Sunday, April 27, 2014

Friday Nasihah

Living The Quran
Al-Baqara (The Cow) Chapter 2: Verse 82
"Those who believe and do good works (salihat); such shall be the inhabitants of Paradise, to dwell therein forever."
The strongest tie of semantic relationship binds salih and iman together into an almost inseparable unit. Just as the shadow follows the form, wherever there is iman there is salihat or, 'good works', so much so that we may almost feel justified defining the former in terms of the latter, and the latter in terms of the former. In brief, the salihat are 'belief' fully expressed in outward conduct. And so it comes about that the expression: alladhina amanu wa-amilu al-salihat, 'those who believe and do salih deeds', is one of the most frequently used phrases in the Quran. 'Those who believe' are not believers unless they manifest their inner faith in certain deeds that deserve the designation of salih. What are, then, these 'good works'? It is clear contextually that the 'good works' are those works of piety that have been enjoined by God upon all believers.
Compiled From:
"Ethico Religious Concepts in the Quran" - Toshihiko Izutsu, pp. 204, 205

Understanding the Prophet's Life (peace be upon him)
In a hadith related by Abd Allah ibn Umar, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, "God created His creation in darkness and then cast some of His light upon it. Those who were struck by that light were guided, those whom it missed went astray." [Tirmidhi]
This great hadith is one of the foundations of faith and opens one of the greatest doors to the mystery of destiny and divine wisdom. God is the One who grants accord.
This light which God cast upon them gave them both life and direction. Their pure God-given nature had its portion of this light, but by itself it was incomplete. So He completed it by way of the spirit, which He sent to the Prophets, and the light which He revealed to them. This is how God-given nature rediscovers the pre-existent light that reached it on the day the light was cast. The light of revelation and prophecy joined with the light of God-given nature. Hearts glow, faces shine, souls are vivified, the body inclines to His worship willingly and hearts add life to their life.
Compiled From:
"The Invocation of God" - Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya, p. 77
Nurturing collective fears can directly affect the right of individuals, and equality of treatment. Centres of power (political, economic, military-industrial or media-based) sometimes decide to fuel, or even create, threats and dangers for national, international, economic and/or geostrategic reasons. The climate of fear and insecurity makes citizens accept measures that restrict the rights they have won, or even differential forms of treatment that are justified by the threat itself. There is nothing new about this strategy, but its strength is amplified by the power of modern means of communication. An enemy is created, his ability to do harm is demonized and the public is encouraged to draw the logical consequences from the situation: ‘You are afraid. We will guarantee your security, but in order to do that we must take exceptional measures – keep you under surveillance, keep the enemy under surveillance – and may sometimes have to encroach upon your rights, dignity or equality.’ The exceptional nature of the threat justifies the suspension of existing laws: fear is indeed the enemy of law. All dictators have, to varying degrees, used – and use – this method to justify their policies. What we are witnessing today with the ‘war on terrorism’ is of a similar nature and produces similar consequences: when fear rules and when security is under threat, rules no longer apply and rights can be reconsidered, personal integrity can be violated. Equality becomes a matter of wishful thinking, and the majority of the population, which is subjected to psychological and media brainwashing, gradually comes to accept the implications of the threat.
Compiled From:
"The Quest for Meaning" - Tariq Ramadan, pp. 78, 79

