Friday, 14 December 2012

Why should Muslims celebrate Birthdays?

“This day, I have perfected your deen (religion) for you, completed My favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your deen (religion).” (Surah Al Maidah Ayah 3)

"And be not of Al-Mushrikun of those who split up their religion, and became sects[i.e they invented new things in the religion, and followed their vain desires], each sect rejoicing in that which is with it"

It is essential for every Muslim to understand the difference between 'deen', as it is understood in Arabic, and the word 'Religion', which is generally used as a quick English translation. The word ‘deen’, in Arabic has several meanings like

1.       1. Subjugation, Authority and Ruling,
2.       2. Obedience and Submission,
3.       3. Method and habits
4.       4. Reward, Punishment and Judgment. *1 (See reference below)

The word ‘religion’ denotes a set of  rituals at a personal level between Allah and His servant (Ibadaat or acts of worship). Meaning the focus is on 'specific-actions-I-can-do-to-please-Allah', like offering one's prayers, paying of Zakat, performing pilgrimage or fasting. These are the pillars of Islam and Divine injunctions upon all Muslims and the foundation of our faith. Hence, it goes without saying that our faith is not complete if we do not strive to learn and practice this form of worship. However, the question is: 'Is that all we are required to do to please Him?' 

Unfortunately, what doesn't instinctively come to mind  on the mention of the word 'religion' is feeding the poor, being kind and considerate to our neighbors, our behavior during our celebrations and Islamic customs for occasions of sorrow. This is an area that requires our attention: the idea of 'turning-everything-I-do-to-please-Allah'. The idea of a 24/7 Muslim, non-stop and around the clock - the idea of spinning everything I do to gold in the eyes of Allah. This is the concept of ibadat, or complete submission to the will of Allah through ''every action' during the day and the night. This is why Islam is a complete & liberating deen because just as it teaches us rituals to develop an individual spiritual connection with Allah (through Salah, Zakat, Fast, Hajj and observing Sunnahs as individuals), it also teaches us that with the right intention and method we can convert  every simple action into a source of reward in the hereafter, even drinking a glass of water!

I often think that a deen that educates us about the 'right' way of entering and leaving a washroom, could not have missed out big life events like  births, deaths and weddings for us to 'figure it out for ourselves'. 

Since Allah has chosen Islam as a deen for us (and now that we have a broader understanding of the word ‘deen’), it must contain all the do’s and don’ts important for us. When we live in diverse societies, we come across all kinds of festivities and cultures; but before we jump in the band-wagon, we need to research the Islamic point of view in order to protect ourselves from going astray. Islam is a deen that strives to bring ease into our lives and remove from our lives the shackles of old pagan customs. This is the reason we were blessed not only with the book of guidance but also by a Prophet SAWS who lived by the book.Tools and technology may advance with time, changing the way we do things but what we do should be in accordance with the teachings of the Prophet SAWS. That's what role models are for. So, in order for our every action to turn into ibadat there needs to be a solid foundation in the Quran or Sunnah. If the Prophet did something, our love for him should compel us to move towards it with open arms. If he did not give something significance then our love for him should compel us to behave in the same fashion. 

A celebration that has taken deep roots in our society is 'birthdays' (anniversaries etc.). It is a very common practice because on the surface it appears to be a harmless celebration of life and a way of spreading joy. However many people are unaware of it's real origin and how each part of this celebration is a ritual of the polytheists (Pagans). When we think of Islam as being limited to some rituals and not a complete code of life, these are the kind of traps we will easily fall into. The first question to ask when faced with the dilemma of celebrating any occasion is – did Allah tell us to celebrate this day or did the Prophet SAWS encourage such celebrations in his life and the Sahaba after him? When the answer is "No" we must abandon such practices that will get us no gain in the hereafter. If this celebration is not part of our ‘deen’ it should not be a part of our lives. Simple!

The untold story that must be told Perhaps the gravity of why I want attention on the issue of birthdays will be clear once you go over the story of how it all began. Thousands of years ago some learned Astrologers decided to record history by calculating the date of birth of Kings and Noblemen who had passed away. They extended the idea to celebrate the birthdays of the living Kings and the Rich among them. With their extensive knowledge of the stars and the sun and moon, they were able to determine dates right down to the hour, minute and second. At that time only the rich nobility could afford lavish events at birthdays but as time went by even ordinary people began to celebrate their birthdays lavishly. In pagan culture it was believed that a person was visited by evil spirits on his special day so friends and family would get together and celebrate so as to ward off the evil. This is what later became the 'Happy birthday song' and a popular culture of singing "Happy birthday to you....." for the birthday boy/girl. To bring gifts and flowers was considered good honor for the recipient.

