in theory anyway.

Many people subscribe to this theory and have a relentless routine of striving for material goals day and night. The problem is, it often leaves them oblivious to anything else, they seem to develop some sort of tunnel vision and the realities of life just seem to pass them by. How many times have I met people like that? Others seem to live some sort of "Groundhog day" life in which they meander through each day. Everyday that passes is no different to the last, it’s like they’re just passing time waiting for something to happen, and before you know it, 60 odd years have "groundhogged" their way through and dementia has well and truly set in, except by that time they don’t even know it.

Overall, from speaking to the average person in one way or another they seem to be going through the motions and just don’t appear to think about their lives and reflect.

I was stunned to find that Britain has one of the highest suicide rates in Europe. The statistics are quite frightening; in the UK and Ireland the Guardian figures show that there is a suicide every 79 minutes! From a student perspective according to the Samaritans each day two people under the age of 24 commit suicide. All of this within an advanced Western Society where we don’t have to worry about many of the issues that poorer countries have to, the truth of the matter is no matter how "successful" some people become they are never truly happy.

The Guardian’s figures show 60% to 70% of Adults go through depression at some point. Think about it, this amounts to a mind-blowing proportion of people. I can’t even begin to contemplate the numbers.

We live in a society where there is a serious lack of reflection, it quite often takes something quite serious to make people "stop and look around" only then do the realities of life become apparent. The "rat race" no longer carries the illusion that it did.

I’ve seen so many people suffer a serious loss including myself and BANG! You’re brought down to earth with a crushing reality; all of a sudden life is put into perspective. Sometimes it takes a slap in the face to give us the wake up call we need-to re-assess our lives, and reprioritise.

The famous story of Cat Stevens comes to mind, where he swam out into the sea and realised he had gone too far and was going to drown. In that split second he reflected. Imagine being in that position, where you think these may be your last moments alive, how a person would genuinely reflect on their life, how they would then ponder the purpose of life and the existence of a Creator?

Stevens found himself suddenly questioning his own mortality. Amidst the dizzy heights of fame and fortune, the "ultimate-dream-come-true" for most of us. This man found himself realising that through it all, he was nothing. Not even topping the 70’s psychedelic charts could save him, nor make any difference to the situation he was in. He could have been swept away by the ocean and so what? The world would continue to turn as it always has, with or without him. So what was he put on the planet for? And by whom? What was it all for?

He found himself crying out to God. A knowledge that had been innately within, and had just re-surfaced after being dormant for most of his life.

A life changing moment.

In the case of Cat Stevens he managed to survive, his moment of reflection led him to sincerely seek the truth; he found God and accepted Him, leading him to become a Muslim.

Look around you. Listen to the world going past. Feel your heart, mind and body working in perfect unison. Reflect.

Don’t allow time to slip through your hands. It can be your friend, but it can also be your enemy. There is so much more to life, and each moment is precious. Reflect.

I leave you with a verse from the Qur’an:

"God gives abundantly and sparingly to whom He wills. They rejoice in this present life; but this present life, beside the Everlasting Life, is nothing but a passing enjoyment."
Surah Number: 13, Ayah Number: 26

Islamophobia

This is the first article I wrote for a student newspaper at University:

"Islamophobia?"

After strolling along one evening at my work place and speaking to a fella named George everything seemed to fall into place after an extremely brief conversation. George made an impact upon me that I think not even time will erode away. Being a practising Muslim I tend to stand out from the bunch, George having recognised this said to me "Are you a Muslim?" I of course replied "Yes", to my amazement George’s next statement left me bamboozled: "I’ve heard about you Muslims, You don’t believe in God do you?" You guys worship some book called the Quran don’t you?"

Perhaps George isn’t representative of your average Joe Bloggs on the street, however after growing up in the intellectual age of the information superhighway I thought people like George were confined to the distant secluded corners of the planet!

I’m lost for superlatives adequate enough to describe this experience, don’t get me wrong George is a very nice chap and we’ve formed a fairly strong bond since, when I finally finished scratching my head that is.

Over 1400 years have passed since Islam has been on this planet, however I am stumped to think of anything which could be possibly as misunderstood or less known as this religion.

More than 70,000 Australian Star Wars fans declared themselves Jedi Knights when asked to define their religion in last year's census according to the Australian Bureau of statistics. Once again, I’m but left to ponder, when was the last time someone walked past me with a lightsabre? I’m sure I’ve seen more beards and Hijabs, yet the ins and outs of "the force" are most probably better known that those of Islam.

So what is the problem? Why is so little known about this religion that has seemed to spread to every corner of the globe, yet leaving the masses ignorant of its most basic concepts. Well one thing’s for sure, we can’t really blame the media for not mentioning us, seems we’re mentioned every five minutes. Perhaps it’s a case of quality versus quantity, how much genuine informative aspects about the beliefs of the Muslims actually arise in the media? I would have to say very little if any.

The media seems to speak a lot about "Islamophobia" some strange term that signifies that people are running scared of this religion, however just wandering around the campus you would feel no different to any non Muslim, perhaps this is the result of such an ethnically diverse University. Despite all the negative media attention there’s always someone you bump into in the University mosque who has suddenly decided to become Muslim. It’s quite interesting to think why anyone would especially in this day and age put such a burden upon themselves? Why they would risk being alienated from society? And being looked upon as backward? For those who reflect this would not be an easy decision to make, or something to be taken lightly. If I wasn’t a Muslim who converted some three years ago, I would be absolutely puzzled why someone would enter into something which is so attacked; I’d probably think they had totally lost the plot.

Perhaps that’s just hit the nail on the head, all my perceptions would be based upon what I have heard from the media and people, not from the Muslims themselves or the text they consider divine. Maybe "Islamophobia" is just a term for not knowing.

So what do the Muslims believe?

The beliefs of the Muslims are about as simple as you will ever get, they worship one God alone with no partners or associates; I assure you George is very clear on this now! In three simple steps the beliefs of the Muslims can be summarised;

1) All power comes from this God alone
2) The Muslims believe that this God is not like you or me in any way, we by our nature are finite and imperfect while the Creator is infinite and perfect.
3) Thirdly, the only one worthy of worship is this God.

It’s quite strange to think I’ve never met a non Muslim who disagrees with this, yet we have just negated the vast majority of religious beliefs; if you agree with the above which I think most of you will then essentially the difference between you and me is I put these beliefs into practice.

A lot of you may be stunned to realise, you hold the same core beliefs as a Muslim! In this day and age of negative media attention and so called "Islamophobia" there is a need for people to open their minds and seek information in a true, open and honest way.

As nice as he is, we need to aim for less "Georges" out there.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

First Blog

As salamu'alaykum Wa rahmatullah:

I thought it might be a good idea to take some of the old articles I have written and place them on a seperate blog.

Most of these were written for non Muslims for a University student newspaper.

I'm not sure if any will be written in the future, but I thought it would be worth putting these up.

Anyone can take these articles and use them anywhere Fi Sabi Lillah

Jazaah Kallah Khayar

Was salamu'alaykum wa rahmatullah