Friday, April 11, 2014

Friday Nasihah

Living The Quran
Responsibility not Superiority
Al-Nisa (The Women) Chapter 4: Verse 34 (partial)
"Men shall take care of women with what God has bestowed on the former ..."
This verse does not state a "superiority" of man over woman; rather it explains the "responsibility" of a man for sustaining the family. Since the woman is physically restricted from earning a living during the late stage of her pregnancy and the first year - or more- of her child's life, it is essential to show who is responsible for supporting the wife, mother and the children. This is the "care" that is mentioned in the above verse of the Quran. In Arabic, the verb (qama) with the preposition (‘ala) means to "take care of".
But, this responsibility of taking a care of "qawama," is within the family as the Qur'anic verse shows clearly, and cannot be extended to be a general rule in the whole society. Besides, the man's obligation to support the family does not contradict or restrict the woman's right to work if she likes to do so, and a coordinated timetable for both spouses can be reached after a constructive discussion that ends in mutual consent. When a man does not work and cannot secure for himself and his family a decent living for any reason, he cannot assume "qawama" just because he is related to the gender of men. However, his wife who works and earns money and secures for the whole family its needs should treat the non-workingman respectfully. Each believer - male or female - has to observe the divine teachings in mutual relations, whether one may be more or less powerful. This is the main difference between a God-conscious society and a jungle of selfish materialist.
A view that makes a man superior to a woman because he is physically 'stronger' lacks the support of the Quran and authentic Sunna. The divine sources mention "care" and "responsibility" within the family, but not superiority. Muslim men and women are equal in their individual and social responsibilities. They have to support each other in maintaining human rights and attaining moral and material development of each and of the whole society, being in charge (protectors) of one another and of the whole society "awaliya", and enjoining the doing of what is right and forbidding the doing of what is wrong.
Compiled From:
"Muslim Women - The Family and the Society" - Fathi Osman, pp. 27, 28

Understanding the Prophet's Life (peace be upon him)
Standing Up
"Every one of you should desist from walking with every traveler. He should not say that he is with the people, and that if people would do good deed, he would also do the good deeds; and that if they would do wicked deeds then he would cooperate with them. You should prepare yourself to cooperate with them if they do righteous deeds and to keep away if they do wicked deeds." (Tirmidhi)
When faith finds a place in a man's heart and takes deep roots in it, it fills a man's heart and mind with such power and strength that cover and influence all his dealings. Accordingly, when he opens his mouth, he talks with confidence and certainty. When he undertakes a work, he attends to it with full interest and sincerity. When he starts on a journey, his destination is before his eyes. If he enjoys the wealth of the correct and firm thinking, the world of the heart too is inhabited by the enthusiasm and restless courage. Hesitation and ambivalence do not find a place in his heart, and high-velocity winds do not move him from his path or make him deviate from his objective.
However, one who is weak, the current customs and habits make one their slave. On such a man's conduct rule the things which are current in the society. If these customs and practices are wrong and destructive, then he carries the burden of the troubles of this world as well as of the next.
Among the people, various kinds of innovations have become customary on the occasions of celebrations and mourning. They pay more attention to performing these innovative acts than on the realities of the religion.
But a straight-going believer does not take any interest in these things, for which there is no supportive proof in religion. He is confronted with opposition and experiences difficulties in opposing the popular and customary rituals, but it is obvious that he need not care for any condemnation from anybody in the affairs of Allah. He has to achieve his ideal. No weapon of criticism and fault-finding and no injuries from tongue can obstruct his way.
Compiled From:
"Muslim's Character" - Muhammad Al-Ghazali

Having prescribed punishments and imposed strict and meticulous, though not impossible, conditions of evidence, Islam has built in a whole range of principles and precepts which reflect not a frenzied desire to flog and stone but a compassionate urge to avoid and eschew. Islam does not allow either the state or individuals to spy upon people unless well-founded suspicion exists that a crime is being committed or a fellow human being's rights or interests are in jeopardy. Nor is it obligatory to report every crime. Where possible, settlements outside court are preferred. The punishment is swiftly over; the guilty man and his family do not have to live with the kind of lengthy public stigma that they would have had to endure in the case of a prison sentence at the end of a trial. The imposition of divinely prescribed hudud enhance, and do not diminish, the individual’s dignity and stature in society and before God.
As to the alleged cruelty of physical penalties, one wonders if to deprive a man of his freedom - his most precious and valuable possession - and his right to act and continue to make moral choices, to live with his family, to work and support them is not more cruel. Indeed, a prison term can inflict untold misery on innocent people whose lives are intertwined with the life of the prisoner. Prison becomes a school for hardening criminal behavior and a breeding ground for recidivism. Why should it be considered more cruel for a man found drug trafficking to be given ten lashes than to be sent to languish in prison for, say, ten years.
Why does Islam want to punish and not reform? The question is fallacious, for in Islam every institution of society is value oriented and owes a responsibility towards the moral development of every person from the cradle to the grave. Reform is therefore a pre-crime responsibility and not a post-crime syndrome and nightmare. Islam makes every effort to ensure that inducement to commit crime is minimal. Once the crime is committed, the best place for reform is in the family and in society, where a criminal is to live after punishment, and not in a prison where every inmate is a criminal; unless of course a society considers itself to be more corrupt and less competent to effect reform than a jail! Against this, the ‘modern, enlightened’ approach is to provide every inducement to crime by building a society based on conspicuous consumption; to make society, education and every other institution ‘value – free’ and then to try to reform a criminal by segregating him and keeping him in a prison.
Compiled From:
"Shariah - The Way to Justice" - Khurram Murad