Artemis - Goddess of the Moon and the Hunt

The Greeks were the ones to originate the Birthday cake in the shape of the moon in honor of their Goddess Artemis – Goddess of the moon and the hunt. On the round shaped cake symbolizing the moon, they would place as many candles as the number of years being celebrated. The candles when lit made the cake glow like the moon in honor of Artemis and they would carry the cake to the temple in her reverence. The candles were blown after making a wish as it was believed that the light & smoke would carry the prayers and wishes to the God of the skies. Blowing the candles in one breath would ensure that the God of the skies would grant them. Hence the popular phrase, "Blow the candles and make a wish!" *3

Who would have thought that while someone celebrates his/her birthday, we are in fact commemorating the custom/ritual of the Greek Polytheists! After knowing this story, how can we say that there is no harm in celebrating birthdays? The irony is that today Christians are talking about how there is no significance of celebrating birthdays; if there was then why is their no mention of it in the bible and that 25th Dec could not be Jesus's birthday since he was born in the summer when date palms were ripe with fruit.*4 This is not the only occasion that requires us to research its origins and its roots but this is one which most people celebrate without knowing the repercussions in the hereafter. This is the occasion that most of us find most difficult to let go - a mere indication of how much we have been absorbed in to an alien culture. 

Whoever imitates a people is one of them (Hadith of the Prophet SAWS reported by Abu Dawood and Ahmad)

Imitating the practices and customs of others and following their celebrations is a great non-conformity to the teachings of the Prophet SAWS and will cause us exclusion from the Muslim Ummah on the Day of Judgment. Do we want to be standing with the Muslim Ummah or the Pagans, Christians or Jews? Abd-Allah ibn Amr (RAA) said: “Whoever settles in the land of the non-Arabs and celebrates their Nawrooz and their Mahrajaan, and imitates them until he dies in that state, will be gathered with them on the Day of Resurrection.” (Al Sunan al Kubra, 9/432; classed as Sahih by Ibn Taymiyyah in al Iqtida, 1/754).When we believe that Islam is a complete deen then there is no reason for us to be imitating others. We should be proud of our Muslim identity and should have no attraction to the festivals and celebrations of the disbelievers.

I found a fatwa on this issue by Sheikh al Uthaymeen (May Allah have mercy on him) that clarifies why celebrating birthdays has no room in our lives (Reference below)

“Everything which is taken as an ‘eid’ (something which is celebrated regularly) and is repeated each week or each year and is not prescribed in sharee’ah, is a kind of bid’ah (reprehensible innovation). The evidence for that is the fact that the Lawgiver prescribed ‘aqeeqah for the newborn, and did not prescribe anything after that. When they adopt these observances every week or every year, it means that they are making them like the Islamic Eids, which is haraam and is not permitted. There are no celebrations in Islam apart from the three prescribed Eids: ‘Eid al-Fitr, ‘Eid al-Adha, and the weekly ‘Eid’ which is Friday (Yawm al-Jumu’ah). 

To fill a vessel with something, you must empty it out first!
If you have children who are fond of celebrating their birthday, then at least make a first step by telling them how this celebration is of the disbelievers and share the story with them.Then get their friends together on a random day and let them enjoy to their hearts content; hand out gifts to your children without any occasion (that’s all they really care about!) and celebrate with food but not on their birthday and not like the Pagans. If you have ever gotten an unexpected gift from the person you love you know it’s more special than something expected on the same day every year. Nobody wants to have a dry and boring life so celebrate your joys but within limits, feed the poor in those celebrations, give gifts to the people you love and to the less fortunate. You can do all this and stay within the boundaries of Shariah so that a harmless good time doesn't cost you everything on the Day of Recompense. The current 'celebration epidemic' in the world is nothing but consumerism being promoted by those who think that's all we are here for. People who love and cherish family and friends will let them know any day of the week and do not need a 'day' to be reminded. 

Birthdays are out for good!
A lot of people send me Birthday Calendar requests on facebook and I want to take this opportunity to request them to please stop as I have not celebrated my birthday at all for the past 2 years and believe it or not I have a full and meaningful life. Alhamdullilah. No one has wished me as I have made my position on the matter very clear and I thank people who disagree with my viewpoint but respect my opinion and preference. There are many people I know who have started a baking business specializing   in decorating birthday cakes. I apologize for not supporting them but when I don't support the institution of a birthday then I can't support anything associated with it. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against cakes but this is a separate matter altogether.  May Allah help us all realize the urgency in doing good and staying away from the practices of other faiths.

In the end a beautiful and inspiring verse from the Quran that should inspire us to be proud of our Muslim heritage and that to be 'one' we must give up all 'others':

Ibrahim was neither a Jew nor a Christian, but he was a true Muslim Hanifa (Islamic Monotheism) and he was not of Al-Mushrikun - Surah Al Imran Ayah 6

May Allah guide us all to the straight path and accept our efforts and intentions. Ameen!