Monday, April 7, 2014

Trip to Malaysia part 14

After the bathroom fiasco it was our last stay in the hotel and before we left we got a special guest; a doctor friend who is married to a Russian convert and their little baby. It was nice to chat for awhile and take pictures. I gave her some Islamic magazines in English as a gift. Next we were suddenly brought to a wedding! I had no idea that would happen but apparently our last day in KL coincided with my sister-in-law's husband's relatives wedding. I felt under dressed! Nevertheless we were on our way. The wedding was outside and it was nice to see the couple promenade before everyone and my daughter loved the drum playing. Unfortunately though it started to rain! Just before that the adhan sounded and I was wondering why the wedding wasn't held before or after the prayers. (that was the first time I had attended a wedding in Malaysia).  After this we went to the airport to wait for our flight back to KB and there I met an old friend at McDonald's and we had a quick visit. We could have visited longer if we had known our flight would be late. Air Asia is not always prompt apparently. But they are cheaper. We found Dunkin' Donuts here and had a little treat.

The next two days we went shopping at the KB mall and stocked up on clothes as we knew we wouldn't be back for a long time. After that we took a final visit to my in-law who is my husband's maternal uncle's wife. We bonded quite well when I came to live there in 2000 and it was sad to see that she had become blind due to cataracts. It was nice though that her daughter was taking care of her at home.  After going to the Blind Quran Institute and seeing my in-law blind it gave me a lot to think about and of which to be grateful. Alhumdullilah. May Allah help all those who are handicapped. Amin.

Our final day was spent collecting some stuff we had left behind from 2000 that we had shipped there. Sadly many of my books were eaten by cockroaches. Who knew cockroaches ate books? Not me! But amazingly they had not eaten any of my Islamic books! What a sight to behold! A true miracle right before my eyes! Alhumdullilah.

Friday, April 4, 2014

My trip to Malaysia part 13

After going to the Braille Quran Institute we headed to the Central Market in KL. This was chosen by my husband who likes to stock up on t-shirt souvenirs there. I found the place to be interesting but really overpriced. I saw a lot of those fishermen pants that all the tourists were wearing and it was funny because locals don't actually wear them. As I was walking along female merchants kept calling out to me "Madame,madame" which became annoying after awhile. I did get into a conversation with one though that led to me sharing my conversion story. This happened to me too before in KB with a Chinese male merchant and I still remember him asking me "Did your parents scold you?". Yeah pretty much but I remember thinking scold is such an old-fashioned, unused word in Canada and its funny how the same language is used differently in different countries but I know that's because the British of course brought the language to Malaysia and they don't seem very influenced by American/Canadian tv and movies.

After this shopping adventure where I saw things I liked but didn't buy; a dress and a learn Malay cd we went on to Sogo Mall to eat at Nandos. This was my first time ever to eat at Nandos (chosen by my in-laws) even though it exists in Canada but 3 hours north of me. We had fun there and I really liked the dessert but one thing was wrong. The mall bathrooms. Ok you can't talk about Malaysia without mentioning it. When we went to the bathrooms there was a lady sitting outside at a table asking for money. I was not impressed but fine,
we paid. When we got in we found a bathroom with NO amenities. I saw other bathrooms that were missing things but this bathroom had nothing. We had to use the bathroom again unfortunately and this time I got upset when she asked me for money. This is not my usual demeanour at all but I had had it. I asked her why do we have to pay when we are getting nothing in return (and why the heck isn't the mall rich enough to cover their costs). So the woman timidly offered me some toilet paper. What? now? so here is a little piece of advice and this is a secret all Malays know; always carry your own kleenex. Why because often there will be none in the bathroom for any use not even to dry your hands and no hand dryer either as an option. I can't say I didn't appreciate the water hoses in the bathroom for istinjah but the water all over the floor is so annoying and was my number one reason at the end of the trip for feeling homesick.