1.Friday speech delivered by Imam Mohamed Baianonie at the Islamic Center of Raleigh, N. C., on December 27,1996 :

2. For fatwa on fasting on the birth day of the Prophet SAWS and the innovation of today's muslims of celebrating their own birthdays 

3.For fatwa on birthday being an innovation and need to discourage it

3. For origin of birthday cake:

4.A Christian's perspective on how celebrating birthdays is a pagan ritual that needs discouragement. The article is titled, "The surprising origin of Birthdays":

Sunday, 16 September 2012

The Final Destination!

The Final Destination

The topic of a special lecture on the first day of my class was "The final journey". Since most people cringe at the mere mention of the word "death!", this series of lectures made a lot of people very uncomfortable and rightly so. Death is not supposed to be a pleasant topic and it should make us shift in our seats. Trouble with most of us is that we get irritated when someone starts to talk about it and in a few passing moments we swiftly change the subject to something 'more pleasant'. My personal reading from people who say "Oh! Please don't start talking about such things!" is that they don't make such statements out of fear (which is their claim) but out of sheer heedlessness. People just don't want to remember death because it takes the fun out of everything. One day, my life will be over and since I don't know the time or date or place, I might as well strive to prepare for it now. There is no greater fool than a person who holds the Quran in his hands and reads about the ways of the Prophet SAWS and still doesn't fear the day of recompense or spend his days preparing for it. 

Here are some of the key thoughts shared during the lecture:

Focus on the end and not the means-to-the-end!

My teacher asked the class an opening question: "What do you live for?". I thought in my head "to have a good life!". As if she read my mind she spoke my unsaid words as the general thought in the class. I thought to myself, what a good start for me. My teacher and I think alike. She had resonated my answer and I was so sure that I got it right. Until she said some real words of wisdom. She said: "We shouldn't live to have a good life rather we should live to have a good death!". It may seem like the same thing at first but when you think about there lies a big difference in the focus. A good life is not the end. It is a means to an end. A good life must lead to a good death otherwise there is nothing really good about it. I realized that when we shift our focus towards our death, only then does it make sense as to why I do any good that Allah gives me the opportunity to do. So that if I die the very next second, I will die while preparing for this ultimate moment of truth. 

Death does not need an invitation

Sadly, whenever I have thought about dyeing I always imagine myself to be old, really old. The reality is that within the span of my life, I have seen unborn babies die, little infants die, teenagers die, young twenty somethings die, middle aged super active and healthy people die as well as the old &feeble. Pretty much covers every age bracket. So it makes me think, what is the guarantee that I will die only when I am old? There is none. My teacher said that some one from the group may die today in a car crash or an accident. I was thinking to myself, Allah does not even need to create a situation. I just may take one breath and struggle for the next only to never breathe again. And that's it. It is but Allah's mercy on us that He prepares us to expect death by sickness or accidents etc. It His mercy, because it gives us a chance to re-connect with Him, ask for forgiveness and mentally prepare for the final journey. 

There is no third place!
The most obvious yet profound thing our teacher said during the lecture was that after judgement has been made you will be either awarded a place in heaven or hell. There is no third place. We all know that but then why are so many of our good deeds not 100 percent good? There is always some bad that mixes in with the good deed. A lot of the times, we do some good deeds and some in-between deeds and some bad deeds. Like algebra, all three types of deeds will stay separate: x+y+z. If there aren't enough good wholesome deeds, chances are we may not be heading towards the desired destination.  

Makes you think - Is that what I think when I do or say something - that this will either take me one step closer to heaven or one step closer to hell. Chances are not! Next time you open your mouth to backbite about someone, let this thought foil your attempt!

So many of our daily actions are not good enough and need a lot of improvement. As long as we realize that and are on the road to progress, that's a good thing. But if we are procrastinating then we may be in a lot of trouble. If death comes calling, we won't have much luggage in the form of good deeds to take with us. 30 or 40 or 50years of life cannot be reduced to just a few good deeds. Don't settle for it. Become greedy for good deeds and keep your intentions clear while collecting them. 

How to be prepared?

1. Read up books on the subject. You have to believe in Heaven to want to work towards it. And if the accounts of hell and death scare you then that's a good thing. It means that your soul is still alive! Believing in this reality consciously is the first step. I recommend the book "Mera Jeena Mera Marna". It contains all the information that we would require on such an occasion - spiritually and practically speaking. 

2. Know all the Prophet's SAWS sunnah on such an occasion.  Islam teaches us the etiquette to be followed for the living as it does for the dead and we should know the Prophet's way of honoring the deceased. Make sure you have some books that have the duas of Istighfar in them so people get busy reading them instead of anything else. I recommend "Etiquettes of expressing grief and mourning the dead"- its available in Urdu and English. 

3. Make sure you know the procedure for Ghusl and have some written material as guidance handy. 

4. Make sure you are calm and give comfort to the grieving family by saying duas and praying for the deceased. Do not say "It was so sad to hear about your loss", instead say, "May Allah grant you patience and forgive the deceased". Focus on the positive and don't be negative. Being 'sad' implies that this person's life should not have been taken away. When in reality we all belong to Allah and it is His Will to take our life when He pleases. 

5. Write a will which contains instructions of what things you want done on the occasion of your own death and things you want your family to actively avoid - like bidah of reciting the entire Quran in the house of the deceased or reading kalimah on beads or having a soyem function etc. All these are innovations, that will hurt the deceased in his grave. So it's better to write what you want done and what you forbid. This way you will not be blamed for any wrong doings. Leave this document with someone close to you so that they execute it when the time comes. For this you need to read about the Sunnah of the Prophet SAWS on the occasion of someone's death.

6. Make sure someone close knows of all your assets and their value so that drawing up the inheritance according to the Islamic Shariah is not a big challenge and can be done in a timely manner. Apparently, most people don't mind having Chicken Biryani and Mutton Korma just an hour after someone's tadfeen but to talk about inheritance or repaying debts  to ease the deceased seems a hurtful topic to broach. There is a time for merriment and this is not the time, so we need to get our priorities straight. 

7. Loved ones should prepare something from their home for the grieving family - this is a sunnah! Feed the poor as sadaqa from the deceased - this is sadaqah jariah. But this is not a time fore merriment so let's NOT organize a catered lunch/dinner. You eat out or do take away when your happy not when you are sad!

8. Live today like there is no tomorrow. Pack your day with good deeds and lots of Dhikr and duas. We all put the alarm for the next morning not knowing if we will really wake up -that's hope! 

9. Ramadhan is a great time to make new resolutions - Here is one that I want you to think about even though Ramadhan is over - Join an institute to learn and understand the Quran and Sunnah of the Prophet SAWS. 10 months to 3 years is the time it takes depending on where you are going but you owe this to yourself. Trust me you are operating in the dark if you have not studied the Quran and Hadith. Think about it and Just do it! If anyone says that it's not so easy, then tell yourself: "Allah created me and He made the Quran guidance for me so why would I not be able to understand it?" Satan will try and make it hard for you and you know what to do with him. 

And Remember, 

“A man is the one who fears the death of his heart, not his body.” 

-Ibn al-Qayyim

May Allah guide us to straight path, forgive our sins and grant us an abode in Heaven. Ameen

Friday, 20 July 2012

Ramadhan Kareem

Ramadhan is here!

First of all, Ramadhan Kareem to everyone. I thank Allah for giving me the honor of seeing this Ramadhan and I hope that I make it through the month having earned His forgiveness and His mercy. 

To all of my friends and family members, I pray that all our sins are forgiven and that we live up to new resolution of becoming better Muslims this year. Ramadhan for me is a like a new year starting. A new beginning that Allah grants to some of us. And so it is a great time to reconnect with Allah and the Quran to keep us going for the next 11 months. 

Here are my Top Ten Tips for how to spend this month in peace and tranquility: 

1.  Start by wishing all your friends and family Ramadhan Kareem via SMS or fb but make sure you call the elders in your family. We need to realize that Ramadhan is a celebration for the Muslims and we should share the joy with the people we love. 

2. Very politely tell your friends and family that you have a new family rule: "We can't  go out to iftaris". And this rule cannot be broken. We go out to dinners and lunches 11 months of the year so this month we can relax and unwind and focus on praying. My father made this announcement many years ago when we started going for Taraweeh as a family and although some relatives get irritated by the no-show on the Iftar party, like everything else, they eventually get over it.  

3. This month is not about food. Having said that we all need food to break our fast and for sehris. So, where it is good to be the one to get up at Sehri/Iftar and make sure that everyone eats what they like, this month should not revolve around food ONLY.

4. Connect with the Quran. Find an online lecture of tafseer to listen to or read one. You must go over the Quran by yourself so you absorb it at your own pace. The magic of ramadhan is that it connects a lot of people with the Quran and it is an everlasting relationship. I hope you are one of those special people this month. 

5. Attend Taraweeh where Daura-e-Quran is coupled with it. It is an experience of a lifetime plus its a great routine to have in Ramadhan. Qayam-ul-Lail is the best way to spend the night and the best time to ask for forgiveness. I recommend the Quran Academy located on Sea-View. This will be our 4th Ramadhan there and I pray that Allah allows us the opportunity again. Inshallah. 