Friday Nasihah

Living The Quran
True Believer
Al-Anfal (The Spoils of War) Chapter 8: Verses 2-4 (partial)
"Only those are [true] believers who, whenever God is mentioned, their hearts quiver, and when His signs are recited to them, they increase them in belief, and upon their Lord they place reliance, those who attend divine service steadfastly, and expend [in alms] of what We have bestowed upon them. These are the believers in the true sense."
Iman, 'belief' or 'faith', is the very centre of the sphere of positive moral properties. 'Belief' is the real fountainhead of all Islamic virtues; it creates them all, and no virtue is thinkable in Islam, which is not based on the sincere faith in God and His revelations.
In the above passage, 'belief' is considered exclusively in its religious aspects. This passage furnishes an almost perfect verbal definition of the 'true believer'. This verbal definition pictures 'the believer in the true sense of the word' as a genuinely pious man, in whose heart the very mention of God's name is enough to arouse an intense sense of awe, and whose whole life is determined by the basic mood of deep earnestness.
Compiled From:
"Ethico Religious Concepts in the Quran" - Toshihiko Izutsu, pp. 184, 185

Understanding the Prophet's Life (peace be upon him)
Blessings in Food
The two Shaykhs have narrated from Ibn Abbas who said, "God's Messenger (peace be upon him) said, 'When one of you eats, let him not wipe his fingers until he has licked them or had them licked.'" Muslim narrated from Kab ibn Malik who said, "I saw God's Messenger eating with three fingers, and then he finished off licking them". He has also narrated from Jabir that God's Messenger commanded licking the fingers and the bowl, he said: "Surely you do not know in which part of your food the blessing is".
One who looks at on the wording of these hadiths will not understand other than that eating with three fingers, and licking them after eating, and licking the bowl or cleaning it out or wiping it, is the sunnah of the Prophet. So he may, at times, look with disgust at someone eating with a spoon because, in his opinion, that person is opposing the sunnah, behaving as unbelievers do! The reality is that the spirit of the sunnah that should be taken from these hadiths is his modesty, his acceptance of God's blessing in the food, and the anxious wish that he should not leave from that blessing anything to be wasted without benefit, such as the remnant of food left in the bowl, or the morsel that falls from some people and they are too proud to pick it up, showing themselves as being in affluence and plenty, and distancing themselves from looking like the poor and indigent, who strive for the smallest thing, even if it be a crumb of bread.
If the Muslims would act upon it, we would not see the waste that is met with every day – rather, at every meal – in every wastebasket and rubbish bin. If the Muslim community calculated the level of this waste, its economic value every day would amount to millions or tens of millions. Then how much would it be by month or in a whole year? This is the inner spirit behind these hadiths.
Compiled From:
"Approaching the Sunnah" - Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, pp. 142, 143

Invitation is not only a step in bringing people together, it is also a fundamental way of being in community. It manifests the willingness to live in a collaborative way. This means that a future can be created without having to force it or sell it or barter for it. When we believe that barter or subtle coercion is necessary, we are operating out of a context of scarcity and self-interest, the core currencies of the economist. Barter or coercion seems necessary when we have little faith in citizens' desire and capacity to operate out of idealism.
A commitment to invitation as a core strategy is betting on a world not dependent on barter and incentives. It is a choice for idealism and determines the context within which people show up. For all the agony of a volunteer effort, you are rewarded by being in the room with people who are up to something larger than their immediate self-interest. You are constantly in the room with people who want to be there, even if their numbers are few. The concern we have about the turnout is simply an expression of our own doubts about the possibility that given a free choice, people will choose to create a future distinct from the past.
Invitation is a language act. "I invite you." Period. This is a powerful conversation because at the moment of inviting, hospitality is created in the world.
Compiled From:
"Community: The Structure of Belonging" - Peter Block, pp. 117, 118