6. I hope that clothes, shoes and bags for the family are sorted out. This should be the other un-breakable rule of Ramadhan: "We can't go out to the bazaar for shopping". The occasional grocery is required but not shopping for Eid clothes in Ramadhan. This should have been done a month back. 

7. Realize that not everyone you know has lived to see this ramadhan so this may also be our last. Feel that every second of this month and improve the quality of your Salah and Dua. This month is about increasing our God Consciousness - taqwah, so focus on doing, saying everything based on Allah's command and the Prophet's method. 

8. Make sure you listen to some lectures about Ramadhan Orientation and how to get the blessings of Allah. There is a great video on you tube by Ustaadh Nouman Ali Khan called "Ramadhan, a gift for Muslims". Do watch it and make notes because it will help clarify what your focus needs to be.

9. Try and go over the 'book of Sawm' and make sure you clarify questions/doubts that may have been nagging you regarding fasting beforehand. Make sure you review the Dua's for fasting and encourage your family members to read them and memorize them. 

10. Remember that a lot of our family members and friends are no longer with us. Please make time to pray for them and remember that one day we will be 6 feet under. Then we will be hoping that someone prays for us. 

I would like to end with a hadith of the Prophet Muhammad SAWS in Sahih Bukhari: 
It is related from Abu Hurayra that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "Anyone who spends the Night of Power in prayer motivated by belief and in anticipation of the reward will be forgiven his past wrong actions. Whoever fasts Ramadan motivated by belief and in anticipation of the reward will be forgiven his past wrong actions."

I hope that we find that night of power and earn forgiveness for our sins. Else we found nothing in 30 days of fasting except hunger and thirst.  

Ramadhan Kareem to all. 

Saturday, 16 June 2012

A New Campaign hits town!

A new campaign hits town!

After the Tanzeem-e-Islami, Jamat-e-Islami, Women Professional forum and Women's Education Society recorded their eloquent protest against brands spreading profanity via highly questionable visuals, we have yet another organization that speaks out! They call themselves the Muslim Awareness Program (MAP) and the above visual is of their billboard on Submarine Chowk with a skin that reads: "Haya and Eman go together, lose one, lose both." (Hakim). When I passed by the billboard yesterday it read: "A good man treats women with honor." (Tirmidhi) and that's when it caught my eyes! 

While most billboards lately have caused nothing but distress to the eyes, seeing this billboard unexpectedly in a pristine white backdrop depicting the purity of the message was a real clutter breaker. The message so clear for everyone to understand and so focused for those who are the culprits behind this spreading indecency. All the organizations mentioned above and the one that I am writing about (MAP) have nothing against a particular brand. They all talk of one message, whether in Urdu or English - 'Stop disrespecting women by featuring them indecently in order to sell your brand'. In marketing, there is always the question of "If it sells, it's good marketing!" but this idea is completely washed away when you talk about ethically responsible marketing. Brands have to respect people's moral values whether it suits their taste or not. 

Today, with the Grace of Allah, educated people are voicing their concern over this "selling of women" and how distasteful it is. But we need Lawn Manufactures, Fashion designers and Big Multinationals to now realize that they cannot put anything out there to test the waters any more. Veet tried to jump the line of decency and I hope that they got a sharp enough message to never EVER repeat that again. But other brands and Organizations must learn to respect it's citizens and their choice. One size does not fit all - and if a campaign works abroad then it doesn't necessarily fit the landscape of Pakistan. 

It is the need of the hour for us to think about how far is far enough. Where do we draw the line? How far will we go to support fashion brands for the sake of looking and feeling good about ourselves? Where will we draw the line for what is permissible to be a visual plastered on a billboard for the world to see? These are questions I am asking every man and woman who reads this post. I hope to find all of you on the right side of this issue. Spread the word and voice your concern to the relevant brands so they take notice and mend their ways! 

(There was a correction in the source mentioned in the first paragraph - It was Tirmidhi in stead of Bukhari - May Allah forgive me.)

Friday, 18 May 2012

Which side are you on?

Allah says in the Quran: 
O children of Adam, let not Satan tempt you as he removed your parents from Paradise, stripping them of their clothing to show them their private parts. Indeed he sees you, he and his tribe, from where you do not see them. Indeed we have made the devils allies to those who do not believe. 
Al Araaf - 27

Immorality is spreading in the world like an epidemic and it is a growing problem in Pakistan. Whether its clothes, soap or hygiene products women are being used to market them in the most questionable manner. After the plethora of Lawn exhibitions and the uncountable billboards plastered with women in strange poses and plunging necklines (not to mention the low backs), a Working Women's Organization put up billboards saying:"We salute those who do not undress women to dress them". Clearly some people have been disturbed by this display of women! This was featured in last week's news paper and I have seen these billboards around the city - it was a timely and eloquent reaction!

Similarly, a brand called Veet literally made some 'heads turn' over the past few weeks with their latest campaign. A model wearing a skirt above the knees and a sleeveless blouse with a low neck was their Key visual. What I failed to understand was why would a woman (the end consumer) need to see an almost nude model to realize how much she needs this product. Like a universal truth, all women know about depilation and the products available. It is a necessary product to maintain a woman's health and basic hygiene. So where there is no denying of the importance of a hair removal product, there was no need to put the brand out there like that - all exposed for everyone to ogle at. It was so distasteful that I stopped looking outside fearing that my eyes may see what I would never want them to see (for they will be questioned about it). Allah says in the Quran:
And do not engage yourself in that of which you have no knowledge.  Verily, hearing, sight and feeling will all be questioned about that. (36) And do not walk on the earth with pride for you will surely never split the earth nor reach the height of the mountain. (37)}  Al-Israa:36-37

I have complained at many contact points and tried to explain to the people running this brand that you are worth more than what you are projecting. Its a global brand and may have global campaigns but one size does not fit all. This advertising campaign was absolutely not relevant for this market - it was down right appalling. 

I have just shared a video on my timeline about a Moroccan 25 year old who is disgusted at how women are being objectified everywhere. He cries out at the end and says that he is sick of watching women reveal themselves and is tired of Satan playing games with him. He admits at having committed many unthinkable sins and blames himself for falling into Satan's trap.  So here is a news flash - men who listen to that little voice in their head called a conscience are actually put off by women's indecency. I urge you to watch it and watch his disgust with himself. His honesty made the speaker cry. A much needed awakening for all of us!  

In Surah Al Araaf (the translated ayah in the beginning), Allah records the epic event that shaped the world we live in. On the one side was Adam ASWS - a mortal created from clay and a servant of Allah and on the other side was the defiant Satan whose behavior was nothing short of impudence. The reason why this incident is repeated numerous times in the Quran is because we have many lessons to learn from it today. 

1. Indecency is the name of the game!
When Satan coaxed Adam ASWS and Hawa ASWS towards the forbidden tree, the first thing that happened to them on eating the fruit was that their clothes were removed. And although Adam ASWS and his wife had never seen indecency around them (because they were in heaven and there were no other people), they knew instantly that this was a shameful thing to happen. The word in Arabic used in this ayah is "YANZIOO" and it means to forcefully remove (by coercion). Hence, Satan did not care about the fruit, he was just out to spread indecency. Eating the fruit was just a means to an end. What are the forbidden fruits of today? Things that look somewhat harmless on the outside but are nothing but evil on the inside. We need to ask ourselves and protect our selves from them. We need to realize that the root of all evil is indecency. Once we are programmed to accept indecency, eventually we will expect it!

2. Progressive Vs Regressive
The Noble Peace Prize winner "Tawakkul Karman," 'The mother of Yemen's revolution,' when asked about her Hijab by journalists and how it is not proportionate with her level of intellect and education, replied: 
“Man in early times was almost naked, and
as his intellect evolved he started wearing clothes.
What I am today and what I’m wearing represents
the highest level of thought and civilization that man
has achieved, and is not regressive. It’s the removal of
clothes again that is a regression back to the ancient times."
That says it all!

3. Dont be a silent Majority!
Speak or write or talk about it with the relevant people not just as a coffee table discussion and to spread hate-campaigns. We have to be the change we want to see so we need to speak against this growing indecency because your family is exposed to it just as mine is. No one wants little girls to have such immoral role models. And no one wants little boys to see women in this way. How will they ever learn to respect women if they grow up seeing them as objects of beauty. Go to clothing outlets that are exploiting women and give them constructive feedback. Use the feedback cards to bring about some good!

I spoke to our cable provider about how they need to re-look their censorship policy and that I could not let my nephews watch unsupervised television any more. She was extremely polite and listened intently to my feedback. After hearing my concerns, she said that she completely empathized with me but said that there were more people calling in to ask for censorship to be removed. It was so sad to hear that but she was adamant at taking my feedback to her superiors and I am grateful to her for that. If you are worried about what your kids may be watching, voice your concern to the appropriate people. Please complain directly to companies by calling in or on their website or to PEMRA on their website. We keep thinking what difference does it make for one person to voice an opinion. It makes a great difference if only we realized that it is an obligation to try and stop wrong-doings and encourage good things.  

When you go to a restaurant or a Mall and there is loud blaring music on, give them feedback politely. You may not want to say: "Do you know that listening to music is Haraam?" You could just say: "There is so much noise aka music here that I can't even think straight let alone remember what i came here to get or eat - why do we need music while shopping for groceries - it makes no sense". I tried the latter at a new Mall that has recently opened and I was surprised by the warm response that I got. That made me realize that they think that we want to listen to it and they have become so used to it that they can't tell the difference between sound and noise. So unless we open our mouth and tell them that we can shop or eat without listening to loud music, they will not shut it off and the agony will continue. 

Tanzeem-e-Islami has posted banners all around with slogans like: 'Respect women - Don't use them as a marketing tool' and many others in Urdu and English. It was heartening to see that where there are people who are following the footsteps of Satan, there are those who are trying to awaken our dormant sense of  morality. 
Which side are you on?..............

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

People of Substance II

People of Substance II

I wanted to share some of the practical suggestions that came out of the lecture - People of Substance. These are ways in which we can move forward to becoming people of substance. 

1. Fundamental education in Islam
We MUST study the Quran, cover to cover, with a teacher who can help explain the tafseer and the Arabic language to facilitate our learning experience. There are many places offering weekly, daily and monthly classes in English and in Urdu. Grasp the opportunity today so you become a more informed Muslim for tomorrow. We must be interested in understanding the Quran in Arabic because it is guidance for all of us not just for a select few. Without understanding the Quran first hand, you will never appreciate anything about Islam.

2. Read the Seerah of the Prophet SAWS 
Once we are connected with the Quran, we cannot stop ourselves from knowing every possible thing about the Messenger of Allah - Muhammad SAWS - our role model. There are wonderful books available on his life and his sayings so make the best use of this resource and get to know him so you can consciously love him and emulate him. Read books from different authors so you get to experience different facets of his life. 

3. Pursue the Arabic language
There is no doubt in the fact that Arabic is a beautiful language that has unparalleled depth. When you read the Quran, you cannot ignore the beauty of this language and its eloquence. If we want to improve our appreciation of the Quran, we must pursue basic Arabic to further our understanding. When you know basic grammar, it's like someone unlocked a door in your mind - it's nothing short of fascinating. There is a reason why the Quran is the finest piece of Classical Arabic to date - it is from Allah the Almighty.

4. Make knowledge your forte
We should also think about studying sociology and psychology because youth counselling is a great need everywhere. Unless some of us are qualified to deal with their problems and offer them solutions today, they will be a lost generation tomorrow. We cannot afford that to happen. If you are studying currently in a University, then take up courses in Philosophy or Humanity to help widen your understanding of the human psyche. 

5. Make Pakistan a Center of Learning
When we want our kids to have a good education, we have no option but to send them abroad. Why? Because Muslim countries shifted their focus from learning to lethargy! There are very few well-recognized institutions in the Muslim world and we need to fix this. The Brain-Drain has to stop if we want anything good to become of Pakistan. But the only way we can stop our brains from going to the US or UK is if there are worthy Institutions in the Muslim world. 

6. Start a Quranic Circle or join one!
A great way to find like minded people is to start a Quranic circle. It's a group of people who get together to either study the Quran or Seerah together or just share thoughts, ideas and solutions for everyday life. Being part of one personally, I know that this is the best thing you can do to keep your engine roaring. Not all of us are lucky enough to have supportive families so start a small group to stay on track and get a moral boost every now and then. 

7. Get good company
Make sure your kids have good company because that defines their character. Do the same for yourself. This doesn't mean that we leave all our old friends and find new ones. But it does mean that if your old friendships prove counter productive then it's better to part ways before getting influenced the wrong way. Good friends will energize you to think bigger and better. 

8. Have an open-door policy
Appreciate your family and don't forget to tell them. So many times, we think it's silly to say "thank you" or "sorry", when really small words can sometimes make a big difference. Communicate with your family and just talk to them about real things and issues. Only when we will have strong families will we develop a strong society that is capable of living in the real sense. 

All these practical suggestions can help us move towards being better people. So, in the words of Nike - Just Do it!

People of Substance

People of Substance

On April 1st 2012, I was one of the many people who attended an inspiring Live-Deen event titled: People of Substance. It was an online lecture delivered by Ustaad Nouman Ali Khan from the US. In spite of the fact that there was a serious strike observed the day before, all the seats managed to get full and on time. 

I wanted to share some key messages from this fruitful session and my very own take on the ideas shared. Here it goes:

1. Match the picture with the frame
The personality that Islam promotes is not all about the appearance - its what is on the inside AND what is on the outside. Some how we separated the person from the appearance and now have a multitude of people who either look Muslim and don't act it or who have good habits (act it!) but don't wear a beard or hijab (look it!). It's an interesting thought that when someone lies, it makes us angry or upset. But when someone lies to our face AND is a man with a long beard and a cap on his head - it makes us even angrier. And we say "Look at his long beard and his long tale of lies!". The reason it upsets us more is because there is an inherent expectation that such a person will be nice, courteous and will consider lying to be the lowest of all acts. So, the lesson is to match the personality with the person; the picture with the frame. 

2. Take criticism with a pinch of salt
We must accept criticism and our faults if we truly want to become better people. A lot of times there are blatant mistakes that people make and we find it hard to correct them because we fear that they may not like the criticism. So here is a news flash - No one enjoys criticism! Its going to be unpleasant no matter what you do, however, you can soften the blow by choosing the right tone, words and moment. Tears may flow, sharp words may be exchanged and defenses may reign high but we have to remind each other that it's for their own good. 

3. Pray for things big and small
We must pray to Allah for all our problems - big or small. I used to think that it's kind of strange to pray to Allah for things like - fixing a fight with my sister or getting my cousin to stop doing something wrong etc. The funny thing is that when you pray to Allah for every possible problem - help arrives from places one could never imagine. And your heart surrenders to His All-Encompassing being. 

4. My relationship with me
One of the most ignored relationships is the one we have with ourselves. We must find a little quiet time with ourselves where we ponder over how we are doing as a person. We must question ourselves over how time is being spent, on whether weaknesses are improving and what activities keep us busy. All in all, how is one feeling - optimistic about our future or depressed about past mistakes and regrets. Our attitude with ourselves dictates how we see the world.  

5. Work hard on all your relationships
Most of us take our family relations for granted. We assume that our spouse will always love us and our parents will never forsake us. However, if we do nothing to nurture these relationships, they will whither away sooner or later. Spending quality time with your wife doesn't mean asking where the car keys are and why your shirt isn't ironed. On the contrary, its about sharing feelings, emotions and ideas about a better future together. Have a respectful relationship with your parents, spouse and with your children. A place for everything and everything in it's place. 

6. Build credibility
The prophet SAWS did Dawah much before he became a Prophet of Allah. In an ignorant society polluted with pagan customs he built a credibility that got him the title - Sadiq ul Ameen. It was because of this great reputation that many people became Muslim without a second's delay - Khadija RAA and Abu Bakr RAA to name a few. So we need to focus on becoming the best in every relationship as we get closer to our religion. This way automatically people will associate the good change in us with our Islam. Be the best daughter, best wife, best husband, best sister and best worker and once people see your sincerity, they will listen to what you have to say about Islam. 

7.Start with honesty
Even if one person among us Muslims is dishonest in his dealings, it is as if we all are. This is the reason why stereotypes exist. Because our Maulvi Sahab said so-and-so, hence all religious people say so-and-so. We have to quit this exaggeration and make honesty, in our family life and work, a mark of our identity. 

8. Bridge the gap
The reason why there is such a huge divide between regular people and the Ulema is because the common folk have left all the soul searching and researching to the Ulema. "They should find all the answers for me and just tell me what to do!" - where this may be the requirement in some detailed matter of inheritance or divorce, it is certainly not a healthy attitude for living a normal life. Why don't we have the interest in finding out answers ourselves from the primary sources - Quran and Sunnah? Most of us will never reach the level of our learned Ulema but we owe it to ourselves that we go through the Quran, cover to cover, with complete Tafseer. Otherwise, its like living your life without knowing what to do - just wandering aimlessly form here to there living on your whims.

9. Goodness begets goodness!
Good things are good in all religions - lying is not a good act in any religion, just as backbiting is not and nor is indecency. However we see that people still lie, backbite and spread profanity and indecency via media. So start with a common ground and invite people to goodness. No body wants their daughter to dress like a tramp or their sons to do drugs after school or for kids to become professional liars. So no matter what background anyone is from, you can be sure that people can differentiate good from bad. Speak against the wrong and help create a conducive environment for enabling good actions.     

10. Islam - Intellectual and emotional
Islam is a religion that must have us use our intellect as well as well-placed emotions. The combination of the two can be a potent force to fight against evil. Islam is mostly presented as emotional so we think that if we can make a fiery speech like our politicians that we can influence people. On the contrary, the youth of Pakistan has seen the hypocrisy behind the bold speeches and the loud hollow words. We need people of substance to come forward and present an intellectual view of Islam. This is why people who are conducting tafseer lectures and Quran courses in English and online are a big step towards getting religion into the houses of the secular elite. These are the things we need to think about!

The bottom-line is that unless educated people take interest in understanding the message of Islam and spreading it actively, they should not sit around on their couches complaining about how awful things are in Pakistan. Things are they way they are because some people are working hard to make them go from bad to worse and the rest of us are sipping latte's getting our nails done. If we want to improve things, we have to get up and move forward. For every negative news about Pakistan, spread a positive one in your own social circles - we are so used to complaining that we are accustomed to thinking about problems and NOT solutions. Some solutions from the lecture in my next post!